Michael's Dispatches

Another Dustoff Pilot says Delays Costing Lives

(The following letter appeared on the Army Times website.)

DEADLY DELAYS


“What the hell happened to Medevac, sir?”

That was a question an angry sergeant asked me as I was eating chow last February at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. I didn’t understand the question or the anger in his voice at the time, but I do now and would like to try to offer an explanation.

In the past, medical evacuation units reported to a medical command. These Medevac units had aviation assets, namely Black Hawk helicopters, but at the end of the day, Medical Service Corps officers were in charge. Recently, the Medevac units were realigned to fall under an aviation command as a part of the new General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB).

My unit, the 571st Medical Company (AA) became C Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, and our new command decided to implement new Medevac procedures. Ultimately, it was decided that Medevac aircraft would require gunship support for all off-FOB missions even if the landing zone was reported secure.

The new policy often caused significant delays in our response time, namely in the southern Multi-National Division-Baghdad area at FOB Kalsu, and a few soldiers may have died as a result. I will say that after seven years of flying Medevac missions, including three Iraq tours, I believe without a doubt that soldiers who could have lived died due to these new policies, but that is only my opinion based on experience.

The launch policies were against the recommendations of the senior officers in my unit, and conflicted with MND-B Medevac policy, but the new restriction remained and we were forced to wait to launch.

In retrospect, the sergeant who spoke to me had every right to be upset since we were not always allowed to rapidly evacuate his soldiers when they were wounded. How upset would you be if your friend was dying and Medevac was not allowed to come immediately?

As one of the pilots in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, I would like to apologize to the soldiers in the southern Baghdad area of operations for the delays in Medevac from November 2006 until May 2007. The Medevac flight crews tried our best to launch as fast as possible, despite the unnecessary delays.

I was even relieved of my duties for launching immediately to save a fellow soldier after being instructed to wait 25 more minutes to launch.

Our mission has never been easy, but it was always simple: Launch as fast as possible, fly as fast as possible and give the wounded the best chance to survive. The new policies of the 1st Cavalry GSAB prevented us from doing just that, and for the first time in seven years of flying Medevac, I am ashamed to be a part of this mission.

It would be easy to focus on the thousands of Medevac missions that my unit performed without delay and ignore the small percentage that went so very wrong. I, however, believe we need to do the opposite and focus on those soldiers we failed due to a flawed policy and an arrogant command.

I hope members of the 1st Cavalry Division take notice to what I have written and help me fix the problems with Medevac before the next combat tour. I tried my best and was reprimanded, relieved and insulted by my battalion commander.
I hope that the next time one of our Medevac crews is sitting down at chow and a soldier walks over to speak, it is to say, “Thank you for a job well done.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric V. Brodeur
Fort Carson, Colo.
Newcastle, Calif.

http://www.armytimes.com/community/opinion/army_opinion_letters_080204/

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