Michael's Dispatches

Fool’s Gold & Troops’ Blood

America's Medevac Failure

06 November 2011

This combat video was made in September 2011 in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.  A bomb was planted in our path.  A young, highly-liked Soldier named Chazray Clark triggered the blast.  Chazray lost an arm and both legs.  Despite great pain, Chazray was awake and lucid the entire time.

A tragedy was unfolding.  The US military, at the direction of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, strives to get our wounded to hospitals within the “Golden Hour.”  The military mostly accomplishes this with incredible speed, often under direct enemy fire.   They could do much better.

After casualties are sustained, the medical evacuation helicopters typically will not launch until a “9-line” report is transmitted from the field.  During this mission, due to the calm discipline of the Soldiers of 4-4 Cav, the 9-line was transmitted in only six minutes.  That’s fast.

Bold accounting magic has been used to redefine the Golden Hour.  The true starting gun for the biological Golden Hour begins at the moment of injury.  The military Golden Hour begins after the 9-line is received.  If combat or other circumstance delays the 9-line by 20 minutes, the military Golden Hour becomes 80 minutes.  But when we hear a military spokesmen saying that average MEDEVAC times are 50 minutes, what they are really saying is 50 minutes plus the 9-line time, and they won’t mention that 9-line buffer.  This audacious deception angers many military people who know about it.

I reported that 65 minutes were used to get Chazray Clark to the hospital.  The military rebuked my initial report, saying it took only 59.  They took the Golden Hour tax deduction, deceived the public, and did so in writing.

It took 65 minutes.  It should have taken 25.   There are several reasons why Chazray suffered the additional 40 minutes.

The first reason is the 9-line.  Pilots in Afghanistan say there is no need to wait.  They should launch immediately upon notification of serious wounds.  They can pick up the 9-line in flight.

The bigger reason is a longstanding Army policy to wear Red Crosses on their helicopters.  The Army will say that in accordance with the Geneva Conventions they must wear the Red Crosses, and therefore cannot carry machine guns on the helicopters.  This is false: neither the Air Force, nor the Marines, nor British wear the Red Crosses, and they go armed.  The enemies in Afghanistan do not adhere to the Geneva Conventions.  Is the Army saying that the Air Force, Marines and British are in violation of Geneva Conventions by not wearing the Red Crosses?  Of course not.  But the Army wears the Red Crosses as crucifixes to avoid uncomfortable change.

The helicopters are clearly visible on most nights while the Red Crosses are not.  An Afghan said that Taliban would likely consider the Red Cross a sign of Christianity, not MEDEVAC.   The enemy constantly tries to shoot down Army Dustoffs, Red Cross and all.  By contrast, the Air Force and Marines play smarter games and will come in guns blazing and help kill enemy around the landing zones.

While Chazray lay dying, an unarmed Dustoff helicopter was parked about 2 – 3 minutes away at Forward Operating Base Pasab.  After a call, it can take about 7 minutes to launch a Dustoff.  And so, 7 minutes plus 3 minutes’ flight could have had Chazray on the bird in just over 10 minutes.  The hospital was at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) about 13 minutes away.  So 10 minutes to arrive to the LZ, 2 minutes to load Chazray and take off, then 13 minutes to the hospital.  This would have put Chazray at the hospital in 25 minutes.  Alternatively, armed Air Force Pedro rescue birds were parked farther away at KAF and could have flown the longer distance, picked up Chazray, and had him back in about 35 minutes.  Had Pedros or armed Dustoffs been at FOB Pasab, they could have done the job in 25 minutes.

Instead, since the Dustoffs do not have machine guns, the Dustoff waited for the Apache helicopter top cover.  Forty minutes were lost due to 9-line procedures and waiting for the Apache.   This delay allowed the life to drain out of Chazray.  It also allowed the enemy a great amount of time to prepare to attack the unarmed Dustoff helicopter on the open landing zone, along with the Soldiers who were there in the open working hard to save Chazray.  (In this case, no attack occurred during LZ operations.)

The military spent much energy refuting my claims in RED AIR and GOLDEN SECONDS.   They apparently did not realize I made video.  For instance, they tried to undercut the credibility of my reports by saying the Dustoff did not come from Kandahar Airfield, but from FOB Pasab.  The video clearly shows on numerous occasions that the Dustoff was coming from KAF.  Nevertheless, allowing for battlefield errors, if the Dustoff actually came from Pasab, this does not help their case, but damages it outright.  KAF is about 13 minutes away; Pasab only about 3, and so what they accidentally said by trying to undermine my reports was that Chazray could have been to the hospital 10 minutes faster.  That is, if the Dustoffs were armed and could depart without gunship cover.

The 9-line procedure must be changed, and Dustoffs must be armed.  The “Military Golden Hour” must become a thing of the past.  There is only one Golden Hour.  All else is Fool’s Gold.  This Fool’s Gold is expensive; it’s costing lives of our service members in Afghanistan.

Please watch this important video of the attack and MEDEVAC of Chazray Clark.

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