Messages from Joint Chiefs of Staff

23 January 2012

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) provided a document to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) about MEDEVAC issues in Afghanistan.  The document was provided with no cover or signature page.  Congressman Todd Akin (MO-2), a senior HASC member, received that document.  A staffer for Mr. Akin passed the letter to me asking questions.

I publicly acknowledged receipt of the JCS letter before publishing it.  My acknowledgement prompted an email to me from the Public Affairs Officer for the Vice Chairman of the JCS.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Seiber (Public Affairs Officer to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) wrote to me, “Your citing of a JCS letter is inaccurate.  Please correct/update your website accordingly.  Background information is below:"  I immediately contacted Congressman Akin’s office.  A staffer again confirmed that this document came from JCS to HASC.  The denial by JCS itched for explanation.  JCS then backtracked, saying it had provided the letter to HASC, and “We don't necessarily refute what is in the document itself, it's just a matter that it isn't a Joint Staff document.”

JCS has had plenty of time to review the document they provided to HASC, and my analysis of the document is forthcoming.  That JCS holds “We don't necessarily refute what is in the document itself…” is tantamount endorsement.  Under these circumstances, the letter can appropriately be called “The Orphaned letter from JCS to HASC,” even though I now believe that JCS did not author the communiqué.  It may have come from CENTCOM.

The document is demonstrably filled with deceptions and errors of fact.  If the JCS refuses to refute the document, the act can be considered a willful deception of the HASC.

This has become curious, and so in the interest of disclosure and allowing JCS to have its say, here is the pertinent email trail.

Five emails:

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From: Seiber, Patrick LTC JCS OCJCS PA [mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.] 

Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 11:01 AM
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cc: Lapan, David Col JCS OCJCS PA; McNally, Patrick CDR JCS DOM OCJCS PA

Subject: Correct the Record--JCS Letter

Michael-

Your citing of a JCS letter is inaccurate.  Please correct/update your website accordingly.  Background information is below:

From OCJCS Legislative Affairs:

Spoke to Army LL on this issue and can provide the following synopsis:
- In early November, an info paper was provided to SEN Inhofe drafted by Army G-3
- In late November, SECARMY drafted a response letter to SEN Grassley (found on Michael Yon's website)
- In December, a similar/same info paper was provided to SEN Lugar
- In late December ARCENT Chief of Staff BG Bishop sent a response letter to SEN Kyl re: the "medical evacuation of SPC Chazray Clark" (found on Michael Yon's website)

On his website, Mr. Yon states the "the Joint Chiefs of Staff [recently] sent a deceptive communiqué" to the HASC, and that the "HASC forwarded the JCS missive to Representatives" including Rep. Akin.  He also states that he has not yet published the letter, and describes it as "complex".  It is reasonable to conclude the "JCS missive" is actually one of the info papers drafted by Army G-3.  This is confirmed by separate correspondence from HASC PSM John Chapla, as well.

Mr. Yon is mistaken in his belief that the document originated from the Joint Staff.  The error likely comes from the fact that the attachment is unsigned, with no identifier as to origin.

Thanks.

V/R,
Patrick R. Seiber
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Public Affairs Officer to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Pentagon 2D932
(703) 571-9471 (Commercial)
(703) 332-9790 (Blackberry)
(312) 227-4272 (DSN)

==========

Michael Yon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>;
Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 10:10 PM
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Delete | Show original

LTC Seiber,

Just got your email a few minutes ago.

The information to me that the letter is from JCS came from the office of HASC Member Todd Akin.  It is important that this be corrected ASAP.  I literally just published something else on this.

I am surprised that JCS does not have my direct email address.  It seems like everyone else in the USG has it.

I will correct the record.  And for the record, what is the JCS stance on this issue?

V/r,

Michael

======

I then emailed to Congressman Akin’s office asking for confirmation that the letter came from the JCS to HASC:

Response according to STAFFER of Congressman Todd Akin:

“The memo in question was originally provided to the HASC by the Joint Staff, with no signatures and no indication that it had come from anywhere but the Joint Staff.

“This week, after questioning, the Joint Staff indicated that they were not the original source of the document. Initially they indicated it was a CENTCOM document (which is how Congressman Akin referred to it in his letter).

On Tuesday, we were told that the memo actually originated with the Army."

If you have any other questions on this, contact Steve Taylor: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

======

I again contacted LTC Seiber at JCS:

Michael Yon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>;
Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 10:31 PM
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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LTC Seiber,

This is becoming more curious by the minute.  Mr. Akin's office says that HASC got it from JCS but that nobody wants to claim authorship. (I certainly would not want to claim it.  Someone must have been getting electroshock to be forced into writing that.)

Before I make any announcement, we need to know what the truth is. The truth is that Congressman Akin's office is holding that it came from JCS to HASC, but the author is unknown.

V/r,

Michael

======

Seiber, Patrick LTC JCS OCJCS PA <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>;
Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 11:42 PM
To: Michael Yon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>;
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Michael-

Sorry for the delay getting back to you, we're short staffed this week and with the Chairman on the road we've had our hands full.

Regarding the document, here's what I have from our Legislative Affairs (LA) team:

1) One of our LA team members was talking with HASC staffer about a separate topic and the medevac topic came up in the conversation.  Our LA team member showed him a document about medevacs and he said he had already received it.  Our team member told the HASC staffer at that time it was not/not a joint staff document.

2) Our understanding is HASC Staffer then provided the document to Cong. Akin's office and stated he had received it from the Joint Staff, but did NOT clarify with him that it was not a Joint Staff document.

3) We don't necessarily refute what is in the document itself, it's just a matter that it isn't a Joint Staff document.

4) As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we would not provide a detailed JCS response on the incident to Congress.

Hope this helps...

Pat

V/R,

Patrick R. Seiber
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Public Affairs Officer to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Pentagon 2D932
(703) 571-9471 (Commercial)
(703) 332-9790 (Blackberry)
(312) 227-4272 (DSN)

======


The letter

Comments   

 
+9 # MAJ (Ret)Ron Peery 2012-01-23 15:00
When I worked for the FBI in the '80s one of the agents told me "always look ahead, and cover your ass with paper." Looks a lot like that's happening here. I had an Afghan troop injured in a road accident....fou r compound fractures, among other things. It took over 3 hours to get a dustoff from higher, even though it was only a 30 minute flight. Why? Waiting for escort. That was in '06. There are two simple solutions....ge t rid of the red cross and gear up, or assign a snake or apache to the medical flight....no other missions for the gunship.
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# USAF RetiredDavid M 2012-01-24 03:02
:-*:-* There is another solution, get the Army out of the dustoff business and turn it over to the Air Force PJ's they will go anywhere and do anything to rescue,The Navy will also.
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+10 # BULLSHIT!!Joe Norman 2012-01-23 15:22
Good, brave, honorable men and women.....the very flower of our Republic.....co ntinue to suffer and DIE for political sake in this MEDEVAC mess! On the Army, I call BULLSHIT,BULLSH IT,BULLSHIT!!!! It would appear we have a plethora of mindless, souless wonks on the civilian side and candy-ass general officers who are more interested in their cushy careers than in doing the right things on the military side. DO YOUR DUTY ASSHOLES!! You are Warriors, and you (suppossedly) belong to a brotherhood of Warriors that live a life to a standard a little different than the sheep out here. TAKE CARE OF YOUR MEN!!!

Michael.....carry on brother. Watch your six.
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# Gotta love the military!CJ 2012-01-23 15:25
#3 - it is but is not a staff doc

Typical.
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+3 # RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffA&N 2012-01-23 15:25
This is all clear as mud to me as a regular US citizen. But could it be that we just don't have the resources we need on the battle field and this war is being run by a bunch of IDIOTS in Washington?...f rom the top down? Just wondering. Anyone out there got an answer for this citizen who depends on our fine military men to defend my country?and who worries about them every single day?
a
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+5 # JCS messagesKent Mitchell 2012-01-23 15:27
I don't think I've ever seen a bigger ass-covering scramble than this one. You can be assured there are a lot of people with a lot of stars on their shoulders looking over the silver oak leaf of Lt. Col. Seiber.
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+2 # Old AviatorPaul Fleming 2012-01-23 18:55
These guys are apparently the kids of the guys who painted the Dustoffs WHITE in Vietnam in the 70s then crawfished their way out of taking the blame for that one too.
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+4 # lawyerlyPeter 2012-01-23 15:34
Michael,
the issue has now risen to the ranks/levels of the lawyers. As an MD, who unfortunately has to deal with these issues a lot, you are acting very appropriate.
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+4 # age versus rankPeter 2012-01-23 15:36
Michael, one other comment, but sorry to say, you outrank these LT Cols, and probably even Cols, by virtue of your combined experience and AGE, but what does that matter!!
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+4 # Keep Up the Great Work...and Pessure!Rich H 2012-01-23 15:46
Michael:
Keep up the great work to keep these bureaucrats on their toes! These hacks need to be pushed in one of two ways, do what's right or OUT. Reminds me of what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf once said in his book, if you quit - the bad guys win. He didn't, and don't you.
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# Meant PressureRich H 2012-01-23 15:47
Sorry for the misspelling
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+2 # "Hope this helps..." What a JokeSnakeyTrickerCharlie 2012-01-23 16:14
Hope this helps...

Pat

V/R,

Patrick R. Seiber
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Public Affairs Officer to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Pentagon 2D932
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+2 # RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffFrank 2012-01-23 16:40
I see the Military Brass is playing the whose on first base game. I don't really care about where and who wrote what!How about a dam decision!!! Are we waiting for more lives to be lost or is the US Military expecting the Army to leave the Afganistan tonight??
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+2 # RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffGlenn F. 2012-01-23 16:53
Seems to me that there's a very simple question to be asked here. "If it were your son or daughter laying there at the LZ with traumatic injuries, would you rather they be picked up in 10 minutes by an armed helicopter, or in 45 minutes by an unarmed helicopter with armed escort?"

"Hope this helps" indeed, LTC Pat and all the General Officers trying their best to ignore this issue.
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+2 # Dealing with childrenMike McK 2012-01-23 17:40
I love the sentence:

Our team member told the HASC staffer at that time it was not/not a joint staff document.

Not/not? Really? Since LTC Seiber is surely trolling this forum I'll say it directly to him. That's something my 9yr old says.
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# RE: Dealing with childrenJim L 2012-01-23 23:13
That's a rotten thing to say about your 9 yr, old.
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+2 # Brit FST commentsKeith H 2012-01-23 18:09
Good job, Michael. Comment from my son, Brit army & FST thru Sangin, Helmand where they had 1/4 casualties...." Fully agree. The crosses can stay if they really want it, but they need a couple of 50 cal machine guns! The blackhawks we’d bring in weren’t shy to shoot at anything that moved when they came in for a casevac – a nightmare when the Afghan Army guys had moved to a new compound and hadn’t told us! The problem is policy is created so far away, and none of those Generals, would have seen warfare of that intensity before."
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+2 # RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffJohn F 2012-01-23 18:20
If it weren't for the fact that lives are on the line, this would be hilarious. But they are, which means it is simply ludicrous and ridiculous. They need to stop worrying about who said what to whom, or where the stupid policy came from or who is going to feel slighted if it is changed, and face the fact that there is a better way to do things. Then change the policy and do it right. In one of his movies, Sean Connery had a line (regarding the Japanese): When things go wrong, we worry about who is at fault, they worry about how to fix it. Their way is better." Seems appropriate to this mess.
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+2 # RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffFrank 2012-01-23 18:50
This is a good example of how our Government works or should I say doesn't work. The fact that this matter has gone up and down the Chain of Command for the last few months with no change to the Dustoff policy is a tragedy! So who can we hold responsible for this? Maybe another Congressional hearing? I'm sure it can't top Fast and Furious or maybe it can!
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# RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffVernon Clayson 2012-01-23 19:04
I almost feel bad for Lt.Col. Seiber, he's sending up trial balloons while his superiors fiddle around waiting for some hint, it will never be a concrete decision, from civilian politicians on how to deal with this issue. Those worthies will ignore it hoping it will blow over or be replaced by some other issue. Panetta's lackies will hesitate approaching him fully realizing his answer will be to keep the status quo as it is something the president doesn't care about when he's in the middle of a campaign to keep his office. My bet is they could get an Apache up and moving a lot quicker for a visiting Congressman than as an escort for a medevac.
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+2 # Gotta agree with VernonJohn-Capt in ANG 2012-01-23 19:30
I think the good LTC sees the storm on the horizon and he's quick to make sure everyone is clear it's not an official, or even "unofficial," document from the JCS, which I'm assuming he's responsible for responding, providing support, etc.

It is very odd no author is provided. What letterhead is at the top? If it's on a blank letterhead, I'd say it's duty and level of authority places is squarely underneath a gerbil's cage. The LTC's and Col's I've worked for wouldn't even entertain a drafted internal MFR without the proper letterhead, much less ever let it see the light of day outside the shop.

Finally, having been in and out side the warzone, being at the 4 star HQ and the PRT out in the middle of nowhere, there is always a huge disconnect between leadership outside the AO and boots on ground. The great leaders recognize this and adjust fire. The mediocre, or horrible ones, still think their perspective is fresh and always right. For example, I listened to an O-6 in a program office argue a tactical radio needed to be able to send a FAX via SATCOM (for UHF F/O replacement, MUOS). To date, I've never talked to an infantryman who lamented the huge burdens placed upon them by a lack of FAX ability in the field. These are the GOs/Cols who waste millions and create problems that linger far after they PCS/OPR is written.
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+3 # territory battlesAirForceBob 2012-01-23 21:02
I have said this on other dispatches here but it is worth reminding. There were other resources (non-army) in the area that didn't require back up and could have been dispatched within minutes. The Army policy of not calling for help from other services (i.e. Air Force Pedros) when they are unable to respond quickly is the damnable action in the Chazray catastrophe. They were protecting their territory at the cost of that (and I'm sure others) young man's life. Until the larger dustoff red cross policy is changed lives can be saved by a simple directive that if armed escort not available to respond immediately then the nearest available air rescue is to be dispatched.
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# RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffDoer of Grace 2012-01-23 21:06
It appears that those at Centcom, JCS and HASC may have forgotten what combat is like, that is if they have been in it at all. Perhaps a refresher tour would do them good! Don't give up Michael! It is just a matter of time until this turns into a shit storm on their heads. The scripture says "When pride comes, then comes dishonor" Proverbs 11:2.
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud." Proverbs 16:18

I hope they come to their senses and I pray tothat end.
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# RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffLarry Schwartz 2012-01-23 22:06
It would be nice if all of this communication could get back to the root issue, when will or why won't the Army remove the red crosses from the aircraft that pick up wounded people (I don't want to confuse the issue by using the wrong term...medevac, casevac, etc.) and equip them with defensive weapons so tha the Army can do what the other services are already doing so well.

Larry
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# RE: Messages from Joint Chiefs of StaffPencil Neck 2012-01-24 01:45
Mike,

Where are you going with this?

As an SF Medic, I think you may need to re-think. As far as I'm concerned, get-em-out.
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+4 # Mr.Kurt Olnwy 2012-01-24 05:43
Michael, keep up the good work. I am convinced that common sense will ultimately prevail. Attention has been brought to the problem and as the old saying goes--squeaky wheel gets the grease.....Than ks
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