Passing the MEDEVAC Buck

46 Comments

03 January 2012
Los Angeles, California

Our Army medical evacuation helicopters in Afghanistan frequently come under fire.  These helicopters are clearly marked with the Red Cross on a white background, signaling to the enemy that they are unarmed.  The Red Cross is also a symbol from the Crusades.  A poster found in a village listed crosses as symbols to be destroyed.

Unarmed medical helicopters lead to delays in medical evacuations due to the fact that Army medical helicopters need armed helicopter escorts.  Also they often will not land on very hot landing zones, causing yet more delays.  Air Force rescue helicopters do not wear Red Crosses and are heavily armed, and so can get in more quickly and safely.

The Air Force, Marines, British, and Army Special Operations Forces do not use the Red Crosses.  Only Army medical evacuation helicopters alert the enemy that they are unarmed.

It is a travesty that our Army medical evacuation helicopters are forced by Army leadership to continue to alert the enemy that they are unarmed.  This situation and the battlefield consequences have been brought to the attention of many ranking officials.  They have done nothing.  (Well, not entirely nothing.  They have stated clearly that I am unwelcome to return to combat embeds and even put out an alert for me.)  Their actions and inactions are uninspiring.

Here we see the Secretary of the Army passing the buck to CENTCOM:

Secretary-of-Army-Letter-2

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    JHMartin · 6 years ago
    It's just too bad I guess if you happen to be numbers 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 & 100. Y0ou are the acceptable loss to McHugh.
    So what if it's 92%? If it can be made higher, then it's criminal not to.
    Remove the darn aiming points.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    PhilM · 6 years ago
    Guess what, McHugh - if you "consistently met the standard" there would be no "close scrutiny to prevent recurrence". Keep the crosses off the battlefield!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rich H · 6 years ago
    What else would you expect from the Obama administration? These people are not Leaders, they only look to put themselves in positions of authority, not accountability. 2012 is a BIG year to change this, and let's do it!!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Charles R. · 6 years ago
      Uh, since the Marines, Air Force and Special Forces arm their medevac birds, it's clear this is an Army issue ... nothing to do with the military as a whole or the CIC.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Larry · 6 years ago
    Mr McHugh, we all know how you want to impress your CIC but this is a bit too much. We don't need apologies or have to keep up with an invisible enemy, but please stop saying it is up to the commanders on the ground, you're their boss, it's up to you. Remove the red crosses or arm the Dustoffs.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A@N · 6 years ago
    Surprised they didn't blame Bush. He's their Number one scapegoat. Not surprised...Nobody in this Administration accepts blame for anything they've destroyed in our country. What's a few more lives...besides...they probably wouldn't vote for the present bunch in D.C. anyway so they don't count. If the dying soulders can prove they are illegal or anti-American the government will jump through their you know whats to help them out and protect their lives and by all means their rights. Sorry Mike...that's the way it is. Face reality..Remedy? Vote all the bums out and try to start anew with a new bunch...and hope for the best.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Waterman · 6 years ago
    You can't fix stupid, but in the military you can pass it on.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Colin · 6 years ago
    As they say, "The fish stinks from the head." ...and equally, "With these types of friend who needs enemies?"
    Sorry, it seemed that such a lame borderline-sociopathic answer deserved a few cliches in response.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JoeJ · 6 years ago
    So the Secretary of the Army has told Senator Grassley to go down the chain of command and ask CentCom about battlefield decisions? Should he not be the one to contact CentCom and get that info in response to a request from a US Senator? So much for leadership, civilian or otherwise....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    argonaut · 6 years ago
    Senator Grassley should point out that he knows what the Army Doctrine is, and that Mr. McHugh has not addressed that this doctrine needs to be revamped. Also, he should question if Mchugh is suggesting that the Airforce and Marines are not meeting the spirit and intent of the Geneva Conventions.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JayC · 6 years ago
    Who is on First?.. What?, no what is on second.. Who?, yes who is on first.. No the guy on first bases? Who? yes who is on first base, no.. who is on first base? yes.. who?...
    Get My Point?
    Probably not if you are a bueurocrate "without a brain and pair" to speak up and help make a meaningful change.. I see zero downside in the case of removing the crosses for the remainder of the Afghanistan conflict except for covering for a boss. If we ever again wage a war with an enemy that recognizes the Geneva Conventions, then great.. put'em back on the choppers.. meanwhile, let's give our troops the real support they need.. direct cover to get out when they are wounded.. 92% isn't quit good enough..
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Linda Osburn · 6 years ago
      I think you have stated this perfectly! Thank You from the mother of an Army Soldier and a BIG supporter of all American Soldiers. 92% is not good enough! IT IS ALL ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE SOLDIERS - 100% OF THE SOLDIERS!!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed Maynard · 6 years ago
    What an asshole and what a cowardly thing to do - pass the buck. Or, should I say getting ready to throw someone under the bus, prepare the sacrifical lamb etc. I don't expect anything to happen at this point because the media is too focused on what is happening here. All I can say is don't give up the fight - lives depened on it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 6 years ago
    In the letter it states that the Army is the sole provider of intr-theater aero medical evacuations. Does this mean that all of the Air Force Pedro's are no to perform medical evacuations? I think that Mr. McHugh has some explaining to do.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Saberbase · 6 years ago
    Thanks to Sen. Grassley for pressing in on this issue. No surprise SOA passes the load on... Someone somewhere needs to give a damn about our soldiers on the ground. It is quite apparent we need to keep pressing the issue Michael.... How about it CENTCOM where are we going to go with it??? Sen. Grassley, I would hope that you are not done with this...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken · 6 years ago
    "The Army, as directed by the Department of Defense, is the sole provider of intra-theater areomedical evacuation."

    I spent a year at KAF R3, and I can tell you, the Army Medevac helicopters are no where near the "sole provider" of incoming medevacs.

    Doesn't sound like it from the article either.

    I wonder what the percentage breakdown is when you break it down by service/unit medevacs?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John O Loughlin · 6 years ago
    Let's face it, military top brass resent being forced into making policy decisions initiated by civilians or any inefficiencies in thinking that scream "why didn't we think of that ourselves?" And that is why your embeds will be curtailed. You're going to get punished for saving lives Mr. Yon and some doofus in admin will rationalise that. They won't thank you or say well done. You spotted something that we've overlooked for the last several years, but no, we're gonna kick your ass for telling us. There's something very, very wrong in that type of logic but no doubt somebody will apply some military rationale to that as well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Howard · 6 years ago
    The sentence: "In accordance with Army doctrine, and to meet the spirit and intent of the Geneva Conventions, these aircraft are marked... and not armed...

    So he's reaffirming the policy in question. He's passing the blame for any problems to CENTCOM, but he has affirmed the current, flawed policy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SFC Jeff - USAR · 6 years ago
    You know, the ACLU has fought to have the cross removed from everything else military - why don't we suggest they take up this one too?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Linda Osburn · 6 years ago
    The only reason I knew of the issue is due to Michael Yon. Since he has brought it to my attention I have checked the news and the military web sites and see NOTHING. This information needs to get in the hands of someone that can put it on the front page of the newspaper or the internet when you pull it up.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MichaelF · 6 years ago
    Impressive use of wording... "US Army policy is to evacuate urgent point of injury patients to the appropriate level of care within one hour of receiving the MEDEVAC mission. The Army has consistently met this standard." There in lie's the problem...sure, they do a good job of EVAC'ing under an hour once the MEDEVAC mission is ordered, but there is a difference between when it is ordered and when the actual call/request for a MEDEVAC is called in. MEDEVAC is called in, MEDEVAC beird is readied, and then sit and wait for until their escorts are available and ready at which point, I would imagine, the MEDEVAC mission is officially ordered and the clock starts for "their" hour. Unfortunately, it is the wrong "their"...it should not be the hour to meet the political needs, rather it should be the hour from the injury or at the very least receipt of request for MEDEVAC--tis a bloody shame.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    catchesthewind · 6 years ago
    What a spineless copout. Im sure the 8 percent take great comfort.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    in_awe · 6 years ago
    Sheesh!

    First, Mr. McHugh is repeating the backward, bogus argument about the Geneva Convention rules. Nowhere could I find any language mandating that medical assets must be marked with a red cross or crescent. What it does say is that IF they are so marked:
    a. they must be unarmed
    b. they must abide by special flight rules agreed to by the military representing both sides in a conflict
    c. any marked vehicles or buildings are granted safe passage and are not to be attacked

    Next, Mr. McHugh is playing the Army MEDEVAC uses specially trained crews that provide unique care versus CASEVAC crews which provide a subset of what a "true" MEDEVAC crew can provide. Hence his claim that the Army uniquely provides >>MEDEVAC
  • This commment is unpublished.
    in_awe · 6 years ago
    service.

    Finally, Mr. McHugh ignores the fact that British forces in Afghanistan provide a superset of the US Army MEDEVAC capabilities with their MERTS medical evacuations.

    They fly unmarked Chinooks armed with mini-guns. They carry MORE crewmen, with higher patient load capacity, the crew members often include actual medical personnel and on occasion armed combat troops for security.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gary · 6 years ago
    You can delegate responsibility but not accountability. Somehow "leaders" today forget that. But then again I would argue that we lack true leaders, especially at these higher levels, and certainly in the political side. Completely shameful.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Judy Buchan · 6 years ago
    I'm gonna email Geraldo. Enough is enough.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DeAnna · 6 years ago
    The art of passing the buck have been well established to the point of institutionalization. I smell future politicians in the making here.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
    If the Air Force and Marines do not use the Red Cross, the Army shouldn't--especially in a war where the enemy considers the Cross an act of hostility.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Adam · 6 years ago
    As a former soldier nothing saddens me more than seeing things like to see yet more evidence of what the military has become. At one point in time I was a proud soldier, I was eager to sign up right after high school. But after witnessing similar acts stupidity and heartlessness from scumbags like John M. McHugh, I am more proud of the day I left the Army.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 6 years ago
    I've said it many times keep the dam politics out of the war. Why would anyone duspute this problem? Mr. McHugh your a Jackass, 92%. I expect and demand the Red(aiming target)Crosses to be removed. Lets get this problem corrected or will this issue follow the same pattern as every other issue that comes to the hill. Shame on the US Army for letting this reach this level.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    nellie · 6 years ago
    Having flown armed medevac/casevac missions in Brit Chinooks I resent Mr McHugh suggesting that I didn't operate within the spirit of the Geneva Conventions - all I know is that none of my customers complained?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
      [quote name="nellie"]Having flown armed medevac/casevac missions in Brit Chinooks I resent Mr McHugh suggesting that I didn't operate within the spirit of the Geneva Conventions - all I know is that none of my customers complained?[/quote]
      Thanks for your courage and your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pete · 6 years ago
    So I guess it's OK for 8 percent of our wounded men to die?
    All this ass-hat had to do was say (not even write) "get the red crosses OFF and the guns ON."
    Guess he couldn't handle the job . . .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alex · 6 years ago
    Chain of command is President > SecDef > Combatant Commander.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J.C. Pennington · 6 years ago
    I wonder when and where things changed to this in Afghansitan:

    Unarmed Dustoff helicopter waits for gunship cover while the wounded troop's "golden hour" runs out.

    From this in Vietnam:

    Any helicopter in the area diverts IMMEDIATELY from its current mission to fly the medevac mission even if its not a Dustoff crew/ship. No gun cover, no red crosses and armed.

    It's a little known fact from Vietnam: Most "medevac" missions were not flown by Dustoff. They were flown by the unit's re-supply and/or C&C Hueys.

    Why did that sane, rational, successful, life-saving policy change?

    Chase that question down Michael and you'll have a hullva story.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Alex · 6 years ago
      I'd wager that there are considereably less aviation assets in Afghanistan than were available at the height of the Vietnam war. The core of the debate is aircraft availability. If a single UH-60 gets shot up and can't fly then there is a big hit on available aircraft. If the aircraft in question had no red crosses and sported a pair of door guns would it have flown without escort? Or would command have considered the risk too great? It is almost easy to say go ahead and fly into a hot LZ to get a guy out but that gets more complicated if that decision means other guys might not get out because there just aren't aircraft avialable. It is a cold hard decision.

      I have read that during the Vietnam war that the US Army lost more than 1,500 UH-1s destroyed for one reason or another. Imagine today if we lost just 10% of that.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        J.C. Pennington · 6 years ago
        Agreed. 7,013 Hueys served in VN (all but a handful U.S. Army). 3,305 were destroyed. That's not the point.

        Nothing superceded medevac missions. Nothing. And certainly not what MIGHT be needed at some unspecified point in the future.

        If that is today's decision-making structure it is seriously, fatally flawed.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Paul Brockman · 6 years ago
          Nothing superceded medevac missions. Nothing. [i]And certainly not what MIGHT be needed at some unspecified point in the future.[/i]
          Preparing more assets to cover his eventual retreat is a major part of what cost General George McClellan the Virginia Peninsula Campaign in the American Civil War 150 years ago. In is uninspiring to see that our "leaders" in Washington continue to ignore that lesson. Secretary McHugh should be embarrassed by his candy-assed response to Senator Grassley's inquiry. I certainly am.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
    I think all of us should chase this story in Vietnam down.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    deadman · 6 years ago
    The only important words in the letter are "In accordance with Army doctrine". Everything else is smoke. The Army chooses to implement the policy then responds to criticism with "sorry, can't do anything its policy." This is truly begging the question.

    Secretary McHugh ought to also look into the Geneva Conventions. The signatories agree not to attack medical resources, POWs etc. That agreement is the sole source of the "shielding effect", without which the markings are pointless decorations.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    willem · 6 years ago
    The 92% number is likely phoney. The one hour "approved delay interval" is not. What is the time between notification and "receiving the mission?"

    There needs to an investigation; to look for the cryptic eugenics policy being operated here. There are other evac providers heroically hauling Army wounded in a hurry -- but but they don't pick up the cost lifetime care. The Army does.

    Bottom Line: They don't want to get there too fast. They've done the math.

    If a wounded solder can't survive one and one half hours from the moment of injury to the moment of specialty acute care intervention, then that death is saving the Army at least tens of millions prospectively spent over the lifetime of those soldiers too injured to endure the delay.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    willem · 6 years ago
    Bottom up it's politics. Top down, it's about the money.

    Tragically-wounded soldiers may live into their eighties; 60 years in the Army's pocket for continuing care.

    The policy being defended by McHugh protects the exploitation of the projected mortality rates guaranteed by the 60-90 minute window of "acceptable delay" to help ensure that policy will predictably lower Army costs of life-long care.

    This is battlefield Obamacare. The mentality of such policies has already permeated the beltway political and bureaucratic culture.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
      What are you talking about? We should take care of our wounded soldiers! Please clarify your posting!!
      • This commment is unpublished.
        CAZO · 6 years ago
        THIS WHAT IS NORMALLY CALLED "GOBBLDY GOOK"!!!!! TYPICAL WHEN EITHER YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO AS IS THE CASE HERE!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Mako · 6 years ago
    This failure of leadership is getting more widespread attention. See the well written article at this link: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/01/incomprehensibly_stupid_army_regulation_killing_americans_in_afghanistan.html
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John - ****in*** · 6 years ago
    If you enter the Air Force, and decide to become a Space and Missile Officer (13S), an assignment into the field of ICBMs requires a 100% performance on every evaluation. I don't equate nukes with CaseEvac, but rather, I'm glad our leadership isn't as soft on this aspect. Imagine, "Well, 92% of our nukes were launched correctly." Before Gulf War 1, an F16 took a day to turn around (refuel, rearm, etc). Although this "met the current standard," men and women in an AF uniform found a way to cut it to hours between sorties. Similarly, we should never, ever accept a "good enough," when it's know how to do it better. Leadership can be front, rear, or in the middle. There's none in any of those quadrants on this issue. A Sec of Anything referring a Congressperson to the MAJCOM seems exceptionally unprofessional and inappropriate.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    ScorpionMedic · 6 years ago
    First off Mr. McHugh you need to grab your "short and curlies" and not be afraid of what other people might think about you and do what is right. The following is taken directly from Mr. McHugh's United States D.O.D. biography page -- During his nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, he earned a reputation as a staunch advocate for Soldiers and their Families, working tirelessly to ensure they have proper facilities, training, and the quality of life necessary to carry out wartime missions while caring for those at home. There are approx. 1.1 - 1.4 million soliders in our armed forces from what I understand, so 8% of that is roughly 117,469 soliders that you are saying is OK if THEY DIE. As a former Combat Medic that IS NOT ACCEPTABLE in any way shape or form. Your job will end some day as "Secretary of the Army". You need to decide right now, when that day comes if you will go out on your knees or your feet!! 92% is not the best you can do. TAKE THE RED CROSS OFF!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rich H · 6 years ago
    There's an old term that keeps reapplying itself with the present administration, and certainly applies here...FUBAR!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jsmith · 6 years ago
    Seems to me you're blaming the victim here, Mr. Yon.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
      Again, here is a post that needs clarification! Jsmith, your comment makes no sense!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elbert Perez · 6 years ago
    I served with the 507th Med. Co. (AA)in Operation Desert Storm. I was a crewchief on a medevac. We dispayed a red cresent on the cargo door window in addition to the red cross. Why not display a red cresent in Afganistan intead of a red cross
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 6 years ago
    McHugh is a bureaucrat, a cubicle warrior, and not even a very good one.

    Passing this to CENTCOM, where General Mattis could no doubt dismiss the maneuver with an expression of contempt before kicking it right back, was a pathetic move.

    And now, Secretary Panetta has passed this to the Joint Chiefs. And the Chiefs have produced a ridiculous statement that will shortly be publicized.

    Our military leadership at the highest levels is not looking so good, folks. Time to throw them out and get seasoned commanders who have been fighting for the past ten years in their place.

    Why do we tolerate it when bureaucrats are in charge of warriors? I will never understand this.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Madison · 3 years ago
    ;-) :-* i love this stuff IM IN 7th grade
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Madison · 3 years ago
    can some anwer my question
    can you help me find some kind of timeline on Peggy hull? :lol:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Madison · 3 years ago
    can some anwer my question
    can you help me find some kind of timeline on Peggy hull? :lol:

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