Michael's Dispatches


14 September 2009
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

With the war increasing, Air Force Pararescue has been crisscrossing the skies picking up casualties.

That’s the Green Zone of Helmand Province, the opium capital of the world.  Those fields are the great ATM of our enemies here.  The fertilizer used to make those fields green is the same fertilizer used to make countless bombs.

We are flying in a special U.S. Air Force Pavehawk helicopter to fetch a seriously ill British soldier.

In Iraq, many of the casevacs were done by ground forces.  In other words, if we hit a bomb or got shot, soldiers would load up the dead and wounded and rush them to the CSH (Combat Support Hospital or “cash”).  But in Afghanistan most of the fighting occurs outside the cities and far away from the base hospitals.  Rescue helicopters stationed at places like Bagram, Kandahar Airfield and Camp Bastion have been flying thousands of missions.

Air Force Rescue Helicopters launching on a mission from Camp Bastion.

There are numerous helicopter rescue “services” in Afghanistan.  For instance, the British have MERTs (Medical Emergency Response Teams) that fly in a CH-47, and the U.S. Army uses Pavehawks as does the U.S. Air Force.  Special operations teams normally cover their own evacuations.

This U.S. Army rescue helicopter parked at Camp Bastion (Helmand) flies with the red cross symbol allowing the enemy to get a better aim at the helicopter.  Unfortunately, by displaying the red cross symbol, the helicopters are not allowed to carry miniguns or other large weapons.  This seems a rather questionable decision given that the Taliban and other enemies could not give a hoot about law.  It is unclear why the Army decided that a red cross provides more protection than miniguns.

These Air Force “Pedro” rescue helicopters have two miniguns each (total of four miniguns), and the PJs all carry M-4 rifles.  They do fire those weapons in combat.  In July, a helicopter swooped down during a rescue and picked up some wounded soldiers and then was shot down.  The second Air Force helicopter had to get the U.S. Army patients off the bird that had been shot down.  But there was not enough room in the second bird for the Pedro crew.  (No injuries.)  So the tiny Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopters flew out—Kiowas only seat two people and both seats were full—and some of the Pedro folks had to clip onto the skids and fly out like James Bond.

The damaged helicopter was left behind.  Bullets had hit a fuel line and caused the fuel to leak out, and so the pilot had no trouble landing, but the helicopter was now stuck in the middle of nowhere.  So after the Pedros rescued U.S. soldiers who then rescued Pedros, other soldiers flew out to rescue the Pedro helicopter.  The plan was to cut off the rotors and have a bigger helicopter use a cable to lift out the Pavehawk and fly it back to base.  But when the soldiers started using a saw on the rotors, sparks hit the fuel that had leaked and the Pavehawk burned to the ground.  The Army killed the Air Force’s helicopter.

The helicopters take hits.  On another mission in Helmand, an RPG shot through the tail but luckily it missed the transmission; if the RPG had hit the transmission, the entire crew likely would have been killed.  And so . . . those miniguns come in handy.  The gunners are great shots and can return accurate fire within seconds.

Some readers have gotten upset that I call them “Pedro,” thinking the name is secret.  The concern is welcome but not warranted in this case.  The Pedros don’t care and they even have a Pedro patch.

The Pararescue medics are often called “PJs.”  The SEALs, Delta, Rangers and Green Berets all hold the PJs in high regard.  Firstly, the PJs are among the best medics in the U.S. military (we have incredible medics—so that’s a significant statement).  Secondly, PJs go through just about any combat training available, ranging from HALO to mountaineering to scuba.  They’ve got scuba gear here at Camp Bastion and have had to use it to recover soldiers who were killed after the enemy blew their vehicle into some water.  In a different war, the Pedros would be tasked to rescue pilots who might be shot down hundreds of miles into enemy territory.

As we fly out to pick up a sick soldier, the door gunners and PJs test-fire the miniguns and M-4s.

When we get low, the PJs sit with their feet hanging out the doors so they can return fire, but up high they relax and take in the scenery.  That’s the Helmand River and part of the “Green Zone.”

The Pedro commander, Major Mathew Wenthe, said that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had issued a directive that all casualties be evacuated and arrive at the hospital within one hour of the call.  Pedros intend to fulfill that directive.

The Pedro crews at Bastion have three helicopters but they only take two on missions.  Major Wenthe gave high credit to the mechanics who are constantly changing out parts, up to and including seven engines in the last few months.  The birds are ready, and that’s the first step.

There are two Pedro shifts who work 12 hours on, 12 hours off, with no days off during the tour.  The first shift starts at 0200 and runs to 1400 and the second shift takes 1400 to 0200.

Inside the TOC (Tactical Operations Center; the HQ), Pedro has a big board where reports from around Helmand Province scroll down.  If a British unit gets into a firefight, for instance, Pedro knows about the firefight within probably a minute because the messages are relayed to TOCs that need to know.  At least one person is always watching that screen, and so you might hear a pilot say, “The Marines are in contact near such and such.”  Or, “The Brits just hit an IED near Sangin.”

The casualties are classified as Category A, Cat B, or Cat C.  Cat A basically means the soldier is probably going to die, lose a limb, or lose his eyesight if not quickly treated.  Cat B is more like someone who’s gotten shot in the foot.  It’s a big deal, but not immediately life-threatening. Cat C might be some kind of non-life-threatening illness or a broken finger.

When the Pedro crews see injuries scroll down, they rush out to the helicopters like Batman and Robin heading to the Batmobile.  Really, you’ve got to get out of the way or they will knock you down.  Within a few minutes the rotors are spinning but the Pedros actually have not yet been tasked to go.  The British-run JHTF (Joint Helicopter Task Force) is watching the same information but they also have other assets that can be sent, such as the U.S. Army or the British MERT (Medical Emergency Response Team) in the CH-47.  The Pedros are always the first who are ready to go, but it might make sense for JHTF to send MERT because MERT is a bigger helicopter and so it flies faster than Pavehawks.  Plus, the doctor on the MERT can actually pump blood into patients, because when the patient gets shot or blown up, medics on the scene radio the blood types, and the MERT crew can actually fly out with the right blood.  Pedros don’t push blood but do start IVs.  However . . . the CH-47 is a big helicopter and is easier to shoot down, and so if the landing zone is going to be tight or under fire, it might be better to send Pedro. Yet much of Afghanistan is high and hot and the CH-47 can fly in thinner air than can Pavehawks.

While the JHTF makes a decision, Pedro is waiting with rotors spinning and all they need to hear is “Go Pedro.”  Thirty seconds later they are gone.  (The British MERT CH-47 flies faster, but it’s slower to start.)

Every day is a “National Geographic” day.  Afghanistan is incredible.

As we approach the LZ, the PJs pull on rubber gloves; the helicopter is subject to getting bloody.

This rotation of Pedros had done just under 400 missions in three months.  Similar crews in Iraq might do half a dozen missions in the same period.

These PJs have treated hundreds of patients and gone into dangerous areas every day.

Typical compound.

Afghan interstate system.

The Afghans call this the Dasht-i-Margo (Desert of Death).

The roads of nowhere.

Lone vehicle in the Desert of Death.

Some compounds are miles from the nearest neighbor, yet they still have walls.  Afghanistan is the land of a million Alamos.

When Afghans build a home, they start by building a wall.  When the wall is finished, they start on the home.

The pilots swoop in for the patient.  There is only one thing that British soldiers love more than mail and that’s Pedro.  When I told British soldiers from 2 Rifles that Pedro was going to take me, many British soldiers asked me to say “thank yous” to the Pedros.  The Pedros are a great morale booster because we know when we take casualties, Pedro is coming with miniguns and incredible medics.  When other helicopters are grounded by bad weather, Pedro goes.  When bullets are flying, Pedro comes in with miniguns blazing.  They also rescue Danish, Americans, and others, including contractors and Afghan civilians sometimes.

We picked up a British patient from 2 Rifles, one of my favorite infantry units.  The British are more sensitive about casualties than Americans (many Americans don’t care about photos if they are wounded, though some do).  Although I was not embedded with the Brits and so do not have to follow British rules, I respect the soldiers.

And so, without the patient’s consent (which was hard to get because he was in pain and the helicopter was loud and the PJs were working), these photos will not show his face.

The problem was apparently appendicitis.  The PJs went to work and at one point a PJ smacked the bottom of the patient’s right boot.  The PJs said that if his appendix is bad, smacking the bottom of his right foot should cause sharp pain in his abdomen.  And true enough, when the medic smacked his boot, the soldier winced in pain.

As we are flying back, vitals and other information are being transmitted back to Camp Bastion so that when we land, the right doctors and nurses will be ready.

The medical evacuation system is excellent.  Our folks work hand in glove with British and Danish back at the hospital.

During the flight, the PJs also put earplugs in the patient so that his head isn’t rattling from this very loud helicopter.  When patients are brought aboard, the PJs slide the doors shut.

This was an easy mission, but at other times there will be multiple amputations and KIAs and so the helicopters can get full.

British fire crews rush to grab patients.

The hospital is about 30 seconds away from the LZ and the PJs usually go inside so that they can do a handoff to the doctors.  Then we fly back to the runway about half a mile away, refuel, and get ready for the next call.

The motto of Pararescue: “That Others May Live.”  And they mean it.

Don’t mess with the miniguns . . .

The next mission took us to a Special Forces base where an ANA soldier had somehow managed to get shot in both feet.  It was lucky for him that he was with Special Forces; the Green Beret medics also are tops.  I’ve seen the Green Beret medics at work on countless occasions.  It’s bad to get shot, but if you must, it’s best to happen in the presence of Green Berets and to get picked up by Pedros.

Some Green Berets helped load the patient and then went back to whatever it is that Green Berets do out here.

The medic(s) on the scene already have prepped the patient, so the PJs don’t have to bandage him up other than plugging his ears, taking vitals and other tasks.

The pilots flew very hard at times.

On the way back with the ANA soldier who managed to get shot in both feet, another call came so we diverted to get two more patients.

Americans lived down here before the Soviet invasion and built much of the irrigation networks.  The poppy has already been harvested this year and other crops are in the fields.

The other Pedro bird flies in to get the two patients.

We fly low and make hard turns.  The PJ has to crane his neck back just to see the horizon.

In combat, the Pedro can land and get a patient loaded in about thirty seconds.

The patients are loaded and off we go.  One guy had a tooth problem, and the other got bitten by a bat.

The last mission.  Just under 400 on this tour, and I had the honor of going along.  We’ll never know how many lives the Pedro crews saved this year in Afghanistan, but it was a lot.  A book could be written about their tour, but alas, this is likely about all the recognition they will ever get.  The two crews that I did missions with were:

Pedro 35
Maj Mathew Wenthe
1Lt Josh Roberts
CMSgt Rick Nowaski
TSgt Christopher Gabor
Capt Dave Depiazza
TSgt Tom Pearce
SrA Eric Mathieson

Pedro 36
Maj Mitzi Egger
Capt Adam Tucci
MSgt James Patterson
SrA Adrian Jarrin
SSgt Joe Signor
SrA Anthony Daroste
SrA Alejandro Serrano

The crews assembled and asked me to make their photo, but . . .

Just as they were starting to line up for the photo, a call came in and the helicopters flew away.


+3 # Bryan 2009-09-13 18:52
I'm proud of these guys. Our thoughts are with you and these brave men and women every day. Stay strong.
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+2 # Joey 2009-09-13 18:56
PJs rarely get mentioned.
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+4 # NOTR 2009-09-13 19:11
Wonderful report!
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# Cal Rollins 2009-09-13 19:17
Excellent photos Michael. Request to use the photos in a new video Ranger Studios is putting together, As you know, full copy right and ownership will be given to you. Also a completed copy of the Video.
Let me know one way or the other.

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# Aaron 2009-09-13 19:20
Thank you for posting all of these articles Michael, it puts everything in perspective to see the sacrifice these brave men and women make.
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# Alex 2009-09-13 20:22
Every ISAF country's newspapers or news sites should have a Yon dispatch section, you tell it like it is, great photos and respect for the troops.
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+1 # Carl T 2009-09-13 21:06

Another great post.....it really makes a difference when you see just how much these brave servicemen do each day. Thanks for the honest reporting.

Semper FI
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+1 # William Scott, M.D. 2009-09-13 21:14
Thank you for this dispatch, it was beautifully photographed. Let the Pedros know that what they do is so essential for the physicians who are receiving the ill and the injured. Good field work gives the physicians and the patients the valuable time needed for a good outcome.
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+1 # Grammy Garhovd 2009-09-13 21:17
What is it about the decision making brains in the military? They paint a RED CROSS on the side of a rescue helicopter, then refuse to let it defend its self. Has no one told them that the sign of "the red cross on a white background" is also the symbol for the "Crusaders"? That symbol stirs up as much hate in the middle east as a swastika would in Israel. It makes me wonder if the "talking heads" safely cocooned in a bunker basement room are trying to lose this war! Every politician, Pentagon official and government representative who visits the troops should be REQUIRED TO FLY INTO THE COUNTRY IN A HELICOPTER WITH THE SAME MARKINGS AND LACK OF DEFENSIVE WEAPONS!!!

War is like surgery for some people, it is only critical when it happens to me... otherwise, what ARE they complaining about!?!?!?!

Michael, I'm still on my knees for you,
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+1 # Evan Cowart 2009-09-13 22:06
When you stop and think about it, these guys are doing stuff that would get normal ground combat guys medals, all in a days work for them.

Back when I was stationed at Homestead AFB, FL, we were watching some PJ's loading gear and such, they probably figured it was hero worship, hell, we just wanted to swipe the scuba gear, they had great toys, we were all sport divers.
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# casstx 2009-09-13 22:29
Not to violate opsec, but do the Pedros fly only in the southern areas, or do they fly in the north/northeast ? Are these the 160th SOAR?
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# Matt 2009-09-13 22:33
Thanks again for your amazing work. I really appreciate being privileged enough to following your courageous efforts.
Thanks to all the men and ladies out there fighting for our freedom back home. I'm on my way out this fall boys and girls, I hope to stand by your side some day!
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# Spike 2009-09-13 22:45
Hi Mike,
your reports are always stunning and I really appreciate them!
Don't talk about your photos... you caught the action and took us in it!

Thank you!!!

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# Chris the Kiwi 2009-09-13 23:17

Awesome reporting - fantastic photos - have ben following you since Iraq - keep up the great job you are doing to tell the real stories.


Chris the Kiwi
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+1 # Blackwater 2009-09-14 00:07
You can tell by looking at them that these are top notch guys. They're also American embassadors in their own right every time they go on a mission that aids allied forces and Afghan civilians since they hurt the bad guys and heal the good guys.
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# RE: PedrosLetterwritingman 2009-09-14 00:53
Excellent though the PJs are, don't forget that Brit MERTs are manned by at least one DR and one Paramedic every time they are deployed. More often than not; if they survive the initial 5 mins after the 'contact' they increase their chances of survival overall. That said, given the current preferred form of attack (multiple IED) chances grow slimmer. Great to see you supporting the guys Michael but keep it in context; MERT almost always lands; and takes the most badly injured.

Thanks though to our USA friends.
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+1 # Marianne 2009-09-14 01:20
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# American Jarhead Cris 2009-09-14 01:47
Fantastic post Mr. Yon! Thanks. I have posted a link at my blog juggernuts.com

Cris Yarborough
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# david 2009-09-14 02:15
What is the long tube extending out from the front of the pedro's Hellicopter? It doesn't look like a weapon.
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# Former HH60 pilothh60guy 2012-10-11 17:20
It's a tube to deflect the high volume of spent brass casings 'away' from the airframe. If not there, the brass will strike the airframe with enough force to damage the strength and integrity of it. Especially considering the high volume of brass coming from those mini guns.
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# Former HH60 pilothh60guy 2012-10-12 17:53
Sorry, thought you meant the tube hanging from the mini-guns. Missed that "front of the helicopters" part
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# long tubeKerry 2012-10-12 12:57
you asked ""What is the long tube extending out from the front of the pedro's Hellicopter?""

it's the refueling probe.. HH60's are capable of refueling while flying
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+1 # Mike 2009-09-14 02:18
Great post.

You mention that the birds with red cross symbols are not allowed to carry miniguns but later you write that when the PJs come, they come with miniguns blazing... do the PJs fly in different or unmarked birdies? Confused...
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# Red CrossLarry 2012-10-19 21:18
The Pedros are Air Force and the Medevacs with the red cross are Army. Apparently the Army thinks it should follow Geneva Convention requirements and not arm them, since they're on a mission of mercy. The bad guys have no affiliation with any country, they should not be afforded those rights. Furthermore, back centuries ago, the red cross was a symbol of Crusaders which infuriates the Afghans. The Army should do everything in their power to protect the air crews and the casualties they transport. Political correctness has gone too far with this problem.
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+1 # Dale Moore 2009-09-14 02:24
I was an Air Force Security Policeman back in the day and our barracks was just across the street from the PJ's. We stood in awe of these great men! They ran everywhere they went, they had a pull up bar at the door to their barracks and had to do pull ups to go inside or outside. Most of the time you would see them running together holding a telephone pole over thier heads calling off a cadence song. PJ's are unsung heroes! Thank you Micheal for shining a well deserved light of recognition on them!
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# Judy Daggett 2009-09-14 02:45
Greetings to a Courageous Journalist! I am grateful for your reporting. this one was special and the best way to say 'thank you' is by giving monetary support.... so I will do that. God be with you and those you are with in this war. Please let them know that I am praying faithfully for you all.
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+1 # Sean 2009-09-14 03:05
David, that is a boom for in-flight refueling.
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# Ken Wesolowski 2009-09-14 03:16
Thank you for the dispatch,
I am grateful for your reporting. Also true is we will never see this coverage anywhere else, God bless our Troops.
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+1 # A proud Marine Mom-Langhorne Pa 2009-09-14 03:17
I want to thank Michael for all the great reporting you have done over the years! Its nice to know that we get the truth out of your stories. Also my prayers and thanks go out to our whole military for there endless service. I know all of us in Langhorne Pa are proud. Be safe and God Bless!
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# PhilMB 2009-09-14 04:38
Many thanks for the dispatch and stunning photos of some of the brave Men in our societies doing what some of us wish we could. God bless and protect you, the Pedro's and the MERTs, and all of the Staff that keep them safe and active.
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# David M 2009-09-14 04:51
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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+1 # tripleA 2009-09-14 04:53
HOOYAH Pedros!
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# F M Huff 2009-09-14 05:43
Michael, thank you so much for your dedication to letting the world know the reality of the war from the fighting mans perspective. Compared to the MSM and "Other" sources your voice is hearing the truth and seeing the light. I have kept track of what you're doing and whenever I mention your name to friends they all know who you are. Your stories about our troops dedication and bravery gives me hope for America. Good work.
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# Mary D 2009-09-14 05:46
Thank you, Michael and all the people that we can see in the photos. It takes a different type of bravery that doesn't get enough thanks to help those far away from this country in hopes that conflict won't reach any further. There is a part of me that would love to be there to lend a hand if it is for nothing else but to hold someone's hand.
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# Colin 2009-09-14 05:56
Your photo journalism captured it all. With a son in Farah, it eases my mind a bit to know that Perdo help isn't far away if needed. Most of all, I thank the all the casevac units of ISAF for the role they play in keeping our loved ones alive.
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+1 # Maciek 2009-09-14 06:12
For that magnificient work you're doing out there for your readers and the cause of truth. I'm still too young to work and don't have a credit card so I can't donate, but I assure You You are in my prayers. Your staff is really wonderful - I've read it for two months, both the current and archives, and so have several of my buddies. You really improved my understanding of modern warfare, not to mention how deep you moved me. I hope You will continue despitre all the obstacles - maybe You could embbed with Polish troops for a while? There's a small FOB called Giro in Ghazni province, when they have our Polish cuisine served daily.

Greetings from Silesia, Poland
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# Patvann 2009-09-14 06:41
I wonder if we could persuade the Red Cresent Society if we could paint their symbol on the birds, rather than the cross. Their answer to that would say volumes....
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+2 # RE: Pedrosjr 2009-09-14 07:08
Encourage all of these people to run for Congress when they finish their tours. We need men and women like this runnning our country rather than the weak willies we've got now.
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# Darrell S 2009-09-14 07:31
Great post. I am an ER doc in NYC and I had the honor to spend a little time with Special Ops medics including PJ's doing a rotation in the ER. What a fantastic group of people. Smart, polite(at least in our setting)and a work ethic that for a civilian was hard to believe. Voracious desire for experience and knowledge. They knew they were going to need it. I guess that quite a few of them are out in both theaters. I can't imagine a better group of people to represent America, or for that matter the Earth. Thank you Michael for your posts.

Darrell S
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# Dave Hollenbeck 2009-09-14 07:34

RIGHT NOW, The State Controlled Media is reporting almost nothing--so as not to embarass our Incompetent leader
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+1 # Trashhauler 2009-09-14 07:38
It's important to point out why the Pedros are armed. They are part of the USAF Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) community, tasked with recovery of downed airmen from hostile territory. Hence the miniguns and air refueling probe.

One of the recent decisions made by the SECDEF was to cancel the next CSAR helicopter program. Apparently, he thinks anyone with a helicopter can do their job. As this article points out, the SECDEF is wrong.
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# Marine PaPa 2009-09-14 07:46
MICHAEL: As usual, fantastic photos embedded with an attention grabbing story of another element of the troops doing their jobs outside the wire. Keep up the award-winning calibre work, and watch your backside.

I would love to see you do an opinion piece on how the ISAF forces attract such amazingly capable human beings (and a few canines) to do this dangerous work. When you consider that they are risking their very lives, getting substantially less than civilian pay for comparable work, and have to put up with the increasingly stupid/dangerou s ROEs as they go about their jobs . . . how does the military recruit and keep these people? As your photos and stories so clearly show, these folks are some the absolutely best and brightest that we have to offer. They will have my enduring admiration and respect forever.

Off to the "Donate" widget to send in my monthly bribe to keep you willing to do what it is you do. Come on fellow readers . . . Michael's monetary support is crucial . . . so meet me over at the widget !
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# Mark Savage 2009-09-14 07:53
I can be very busy, but when your posts come in, I stop and read them. Everything else in my life pales in importance and seems so ridiculous compared to what these unbelievable people are doing. It makes me so proud of my country. It also brings tears to my eyes. MS
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# Jerry Wilson 2009-09-14 09:54
PJs were the Best in Nam. saved my tired old ass. Thanks. Jolley Green.
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# fitaloon 2009-09-14 09:59
Thanks for highlighting the great work these guys do.
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# Monique 2009-09-14 10:12
amazing how all work together to help on Soldier or more down. What a gift they have. Thank you for telling their story and more.
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# dennis 2009-09-14 10:59
keep up the great work, posting news like this. rearly will you see and hear news like this story in the mainstream news. now for now, we will be inundated with news on how we should pull out. and they will fan the flames to win there point. WE TOLD YOU SO!. thanks.
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# Tommy Barrios 2009-09-14 11:27
I noticed one of the PJ's was wearing a similar Jolly Green patch of the ParaRescue unit that is stationed @ Patrick AFB, FL. That base was my first assignment in the Air Force with the 2nd Combat Communications Grp. We used to stare in amazement as these guys would run up and down the the beach in summer with full combat packs and combat boots. We thought we where bad ass;-). When I was assigned to the Phillipines, once again there were the PJ's running with full packs on in the brutal heat, this time around the parade field about eight times, which measures out at about two miles.
Anyone thinks they are a bad-ass, join the Air Force and sign up for PJ school. If one manages to get in, one will be surprised at how fast the troops DOR out of training. More so than the SEALS or the RANGERS!!
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# Steven Staley 2009-09-14 11:38
Thank you for being there to cover and report the stories of these heros back to concerned americans. The way that you weave words and photographs together into a story is second to none. Most of us would not have a clue as to what really goes on over there without the work of excellent journalists such as yourself.
Thanks again!
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# Rotro 2009-09-14 12:01
Just to remind everyone, one of the numerous Air force programs killed in April by SecDef Gates was the CSAR-X, which would have provided replacement helicopters for the worn out HH-60Gs (the ones you see above in Michael's dispatch). The all-knowing, all-wise SecDef is confident that anyone can do that job and feels there is no need for a dedicated organization or specialized aircraft to do these (all weather) lifesaving missions.
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+1 # RE: PedrosChristin Helander 2009-09-14 12:24
I say that when the Pedros are done with this assignment they hurry home and take over our government. We need their work ethic, commitment to excellence and physical stamina to do what it takes.

Mom to Graham
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+1 # RE: PedrosJUAN SANTIAGO, USAF retired 2009-09-14 12:50
Great job from all of armed forces men and women! Hooah!
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# Punkindrublic 2009-09-14 13:06
Hell, I used to think my R1 launches during the cold war on P-3's from Kef (or other places) was something; looks like these guys have it down pat. Keep up the excellent work. Sorry I couldn't have been part of this fine group of aviators but.... timing is everything.
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# Barb 2009-09-14 13:39
Thank you so much for sharing. It's so profound that I don't know what to say. Thank you seems trite.
I teach high school students and share some with them. I'm sure most of them don't realize the intensity. (Nor do I)
You have our support, love, appreciation, and empathy.
Take good care.
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# Barb 2009-09-14 13:43
WOW. Amazing. Profound. Intense. Thank you for the pics and commentary.
I teach high school students. I'm sure most of them do not realize all that goes on. (Nor do I) I try to make them aware...
Thank you seems trite.
However, you have our support, love, empathy and encouragement.
Take good care.
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# DARREL NASH 2009-09-14 13:50
Mike as always you rock. You cover things that no one else seems to care about. I love the Punisher symbol one of the door gunners had on his chest

Deuce Four Historian.
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# Phantom 2009-09-14 14:06
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWaehyJb0pg - HD Footage shot this past couple of months from the Pedro's perspective.

Awesome article Mr Yon, thanks for getting the info out straight
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+2 # RE: PedrosRandall Schultz-Rathbun, Col, USAFR, Ret 2009-09-14 14:15
THANK YOU FOR THIS STORY! I am a retired Air Force rescue pilot and was honored to fly with PJs for over 20 years. The Combat Rescue team is truly an amazing national asset. FYI, the "Pedro" call sign came from the early days of rescue in Viet Nam, when SAR crews were flying HH-43 Helicopters.

"These things we do, that others may live."
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# HH60 Flunkiehh60guy 2012-10-11 17:25
Right on SR!
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+1 # Sumpter Steve 2009-09-14 14:26
Another great article. Those PJ's and the aircrew that shuttle them around have my respect. That's a tough job in an inhospitable area and they excell at it.
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# Brian Black 2009-09-14 14:53
Great report, as usual, Mr Yon. Great job by these guys, and just one more excellent story about what a kick ass job our guys and gals are doing over there. Thanks very much. - Brian
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# DaveWVU 2009-09-14 16:26
With all the bias and politics in the news, you and your honest and fair reporting are what is needed. Keep up the good work.
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# Eagles Dominion 2009-09-14 18:00
Great article Mike!! I keep telling my son to keep an eye out for you. Thank you for your honest assessment of the situation over there. Stay safe.
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# Mike 2009-09-14 18:15
Thanks Guys! PJs Rock. My fodest memories are being trained by PJs at PJOC @ Kirtland AFB. Some seriously highspeed airmen.
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# KenVT 2009-09-14 18:38
Great pictures and our wonderful troops in action. Would love to see some of these clowns in congress have half the courage these folks display everyday. Thanks to all of yall that make freedom ring. God Bless
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# SangerM 2009-09-14 19:16
1. Just a small note: Gates is not an 'enemy of CSAR. The helicopter program was apparently not going where he felt it needed to go. The PJs are still being trained because aside from the humane aspect of it all, a downed pilot is a huge investment at risk. The issue is the helicopter, not the PJs.

2. Army MEDEVAC helicopters are required to be marked and unarmed per the Geneva convention, and regardless of what the enemy does, signatories to the GC are required to abide by its strictures. Also, MEDEVAC helicopters rarely fly into a hot spot without some kind of fire support, either from the ground or the air. The helicopters are not armed and the crews are not trained the way PJs are because they do not have the same mission. As was said above, PJs do combat search and rescue.

PS: GREAT photos, great article. I envy your skill and eye!
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# Sherrianne1 2009-09-15 02:32
Thank you again M. Yon! As always, your pictures are worth a thousand words, so good too know these guy's are there taking care of our brave soldiers!
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+1 # RE: PedrosJerry Taylor 2009-09-15 02:49
Wonderful stuff, Michael. Now we know what a hero our grandson is! He mans a gun at the window. The photos are outstandinding and very informative.

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+1 # Eric H. 2009-09-15 03:09
I spent a combined 27 years active and reserve time in the Air Force (far, far away from any combat), but on one occasion during an exercise had a chance to work with some PJs. They're absolute and consummate professionals and totally selfless, and I've been in awe of these guys ever since. Thanks for putting up this article...too many people have no idea what PJs are or what they're all about.
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# Paul Ratcliffe 2009-09-15 03:19
It's a shame there aren't more books written about these guys, as I for one would love to find out more. I hope you manage to stay with this particular group as long as possible.

Congratulations on what you're doing and Good Luck.

And thank you and good luck to all those in the forces from the UK, US and everywhere else.
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+1 # Drake 2009-09-15 03:43
A commenter above asks “how the ISAF forces attract such amazingly capable human beings...?” In the 18 years I’ve been associated with CSAR, I’ve come to be amazed at just how ordinary and normal my fellow airman are. Ordinary like Clark Kent - something happens when the call for help goes up. The transformation is amazing when the hero inside comes out. Happens with active duty forces of course but maybe it’s even more striking in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units that make up about 50 percent of rescue force. They are there in Afghanistan and in Iraq alongside the active duty. Rescue squadrons are filled with cops and firemen, of course but there are also teachers and lawyers, airline pilots and Harley mechanics. You know that 50-ish guy who comes in to repair your Xerox machine? He could be a flight engineer with the local unit that insists on flying around a 2 AM disturbing your good night’s sleep. You might want to ask him about that mission where he earned the Air Force Cross. You won’t, of course, because unless you’re there when the siren sounds you’ll never see the change and you’ll never know. Witnessing this change among your fellow soldiers (or airman, or sailors, or Marines), normal men all, is probably the sort of thing that inspired Robert E Lee to write “It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it.”
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+2 # RE: PedrosChristina Whitaker 2009-09-15 04:32
I actually have the pleasure of knowing most of the men in these pictures. My husband is also a PJ and works with most of them. I do believe they do not get the recognition they deserve. They are an amazing group of men and I appreciate and support everything they do for us. Thank you so much for what you do, you have no idea how much you mean to us! Michael Yon, thank you for taking the time to show America how important our PJ's are to our country.
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+6 # RE: PedrosSlick 2009-09-15 04:39
Just got home a couple days ago from our 4 month rotation providing medevac to our bro's. Now i'm catching up with Michael's work. Even had the pleasure of having him fly with us on our last couple days in country.

As a crew member of PEDRO 35, a resident of POD 501 (same tent city as 2 Rifles), and everyday deliverer of wounded to Nightengale (hospital at Bastion where Danes, US, and UK Doc's and Nurses provide WORLD CLASS medical care), I pray everyday for the safety of "my brothers and sisters" in the field. Everyday we sat in our CP hoping to get to fly all the while praying that the call didn't come. More often than not, the 9 line medevac request came. And you bet your ass, no matter the circumstances, nationality, or threat to us...if you've been injured fighting to preserve the right to not live in fear of radicals...we'r e coming to bring you home!

My unit has since left, but the PEDRO callsign is carried on by another incredible AF unit.

I'm not a political guy. While I wish that there were more helicopters to do the job better, I don't give a shit why or how. All I know is that I was glad to be one of the guys that made sure so many will get to be with their families again. Unfortunately there were some that did pay the ultimate price. You should all know that these fallen heroes (refered to as "Angels" by PEDRO) were ALWAYS given the same priority in respect to going in to get them regardless of threat to us. Everyone goes home. I was on 127 missions and will forever remember the grateful faces of the incredibly brave warriors. A little emotional I know, and while I'm glad to be home, I miss being there to help.

God Bless the "Norsemen", "Chosen", "Widow", and any others that I may have missed. Keep your head on a swivle and rock on Michael.
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# Paul Yarborough 2009-09-15 05:00
Simply an amazingly stunning, and moving report Mr Yon. Thank you! These guys are Champions within the collective group of Heros, that is our military!
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# SAR Bum 2009-09-15 06:50
I was surprised that a) "Pedro" has survived as a call sign in combat search and rescue, and b) anyone was concerned that "Pedro" was "secret." "Pedro" has been around since Vietnam, if not as far back as the Korean War. George Galdorisi's book, "Leave No Man Behind: A History of Combat Search and Rescue," discusses it. I'm not associated with the author, but it is an entertaining, well researched book.
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# claudia 2009-09-15 07:12
Great story Michael. Great Job PJ"s and may god be with you and all of our men and women in the military. We Americans I included are extremely proud to have you defending and protecting our fine country,

God speed to you all and your families and thank you!
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# Neil Bausor 2009-09-15 07:14
Having left the military, since flying CH47s out of Bastion 2 years ago, it's great to see such clear, objective reporting from Afghanistan - it's a shame that the MOD stopped Michael's embed with the Brit forces, but any news is fascinating to get. Just a shame that there is probably no simple answer to the problem, and many more will die before the powers-at-be realise that?
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# Linda White 2009-09-15 07:17
Even though I cannot support the war, I can, and always will, support and admire true courage and honor, attributes obviously shared by the people you've shown. A very dear friend of mine forwarded this to me as one of her sons flew with you on these missions (she has two who both recently came home safe and sound). Thank you for an honest portrayal of what's going on over there.
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# Tom 2009-09-15 08:38
What is the deal with this helmet?
That is the coolest thing I have ever seen. Makes Darth Vader look like a sissy.
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# Kerry 2012-01-10 17:19
wondering what do you mean by 'what is the deal with this helmet' ???????
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# The Sanity Inspector 2009-09-15 08:41
Tremendous folks, the best.
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# AFSister 2009-09-15 10:33
PJ's are truly amazing. I'm so glad you were able to go out with them and report back to us. My cousin is an Army Blackhawk medivac pilot and is on her way to AFG now (could already be there, but she's probably in Kuwait still). Perhaps she'll take their place at Robinson. I guess we'll have to wait to find out, but judging from your story, I'd say she'd gonna be one busy pilot, unfortunately.
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# qbit 2009-09-15 13:31
.. i mean bin laden isn't listed on the FBI wanted list for 9/11, and most of the hijackers were saudis, not afghans.
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# Truckie117 2009-09-15 13:55
Another great story Had the honor of working with the PJ's few days after the attack in NY Out Standing people
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# John Woods 2009-09-15 14:11
Wow, those are some REALLY cool images!

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+1 # RE: PedrosAir Force Mom 2009-09-15 14:32
Wow! My son is training to be FE on the Pavehawk. This gave me quite an introduction into what he will be doing. I couldn't be prouder.
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+1 # Air Force Mom 2009-09-15 14:32
Wow! My son is training to be FE on the Pavehawk. This gave me quite an introduction into what he will be doing. I couldn't be prouder.
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+1 # Kerry 2012-10-20 04:16
my son is a CSAR Pave hawk FE... scary stuff it is !!
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+1 # PavePilot 2009-09-15 15:27
Often, the gunners and flight engineers have to stick their heads out the window (even when the bullets are flying) to fire their weapons or clear the flight path, especially when the aircraft is oriented so the pilots cannot see. This design helps protect their face and communication equipment from wind and flying debris.
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+1 # dennis 2009-09-15 16:35
were in the heck was this crap in the story,
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# Brian 2009-09-15 18:21
While MERTs may have a DR onboard and be bigger, that does not detract from Pararescuemen's medical capabilities whatsoever. All PJs are nationally registered paramedics, all receive advanced "dirt medicine" training, and most are Advanced Tactical Practitioners for USSOCOM.
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+3 # RE: PedrosBLC 2009-09-15 18:58
These guys have been at this a long time.
Many downed flyers are here today because teh Jolly Greens came into Laos, Cambodia and other ugle places to haul our asses out.
Thanks guys.
I'll never forget you.
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# Paul Duey 2009-09-15 19:42
Great stuff Mike. Without your photos it'd be hard to visualize the outstanding sacrifices these men make. How can we possibly thank them?
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# Petar 2009-09-15 21:19
Great report and really nice pictures! But I am wandering, I cannot see if passengers on the chopper are somehow tied to the helicopter? Do you have some belt so you cannot fall out or you just have to hold on on those tight manouvers?
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# Chris Underwood 2009-09-15 22:16
Those Pedros are from my unit and they're solid as Rocks.
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# Tarkan Bulan 2009-09-15 23:12
It will be great honour to work with these life savers. Thank you very much to show us.
I hope these wars will end as soon as possible and all these heros will return to their loved ones.
Michael Yon, you are really lucky and breave. All the commanders who are brave enough to let us see the real life are great heros too.
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-5 # RE: PedrosDrito 2009-09-15 23:21
These are the guys who have killed 1500.000 civilians over in Iraq and Avganistan.Crus aders modern times. How will feel when they lose the war.
Where are the pictures of the mass killings of civilians.Googl little. Or will Bush drained brain.
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# Stephanie J. 2009-09-16 05:05
I have several friends whose husbands are PJs. Thanks for sharing these compelling photos and a little bit of their daily bravery.
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# DSW 2009-09-16 06:30
The Army is required by the Geneva Convention to have medevac helicopters unarmed and marked by the distinctive Red Cross, even if our opponent does not. Here are the relevant sections:

A-7. The medical aircraft shall bear, clearly marked, the distinctive emblem together with their national colors on their lower, upper, and lateral surfaces.

A-11.When engaging in medical evacuation operations, medical personnel are entitled to defend themselves and their patients. They are only permitted to use individual small arms.
A-12.The mounting or use of offensive weapons on dedicated medical evacuation vehicles and aircraft jeopardizes the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions. These offensive weapons may include, but are not limited to machine guns, grenade launchers, hand grenades, and light antitank weapons.

Now whether you agree with this or not is up for debate. But that's the why part of the question. I assume PJ's are armed, like the previous poster noted, because they are not strictly medical evacuation units but perform combat search and rescue. The Japanese targeted medics in World War II but I've read the Germans showed more restraint. And Michael, thank you for these reports. It is great to have your first-hand accounts of the war in Afghanistan. Keep up the good work and Godspeed.
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+1 # lono_68 2009-09-16 10:57
Damn great story! These guys are awesome! All the PJ's kick butt! Hardcore!! Say an extra prayer for them as they go about doing their job.
Thanks for another great dispatch Michael!
Stay golden!
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+1 # RE: PedrosEdnonymous 2009-09-16 16:13
Bless them all and Godspeed.
Return safely y'all.
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+1 # Bojan 2009-09-16 21:45
I dont like war but those images are great ! i really felt like im there with you reading through this article. Great photos great story !
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-13 # RE: PedrosTodd B 2009-09-17 05:41
While the PJ's do some of the Medevac work in Afghanistan, the bulk is done by the Army. I find it interesting that you blame the Army for the Air Force mistake's. Over the past year in Afghanistan it's been the Air Force that has lost 3 helicopters due to pilot negligence with the Army losing 0. With extremely heavy helicopters, underpowered engines and inexperienced PJ's , they just are not equipped, trained or competent at critical care rescue's. With the impending lose of the ERQ'S mission, the Air Force is scrambling to save their rescue squadrons, pushing into the Army Medevac system.
While over the past year the PJ's have treated hundreds of patients, the U.S. Army flight medics have treated thousands over that same time frame; taking care of all critical patients as the PJ's have proven that they are incapable of handling serious, intubated patients.
So I suggest to quit ripping on the real Medevac, the U.S. Army.
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# Mr.Pavehawk Pilot 2017-08-19 22:32
Todd, Dude, having served in AFG, I have the greatest respect for both AF Rescue and MEDEVAC, two totally different missions. What's your problem? MEDEVAC does large quantity recovery of injured personnel to next higher level of care. Unarmed, brave, but heinously vulnerable. Pedros are combat rescue, less space in back, but armed to the teeth and can fight in and out.

Your comments about PJs are just flat out wrong, 25 years of combat to back up my statement that PJs are the finest medics in the entire US military. SOF are good, but PJs are the absolute best.
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# scott randle 2009-09-17 07:49
Thanks,Michael. great photojournalism . I was Special Forces(Viet Nam era) and I'm so proud of all who serve today.They are the best our country has to offer.
Airborne! All the Way!
Scott Randle
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# Kevlaur 2009-09-17 09:14
Thanks, once again, Michael for showing us what great folks we have in the military. The role of the PJs in Black Hawk Down was overshadowed in the movie.

And, yes, casstx, that would be against opsec.
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# David H Villarreal MD 2009-09-17 12:39
Admiration and respect for these guys. Had learned a lot form them
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# rachel 2009-09-17 12:43
Thank you Michael for the great report you did. It was awesome! God Bless all of our troops and home they can come home soon.
Love to all our troops. God Bless you
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+9 # RE: PedrosSlick 2009-09-17 18:22
Wow Todd B...have an inferiority complex much? You sound like a proud Medic. You should be, but if you actually read this blog, you'd find that you're the only one ripping anyone. Michael Yon, and the Pedros for that matter, have nothing but admiration and respect for everything that Army Medevac does. There's just no way we can match the shear volume of medevac's that need to be done. That's why there's probably at least 40 or more Army birds compared to our nine or so.

However, we have our roll and the fact of the matter is that we have different capabilities that allow us to go into hotter areas with a lower ORM than will allow your bro's. That's not an opinion. That's why they're not at the Base this was featured at. The average ORM is Higher for Army due to aircraft capabilty and specialized training. The Army has so many aircrew, they must train differently. A lot of my pilots are former Army guys. Ask them, they'll tell you it's just very different. I distinctly remember a mission where Marines hit an IED approx 6 miles from an FOB with Dustoff's (sixty miles from where we were), but we were launched because it was near zero zero vis in a sand storm and we have the capabilities to get there. Another time was when we launched to recover an Army 60 crew that rolled during BO training...oh wait you said that hadn't happened. Well, I guess when all of your info comes from CNN...

And we're not weasling in on the medevac business. We train constantly for Personnel Recovery (PR) of downed aircrew OR casualties that require exfil while troops are in contact. Weapons employment, countermeasures , ECAS, etc. PR is our term for medevac, we just don't call it that in the ISAF world. If we weren't needed to fulfill a specialized roll, we wouldn't be there.

That's the difference between you and I. I have nothing but respect for MY Army counterparts. In fact, another reason I know you didn't thoroughly read this is that it mentions a couple of OH-58 bad asses that came into a hot LZ and picked up a few of my bubbas after their aircraft sustained so much battle damage they had to PL. The ONLY Army bashing may have been that the DART tried cutting off the blades while the bird was in a really, really, really large puddle of fuel. Bad idea...pooof. Up in flames baby.

Now! About this "Army Medics are better than PJ's" when it comes to quality of medical care. When it comes to capability and competence in the medical field...you both provide the same care. Are you a freakin moron. That's like saying an Army pilot flies an H-60 differently than an AF pilot. Same thing stupid. I've flown with Army Medics in past deployments and have been thoroughly impressed. And you can bet there's no PJ that thinks he can provide superior medical care than you (well there probably is, but he wouldn't be arrogant enough to say it)...Todd. PJ's just go through additional combatant training that would make a billygoat puke.

So Todd...As long as the end result is our guys making it back to see Mama and the kids, you should get over yourself and realize we all have a part in this. I'm sure your fellow Medics are more concerned with their patients than your score.
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# CSAR FE MAKerry 2012-10-20 04:19
well said slick !! :lol:
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+2 # RE: PedrosBRI 2009-09-17 19:22
All this "these guys are better than those guys" stuff is BS. No-one downrange has anything other than respect for the guys in other specialties. They are all in it, they all have different jobs, they bust their asses and do them well. You won't see a lot of ego flexing, most are supremely self confident and don't need to pull down thier pants to compare the various sizes of their dingers.

People only need to make those comparisons if they themselves are insecure.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-09-18 03:02
I "watch" the major cable news programs (FOX, CNN, MSNBC) while I sit at my computer. I am mostly interested in what is going on in Afghanistan so I interupt what I am doing when a story about the AF war comes on. I can say that, far and away, CNN provides the most coverage and very much aligns what I read here on Michael's site. I rarely watch the network shows. I have to guess that those bashing CNN have not watched it for a while. I recommend giving them a look.
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+1 # Netty Nellis 2009-09-18 09:12
Thanks for sharing our unsung stories, which surpass the media hipe. We should never forget as long as there are operational assets across the pond (friend or foe), there will always be Air Force CSAR flying the skies of liberty and hope. In addition, please remember the females such as myself (Flight Engineer), pilots, aerial gunners, and maintainers who have served under the blankets of their male counterparts, only to contribute to the saving of lives in silence. "These Things We Do, That Ours May Live."
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+1 # PJ Class 71-4 2009-09-18 09:31
"Some readers have gotten upset that I call them “Pedro,” thinking the name is secret. The concern is welcome but not warranted in this case. The Pedros don’t care and they even have a Pedro patch."
GREAT Photos Michael -

Pedro was the Call Sign for the Kaman HH-43 helicopter in Southeast Asia - HISTORIC - Read about PEDRO 73 and Bill Pitsenbarger


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+1 # Kevlaur 2009-09-18 10:43
PJ class 71-4... it's a GOOD day to read about A1C Pitsenbarger; isn't it?
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+1 # Andrew 2009-09-18 14:36
I'm with a lot of people here in saying these guys don't get the recognition they deserve. Brothers in arms, and brothers in blood.

Semper Fidelis
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+2 # PaveHawg 2009-09-18 22:35
I am a 33-year retired Chief and spent 27 of those years in Spec Ops and CSAR on Jollys and Hawks. Every day I thanked G-d that we have PJs. CSAR is a TEAM effort and these guys hang out at the very pointy end. After deployments in 3 wars too numerous to count, I never saw any PJ falter; in fact there were times we had to hold them back. They even worked on me a couple of times over the years so I'm here to tell ya....they know their stuff.

Regarding Gates and the cancellation of CSAR-X; I only hope we can recover from his mental imbalances before it is too late.

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# Mary 2009-09-19 04:37
Yes, our compromising "deals" wherein we supply the expendable soldiers and other countries support the medical resources for our soldiers (and terrorists and their families). Yet, when they get home, disabled soldiers are urged to kill themselves as a matter of policy:


We need to combat that:

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# Transito Trujillo 2009-09-19 13:50
Outstanding photos and running commentary. The kind of rescue and medical coverage our forces can count on directly demonstrates the worth their country places on theirs lives.
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# Kevin 2009-09-19 20:24
Not sure which is better ... the photography or the writing.
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+3 # RE: PedrosSnow Fox 8 2009-09-20 01:29
Red Crosses on helicopters? You think that doesn't make sense? Come on, for the army that is lightweight. The notion that even after 8 years the Army wouldn't get the memo, change doctrine, call it CASEVAC and arm the snot out of their UH-60L Blackhawks, that this is somehow unusual, well heck, you haven't been around the army then.

The HH-60L is a different story and a harder nut to crack. This is in fact a dedicated air ambulance with no other tactical role and so the Geneva Conventions are harder to get around. But one might ask as well why the HH-60L was not outfitted with refueling gear and weather radar. I have flown extended hard IFR missions in the Lima and Lima crews launch in conditions as bad as you can imagine, but it is not as capable as the MH-60 or the USAF's HH for range unless it flies with ESSS and then weight and loading become an issue. This is just SNAFU and that is how they do business. Cheers!

I give the PJs all credit due and I would remind the parochial who comment here that we are all on the same team. While I might criticize USAF leadership for mucking with things like the C-27J and thus depriving the Army of a badly needed asset to replace the C-23, I think it crazy to criticize USAF units who are as much prisoners of ill-informed and politically driven policies as anyone else in the other services.

Finally, and I never thought that I would say this, but I think that it may well be time to start streamlining aviation medical assets and consider combining them into a single composite force. Right now US policy is CASEVAC in the NAVY and USAF and MEDEVAC in the Army. The USAF has CCAT teams while the Army cannot seem to conceptualize an equivalent to the civilian critical care flight nurse. In short it is disjointed and the entire system needs serious reworking without the pandering that ends up creating sow's ears out of silk purses once inside the Beltway.

Kudos to all medics be they PJs, 68W, 18Ds, Coasties or Corpsmen. To the dying soldier on the ground, branch doesn't matter, competency does and we are fortunate to have a lot of that in the US military.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-09-20 02:34
I belong to neither political party. Having worn the uniform for 27 years, I have developed a distaste for politicians in general whose loyalty is focused on themselves, their constituents, and our country, in that order. I do try to ferret out the truth when forming my opinion. Mary, above, takes off on the VA booklet which was published during the Bush administration. Apparently, it was good then and bad now. What changed? I think I know.
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# NewsShooter 2009-09-20 06:56
Scott, such impartiality on your part is touching, really. As for your ferreting ability, not so much. Yes, it was published during the Bush admin. It was also scuttled, dumped, deep-sixed, trashed, and discredited as soon as it came to the attention OF the Bush administration.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-09-20 09:27
NewsShooter, your handle should be footshooter.... and you are wrong.

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# Michael Bednarz 2009-09-20 18:15
Michael you never cease to amaze me at your relentless efforts to give our men and women, and those of our allies their due. Without you their efforts would go largely unnoticed.

My little church in Gardiner, Washington has adopted the ETAC, 116th ASOS Washington Air National Guard unit. The late Scott "Mac" McDaniel was an FAC specialist and was a Church member of ours and he passed away 2007. We send packages ever couple of months to the 30 or so unit members in Afghanistan. They are always in our prayers. Of course our Pastor reminds us weekly to do so as he is a former USAF Special Op's Vietnam era vet. God Bless you Michael and be sure to pass on our thanks and prayers to all those you come in contact with, they are NOT forgotten.
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# Grerg G 2009-09-21 02:51
I crewed a/c 2-0-0 in Portlamd before the active duty pukes stole it.
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+1 # Paul Bove 2009-09-21 09:42
Michael: Thanks for the great pictures and commentary about the Air Force Pararescue team. It's an important job that many people don't know about. Your pictures and storytelling really did them justice.
Paul F. Bove
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
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+3 # K Bacheller 2009-09-21 12:18
I am an honored PJ parent. When I asked my son Why THIS job? To bring another soldier home to his mom, that's what he said.
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# Doya Meade 2009-09-22 14:55
Great job that you do - and all of them. Amazing. . .
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# PeggyAnn McConnochie 2009-09-23 08:26
Thank you for the dedication to our country! You make us all so very proud! Thank you for serving and protecting all of us.
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# Karen Runyon 2009-09-24 12:05
Amazing, humble, brave servants. Never forget their service and sacrifices.
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# Van Lewis 2009-09-25 09:33
Mr. Yon - awesome story - I've got a close friend on the 48th RSQ, the team that replaced the Pedros at that station. Give a shout out to my capt with the dirt on his upper lip! The future Tombstone 'stache speaks highly of you. Maybe you can get back into the base and ride along with them to get some more stunning images. I'd imagine that if this story was the product of 3 or 4 missions, you could get some outstanding shots with 15-20 missions. I'm envious of your adventures. Keep it up so that I may live vicariously through you (and my buddy).
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# Sando 2009-09-25 13:08
Many thanks to these brave Americans.
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# Al Passori 2009-09-26 04:54
Mike - great reporting and fantastic pictures, exactly what I expect of a professional journalist. I admire and respect you and our brave troops. Keep up the great work sir! God Bless.
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# Scott V 2009-09-26 11:33

Great pics and great story. The photos are absolutely fantastic! Keep up the great work.

Major, USAF (Ret)
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+1 # John S. 2009-09-26 20:38
As a civilian EMT, i have nothing but respect for these guys. Truly elite in both combat and emergency medicine. 30 seconds on scene is something us the in civilian world would kill for! Thank you for telling a story that no one else would.
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# Barbara Emler 2009-09-28 03:03
Great report, Mike. I enjoy all of your great reporting. It's wonderful to know that there are those out there who let the rest of us know what is truly going on.
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# Chris K 2009-09-28 07:57
I cannot adequately express my appreciation of the fine people of the PEDRO units. I am not current nor former military. Just a simple citizen that finds it amazing what our VOLUNTEER service people do for us. And wish to thank those that risk their lives for those that risk their live for us.

Mike thank you for this information about these DAILY HEROS
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# Dave Cox 2009-09-28 12:25
Having recently seen the National Geographic documentary called " Rescue Warriors" I am in awe not only of the risks that Pararescuemen take every day in the course of their duties, but the extreme training these fine men endure to attain their level of proficiency; truly humbling. Thanks guys for your sacrafice and thanks Mike for displaying some of it here.
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+1 # Jacob Burckhard 2009-09-28 15:46
We have a grandson that is a PJ and has done two tours in Afghanistan. We are very proud of him and his fellow PJs. We saw the training that they go through and wonder how they do it.
Keep up the good work Michael; the pictures give us a good idea of what the Afghan country is like and how tough being there must be.
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+2 # Gino 2009-09-28 16:48
My son is a deployed Ranger and sent me the below e-mail last week thought I would share:

"I don’t have any reason to believe that you have been watching the news, if you have then you can be the first of all my friends. But if you have then you know that early this month there have been several significant events that have gone down. We seem to be smack in the middle of it all. Which can be nice at times if things go according to plan. Other times it has made for some incredibly somber moments. Either late last month or early this one we lost 2 men from another company as a mass of our guys went into wipe out a huge enemy strong hold. The operation was meticulously planned and I can vouch to the fact that the leadership was among our battalions best but as soon as the assault force hit the ground the whole thing went to shit and the guys found themselves in a fire fight that lasted a better part of a day. There were helos dispatched in order to pull out the wounded that night. The helicopter landed right in the middle of a hot LZ taking fire and stayed on the deck several minutes waiting for the casualties to get on the bird. Minutes that seemed like hours to anyone tracking the fight. I could have sworn that something catastrophic was going to happen to the bird at any moment but the pilots pulled off the exfil and got the crew out of there unharmed. A miracle they didn’t get shot down, if you as k me it was comparable to trying to land a helicopter in the middle of an NFL game without attracting to much attention to itself, that’s how out of place it seemed. To me valor was redefined, it was amazing to witness such bravery. "

Michael, as you pointed out Rangers have tremendous respect for these brave men.
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# jim o 2009-09-30 06:39
Thank you for rela photos of men doing incredibly hard work. I have a son who is finishing his 2nd deployment as a combat controller in the USAF. I am so proud of him, the men he has served with, and the good friends he has lost.
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# Russell 2009-09-30 08:46
I was recently at the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame for a Vietnam-era PJ's induction ceremony. It was the first time I got to meet many of his friends and fellow PJ's from way back. They were an outstanding group of individuals. With the technology advances and the benefit of training from instructors with actual experience, I can only imagine how special this new generation of PJ's must be.
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# bill. m. 2009-09-30 16:47
I was so glad to see those pictures of actual missions. Hope the public can have achance to see them. I hope that you ore others. would be able to get more recognition for P.Js .
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# Todd M. 2009-10-01 10:10
Having been to Georgia to see the men return from their tour in AFG and listen to their stories I must say they are truely an amazing group of people. High energy, smart, and humble. Any father would be proud.
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# Jeanenne Nielsen 2009-10-05 09:11
I am so thankful for this troops that give their all. I wish all Americans could be as proud of them. Keep up the good work, and I hope that it is not all in vain and that our President will give them the support that they need.
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# Jeanenne Nielsen 2009-10-05 09:18
I am so proud of our troops. I hope the Lord protects them and they can protect our country and the President will help them. Keep up the good worki.
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# Dustoff-57 2009-10-07 11:01
Great Job Michael. It makes no difference if it's PJ, Medics or Corpsmen.
They ALL are life savers.
To my fellow life savers. I had heard the the V-22 may become the next medical aircraft?
PS. Michael. I could be wrong, but I think the saying (So that others may live) came from Army Medevac units?
For the 57th it was ( I'll leave when I have your wounded) Capt Kelly.

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# Jack DBoo 2009-10-08 06:49
Excellent report, and nice work, Pedros!

More heros in action...I'm so glad to read about somethign postive like this.
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# Jack DBoo 2009-10-08 06:50
I meant "something" not somethign. Sorry...
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# Karen Willis 2009-10-08 21:36
Im so sick of this *&^%& war, if people could have a moment's peace some douche would light a fire somewhere to get another started. That said - please come home safe, prayers are with you and our people over there, just to let you know, everything our people are fighting for over there, freedom and all that, is being destroyed back home, the locals are being taught that former military are white al-Qaeda and yall cant buy firearms [miac report] check into it, we need you here, things are getting bad.
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-4 # RE: PedrosAndy Ace 2009-10-10 00:44
It should be pointed out that this is not the mission of CSAR. They are attempting to prove their relevance so as to not have their rotary program cut out entirely. They are flying the MEDEVAC mission and calling it CASEVAC. Army "DUSTOFF" is the true helicopter air ambulance, and never back down from a high risk mission even though they are unarmed. If you want to research some real tradition and stories of heroism, do a quick internet search for "DUSTOFF". There are 3 Dustoff companies in Afghanistan that are more than capable of covering all Geneva/Hague legal marked medevac missions. The USAF is nothing more than a bunch of cowboys looking for action and putting themselves up for medals because the lack the ability to fly smart.
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+3 # Slick 2009-10-11 19:13
Mr. Ace, just so you know, the very same guy that is evaluating the need for CSAR (you might know him as the Secretary of Defense), is the very same guy that ordered the plus-up of USAF H-60's and crews in Afghanistan. Weird. Not because the Army can't handle it, but due to the increased Operational Risk Management in the Helmand and our different capabilities. There are many, many more Army medevacs in Afghanistan than we have, but not in the "Green Zone". Different capabilities, different training...not better or worse, just different. I'm not an Army basher. Quite the contrary. Hundreds of interactions and joint ops with Army Spec Ops and Medevac crews over the years have been an honor for me. Never heard any of 'em whine like you though. I guess they're the ones that actually got in the big game. Keep your chin up big guy...you and Todd B will get a chance.

The USAF H-60's have been there since the beginning of OEF and OIF to merely handle the fewer high risk missions that are tasked. The Army handles most of the medevacs, but not the few...USA higher-ups hamstring you with an ORM that's too high. It's not because the Dustoff bubba's aren't brave enough. They rock!

Read above "RE: The real medevac in Afghanistan". Man, you're sensitive. I'm thankful as hell for the Army Dustoff guys. Now buck up, wipe the tears from your eyes, and let's make sure the troops make it home to see mama.
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# handy akku 2009-10-12 20:08
Great job.The Pedros are done with this assignment they hurry home and take over our government.
Thanks for share.
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-3 # RE: PedrosDustoff Pilot 2009-10-19 07:09
Army DUSTOFF the true medevac in the Army.. We are not bashing the AF, this reporter just is not "telling it like it is" He is putting out lies and stretching facts to make the AF sound like "Batman and Robin" and Army Medevac is like Ren and Stimpy... when that is so not the case. Thats whats the problems with all the Army guys and the problems they have with this aritical and this Iddiot that wrote it. He puts all these facts out as "FACTS" when they are opions and swears by them as facts. And all the masses out there that reads them thinks they are facts and praises the AF and makes a bad image for the army. It makes the army sound like the are 2nd to the Airforce in this mission.. when in fact the army are second to NONE!!! Thats why we take it personally. Thats why we are offended. We have no problem with the Airforce they just have been doing Medevac for what a couple years, when we having been doing it for DECADES!!! They are here now to "HELP" because army medevac is being stretched to its limits on multiple deployments. They do things a little bit differently then we do it, and have a different mantality on how they do things. But BOTH going in to HOT LZs, and BOTH picks up patients of all types of injuries and BOTH brings them back out again! The only difference is that they come in with GUNS a Blazin and US ARMY GUYS do it with just our FAITH and HOPES for the best, are Tactical flying ablitility and are heart to get the guy out of there and to a hospital ASAP. So that guy should have flown with both and then wrote his story so he could have gotten his facts strait... but its to late now, because the army pilots here in afghanistan have read this aritcal and none of them will let him on their aircraft! I know I wouldn't!!!
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-3 # RE: PedrosDustoff Pilot 2009-10-19 07:16
Oh and FYI, the Pedros might have been launched for the Army Helicopter the Rolled over on their BO accident (which is their mission, a true PR mission) But it was US! Army Medevac that got to them first and picked them up! And as far as the ARMY that killed the AF helicopter. It was in bad shape before we (the army) even go there. Do to the AF Cowboy flying. Thankfully noone got hurt on the landing! And there was MANY ARMY guys on the ground that day that told that 1 soldier that "Dont you think what your doing is a BAD IDEA" and that 1 YOUNG SOLDIER... didn't listen. So it wasn't the ARMY that killed it, it was one DUMB SOLDIER that wasn't thinking. So again AF get your facts strait befor you go running your mouth. And dont even get me started on the other PR mission that the AF Pedros were no where in sight when another ARMY Helicopter went down this year!!!
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+1 # UH60 & HH60 pilothh60guy 2012-10-11 17:45
Wow DP - chill out man. I don't think anyone is picking on Army Medevac. At least as far as I could tell. Maybe I'm wrong... and I have 16 years in Army aviation, and 18 in AF Rescue. Having flown both missions, I think I can see the similarities and the differences. Both are critical and highly skilled at their missions! Thank you Michael for the coverage. You're welcome on my bird anytime buddy!
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# yatesmachine 2009-10-21 18:37
Where I work, the PJs train right across the street from my office. Thank you for honoring (and showing) the very hard work they do every day of their tours.
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# Skip Raymond 2009-10-22 05:39
Great article and pictures.
I think there is a reason for the use of the name "Pedro" for their mission.
The name "Pedro" comes from the call sign for the HH-43F Kaman Huskie helicopters used for fire rescue helicopters used in the 1960's at fighter bases in the States and Vietnam. They were stationed on the bases to be able to respond quickly to a crash where fire trucks could not reach. AIC William Pitsenbarger, from Piqua, Ohio, was a PJ on a Pedro when he was lowered into the middle of an Army fire fight. His actions made him the most junior Air Force Medal of Honor recipient.
I just discovered that they are doing a movie about Pitsenbarger. Bruce Willis is in the movie (not as Pitsenbarger.) Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0783640/
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+2 # J 2009-10-22 08:50
Dear overly sensitive and insecure Army MEDEVAC kid,

I'm sorry that things are so poor for you in your career that you must insult others to build yourself up. I have worked with Army MEDEVAC many times and have found them to be professional and capable .. you, however .. I would not want anywhere near a real mission. Your insecurity and NEED to pump yourself up by putting others down shows me you lack the skills, confidence and professionalism it takes to be a part of that community. It is a true shame you slipped through the cracks... your community suffers for it. Truly you should perhaps look towards another career more suited to your childish ways.

PJs are not medics .. they are personnel recovery specialists. The focus is on trauma care .. rescue the patient and get him stable so that he can live to enjoy it. PJs are not MEDEVAC, though they have been misused as such in both Iraq and Afghanistan. PJs are CSAR and the mission is much different than MEDEVAC. Attempting to insult the medical skills of PJs is not only tacky but it is a lie. Standards are quite high in the PJ careerfield for all skills needed, medical proficiency is part of that. All PJs are held to the same standard as every other SOF "medic" as well as standards specifically for the PJ careerfield .. they must pass the SOCOM ATP exam to operate. PJs will attend courses conventional medics will never see .. this is because they will often times find themselves in a hostile and denied environment and will have to provide care for long periods of time without support.

As for PR missions that AF CSAR did not cover .. are you so naive that you believe a CSAR crew would turn down a mission? The Helo crews don't get to choose their missions, they are assigned. There have been many instances where AF CSAR was ready and waiting only to be denied. I won't bother to educate you on the successful PR missions AF CSAR has accomplished or the sacrifices crews and PJs have made while attempting to carry them out. It would be lost on someone like yourself.

I'm sorry you've never accomplished anything in your life to be proud of. I'm sorry you lack the maturity and professionalism of a true Soldier. I'm also very sorry for your community that you make it look bad. Hopefully no one gets the misconception that Army MEDEVAC is nothing but professional and adept.

I'm sure your immaturity will rear its head again and you'll reply to this with yet another angry, mindless rant ... so .. enjoy yourself.
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+1 # RE: PedrosTucson 2009-10-22 08:57
Michael , man that is just a great report . I hope our President reads it!!!. The PJ's and Army Dustoff crews are just the best hands down. And the UH-60 is the machine that makes it possbile ... thanks to all the crews who keep them flying ! Thanks to all our Troops over there ! Gob bless them all , and thanks Mike .
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# Dikke Kus 2009-10-23 08:15
Wow. What other word comes to mind from the American public? I've never seen anything like this before. We're all at war but so many of us have no idea what's is going on over there. THANK YOU!!!!!!! These comments and pictures provide a window for me and I'm sure for others. I was fascinated and couldn't rip my eyes of this page. So many heroes. So many brave acts everyday around us and yet it goes unseen, unheard. I live near an air force base, and many of my neighbors are shipped off there. Usually they remain pretty tight lipped about it all. I'm just trying my best here but I am so curious what it is they go through? Now I know. I hope the Netherlands is helping as well. My husband is Dutch so we often ponder. It would be nice to see this whole section in the paper here. I hope those guys know how great they are.
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# Matty D 2009-10-23 08:35
As an unapologetic peacenik and anti-government radical, I have to say these guys and their operation are mighty damn impressive. Too bad they serve the State. Also, how difficult it must be to integrate back into the managed society back at home where everything is morally ambiguous.
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# andrew vail 2009-10-26 01:57
You've got the Worst Post on this whole thread.

I'd be able to toss'ya some morals, but they wouldn't make you feel too-dang good.....or Me either.
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+2 # Phantom 2009-11-01 22:24
"Dustoff Pilot"? I doubt it, and you do Army Medevac a disservice by speaking as though you represent them. I was in Army Medevac prior to being a part of the Air Force unit covered here. You are the one without the proper facts, and it's laughable that you would consider Mr. Yon, who is a former Green Beret, banned from Army aircraft because of your own ignorance.
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+3 # RE: Pedrosjollygreen maintainer 2009-11-04 01:34
Thanks for this post, it was both informative and quite interesting, and the pictures are fantastic. I myself am a maintainer in one of the Pedro units currently in Afghanistan, and I can say that we are fiercely proud to be doing that which we can to save lives. I saw in some of the comments that there are some Army cats who got their feelings hurt by these, however we must all remember the competition between the two of us. Every time there is a call, it's a battle to get the birds ready to go, and both the Army and AF are fighting for every mission. I don't want to say that either one is better equipped for the mission than the other because I'm trying to be respectful, just remember I am in an AF unit...
A couple of other facts that I think I saw eluded to. The phrase, "These things we do, so that others may live" has been the AF rescue motto since the first days of rescue back in Vietnam. The first rescue, out of all branches, that would go in without support to pick up shot down service members was the 33rd, out of Japan. Pedro was the original call sign, and has been used since, and is a name that we hold dear to. It's not a top secret name, especially considering there are public groups out there that commemorate the Pedros (http://www.pedroafrescue.org/).
The last thing that I want to say is that it takes a whole team for these Pedros to get the mission done. Not to toot my own horn, but without us on the ground, that big rattling hunk of junk would never get out there to save people. Every time the call is made, it's the maintainers sprinting out to the aircraft first, getting power on, and all the plugs and covers off. And when they come down, we are out there every time, looking everything over so that the choppers are ready at a moments notice to get back out into the fray. We all work the 12 hour days, no days off, and we are all one team, and I think that I can speak for my entire unit, as well as the entire Pedro community, that we would have it no other way, and we are both happy and very proud to be providing this service.
Oh, one last thing, the Army flies BlackHawks, these AF helicopters are known as PaveHawks.
These things we do, that others may live.

A proud member of the 33rd HMU.
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# H60Phawk CSAR FE MOM 2012-01-10 17:44
very well stated :P
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# HH60Pilothh60guy 2012-10-11 17:50
Thanks for your service, and for your well said rebuttal JG-Mx
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+1 # K B 2009-11-07 10:24
WOW...WOW...was just research the support our troops and found your site...WOW! My heart is full, my eyes are tearing...My brain is in process mode...I am in awe of you guys...I am so thankful for each and everyone...FREE DOM, comes to mind every time I see someone in uniform...I salute and am so proud to live in the country of FREEDOM...Thank you, thank you...prayers are with you...
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# emergency ration packs 2009-11-22 20:23
What an amazing photographs. you did an excellent job here. Its just unbelievable. I am just been fan of yours... Keep posting..
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+2 # PilotDad 2009-11-26 13:38

One important point all of your readers should know is that it is difficult for family members, who have loved ones deployed, to get information. There are OPSEC considerations, availability of internet access for the troops and a short window between missions in which to communicate. This makes your site an incredible "window" into the missions and communities that you have covered thus far. As a retired Navy Master Chief, Inshore Undersea Warfare community, I remember my early deployments where the best we could hope for was a letter at mail call, hopefully "scented" (which is still great to receive, by the way). We have links now that were unheard of 30 years ago that help keep us connected. Your site is the best I have found, bar none.

Our son is a USAF CSAR HH-60 pilot who is currently deployed. Your site gives me a glimpse into his day to day experiences. I appreciate the risks you have taken in order to bring us their stories, which is now his story. My financial contribution is enroute.

Finally, from the Master Chief to all servicemembers making posts. Remember that many family members and supportive civilians are visiting this site, and offering thanks to all of our servicemembers. No matter which uniform you wear, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than some of the comments I have read. At the end of the day what is important is that we serve with honor, character and integrity, no matter the job, no matter the branch, and that we leave no one behind. The only credit you will probably receive is in the knowledge that you made a difference. And that knowledge, that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, is enough.

God Bless our troops, and Michael, Bravo Zulu and keep up the good work.
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# HH60Phawk CSAR FE MA 2012-01-10 17:45
thanks !!! :lol:
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# RedLawX1 2009-11-27 08:02
While our filthy politicians craft meaningless bills, you guys are over here doing the work that needs to be done. Thank you for that guys. My only regret is that I cant be with you. In place of that however, I'll offer my prayers for your protection and safety. May the Lord be with you, and may you/your crew return to us safely and to your family. The real Americans have not forgotten.
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# Diana 2009-12-04 08:53
I have the singular privilege to work with the US Air Force CSAR community, and so far they have all been an amazing group of individuals. Its an easy mission to love and a pleasure to support. Thanks for the story and the wonderful photographs.
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# clie78787878 2009-12-06 23:43
There is a massive change underway in the mobile media market as it becomes unshackled from the operators’ portals that have dominated it for a decade, all without having made any significant inroads into the content use of mobile users. The new capped data packages, fuelled by further competition, will see a total revamp of the mobile media market. It will no longer be based on portals but on direct services by content and services providers via open source phones and mobile-friendly Internet-based services. The next step is the continued emergence of m-commerce and in particular m-payment services. 
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# Mandy 2009-12-15 17:24
To answer the question above, the Code of The Air Rescue Man was penned by Col Richard T. Kight in 1947. The motto is the last line of the code (and today has morphed into a "we" instead of "I" as in "These Things We Do, That Others May Live"


"It is my duty as a member of the Air Rescue Service to save life and to aid the injured.
I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts.
These things I do that others may live."

http://www.rotorheadsrus.us/documents/262.html (About halfway down the page)
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# Sgt. Nevil USMC 2009-12-26 10:17
Wow this Pic's are outstanding! I respect all of you guys and I am Proud of you all!! Semper Fi
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# Ellen 2010-01-09 06:03
Why aren't we burning the poppy fields?
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# Major Greg Bell, USAF Aux 2010-01-12 04:02
Truly an outstanding group of people and the story is one every American should be aware of. I'm sending it to all the members of my CAP squadron.
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# SJPONeill 2010-01-12 09:29
Great story and humbling...

One really does wonder what protection a red cross offers over a minigun in this war...?
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# d. mears 2010-01-18 08:23
Great piece Michael. I served with the 37th ARRS in Vietnam. I would like to echo what the Chief posted earlier. This site is viewed by many active service personel. Please remember to honor all of our fighting men and women. Another point that has been made is accurate. P.J.'s are CSAR trained, a little different then MEDEVAC. Stay frosty brothers and bring it home.
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# Josh 2010-01-31 05:50
Thank you so much for such an in depth blog. I am currently going through the enlistment process and preparing for the PAST. Do you have any advice from your experiences during the indoc? Thanks!
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# don mears 2010-02-09 06:18
Reply to PJ in training: The 20 M and 55 M swim test and 1.5 mile run shouldn't be a problem. work on your chin ups, push ups and sit ups. Good Luck slick
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# John M. DeCillo 2010-02-11 19:44
Thanks for the terrific coverage of these fine troops.
They perform one of the most dangerous and least mentioned missions of all.
Thank you and God bless each one of you.
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+1 # Geralyn Chilton 2010-02-12 17:47
My Marine is deploying to the Helmand Valley. It is heart warming to know that there are expertly trained Pilots and Medics on high alert 24-7. My Son is a Combat Engineer and a Certified Paramedic I pray these two units never need to meet, although I know that if they should our Soldiers will be in good hands. Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Focused. God Bless Our Soldiers for Their Courage and Dedication and God Bless You for Telling Their Story.
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+1 # Joe Connell 2010-02-20 15:42
I piloted Air Force HH-43F rescue helicopters in Vietnam. There are none finer than our Pararescue guys. Proud of you then - proud of you now. Thanks for your service and sacrifice...
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+1 # Munro Dearing 2010-02-21 10:30
My hat goes off to the new generation of PJ's and Pedro drivers. What great pictures these are. Really enjoyed seeing them. Keep up the great work and tradition. I am proud to have been part of the community.
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# jack 2010-02-25 07:24
our-great troups--God-ble ss them all--
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# Whitey White 2010-03-07 17:06
Nice going guys....................
You are right on with your comment of other SOP'S medics that are also great.
Special Forces medic's are very well trained for over a year and also in field work.
Saved a great many lives in VN...Laos...Cam bodia and many other places in time.

My Many Thanks to you ALL once again.......... ........WW
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+2 # AH-1W Pilot 2010-03-09 16:40
Those bashing Gates for his decisions on CSAR-X should know that the only reason these guys are even flying these missions is because Gates refused to accept that casualties in Afghanistan were taking half again as long to get to treatment as those in Iraq. One reason (amongst several) for this was that the Army was tapped out WRT medevac aircraft. He looked around and asked why these CSAR guys were sitting on their asses with all their training and equipment waiting for the rare CSAR mission to come along. Of course the Air Force leadership said "Doctrine! They don't do medevac. They only do personnel recovery." He said BS and got these guys in the fight where they should have been all along.

Say what you want about Gates but he makes hard decisions and holds people accountable far more than any SecDef in recent memory. CSAR will get their aircraft but it's going to have meet the reduced price associated with reduced budgets. The sooner all the services figure out the salad days are over for a long while, the better.
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+1 # TSgt Paul Garner Ret, 7th Air Rescue Group, Wheelus AB, Libya 1955 2010-03-23 06:19
Dustoff 57

The motto "That Others May Live" originated with the Air Rescue Service shortly after it was established in March 1946. They were a component of the Air Transportation Command which was which was a USAAF (United States Army Air Force) unit. There was always some question as to whether "We do this that others may live" or "That Others May Live" was the official motto. Both were used initially, but "That Others May Live" was generally accepted as the official motto by 1955. I was assigned to the 7th Air Rescue Group, Wheelus AB, Tripoli, Libya, in 1955 and wore an ARS patch. It was a shield with the Angel of Mercy holding the world in her hands on aa light blue background with a yellow stripe in the center. The scroll underneath read "Air Rescue Service". There were some unofficial variations of this design that had the unit designation in a semi-circle flash above the shield.

On another subject, my nephew was the pilot of Dustoff 90. Dustoff 90 departed Ban Me Thuot, South Vietnam for Gia Nghai Special Forces camp on 12 Feb 1968. They never returned. Please pray for them.
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# M. Deaton 2010-04-09 09:52
Michael Yon gives WAY too much credit to the MERT. During my time in AFG, the Brits were constantly playing with soldiers lives by actively lobbying for missions in Helmand for the MERT that should have gone to Pedros.
Given a call to launch, The PEDROs could have a patient back at the hospital faster than MERT when that casualty was located 35 miles from Bastion or less. During the night, that distance would double given the alert procedures for the MERT. The JHFA was constantly on the phone with RC South lobbying to cherry pick missions to the detriment of the patients. While observing their posts on chat over a month, they lied often about takeoff times, consistently had their MEDLO at RC South convince the WatchO to assign them the mission and purposefully did not call the Pedro TOC about a casualty. Operationally, the MERT does no triage outside the aircraft and requires AH-64 support, slowing their claimed speed to a pick-up. The US has utilized the CH-47 since its inception but chooses to do MEDEVAC with the H-60 for good reason. The Brits have invented a new MEDEVAC concept and are hell bent on proving its worth even while they politic with soldiers lives. If they wish to do that with Brit casualties, it is their prerogative but Americans should know their soldiers are being put at mortal risk and not given the best possible outcomes because of British politics.
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# Morgan Epperson 2010-06-01 19:41
Thanks Michael! My husband is an Air Force HH-60 pilot about to go on his 6th deployment. He has been to Afghanistan four times. Thank you for shedding light on the great job that these men and women do. They put their lives on the line to save others every day.
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# MedicTronn 2010-06-05 07:11
WOW, great photos and stories. I want to be a Pj sooooo bad I've been training for a few months and I'm currently a paramedic in the state of NY. PJ's are the best they give treatment civilan medic only dream of. Not much more I can say, I cant wait to meet one and I cant wait to put my time in.
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+2 # CSAR MOM 2010-06-07 14:29
My son is a PJ, he's one tough, smart, honorable man. I am so proud and feel blessed to have him as my son.
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# Daniel 2010-06-10 22:44
Great photos and reporting about Pedros!!!
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# Steve Ellman 2010-06-12 03:30
Great photos. Time to get out of Afghanistan so we don't have to be doing this.
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# Chris J 2010-06-17 06:36
What kind of sunglasses is the guy wearing in PICTURE 9? (The guy w the cool looking hair?)
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+1 # Lewis in Orlando 2010-06-29 05:28
No one probably noticed, because the story never made headlines and was even just a paragraph or two under other headlines, but the Pedros recently (June 9, 2010) lost a helicopter and the men that were onboard. I know they were Pedros because I know one of them; and it does appear that it was the result of an RPG.

The best link I could find was on the Washington Times where the story was actually the subject of the article:

"NATO helicopter shot down in Afghanistan; 4 U.S. troops killed"

Please pray for these guys: the ones that died, the ones that have to keep going on missions, and the ones that survived the crash only to find themselves in a hospital bed... if they ever wake up.

This war sucks.
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+2 # CSAR Aunt 2010-07-02 14:30
My niece is a Pedro. She's a CSAR Pilot/flies a Pavehawk. I believe she arrived for another stint down range just after this was written last September. I have a Jolly Green patch and keep it well protected, I couldn't be more proud of anything as I am of that patch. The helicopter that was shot down on June 9th was a sobering and heartwrenching day for those of us related to Pedros. Thank you Michael for all you do and for showing me what her day in and day out is like in AFG. Continue to pray for all of our troops.
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# CSAR Aunt 2010-07-02 20:31
Dave Wisniewski, who was on board and survived the helicopter that crashed on June 9, 2010, passed away tonight. He received his Purple Heart on June 23 and celebrated his 31st birthday on June 27. http://wisniewskiblog.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html
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# JD 2010-07-03 08:23
Great article,
but those are pavehawks, not blackhawks.
The long tube on the nose is an aerial refueling probe.
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# Susan Caldwell 2010-07-05 10:51
My Dad did the exact same thing in Korea and Vietnam. He was with the original ( what t.v. called MASH) He passed away recently and I miss him very much. It's funny that he only mentioned shortly before he passed away that they did not carry guns while they were in combat zones. Funny all those years, I never thought about that. I asked if I could get one of his red cross arm bands to make a shadow box. Growing up we had moved so many times that not very much suvived. I will miss him very much. Thank you for your story. Susan Caldwell
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+1 # Sarah D. 2010-07-07 17:22
Thank You "Slick" and "J" for replying to the negative comments earlier. My husband is a PJ and I am extremely proud of him. He is great at his job. Managing ventilators and medications is just part of his job. He is brave, and would put down his own life to rescue another.

For the nasty people who post negative comments: There is absolutly NO need to pick apart the different services. I think most would be ashamed to read some of the negative posts. Please be mindful that the people you "bash" have loved ones who read these posts and are anxiously waiting at home for their return. Most of these PJ's also have children at home who are also proud of their daddy's! Don't ruin it! Please, please, please quit the negativity.

R.I.P. to those who lost their lives on June 9 and July 3, my husband and I pray for those still fighting.
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+1 # The Sandbergs 2010-08-09 20:21
My friend and future brother-in-law was an Evaluator Mission Pilot for the 66th search and rescue squadron at Nellis Air Force base Nevada. On June 9th his helicopter was shot down while attempting to rescue troops. He was one of the lucky three to survive the crash then 3 weeks later he passed from of his injuries. He was the most honorable and bravest men we ever had the pleasure of knowing. These "Pedros" are true heros. They deserve more respect than is given. We would like to offer our prayers and thanks to all the men and women still fighting to save lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. We would also like to thank the Wives. fiance, and girlfriends for giving our troops their love and support that gives them the strength to carry out their missions everyday.
Thank you Captain David A. Wisniewski for your sacrifice. We love you and we will never forget you.
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# Ashley H. 2010-08-10 14:10
I wear a KIA bracelet for one of the PJ's killed on June 9th as a lasting reminder of the sacrifice these brave men and women make daily. Thank you, Joel, for your service. My heart is eternally thankful for you and your dedication to our country.
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# Brett 2010-08-11 23:04
Great job with putting this together, its great see how it is through their eyes. Thank you! And thank you to all the military members who serve their country and are good ambassadors to the nations we occupy.
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# Emil Balusek Austin, TX 2010-10-03 11:39
Those Pedro patches and some of the Jolly Green and other patches related to Rescue have always been extra special to me in my USAF Collection. Of course, I also look for the Dustoff patches and there are tons of them too. If any of you guys know of companies that have made those for either Air Force or Army units in the past, please shoot me an email with the info as sometimes, those guys have a few on had as extra stock I can pick up and resell to other collectors. In fact, in any of you are interested, collecting militray insignia is a great hobby (over 60 years of it for me). I think of it as saving history because those patches, badges and such are not only much of the esprit de corps of the guys in the units but also they tell us a lot of what is happening to the units. We are in the OIF/OEF era and many patches made now show a link to that with some harkening back to 9/11 and "never forget" which even when I am gone will let people who see these know of the intent of these brave warriors who went to war for us. God bless you and keep you all safe. Emil
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+3 # RAF Techie 2010-10-15 00:49
I am a helicopter engineer with the RAF, we quite often see (read multiple times day and night) the pedro's coming to to refuel by our hangar. In fact we are waitng for the time one driver misjudges his turn and just drives straight in! This is the first testament that these guys really know their cab. How they haven't hit us yet we dont know. We have also seen the results of these maniacs (meant in a nice way) after going in to a VERY hot LZ. They were told to wait for double apache cover but decide they would go in regardless. They got the casualties out and returned in a cab that resembled a colender. It was repaired and flying within a couple of days. How the crew were not injured i do not know. But the balls on these guys are massive. And fair play to them, top blokes with no airs or graces just ordinary guys that dont do the job for glory or medals. Maximum respect to all given. Plus your cabs do look rather cool with 50 cals hanging off them and no doors for the pilots. I take it this is so the pilots can shoot when on the ground? If so you are definatly maniacs!
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# Former HH60 pilothh60guy 2012-10-11 17:57
Cheers buddy! Re: Doors? Visibility... better without them. Specially when flying with NVG's on...
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# Todd Thompson 2010-12-30 04:57
Outstanding! Go Pedro! Here's praying from the Maine Coast you each come home safe and and get as much time as you need to go hunting, fishing, swimming, boating, with as much family time as you need, you've earned it ; ) .
Nice reporting. I was provided a link to this report by a Vietnam Pedro so, yup, you're being watched by some of your old timers!. You've made a difference. 30 years from now when you reflect on it, you'll know you did and wonder just how in the heck you were able to.
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# Paul 2010-12-30 15:42
What plate carriers are they wearing?
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+1 # Joe Dempsey 2011-01-01 08:22
Great job to all, I remember it was a team effort. One of the best things about being in the Air Force was being a part of a Pedro air crew. When I was in, Pedro was the "Local Base Rescue" (LBR) bird. Todays crews are doing more of what the "Jolly Greens" did in Viet Nam, God bless and keep you safe. Glad to see Pedro is still around.
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# Gabriel 2011-01-06 15:38
Thanks for the fantastic photographs of our nations Pararescuemen Jumpers. I have huge respect for these brave men. Stay safe!
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# Tom 2011-01-17 18:49
Thanks for the dispatch, Michael. These are truly courageous men.
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# C. Ochsner 2011-02-16 04:12
Fantastic picuters of these brave mens. Looking forward to your next tour in Afghanistan and I wish you all the best!! Take good care .....
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# Ted Dannemiller 2011-02-16 05:03
Well done MY, and Bless the Pedros and all the CASEVAC crews. Great folks who care about our soldiers, AND the Afghans.
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# D Griego 2011-02-25 13:44
Thank you for all that you do! I have a son in the Infantry, knowing that you guys do what you do, and do it well gives me some peace. Be safe and God bless and keep every one of you!
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# Quade 2011-02-25 14:12
The Pedros are an invaluable asset to our armed forces. The cohesive bond that they have not only amongst themselves, but with the British and Danish forces as well shows the greatness and strength of this phenomenal team. Thank you Pedros for your selfless caring for those sick and injured in the line of duty. Thank you Michael for your fantastic portrayal of these guys, as well as the awesome pictures that you present that make the depth of the situations really come to life. Keep up the great work Michael!
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# Pit Bill 2011-02-25 15:08
Thanks for the story and great pics Michael, God bless our PJ's!!! Love the PEDRO patch! Stay safe and keep up the great work, we support and thank you all.
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+1 # RescueAngel 2011-02-27 09:00
It is a probe for mid-air refueling.
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# RQS guy 2011-03-08 23:48
These are not the Army Medevac guys and do not fly under the Red Cross. Yes, the aircraft is armed, and they will/do shoot back!
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# Mike 2011-06-13 06:12
I have always had tremendous respect for the Air Force's Pararescuemen and the crews they fly with. They are the unsung heroes of the USAF - along with the Combat Controllers working to secure air fields and Combat Weathermen. It seems to me that my Air Force brothers get the short end of the stick in the literary world as there are so few stories that tell of their courage in combat and other life-or-death situations. Only three stories I have read come to mind - Pararescue, Black Hawk Down and Battle of Robert's Ridge. Thank you for this awesome story and the photos accompanying it. I wish I could have seen some of the things you did in regards to how these men save lives.
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# Slick 2011-06-14 20:19

Here's a great article written by our DetCo at the time.
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# tj anthony 2011-09-08 21:21
great article...where are Pedros stationed in the USA? They saved my Irish buddy and gave him a patch but the doctors threw away his uniform (and patch). He'd like another and to thank whoever saved him on 11/24/10 in Geresach. thans again
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+2 # Sara Johnson 2011-09-21 02:57
I read this the first time when it came out, and at your suggestion, reread it for your upcoming dispatches. It still amazes me the professionalism , bravery, and skills these soldiers have. The photography educates, and illustrates the conditions they face. Remarkable reporting a second time around, too! Thank you.
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# Les C 2011-10-26 22:10
Enjoyed your input ref the "Pedros.' I worked w/Pedros back in the "old days" of '65-68 while based at a radar site on Okinawa as a radar operatopr and TAC Controller. I'm not sure, but I think the Pedros were part the vast 33ARS based out of Naha AB. Lots of missions were flown in and around 'Nam, both North and South. Back then Pedros flew the HH-43s. I also seem to remember that the SU-16s were part of the overall effort. I flew a couple of training/orinta tions missions on the SU-16 in the Okinawan FIR dooing "warer works" in Buckner Bay.
Keep up the great work...
The average GI knows from where you come from and where you've been..
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# Anne M Wenneson 2011-10-28 19:22
Hi. If you bless the GIs helmet liners with Holy Oil, I think they will be o.k.
You can just make the sign of the cross with it.

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+1 # ROK Doc 2011-11-29 10:28
Thanks for the article, as an old (80's) medic I worked with the US Army Dustoffs in Korea who flew the "brand new" Blackhawks, complete with targets (Red Crosses) all over. Until I left active duty I was not aware that the PJ's who I have nothing but respect for, flew with weapons. I assumed for many years it was like the SF medics, they were SpecOps and not subject to the Geneva Convention. I realize now it is strictly Army politics and helo companies who benefit from those stupid targets and lack of armament. I left the military years ago, but thanks to Michael for keeping us old soldiers and the public aware of the lack of intelligence of the Army brass.
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+1 # SatjockRon 2011-12-09 00:18
Army Brass needs to be fired, if not prosecuted for rank stupidity.
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+1 # SatjockRon 2011-12-09 00:21
Better yet, send the Army Brass out in the field where THEY live or die under their own stupid policies.
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# RE: PedrosTom Duncan 2011-12-14 15:08
The name "Pedro" as applied to air rescue/medivac helicopters dates back to the Viet Nam days. We also used it while training back in the 1980's. It was an Air Cavalry unit (Army) and the callsign was assigned to whomever was tasked to extract crews from any attack helicopters that might be lost.
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+1 # OMAN2537OMAN2537 2012-01-10 14:04
Worked MEDOPS desk in '09/'10 with and for some OUTSTANDING Army NCOs. They taught me the basics of MEDEVACs and CASEVACs and, upon leaving, graduated me with honors!

Prior to working the desk, however, I spent time with the PJs and their pilots to get a better understanding of THEIR capabilities! Everything you've written to date that I've read, Mike, is 100% in lock-step with what the pedro pilots told me! They come in UNESCORTED and extract whatever wounded are there...REGARDL ESS OF THE CONDITIONS OF LINE-1 AND LINE-6!!

9-line comes in...considerin g who's on-deck will determine how long the "golden hour" takes. As the person on the ground, I'm ASSUMING they'd prefer sooner than later.

Keep up the great work, Mike!! You're an advocate for common sense and I, as an officer, love seeing that!!
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# DaGonzRon Ayotte 2012-12-04 22:04
Excellent story. These guys as well as the dustoff crews are unsung heroes.
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