Michael's Dispatches

Question for Congressman Pompeo: What is your Position?

18 Comments

2011-07-18-082724 HDR1000

08 November 2011

Forward Operating Base Pasab is in the upper left corner of this image.  It’s the little rectangle looking area bristling with machine guns.  Well, you can’t see the machine guns in this picture, but they are there.  One time I walked by a guard post and didn’t see anyone in it.  I walked up to see if everyone was dead or something (highly unlikely), but the Afghan guards were just gone!  They had completely left their post.  Needless to say, I pulled out of there very fast and told a senior NCO and an officer at 4-4 Cav.  Good grief.  Many of our bases are guarded by Afghans.

Anyway, I made this image while flying with an excellent helicopter crew who often flies top cover for unarmed Dustoffs.  The bird from which this image was made had a machine gun on each door.  Not exactly mini-guns or .50 calibers, but at least it had guns.  On this day, the crew was not on a medical mission, but performing routine tasks and was kind enough to fly me from Kandahar Airfield to various places on their route, then drop me off at Pasab (one of their scheduled stops).  When we landed, there happened to be a quick ceremony on for an Afghan commander who had been blown up that day.  Soldiers told me that one of our helicopters was about to fly his remains to his home village, and so this was a farewell to what both Americans and Afghans would say was a respected commander.

I stayed at FOB Pasab for about the next ten weeks and made some good friends.  Emails come in every day from people at Pasab.  Yesterday, a message said that strikes on base have become a more or less daily occurrence.  A message came in today, Tuesday, saying that there were two more strikes on base yesterday.  The direct fire strikes probably came from a 82mm recoilless rifle.  The 82 is a powerful weapon that will easily destroy our MRAPs.  As you can imagine from this image, the “rockets” don’t come from the desert, but from the green zone.  The enemy is audacious and has been known to drive on the highway in front of Pasab and to shoot grenades inside.  That’s audacity.  But to shoot a rocket from the desert at Pasab would not be audacious; it would be ignorant, and Darwin would collect his own.  It’s difficult to hit specific targets on base because Pasab and the firing locations are mostly flat, and there are barriers all over base.  Sometimes the rounds fly straight over and explode in the desert.  If you are asleep, it can be hard to know if the explosions were a dream or real, unless the alarms go off.  There are so many explosions that strikes on base are the least of it.  Airstrikes, IED strikes, controlled detonations, and others.  It’s common to hear or see the Apaches firing, or to watch strafing runs from A-10s and F-18s.  It becomes as normal as crickets.  Though Kandahar is big for car bombs, the area around Pasab is not.

More troops will be hurt and killed in the area you see in this image.  Practically every day, casualty notifications come to my email from ISAF HQ in Kabul.  Two came on Sunday.  This was the first:

ISAF casualty

KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 6) – An International Security Assistance Force service member died following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan yesterday.

It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.

There is a fair chance the attack took place in the green zone in this image, or that a casualty had to wait for Dustoff due to poor Army policy.  On the morning that Chazray Clark was hit, a Dustoff helicopter was parked at Pasab.  Chazray lay dying 2 – 3 minutes’ flight away from where the Dustoff was parked.  The Dustoff was not allowed to launch without Apache support, causing a terrible delay described in RED AIR and documented on my video in Fool’s Gold & Troops’ Blood.  The attack took place in the green zone close to Pasab and will be within the field of view of this image.  The attack was so close to where the Dustoff was parked that the pilots may even have heard in the distance the explosion when Chazray was hit.

Congressman Mike Pompeo’s (Kansas) office contacted me yesterday saying that the Army is to report to Congress on the MEDEVAC issue. Yet something rings untrue from Pompeo’s office.  Something is off.  My instinct is that Pompeo has already sided with the Army or may avoid the issue where possible.  There is reason to believe this is true, but this is not established as fact.  Constituents in Kansas who care about this issue might consider asking Congressman Pompeo to state his position.

Congressman Pompeo: Do you believe Army Dustoff helicopters should go into hot landing zones unarmed?

Interested parties can forward their own queries to Congressman Pompeo’s office:

James L. Richardson
Legislative Director
Office of Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04)
107 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6216 (o)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Congressman Mike Pompeo on Facebook.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    scotch7 · 7 years ago
    [Here's how I asked people on my lists to join Michael's petition. All are welcome to copy and/or edit for their own use on their friend lists.]
    ------------------------------------
    Michael Yon is petitioning the President of the United States, to change an Army battlefield policy. I'm asking you to join me supporting him. It's free, but you must register your email and zip code.

    Briefly, the US Army still does medical evacuations of wounded soldiers in unarmed helicopters with big red-on-white crosses painted on the side. The Taliban and Al Quaida tend to ignore the Red Crosses, some even believe these are "Crusader" missionaries. Since unarmed medevac is a very dangerous thing to do, Army air ambulances wait till there is an armed chopper to cover them before lifting off.

    This sometimes means tens of precious minutes out of the "Golden Hour" after an injury occurs, are wasted.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      scotch7 · 7 years ago
      [continued, looks like this system limits comment size]
      ------------------
      The US Air Force and US Marine Corps have already abandoned the red-on-white crosses and do medical evacuations in armed helicopters. An air ambulance that can shoot back doesn't need to wait.

      The Army claims they are sticking to "Geneva Convention" protocols. Yon says this is bureaucratic resistance to change. He believes that removing the cross and arming these helicopters will save lives and limbs. I find his argument persuasive.

      Some congressional staffers are on this, but as a political decision it must be approached from many angles. That's why I asked you join a web petition at the Whitehouse website. http://tinyurl.com/42madfd
      Only 23,200 more signatures are needed to get this on the President's desk.

      Me
      _________________________________________________________________
      Here's more from Michael Yon on the topic.
      http://www.michaelyon-online.com/golden-seconds.htm
      http://www.michaelyon-online.com/red-air-americas-medevac-failure.htm

      I have no idea why this is an issue so late in the conflict, but I do believe it to be a real thing, and I'm willing to get on a politician's mailing list to move it forward.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    peter · 7 years ago
    Mike, great photos and journalism. Thank God for freedom of the press. I am reminded that whenever a dictator comes to power, the first thing he wants to shut down is freedom of the press.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      A&N · 7 years ago
      You are 100% right. Of course sometimes they already have the press in their pocket. Or like yesterday when the French President and the US President didn't know their mics were still on and were bashing big time the leader of Isreal and all the press there heard through their head sets. The press members were all made to sign an agreement that they would say nothing about what they had heard...What kind of a threat is that...But it slipped out someway...maybe we still have a few news people who think the people need to hear the truth..and are using an underground press to do it...We rarely do hear the truth reported anymore so Mike, you are appreciated greatly. Thank you and remember that Freedom is never free....Keep up the good fight...everybody....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eric Troedsson · 7 years ago
    Michael-

    Do you have a 'form letter' email that we can copy to contact our local House member(s)? I am in North Carolina, a big military State. We have House members coming up for re-election and this is a high-visibility issue that they need to be made aware. Thanks for your posts, and God Bless!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austen Lennon · 7 years ago
    I posted this on the Congressman's web site and I emailed his director yesterday....

    .................Congressman.... I do hope that you are serious about addressing the concerns over helicopters. I and others have written to your Director (James L. Richardson) and, may I say, one of my friends received a rude curt reply and I have received none at all. This leaves people to think that perhaps the subject is not one that you are going to dig deeply into. It also amazes me that someone who works for you can speak for you in this curt manner.

    American soldiers are dying because of obsolete red tape rules. Surely they deserve better. I read that you are a veteran so I understand that you will care about the soldiers... so please do your best to get this issue sorted out.

    You may ask why is someone who lives in the UK concerning himself with this issue but the American soldier heroes in Afghanistan rescue the British guys and gals too. America's war is our war and we stand shoulder to shoulder..... good luck........
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A&N · 7 years ago
    Mike....You do not seem to understand that not all of... these people you refer to..are is on our side. This is unpresidented in our history. Our Nation is at risk ....They are totally ignoring our citizens and have their own agenda. All we are getting is lies. Be careful.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    snow · 7 years ago
    No offense, Michael, but the Congressman's response to you was the standard corporate blow off letter. No way he brings this up. Where's the benefit to him? He's a Republican, who believe the military is sacrosanct, and by "military" I mean defense contractors. He led a tour at Cargill last month, for crying out loud., the same Cargill that regularly donates to him. He supports the F-35 boondoggle. No way he rocks the boat just for some soldiers. Do they donate to him?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Phyllis · 7 years ago
    Gosh Michael, you're a journalist of #1 caliber. You're a photographer of #1 caliber and now cook has been added to your resume. You're just as busy as can be aren't you?

    Wow! you must have hit a nerve.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Caleb · 7 years ago
    http://pompeo.house.gov/event/veterans-open-house

    *** MEDIA ADVISORY ***

    Pompeo to Host Veterans Open House in Wichita

    WICHITA, KS – Kansas Fourth District Congressman Mike Pompeo will host an open house to honor World War II veterans on Thursday, November 10th, 2011 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM CST at his Wichita office.

    Congressman Pompeo will meet with veterans and share their stories about their service to our nation. All veterans, their family and friends, and members of the media are welcome and encouraged to attend.

    WHAT:

    Congressman Pompeo Hosts Veterans Open House in Wichita

    WHEN:

    Thursday, November 10th, 2011 (2:00 PM to 4:00 PM CST)

    WHERE:

    Kansas 4th District Congressional Office
    7701 East Kellogg, Suite 510
    Wichita, KS 67207


    For more information and to RSVP, contact Rachel Taylor at (202) 225-6216 or rachel.taylor@mail.house.gov.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ray · 7 years ago
    I see Pompeo apparently was in the US Army 1984-91, but then went on to become "educated" and received a JD from Harvard University. What were the people of Kansas 4th thinking when they elected him? Wonder what Richardson's background is? A fellow graduate?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      OKIQUIT · 7 years ago
      Pompeo is known as the congressman from Koch Industries ... a mouthpiece for oil and pipeline billionaires David and Charles Koch. They have a finger in many pies and Pompeo is their point man in Washington. But I can't figure out why anybody on Pompeo's staff would get involved in this issue. I HAVE noticed that people who served in the peacetime military sometimes have a chip on their shoulder when dealing with combat vets.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon505 · 7 years ago
    Looking at his site he does not appear to have had any combat experience, just lots of cold war exercises. He is proud to have served and that should not be taken away from him, BUT, it does appear he is failing to undestand the isssue here. Had he had a share of incomming fire then he may have been a little bit more understanding. Mind you, as one of your readers commented, whats in it for him! Sad to say this must be true. You keep safe mate and if you come back via London then give me a shout
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve R. · 7 years ago
    Mike.
    I previously bought your book and donated to you, when you were performing outstanding work in Iraq.
    Your recent behaviour and abhorent posting of an American soldier suffering has changed my position on you completely.
    I will NEVER again donate to you, or buy your literature.
    Even if you apologize and strip that content from your site, the damage has been done.
    The Mike Yon who took that video is not the Mike who covered Iraq.
    I do hope that all allied forces everywhere deny you further access to their operations.

    Sadly and respectfully,

    Steve R.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jason · 7 years ago
      @Steve R. - Really? Where are you going to get reality based reporting now? Michael is probably one of one or two correspondents that actually care and actually report the truth.

      So, go back to CNN and drink your Kool-Aid
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Eric · 7 years ago
      Steve,

      The images you saw should upset you. War is hell. It is not pretty...it sure is not the CMA awards or Kim Kardashian's wedding.

      I wish that every single person in America could see this footage.

      From your statements it is obvious that America needs a reminder of what its sons and daughters are doing far away in a horrible place.

      Michael's reporting is to prevent future suffering. You should embrace that and support him.

      I hope that wherever you bury your head in the sand is cold and lonely. This IS reality.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jon · 7 years ago
      War is ugly - the ugliest thing I've ever seen.

      I don't remember anyone getting up in arms when MY takes a photo of the small Iraqi girl cradled in the Arms of the Army Major who was carrying her to medical evacuation.

      As no-one rightly should, it's just the truth. Unabashed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian · 7 years ago
    Mike,

    I am a Pilot and just returned home from RC-E. The same thing goes on over in the "East". The shoot at all helicopters and especially "MEDEVACs". Th even shoot at the patients dangling on the hoist. Its too easy, all the army had to do is remove the Redcross, put some guns on the aircraft and call them "CASEVAC". Nothing changes, its the same aircraft, doing the same job. Now they can shoot back.

    Keep up the good work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    D. Porter · 7 years ago
    Michael
    I appreciate your articles. My son is in the 1 14 cavalry and will be with the 520 infantry when they replace the 4 4 cavalry in December this year. I have read an e-mail from a captain there now and his advice sounds like his experiences are similar to what you have described. I hate reading your reports but I can't stop. I want everyone's sons and daughters to come home intact.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron Rogers · 7 years ago
    "Congressman Pompeo: Do you believe Army Dustoff helicopters should go into hot landing zones unarmed?"

    Is the wrong question to ask. We should ask, "Can you help in getting the Army to adopt the US Air Force and British policy of arming Dust-Off helicopters so that they do not have to wait for an armed escort of Apache helicopters - which are scarce?

    Briefly, the US Army still does medical evacuations of wounded soldiers in unarmed helicopters with big red-on-white crosses painted on the side. The Taliban and Al Quaida tend to ignore the Red Crosses, some even believe these are "Crusader" missionaries. Since unarmed medevac is a very dangerous thing to do, Army air ambulances wait till there is an armed chopper to cover them before they depart to pick up the wounded or dying soldier or Marine..

    This sometimes means tens of precious minutes out of the "Golden Hour" lost until the wounded or dying soldier is rescued. There is one recent case in which this resulted in the soldier's death. Had an Air Force rescue helicopter been dispatched, there would have been zero delay. As they are armed, they depart for the scene immediately. It is vital the the Army adopt this life-saving policy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    PasabAfghan · 7 years ago
    Sir, the strikes are from 107mm rockets supplied by Iran, the 82mm recoiless rifle fire at Pasab went away 2 to weeks ago. The 107's are no joke and the fire comes every other day now sometimes twice a day.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan · 7 years ago
    Mike, et. al.,
    As a DUSTOFF pilot, career military officer, and shade-tree student of policy and politics, and knowledgeable in the way that the Army works, I can only state that some of the tactics and some of the logic that you've used are "off the mark." - First, while I, too, believe that at some point the use of the red crosses and the Geneva Convention are poor shields to hide behind when defending a policy and practice. Second, while the death of Chazray is tragic and the factors surrounding it are tragic in their presence and synchrony (perfect storm), to use one instance as an over-arching condemnation of the Army Medical Aeromedical Evacuation System is ill-advised (IMHO). Third, use of the 9-line proceedures AND the one-hour criteria as a means to imply that the Army (and all of ISAF) is downplaying the importance of the "biological golden hour" belies a full understanding of exactly what happens during a mission sequence from "boom" to "clear left/clear right". Lastly, your single solution set attitude denies that there are, in fact, other alternatives to the solution with equally successful outcomes and improvements in efficiency and lives saved (e.g., arm the chase ship and launch without gun ship cover and execute the mission as such until proven by experience on the scene that you do, in fact, need an Apache. You have the right attitude to expect things to improve - but your tactics are slightly left of center in their efficacy.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      LRSlooter · 7 years ago
      You are part of the problem. You and everyone like you. Belay that. You ARE the problem. Anyone who thinks that one LIFE is not worthy of heralding change is probably not worth his salt to begin with. Career bureaucrat. Seemingly intelligent people. Yet so naive. The only ignorant person here is YOU. Here's why: What if it was your son? What if it was you? Imagine yourself watching from the sideline as the life slowly slips away from the one you love. We still have time. Right? He can still make it. There is still hope. And then nothing...I KNOW it has never been you watching. You have never been there. Never had to watch your friends dead or dying. Never heard someone call YOUR name for help through the smoke and debris still falling around you. I know it has never been you because there is only one emotion you can experience knowing one of your men probably died because of some "career military officer" and his bureaucracy. BLIND RAGE. A simple disgust at the selfishness of a few people so powerful it makes you want to change the status quo FOREVER. Forget where real power comes from? But we have self-control. An immense control over our minds and bodies that sets us apart from everyone else and enables us to do the things we do and endure the hardships across so many deployments. Lucky you. Cope helps too.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Mike · 7 years ago
      Dan,

      Michael Yon isn't condemning the Army Aeromedical Evacuation System, rather he praises you for being able to execute MEDEVAC *unarmed* even when it is unnecessary to do so. As you say there are alternatives to arming the helicopters, but they are worse solutions. For example, why link up with an escort helicopter when the linkup takes time and Apaches are significantly slower than the Blackhawk MEDEVAC Aircraft?! As a military officer you were drilled from day 1 about following the "Law of Armed Conflict".. but these type of laws don't apply to fighting insurgents. They don't care that you've painted a cross on your helicopter: that's just a bullseye for them. Overcome your programming and focus on victory instead of playing nice. For everyone else, don't worry about the "arguments from authority" that will continue to come from "career military officers". Unfortunately a lot of these guys learned war in the 1990s, and still haven’t figured out GWOT. I crewed on Blackhawks in Iraq, and I definitely agree with Michael Yon 100%. Take the crosses off and arm the helicopters.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Dan · 7 years ago
        @ LRSlooter - NEVER EVER confuse my analysis of a problem with a lack of PASSION for saving Soldiers' lives - NEVER! I am as passionate about it as you are and I grieve just like you do when a Soldier dies needlessly or when something else could have been done! NEVER!

        @ Mike - Thanks for your comments - I know Mike wants things to improve - but, words like "Fools Gold" and some of the other words used do come very close to condemming the Army Medical Evacuation System - remember, since DUSTOFF is NOT command and controlled by Medical Evac Battalions anymore but by General Support Aviation Battalions our DUSTOFF units fall under a much larger and more complex C2 system than strictly Medical. That's NOT an excuse - it's just a fact of life - THERE IS NO DUSTOFF UNIT THAT WAITS TO LAUNCH WITHOUT BEING PISSED THAT THEY ARE BEING HELD UP..... Second clarification, Mike, arming the chase ship does NOT require waiting - both birds respond at the same time for the same location based upon the same 9-line.

        NOTE TO SELF: - keep your opinions private or risk being blasted by the passionate!
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Mike · 7 years ago
          Of course there are workarounds to every inane rule and regulation. I disagree that trying to link up a slow-flying Apache with a fast-flying MEDEVAC helicopter is as efficent as the alternative.. or that 1 x UH-60 with M240s escorting a disarmed UH-60 is as deadly as 2, but that's not the point. The real issue comes down to this: why twist ourselves into double jointed pretzels to comply with Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan when the enemy certainly doesn't have any qualms about shooting our red-cross marked, disarmed helicopters? Why apply that standard to the Army but not the Pedros or British? As Patton said "every attempt to make war easy and safe will only result in humiliation and defeat." War is war, not the civilized combination of chess and football that the military academic establishment wishes it was.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      bb · 7 years ago
      Sending apaches means having, on average, more apaches ready to fly whenever a soldier step into a IED.

      It means having more flight crews. Having repair parts. More fuel. More support crews that repair and mantain the apaches. Those extra soldiers need food, water, shelter, health. They might even want toilets and showers from time to time. Means having a bigger support base and more soldiers protecting the base.

      Sending and keeping them on Afghanistan is quite expensive. How many apaches are needed just to scort medevac helicopters? One in each aghan province? Can someone do the math to put a price to this policy? Human life is precious but a price tag could be a good argument to convience burocrats.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jon · 7 years ago
      The "career military officer" making this post is actually a Captain who graduated ROTC in 2009. He was a college student up until that point.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Dan · 7 years ago
        No - I am a retired DUSTOFF pilot - retired from the military in 1998 at the grade of Colonel - 147 months of flight duty time, 97 months of command time - and have worked in, for, and around the military for 39 years. Worked with combat developers for the Army Medical Department for 16 years before retiring in 2010 so am converssant with and aware of the DOTMLPF domains and how changes in one affects all the others - that's why one-over-the-world changes such as the one Mike Yon has suggested must be understood in their impact elsewhere - and the cost to implement them (as well as the horrible cost to not implement them) - my point remains that there are other ways to address this besides the one that Mike suggests - and I do believe that arming our medevacs in some way is necessary.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Heywood Jablomi · 6 years ago
          [quote name="Dan"]No - I am a retired DUSTOFF pilot - retired from the military in 1998 at the grade of Colonel - 147 months of flight duty time, 97 months of command time - and have worked in, for, and around the military for 39 years. Worked with combat developers for the Army Medical Department for 16 years before retiring in 2010 so am converssant with and aware of the DOTMLPF domains and how changes in one affects all the others - that's why one-over-the-world changes such as the one Mike Yon has suggested must be understood in their impact elsewhere - and the cost to implement them (as well as the horrible cost to not implement them) - my point remains that there are other ways to address this besides the one that Mike suggests - and I do believe that arming our medevacs in some way is necessary.[/quote]

          Colonel, with respect, try not to be such a staff weenie. Try to cut through the bullshit. This issue is quite commonsensical, and the solutions are simple. There is no need to complicate it with assertions that "there will be impact elsewhere." I am not interested in the parochial infighting between contending Army factions. In fact, I will state baldly that US Army officers who dedicate their careers to that behavior should be shot. I have no patience for it. And nor should you.

          The thing that pisses me off the most about all of this is that the Army is resisting, not because their reasons are sound, but because one faction fears losing control of the aircraft to a contending faction. Well, guess what? They belong to the same Army! Perhaps consolidation is the best solution.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    green 173rd · 7 years ago
    sure is a shame.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    axeman · 7 years ago
    I was at FOB Masum Ghar, a mountain ridge across the river from PASAB this summer. I was apart of the advance team that replaced the Canadians. I was very surprised how often IEDs, Condets, and ambushes were happening. Some were so powerful they blew the doors open on my bunker and sleeping area. While part of a different task force, my team ran a long range radio relay station on top of the ridge and often had to relay 9-Lines and other messages back to KAF. We also had a top balcony seat to all the action. We even MEDEVAC'd some injured ANSF forces through Army and PEDRO. PEDRO's flying ability left me in awe. I have deep respect to the PEDRO crews and those who operate in the green zone in the Zharay district. I know my task force has lost several strykers and MRAPs to the 82mm. Keep up the good work 4-4Cav. Finish Strong.

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