Michael's Dispatches

Thoughts from a Dustoff Pilot

26 January 2012

I am a Dustoff pilot (Instructor pilot) with over 1000 hours of combat time, and over 300+ combat medevac missions under my belt.  In 2004 (Iraq) we flew single ship, responding to thousands of medevac 9-line calls.  Not one helo shot down, but we sure got shot at a lot.  On a few occasions, we had to ask armed helos, who were out on missions, to divert and escort us into some hot areas.  On a few other occasions, we had the Air Force Pedros request to go along with us on missions. We responded quickly and efficiently.  When we got the call, we went.

When there were multiple casualties, we as crews made the call to launch more than one medevac bird to accommodate the number of patients.  No bureaucracy on launch authority or escorts.

Now, all medevac calls must go through channels, must be approved by commanders at battalion level or higher, must be escorted etc etc. This is what slows us down.

Some facts as I see it:

1.  With only 1 medic on the helo, we will NEVER take more than 2 critical patients.  More than that will overload the medic’s ability to treat the patients.  So arming medevac will NOT lower the ability of the Blackhawk helicopter to carry patients due to weight.  (Hawks in medevac configurations, typically launch at about 16K lbs, but have a max of 22k, so are they saying that guns and ammo weigh 5000+ pounds? Ridiculous.

2. Medevac can launch within 3-5 minutes of a call. Pedros always took at least 10 to get spooled up. [Note from Michael Yon: Pedro can go in about 6 mins.]  Apaches and Kiowas must sight in their systems and take at least 15 minutes to get up, assuming they are fully armed, fueled and ready to go.  So escorts always keep us waiting.

However, the biggest problem we face in combat today is not waiting for escort (though they are slow), it is not the Dustoff crews, it is the current command.  Commanders and their representatives (usually battle Captains on duty) are so worried about their careers being effected by enemy action, they will take any Dustoff call and send it so high up the chain of command (cover your ass) that it takes 30-45 minutes to just get launch approval.  This usually has little to do with our escorts.  We sometimes are all (medevac and escorts) ready to fly, but sit for 20 minutes for launch approval, because someone has to wake the general, brief him or her and then get approval for the mission.

So taking off the red cross, arming the medevac bird is a great thing, but will only solve half the problem.  We need commanders willing to allow the Dustoff crews to do their job, without multiple layers of approval for every mission.  We need to solve the problem of every commander having to fear for his career (or worse) over making decisions on the battlefield.  We need to empower the lower levels of command again instead of waiting for the generals to micromanage the entire war.

====END====

Separately, this comment was found under a dispatch:

RE: MEDEVAC Issue — Dustoffer

I'm a Dustoff pilot that returned from Afghanistan in April 2011. There is a launch criteria that we have to be off the ground within 15 minutes of the 9-line call. The problem is, we have to be approved by our battalion commander or the battle captain on duty to launch. There were several times we were sitting on the ground at REDCON 1 (100%) waiting to be told that we could launch. I actually launched my bird early once and proceeded to get an ass chewing once we returned via telephone. I honestly believe if I were closer to the flag pole, they would have relieved me of my position. I was about 6 hours away by air. Oh, and I launched at 15 minutes and some change.

To add injury to insult, approx. 70% of the missions I flew were MEDEVAC on MEDEVAC coverage. Meaning we had no gunship escort to the pickup site (one MEDEVAC aircraft covering another MEDEVAC aircraft).

There was more than one occasion that if we would have had mounted M249's or M240's we could have laid suppressive fire and/or engaged the threat. That is my personal and professional opinion. Unfortunately, my opinion doesn't matter.

This comment was found here.

And I strongly disagree with “my opinion doesn’t matter.”  The opinions of Dustoff and Pedro people are extremely important.  Dustoff and Pedro opinions carry the overwhelming weight of this fight.  The force behind all this is the Dustoff and Pedro communities.  Every morning they crack the whip.  I am only the public face.  My website is your website.  This is your microphone.

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