Michael's Dispatches

Tricky Business: British Forces at War

04 December 2011

The call sign for British medical evacuation helicopters is “Tricky.”  Tricky is constantly involved with medical evacuations in Afghanistan.   Their methods vary significantly from ours.  For that matter, US Army, Air Force and Marine methods vary dramatically from one another.

The underlying American philosophy for conventional troops is to scoop up casualties and get them back to the hospital, ideally while highly trained medics go to work.

US Special Operations Forces often bring their own surgeons.  Likewise, the British use Chinook helicopters with surgical crews who can push blood and start doctor-level work right there in the bird.

There are ups and downs to the British versus conventional US Army, Air Force, and Marine ideas.  At times, the British way of showing up in a faster-flying helicopter with a surgical crew can be superior to the US conventional forces.  Other times, the British way is inferior to all.

For instance, in many (probably most) cases in Helmand province, Dustoff and especially Pedro can have the patient inside the bird and possibly back at the hospital before Tricky even launches.  There is much nuance and circumstance to the ground realities.  The factors are myriad and dynamic.

As the months unfold you’ll likely see mention of “Tricky” on many occasions, and so this is a good time to introduce these outstanding British troops.

In this video, a Tricky pilot gets shot in the head, and in true warrior spirit he stays on mission.

(This video was shot at Camp Bastion, the same base where I embedded with Air Force Pedro.)

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