Michael's Dispatches

America’s Angry Troops: Message from a Marine


125095-1000Image: DVIDS

13 April 2012

Marine, Army and Air Force sources continue to provide information about MEDEVAC failures in Afghanistan.  Top Army Generals say there are no complaints from the MEDEVAC/CASEVAC community in Afghanistan, but if this were so how is it that I end up with stacks of internal documents from dozens of sources?  In fact, top Army Generals have spent their credibility with the MEDEVAC/CASEVAC community.

In March, an Army Dustoff source revealed that a Marine died from electrocution in Helmand subsequent a slow MEDEVAC dispatch.  (There may have been two separate electrocutions on separate dates.)  Another Dustoff source brought up another Marine who died in Helmand within the last couple of weeks after a double amputation.  Sources say that slow dispatch occurred in both cases.

The highest ranking officers in the US Army continue to deceive Senators and Representatives about the ongoing MEDEVAC failures in Afghanistan.  There are telltale signs that reveal deceptive Generals.  If a General says or implies that Dustoff must wear Red Crosses due to Geneva Conventions, he is lying.  Full stop.

There is no provision within the Geneva Conventions that states MEDEVAC helicopters must wear Red Crosses.  It does not exist.  Army lawyers have stated in writing that the Red Cross may be removed.  The Generals are aware of this.  More disturbing is that multi-star Army Generals will deceive about something so easily checkable as Geneva Conventions, and so simple as Red Crosses.  What about the more complex aspects that are beyond our reach to check?

Many thousands of words have already been written about these MEDEVAC failures, including Red Air, Fool’s Gold and Troops’ Blood, Golden Seconds, Crusader Copters, and Mark of the Beast: Evil Symbols in Afghanistan.  A more complete list is here.

The Red Crosses are symptomatic of a larger problem with MEDEVAC/CASEVAC and the war in general.

Take this email, from a Marine pilot:

(Published with permission)

“Notable fact, Marine aircrews are currently forbidden from performing any manner of casevac or medevac unless approval has come from the Wing commander (Brig Gen) himself.  Having returned from a flying tour throughout Helmand last October, I can tell you they are very serious about this.  In 2009, I saw two pilots get sent home along with the ground controller who allowed the injured (Marine in this case) to be put on board the helicopter.

“It’s one of the first things drilled into your head as a Marine pilot showing up at Bastion/Leatherneck for your inbriefs: ‘you will not transport injured personnel (US, ISAF, Afghan, or otherwise) in your aircraft without CG approval’.  I've never heard of it being approved either.  Only those few folks who risked it without approval and found out the brass wasn’t joking.  Again in 2009, I actually watched a Captain tell Colonel to his face, ‘you’re wrong, Sir.  I know I did the right thing’.  He was sent home.

“This was a surprise to some who had flown in Al Anbar that were accustomed to Marine CH-46’s routinely flying casevac missions, for which they train as a fairly regular mission set/capability.  The CH-46 is not, however, involved in Afghanistan due to power/lift limitations and it’s clear that the thought process from the USMC side is, ‘better to let the dedicated casevac/medevac platforms (Dustoff, Pedro, MERT) handle that job and we’ll stick to hauling ass ’n trash.’

“I will tell you in confidence that I have flown directly over the scene of IED strikes with badly injured personnel while listening to the radio and hearing Dustoff calling for takeoff at Bastion over 25 mins away...wondering if I could make a difference.  Weird feeling.

“Most of the time we reassured ourselves that those aircraft had medics and life support equipment onboard while all we carry is a basic first aid kit for the crew and two litters.  ‘The injured would fare better with them’...but still it caused one to wonder.

“I am not criticizing the USMC leadership for this decision-making process as it’s true that our aircraft are already overtasked, and the three Assault Support platforms in Afghanistan (CH-53D/E, MV-22 OSPREY) do not carry any medical equipment/personnel on board as I mentioned.  It just makes the Army issue that much more intolerable to see it so poorly managed.  Please forgive me if I’m bringing up points you’re already familiar with, but I’ve seen ‘USMC’ thrown out several times in the past months with regard to the casevac/medevac debacle and thought I would add my perspective.”

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Elaine · 9 years ago
    I don't know any of these men/women in OUR Military; however, because I am old enough to be a mother, or aunt to any of you... I worry about you. You all are in my prayers every night. We highly respect all of you. We want you all home safely.
    God Bless and Keep you all until you get home to your families... and feel safe again.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    robin yates · 9 years ago
    "poorly managed" is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth!Not just in the Military but big business and Corporations.The guys and girls on the ground, in the office, in the banks are good solid people. The wankers running the show are responsible because they cannot MANAGE!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    in_awe · 9 years ago
    What many people don't realize is that the DoD assigned the "MEDEVAC" role exclusively to the US Army in Afghanistan for US Forces. (In 2009 Secretary of Defense Gates forced USAF Pedros to be included in the MEDEVAC role). NATO actually owns MEDEVAC and medical services in Afghanistan.

    The pilot is describing a clear reversal of the Marine Corps's own policy for casualty evacuation that states that any vehicle can be assigned to CASEVAC duty once its primary mission has been completed. Since the Marines don't have a dedicated fleet of MEDEVAC helicopters it makes a lot of sense. Normally, in a CASEVAC situation the corpsman accompanying the ground unit could go along to provide attention to the severely wounded Marines. But "Rules are Rules" under this new arrangement in Afghanistan...even if the transportation and treatment of the wounded is delayed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Katherine Zeiser · 9 years ago
    Thank you Marine !
    Thank you Michael...
    I am the wife of a former CH-46 Marine Pilot, and know that these birds can fulfill many missions. That our pilots must pass up injured service personnel- because of Army orders. Shame on the politics of the Army Generals- and politicians!
    Remove the Red Cross Symbols on the Medevac helicopters, and let's support our military.
    Army mom, and Marine mom too.
    Each life is worth it! Let's preserve them..!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Kelley · 9 years ago
    It definitely was not that way in Vietnam (Thank Goodness)! I think just about all Assault Helicopter units as well as others provided emergency MEDEVACS when called. I personally have participated n several. Just can't imagine it being any other way!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 9 years ago
    I am disgusted by the Army bureaucracy.

    As for the generals....how they can face themselves in the mirror is a mystery.

    If they had any honor, they would suck-start their pistols.

    Disgusting. Sheer disgust.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Machete Eddie · 9 years ago
    Robin Yates: "Poorly Managed" The problem
    Too many managers, NOT enough Leaders.
    Managers try to do things RIGHT.

    Too much Politically Correct Managers at the expense of our young Warriors. Seems like the MANAGERS fins it easier to tell a family their loved one is WIA /KIA, then tell some General things need to be done differently if we sincerely want to save Warriors lives.Too many senior officers have never experienced hands on in your face combat at the rifle squad / platoon level. Too many big screen TV wars. (enough Ranting)
    Semper Fi
  • This commment is unpublished.
    snakeytrickercharlie · 9 years ago
    The will just wait you out, Michael. You have no chance with these guys. But you done your duty in keeping America informed. Don't take too much Valium; that would just delight the Army General Officer Corps.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    johnnygto · 9 years ago
    Perhaps every USMC pilot should do as that captain did and tell their generals to go f&ck themselves. They can't send everyone home? Then again, maybe that might be for the best. God speed to all our courageous fighting men & women!!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    a&n · 9 years ago
    Where does the buck stop on this. Not with the C&C. It only stops there when it goes into the re-election coffers...or they get someone like BL and credit is to be claimed..And you are right....we know about this. It's what we don't know that is killing more of us than even this stupid war is. It will remain the same until we get a new C&C and hope and pray he knows how to win a war or get out.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MacvTm18 · 9 years ago
    It all starts at the top, when you have a Commander In Chief that could not even run a McDonalds what would you expect.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ryden · 9 years ago
      Well I say, the current President must've been very busy when he was a sperm, as this has gone on since before he was actually born, or even conceived for that matter...

      Just about 1/4 of all American Presidents in history have been in office while Red Crosses on MEDEVACs were a problem that needed to be fixed, so I'd hesitate before blaming the current President, the two latest, or even only the five latest.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 9 years ago
    Miachel, Kadafi is gone and apparently former Kadafi military forces and Al Quida are linking up to make the areas around Libya the Al Quida staging grounds. I do not see any strategic interest for us in Afghanistan anymore. Very little on the news about that war. And all we get in this country is that if Zimmerman is not executed by this summer there are going to be race wars started by the Black Panthers. Our government keeps spending like crazy and employment is really under-employment. The public sector keeps getting paid, while the private sector starves. The American people are worried about events at home--gasoline prices, open borders, and cultural decay and lack of leadership! And we have a President that is a smooth talker that has talked the American people into buying a truck load of lemons.....just my opinion...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TB · 9 years ago
    Heywood'ja tell us how you really feel 8)

    Can always rely on Heywood to bring out the smoking 45's ;-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Colin · 9 years ago
    Michael, You've done a great job of keeping the public informed. Having fully bought into the problem, at this point my question is who constitutes the Medevac Mafia and why is the Army/Gov so reluctant to break it up? Or is the political situation just that obvious to anyone in the military? (Somehow I can't image Patton or MacArthur tolerating this kind of monkey business on their watch.)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan · 9 years ago
    I expect the Taliban and their allies are laughing their collective heads off at the stupid machinations of the Pentagon's and America's political elites.

    Here we have a straight forward issue that has been turned into a maze of deceptive claim and counter-claim. The product of this ridiculous behaviour, the loss of lives that might be saved.

    As has been the case for some time, the western democracies defeat themselves with their endless handwringing and idiotic lying trying to prove wrong is right.

    A disillusioned Englishman.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    To the Pentagon. Time to change the orders and raise troop's fighting morale & take the fight to the enemy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    And one more thing: Mitt Romney better take notice of how Obama has been treating the U.S. Troops.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Fla.Nana · 9 years ago
    Perhaps you have voiced the source of the
    problem if NATO owns our resources we have certainly given authority to those who may not always wish us well.???
    Just wondering.

    Michael, Stay safe. Sorry to hear of your fathers recent passing.
    WHHS 1956
    • This commment is unpublished.
      MEDEVACmatters · 9 years ago
      FlaNana, it is complicated. Anytime you mesh different national military forces you have a chance for hiccups. But that does not imply ill-will by the partners toward the US. In fact, the presence of "outsiders" can be helpful.

      Grenada showed how hard it is to integrate just US forces in an action. It pointed out problems with communications, command structure, procedures, etc. That "dress rehearsal" made our forces better prepared to act together in the Gulf War and thereafter.

      In Afghanistan we have contention within the Army itself, and inter-service issues. Add foreign medevac units and you have a target rich environment for issues to address. Critiques of the system NATO and the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) inject a breath of fresh air into the situation. At the same time NATO had different rules about how missions were to be handled (time frames, etc.), so things needed adjustment from early on.

      The RAMC asked RC-South to move the MEDEVAC Patient Evacuation Coordinating Cell (PECC) members into the same Combat Aviation Brigade command and control room at Kandahar Air Field. The result was a smoother functioning process than when the MEDEVAC guys had been ostracized to a separate building. Common sense - but it took the Brits to pressure for it.

      NATO just created a training course for the PECC - which handles incoming calls for MEDEVAC missions. It trains how to avoid and overcome obstacles to rapid decision-making and granting mission and launch approvals. The course was developed by reps from several European forces but nobody from the US. Is that because the Army runs its own PECC course, or some other reason? It is very important that the "cultural tension" between Combat Aviation and MEDEVAC be addressed and resolved and NATO is trying to help.

      While NATO can be helpful, but it does represent yet another force to be integrated in. As I said, it is not a simple situation.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ryden · 9 years ago
      No disrespect, but isn't it a bit low insinuating that about NATO allies? Most of them were prepared to face a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, so they kind of deserve a better view than that of being semi-hostile countries.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        OkMike · 9 years ago
        NATO allies participated in preparations for nuclear holocaust during Cold War because of Geography. And I wouldn't exactly call them 'prepared'. France denied use of French territory for Continental nukes and expected US to face off with USSR conventionally. Not France, us. Their being our allies was for THEIR benefit, certainly not for ours. Perhaps you should either read your history or join a military force which has partnered up with our NATO allies. Germany not allowing their troops to participate in combat ops in Afghanistan effectively making them useless to mission there. Spanish troops in Herat being supported by US rotary aircraft, refusing to offer US Air units reasonable protection and assistance. No, I'd say your take on NATO is not even remotely logical. Bosnia Peacekeeping was done to appease UN Europe/NATO countries and largely paid for and staffed by US in early years. No strategic reason for us to be there and Europe wouldn't move without US involvement. Heard of WW1 and WW2? Who's Military and Industrial might saved Western Europe? Now after saying that, no greater ally than Great Britain, British forces rocked in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much respect for Netherlands who sent Dutch troops into Tirin Kowt and south-central Afghanistan. NATO alliance allows us allies who use us for our might, while we use them for their land (air bases) and air space.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Ryden · 9 years ago
          Generally speaking, most NATO countries (Ok, with the exception of France, they genuinly had problems with Communists) made the decision to join NATO, as opposed to joining simply due to geography.

          Why wouldn't German troops be effective? As far as I'm aware they've trained Afghan soldiers for years, and with all due respect, how would you explain to a German why their soldiers are even in Afghanistan? Or those of Spain and France? None of those countries were attacked by al Qeada or the Talibans, and yet they followed their ally, America into a country they had hardly even heard of. It goes for every single nation that followed into Afghanistan, so I'd hardly say we're in a position were we can complain that they're not pulling their weight. They've all lost men and money (certainly not as much as the U.S.) out of solidarity. Heck, both the British and the Spaniards actually got attacked for going along into Iraq, another military campaign that didn't concern them until they got involved, yet again out of solidarity.

          With all due respect, you need a few history lessons if you think America saved everyone in the World Wars, especially the first one which was almost over by 1917. Or in WW2, that in the end saw the involvement of the U.S. because Hitler declared war after Pearl Harbour. How many Americans do you think wanted to get involved in what they viewed as a European war? And when it indeed happened, both the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union were as neccessary as the USA in defeating Nazi Germany, unless you ask Hollywood.
          Nothing but immense respect for the servicemen who went over to Europe during both wars, of course.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    peter · 9 years ago
    Thanks Michael for keeping this a hot issue!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    ragman · 9 years ago
    I was a helicopterist in the Marine Reserves in the days of the UH 4D. This makes me sad and angry. I obviously do not know or understand the problem there (besides getting shot down) but my heart and my internal compass are beeping like hell, which is something that always happens in a bad situation. Thank them for what they do. Thank you for what you do. We pray for all of you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    REW · 9 years ago
    Perhaps this policy is purposeful? Perhaps this is a military/government cost control? It has been widely publisized that the survival rate of our wounded has been greatly increased during our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan as compared to prior conflicts. This has resulted in record numbers of severely handicapped soldiers returning home and requiring very expensive long term care at government expense. I believe the insidious motivations behind this policy to slow the medivac process may be by design to eliminate the most severly wounded from the roles of long term government care. The United States would not be the first nation that euthanized its wounded veterans. Generals only implement policy and follow orders from the Commander in Chief and would be required to obfuscate when challenged. This administration has proven itself to be completely inept in its handling of this war and this policy is but another piece of evidence. It is time to leave Afghanistan now. I am not willing to sacrifice my children, or anyones' for that matter, so this president and administration can save face.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    karen · 9 years ago
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla Najma · 9 years ago
    People have to follow their conscious and the people who did the right thing and sent home...they won't have problems sleeping at night. Those higher ranked officers who decide the fate of soldiers, may they never get a restful night of sleep. Their arrogance over the right thing to do is a shame.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 9 years ago
    One of the five worst jobs in the United States, Enlisted Soldier. I guess that says it all. Once WWII was over it was down hill for the Military Soldier. The glamour must only be in Hollywood. The Generals should be ashamed of themselves and the politicians their skunks as usual. Obviously the folks who care don't count. We should hang our heads.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jonathon · 9 years ago
    So counter-point to this article...
    There is a trained combat medic/corpsmen on the ground in any combat mission, on top of CLS trained Soldiers and the Marine equivalent. Casualties on the gound on treated near instantenously, as soon as the medic/corpsmen can get to them.
    In a non-medevac helicopter, there are two pilots, a chief, and the gunner. None of which are combat medics, and have other jobs which would prevent them from conducting CLS duties during flight with whatever little medical equipment they carry. On top of that, once a combat medic treats a casualty, further treatment is far beyond the capability of a CLS qualified Soldier. Further, the medic is trained to evaluate trauma and to provide the necessary information to higher medical facilities via the medics on the MEDEVAC chopter. The normal UH-60/CH-47 crew is not trained like this.
    So I ask the question, if a non-MEDEVAC bird picks up a multiple amputee combat casualty from an IED explosion, and the nearest field hospital is 25 minutes away, what happens when that Soldier goes into massive shock from blood loss and his heart stops? He dies, that's what happens. If he continues to receive treatment via a combat medic/corpsman, even if it is for 10-15 minutes longer, then that treatment is passed to a TRAINED professional, same scenario happens and the wounded Soldier has a much greater chance of survival because he never leaves the arms of a trained medical professional with the equipment and knowledge to help him.
    Before you start criticizing the decisions made by people with much vaster knowledge and experience than the lower enlisted or junior officers of the Army, how about we think through the full story instead of cherry picking facts?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    D-bar · 9 years ago
    The reasons Jonathon explains are the reasons assault heli's cant pick up wounded in some cases, they dont have equipment or personel in most cases to do it. the corpsmen cant always ride with wounded either cause he has to stick around in case any others are wounded. It's a practical logical reason. But apparently no good deed goes unpunished and no good policy goes un-twisted.
    Futher more, and this is quote from the Article:
    In March, an Army Dustoff source revealed that a Marine died from electrocution in Helmand subsequent a slow MEDEVAC dispatch. (There may have been two separate electrocutions on separate dates.) Another Dustoff source brought up another Marine who died in Helmand within the last couple of weeks after a double amputation. Sources say that slow dispatch occurred in both cases.
    This is a ridiculous argument, there have been troops that died with a fast medevac, there have been troops that have died with no medevac, This argument could be used to say anything, "Both these soldiers died while wearing a uniform so take away the uniform it obviously is responsible." another argument using same logic, "two soldier died who were over 6'5" so we shouldnt allow tall soldiers."
    Logic it seems is no longer considered when making arguments, sad. It seems people, such as the above author, come to an idea or belief and then gather up facts that only suport them and twist other facts to fit their beliefs. Logic says the entire message that is being made is bullshit. Yet there are people who can argue with anything...

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