Michael's Dispatches

Crucifixion of Common Sense


03 February 2012

Nobody crucifies common sense like the US Army.  During my morning search for anything MEDEVAC related, several new stories emerged, including one with these illustrative quotes from a Soldier returning from Iraq:

“You have to land where you never had to land before,   surrounded by the enemy.”

In conventional warfare a vehicle or aircraft bearing a red cross is considered almost sacrosanct. Not so during the open, no holds barred atmosphere that permeated Iraq.

“There are no rules. They see a red cross, they see a target,” Nicoletti said of rebels. “They don’t abide by the Geneva Convention.  You know they’re there,” he added. “You try to avoid them.”

“Technically a medivac is unarmed, though Nicoletti did have a rifle and handgun. In extreme cases, an Apache gunship would be called to provide cover when a medivac landed.
That was Iraq in a story this Thursday morning in the Palm Beach Daily News.

Now this comment, also on Thursday, but from a Dustoff MEDEVAC pilot currently in Afghanistan:

“A German friend pointed at the red cross on my helicopter the other day and told me how he'd heard that the Taliban will pay anyone who can prove they shot one. Peachy. How much of a laughingstock must we be to our allies here.”

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Libby · 9 years ago
    Found this online at the Borden Institute, an agency of the US Army Medical Department Center & School in a book called A History of U.S. Army Aeromedical Evacuation from Conception to Hurricane Katrina ... "In early 2002, the d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division was deployed to Kandahar to replace the Marine task force there. Its support package included one of the air assault battalions and the attached 50th Med Co (AA) Forward Support MEDEVAC Team (FSMT) consisting of 18 soldiers and three UH-60s, under the command of Capt. James Stanley ... When he arrived back at Fort Campbell, Stanley of the 50th wrote a detailed after-action report. In it he cited several issues: 1. MEDEVAC launches were delayed because of launch approval issues. At one point, approval was maintained by a Major General who was occasionally hard to contact. Launch authority should rest with the aviation brigade or battalion commander.
    2. Army MEDEVAC needed to move away from its unarmed approach when functioning in combat operations. On many occasions U.S. Air Force HH-60s were used for recoveries because of the enemy threat."
    (Chapter 9, Again, Into Battle, 2001-200 , http://www.bordeninstitute.army.mil/other_pub/dustoff/Dustoffch9.pdf)
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Libby · 9 years ago
      "[T]wo FSMTs from the 1042d Med Co (AA), Oregon ARNG, replaced the teams from the 50th and 57th. Under the command of Maj. Mathew Brady, the 1042d was ordered into federal service and activated as Operation ANACONDA concluded ... The unit deployed the two FSMTs with six aircraft, crews, and support personnel in late July 2002 to Afghanistan ... Brady deployed with the Afghanistan contingent and located his headquarters at Bagram where he developed an excellent working relationship with the 82d Aviation Brigade that supported his unit. The brigade commander retained launch authority over all sorties, but most often relented when Brady asked for a waiver. Although Brady appreciated the additional logistical, intelligence, and gunship support provided by the linkup with the brigade, he still wanted the unique status of a medical unit versus an aviation unit. On several occasions, his crews had to delay launching on a recovery because it took several more minutes for the AH-64s to prepare for takeoff ... Brady was also ordered to deploy four aircraft, crews, and support personnel to Kuwait. After activation, that contingent departed directly from Oregon to the theater. Two aircraft and crews provided general MEDEVAC support out of Camp Doha, Kuwait, for American forces in that area, and the other two were sent to the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The unit was put under Air Force control and directed to remove its crosses so that they could be used for base security surveillance missions."

      You just can't make this stuff up.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert Hill · 9 years ago
    Hi Yon,

    I just read Moment of Truth and have to say it was life changing. My father was in Vietnam and I have never read or heard anyone speak so clearly of the virtues of many of the men in uniform. The men in the book, especially the men of the Deuce-Four have inspired me to be a better husband and father.

    Regarding the MEDEVAC issue you have been discussing--do you think the point can be made that while it creates greater danger for our soldiers and marines--adhering to the Geneva Convention in this case keeps us on the moral high ground?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Josh · 9 years ago
      No, it would not. The Conventions themselves say that a Medical Evacuation flight that does not follow ALL the GC protocols, INCLUDING HOLDING TO FLIGHT PATHS PRE-AUTHORIZED BY BOTH PARTIES TO THE CONFLICT, flies at its own risk anyway.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Serge · 9 years ago
    Whether or not Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters wear the Red Cross is not for the US Army Medical Department (AMEDD) to decide. Nor are they liable to come up with initiatives of that kind. Any turf battle ideas in this regard are plain ridiculous. AMEDD’s ownership of the MEDEVAC helicopters has nothing to do with it either.
    There is a need to have the Red Cross wearing helicopters in the Armed Forces. That will not change. JCS has already made a report where it states unequivocally that the MEDEVAC system currently in place is not going to become subject to any reforms in this regard.
    The US Army Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters, unarmed and thus designated by the Red Cross on them are an integral part of the US and allied forces inventory serving as one of the two primary helicopter medical evacuation assets in Afghanistan. US Army “Dustoff” flights, just as well as the US Air Force “Pedro” flights, are not restricted to MEDEVAC operations only, but can be used in a variety of missions where an unarmed MEDEVAC helicopter is essential.
    While there is no obligation under the Geneva Conventions to wear the Red Cross, the decision to use one as a designator of unarmed helicopters rests with the JCS. The Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) decision matrix on MEDEVAC asset allocation along with the Patient Evacuation Coordination Cell (PECC) decision-making processes are the only segments subject to possible reevaluation.
    The conclusion is that:
    1. The Red Cross is not going from the Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters.
    2. The Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters will remain unarmed.
    . Battlespace owner’s MEDEVAC asset allocation and patient evacuation decision-making policies are subject to a thorough reevaluation.

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