Michael's Dispatches

Fool’s Gold & Troops’ Blood


America's Medevac Failure

06 November 2011

This combat video was made in September 2011 in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.  A bomb was planted in our path.  A young, highly-liked Soldier named Chazray Clark triggered the blast.  Chazray lost an arm and both legs.  Despite great pain, Chazray was awake and lucid the entire time.

A tragedy was unfolding.  The US military, at the direction of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, strives to get our wounded to hospitals within the “Golden Hour.”  The military mostly accomplishes this with incredible speed, often under direct enemy fire.   They could do much better.

After casualties are sustained, the medical evacuation helicopters typically will not launch until a “9-line” report is transmitted from the field.  During this mission, due to the calm discipline of the Soldiers of 4-4 Cav, the 9-line was transmitted in only six minutes.  That’s fast.

Bold accounting magic has been used to redefine the Golden Hour.  The true starting gun for the biological Golden Hour begins at the moment of injury.  The military Golden Hour begins after the 9-line is received.  If combat or other circumstance delays the 9-line by 20 minutes, the military Golden Hour becomes 80 minutes.  But when we hear a military spokesmen saying that average MEDEVAC times are 50 minutes, what they are really saying is 50 minutes plus the 9-line time, and they won’t mention that 9-line buffer.  This audacious deception angers many military people who know about it.

I reported that 65 minutes were used to get Chazray Clark to the hospital.  The military rebuked my initial report, saying it took only 59.  They took the Golden Hour tax deduction, deceived the public, and did so in writing.

It took 65 minutes.  It should have taken 25.   There are several reasons why Chazray suffered the additional 40 minutes.

The first reason is the 9-line.  Pilots in Afghanistan say there is no need to wait.  They should launch immediately upon notification of serious wounds.  They can pick up the 9-line in flight.

The bigger reason is a longstanding Army policy to wear Red Crosses on their helicopters.  The Army will say that in accordance with the Geneva Conventions they must wear the Red Crosses, and therefore cannot carry machine guns on the helicopters.  This is false: neither the Air Force, nor the Marines, nor British wear the Red Crosses, and they go armed.  The enemies in Afghanistan do not adhere to the Geneva Conventions.  Is the Army saying that the Air Force, Marines and British are in violation of Geneva Conventions by not wearing the Red Crosses?  Of course not.  But the Army wears the Red Crosses as crucifixes to avoid uncomfortable change.

The helicopters are clearly visible on most nights while the Red Crosses are not.  An Afghan said that Taliban would likely consider the Red Cross a sign of Christianity, not MEDEVAC.   The enemy constantly tries to shoot down Army Dustoffs, Red Cross and all.  By contrast, the Air Force and Marines play smarter games and will come in guns blazing and help kill enemy around the landing zones.

While Chazray lay dying, an unarmed Dustoff helicopter was parked about 2 – 3 minutes away at Forward Operating Base Pasab.  After a call, it can take about 7 minutes to launch a Dustoff.  And so, 7 minutes plus 3 minutes’ flight could have had Chazray on the bird in just over 10 minutes.  The hospital was at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) about 13 minutes away.  So 10 minutes to arrive to the LZ, 2 minutes to load Chazray and take off, then 13 minutes to the hospital.  This would have put Chazray at the hospital in 25 minutes.  Alternatively, armed Air Force Pedro rescue birds were parked farther away at KAF and could have flown the longer distance, picked up Chazray, and had him back in about 35 minutes.  Had Pedros or armed Dustoffs been at FOB Pasab, they could have done the job in 25 minutes.

Instead, since the Dustoffs do not have machine guns, the Dustoff waited for the Apache helicopter top cover.  Forty minutes were lost due to 9-line procedures and waiting for the Apache.   This delay allowed the life to drain out of Chazray.  It also allowed the enemy a great amount of time to prepare to attack the unarmed Dustoff helicopter on the open landing zone, along with the Soldiers who were there in the open working hard to save Chazray.  (In this case, no attack occurred during LZ operations.)

The military spent much energy refuting my claims in RED AIR and GOLDEN SECONDS.   They apparently did not realize I made video.  For instance, they tried to undercut the credibility of my reports by saying the Dustoff did not come from Kandahar Airfield, but from FOB Pasab.  The video clearly shows on numerous occasions that the Dustoff was coming from KAF.  Nevertheless, allowing for battlefield errors, if the Dustoff actually came from Pasab, this does not help their case, but damages it outright.  KAF is about 13 minutes away; Pasab only about 3, and so what they accidentally said by trying to undermine my reports was that Chazray could have been to the hospital 10 minutes faster.  That is, if the Dustoffs were armed and could depart without gunship cover.

The 9-line procedure must be changed, and Dustoffs must be armed.  The “Military Golden Hour” must become a thing of the past.  There is only one Golden Hour.  All else is Fool’s Gold.  This Fool’s Gold is expensive; it’s costing lives of our service members in Afghanistan.

Please watch this important video of the attack and MEDEVAC of Chazray Clark.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    AFVet · 7 years ago
    Thank you, Michael. Keep telling the truth.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Will · 7 years ago
    As an Infantry 1LT, my experience in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot tells me that maintaining the Red Cross Emblem on doors and nose is part of the war effort and the American message. That said, I would rather have a 50 in both doors when the LZ is hot or was hot a few minutes ago. In reality, if the enemy has helicopters, then we should keep the Red Cross Emblems on our Medevac birds. If the enemy has no dustoff capability, the message of the Red Cross Emblem is useless, and we should go with Olive Drab and a couple of miniguns.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rudy · 7 years ago
    pc - the undoing of America right before your very eyes
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BB · 7 years ago
    "When strong actors employ a strategy that ignores restraints of fighting fairly, weak actors are unlikely to win. Reminder, this does not mean debasing our own values and principles, the essence of which we are attempting to defend extend."

    (http://smallwarsjournal.com/node/11415 At the end of the text. Almost in the conclusion)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joseph Suh · 7 years ago
    My very first time contacting *all* my Congressmen (Representatives *and* Senators). Sadly, only one of them responded -- but it seems like he actually took the time to read the letter. Here's his response:
    November 15, 2011

    "Dear Joseph:

    Thank you for your recent letter to Senator Lee. I know he appreciates hearing from concerned citizens of Utah.

    I have the opportunity to meet with the Senator on a regular basis and will discuss your concerns with evacuation policies in Afghanistan with him so he may take your comments into account.

    For more on what Senator Lee is working on, please follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/senatormikelee and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SenMikeLee.

    Please don't hesitate to contact our office if there is anything we can do to be of assistance. Thank you again for writing.


    Peter Blair

    Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
    (202) 224-5444"
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Keyko Clark · 7 years ago
    Hello Mr. Yon
    My name is Keyko Clark I am SPC. Chazray Clark's mother, I would like for you to contact me at your earlist convience. Here is my email address ###########@####. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for reporting the truth and not letting the military scare you to silence. Respectfully, Keyko Clark
  • This commment is unpublished.
    comrade · 7 years ago

    I applaud those guys and their professionalism. I damn near lost it after doing cpr on a comrade for 20 min before he died waiting for a freaking ambulance in Canada. They said it was only 18 minutes.

    I am still angry.

    It was 10 years ago and I'm still angry.

    He was a good cop.

    I try and emulate him.

    That video reminds me of how angry bean counters really make me.

    Thanks for your hard work -keep doing what you are doing.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pete · 7 years ago
    Horrified by this. My understanding (not having read everything on the subject) is that if a helicopter / aircraft / ship / vehicle carries the Red Cross, then it cannot be armed, not that you can only use Red Cross marked 'transport' for medevac. So, from the UK perspective, we have fewer resources, whic may be called upon to fulfil a number of roles. Therefore, marking helicopters with Red Crosses would mean that, at other times, they could not be used to transport trooops / supplies around unless the Red Crosses were removed.
    Much more straightforward to be able to get Medevac in and out as quickly as possible. If the will is there from the crews involved to use unmarked helicopters then it should be so.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Author · 7 years ago
    Interesting observations here from a Dustoff Pilot:

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan · 7 years ago

    15 minutes ago, FOX news had about a 5-10 minute segment on Army Medevac. During the positive interview with Todd Aiken, R-MO, House Armed Services Committee, your picture was flashed up, Chazray Clark's photo was flashed up, and segments of your night time video of the Medevac process from when Chazray lost his life were shown.

    It's getting attention over here!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt · 7 years ago
    Thanks for your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Spc VanHoozen · 7 years ago
    We miss you here at C-co 1-1 BSTB ! You were a damn good soldier and an amazing friend . God Speed Brother .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    john ryan · 7 years ago
    Dear Michael,
    I stumbled upon your site two months ago and am very grateful I did. Now I'm able to get the unvarnished truth of whats really happening. I'm a retired old nam combat vet who had a son in the USMC and who did a tour in Afghanistan. He made it out safely and is now home thank God.
    I am so sick and tired of being kept in the dark by the traditional nedia and so sick of the spin doctor commentators, politicans, and army brass I could vomit.
    This dispatch of yours so incensed me I immediately called Senator Carper's (DE) Washington office and expressed my disgust to a staff member who promised to inform the senator. Well, today, 14 March, I received a written reply from him and he has assured me he will stay on top of this issue. Already he says, 20 fellow senators have notified the Sec Def they are not happy and want the medivacs armed. So, it appears your exposure has opened the door and is reaching out to policy makers. I so dispise the army senior brass who don't have a clue to reality other than what they see in power point presentations. Afghanistan is a lost cause, just like nam was. While in Nam I was on a remote Special Forces A camp on the cambodia border and our mission was to train the locals, run patrols and ambushes to curtail enemy infiltration from the border region. Sound familiar? Well, my friend it didn 't work there and it certainly isn't going to work in Afghanistan. I salute all the medivac crews who will not hesitate to launch and fly into a hot LZ when its necessary. Been there, done that. Its time some serious brass heads be chopped. PS: To help support your efforts I am making a nominal monetary monthly contribution to your cause via paypal. Wish it was more but I'm just a retired old disabled vet. Maybe it'll help inspire others to help you as well. Every little bit helps. Stay safe and watch your back.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Tromp · 6 years ago
    Been there before, this sounds familiar, but before we start playing the blame game, ask this...How busy were they that day. What, you think it's 1 IED a day or something, uh uh, it's hundreds a day plus the firefights and whatever else comes up that commits that bird to a pick up. odds are, and this was the case too often when I was there, a bird wasn't immediately available at the time because it was busy trying to save another life at the time. IED'd are not convienent and do not occur when it's convienent for us.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 6 years ago
    I can not believe that video. A loud noise at night could have drew hordes of the enemy. These guys are extremely lucky they were not open fired on nor the helicopter was attacked. I can only imagine what that must be like for U.S. Troops under attack. Condolences go with Clark's family. This video should be a training video on better helicopter ETA's and helicopters being heavily armed to the teeth. U.S. Army culture also needs to change for the better too.

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