Michael's Dispatches

Joint Chiefs of Staff: Bogus Report to Congress


19 January 2012

The Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a bogus letter on MEDEVAC to the House Armed Services Committee.  The JCS letter is so filled with errors and deceptions that it has taken more than a week for me to respond.  The JCS directly refutes my work on MEDEVAC.

Thirteen pilots have read my draft response.  Ten of those pilots are Pedro or Dustoff.  (Five each.)  The remaining three have or do fly MEDEVAC escort in Afghanistan.  Twelve are active duty and one is retired.  All have served in Afghanistan or are there.  Some also served in Iraq.  Together they have done about 25 combat tours.

Details are crucial.   Other veterans, and civilians, are providing feedback to keep my response to the JCS accurate.  My response should be ready by Monday.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Defense, Senators, and Representatives are cautioned to avoid embarrassment by not taking the JCS letter at face value.

Representative Todd Akin (MO-2) has rejected the JCS letter and directly contacted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The JCS letter to the HASC:






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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tomas · 10 years ago
    When will we see your reply? I am looking forward too it to see which mistakes I've missed in their response.

    The most obvious stupidity is probably that they admit that the lack of escort prevented a fast Medevac and then state that removing the need for escorts wouldn't help...
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon Author · 10 years ago
      Tomas -- I should have it by Monday.

      Meanwhile, got an email from JCS disavowing the letter. Also got a message from Congressman Akin's office:

      The memo in question was originally provided to the HASC by the Joint Staff, with no signatures and no indication that it had come from anywhere but the Joint Staff.

      “This week, after questioning, the Joint Staff indicated that they were not the original source of the document. Initially they indicated it was a CENTCOM document (which is how Congressman Akin referred to it in his letter).

      On Tuesday, we were told that the memo actually originated with the Army."

      If you have any other questions on this, contact Steve Taylor: Steve.Taylor@mail.house.gov
      • This commment is unpublished.
        pedro23 · 10 years ago
        I have and still fly on Pedro. This document is just a slap in the face to everyone.

        Pedro can carry 4 litters in the back of the cabin; seen it and done it numerous times. We have at least 2 medics or more on the aircraft that can give proper treatment to all patients. Dustoff only has one.

        Pedro is not here to maintain medical and crew proficiency. If that was the case they would have less Pedro crews in the AO.

        Last but not least we average 4-6 minutes to get both aircraft from chalks to airborn after the 9-line has been released from us. We run to the aircraft when we have a Cat A and not walk. We all take this job very seriously and every patient will get the best care. Also our heavy guns have saved many asses on the battlefield.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Concerned Citizen · 10 years ago

    A really inept reaction by someone to attempt to refute your story. Just the number of factual errors indicates no one with any direct experience wrote it. But, it gets worse. At least, no one is trying to take the MEDEVAC mission from the Army, only trying to get them to realize when the enemy stops respecting the Red Cross, it is an anachronism. The brave MEDEVAC crews deserve better.
    This pales in comparison to the recent OSD recommendation to study disbanding the Pedros and moving them to the USMC or other service within SOCOM. A pure cannabalistic land grab under the guise of saving money, an attempt to save manpower and treasured programs in the USMC. In this case, they would certainly take the money/personnel, buy more expensive V-22s, leaving tomorrow's wounded to rely on unarmed MEDEVAC & "addtn'l duty" rescuers in "pick up game" ops after the dedicated rescue force was disbanded. This is the nature of inside the Pentagon these days, truly ugly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 10 years ago
    And now, the JCS is denying ownership of the letter, and kicking it back to the Army. Truly pathetic.

    Have these bureaucrats no shame? Do they not realize that their maneuvering is transparent?

  • This commment is unpublished.
    essfuller · 10 years ago
    Holy cow that is a poorly written piece of trash. If my boss had handed me this "issue" I would have at least put some decent English on it. As it stands, you should be offended by the intent. More importantly; the delivery - it's downright disrespectful.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Janice Stroud · 10 years ago
    I truly got a couple of sentences into this letter and had to keep starting again...it was almost as bad as reading the 40 CFR regs. The only thing I liked about what the writer had to say in this letter was the last paragraph. And I liked it because it appealed to my sense of pride in our MEDEVACS. However the "if it ain't broke don't fixit mentality" the writer was essentially promoting just does not apply here. It is broke and it is fixable and it is time for the Army to step up and make the necessary changes. Keep the pressure on Congress, the Army, and the Pentagon. CBS took this story to national news level this evening and that would not have happened had you and your supporters remained silent.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bryan Andrew · 10 years ago
    After the first two paragraphs I had already pegged many problems.. I read so many inconsistancies (sp?) in that letter that it made me ill. How can they dictate who, what and when can go in and evac our wounded?? I fully understand the hot LZ situation, but arent our wounded pretty important? I could rant for hours.. I have followed this series of dispatches for quite some time. Now that I have read that, I am a little (a LOT) hot under the collar. I hope that whoever needs to realizes the disservice they are doing for our wounded. How many could have been saved in time of need had it not been for this.. BAD protocol? How many of MY Marine brothers and sisters would have survived? They make me more than sick to my stomach. I hope they can sleep at night. Safe and sound. Why should they care? They arent over there...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DeAnna · 10 years ago
    As is the S.O.P. of most BS there is an impressive amount of crap written in that letter all under the guse of useful/pertinent information, but if you can manage to read through the entire thing and do even the remotest of fact checking will soon discover it for exactly what it is. Political double speak a.k.a. smoke and mirrors.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LtCol P · 10 years ago

    Will read it in detail later, but what the hell is are ".240 caliber door weapons"?

    I know they meant an M240G 7.62mm door gun, but What the hell? A junior 2nd Lt wouldn't make that mistake!

    Semper fi, brother.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      WYO D.A. · 10 years ago
      LtCol P,
      I said the same thing and had to figure that one out too. Makes you wonder who really wrote the letter ...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wayne Hutton · 10 years ago
    Typical bureaucratic writing in that they redefine the issue to the point that their actions are now justified. The issue, as I understand it, would arming med-evac helicopters saving lives by reducing response time (coordinating escorts, etc). They never answered that question, but instead switched the question to could Pedro's have done this one mission more successfully.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John F · 10 years ago
    Your complaint was, as I understand it, that current protocol unnecessarily slows evacuation of wounded, which reduces chances of survival. Their response, as I understand it, is that, in the single event you used as an example of a soldier dying when more sensible protocol would have greatly increased chances of survival, they both followed their current protocol and met the maximum time limit goal. Did I miss something? They don't address the fact that there is no demonstrable benefit to the current restrictions. Or that it did in fact slow recovery of Chazray. Or that quicker evac would have significantly increased Chasray's chances of survival. Or that he did in fact die even though they followed current protocol and met current maximum response goals. With brains like that, shouldn't the author be a politician instead of in the military?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SnakeyTrickerCharlie · 10 years ago
    This is an embarrassingly illiterate letter to come out of JCS. D+ on grammar and spelling....and everyone knows not to take poorly written documents seriously. Someone has to go back to school. I recommend courses in grammar, spelling, ethics and honor.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Josh Griffing · 10 years ago
    Well, of course: by these definintions Yon's suggestions would fail to improve ***MEDEVAC*** evacuation times. If even one of our correspondant's requests is met, JCS now calls it a CASEVAC and plays checkers with its chessmen, then says that the complaints about "MEDEVAC" delays are not relevant. Are word-games the new wargames that our top brass are required to demonstrate their skill in?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary · 10 years ago
    There can be no military coup in the U.S., and Obama is counting on that even as he, as Commander-in-Chief of the military (and acting as the Muslim King of the U.S.), enforces Sharia law over the troops and assists the enemy in picking off and weakening the U.S. force. How will the U.S. defend itself with no able-bodied troops left?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      RichardG · 10 years ago
      You must have thought long and hard to be able to get at least 7 errors of fact or logic in only two sentences. Make it 8, counting that the msg was off-topic.
      Even JCS wouldn't have you writing for them, LOL. Twit.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed Nutter · 10 years ago
    The JCS should have been able to break out the casualties in areas served by Medevac and Pedro helos and compare their relative OOS rates. They did not. With a logical gap like that in a High School junior or senior paper I'd kick it back for a redo. Pretty thin gruel.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 10 years ago
    It seems like the thinking in this letter is that they are expecting some kind of Taliban Blitz Krieg where MEDEVAC will be attempting to remove thousands of wounded soldiers in one day from numerous battle fronts. Also, I don't get the redcross on the helicopters unless it is to distinguish us from the Taliban Air Force, which, if my information is correct, does not exist.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron Rogers · 10 years ago
    Ed Nutter's comment is dead on and would reveal differences in outcomes based upon the differing protocols in place. that .240 machine gun makes me think that is was written by a civilian employee. Remember, the previously posted Army letter was actually signed by a D.A/C. - a Department of the Army Civilian. Of course, what Nutter suggests would require actual work by someone just a little familiar with statistics and a spreadsheet. I just watched the CBS News report. It pretty much let the DCSOPS have the floor and his party line resembles this "JCS
    " letter. There are some really smart young officers in DCSOPS who could do the analysis correctly. Lastly, the LZ did not sound hot. Did the Colonel determine that it was hot? For the pilots here, would it have made any difference if the BN CDR actual had gotten on the radio or had he done so? It is clear from your reports that he is a fine officer and leader.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon author · 10 years ago
      The LZ was not under fire. There was the bomb some hundreds of meters away, but we did not take fire on the LZ.

      Communications like this from JCS (JCS did send this to HASC) vividly demonstrate why the Dustoff, Pedro, and combat forces on the ground (and I) are on a mission to get those crosses removed. The Army has not made a single valid argument for retaining the crosses, but there are numerous valid reasons to remove them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim R · 10 years ago
    I've been following this for some time. I can't believe this tripe the Army is pushing. It should be used to grow crops in Afghanistan's most arid regions 'cause it would surely make great fertilizer. To use the added weight of 600 lbs as an argument for arming the MEDEVAC helicopter is hogwash...the Air Force doesn't seem to be complaining about the extra weight. I, and I'm sure many others here, am having a hard time understanding why the Army is trying so hard to defend their position on this subject. I'm beginning to think that the Army doesn't want to admit it was wrong in their decisions or believe they know more about this subject than the upstart Air Force, the Marines or the British. I won't argue that having over 90% survivability is something to be proud of but it can most certainly be better. Keep up the good fight...hopefully someone in the Army chain of command will see the light.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 10 years ago
    Why is it in this era so difficult to look at s set of facts and correct the problem. This is not a dog pooping on your neighbors front lawn. This is an American soldiers life. Again what the hellis wrong with the minds of people in this Government. Does every problem need to be a shootout at the OK Corral do get things done in this country?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John - Capt in ANG · 10 years ago
    Unless things have changed since I was down in RC-S helping CJMED, there aren't "lines". There are "cirles," which go out along a set radius of medical facilities and are also categorized by level of care available. The next mistake I see is, again from my 1 yr old dated knowledge, they also don't just follow "set lines/cirles," because air assets, as well as beds, are always in flux. Just as a MEDEVAC may differ in initial launch location due to many operational variables, so does the location they're sent. If a hospital is black (no beds), they'll be assigned a different destination than the "norm." I'm not a CJMed guy, but this is my experience in watching them work at the Regional Command command center.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JBB · 10 years ago
    With the almost 100% probability of casualties on a patrol, why are MEDEVAC's with escorts part of the planning process? Give patrols priority and have the escorts on stand-by. Also, what happened to the field ambulances? If the MEDEVAC is only 5 minutes then there should be some contingency planned to remove casualties to a pre-planned LZ that is outside a Hot Zone. Not always available or an option, I understand, but contingencies have to be considered.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Larry Schwartz · 10 years ago
    Nice piece of writing. Come up with what you want the issue/question to be and then answer that one instead of what was really asked. Mikes issue was that the protocol/policy of using unarmed medevac which must have an armed escort needs to be changed, not that they didn't follow procedure.

    Cover your buttocks all you want guys, but change the protocol to protect the troops!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MIchael Barnett · 10 years ago
    I've made many comments over this situation in the past couple of months... some angry, some with thoughts, and some with solutions. Not this time though: after reading this "letter" I'm too sick to my stomach to do anything besides eat tums and write my congressman.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AFGCIB2011 · 9 years ago
    Although that letter is b.s., they obviously spent a LOT of time researching all the various stats, preparing the letter, etc. - time which could have been better spent, in actually solving the problem!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan · 9 years ago
    A few notes, some already iterated by other posters (like Pedro2 ).

    Page , para 1. 15 minutes or more to spin up? You gotta be kidding me. That's friggin slow first up crew that can't be launched in under 10 minutes. There fudging the time to create fog. Kinda like that "59" minute nonsense.

    Once the PECC and Aviation unit had realized there was no available A/C in the air that could escort the MEDEVAC, they should have called PEDRO. Had they done that Clark would have been off that HLZ 0 minutes earlier. Why didn't they call PEDRO? My guess is because we're the Army we don't ask for help from other services. It's easy to sit in a air conditioned TOC with your thumb up your ass when real red blood is being spilled.

    The letter goes on the state that MEDEVAC has been shot at and whines but none have been shot down. The crucial difference here? When PEDRO was shot at they could return fucking fire!

    Lastly, in the first line of the summary of this unsigned letter they make the bold assertion that the delay in MEDEVAC did not contribute to his death, despite recounting directly above who it was just one scant minute from being out-of-standard (and we know in reality it was about 12 minutes over 60). But that didn't contribute. Sort of like saying "nothing about all the punched Mohammad Ali took in the head has indication that it contributed to his Parkinson's".
  • This commment is unpublished.
    kevin · 9 years ago
    Don't argue specific cases as then your sucked into arguments that you probably can't win. This should be a broad based fight using sound logic. Pedro's are armed and they work. Army policy is to paint red crosses on the aircraft so that they can't be armed. Get rid of the red cross and you can arm your aircraft Simple
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kermit · 9 years ago
    I understand that logistics and weight would seem to have an impact. The argument that having armed MEDVAC and cut capacity down to 2 litters would only seem to mean that 2 MEDVACs instead of a MEDVAC and an ESCORT would be required.

    The argument just does not pass the smell test on this account.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian · 9 years ago
    Mike, Ive been following your dispatches since your embed with TF 1-6 Centaurs (Baqubah, Iraq) in 04-05 Great stuff! But honestly, that letter looks like a draft info paper or something to the sort, nothing more...especially given the fact that it hasn't been signed, or on any kind of letterhead. Not saying there isn't an issue...but you see with all the back and forth between you, JCS PAO and staffer, there is no one stepping up and claiming it for sure because of the fact it's more of a raw document probably meant for someone higher up to read (after editing and cleaning up the facts a bit)
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon Author · 9 years ago

      Thank you, and solid points. But it's not good to give a draft to HASC. I do not believe it was a draft, either, and JCS has not recounted it. This was presented to HASC from JCS (author unknown...), and so once they make that move, it cannot be considered a draft.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John House · 9 years ago
    I didn't check to see how many terms in the glossary weren't included in the main body of the document (I suspect more than one), since when I hit CHASE (lightly armed 'slick') I started looking for the case where CHASE was used. Since I could not find it, I assume CHASE is always used when ESCORT is not? So they always have a two-bird formation at minimum? That is an incomplete document without that explanation. Perhaps that info was meant to be excluded and the term was left in by mistake?

    It seems to me that the Army is now resting their laurels on the fact that unarmed Dustoff holds 4 litters, while armed Pedros can supposedly only carry 2 litters (and Pedro2 has eloquently debunked that restrictive along with several others). And they deem this expected loss of capacity as unacceptable.

    So, I wonder how many times Dustoff has actually had to carry more than 2 patients (since they are quoting statistics)? And if, as I suspect, a 4-litter Dustoff is minimally escorted by a 'slick' CHASE, how would sending two armed MEDEVAC birds capable of 4 litters total (not taking into account Pedro2 's artful debunk) differ from the current capacity of one unarmed 4-litter Dustoff with either a lightly armed 0-litter 'slick' CHASE or a heavily armed 0-litter ESCORT? And wouldn't two armed Dustoffs have just that much more firepower to tackle any hot LZs? As I understand, the normal tactic is one bird lands at a time while the other provides covering fire. Imagine two armed MEDEVACs performing this like Pedro does. Has Pedro ever come up short of space?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gunny · 9 years ago
    It is not rocket science to see that as the theater changes, the feba, we need to move support closer for better emergency response times.Enough reterick fix the problem ownership means nothing address it! save lives accoplish the mission , do we make medals not to give them out for exta valor & brave actions . some times these men & women take charge thats what heroes are made of. so own-up show that shinny brass fix it
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Author · 9 years ago
    Interesting observations here from a Dustoff Pilot:

    • This commment is unpublished.
      John House · 9 years ago
      Interesting how the more info we know, the more bogus this document becomes. With a two-(critical)-patient max, and 5k lb available for max load (which is enough for guns and ammo and several non-critical patients who can sit in the rear of the cabin - as pedro2 pointed out there is room in the cabin for more than just two patients and TWO medics), it seems the restrictive arguments go up in a flash of hot air. And that is based on Dustoff pilot's 16K lb launch weight - consider some of that fuel weight is burned off in-flight, that's even more weight available at the LZ in a pinch.

      So my only question is, does Pedro use a heavier-lift version than Dustoff? Is the Pedro bird up-armored?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    pedro23 · 9 years ago
    If we ever have came short of space it was due to leaving the Cat B/C patients at the lz and picking up the 5-8 Cat A's first. Then we would go back to pick up the rest.

    Also the situtation wasn't a hot lz. During those times we get as much as possible in with our medics giving treatment. It is packed and not ideal but it does work and is very messy. We do cycle but I'm not going to get into PEDRO's tactics.

    I feel sorry for the one medic in the back of DUSTOFF's pick up bird. I have seen numerous 9-lines for 2-4 Cat A's with two patients being a double/single amp. I can only imagine how busy that person is trying their best to save all 4 patients and having the flying mechanic help. Either way DUSTOFF, PEDRO, and TRICKY have their hands tied one way or another.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon Author · 9 years ago
      Our reply is completed. Many Dustoff, Pedro and other folks put much time into the reply. I've just sent it back to my webmaster. He should have it up on Sunday. A huge thank you to the more than 20 people who helped with many hours. Any errors will be mine alone.
  • This commment is unpublished.
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