Michael's Dispatches

Red Air: One Year Later


19 September 2012

Last Friday night, 14 September, I was asleep and had a strange dream.  I was walking and a car stopped in front of me so that I could not pass.  I looked inside and it was Chazray Clark.  I said, “hey, Chazray.”  Chazray said, “let’s go.”

So we were talking, and I said to him, “you got killed by that bomb.” Chazray said something like, “keep up the fight.”  What a strange dream.  I woke up ready to fight.

Chazray was killed last September 18th during combat operations in Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.  The mission began with an air assault that was unopposed on the landing zone.

The waning gibbous moon was about 74% illuminated and bright, casting moon shadows.  It can be advantageous to attack by air on the waning gibbous because the moon will provide the helicopters with light to land, and it will be bright enough for our night vision gear to work, and on this lunar phase the moon will still be up when the sunrises.  And so from the time of landing until sunrise, there will be a balance of cover of darkness but enough illumination to maneuver.   There will be no interruption of light.

That morning, it was bright enough to move without using the night vision gear, and so the Soldiers would flip up their monoculars because it was easier to walk without, which brought chastisement from the commander.  He wanted them to continue using the nightvision; if the enemy fires, you might not see his position if the monocular is up, but while using nightvision, the direction of the flashes will be hard to miss.

The Soldiers moved into the village.  Still before sunrise, Chazray stepped on a bomb.

The next day, 19 September, we must have still been on that mission when the remains of Chazray Clark were delivered home to the United States.

Details about Chazray’s final mission are here.  RED AIR: America’s MEDEVAC failure.

For more on MEDEVAC failures in Afghanistan.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Travis · 9 years ago
    Re-assurance that you are doing the right thing by bringing awareness to the issue of MEDEVAC failure
  • This commment is unpublished.
    twoinarmy · 9 years ago
    Love ya Michael...you watch your back and stay safe
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dang · 9 years ago
    And, Mike, since that night things HAVE changed - procedures have changed so that birds don't sit on the ground waiting for escrots - PICs can make the call to land based upon "eyes on" the LZ. We're still working to make things better, faster, and more life-saving!
    Striving to save lives.
    "When I have your wounded."
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Dale Jelinek · 9 years ago

      That is very good news. As you may know, that night the LZ hazard rating provided by the on site commander was inflated at the PECC from the 2nd lowest level to a higher level that was responsible for the delay in launching the MEDEVAC.

      The 2 bird AWT package had also verified no enemy movement within at least a 5 km radius just prior to their unexpected departure from the scene at 4: 0am. (Continuous air cover had been planned and briefed, but prior to the mission a different AWT pair was substituted. They received a verbal briefing and a copy of the written plan but complained it was "vague" and sought clarification. They left the area about 10 minutes prior to the IED explosion. The investigator cited this as an unexplained screw-up.)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Glad things are turning around for the better for our U.S. Troops. Good work you are doing on the behalf of the U.S. Troops and keeping the American home front posted when you can. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    And condolences & prayers go with the Clark family. They can take comfort knowing that lives are being saved everyday.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Dale Jelinek · 9 years ago

      While agree that the MEDEVAC crews continue to do fantastic work, there are still many issues that need to be addressed.

      The investigation of SPC Clark's death was limited to the most basic facts about the incident. Even within the report there are contradictions and conclusions that are at odds with the facts as presented by the Army and by troops who were on scene that night.

      As long as the Army refuses to investigate more of its policies and procedures (and inter-service biases) related to MEDEVAC services, then more men will die unnecessarily.

      I am glad that DANG is able to report that the condition of a LZ as reported by multi-deployment on-site commander will be considered in the future rather than relying simply on a pre-determined, pro forma hazard level assignment. But this is only one of many things that deserve to be reviewed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barbara · 9 years ago
    Anniversary reaction I think it's called. I've had one too for one of my friends. RIP Chazray Clark.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Foxtrot · 9 years ago
    That MEDEVAC would not have been needed if the LTC and those in his formation were capable of Skill Level 1 Soldiering Skills - namely use a compass, shoot an azimuth, and land navigate.

    The route they chose upon the LZ (longest time I have ever spent on an LZ prior to movement) was not the infiltration route that was planned and was rehearsed. This was told to them, and they ignored it.

    Chaz died from a failure of leadership and ego.

    I wonder how the 9-Line MEDEVAC was called up as...
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Dale Jelinek · 9 years ago
      The original 9 Line was:
      2-Bandit White X-Ray
      7-e ir
      9-Open field

      This was updated later to reflect the evacuation of another soldier with hearing loss from the explosion.

      It sounds as if you were present on that mission. If so, I would be interested in learning more from you. I am currently reviewing all the Army's investigative report materials and any insight from someone who was there would be greatly appreciated. You can contact me at MEDEVACmatters@gmail.com.

      If you prefer, you can contact Michael Yon and he can put us together.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Foxtrot · 9 years ago
        That's what I was afraid of...

        Yes, I was on that Air Assault.

        There was no enemy contact. There was no small arms fire, from either side. It was a single explosion from the victim-initiated IED that took Chazray's life. Line 6 was reported erroneously by whomever initiated the 9-Line MEDEVAC Report (or whomever ordered it sent that way).
    • This commment is unpublished.
      FlightMonkey · 9 years ago
      Hey Foxtrot... i agreed with your comment about land nav... why is that not being required of every Boot? i'm currenlty providing ISR in the Zhari area and when a TIC happens, thats my number one complaint
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Foxtrot · 9 years ago
        It is required of every Boot. It is part of the POI for Basic, and is typically a graded exercise during pre-deployment train-ups. How well it is taught can be highly subjective.

        Land Nav during a TIC often does not matter, especially considering needlessly heavy Soldier Loads and guidance given not to maneuver on the enemy.

        Land Nav does matter during infil / exfil. I was in the Zhari District as well...

        The biggest issue we faced with ISR integration was layered beauracracy. Too many levels of personnel for it to be considered actionable as it lacked "clearness, completeness, calmness, correctness & conciseness." We were routinely given wrong GRG #'s, Grids, Azimuths, Cardinal Directions, et cetera. We need to be able to communicate directly with the source after having trained them up on our requirements and successully integrating them in training and rehearsals prior to actual mission sets. A liason may be needed in order to provide maximum efficiency, but that subtracts from guys on the ground.

        Second issue was non-understanding of ISR capabilities by ground forces, and requirements of ground forces not being understood by ISR assets. There is little point centering the ISR on the movement, it should be focusing upon both the immediate area as well as the big picture of the mission, providing 60* coverage.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hercdriver · 9 years ago
    Chazray showed up...There are many things that happen in this world that defy logical explanation. You have been his advocate from the moment he was hit, so do not be surprised if you receive some thanks from an unexpected quarter...

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