Michael's Dispatches

Revered Pilot Comments on Dust Off Failures


05 November 2012

I have been reading a book about Dust Off MEDEVAC service in Vietnam.  The book is called Dead Men Flying.  I am only halfway through.  Excellent so far.

The book is about Major General (ret.) Patrick Brady, who received the Medal of Honor for actions as a Dust Off pilot.  Patrick Brady is legendary in the Dust Off world.

Many people have seen the campaign we have run over the last year to change failed MEDEVAC procedures.  Many people, including most milblogs, reflexively said this was wrong.  And therefore, as it turns out, those same milblogs are saying that Major General (ret.) Patrick Brady, Medal of Honor recipient, legendary Dust Off pilot, is wrong.

Read it and weep:

U.S. general: Obama paralyzed by fear
Gen. Patrick Brady explains why president abandoned Americans in Benghazi

Written By: Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, U.S. Army (ret.)

Now I understand! For years, many veterans and active military have been alarmed about the idiocy of the changes in battlefield aeromedical evacuation known as Dust Off. For reasons having nothing to do with patient care, Dust Off has been removed from the control of the professionals, the medics, and put under the control of amateurs, aviation staff officers, or ASOs. This is the first such change since the Civil War.

I document the unparalleled excellence of Dust Off, and the effects of the changes, in my book, “Dead Men Flying.” Needless to say, it was the most outstanding battlefield operating system of that war – some one million souls saved and unprecedented survival rates. No warrior of Vietnam is more revered than the Dust Off crews.

In the words of Gen. Creighton Abrams, former U.S. Army chief of staff and former supreme commander in Vietnam: “A special word about the Dust Offs … Courage above and beyond the call of duty was sort of routine to them. It was a daily thing, part of the way they lived. That’s the great part, and it meant so much to every last man who served there. Whether he ever got hurt or not, he knew Dust Off was there. It was a great thing for our people.”

Fast forward to current battlefields. We hear horror stories about patients waiting and dying because Dust Off didn’t launch or came too late. The launch standard in my unit in Vietnam was two minutes; today it is 15 minutes! Can anyone imagine a fire truck taking 15 minutes to get under way? I could go on and on, but one has to ask, why? Why the changes to an excellent, proven system?

The answer is the Obama-Panetta Doctrine. In response to the horrible abandonment of dying Americans in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Panetta said: “(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.”

On its face, that is a remarkable, indeed incomprehensible, change from America’s doctrine in past wars. By that standard, there would have been no Normandy or Inchon. In fact, I can’t think of a war we fought in which we didn’t go into harm’s way without real-time information or to save lives – something the president refused to do in Benghazi. Dust Off would never launch in Vietnam under that doctrine.

Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Patrick Brady tells the inspiring, miraculous story of his days as a Dust Off air ambulance pilot in Vietnam. Get his newly reissued book, autographed: “Dead Men Flying: Victory in Viet Nam.”

To fully understand the doctrinal change, one has to understand President Obama. He has a dearth of understanding of our military and military matters. We hear he is uncomfortable in the presence of ranking military and seldom meets with them. He is not a person who can make decisions, and he takes an extraordinary amount of time to do so, leading to such unseemly labels for a commander in chief as “ditherer in chief.”

President Obama may have set records for voting “present” on important issues. He cowers from crisis decisions. He is a politician who thinks only in terms of votes and his image. Although I was a psychology major back in the day (I’d love to hear a professional analyze risk and Obama), I won’t try to define his insides, but I believe he is risk-averse – fearful of risk – and that is the basis of the Obama-Panetta doctrine.

This aversion for risk dominates Dust Off rescue operations where, in addition to an unconscionable reaction time, risk assessment is the primary consideration for mission launch – not patient care. In two years flying Dust Off in Vietnam, I never heard that term, nor did any Dust pilot I know. The ASOs, remote from the battle, have developed time-consuming algorithms to analyze risk while the patient bleeds, something that’s impossible to do by anyone other than the pilot and the ground forces at the scene.

And Obama’s terror of risk contributed to the massacre of Americans by terrorists in Benghazi. We hear that the president did not even convene the Counterterrorism Security Group while the Benghazi terrorist massacre was visually and verbally available in real time. That is like ignoring FEMA during Hurricane Sandy. But once you bring in a group labeled anti-terrorist, you have to acknowledge terror exists, something the president is loath to do.

My veteran friends are horrified by the Obama-Panetta doctrine. At least 359 retired flag officers support Mitt Romney – only five that I know of support Obama. Some 150 former prisoners of war also support Romney; I know of none who support Obama.

America needs to listen to these veterans. They understand leadership. They know how to deal with risk in war. They would not want this man with them in combat or crisis. They never left a needy comrade behind. Obama did.

Get the full account of Gen. Brady’s Vietnam rescue operations in his book, “Dead Men Flying,” a riveting tale from America’s most decorated living soldier – autographed!


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 9 years ago
    Hopefully Mitt Romney is paying attention and gets this issue straightened out.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Spacegunner · 9 years ago
      Well, a "majority" of Americans have spoken, and share the same "colors" (i.e. lack of a spine) as Mr. Obama:
      '"To fully understand the doctrinal change, one has to understand President Obama (& his followers). He (they) has (have) a dearth of understanding(.) of our military and military matters. We hear he is uncomfortable in the presence of ranking military and seldom meets with them. He is not a person who can make decisions, and he takes an extraordinary amount of time to do so, leading to such unseemly labels for a commander in chief as “ditherer in chief.”

      Well, his foolers (mis-spelling intentional) fail to "dither" in believing his & their own lies until they are so convinced that all they believe is the TRUTH!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Smith · 9 years ago
    I am not an American, but I don't recall Mitt Romney ever declaring his stance or his proposed changes to this whole issue.

    Democracy and voting are complicated multi issue things. It is sad that one can only vote a President but not who the President decides to put into office for the various offices that makes up the government as a whole.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gerri · 9 years ago
    Obama is the most ready President we have ever had. Obama killed Osama. Case closed. That Texass rodeo clown, Bush, let him go but Obama got him. Obama has the nation's back. Obama 2012 and beyond!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Frederick · 9 years ago
      [quote name="Gerri"]Obama is the most ready President we have ever had. Obama killed Osama. Case closed. That Texass rodeo clown, Bush, let him go but Obama got him. Obama has the nation's back. Obama 2012 and beyond![/quote]
      [quote name="Gerri"]Obama is the most ready President we have ever had. Obama killed Osama. Case closed. That Texass rodeo clown, Bush, let him go but Obama got him. Obama has the nation's back. Obama 2012 and beyond![/quote]

      Why are liberals so stupid?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tuco · 9 years ago
      Aw, don't fall for it fellers. Gerri is a Romney plant just trying to make Obama supporters seem dumber than they actually are. Nobody could be that far into the blithering realm of idiocy. You're a real knee-slapper, Gerri.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Paul · 9 years ago
      I'll have to agree with Gerri. Obama is the first and most ready President to blame his shortcomings on the past President.

      If Ronald Reagan kept ready by blaming Jimmy Carter for all his problems the first 4 years he would never have gotten the medical students out of Grenada alive in 198 . That's the difference between a real man and a college radical that stumbled into a presidency.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Pat · 9 years ago
      Obama didn't do crap except give the orders, reluctantly. He took no risks except to his ego if the mission failed. Osama's death is meaningless. Thge war and killing still goes on.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Bob Kausen · 9 years ago
        The word is Obama choked and Panetta gave
        the green light....
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Marcus Zayjac · 9 years ago
      'Obama is the most ready President we have ever had.'

      Did you attend school or just sit around and wait for the diploma to be handed to you as the excuses for public schools did in New Orleans.

      Lets see her BHO is more 'ready' than Harry S Truman, WWI combat veteren who ordered the use of nuclear weapons, led te charge on establishing NATO and responded immediately to the North Korean attack on south Korea and then had the fortitude to sack MacArthur. More ready than say Lincoln after sumpter wen he unilaterally called up 200,000 volunteers to put down what he called 'rebellion', declared a naval blockade of the Confederate States and didn't bother to get Congress involved until July 4. Readier than FDR ater the Fall of France when he basically brought the US into an undeclared war with the Axis powers to support Great Britain.

      Rodeo clown huh, well jackass let's see you fly an F-102 , well known in the USAF at the time President Bush was flying one as 'the widow maker'. People like you make me want to vomit. You are a disgrace to your nation and I suspect a disgrace as a human being. Begone, Satan get ye behind me.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      hippiepooter · 9 years ago
      Funny, I thought it was Seal Team 6 that killed Obama. He was located through using Bush era interrogation methods.

      Why did Obama do 180º on closing Guantanamo again?

      One fears that huge media bias and mass voter fraud is going to carry it for Obama. It will be disaster for America and the free world.

      If only Romney had brought these facts up about military support for him and almost none for Obama during the last debate. One fears the end of America as a beacon of light beckons, and darkness is about to fall on the free world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Daniel M. Ward · 9 years ago
    I'm not making any comment. Just letting everyone know I am "present" and just a little bit "ready".
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JD · 9 years ago
    I agree with Gerri, the fact that there are 59 retired flag officers supporting Romney means nothing! These guys are just old angry hacks who know nothing of leadership, honor, bravery and courage. Probably none of them have ever had to make split decisions that affect individual lives like the ones Obama has had to make. In fact, I'll bet none of them have ever had to face the tough decision to go/no go a mission like the one that got Osama! They couldn't possibly know what it takes to make a call like that. Besides, why does the Commander-in-Chief have to feel comfortable in the presence of the military anyway? It's not like he in charge of it or anything.
    These guys are just war mongers who want to encourage military conflicts so they can keep their paycheck. They love to kill! That’s what war does; makes people death machines. Almost all former soldiers I’ve ever met just want to kill, kill, kill. It’s bred into them. They don’t even understand the value of peace. Once you’ve been in a warzone all you ever want to do is go back, that’s all PTSD is, a battle-bred soldier desperate to get back into the fight! All Generals ever want is to continue hacking away at precious life. None of them consider life sacred or honorable. They have no values or respect. The military has never made a bad man good or a decent man better. The military doesn’t have any heroes.
    This is all the crazy crap I could come up with to support Gerri. Crazy is all that Obama has supporting him. We need a true leader. Romney may not be perfect, but he's definitely a better choice than Obama!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Doug Ballard · 9 years ago
      All you replying to JD at Long Live Obama, please read his last 2 sentences. He was trying to come up with possible arguments to support Gerry. He obviously does not agree with her: he was just illustrating that the thought process that lead to her post has to be crazy.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tuco · 9 years ago
      Izat you again, Gerri? Posting as JD now? Come on, man, give it a rest. A joke's a joke but your stumping for Romney-Ryan is getting a little obvious, and nobody is ready to believe that anyone who knows the smell of cordite is THAT damned stupid. Good creative writing, but it's only funny for a sentence or two.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Marcus Zayjac · 9 years ago
      'This is all the crazy crap I could come up with to support Gerri.'

      Out of your own mouth you say just what you are and what your posting is. Let's see what are your military bona fides? Inquiring minds want to know. Tell us how you derived the highly insightful remarks you posted. You sir are a poltroon and a fool and it makes me ill that creatures such as yourself can call yourselves Americans. Actually those like you aren't , they are ex-Americans by virtue of the evil they embrace.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 9 years ago
    Obomination Despicable Desperate Troll Alert!

    I see we have two completely useful idiots in here blathering away about the virtues of a community organizing (read Communism) liar and fraud!

    A pro Islamic terrorist Communist cretin who has surrounded himself with like minded communists and socialists! A half-white never gainfully employed jackanapes who, has done nothing to create a better world for us and our children, just more tax and spend rhetoric with promises of nothing but more taxes and more spending on entitlement programs that no one has a Constitutional right to in the first place!

    The Obomination is going down like the Titanic, nose first followed by the big black ass, his butt ugly Communist wife!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan · 9 years ago
    Barack Obama first practiced as a lawyer, before doing some teaching. Neither of these professions, though honourable enough, provides the sort of conditioning that might encourage the capacity to take decisive decisions, especially if that activity is risky and controversial. In effect they deal with life after the fact.

    In truth no one ought to be surprised that the current POTUS has found it difficult to measure up to the awesome responsilities of the office. In his defence one might ask is anyone? Of course the answer to that is yes, regrettably however those who might exhibit the right characteristics are unlikely to get the chance. Risk averse and frequently frightened electorates are easily persuaded that such people are dangerous. Those doing persuading in the media and academia are always on hand to subvert the positive in favour the status quo.

    That is why national affairs will continue to get worse until the wider public can no longer escape its responsibility to take note of what is done in its name and act accordingly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Evin · 9 years ago
    Hell, I wouldn't even want the current prez backing me up in a bar-fight, let alone a true battle.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    b shaw · 9 years ago
    Sorry, Michael, but you need to come up with better stuff than this; to quote this general as proof that your fight against some of the "Dusty" establishments policies is legitimate actually detracts against your arguments. By politicizing to this extent, you turn your argument into election-day fodder which is below you. Don't do it; your stuff is way better than that and you don't need to pander to knee-jerk responses.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Andrew · 9 years ago
    Funny thing happened today...I went into a blog site to read about troubles with medical evavuation and a political debate broke out. I never realized that the president himself directed dust-off. I always thought the Army directed our assets. I'll bet none of the presidents even know what the callsign dust-off represents.

    Election year or not, Republican or Democrate, I don't see how a political party has anything to do with this issue. As the General Brady already knows, the issue on the structure and C2 of dust-off has been going on since 2004, well before the current administration. Stick to facts and focus on who provides C2 on medevac assets as there lies the problem.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jonathan · 9 years ago
    After following you since the early days in Iraq, you've become just too biased and political for me. Quitting my subscription now.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tuco · 9 years ago
      Please DO let the door hit you...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rudy · 9 years ago
    my cat concluded this a month ago.. What's the big deal???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Christopher Elhardt · 9 years ago
    Re: Risk Assessment. There's a place for risk assessment in operations, but not when the assessment process interferes with operations. Gen Brady may not have heard of risk assessment during his time in Viet Nam, but I'll bet he checked his harness before turning over the turbine. That's risk control.
    Assessments lead to control measures which lead to training standards. There's always some level of risk that you have to accept; you can't assess it nor train it away. I agree that a 15 min delay in liftoff is way to long, and if risk assessment is causing any delay then perhaps some ASOs need to get some refresher training.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt M · 9 years ago
    I'm not American, I'm a former British Army officer, and I for one think that a leader that isn't scared when sending other men and women into mortal danger isn't the type of leader I want as Commander in Chief. Isn't that why the US for so long required Military service for it's leaders- That they would know what they would be sending Americans to do and to see. This fear should inform the difficult decisions, and temper unnecessary bellicosity.
    I find the linking of physical cowardice this type of decision childish and unhelpful- Isit a strong and brave leader who throws others lives away? Or is this allusion merely political rhetoric? Obama will win the election today barring some overnight seismic shift and the right and left in the US must learn to work together
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Barry Sheridan · 9 years ago
      Matt, while one concedes that all responsible leaders benefit from a true appreciation of the risks involved in taking military action, this attitude must not get in the way of the ability to do so if the circumstances demand it. Your comment weights in favour of the opposite.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Rudy · 9 years ago
      and you Brits are one to talk - you f**ked the whole world with your Colonialism (along with the French) and we're still cleaning your messes up... And u salutes are silly!! Up the Queen, pal.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Barry Sheridan · 9 years ago
        Rudy, you gain little by rudeness nor fractual inaccuracies. Britain is no more responsible for the way the world is than America. The source of our grief lies in our souls.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Marcus Zayjac · 9 years ago
      You tip your hand that you are one of the many Euros cheering the Kenyan usurper. And no the right is not about to collaborate with the neo-communist statists BHO surrounds himself with. If the American people disgrace themselves again in keeping this unworthy person in the White H.
      ouse all that is left is to fight these people every step of the way until 2016.

      I don't know what branch of service you were in or when but a fearful commander is about the worse choice imaginable. War means fighting and necessarily death and destruction. That is what soldiers are for, to kill people and break things. A lot of both should have been meted out to the Islamos in Benghazi.
      The murder and desecration of the remains of a US ambassador was a deliberate insult to the US that his Muslim murderers fully understood was to dishonor the US and make it look weak before the brutish denizens of the Arab-Moslem
      shame and honor culture. A direct attempt to stop the attack on US diplomatic personnel was the minimum required. A pulverizing response delivered by all means possible would have made the point to the goat intercoursers that the Yankee infidels had very long and sharp teeth and were not to be trifled with.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Matt M · 9 years ago
        [quote name="Marcus Zayjac"]

        I don't know what branch of service you were in or when but a fearful commander is about the worse choice imaginable.[/quote]

        The clue is in the words I wrote- British Army. when you are the commander on the ground yes.

        [quote name="Marcus Zayjac"]War means fighting and necessarily death and destruction. That is what soldiers are for, to kill people and break things.

        But we aren't talking about the soldiers on the ground, we are talking about the rightfully civilian CinC, he should always be in fear of committing me to kill or be killed, that will keep him honest, and he will do it only when he has to. It is interesting how scared you are of the word fear, all soldiers are either scared or stupid, but they do it anyway. That is courage.

        It is truly sad that President Obama is talked about so disrespectfully by Americans. Aside from the fact he was several steps removed from any decisions made about Benghazi, I find it that you can't disagree with a political position without labelling it communist or unAmerican. The only credibility you undermine is your own.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Marcus Zayjac · 9 years ago
          Here's a tip for you, Americans are not great respecters of persons in positions of political power. They are not our rulers but the elected hired help. There is no lese majesty law in the US.
          We also have much more liberal libel laws than the UK. Essentially if one is a public figure then you are fair game. So may it always be.

          Many and I hope most Americans want a commander in chief who acts like Andrew Jackson not Michael Jackson.

          What was being dealt with in Benghazi was an attack on a full ambassador. In the US table of rank a full ambassador rates above all other US personnel civil or military. The necessary response was to tell both Africom and Eucom to dispatch immediately all available forces and for the Prez to make it clear to the component commander that the ambassador was to be either rescued or recovered and a very robust military response was expected. The Islamist goat intercoursers have now scored a major psychological victory by grossly dishonoring the person of the US ambassador and getting away with it. If they were now explaining to their coreligionists how their actions were justified as the survivors sat in the smoking ruins of what was left of where this outrage took place then the glorious victory of the Yankee infidels might ring pretty hollow.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom McSweeney · 9 years ago
    get on your knees and thank God you live in a country that supports Freedom of Speech, even if its incredulous. We have 2 novices as Commander in Cheif and Leon P as SecDef...OMG, lets hope that while they are in office, we are not engaged in a major conflict
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 9 years ago
    Dear Mr. Hofer,

    Remember who the most hate president was by almost all the US generals then (most active duty)? His name was A. Lincoln. You would not believe the letters to the editors they wrote to newspapers blaming Lincoln for ever thing. (Back then the US military had no UCMJ and an Article 88, a president would have to issue an executive order stating what Article 88 states. Until then they could write anything they wanted in letter to the editor and DID!).

    Also, General Douglas MacArthur, according to most on the right was one of the best generals we ever had, but MacArthur wrote letters to both newspapers and persons in Congress stating Harry Truman was a horrible commander in chief.

    I am glad that all (at least I think all) that signed that letter are retired. I agree 100% with the advise that Pershing gave young Patton:

    "You must remember that when we enter the army we do so with the full
    knowledge that our first duty is toward the government, entirely regardless
    of our own views under any given circumstances. We are at liberty to
    express our personal views only when called upon to do so or else
    confidentially to our friends, but always confidentially and with the
    complete understanding that they are in no sense to govern our actions."
    (Major General John J. Pershing to 1st Lt George S. Patton Jr. October 16th

    I can remember when that letter came out signed by some retired flag officers (ie generals and admiral) critical of President Bush's handling of the Iraq War -- which he had really f**** up. Fox News and other right wing media out lets were yelling TREASON and demanding a public burning at the stake on the White House lawn. Now the same think happens and they are silent. WHY?

    Also remember, that most flag officers today, have never saw combat and are more like CEOs in uniform than a general or admiral that we most think of. I would like to ask all the 500 in one room: "All those with a CIB stand up." I will bet only 50 or less stand up.

    Finally, everyone should remember the Spanish-American War of 1898. The majority of senior officers knew the Spanish had not sunk the USS Maine, but kept their mouths shut out of fear of the right wing press and the generals and admirals from the Civil War to write columns. Some did ask how or even why the Spanish would sink the Maine with a mine after it anchored. Everyone knew of the danger of a coal dust explosion but feared saying any thing. So war it was. One in which we lost a lot and gained nothing. Let us not make the same mistake over Libyan embassy attack.

    Jack E. Hammond
  • This commment is unpublished.
    RVN SF VET · 9 years ago
    To attribute a MEDEVAC policy to the President of the United States is to demonstrate a deep ignorance of our system of governing and to ignore your own narrative of this problem over the past few years. Idiot Panetta wasn't even Secretary of Defense for the bulk of this period. We have learned that Army Aviation placed MEDEVAC Companies into Aviation Brigades because they wanted control over these semi-independent units. Oh yeah, there's a Presidential decision you fool.

    Chairman Dempsey and his staff lie to Congress. Oh yeah, the President ordered them to do that! An Army doctor goes to Afghanistan and authors a memorandum critical of everything from medic training to command and control and oddly doesn't mention the President!

    You are an ignorant partisan ass who has placed politics before the welfare of our troops. Reading your own blog and read a civics book while you are reading. You have lost any claim to objectivity and damaged our cause.

    Since you want to blame the President, I guess that you also blame him for increasing the number of MEDEVAC units in Afghanistan. Oh yeah, he makes those kinds of detailed, low-level decisions. He doesn't even make Army Aviation policy - fool. He wouldn't know what it means!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frederick · 9 years ago
    When this was taking place under Bush, as the Commander in Chief he has to assume the ultimate responsibility. The same goes for Obama. So they have both failed in correcting this nonsense. That aside, watching Obama try to function as the Commander in Chief, leaves most with a very uneasy feeling that something is seriously wrong!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charles Kelly Jr · 5 years ago
    My father hated politics and most especially Army officers who had risen in rank enough to become more politician than soldier.

    He did not claim that all of high rank were political, but that they were much more likely to be so. He despised those soldiers who abandoned soldering for politics and rightly stated (in his own, private letters to his wife) that these soldier politicians were no longer true soldiers, but the clay that caked the feet of America. He was furious with policies that were getting American soldiers killed and in April of 1964, he predicted a complete and utter disaster in Vietnam if leadership did not let competent soldiers make decisions about the war. He was fortunate that he was able to excercise a degree of control over Medevac operations. In fact, he was able to run things as he saw fit and he was correct in almost every decision he made.
    He despised the political and so do I, more and more, each year.

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