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September 08, 2005

A little digging is useful.

I got this in email yesterday, a story from NewsMax, with the email labeled, "This won't play well in Peoria." Which is true enough, on first scan:

Reprinted from NewsMax.com

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005 9:41 a.m. EDT

Military Reprimands Navy Rescuers

Two Navy helicopter pilots were reprimanded for their actions after Hurricane Katrina struck – they rescued more than 100 people and brought them to safety.

Lt. David Shand and Lt. Matt Udkow each piloted H-3 helicopters out of Pensacola, Fla., and were ordered to deliver emergency food, water and other supplies to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on Tuesday, August 30, the day after Katrina made landfall. The storm had cut off electricity and water to the center. The two pilots delivered the supplies and were heading back to Pensacola when they picked up a Coast Guard transmission saying helicopters were needed in New Orleans, the New York Times reports.

So the pilots headed for the stricken city and began picking up people who were stranded on rooftops and a highway overpass and ferrying them to an airport where a makeshift medical center had been set up. They rescued 110 people in all.

But the next morning, the two pilots were called to a meeting with Cmdr. Michael Holdener, Pensacola’s air operations chief. He said their rescue effort was "an unacceptable diversion” from their mission of delivering supplies, according to the Times – even though Lt. Udkow said there was a "shocking” lack of other rescue helicopters around flooded New Orleans.

Udkow, who reportedly complained to superiors about the reprimand, was taken out of flying rotation and given a new assignment: overseeing a temporary kennel set up at Pensacola to hold pets of service members evacuated from hurricane-stricken areas.

Now, this passage is what caught my jaundiced field grade eye:

Udkow, who reportedly complained to superiors about the reprimand, was taken out of flying rotation and given a new assignment: overseeing a temporary kennel set up at Pensacola to hold pets of service members evacuated from hurricane-stricken areas.

I smelled a ratty Lieutenant, regardless of his noble motives. So, now that I actually having some 'ins' with the Wings of Gold naval aviation community, rather than just run with this, I thought I'd ask about the backstory. I asked Lex.

This is what I got.

Ah, I've pulled the thread on this one... Turns out the helo guys were reservists specifically fragged [given orders] to provide log support other helo detachments doing the SAR effort. They took it upon themselves to go off-task and do a little personal personnel recovery, I guess because it feels more noble than logistics. A questionable call, probably, but the 17-year O-3 (picture getting clearer?) probably expected to get an atta-boy from the Air Ops guy rather than a butt-chewing.

They also serve who merely bring up ammo, but not everyone remembers that. I guess the can really got kicked over when one of the lieutenants started shouting back at the O-5 (which, I don't know about the army, but that goes over like a fart in church over here) and then went to the press to talk about how he had been wronged (which goes over even worse).

Pah.

If I got yelled at by a Captain, he would have lost his transmission privileges and gone into listening silence on the net. Which would not have been a silent net. I'd have been transmitting.

Orders is orders, folks - and sometimes ones that don't make sense to you in your little neck of the woods *do* make sense in the larger scheme of things. And if everybody hares off on their own, you lose control. Who knows what *didn't* happen because they were off on their own? Or if their aircraft had gone down... and they were nowhere near where they were expected to be?

My bet is, given that they *did* rescue 100+ people, if they'd taken the butt-chewing and soldiered sailored(?) on - the incident would have died there. But to get your panties in a twist and hare off to the press? I'm guessing the dogs aren't all that well cared-for right now, getting kicked a lot, and the aircraft is *not* sitting idle for lack of pilots.

And everybody looks bad. And it didn't need to be that way.

Just guessing.

Lex chatted it up, too.


John | Permalink | Comments (18) | Hurricane Katrina | Observations on things Military
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