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Connectivity, lack thereof, and the newest Mike Yon kerfluffle

Connectivity, lack thereof, being what it is over here, I was aware of the latest brouhaha Mike Yon has started about medevacs having target markers big red crosses painted on them so we’d be in compliance with the Geneva Accords. I figured the controversy, which appears to be more flame and smoke than actual light, would have died down by now, but it appears that The American Thinker and SOF both chimed in while I've been admiring the scenery here in Kabul.

I thought this quote from Dalton Fury was worthwhile enough to steal:


As a commander, I wouldn’t consider asking a helicopter to fly in to accept a casualty until, in my best judgment, the threat to the helicopter was mitigated.

Even dedicated ISR and gunship support can’t be 100 percent sure that there is not a threat. A single AK round or RPG rocket can take out a helo inbound and miles away from the urgent casualty.

Urban sprawls and rocky mountain ridges along the typically long flight path provide numerous hiding spots for enemy gunners just waiting for the sound of an incoming helo.

An Apache escort might be able to ruin the enemy gunner’s day, but that is reactive, and the damage to the Army MEDEVAC they are escorting might already be done.

My radio transmission might sound like this.

“You this is Me, request CASEVAC ASAP, location marked by IR strobe, over.”

“Um, uh, negative Me, please specify exactly which type of helicopter do you need. Do you need an Army MEDEVAC, or an Air Force Pedro, or a DUSTOFF, or a Marine asset, over.”

“You this is Me, whichever one can get here the fastest to save this brave American’s life, over.”

The point here is that warriors rely on speed to survive, both on the assault and after they’ve been hit. If Army policy in Afghanistan is to wait for an armed escort before the red cross-marked MEDEVAC can fly, then the answer is obvious. Remove the identifying red crosses to appease the Geneva Convention and arm the aircraft for self-defense. The enemy doesn’t care about the Geneva Conventions or any laws of land warfare.
 

 
Something struck me, after reading both sides of the argument, both in posts and comments – nobody has asked us *pilots* what we think.

Geez, I gotta do *everything* around here -- “So, Bill, what *do* the pilots think about it?”

First off, I’ll establish my bona fides for those of you who don’t know me. I flew with an assault helicopter company in Vietnam, and everybody who flew slicks *knew* that his secondary mission was medevac. I honestly can’t count the number of times I flew wounded troops from a hot LZ to the hospital pad at Binh Thuy.

Dirty Little Secret: Most of the casualties who got treated within the Golden Hour in Vietnam were transported in Hueys that were *not* dedicated medevac ships. Just one example – long-time Castle readers will be familiar with the story (and so will those who read the article in Flightfax, Approach, and Propos de vol back when the tale was originally published).

Yup. I once flew a medevac in a friggin’ gunship. And the reason *why* is because the medevac guys already at Moc Hoa with me were forbidden to go into a hot LZ without *Cobra* escort. Not “gunship” escort, “Cobra” escort.

And the nearest Cobras were back at Can Tho, about a 40-minute flight away. And by the time the LZ in Cambodia had gone cold, so would the wounded we were scrambled for.

Don’t take that as a slam on the medevac pilots – their CO would have fried them if they’d violated their SOP.

Just to forestall the purists who are ready to point out that what I flew was actually “casevac” rather than true “medevac,” there was no such term as “casevac” in Vietnam – that distinction evolved in the late ‘80s, twenty-odd years after I flew whatever-you-want-to-call-it. But when I was flying them, they were called “medevacs”…
 
The lesson we learned in Vietnam was that it was speed of treatment that saved so many guys. If you were doing cross-border Sneaky Pete stuff, you knew where the LURPS or Green Beanies or SEALs who were calling for help were, because you were the one who put them there, and a goodly portion of the time out in the hinterlands, a lift ship or a slick flying an ash ‘n’ trash mission was able to transport the casualty to a hospital pad before the dedicated medevac ship was halfway to the site. But then, that was still *another* "Lesson from Vietnam" the Army was eager to write off as being "irrelevant to the warfight."

Here's a news flash for the REMFs J-types. We paid for those lessons in *blood*, and they're as valid today as they were when we learned them...

Fast-forward to today. We don’t *have* the helicopter assets in Af-stan that we had in Vietnam, let alone the dedicated medevac assets. It makes no sense to me, as a pilot, to let a casualty lie bleeding in a hot LZ when there’s speed of transportation available in the form of a non-medevac ship, without the restrictions placed on the Red Cross crews. And don’t get me started on the length of time it takes to crank an Apache and go through all the weapons checks before it can depart on an escort mission.

A lot of the commenters I’ve read talked about the consequences of violating the Convention by either scrubbing off the Red Cross or by carrying weapons – herewith are those consequences:


Violation of these Conventions can result in the loss of protection afforded by them.

Medical personnel (Medical Platoon Leader's[sic], Platoon Sergeant's[sic], Senior Line Medic's[sic]) should inform the tactical commander of the consequences of violating the provisions of these conventions. The consequences can include the following:

(1) Medical evacuation assets subjected to attack and destruction by the enemy. [As if that hasn't been the case all along]

(2) Combat health support capability degraded. [How? Seriously, how? Will the dirtbags *start* shooting at medics?]

(3) Captured medical personnel becoming prisoners of war rather than retained persons. They may not be permitted to treat fellow prisoners. [News flash -- the dirtbags don't treat *anyone* as a POW, they treat them as *hostages*]

(4) Loss of protected status for medical unit, personnel, or evacuation platforms (to include aircraft on the ground). [Loss of *what* protective status? The dirtbags specifically *target* medical personnel and vehicles]

So, what’s the difference between what’s happening *now* -- in the real world, when we *are* abiding by the Accords -- and what would happen if we painted over the target markers? Has the Army even *asked* the lawyers?

I’ll close with two final bits of bloviation, then I’ll shut up.

1. Nothing in either the Geneva Accords or the Hague Conventions prohibits medical evacuation personnel from carrying weapons to defend themselves or the casualties they’re transporting -- the prohibition is on *offensive* weapons. Personal weapons are okay, crew-served weapons are not. I know several grunt-types who were issued the M249 as a personal weapon, BTW...

2. That Red Cross on an aircraft means it no longer belongs to the parent service of the crew. *Anybody*, including the enemy, can flag down a dedicated medical transportation vehicle (including a helicopter) and demand his wounded be transported to a medical treatment facility – even if it’s the enemy’s facility.

And that last tidbit came from a medevac crew I know, who said that's what they were taught in Medevac School...

29 Comments

 *Koff* Um, can you say, "Breitbart?"
 
We should listen to the ones with skin in the game now, and for decades (or is the eons?) in the past.

Thanks Bill, both for the briefing and your service.
 
 ...then I’ll shut up.

That's the only thing in this post that doesn't belong. Everything else... should be shared far and wide.

*high five* on an excellent  piece of writing.
 
 Bill,

Back when I was wearing Uncle Sammy's Green Suit when I called for Evac I could care less how the Bird was painted.

Time counts when I have a Troop hit, if I have to stuff him/her in the back of a Gunship to get them to the Medics 2 minutes faster then so be it!

Besides we have no proof that the other side even knows what the Geneva Conventions are!
 
John -- Yup. I'll try to shill it in a couple hours. Connectivity 'n' server hiccups.

John(NTA) -- Odd that you should mention that. 'Most all the contract 'structors here are retired Army helicopter pilots (except for the Former Marine and the ex-USAF SpecOps guy, but they're educable), all with BTDT cred...

SKK -- *catching high five for the high praise*
If you don't stop encouraging me, I *will* write that book...
 
 I *will* write that book...

Well, heck... what *else* are you going to do with all that BTDT & lit-giftery? 

The War Book List is incomplete, you know...

*waiting patiently*
 
Will the book have cartoons? (she said hopefully...)  Don't forget to include the Enraged Water Buffalo story.

I used to enjoy Yon's dispatches, but he's gotten stranger and not in a good way.  I think he needs an egoectomy. 
 
Thinking back to my time in Southeast Asia as a recon platoon leader in an air cavalry squadron and as a rifle company commander in a light infantry brigade, The location was the central highlands and northern I Corps.  I cannot recall ever seeing a dedicated medevac aircraft.  I certainly never saw one execute an actual evacuation mission.  Evacuations across the border supporting MACSOG was always done with aircraft dedicated to that mission, not medevac aircraft.  Slicks picked up missions based on their availability, fuel status, etc.  Chatter on the net quickly sorted out who was best position to make the extraction.  One one occasion, I grabbed M-60 ammo off the Corps Commander's bird and threw the wounded on board for the next leg.  Sometimes these aircraft had escort, sometimes they didn't, especially at night.  Its just the way it was
 
The most memorable ride (besides my own) was when two OV-10A drivers were recovered by an Austrailian trash hauler and a team of river rats picked up from an ATSB-recounted in the book Black Ponies.
 
Sometimes these aircraft had escort, sometimes they didn't, especially at night.

The gunships were sometimes fragged off from another mission, but usually the radio chatter went,

"Hey, [insert callsign] slick going into Indian Country, want a pair of Charlie-models for company?"

"We're in kind of a hurry -- what's your location?"

"Slow it back to a hundred and twenty and we'll pass you in thirty seconds..."
 
 Bill, my understanding of the Geneva Conventions agrees with the Medvac crewman's understanding. The Taliban, however, being an irregular force is not covered by the conventions.

The only people bloviating on this are the wack job, barking moonbats who carry on about them as they apply to irregulars. I don't think you are are bloviating at all. Speaking the truth is never bloviating.

Just don't allow SKK aboard if she's carrying Lasagne. That might fall under the head of crimes against humanity.
 
 Smitty over at "The Other McCain' complaimed about maximum bandwidth suckitude while he was acting in the capacity of Admiral of The Afghan Seas. RSM had to get a bit more help with the blog while Smitty was on an IA assignment to the AFG because Smitty just couldn't get the bandwidth he needed to keep up. Now that he's back he's making up for lost time.
 
QM, it just so happens that the Baroness was at my house for dinner last night. We sat for hours on the couch, supping tea, chatting with other eyewitnesses re The Lasagna Incident. We now are leaning toward a poltergeist explanation. Few people know this, but ghosts are not covered by the Geneva Cons. Which is a long-winded way of saying: The lasagna has been cleared for takeoff. 
 
The problem with the Geneva conventions is that they presume a minimal degree of ruliness on both sides.  Which is wobbly even in a conventional war but ludicrous in most wars that are fought today.

In a sense the refusal of the various enemies via desparation and scumbagism to follow such minimal rules shows their and their ideals unworthiness.
 
 Bill, in your title you were doing just fine, until you hit the second comma and it went to pure chit.

BillT, will you stop threatening to write the book, and write the dang thing! You and I both know, most people don't have a clue about the subject. The really good stuff you can't write about, because there are no words to describe it. Even if you had the words, people wouldn't believe it. 

SKK, You can be confusing at times, like all of them. You write, "The lasagna has been cleared for takeoff." The word "cleared" has different meanings. Was the lasagna approved for takeoff? The other view would be this, was it removed for takeoff? You also write that ghosts are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. Are you suggesting it took a paranormal poltergeist to move this lasagna? You sure can be confusing.
 
Grumpy, I don't know! I'm... I'm... too busy confusing!

Which means: I am in the process of creating confusion, or...  am in the state of being confused.

Hmmm..... 

*now, which one is it...*
 
Not MY war: There is a scene in "We Were Soldiers" (book and movie) that illustrates reality.

My problem is that the 'heads up' came from Yon.
 
It's been a looooonnnnggg time since the Geneva Conventions even glanced at our war fighters in a protective manner.

Bill:

One issue the J-types would raise is that in casevac dedicated flights, there's on board medical support and that means life support treatment can begin immediately.

My suggestion would be to put a medic/corpsman in every troop carrying capable chopper crew. That way, all choppers are medevac and we get a bigger crop of emergency medical trained citizens afterwards.
 
terrific post bill.  thank you for telling the truth as only you do. 
 
 SKK, if I see you approach my ship with a covered pan I *WILL* pull pitch long before you get to the pad. As long as you are confused on the matter I will be conservative in my approach, and launch.
 
To be fair Mr Bill, while we don't have anywhere near the helicopters we had in Viet Nam, we're also not taking anywhere near the casualties, either.

We're (the Army Aviation community) always ready for CASEVAC.  Pretty much the closest asset is going to be it - even if it involves being tied to an Apache.

Last tour in Iraq, the Crewchiefs for the marked MEDIVAC birds in our AO carried SAWs.  I think the Medics had M-4's.

I'll refrain from discussing the PaveHawk community.
 
Thanks Bill for the write-up and the years of Service.

Good Luck in the wilds of wherever:-)

Regards

Rich in KCK
 
One issue the J-types would raise is that in casevac dedicated flights, there's on board medical support and that means life support treatment can begin immediately.

The medevacers have all the good stuff, Grimmy -- casevac is just transportation. That said, *everybody* in the Army is now a Combat Lifesaver -- Hawkeye and Trapper would have loved to have the stuff that's just in my first aid kit. 

The question for the J-types is, "If you were hit multiple times and your medic can't completely stop the bleeding, would you rather be flown the 20 minutes to a hospital in an aircraft that can be here in five minutes, or would you prefer to wait for the dedicated medevac aircraft -- which has to wait 20 minutes for the Apaches to be ready, then fly another 20 minutes to get here before they can load you on board and start an IV?"
 
Unka Bill,
You gotta be shitting me. That's "Live or Die".
Who gives a shite how the bird is painted? Save my life!
The 'J types' might not get that, not have ever been there, but the rest of do.

 
"rest of do" s/b "the rest of us do".
 
"You're, so vain, I bet you think this war is about you..."  Didn't somebody post that here a while back and make me laugh so hard I was afraid I might stop breathing from the diaphragm spasms?

A link to that post would cheer me up, a bit.  Major? Anybody?
 
P.s. Grumpy, the Lasagna thing has to do with what sometimes happens when heating up some Italian dishes in a microwave oven. See Florida Statutes, having to do with "Dago Bombs."  Do try to keep up with the memes.

Oh, and BCR?  Was that really you in the comments at Ace's place where everybody was being mean to the aspies?  I liked Baldilocks's comment the best: "Crazy White people."
 
Ah, here it is! The search function here being totally broken (at least with my browser) I had to resort to (spit!) Google and slap it upside the head a bit before it disgorged a post here from April 21, 2010: The title is, "You're so Vain."

"...Your helmet dipped below one eye. Your brain was in vapor lock..."

I'll now go and load that page, arguably the funniest thing ever posted on this here blog.

Snork!
 
JTG - That's why we're now leaning again toward the poltergeist theory. Before the lasagna bomb went off, everything was room temperature. The sauce, the meat, the bowl.. even the room!

QM - But I never put a cover atop my lasagna. It would be too hard to slice! Gracious...