Truth: More than a Theoretical Concept

HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron fly over an area in Iraq in 2008. Photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon.

There is an agenda afoot to discredit the Army’s policies with regards to arming our MEDEVAC helicopters and removing the red crosses that identify medical aircraft with a red cross on a white background according to Geneva Conventions that the United States is a signatory.

(1) Display the distinctive flag of the Geneva Conventions (red cross on a white background) over the unit/facility and in other places on the unit/facility as necessary to adequately identify it. (The other emblem recognized by terms of the Geneva Conventions is the red crescent. Emblems not recognized by the Geneva Conventions but used by other countries, such as the red shield of David by Israel, should also be respected.)
(2) Mark with the distinctive Geneva emblem (red cross on a white background).

As a supporting argument, the “writer” uses the Marine Corps and Air Force as reasoning to remove markings, saying those services “already use armed helicopters to evacuate wounded.”

However, just a few months ago, Marine Corps News published the following:

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) moved a detachment of helicopters from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 to Forward Operating Base Edinburgh so that air ambulances and the attack helicopters that support them could be at the same place, at the same time, when they’re needed most.

“I can get medevac helicopters from here to most locations in under 10 minutes,” explained Redmond, who is deployed to Afghanistan with Marine Air Control Squadron 2.

Before aircraft were moved to the forward operating base, medical evacuations would have to wait for support from Camp Bastion. Redmond said the flight from Camp Bastion could sometimes take up to 30 minutes.

But, wait a minute. Why would the Marine Corps need to move attack helicopters to protect “armed” MEDEVAC choppers? Probably because the Marine Corps doesn’t arm their own MEDEVAC choppers. As a matter of fact, The Marine Corps does not have dedicated CASEVAC aircraft. Any of its aircraft can be utilized as a “lift of opportunity” upon completion of its primary mission.

So, if the Marine Corps is using armed helicopters to evacuate troops, it’s because that is all they have. The Corps even uses the Army’s Medical Evacuation in a Theater of Operation Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Field Manual 8-10-6.

The truth is that the Marine Corps and Air Force have Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) aircraft, which are a completely different animal than MEDEVAC. The Air Force is the lead agency responsible for this mission much like the Army is the lead agency for MEDEVAC.

Now, think about this realistically. How many Air Force personnel actually operate out in FOBs away from medical facilities? Not many; mainly the JTACs. The rest are based on larger FOBs where the airframes and air operations take place. So, the Air Force has no need for a dedicated MEDEVAC air platform because the possibility that they will be deployed without Army units is slim to none. Their choppers, HH-60 Pave Hawk, are used primarily for CSAR missions, but can also provide limited MEDEVAC support.

Likewise, the Marine Corps is a much smaller and more mobile force. They specialize in killing people and portraying the might of the United States without prejudice. They rely on largely on support from the Army as well in evacuating its casualties. The Marine Corps views CSAR as an implied tasking as opposed to an actual mission and operates its aircraft accordingly.

So, here’s a challenge to readers: show me a photograph of a dedicated Marine Corps or Air Force MEDEVAC or CASEVAC helicopter that is armed! Being around combat doesn’t make one an expert in combat. USAF and Marine Corps CSARs are armed because they are mainly tasked as downed pilot recovery, sometimes shooting bad guys that are also trying to recover a downed coalition pilot. US Army medevac is tasked with the medical mission of treating the wounded on the battlefield & is marked according to the Geneva Convention. 2 seperate functions. I’m not even going to respond to the British parallel because we’re the United States, not Great Britain.

Please write to your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to pass a resolution recognizing the hard work and dedication of our combat MEDEVAC personnel and their persistent, professional, and competent efforts to care for our wounded. Let them know what a great job these troops are doing with their 99% survival rate.

Your support is absolutely NOT necessary to my writing. Weekly or monthly recurring ‘subscription’ based support would only serve to allow me to buy more songs on iTunes or Killer Bunnies cards from Amazon. However, if you absolutely MUST waste your money, you can make recurring and one-time donations through PayPal and I promise to spend your money any way I see fit.

22 Comments on “Truth: More than a Theoretical Concept

  1. Thank you for your timely reply. I am genuinely interested in hearing the explanations given you regarding the timeline, reasons for delay, etc. I hope you will share them with me.

    I think we share a common interest in assuring that wounded troops are transported in the fastest way possible to minimize risk of death. If there is an issue to be reviewed, then I’m certain we can work together to make that happen.


      • CJ is in Afghanistan and didn’t see this comment. However, I endorse the post that Marcus just put that answers in_awe’s concerns.

  2. Bearing the Red Cross emblem is to provide protection against enemy fire. In exchange, those wearing the Red Cross are to be unarmed and incapable of offensive fire – hence the US Army decision to forbid mounting weapons on the MEDEVAC helicopters. This provides “proof” to the enemy that Trojan horse attacks will not be conducted while wearing the Red Cross. So far so good.

    If wearing the Red Cross on a MEDEVAC helicopter in Afghanistan does not stop the Taliban and al Qaeda from firing at and trying to down the helicopters, then what purpose remains for the US Army MEDEVAC helicopters to continue wearing RED Crosses?

    If you take the very same MEDEVAC helicopters being used now and remove only the Red Crosses you have not violated the Geneva Convention. Because you are no longer using the symbol for a dedicated medical evacuation vehicle, you are free to mount whatever weapons you want on the helicopter. What you use the helicopter for and what equipment is mounted inside is irrelevant – it is no longer seeking the protection of the GC provision for safe passage of a dedicated medical evacuation vehicle.

    There seems to be some confusion here. Bottom line is you can evacuate wounded using any armed or unarmed vehicle of convenience (USMC policy) or fly armed USAF Pedro helicopters, or the mini-gun armed UK Chinook MERT helicopters (which have more medical equipment and crew on board than even the Army’s MEDEVAC helicopters) without violating GC provisions. It is only when you put Red Crosses on the vehicle are you mandated to go unarmed.

    It is not the function that requires you to be unarmed, it is wearing the Red Crosses that requires you to be unarmed. Hell, if you could fly Mass General Hospital to a LZ there is nothing to stop you from arming it with any and every weapon in the inventory as long as Mass General is not wearing the Red Cross symbol.

    What set this off was Yon witnessing the extraordinary and unnecessary delay in evacuating a soldier who had suffered triple amputation from an IED. The 9 line was provided and evacuation was requested. But because an attack helicopter was not immediately available, the unarmed US Army MEDEVAC helicopter sat on the ground waiting for an attack helicopter to be tasked to fly cover before it could depart. This policy cost precious time (an incremental 20 or 25 minutes as I recall) in recovering and transporting Chazray Clark to medical facilities. (A MEDEVAC helicopter was only 2km away.) The on-scene commander remarked that wasn’t the first time he has experienced long delays in MEDEVAC transport like that. Clark died soon after arriving at the medical unit. Had the same call been tasked to a USAF Pedro asset, the crew could have lifted off without delay and possibly saved Clark’s life because of faster delivery to the medical unit.

    Since this became known various Yon readers have commented on the situation and policy. More than one commenter has verified this policy and its affect on rapid response. Like Yon or hate him, the question at hand is: Does US Army policy regarding wearing Red Crosses impede providing the fastest evacuation of wounded from the battlefield? (In the context of the enemy not honoring the Red Crosses and providing safe passage as required by the GC.)

    • I adamantly disagree with your pretext. Yon did NOT know why the helicopter was delayed. He assumed too much. Then, when told the truth about the timeline decided to discredit it because it made him look like an idiot for spouting off at the mouth about something he had no idea. He falsely claimed the MEDEVAC waited on the armed escort. He falsely claimed that Pedros were closer. He falsely compares Pedros and MEDEVACs. He refuses to acknowledge that there is a reason the military has CASEVAC and MEDEVAC choppers. One is more specialized than the other.

      Yon did not witness the 9-line process. He did not personally hear what caused the delay in the aircraft that day. The MEDEVAC chopper was also further away than Yon states, though I am not at liberty to divulge that. Unlike your buddy, Yon, I try to protect my fellow troops here on the battlefield. The chopper DID NOT sit on the ground waiting for the armed escort. It launched as soon as the 9-line was properly received and the pilots and aircraft could take off. But, you wouldn’t know that because when people tried to correct his misstatements, they were deleted and their IPs barred from commenting.

      As for the on-scene commander, I have never heard a Soldier say that a MEDEVAC was fast enough when he needed it. No matter how quickly they get there, we always thing they can get there faster.

      Your problem is that your entire belief system is based off what Mr. Yon tells you. Missions aren’t “assigned” to particular aircraft based on what they have for weapons. Had a Pedro been available and closer, a Pedro would have been used. The FACT is that the closest bird to Chazray that day was a MEDEVAC bird. There were no Pedros to “assign” to this mission. Are you suggesting the Army should have “assigned” a Pedro the mission and just waited till one could be found?! Do you realize now how asinine Yon’s argument is? The military assigns evacuations based on the closest asset available to the point of action.

      No, the United States policy (not US Army policy as you inaccurately refer) regarding wearing Red Crosses does NOT impede the fastest evacuation of wounded on the battlefield. And all that will be accomplished by removing them and adding in guns, weapons, and personnel to operate them is a reduction in the ability to handle mass casualty events. More than one reader has also verified that he is wrong, but since Yon keeps deleting their comments, you don’t know that. I’ve had pilot friends based here at Kandahar say they’ve tried to comment on his page only to be deleted.

  3. I respect your counterpoint and research on a well written article. But saying the HH60 Pavehawk provides “limited” medevac abilities is very false. I fly on those and their is nothing limited about what we bring to that mission. Weapons, MORE medical personnel, hoist capes, and more. You are correct about it not being a medieval dedicated platform, but discrediting it is irresponsible.

    • JM, what is meant by “limited” is that it’s not the primary mission of the Pavehawk. MEDEVAC is a limited mission, not a full-time one. I don’t discredit the contributions of the Pavehawk in any way whatsoever. Just stating facts about the mission itself. In a similar fashion, MEDEVAC choppers would be able to provide limited CSAR capabilities if needed.

  4. Another thing that keeps getting glossed over is that MEDEVAC AC are vastly different than non. It’ s not just a matter of stripping the red crosses and sticking .50s on them; MEDEVAC have onboard litters, onboard O2, and other medical gear, not to mention that the Medic will be kind of busy treating cx once onboard. Hard to fire a .50 while doing critical care medicine in flight.

    Keep up the good work, CJ. Been following you since Huntsville days; will direct my wife to your site, as she spent a few months in KAF last year.

  5. New information for me; thanks again. The more I know about my sources, the better equipped I am to filter out the noise. I’ll add your blog to my list of sources to frequently monitor. If I hadn’t checked Yon’s blog when I did, I never would have found the link you posted (which has been deleted).

    Opposing opinion shouldn’t be censored; especially when it’s presented in the manner you have. The history you provided sheds some light on the reaction my neighbor had when I mentioned Michal Yon. He had recently returned home from Iraq (National Guard). It’s information I obviosuly would not have gotten from Michael’s blog.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Michael, sorry to take so long to respond. The time difference is immense from here, plus normal missions.

      For the record, my goal is not to “win” any pissing contests with Yon. I am fully and completely in pursuit of TRUTH! If, by hearing the truth, you come to certain conclusions that result in me gaining readers, I’ll accept it. I don’t write for anyone but myself and benefit of my fellow troops. I don’t make money writing here at all.

      What you’ll find here if you continue reading is raw truth. I don’t hide my anger, my depression, my joy, my happiness, or anything else. Because I’m completely at ease with everything I’ve done in life, I’m more than willing to talk about it. I always respond to questions by readers. Since 2004 when I started this blog, I’ve only ever banned one IP from posting and that just happened yesterday after dealing with the ignorant individual for several years and just finally getting tired of never having anything positive to add to the conversation.

  6. Good points on the MEDEVAC issue and I agree with you. I don’t know enough to know how and when both armed and unarmed birds may be necessary in future conflicts so if having both doesn’t constrain our current mission, than no reason to do away with them. Probability dictates that the more birds required for any single evac, the more likely issues will present themselves. If armed escorts were always available, Michael never would have had a justification to raise this issue. But the all or nothing solution is likely not the answer either.

    I’m neutral on your opinion about Michael as a journalist or trouble maker. His reporting has given me insight into a conflict I wouldn’t otherwise have and I feel has added clarity and balance to overall coverage. Some will like his coverage and take the good with the bad, others will not. It’s a matter of personal choice. I appreciate the additional information you’ve provided on this subject. It’s made it clear, there is more than one solution. Any dialog and public focus on ways to provide better support for our troops is good; even if initially based on less than perfect reporting.

    • “His reporting has given me insight into a conflict I wouldn’t otherwise have and I feel has added clarity and balance to overall coverage.” Therein lies the issue. Michael’s “clarity and balance” isn’t always that clear or balanced. You see, he actively deletes comments from guys like me who are in the military when we disagree with him. If we make him look too bad by showing that he’s dead wrong about something, he bans us from commenting and deletes his comments. He may SAY that he’s only banned a handful of people, but explain then why we had over 100 members of the now-defunct “Banned by Michael Yon” page on Facebook.

      Yon writes with an agenda and has said so himself. When comments don’t suit his agenda, he deletes them. As a matter of fact, he did so today on his blog when a reader tried to link to this page so that others could see for themselves the other side of the argument. If you’re looking for integrity in reporting, you won’t find it with Yon. Anyone that actively censors opposition to his MANY writings as either inaccurate, incomplete, ignorant, or otherwise get deleted so that people like you get all spun up over something that Yon wants to promote.

      In all fairness, I obviously don’t like Yon. But my feelings are not based on personal issues – though he has attacked me personally and subjected me to baseless investigations for years – but on integrity issues. Our disagreement started because of integrity issues when I tried to call him on his reporting. I’ve successfully worked to get him disembedded in the past based on that inaccurate and agenda-based reporting and as such I am a target. I’m fine with that as I’ve done nothing wrong. The fact that he has attempted to use PTSD against me has only strengthened my resolve to hold him accountable for what he does to our troops.

      Believe me, he’s not friend of the troops. He’s only a friend of the troops that agree with him. He’s shown that time and again as he attacks troops individually and as groups: me, SFC Coleman, CPT Carbone, MG Scaparotti, Gen Caldwell, BG Menard, Special Forces, military leaders, Public Affairs Officers, Military Intelligence professionals – the list goes on. “Less than perfect” is truly an understatement.

  7. Being open minded, I followed your link on Yon’s website and read this dispatch. I read nothing to discount the basic issue Michael has raised.

    So, Marines have unarmed medevac units, that’s not been the issue. What is at issue is the unacceptable delays that have been recorded (historical fact) as a result of having to wait for armed escorts. Armed evac helecopters directly address this critical and unacceptable isse. The Army has and continues to refuse to use armed medical evac choppers which has directly resulted in additional fatalities. If the Marines also have unarmed medical evac helecopters but have been using armed evac choppers – that’s to their credit and obvious recognition of the nature of the conflict. Nothing in your sited article discredits Michael’s basic assertion – the Army has refused to address this deficiency and has for political reasons tried to justify their poor performance. Because he failed to acknowledge that the Marines also have unarmed evac units is not an attempt to “Hide” the truth.

    If you’ve read the dispatches, Michael has also had nothing but praise for all the evac crews (Army and Airforce). It’s the command chain he has probelms with.

    • Michael, there is fundamental lack of intelligence in the way the argument is being presented. The Army continues to abide by the Geneva Conventions, plain and simple. Armed MEDEVAC choppers in any service violate treaties. Now, while I understand that the enemy we are fighting doesn’t give a damn about any treaties, we do. We’re a better country. The Marines haven’t been using armed evac choppers, they use Army MEDEVAC choppers and Air Force Pedros, when available.

      The issue here is that Yon is mixing apples and oranges by comparing Army MEDEVAC units with Air Force Pedros and non-existent Marine Corps MEDEVAC choppers. So, I think I DO discredit his assertion by pointing out that those things don’t exist. The Army DOES use Pedros when they are available and closer to the casualty than a MEDEVAC would be.

      Of course Michael has problems with the chain of command. He seems to have problems with a buttload of chains of command, don’t you think? Seems like every time he gets embedded he’s got some problem. Wonder what the lowest common denominator to all those problems is? The chain of command is not authorized to violate US law and treaties no matter how much Yon wishes it so.

      Finally, notice how I’m willing to debate with those that disagree with me.

      • CJ I really do appreciate the dialog. I don’t recall Michael supporting the assertion that we violate the Geneva Conventions. I agree with you that as a nation, we need to take the high road even when our adversaries do not. We’re better than the Taliban and we need to act that way. Something I think Michael’s dispatches have shown through our successes in Iraq once we stopped treating everyone as an enemy.

        If the use of Pedros for medical evacuation isn’t in violation of the Geneva convention and the use of armed evac units removes the requirement for armed escorts to be made available; why should any medical evac ever be delayed due to the lack of an available armed escort? We can put the same medical crews on armed evac choppers and remove any delays. Is there ever a situation where unarmed medical choppers are preferred? If so, simply dismount the door guns. I agree with Michael that anything that prevents or delays the rapid evacuation of wounded from the battlefield needs to be addressed.

        Is there more than a single solution – of course. If armed escorts can be made more readily available that’s great. No one is going to argue against too much air support. But inthe documented instanace where a wounded soldier remained on the battlefield far longer than he should have due to “policy”, than someone needs to look into revising the policy. From what I’ve read, news, blogs and such I have gotten the impression that the Army doesn’t consider this a problem.

        As an embedded civilian, Michael can shed light on issues the chain of command doesn’t want to address. Is he always right? No, but no one ever is. But has he been proven correct on other issues? Yes and it has resulted in improvements in strategies, command leadership, relations. Most of the time inertia to change is a result of legacy policies, CYOA leadership and sometimes just the wrong people or strategy. The services are just like any large corporation, resistent to change.

        Michael is calling attention to a problem that needs to be addressed. I don’t knwo if what he suggests is the best solution or not, but ignoring the problem won’t solve it.

        • Michael, It’s a matter of mission. The MEDEVAC mission is vastly different than the CASEVAC mission. There is a reason we have both. That’s the problem here. If we get rid of every MEDEVAC unit, what do we do when we go to war with a tradition armed. And with the threats that Russia, China and other signatories to the Conventions pose, it’s a necessity we keep both.

          But, look at my points from a purely tactical standpoint. A chopper on the ground is hindered by the protection it can provide. It’s a static object stuck in one place and only able to provide covering fire in limited areas. Whereas, a hovering Apache has 360 degree visibility of the battlefield and can provide much better cover for the MEDEVAC. Because that chopper on the ground has more space due to a lack of guns, it can provide more life-saving equipment and personnel on the bird itself.

          Yon is not presenting mulitiple arguments. He’s providing one: arm the MEDEVACs. That’s not possible. I agree that more can be done, as I described in this article. The Marines seemed to have cracked the nut by positioning their attack helicopters with the MEDEVAC birds. But, you don’t see that as an option and Michael is pushing his following to spin people up on one option that isn’t the best option.

          Michael is calling attention to himself only. There is a reason that he can’t keep an embed and it has nothing to do with MEDEVACs. It has to do with burning bridges and crying like a child when he doesn’t get his way. It has to do with falsely accusing people of attempted murder and assault. It has to do with wasting precious military assets in a combat zone chasing down ghosts every time he is put in his place. It has to do with biting the hand that feeds you and then refusing to accept reality. He is not saying anything new. People just need to look for it instead of clinging to antiquated ideas.

          And again, you don’t see me deleting your comments or banning you because you disagree with me – something your friend could learn a great deal about.

  8. The theoretical pursuit of truth and functional collection of facts are separate, but related labors. Truth must be factual to be “true”, but is not a fact in itself.

    While it may be a fact that some armed air frames are sometimes used to transport wounded, it does not make it a truth that the US arms MEDEVAC dedicated air frames.

    However, on occasion, fact and truth do follow. The fact that some commentators on the web have no actual experience or knowledge leads directly to the truth that they are incompetent to comment on our profession.

    Keep you head down and your eyes open.



  9. CJ, I posted this link on Michael Yon’s blog to ask him to respond to it. Instead of responding, he deleted my comment. I wanted him to comment because this seems like a well-researched post and I was curious what he thought about it. Now, I’m more confused than ever.

    • Mike, you’re wasting your time if you think that Yon that will ever allow dissenting opinion on his blog or FB page. For someone that expends a great deal of energy complaining about censorship by various Public Affairs Officers, he seems to embrace the concept whole-heartedlly. Yon probably deleted your comment because this post is damaging to his credibility. If his readers saw that he has no idea what he is talking about and is just waving a bloody shirt to get attention and feel important they’d stop filling his Paypal bucket and see him for the fraud he has become. Again, I wouldn’t waste your time. The truth is out there and the smart ones will look for it. The rest of the sheeple will continue to rally around his shepherd’s staff.

      • CJ, add me to your legion of fans. After reading Michael’s story and then reading this I was very confused. I tried to ask him to respond to it and even refute it. He will not and deleted my comments. Then he deleted just the link. Now I cannot even comment on his site. I will not support anyone that is afraid to defend his position on such an important topci especially if he is going to ask us to contact Congress.

        Anyway, I am in RC-East near Bagram. If you are ever in the area please let me buy you a coffee or a bottle of water as penance for doubting you in the past. He did a good job making you look like a demon. Also, I have screen shots where he deleted my comments if you want them. You should be able to see my email.

        • Mike, I’ll probably never go to Bagram, unfortunately. I’m pretty nailed down to my duties here. However, the offer also stands if you come through here. Again, don’t waste your time with Yon. It’ll only get you frustrated and if you keep pushing him to own up to his own opinions, you’ll only serve to get yourself in trouble. I hope he doesn’t try to find your command using your email address. He’s prone to flinging wild accusations when someone in the military calls him out. Since he can’t intelligently discuss ideas, he resorts to threats and intimidation. He plays the system quite well.

        • Do me a favor and also stop posting the link to this post on his site. I don’t need another investigation because he gets some wild hair up his ass that I’m sending you over there. It’s not going to help as he’ll keep deleting it and probably just accuse you of being me anyway. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m sending you over there and don’t need his site dirtying up my links. I hope you understand. Thanks.

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