Friday, February 17, 2012

DUSTOFF crews: "Nothing more noble..."

From KXAN:

'Dustoff' crews featured in documentary

Filmmaker records troop rescues in Afghanistan

'Dustoff' crews featured in documentary:

AUSTIN (KXAN) - At an airfield in Afghanistan, a tall Army major addresses his troops.

There is in his voice, a solemn air, an earnestness that soaks up the attention of the pilots, crew chiefs and medics he commands. As Austin documentary filmmaker Pat Fries rolls his camera, Maj. Patrick Zenk is delivering a history lesson about another time, another war:

July 1, 1964, Vietnam.

Charles Kelly was the first Dustoffer killed in action,” Zenk lectured. “There was enemy fire in the area. He landed his aircraft and immediately they began to take volleys of fire.

“The ground forces on the ground told him, ' Dustoff, get out of here! Leave!'

“And he said, 'I'll leave when I have your wounded.’ The next words he spoke were, 'My God,' as the bullet passed through his chest and he died. And that's the legacy we carry today.”..

H/T to my pal Mary for pointing me to this story. Go read the rest here.

It's no secret that I love our medics, and I am happy to see movies like this made so that the general public - us civilians, ya know - get some real understanding of what our DUSTOFF's do every single day.

There is an ongoing debate about our MedEvacs, and a lot of rhetoric is flying around (yes, pun intended) as a certain 'independent photographer/faux journalist/not a blogger/personal advisor to high ranking US military; - now add: worldwide expert on all things DUSTOFF' *cough cough* would have us all believe that if only the US Army would remove the Geneva Convention- mandated Red Crosses from the MedEvac choppers, not one wounded US Soldier would die in war. Without the Red Cross, if you follow along the illogical - uneducated, flat out wrong! - ramblings of previously mentioned supplier-of-books-as-door-stops to the White House, the MedEvacs would be so much faster, they'd probably be at the hot zone almost before the enemy wounded our Troops! Those Red Crosses must be really heavy, is all I'm saying here.

Yes, I am being absurd, but make no mistake, this whole 'debate' on Red Crosses on choppers, and to arm or not to arm them, is a matter of life and death, but not perhaps in the way some would have you believe.

I have written about our MedEvacs more than a few times, and shared various expert commentary on this whole issue. Today comes another clear explanation of the pros and cons of the latest crusade.

Time To End The Misguided MEDEVAC Arming Agenda

February 16 2012 — By Marcus

There is a huge push to arm Army MEDEVAC helicopters and remove the red crosses that identify them as such. The idea being that in arming the helicopters and removing the red crosses, these assets can get to our wounded much faster. The movement has even gained the attention of 17 (out of 535) Congressmen and forced both the Army and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to respond.

Photo by Spc. Austin Berner

The latest regurgitated story comes out of the Washington Post and I’d like to take a few moments to respond to this particular story since it incorporates many of the inaccuracies of the others.

But the rescue aircraft was unarmed, as are all Army medevacs. And the pre-dawn pickup zone in the Zhari district of Kandahar province was considered “hot,” or dangerous, meaning the medevac could not swoop in for the pickup until another chopper with firepower arrived to provide cover.

The reality of war is that troops are trained in lifesaving measures because, during combat, it won’t always be possible to extract the patient right away. Even if the MEDEVAC bird were armed, it wouldn’t have “swooped in for the pickup” until the LZ was cleared. The theory, I suppose, is that the armed MEDEVAC bird would seek out and destroy the enemy prior to landing and picking up its patients.

This, for those of us that have served in combat, is obviously nonsense. Once a theoretically armed MEDEVAC lands to extract patients, those guns are no longer a viable presence. Because they are door guns, the patients would very well be in the line of fire. So, now you have an armed MEDEVAC chopper sitting there, with less space to carry passengers and fewer resources to treat patients, gunners idle.

Even arming MEDEVAC birds, they can’t travel alone. They still need an escort. So, assuming all MEDEVAC birds are armed, now you’re using TWO of them to extract patients instead of one with another armed platform. This raises the risk that if another MEDEVAC bird is needed elsewhere, it won’t be available because it’s now providing cover for its own...

There is much more HERE, which is all a must read.

Other columns that educate:

The Difference between MedEvac & CasEvac: Video Update

Why are members of Congress listening to idiots like Mike Yon?

For the Record: Army statement on MEDEVAC issue

Is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs a Liar?

Fighting for a Life; Fighting to Bring Home Every Body He Could

That last column is based on things our friend SSG Brian Cowdrey told War On Terror News. Brian was determined that the public would understand what he did, how much pride he, and all DUSTOFFs, have in saving every life possible.

Be sure to go read all of these links (including the comments, where the debate continues.)

1 comment:

Adam- said...

As a Dustoff crew member, I want to thank you for putting together a valid arguement that ALL of Dustoff stands behind. The problem with soldiers dying on the ground before evac gets there isn't because dustoff can't go into hot LZs (we have, a lot), but the problem is the armchair quarterback battle captains and commanders that aren't willing to take the risk to the helicopter and not giving us permission to land. The crew circling above the scene has the best judgement, but these tight leashed battle captains don't want us on the ground until the LZ is ice. The real killer behind all of this is poor planning, judgement, and execution from the officers in the TOC. They don't allocate an Attack weapons team to us for LZs that require AWTs to land at. Maybe with this whole congressional intervention, it will alert people that we have been getting away from the importance of medevac over the last 3-4 years.

Wasting precious minutes in the air above the scene waiting for approval to land has NO correlation with not having crew served weapons. Everyone has an M4, like most people on the ground, and I feel more than protected with my chase helicopter circling overhead. Being shot at is a part of war, we all knew the risks before we joined Dustoff, but that's what sets us apart from the rest of Army aviation. We go in willingly. All balls, no guns.