A simple change in procedures would have likely saved the life of the young soldier pictured here and the lives of countless others.
A recent Soldier of Fortune Magazine article details a history of soldiers’ deaths by U.S. bureaucracy. Regulations regarding deployment of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters in combat zones to deal with the reality of warfare [as opposed to peacetime] have never been addressed.
Medics are easily spotted by the red cross symbols on their hats and jackets. Combat medics are a target of insurgents. If they are killed, the enemy conjectures, others will die from lack of care.
Army medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters, easily identified by their markings, are unarmed and they are also targets for the same reason. MEDEVACS are deployed under emergency conditions but are often grounded at the departure airfield by something as ridiculous as waiting for the assignment of a policy number or because they must wait for an armed escort before launching.
Time is of the utmost importance in saving a soldier’s life, but bureaucratic regulations are a type of friendly fire that have caused deaths to our own. The protocols are much more complex than I’m detailing but suffice it to say, they are dated, cumbersome, unnecessary and more important than our soldier’s lives.
The Army policy in Afghanistan is to wait for an armed escort before the red cross-marked MEDEVAC can fly. Obviously, there is a simple answer – remove the identifying red crosses and arm the aircraft for self-defense. No generals will stand up and demand this be changed. No general is courageous enough.
Chazray was facedown. One arm and both his legs were gone, and yet this man had the strength and presence to call out from the dust and darkness. Chazray answered, ‘I’m okay’… Although Chazray had answered that he was okay, everyone here knows that when someone calls out ‘I’m okay,’ the sound of their voice only means they are still alive. Fellow Soldiers located Chazray in the dark, and quickly put on tourniquets and unfolded a stretcher.
“The medevac was very late. It took us about 20 minutes to get back to the Landing Zone (LZ). Based on my significant experience down here in southern Afghanistan, I know that the helicopter could and should have already been on orbit waiting for us. Chazray was dying but fully conscious and talking the entire time. We waited, and waited. Finally a radio call came that the medevac was ‘wheels up’ from KAF. It was unbelievable to us that the medevac was just taking off from Kandahar Airfield, twenty-five miles away.”
The helicopter could not leave the ground until escorted, and since no Apache helicopter gunships were immediately available, it sat on the tarmac while Chazray bled out. Even more outrageous, there were Air Force helicopters at that same airbase that could have come immediately. These choppers are heavily armed and need no escort, or could have served as escort. But Army regulations forbid their use.
All these protocols must be followed. According to Army field commanders, they have zero discretion. They have been complaining about it for years, to no effect. Read more: Army regulation killing Americans