Army MEDEVAC Dishonesty And Other Strategic Malfeasance

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 4 months ago

Recall that Michael Yon has discussed Army MEDEVAC issues at length, investigating and pressing and doing so in an unrelenting manner?  Recall that I discussed this issue before, where I pointed out that the U.S. Marines don’t do business that way (i.e., where they leave MEDEVAC unarmed)?  At Blackfive they responded, in part: The Army is the only Service that is dedicated to this essential mission. In fact, other uninformed bloggers claim that the Marines don’t do Medevac.  That part is correct.  However, to assume that’s because “The U.S. Marine Corps doesn’t do business this way” is incorrect.  That is because the Army provides that service for the Marines, Navy, and Air Force.  Just like the Marines don’t do CSAR – because the USAF has the lead on that.  Not because they don’t do business that way (bold his).

In then pointed out that “I never made the claim that the Marines don’t do MEDEVAC.  I just made the claim that they didn’t do it that way.  Matt has conflated two issues, i.e., MEDEVAC in Afghanistan with MEDEVAC generally.  I also never made the claim that the Marines do MEDEVAC in Afghanistan.  But the Marines did in fact do MEDEVAC in Iraq.”

If you carefully study my previous articles, you will find that I specifically state that the Marines did do MEDEVAC with the CH-46 Sea Knight.  I also pointed out that my own son was MEDEVAC’d out by such an aircraft, and that he was gunner for vehicle-borne MEDEVAC.  The case was closed, but Michael Yon comes forward with even more interesting revelations.

One Army aviation regiment observes in a PowerPoint presentation that:

Precedence exists for arming aircraft that are dedicated to a MEDEVAC mission. USAF HH60s in Afghanistan are dedicated MEDEVAC platforms with medical aid-man aboard and are armed. USMC uses CH46s in Iraq as medical evacuation platforms that are armed and have corpsman as crewmembers. Both the USAF and USMC do not mark their aircraft with a distinctive emblem described in the Geneva Conventions.

You knew this, but only because you read The Captains’s Journal, and take note that I said what I said before becoming aware of this presentation.  I said what I said because I know it to be true.  But now for the disturbing part.

The MNC-I Staff Judge Advocate recommends against using the M249 on MRAP ambulances marked with a red cross.  Though not a technical violation of international law, using an M249 on a vehicle marked with a medical symbol would have negative IO implications … to maintain the proper strategic communication plan and maintain the momentum of U.S. forces reducing kinetic operations, the M249 SAW will not be mounted on properly marked MRAP ambulances …

There are other oddities in this order, such as considering the M249 SAW a “crew-served” weapon.  I am unaware of any time for any Marine where it required a crew to operate a SAW (my own son operated a SAW, and in fact, used it to clear rooms and patrol in Fallujah).  Why would the U.S. Army be referring to the SAW as a crew-served weapon?  Do the authors not know better?  But on to more important things.

Take careful note.  This is dated September of 2008, just when the 24th MEU was engaging in intense kinetic operations in and around the Garmsir AO in Helmand, and before the Marines were sent in to Marjah, and even as the U.S. Marines were suffering through Now Zad, losing legs and arms and retaining more trauma doctors than any other unit in combat at that time because of catastrophic losses of limbs and life.

What we have learned in these documents is that the Army has lied concerning the issue of MEDEVAC, but worse still, the strategic malfeasance we have seen in Afghanistan is not so much a function of incompetence as it is intentional.  While the Marines were suffering (as were Soldiers in the Korengal and other places), the official Army position from at least 2008 onward was to reduce kinetic operations, much like the British in Basra (the British eventually being run out of Basra by the Shi’a militia).  Remember that.  The so-called surge in Afghanistan was part of an overall plan to reduce kinetic operations.  Don’t forget that.  Ever.  It isn’t just that the strategy lacked focus, or that it wasn’t clear.  It is that the Afghanistan strategy was self referentially incoherent – directly and internally contradictory.

You read The Captain’s Journal because we aren’t tools of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and we tell the truth.  I would like to believe that my work on ROE cause amended rules in Iraq, if not the Standing ROE of the CJCS or the theater-specific ROE, then at least the way they were applied at a unit level by the JAGs.  There are other areas in which I might have made a slight difference.

If you cannot do that as a military blogger, then why would you write?  At any rate, Michael Yon has made a difference, and at least at TCJ you get the unvarnished truth.  We aren’t tools.

  • Jason

    I’d like to quickly point out that MNC-I was the Corps HQ in Iraq prior to the mission change in 2010, when MNF-I and MNC-I were dissolved and replaced with USF-I. MNC-I, at that time, had no authority over policy in Afghanistan. Different place, different problem set. To say otherwise is to muddy the waters of the MEDEVAC issue. Unless you can quote a CENTCOM policy, what MNC-I put out in 2008 has little relevance to Afghanistan.

  • MNF-W Vet

    “There are other oddities in this order, such as considering the M249 SAW a “crew-served” weapon. I am unaware of any time for any Marine where it required a crew to operate a SAW (my own son operated a SAW, and in fact, used it to clear rooms and patrol in Fallujah). Why would the U.S. Army be referring to the SAW as a crew-served weapon? Do the authors not know better? But on to more important things.”

    The M249 SAW has a spare barrel bag and other equipment that goes in the bag, (just like a M2 or a Mk-19), the gunner has a “crew” of at least 1, who is assigned to the gunner. This person must carry the bag, assist with weapon maintenance and ,VERY IMPORTANT, to assist with swapping/changing the barrel after heavy use (melting the barrel is very real, you are taught to shoot in 3-5 second bursts for this reason). This person is usually lower in rank and is still responsible for their own weapon.

    I carried it and cleared rooms with it in Ramadi, don’t get me wrong you can modify it (as most are nowadays) with a shorter barrel and a collapsible stock and its now a 1 man carry for CQB; but it was initially designed to maintain constant (cover/suppression) fire in an open area and serves its purpose a Automatic Crew Serve weapon.

    In addition, on today’s battlefield its hard to justify the need to carry the spare bag and its usually left in the armory. But YES it is a crew-serve weapon no matter what branch your in.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    MNF-W Vet, its current usage is not as a crew served weapon. For it to be a crew of one, then the M249 is a crew served weapon like the M4 carbine, with a crew of one, is a crew served weapon. I guess we may be arguing semantics.

    Jason, good grief, do try to keep up. No one is saying or has said that MNF-Iraq had authority over ISAF in Afghanistan. Go back and read the posts (I assume that you have not initially read them, or else you probably wouldn’t have written what you did – I am being gracious here and not assuming that you simply don’t understand).

    Michael Yon initially pointed out the issues associated with MEDEVAC. I jumped in and pointed out that the Army’s argument that placing weapons with MEDEVAC violated the Geneva Conventions was disingenuous because the U.S. Marines don’t do business that way. Take careful note. I didn’t refer to a specific theater or campaign. I said, “The Marines don’t do business that way.” I knew that to be true because my own son was MEDEVAC’d out of Fallujah on board a CF-46 with weapons, and my own son was the gunner for vehicle-borne MEDEVAC in Fallujah for some of his fellow Marines.

    Matt at Blackfive jumped in on me and argued that I simply didn’t understand the way things happen in Afghanistan, where the Marines don’t do MEDEVAC at all, but rely on the Army. I responded that Matt conflated issues, assigning to me arguments that I did not make. I argued that the Marines don’t do business that way, not that they do MEDEVAC in Afghanistan.

    Now comes Michael’s recent post, and this is what we learn from this post. Not only am I correct about the Marines not doing business that way (of course I’m correct, and I didn’t need confirmation), but (and here’s the important part) the Army knows it too, and has always known it.

    That means that when the Army argued that they don’t put weapons on MEDEVAC because it violates the Geneva Conventions, they knew they were lying. They could have told the truth and said clearly that it was because of IO, but they chose to lie instead.

    Oh. By the way. The Marines don’t do IO the same way as the Army either. The Army’s IO campaign includes NOT PLACING WEAPONS ON MEDEVAC. Let that simmer for a while.

  • Bee76

    Mr. Smith, are you really comparing the transport capacity and assignations of the CH-46 to MEDEVAC choppers used by the Army?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Bee76, I think with everyone else on the face of the plant who reads your comment, we can all ask the same question at the same time: what? Did you have a little too much wine tonight?

  • MNF-W Vet

    “its current usage is not as a crew served weapon. For it to be a crew of one, then the M249 is a crew served weapon like the M4 carbine, with a crew of one, is a crew served weapon. I guess we may be arguing semantics.”

    Still it is not a Crew of 1 type of weapon (this “crew of one” analogy does not exist), it is an automatic weapon and in order to roll outside of the wire, in Iraq or Afghanistan, you must have a Crew Serve weapon within the ranks (M249, M240, M2, Mk-19 whatever… all automatic).

    No matter how it’s usage, it is not and never will be a “Crew of 1 Weapon”. Its not a M4 your absolutely correct, and this is why you’ll never see a M4 mounted on top of a Humvee or and armored vehicle as you would a M249, 240, M2, Mk-19, etc., because its usage DOES NOT dictate whether or not is Crew Serve.

  • MNF-W Vet

    Defined weapons that are classified as crew-served, as the term is used in the United States military.

    While the general understanding is that crew-served weapons require more than one person to operate them, there are important exceptions in the case of both squad automatic weapons (SAW) and sniper rifles. Within the Table of Organization and Equipment for both the United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, these two classes of weapons are understood to be crew-served, as the operator of the weapon (identified as a sniper or as a SAW gunner) has an assistant, who carries additional ammunition and associated equipment, acts as a spotter, and is also fully qualified in the operation of the weapon.

    Squad automatic weapon/automatic rifle

    In active service
    M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (5.56x45mm NATO)[1]
    M240B (7.62x51mm NATO)[2]
    M240G (7.62x51mm NATO) (USMC)

    This list goes on, but again it’s important to know the USAGE of a weapon does not define whether or not it’s “crew serve”

    (Credit)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crew-served_weapons_of_the_U.S._Armed_Forces

  • MNF-W Vet

    While the general understanding is that crew-served weapons require more than one person to operate them, there are important exceptions in the case of both squad automatic weapons (SAW) and sniper rifles. Within the Table of Organization and Equipment for both the United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, these two classes of weapons are understood to be crew-served, as the operator of the weapon (identified as a sniper or as a SAW gunner) has an assistant, who carries additional ammunition and associated equipment, acts as a spotter, and is also fully qualified in the operation of the weapon.

  • MNF-W Vet

    My apologies for the multiple posts. It was not intentional.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    But your comments go to the point that the usage has nothing to do with the classification of the weapon. Yet … your reasoning (i.e., that others can carry SAW drums) has exactly to do with usage, and nothing else.

    In fact, Marine Corps SAW gunners carry their own drums. And my point about the M4 is that if you can classify a SAW as a crew served weapon because it has a crew of one, then you can do that with an M4 or a 1911 side arm, especially if you give a magazine to someone else to carry.

    The point goes to proper classification. It makes no sense to claim, for instance, that some 85% of enemy fatalities are inflicted with crew served weapons throughout the history of warfare (a common claim) if you don’t have a proper classification for what constitutes a crew served weapon.

    But back to the main point of the post. The Army lied, and they didn’t have to. Regardless of how stupid their reasoning was, they could have just told the truth and let the chips fall.


You are currently reading "Army MEDEVAC Dishonesty And Other Strategic Malfeasance", entry #8583 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) MEDEVAC,Michael Yon and was published June 4th, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

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