Roger Charles / Soldiers for the Truth – 2006-07-10 23:02:47
NOTE REMF is an acronym that stems from the Viet Nam war that refers, disparagingly, to non-combat forces. The “polite version” of this insult is “Rear Echelon Mother Figure.”
Abandoned On The Killing Fields —
No Medevac Coming
Roger Charles / Soldiers for the Truth (SFFT)
(June 23, 2006) — A recent IED attack has surfaced an ugly truth — the Grunts doing the great majority of fighting and dying in Iraq are considered “more expendable” than their REMF comrades, and the people making this determination are themselves, you guessed it, REMF’s!!
(Now, before I get a couple hundred emails protesting my use of “REMF’s as disparaging of some of our military who are themselves at risk, let me make this point. There is “risk” back in an FOB, no question. Is it the same risk as those who work outside the FOB? Don’t think so. Is risk outside the FOB spread evenly? No — go to one of the infantry companies in Ramadi, or Fallujah, and then compare that risk with someone running convoys between Ramadi and Baghdad.
Not the same, but one hell of a lot more than someone back in the TOC at the FOB. And, I fully appreciate the risk faced by our Combat Engineers as they clear roads, and our EOD studs as they deal with IED’s/EFP’s.
A special salute to our Combat Medics/Corpsmen out in the killings fields while I’m at it. And, the drivers who haul ass through IED Avenue — you’ve damn sure got my respect!! But,bottom line — if I’ve offended anyone who has dodged the occasional mortar shell in route to Burger King, or who has to make do with a 36-inch plasma tv while others, in the Green Zone in Baghdad have 42-inch sets, then I don’t apologize.
If you want me to place you in the same category as The Grunts, change MOS’s! Until then, have the intellectual honesty to admit that REMF’s are not deserving of the same respect given to Hack’s “Warriors,” even if you get the same “Imminent Danger Pay.” Let me make it clear that while I respect all who serve our great nation, I am not blind to the reality that not all who serve, share the same threat of death, or of crippling or maiming wounds. And, as to who is a REMF, and who is not — it’s between you and your conscience. If the “shoe” fits, wear it.)
So, imagine this scenario — you and your buddies have finished another day of training Iraqi troops and are headed back to your FOB (Forward Operating Base) when an especially nasty IED (in the form of EFP, an “Explosively Formed Projectile”) explodes into the lead Humvee in your column of three.
The blast is strong enough to flip the Humvee into the air, landing in a ditch on it’s top.
Here’s what happened, in the words of America’s Grunts who where there.
To: Soldiers For the Truth
From: The NCOs of the 4th INP Brigade SPTT Team
The 4/1 SPPT Team was traveling back from Salman Pak to Camp Rustamiyah along EFP alley (RTE Pluto South) on Sunday May 14th about 5:15pm in a 3 vehicle convoy. About 3 miles from Camp Rustamiyah, the first Humvee was hit by a massive roadside bomb called an EFP. The bomb blew the HUMVEE into the air and created a giant cloud of debris, dirt and pavement. We stopped as fast as we could and when the smoke cleared enough, we could see the first HUMVEE had been completely blown off the road and was lying upside down in a ditch. To make matters worse it was also on fire.
The rest of the team tried to free the driver and vehicle commander from the wreckage but the frame of the HUMVEE was bent and the door would not open. The two soldiers in the front were trapped inside the burning vehicle and died. We could only pray that they were already dead from the EFP blast and did not burn to death. We tried to pull the front doors off with a winch and a tow strap, but the burning ammunition inside the wreck started to explode and the entire vehicle caught fire and blew up.
The gunner was pulled from the wreckage and was severely wounded with shrapnel wounds from the spalling. The Medic with the SPTT Team was able to start working on the gunner to save his life and we gave the interpreter aid as best as we could. A MEDIVAC was immediately called for the litter urgent and critical soldier and the QRF rolled from the FOB. About 10 minutes later the tanks and HUMVEES of the QRF got there and secured the area. What happened at this point is what we need your help with.
The MEDIVAC was denied because we could not guarantee the LZ was not hot. Even with the QRF securing the area, the MEDIVAC was not launched. We were told we had to transport the severely wounded soldier and interpreter back to the FOB, have the aid station stabilize them and the MEDIVAC would then fly to the FOB to pick them up.
To complicate matters the QRF did not have an ambulance with them, because the medical until will not roll any of the 20 odd HUMVEE and M113 combat ambulances with the QRF because it is too dangerous outside the FOB. We had to put the soldier in a HUMVEE and drive him to the FOB, where the chicken shit medics were waiting inside the FOB gate to transport him, via ambulance to the TMC. Thank God this soldier is still alive and on his way to Landstuhl.
The two soldiers were eventually pulled from the wreckage after a HEMMIT with a tank pump unit put out the fire that engulfed the wrecked HUMVEE. It took the HEMMIT almost an hour to get to the site, 3 miles away from the FOB, because the KBR contracted Fire Department and EMT unit refused to leave the FOB, because their contract states they will ONLY work within the protection of the FOB.
Their brand new fire engines and rescue vehicles were waiting inside the gate when we finally towed the wrecked HUMVEE back. By the time the HEMMIT arrived, both soldiers were burned beyond recognition. to the point where their own wives could not recognize them. Last night at 1:00am in the morning, we loaded the body bags on a helicopter to BIOP and to start their trip home
When we asked why the MEDIVAC would not land on a secured LZ to MEDIVAC the critically wounded soldier, we were told “the policy is that we cannot afford to lose a Blackhawk and crew flying into potentially hostile LZ.” We work in Salman Pak, which is almost an hour southeast of Baghdad. If a soldier is wounded, we are expected to self evac him back to Rustamiyah because “it is too dangerous to send a MEDIVAC, Ambulance or M113 combat medic vehicle (even if it is with the QRF). From he time we landed in Kuwait and after we arrived in Iraq, we were given MEDIVAC procedure cards and even given a MEDIVAC Freq .
We were told that all we had to do is call and follow the procedures on the card and a MEDIVAC would be launched. This is BOGUS! ALL Soldiers need to know that unless they are at a FOB, the MEDIVAC will not be launched. Fire departments, EMT, combat medic vehicles, field ambulances all have orders not to leave the FOB because it is to :”dangerous.” The reality is if you are wounded, you are SOL until your own unit puts you into a HUMVEE and you get back to the FOB.
Please help us contact [deleted] about this policy. 4th ID is telling us that “this is just the way things are.” That, “these things happen.” We need your help before this is swept under the rug.
Editor’s note: when asked for more details, how the death-dealing device was situated, etc., here’s the reply from a long-time SFTT supporter.
“It was an EFP, half buried and emplaced near a grove of trees. We could not see it…
I was in the vehicle directly behind the EFP strike and we barley managed to evade a secondary EFP. The EFP was a 7-8 array 155mm Iranian made weapon. It was set by the Mahdi Militia, the same Mahdi Militia that the murderous thug al Sadr is the leader of and the Iraq Shia dominated government allows to operate or tacitly approves.
The NCO’s put this letter together because nobody is listening to them. Even the division SGM Major is giving them the cold shoulder. Read this and if you have any questions, I can answer and corroborate anything in the letter.
Editor’s note: In another email, this stand-up Army officer had this to say in response to my query about the current system of MEDEVAC priorities.
There are 3 levels, litter, litter urgent and critical. The problem is that the soldiers are given MEDIVAC Cards with freq and procedures, and briefed that if you need a MEDIVAC for a wounded soldier, you call one and it will be sent. The priority is given to critical care, but the soldiers are told a MEDIVAC will be sent. The reality is, unless you are at a FOB, a MEDIVAC will not be sent.
The MEDIVAC will only land at the FOBs. There are a plenty of M113s that have red crosses and are configured as ground MEDIVAC, but they are not used because they ar deemed “unsafe.” Fact is the uparmored HUMVEE has as much or less protection, so that argument losses merit. Yes, there are plenty of Bradleys in 1-33 CAV at Rustamiyah, but they sit most of the time. 3-67 Armor only runs M1s. There is no Ground MEDIVAC with the QRF.
I talked to the NCOs and they say print it. I have requested a 15-6 as to the MEDIVAC, so the NCOs say address the letter as written By The NCOs.
Editor’s note: When I queried our source about whether this policy was theater-wide, or a local commander’s decision, here’s his response.
This is the answer regarding MEDIVAC Ops.
MND-B policy states unless there is Zero risk of hostile fire, the MEDIVAC will only land at he nearest FOB. The unit will self evacuate he wounded to he nearest FOB, where the MEDEVAC will pick them up and transport the wounded to the CASH.
MND-B policy also states that no M703 Humvee Ambulance or M113 Combat Ambulance will leave a FOB. These vehicles are considered to be unsafe against IED and EFP attacks. (Emphasis added.)
Editor’s note: Now there’s a mind-blowing admission — the “Dust-off” chopper and crew cannot be exposed to any risk of hostile fire!! Last time I looked, this was a “hostile fire pay” (aka Imminent Danger Pay) zone… Ummm?? And, please note, this is not a policy set by the crew, or the supporting aviation unit. I have zero doubt that US Army aviators would fly these missions, if permitted. My source then included the following statement from the HQ element justifying the “no fly MEDEVAC, if bullets fly” policy.
From: MCD-B, 4ID HQ, G3 CHOPS
I suspect many of your staff, like ours at Division, are in the middle of answering questions regarding MEDEVACs. Please review the MEDEVAC information below with your teams, whether new or seasoned at this point, in order to make sure we are all working from the same understanding of our MEDEVAC call procedures.
The basic scheme is to call MEDEVAC on the established MEDEVAC frequency so the information concerning casualties is passed directly to the people that can help, namely the MEDEVAC CP, hospital emergency room, and Division CP. All soldiers carry a MEDEVAC 9 Line Request card and can call for a MEDEVAC if nessessary.
Once the request for MEDEVAC is requested on the MEDEVAC net is that the aircrews can immediately begin preparing for the mission. Once the 9-line is received and verified, the following actions must take place, some simultaneously:
Flight medic verifies nature of the injury and gathers as much information from the unit on the ground as possible so he/she can get a backboard or other extra equipment, like starting the oxygen generator on some of the helicopters.
One pilot goes with a crew chief to the helicopter and begins start-up procedures, which for a UH-60 takes nearly 15 minutes.
The other pilot begins the mission approval process, which requires him to brief his mission and receive risk approval from the appropriate authority, which in the case of MEDEVAC is the Aviation BN S3, XO or Commander.
If the first and primary means for a MEDEVAC call is on Ventrillo, then we add at least 5 minutes to the response time and inject the likelihood of information being transmitted or written down incorrectly as it works its way up from the point of injury, through the various levels of command to Division, then back down to the MEDEVAC unit.
Again, please pass this to your staff can ensure a common understanding of MEDEVAC procedures and continue to do the very best for our injured Soldiers. (Emphasis added.)
MND-B G3 CHOPS
LTC D—- H—- (1500-0300)
MAJ G—- D—— (0300-1500)
Editor’s note: Imagine that you were in the convoy, had just endured the death of two comrades & the wounding of one more (and the Iraqi interpreter), only to find out that you had been abandoned on the killing fields! For however the PAO monkeys try to spin this, the reality is that this group of Soldiers were, at the moment of maximum emotional trauma, told that you are there alone. We will not send MEDEVAC, air or ground, to assist.
And, later, when “the policy” is questioned, some field grade REMF will have the audacity to claim that the command will “continue to do the very best for our injured Soldiers.” I don’t know what Hack would have to say in response to this sad and pathetic situation, but if he was on-scene, he’d have gone to aid these Soldiers if he had to ride a bicycle, or walk.
Some of you are no doubt wondering why it took so long to get this information posted, since the event took place on May 14. Good question, and I owe an apology to the NCO’s who had the cajones to stand up and say, “this is not right, and we will not quietly accept being abandoned on the battlefield.” When this information first came to SFTT, I took it to a national media outlet who promised to give it the attention it deserved, and to do so quickly. Well, live and learn — burned again.
Won’t be going back there soon. Poor judgement on my part, but that’s only part of the reason for the delay. I let some other matters have more attention than they deserved, and I am deeply embarrassed for having let these great troops down. I pray for your safe return, and can only hope to be more effective the next time. I hope you guys forgive me.
SFTT President Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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