New Generation of Troops Inherit Long Afghan War

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Todd Pitman, correspondent for the AP, wrote an article that was syndicated on Yahoo News commenting on the impact of the long Afghan War on a new generation of troops.

Highlights:

  • Lance Cpl. Jacob Adams was in 5th grade math class when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. His parents took him out of school early that day.  Adams, 20, is now serving in a Marine battalion battling Taliban gunmen, many of whom were also just kids on Sept. 11, 2001. He’s part of a new generation of U.S. troops inheriting the wars spawned by the terror attacks. Many of the men and women who took part in the initial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have since left the military and moved on with their lives. The changing of the guard is a graphic and personal reminder that the fighting has dragged on longer than anyone ever imagined. “It’s kind of weird having watched it all on the news those first days,” said Adams. “And then 10 years later, here I am, and here we are still fighting it.”  Adams, from Jacksonville, Florida, said even though he was only 10 when the Twin Towers collapsed, he knew then that he wanted to join the military. But back then, “I didn’t think we’d still be at war,” he said.
  • Fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Chatel, 20, from Holyoke, Massachusetts, also remembers being pulled out of school on 9/11.  “The principal came on the intercom and called for a moment of silence,” said Chatel, whose tan-colored body armor alone probably weighs more than he did at the time. “I really didn’t know what was going on. When I went back home, I saw my grandmother looking at the news, crying.” Still, he didn’t really pay attention when news broke on Oct. 7, 2001 that the Afghan war had begun. “I didn’t really hear much about it,” Chatel said. “I don’t remember it.”
  • Countless members of the Army, Navy and Marines who took part in the initial invasions of Afghanistan and two years later of Iraq have rejoined the civilian world and are now raising families.  The turnover rate in the Marine Corps is higher than its sister branches, averaging about 70 percent every four years, said the 2/9’s operations officer, Maj. Dallas Shah. That means only about 30 percent of Marines stay on after their contract ends, he said.
  • Shah said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are producing new generations of military leaders. Many Marines will finish their tours having racked up significant combat experience.  The two Marine battalions currently deployed to Marjah have lost 23 men in the last 3 1/2 months, according to a Facebook page that tracks casualties. “We’re releasing guys back into civilian life who’ve been through this crucible,” Shah said, “and it has the effect of making them one of two things: bitter or better.”

SFTT Analysis:

This month has been designated National Military Appreciation Month where our government will fill the public square with endearing platitudes and discourse on the sacrifices our overburdened military experiences everyday.   Indeed, for our deployed troopers it will be hard to hear this message of appreciation through the din of political and economic news or the roar of an IED blast.  But you can rest assured that if the message does get through, our frontline troops will remain humble to the task at hand and dedicated to the mission we’ve assigned them, and ultimately, that is what makes them even more amazing.

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1 in 5 Troops not Deployable by 2012

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In an alarming article written by C. Todd Lewis and issued by the Army News Service, 1 in 5 troops may be undeployable by 2012.

Highlights:

  • By the time the Army meets its goal to have Soldiers home for twice the time they’re deployed, the service could face the problem of having nearly one in five Soldiers unable to deploy.  Today, nearly 14.5 percent of Soldiers in a brigade combat team are unable to deploy by the unit’s latest arrival date in theater, or LAD. That number is up from a little over 10 percent in 2007. By 2012, it’s expected the number will be as high as 16 percent, said Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-1.  “We don’t want it to grow, but the reality is, we’re tracking what’s happening with our Soldiers and we’re making our best assumptions and assessment of what’s going to happen in the future,” Bostick said.
  • He said medical issues are a prime factor in the increase of non-deployable Soldiers. “Some of it is temporary medical, where we fix the Soldiers and they are not ready to go at the deployment time,” Bostick said. He also said about 68 percent of those injuries are musculoskeletal issues, including knees, backs or muscles, for instance. The Army’s leadership asked the secretary of defense for a temporary end-strength increase in 2009 to help alleviate problems associated with non-deployable Soldiers. As a result, about 22,000 additional Soldiers were approved above and beyond the Army’s congressional mandate of 547,400.
  • Also adding to the roster of non-deployable Soldiers is the elimination of stop-loss. That policy allowed the Army to extend Soldiers’ enlistment beyond their end-of-service date, so they could deploy with their unit. Without stop-loss, some Soldiers stay behind when their unit deploys.  “We have to make up for those losses,” Bostick said. “They are on our books and we have an end strength, so we can’t recruit against them. So you have to find a way to have three-to-one, about 12,000 Soldiers, to make up for 4,000 that might be stop-lossed.”  Non-deployable Soldiers are a “huge issue we are working across the Army that we have got to fix,” Bostick said.
  • The need for additional Soldiers can also be attributed to the service’s wounded warrior program, Bostick said. The number of Soldiers in that program is increasing.  “We thought that number was going to actually start coming down, but with what is happening in Afghanistan, the number is going the other direction,” he said.  Today, there’s about 9,000 Soldiers in the wounded warrior program from both the Active Duty and Reserve Components, Bostick said.  “From a personnel point of view, you have to care for Soldiers and their families and treat them with dignity and respect,” he said.

SFTT Analysis:

  • SFTT has previously reported that the current supply-and-demand requirements to support the war effort is unsustainable and impacts dwell time and quality of life.  The data and statistics provided by LTG Bostick are clear indicators that this manpower shortage, where 1 in 5, or 20% of the Army will be non-deployable by 2012 due to injuries, is quickly approaching a crisis point.
  • Even if we were to dramatically reduce our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2012 as is currently planned, the problem of limited available manpower due to injuries will remain.
  • Obviously a possible short answer to the question that this manpower crisis asks would be to institute the “draft” to augment our professional military, but this is an unsustainable political and societal goal.  One simple solution to this stark reality, that a draft is a “no-go” and that injuries will soon cap combat power means available for limited policy ends, would be for decision makers, elected officials, and senior military leaders to immediately “surge” the industrial base and defense contract force to research, design, develop, and field improved troop-level gear and equipment that will further reduce injuries.  If you start there, right now, the crisis LTG Bostick alerts us to might just be manageable and support the principle that we “treat them with dignity and respect.”
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Military Procurement: A Question of Trust

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In a fascinating article by Staff Writer, Andrew Higgins, the Washington Post published an article on November 1 which chronicles the background of an unusual $3 billion fuel contract awarded by the US Department of Defense (“DoD”) to companies whose ownership is apparently not well known to the government.  The article, entitled “Kyrgyz contracts fly under the radar.”

According to the article, “Congressional investigators have spent six months digging into single-source Pentagon contracts, the possibly illegal diversion of Russian fuel and Kyrgyz claims of backroom deals, which have soured ties with a crucial U.S. ally.  The below-the-radar rise of Mina Corp. and Red Star Enterprises – whose ownership, operations and even office locations are shrouded in secrecy – shows how nearly a decade of war has not only boosted the bottom line of corporate behemoths but also enriched unknown upstarts.  In just eight years, Mina and Red Star – both registered in Gibraltar and run by the same people – have come from nowhere to become a key link in the U.S. military’s supply chain. They have beaten out established rivals to supply nearly a billion gallons of jet fuel to a U.S. Air Force base here in Kyrgyzstan, a vital staging post for the Afghan conflict, and also to American warplanes at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.”

“The companies themselves, however, are largely invisible. In dealings with the Pentagon, they have used addresses in Toronto, London and Gibraltar, each apparently little more than a mail drop. Edelman, the former bar owner, who now lives in London, is so elusive that even congressional investigators probing the jet fuel deals have not managed to talk to him. He did not comply with a July subpoena from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, according to people close to the probe.”

At issue is not the contract per se nor the fact that the owners are apparently unknown to Congressional investigators (let alone the American taxpayer who funds these contracts), but the arrogance demonstrated by the Defense Department in defending contracts without due diligence and/or competitive bidding.

“The Pentagon and State Department ignored widespread Kyrgyz public perceptions of contract corruption engendered by a fundamental lack of transparency,” said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the subcommittee that conducted the probe. “Supplying vast quantities of fuel is an extremely sensitive endeavor with significant political, diplomatic and geopolitical ramifications. It is not merely a logistics matter.”

The White House, alarmed by the unintended consequences of the fuel deals, is pushing for greater transparency, said a senior administration official. “There has been a giant fight with [U.S. Central Command] over this,” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Readers of SFTT are all too familiar with the underhanded contract awards and veil of secrecy that surrounds our military procurement process.  It seem like every other month, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) is launching an investigation into some facet of our procurement process. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, the military continues to insist that our troops have the best equipment possible.  When will our military leadership apply the same standards of discipline and integrity that they demand of our frontline troops and begin to overhaul the military procurement system?  It is a cancer that undermines the credibility of our military leadership.

It is simply a question of TRUST!  Our troops and our taxpayers deserve more from our military leadership.

See just a sample of related SFTT articles on our broken procurement process:

Body Armor Recall

Body Armor Plate Recalls

Congressional Inquiry into Body Armor and Vehicle Safety

GAO recommendations on Body Armor Testing

Broken Military Procurement Process

Congressional Inquiry into Defective Military Helmets and no-bid contract awards

Flaws in M2 and M4 endanger troops in Afghanistan

DODIG sites fault in spare parts for M2 in Afghanistan

If you share our concern, TAKE ACTION now and become a Member of SFTT!

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Coordinated Bombings in Baghdad

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The New York Times reported yesterday on the coordinated bombings that are appearing on a more frequent basis in Baghdad. 

Highlights:

  • Insurgents unleashed attacks across Baghdad on Tuesday night, setting off more than a dozen coordinated bombs in a bloody declaration of their ability to thwart the government’s efforts to secure Iraq’s largest and most important city.   It was among the fiercest assaults on the capital since the United States invaded in 2003, and one that tore across divisions of sect and class. The explosions — devastating car bombs and roadside blasts — struck the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, a Sunni mosque, public squares, a crowded restaurant in the north of Baghdad and middle-class shopping districts.
  • At least 63 people were killed and about 285 were wounded, and the local police said they were under orders to enforce an emergency curfew — the first such measure in years. But some police officers told residents that the curfew had not yet taken effect, while government officials would not confirm that one had been imposed.  “It was just storm and fire,” said Ahmed Said, 22, who said he was stirring his tea and ordering flavored tobacco at a cafe when he was hurled into the air.  Coming two days after a deadly siege of a Christian church in Baghdad, the attacks added to a creeping sense that security in the capital was teetering as Iraq prepared to complete eight months of political stalemate without a new government.  Ministers and spokesmen from the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki quickly appeared on television to assure Iraqis that they were in charge and that the capital remained under control. State-run television said Mr. Maliki was touring the attack sites and visiting victims in the hospital.
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, but the United States military said the bombings were characteristic of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. A spokesman added that the Iraqi military had not asked for American assistance.   In an interview hours before the attacks, Brig. Gen. Ralph Baker, the deputy American commander in Baghdad, expressed concern that the lingering deadlock could undermine popular confidence in the government at the same time that militant groups continued to try to draw fresh blood.  “We’ve seen the insurgent groups and the terror groups step up their attack against the people,” he said. “The motive is intimidation.” Still, he noted that violence over all throughout the country had fallen sharply from its worst days, and said, “We haven’t seen a degradation in the security environment.” The United States ended its formal combat mission over the summer, and plans to continue to withdraw troops over the next year.  

SFTT Analysis:

  • Church massacres, indiscriminate bombings, and coordinated attacks targeting all sects and class in Iraq is not a “degradation of the security environment” in Iraq.   That’s what the US deputy commander in Baghdad said.    Maybe there is a new definition of “degradation” that we are not aware of?  But maybe it is because US troopers are not being currently targeted by AQM.  I guess when that new calculus returns the General will be able to properly use the term “degradation” again.
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Eickenberry calls for more “assets” on Afghan border

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The Stars and Stripes reports that US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry cites progress and requests more “assets” at the Afghan border.  

Highlights:

  • Nine years into the Afghan war, efforts to monitor the border with Pakistan have met with little success; massive amounts of bomb-making chemicals, drugs, weapons and enemy fighters continue to pour into Afghanistan.  US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry visited Wesh, a town on the road between Kandahar and the Pakistani city of Quetta, one of just two crossings where U.S. forces have any permanent presence. The U.S. also has troops at Torkham Gate in the Khyber Pass, which links Jalalabad and Peshawar in northern Pakistan, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Johnson, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman. U.S. soldiers at Wesh say there is so much explosive material flowing across the border that the Taliban must be hauling it in large trucks through the legitimate border crossings. However, the Afghan Border Police, whose job it is to secure the border, are undermanned and undertrained.
  • “You need a comprehensive approach … that begins with the frontline support of the Afghan Border Police,” Eikenberry said. “You need a strong, coherent customs system … and ultimately you need the help of the neighbor. You need the help of Pakistan.” Eikenberry also chatted briefly with Pakistani officials, who said cooperation has been good on both sides of the border. Daily traffic across the border at Wesh includes 25,000 to 50,000 pedestrians, 4,000 civilian vehicles, 550 commercial trucks and 80 to 125 ISAF supply trucks.  One platoon of U.S. soldiers — the first real U.S. presence here — works with 130 Afghan Border Police at Wesh to boost security.  From their base, soldiers from Troop D, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, can see the “Friendship Gate” that marks the border with Pakistan.
  • New scanners enabling border guards to see inside 12 trucks per hour will soon be introduced to boost security. Right now it takes 15 men two to three hours to inspect a single truck, since loads are irregular and not palletized, and it can take between three hours and two days for a truck to clear the border, said troop commander Capt. Matthew Kelley.  Many of the pedestrians who cross the border live in the nearby Pakistani city of Chaman but cross into Afghanistan each day to work in Wesh or Spin Boldak, he said. “You have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Afghanistan here,” Kelley said.  “There is stability and relative security and there are jobs with the trucks coming across. They need repairs and people need a place to stay and food to eat. And Afghan government ministries are actually doing their jobs here, which is different to other places in Afghanistan.”

SFTT Analysis:

  • One Afghanistan legacy is that its eastern boundaries were established with little regard over ethnic and tribal populations making securing the border an impossible task unless there is a significant government commitment.  Here it appears that progress is being made, but the breadth of the task at hand overwhelms the limited resources being applied.    Additionally, the photo gallery accompanying this story brings a sharp perspective to the daunting task at hand.
  • If border security is a critical task, and if stemming the flow of insurgents and their resources will improve security, than why is it that NATO has only assigned one US platoon to this border post?   FYI – none of the troopers pictured are wearing the complete outfit of issued body armor; no throat, groin, or deltoid protection. 
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Afghan government falls short in Kandahar

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In an article published by the Washington Post on November 2, it would appear that the Afghan government falls short in Kandahar.  A “learning” experience for the US military.

Highlights

  • Despite months of American prodding, the Afghan government has failed to fill dozens of key positions in Kandahar, leaving an ineffectual local administration that U.S. officials fear will cripple the battlefield progress the military says it is making in the Taliban stronghold.  Just a month before President Obama will review the state of the Afghan war, top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus and other military officers are making their case that the influx of American troops has pushed the Taliban out of key parts of Kandahar. But the Afghan government that U.S. officials hoped could step in to provide basic services remains a skeleton staff of unskilled bureaucrats that is incapable of functioning on its own, according to U.S. officials.  For the past year, the United States and its NATO allies have tried to build a Kandahar administration that can address residents’ grievances and sway them from the Taliban. The U.S. has also embarked on a massive spending spree in order to prop up Kandahar authorities and provide basic services. But with power monopolized by the central government in Kabul, the provincial and municipal offices in southern Afghanistan’s largest city are hamstrung and undermanned.  “The security picture is improving so fast and so dramatically that it puts the shortfall in civilian capacity in alarming relief,” said one U.S. official in Kandahar. “The potential single failure point is the Afghan government.”
  • With little help coming from Kabul, American money is pouring in for Afghans to build roads, dig wells, pick-up trash, repair culverts and refurbish mosques with solar-powered public-address systems. For $2.8 million in U.S. military funds, Kandahar residents will receive a nursing and midwifery clinic, and $4.7 million more will bring a secure housing complex for judges afraid to work in Taliban territory. Hundreds of millions more are being pumped through United States Agency for International Development contracts to supply electricity, water, and new office buildings for Afghan officials who, in many cases, do not exist. “Right now, the government capacity is so anemic we have to do it,” said the U.S. official who, like others, was not authorized to speak for the record. “We are acting as donor and government. That’s not sustainable.”

SFTT Analysis:

  • “Good Governance” is a line of operation that supports a COIN campaign plan and is nested with the other standard “Security, Economy, and the Rule of Law” lines of operation.  The Power Point gods are very familiar with these terms as they frame daily commander’s updates and highlight necessary metrics to gauge progress.  Given that reality, that commanders are fully aware of success and progress, the lack of effective “Good Governance” in Kandahar should not be a surprise to commanders on the ground, but it appears that it is.  The point is that the Kandahar campaign was delayed this past year in order to set the appropriate conditions (i.e. local power broker buy-in; limit Karzai’s brothers influence; check corruption, etc), but now in October 2010 we are beginning to acknowledge that NATO security is operating in a local-government vacuum.  It’s not like this realization of the “Afghan government falling short in Kandahar” happened overnight?  
  • More surprising is the fact that the US military institution is a “learning” organization and conducts numerous after-action reviews and applies lessons learned to ensure future success.  Why is than that after nine-years of slogging through nation-building in Afghanistan, we continue to “clear” but can’t seem to “build”?   Where is the “lesson” in all of this?  Maybe this will become the pillar of rationale to extend the clock past July 2011 – that NATO cannot begin to reduce its presence and effort because the “Afghans aren’t ready” – and that will then be the ultimate lesson learned that we will never admit, that being that we can “clear” but can’t “build”.  In other words we should limit our objectives and simply focus on the kinetic target.
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2010 mid-term elections and the forgotten heroes

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The Washington Post analyzes the impact of the 2010 Mid-term Elections and its impact on current administration policies.

SFTT Analysis:

  • To be clear, SFTT is an apolitical and non-partisan organization, regardless of the 2010 mid-term election results, or any future elections for that matter.  However, it is prudent to monitor the political calculus now emerging in Washington as it affects national security policies and the resources required to sustain our fighting men and women engaged in perpetual combat.
  • Of note, as Americans exercised their right to vote these past three weeks (i.e. early voting and absentee voting) more than 300,000 servicemembers were serving on the front lines of democracy securing that right.
  • Tragically the immeasurable price of freedom during this US election period was forty-two American lives and approximately 315 wounded in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not a single politician, that raised their hands in victory last night, made mention of this sacrifice.
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The “Golden Hour” in Afghanistan

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Read this fascinating and rather frightening dialogue published by ABC News (Australia) on The Golden Hour

MAJOR MATT HUEMAN: The golden hour is when the person has an injury . . .within the first two to five minutes there’s a certain number of people who will die that are not saveable. The next hour is where a lot of people, if they don’t get to a place that has surgical capability and the full gamut of taking care of them, will die as well. So the golden hour really reflects those people that are saveable if you’re able to get them to a place like a forward surgical team.

MAJOR BRYAN HELSEL: We provide 21st century intensive care, critical care for patients that would otherwise die. I mean there’s no way around, some of these people would have died.

CORCORAN: Too many soldiers wounded on Afghanistan’s remote battlefields were bleeding to death before reaching surgery at the big military hospitals. So last year, army surgical teams were moved much closer to the fight, to beat the golden hour.  For those who make it here alive, often with horrific injuries, there’s now a 98% chance of survival. A young female solider pulled from the wreckage of the MRAP has multiple fractures. For her comrade, Sgt. Adam Sandifer, hit by the massive concussive blast, the injuries are less clear.

MAJOR MATT HUEMAN: We try and get the chest and pelvis within the first ten minutes with all the other things that we do like checking the airway, making sure that they’re breathing, making sure they have a pulse, getting an IV in, doing an ultrasound making sure that they don’t have blood in their abdomen.

CORCORAN: Matt Hueman and Bryan Helsel both served in Iraq. They’re well practised in treating IED victims – but this is a different war, with different injuries.

(TO HUEMAN) So even if they are travelling in the new armoured MRAP’s they still can suffer severe injuries?

MAJOR MATT HUEMAN: They can, and it’s deceptive because it tends to be internal injuries so you know in my last deployment, we would see amputations, significant like above the knee amputations with the Hummvees. In this deployment the leg still appears to be functionally intact, but it’s still a significant injury inside so it’s actually sometimes a little bit harder to figure out.

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Task Force Shadow in Afghanistan

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Highlights on the brave efforts of the Angels of Mercy published by Stars and Stripes entitled:  More missions, more contact’ for Task Force Shadow

Highlights:

  • Hardly a day passes when the American flag above the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade’s headquarters here is not flying at half-staff. With U.S. and other coalition forces stepping up operations against Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, more dead and wounded are being pulled off the battlefield than ever before. Since deploying in March, helicopter ambulance crews with the brigade’s Task Force Shadow have flown more than 2,000 missions, evacuating more than 2,500 patients, according to Maj. Jason Davis, commander of Company C, 6th Battalion. That’s more than twice the rate that helicopter ambulance crews in southern Afghanistan were flying this time last year, he said.
  • The increase reflects just how sharply fighting in the region has spiked in recent months, a result of President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy 34,000 additional U.S. troops. Most were deployed to southern Afghanistan, where they, along with mostly British and Canadian forces, are trying to wrest control of strategically important areas from the Taliban, including the city of Kandahar and the Arghandab and Helmand river valleys. “You’ve got more people fighting the enemy in places where we haven’t been in a long time,” said Davis, 35, of Steilacoom, Wash. “And when you’ve got more people fighting, you’re going to have more missions.”
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Medics Improvise to save lives on killing fields of Afghanistan

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In a compelling story published today by the Washington Post, “Military medics combine ultramodern and time-honored methods to save lives on the battlefield” of Afghanistan.

Key Highlights:

  • At 6:09 p.m., Dustoff 57 has just left this base deep in Taliban-infiltrated Kandahar province, headed for a POI, or point of injury. Somewhere ahead of the aircraft is a soldier who minutes earlier stepped on an improvised explosive device, the signature weapon of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the helicopter crew knows is that he’s “category A” – critical.  The trip out takes nine minutes.  Fifteen minutes have now passed since the soldier was wounded. Speed, simplicity and priority have always been the hallmarks of emergency medicine. The new battlefield care that flight medics and others on the ground practice takes those attributes to the extreme.
  • Four people run to the helicopter with the stretcher holding the wounded soldier. He lies on his back partially wrapped in a foil blanket. His chest is bare. In the middle of it is an “intraosseous device,” a large-bore needle that has been punched into his breastbone by the medic on the ground. It’s used to infuse fluids and drugs directly into the circulatory system when a vein can’t be found. It’s a no-nonsense technology, used occasionally in World War II, that fell out of favor when cheap and durable plastic tubing made IV catheters ubiquitous in the postwar years. Until they were revived for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intraosseus devices were used almost exclusively in infants whose veins were too small to find. On each leg the soldier has a tourniquet, ratcheted down and locked to stop all bleeding below it. These ancient devices went out of military use more than half a century ago because of concern that they caused tissue damage. Now every soldier carries a tourniquet and is instructed to put one on any severely bleeding limb and not think of taking it off.
  • Tourniquets have saved at least 1,000 lives, and possibly as many as 2,000, in the past eight years. This soldier is almost certainly one of them. They’re a big part of why only about 10 percent of casualties in these wars have died, compared with 16 percent in Vietnam.  On the soldier’s left leg, the tourniquet is above the knee. The tourniquet on his right leg is lower, below the knee; how badly his foot is injured is hard to tell from the dressings. His left hand is splinted and bandaged, too. Whether he will need an amputation is uncertain. The hospital where he’s headed treated 16 patients in September who needed at least one limb amputated. Half were U.S. soldiers, and the monthly number has been climbing since March.
  • After three minutes on the ground, the helicopter takes off.  Eleven minutes after lifting off from the POI, the helicopter lands at the so-called Role 3, or fully equipped, hospital at Kandahar Airfield, about 30 miles to the east of the also well-fortified Forward Operating Base Wilson. There, surgeons will take care of the injuries before transferring the patient, probably within two days, to the huge military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and there, after a week or so, to the United States. It’s been 28 minutes since the helicopter left Forward Operating Base Wilson.

SFTT Analysis:

  • Before every Grunt leaves the wire, they want to know if air or artillery support is readily available and more importantly, if required, will an aerial medevac be responsive – in Joe speak “Time on Target for Air and Arty and a quick Nine-line medevac request . . . how quick will the angels of mercy get here?”.   Quick means quick, the sooner the better obviously, since every minute counts.  Secretary Gates figured this out when he began his battlefield circulation tours in Afghanistan when he became Secretary of Defense and quickly realized that the “Golden Hour”, that period in time that is the standard from time of request for a medevac to arrival at the point of injury and back to medical care on a base, was not being met in Afghanistan due to lack of medevac resources and the distant out-posts that troopers were operating from.  Secretary Gates made it a personal mission to close the gap and ensure that troopers were supported by the “Golden Hour” standard and personally kept the pressure on logistics planners to increase medevac resources and establish medical unit facilities in support of all forward deployed personnel.   The only question SFTT raises regarding this issue is why did it take the Secretary of Defense to correct this situation?  
  • The Washinton Post online article provides a remarkable photo gallery,  – of note is:
    • the destructive nature of an IED that targeted a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP).  The simplicity of a pressure plate device loaded with hundreds of pounds of fertilizer (and other components) can defeat US “resistant” vehicles.  More telling is that a device of this size takes time and local support to emplace;
    • grunts not wearing all of their protective gear – no throat, deltoid, or groin protectors – obviously a commanders call, but is the decision not to wear the complete armor suite because of weight and comfort?;
    • the chinstrap for the Advanced Combat Helmet is a flimsy strap of material – no chin pads are provided and the harness is simply used to hold the “brain bucket” in place.  At least the trooper is being medevaced for treatment of a possible TBI.
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