Ive not asked for dedicated helicopters, nor do I want them

#1
This complacency will cost us lives in battle

'I have not asked for dedicated helicopters, nor do I want them," says the Surgeon General, Lt Gen Louis Lillywhite. In 1974, like the Surgeon General, I was serving as a regimental medical officer in Belfast. His red-bereted medics and my "green-lidded" boys co-operated to good effect. Eight years later, while he was at Army Staff College, I commanded the field hospital at Ajax Bay, during the land battles of the Falklands campaign. Part of my team came from the Airborne medics of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

We soon became known as the "Red and Green Life Machine" because word spread that every wounded soldier who reached us alive, despite often terrible injuries, made it out alive to the hospital ship Uganda. Only three of our 580 WIA (Wounded in Action) casualties subsequently became DOW (Died of Wounds). The newest generation of medics can call us "old dinosaurs" if they like, but the 580-to-3 ratio is the standard they must beat first.

My boys and I had but a single purpose: to make sure no wounded marine, paratrooper, guardsman or Gurkha succumbed to his injuries. Nearly 200 enemy wounded were also treated with the same considerations, inspired by the "humanity in victory" that Nelson had prayed for on the morning of his death off Cape Trafalgar. The primitive conditions of dirt and poor lighting, and the danger from two unexploded bombs, were our constant companions, but these were of little importance to us. We were there for our friends in the front line, chums who all had a real chance of surviving if they became battlefield casualties. That wasn't solely down to us, of course. The unstinting efforts of our support helicopter force and the hospital ship were also critically important. It was a team effort.

While I don't believe that the superb personal qualities of our combat medics have changed at all since then, I'm delighted to see the way that their professional knowledge and expertise have increased. A recent 25th anniversary visit to my old unit revealed all sorts of minaturised diagnostic and specialist monitoring kit - but still in a tent.

While it was a thrill to meet these confident young men and women and hear about their experiences in Afghanistan, I could not help worrying about one unchanging problem: getting the casualty from the point of wounding and back to definitive surgical care. The story of Corporal Mark Wright GC, as reported in the Telegraph, filled me with dismay. To hear that when the casevac helicopter eventually arrived, it lacked the winching gear to lift the terribly wounded Para from the minefield he was lying in, was heartbreaking. My anguish is personal. I have looked down from a helicopter at two of HMS Ardent's crew who would have drowned had they not been winched up, as if by the Archangel Gabriel as one of them put it, in a rescue so movingly described at the Falklands commemoration on Horseguards a fortnight ago.

At the end of the Second World War, the four key factors in battlefield casualty treatment were: surgeons close to the front line; blood transfusion; rapid rearward evacuation by air; and (with absolutely no apologies to the PC polizei) female nurses. Just one of those factors has changed significantly.

In Korea, light helicopters became available in sufficient numbers to make a difference to extraction times over difficult terrain. Who can forget the haunting images that opened all those brilliant M*A*S*H episodes? Vietnam then brought the dedicated Hueys that saved countless lives. Today's battlefield medical support helicopters have improved further, but only in quality, not quantity. My Army friends tell me that there are two "medical" CH-47 Chinooks allocated to the main hospital at Camp Bastion, but that they are not under direct command as mine were. In theatre, delay can be significant. The two Chinooks are at immediate notice to launch, but an authorisation request must first be passed up, and then returned down a variety of command chains.

Both aircraft then deploy, in mutual support, with a varied equipment and skill mix embarked. This is all splendidly tailored stuff, but only when casualty numbers are as small as they have been so far, thank goodness. What would happen if the present system was suddenly faced with the consequences of a full-on firefight like 2 Para's battle for Goose Green: 48 wounded "Toms", some almost ex-sanguinated? Could mass casualties like those from the disaster at Fitzroy on June 8, 1982 be coped with? Then, 160 mainly burns cases arrived in Ajax Bay over the space of two hours, and had to be transported out to the hospital ship the following morning. Officially, no helicopters were available, but my Fleet Air Arm friends managed to achieve the task for me without compromising their other duties.

Who knows what lies around the corner? If we really are going to be in Afghanistan for the long run, then the Surgeon General's apparent complacency over his lack of helicopters is baffling. He needs more "lift and shift" capability to cope with the potential loads. He is on record as saying that the politicians have promised the resources required. If he takes his responsibilities seriously, then he should be asking for more dedicated helicopters - now.
• Dr Rick Jolly is a retired Royal Navy medical officer. His diary of the Falklands field hospital, The Red and Green Life Machine, has just been expanded and republished and is available through www.redandgreen.co.uk

In full due to respect

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/07/01/do0107.xml
 
#2
Er sorry Wrong.
Brit Forces NEED dedicate Heli medivac, support for troops in battle.
I do think that someone has made a political reply for whatever reason.
john
 
#3
John mate I think you have missed the drift of the article...which is very politely suggesting that the 'Surgeon General' is too busy deep throating Des Browne to care about his real responsibilities.
 
#4
Surprise, surprise, a sentence taken out of context by the press and hyped-up.

The original statement by Gen Lillywhite went something like:

Let's be quite clear about what the discussion that gave cause to this media comment is about. Everybody including myself believes that helicopters are essential to saving life in a theatre of operations. There is no dispute about that at all, and indeed as far as I'm aware commanders have always provided the medics with helicopters when they require them.

What the discussion is about is whether we should have helicopters that can only be used for medical evacuation, that have red crosses on them, and which are actually owned by the medical services. I have never advocated that policy - I think we are better served by having access to any and every helicopter that there is.
Source: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/D...ToConcernsOverAfghanistanMedicalTreatment.htm

Rick Jolly may have done well in the Falklands, but he now has a book to sell.

Edited to add:

If I remember correctly there were exactly zero dedicated casevac helicopters in the Falklands. That didn't stop those there were being used for casevac purposes when necessary.
 
#5
Wasn't there a fair bit of triage at the RAPs that helped out the hospitals to achieve their 580 to 3 survival ratio?

They didn't send who they didn't think would make it?

Not belittling the Field Hospitals immense tasks and superb work, but I think the WHOLE medical chain was responsible for such low death rates (after treatment).

The 160 burns casualties in 2 hours, didn't arrive in any order. The medics on the spot, would have triaged and treated at the beachside.

I think there were some Wessex's allocated to the casevac, not sure about the FAA helicoptors, but due to the shortage of whirly birds they all had to do what ever job came in.

There definitily wasn't as many Chinooks as Afganistan has!!!
 
#6
PassingBells said:
Surprise, surprise, a sentence taken out of context by the press and hyped-up.

The original statement by Gen Lillywhite went something like:

Let's be quite clear about what the discussion that gave cause to this media comment is about. Everybody including myself believes that helicopters are essential to saving life in a theatre of operations. There is no dispute about that at all, and indeed as far as I'm aware commanders have always provided the medics with helicopters when they require them.

What the discussion is about is whether we should have helicopters that can only be used for medical evacuation, that have red crosses on them, and which are actually owned by the medical services. I have never advocated that policy - I think we are better served by having access to any and every helicopter that there is.
Source: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/D...ToConcernsOverAfghanistanMedicalTreatment.htm

Rick Jolly may have done well in the Falklands, but he now has a book to sell.

Edited to add:

If I remember correctly there were exactly zero dedicated casevac helicopters in the Falklands. That didn't stop those there were being used for casevac purposes when necessary.
Actually, I have just checked out the above link and it looks like sales of the book will be supporting Combat Stress.

I have meet Rick Jolly on several occasions and have always been impressed by him. I read the book many, many years ago and am glad to see it back in print, I will be buying a copy!

I agree with Jolly over the helicopters. Common sense says that even if the medics have access to other helicopters, these must first be tasked and then detoured to the hospital to pick them up. Surely this wastes time. I am sure that dedicated ambulance helicopters make sense.

If you had an accident in London, would you accept as ok a policy that instead of having dedicated ambulances the NHS had an agreement with local passing taxis/white vans to load up medics and go to the scene of the accident, or would you prefer a proper ambulance?
 
#7
lanky said:
PassingBells said:
Surprise, surprise, a sentence taken out of context by the press and hyped-up.

The original statement by Gen Lillywhite went something like:

Let's be quite clear about what the discussion that gave cause to this media comment is about. Everybody including myself believes that helicopters are essential to saving life in a theatre of operations. There is no dispute about that at all, and indeed as far as I'm aware commanders have always provided the medics with helicopters when they require them.

What the discussion is about is whether we should have helicopters that can only be used for medical evacuation, that have red crosses on them, and which are actually owned by the medical services. I have never advocated that policy - I think we are better served by having access to any and every helicopter that there is.
Source: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/D...ToConcernsOverAfghanistanMedicalTreatment.htm

Rick Jolly may have done well in the Falklands, but he now has a book to sell.

Edited to add:

If I remember correctly there were exactly zero dedicated casevac helicopters in the Falklands. That didn't stop those there were being used for casevac purposes when necessary.
Actually, I have just checked out the above link and it looks like sales of the book will be supporting Combat Stress.

I have meet Rick Jolly on several occasions and have always been impressed by him. I read the book many, many years ago and am glad to see it back in print, I will be buying a copy!

I agree with Jolly over the helicopters. Common sense says that even if the medics have access to other helicopters, these must first be tasked and then detoured to the hospital to pick them up. Surely this wastes time. I am sure that dedicated ambulance helicopters make sense.

If you had an accident in London, would you accept as ok a policy that instead of having dedicated ambulances the NHS had an agreement with local passing taxis/white vans to load up medics and go to the scene of the accident, or would you prefer a proper ambulance?
He is supporting Combat Stress. It's a great charity and all credit to him for doing that. It doesn't necessarily make him right about the helicopter issue though.

We live in a world of realistic budgets. Given the size of the Army, and the casualty levels we are facing in Afg/Iraq, it does not make sense to dedicate a number of helicopters (realistically at least 3 or 4) only to pick up casualties. When they are not being used in that role, they can be used to ferry troops and stores etc. When there is a need to pick up casualties, I am sure that everyone does what they can to make sure that they can be picked up asap and transported to hospital.

In a perfect world, yes we would have sufficient helicopters so that some could be dedicated to casevac, but we would also have enough men to actually hold ground, body armour that was both light and effective, constant CAS - the list goes on.

What does an ambulance offer me over a white van with a medical team in the back and a couple of bags full of surgical supplies?
 
#8
PassingBells said:
We live in a world of realistic budgets...

...What does an ambulance offer me over a white van with a medical team in the back and a couple of bags full of surgical supplies?
I am all for realpolitik, however:-

1.Would your view change if you were the Para in the minefield or similar?

2. Transit time.(Golden Hour? ha, ha bloody ha)

You are just wrong. One of the major factors in the morale stakes is a belief that when you cop your packet there is a dedicated system that GAF. Notwithstanding the excellent phsyiological care that appears to be received once in the system, the entire effort, to an outsider, appears to be fragmented. Perhaps if there were fewer worthies writing reports... Sorry, I just can't be arrsed to write a disertation.
 
#9
The issue of helicopters in the 'Stan is an emotive issue - I came back from there in April and managing the limited resources available then was one of the challenges that HQ HTF contended with on a daily basis. The bottom line is there are either more there now or more on the way. Going on to the casevac issue, there were helicopters set aside for the IRTs and yes they were used for other things - but only very rarely as far as I am aware and only after risk assessment had been conducted. The only thing that I would change therefore is the fact that there should be helos with a winch capability to extract cases from minefields as cited in previous posts. Mines are a big threat in theatre and certainly were becoming increasingly so as I was leaving - we had something like 10 mine-related casualties in one day just before we left.
 
#10
PassingBells said:
What does an ambulance offer me over a white van with a medical team in the back and a couple of bags full of surgical supplies?
Huh? How about the racks to fit a strecher into? Hooks to hang saline bags, plasma....? various things that go beep and help the paramedic know if you're still alive? a fitted drugs cabinet...? Or shall I just sling your body into the back of a white van and let it roll around.....?

And as for "Oh yes....We can have Heli's for casevac but when they're not picking up cas they can ferry troops and supplies around" Really? just think that one through s-l-o-w-l-y. You really think that's going to work? Of course it will, the Heli can just dump it's load in the middle of a field and f**K off.
 
#11
PassingBells -"We live in a world of realistic budgets". Sounds like something an accountant might say, and accountants don't win wars.

We live in a world of realistic wars. So realistic that they are actually 100% "real". Realistic budgets would help. From a realistic Treasury.
Implicit in your statement is the need to tailor the war to the present budget. It's probably better trying to tailor the budget to the present war.

I trust Dr Jolly.
 
#12
Armchair_jihad says

John mate I think you have missed the drift of the article...which is very politely suggesting that the 'Surgeon General' is too busy deep throating Des Browne to care about his real responsibilities

I agree, when are we finaly going to get some people at the top, who are interested in the job at hand and not pondering to the Governmeant, looking a nice number after they retire from the forces.
 
#13
Lanky says

If you had an accident in London, would you accept as ok a policy that instead of having dedicated ambulances the NHS had an agreement with local passing taxis/white vans to load up medics and go to the scene of the accident, or would you prefer a proper ambulance?

Yes in a perfect world a proper Ambulance, however at the minute, beggers cannot be choosers and due to this Governments treatment of the Forces, (budget etc) looks like we are the beggers.
Personaly if i was lying in the dust with a serious injury, i would appreciate the first lift out of there.
We slag of the spams quite a bit, however at least they know, they have the logistics to get them in and out when needed.
 
#14
36thulster said:
Lanky says

If you had an accident in London, would you accept as ok a policy that instead of having dedicated ambulances the NHS had an agreement with local passing taxis/white vans to load up medics and go to the scene of the accident, or would you prefer a proper ambulance?

Yes in a perfect world a proper Ambulance, however at the minute, beggers cannot be choosers and due to this Governments treatment of the Forces, (budget etc) looks like we are the beggers.
Personaly if i was lying in the dust with a serious injury, i would appreciate the first lift out of there.
We slag of the spams quite a bit, however at least they know, they have the logistics to get them in and out when needed.
but isn't this an example where we are so used to making do, but surely now is the time to demand better treatment. I guess that most of the public probably believe that there are dedicated helicopters already.

We are not talking big bucks, buy them commercially if we have to. See if the Americans have any surplus we could buy/hire/beg etc.
 
#15
lanky said:
36thulster said:
Lanky says

If you had an accident in London, would you accept as ok a policy that instead of having dedicated ambulances the NHS had an agreement with local passing taxis/white vans to load up medics and go to the scene of the accident, or would you prefer a proper ambulance?

Yes in a perfect world a proper Ambulance, however at the minute, beggers cannot be choosers and due to this Governments treatment of the Forces, (budget etc) looks like we are the beggers.
Personaly if i was lying in the dust with a serious injury, i would appreciate the first lift out of there.
We slag of the spams quite a bit, however at least they know, they have the logistics to get them in and out when needed.
but isn't this an example where we are so used to making do, but surely now is the time to demand better treatment. I guess that most of the public probably believe that there are dedicated helicopters already.

We are not talking big bucks, buy them commercially if we have to. See if the Americans have any surplus we could buy/hire/beg etc.

Lanky, im not disagreeing with you, the problem is, WHO is going to demand them. Its up to the spineless feckers at the top, not joe grunt on the ground.
We used civvy choppers to get about the Falklands in 1992, done the job. I called them in only once for a casevac and all went well, we certainly were glad to see them and it no doubt saved a life.
 

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