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Clark was among the 8 percent who didn’t.

After the explosion, Clark’s fellow soldiers applied tourniquets to stop his bleeding. They were hopeful that he might survive, even though both of his legs and most of his left arm were severed in the blast.

A videotape of the incident filmed by author Michael Yon shows Clark writhing in pain. Mr. Yon, who writes articles often critical of the military on his online magazine, was embedded with Clark’s unit, the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan.

After concluding that no armed escort helicopters already in the air could be dispatched to the rescue, the Army summoned an armed Apache AH-64 helicopter, parked at Kandahar Air Field, to the scene along with the medevac. The medevac crew loaded Clark aboard in two minutes and whisked him to the hospital.

Ms. Clark is convinced that her son, who leaves a wife and stepson, still would be alive had he gotten there sooner.

“He might be an amputee with three prosthetic limbs, but he would be here,” said Ms. Clark, who has been writing letters to the military and lawmakers.

Among her questions: If the landing zone was in such a hot zone, why wasn’t there already an armed helicopter providing air support for the soldiers on the ground?

“On the video, it didn’t seem like there was fighting going on,” she said, questioning why an escort was needed at all.

The Army says armed escorts are mandatory for hot pickup zones. The requirement for an armed escort when militants are merely in the area is based on a risk assessment by aviation commanders and troops on the ground.

Pilots, crew and medics who fly in Afghanistan in 78 medevacs have a sole mission of recovering the wounded. Add guns to their helicopters, and they would become a fighting aircraft, too, according to the Army, which reviewed the issue in 2008 and decided to keep the medevacs unarmed.

U.S. military officials also say that door guns can’t match the precision firepower unleashed by Apache helicopters, which often escort medevacs. Limiting collateral damage is critical in Afghanistan, where the death of civilians and destruction of property has put the U.S.-led coalition force at odds with the Afghan people.

“I just don’t see the precision fire capability that this fight really requires, especially when you’ve got aircraft around that are specifically designed with Hellfire missiles, .30mm cannons with laser range finding,” said Col. T.J. Jamison of Broken Arrow, Okla., who commands the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Bagram. “You’re not going to get that out of any door gun on the side of an aircraft.”

Critics of the policy, including Mr. Yon, say the Army’s arguments for keeping medevacs unarmed are flawed.

In Clark’s case, had the medevac been armed, it could have had Clark airborne and flying to a hospital within 12 minutes of his unit calling for a medevac, Mr. Yon said.

Also, armed HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters equipped with door guns that were parked in Kandahar at the time could have picked up Clark and delivered him to a hospital in fewer than 35 minutes, he said. These helicopters often assist with medevac missions, but their primary mission is for personnel rescue and recovery.

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