Perhaps the bureaucrats and politicians who design these policies should first be required to personally oversee their implementation in the field. One suspects the regulations would change overnight. But safely ensconced flying a desk in the Pentagon, they are much more fearful of a congressional hearing or a derogatory editorial in The Washington Post.
U.S. troops are paying for that cowardice with their lives.
The U.S. Army is the only branch that follows this protocol. The Air Force, Navy and Marine rescue choppers have dispensed with the red cross and come armed to the teeth, usually with multiple miniguns.
Some have claimed that this is because only the Army has properly equipped medevac helicopters, and arming them would diminish their capabilities as air ambulances. If so, then why does the Army insist on Army gunship escort and why do they persist in making medevacs flying targets by painting on the red cross?
Section A-18 of the Army manual provides the answer: “Because even the perception of impropriety can be detrimental to the mission and U.S. interests, [Health Service Support] commanders must ensure they do not give the impression of impropriety in the conduct of medical evacuation operations.”
So, even if we know we don’t have to follow the convention, even if we know it is moronic and potentially fatal to do so, this regulation argues we should still risk the lives of combat troops and aircrews so people too stupid or careless to know what the convention really says do not become alarmed when we create the “perception of impropriety” by removing red crosses or properly arming medevac helicopters.
Thanks to Soldier of Fortune and Michael Yon, the tragic consequences of this policy have seen the light of day. With enough publicity, perhaps the Army will finally be persuaded to change its policy. If so, the death of Spc. Chazray Clark may not have been entirely in vain.
James Simpson is a former White House budget office staff analyst.