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Subject: Botched medivac as Digger in Afghanistan lay dying
Volkodav    7/25/2008 9:30:28 PM
The Australian Jamie Walker | July 26, 2008 A WOUNDED Australian soldier died in Afghanistan after his evacuation to hospital was delayed by a communications bungle, a senior Dutch military doctor has claimed. Signaller Sean McCarthy, 25, the sixth Australian to be killed fighting the Taliban, was fatally injured in a bomb blast on July 8 while on patrol with the SAS. Defence Force Chief Angus Houston has insisted the young man was airlifted out "immediately" after the attack in Oruzgan province in southern Afghanistan. Three other soldiers were injured, two of them also from the Australian SAS. But Royal Netherlands Army emergency doctor Ed van der Zee, who was part of the Dutch medical team standing by at the Tarin Kowt military base to receive the casualties, says Signaller McCarthy did not reach hospital for two hours, instead of the anticipated 10 to 20 minutes. By then, he had bled to death. Lieutenant Colonel van der Zee says the incident has caused friction between the US military, which was responsible for medivac operations, and Dutch command at Tarin Kowt, where the bulk of Australia's army reconstruction taskforce, infantry and special forces are based. In emails obtained by The Weekend Australian, Colonel van der Zee describes how US commanders refused to put a medivac chopper in the air until a helicopter gunship was available to escort it. The mission was to come from the US airbase at Kandahar, 123km south of Tarin Kowt, in accordance with arrangements between the coalition partners. But Colonel van der Zee said US controllers "forgot" to inform the Dutch at Tarin Kowt that the assigned Apache escort helicopter was undergoing maintenance. "It took two hours where it usually only takes 10-20 minutes," Colonel van der Zee complained in a July 15 email, outlining the delay in evacuating Signaller McCarthy. In another email, Colonel van der Zee wrote: "He was badly injured on both legs. However, he was alive for an hour. We will never know what might have been or what we could have done." The Australian and Dutch military have closed ranks, refusing to discuss Colonel van der Zee's allegations. Contacted by email by this newspaper, Colonel van der Zee, who is still in Afghanistan, said he was not free to comment publicly on McCarthy's death. He was at Tarin Kowt at the time of the attack on the Australians, but had not worked on McCarthy, who was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and had received a commendation for his courage under fire. "I wasn't directly involved in the care of the Australian soldier," Colonel van der Zee wrote. "I only know that it (the air evacuation) took two hours and he was dead on arrival." The Australian Defence Force stands by Air Chief Marshal Houston's assertion that the wounded were evacuated "immediately following the incident" on July 8. "Despite receiving the best possible medical attention, Signaller McCarthy succumbed to his wounds," the ADF said in response to written questions submitted by The Weekend Australian. While confirming that helicopters from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan had carried out the medivac operation, the ADF refused to say how far the SAS patrol was from Tarin Kowt when hit by a roadside bomb. In announcing McCarthy's death, Air Chief Marshal Houston said the blast happened at about 3pm Australian time, mid-morning in southern Afghanistan. But the ADF would not give details to The Weekend Australian on when medivac helicopters arrived at the scene, how long it took for McCarthy to reach a field hospital and whether he was alive at that point. An ADF spokesman said the information could not be released until an investigation ordered by Air Chief Marshal Houston had been completed. Joel Fitzgibbon's office said yesterday the Defence Minister had been informed of Colonel van der Zee's allegations and was "eagerly awaiting" the outcome of the ADF review. McCarthy's parents, who were hugged by Kevin Rudd at his military funeral, could not be reached at their Gold Coast address. The Prime Minister has warned more Australian deaths are likely as fighting intensifies with a resurgent Taliban. Five of the six Australian military deaths to date happened in the past nine months, and another 40 diggers have been wounded. Colonel van der Zee's allegations will add to concern about the level of support for Australian troops in the field in Afghanistan. The most highly placed Australian soldier to serve in Iraq, Major General Jim Molan, a former chief of operations to the US commander of the multinational forces there, argues in a new book that the ADF had been "skewed too far ... away from war-fighting", and that Australia is no longer prepared "to fight a war involving sustained combat". Colonel van der Zee says the Dutch command was dismayed that the Americans had not requested a Dutch Apache helicopter from Tarin
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Kevin Pork       7/26/2008 5:50:05 AM
The Medevac wasn't the problem, it was the gunship escort.
The Dutch are covering it now. If the Dutch pull out, we'd want to look at covering both.
If the info in the article is accurate, it looks like someone on the US side stuffed up (by not telling the Dutch that the escort wasn't going to be available when it went into maint) and then compounded it massively by not saying so when the dustoff request went in, the Dutch had their own Gunships that could have done the job.
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Volkodav       7/26/2008 11:50:13 PM
The Medevac wasn't the problem, it was the gunship escort.
True, but we have the Tigers entering service now, so the capability we lack is in Medevac and CSAR.  Considering our focus on reconstruction and disaster / humanitarian relief missions I am surprised we contract out our domestic SAR operations and rely on allies to provide our forces with Medevac an CSAR in war zones.
Having a squadron with a dozen or so CSAR fitted MRH-90's would enable us to deploy a number of 2, 3 or 4 helo detachments in support of our own and allied foces as requied
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Kevin Pork       7/27/2008 2:39:51 AM
We have allies with Medevac Helos and Gunships in theater - a one off stuff up that would have been fixed had the US operators stated immediately that their Gunship was off line (by the Dutch using one of their Apaches as an escort), is no reason to commit a lot of expensive assets - better that we look towards finding something more effective to send than a few extra Helos.
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Volkodav       7/28/2008 6:14:12 AM
True, some of our allies in Afghanistan have superb medevac, SAR and CSAR capabilities.  There is however a general shortage of helicopters in country and that includes the above types which means anything that we could contribute would be greatly appreciated.
The other factor is that it doesn't matter how good our allies gear is if they aren't available, i.e. Australian led or Australian only operations in our region, be the military or humanitarian.
On the domestic side the ADF having a joint CSAR capability would literally save lives backing up civilian SAR and medevac helo's.
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FJV       7/28/2008 12:44:51 PM
The only reason the Dutch have all that extra stuff in Afghanistan is that this is the only way to be sure you have gunships, F16's when you need them. The Dutch had to learn that lesson the hard way in former Yugoslavia and had that lesson reinforced in Afghanistan.

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Aussiegunneragain       7/29/2008 7:11:05 AM
I would like to see adequate numbers of our own helecopters deployed in support of the SOG, not only in Medivac or CSR but in all roles. Relying on allies is necessary when we don't have a choice, but the reality is that having assets under different commands always increases the risk of miscommunication and ferk ups. When we are dealing with integral assets like helecopters, then adequate numbers should be an organic part of any force we deploy. Thats not a reflection on our allies as we are quite capable of making fatal mistakes ourselves, but it is just a fact that when we rely on others the risks are maginifed.
However the problem is that we don't have enough appropriate machines. My understanding is that the ranges that the SOG is operating at requires Chinooks. The two he have there can be used for medivac but two aren't always going to be available for that role. Given that we only have six Chinooks all up we can't spare to take any more out of our region and put them into Afghanistan. I personally think that getting another half a dozen Chinooks (like we had in the late 80's before Kimbo retired 12 older models and replaced them with 4 new ones ... we got the extra two later) should be one of the highest priority acquisitions for the ADF. However, even with 12 of them I doubt that we are going to be able to spare any as dedicated CSAR assets like the Americans have.  
I suppose that deploying NH-90's in the role might be a reasonable substitute, but we only have 12 of them thus far and they are all tasked in supporting domestic counter-terrorism activities. That only leaves the Blackhawks which I understand are inadequate for the work in Afghanistan.
As for a gunship escorts the ARH aren't even fully operational yet so that rules them out, even if they did have the range to escort the Chinooks on all their missions.  
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Volkodav    ADF won't buy medivac chopper   7/30/2008 8:33:30 AM
The Australian

July 30, 2008

THE Australian Defence Force has ruled out buying a dedicated medical evacuation helicopter, despite Kevin Rudd's warning of the likelihood of more casualties in Afghanistan.

The decision follows claims by a Dutch military doctor that critically wounded SAS trooper Sean McCarthy bled to death earlier this month because of delays in reaching hospital.

The ADF has said it took almost two hours for McCarthy to reach hospital on July 8, but insisted this was within the timeframe set out in military protocols.

In a response to questions from The Australian, Defence said it would continue to rely on coalition partners in Afghanistan for medivac air services. The army has deployed two CH-47 Chinooks in Afghanistan but these are used for troop and cargo transport.

The US Army's UH-60Q medivac helicopter can fly into a frontline area and evacuate six wounded. The aircraft is equipped with cardiac monitoring systems, oxygen generators and defibrillators.

A Defence spokesman said: "It is important to recognise that Australia is part of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission and draws heavily on the helicopter support provided by our allies."

The ADF has more than 700 soldiers in Oruzgan province under a Dutch-led mission. A further 300 are based in Kandahar. The Dutch are expected to pull out their 1600-strong combat force in July 2010.

Yesterday the federal Opposition demanded the Government ensure the ADF was properly equipped to deal with any withdrawal.

Mark Dodd

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