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James “Hondo” Geurts An interview with USSOCOM’s Acquisition Executive at US Special Operations Command Headquarters
Operation Red Wing The story of how heroes are made By Tom Breen
Legends of Special Forces
The Legend of Dick Meadows From Son Tay to Desert One and beyond, Meadows was there By Tom Breen
Col. Bob Howard His Medal of Honor came in 1971, but few knew the story of this highly decorated Ranger By Tom Breen
The Robby Miller Story Medal of Honor came in 1971, but few knew the story of this highly decorated Ranger By Tom Breen
A Warrior’s Tale Lone Survivor author Marcus Luttrell works to rebuild his life after the rest of his SEAL team died in a firefight. By Tom Breen Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 11
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Joint Trauma System Two military docs review principles guiding Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) By Drs. Frank K. Butler and Jeffrey A. Bailey
LOUDER THAN WORDS 82
Tactical Photo Gallery
ON THE COVER
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James “Hondo” Geurts
n March 31, 2015, David Peabody of DEFENSE STANDARD sat down with USSOCOM’s Acquisition Executive James “Hondo” Geurts at US Special Operations Command Headquarters. Here is that interview:
DEFENSE STANDARD: How would you define your role as the SOCOM Acquisition Executive? GEURTS: I define it in a couple different ways, most importantly my job is to help insure we get the right tools into the hands of the operator and support the operator when we can fill those capabilities. Those capabilities can be equipment, can be people, it can be a variety of things. More specifically, I am in charge of anything to do with technology development, acquisition or logistics or logistics planning for the command. And then finally, I am the senior procurement executive here at command. Delegated that authority from the commander so all contract authority for the command flows through this office. DEFENSE STANDARD: And that would include small business? GEURTS: Small business and any of that. We have our own small business office and all that interesting enough they just won the small business office of the federal government this year. DEFENSE STANDARD: This is the SBIR we are talking about? GEURTS: Even broader than the SBIR. Small business innovative research is just a piece of it. Almost 29-30 % of our contracts this year were awarded to small business as a prime. So that is well above the DOD and Federal government average. As I said, we were rewarded for that. That includes all the competitive kinds of things. Competition awards. We compete in about 75% of our work this year alone which again is well above the DOD standard. It is kind of overseeing all of that, all the technology development, all the logistics, both logistics planning and sustainment for all the equipment all around the world. 16 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
DEFENSE STANDARD: If there were an average day for you, and I’m sure that every day is different, but if there were an average day, what would that consist of? GEURTS: It would be spending time with the commander and the other senior staff understanding what issues that are going on in the command and then how we need to support those. It would probably be spending some time with some of my department managers, understanding where they have issues, where they need support. I would probably have at least one or two visits with industry or academia or some of the other service members that support us. It should have at least one PT exercise time in there, usually I like to swim at lunch, and then it’s mostly walking around and making sure I do my job creating the right culture and developing the right work force and then letting them go off and work. And so I spend a lot of time managing by walking around both here and with my partners in the other parts of the command. We have a great advantage as an acquisition and logistics organization being co-located with the command. So we have our personnel imbedded with our ops teams, with our intel teams, with our planning teams, with our resourcing teams. And so what you’ll find here is very networked, very flat, very rapid decision making so that we can operate at the speed of SOF operations. DEFENSE STANDARD: You had indicated that part of that time is spent with industry and academia. Given the limits of your time, how do you determine which of those entities gets your time? GEURTS: I’ve got a pretty wide open policy, so if I have time available, they can get through. I don’t select who to bring in. The only thing I ask when I talk to industry is more about how are we operating with them. Are there better ways we can operate, and
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face to face, unless it’s about a particular product, or a particular program. My PEO’s and directors are working particular product and particular programs. Mine is more about how do we work together? How do I enable them to bring their best product to me the fastest at the best price so I can get it transitioned into the field? DEFENSE STANDARD: How much influence do rank and file within USSOCOM have as far as introducing or recommending products that they find useful in the field? GEURTS: I think tremendously. Most of my time has been in service so in the service programs it’s very hard to do. Here we do a couple of different things. We have a Technology Integration Liaison Officer (TILO). So when a company has a product or a capability, they give us the basic information and that gets sent out to everybody in the command and anybody in the command is invited to come in. If we show enough interest we will bring the company in. They can sit down and talk in a briefing and share their ideas. From that, any feedback they have gets immediately registered to the right program manager or PEO. So, if you are a rank and file person and you see an idea and you think you could have an impact, you sit at that section and that feedback gets immediately back to us. We do three or four experimentation venues a year where we will go two or three weeks on a range, and again bring in a wide variety of industry, academia and service labs. We put equipment in the field. We bring in operators from all the units, bring in the headquarter folks and any of that feedback is captured. One internally for us to look at and then two for the companies so that they can take that into account as they’re going forward. And then we have a variety of different means that can compete for science and technology funds. We have a bunch of different animation venues that can bring up ideas. And so, again, very flat, networked organization. DEFENSE STANDARD: Is there one product or technologic advancement in specific that was brought up through the rank and file that comes to mind within recent history? GEURTS: Well you know, one example, or maybe a couple of them is that we had 3D Printers and we put engineers and machinists bringing these 3D printers forward for about the last five to seven years in Afghanistan at multiple fire bases. I think they have just completed their 25 thousandth project and that is really operatordriven innovation at the point of need all the way down range. Whether it is modifying a tool, modifying a piece of equipment, mounting equipment differently, changing the way the kit is attached to their harness. All sorts of different things and that is certainly how to facilitize an operator being able to do stuff. With our TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) program we have been doing what we call rapid prototyping events. Where anybody in headquarters, anybody in our program, industry or academia gets together. We kind of build it all together. And so we have had members here come up with new ways to mount radios. Come up with standards so we can give multiple radios put together in a much more compact manner with a standard interface. To take the weight off the soldiers back. Those are just a few of the examples. DEFENSE STANDARD: The TALOS program has been getting a lot of attention within the last year or so. How much of your focus is on TALOS as opposed to other technologies that come before you? 18 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
GEURTS: To some degree, TALOS, one of their functions is really focusing on what was already broadest on ongoing initiatives. So we had initiatives going on in body armor, we had initiatives going on in communications, display technology, but they were all kind of on independent functional capability chains. So what TALOS has allowed us to do is not necessarily drive a whole huge new expense, but a better way to focus all that. The other thing that we have done is brought operators directly on staff here and try to close the distance between the operator and the technologist in the “buyer or acquire”. And so that has allowed us much greater speed and it’s also allowed us to try out new ways to do acquisition. I mean if you look at the future environment, we’ve got diversity expanding in almost every dimension. We are operating in more places, we are operating in declared areas of conflict and undeclared areas of conflict. We are operating in jungles, deserts, arctic, and commercial technology is really accelerating its pace. So primarily what TALOS does for us is to pilot new ways to transition technology from wherever it comes from. Whether we invent it, whether we get it from academia, or whether we get it from an industry partner, and I view our comparative advantage is our velocity and speed to market. So it is helping me continually improve our velocity and speed to market. DEFENSE STANDARD: Are there specific programs designed to encourage contractor participation in these technologies? GEURTS: Certainly, I mean I think TALOS is doing some of that. I think what we’ve done on our dry combat submersible in having multiple. We started with eight different proposals, nicked down to four, and we built two prototypes is a good example of that. Again we are competing roughly 75% of the work every year and so that competition engenders and that is where that competition invites folks to bring whatever they think their best solution is. We look at that, we pick the ones we want, we do several hundred combat evaluations on any given day. And so we’ll take a piece of kit, whether it is on the commercial market, out of the services, or maybe out of a service lab or early in the industry, the I R&D kind of cycle. Maybe buy a couple of them, put them down range and see how they perform and so we are getting better informed at decision making for when we want to buy it, perhaps, in greater quantity. DEFENSE STANDARD: How have governmental budgetary processes affected your ability to acquire what is needed in the field? GEURTS: In terms of sequestration? Certainly SOCOM has done fairly well. I won’t say we’re protected, but we’re certainly in pretty good shape in the budget. The challenge is, if you look at the real larger impact of sequestration, we are most concerned about what it does to the services. Because the first SOF truth is most special operations can’t occur without service support. And so the impact on the services, I think, will be devastating. That will then impact our readiness, our ability to train, all those combat enablers we get from the services and that will then put pressure on our ability to continue to do research and development and stay ahead of the threat as it gets more expensive for us to do maintenance, readiness and all the other kind of things. So, I think the other piece that is very challenging for us is uncertainty. It’s tough to really drive for future technologies, really push the envelope, really prepare for the
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future when there is so much uncertainty on what you are going to be doing this year and what service report you’re going to be getting this year, and so the turmoil itself is as impactful as the bottom line dollar as it’s very hard to plan with any certainty. And when you can’t plan it’s hard to put the right strategies in place to get what you need to get in the long term. DEFENSE STANDARD: How do you perceive the future of SOCOM acquisition regarding developing technologies? GEURTS: The trick is you want to look as far as you can but you don’t want to forget what’s right in front of you. One of the things we’re doing which is really starting to help is technology and capability roadmaps. We’ve always done them but probably not as far lurking and as far reaching as we could have just because we had to focus so much on current operations and supporting current operations. One of the key issues to command in addressing, I think in this budget cycle, is insuring we have enough research and development funding to be pushing the envelope, to be piloting, being out there in front of the department testing things, trying things, looking at new capabilities, trying new processes. So that one, we are better prepared, but two, we could help the department as it looks to where it wants to make investments in the future. So we have had real good success working with the services where as we can take products they have in their science and technology base, transition quickly, get them into combat, take a look at them, maybe apply them in different ways then they had originally forecasted and then the services get the benefit of that early look and they can modify the technologies or capabilities. I think that is helping us get out there, but one of my key focuses is, probably my two key areas of focus are: we doing R&D to get us ready five to ten years from now, and do we have the right business models to allow us to most rapidly invent, co-invent, and then transition in field new technologies. We are pretty good
at the standard speeds but I think, for the department, again as I go back to think velocities are a comparative advantage, iteration speeds are a comparative advantage and so we’ve always got to be challenging ourselves and industry on how to all work the best, to work that cycle more quickly. DEFENSE STANDARD: If you were speaking to a group of industry representatives who hadn’t done business with SOCOM before, what advice would you give them to promote what it is that they are producing and getting that product in front of command? GEURTS: I would tell them one, to probably have a more consumable commercial mindset then they are probably used to in dealing with the government. That we view competitive, in a competitive environment as an enabler and that we are most innovative. I think industry is most innovative when they are on their most competitive phase. They need to be as adaptable in their business processes as they want to be in their technology processes. So they have to think through their internal business processes to make sure they are adaptable to operate at the speed we like to operate. Then lastly, put themselves in the mindset of the operator. That is why some of the things we are doing with TALOS to bring industry in and let them work with our operators is critically important much further beyond just TALOS. Understanding what our operators are facing, I think there is more we can get from industry and I think we can continue to get better at describing that we need eventually do that under experimentation venues. Come to TALOS events. Come to these rapid prototyping events. Sit with the operators, and really understand what they are looking for. An advantage of SOF is that we were relatively an early adopter, and much of what we do has a lot of commercial, first responder, and other service spinoff potentials. So if you come with that mindset, you’ll probably be better off than coming with a more traditional mindset of a very deliberate 20-25 year program.
ames F. Geurts, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Acquisition Executive, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He is responsible for all special operations forces research, development, acquisition, procurement and logistics.
Mr. Geurts, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, entered the Air Force in 1987 as a distinguished graduate from the Lehigh University ROTC program, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. He has served as an acquisition program manager with engineering and program management leadership positions in numerous weapon systems including intercontinental ballistic missiles, surveillance platforms, tactical fighter aircraft, advanced avionics systems, stealth cruise missiles, training systems, and manned and unmanned special operations aircraft. He commanded an Acquisition Group, served as the Program Executive Officer for Fixed Wing Programs at USSOCOM, and was Commander, Joint Acquisition Task Force Dragon, an elite team of USSOCOM and Service acquisition personnel responsible for executing USSOCOM’s most urgent acquisitions in response to wartime Critical Mission Needs Statements. He retired from the Air Force in the rank of Colonel in July 2009 after more than 21 years of active duty. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Deputy Director, Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He is married to the former Kelly Sprout and they have two sons, Jimmy and Brandon. He is an endurance sport enthusiast, having completed multiple Ironman, endurance swims, and marathons. 20 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
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Hard to Believe, but True
By Tom Breen
nlisting with the Army as a teenager out of West Virginia’s hardscrabble hills, Dick Meadows embraced action and results, not titles and protocol, forging a reputation as a Special Operations icon during a career spanning more than four decades. He has been gone a while now, this committed man of the military, a Green Beret who exemplified over and again the tenacity of Special Operations and military people as a whole, always bouncing back to do it better the next time around. Knock him down, and there he was again, from Korea to the drug wars in Central America, 45 years of service, a veritable walking history of U.S. Special Ops who teamed up with Col. Charlie Beckwith to shape the Delta Force at Fort Bragg in the late 1970s, leading ultimately to the Army Special Forces structure that operates today. Surviving one mission after another, he finally was taken down by leukemia in the summer of 1995. “He was the true quiet man, carrying a big stick,” says his son, Mark, of Tampa, himself a retired Army lieutenant colonel who commanded a cavalry squadron in the 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Iraq in the mid-2000s. “Dad was my hero, my mentor, the same hero everyone else saw, someone who could bring a large group to silence, without saying a word. He had that sort of presence. It was amazing to see people watch him as he walked into a room.” Now, 16 years after Dick Meadows’ death, and 64 years after he joined the military, Meadow’s contributions and commitment to Special Operations reverberate repeatedly during a summer in which U.S. special-ops troops fight virtually daily in Afghanistan, as well as participate in a range of worldwide covert missions most of us know nothing about, and may never know anything about. This summer of 2011 also is a time during which a concrete manifestation of the special-ops legacy, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Michael Murphy, leaves Bath Iron Works in Maine for the Navy’s fleet. Every time a crew member pounds the deck of the Navy’s new destroyer, the image of its Medal of Honor namesake, standing in the barren treacherousness of
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Afghanistan’s Kunar province, dying to protect his men, will burst to life. It is that way, too, every time a troop passes by the lifelike statue of Meadows at U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Paid for by former presidential candidate Ross Perot, who called Meadows a “real-life James Bond” during a dedication ceremony several years back, the 8-foot-tall, 900-pound statue chiseled by Lawrence Ludtke of Houston shows Meadows as he was: dignified, unassuming and fearsome, never pompous, vain, or mean-spirited -- an “exact likeness of Dick,” said one retired sergeant major at the time.
eadows’ accomplishments are staggering. As former President Clinton noted in a Presidential Citizens Medal award given to Meadows shortly before his death in 1995, “His exceptional Special Forces and civilian career included operations behind enemy lines in Vietnam for which he received a rare battlefield commission, leadership in a daring rescue attempt of POWs at Son Tay Prison near Hanoi, infiltration in Tehran for the Desert One hostage rescue mission in 1980, and a key role in establishing Delta Force.” In short, Dick Meadows was a living personification of the Special Ops mission in which risk and danger are simply part of the job description. Meadows received the “rare battlefield commission” noted by Clinton from Gen. William Westmoreland, then-commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, in 1966 for his daring in uncovering North Vietnamese intelligence. In the Son Tay raid, Meadows trained and led a rescue force into the infamous prison near Hanoi, only to find it cleared out when they arrived. Yet even as a failed mission, Son Tay improved conditions for American POWs; Hanoi treated them better while in anticipation of more possible raids. It also served as a howto model for the Israeli rescue mission at the 1972 Olympics. As for the 1980 hostage rescue attempt in Iran, known as Eagle Claw, Meadows posed as an Irish businessman to funnel information to U.S. rescuers, escaping before the raid became public. And with Delta Force, which restructured Army Special Forces, Meadows and Beckwith streamlined an already effective and powerful force. Through it all, away from the fierceness and high risk of the operations themselves, Meadows remained “genuine and unassuming, the boy next door with a CAR-15. ... No matter his rank -- master sergeant, captain, major -- all of us in Special Forces knew him as Dick Meadows, a man who didn’t need a rank to be who he was: Meadows was Meadows,” writes a Meadows friend and admirer, the author John L. Plaster, a retired Army Special Forces major.
As was typical of him, Meadows being Meadows, he worked until the very end in 1995, working in an anti-drug operation in Panama, fit and looking decades younger, but suffering from extreme exhaustion. The week before he died, Meadows told Plaster about his leukemia without a trace of self-sympathy or regret. This was Dick Meadows; he did not regret anything. When Plaster asked him how long he had. Meadows said a week, and the warrior for the ages was gone six days later. “Dad fought like hell [against the disease],” Mark says. “He was trying to make it to the Son Tay reunion that weekend; he died the night before.”
rowing up in a family where food was a luxury, Meadows, a moonshiner’s son, spent part of his youth living in a dirt-floor shack, often passed from one family member to another. The Army gave him a way out. At age 15 in 1947, he signed up, taking a liberty or two with his age, later heading to combat in Korea. Even with nothing more than a ninth-grade education, Meadows had an innate intelligence that attracted Army superiors and colleagues alike, savvy and sophisticated far beyond his years, earning him promotion to master sergeant by age 19, one of the youngest in Army history. In 1953, as the Korean war was ending, Meadows joined the Army Special Forces as a paratrooper. It was then the work of preparing himself for the future began in earnest: honing weapons’ and survival skills, expanding his language skills, and developing personal and social traits that would serve him well in covert operations later on. “Dick was the ultimate soldier,” retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing, who knew him well, once said. As the 1960s dawned, Meadows’ reputation grew rapidly, first with his promotion to master sergeant and later with his temporary attachment to the British SAS (Special Air Service) Special Forces unit, which influenced him greatly later in his efforts to restructure the Army’s Special Forces. He also met his wife Pam, the daughter of an SAS sergeant major. It was his service in Vietnam that solidified his reputation as a soldier of extraordinary merit and bearing. Had his activities been made public, the Medal of Honor surely would have come his way, but most of his operations remained classified for years; some still do. What is known provides the stuff for movies, as Perot said at the Fort Bragg statue dedication ceremony. “He really did these things you see movie stars doing.” Or, as Meadows’ friend Plaster writes, “ Meadows turned into the famed Studies and Observation Group’s (SOG) most prolific prisoner snatcher, bringing back 13 NVA [North Vietnamese Army] from Laos,” an SOG record. “He once arrayed Recon Team Iowa beside a trail
“HE REALLY DID THESE THINGS YOU SEE MOVIE STARS DOING.”
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when instead of the desired one man, five NVA strolled up and stopped right there for lunch. Meadows stepped out and announced, ‘Good morning, gentleman. You are now POWs.’ Despite his warning, ‘No, No, No,” three went for their AKs. ... Meadows shot them faster than you read this.” Quiet, but deadly when he had to be, that was Dick Meadows. As the Vietnam War continued through the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Meadows legend swept through the services, not just the Army, as he worked a slew of operations, and gained even more momentum after his retirement in 1977 when he posed as an Irish businessman in Eagle Claw, rounding up drug smugglers in Central America, and protecting plantation owners from terrorists in Peru for a decade. It’s a cliché, perhaps, that can take the man out of Special Operations but never Special Operations out of the man. With Meadows, it’s true. Meadows first attracted public attention outside the military in 1980 when Newsweek magazine published a cover story labeled, “The Iran Rescue Mission: the Untold Story,” with a picture of Meadows next to a smaller headline that read, “The Pentagon’s Man in Tehran.” By then, about three years after his retirement from the Army, many of his colleagues and superiors were determined to get his story told: He simply had done too much for the country to remain anonymous forever. Said then-Army Col. Elliot “Bud” Snyder, ground force commander during the Son Tay raid, in an interview with Newsweek for the 1980 piece, “If he hadn’t done so many things that are classified, he’d have been the most decorated soldier in the Army.”
ne of his most ardent supporters was Perot, the businessman, politician and nonstop backer of the military and Special Operations who by many accounts phoned President Clinton asking him to honor
Meadow with the prestigious President’s Medal. Perot first encountered Meadows after meeting with the Son Tay raiders in a session arranged by Pentagon brass. At Fort Bragg, Perot personally spent $160,000 for the statue now located on the Meadows Memorial Parade Field at the Army’s Special Operations headquarters. Nearby are two other statutes dedicated to Army Special Forces, the Special Warfare Memorial Statue, called the “Green Beret” or “Bronze Bruce,” and the Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons statue at the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Plaza, where Special Forces troops don their Green Berets for the first time. It was Simons -- a company commander with the 6th Ranger Battalion in the Pacific during World War II who returned to service in Vietnam as the head of the 8th Special Forces Group -- who headed up the Son Tay raid with Meadows. Now, they stand together forever at Bragg, inspiration for younger warriors who may fight in another time, but with the same values. While Meadows proved to be relentless, his demeanor was gentle when away from the action. His son Mark, now a defense contractor, knew as early as fifth grade he would follow his father’s lead into the military. Yet his father never pushed the warrior life upon him, Mark says. “He never pressured me. He just said, ‘Whatever you do, do it well.’ But I knew the military was for me.” Nowadays the younger Meadows, his mom, Pam, and sister, Michele, could not be prouder of a man who dug his way out of deep poverty in the West Virginian countryside to rise to extraordinary heights in the Army’s Special Forces. In the end, few of us can imagine living the way Dick Meadows did, dodging one bullet after the other, sometimes facing death almost daily, a warrior’s warrior born on a summer day, dying on a summer day, and now standing tall at Fort Bragg, gone in body but larger than life, a guy who did us all proud, a warrior to the core.
MAJ. RICHARD J. (DICK) MEADOWS Born: June 16, 1932, in Beckley, W. Va. Died: July 19, 1995, of leukemia in Crestview, Fla. Family: Wife Pam, son Mark (a retired Army lieutenant colonel) and daughter Michele. Military Service: Joined at age 15, becoming one of the nation’s youngest master sergeants by age 19, and receiving a battlefield commission of captain in Vietnam from Gen. William Westmoreland. Assignments: Served with the Green Berets out of Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Vietnam was assigned to the prestigious Military Assistance Command -- Studies and Observation Group. At one point, he also was attached to the British Special Air Service special operations unit. Combat: Served in Korea and Vietnam and led or participated in scores of Special Operations missions, including the 1970 Ivory Coast operation to free American POWs near Hanoi. Awards: Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, Bronze Star with V Device, Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutists Badge, Ranger Tab, Scuba Badge and the President’s Citizens Medal. Memorials: A statue has been erected in his honor at Fort Bragg. 30 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
Source: U.S. Army
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Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 31
BOB HOWARD The Soldier Who Would Not Surrender
By Tom Breen
s he lay dying at Waco’s St. Catherine’s hospice in central Texas shortly before Christmas, Army Special Forces Medal of Honor legend Bob Howard -- wounded and near death countless times in Vietnam as he became America’s most decorated war hero -- fought for his life one last time with the same ferocity that marked every moment of his existence. He was damned if he was going off into the good night without a fight. It was not that his own life was so important to him -- he had risked it over and over across Vietnam in the 1960s. It was the idea of surrendering to the enemy that was unacceptable. In this case the enemy was pancreatic cancer, as destructive as a land mine or mortar shell. Thus it was at St. Catherine’s one day shortly before he died that Howard, disoriented but probably knowing exactly what he was doing, left his bed momentarily. “It took five of us to get him back there ... he was that strong,” recalls his son-in-law, Assistant Waco Police Chief Frank Gentsch. The incident at St. Catherine’s was a reminder of the day during the Vietnam War when he left a hospital bed to join a Special Forces unit in the heart of combat. A guy “built like a lumberjack,” as he often has been described, was not about to hang around a hospice room in central Texas, fatal illness or not, or around a hospital room in Vietnam when others were dying in combat. Wounded 14 times during a 54-month period, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to save others, Colonel Howard served five tours in Vietnam and remained on active duty until 1992. Single-handedly, Army documents show, he killed scores of enemy forces and saved the lives of just as many, if not more, of his own troops. He later worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs, traveling overseas, often with his friend, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell, who also received a Medal of Honor, to meet with troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere. He traveled overseas in April 2009 even as he weakened. “The doctors think he probably was sick at least a year, quietly putting up with pain most people could not endure,” Gentsch says. His ability to quietly accept pain truly amazed everyone who met him. For example, during one overseas trip, Howard met with a Purple Heart recipient (Howard had many Purple Hearts), who later commented, “I should not even be in the same room with this guy, wounded as many times as he was.” Amid the ferocity Howard exhibited on the battlefield, and during his war with cancer, he had another side to him, a softer side, which often emerged in his personal life. “He was just Grandpa to my kids,” gentle, loving and supportive, Gentsch
32 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
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Courtesy Howard Family
Bob Howard with prisoner
Courtesy Howard Family
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 33
says. “He was very humble despite everything he had done Howard came in 1967 and 1968, one for his actions during the fall of 1967, when he protected his team by charging an during his life.” In addition to his own kin, Howard considered every enemy bunker amid close-up machine-gun fire; another for soldier to be part of his extended family, talking to troops his actions in the fall of 1968, when he disabled a Sovietand comforting them at every opportunity, repeatedly built tank, rescuing three Americans despite being struck reminding various groups to always honor their service, by more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel; and yet another (for which he finally was “especially at Christmas,” the presented with the Medal season he loved, the season in of Honor) for his actions in which he died. late December 1968, when As an ambassador for “IN 1970, NO ONE EVER he led a firefight, once again American patriotism and HEARD OF BOB HOWARD’S putting himself in the open to values, Howard transcended protect his team. His hands the Vietnam era, fitting in easily VALIANT DEEDS, THOUGH mangled by shrapnel from with the men and women HIS BODY BORE MORE an exploding landmine and giving themselves, and often barely able to walk, he was their lives, in Afghanistan SCARS AND HIS CHEST the last man to board a rescue and Iraq. And during all those MORE DECORATIONS helicopter. The purpose of the meetings with troops, several mission was to rescue a Green people have noted, Howard THAN EITHER OF THESE Beret. declined to play the role of a ACCLAIMED HEROES.” With the 5th Special Forces military legend. He was one of group at the time, Howard them, quiet and humble about and the others battled at who he was and what he had least 250 enemy combatants, achieved. Howard was so humble, Gentsch says, he rarely spoke eventually holding them off until U.S. helicopters swooped of his military service while his own children, including in. Bleeding and thinking he might be temporarily blind, Gentsch’s wife Melissa, were growing up. “I met him in the Howard had fought on, dragging several men to safety, 1980s and frankly did not know much about him, because living to fight another day. “This is the man who one night ran alongside an enemy my wife did not know much about his Vietnam service,” truck on Highway 110, holding a claymore detonator in he says. his hand, then tossed the mine into a truck full of startled hen Howard succumbed to cancer on Dec. 23, NVA [North Vietnamese Army] and detonated it,” Plaster most Americans had no idea who he was, or writes. “On another occasion, he saw a VC [Viet Cong] terrorist riding the back of a motorbike toss a grenade at what he had done. “In 1955, every schoolkid knew Alvin York’s and a GI chow line. [He] took off at a dead run, snatched an Audie Murphy’s names. In 1970, no one ever heard of M-16 away from an amazed security guard, dropped to one Bob Howard’s valiant deeds, though his body bore more knee, carefully aimed and shot the driver dead, then chased scars and his chest more decorations than either of these the passenger a half-mile and shot him dead, too.” Adds Plaster, “What’s all the more impressive is that acclaimed heroes,” retired Army Maj. John L. Plaster, a former special operator, wrote in SOG: The Secret Wars of Howard thought both missions unremarkable and received no award for either.” It is Plaster’s book – the publication America’s Commandos in Vietnam. What he had done was “so overwhelming it is hard of which was delayed until the Defense Department for me to imagine it,” says Kaitlin Horst, a spokeswoman perused it because of its emphasis on secret missions -for Arlington National Cemetery. In Howard’s case, some that helped shed light on Howard’s bravery and on the would say the rock-hard Alabaman stands alone, beyond Studies and Observation Group (SOG) that included Army Murphy and York. “The other two can’t compare to Bob; Green Berets, Air Force commandos and Navy SEALs. The no one can because no one received more decorations” SOG was answerable primarily to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. says Littrell, a Kentuckian now living in St. Petersburg, Fla. Plaster himself served with these units in Vietnam, and “Bob was recommended for three Medals of Honor, but writes from firsthand experience. According to a forward for Plaster’s book, written by received only one because that is just the way it was during retired Army Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, who headed up the Vietnam War.” Speculation at the time was that the Pentagon and the SOG operations from 1966 to 1968, “SOG performed the Nixon administration feared that three Medals of Honor war’s covert special operations, running far-flung, topwould draw too much public attention to Howard’s Special secret missions all across Southeast Asia with indigenous Operations mission, instead awarding him a Silver Star saboteurs and agents in North Vietnam; Green Beret-led and the Distinguished Service Star for the other two acts recon teams that penetrated the heavily defended Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia; of valor. The three Medal of Honor recommendations for raider companies and platoons that struck deep into
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Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 35
Laos and Cambodia; rescue teams that went after POWs and downed pilots; SEAL naval advisers who trained Vietnamese Sea Commandos for missions on the coasts of North and South Vietnam; propagandists who confused, deceived and manipulated our foes; and courageous fixedwing and helicopter aviators who flew anywhere, anytime, to insert and extract SOG’s covert warriors.” In a way, they all should have received Medals of Honor.
n recent years, as Howard traveled the world to meet and talk with troops, he found himself moving more toward the people who truly understood what he went through, and understood the direction his life had taken. Those people included many of the 91(as of this writing) surviving Medal of Honor recipients. Says Victoria Kueck, director of operations for the nonprofit Congressional Medal of Honor Society in Mount Pleasant, S.C. -- which helps tell the stories of the surviving members as well those of the more than
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Courtesy Howard Family
s for Howard, the ultimate SOG warrior, his entire life was a Medal of Honor. He was born to wear one. Born on July 11, 1939, he was brought up in the east-central Alabama community of Opelika. His father and four uncles served in World War II, several of them as paratroopers. Two of the uncles died in combat, and the three others, including his father, died from war-related wounds. The story has it that Howard and his sister went to the cotton fields to help pay the bills for his mother and grandparents. He did find time to star with the Opelika High School football team, but rejected a college scholarship to join the military and the 101st Airborne in 1956 at age 17, two years after the Vietnamese decimated French forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Three years later, President Eisenhower sent advisers to Vietnam. President Kennedy then escalated the U.S. presence slightly, and by 1966 President Johnson was sending thousands of troops into Vietnam, including Howard, who had joined the Army as an enlisted man but later took a commission as a first lieutenant and retired as a colonel. He served first with the 101st Airborne, to honor his family, and then as an Army Special Forces troop with the SOG group. It did not take long for Howard’s reputation to spread across Vietnam. If you needed a guy to fight with you, you turned to Bob Howard, who would put himself in harm’s way for you, and for the flag, anytime and anyplace. Despite the number of times Howard was wounded, he remained sturdy and fit, in Vietnam and afterward. Friends and family say he was probably in so much pain in the last few years, though, that by the time pancreatic cancer struck he was not about to complain about it. Doctors did not diagnose his disease until shortly before his death. Regarding the Medal of Honor he received from President Nixon in 1971, the events that led to it mirrored virtually his every move throughout the war. It was just Bob being Bob, larger than life, much larger than life, friends say. And when a national U.S. newscaster, Brian Williams, told Howard’s story in 2007, the nation -- six years after 9/11 -- at long last stood at the ready to honor its Vietnam heroes.
3,000 other deceased Medal of Honor recipients -- “They are a special group; [they need] one another.” Littrell, Howard’s friend who received his Medal of Honor while advising a unit of Vietnamese rangers, shouting advice and orders in Vietnamese during an April 8, 1970, attack in embattled Kon Tum Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, recalls the bond he developed with Howard. “We never actually served together, although we crossed paths all the time in Vietnam, and at a Ranger school in Georgia; we became friends in the 1970s, when we received the Medals of Honor.” Littrell received his in 1973, two years after Howard. “When they flew Bob off to the White House in ’71, direct from the battlefield, he did not know exactly why he was being honored” because he had been in combat the entire time, Littrell says. In recent years, the bond between Howard and Littrell tightened even more. Littrell, 65, remains devastated by the loss of his friend, and others too. “We’re losing a lot of Vietnam veterans now, many of them to cancer, maybe because of Agent Orange. They’re going pretty fast.” As he spoke, Littrell could not contain his sadness. His spirits picked up immediately, however, when asked one more time to compare his friend, Bob Howard, to Audie Murphy and Alvin York. “No comparison,” he said with conviction. “There was nobody like Bob.” That same theme was echoed in February at a Fort Benning, Ga., memorial service when Howard’s son, Army Sgt. Robert Howard Jr., who is following in his dad’s footsteps in the Special Forces, said, “Everyone talks about his military accolades, and all he accomplished, which was incredible, but just as a regular person, he also was a great man.”
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 37
THE ROBBY MILLER STORY: Standing Proud,
to the End
By Tom Breen
38 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
ot far from Chicago, the good people of Wheaton, Ill. are gearing up this spring to dedicate a bridge in memory of favorite son Robert James Miller, the 24-year-old Army Special Forces warrior and recent Medal of Honor recipient who spent much of his life in the Chicago suburb. Three years ago he single-handedly faced down as many as 100 Taliban insurgents in northeastern Afghanistan, sacrificing himself to save more than 20 American and Afghan National Army forces. For Miller, a gregarious soul who could not be slowed down after taking his first steps at 7 months old, the bridge serves as a lasting and fitting metaphor for his own remarkable personal journey, one that propelled him from the heartland to no-man’s land. And at the end, after dying a hero’s death, the final journey of this young Green Beret known as Robby took him to the quietude of All Faiths Memorial Cemetery in Casselberry, near Orlando, Fla., not far from where much of his family now lives after migrating from the Midwest, and where 200 people gathered early this year to witness the unveiling of a Medal of Honor marker commemorating his unimaginable valor. Said Adm. Eric Olson, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, as Miller’s headstone was being unveiled Jan. 22, “Robby was tough, skilled, smart. ... He knew what he was doing and what mattered.” On the day he died, Miller knew exactly what he was doing and what mattered. What mattered on that subfreezing day of Jan. 25, 2008, was carrying out a mission to hunt down insurgents and help protect his teammates and innocent villagers in the treacherous Kunar Valley near the Pakistan border. As he had for so many days before this one, Miller, a member of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., had trekked with his U.S. and Afghan teammates along trails framed by snowcapped mountains and sinking valleys, engaging villagers here and there, always casting a wary eye in search of marauding Taliban insurgents. It was cold and quiet, nothing eventful. In a flash, though, as each of our combat warriors knows, the mundane can erupt into a fiery inferno of weapons fire and explosions. It was that way for Miller and his teammates -- first walking along still and motionless trails, then confronting hell on earth.
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The mission that day held deep significance for Miller. Even as a child, he thought of evil and how ordinary people were destroyed by it, reflecting on dictators ranging from Cambodia’s Pol Pot to Hitler. Some of his early friends were children of Cambodian refugees, and his interest in Hitler grew from his parents’ work in Germany during the Cold War, and from a paper he did for an eighth-grade history class in Wheaton, built around an interview with a German Navy veteran. So now, years removed from his eighthgrade history assignment, here he was, a 24-year-old Special Forces weapons specialist, confronting evil in his own way, trudging along the snow-packed trails of Kunar, conducting a mission to “clear a valley of insurgents who had been attacking Afghan forces and terrorizing villagers,” as President Barack Obama said when bestowing the Medal of Honor in October. As the U.S.-Afghan team members trudged through the snow, they confronted an insurgent compound, quickly “unleashing their fire and calling in airstrikes,” Obama said, and then moved in to assess the battle damage. But the team then found itself under attack from as many as 100 insurgents bursting out from the countryside. As point man, with the attack under way, Miller remained at the front, ordering his men -- in English and in the Afghan dialect of Pashto -to pull back. Then he suddenly veered toward the enemy himself, throwing grenades, firing his weapon, providing “suppressive fire and calling out targets the entire time,” his teammates now say, to protect his men and to allow teammates to haul Army Capt. Robert Cusick, who had been shot through the lung, to safety. As some of his team safeguarded Cusick, now a major, Miller remained in the open, exposed to enemy fire, wounded twice in the chest yet still firing at Taliban guerrillas falling around him, a young Achilles at the front, life ebbing away, but his personal resolve growing as his blood drenched the snow. “If it wasn’t for Robby,” Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas McGarry told reporters later, “there probably would be a lot of us dead or wounded; he saved us all from that. I looked to my right to see where he was. I literally saw him charging the enemy.” Cusick, the wounded commander, said later, “It’s men like Robby who make the U.S. military special. I’m able to talk to you guys because of Robby Miller. That’s what makes this country so great ... men like Robby who are willing to die for their friends.” Adds Miller’s dad, Phil, “The mission, his teammates, the people of Afghanistan and American values -- all of it meant everything to Robby.” In all, Army officials who recommended Miller for the Medal of Honor -- the rarest and most prestigious of American combat awards -- estimate he killed or wounded as many as
50 insurgents and saved the lives of many of his teammates. As in any battle, or any military endeavor for that matter, Sgt. Miller did not stand alone. His battlefield ethos was duplicated by the rest of his teammates, especially by those who ran in to attempt to save him as the holocaust flamed on. “The relentless fire forced them back, but they refused to leave their fallen comrade,” Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said last October during a Hall of Heroes induction for Miller at the Pentagon. “When reinforcements arrived, these Americans went in again, risking their lives, taking more casualties, determined to bring [him] out of that valley. And finally, after fighting that raged for hours, they did. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. Such is the ethos of our American soldier and such was the ethos of [Miller] and his team.” To some, Casey’s words might ring hollow, sloganeering of sorts, but to Miller they were words to live and die by. A warrior fights on to the very end if need be, for values and friendships that go far beyond one’s self. A friend from back in Wheaton, Bobby Kaye, recalled in interviews, “In high school, he was driven. It was ... like he was driven by more than himself.”
“THE RELENTLESS FIRE FORCED THEM BACK, BUT THEY REFUSED TO LEAVE THEIR FALLEN COMRADE.”
40 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
hat was the way his family always viewed him, beginning a few months after his birth when he was walking at seven months, to his days in school when he drove himself to learn other languages including German and Latin, and to his gymnastics training. In fact, he practiced so relentlessly at Wheaton North High School that his coach forced him to go home at night so the lights could be flicked off. This was one determined guy, someone who could be impatient and critical when detecting mistakes, but someone always respected for his relentless energy. So knowing how determined and tough their son was, his family tried not to worry. Yet even the toughest among us can be cornered by a fierce enemy. On the day of the 2008 battle that took Robby’s life, the Millers in Florida were immersed in the routine of another ordinary day. Phil was in and out of the house, working at his job as an engineer, and his wife Maureen was at home. Suddenly, like a Florida lightning bolt, uniformed military officers walked to the Millers’ door. “We knew why they were there, without even talking to them,” Phil says. Maureen and Phil can talk easily, with enthusiasm and joy, about their son’s accomplishments and dreams, and even can talk in a measured way about the day he gave his life. But it is the day the military men walked up to their doorstep, in the mildness of a Florida winter, they cannot discuss. Born in Harrisburg, Pa., in the fall of 1983, Miller moved
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 41
with his family to Wheaton as a youngster. It was there he grew up, went to elementary, middle and high school, not certain what the future might hold but enamored of U.S. and world history, as well as the military. He was influenced by his parents’ experiences in Berlin and Russia during the Cold War, Phil as an Army translator fluent in German, and Maureen as a Russian-language expert who also could speak German. By the time Rob was born in 1983, Maureen and Phil had returned to the states, continuing to raise their family of eight first in Pennsylvania, then Illinois and later in Florida. Robby was the second-oldest. Of their children, Robby, named after two grandfathers who served in World War II, was the one always trying to break free, even as a toddler, determined to explore the world around him. He also had an early interest in other cultures, Maureen says. When he was young, his mother tutored Cambodian women in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital, where the family lived for a time. Her son quickly picked up Cambodian words, and made friends with the youngsters. He possessed an early facility for German, too. Recalls Maureen, “[Because] Phil was a German translator for the Army, and since I also knew German, we would speak to each other in German when our children were young, and we didn’t want them to understand us. Of course that motivated them to want to learn German, and they gradually picked up some.’’ Even as a child, Robby was determined to expand the horizons of his own culture, a quality he took with him years later to the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. But before Afghanistan came his adolescence. Moving through school in Wheaton, he did well, but not always as well as he could have, primarily because his curiosity seemed stifled sometimes by a classroom structure. “He gave it his all if he was interested, but not so much if he was not,” his father says. That is a trait he shared with several other recent Medal of Honor recipients, men whose potential gushed out of them once they donned military uniforms. With high school behind him, he entered the University of Iowa, trying out for the gymnastics team but falling short. Gymnastics had intrigued him as a child, and he spent countless hours becoming good at it, winning numerous awards in high school. Yet even with his skills, he could not make the Iowa team, and started thinking about life beyond college though he only had a year behind him at the time. Like so many other men of his age, he also felt the pull of 9/11 and enlisted in the Army in 2003 at age 19.
t was the Army Special Forces that beckoned him, drawn in by the outfit’s never-ending challenges along with its lore, tradition, valor, intellectuality and physicality, a “special place for a special person,” his father says. In
42 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
short, Special Forces helped satisfy his relentless desire to drive himself physically -- as he repeatedly demonstrated in gymnastics -- as well as his unwavering intellectual curiosity, especially through the unit’s emphasis on language skills. He learned French as his required language, and later the Afghan dialect of Pashto. Added to his German and Latin, he was a multilingual wonder, friends and family say. (Each Green Beret must demonstrate acumen for language, mastering at least one foreign tongue and often more.) By the time he returned to Afghanistan for his second combat tour beginning in the fall of 2007, he had become fluent in Pashto. Back in the states, shortly after the fierce battle in Kunar Province, the Millers were told their son might be nominated for an award. As Maureen puts it, “We heard officially from the military within days of Rob’s death that he had been put up for a high award, but because of our state of mind at the time, and our lack of familiarity with higher awards, we didn’t ask what the award was.” Later, one of their son’s commanders at Fort Bragg told them Robby was up for the Medal of Honor, but it was not until last summer they received a call from the casualty assistance officer that DoD had been trying to reach them and wanted to know if they could take a call. “We thought it would be some low-level bureaucrat and were not expecting at all a call from the White House,” she says. “Once we picked up the phone and heard that the president wanted to speak to us, we [knew] what it was for.” For the next couple of minutes, the Millers talked with the president, who invited them to Washington in October for the medal ceremony. For the Millers, going to the White House and accepting Robby’s Medal of Honor was their way of honoring not only Robby and another son, Tom, who has joined the Army, but all the troops serving throughout the world. As they look back, they now think of a son who not only rose in combat, but one who shined as an informal ambassador of sorts for American values. He spoke Pashto, he rode horses across the Afghan countryside, he shared meals with villagers, and even showed Afghan troops a video of snowboarding, telling them, if the war stopped, they too could snowboard along the ranges. Along the way, as with many Green Berets, he certainly turned himself into a Renaissance man of sorts, prepared to fight, but always leading, learning and broadening himself in a strange new culture, even in the face of imminent danger. We can see him now, bubbling with energy and resolve: One moment, he is riding a horse through a village, smiling and waving to the local folk, and the next he is confronting evil and sacrificing himself without hesitation. That is the way it is with warriors and their families: One second, the world is normal and predictable. The next second, it is not.
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 43
A Warrior’s Story By Tom Breen
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want ... He Maketh me to lie down in green pastures ... he leadeth me beside the still waters ... Yea, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ... for thou art with me ... ~ An excerpt from the 23rd Psalm
he ancient psalm, the one for the ages, inspires and drives him ... always has, always will. Its infinite message of faith and solidarity helped guide him as he grew tall on the ranch lands of East Texas in the 1980s, out there amid the sweet scents of the pines and red oaks. It strengthened him as he endured and survived Navy SEAL training, and it empowered him as he faced down the enemy in the unforgiving Hindu Kush mountain range of northeastern Afghanistan in late June 2005. It is a psalm, he says, that is ingrained in the SEAL ethos because it reflects “our unspoken invincibility, the silent code of the elite warriors of the U.S. Armed Forces.” He is not the first person to place, understandably, the SEALs and their mission on a biblical plain. Now, four years after the Hindu Kush, especially on the darkest of his days, when the memories tear through him with the ferocity of a rapier, the words provide comfort, comfort he truly needs as he carries with him, forever, the epic images of his close buddies, “Mikey, Axe, and Danny,” battling and slaying countless Taliban guerrillas before they fell themselves, and of the other eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers who died aboard a rescue helicopter brought down by Taliban fire. More SEALs died in this one battle than in any other single incident in the force’s history.
Yea I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ... for thou art with me.
44 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
It is out of these very shadows that Marcus Luttrell -- Texan, American, Christian and SEAL through and through -- has emerged, alone, to tell and retell the saga of the Hindu Kush. He says he talks about what
PHOTO: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon
PHOTO: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon
PHOTO: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon
Right: The strain of hoisting and hauling a pole as heavy as a telephone pole shows in the faces of these would-be SEALS.
Left: Luttrell calls this exercise “SEAL training at the peak of its ruthlessness.” The water is freezing and the instructor is merciless.
Left: A boatload of SEAL students has landed their boat on the rocks and dragged it up to the beach, but not without getting an earful from the instructor.
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 45
happened there because he wants his words to serve as a and killed three pirates off the coast of Somalia, including living tribute to his dead American brethren. They were one who was pointing a weapon at an American hostage’s his pals, his guys, who stopped breathing up there in the head. The hostage, a ship’s captain, survived only because of snowcapped ranges where few Americans have trekked. He SEAL expertise, honed by their extraordinary training. also wants “anti-military people” to attempt to understand Although retired from the SEALs now, after serving one the nature and nuances of the U.S. and SEAL mission in the final tour in the Middle East war zone, Luttrell, living mostly Middle East. in Texas, remains a SEAL in his Does he think the SEAL heart in every way. “It is what I role keeps us all safe? Damn am, you never stop being one,” right, he does. he tells DEFENSE STANDARD IN AN INTERVIEW, HE And when he talks about only a few hours after four REMEMBERS THEIR VALOR, the Hindu Kush, and the men, apparently without operation that came to be provocation, gunned down his AND THEN GOES SILENT known as Red Wing, he does gentle and beloved Labrador BEFORE TELLING A WRITER, it with flowing pride in his named DASY, a gift intended to fellow SEALs, but without comfort him as he continues the POLITELY BUT FIRMLY, personal bombast or selfmonumental task of rebuilding “WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO glorification. You also can his life in the wake of the sense an aching as he speaks, a Afghanistan firefight. IS HONOR THEM, HONOR relentless longing actually, that Of DASY’s death, he says MY BUDDIES.” consumes him as he yearns to quietly, “I could have killed see his buddies just one more those guys.” But he did not. time -- not now, but later, in He did, however, chase the the eternal “green pastures” men through several counties, of his favorite psalm. In an interview, he remembers their at speeds up to 100 miles an hour, staying in constant contact valor, and then goes silent before telling a writer, politely with a police dispatcher. The four later were apprehended, but firmly, “What I want you to do is honor them, honor with a Texas Ranger telling the Houston Chronicle, “Marcus my buddies.” is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training For his part, he certainly has done just that, in his book, during the chase.” It was this very training, of course, back in the mountains “Lone Survivor,” in the work he does with veterans groups, including Wounded Warriors, and in virtually every of the Hindu Kush, that saved his life, turning him forever into the Lone Survivor from the Lone Star State. conversation he has with people -- public and private. It was in 2007 -- two years after the June 2005 firefight that claimed the lives of his three SEAL teammates on JUNE 2005 the ground in Afghanistan, (Medal of Honor recipient Lt. The four SEAL team members from Operation Red Michael P. Murphy, Sonar Technician (Surface) Second Class Matthew G. Axelson, and Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Wing, with orders in hand, have been dropped in the Danny P. Dietz), and 16 other Special Forces troops riding dark from a Chinook near the jagged, foreboding and in the rescue helicopter -- that Luttrell wrote Lone Survivor, snowcapped Hindu Kush mountain range up against a heart-stopping memoir of commitment, patriotism and Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. They include team Homeric heroism. The ordinary person hardly can believe leader Michael Murphy, and team members Matthew what happened in Afghanistan that day, but, then -- after Axelson, Danny Dietz and Marcus Luttrell, who is the only medic of the four. They carry rifles, grenades, food all -- these are Special Forces guys he is writing about. Luttrell wrote the memoir on Cape Cod with Patrick and water, and communications equipment. Luttrell also Robinson, a well-known author of naval biographies has high-explosive devices, and an Image Stabilization and and fiction. “Patrick was wonderful to work with; he Light Distribution Unit (ISLiD). Their mission: to locate, understood what the SEALs are all about,” Luttrell says. and capture or kill, a notorious Taliban leader identified to The book provides details not only of the Hindu Kush, them as Ahmad Shah. A murderous sect, the Taliban had ruled Afghanistan and of Luttrell’s furious struggle to remain alive, but takes readers deep inside the mysterious and impenetrable world mercilessly until the U.S. invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001; it is armed mostly with weaponry, including (for outsiders) of the American SEAL. For example, it examines the draconian but totally Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles and RPG-7 rocket-propelled necessary SEAL training, including the notorious Hell Week grenades, stolen during Afghanistan’s war with the former in which countless potential SEALs drop out, and leaves no Soviet Union in the latter part of the last century. Although doubt that SEALs are trained to live and die for each other hardly a modern Army in a 21st-century dimension, and country, but never for themselves. It is an ethos that the Taliban nevertheless pose a significant threat to the surfaced again clearly in April 2009, when SEAL marksmen, Afghanistan populace, government and American forces, if putting themselves at risk, somehow and some way shot for no other reason than blood lust. 46 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
PHOTO: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon
In his book, Luttrell says he has often stood on lonely Afghan mountainsides like this one searching for advancing Taliban convoys.
As the SEAL team prepares to locate Shah’s position, Luttrell and the others organize their gear and weapons, operating stealthily, bracing for a possible firefight. Suddenly the four spot a collection of mountain goats, accompanied by three males, one a teenager. Are these intruders truly shepherds, or are they Taliban operatives? Should we kill them, or release them, the SEALS debate. After a time, as Luttrell often recalls, the Americans “do the Christian thing” and send them on their way. The decision will prove to be monumentally fateful, and, for Luttrell, deeply ironic.
SPRING 2009 Around the globe, via the Internet and otherwise, Marcus Luttrell and the Lone Survivor have become eponymous: One cannot exist without the other. After living through an ordeal that few can imagine, and even fewer could emerge from, Luttrell realizes his book, as with the 23rd Psalm, is a rock-hard, dissoluble part of his identity. As a survivor of a horrendous firefight, against overwhelming odds, “People tell me I have given them hope, the will to keep living, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me,” he says from the East Texas ranch, “out in the middle of nowhere,” where he spends much of his time when not speaking publicly and undergoing yet another surgery for his battlefield injuries, which include arm and back wounds.
As for the death of DASY, his cherished Lab who was wandering in his own yard in early April, it has struck him particularly hard. DASY stood as a living memorial to Mikey, Axe, Danny and the others (DASY is acronym for “Danny” Dietz, Matthew “Axe” Axelson, “Southern Boy” Marcus Luttrell, and “Yankee” Michael Murphy.) A gripping irony, one of many in Luttrell’s life, is that he survived a ruthless enemy in Afghanistan to return home to his native and beloved Texas -- where he was born within minutes of his identical twin brother Morgan (also a SEAL) in 1975 -- only to encounter another type of enemy, a group of men selecting an innocent dog at random, and killing her for no reason. The enemy, sometimes it can be everywhere, even in your yard.
JUNE 2005 After releasing the three shepherds, the SEALS brace for the worst, nevertheless hoping and praying that their “Christian” decision to release the trio will not haunt them. It does. Not long after the goat herd vanishes, more than 100 Taliban guerrillas, turbaned and weapons extended, mass for battle on a nearby ledge. The shepherds undoubtedly tipped off the Taliban, and, after what seems to be a literal eternity (although only a few minutes actually pass) Luttrell sees, through vision-detecting equipment, a Taliban rifle aimed directly at his head, up on the ledge. Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 47
PHOTO: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tim Turner
Kill or be killed. The SEAL fires his Mark 12.556-caliber rifle the area, a man named Billy Shelton. As Luttrell says in his first. The Taliban guerrilla crumbles. The fight to the finish book, Shelton “was one of the toughest men I ever met. ... has begun – four SEALS against a literal Taliban army. One afternoon just before my fifteenth birthday, I plucked What follows next has become SEAL lore, the subject of up my courage and went to the house to ask if he could a probable movie, and a story that hardly seems believable, train me to become a Navy SEAL.” Shelton, who looked to although it is, vetted countless times by Pentagon brass Luttrell “like he could have slammed a rhino,” agreed to skeptical by nature. teach him everything It is not that the brass he knew. later doubted Luttrell; For his part, Shelton, it is that the Battle of with the blessing of Murphy’s Ridge, as military recruiters and Luttrell calls it, truly local officials, ended defies belief. up preparing, for the So it is, always Special Forces, scores now, up there in of young men in East these god-forsaken Texas. “Billy’s training Afghan mountains, (running, swimming, on this summer weights) was as (rigid), day in 2005, that in a lot of ways, as SEAL Mike Murphy, training,” Luttrell Danny Dietz and now recalls, saying he Matthew Axelson mostly was prepared fight literally to for the SEAL regimen their dying breaths, Thankfully not all Afghan villagers are hostile to us. Right here a couple of US Special because of Shelton. Forces question the locals, and a lot of them are happy to help. Out at the SEAL all ravaged with wounds as they take countless Taliban with them. The base at Coronado Beach, Calif., Luttrell survived the SEAL team leader Murphy, later awarded the Medal of relentless SEAL regimen including swimming in frigid Honor, abandons his cliffside protection to stand in the waters and then running 20 miles or so, carrying small open, easy prey for the Taliban, to radio for help from a U.S. inflatable boats for hours, and lugging, in groups, telephonebase in the region, knowing full well his radio will operate pole-sized logs. In the end, all that training -- Shelton’s, his only away from the cliffs. “My men are dying, I need help,” dad’s and the SEALs -- saved the Lone Survivor’s life. He he pleads, gushing blood. Then he falls, forever, along with did not know it then. He knows it now. Dietz, Axelson, and later the eight SEALS and eight Army Night stalkers who swooped into the area aboard an MH- JUNE 2005 47 helicopter to rescue Murphy and the others, only to be After surviving a blast that knocks him unconscious, shot down by Taliban rockets. Of the 20 Americans in the Hindu Kush this day, and struggling to his feet, his buddies gone, Luttrell only Luttrell survives after being knocked unconscious, wanders from the battlefield for several miles, eluding the hidden from his attackers by high rocks. He too has fought Taliban, and eyeing adobe houses scattered about in the like a lion, along with the others, before being knocked valley below. He has been shot in the leg, and his entire unconscious, away from Taliban sight. He knows his body is ravaged from the blast and from several falls. With his Mark 12 rifle at his side, “which God made sure three SEAL buddies are gone, but does not find out about the others in the downed helicopter until his rescue. He stayed with me,” as well as his Image Stabilization and Light becomes the only survivor, he will say later, because of his Distribution Unit used for “guiding an incoming helicopter,” SEAL training and because of tough guys like his dad, and the solitary SEAL hikes and crawls toward a mountain stream, shooting at least two Taliban trackers along the way. Billy Shelton. His mouth is shut tight because of extreme thirst. Half-dead from the ordeal, he collapses, to be discovered SPRING 2009 later by several Pashtun villagers. They carry him to their On the days Marcus Luttrell is back home, his memories village. The Pashtun is a major ethnic tribe in Afghanistan, of boyhood and adolescence come rushing back -- of and, as Luttrell discovers, adheres to the code of lokhay learning to swim like a fish and hunt like Davy Crockett. warkawal, which literally means that, once tribal members His dad, David, an ex-Navy gunner during the Vietnam become committed to protecting or defending a person or War, intended for his boys to be tough -- swimmers, hunters persons, they will do so even at the cost of their own lives. and survivors. It is a dog-eat-dog world, he often told them. The villagers pull out a bullet, shelter and feed him, and Beyond their dad, there was yet another spirited, fend off Taliban insurgents determined to kill him. The Pashtun tribe traditionally has been repelled by the leathery influence in the lives of the Luttrells. It came in the burly form of a former Green Beret sergeant who lived in violence and dictatorial methods of the Taliban, a reason 48 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
to protect Luttrell. The Taliban, for their part, fear that the Pashtun might turn against them if they kill Luttrell, because of the code of lokhay, but still push their way past Pashtun villagers at one point, torturing him, breaking bones in a wrist. But the Taliban thugs back off and leave the Pashtun village, and Luttrell, terribly weakened after losing 35 pounds from his 6-foot, 5-inch, 235-pound frame, eventually is located by Army Rangers, who had spotted the beams from the ISLiD signal that Luttrell had flashed before being taken in by the Pashtun. The irony, of course, is unmistakable: Luttrellâ€™s SEAL team spared the lives of the shepherds, and Pashtun villagers, chasing away the Taliban, spared his.
SPRING 2009 Consumed by battlefield memories that never fade -especially the one of Murphyâ€™s dying pleas for help out there in the open, away from the cliffs, bullets ripping through him -- Marcus Luttrell rarely sleeps through the night. His life can be a struggle, complicated by surgeries, mindless violence like the unprovoked death of Dasy, and
stupidity such as the night in New York City when a patron at a bar provoked a fight after discovering Luttrell had been a SEAL. Beyond such mindlessness, Luttrell also must cope with the prospect of countless more U.S. troops -- Special Forces and otherwise -- dying in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama ramps up the war there. As for his personal situation now, he forever is destined to remain the Lone Survivor, perpetually encased by memories that only his dead buddies, and other Special Forces warriors, can begin to comprehend. In the end, with their memories always embedded in him, he carries on, hoping to become a doctor and speaking publicly as much as he can about the epic events up there in the Hindu Kush. And, when times are toughest, when he awakens with his memories in the quiet of a Texas night, he turns to his psalm, to the words that long have provided him comfort ...
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want ... He Maketh me to lie down in green pastures ... he leadeth me beside the still waters ... Yea, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ... for thou art with me ...
SEALS from the ill-fated Operation Red Wing pose in Afghanistan.
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 49
Features: •Portable •Enclosed Media Chamber •Localized Repairs of Small Damage Benefits: •Repairs Previously Scrapped Parts •Significantly Lowers Expenses •Treatment Repeatability •Shorter TAT
50 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
TIME, RESOURCES, MONEY SAVED WITH NEW TECHNOLOGIES
tems get misplaced and countless hours are spent on inventory in the armories, tool rooms, and ALSE storage facilities of our military and other agencies. While billions are spent making sure the latest and greatest technology is being developed, purchased, and implemented, a simple pen and paper is the obsolete technology being utilized to monitor accountability and inventory of our nation’s equipment. After losing countless hours waiting to check out, check in, and track down missing tools, former military personnel decided to take action. Now employed by Avion Solutions, these personnel were “presented with an opportunity to reduce this nonproductive time by automating current business regulatory processes using Automated Information Technology (AIT), as was chartered by (at the time) PMJAIT,” stated Jim Hardy, AIT Program Manager for Avion Solutions. Formed in January 1992 in response to the aviation engineering and analytical needs of the U. S. Army Aviation community, Avion Solutions Inc. has been providing engineering, logistics, and software solutions to the U. S. military for over 20 years, and has also expanded into additional software and biometric solutions with wide commercial applications. Avion Solutions continues its extensive support for PEO Aviation, RDEC, AMCOM functional elements and related organizations, across all engineering and technical logistical lines from its headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama. Avion’s asset tracking systems include TRMS (Tool Room Management System), ARMS (Arms Room Management System), and ALSE (Aviation Life Support Equipment). These systems utilize Item Unique Identification marks (IUIDs) and distinct marks – small, two dimensional markings - which are scanned during the issue, receipt or inventory processes to automate current busi ness procedures. When the marks are scanned, the item is automatically attached to the person checking it out, reducing human errors, allowing the leadership to view inventory at a glance, and providing 100% inventory accountability with historical records.
ALSE • Web-based application tracks aviation surival equipment, bench stock, and Personal Flight Equipment (PFE) • Capability to order repair parts through Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) • Utilizes IUID and ISO compliant marks for issuing/receiving assets • Provides trend analysis and increased visibility while also streamlining management decision processes As an optional upgrade to asset tracking, biometric capabilities will provide 99.9% positive identification accuracy. Avion has partnered with Hitachi to utilize their finger vein technology, which uses near-infrared light to detect the pattern of blood in a user’s veins. The device then stores the image and is able to recognize the user to give it access at the appropriate level. Because the biometric identifier is internal (finger vein) as opposed to external (finger print), the biometric data will be less prone to damage or deterioration due to injury or age. Avion’s additional capabilities with finger vein readers include physical access and visitor management.
I was returning from “Iraq, my family was waiting, and it took me three hours to return my weapon.
TRMS • Inventory and accountability management system allows visibility of tools through all phases of asset transactions, storage, and maintenance • Designed to work in a network environment or as a standalone system • Provides automated accountability and forecasting for Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic equipment (TMDE) • Provides calibration forecasting ARMS • Web-based total asset visibility system enhances and simplifies day to day activities by providing tracking of assets throughout all phases of issue, receipt, inventory and maintenance • Developed to provide electronic information on the location and condition of assets
While asset tracking and biometrics have wideranging applications, Avion also offers a unique shot peening solution, addressing a very specific need within the aviation community. Supported by funding from a Small Business Innovative Research contract, Avion teamed with SONATS, a French-based technology company, to adapt existing revolutionary ultrasonic shot peening technology to meet the critical safety standards of the U. S. Army. Shot Peening is a surface enhancement for metallic components that significantly increases their service life. Instead of using air to excite the media, Ultrasonic Shot Peening (USP) excites the media ultrasonically at a frequency of 20 kHz. With conventional shot peening, disassembly is often required, and the conventional shot peening booth size limits the components that can be peened. However, USP is a mobile solution which does not require complete disassembly and can be moved to treat a compo nent wherever it is located.
A summary of benefits: Large ROI due to the lower cost of repairs on high priced parts which were previously scrapped Shorter turnaround time as a result of little or no masking combined with ease of set up and the elimination of the need to ship parts to the original manfacturer Small localized capability with custom enclosures, called end effectors, that mate directly to the part, exposing only the surface to be treated Reduction of repair parts previously scrapped by creating a localized and custom repair process Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 51
Avion has enjoyed continued success and sustained growth over its two decades of operation through the provision of quality, dedicated, innovative, and timely responses to customer requirements. The firm currently employs over 150 engineering and technical personnel. A professional product and engineering service organization, Avion specializes in technical and operational so lutions through the application of research, analysis, computer and software technology. Our growth and success is based upon employing dedicated and knowledgeable employees who provide high quality service and deliver on-time performance. Avion is dedicated to providing the most efficient, high quality solutions to our customers in order to fully satisfy and exceed re quirements and expectations in a cost-effective manner. We measure our success by the success of our customers in performing their mission. In addition to the home office in Huntsville, AL, Avion employees are stationed at: Redstone Arsenal, AL; Fort Campbell, KY; Clarksville, TN; Fort Bragg, NC; Chesterfield/St. Louis, MO.
Engineering Test and Evaluation Logistics Software Development Biometrics
Career Opportunities at www.AvionSolutions.com (256) 721-7006 4905 Research Drive NW Huntsville, Alabama 35805
PHOTO: Cpl. Christian Varney
The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs during a Friday Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. 52 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
PHOTO: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John P. Curtis
Builder 3rd Class Richard Hanna, a Seabee assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, crosses a three strand bridge at Jungle Warfare Training Center.
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 53
Michael Murphy and the Men of
54 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
By Tom Breen
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 55
he gravestone has settled into God’s good earth, out there on the Atlantic coast, peaceful and pristine, far removed from wartime. The stone at the Calverton National Cemetery honors Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the first Seal since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor. Murphy’s memorial rests near the small Long Island town of Patchogue where he grew up, on the outskirts of New York City, and several thousand miles from the Afghan mountains where he died three years ago this summer in an operation to apprehend a high-ranking enemy militant. In his Long Island town, Murphy still is remembered as the funloving kid who played ice hockey, read everything in sight as a Penn State college student including War and Peace, and chose the Seals over law school. Now, Murphy, as he rests at Calverton, also is known as the hero of Hindu Kush. The night of June 28, 2005, was clear when guerrillas, probably from the Taliban, fired on Murphy’s team in Afghanistan’s treacherous Hindu Kush mountain range, a subset of the Himalayans, near the Pakistan border. The guerrillas, about 50 of them, killed Murphy and his Seal team members, Matt Axelson and Danny Dietz. A fourth Seal with them, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, survived. As the three lay dying, and Luttrell unconscious, an MH-47 Chinook lightly armored helicopter tried to rescue them, but was shot down by the same guerrillas. Eight other Seals, and eight Army Night Stalkers, died. More Seals died on that day than in any other Seal operation in history. Murphy made international headlines, posthumously being awarded the Medal of Honor. The other three on Murphy’s team received the second-highest honor, the Navy Cross. Their story has been told countless times, in the press including Murphy’s hometown paper, Newsday, in Luttrell’s book, Lone Survivor, and on innumerable Internet sites. Part of Luttrell’s account tells of how Murphy exposed himself to fire, heading for an open area away from jagged cliffs so he could radio for help: “(Murphy) walked to open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching the numbers to HQ. ... I could hear him talking. ‘My men are taking heavy fire -- we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here -- we need help.’ ... And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them [phone and rifle] ... sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.” Dying, Murphy said on the phone, ‘Roger that, Sir, thank you,’ and continued to engage the enemy.” Murphy’s “objective was clear: to make one last valiant (effort) to save his .... teammates.” Luttrell survived after being knocked unconscious, and was found later by friendly villagers. 56 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
Left: Eric Kristensen in training
Murphy’s actions -- phone and rifle in hand, blood spurting -- now are engraved in Seal lore, a lasting metaphor for the valor and loyalty to one another that defines Special Operations. Indeed, out there along the jagged cliffs of the Hindu Kush, Murphy and his team took on a mythic veneer. If it were another time in American history, during World War I or II, their valor would be locked into the American psyche, right up there with Audie Murphy from World War II, connected to Michael by spirit if not blood, and Alvin York from World War I. Yet military heroes in our current world seem to fade, recognized for a short while and then cast aside, if not forgotten. Perhaps, however, as times passes, the Saga of Red Wing will occupy its proper place in military lore, fueled in part by the Internet. The story of Murphy’s uncompromising bravery, as told by Luttrell, and the valor of the other Seals and the Army Night Stalkers, is a story that never grows old. Like any tale of war, it is overpowering in its simplicity, yet ferocious in its retelling. It is about four men on a reconnaissance mission, doing what they believed in, three of them on the ground dying, and about another 16 warriors in a helicopter, rushing into help, only to be shot down and killed. Only Luttrell lived to tell the tale.
THE MISSION Operation Red Wing’s goal on that 28th day of June in 2005 was to slay a Taliban leader in his mid-30s, Ahmad Petty Officer Danny Dietz in combat gear.
THE STORY OF MURPHY’S UNCOMPROMISING BRAVERY, AS TOLD BY LUTTRELL, AND THE VALOR OF THE OTHER SEALS AND THE ARMY NIGHT STALKERS, IS A STORY THAT NEVER GROWS OLD. Shah, who had possible ties to Osama Bin Laden. Murphy and the other members of his Seal team left their base in Northern Afghanistan in the still of the night, heading for the border with Pakistan to carry out the mission. The Navy today says Shah, the target of their mission, led a guerrilla group called the Mountain Tigers, which existed in a shadowy world of death and intrigue in and around the border. (For the record, Special Operations spokesmen are unsure of the precise origin of the “Red Wing” name, although some speculate it was tied to a sports team.) After penetrating behind enemy lines, approximately 10,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush, the four Seals found their cover blown after meeting up with two adults and a boy, either shepherds or local villagers. In Lone Survivor, Luttrell tells of how he, Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz debated whether to kill the three before ultimately deciding to release them. About an hour after the outsiders departed, an enemy force of about 50 men attacked the four-member Seal team from three sides. The four, all wounded, leapt down the mountain’s sides, jumping as much as 30 feet, the Navy said later. Less than an hour into the battle, Murphy raced into the open, aware he could not make his distress call from the terrain where they had sought cover, and soon took the bullet in the back. Despite his wounds, Murphy was able to get help from the Special Operations Quick Reaction Force at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base, which dispatched the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying the eight Seals and eight Army Night Stalkers prepared to extract Murphy and the others from the fight that dragged through the hills and cliffs of the Hindu Kush. By the time it was over, after fierce fighting that lasted at least two hours, Murphy, Dietz and Axelson lay dead on the ground, and the Chinook also had fallen to enemy fire, carrying the 16 Seals and Night Stalkers to their deaths. Military spokesmen later said the MH-47, designed to swoop in and leave quickly during rescue efforts, had been accompanied by heavily armored Army attack helicopters. The military said the “heavy weight” of the attack helicopters slowed the formation, prompting the MH-47 to race ahead, putting itself at risk in order to attempt to carry away Murphy and the others. Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 57
from Taliban enemy forces, and eventually transported a note to a Marine outpost, resulting in Luttrell’s rescue on July 2, 2005. If not for Luttrell’s book, written with Patrick Robinson, the story of the events that day in the Hindu Kush might not have reached the public with such force. Luttrell also fully addresses the moral dilemma the Seal team faced that day: Release the outsiders, or kill them? Luttrell never will know if the outsiders ran to the Taliban, but the firefight started a short time later. As for Luttrell, he soon learned about humanity at its best, when villagers including a man identifying himself as a doctor risked their own lives to save him. “There was something about him,” Luttrell writes of the villager describing himself as a doctor. “By now, I’d seen a whole lot of Taliban warriors, and he looked nothing like any of them. There was no arrogance, no hatred in his eyes.”
STERILE WORDS, HEROIC DEEDS
SEALS out on patrol in Afghanistan.
SURVIVOR’S ORDEAL After the deaths of Murphy, Dietz, Axelson and the 16 men aboard the MH-47, Luttrell struggled to survive on his own. As many as 35 guerrillas, probably Taliban members, also died, according to subsequent military reports. Sent sprawling over a ridge after being knocked unconscious by a rocket-propelled grenade, Luttrell had a bullet wound in one leg, shrapnel burrowing into both legs, and was suffering from dehydration, he recalled later in Lone Survivor. Still, he managed to crawl away from the carnage, evading enemy guerrillas and walking several miles before friendly villagers took him in, protected him
With the three-year anniversary of the American deaths in the Hindu Kush upon us, and the awarding of another Medal of Honor to another Seal (for bravery in Iraq in 2006), the missions and makeup of the elite Navy unit are starting to attract more interest among the American public. For recruiters trying to beef up elite Seal units, this is good news. Established by President Kennedy in 1963, the Seals (for Sea, Air and Land) describe themselves as “a small, elite maritime military force” conducting unconventional warfare, and carrying out “the types of clandestine, smallunit, high-impact missions that large forces with highprofile platforms (such as ships, tanks, jets and submarines) cannot.” Seals also “conduct essential on-the-ground Special Reconnaissance of critical targets for imminent strikes by larger conventional forces.” When you read a description such as that, of what Seals do, it sounds so sterile, so matter of fact. It does not talk about the firefight in the Hindu Kush, about Murphy standing in the open seeking help for his men, after a bullet hits him, and of the 16 Seals and Night Stalkers aboard the MH-47 who broke from their formation to sacrifice themselves to retrieve the embattled Seals on the ground. It also does not talk about the tears still being shed at the resting places of Murphy (Section 67, Grave 3710, Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island) and the others, or about bravery and loyalty that in many ways is incomprehensible.
So, here’s to you, the men of
58 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
SEALS ON THE GROUND Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, Patchogue, N.Y. Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, Cupertino, Calif. Gunnerâ€™s Mate 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz, Littleton, Colo.
SEALS ABOARD THE HELICOPTER Chief Fire Controlman Jacques J. Fontan, 36, New Orleans, La. Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, 36, Exeter, N.H. Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, San Diego, Calif. Electronics Technician 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, Corbett, Ore. Lt. Michael M. McGreevy Jr., 30, Portville, N.Y. Machinist Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, Boulder City, Nev. Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, 28, Deerfield Beach, Fla. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, Midway, Va.
ARMY NIGHT STALKERS ABOARD THE HELICOPTER Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, Danville, Ohio Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, Clarks Grove, Minn. Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, Pompano Beach, Fla. Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, Shelbyville, Ind. Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, Franklin, Tenn. Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, Washington Depot, Conn. Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, Stafford, Va. Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, Jacksonville, Fla.
Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 59
60 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
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JOINT TRAUMA SYSTEM
revolutionizes battlefield medicine
By Frank K. Butler and Jeffrey A. Bailey
62 DEFENSE STANDARD Summer 2015
PHOTO: Adam Turner
Sgt. James Byrnes, 615th Military Police Company, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Grafenwoehr, Germany, arrives on the scene to find an injured soldier.
Innovation and Versatility in
2014: Assessment of 32,956 SWAT-T™ applications.
TEMS Solutions: August 2014 Conclusion: The SWAT-T™ is a durable medical device with zero first-time-use failures, when properly used.
2013: Tourniquets and occlusion: the pressure of design.
Military Medicine: May 2013 Conclusion: The SWAT-T™ performed better than the CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet). The SWAT-T™ had safer pressures, and was more effective.
In a class by itself, the SWAT-T ™ is a multi-function trauma care device. Multiple Documented Saves!
2012: Lighting did not affect selfapplication of a stretch and wrap style tourniquet.
Journal of Special Operations Medicine: Fall 2012 Conclusion: The SWAT-T™ stretch and wrap style tourniquet can be self-applied properly even in darkness. When properly applied, it stops limb arterial flow.
2012: Stretch and wrap style tourniquet effectiveness with minimal training.
Military Medicine: November 2012 Conclusion: The SWAT-T™ can easily be properly applied and can stop arterial flow at a variety of extremity locations. Proper application is associated with cessation of arterial flow.
2010: An Evaluation of the SWAT-T
Presented at the 2010 Annual meeting of the Special Operations Medical Association - Douglas M. Kleiner, PhD Conclusion: The SWAT-T™ rated very well in the variables evaluated and was rated comparable to, or better than the C-A-T for size, versatility, intuitiveness, durability, cost, and comfort.
Designed by a former SOF Operator/Medic, the SWAT-T will treat a variety of injuries, minor to life-threatening. The SWAT-T™ is being carried by Military (Conventional and Special Operationsmedical and non-medical personnel), EMS, Law Enforcement Officers, Contractors, and Federal Agents. Carried by many as a pressure dressing, all-purpose wrap, primary and/or back-up tourniquet.
“The ultimate trauma multi-tool.” -HA US Navy, SEAL “The SWAT-T packs light and is superior for kids.” - RS, Special Forces 18D “The KISS principle on steroids!” - PT, Operations Manager, Triple Canopy “3 SWAT-Ts used after Boston blast worked amazingly well.” -NM
SWAT-T ™ TRAINING VIDEOS@:
“Worked great after windlass failure (high axillary wound).” -CY - US Border Patrol
“ The SWAT-T saved my K9 partner! As a tactical team member, I will never deploy without a SWAT-T.” -NL “It was soaked in blood and it held up great, still plenty of friction. Successful application, bleeding terminated.” -SV
GSA Available NSN Pending Patents Pending Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 63
s the United States and its coalition partners approach the end of over 12 years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, we should take time to reflect on the advances that have been made on behalf of our combat wounded during these years of war. The events of 9/11 shattered an interlude of peace and plunged the U.S. military into a war against an enemy that had no credible military, just a willingness to use the tactics of terror to achieve their political and religious objectives. As the war began, the U.S. military was in some respects not optimally prepared to care for those injured in the many battles to follow. Consider that in 2001: - Battlefield trauma care training in the U.S. military was based on courses that did not consider or accommodate for the austerity and lethality of the battlefield. - U.S. combatants did not routinely carry tourniquets and were trained to use tourniquets only a last resort to control life-threatening extremity bleeding. The reason for avoiding tourniquet use, unfounded in retrospect, was fear of causing ischemic damage to injured limbs. - U.S. combatants were not equipped with hemostatic agents. - Establishing a definitive airway for severely injured casualties focused primarily on endotracheal intubation, a technique that has not been shown to improve survival in trauma patients in the prehospital setting, even when used by medical personnel who routinely intubate patients, which most U.S. medics do not. - There was no DoD trauma system to develop and update best-practice trauma care guidelines for our theater medical facilities. - There was no worldwide electronic patient care forum during which to review on a weekly basis the injuries sustained by our casualties, the care rendered, and the eventual outcomes. - There was no mechanism to systematically capture information related to casualty care in a registry format, so that it could be systematically analyzed and used to drive improvements in care.
Combat medical personnel in the U.S. military (and those of most of our coalition partners) are now trained to manage combat trauma on the battlefield using the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) guidelines. TCCC started as a biomedical research project in the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The existing, largely tradition-based, trauma care practices in place in 1993 were systematically re-evaluated and there was found to be a need to reconsider these principles for use in combat. TCCC was introduced as a new framework on which to build trauma care guidelines customized for the battlefield. The original TCCC paper came out in Military Medicine in 1996 and provided a foundation, but TCCC has been in constant state of evolution during the last 12 years. These trauma care guidelines customized for battlefield use are now reviewed and updated by the Committee on TCCC (CoTCCC) on an ongoing basis. The CoTCCC is comprised of trauma surgeons, emergency medicine physicians, combatant unit physicians, and combat medics, corpsmen, and PJs. This group at present has representation from all of the U.S. armed services and has 100percent deployed experience. Although previously part of the Defense Health Board, the CoTCCC now functions as part of the Joint Trauma System. Changes in TCCC are based on direct input from combat medical personnel, an ongoing review of the published medical literature, new research coming from
Now, 12 years later, all of the issues noted above have been addressed. The numerous advances in trauma care that have been implementedâ€“ along with the torso protection provided by modern body armor -- have resulted in the highest casualty survival rate in the history of modern warfare.
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PHOTO: Adam Turner
rehospital trauma care in the military has undergone an unprecedented transformation. This is of paramount importance, because if you are a combatant wounded on the battlefield, the most critical phase of your care is the period from the time of injury until the time that you arrive at the surgically capable medical treatment facility (MTF). Almost 90 percent of our service men and women who die from combat wounds do so before they arrive at an MTF. This highlights the importance of the battlefield trauma care that is provided by our combat medics, corpsmen, and PJs, as well as by the casualties themselves and their fellow combatants.
Sgt. Christopher Couchot, assigned to the 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, United States Army Reserve, moves his littered casualty to the designated extraction point.
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military medical research organizations, and lessons learned from both the U.S. and allied service medical departments. The CoTCCC publishes its recommendations both in the Journal of Special Operations Medicine and in the Prehospital Trauma Life Support Manual. The TCCC Guidelines are the only set of battlefield trauma care bestpractice guidelines to have received the triple endorsement of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, the National Associations of EMTs, and the DoD. As the CoTCCC has continued to work to improve battlefield trauma care, it has formed strategic partnerships with other organizations that also seek to improve prehospital trauma care. TCCC began its partnership with the Prehospital Trauma Life Support executive committee in 1998 and continues to work with this internationally recognized group of leaders in prehospital trauma care. PHTLS teaches their courses around the world and has recently established a program to provide TCCC training to law enforcement agencies and the militaries of allied countries when these groups request it. TCCC established a critical partnership with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) in 2004. The USAISR undertook the first preventable death analysis on fatalities from Afghanistan and Iraq, which helped to highlight the critical need for all combatants to be trained in basic TCCC interventions. The USAISR subsequently developed a research effort with a strong focus on battlefield first responder care
and published breakthrough reports on items such as tourniquets, hemostatic agents, junctional tourniquets, chest seals and prehospital fluid resuscitation. This ongoing work has since firmly established USAISR as the DoD leader in developing and evaluating battlefield trauma care technology and management strategies. The USAISR also led the very successful USSOCOM-sponsored TCCC Transition Initiative designed to ensure that deploying Special Operations units were equipped with the latest TCCC technologies and that feedback about both the training and the equipment was captured when the units returned from their combat deployment. It was the success of this project that provided the foundation for TCCC to eventually be adopted by conventional forces as well as Special Operations units.
ow has TCCC changed the face of combat medicine? One striking example is tourniquet use. Tourniquets -- which were in disfavor with the medical establishment at the start of the war â€“ were strongly emphasized by TCCC and were re-introduced into use on the battlefield as a result of a strong combined effort of TCCC, USSOCOM, the USAISR and the U.S. Central Command. Tourniquets have been the signature success in prehospital trauma care in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prior to this re-introduction, military medics were taught that a tourniquet should be used only as a last
Sgt. Christopher Couchot, B Company, 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, United States Army Reserve, Mesa, Ariz., provides aid to a simulated casualty.
PHOTO: Adam Turner
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NAEMT Sets The Standard In Tactical Casualty Care Training
• Tactical Combat Casualty Care: only TCCC course endorsed by the American College of Surgeons; uses PHTLS military textbook; 16 hours of CECBEMS credit. For MEDICAL military personnel. • NEW! Tactical Combat Casualty Care-All Combatants: 8-hour course created by the Committee on TCCC. Specifically for NON-MEDICAL military personnel. • NEW! Tactical Emergency Casualty Care: endorsed by the American College of Surgeons; meets TECC guidelines; uses PHTLS military textbook; teaches civilian tactical EMS. 16 hours of CECBEMS credit. • Law Enforcement and First Response Tactical Casualty Care: for all public safety first responders; based on TCCC and PHTLS. 8 hours of CECBEMS credit. • Bleeding Control for the Injured: teaches basic lifesaving medical interventions to first responders and civilians; meets recommendations of the Hartford Consensus. 2.5 hours. Learn more at www.naemt.org/education.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 67
resort for bleeding control in extremity hemorrhage. This approach resulted in a 7.4 percent rate of preventable death from extremity hemorrhage in 2600 combat fatalities from the Vietnam conflict. Since TCCC was used only by a select few units, mostly within the Special Operations community, in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this high rate of potentially preventable deaths due to extremity hemorrhage continued at the start of those conflicts. A study of 982 combat fatalities from the early years of these wars found that 7.8 percent of our combat fatalities had bled to death from arm or leg wounds. Beginning in 2005, however, there was a DoD-wide implementation of the tourniquet recommendations from the TCCC guidelines. A more recent comprehensive study of the 4596 U.S. combat fatalities from 2001 to 2011 found that only 2.6 percent of these fatalities resulted from extremity hemorrhage. This dramatic decrease in preventable death from extremity hemorrhage from 7.8 percent to 2.6 percent of combat fatalities was a direct result of the ubiquitous fielding of modern tourniquets and aggressive training of all potential first responders in the principles of tourniquet application. Tourniquets have been now been estimated by the Army to have saved as many as 2,000 American lives during these two wars.
Other features of TCCC in 2013 include:
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PHOTO: Adam Turner
- The use of Combat Gauze to control life-threatening hemorrhage from external bleeding at sites that are not amenable to tourniquet use. - The use of nasopharyngeal airways to protect the airway when there is no airway obstruction from direct maxillofacial or neck trauma. - Initial management of the airway in maxillofacial trauma that consists of having the casualty sit up and lean forward if possible, thus allowing blood to simply drain out of the mouth and thus clear the airway. - Surgical airways are emphasized for maxillofacial trauma when airway compromise is present and the sit-up-and lean-forward position is not feasible or not successful. - Aggressive needle thoracostomy is indicated for suspected tension pneumothorax and is done with 3.25-inch needles rather than the shorter 2-inch needles previously used by the military and still used in much of the civilian sector for this purpose. The McPherson paper from Vietnam noted a 2.9 percent incidence of potentially preventable deaths due to tension pneumothorax. In contrast, COL Brian Eastridgeâ€™s paper found that only 11 of 4,596 combat fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq were due to tension pneumothorax -- a 0.2 percent incidence of preventable deaths from this disorder. This is a reduction of deaths due to tension pneumothorax by over 90 percent. Some of that is nother element certainly due to the body armor critical to the that now protects the chest area success of TCCC in our service members, but the has been the emphasis longer needle and aggressive on integrating TCCC approach to NDC when into good small-unit indicated as recommended by tactics. To that end, TCCC are also factors in this TCCC is divided into dramatic success. three phases of care to - A different approach is now allow the care provided used to protect the spinal cord to be appropriate to Cpl. Ryan Barger, of the 303rd Military Police Company, 384th Military when neck or back injuries the flow of actions that Police Battalion, 300th Military Police Brigade, Jackson, Mich., provides aid to a simulated casualty. are present or suspected. occur during a combat Spinal immobilization is not engagement. These emphasized for casualties with penetrating trauma phases are: Care Under Fire, Tactical Field Care, and Tactical only. Spinal immobilization is still recommended Evacuation Care. Although there have been no studies for use as tactically feasible when a blunt trauma that have evaluated the results of integrating best-practice mechanism of injury is present. tactical considerations with best-practice medical strategies - IV access is recommended only when it is required for or of minimizing non-essential medical interventions on medications or fluid resuscitation, thus saving time on the battlefield, these two new aspects of battlefield trauma the battlefield and allowing medics to focus on other care have undoubtedly saved many lives and contributed aspects of care that are more likely to be lifesaving. to the successful execution of combat missions.
- The use of intraosseous techniques when vascular access is needed, but difficult to obtain. - Hypotensive resuscitation with Hextend is performed for casualties in shock when no blood products are available, as outlined in the papers by Dr. John Holcomb and Dr. Howard Champion in 2003. - Faster and more effective battlefield analgesia â€“ initially through the use of IV morphine, and now with Oral Transmucosal Fentanyl Citrate (OTFC) lozenges (as recommended by Army Cols. Russ Kotwal and Kevin Oâ€™Connor) and ketamine (as recommended by retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Gandy). The older analgesic standard of intramuscular morphine works more slowly and has been associated with overdose and cardiorespiratory depression. - Battlefield antibiotics to help reduce morbidity from combat wounds when evacuation is delayed, as is often the case early in conflicts before the tactical evacuation system is well-established. - Tactical scenario-based combat trauma training to emphasize that battlefield trauma care, as provided in
a specific tactical situation, must often be tailored to the tactical circumstances of that situation. - The administration of tranexamic acid (TXA) to help prevent death from non-compressible hemorrhage. - Junctional tourniquets to help prevent death from hemorrhage in junctional areas, especially when dismounted IED casualties sustain very high bilateral lower extremity amputations. - A user-friendly TCCC casualty card that was designed by medics in the 75th Ranger Regiment and subsequently endorsed by the CoTCCC. This card helps to document care rendered at the point of injury and has been used very successfully by the Ranger Regiment. The TCCC Casualty Card was adopted by the Army several years ago, and an updated version has now been recommended to become a Department of Defense form that would be used by all services to document point of injury care. The U.S. Central Command has directed the use of this card and a TCCC Medical After-Action Report for all casualties in the Afghanistan area of operations. Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 69
CCC uses all of the techniques described above to maximize survival. As described in Col. Russ Kotwal’s paper “Eliminating Preventable Death on the Battlefield,” the 75th Ranger Regiment, which began training all of its unit members in TCCC prior to the onset of hostilities, has achieved an unprecedented low incidence of potentially preventable battlefield fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The concept of training and equipping all combatants – not just combat medics – to perform the lifesaving interventions recommended by TCCC is a key facet of the Ranger Regiment’s success and was also used by the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Missions Unit, and selected other Army units throughout the entire duration of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with great success. To quote from Col. Brian Eastridge’s landmark study: “There has been a dramatic transition in the concepts and execution of battlefield trauma care during the last decade of war. … The value of TCCC implementation and use was highlighted in a recent study of preventable death on the battlefield in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Investigators demonstrated that the use of an aggressive commanddirected casualty response system and TCCC-based Ranger First Responder program was able to reduce the incidence of preventable death to the unprecedented low level of 3 percent of their total fatalities.”
Spc. Jonathan Melendez-Santiago, United States Army Garrison’s Provost Marshal Office, Schinnen, Netherlands, tends to a casualty while the cadre updates the ever changing status of the victim.
he CoTCCC is now part of the DoD’s Joint Trauma System (JTS). The JTS was established in 2005 by the USAISR in collaboration with the U.S. Central Command, the service Surgeons General, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. The goal was to create a systems approach to improving trauma care for the coalition’s combat casualties. In 2013, at the direction of the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the CoTCCC was relocated to the JTS. On 19 June 2013, the JTS was designated to become a DoD Center of Excellence. In this capacity, the JTS will be the lead agency in the DoD for developing best-practice trauma care recommendations. This transformation is currently in progress. The Joint Trauma System encompasses all aspect of trauma care within the DoD. After point of injury care has been rendered, casualties are transported from the point of injury to a Medical Treatment Facility (MTF). This phase of casualty care is designated as Tactical Evacuation (TACEVAC) Care and affords an opportunity to provide additional medical personnel and equipment to increase the level of care rendered. CASEVAC platforms are typically armed tactical assets that bear no Red Cross markings. These may be aircraft, vehicles or combatant craft of opportunity. During the drive on Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), some casualties were moved to the rear on tanks because evacuation by MEDEVAC aircraft and vehicles was not feasible given the tactical circumstances.
PHOTO: Adam Turner
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Since casualty movement following Tactical Field Care theater medical treatment facilities. There are 39 of these may be accomplished by either CASEVAC or MEDEVAC, CPGs at present. They have incorporated the use of the third phase of care in the cutting-edge medical TCCC is designated “Tactical technology and treatment Evacuation (TACEVAC) Care” strategies that have been found to encompass both options. to be successful during the THEY HAVE INCORPORATED The wars in Afghanistan recent conflicts. One example THE USE OF THE and Iraq have permanently of an advance in trauma care changed the face of TACEVAC contained in the JTS CPGs CUTTING-EDGE MEDICAL care. One landmark advance is hemostatic resuscitation TECHNOLOGY AND in TACEVAC Care during (so called “Damage Control the last 12 years of conflict Resuscitation” or DCR) that TREATMENT STRATEGIES has been the realization that calls for early plasma use in THAT HAVE BEEN FOUND TO training the flight medics on conjunction with PRBCs (and BE SUCCESSFUL DURING THE evacuation platforms to the platelets when available), so paramedic level instead of the that resuscitation for casualties RECENT CONFLICTS. older standard of EMT-Basic in shock treats potentially increases casualty survival. evolving coagulopathy as it Another has been the restores intravascular volume use of advanced capability and oxygen-carrying capacity. platforms such as the Medical Other advances include: Emergency Rescue Team (MERT) used by U.K. forces - Accelerated evacuation back to Landstuhl Regional in Helmand in the latter half of the war in Afghanistan. Medical Center and CONUS-based hospitals using Capabilities on the MERT include a larger aircraft, a larger, evacuation aircraft with Air Force Critical Care Air physician-led medical team, advanced airway capability, Transport Teams on board to provide intensive care in use of ketamine rather than opioids for analgesia, and the air. aggressive use of prehospital plasma and Packed Red - Advanced rehabilitation techniques for neurological Blood Cells (PRBCs). injuries and amputations. The MERT has been shown in several studies to improve - The use of tranexamic acid to help prevent death survival in the subset of casualties that has suffered severe, from hemorrhage; awareness and early treatment of but not overwhelming, injuries. Casualty survival was hypothermia in combat casualties. also improved by the Secretary of Defense-directed one- The aggressive use of fasciotomies in casualties at risk hour maximum evacuation time in the Afghanistan theater for development of compartment syndrome. established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2009. - Negative-pressure wound therapy to promote better Although the MERT is a MEDEVAC platform rather wound healing. than a CASEVAC platform, several units that have primary - Better fluid resuscitation and burn flow sheets for burn combat missions, such as the 160th Special Operations patients. Aviation Regiment (SOAR) and the Air Force Air Rescue - The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation units, also have highly developed medical capabilities on (ECMO) to increase survival in casualties with severely their aircraft, including paramedic-level flight medics and impaired pulmonary function. the ability to give blood products and TXA in the air.
he JTS, with the support of the CENTCOM Surgeon, uses various performance improvement initiatives to improve trauma care, including a weekly teleconference to review all severely injured combat casualties from the preceding week. The nature of the injuries sustained, the medical care rendered, the casualty’s present location, and his or her current condition are all discussed in a worldwide teleconference. Participants in this electronic forum include representatives from medical treatments facilities in theater, in Landstuhl, and in the continental U.S. Also included are representatives from the wide array of military medical organizations that have a mission to assist in the care of wounded warriors. The JTS maintains a robust set of clinical practice guidelines to provide evidence-based recommendations for trauma care provided during enroute care and within
he JTS also maintains the DoD Trauma Registry (DoDTR) to facilitate improvements in trauma care and to guide future trauma-related research. This unique repository of trauma care information is the indispensable factor in enabling the JTS to understand and improve combat trauma care. It is at this point in time the largest combat trauma registry in history, containing trauma care information on 77,063 casualties as of August 2013. Two hundred and ninety-six research projects have been undertaken based on the trauma information contained in the DoDTR to date. This research has resulted in 80 scientific papers, 104 abstracts, 61 posters, and 47 presentations at medical conferences. The DoDTR has already enabled the trauma care research noted above and many more unpublished performance improvement initiatives and efforts. It has the potential to Summer 2015 DEFENSE STANDARD 71
continue to make major contributions to trauma care in the military if: 1) military medical research funding is provided to allow DoD researchers to analyze the data contained in the DoDTR so that we can continue to learn as many lessons as possible from the recent wars during the peace interval; and 2) we can effect the culture change that is needed in combat units to achieve better documentation of point of injury care. The very large majority of our casualties have no documentation of care prior to TACEVAC. The JTS and USCENTCOM have addressed this deficiency by the recent direction that TCCC After Action Reports be submitted when casualties are sustained on combat missions (after the combat action has been concluded) to create a prehospital trauma registry that will document injuries sustained and what point of injury care was rendered. The JTS also works with the Armed Forces Medical Examiners System to review and discuss selected combat fatalities so that we can better understand the causes of death in our casualties and take the necessary actions to avoid future potentially preventable deaths. With trauma surgeons and pathologists working in concert, this process allows our fallen warriors to perform one last service to their country â€“ to help prevent loss of life in future wars whenever possible. The JTS provides assistance and advice to the Command Surgeon for Combatant Commands engaged in conflicts. In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, this has been the U.S. Central Command, but similar working relationships with other Combatant Commands can be established should
conflicts erupt in their geographic areas of responsibility. With the unprecedented casualty survival from the recent conflicts, the realignment of the CoTCCC as part of the JTS, and the designation of the JTS as a DoD Center of Excellence for Trauma, our military is clearly entering a new era during which further improvements in combat casualty care may be expected to continue to occur more quickly than ever before. Advances in trauma care require resources, experience, vision, focus, expert analysis, and the willingness to accept the appropriate degree of risk in implementing new advances. Despite the successes, the Joint Trauma System is a relatively new organization that must use the interval of peace that our nation will hopefully soon experience to make sure that the trauma care lessons of the past are not lost when our nation fights the wars of the future. New technology and new trauma care research findings will continue to present additional opportunities to improve the care of our nationâ€™s combat wounded. The JTS, with the remarkable DoD-wide and international team that it has developed, will serve our armed forces well by helping to ensure that these new opportunities are quickly translated into lives saved. Butler, a retired Navy captain, and Bailey, an Air Force colonel, are both physicians. The opinions and assertions in the article are their private views and do not represent any military service or the Department of Defense.
Sgt. Christopher Couchot secures his casualty to a litter for extraction.
PHOTO: Adam Turner
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PHOTO: Markus Rauchenberger
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Roy Richards prepares an intravenous bag for a simulated casualty at a combat testing lane during the U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
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A soldier with Operational Detachment Alpha 1215, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, runs off the back of a CH47F Chinook helicopter while conducting a simulated combat dive mission in the water off of Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.
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PHOTO: Lance Cpl. Brittney Vella
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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ymeng Thao, a rifleman with SpecialPurpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, posts security during an assault training exercise near Lisbon, Portugal.
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PHOTO: Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza
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An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 performs ground turns aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).
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PHOTO: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto
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Army 1st Sgt. Dina Pang qualifies with an M9 pistol at the combat pistol range on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
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PHOTO: Justin Connaher
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The guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) passes by the Missing Man Memorial on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as the ship returns from an underway period in the Hawaiian operating area. The destroyer is named after Lt. (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy, the first person to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, and the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War. PHOTO: â€…Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan
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Ultralight Tactical Mobility
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DEFENSE STANDARD 2015 SOFIC.