What Do You Think Senator Harkin Meant? (A Poll)

After reviewing Senator Harkin’s form letter to a constituent concerned about the safety of MEDVAC flights and the delays caused by requiring them to fly unarmed, I thought it would be interesting to see if I just completely misunderstood the Senator’s closing thoughts. Let me know what you think.


In late October a concerned Iowan contacted Senator Harkin’s office by letter and fax expressing her concern about the risks endured by Army MEDEVAC pilots and crews because they fly unarmed while displaying large Red Cross emblems on white backgrounds. She also expressed concern about the resulting delays in launching some missions while an armed chase or escort helicopter is found or diverted from another mission to accompany the MEDEVAC helicopter. (See the full letter and a commentary here.)

How the Senator Enlightened His Constituent

  • The reason for not allowing medical evacuation vehicles to be armed can be traced to World War I, when German military units disguised themselves with red crosses to conduct sneak attacks.
    • False. The relevant articles within the Geneva Convention date to the mid-1800’s.
  • …combat search and rescue helicopters that are unmarked with a red cross, do not carry doctors…
    • True. Combat Search and Rescue helicopters are unmarked with a red cross.
    • Deceptive. CSAR helicopters do not carry doctors. Neither do U.S. Army MEDEVAC helicopters. Only the UK’s unmarked, armed MERT-E medical evacuation helicopters carry doctors.
  • “…medevac helicopters…maintain a full complement of medical equipment for military doctors to use.”
    • False. It depends on what you think is a “full complement of medical equipment“. There is a realistic limit on what can be done in the madly vibrating, noisy environment of a helicopter. Also, the Army’s decision for the past dozen years to ignore pleas from its own expert doctors and MEDEVAC officers to deliver more advanced medical training to its flight medics has limited what can be done by the on board medics – regardless of what equipment might be on board.
    • False. Military doctors do not fly on MEDEVAC missions in the U.S. Army.

Senator Harkin ends with this:

However, the lessons of history clearly show that allowing medevacs to become military targets is simply a worse alternative.

Chose all answers that you believe are true.

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