Published February 2009 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's –Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd RESCURE UNDER FIRE…. SO OTHERS MIGHT LIVE Military medics on the ground and the medical evacuation flight teams who bring wounded soldiers to hospitals are true heroes. They are lifesavers who put their own lives on the line in order to give wounded comrades the chance to receive critical medical care.
Over the years, the valor of those who serve as field medics, Army Medivac crews and Air Force Combat Search and Rescue crews has often been overlooked. These brave men and women - pilots, aircraft crew chiefs and medical specialists - work in the heat of battle to evacuate the injured. They are frequently exposed to danger from which there is no protection. Undaunted, they do their lifesaving tasks without hesitation. Our forces deployed on the battlefield rely upon these angels of mercy. Such brave efforts save the lives and limbs of fellow soldiers. And they also provide comfort to the families of our brave troops, who can rest assured that their loved ones in uniform will have the very best medical care when and where they need it most.
I was shocked to learn several months ago that U.S. troops in Afghanistan were being asked to fight in remote areas, which could result in delays of two hours or more until first-line surgical care became available. Subsequently, I learned that this deplorable situation was allowed to continue unremedied for an extended period of time.
I immediately urged Secretary of Defense Gates to improve the efficiency of medical evacuations in Afghanistan by deploying the necessary resources as quickly as possible. I was pleased to hear Secretary Gates address my concerns during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 27, 2009. Secretary Gates assured the Committee that he was working to significantly improve medivac capabilities in Afghanistan.
I have since learned that additional medivac assets and forward surgical teams will soon arrive in Afghanistan. The presence of these additional resources will shorten the time between actual injury and critical medical care. Our hearts go out to these brave crews along with our prayers for their own safety. A grateful nation thanks them for the courage that they display to keep their comrades in arms safe and sound.
I will continue to monitor the progress being made in getting these necessary forces to Afghanistan in the most rapid manner possible.
February 25, 2009