Received quite a few emails with regards to the above post from former and active duty pilots. Most agree that removing the red crosses and arming the Medevacs will change the dynamic of having dedicated Medevacs in the first place, and actually increase danger to the crew in the second.
This first example should inform the debate about removing the red crosses and arming the Medevacs. We should all consider flight medic Staff Sergeant Matt Kinney's Silver Star narrative when this subject comes up. He is the subject one of our Someone You Should Know posts (and follow up here).
...During the second hoist iteration, the aircraft and the small building came under heavy effective machine gun fire. Despite rounds cracking overhead and impacting in the terrain around him, Staff Sergeant Kinney helped his fellow medic complete the hoist, while attempting to locate the origin of the enemy ambush. Staff Sergeant Kinney discovered that the fire was coming from a ridgeline immediately to the north of his location, opposite of where the Apache aircraft were engaging.
He contacted the Apache gunships over his MBITR radio and began redirecting rocket and 30-mm. gun runs onto the heavy machine gun location, effectively suppressing the fire. The hovering Medevac aircraft had already taken two direct hits while inside the ambush kill zone. If not for Staff Sergeant Kinney's instinctive action the entire crew and two patients onboard would have undoubtedly been lost.
As the Apache aircraft continued to suppress, Staff Sergeant Kinney finished packaging his third critical patient and began to assess and treat the remaining three patients, who suffered from multiple shrapnel and gunshot wounds. As his fellow medic departed up the hoist, Staff Sergeant Kinney immediately began preparing the third Skedco Extraction Litter...
First, the interaction between SSG Kinney and the Apaches adds another dimension to the entire discussion. Not only does it underscore the value of the armed escorts, it also highlights the value of the interaction between the flight medic on the ground and the Apaches above.
Second, if you read the entire narrative, you'll note that 2 DUSTOFF crews were dispatched for a reported 4 casualties. (Two patients being the optimal number per BlackHawk.) However, since enemy fire was ongoing at the LZ, 4 additional casualties were sustained during the course of the evacuation. Since that could not have been known in advance, no one would have known to send extra DUSTOFF crews.
After the first BlackHawk left with 3 patients, SSG Kinney ended up in the back of his bird with 5 (!) critical patients, something that would have been impossible if the aircraft had crew-served weapons. Some of those men may have died had there not been room for them in the bird already on station.
I can think of many other similar examples of extractions under fire with unexpected additional casualties occurring shortly before and/or during the MEDEVAC mission.
Last, I spent some time with a survivor of Pedro 66, and its a story you should know. One of the birds (Pave Hawk or Pedro) that an independent journalist favors over our Army Medevac Black Hawks. Heavily armed, the crew attempted to pick up a wounded British soldier when they were shot down. They couldn't defend themselves and hit the LZ to pick up the wounded at the same time.
Again, take these stories of these Heroes at face value. They are amazing. Then try to understand them in terms of arming the Medevacs.
I think it makes a lot more sense to have more Apaches and dedicate them to the force protection mission (Medevacs), but that's just me...
Update: Forgot to mention this post over at Bouhammer's. Read it, but also read the comments as there are points being made and refuted there as well.
And for some history, here is where things started to go sideways with MY. Read the comments.