Maintaining Requirements during the Drawdown

The ongoing drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan is not expected to affect two of the US military’s core operational requirements there: readily evacuating wounded troops to the nearest hospital facility and quickly having a close air support asset overhead, said Maj. Gen. Tod Wolters, who was the top Air Force general there from May 2011 to May 2012. Coalition forces have strived to adhere to the “golden hour” rule, which means evacuating casualties from the battlefield to the nearest hospital within 60 minutes of their injury, Wolters told attendees of his Aug. 14 talk in Arlington, Va., that AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies hosted. The average is actually closer to 40 minutes to 45 minutes, which means those who are wounded have an even better chance of survival, said Wolters. For close air support, the requirement is to have an asset overhead to protect ground troops within 12 minutes, he said. Today, that average is closer to eight minutes, he added. “That’s a pretty phenomenal accomplishment,” said Wolters, who now heads the Air Force’s legislative liaison office in the Pentagon.