Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No Good Deed

According to this article, two Navy Pilots received counseling for using their helicopters to rescue people trapped in New Orleans. After they dropped off the supplies that constituted their mission, the pilots used their H-3 helicopters to pick up 110 people stranded in the city.

"They were not reprimanded, they were counseled," points out civilian Public Affairs Officer Patrick Nichols. (Counseling is less severe than reprimand in the military, but is still corrective action.)

The problem wasn't that these pilots, one of whom was temporarily assigned to kennel duty, rescued the people. Rather, the problem was that they did not follow orders. Their Commander praised their actions, but then "reminded them their orders were to run water and other supplies" to three places in Mississippi.

One of the pilots did receive permission to return and continue saving people after he stopped to refuel.

What I get from this is that the pilots have to make sure that these stranded people must get supplies until they are able to be properly rescued. I love how bureaucracy works!

5 comments:

mlwhitt said...

Just another thing proving that common sense isn't always that common.

English Professor said...

Grrrrrr. That one's making the trip straight over to my blog.

Bookworm said...

Or perhaps it's just as I always say to my kids: "What you did wasn't exactly wrong, but you should have asked first." Would it have been possible for the pilots simply to radio a call in to their superiors asking for permission to do what they did?

Although I appreciate the tremendously humanitarian act those pilots did, I also understand that an army functions through a chain of command, and that it simply can't drop that leash without serious ramifications.

Michelle said...

My god, i'd luv to sit their commanding officer in the middle of LA superbowl and tell the officers in front of all the stranded people, they are being sent for counseling.........good on them for not following orders, they're human beings.

Steve said...

Bookworm,
The fact that one of the pilots was reassigned to kennel duty suggests to me the Navy took this act more seriously than a "thanks, but you shouldn't have done this" type deal. The pilots completed their mission, suffered no delays in picking up the stranded people, and may have saved their lives.

When one has the opportunity to save a life and bureaucracy gets in the way, then perhaps bureaucracy needs to change.

Look at it from a different perspective. These pilots are in Iraq, and their mission is to search the mountains in the East for insurgents. After they finish their sweep and prepare for a return trip, they see some civilians being trapped under a car that had blown up. Would you punish these pilots for taking the unilateral action to save these Iraqi civilian lives?

I taught a young airman who received the Airman's Medal for stopping on a return trip from a volunteer activity (she was part of a group in a military vehicle). The reason they stopped was because a woman had a seizure, flipped her car and was bleeding profusely. The Airman's actions, despite her orders to return to base probably saved that woman's life.

Sometimes unilateral action shouldn't be punished.