The North Korean defector, hit by five shots as he drove across the border, was evacuated by U.S. Army medics by helicopter after he collapsed on the southern side of the border in the truce village Monday.
“If it weren't for the emergency measures (taken by the U.S. air medics), then (the patient) would have died before arriving at the hospital,” said Dr. Lee Cook-jong, the trauma specialist from Ajou University Hospital attending to the North Korean soldier Thursday.
|A MEDEVAC helicopter flies by the 38th Parallel sign near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The team began its medical evacuation, also known as MEDEVAC or colloquially as Dust Off, to transport the wounded soldier to the university hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, at 3:31 p.m. via their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
The U.S. Army has a medical evacuation company stationed on the Korean Peninsula. In comparison, Korean airmen traditionally conduct medical evacuations using an ambulance, according to the U.S. Army.
The Army medics administered first-aid to the patient in the Black Hawk during the 80-kilometer transport to the hospital. The swift and appropriate handling of the patient saved his life, according to Lee.
A medical evacuation uses a standardized and dedicated vehicle wherein Army personnel provide medical care on the way. MEDEVAC aircraft and ground transport are unarmed and distinguishingly marked, as mandated by the Geneva Convention. It is a war crime under the Geneva Convention to fire upon clearly marked and identified MEDEVAC vehicles.
The American air medics that transported the North Korean defector to the hospital has been nicknamed as the “DUSTOFF team” by local media. “Dust Off” is a call sign specific to U.S. Army Air Ambulance units that originated from the Vietnam War.
In Vietnam, a crew of four airmen – two pilots, a medic and a crew chief – flew unarmed “Dustoff Huey” helicopters to the frontline to retrieve and rescue wounded soldiers.