Timelines for Reaching Injured Personnel in Africa

by Christopher A. Mouton, John P. Godges


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Research Question

  1. What is the likelihood that a faster arrival will make a meaningful difference in the chances of rescuing someone?

Conducting medical evacuations and other personnel recovery missions in Africa is challenging because of the continent's vast geographic scope and the small number of U.S. personnel scattered across it. This report studies the military medical literature and recent historical cases to explore the relationships between rescuability and time. Marginal changes in incident response times, given a baseline of 6 or 12 hours, do not correlate with dramatically different rescuability rates in the historical cases. Enhancements of the initial medical care provided can improve rescuability rates; however, providing even modestly improved care in an operational context may prove difficult. Future analyses can use the baseline results outlined here to assess the likely rescuability rates associated with alternative rescue options. The cost and effectiveness of options can then be determined and compared. The policy question revolves around balancing the benefits of speed and improved care with the operational, clinical, and financial costs.

Key Findings

The Results of Different Response Speeds Across Historical Cases and Care Roles Are Strikingly Consistent

  • Especially with a six-hour response time as a point of reference for reaching personnel with life-threatening injuries, the marginal changes in rescuability rates resulting from changes in response speeds of up to six hours in either direction (faster or slower) were very similar across the historical cases. Likewise, the performance of three different care roles did not produce dramatically different rescuability rates.
  • Relative to a standard six-hour response time, marginal increases in response speeds of two to four hours could increase rescuability rates roughly 7 to 16 percent, on average, while marginal decreases in response speeds of two to four hours could decrease rescuability rates roughly 5 to 9 percent, on average.
  • Relative to a standard 12-hour response time, marginal increases in response speeds of two to four hours would increase rescuability rates roughly 3 to 7 percent, on average, while marginal decreases in response speeds of two to four hours would decrease rescuability rates roughly 3 to 5 percent, on average.
  • A six-hour response time would result in 9 to 16 percent more personnel being rescued than would a 12-hour response time. A four-hour response time would result in 5 to 8 percent more personnel being rescued than would a six-hour response time. Likewise, a two-hour response time would result in 12 to 20 percent more personnel being rescued than would a six-hour response time.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Methodology

  • Chapter Two

    Rescuability Data and Results

  • Chapter Three


  • Appendix A

    List of ICD-9 Mortality Risks

  • Appendix B

    Additional Rescuability Timelines

This research was sponsored by Robert "Mike" Maxwell of the U.S. Africa Command and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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