The Untold Story of the Patriot Express

The Untold Story of the Patriot Express

Originally, the Freedom Birds were an extension of the famous Flying Tigers who helped China battle invading Japanese forces in the 1930s. It grew into a dependable and indispensable part of the Air Force.

At first, the Freedom Birds were mostly requisitioned commercial airplanes. Later, in Korea and Vietnam, the DoD leased commercial aircraft for non-combat transportation needs. Following the Cold War, officials restructured the Patriot Express. To passengers of this era, PE flights were usually indistinguishable from commercial flights. These passengers were mostly PCS (permanent change of station) servicemembers and family members.

A bloated version of the PE program was terminated in the early 2000s. A streamlined version reappeared several years later and continues in operation today. Most recently, the Patriot Express rapidly evacuated Americans from a crumbling Afghanistan.

Contractors Before 1978

Private military contractors like the Freedom Birds are older than the Republic itself. In Revolutionary War days, unregulated camp followers, er, followed Colonial troops when they were in the field. These camp followers were mostly cooks, seamstresses, blacksmiths, and other non-military personnel. Although they had no formal training, they could usually pick up a musket or other weapon and help defend the camp as a last line of defense. 

This environment began changing in 1850, when Scottish immigrant Allan Pinkerton started the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Initially, the Pinkertons mostly provided security for the nation’s burgeoning railroad industry. About twenty years later, the Pinkertons started getting slightly more aggressive, as train robbers like Jesse James and the Wild Bunch, a group of robbers under the command of Robert Parker (a/k/a Butch Cassidy), became more of a threat.

Nevertheless, the hands-off oversight approach to private military contractors continued until after the Civil War. Congress simply saw no need to regulate untrained and unequipped camp followers. Additionally, in those days, the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” usually prevailed. No one imagined that the government could improve people’s lives, at least in some cases.

Back to the Pinkertons. As industrialization progressed, the Pinkertons gained a reputation as vicious strikebreakers. Theoretically, the Pinkertons were subject to U.S. law. But pragmatically, cases were almost impossible to prosecute. The Pinkerton Men did not wear name tags. So, assault and other victims usually did not know who was responsible for their injuries. Even if they did know, in the days before RICO and collective responsibility, the higher-ups could easily distance themselves from the actions of rogue employees.

So, in 1893, Congress passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act. 5 U.S. Code § 3108 was a very brief rider in a large omnibus bill. The provision simply stated that “An individual employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, or similar organization, may not be employed by the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia.” 

As a result, the status of private military contractors, instantly reverted to camp followers. These camp followers were a bit different. Usually, post-1893 camp followers were individuals with some military training. However, they received no military equipment, except for perhaps a sidearm.

Contractors After 1978

In 1966, Congress slightly changed the wording in the Anti-Pinkerton Act. But the General Accounting Office’s policies in the area remained unchanged. Since the GAO usually wrote the checks, the Anti-Pinkerton Act continued to sharply limit private military contractor responsibilities. Suddenly, an obscure footnote in an equally-obscure Supreme Court case changed everything.

The Supremes mentioned in a footnote that the Anti-Pinkerton Act might no longer be the best policy. The United States was an imperial power fighting a protracted Cold War with the Soviet Union. A few months later, based on this footnote, the GAO announced it was reversing course, and that “previous decisions inconsistent with Equifax International will no longer be followed.”

This decision came too late to affect the Vietnam War. But it has greatly impacted every conflict America has been involved in since that time, including:

  • Persian Gulf War: America’s response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was classic “hurry up and wait.” The Pentagon rushed to deploy thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia. Then, those troops sat in the desert for over four months. Many private military contractors assisted in the deployment and then supported the troops during that long time away from home.
  • Global War on Terror: The protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan thrust private military contractors into a larger role. Contractors in Southwest Asia participated in a number of defensive combat operations.
  • Lingering Cold War Hotspots: These places include Syria, which was also a GWT hotspot, South Korea, and Japan. Many Americans don’t support large deployments of American troops in an inactive war zone. Many locals don’t support such deployments either. Using private military contractors makes both groups at least a little happier.
  • Problem Areas: Significant numbers of contractors remain in Kuwait and Qatar to support the American troops stationed there. The same thing goes for contractors in Diego Garcia and Guam. These isolated islands could be important firebases in a future armed conflict with China.

Contractors in all these places are entitled to injury compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act.

Injury Compensation Available

Medical bill payment is a huge component of DBA benefits. Under this law, which was passed in 1941, a DBA insurance company must pay medical bills for injured overseas contractors. These bills include:

  • Transportation costs, usually helicopter or jet transport to a large military medical facility,
  • Emergency care,
  • Follow-up care,
  • Prescription drugs,
  • Medical devices, and
  • Physical and/or occupational therapy expenses.

Insurance company lawyers often argue that expenses are medically unnecessary and therefore not compensable. Brain injury physical therapy is a good example.

This physical therapy is usually much more intensive and time-consuming than other kinds of PT. Brain injury physical therapists must slowly train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. Many of these victims must learn to walk again and do pretty much everything else again.

Progress usually comes in fits and starts. During an apparent plateau, insurance company lawyers often claim that the victim has reached his/her MMI (maximum medical improvement) level and therefore physical therapy should stop. Attorneys advocate for victims in these situations, so the money keeps flowing and they continue to improve.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen. Frankle & Castro, P.A. to learn more about DBA lost wage replacement benefits.