The military has shaved nearly an hour off the time it takes to get seriously wounded troops from the field to a hospital in Afghanistan, USA Today reported.

In January, urgent care medevac missions took 100 minutes on average, according to Central Command statistics. Last month, it was 42 minutes.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January demanded faster medevac times. Over the last several months, five new field hospitals have been built and the number of medevac helicopters tripled from 12 to 36, according to Air Force Col. Warren Dorlac and Army Lt. Col. Kyle Burrow, who supervise medevac duties in Afghanistan.

“The secretary didn’t understand and wasn’t willing to accept there being two different standards for those two theaters,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told USA Today. “To him, it just made no sense.”

The improved times refer only to the most critical cases — “emergency, short-notice evacuation to save life, limb or eyesight, or to prevent complications that could lead to more serious illness or permanent disability,” Air Force Maj. John Redfield, a Central Command spokesman, told the paper. Such cases account for only about 5 percent of medevac missions in Afghanistan.

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