Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying to address an imbalance in emergency care for warfighters, directing the military to send more helicopters to Afghanistan and to set up a fourth field hospital there to guarantee that wounded Americans are treated within what the military calls "the golden hour," The New York Times reported Wednesday.

In Iraq, wounded American troops are treated at a well-equipped field hospital within one hour, the Times noted. But in Afghanistan, some wounded troops do not receive advanced care for almost two hours, greatly lessening the chances of survival and rapid recovery.

"In Iraq, our goal is to have a wounded soldier in a hospital in an hour," Gates told Congress on Tuesday. "It’s closer to two hours in Afghanistan. And so what we’ve been working on the last few weeks is, how do we get that medevac standard in Afghanistan down to that ‘golden hour’ in Iraq?"

Gates has directed that the number of helicopters assigned to medevac in Afghanistan be increased by about 25 percent, with the Army, Air Force and Navy contributing, officials told the Times. Some helicopters will be assigned to forward bases, the officials said.

Gates has also directed that some helicopters set aside for search-and-rescue missions for downed pilots in Afghanistan be reconfigured and reassigned to medical evacuation, the Times wrote.

That is a departure, the Times noted, from military doctrine that calls for certain numbers of combat search-and-rescue teams to be on 24-hour call, but it was seen by Gates and his advisers as an acceptable tradeoff.

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