Monday, October 06, 2008

"Thunder Road" Air Assault Mission

Correspondent Dana Lewis & I have just returned from an embed, with the 101st, the Army Division, made famous by Band of Brothers. Where we did an air assault mission into the mountains of Logar Province in Eastern Afghanistan, known as one of the four doors into Kabul. Here is Dana's blog entry, which is a change from my writing, the view from a new perspective.

Dana's Entry :

I heard the bang. 

We had been on a dawn air assault by the 101st Airborne into Logar province watching soldiers hunt for Taliban militants. There were a few small exchanges of gunfire but for the most part it was quiet as U.S. soldiers backed up the Afghan National army carried out their random checks of homes for weapons and bad guys. It seemed almost to quiet and cameraman Mal James and I even walked down a road by ourselves transiting between American army units. But among the villagers there are always a few bad guys say Commanders. 

The ride into the villages had been exciting and a bit unnerving. Soldiers lined up in squads to board Chinook helos, their twin rotors kicking up huge amounts of gravel and dust. 

In the prebrief assault plan I was told the insurgents often fire rocket-propelled grenades at the big birds full of soldiers.

And in another war zone, Iraq I covered the downing of a Chinook by RPG fire which claimed the lives of more than two dozen soldiers. 

When the word came to move we almost ran onto the waiting Chinooks and then as they landed next to the so called target village, Mal and I were one of the first off the back ramp so we could film the soldiers rushing out and taking up defensive positions. Not the safest thing to do, but that's where we need to be to get the best pictures. 

And while we were on the ground-watching soldiers conduct search missions an Afghan interpreter said messages from the insurgents had been intercepted with one saying "we can't hit the helicopters" "they’re to high". 

But after three hours on the ground humping over hills and down trails at 8 thousand feet we were ready to go back to forward operating base Shank.

A soldier tossed a smoke canister into a field and a plume of green smoke marked the LZ for the big Chinooks to come back and pick us up. 

Womp womp womp - those heavy lift helos can be heard far away as their big blades slice the mountain air.

It’s a sand storm when they land. Even my ears were full of sand and I dropped to the ground on my knees as the air beat my body with sand and gravel. The engine exhaust makes you feel like someone has you over a searing hot grill as you rush up the open ramp at the back and get inside next to 31 soldiers in this case. Safe and sound as the helo lifted off?

Well just as we were airborne I heard a bang. It sounded like an explosion but a muffled one given the noise of the engines. 

But when we landed back at Shank a Captain who had watched us lift off and followed us in asked me how the day went for Fox News. 

I replied, "Well we didn't get shot at so I guess it was good”. And that’s when he said "oh yes you did".

Apparently insurgents fired an RPG at our helo and that was the bang I heard. It exploded just next to us and slightly under us. But fortunately didn't damage the helicopter. 

It was a better day than I realized. We we're luckier than I knew at the time as we rode for home on board the big Chinook. 


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's like thunder...if you hear it your weren't hit by the lightning..not directly anyway. Thanks for your reports keeping us up on the war from both of your perspectives. Always good to hear about our men but the attitude and dealings of the Afghan people has been an eye opener as well. Reality...ugly sometimes but necessary. Hope all your days there are ...good ones. Take care and Thank you much.
two Americans who give a damn

21stCenturyMom said...

The phrase 'too close for comfort' comes to mind. In fact, it comes to mind often when reading your posts.