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We'll put the pa- tients on it. Remainder of the convoy reports negative contact. Close air sup- port reports negative contact. Chinook estimating arrival in twenty minutes. HH arrived. Patients stable. Transload to C Expect departure in twenty-five minutes; arrival at Bagram in one hour and twenty-five minutes. We now believe they struck a mine. Chinook sling-loading Humvee now. Second explosion. No injuries, no damage.
Convoy reports mines. Professional and dispassionate. The moon is out now, casting shadows everywhere. A patrol is investigat- ing reports of suspicious activity within a kilometer of base camp. Twelve sol- diers struggle with the moon's brightness, which washes out the NVGs night vision goggles.
They stumble on rocks, cursing. Suddenly, the armed men turn and run. The patrol begins pursuit.
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The armed men stop and turn, shooting into the darkness. The patrol returns fire. One soldier abruptly stops shooting and doesn't respond. Another is cursing and swearing. The assailants get away. The first soldier has been shot in the head and is covered in blood. The second soldier is lucky. The bullet grazed his cheek and exited the back of his helmet.
The soldier with the head wound dies before getting to a hospital. I stand at the gate to the flight line for the arrival of a C, which is car- rying the remains of the soldier.
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The moon's gone and the clouds are thick- ening. The only stars visible are running from the advancing storm front and the blackness is penetrating. A crowd of troops gathers, though it's difficult to tell how many have come. Uniforms stand next to sweat clothes, young next to old, men next to women.
Some strain to see as the aft ramp lowers, others look blankly at their feet. We watch intently as the body, entirely covered, is removed on a stretcher and put in the waiting ambulance. The general salutes as the ambulance passes. Some follow suit.
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Others, lost in prayer, deep thoughts, tears, salute in their own private way. Once the ambulance disappears into the darkness, some of the gathered start to walk back to their tents. It takes a little longer for others to start moving. No one says a word. As I walk slowly to work, I wonder if the young dead soldier has a wife and children. Would his son or daughter be allowed to see him?
Would they rec- ognize him when he comes home? Would they remember him as they walked across their high school commencement stage or at their wedding? Would his grandchildren ever know how their grandfather died? How long before his memory would disappear? Fifteen seconds on CNN. It's still dark when I start the daily reports. There isn't an airlift mission of special note today.
Airpower didn't dispense any flares, drop any bombs, fire any guns. Combat air support covers the next twenty-four hours. The bottom line on the report— NSTR. Nothing Significant to Report. Thirty-two-year-old U. Air Force Re- serve captain Michael S. In the following account, Daftarian describes not only the technical and logistical challenges of flying an A Warthog in the chaos of combat, but the split-second decisions that have to be made while traveling at more than four hundred miles an hour— in the dark. The particular area we're headed to contains a small U.
I've provided support to the ground forward air controllers, or GFACs, there before, but never on a dark night like this one. Conversely, my lead pilot is on his second flight in-country and his first night flight here, hav- ing only arrived three days prior.
As we continue south, passing off my four o'clock are the lights of Kabul, the last, and really only, major city or town of any kind in this vast region. Off to the distant east is the well-lit Pakistani city of Peshawar. To the south is nothingness, and that's where we are directly headed. A faint something be- gins to appear. It almost looks like Saint Elmo's fire dancing around. My lead and I are coordinating on our interflight radio, cross-checking the map loca- tion, and quickly reviewing available tactics to use.
As we get closer, it be- comes clear that what I'm seeing are tracers from automatic weapons fire. Approaching twenty miles from the area, it's now apparent that there's a serious battle going on down there.
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The tracers are heavy coming from the northeast, while the return fire from what must be our guys is not as intense. I also see what looks like strobe-light flashes appear on the southwest side of the fighting.
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The scene is difficult to describe, but it's akin to a fireworks show gone insane, with Roman candles shooting in every direction on the ground. Lead tries the call again, "Playmate, Misty One-One. What's your location and what you got? Called the "9-line," it's nine essential elements of coordination information passed from the ground unit to the supporting air- craft.
It contains such items as target coordinates, target elevation, target type, friendly location, any restrictions, any marking devices to be used, heading and distance to the target if running in from an initial point, etc. Right now, there is no time to go through a standard coordination drill, and most of the information we need is readily apparent just by what we are looking at on the ground.
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We need that suppressed. You got that area in sight? What restrictions you got for us? What is so surreal about this situation is that from my jet, I can see what can only be described as a beautiful light show. The significance of the destruction being sent back and forth down there is apparent only each time the GFAC keys his mike. Each time he transmits, I can hear automatic weapons, rifle fire, and men shouting in the background. Playmate had been talking into his handset with us, and had seen the RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades coming his way.