05 October 2009
In July, British soldiers and I boarded a CH-47 helicopter at Camp Bastion for the flight to FOB Jackson at Sangin where fighting is brutal. The helicopter was so stuffed with men, gear and supplies that the cargo was not even strapped down. We steadied the long stack with our hands and prayed that the pilots not begin flying violent evasive maneuvers. The tail gunner partially lifted the ramp to prevent bundles from tumbling into the skies, and that was it for securing the bundles. Just a week before, a giant MI-26 helicopter was shot down on final approach to this same landing zone. All aboard died in flames, as did two children on the ground.
This is, interestingly, the same landing zone where I would make the photos for “The Kopp-Etchells Effect” dispatch, which was published in many languages around the world. Many readers have weighed in with ideas about the causes of the glow. Some say the cause is St Elmo’s fire or the triboelectric effect, or perhaps the piezoelectric effect. The actual cause does not seem to be surely known, according to J. Gordon Leishman, D.Sc.(Eng.), Ph.D., F.R.Ae.S., Minta Martin Professor of Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. I don’t know. Maybe it’s caused by angels. It definitely is beautiful.
We landed and British Soldiers from “2 Rifles” swarmed in to help unload cargo. Since I made this photo, at least two British CH-47s have been lost in combat operations, one of which was just north of here.
We need more gear and more forces now. We can outfight these enemies and we can win the war, but at this rate a favorable outcome is difficult to imagine. This war shows signs that it will become more intense than Iraq at its peak. As with my twelve dispatches from 2006 warning that we were losing this war, the warnings over the past couple of years seem to be falling on incredulous ears. We will lose the war unless we get more troops and more gear soon.
This weekend we lost eight more soldiers in a firefight. I learned about it while they were still fighting, but did not report it until just before the media broke the story the next day. Still unreported, to my knowledge, sources tell me that FOB Keating was destroyed and that troops were under siege for up to 24 hours before Air Force Para-rescue got them out. (Subject to confirmation.) The fighting will only intensify. We can beat these guys, but not under current conditions.
The last two missions I did with British 2 Rifles ended in firefights. Due to bandwidth difficulties, only a small part of the video was uploaded. Those two firefights were melded into one short video. These are just typical hum-drum day-in day-out missions, nothing like what happened this weekend in Nuristan.
Please click Firefights.