Yesterday morning we loaded on a Blackhawk helicopter (UH-61) at FOB Salerno for a flight to FOB Lightning, where we expect to be based for most of our embed. SGT Victor Gardner from public affairs picked us up at our tent and drove us to the DFAC for a hearty breakfast.
MAJ Pratt, the PAO of 3/101 Rakkasans, graciously met us at flight operations and offered to arrange for us to accompany Soldiers on operations in the future. We hope to take advantage of that offer.
Looking down on the road snaking and twisting through the narrow defiles it was easy to think of ambush sites. With a bit of imagination one can see Soviet armor columns winding through them. Drift back a bit further and this part of the ancient Silk Route felt the hooves of horses, camels, and other beasts of burden as precious spices, silks, and other treasures made the incredibly long and dangerous trek from East to West.
From the start of the flight we looked down upon Afghan villages and compounds – mud-walled, secretive, and even when clustered, isolated from each other. Initially the fields were surprisingly green and we observed orchards, pastures for grazing, and newly emerging crops. The bucolic picture turned grim as green faded rapidly to dun brown and the ridgelines grew steeper, valleys deeper, darker, and more hidden.
At one point, rather farther up into the mountains, we looked down on a tiny cluster of huts with their surrounding wall that appeared to have no road in or out, just a dry wadi bed that accommodated snowmelt, that, judging from meager traces of snow remaining, had already occurred.
Given the normal heavy vibration associated with rotary wing aircraft, the Blackhawk is a good, stable, powerful ride. In contrast to the UH1H, Huey, the previous generation of lift helicopter, the performance of the Blackhawk is outstanding. Within thirty minutes we cleared the mountain range and began to descend to FOB Lightening and FOB Thunder.
Not that we had all that far to descend, since the FOBs sit at an average 8,000 feet. Compared to the warmer days at Salerno, it felt like early spring or fall here: crisp, dry air; energetic rather than enervating.
The book "Warrior Police" by Gordon Cucullu and Avery Johnson will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2011. This blog contains background notes, informal interviews, and photographs gathered during the Afghanistan research phase of the project... click here for a little more background on this blog, and enjoy!
- Patrol to Sayyed Karam
- War zone tourism: Afghans on the FOB; shopping at ...
- Our Welcome to FOB Lightning
- Blackhawk Ride Over the Hindu Kush
- Almost "Club Med" at FOB Salerno
- Impressions of Bagram
- Bagram Arrival - and Tragedy
- Heading for Bagram, Afghanistan
- Finally Got a Flight Out of Manas
- Arrival in Manas Air Base
- In transit through Germany
- Preparing to Deploy on Embed
- ▼ March (12)