Michael's Dispatches

SEVEN

50 Comments

Left seat Pilot Thomas Sonne; Right seat: Major Bill Tice.

Kandahar, Afghanistan
10 February 2010

American forces are stationed at bases far and wide around Afghanistan.  Some bases are like towns, such as Camp Bastion, Kandahar Airfield, and Bagram Airfield.  But mostly they are small, often occupied by only a handful of troops.

Logistics into Afghanistan is a nightmare, and it only gets worse after you cross the border from the North or from Pakistan. By comparison, Iraq “logs” was like a run to a convenience store down the road.  Afghan logs are more like driving from Miami to Seattle for grocery shopping, and then driving the groceries back to Miami while under threat of attack.  Not a speck of exaggeration in that statement.  Enemy logs interdiction was a large constituent of the Soviet defeat, despite that the Soviet Union comprised the entire northern border of Afghanistan.  When the Soviet hammer tried to crack the Afghan rock, the hammer shattered.  The Soviets can easily put people in space and keep them there, but they couldn’t handle backdoor logistics during their Afghan war.  It’s easier to keep people in space than to supply our war here.

Our Coalition is stunningly more effective at logistics than were the Soviets.  For instance, when the British were resupplying small FOBs near Sangin last year—just a short drive from the origin at Camp Bastion—the monthly convoys were major operations that drained needed combat power, and still vehicles were destroyed with casualties.  So powerful are some of the bombs that they can launch the ultra-armored American MRAPs into the air, flipping them like turtles, often breaking the backs of soldiers.  Even today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is making moves to facilitate allies to get more counter-IED gear, such as MRAPs, which seems like a good move because some allies are risk-averse to the point of being ineffective (not that MRAPs are going to save them).  By air, when a civilian helicopter was trying to resupply at Sangin, it was shot down just outside the base, killing the crew and at least one child on the ground.  Make no mistake: this is a worthy enemy.

Without the U.S. Air Force, we would need thousands more troops here just to run convoys, and bringing in those troops would require more convoys to supply their needs.  It’s okay to use contractors to bring supplies in from Pakistan or from the north, but driving up into those mountains and other remote locations would be suicidal.

The United States Air Force invited me on a resupply mission, and when I showed up at 0400 to the trailer where the crew lives, one of their doors had been blown off the night before, leaving all else intact.  Nobody knows what caused the door-ripping, though SSG Michael Jeffries was outside and said he got pounded in the face by gravel.  Michael Jeffries said the winds were at least 60MPH and lasted only a few seconds.  The pilots inside hit the deck.  Anyway, Afghan mysteries aside, we drove to a chow hall, got breakfast to-go, and drove to the flightline.

The 772 Expetionary Airlift Squadron (EAS), from Little Rock, is comprised of elements from the 19th Airlift Wing, which they call the “Black Knights.”  During January 2010 the 772 EAS conducted 119 missions in Afghanistan that comprised 454 sorties.  That’s a lot of convoys saved.

Today’s mission would consist of six sorties.  A sortie consists of a takeoff and landing, and hopefully the landing was controlled.  We would fly from KAF to Shindand to unload supplies, pick up passengers, then fly back to KAF.  That would be two sorties.  The crew would pick up more supplies and passengers and fly to a small base in Farah Province, then back to KAF to pick up another load, then fly to Camp Bastion, then back to KAF—mission complete—for a total of six sorties.  Arguably this could be called three missions, but the Air Force is conservative and calls it one mission.  The pilots would not shut down the engines which would be running all day.

Before starting engines, Captain Thomas Sonne, the pilot, adjusted an oxygen mask and showed me how to use it.  He handed over a Bose noise-cancellation headset, then plugged it into the comms and demonstrated how to adjust volume on several radios and the internal.

I asked Captain Sonne if we have enough C-130 lift in Afghanistan (knowing we don’t have enough helicopters).  Captain Sonne said we had enough C-130 lift—not extra capacity, but enough, which coincides with what others have said.  “Is the Haiti relief hurting us here?”  Captain Sonne confirmed what others have said: no, they can’t feel the Haiti mission affecting our effort.  Captain Sonne explained we are short on ramp space to park the aircraft, so they are busy building more ramp.  This coincides with something General Petraeus told me in late 2008.

The pilot and copilot started through the strange checklist.  The instrument panel showed we had 24,590 pounds of fuel.  The weather was looking dicey for the landings on the rough airstrips, but takeoff would be easy, the pilots said.  There were eight passengers and eight crew; three of the crew were FAST personnel (Flyaway Security Team) with body armor and weapons, and they would disembark on landing to guard the aircraft.  Was good to have them along.  Finally the crew got to the pre-taxi checklist.  I understood a few words on this one:

“Brakes.”
“Brakes clear.”
“Copy.”

Captain Sonne was wearing night vision goggles while Major Tice, copilot, was going without.  Captain Sonne’s voice came over: “We’ve got a 135,000-pound airplane,” and then he looked back over his right shoulder at me, saying, “If you have any questions, go ahead and I’ll alert you if we are busy.”  “Roger,” I say in the microphone.

And now they are talking to each other again, “We’ll try to get up to 265 tactical,” says Captain Sonne.

My pen was too slow, especially in the dark cockpit, but I got some snippets:

“Pre-flight checks complete,” says Major Tice.
“Pressurized.”
“Roger.”

They talk quickly, succinctly, all business, and rumble down the dark runaway and lift away, “Gear’s up.”  “Gear’s up.”  The flight computer has a female voice that commands attention, and she kept saying, “Altitude, altitude, altitude, altitude,” and then much later, the computer woman says, “Thousand to go.”  This has to be about one of the coolest jobs in the military.  As we roar into the sky, it occurs to me that a young person with brains and a sense of adventure would be crazy not to consider joining the Air Force.  This is fun!

I ask through the headset if the HUDs are classified and if it’s permissible to make photos so people at home can see.  Captain Sonne and Major Tice said there is nothing classified.  Have at it.

We descend into Shindand by first coming over the base, and doing a hard corkscrew down, wings sometimes tipped at 45 degrees, to avoid ground fire.  The cockpit is armored against SAFIRE, but there are people in the back and it’s never a good idea to get your airplane shot.

We come down to the skinny runway, apparently made for Russian figthers, some of which were sitting near the runway.  The Taliban had gotten their hands on old aircraft years ago, and somehow got them flying.  Today, Taliban Air Force consists of kites and carrier pigeons.  I’ve photographed a kite in downtown Kandahar that was flying in the dark with a dim strobe.  Was it a signal?  The pilots intended to land at about 120 knots.

We landed and the pallets were removed by forklift, followed by the “pax” (passengers).

The crew had a couple of flags hanging in the back.  The pilots said they fly flags on missions for people at home, and send each flag back with a little certificate.

More passengers were loaded up and we rumbled away at about 0730, and someone said from the back that a flock of birds was off to our right.  After we were safely airborne, and the pilots finished their checklists, I asked about bird strikes.  “How high do bird strikes happen in Afghanistan?”  Major Tice had heard of a strike that occurred at over 20,000 feet.  Everyone seems to have high regard for the C-130J.  The pilots explain that older variants required six crew members, but the “J” only needs four.  The Navigator and Engineer no longer are needed, and so this cuts one officer and one NCO, both of whom require much expensive training.  A four-man crew beats a hundred-man convoy.

And that was it; we landed back at KAF, the first two sorties complete.

KAF doubles as a civilian airport with traffic including 747s.  This is the civilian side of the terminal.  We can’t do a lot of top secret stuff on the airfield because civilian planes land every day and everyone can take photos.

Captain Sonne and Major Tice parked the airplane, left the motors running without the props turning, and while loadmasters re-loaded the C-130J, I got coffee.

We loaded back up and taxied to the runway for the second part of the mission: take supplies and pax to Farah Province.  On the taxiway, we waited for this 747 to take off.  ATC (Air Traffic Control) said something about a 747 “heavy” taking off.  I asked the pilots what “heavy” means, and they answered that any aircraft weighing more than 250,000 pounds is considered “heavy,” and there are special rules at KAF for heavy.  For instance, after he takes off, a truck must drive the runway to clear debris that the giant engines often blow onto the runway.  The debris will not damage the C-130 (after all, they land on gravel airstrips), but a rock sucked inside an F-16 engine is a bad thing, and we don’t want to see pilots ejecting off the end of the runway while one of our jets crashes in the desert.  Another rule is that we have to wait for three minutes after a “heavy” takes off because the giant airplanes leave dangerous vortices that can cause us to crash.

While we rumbled toward the FOB in Farah, the pilots were curious about the ground war and I offered a few vignettes.  There are thousands of wars going on here.  Everyone’s war is a snowflake.

As we approached the airstrip, the pilots put the nose down and we dived into the soup of clouds.  The biggest threat in Afghanistan for fixed-wing pilots is terrain.  It’s easy to eat a huge mountain over here.

“Flaps 50% please.”
“Roger.”

Now over Farah and approaching the strip, we kept going down, down, down and the clouds were looking brown.  Occasionally the clouds winked and we could spot the earth momentarily, until the instruments said we were a thousand feet up.   The pilots could not see the ground.  The ATC said visibility was less than two miles, and Captain Sonne said he could not see a half-mile ahead.  A loadmaster called up saying he could barely see the ground at 1,000 feet.  I just kept saying to myself, “They know what they are doing.  They know what they are doing.  They know what they are doing.”  Captain Sonne reported we were getting some rain, and finally, at four miles out, he said “Abort,” and I drew a breath of relief and we climbed away.  As we climbed out, Captain Sonne said, “A little bit of rain, I’m going to switch back to weather.”

We continued to climb away, when on another channel a pilot was talking to the ATC behind us.  ATC crackled to the pilot, “Runway unsafe to land.  Report your intentions.”  Captain Sonne explained that the ATC can advise the pilot about unsafe conditions, but the decision to land rests with the pilot.  The other pilot aborted.  ATC called saying it could be 2-3 days before the sloppy runway was dry enough for safe landing.

The computer issued an alert about a fuel imbalance.  Captain Sonne explained that in older C-130 variants, the flight engineer would have been aboard to monitor this, and then he explained some details about fuel balancing and why it’s important to stay within constraints to maintain stability.  He reached around to his left and pulled out a book, explaining the different sections.  Some alarms were critical and could mean life and death, but this was just an alert to take care of some housekeeping.  He read the procedure, which he probably already had memorized, and dialed four overhead knobs to redistribute the fuel, explaining each step.

We landed back at KAF and prepared for the sortie to Camp Bastion, but got a report that an aircraft had a problem on the runway, and so the Bastion runway was shut down and there was a delay.  Meanwhile, a rocket attack occurred and so we ended up on the ground, and there was a nearby boom (maybe a few hundred meters or more).  We wasted time in the bunker (somebody’s rule up top) and the senior officer took inventory of his people, and finally the all-clear was sounded.  We learned that the runway at Bastion was still closed.  That was it.  Mission was over.  Not every mission goes perfectly, but then you can’t control the weather, or acts of God.  And in any case, this was seven doing the job of a hundred.

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    C · 8 years ago
    As before, Thank you for bringing us these sights of the troops and their everyday projects, it would be incredible if the news media would deliver such views for the American public, I guess thats almost a utopian thought, Thank you Michael. Oorah!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doug Wright · 8 years ago
    Please continue to tell us about these excellent folks we have in Afghanistan. The effort they put in, and the successes they have, are demanding and yet they do it well. Today's article, and the one about "Special Delivery" point out how much depends on many different folks over there. Napoleon was right in that an army marches on its stomach and ours seems to do that well, with a great deal of thought and effort.

    Your writings allow us to stay in touch with these good people serving us and those serving the same cause for Allies like the UK, Denmark, Holland, Poland, and the Baltic countries.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Gogel · 8 years ago
    Michael, this is great stuff. Thanks for reporting about all that it takes to get the job done, from the pointy end of the spear to the logistics of the shaft that is a necessary part of the spear. Please relay my gratitude for their skill, dedication and service to all the folks you encounter in your reporting. And, again, thanks for your reporting. Bravo Zulu!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    aidle · 8 years ago
    Micheal, thanks for the updates again, I wish the conflict will end in Afghan once and for all....there lots of thing going on out there like Avalanche @ Salang pass and US/ANF massive offensive to retake Marjah...

    BTW, Wish you a safe journey Micheal...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Drake · 8 years ago
    Always on top of the situation - been following you since early Iraq - Your book is great, and thanks for the autograph it contains. Stay Safe and Thanks for great insight into the Ernie Pyle side of things.
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    TT · 8 years ago
    Great articles! As an Air Force pilot it is great to see someone covering the cargo movers. We aren't glamorous but moving the mountains of supplies needed in modern war is important. So little has been written it is good to see your articles out there! MRAPs and MATVs are important cargo we carry all the time - directly saving lives!

    Too bad you didn't get Maj Tice's story about his DFC he was awarded for flying C-130s in Iraq.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Drew · 8 years ago
    Your work is refreshing. Many American's appreciate what you are doing.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sheryll · 8 years ago
    Michael, excellent reporting. Reading your dispatches is the only way I feel connected to my deployed soldier. Thank you for your work. Stay safe!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brian Phelps · 8 years ago
    I count on you Michael to give us the snowflake view of the war, and you do a great job. Keep up the great work, and thanks for paying the price to bring us this hands-on look at the war. No one is reporting like you are. Another donation is on its way.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Darrell Mitchell · 8 years ago
    Michael:
    As usual,a compelling and extremely accurate account. I only wish that you would embed with HMLA-367 "Scarface" They would take you on one wild ride!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Fred Altum · 8 years ago
    I have an American flag hanging proudly on my wall at home from the initial first air missions into Iraq at the beginning of the war. I was flown in aboard a British Harrier especially for me. A good and gentle friend of mine is a Navy Chaplain, and at his request this flag flew into Iraq. It is one of my most cherished possesions and take a place of honor on my wall. Never forget these brave men and women that fight for freedom every day.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    matt h · 8 years ago
    Great job, Michael! Keep 'em coming.
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    A&N · 8 years ago
    As our Military doesn't get much coverage....so the American people who care and are keeping up with them don't either Mike. More and more do care....unfortunately everybody is broke here at home. I'm sure people give what they can...I hope they will give until it hurts to get the truth from the ground there. Enjoyed...if that is the right word....this dispatch. Thanks. We are at war okay....not just a man made catastrophy...a real war. Our thoughts are with you and ALL of our men. It seems that many of us here at home are through with politics and paying more attention to reality...hopefully this will do something to help in support of this very real war. Your reports help to open eyes....and pocketbooks to keep you going.
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    DensityDuck · 8 years ago
    Pretty soon these cargo-movers will be the only pilots left; drones and lasers will take care of combat a/c.
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    Wind Rider · 8 years ago
    Glad that you got to take a real E-ticket ride! Few things beat a Combat Approach. Hop in the back next time, for the true "no windows" version!

    Thanks again for your continued efforts, Michael, and don't let them flyboys spoil ya too much!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eddy Williams · 8 years ago
    This sounds like such a cool experience for you to have witnessed! Thanks for the article, Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thunder Roads Nappy · 8 years ago
    Thanks Michael for your insight of the war and stories on our troops and the outstanding job they are doing on behalf of our freedoms! I've been receiving your dispatches virtually from the beginning and still have them on file. I look forward to them always. I have also made my first donation on your behalf and hope I can do more in the future. Take care and thanks for all you do. God Bless America, Our Troops and Their Families!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 8 years ago
    One of the greatest things about your efforts is the solace it brings to those at home with loved ones deployed. Knowing that this massive team is working to support one another is made clear in your dispatches. Sure, sometimes it is scary but getting the straight scoop is always better than what the mind imagines.

    Well Done (as usual)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Smoke · 8 years ago
    Top stuff. While you're in with the Air Force, why not try and get on an AC130 gunship mission Mike?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 8 years ago
    Michael, I never made it to Farah either.
    Thanks for the reporting. Nice to see the photo's from the cockpit. Never made it up there either.
    Kevin
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nettie · 8 years ago
    Michael,

    I try to read as many of your posts as possible. While sometimes I dont always understand as if I had been there done that kind of way, the way that you tell your story is incredible. As, I read I can almost visualize being there as well and THAT is the neatest thing to experience! Wish I was there to experience it all myself!

    Thank you for continuing to report on our Military in all ways possible. The media here in teh states doesnt always tell the whole story about the good things our Soldiers are doing there.

    Nettie
    Soldiers Angels
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jan D · 8 years ago
    Thanks Michael for making room for us on your flights to Shindand and Farah Province and for sharing a day in the life of our amazing high altitude soldiers. Enjoyed the ride ... thank you guys! Thinking of you every day.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LightingGuy · 8 years ago
    Cool photos. Very glad to see the cockpit from the user's viewpoint, and glad to do my small part.
    I helped design the color and monochrome displays in the front of the cockpit.
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    Mark Claassen · 8 years ago
    Many thanks for sharing your experiences with us.What you are foing is greatly appreciated.

    ..and isn't the ' old new bird ' something else?

    All the best,

    Mark
    Cape Town South Africa
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    Jack E. Hammond · 8 years ago
    Folks,

    a lot of the problems with logistics in Afghanistan is the USAF. Basically the USAF is bleeding pilot-slots (ie not pilots the got plenty of those) like crazy, and if it is doing what is best for the defense of the country and their turf war, the turf war wins. For example the USAF has to charter huge Russian aircraft to move new equipment to Afghanistan, that they can not risk on the overland route through Pakistan. Congress is upset about it, but they are told, you made the bed by caving in to Boeing and certain high elements of the USAF that were going to keep ordering C-17s, even though every C-5 that the USAF has, needs to be kept by being modernized to the C-5M (ie those trying to get more C-17s by killing the C-5 claim it has a low reliability rate -- the reason it has a low reliability rate is lack of spares which the USAF refuses to order in the numbers needed, which results in 1 out of 4 C-5s being ground to take spares off of). And no the C-17 was not designed to replace the C-5, it was designed to replace the C-141. And to use the C-17 to fly from the US to Afghanistan, requires MASSIVE air to air refueling support. Next is the C-27J, what many call a mini-C-130. After the US invaded Iraq, the US Army discovered that the USAF would not transport a lot of items for them as required by law on a timely manner. And sometimes when they did, one C-130 was being used to transport one pallet. Lot of avgas for one pallet. The US Army was forces to use its fleet of CH-47 helicopters for logistics (ie a helicopter is a horrible way to move heavy loads). So the US Army sent over the small fleet of C-23 twin engine transports that the USAF had given them (ie the USAF never wanted them, but they bought them from the UK in exchange for the UK buying some US weapons) for internal logistic missions inside the US) to Iraq. They proved invaluable, because they could fly into a lot of airfields the C-130 could not fly into. But the 24/7 use of them wore them out. So the US Army started a very modest program to replace them. The aircraft was the C-27J. But the USAF found out, and all they saw was pilot-slots. So they told Congress they had a need for an aircraft in that class too, so why not a joint program. The US Army did not like it -- ie they knew they were going to get screwed -- but they went along. Well when it came time to order the C-27J, the USAF got their friends in Congress to strip funding for C-27Js to the US Army. And then they reduced the number of C-27Js they were going to order. And those that they do have on order are going to the National Guard. The results. The US Army has had to retire the C-23s (ie they were getting worn out and dangerous to fly) and now they are wearing their CH-47 Chinook fleet out.

    Jack E. Hammond

    .
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    Leonard · 8 years ago
    I was wondering about the IED's. If there are thousands of them, how is it that the villiagers and the Taliban manage not to be the victims of their own devices. They must have some way to keep track of these killing fields and pass the information on to their comrades. Could we overwhelm the Taliban economically by offering rewards in Gold to know where these dangers are? Couldn't we out bid the Taliban for the opium market in Gold and then find some clever use for it or destroy it? When the Taliban coerces the population from trading in markets under US control couldn't we subsidize the vendors so that trading in Taliban controlled markets cost the villiager 2-3 times as much? With each US soldier costing us a million dollars per day per soldier it seems we could run the Taliban economically into a ditch. I think the real key to weakening the Taliban is for us to seize control of their local villiage economies and their black markets to make it cost effective to business with us and cost prohitive to business with our enemies. People in any culture vote their wallets.
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    PlaneIP · 8 years ago
    As usual, an awsome report. 22 Years in the USAF and a flter to boot, but on tankers...spent many a day in the sand trap as well as over it. Tell Major Tice if you see him again to "Keep the shiny side up and his head down"...you to for that matter.
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    Pnut05 · 8 years ago
    Great work from you bro.
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    gitmogrunt · 8 years ago
    I hope the troops on the ground get all the suppport they need during this operation set to take place at Marja. That air and artillery support are maximized prior to the assault, to level the bunkers and fortifications of the Taliban. I hope the politicians don't expect our troops to go knocking on each door,so as to minimize "civilian" casualties. We know that this politically correct approach will cost American lives. We should not tolerate such politically correct warfare and hold those elected officals accountable who promote such nonsense.
    In order to minimize American casualties, we must use the full force of our military against these entrenched fighters, so they pay the ultimate price.Total Victory against evil, are not bad words . God Bless our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen. God Speed and Semper Fidelis 3/6.
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    Mike H · 8 years ago
    Thanks for the look at KAF. Looks a bit different than when our platoon rolled in in 2001...

    Semper Fi.
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    Ben J · 8 years ago
    The future of the USAF
    Pretty soon these cargo-movers will be the only pilots left; drones and lasers will take care of combat a/c.
    DensityDuck , February 10, 2010

    This will never happen, as there will ALWAYS be a need to have TACPs on the ground dropping bombs.

    Great Story though about the Air Force getting things done!!!
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    Rich · 8 years ago
    Thanks for the story and the pictures. The pilot is an old friend of mine, so I passed it on to his family.

    God bless you, keep safe, and thanks for keeping us informed on the fight!
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    S Graham · 8 years ago
    Michael,
    Thank you for shifting your dispatches to focus on the USAF. Granted, I would love it if you were still with 2 Rifles...nothing is more important than ISAF's mission on the ground, but I am proud to have supported our multi-national warriors during two tours in the cockpit of a B-1. I admit that Gen McChrystal's ROE has been frustrating to watch from the air, but it is the right way to win this war. I invite you to contact the 379th Air Expeditionary Group, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Al Udied to try and coordinate a ride on a B-1 to show the world the strike perspective of this war. It might prove relevant given the US surge and operations in Helmand. So frustrating that we owned Marja last May and now they're preparing another operation to re-take it. All the Afghan people want is to know that we will come into their areas and stay. I applaud your determination to see this war through! God bless you and the US and coalition troops on the ground.
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    K Patterson · 8 years ago
    Micheal you make the mainstream media look so irrelevant! They seem so detached and their reports so flimsy in comparison.

    "try and coordinate a ride on a B-1 "... Now THAT would be marvellous!

    Keep your head down and stay safe!
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    V Baumgarten · 8 years ago
    One of your respondents asked about IEDs - how come the locals and Taliban don't set them off? The answer is very simple. The IEDs that are not command-detonated (i.e., someone flips a switch at the right time) are typically designed as pressure-plate devices. Our armored vehicles weight several tons and will set them off while regular cars will not. Landmines are a different story with hundreds of Afghans being wounded or killed every year just from the landmines left over from the Russion occupation.
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    Dallas E. Falk · 8 years ago
    keep up the good works 19th you have a long standing history, dating from 1927 whenwe were frist activated as a photo recon group in calif, then became bomb group ww 1@2 korea dropped the frist and last bombs in korea,cold war,alert duty in africa,transition to refuling, deativated 06 now an air lift wing what a history. As a former c/c on B-47's during the cold war I'm proud of this history and the on going works of the 19th Air lift wing. God Bless ever one of you.
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    Dallas E. Falk · 8 years ago
    in my hast to ans. my brides call to dinner I failed to mention the 19th's service in VN and Iraq
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    Dallas E. Falk · 8 years ago
    Keep up the good works 19th airlift wing ,you have a proud history dating from 1927 with our first activation as a photo recon group served in ww 1@2 dropped the fist and last bombs in korea, the cold war, the vn war iraq transitioned to tankers deactived in 06 reativated as an air lift wing what a proud history. keep on keeping on !9th God Bless each and every one of our service persons
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    syvanen · 8 years ago
    This was a very informative piece. It illustrates quite clearly why it costs $1 M per year per soldier to fight in Afghanistan and only a quarter of that amount to field soldiers in Iraq. Its all in the logistics. It now makes sense that gasoline costs us $1000 gallon at the fighting lines. If this war is going to go on for another 20 years as some of the Generals are predicting, we could easily find ourselves shelling out another couple of trillion dollars. It is really great that we are the richest country in the world, otherwise we couldn't afford this.
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    Dallas Peterson · 8 years ago
    Great stories and pics bring back memories, now if you can hitch a ride with CSAR you'll really have a story.
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    Keith Hanson · 8 years ago
    My interest in Afghanistan has risen dramitically since my son recently received his orders for deployement to Khandahar. He is in the US Air Force and about two months ago he went on a TDY to learn how to weld and repair the MRAP vehicle. When I heard that he was being trained on this vehicle I was sure he would soon be deployed. He will be attached to a Army FOB in the area. I appreciate your reporting on the war effort in Afghanistan. Not much is mentioned about it in the news, unless it's negative and political. Keep up the good work you do for our troops and their families.
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    Broc Smith · 8 years ago
    Lennon could never have imagined the effort and disipline required to make our lives safer from those who would happily have our heads. Righteousness is still alive. Thank you very much for the inside view.
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    Charles E. Umhey Jr. · 8 years ago
    Michael:
    Please continue to keep us informed about the present situation. It seems too many have forgotten we are in a war and young men and women are in harms way.
    Stay safe.
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    Debbie Ridgeway · 8 years ago
    Michael, thanks for the wonderful reporting and pictures. My interest in the area has intensified since I have a husband deployed to the region. Keep us updated!!
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    Moses · 8 years ago
    Thank You Sir Michael:
    Retired here but so sorry I cannot contribute. I pray God will protect you and all our brave men and women in the services. Keep up sending us the truth, and only the truth. We need to know enough details to keep up our interest and support.

    God Bless You,

    Moses
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    Lee Windham · 8 years ago
    Great stuff from the edge. Keep up your needed work Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    COL RET Rod Davis · 8 years ago
    I was a grunt and took many a ride in the C-130, I was always amazed how you guys make it look so easy regardless of the weather or threat conditions. "God Bles" you two and all that are serving.

    Thank You Again,
    Rod
  • This commment is unpublished.
    The Questioner · 8 years ago
    What were the ages, sexes of the 12 noncombatants killed in Marjah when the rocket landed 300 m. off target?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevlaur · 8 years ago
    Is not something to be taken for granted. They do a good job here under tough conditions. I was stuck in BAF waiting for 12 hrs (a small amount of time actually) to get back to Kabul. We had left once in a C-130. Flew for a VERY long time on what should have been a 20 min flight. Ramp comes down in the back and the only word I hear from the crewman talking with some other passengers is 'Bagram.' No!!!! We had aborted for weather. Waited a few more hours and finally made it. Waiting is not fun...but there are worse things.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    joshua · 8 years ago
    the pictures are kind of like the game Ace Combat

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