Just another (not so ordinary) day - Profiles from the Front Line, Episode 3
I’d like to apologize for not being able to recap last week’s show. My local ABC affiliate decided, without explanation, not to air the show.
But enough about me…these are their stories.
We start off the show with our Special Forces Group in Orgun, Afghanistan.
Their mission: Neutralize terrorist threat directed at US airbase
The Special Forces have located a rocket aimed at Camp Harriman, a US military airbase. Luke, a staff sergeant that we are introduced to, and Mike (one of our 3 Special Forces guys from Episode 1), head out to the rocket location to disarm them.
After finding the rockets they learned it was a rush job, and the Ex-Taliban or Al-Qaeda sympathizers that set them up didn’t know what they were doing. They wrap a cord around the projectile to “roll” them. None of them detonate and they take them back to base camp to put them with the rest of the used Soviet explosives.
The next day another explosive is found after a sweep of the entire area. They redirect the rocket to an open space and actually launch it. It’s very lucky that the people who set these up did not know what they were doing.
Mike states that the security posture is moved up after this incident.
We learn that mines are now being placed downtown Orgun. Mark checks out the local Orgun music shop where an anti-tank mine has been located. During the Taliban reign, all music was banned. Music shops here are new and that’s why they are particular targets. The suspect was caught red-handed and was apprehended and interrogated by Mike and Mark. “I guess there’s no IQ test to get in (to the Al-Qaeda network),” Mike jokes.
Mark explains that the guy is a textbook example of what they are looking for as far as Al-Qaeda operatives. I think to myself Mark is a textbook example of how sexy smart is.
The Al Qaeda suspect was flown to Bagram where he was interrogated and later arrested.
The doctor is in the house
Next we meet Major Gerard Curran MC – 44th Medical
Mission: Provide medical care to base personnel and local Afghans in Bagram
His job is to support and provide care for 1,500-3,000 soldiers if they are shot and wounded by enemies. He also provides care for local Afghans at Janqadam Village a Humanitarian aid mission that is run out of the personal residence of the local Afghan commander who donated use of his home.
It took 10 years for Gerard to become a doctor. He has two sons, the oldest being 2 ½ years old. His second son was born en route to hospital while he was in Afghanistan. Ironically, a friend and fellow emergency worker was the person that found his wife on the roadside en route to the hospital and delivered the baby in the back of their car.
Gerard says he might see 100 patients in a day and has learned some rudimentary phrases to help get through the masses of people in the “waiting room.”
Upon his return home, Major Curran received his second Bronze Star for meritorious achievement while in a combat zone. He also was finally able to meet Luke, his newborn son.
Fuel is the source
We meet back up with Corporal Peter Sarvis, Logistical Task force 129
I’m immediately frightened because I remember in Episode 1 that he was moving closer into enemy territory.
His goal is to escorts fuel trucks through front gate onto Bagram Airbase. He says it’s not very glamorous, but since fuel runs the whole place, we know his part is crucial.
The process involves getting fuel from Afghan and Pakistani tankers, get the fuel trucks, bring them in, check the paperwork, test the fuel, and escort them in. They have to be very careful to make sure that no one is messing with the trucks outside the base. At the MP (military police) gate, they bring out the dog to sniff for bombs, run mirrors under the truck and check all the paperwork.
There’s a minor confrontation when a truck cuts in line and causes a backup. The translator tries to tell him to get out of the way, but it takes the MP’s bringing the bomb sniffing dog (which they have found scares most of the Afghan people) in, to get the man to move his truck.
The 19th Special Forces group in Khost is tasked with apprehending hijackers of U.S. fuel trucks at Chapman Airfield.
We meet Major Randy, Company Commander US Special forces
5 “bandits” hijacked US fuel trucks on the way to Chapman. They were captured by local military units and 2 suspects were delivered, but they are still looking for 3 of the suspects and the team sets out to capture the remaining men.
Randy has spent 21 years in the service and has 4 children ranging in age from 13-20. His grandfather was from Afghanistan and notes his grandfathers’ pride of being from there.
The hijacker’s vehicle is discovered as the team enters the town. Lots of chaos ensues as the locals surround them and the Special Forces try to contain them in one area. The team moves on as to the hijacker hideout. Randy was also a member of SWAT and worked as a street and undercover narcotics agent. He comments that a lot of the strategies and techniques are applicable in these situations
They question a local man to find out information and locate the commander suspect. The translator passes on information to “Masood”, sub commander of local warlord “KK”. Randy tells Masood that the 3 soldiers involved in the hijacking should be delivered to the airbase by noon the next day. I can’t imagine this will work.
Next day at the airfield: The 3 suspects are delivered! (shows how much I know)
To avoid a return visit from U.S. Special Forces and a possible hostile confrontation, Warlord K.K. delivers hijack suspects as ordered.
Lt. Brian Sinclair, S3 Viking Refueler Pilot
Mission: Refuel Fighter Jets in Mid-Air
This is one of the most intriguing stories to me as I am just amazed at this mid-air refueling concept.
Brian is a pilot for the S3 refueling plane and has been for 4 years. He refers to himself as a Nugget – a guy on his first cruise.
They start off flying over Pakistan to meet up with 2 Hornets to transfer fuel them. Brian’s favorite part is the “Cat shot” - the sling shot assisted take-off.
This is so fascinating to me. The refueler drops out on a 33 feet hose. The receiver plane has a probe that attaches to this basket, and the probe has a latching mechanism that helps to transfer the fuel. When the plane is refueled the plane “backs out” and the pressure seal releases leaving the receiving plane to go on to their mission..
At night, Lt. Sinclair circles his S3 Viking near the JFK, refueling jets whose pilots miss their landings. Night landings are the most difficult task for a Naval Pilot to master. If an F-14 misses his landing, the S3 can refuel them enough to do 2-3 more passes to land. Captain Bill Gortney, Commander explains how stressful night landings are and the margin of error. Danger TV, he calls it -- this is where things can go wrong. We see former Navy file footage of a missed landing to hammer the point home
The S3 always comes in last. Tonight, Brian is fighting vertigo and lack of depth perception. He can’t see the horizon and an automatic warning system goes off. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s scaring me. His only options are to land on the boat or eject. He’s coming in high and hits hard but makes the landing.
He explains that basically you just have to completely forget your body and fly only on by the instruments.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Pvt. 1st class Matthew Acosta, Combat Photographer
We meet Matthew Acosta, a photographer following his dream. His role is that of a military photo journalist. The goal is to let the people back home know what the soldiers are going through. On a personal level, Matthew gave up a lot to follow his dream. Joining the military to do what he wanted cost him a relationship with his girlfriend who could not live with the fear of someone going off to war and not knowing if they were going to come back.
He thoroughly enjoys his role showing the soldiers and the people of Afghanistan. I hope we get to see more of Matthew in later episodes!
Until next week!
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