I owe my life to Snyper and Goldie. As the only survivor of a Chinook crash in Afghanistan, I tried to keep myself alive around the wreck while I watched my friends die in the fire. For several minutes I hoped that at least some of them would jump out of the flames. But no one did. My brain was crystal clear from the adrenalin rush when the helicopter crashed and I thought ‘This is the end, we are all going to die.
I did expect some kind of more irrational reaction or break down at some point later. Luckily that wasn’t now. The adrenaline kept it away.
It was on my second tour in this God-forsaken country. I didn’t know what else to do so I signed up for a second round.
Sometimes we did ramp riding in the helo. Today I was the only one strapped in for a ride and I really enjoyed the view out the back, so I sat here a lot when we were relocating between assignments. The sunset is fantastic from up here.
Our mission was to reinforce a Joint Special Operation unit and my job was to make sure the com-lines were checked and functional as we expected a lot more combat in this area. It was a high-risk flight, and we were less than thirty seconds from landing in this compound in the mountains and I guess we were slightly less than a hundred feet in the air and approaching the LZ slowly.
I heard a sudden explosion and felt the helo shake violently and immediately lose height. I knew I had to get out of my strap, but the carabiner was in the other end 4 yards behind me, and the helo already had the nose down in a huge dive, that would end very soon.
I saw my friends being thrown around in the helo and I also fell back in between the seats but I never hit the wall to the cockpit because the rope wasn’t long enough, so I just hang there in the middle of everything.
I guess that was what saved me. My entire platoon, including a dog, was thrown directly into the wall behind the cockpit when the chopper hit the ground in a nosedive.
I hit the ceiling as the helo turned over when it crashed but it wasn’t that rough as the rope prevented me from speeding into the cockpit. I got hold of my knife from my pocket and cut the strap.
The second explosion that followed was worse. I was convinced this was the end. There were flames all over the place and a split-second after cutting the rope I suddenly found myself catapulted by the explosion back over the ramp from where I thirty seconds earlier was enjoying the panorama view, out of the chopper landing on my shoulder and half my face some thirty feet away.
It hurt like hell and it took my breath away. Got some scratches on my face but my shoulder took most of the impact. It wasn’t exactly a straight line, so I took the beatings of a few seats on my way out, but I didn’t really notice. I tried to get up. Had to get away from the burning helo.
It is impossible to describe how horrible it is to watch this inferno of scrap metal and fuel going up in fire, killing all your friends and there is nothing you can do…
The feeling of panic wasn’t far away, but I had to be rational now.
The military is supposed to know at all times where their equipment is located, so it would most likely only take a few hours to send people up in these rocky mountains to find me – hopefully before the rebels did.
A Chinook CH47 is a very safe and reliable helicopter. It doesn’t suddenly explode in mid-air, so I figured we probably were hit by a heat seeker. This meant that enemies would be nearby and I either had to play dead with my buddies or run like hell.
Then I noticed a pain in my left arm and when I looked, I noticed that my uniform had a tear and it was bloody as hell. My legs didn’t look too great, but the worst was my bruised ribs. They made it hard to breathe.
There was no first aid kit around, so I had to improvise a bandage with my T-shirt for my arm.
There are rebels in these mountains who claim they have taken helos down with RPGs – that’s a rocket that can be fired manually from the shoulder, but if the helo is more than 250 feet away, a takedown would be pure luck – even if the target is stationary. A moving target such as a flying helo is impossible to take down without any kind of tech to assist your targeting, and that kind of equipment is very rare in Afghanistan – unless it says “Made in the US” on it.
The US supplied the Mujahidin with Stinger missiles in the mid-eighties to fight Russian helicopters, so maybe there are still some of these things around. My best guess was a Stinger.
The Russians left Afghanistan in 89 and they took everything that was in working condition home to Russia and only a few places they left weapons and trucks that were outdated or out of order or they destroyed them despite their orders were to bring everything home so the Americans wouldn’t be able to find stuff and learn about Russian warfare.
So technically there is a slim chance someone may have found some Russian RPGs somewhere in an abandoned cave. But then again, it’s not a heat seeker…
Even though I had all the weapons and ammo I could ever ask for, I ended up in a rather impossible situation and I was captured by this insanely ruthless local warlord and his men, who were responsible for shooting the helo out of the sky.
Wherever I looked there were only mountains and rocky desert. Not a single flower, bush, or anything green anywhere. Trees are so rare the dogs queue up to take a piss…
And here I was.
In the middle of nowhere.
Alone but alive.