Two Firefights: One Video
by Michael YOn
July 2009, Sangin, Afghanistan.
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.