Combined arms

Two stories of ground to ground and air to ground from Iraq and Afghanistan, 2006 convey some of the flavor of events which were not publicized at the time. The first involved the fight around a downed helicopter suddenly beset by a lightly armed unit's worst nightmare: numerically superior enemy with lots and lots of crew served weapons. An MH-6 Little Bird had been hit with a dud RPG which nevertheless took out the tail rotor. It landed in the desert in close proximity to the enemy it had been stalking. Another Little Bird settled in beside it while Blackhawks evacuated the crew. A perimeter with about 20 men was established around the downed helicopter when suddenly several enemy trucks with dual 14.5 mm antiaircraft machine guns and lots of infantry appeared. The hunter had become the hunted.

What followed was the story of how the ground force held out, aided by the other Little Bird which pitted its 2x7.62 mm miniguns against the 14.5 mm batteries in a prolonged engagement. I won't spoil the story which you can go and read yourself. All I will say is that medals were awarded in the action that followed, along with a lot of aw-shucks acknowledgements.

The other involved a small German reconstruction team in Afghanistan that was suddenly pinned down by a Taliban unit in a narrow valley. The only help available was from two A-10s vectored in to help. But the Taliban were pelting the Germans with RPGs and each time an RPG would go off, the pilots night vision equipment flared out in the confines of the valley, leaving the attacking pilot blind. There was only one thing to do: one pilot would have to go in blind and deliver his ordnance against the enemy while his wingman stayed high, coaching him in from above where the night vision could be used without being overpowered by the glare of explosions. I won't give away the ending either, but the pilot got a Distinguished Flying Cross for what he did next.

Maybe 60 years from now, when the ideological debates have cooled, and no one remembers or much cares who was a Democrat or a Republican in 2006, some future Steven Spielberg will go and interview an aging man running a server farm or robot repair center somewhere in Idaho and ask him about events long, long ago in a place far, far away. Then it will be safe to produce and distribute Band of Brothers, The Sequel.


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