Chinooks on the Helmand
A report from 298 ‘GRIZZLY’ Squadron, Gilze-Rijen Airbase, The Netherlands
Photo: Patrick Allen
URUZGAN, Afghanistan -- The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) ICH-47D Chinooks, operating in Air Task Force 6, were tasked to conduct multiple assaults to take in the West banks of the Helmand River in Uruzgan. Hereby 82nd airborne was inserted into the hostile area around Deh Rawod. The secondary tasking was to resupply 82nd during the next two weeks. The first wave consisted out of a number of Chinooks from both the US Army and the RNLAF.
Takeoff was from Kandahar Airfield at midnight. The package proceeded north to Uruzgan, using Night Vision Goggles. Multiple Air assets took care of ‘eyes on’ the Landing Zone (LZ) plus overwatch during the assault. Routing was uneventful until reaching the LZs. Due to the fact that our package was flying in darkness, the surprise effect was perfect. Also the low frequency sound waves coming from the Chinooks made it impossible to determine the direction from which we were approaching. On station were Apaches, F15s, F16s and predators to provide Close Air Support (CAS) and areal support in case we were engaged. All Chinooks had wheels on the ground after medium brown out at the same time. That made it ideal for 82nd to deploy themselves. Within a few seconds the Chinooks took off again and split up the formation. We went to Tarin Kowt (TK) for refuel and full stop.
Photo: Patrick Allen
The next day ground troops secured a large area by setting up a number of locations throughout the area, and reported their needs to their headquarters at TK. From then on we received our tasking daily and subsequently made a planning to resupply the troops and brief aircrew.
For the next two weeks we worked like that. Every day we flew out to the west bank and dropped water, fuel, ammo, gators, extra personnel, extra gear, actually anything they requested and picked up anything they wanted us to. The capabilities of the Chinooks were utilized to its maximum. We resupplied using under slung as well as internal loads (kicker pallets). All these flights were conducted with a mix of Chinooks and Apaches as support, all from the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
They would secure the surroundings of our landing sites and transmit all useful information to the ground commanders. In preparation for our deployment we did extensive tactical training were situations like this, going into hostile territory, were trained over and over again. Thanks to that training, we succeeded in accomplishing our mission and carrying much needed supplies to the troops without being shot at. Our tactics work.
At the end of the mission 82nd was conducting, we were tasked to extract all personnel and equipment. We had to make multiple transits which meant that the security of the area was likely to decrease with every hop. This fact required a complex planning and execution. We took off on the First day with Apache coverage to check out our First Pick-up Point (PUP).
We got in touch with the ground troops and had our LZ update. We set up for landing, with slight winds coming from our 1-2 o’clock. Just after touchdown our number one loadmaster announced over the intercom, slightly worried but not panicking the crew that he had heard heavy machine gun firing. At that point we evaluated the situation and decided to continue loading the troops and relaying this to the Apache in the over watch.
As he checked out the surrounding area he spotted two persons running from a car to a shed some 800 m east of our landing point. The fact that they were running made them suspicious. Further investigation of the car could not make clear if the car itself had a machinegun mounted, neither was there any prove of a machinegun near the location. There were also no indications in the systems that we were hit so we proceeded back to TK to have the loadmasters check the exterior.
After the first wave we landed on TK to drop off the first troops and checked the helicopter for bullet holes. Not one was found and all systems were still normal. The other PUPs were not near the first one so we were happy to continue. Within two hours we extracted all personnel and equipment. During the last wave we could hear the troops in the back. They were so relieved to go “home” that they were cheering and shouting. We will never forget the pride we felt, flying the Chinook with the crew, making this mission a success.