15B. OP DEVIL STRIKE…the pick up

Example picture of NVG Griffon – In Suffield Canada 



The planning and briefings were all complete. We were well rested and prepared for the mission. All contingencies considered and coordination complete. Throttles were winding up and the sound of the griffon’s rotors was stirring the air on the dark KAF ramp….

“Prof, you good to go?” I radioed.

“26 is green.” Prof read back indicating he was the same.

“Going to Slayer.” I stated so he could follow on the radios.

“Shakedown 25, You’re cleared into the ROZ (Restricted Operating Zone). Guns are cold tonight. Heron U-A-V is overhead Chalgour monitoring. There is a special operations ROZ established at grid reference XXXXXX; it has an 8 km radius. Controller is ‘Snakebite’ on frequency 234.4.” Slayer responded.

I punched the grid into the navigation system and figured out the circumference and, of course, it encompassed my entire mission area. The Special Forces never told anyone what they were doing.

It was probably a ROZ for the mission I was on; but they never told us. So perhaps it could be someone else’s mission of higher priority; the tanks perhaps? However, because it was a Restricted Operating Zone, I wasn’t allowed to conduct operations inside without permission.

“What the fuck, it’s right in the middle of our mission area.” I radioed to Professor. “Stand-by-I’ll contact Snakebite. It may be for us.” I stated reluctantly. They never answered the radio.

“Check that.” Prof answered.

“Snakebite this is Shakedown, over…” I called three times.

No answer. This was usual. Frustrating.

“Let’s veer around it for now and I’ll try on the return to establish contact.” I stated to Irish. Irish extended his course along the Reg Dessert for spacing from the ROZ. The last thing we needed was to get shot down by friendlies or fly into a fire-fight without knowledge.

We flew to Masum Ghar. While Professor landed in the base, we orbited. There was only enough room for one helicopter in the landing zone so we scouted for potential threats since prof was vulnerable on takeoff to mortars or RPGs.

“Contact, by the bridge north, I see movement underneath.” Snapshot called.

masum ghar bridge
Bridge north of Masum Ghar
Masum Ghar tip
Mountain top of MAsum Ghar
bazar panjwai
View towards east Bazaar e Panjwai from top of the ghar.

Immediately Irish steered the helicopter towards the bridge and our heads snapped towards the direction of the movement. Irish flew low and so the gunners could look underneath.

“Right on Irish!” I was happy he was starting to fly assertively.

“Looking – looking.” Irish stated. “Going a bit lower and slower.”

Irish informed the gunners so Snapshot could get a better look. Snapshot activated the laser pointer on his Dillon pointing the beam towards the movement. Everyone immediately knew where he was looking.

“Right in there.” I announced. If anyone popped out and started shooting at the griffons, Snapshot would only have to pull the trigger and 50 rounds a second of lethal saturation would land on that spot.

example of laser pointer
Example of laser pointer using a PED2 and NVG

“I think I see what you’re looking at. If it’s a person, he’s staying still and hidden. He knows he’s been spotted.” Irish stated.

“Probably a dicker.” I speculated.

A dicker or an IED planter. He would be armed with communications and a shovel; maybe explosives. The only way to prove it was a dicker, is to actually watch them for hours and track communications. We did not have that liberty, however the FOB could observe with a sniper or UAV to validate it.

“FOB Masum Ghar, this is Shakedown 25, we’ve got a possible dicker under the bridge six hundred meters north of you. Can you put observation on that?” I reported to the base.

“Roger Shakedown, we’re looking for him. Thanks.” They responded. If there was someone under there, it would probably be an all-night project for the sniper teams to track him, and prove if he was a dicker. But who else hangs out under a strategic bridge at two o’clock in the morning in a war zone?

“26 is lifting in fifteen seconds.” Arnie stated.

“Romeo tango.” I acknowledged.

Irish swooped down and picked up professor’s tail to cover his egress Prof climbed high, turned slowly left allowing us to pass inside his turning radius and lead into the FOB. Prof slowly assumed the tail position and protected my ingress, especially since a suspected dicker was noticed.

Irish flared the helicopter’s nose up over the fence decelerating then descended to land, a small explosion of dust rose obscuring our vision. Masum Ghar, was a one-way trip. No overshoot option because the landing zone was in a bowl and a mountain was directly in front. Once crossing the fence in, we were committed to the landing.

“Three feet, two, one…” Snapshot was calling the heights since we couldn’t see due to the rising dust, “…steady right, your drifting!”

I found a reference on the left side and added some cyclic pressure to stop the drift. It wasn’t anything serious, but the extra assistance was for safety. Irish settled the aircraft onto the ground firmly.

“Thanks.” Irish stated. “I lost everything for a second there.”

“I know, it’s dusty. It’s nuts! It was only a slow right drift.” I responded. “Load ‘em up Snapshot!”

Snapshot walked out through the dust-cloud and returned with two heavily packed soldiers. I was in awe how these young men climb mountains and trek through the dark when they each carry an extra hundred and fifty extra pounds of equipment. The two soldiers lumbered aboard and strapped themselves in.

Two stoic bearded faces looked forward, and thumbs raised in the air. We were a go.


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