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2 US Soldiers Injured In Black Hawk Crash In Afghanistan
Two U.S. military personnel suffered minor injuries after their HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on the morning of August 1, Operation Resolute Support said in a statement.
The helo “suffered a mechanical issue” during operations near Achin in the country’s eastern province of Nangarhar, making what U.S. Central Command officials characterized as a “hard landing.” Rescue personnel managed to safely evacuate the crew, and ORS is in the process of recovering the downed copter.
The Nangarhar province has become a stronghold for Afghan ISIS offshoot ISIS-Khorasan, and a target for increased U.S. special operations forces activity since the Department of Defense dropped a 21,600 pound GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (or “mother of all bombs”) on an ISIS-K position in April.
The Taliban initially attempted to claim responsibility for the crash, asserting in a statement that militants “opened fire on the helicopter during its landing around 2 a.m., killing everyone aboard and foiling an attempted raid,” according to Stars and Stripes. That claim appears to be hot garbage.
The incident, though relatively minor, underscores a growing problem: Poor upkeep and maintenance of the NATO coalition’s fleet of Black Hawk attack helicopters will likely result in more mechanical failures not just in Afghanistan, but on battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa where U.S.-led forces focus on beating back the rising tide of Islamic militants.
A Pentagon inspector general audit of HH-60 airframe and training evaluations found that Army Aviation and Missile Command officials “did not effectively manage airframe condition evaluations” for the Black Hawk fleet, neglecting to require regular evaluations (AMCOM didn’t conduct a single airframe assessment for a whole year between March 2016 and March 2017) or enforce standards for unit commanders responsible for grounding potentially faulty aircraft.
“Evaluators identified safety problems with some H-60 helicopters that required the unit commander to ground (restrict flying) those helicopters,” according to the audit. But “the unit commander did not always allow evaluators to finish the evaluation of additional helicopters because he did not want to ground more helicopters if additional safety problems were identified. As a result, Army pilots and crew could be flying H-60 helicopters with unidentified structural defects.”
Of course, this assessment primarily applies to the Army; the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard all use modified H-60 Black Hawks for various operations. But given the essential nature of the attack copter to counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and beyond — as well as the cultural symbolism of a downed Black Hawk, thanks to the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and journalist Mark Bowden’s account of the campaign in Black Hawk Down — the Army may want to take a harder look at ensuring that mechanical failures like the one that occurred over Achin don’t happen again.
CENTCOM and ORS did not immediately respond to request for comment from Task & Purpose. We will update this story with more information as it becomes available.
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
On April 11, 1966, Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger (played by Jeremy Irvine) responded to a call to evacuate casualties belonging to a company with the Army's 1st Infantry Division near Cam My during a deadly ambush, the result of a search and destroy mission dubbed Operation Abilene.
In the ensuing battle, the unit suffered more than 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached. Despite the dangers on the ground, Pitsenbarger refused to leave the soldiers trapped in the jungle and waved off the medevac chopper, choosing to fight, and ultimately die, alongside men he'd never met before that day.
Decades later, those men fought to see Pitsenbarger's Air Force Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On Dec. 8, 2000, they won, when Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the nation's highest decoration for valor.
The Last Full Measure painstakingly chronicles that long desperate struggle, and the details of the battle are told in flashbacks by the soldiers who survived the ambush, played by a star-studded cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.
After Operation Abilene, some of the men involved moved on with their lives, or tried to, and the film touches on the many ways they struggled with their grief, trauma, and in the case of some, feelings of guilt. For the characters in The Last Full Measure, seeing Pitsenbarger awarded the Medal of Honor might be the one decent thing they pull out of that war, remarks Jackson's character, Lt. Billy Takoda, one of the soldier's whose life Pitsenbarger saved.
There are a lot of threads to follow in The Last Full Measure, individual strands of a larger story that feel misplaced, redacted, or cut short — at times, violently. But this is not a criticism, quite the opposite in fact. This tangled web is part of the larger narrative at play as Scott Huffman, a fictitious modern-day Pentagon bureaucrat played by Sebastian Stan, tries to piece together what actually happened that fateful day so many years ago.
At the start, Huffman — the person who ultimately becomes Pitsenbarger's champion in Washington — wants nothing to do with the airman's story, the medal, or the Vietnam veterans who want to see his sacrifice recognized. For Huffman, it's a burdensome assignment, just one more box to check before he can move on to brighter and better career prospects.
The skepticism of Pentagon bureaucracy and Washington political operators is on full display throughout the movie. When Takoda first meets Huffman, the Army vet grills the overdressed and out-of-his-depth government flack about his intentions, calls him an FNG (fucking new guy) and tosses Huffman's recorder into the nearby river where he's fishing with his grandkids.
Sebastian Stan stars as Scott Huffman alongside Samuel Jackson as Billy Takoda in "The Last Full Measure."(IMDB)
As Huffman spends more time with the grunts who fought alongside Pitsenbarger, and the Air Force PJs who flew with him that day, he, and the audience, come to see their campaign, and their frustration over the lack of progress, in a different light.
In one of the movie's later moments, The Last Full Measure offers an explanation for why Pitsenbarger's award languished for so long. The theory? Pitsenbarger's Medal of Honor citation was downgraded to a service cross, not because his actions didn't meet the standard associated with the nation's highest award for valor, but because his rank didn't.
"The conjecture among the Mud Soldiers and Bien Hoa Eagles is that Pitsenbarger was passed over because he was enlisted," Robinson, who wrote and directed The Last Full Measure, told Task & Purpose.
"As for the events in the film, Pitsenbarger's upgrade was clearly ignored for decades and items had been lost — whether that was deliberate is up for discussion but we feel we captured the spirit of the issues at hand either way," he said. "Some of these questions are simply impossible to answer with 100% certainty as no one really knows."
The cynicism in The Last Full Measure is overt, but to be entirely honest, it feels warranted. While watching the film, I couldn't help but think back to recent stories of battlefield bravery, like that of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who ran into a burning Bradley three times in Iraq to pull out his wounded men — a feat of heroism that cost him his life, and inspired an ongoing campaign to see Cashe awarded the Medal of Honor.
There's no shortage of op-eds by current and former service members who see the military's awards process as slow and cumbersome at best, and biased or broken at worst, and it's refreshing to see that criticism reflected in a major war movie. And sure, like plenty of military dramas, The Last Full Measure has some sappy moments, but on the whole, it's a damn good film.
The Last Full Measure hits theaters on Jan. 24.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.