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Military.com/TheBayNet.com

Editor’s Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga

In late 2001, I lifted off the USS Bataan in a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter toward Afghanistan as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. I was one of the first pilots to push into Afghanistan after 9/11. The trip to the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar meant an arduous flight through the mountains, pushing the 35-year-old “Battlephrog” close to its operating limits and range. We had to make a fuel stop at a remote base in Pakistan followed by a long flight across open desert, often flying on instruments through a sandy haze.

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