Medevac Helo Attacked During Rescue of Afghan Child
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2006 A U.S. medical evacuation helicopter carrying an injured Afghan child came under attack with small-arms fire Aug. 1 in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, U.S. military officials said.
The incident happened just days after media reports indicated Taliban leaders were urging followers to target U.S. and coalition medical personnel and clergy, officials said.
Army Col. Michael Rose, Task Force Falcon and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, called the attack a senseless and cowardly act. “This crew risked their lives to save this little girl, and the Taliban response to that was to try to shoot down an unarmed helicopter. This makes no sense at all,” Rose said.
The 24-month-old Afghan girl was being transferred for treatment for third-degree burns to more than 45 percent of her body. “She basically pulled a pot of boiling oils onto herself," said Army Capt. Patrick Zenk, 159th Medical Company’s detachment commander for Regional Command South. "The patient's parent tried to bring the child to Qalat for treatment, but the roads were impassable."
Crewmembers aboard an escort helicopter said they observed small-arms fire directed at the UH-60 Blackhawk medevac helicopter shortly before landing at Forward Operating Base Sweeny, forcing it and an escort helicopter to take evasive measures. A door-gunner on the escort helicopter returned fire, killing the gunman.
The medevac crew successfully transported the child to a U.S. aid station at Forward Operating Base Sweeny. She was then flown by helicopter to a U.S. emergency medical care facility in Kandahar.
Army Sgt. Erik Zlatkin, a surgical specialist with the 759th Forward Surgical Team who helped treat the young patient, said care provided by the 159th flight medics probably saved the child's life. She arrived at the aid station in good condition, he said. “She should be OK,” he said.
About a third of the more than 430 medical evacuation missions the unit has performed have been in support of Afghan citizens, Maj. Robert Howe, 159th Medical Company commander, said.
“Our crews know that every time we launch, there is a very real possibility that someone out there wishes to do us harm,” he said. “We will not be deterred. These missions are critical to helping not only wounded servicemembers, but also Afghans in need.”
(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)