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Air Combat Controller 'Lowers the Boom' on Terror Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2002 – An Air Force special operations trooper described moments of danger and levity when he and Army compatriots were hunkered down atop an adobe building north of Kabul last fall.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Bombs make a direct hit on Taliban bunkers near Kabul, Afghanistan. An Air Force Air Combat Controller, embedded with U.S. Army Special Forces, made the close air support calls to the U.S. aircraft that dropped the weapons on the site.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Calvin, an air combat controller, said he arrived in Afghanistan Oct. 19, shortly before the start of the Northern Alliance's drive on Afghanistan's capital city. Less than 30 hours after his arrival, Calvin said he was directing U.S. military "smart bombs" and other ordnance onto key Taliban and Al Qaeda targets.

Calvin, who didn't release his last name for security reasons, said he and his group were about 25 miles north of Kabul when the Northern Alliance's offensive kicked off. The bombs he directed from U.S. Navy and Air Force planes, he noted, helped shatter Taliban positions that had held firm against opposition troops for three years.

When the offensive got going, Taliban and Al Qaeda troops were firing at his special operations unit with everything from small arms to bigger-bore weapons, he said.

The Taliban "would take their heavy anti-aircraft artillery, turn it horizontal, and shoot it at us," Calvin recalled, adding that's when his group began joking to one another that it was time to get off the roof.

"That particular day we were getting shot at pretty bad even when things get grim, you see the lighter side," he explained. No one on the roof, he said, thought about retreating.

"The mindset is to get aircraft on the scene to eliminate that target," Calvin emphasized. "That's everything you train for, it comes down to that moment. You've got to eliminate that threat so they don't have it anymore."

The campaign for Kabul was expected to last six months, Calvin noted, but ultimately took just 25 days because of the successful use of close air support against the targets. That campaign ended, he said, when terrorist troops abandoned the city. Calvin's special operations team, he noted, liberated the American Embassy in Kabul.

Calvin said Northern Alliance leaders and troops appreciated close air support provided by the Americans in the campaign for Kabul.

"It doesn't matter what country you're from, there is that common bond of military camaraderie. Once they saw that we were a definite asset for them, there was immediate rapport," he noted.

Calvin is slated to share his Afghanistan experiences with other Air Force combat air controllers. He noted that U.S. and coalition military successes in Afghanistan demonstrate the effectiveness of joint special operations forces warfare.

"You have your intel(ligence) guys, weapons guys, medics, engineers," he explained. "You take all that technical expertise and you have a force to be reckoned with."

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