A USAF aerial gunner mans a Dillon Aero M134 (GAU-2C) gatling gun from his position inside a U.S. Pave Hawk Search & Rescue Squadron helicopter.
The Hottest LZ in Afghanistan
The first action involves multiple medical evacuation flights, multiple emergency re-supply missions and multiple close air support missions to assist a U.S. Special Forces ODA leading Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers who had been ambushed and were heavily engaged by Taliban fighters. This was the quintessential combat mission involving an armed U.S. Air Force Rescue Squadron helicopter, and it involved every aspect of a combat search and rescue helicopter’s wartime mission template.
On July 28, 2008, in the Uruzgan Province of Afghanistan, a U.S. Army Special Forces ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) that included Afghan National Army troops was ambushed near the town of Tarin Kowt by a numerically superior force of Taliban fighters.
As the firefight continued and an assessment of the situation confirmed that the unit had sustained three casualties, the commanding officer of the ODA relocated his troops to a more defensible position. The SF unit contacted the International Security Assistance Force RC-S (Regional Command-South) to request medical evacuation of their casualties, an emergency re-supply of ammunition and close air support.
USAF Rescue Squadron crews rely on the GAU-18/A .50 BMG and two 7.62 NATO caliber MGs to protect their Pave Hawk helicopters from hostile threats and provide close air support to Coalition/Allied troops.
Due to the overall severity of the situation, a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, call sign Shocker 21, was dispatched. It should be noted that the alternative would have been to dispatch a ground force that would take at least three hours to reach the point of contact, while having to transit areas in Afghanistan heavily occupied by enemy forces and known to be blocked with an array of improvised explosive devices.