Above the Best (2019) Movie Script

Eight, nine, ten...
Colossal 31,
it was an NVG mission,
night vision goggles,
which means we're flying at night time
using nothing but the, uh,
binoculars that we had.
- 4143, you're in the group.
- South.
We had a Chinook unit
that was attached to us
called the Washington
Air National Guard,
who had been going
in and out of the same LZ
during the day time,
weeks prior.
So when they heard that we were
gonna be coming out of Bagram
doing it under NVGs, they kinda
called us up and said,
"Don't do it, because it's
really high on the ridgeline,
very high winds,
and a very steep valley".
But the Ground Force Commander
wanted to be exfilled under NVGs.
So with that being said,
we put our most experienced pilot
in command on board, we put
our most experienced PI,
and we put four crew members
in the back, not just three.
You got a bad filter?
Hold your fort.
- Hold her down.
- Roger that.
Dropping back down
to about 500 AGO.
- Maintain it at 81.
- Okay.
Copy that, 06. Looks like
we're about two clicks from the LZ.
We've only got 364 days to go.
The winds were pretty high,
the landing zone was essentially
a rock ledge that was
probably 20 meters wide.
Colossal 31,
be careful on the approach,
I see a lot of trees
on that ridge line.
What the pilots were trying to do
was back in with the ramp down,
put the lip of the ramp on the
rock, uh, ledge, have the LRAS team,
I believe was seven people,
uh, come onto
the Chinook and then,
uh, fly away.
They had to do
a tailgate landing.
It's something we'd practiced,
it's in our ATM, this is what we do.
I'm bringing her down.
Keep it steady,
keep it steady.
So, we were tearing there.
They kinda started drifting aft.
It's coming awful close
to that tree line, Colossal 31.
We're right
on the ridge.
A massive, 31.
Come in, come in.
Back at Bagram,
probably about eleven o'clock at night,
our SP knocked on the doors
and said that, uh,
Eric Totten's aircraft
went down.
The aft rotor system hit a tree,
causing the forward
and the aft rotor system
to collide and completely tore
apart the entire helicopter.
Nobody survived,
we lost all ten.
There was nothing but burning
embers at the bottom of the valley.
We were in disbelief that like,
"This cannot be happening right now."
We were all listening.
We were listening
for our friends to come home.
And they never came home.
What happened with the Apache?
They left our friends.
So, this is all the stuff
I have from Afghanistan
and, and my time
of active duty in the army.
This is the actual patch
that we had on our flight suits,
it says, "Ugly but well hung".
This is 10th Mountain's,
a patch they gave to us.
The Apache, the Hawk and the,
and the Chinook right there.
So, they came in that night,
we're standing in between
our B Huts outside,
it was already getting dark
and the captain starts
telling us about what happened.
He starts telling us that,
"I guess you heard,
the Chinook crashed last night.
And those guys pretty much killed
themselves and everybody on board",
and he came across blaming them.
Sat there for... what seemed like
forever, I think, "What, what the hell?
That's... that's horrible."
And he said, "No,
that's not the worst of it."
You know, you... "What do you
mean that's not the worst of it?"
So, he goes, "10th Mountain's blaming
us, the Apaches, for leaving them.
Your buddies left them."
At that point he said like,
"If y'all hear anything
from 10th Mountain
bad about us, just ignore them.
They don't know
what they're talking about."
And at that point,
my blood pressure was
through the roof.
I pointed at the captain
and told him,
"Who the fuck are you
to bad-mouth
American troops like that?
Who the hell are you to leave
American troops on that mountain.
Don't you ever do that.
How dare you leave our guys like that?"
I read that every now and then
to remind me also that
you gotta watch out
for everybody else in life.
"He called upon us all the sum of
his knowledge and made a judgement.
He believed in it so strongly that
he knowingly bet his life on it.
That he was mistaken in his judgement
is a tragedy, not stupidity.
Every supervisor
and contemporary who ever spoke
to him, had an opportunity
to influence his judgement,
so a little bit of all of us goes
in with every troop we lose."
Now, gotta read that,
every now and then.
I haven't been up here since
these guys started shooting and stuff.
- Oh really?
- Yeah.
Won't be surprised if we find
some RPGs in that woodpile down there.
Stay to the right here, till we
can get over this thing, if not we can make
a left turn. Don't descend
unless you have to, alright?
- Roger.
- Keep the altitude that we got.
What we were being told
to expect coming into Afghanistan
was that the insurgency
was ba... basically broken.
Roger and over.
So we'd turn on the lights,
we found a lot of Taliban and Al-Qaeda,
and all of a sudden,
we were in contact just about everywhere.
I'm taking
fire. Just...
Yeah, pick up your speed as fast as
you can. It's really not good up here.
Nobody up here.
We just received fire
about two clicks east
of the Lumberyard...
That looked to be a direct
hit, good shooting, Deadwood.
We were not making friends
when we first started, so...
God help us.
We've got ten months left,
and it will be brutal.
We had to be perfect.
On this day, it was a day mission,
we were just to follow several Chinooks
as they made it to the different FOBs
dropping off different things and people.
Yeah, Deadwood 6-3,
uh, coming in from the West.
We'd like to uh, open up their
range, give it a sweep here.
Roger that.
We're flying across
the Gardez Desert.
I was looking around and just at
that point...
...I was thinking, "Jesus, what is
wrong?" It was like a solid rush of heat.
Something's going wrong here,
something... I wanna get out
of the helicopter.
The Apache helicopter went down
while trying to land at the
Montgomery County Airport.
Jeez, we're roasting across
the desert floor at 120 knots.
If I just get out of here,
all I gotta do,
all I gotta do is just...
- Maybe just open the door and jump out...
- jump out.
Daniel Flores'
chopper went down.
I got a hotspot under my helmet,
I gotta change my helmet here.
I gotta move my helmet around.
Jesus, I gotta get out of here.
How did I even drive home?
My wife will wake me up
any minute now.
And I'm like Jesus.
Just take a deep breath.
Just take a deep breath.
I gotta get out of here. This is...
Just take
a deep breath.
That was my first bout of what
would later become claustrophobia,
anxiety and anxiety attacks
that go with it.
That was the first time I'd ever
experienced something like that.
Somewhere in the
crumpled metal of the Apache helicopter
lies a clue as to what made it
fall from the sky.
We set up to do
traffic patterns.
I was doing the flying
from the front seat.
Just as I was
about to reduce power to land
to the approach end
of runway 1-4,
a Learjet calls up
on the radio saying,
"Montgomery County traffic,
this is Learjet 6-5 Charlie.
We are four mile final
for runway 1-4."
I was thinking, "Yeah, this guy is gonna
be bearing down on us pretty fast".
So as I'm starting to slow down,
even more to land,
Tommy's thinking the same thing.
He took the flight controls,
and we went forward
a little bit.
That's the last thing I remember.
Less than five
minutes after take-off,
the chopper fell to the ground,
it's landing gear mired in the mud.
Chief warrant officers, Daniel Flores and
Thomas Einhorn were shaken up in the crash.
Both were taken to Medical
Center Hospital in Conroe,
put under observation,
then released.
How did I survive?
Literally by the grace of God.
That was in August when
I had that first bout of anxiety.
I went and saw
the flight surgeon.
He... I told him
what was going on.
He worked with me a little bit, not much.
He just said, "You, uh,
you gotta learn to live with it, or you
want me to take you off flight status?"
And there was no way
I could do that. So...
I did what we all do
in the military.
I fought through it.
On that day, early October 2006,
we had already set the aircraft up,
as we call them, we cocked them up
for the QRF, quick reaction force.
We'd just sit around and wait for the
radios to come alive, to go help somebody.
We were in the chow hall and
our Icom radios came to life.
The Apache crew Deadwood
launch the QRF right now.
We all looked at the radio,
going like,
"Are they serious?
This has never happened before."
We ran across the flight line.
The other Apache on the QRF,
they were already sitting at 100
percent RPMs, waiting for me.
Clear right,
clear left. Clear.
We were stationed
at Bagram at the time.
Most of our QRF missions were
just escorting Medivacs.
So, it was a little odd
that we were actually dispatched
to a firefight in the Tagab
valley, because as far as we know,
at the time,
the Tagab was quiet.
October 14th was
our first mission
to roll down
through the Valley of Tagab,
and meet with the senior members of
the village, and conduct a jirga.
And we were also taking along a
donation of, um, school supplies,
that we were gonna pass along
to the children of the village.
I had turned 50 in 2006.
And I arrived in Afghanistan.
I was not assigned to a unit.
I was a forces
command fill,
because they needed embedded
tactical trainers, ETTs.
The job as an ETT,
as an embedded tactical trainer is...
you're supposed to embed
with the Afghan army,
and you... you liaise
between the US military
and the Afghan military.
We were two-man teams,
one officer and one senior enlisted.
"Hall and Best, you go over there
and you guys report to your unit",
and we reported, and they said, "Okay,
you guys are just gonna be paired up."
It's total happenstance.
You would have these
teams embedded and 100
to 200 Afghan national
army personnel, you know.
Because only once
you've got them sufficient
to where they could secure and
govern themselves, could we leave.
When we left Nijrab, my vehicle
was commanded by Lieutenant Hall,
he was sitting
in the team chiefs' seat,
and then I was the gunner
in the, uh, turret.
And we had Naser
as our interpreter in the back,
with radios to allow us
to communicate
with the Afghan forces
that we were working with.
I was a civilian
contractor. When I was working
with the coalition forces
and NATO,
my position was an interpreter,
and I was doing
language services.
Naser was, was one of those kids
who loves his country so much,
he loves Afghanistan so much...
...that he did whatever he could to help out.
It wasn't
about the paycheck with him.
It was all about helping
his country.
In Afghanistan,
in the villages as soon as
the light's up and after prayer,
they open up shop
and they close
when they wanna close.
Uh, so, when we were going down through,
no shops were open.
As we moved through
the little village of Afghania,
we noticed that the kids weren't out
there waving, giving us thumbs up.
We started seeing women and
children running from the fields.
We continued on up the road
and there was an Afghan
National Police post
that you could always see Afghan
National Police walking on top of.
The building was
completely abandoned.
So that kind of put your Spidey
senses on tingle a little bit.
As we roll
past that post,
the Afghan commander
stopped the vehicle
and was calling Naser,
our interpreter on the radio,
and telling us to stop.
Uh, so, I asked them what's going on.
He said, "Enemy, enemy".
Stop right here.
The Afghan commander
comes out, he walked out,
he snatched the Dragon
off Sniper Rifle.
He stuck it into
a hole in a compound.
And he gets back out and smiles
and looks at me and goes,
"Two. I got two."
That's when I learned...
what it sounds like
to get shot at.
I began returning fire,
and Lieutenant Hall called back
to the rear American vehicle
to alert them that we were...
we had troops in contact.
Big, long combo right, nine,
ten vehicles, something like that.
The front three or four are the
ones getting engaged right now.
I'm lieutenant, I have a
captain, uh, in the Humvee to my rear.
Their radio's not working
or something, so he gets out
and starts running up to us,
bounding and hopping.
And, uh, he comes up to say,
"Hey, what's going on?"
And that's when I kinda
give him the situation.
Hey, get some guns
up high.
When I turned my face,
I saw, uh,
the rounds were hitting
in the Humvees.
Four, shot to four o'clock.
The whole time I'm trying
to call for air support.
Deadwood 6-7, Deadwood 6-7,
this is Vandal 1-6, over.
I know if I can get
some Apaches,
they come with rockets, big guns
and they can s... They come
with elevated positions.
Zero-five, 0-5,
6-7 to the blind and 8-4.
You don't wanna send one
aircraft out on its own ever.
That was policy at the time,
in case one goes down,
you wanna have somebody else there to
be able to provide support for 'em.
Stay up high
down in there.
When they dispatch us
to these situations,
all we get is a brief,
"Troops in contact
at this grid location.
Here's a radio frequency,
go make contact with them and help them."
Vandal 0-5, Vandal 0-5,
this is Deadwood 6-7
to the blind and Deadwood
8-4 inbound here rotations.
Their front seaters got put
in their coordinates to the entrance,
to the Northern entrance
of the Tagab Valley.
Where what we call, we're buster, we're
going as fast as we can. Military power.
We didn't have any intelligence,
you know, on, you know,
who these guys were
or what their...
what their mission
actually was at the time.
We knew we were supposed
to go talk to a Vandal 1-6,
which was Lieutenant Hall and escort
him back, uh, back to their base.
Any Vandal elements, any Vandal elements.
This is Deadwood 6-3.
All these people on the trail
to the right.
From the time we launched,
to the time we got to the north end
of the Tagab, was all
of 15 minutes at the most.
Those guys had already been
in a protracted fight
for easily two hours
before we got called out.
They were getting surrounded
by the Taliban.
Deadwood 6-7, is
that 1-6, we are in convoy,
uh, to evac out of here.
OK, coming in high? Big guy roger,
are you still in contact at this time?
From the standpoint
of a helicopter pilot,
one of these things
is just like all the others.
It's a lot more
of a significant experience
for the guys who are actually
on the ground swapping bullets
with the bad guys,
back and forth.
5-3-3-7, this is 5-3-0,
coming hard now, coming hard.
And where's it at?
where the fuck are they?
Fuck, they're shooting at
us from the trail.
- And where's it at?
- Now we're getting hit from our two o'clock.
The Afghans came out
and tried to envelop us
on both sides,
kinda like a bull's horns,
and tried to enclose us in
and circle us on both sides.
Now the Afghans,
they fight hard and they fight
with no body armor, they fight
with no pay, no socks,
some of them don't have
boot laces,
I mean, they... they fight hard.
It was kinda
inspiring to, to work
with these Afghan guys who,
who did so much for so little.
Damn! I'm out.
Gonna need more rounds, need more rounds.
Terry's in the gun shooting,
he's focused on,
uh, firing rounds
and suppressing the enemy.
I thought to myself,
because the Mark 19 had a lot of them,
"Maybe that will be
the next target".
I yelled at them to move,
move, move from that place.
Move, move forward.
That was an RPG.
After they moved,
fortunately, uh,
they had that place
with the RPG,
but the, uh,
Humvee was not there.
And that was our ride back
also to go to the base.
So, uh, to make sure
we don't have to walk.
Ceasefire! Ceasefire!
Over about a 45-minute period,
we were able to quell the contact.
We thought the fight is finished.
One of the company commanders,
he sent one of his platoon soldiers
with the squad to go down see the damages.
When those people came
back, they brought the flag
of the Taliban, which was
on top of one of the compounds.
So we're just taking some photos.
The Taliban already had
the Afghan army radio scanned.
They was listening the Afghan army
communications on their radio.
One of the Taliban guy,
maybe their leader or one of their men,
he called the call sign of the
platoon Sargent when he answered,
and respond, "Yes",
and he start, uh...
Uh, sorry to say that, he said,
"We're gonna fuck you guys up."
Target in!
At this point, we still
had integrity of our convoy,
with an American vehicle
in the lead, uh,
followed by five Afghan vehicles,
and then an American vehicle.
The senior person on this convoy
was in the rear vehicle.
And he asked Lieutenant Hall to have our vehicle
maintain our position while they moved up.
Some of his people got out,
Captain got out,
went to aggress
and move to another building.
Move, move, move!
Hey, watch
your rifle, Lee!
They got shot on,
leave it, leave it don't touch.
- Oh my God, dude.
- Where's Gus! We need air support.
We had been calling
for the Apaches for three hours.
Now we were running out of ammo,
running out of fuel, and...
but I was so focused
on what was going on, uh,
I didn't really worry about what
could happen if they didn't come.
I'm out a little
bit further.
We get over the northern end
of the Tagab Valley,
and, uh, we're circling,
circling would seem like...
Oh man, at least 30 minutes.
I see smoke in the
one o'clock, about two miles.
Okay, we're, uh, armed.
We're armed all the way around.
Deadwood 6-7,
do you have eyes on the Humvee, over?
There's a couple
of Humvees.
Vandal 1-6, Vandal 1-6,
this is Deadwood 6-7,
over east now.
This is your location
Sure enough, we find a convoy
that was engaged on an orchard
on the other side of a ravine.
Vandal 1-6,
just give us the direction
where you're taking fire from,
we can put down some fire.
Roger, Deadwood 6-7, 8-1.
God dammit, do you have eyes
on our location, over?
We've got eyes on
along the roadway, uh,
kind of hiding behind a wall.
Roger, Deadwood 6-7,
that's us in the Humvee, over.
Okay, here is the situation,
what you need is to put fire on them.
Roger, they are in the
orchard to our east.
- Anything you can fire up in there will be granted.
- Roll it out, rolling.
He's trying to direct us
where we need to put fire down on.
It's a little more difficult
for us during the day
to identify specifically where
they're being attacked from,
because, you know, at night time you
can see where the rounds are coming off,
you can see where the fires are coming
from, uh, you can utilize the flare,
but it's more difficult during the day,
'cause you're primarily using your naked eye.
Roger and
there's smoking going on over here
that could be a village, and the orchard
to the east that you're talking about.
Roger that, 6-7, that's
go ahead and fire that up.
we're gonna put down so fire.
Alright, go ahead. That was some good shooting
right there that kicked up all the dirt.
Yep, I saw it.
OK, let's come around.
Coming around
Are you gonna fire rockets...
Yeah, I'm gonna
try and fire rockets on this.
Okay, you fire rockets and then
I'll clean up a gun.
I got the gun now.
Finger's on the trigger.
- Follow our guys a little bit and shoot into it.
- Okay
- Eh, come on, right.
- Alright, coming right. 6-1 to...
OK, fire when you...
1-6 and 1-6
That's when Vandal gets
on the radio saying like,
"Who are you guys shooting at?
We are a convoy
at the south end of the Tagab."
"We're all standing behind this
wall and shooting to our east,
is that what you're seeing?" He says,
"Yeah. It... Every shooting to the east".
I'm, "Well, that's us,
but I don't see you."
6-7, Deadwood 6-7. I believe
we are south of your location, over.
- Hold up on this round.
- Alright, holding up.
Roger that. He said
they're south of our location.
6-1, see what these
guys are doing right here.
- Deadwood 6-7
- Get ready.
Go ahead.
Roger. Good copy.
I was talking to, uh,
Lieutenant Hall on the radio,
the radio reception
was crystal clear,
but we were not supporting him.
He was...
What? Five or seven kilometers maybe
further south of where we were.
Oh my God,
who did we just shoot?
There were three Afghans that were hurt.
- Over here! I saw two police!
- Where, where?
The Captain got on the
radio and he called for a Medivac.
The Medivac indicated
that they would push one up,
but they would not land until the area was secure.
So the Captain indicated
to Lieutenant Hall
that he was taking half
the Afghans in the ambulance
and they were gonna roll back
to combat output in Nijrab.
"And you continue the fight."
Lieutenant Hall indicated he
did not think it was a good idea.
I was, uh, very vocal from my position
that it was an absolutely horrible idea.
They needed to understand they
still had ten people pinned down.
They took away a big gun,
on top of that Humvee is a 50-cal.
We have a Mark 19,
an automatic grenade launcher.
You split those up,
and you don't have anybody
to cover for him
while he's reloading.
Reload. I'm out.
I need more rounds.
You don't choose
who leads you
in those situations.
They get force-fed to you,
and my job
as an enlisted soldier,
is to mitigate
the mistakes they make.
The shots are coming
from right below us.
They left us with only one American
vehicle and the American vehicles
were out there because we had
the most fire power,
and because we could
communicate with the skies.
So, this was a month after my first
real deal claustrophobic anxiety attack.
There's trails and everything down
here, they could be hiding in all those trees.
It was on the back of my mind.
If I had a moment to stop and reflect...
Yeah, here it comes.
Deadwood 6-7,
we are in convoy, we need evac out of here.
And that's when I started realizing,
that as long as I can keep
my mind preoccupied
with something else,
yeah, the chances of having an
anxiety attack was much, much less.
- Roger, Deadwood 7-6, I'm right underneath you.
- Roger.
What we actually wound up
flying over first
was a ground QRF force,
that had been sent out
from their base to go help them.
And so we supported those guys at
first for a good 10-15 minutes or so,
before we realized this is not
where we're supposed to be.
Deadwood 6-7,
we are in the last vehicle in this convoy.
we have eyes on you.
As soon as they got over the orchard
where the fighting was going on,
sure enough there was a volley of
RPGs and smoke from all the shooting.
I quickly slammed the stick
to the left, lined up my rockets
and fired off three high
explosive rockets.
Oh yeah,
oh yeah, oh yeah.
And I tell you, right now,
that felt great.
Come on back.
Going in
look good at this point.
Go around, you're in
a good position, over.
Here we go.
RPG, 0-8. Yeah!
Deadwood 6-7, we are still
receiving fire from our inside, over.
north and
south so we get a little more to run.
Yes, and that way
he's coming in that direction.
- I agree with them. Coming out
- OK.
- 6-1 is inbound
- Roger.
- Okay.
- Good round,
Deadwood 6-7
you're right on target.
Okay, 6-7, roger.
We had all our Afghans
in the trenches,
so we had to get everybody,
find them all with no radios.
Get them all back in the vehicles
and I'm calling, I'm trying
to talk to the Afghans and I
don't know, I don't know Dari,
so I'm trying to find my interpreter,
and he's up on the front line,
you know,
taking ammo to the Afghans.
I had to call him and...
and provide cover fire for him
to start bounding back to me,
and I had to grab him
by the collar and...
and try to yell at him,
"Hey, I need you with me, man.
I need you to stay with me."
We finally got everybody together,
you know, we started, started to move out.
Deadwood 6-7, we
are loading up to evac out of here, over.
There was about 500 enemy
insurgents in the valley at that time.
When we came down, all the... the enemy
insurgents decided to come out to the road
because they knew we'd have to come
back, and they laid in probably seven,
eight ambushes for us
along those 17 kilometers.
Roger, Deadwood 6-7, we are in route and we
are gonna have ambushes all the way home.
- OK, we're going with 'em.
- OK, we stay with 'em.
Roger won't be, uh,
location as you are north.
I could see that they were
starting to head north along the road.
I rolled in, flying as fast as I
could, catching up the convoy,
and roasted over them
at about 100 feet,
to let them know
that we were with them,
and for any other possible
ambushes in front of them to know
that there's Apaches that are
protecting our guys on the ground.
Do you copy, 1-6.
The next village they came
up to, looked literally
like an old western town,
with a dirt road down the middle.
It was a tight one lane
road, with buildings on either side.
That's when Vandal 1-6
screams down the radio that
they're shooting from the rooftops.
- Rooftops, get down! Over.
- Shit!
They were literally putting the gun
over the edge and just squeezing
the trigger and letting,
letting them fly.
We can take out that house.
That's where they were shooting them from.
I'm checking to see
where the shots came from.
I was in a position right there, just above
the town, saw one building and I thought,
"Alright, I'm fixing to put a
rocket right through the top of it."
Okay, we're armed,
we're armed all the way around.
But it didn't feel right.
- He's got nowhere to go if he get shot at.
- Yeah, yeah.
- Alright, just get ready.
- Roger.
I eased off and circled around, I thought,
"Alright. Give them a little bit of time
before I go make a shot and
possibly kill innocents in there."
Because it's still, it's
a country where normal people
that don't wanna be in this war.
That's where they live.
So, in my mind,
that was a good...
a good decision
not to take that shot.
He's pointing that
way somewhere, what the heck?
Those guys are
right in front of us.
Vandal to Deadwood.
Roger. See if there's
anybody down there as well.
I'm looking and lost.
So that's when I started
making runs up and down the road,
popping flares
to let people know that,
"You mess with them,
we will level this town".
- I'll send some flares.
- Go ahead. Roger.
Power. Speed.
And flares away.
We're throwing
flares everywhere.
The Afghans stopped
because they're taking fire,
and they got out of the vehicles
to try and engage.
Deadwood 6-7,
we have
- We are loading up to evac out of here, over.
- Roger.
They were out fighting, because they
didn't wanna be in their vehicles,
so we get them back in the
vehicles and we start moving again.
Oh fuck! Go ahead!
We need airborne!
We need airborne!
We were close to being black on ammo,
meaning that we were out of ammo.
I had used all my Mark 19
rounds, so the guys in the skies
had the only rounds
that were really being fired.
Considering how many people
were stacked up against them,
they were sitting ducks.
The FOB was not even a mile away
and that's when Vandal 1-6
yells out, "They're shooting from the
fields, they're shooting from the field."
6-7, 6-7
They're in the fields,
in the fields. Over.
They're in the fields,
6-7, in the fields.
Roger, in the fields. I got
it, it's gonna be a tight turn backing up.
Right down below
us, 6-7, right down below us.
My front seater saw somebody
run into the fields shooting.
- Here we go. You see 'em?
- Yep.
I didn't see 'em.
Good shot, 6-7,
good shot.
I got it,
alright, coming left.
- Left.
- Yeah, take a left turn, I saw the guys on the ground.
We'd gotten so good at this
point with shooting rockets
that I could put a rocket in a
window at a mile away. No problem.
Alright, straight on.
- Oh, nice.
- Right there, there you go.
I'm out of, I'm out of...
Good round, 6-7,
good round.
- Roll out.
- Alright out.
By about that time the convoy
made up the last hill to the FOB.
6-7, it's 1-6,
we are in the FOB, over.
If we would not
have shown up
at the time that we did,
the chances are they would
have had a lot more casualties
if not all of them
getting killed.
They secured our safe passage
out of that valley.
I mean we shot a lot
of ordinance that day,
in those,
in those three and a half hours.
Terry brought
700 rounds of grenades,
700 grenades that he shot.
The Afghan are an amazing
fighting force and, uh,
Matt is the best battle buddy
I've ever had.
If we would have had to
run back through that gauntlet,
without cover fire,
who knows how many people
would have made it back.
We saved them that day,
we saved them that day.
We got back
that night and...
And we had flat tires
and we had no ammo.
We were tired,
and there was a point where I...
you know, I sat on a berm
and just kinda looked out
into the distance.
You know, I needed a minute.
And, uh, Naser came up
and sat down and I said,
"Hey, you know,
I... we fired a lot of grenades,
and we fired a lot of guns and,
we, we shot a lot of things, and...
Uh, I'm sure we killed some bad
guys, but I'm worried that we...
Uh, that we killed, you know, maybe,
maybe women and children. I don't know.
And he kind of put his hand on my
shoulder and said, "We did good today."
You know? "We did, we did good,
you did good today."
That was huge. That little
ten seconds probably saved
a lot of, a lot of therapy
and issues for me later in life.
Got us here in the nick of time.
You know,
this is a whole lot of lightning going on.
And actually it's fixing
to rain like crazy
on us here in just a second.
We need, gonna get on a Hawk,
to get back in this thing,
and here it comes.
Um, like I said,
we didn't... we didn't make it.
This is just like Jurassic Park, so as
long as we don't move, we should be okay.
But it's raining like crazy
and we are,
in bad guy country. Dust off,
the other Apache and us.
I'm expecting a T-rex any minute
now, so we're not moving.
And I'm scared.
Signing out for now.
- Ahem, Chris, it's 2006.
- Hey.
And what are we doing, all of us
from Texas? Shoveling snow.
- Snow!
- You'd think we lived in Amarillo.
That's true.
Anyway, sometime in the middle of the
afternoon, it's snowing like crazy.
And it's been snowing
all night, all... our Christmas.
We had two weeks left
before we would start packing up
and heading home after a yearlong
battle there in Afghanistan.
The fighting had
increased tremendously.
At the morning brief,
we got the weather for the day,
and we got all the missions
that were going out.
One of the missions
that I'd heard was
taking The Code
to the Korengal Valley
in a Black Hawk
to go visit the FOBs.
The Code is the General.
I was gonna spend Christmas
Eve of 2006 with Captain McKnight
and his company,
up in the Korengal outpost.
We had been collecting
all these letters...
...to see the smiles on troops faces when they open
a "to any soldier" letter, it
just makes a huge difference.
Completely socked in,
snow, fog, everything.
I told my aide, "Alright,
we're gonna go New Year's Eve.
And snowed out, fogged out. And January
5th, 2007 was a crystal-clear day.
Alright, okay.
Flight brakes released,
panels in, lock lights on.
- System check?
- Systems, I got no crosses, no transfers.
We're full of gas,
are green, 3000 hydraulics,
no caution or warnings.
Supporting systems are checked. We're good.
The Korengal Valley was the most hotly
contested valley in all of Afghanistan.
The Valley of Death
is what some people called it.
Asher, I hear we're on the back
side of the.
And we started heading to the east
towards Jalalabad and then north to Asadabad.
Two types of people
that troops often
talk about regarding
who you'll find in a firefight,
are those that will immediately
return fire or initiate fire,
because their training
kicks in and they execute,
and then, you have some
that are more contemplative
and take a step back
and, and hesitate,
but I didn't see too many
of those. What I saw mostly
were troops that whenever, uh,
we needed fire on target,
uh, rounds on target.
They would put it on target,
and there's no greater
demonstration of that
than that January 5th, 2007 day.
Dog 3-7, Deadwood 6-6.
Deadwood 6-6,
Dog 3-7 read your over.
0-1-6-6, hear you loud and clear.
We're about one minute out.
copy that one minute out.
We got radio traffic saying
that there's a troops in contact,
a fight going on in the Pech River
Valley, right before the Korengal Valley.
So, we had to land at Asadabad
to let that fight play out,
because we could not go past there.
At that point, The Code gets out,
the Black Hawk runs into the TOC and a second
later, they call us up on the radio saying like,
"Deadwood, can you go
over there to that TIC,
and help stop it so we can
go on to the Korengal valley."
I probably said like, "We're
the only Apache out here,
we're not allowed to go single
ship anywhere in this country."
And right about then is
when the TOC called up saying,
"The Code has just authorized
you to go single ship."
OK, copy.
Be looking for them.
So, we took off,
talked to Dog 3-7 on the ground
and he said, "Up on this ridge line,
the entrance of the Shuryak Valley,
there's, uh, somebody's shooting at 'em with
RPGs and some, you know, small arms fire."
Hey, Dog this is Deadwood 6-6,
where are you at from me right now?
Is that you, uh,
are you on the main road?
Dog 3-7, negative,
we are at control base.
We are east of you right now,
as you're flying, over.
Okay, uh, let's
right now.
Fly to is in, and they just gave
us southeast of that.
Dog 3-7 to Deadwood 6-6.
Dog 3-7, over.
Yes, that last coordinate that
you gave me, is that friendly or enemy?
That's enemy. You are
safety. Over.
Deadwood 6-6, roger.
Okay, that's enemy position. Just run
on the nose, right there somewhere.
And some rockets.
This spot level, I don't like, but it
looks like somebody come back to get 'em.
No, that is not working.
And that's when the,
the gun stopped shooting.
We could hear it cycling,
but no bullets were coming out.
- Can't be out of rounds already.
- No way.
Sounds like the gun was
running, but it wasn't firing.
Oh Jeez.
OK, Dog 3-7, Deadwood 6-6, either we're
out of bullets or our gun is broken.
We're gonna get back to ABAD and continue with
the mission, we'll be back in a little bit.
This is Dog 3-7, copy, over.
At that point,
we went back to Asadabad.
The crew chiefs on the ground there, at Asadabad,
said like, "Hey, do you need any fuel?"
And I said, "No, but could you check
the gun, see if it's broke or not?"
So, they open the avionics bay
and they check the gun,
and sure enough,
we're just out of bullets.
So the kid comes back with a big
ammo can of 30 millimeter,
and then they look at us
and that's when we find out
that they don't have the proper equipment
to load the 30 millimeter bullets
into the Apache. Unbeknownst to
us, that was taken away a week ago.
Bullets, going into the Korengal
Valley was an absolute necessity.
We had to have bullets.
So, I suggested, "Hey, how about if
we fly back down to Jalalabad here,
and, uh, get our guys to put bullets
in our Apache, refill us with gas,
and we'll be back up here
45 minutes tops,
and then we can go on
into the Korengal."
At that point I saw the...
the Code getting out of the TOC,
and running
and getting into his Black Hawk.
And right at that point,
Ark Angel gets on the radio and says like,
"Hey, you guys.
The Code's ready to go.
You've got rockets and missiles,
let's go."
5-3-7, roger. I just got word
that the General
says that you have to have
an escort with you, over.
- Alright.
- Dog 3-7 copy, over.
This really sucks not having...
us going in here.
So, I took off, Ark Angel, the Black Hawk
with the Code, takes off right behind me.
Rolling straight
into the Korengal Valley.
Korengal outpost, Lumberyard, this is
Deadwood 6-6, getting down with the Code.
This is Lumberyard COP
control, copy that, over.
I call up the Lumberyard,
or Korengal outpost, or the COP,
tell 'em that, uh, it's
Deadwood inbound with the Code.
Go in, take left turn now,
I'm at your right five o'clock high.
Roger that.
Uh, don't go any further south,
make a left turn now, make a left turn now.
Yeah, pick up your speed fast as you
can, really not good up here.
We're moving out at a
pretty good clip because we know
that there's enemy in the area.
Holes started appearing
in the side of the helicopter,
which, you know, either rivets
are popping or somebody's
shooting at us and of course,
it was the latter.
And the left engine catches
on fire as we're landing,
uh, hard landing
inside the Korengal outpost.
So, they're on the ground
dropping off the Code and the package
and whatever else they had,
and I'm circling overhead
and Lessum and myself, my copilot,
were discussing like, "Okay,
we'll go back to Jalalabad, get
some bullets in this helicopter,
and that should be about the time we
come back to pick up the... the Code."
All he's gotta do is
drop off and we go back to Abad.
Yeah, as far as we
know that's all he's doing.
You know, we ought
to, I don't know how much time
they've got, but, I think
we can run down to ABAD,
and get, get bullets.
Would be nice, wouldn't it?
At that point,
they came under attack.
Oh my god!
Now we're in full-fledged
ambush. There's rocket,
propel grenades, criss-crossing
like Roman Candles.
Open it up, open it up!
And there's machine
gun rounds coming in.
Captain McKnight comes
running up and, and grabs me
by the body armor and says,
"Sir, the last thing I need is
a dead general in my base camp."
Go, get out, get out!
Coming down the hill,
the young man named Sergeant Vile.
And Sergeant Vile gets shot.
He gets up, ties up his own
tourniquet and we all go piling
into the command post,
be that what it was.
The Korengal outpost
was under pretty significant
contact at this time.
Here you go.
And I'm watching
Sergeant Vile,
who is starting
to go into shock.
But he was a mortar ballistic computer
operator, he had a very important job.
He has a radio and he's punching numbers
into his mortar ballistic computer,
and his left arm
was severely wounded.
There was blood dripping
on the plywood floor.
I tapped the medic and say,
"You need to check him out,
he's getting ready to go into shock".
Because he was visibly shaking.
And, uh, the medic sort of
smirked at me and says,
"You don't know Sergeant Vile,
sir." And I said,
"That may be, but, you know,
he looks like he's gonna...", and so...
The medic goes over, I guess not wanting to upset the General
and Sergeant Vile turns at him and growls,
you know, and get the F away from me.
And this is, you know, the beauty
of the American soldier is that he
didn't wanna let his teammates down.
At this point, there's a string of bullets
coming at me between myself and Ark Angel.
Oh shit, what was that?
There, they are right there.
I rolled in hard left, and I
thought, "Jeez, I have no bullets."
At that point, I could
not go to our rocket shops
because the Korengal outpost
was right on the other side.
- See that smoke right there?
- Yeah, shit.
Yeah, you're taking fire, just, uh, I
don't know if you saw it, it was left low.
I squeezed over and I said,
"I'm gonna kill you. I'm gonna kill you."
Shoved the helicopter over into a
negative G push, squeezed that trigger.
- It was right there. Right there, right there.
- Woah!
Come on.
Nothing was coming out,
I was in a one and a half negative G push.
The safety inhibit on the Apache keeps
me from firing rockets at that point.
You could see flashes of everybody
shooting at us from that ridgeline.
Was like the paparazzi
was right in front of us.
I pull back on the stick
at that time to get out of a
stream of gunfire coming at me.
That's when I saw my... my wife
and my kids at the front
of the door of our house...
...thinking that...
"How could dad have gotten killed
with less than two weeks left?"
And then I looked and I saw my
daughter smiling saying, "No, uh...
It's not gonna happen."
My copilot says, "Daniel, you're hyperventilating."
That was the point where like I thought, "No stop."
Finally, I breathe again.
So now, I'm trying
to line up the nose
and trying to get at least a half
a positive G to get a rocket out.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
And sure enough by the grace of God, I fire
one rocket and it goes right, center mass.
Combat Main, Combat Main. They were
just shooting at us underneath me right now.
Combat main, they were just shooting at
us, just now. Did you see 'em?
That was a big gun.
Yeah, I saw some
big traces coming around here.
It was a big
machinegun shooting
traces out of the next spot and
we were not allowed to shoot.
Come back around, screaming on the
radio, telling the Korengal outpost,
"We're taking fire from this spot.
Get a fire mission going."
You hear the loud funk
of the mortar go off.
The hang time's
probably about a minute.
It's just silent in there except from
some of the machinegun rounds coming in.
But nobody was talking
and you hear the explosion.
The machinegun rounds stop.
Vile gets confirmation
of a first round direct hit.
He pushes the mortar ballistic
computer across the picnic table
to his private. He turns
to the medic and he says,
"Now you can work on me."
At that point, I could see
the Taliban running on the ridgeline.
Deadwood 6-6, we're engaged right now, we got
them, we got them straight in front of us.
And that's just when I begin to fire as
fast as I could, all the rockets I could,
and actually remembering a World
War II pilot that I know, saying,
"Wiggle the pedals back
and forth a little bit, that way
all your rockets
won't end up in one spot".
I wiggled the pedals just a little bit right
and left, as I'm squeezing the rockets
and making my rockets hit
everywhere around them.
- Fucking...
- There we go.
Deadwood 6-6, we got up on that spot. Combat
Main. Lumberyard, permission to.
Swing back around again, we're
running out of high explosive rockets.
We start shooting
flechettes, 2000
two-inch nails coming
at those guys ripping into them.
After that, run out
of flechettes, come back around
and I start shooting
white phosphorous.
At that point,
I have nothing left.
I call the... the, uh, Korengal
outpost, tell them like,
"We are Winchester.
We are out of here."
- Alright, Deadwood 6-6, Winchester, we're out of here.
- Roger that, over.
Fuck, why wouldn't that rocket
shoot on that first run? Damn it,
that pisses me off.
And no gun. Dammit of all the...
Oh yeah, of all the times
not having a fucking gun, man.
The heroism of both
the Black Hawk crew
and the, uh, Apache crew,
was just unbelievable.
They stayed on station
when it was so risky,
so dangerous,
to help the troops
on the ground.
Alright, you sure
you guys did not take a hit
cause they were shooting
all over you.
Yeah 1-32, we took a hit, our
generator's out and our stabilizers out.
We're totally viable
but we're gonna have to shut down
and take a look at it
when we get to ABAD.
We're gonna have to fly around and
get another aircraft for.
Sounds good.
Much later that evening, they
sent, uh, another Black Hawk out
to recover my team and me.
You know, I had five other stops
I was gonna make that day, but that,
that sort of changed the whole dynamic
of the visit
and so all the "to any soldier",
uh, packages and letters,
they all stayed right there.
We put Sergeant Vile
on our aircraft
and medivacked him to Bagram.
And before he got evacked, I pinned on his purple heart.
He's a personal hero of mine today.
This was the best teamwork I've ever seen.
It was completely unrehearsed,
it was all instinctual. These pilots knew
what to do, the soldiers knew what to do.
It was one of those days where I was never
prouder to be an American fighting soldier.
Because everybody did their job
above and beyond the call of duty,
and avoided
what really could have been
a catastrophic type of event.
It was just
an incredible sight to see.
It was a, a moment a few
years ago when he had, uh...
tweaked his elbow pretty bad
and he was in a cast,
and we were all just sitting
in here watching TV one night,
and he just started sweating
profusely and got up and just...
pacing around the room
and cussing saying,
"I need to get out of this,
I need to get out of this cast
right now, they need
to take this off."
'Cause he was having an anxiety
attack from being claustrophobic.
Then I started to think about it
more and looking back at like,
when we were in Colorado
and packed into that gondola,
packed in the long car rides
where you would start to notice
he's a little off about something,
but he's trying to hide it,
but he can't just quite do it.
It did humanize him a little bit
to see him act this way,
you know, have this episode.
But, uh, for the most part, I mean,
it was maybe two minutes of that,
and then he calmed right back down,
and just sat back down and said,
"Alright, I need to call the doctors tomorrow,
tell 'em to help me out with this",
and then, we just went right back to
watching whatever we were watching.
For a while there it was pretty
intense and with the cast thing,
like Eric was talking about earlier,
on his arm, that surprised me also.
I really never have even thought
about something like that.
I was thinking more of, you know,
the gondola, being in an enclosed space,
kind of made sense to me,
but having something on your arm,
didn't really make any sense,
why that would bother him.
He wrote this book and it, you know,
maybe thousands of people are gonna read
and he's talking about it just
like it's a normal thing, but he...
didn't quite talk about it
to everyone at home.
And, uh, it was a little off-putting,
you know, reading it, but I mean,
you understand it's a part of it and it's
a part of the story that he needs to tell.
- Hey, you must be Matt.
- I'm Matt, nice to meet you.
- Good to meet you, Ross Hovey.
- Hey Ross.
- Ross, man.
- Good to see you, brother.
- It's been a while.
- Yeah, great to see you.
And who are these guys?
Naser, my buddy. How are you?
Good to see you, Ross.
- Naser, I'm Daniel, nice to meet you, brother.
- I'm Terry.
Terry, nice to meet you, man, it's been years.
- Yeah, I know, for sure.
- And you were the translator, is that right?
- I was the translator.
- OK, yeah.
That is too good,
and he was the door guy or...
I was the gunner
up top the Mark 19.
- He was the gunner, he was backseat and I was the TC.
- Alright.
- So, Vandal 1-6.
- Yep.
- And Naser.
- I was relaxing in the backseat.
He was handing
the rounds up to me.
That's pretty good,
I like that. Yeah.
Well guys, you wanna
just step inside the bar,
we can just hang out, grab a...
grab a cold drink if you'd like?
A toast to our Afghanistan team,
our army family and friends
and all those that didn't get to come back.
That didn't make it home safe.
I remember that captain,
from the 2-6 cab, he said like,
"Guys, everything's heating up
there in the Korengal and the
Pech, but don't forget the Tagab,
'cause it is about
to explode and, uh,
I thought ah, whatever.
Same thing, flew over it all year long.
Two months after that,
I've forgotten what he's said
and then all of a sudden one day
we're on QRF and they say,
"We gotta take a tog out",
and I'm like,
"Really? There's something going on?
There's firefighting in the Takab?"
I say, "There's a convoy that's
been ambushed, and there's 200
Taliban out there
that are surrounding them."
I can't remember how long
it was, but it had to have been
five to ten minutes we were
supporting that QRF team.
And that it?
It felt like five hours.
I thought the same thing too.
I... I was looking up to the sky,
I'm like, "You guys are saying,
'Hey I'm dropping rounds.'"
I'm like,
"I don't see you,
let alone your rounds."
That's hit me in the leg.
Like you were saying, there were
ambushes all the way up there.
- Yeah, you didn't shoot anybody...
- That didn't need shooting.
...that were up to good. They
were actually after our QRF.
We were in the business of killing
and right then, business was good.
All I could tell was,
that there was American
made vehicles with A&A men in
them and they were under attack.
Yeah, we started moving up and as
we started moving up, uh, you know,
it was literally seven different
ambushes waiting for us.
They were laying on top,
not accurate firing,
but to hide themselves
in firing,
when we got back, I had a 8k round
in between my vest and my dune.
- Wow!
- That's I mean, so you know we were like, "Oh my gosh".
- Holy mackerel!
- And yeah, they were, it was crazy.
God bless the A&A, they would always
leave us in the Humvee sick.
We had... I had to get Naser out and say,
tell them to move up, move up, move up.
One of the Taliban, he already...
he was like, uh, the radio channel
of the enemy because he was
scanning the communication.
He called one of the sergeants, which he called
me, he took his handset, he answered, "Yes".
Oh yeah?
He said, "I'm gonna
fuck you all up."
So, all you guys alive,
that's what the Taliban said.
- Wow, it's just...
- Kudos.