As was the case in the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army has widely used “air assault” tactics — the warfighting technique of using helicopters to get troops into and out of combat objectives in a hurry — in the war in Afghanistan. We rounded up photos from our own personal collection and military sources to show what it’s like for soldiers to be part of one of these intense missions.
Air assault missions start with rehearsals. Here, soldiers practice getting down the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook in a hurry.
The choreography of the assault is reviewed using a ‘sand table’ — a scale mock-up of the objective that allows soldiers to understand how the mission will unfold.
Get ready to mount up! (Here a CH-47 lands at the FOB to pick up Afghan National Army troops and their U.S. Army trainers for an air assault.)
After a successful ingress, the Chinook launches in a hurry, leaving the troops behind to get to work.
First order of business is to establish a perimeter and make sure there’s no incoming fire.
Once the Chinooks are clear and the landing zone is stabilized, the soldiers make their way toward the village — ever wary of the presence of the enemy.
Contact made with the tribal elders, the best way to assess the immediate threat. In this case the company commander learns that the small band of Taliban fled at the first indication of the assault.
The platoon leader tours the village with the tribal elders who’ve assured him there is no immediate threat now that the few local Taliban have fled. The U.S. Army first lieutenant knows exactly how much to trust them.
Meanwhile, other soldiers patrol the perimeter of the village making sure the Taliban who fled don’t circle back with a few more of their comrades.
On the opposite side of the village, soldiers pull security.
At the center of the village, the platoon leader tries to convince the tribal elder that his people should support the coalition in forcing the Taliban out once and for all.
Local kids gather to hear what the American soldiers have to say. (Cool Batman backpack.)
A village donkey isn’t sure what to make of all the action.
Making friends with the next generation of Afghan citizens is an important part of the mission.
On the edge of the village a handler and his dog sweep for improvised explosive devices.
Beef jerky time! Just outside of the center of the village one of the brave and talented Afghan interpreters kicks back for a bit.
Village architecture looks centuries old and a little bit creepy.
No girls allowed! The company commander gathers the village males for a ‘shura,’ a no-notice gathering to discuss the coalition plan for security and the creation of infrastructure like schools and cell phone towers.
Every captured weapon counts. The enemy may have fled, but the air assault did net a small score: some radios and a handful of RPGs.
After one more sweep it’s time for soldiers to think about getting out of Dodge (or Ateh Khanek in Paktika Province).
And the soldiers load onto the Chinook for the flight back to the FOB. Dinner will taste good tonight, and maybe after that there’ll be time for a Skype session with the wife. (Just another day in the ‘Stan.)