All Safe After Gunman Dispatched
The crew and young
passenger aboard a US medevac chopper are safe, after the helo came
under attack from small-arms fire in Afghanistan's Zabul province
August 1 while transporting an injured two-year-old Afghan girl to
US military officials say the attack occurred days after
regional media reports carried a call from leaders with the deposed
Taliban urging followers to target US and coalition medical
personnel and clergy.
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 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
Captain 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 Blackhawk 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 US aid
station at Forward Operating Base Sweeny. She was then flown by
helicopter to a US 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
About a third of the more than 430 medical evacuation missions
the unit has performed have been in support of Afghan citizens,
Major 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."