28 June 2011

Lucky charms and bullet holes in a MEDEVAC helicopter

In this June 11, 2011 file photo, Lance Cpl Blas Trevino from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, left, gestures towards his troops as he holds onto a gunshot wound in his belly while running towards a medevac helicopter from the US Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment after he got shot in the stomach, outside Sangin, in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan. AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus.

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus traveled with an Army "Dustoff" MEDEVAC unit for two weeks in Afghanistan's Helmand province. From her first-person account of one dangerous day:

I heard a metallic sound and realized the helicopter had been hit.

The pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Fink, quickly pulled the helicopter's nose toward the sky. All I could see in front of us were trees and power lines.

"If we are going to crash. I don't want to see it," I thought. My eyes shut, I held onto my seat belt.

I opened my eyes. We hadn't crashed. Slowly, the helicopter gained altitude and rose to safety.

After 15 minutes, I realized we would return to the same spot. As I looked at Campbell, I noticed his extraordinary level of concentration. He adjusted his gloves, reached for his assault rifle and then peered out of his open window.

I kept trying to find my lucky charms in my pockets.

The helicopter touched down right where we took fire only minutes earlier. The big side door slid open. I reached for my camera, feeling better because I could concentrate on something else.

Campbell jumped out first. He looked around. Neither of us could see the Marines. Suddenly, a Marine jumped up from a ditch nearby, one hand on his stomach and the other holding rosary beads.

The Marine sprinted toward us, turning around to wave to the others that he could make it to the helicopter. Another Marine tried to catch up to help him, but the injured Marine, Lance Cpl. Blas Trevino from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, ran so fast he made it to the helicopter first.

Trevino latched onto Campbell in a desperate hug.

"You have made it! You have made it!" Campbell shouted over the whine of the idling helicopter.
Read the rest of her riveting story, and make sure to click through the series of associated photos she shot on this mission (one of which we featured here).

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