BAGHDAD - The U.S. military confirmed that an Army helicopter went down south of Baghdad, and reported all nine aboard survived; four were reportedly wounded. The helicopter came under fire Thursday in a Sunni militant stronghold south of Baghdad, an Iraqi army official said.
Gunmen opened fire on a Black Hawk helicopter at about 7:30 a.m. as it flew over Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The helicopter went down in a rural area and U.S. forces had cordoned off the site, the official said. He had no information on casualties but said the militants apparently were using anti-aircraft heavy machine gun.
Latifiyah is part of the area dubbed the Triangle of Death because of frequent insurgent attacks.
The last helicopter incident in Iraq occurred on March 1, when an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter made a "hard landing" in northern Iraq leaving the two crew members wounded. A week earlier, ground fire forced the downing of a Black Hawk north of Baghdad.
With Thursday's incident, at least nine U.S. helicopters have crashed or been brought down by hostile fire this year in Iraq.
Surviving a 'Black Hawk down' A Portland native serving in Iraq lands his shot-up helicopter
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 DAVID AUSTIN, The Oregonian
First Lt. Kenny Doleac banked the UH-60 Black Hawk hard to the right in the skies 20 miles south of Baghdad. Seconds later, bullets tore through the fuselage of Chalk Two piloted by the 24-year-old Central Catholic High School and West Point graduate. Smoke billowed into the air, and Doleac lost sight of Chalk One, the lead aircraft.
A minute into that April 5 mission, shrapnel pierced the back of one of his passengers, the communications system died, and a fire shut down one of the chopper's two engines.
Doleac dismisses the idea that he did anything heroic in the minutes that followed. Two weeks after the attack, he credits luck and teamwork for the narrow escape from the kind of violence that can break out anyplace in Iraq.
"I was scared when we started taking fire," Doleac recalls. Before it was over, the pilot and the eight others on board would be stranded in a field wondering if they'd make it back to base.
"The situation was so intense that I don't think anyone had a free moment to dwell on fear," he says.
The Black Hawk helicopter is the U.S. military's workhorse in Iraq. But it's also vulnerable, a prized target for insurgents. In the past four months, they've shot down at least nine U.S. helicopters, most of them Black Hawks.
Doleac and his crew were on the tail end of shuttling soldiers from one fortified base to another when they flew over a Sunni stronghold known as the "Triangle of Death." The radio crackled to life. Chalk One's pilot announced that they needed to take evasive action, and Doleac made a sharp turn to the right.
As he maneuvered, gunfire ripped into one of his engines. The bullets took out the internal communication system, so Doleac had no way to talk to his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jamie Gordon.
A piece of shrapnel tore into the back of a passenger, and another soldier was slightly injured. A fire erupted in an engine, and warning lights flashed. "Fire and helicopters don't mix well," Doleac says.
Doleac didn't know it at the time, but Gordon was able to dispatch an emergency transmission before the radio went dead. The fire spread into the cabin above the heads of the passengers.
Black Hawks can fly on one engine, but with the weight of the passengers and crew, Doleac had to work hard to balance the aircraft.
The smoke trailing the chopper darkened, making it a more obvious target. He knew his only option was to set the Black Hawk down and face the possibility of a ground fight. With a damaged copter and injured passengers, the odds didn't look good.
Doleac said what happened next was pure luck. He managed to land in a field with a 5-foot berm and a canal running alongside it. "We landed actually quite nicely," he recalls.
After the landing, Doleac and Gordon bumped fists and shouted "Shake and Bake," from "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," a movie they'd watched recently.
The celebration was brief. Flames engulfed the engine, and the crew and passengers scattered a short distance.
Pfc. Ben Full helped the wounded soldiers while the others geared for a fight.
"I thought to myself, 'Where is Chalk One?' and hoped they weren't in the same situation we were in or worse," Doleac recalls. "The most troubling sound was the fact that there was no sound at all."
Chalk One's crew didn't know where to look for the downed Black Hawk but began searching immediately after its distress call. Then Doleac heard Chalk One's rotors cutting the air in the distance. He also heard gunfire. Insurgents were trying to bag a second chopper. Chalk One's pilot zigzagged close to the ground, avoiding fire. He spotted the trail of smoke and hovered above Doleac's Black Hawk. "I never thought the sound of a Black Hawk flying overhead could sound so sweet," Doleac remembers thinking.
Chalk One landed, and Doleac's crew and passengers sprinted toward it. "I started yelling at everyone to get in, not that they needed any prompting," he says.
The crew chief slammed the doors shut, and the two engines whined as they lifted off toward the military hospital.
The two injured soldiers are recovering. Doleac credits his crew for working well as a unit. No one person, he says, takes credit for surviving a crash landing. Teamwork under fire is part of the job. "We were all counting on each other," he says.
Doleac has been in Iraq since October and has 10 months left on his deployment. He acknowledges thinking a lot about his Northeast Portland home, where he visited not long ago. The close call makes him think more about what he calls "the little things."
"Just seeing a mother of two pushing a stroller around the block with one kid running ahead without any worry makes me smile," he says. "It's the small stuff that we have every day we take for granted. But when we get exposed to a world where none of that exists, you develop an entirely new appreciation."
Marge Doleac worries the hardships of Iraq will change her son, one of her four children. But she is confident the cheery boy with a "contemplative, gentle spirit" can rise above it.
"I worry so much for Kenny, but I can see that he's being able to process this," Marge Doleac says. "There isn't a moment that goes by without a concern for his well-being. I see him taking this on with courage and honor and not an ounce of looking back."
For Kenny Doleac, it's a matter of perspective. What does he miss most about home? "The trees," he says. "Everything here is shades of brown, which makes me remember how nice green is on the eyes."
Post by adrenalinrush on Sept 16, 2010 15:03:13 GMT -6
Just found this site by accident and read about this story. The best part? I am was the Pilot in Command/ Flight Lead of Chalk 1. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I thought no one out there has ever heard about this incident but I guess I was wrong about that. In my 11 years in the Army, this is one of my proudest moments. Rescuing the crew was an amazing thing and I was glad we did not sustain too much damage from the enemy fire. We had to fly through the engagement area 4 times before we found the downed aircraft and crew. I use to brief what I planned on doing in the event of a downed aircraft and it was always "I won't leave you out there, we will find you and bring you home". On this day I was able to make good on my promise. Not a day goes by that I don't think about all the guys from that day. Is Kenny a member on this site?
Me too, I found this by accident, I am new here as i served with many US troops and mission in Iraq, I'm an Iraqi interpreter and nationality. At the beginning I was so proud of my service with my huge number of American soldiers, thinking they are doing their jobs to serve my people to get rid of Saddam regime, Later all my people sacrifices and yours side by side with all military efforts are obtained and granted to IRAN !!!,Why? Anybody here tell me why? I don't think so. I've seen many US military soldier killed in battles mixed their blood with Iraqi's I guess someone come to answer me with symbolic one saying that was a kind of politic and high administration plan, but as I said not to involve with such as it too far away from facts about what happened on the ground, insurgents, resistance, suunies tingle of death, Qaeda, Zarqawi, ....etc, all faces for one card called Iran, Thanks a lot for your time.
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