Welcome to this episode of Lessons from the Cockpit!
There is one thing all US service members promise to their comrades in arms… we leave no one behind! In early March of 2002 coalition forces began military operations in the Shahi-Khot Valley of Afghanistan, known now as Operation Anaconda. The start of this operation did not go well. On 4 March 2002 then Captain Chris Russell, an F-15E Strike Eagle Weapons System Operator, and his pilot Captain Kirk Reichkoff flying as TWISTER 52 took off at midnight from a base near Kuwait City on what became a very long and exhausting sortie. Chris shares his lessons learned while covering the downing of a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment MH-47 Chinook RAZOR 1, and the rescue and recovery of SEAL Team MAKO 30’s Petty Officer Neil Roberts after he fell out of RAZOR 3 earlier that morning. Chris was involved in the famous Battle of Robert’s Ridge of Operation Anaconda.
Chris was kind enough to send me the cockpit tapes from TWISTER 51 their flight lead. I’ve included three clips from the tape’s audio in this episode.
The banner photo above was taken during the Battle of Robert’s Ridge and shows the downed MH-47 Chinook RAZOR 1 atop Takur Ghar mountain. This is the helicopter TWISTER 51 and 52 refer to in the podcast audio as the ground reference point for their attacks. The ridgeline Spliff and his pilot Panzer are shooting at is off the nose and slightly right out of the picture. I do not know who in the Quick Reaction Force took this picture but it is simply a very historic photo of a moment in time.
The video taken and commentated on by the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle during the Battle of Roberts Ridge was used for awarding Tech Sgt Chapman his Medal of Honor, the only MOH engagement ever recorded.
A 15-minute interview with Medal of Honor recipient Navy SEAL Senior Chief Britt Slabinski describing the battle atop Robert’s Ridge is found here.
This episode of Lessons from the Cockpit is sponsored by Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit.
Prints of the F-15E Strike Eagle Captain Russell was flying on 4 March 2002 and The Bold Tigers flagship which participated in the opening attacks of Operation Enduring Freedom can be purchased at Wall Pilot.
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