Stranded But Not Alone

Pinned down soldiers received much-welcome aid from some F-15Es during a firefight in Afghanistan in mid-September. When an improvised explosive device took out their vehicle, some 18 soldiers faced 60 enemy fighters and as Army SSgt. Adam Kern described it, “The initial ambush was awful.” The team battled for about 45 minutes, suffering five wounded, when USAF F-15E Strike Eagles arrived, putting ordnance in a nearby tree line. Kern said later, “I have a feeling a lot more people would have gotten hurt without the air support we received.” He added, “Airpower is unmatched; it is something you absolutely need.” Army Brig. Gen. Mark Milley, deputy commanding general for operations with Combined Joint Task Force-101, agreed, saying, “The infantry’s best friend is the pilot.” Not done with his praise, Milley added: “Those planes are always there; I have yet to see any United States Air Force pilot not show up. … They are unbelievably skilled and there is no one else like them in the world. If you get them on target, they will fly through anything to get to you.” The F-15E force on the scene during the mid-September encounter had deployed from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. to Bagram Air Base. (Bagram report by SSgt. Tammie Moore)