US, Afghan Airmen Rescue Avalanche and Downed-Aircraft Survivors

A joint team of US and Afghan airmen braved minus 15-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and hazardous mountainous terrain to rescue 31 Afghans stranded by an avalanche in northern Afghanistan near the city of Fayzabad. The team set off in two Afghan Mi-17 helicopters after an Mi-17 with an all-Afghan aircrew went down attempting to save the avalanche survivors. The two helicopters had to climb to 9,000 feet to the rescue site, which was “tucked into the difficult-to-traverse Hindu Kush mountain range,” said Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, deputy commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group. “The landing zone was much smaller than we anticipated. Not too many teams could’ve pulled this off,” noted Lt. Col. John Conmy, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander and Mi-17 pilot who participated in the Jan. 24 rescue. “The crews of all the aircraft worked together as a team to make this [rescue] happen,” said Afghan air force Maj. Farid Samin. (Kabul report by TSgt. Jeremy Larlee)