Kabul Airlift:They made it possible | Daily News

Kabul Airlift:They made it possible

The C-17 was the star of the airlift.
The C-17 was the star of the airlift.

It looked like a zombie apocalypse. About to make the final U.S. takeoffs out of Afghanistan, U.S. military pilots and air crew saw a sky lit up with fireworks and sporadic gunfire and an airfield littered with the battered shells of planes and destroyed equipment. Stray dogs raced around the tarmac. And Taliban fighters, visible in the darkness through the green-tinged view of night-vision goggles, walked the airfield waving an eerie goodbye.

Lined up on the runway at the Kabul airport Monday night were the five last C-17s to leave the country after a chaotic and deadly airlift that marked the end of America’s involvement in the Afghanistan war. In the final hours, there were no more rocket-defense systems to protect them on the runway, and no one in the airport control center to direct them out.

“It just looked apocalyptic,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Braden Coleman, who was in charge of monitoring the outside of his aircraft for artillery fire and other threats.

“It looked like one of those zombie movies where all the airplanes had been destroyed, their doors were open, the wheels were broken. There was a plane that was burned all the way. You could see the cockpit was there, and the whole rest of the plane looked like the skeleton of a fish.”

In interviews Wednesday with the Associated Press, members of the Air Force’s 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron who flew out on the last military flights detailed their final fraught hours of what has been a dark, emotional and divisive U.S. exit from a war that now leaves Afghanistan in the hands of the same Taliban enemy it once ousted from power.

“It was just definitely very tense, and we were definitely all on edge watching everything going on to make sure that we were ready,” said Air Force Capt. Kirby Wedan, pilot of MOOSE81, who led the final formation of five aircraft out. (Los Angeles Times)

 


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