By Senior Airman Sandra Welch
More than 100 troops at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan gathered June 14, 2014 to watch Inside Combat Rescue: The Last Stand. The two-hour documentary filmed at Bagram last year highlights Air Force Security Forces, pararescuemen, and their duties at the Airfield. The pre-screening came on the same day as the Afghanistan presidential runoff election.
Watch: The troops attend an advance screening of “Inside Combat Rescue: The Last Stand” at Bagram Airfield.
For me, the show brought back memories of my last deployment to Afghanistan. I was deployed to Khost Province in 2011 on a Provincial Reconstruction Team. We conducted key leader engagements and meetings between U.S. and Afghan leaders almost daily. KLEs are a huge part of the mission here in Afghanistan, and help us find out important information. The mission for my team was different than the mission for the Security Forces teams here at Bagram. We were there to help reconstruct the Khost province. We visited several school construction sites, walls to help keep areas from flooding, and a hospital. We also visited orphanages and the province’s governor; each mission a little different, but each holding a risk. Watching the film reminded me of several close calls we ran into while on convoys. You never knew if that pile of rocks along the side of the road was marking an improvised explosive device or if it was just a pile of rocks. Leaving the wire is always a gut-wrenching experience. We never knew what was going to happen.
The PJs hold a vital role in Afghanistan. Their stressful job requires them to be ready at a moment’s notice. Lives are in their hands when troops and others are attacked. Troops here in Afghanistan know that they are in good hands if they’re ever caught in an event where their lives are in danger. Several troops here are very thankful for the PJs and what they’ve done to save their lives.
I am also very thankful for Skype, FaceTime, and all the social media sources we have at hand. I know loved ones back home are as well. Staying connected is how many get through long deployments. I am glad that this documentary illustrated that. It’s terrifying for those here to watch brothers and sisters go off-base every day and even more terrifying for those back in the states. But, when you come back from a mission and hop on a media source and say “Hi” to a loved one, it is a huge relief.
I asked a few troops how the documentary made them feel and what it showed them. This is what they said:
“It opened my eyes to what Security Forces actually do. I was not aware that they went outside the wire and conducted key leader engagements or tracked down Taliban. I also was not aware of the females that went outside the wire. This video changed my perspective on what is going on outside the wire. I look at the missions going on in a different way. How they speak with locals and track down the Taliban. The PJs fall under the Operations Group that I work in so I have met some of them and had an idea on what they do. But after watching the documentary it has opened my eyes a little more and shows how interesting their job is,” said Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group knowledge operations manager, currently serving on her first deployment.
“I thought it was well done. I arrived the 5th of July of last year, so I arrived just as the events were taking place. It was wonderful to see the actions of the Reaper teams outside the wire… so often we do not see what those young men and women are doing outside the wire. It is invisible to most of us behind these walls, the fantastic work they were doing out there. It was great to see that. Also, as the Maintenance Group commander, I love seeing the HH-60s out there. Those are my maintainers that maintain those HH-60s. I often tell them, as you see in the movie, when they call scramble… scramble… scramble…if those rotors don’t turn, we don’t walk to the fight; if those rotors don’t turn, people’s lives may be at risk. Therefore, it was great to see the whole team’s aspect: the flight line aspect, the combat rescue aspect, and the outside the wire aspect. I thought it was thrilling, captivating, and it accurately represents what I have seen here at Bagram Airfield over the last year,” said Col. Benjamin Spencer, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander.
Catch an encore of Inside Combat Rescue: The Final Stand tonight at 5P on the National Geographic Channel.