Friday, July 21, 2006

No One Left Behind

It was interesting Googling for this next bit. I was suprised how much there still is out there about it, articles from major news sources are still live, still linked and readable. Internet time travel.

http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9903/27/nato.attack.07/index.html

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/jan-june99/f117a_3-27.html

http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9903/28/nato.strike.02/index.html

It's this last one I find most interesting:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/special_report/1998/kosovo2/307218.stm
"The Pentagon did not provide details of the rescue, but it is believed to have been a well-rehearsed operation involving a significant array of firepower and specially trained personnel."

Kirk was on the ops floor when the pilot made contact.

"Mayday call

The pilot is reported to have made a mayday call with his radio beacon.

It would have been sent using an emergency code to other Allied aircraft in the area.

Once the signal had been picked up voice contact would be established.

The pilot would then pass on his position - usually in relation to a pre-arranged fixed grid reference so that anyone else listening would not know where he was - and a rendezvous arranged."

He only had one shot at giving his location. His signal could be tracked, so he needed to tell them as quickly as possible, then get quiet. They knew there were enemy forces in the area, and there wasn't really anywhere to hide. The rescue mission had to go immediately, and it had to be absolutely accurate. Once they went out there the pilot's location would be blown, and the rescuers themselves in serious danger.

Kirk watched and listened as they planned the mission. They had readings from various instruments, and they had the pilot's statement. They pulled up the map and pinpointed where they thought he was. The problem was they were wrong.

Kirk said it was pretty tense. He was one of the lowest ranking people on the floor. He also was an intel guy - not a pilot or navigator, not a Para Jumper or a special forces guy with practical experience. But he stuck it out. They were wrong, he told them, off by over a mile. If they went to the spot on the map they would miss the pilot completely and blow their only chance to bring him home. Here, he said, was the right spot.

There was a bit of shouting, but Kirk stuck to his point and finally the commander jabbed at him with a finger.

'Son, we got maybe five minutes to get this thing off the ground. We miss this kid and that's it. How sure are you?'

'Sir, I went hunting in the arctic circle, I based my life on a GPS reading. I was right then sir, and I'm right now. He's here.'

They sent the rescue mission out, and picked up the pilot within yards of where Kirk had located him.

Kirk never found out the guy's name; it's certain the guy never knew about Kirk. That wasn't the point. Like the people who put their lives on the line to go pick the man up, the pilots, the jumpers, the support crews, Kirk knew the way things are supposed to work in the military.

You don't leave anyone behind.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's quite a story. Seriously, I hope the Commander planted a big wet kiss on Kirk's face. At the very least, a round at the local watering hole at some point.

For Kirk said...

Not sure about the big wet one! However, several rounds, an award, and a personal letter of commendation to Kirk's commander back in AK.