Airmen respond, help recover crashed Afghan Mi-17

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jamie Humphries
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Thirteen members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing responded to the crash site of an Afghan air force Mi-17 at Forward Operating Base Fiaz in Asadabad in Kunar province.

Six members were on board the aircraft and received minor injuries when the Afghan air force helicopter went down during a routine mission in the capital. Three of the injured members were transported to Forward Operating Base Wright for further evaluation and officials said none of the injuries are life threatening. Safety experts are now examining the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

"It was reassuring to us that none of the injuries sustained in the crash were life threatening, nor did we suffer any fatalities during the mission," said Lt. Col. Christopher Tacheny, from 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group. "The goal of our recovery mission was to secure the mishap site and then attempt to recover the Mi-17."

Working with the Afghan Ministry of Interior, a coalition team of American, Czech, Croatian and Afghan forces responded to the crash using two Mi-17s. Afghan National Army medical personnel were first on the scene followed shortly thereafter by U.S. Soldiers.

"The recovery team worked 10 to 11 hours a day in temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit for over a week, while under constant threat of indirect fire from insurgents operating in the area," Colonel Tacheny said.

Within the first one to two hours of the crash, coalition forces secured the mishap site, drained fuel tanks, shut off battery power, secured potentially hazardous aircraft components, assessed pressurized hydraulic lines and assessed any security concerns. Team members also documented the site for further evaluation by the safety investigation team.

Most importantly, responding forces assessed and determined courses of action for the injured.

"Once on scene, Master Sgt. Chris Banks and I coordinated with the FOB medical teams at two locations and accessed injuries," said Col. Brandon Clint, the 438th AEW Surgeon General. "We transported some injured (crew members) to Kabul by Mi-17 and the more severely injured were medically evacuated to Bagram. Our Army brothers at the FOBs did an excellent job supporting us medically."

Once the site was secure and patients were evaluated, first responders remained at FOB Fiaz for more than a week. Security force adviser teams from Task Force Bronco 4 provided over watch for the scene and also coordinated delivery and use of cranes, forklifts and Afghan Fire Department personnel.

Officials said the Mi-17 was largely intact following the crash but more than 8,000 pounds of equipment including engines, main rotor gear box, auxiliary power unit, armor, rotor head and tail boom were removed for ease of transport.

"Given the extreme temperatures and altitudes at the mishap location, we needed to reduce the total weight of the mishap aircraft in order for the CH-47 Chinook to safely carry out the Mi-17 fuselage," Colonel Tacheny said. "Our maintenance team was phenomenal in their efforts to ensure all proper precautions were followed. This was truly a "Shohna ba Shohna" (shoulder-to-shoulder) moment as the combined efforts of the recovery team were a shining success."