When I first landed in Afghanistan, one of the first things I noticed was the Russian MI-17 sitting idle on the tarmac. My only knowledge of this helicopter was from reading books about the Soviet- Afghan war. I heard that we (CIA) would possibly use Afghan assets left behind by the soviets for covert operations. After all, it was to our benefit that no correlation could be drawn between the MI-17 and US forces.
The MI-17 operates extremely well over long distance and can haul heavy loads. One of the most important benefits of the MI-17 in Afghanistan was its ability to fly at high altitudes in inclement weather.
I would end up flying hours on end in the MI-17 and get to know it well. On nights that weren’t occupied, I would drop in at air ops to volunteer as a door gunner for night time ops. Skimming the Afghan mountain tops under a set of night vision googles always gave me an adrenaline rush. I couldn’t get enough.
Feature image courtesy of militaryphotos.net
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