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Monday, June 29, 2009

Unforgettable Winching Sortie

Hot pursuit....our ground troops 'chasing' the CTs. Any casevac had to be done by winching. This meant the helicopter had to hover atop the trees. The troops had no time to make LPs for the nuri to land. I'm sure by now you can imagine what we nuri pilots had to endure while doing this task. We were simply a target impossible to miss!

One afternoon at Kroh.........I was tasked to pick up a casevac at GR......(don't expect me to remember the exact location that took place more than 30 years ago) and offload at Penang polo ground, ie, the padang infront of Penang General Hospital (PGH). The area did not require a GS escort but I still had to take along a commando for safety.

On reaching the estimated area, radio contact with the ground troop (GT) was made through HF radio. The GT could hear the nuri but unable to see it. I taxied on the tree tops until the GT informed me that I was over them. However, my AQM and the commando did not see the GT. I told the GT to fire varey light signal. It didn't penetrate the jungle canopy. Next alterative was to ask them to make fire smoke hoping it would penetrate the canopy; it didn't either. It was after some time that my AQM managed to see the GT.

Mind you, I was not in the least surprised whenever I read that it took days to locate an aircraft when it crashed in our virgin jungle. I am talking of trees of more than 150 feet high. This was the situation in carrying out this particular task. To make the matter more exciting, rain was fast approaching and the wind was strong.

The commando and 'Saleh' stretcher were winched down uneventfully. The casevac was then winched up first to be followed by the commando. Suddenly........my AQM told me that the stretcher was stuck on the tree branches. Oh, oh....real problem. I told him to try his best to free the stretcher. I was hovering at about 200 feet, facing the wind, rain fast approaching, being a shooting duck for the CTs' target practice, and the MGB's 'T & P' were rising due to prolonged hovering......... I felt the adrenalin pumping through my body!!

Under such circumstances, I had the option to shear the cable, but at the expense of a life. If I took this decison, it would haunt me till I die..... Syukur to Almighty Allah, after a long struggle the AQM managed to free the stretcher and the casevac was safely pulled into the nuri. I decided to leave the commando to be picked up later and proceeded to Penang. The commado was winched up the next day at a different location.

What an ordeal.................!

6 comments:

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Squad,

Only now I know the danger and risk you had taken in support of our ground operations. Thank you very much. I owe you a lot of teh tariks.

nibs said...

Thank you. We were just doing our job. It's so nice to be appreciated.

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Squad,

When you come down to Taiping , give me a call. We'll play a round of golf at KEMTA or Bukit Jana GC. I have not played for two years now - a shoulder injury.

nibs said...

Squad, insyaAllah.

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Squad,

Sallehuddin Ghani has just form and registered our intake in the google groups (internet forum/discussion)

I'll register you in so that you can join the discussions / bantering etc.

nibs said...

Thank you, squad