“I was on my second deployment to Afghanistan and my company was conducting heliborne raids throughout Helmand Province to disrupt the production and distribution of HME (homemade explosives) and opiates. It was a really cool deployment in the sense that we would go out on these ops, sometimes get in a fight, then come back and eat ice cream at midrats on Leatherneck.

I can’t remember the exact name of the place we went to but I do remember hearing people refer to it as “The Spine”. There was this village surrounded by large hills and mountains. I was a machine gunner so while the clearing element worked its way through the village I was with the overwatch element walking up and down these hills and mountains to keep one step ahead of them. It ended up being a 10-12 hour op and I believe it was a dry hold.

We waited until nightfall for exfil in this farmland nearby the village. We were doing night exfils because we got lit up the last time we did one in the daytime. When the birds were inbound we would break down our perimeter and bunch up so we could get on board as quickly as possible. I could see the CH-53’s coming in and I remember thinking “That looks like it’s going to land right on top of us.” Sure enough it was.

Once everyone realized what was happening we scattered to get out of the way. I just picked a random direction and started to run until i tripped on something. I rolled over to my back and looked up to see the 53 still right above me. I’m not sure how high up it was but at that moment it felt like it was right on top of me. I guess I chose the wrong direction to run. AlI could think about was how much it would hurt to be crushed. In what felt like the last possible second the 53 started to ascend again and the rotor wash was so intense I thought I saw Marines who were still standing up get knocked down.

The following moments were chaos as we tried to get accountability of people and gear. One of my fellow machine gunners somehow lost his 240 but it was found nearby. By some miracle no one was injured or missing any major pieces of gear.

I still get a good chuckle thinking about how absurd that night was. Of all the things that could kill you in Afghanistan, imagine getting crushed by your own helicopter in some muddy field. That would have been a shitty way to go.”
– Anonymous US Marine. 2/9 E Company. Machine Gunner. Afghanistan 2013.
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