Afghanistan: Female Airborne `Dude’ Helps Grunts on the Ground

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An F-16 over Afghanistan / Air Force photo by Brandon Cyr

It’s hard for most Americans to realize, as we noted in our cover story this week, that there is a major war involving U.S. troops underway in Afghanistan. It’s a splotchy kind of war, with no well-defined front. That makes it a difficult war to cover. Sometimes we have to rely on the folks wearing military uniforms to give us a peek. Here’s an account from a Taliban effort last week to overrun a U.S. combat outpost in Paktia province (granted, we need to take these with a grain of salt – we tend not to get them when U.S. forces screw up – but such reports have tended to be pretty credible in my experience):

“I requested the [F-15] dudes and [F-16] vipers because I needed a lot of ordnance and fast,” [ground-based Joint Terminal Attack Controller Staff Sgt. Seth] Pena said. “RPGs had already hit inside the [combat outpost] and things were getting serious. There was a large enemy force moving towards us from multiple positions and we were taking a heavy amount of small arms fire.”

Capt. Krista Clayson, 335th [Expeditionary Fighter Squadron] weapons system officer, was one of the “Dudes” in the air coordinating with Pena to put bombs on target. “We could tell things were very intense on the ground,” Clayson said. “As soon as we arrived on station, the JTAC had a [plan] ready for us and we had bombs off the aircraft very quickly…It’s an awesome feeling,” she said. “At the time we didn’t realize the attack was as big as it was. But when you find out that all the training and hard work you put into this results in saving so many lives and eliminating that number of insurgents … it’s a very rewarding feeling.”

Final score: 50-70 insurgents killed, zero U.S. casualties.