Here's why people in the military deserve all the respect in the world...
Wesley Johnson, London
January 23, 2007
THE first images have emerged of a daring mission in which four British marines strapped themselves to the sides of helicopter gunships in a bid to recover a fallen colleague in Afghanistan.
The astonishing images show members of Arbroath-based 45Commando, strapped to the outside of two Apache helicopters as they prepared to retrieve the body of their comrade, Lance Corporal Mathew Ford.
Ford, 30, had been killed instantly by Taliban fire as he participated in an assault on a fort in the southern province of Helmand. When the marines fell back to regroup they realised the section commander was missing and hatched the dramatic plan to retrieve him.
Initial plans to return to the fort in amphibious Viking vehicles, which were used in the original assault were scrapped because it would have taken too long.
Instead, in a mission dubbed "Flight of the Phoenix", the two Apaches were scrambled and four volunteers were quickly found to carry it out.
The four commandos flew into a fierce gunfight in southern Afghanistan last week clinging to the stabiliser wings of two Apache helicopters before running to recover the body.
Military photographers captured a series of images showing how the four marines, Colin Hearn, 45, Gary Robinson, 26, David Rigg, 30, and Chris Fraser-Perry, 19, fastened themselves to bolted handholds on either side of the aircraft as it flew 35m above the desert. A third Apache provided covering fire.
Another of the dramatic pictures, taken from the gun camera of one of the Apaches, shows the other helicopter heading towards the Taliban fort.
The marines took just five minutes to find and retrieve Ford's body.
The fighting men from Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. are cut from the same cloth. I can't wait to see the pictures or video of this.