02 Nov 2009

Air Crew Awarded Medals For 2006 Sudan Confrontation

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Air Force Times:

11 airmen and six National Guardsmen from Guam flew into Al Fashir, in Darfur, Sudan with an Air Force HC-30 transport to pick up six locked duffel bags at the request of military liaisons from the US Embassy.

Sudanese military personnel were loading blue explosive canisters onto an Antonov-26 transport, for use against civilians in Darfur, while UN humanitarian workers were loading the wounded and dead onto helicopters.

As the American Air Force plane began to taxi for take off, the crew received a sudden order to abort departure.

(A) Sudanese intelligence officer had called PAT 332 back because he was worried the aircraft’s FLIR ball had recorded images of the blue canisters being loaded onto the An-26.

Then, nine Sudanese intelligence and military officers — led by the one who ordered PAT 332 to return — rushed up. They began accusing the crew members of espionage and demanded to search the plane.

(Maj. James) Woosley denied the request. The Sudanese officers yelled at Woosley and (navigator Capt. Jesse) Enfield, threatening to kill them. They ordered Woosley to pick one officer to leave the plane to pay a $400 landing fee. Not wanting one officer to go alone, he sent (co pilots 1st Lt. John Cuddy) Cuddy and (1st Lt. Timothy) Saxton.

About this time, Woosley went back into the plane. He ordered the crew members to put on their body armor and conceal handguns underneath their uniforms since he had told the Sudanese that they were unarmed. …

Sudanese soldiers then demanded to inspect the duffel bags. Assured by the U.S. military liaisons there was no classified material inside, Woosley agreed. Without the key to open the bags, though, Enfield and one U.S. military liaison cut open the bags for the Sudanese to search.

Angry at finding only clothes and personal possessions, the Sudanese officers demanded to know why Woosley and Enfield would fly from Djibouti to Darfur to pick up duffel bags. Both officers relayed the story about the father-to-be and told the Sudanese officers the U.S. Embassy could corroborate their mission.

That answer didn’t satisfy the Sudanese. About 20 Sudanese soldiers joined the nine officers and circled Woosley and Enfield. One grabbed Woosley, and another slapped his sunglasses off his head.

Woosley and Enfield pushed through the crowd and got back onto the aircraft. Cuddy and Saxton had also returned. The U.S. military liaison told the crew members the Sudanese officials planned to arrest them for espionage and have them executed.

A Sudanese soldier then asked Woosley if there were any women on board. The crew had two female members, Staff Sgt. Kelly Hall, flying crew chief, and Senior Airman Kimberley Vanhaaster, loadmaster. When Woosley answered yes, the soldier countered that women didn’t belong in the military. He said the women would be raped and sold once the crew was arrested. He then asked to see the women. Woosley said no. When Woosley got back on the plane, he had Hall and Vanhaaster move to the middle of the aircraft, where they were harder to spot. …

After 6 p.m., two trucks carrying about 50 Sudanese soldiers drove up next to the HC-130. The soldiers, carrying AK47s, emptied out of the trucks and took firing positions around the aircraft. Soldiers positioned two .50-caliber machine guns and one rocket-propelled grenade launcher near the tail and multiple 7.62mm machine guns with tripods on the sides of the plane. An old firetruck drove up and parked in front of the plane’s nose, cutting off the crew’s exit.

Outmanned and outgunned, the crew members and guardsmen maintained their defensive positions. …

After 6 p.m., two trucks carrying about 50 Sudanese soldiers drove up next to the HC-130. The soldiers, carrying AK47s, emptied out of the trucks and took firing positions around the aircraft. Soldiers positioned two .50-caliber machine guns and one rocket-propelled grenade launcher near the tail and multiple 7.62mm machine guns with tripods on the sides of the plane. An old firetruck drove up and parked in front of the plane’s nose, cutting off the crew’s exit.

Outmanned and outgunned, the crew members and guardsmen maintained their defensive positions. …

More than four hours after being ordered back to the ramp, a U.S. military liaison demanded to speak with the airfield commander, a Sudanese colonel. The colonel told the liaison he would have to consult with his superior, a lieutenant general. None of the documents reviewed by Air Force Times explained why the liaison didn’t ask to speak with the colonel sooner.

The colonel stepped out of the room. When he returned, he told the liaison the aircrew could leave after paying a landing fee. The liaison explained the fee had already been paid; the colonel didn’t ask for proof of payment and told him the crew could leave. This time, it was the liaison’s turn to leave the room. He radioed Woosley with the news.

The Sudanese soldiers backed up and the firetruck drove off.

Woosley and the crew members became blurs of motion, getting the plane ready for takeoff in eight minutes instead of the usual 30.

PAT 332 taxied to the runway for a second time. This time, the wheels left the ground.

Hat tip to George Smiley.

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One Feedback on "Air Crew Awarded Medals For 2006 Sudan Confrontation"

Ed

This is what happens when you have a Democrat in the White House. Oh wait, this was in 2006…



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