It was part of Operation Mountain Lion, an effort to rid an area of northeastern Afghanistan of remnants of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terror groups. It is an area of mountains, ravines, and treacherous paths — one of the most rugged sections of a rugged country.
Tuesday Night/Wednesday Morning, April 11-12
I'm standing with my cameraman, Pierre Zakzrewski, and producer Kim Miller, waiting with the D.O. Platoon for our chopper to "insert us" into the battle space from the Asadabad Forward Operating Base. We all are carrying heavy back (and front) packs. The Marines' packs are filled with ammo and other war gear. Ours are filled with TV gear. It's getting cold.
Pep talks are given to the men. They're young; most are around 20 to 21 years old. And then group prayer. And another group prayer. Not deep and liturgical. More along the lines of, "Oh God, see us through this mission and make sure we get back to see our family and girlfriends."
Several other choppers come and go before ours arrives and we pile in. It's about 1:30 a.m. now. Noisy. Crowded. Dark. We only have to travel a few minutes and a few miles, but it's over tall mountains. I look ahead and I can see through the front windshield. It's an incredible sight. The chopper appears ready to crash head-on into the side of one precipice after another, only to veer away at the last moment. It's disorienting, and after watching this for about five minutes, I stop.
We learn that another bird had a more difficult time of it. It touched down on a jagged outcropping of rock. Teetering left and right, its blades were almost touching the ground. Some of the Marines had already gotten out. In mid-landing it had to raise its back hatch and fly off, nearly crushing two Marines in the process of disembarking.
After a few minutes of blessed break, we're off again. Pierre tells me climbing up with heavy packs is better than coming down. I suppose, but it's not that much fun when the ground beneath your feet is a shifting mass of rocks, gravel, dirt, sand and tree branches. Oh, and it's dark. Luckily, there's a full moon.
Tomorrow: Exploring a Ghost town, and sleeping at an 85-degree incline!
Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.