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Word of downed helo slow to reach some U.S. bases in Afghanistan

By MARTIN KUZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 7, 2011

FORWARD OPERATING BASE TORKHAM, Afghanistan — Word of the deaths of 30 U.S. servicemen killed when their helicopter was shot down Saturday west of Kabul was slow to reach some U.S. bases in Afghanistan. At Forward Operating Base Torkham, where troops primarily are involved in patrolling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border along the Khyber Pass, a half-dozen soldiers approached by a Stars and Stripes reporter Sunday afternoon had yet to hear of the attack.

Those who knew about it expressed frustration, sadness and a determination to press on.

“We’re not trying to do anything except help this country get better, so you get kind of angry when our guys lose their lives,” said Sgt. Henry Murray of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

“But we’re soldiers — we know the risks,” added Murray, 41, of Marrero, La. “You have to keep going out there and doing your job.”

“It’s a tragedy,” said Sgt. Roberto Flores, 37, of Orlando, Fla., a member of the same unit, whose U.S. base is Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. “Something like this makes you that much more aware of what’s going on around us — the dangers that are out there.”

For Spc. Thomas Duell, 23, of Muskegon, Mich., who belongs to the fuel team that tanks up helicopters flying in and out of FOB Torkham, the downing of the Chinook in Wardak was a sobering reminder of the risks that soldiers face.

“I’m out at the landing zone all the time. An attack like that, it makes you a little bit worried about what can happen,” he said. “But you just have to focus on doing your job one day at a time until you get home and you’re back with your loved ones.”

The helicopter crash, in which seven Afghans were also reported killed, was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began.

kuzm@estripes.osd.mil

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