Sunday, March 13, 2011

Female British Apache pilot in Afghanistan, " I've killed more people than ...Jack The Ripper and any other serial killer ...all put together"



Equality of the sexes is the norm for the British Military....Read an excerpt from Dressed To Kill, by Charlotte Madison...a British Apache AH-64 Helicopter Pilot.

Her POV on the battle from the front seat of an awesome machine.
I feel that the fairer sex are capable and up to the job but may like many others, gain a new appreciation and understanding of the emotional toll being underfire extracts from each of us who have lived through the experience of combat.

I’ve killed more than Harold Shipman, Jack The Ripper and Myra Hindley put together Adapted by BEN JACKSON

CHARLOTTE MADISON, 26, beat the odds to be chosen as the first female pilot of a British Apache attack helicopter for the Army Air Corps.

Here, in the serialisation of her book, Dressed To Kill, she tells how she is thrown headfirst into battle after being posted to Afghanistan.

" I'M searching woods near an area dubbed RPG Alley for attackers who have hit one of our helicopters causing two casualties.

It's two weeks into my first tour to Afghanistan and I'm flying near Now Zad.

On the radio I'm listening to a fellow pilot and trying to keep up with all the grids he's sending. For every one there are more than 30 button pushes.

RPG Alley is one of the Taliban's favourite firing points. They set up RPGs - rocket propelled grenades - to land inside the British area then melt away.

I flick between my two screens. The first is better for picking up movement but the second can see through the foliage and trace the heat signatures of people, The radio crackles with our call sign. "Ugly Five One, this is Five Zero, we've got movers!"

I see four figures darting in and out of trees. It is confirmed they are Taliban, and probably the ones firing rockets at our soldiers 30 minutes ago.

I aim. Each time the trigger is pulled four rockets, each spraying 80 six-inch tungsten darts which punch holes in everything they touch, will fly towards the target.

Approaching the target at over 100mph I say into the radio: "Five One firing."

I watch with satisfaction as the rockets hammer the woods.

All eyes search for movement. We see none.

"That was your first real engagement, wasn't it?" my co-pilot "Fog" says. "How do you feel?" On a professional level, I'm happy. I didn't crumble under the pressure of the real thing. "Felt fine," I say.

Unease

As we shut down the engines and walk away back at base a creeping sense of uncertainty starts to bubble through me. I feel slightly nauseous as I look around and see the guys on the ground working.

Everything is just going on as normal but I have this creeping sense of unease about what we're really here for.

Now I am a killer. My heart is hammering. This is my job. I push the feelings away but it's hard.

The Boss comes over. "Good work, Charlie." His smile is honest. "Thanks, Boss."

Charlotte had three tours of duty in Afghanistan over 12 months. In one she was involved in a critical mission to rescue a wounded soldier, Mathew Ford. She continues her story...

He was believed to be lying injured after a ground attack on a compound called Jugroom Fort, in Helmand. One of our top pilots, "Face", has a bold plan to fly in and get him, strap the injured man to the Apache and fly out.

Our Apache is to provide covering fire. But as we go in suddenly Face is really shouting. He must be in a bad way. "I'm a sitting duck, I'm a sitting duck." Face's voice penetrates my skull.

I fire two missiles at point-blank range into the room at the fort where muzzle flashes are spitting. They stop and we reset just as Face says: "They're firing again. I can't get them with my gun." One enemy RPG. That's all it would take.

I struggle to get the missiles off at such close quarters. "Get some f***ing fire down!" my colleague, Darwin, is shouting from the back seat. I'm wildly squeezing the trigger.

After sending another missile through the roof of the building, our final one slams into a window and the firing stops.

We fly underneath the blanket of smog - the scene looks like a macabre cartoon of a war zone, rubble, smoke, tracer, tiny bodies and plumes of angry fire.

What a mess. Only our rockets left now. We set up for a run just to the east of where the two rescue Apaches are still sitting on the ground. I long to look but can't spare the concentration. We fire half our rockets, then repeat the manoeuvre to the north. They come out shooting in pairs, with their ar*es on fire.

Suddenly an enemy RPG shoots past my window. "What the f***? F***, help, f***."

My head spins and I realise we are barely higher than the trees. I can look through the windows of the nearby buildings.

I send the final flechette rockets into the distance. Face's flight lifts off in a huge cloud of dust and grit. As soon as they're away, Darwin pulls max power and climbs away to 2,000ft.

"We're Winchester," I tell him, with a huge exhalation of pent-up breath. It means we're out of ammo. (The saying is from the First World War when biplane pilots had nothing left to fire and reached for their Winchester repeater rifles.) No one had yet gone Winchester in an Apache.

"Hello Five Two, this is Five Three pulling up, Winchester," I tell my flight commander, Nick. "Blimey. Not bad for a six-minute sortie," he replies.

Back on the ground we find out Mathew Ford didn't make it. The knowledge sits heavily with me. It just seems so unfair.

A week later I walk into the squadron rest tent and the TV is on. A few people are crowded around watching. It is a documentary about the lives of some of the Marines out here.

It takes me a while to realise that the lively, funny, healthy-looking man on the screen is the one who died in an instant, before my eyes, behind a dusty outhouse. It is like a punch in the stomach. I long to reach into the TV screen and pull out his smiling, brave, handsome face.

Nausea rushes through me and I want to scratch at my skin. I feel horribly unsteady on my feet.

Horrified

I have to get fresh air. Resting my head in my hands, I tell myself to hold it together.

Something has been playing on my mind, too. Some of the boys keep a "kill count". I don't, but I have an idea of the scale of what I've done. "You know," I say slowly, wanting to gauge her reaction, "I've killed more people than Harold Shipman, Myra Hindley, Jack The Ripper and any other serial killer you can name all put together. If that's not f***ed up, I don't know what is."

I want to see if she looks horrified.

She looks me straight in the eye. "I think of our job as being like an airborne hitman. You get a scrap of paper with a grid on it and get told to kill whoever's there. It's kind of cool. And we're on the side of good." .

"I guess we just have to do what we're trained to do, and do it as well as we can," Jo says reassuringly.

I feel as if I've sorted out the mess in my brain a little. If Jo doesn't think I'm nuts, or a bad person, then there's a good chance that, tomorrow, I won't either. "

Dressed To Kill, by Charlotte Madison is published on March 18, £14.99. To buy it from the Sun bookshop for £13.49 visit thesunbookshop.co.uk

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