Monday, September 11, 2006
A helicopter ride to remember
It doesn't matter how many times you do it -- taking a ride on a helicopter is as about as close to good sex as it gets.

I'd taken along a book for the flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, to a U.S. military forward operating base close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. I shouldn't have bothered, as this was yet another ride to remember.

We flew on a twin-rotored U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, a massive beast of a bird. I sat next to the open tailgate and watched smooth new buildings almost shine against the rough rock strewn terrain. I saw too the stark contrast of new black tarmac road cutting a sinewy trail over a mountain pass. I smiled. The last time I drove that road, roughly two years ago, there were more potholes than hardtop.

The beauty of the country, as we skimmed mud roof tops, wove down mountain valleys 10,000 feet up, was staggering. From up here, Afghanistan looked fresh. The darkness that drenched the country under Taliban rule before 9/11 appeared to be washed away.

After touching down at the forward operating base, I watched my colleague Anderson Cooper begin a live broadcast with troops from the third brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, who were gathering for a minute of silence for the dead of the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, a rocket whistled in, landing a half mile or so from the base. (Watch Anderson Cooper dodge rocket attack -- 2:24)

It got my adrenalin pumping. What I felt was pure momentary fear, then the realization I'd better get on with my work and get reporting.

The reality I'm finding here is that while some parts of Afghanistan may be all shiny and new, Taliban fighters are hitting back with a vengeance not seen since 9/11. They may not be strong enough to overthrow the country, but they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Posted By Nic Robertson, CNN International Correspondent: 3:31 PM ET
  28 Comments
HA HA HA ! Your helicopter ride was better than mine then, because the thrill ride around Mt. Rushmore I took was definitely not like sex!

I knew Anderson and Co. would meet danger sooner or later. Thank you for the update, though. Godspeed.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 3:44 PM ET
Okay, so if the great Nic Robertson's adrenaline got pumping, are we allowed to have heart attacks?

Why didn't Anderson look scared in that footage? Does he hide it well? Or perhaps he didn't realize the danger he was in right away?


Please stay safe guys!!
Posted By Anonymous Lily, Vancouver, BC : 3:51 PM ET
I just watched the video "AC dodge a rocket attack". Stressfull! The Talibans are taunting the army, hey! Doing it during the minute of silence!!

Be careful out there guys! I think I'll take a few Valiums or drink myself silly before the show tonight to endure the stress of watching live!(Only kidding!).

Watch your backs, all of you.And, Nic, glad you enjoyed your Helicopter ride!Coming back to the terrorists, if it weren't so serious, it would be funny. All their messages,videos,etc...
They are like pests, taunting the other kids at school. But, this is real life with real monsters, willing to stop at nothing to terrorise people.
Be safe.

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 3:56 PM ET
Too bad you can't get AirMiles on helicopter rides, you guys seem to clock quite a few of them.

The video was quite a reminder that even today, five years later, the battle is far from over. If you have a minute can you do us all a favour and punch your good buddy Anderson in the arm and remind him that when trained, armed military personnel start running you don't bother finishing your sentence you just try to keep up? Thanks.

I know that it's already tomorrow where you are but I hope that in all the chaos of a live and very active war zone you were able to find a few moments of peace to mark the day in your own way.
Posted By Anonymous Claire Colvin, White Rock, BC : 4:07 PM ET
Nic-
When I read your opening sentence I began to laugh. I am always amazed with reporters' abilities to maintain a sense of humor in any situation. I will never understand how can retain enough composure to keep working instead of simply sticking your head in the sand. I hope that you, as well as Anderson and both of your crews stay safe as you cover the story in Afghanistan.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly Miller, Hiram, OH : 4:11 PM ET
About as close to good sex as it gets?
Well, that is quite a comparison!
I have taken rides on a helicopter on multiple occasions, but such a thought never crossed my mind.
But then I did not fly over war-torn zones, nor was it on a military helicopter. Maybe that combination and the thrill that goes along with it are the ingredients for such a comparison.

I truly believe that Afghanistan is a beautiful country just judging from pictures a friend who served there shared with me. I spend some time myself in the Turkey mountain range bordering Iraq and I can imagine that it looks similar to Afghanistan.

Seeing the country right now and how the Taliban seemingly is gaining strenght is a frightening thought.
How could it have come to this? Have me focused too much on Iraq?

To the entire CNN crew broadcasting from the danger zone, you all please be careful!
Posted By Anonymous Elke, New York/NY : 4:28 PM ET
My father-inlaw owns two Bell Hellicopter Jet Rangers. I have ridden in them on numerous occasions and fly small cesnas myself. I never thought it was as "close to good sex as it get's...even when I was handling the stick!"
Posted By Anonymous Glenn Casey, Dallas, Texas : 4:39 PM ET
I know what ride I'm going to first at this years county fair. Right by the agriculture exhibit to the helicopter ride. It's great we can maintain a sense of humor in such troubled times. Take care of each other.
Posted By Anonymous Mavis, Buford, Ga : 5:09 PM ET
Nic,
I know exactly what you mean! I have thought the same thing EVERYTIME I rode in a helicopter. Almost as good as good sex. A military helicopter is NOT the same as a civilian. The pilots are definately not the same. Anyone who doesn't get it, hasn't flown military. If you want a real rush, try rappeling out of one! Air Assault!
Posted By Anonymous Juli, Lubbock TX : 5:12 PM ET
Dear Nic, sorry to say that to you but sex is way better than an helicopter ride (probably not as long but..)oh well.... As a soldier myself I would never underestimate the enemy, especially the Taliban. They will destroy and destroy even during a prayer. All of you, please stay safe.
Posted By Anonymous Johanne, Ontario, Canada : 5:14 PM ET
to all of you, please stay safe!
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Toronto, Canada : 5:30 PM ET
Hey Nic: What I want to know is what book were you going to try and read?
Did it have "How to get close to good sex and avoid a rocket attack at the same time" in the title? If not, you should consider writing a book on that experience! It sure captured my attention! Thanks for sharing and keep on flying...it apparently agrees with you!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 5:34 PM ET
I spent two tours in Viet Nam in the mid sixties and during that time got to fly in a chopper many times. I certainly wouldnt call it almost good as sex. Maybe it was because where we were headed was usually almost as bad as hell. But i enjoyed sitting across from the open door of the old H-34's that transported us to combat. I remember being in a pre operation briefing where some silly staff major talked about a classic hammer and anvil manuever and then looking out later from that chopper door across miles of triple canopy jungle wondering how this hammer was going to find our anvil. Apparently the major never had the sexual joys of a chopper ride.
Posted By Anonymous Brett, Oriskany, VA : 6:03 PM ET
If you think a Chinook ride is close to Sex, you must get some bad Sex. Try a ride in the front of an Apache or Cobra. That's sexy.

Most of my passenger hours are in Hueys, and most of them (in training, not in combat) are definitely pleasant memories, particularly my last ride from Concord to Berlin NH (when I was in the NH Army Guard), right over the top of the White Mountains...

dave
Posted By Anonymous David Emery, Reston, VA : 6:33 PM ET
Hi Nic,
Wow! That must have been some helicopter ride! Mine was exhilerating, but not to that extent.
I hope you and your colleagues stay safe!
Posted By Anonymous Pamina, Pittsford New York : 7:03 PM ET
Geeze, I feel cheated. I think I may have to go take a helicopter ride. What a blog!!
I love the fact that you can see the beauty in the country there. I think it is important for those in the US to realize that in the midst of such chaos there is a country full of people just like us that matters.
Posted By Anonymous Michele, Slidell, LA : 7:32 PM ET
This is for Brett from VA, remembering Viet Nam.

When you have a question about the building plans, don't ask the architect, ask the construction foreman. He knows how the job should be done!

Maggie
Posted By Anonymous Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 7:34 PM ET
I'm at work so I don't have the sound on but I noticed in the clip that none of soldiers or Anderson for that matter seemed to be wearing a helmet. Strange. Tell Anderson that while slaying dragons in the rockets red glare he needs to wear his helmet. I don't care if it looks dorky.
Posted By Anonymous Annabelle Echo, Chicago, IL : 7:48 PM ET
Dear Nic, AC and the rest of the CNN staff in Afghanistan....

Thank you! I am a mother of a soldier at the FOB (forward operating base) that you are at. He took that helicopter that you did, his first ever...and I will have to ask him now if it is as good as sex. I have a feeling he would disagree with you! smile!

I have to admit, it was very difficult to watch the footage today about the rocket attack just as AC was doing the shot for the 9/11 remembrance. I realized that I was watching my son and his unit being attacked. But I thank you for that! I truly do!

That FOB has the attacks often and I hear about it every time, but to see it, is something no one could give me but you there at CNN. It means a great deal to me to see what my son is going through. Gives me prespective when I talk to him.

I pray for your safety while you while you are there. Please prayer those that will be staying there when you leave!

This footage tonight is awesome! I can not thank you enough!!!!!!

Proud Army Mom of Son in Afghanistan
Posted By Anonymous Cindy McLean, Mpls, MN : 10:43 PM ET
Please keep safe over there guys. I know I speak for many when I say we appreciate all you do to bring us some idea of what is going on, but please be careful.....and God bless our troops.

Patti
Posted By Anonymous Patti, Newport News, Va : 11:39 PM ET
The only thing better than riding in a chopper is jumping out of it in flight.
airborne
Posted By Anonymous Ian, Jax, FL : 1:22 AM ET
My husband is currently stationed with the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade, and giving them the recognition they deserve for all that they do just means so much I can't even tell you. Anderson and company, you are the man...and men. Great job!!!
Posted By Anonymous Kelly, Ft. Drum, NY : 12:17 PM ET
My son is also serving with the 10th Mountain in Afghanistan. Thank you again for showing us here at home a small glimpse of what my son and the rest of the gallant 10th Mountain go through every day. And yes, put on a helmet!
Proud Mom of a 10th Mountain soldier.
Posted By Anonymous Marijane Nelson, Bellevue, WA : 5:41 PM ET
Nic, I'm writing to you a day after the rocket attack footage was shown on CNN. My heart skipped a beat when I saw that. And yet Anderson looked cool, calm, and collected. You guys never cease to amaze me; no words do justice for your bravery. Stay safe and God bless.
Posted By Anonymous Beth, Edmonds, WA : 12:10 AM ET
My son is also stationed at this same FOB.
God Bless you and the crew for bringing people's attention to the 10th Mountain Division 3rd Brigade on this Afghan frontline.
Like all the mothers who have commented here, I too am proud of my son and all the "other" sons who are there with him. I am also terrified for each of them and just want them to get done with this tour and come home safely.
Posted By Anonymous Lee Kilgore, Oxford, Maine : 9:53 AM ET
Your post about a helicopter ride being as close to good sex as it gets had me hysterically laughing in my office. I have flown on numerous helicopters and yes they are thrilling so now I have that thought of good sex to think about next time I go up in one. Keep up the fabulous reporting and keep safe!
Posted By Anonymous Pam, Oklahoma City OK : 6:14 PM ET
I happened to see a glimpse of the footage of you guys on September 11th. As the wife a service member currently serving in Afghanistan, I thought to myself - thankfully my husband wasn't stationed there. However, after just talking to my husband, I found out he happened to actually be at the FOB that day. The footage really helped to put in perspective what they go through every day. Sometimes it's so hard to understand what he's experiencing - that really brought it home. Stay safe in your travels!
Posted By Anonymous Kris, Minneapolis, MN : 12:02 AM ET
Instead of interviewing him, Armadinejad should have been arrested for threatening Western Civilization. While watching Anderson Cooper interview him last night, his weird little face taking up the whole TV screen, I thought, this is the man who is going to drop a nuclear bomb and end the world as we know it...and here we in American are interviewing him about it. We have to stop having civilized conversation with this anti-christ. His double talk revealed exactly what he plans on doing. It's a matter of life and death and only a matter of time. Why are the leaders and media in this country in such denial?
Posted By Anonymous Karen Hartofilis, New York : 11:30 AM ET
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