Air Force says Kabul C-17 crew with human remains in wheel well acted correctly


The crew of an Air Force C-17 leaving Kabul in the early hours of last summer’s mass evacuation acted properly and within ‘applicable rules of engagement’ in leaving the airport quickly, even though human remains were found in the aircraft’s wheel well. when he landed later, the Air Force said late Monday, June 13.

The discovery clears the crew of flight, Reach 885, of wrongdoing and ends investigations by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and several forensic inquiries.

The flight took place on August 16, 2021, the day stampede-like crowds swarmed the flight line at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghan civilians fled the rapidly approaching Taliban. Widely circulated videos from that day showed C-17s operating at the airport in perilous conditions, surrounded by civilians. One such video showed a C-17 taxing towards a takeoff surrounded by a crowd of hundreds of Afghans and other civilians running alongside the plane, with several visibly hanging from the plane’s wheel arches. Another video, taken just at the end of the runway, appears to show a person apparently holding on to the plane falling several hundred feet as the plane pulled away.

Another C-17 that had left Kabul the previous night, August 15, was said to have carried 800 passengers.

An Air Force spokesperson would not confirm on Monday whether the plane with human remains was one of the C-17s filmed, although several civilian flight trackers from the time identified Reach. 885 as a famous Joint Base Lewis-McChord plane seen rolling through a crowd in the video below.

In a statement, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the crew “was in compliance with applicable event-specific rules of engagement and the general law of armed conflict.”

The discovery, Stefanek said, combines investigations from staff judge advocates’ offices at Air Mobility Command — which oversees most C-17 operations — and U.S. Central Command, which was in charge of U.S. military operations in Kabul and Qatar.

“It was a tragic event and our hearts go out to the families of those who died,” Stefanek said. She did not say how many people were killed in the incident, describe the remains, or provide any identification, including gender or nationality.

A U.S. Marine provides security assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 24, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla.

“Crew operational management also reviewed mission details and concluded that the crew acted appropriately and exercised good judgment in their decision to depart as quickly as possible in the face of an unprecedented safety situation. and rapidly deteriorating,” Stefanek said. “The airmanship and quick-wittedness of the crew ensured the safety of the crew and their aircraft. After seeking appropriate care and services to deal with any trauma from this unprecedented experience, the crew returned to flight status.

Read more : Secret Mission to Kabul: The C-17 Crew That Helped Launch the Afghan Airlift


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