Throwing the Hammer Down

Air Force strike aircraft flew 176 hours of non-stop close air support over Afghanistan’s Pech Valley region near the Pakistan border, dropping more than 100 bombs in four days of supporting ground forces during Operation Hammer Down II. Cooperating with joint terminal attack controllers, F-15Es and F-16s of the 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 555th EFS, respectively, at Bagram Airfield, precisely struck multiple targets “danger close” to friendly forces, according to Bagram officials. “There was a period where we dropped seven bombs in a span of 26 minutes . . . some within 250 meters of our forces,” recounted Lt. Col. Mark O’Neil, 389th EFS assistant operations director. “It’s nerve wracking, but when that JTAC comes on the radio and says, ‘Excellent job, not a scratch on friendlies,’ it makes it all worthwhile.” Hammer Down, conducted at the end of June, eradicated more than 100 insurgents, including several high-value targets. (Bagram report by SSgt. John Wright)