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Interview With U.S. Soldiers Injured in Downing of Helicopter

Aired November 5, 2003 - 06:41   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this is Landstuhl hospital in Germany where injured soldiers from that downed Chinook helicopter are now speaking to reporters. Let's listen.
QUESTION: Can you give us your unit and how long you've been there?

SGT. NELSON (ph), U.S. MILITARY: I've been in Iraq since April the 12th and my unit is 2nd Airfield (ph) Artillery.

QUESTION: Did either of the two of you see another missile missing the aircraft or was the first indication of a missile attack the explosion?

NELSON: I didn't see nothing. I just heard -- I just heard a big boom. That's all I heard. I didn't see nothing else.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I didn't see anything, either. I was -- I was more towards the center of the vehicle. And something like that, it just made -- I have no idea what it could have been.

QUESTION: I'm also wondering, you know, have you had many chopper rides during your term in Iraq? Was, you know, ground (ph) on missiles one of the things that you were thinking about? Were you ever nervous about being on helos there?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Not necessarily so much with the helicopters, just other vehicles. I currently run around in an APC, and we're really aware of the RPGs, stuff like that that are being fired near us. So I wouldn't say at helicopters, no.

NELSON: That was my first time in one of them helicopters.

QUESTION: Sorry, say again.

NELSON: That was my first time in a helicopter, so I wasn't really aware of certain situations.

QUESTION: But it's not something that you talked about with your...


QUESTION: ... unit or anything like that?

NELSON: No, we were just happy to leave, pretty much. We just ready to go on leave. That's it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Do you guys feel after everything you saw in Iraq that once you climbed on a helicopter that probably the danger was over? Or did your, you know, unit leader say hey listen, guys, we're not safe until we're out of Iraqi airspace? I mean did you have a reason to get on the helicopter?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Well I don't remember climbing on to the helicopter. I remember someone actually putting me on there. And no, I don't remember feeling that relief.

NELSON: I remember feeling no kind of relief until we got out of Iraq. That's the only kind of relief I meant to (ph) feeling.

QUESTION: But you are both saying that the first thing you knew or heard was the bang? You both recall an explosion and no prior warning, no evasive action, nothing before that that indicated anything different than a normal flight?


NELSON: No, sir.

QUESTION: Sgt. Nelson, do you know how long you were airborne for? I mean...

NELSON: I can't recall. I know we were up there since about 0800 in the morning, but that's all I know.

QUESTION: Now had your unit suffered any casualties prior to this? Can you talk to us just a little bit about that, some of your buddies, or can you also tell us a little bit about some of the guys in your unit who might have survived this accident?

NELSON: We had about 12 guys from my unit and went with us. And I know I had a friend, he didn't make it. And that's the only one I know about.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I don't know of anybody else from my unit that was on the helicopter. But if you were asking if we had previous injuries to this -- to this incident, yes, we have, sir.

QUESTION: Talk a little bit about that?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's -- it didn't really -- it's not really with this situation, so I just as soon leave it at that, sir.

QUESTION: So how are you guys doing with what kind of injuries do you have (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? What other kinds of injuries do you have?

NELSON: Well I've got a fractured ankle and a fractured hip and...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, two more questions now... NELSON: ... that's pretty much my injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we will separate for the one-on-one interviews.

QUESTION: So a fractured ankle and a fractured hip?

NELSON: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I just got a pretty good bump on the head, ma'am, and then other than that, I pretty much got out of it pretty unscathed.

QUESTION: How do you both feel at this stage, do you think your Iraqi experience is over or do you think that once you recover you'll rejoin your units back in? And if so, how do you feel about it?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I feel eventually we will be heading back. There will be other -- it's going to be going on for a long time with many years to come. I feel we will be heading back to Iraq.

QUESTION: How do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I'm ready to do it, sir. I'm proud to do it. It's let's go do it. I've seen a lot of people that need our help.

QUESTION: Sgt. Nelson, how do you feel?

NELSON: I'd rather be with my unit right now.

QUESTION: You'd like to be with your unit?

NELSON: Yes, because we -- because us, as soldiers, we all bundled together these last several months that we've been together. We feel like a real big family so right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that's it for right now and then we go into Mr. Nelson -- Sgt. Nelson (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And then we have a little bit of time for you still (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll talk to you in a little bit. Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: All right, we're looking at events in Germany at the Landstuhl hospital there where about 16 soldiers injured in that downed Chinook crash near Fallujah in Iraq were taken for treatment. You heard two soldiers say that they wish they were back with their unit. As you know, many of those aboard that Chinook were on their way for a little rest and relaxation. We'll have more as the day progresses here on CNN.



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