An aircraft filled with 101st Airborne Division soldiers en route to Afghanistan circled the World Trade Center disaster site in lower Manhattan last week to remind the troops of why they were deploying. It was the first time since Sept. 11 that the Federal Aviation Administration allowed a commercial plane to fly over the site.
Capt. Richard Osborne, pilot of MD-11 World Airways, radioed 20 minutes ahead to coordinate the maneuver and the air traffic controllers were notably moved by the request.
"They were happy to do it when we told them the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was on board," said Osborne. "These people are going over there and are literally risking their lives in response to the terror that occurred at that place; it was very significant that they get an opportunity to see it"
For the soldiers of Task Force 187 making the trip, it was a reminder of what the mission is all about. "It was definitely a sobering moment, (a reminder) of what we're doing here," said Spc. Raymond Ballance, Company D, 311th Military Intelligence, ground surveillance. "It brought it back to the front of my mind, of why we're doing this, by seeing those two barren sites." Ballance is also prepared to make the sacrifice to help eliminate terrorism. "Hopefully I'll find some bad guys and detain them so we can bring them to justice," said Ballance.
Osborne, who was an Army aviator during Vietnam, said he was proud to have the job of flying the "Screaming Eagles" to their destination. "I'm glad we're able to bring them on this leg and what we're really looking forward to is bringing each and every one of them back home," said Osborne. "I was proud when I served in the military and I'm proud of the quality of people who are on board today."
(Editor's note: Spc. Eric Bartelt is a member of the 40th Public
Affairs Detachment now serving in Afghanistan.)