Dan Milberg's account of Nov. 12, 2004
An account written by pilot in command Dan Milberg after the helicopter he was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Nov. 12, 2004. Three crew members were wounded, including Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs.
TO: CPT Bergantz 14 NOV 04
FROM: CW4 Milberg
SUBJECT: Aircraft 856 Shoot Down
On 12 November at approximately 1630 hours, I was flying from Baghdad to Balad in aircraft 83-23856. I was on the controls and flying at approximately 60 feet AGL and approximately 15 feet above a date tree grove. My crew consisted of myself, CPT Duckworth, SGT Fierce, and SPC Hanneman.
We were approximately 15 miles northeast of Taji airfield, when I heard what I recognized as gunfire underneath my aircraft. It sounded like three rounds and I thought that I felt the impact from the gunfire. I immediately heard an explosion come from the right side of the cockpit. I felt heat and small particles of debris on my face.
I realized that we had been hit by enemy fire. Since I felt feedback in the controls, lost instrument indications, and thought that I had a decrease in engine noise, I started an approach to a clearing ahead of me.
As I made the approach I started feeling more severe feedback in the cyclic and felt a lateral vibration in the aircraft. I realized that there was a single tree in my flight path, so I used my cyclic to clear it and then continued the approach to the ground. After landing, I completed an emergency engine shutdown and got out of the aircraft. The rotor blades were coming to a stop as I got out of the aircraft. Just prior to getting out of the aircraft, I looked over at CPT Duckworth and saw her slumped forward against the instrument panel. I saw that she was unconscious and had black residue on her face.
My initial reaction was to get everyone away from the aircraft due to the possibility of fire or the enemy coming to the crash scene.
I went to SPC Hanneman, who had been sitting in the left rear seat, as he was getting out of the aircraft. He had his M4, so I told him to take a position to provide security for the aircraft.
I went around to the right side of the aircraft to check CPT Duckworth and saw that part of one of her legs was separated from her body. I made contact with SGT Fierce who told me that he could not get out of the aircraft because his leg was broke. I told him that he had to get away from the aircraft and that I would help him. I can not remember whether he came through the door or the window. I helped him move a few feet from the aircraft where we fell to the ground. The terrain was rough and there was grass up to 6 feet tall in areas.
I went back to SPC Hanneman to check on him. I saw that he was right next to the aircraft, so I told him to take up a position away from the aircraft. He stood up and said that he was hit and then turned around and showed me the he had a significant amount of blood around his buttocks area. I told him to get back on the ground, but to keep a lookout.
I went to the front of the aircraft and started waving at aircraft 592, which was chalk 2. They were on approach to assist my crew and I. I ran over to SPC Hanneman and told him to get to 592. When 592 landed SGT Fischer and SPC Backeus, approached me. I went to CPT Duckworth grabbed her torso and told SPC Backeus to unstrap her. We took her out of the aircraft, took a couple of steps and then fell to the ground. I saw that SGT Fischer was trying to help SGT Fierce get to 592, so I tried to help carry him. We fell to the ground. At this time I saw COL Hamm (passenger on 592) approaching. I told him to help SPC Backeus move CPT Duckworth to 592.
I continued to help move SGT Fierce, but was struggling to hold him due to fatigue. I motioned to 1LT Asher who was sitting in the left pilot seat of 592 to come help. When he arrived, I took SGT Fischer's M4 in an attempt to provide security.
CPT Duckworth, SGT Fierce, and SPC Hanneman were loaded on 592. All doors were shut, the crew took their positions and we departed the area for Taji.
At Taji, we met a medevac aircraft immediately after landing. The wounded were moved to the medevac aircraft, which departed for Baghdad. The remaining personnel boarded 592 and taxied to parking.
After shutdown, we were transported to the 1st. Cav Aviation headquarters and debriefed the incident.
It should be noted that the crew and passenger of 592 acted in an exemplary manner. Their efforts, no doubt, saved the life of CPT Duckworth, the rest of my crew and myself. Since I had landed the aircraft within about 700 meters from the individuals that had shot us down, their quick and efficient actions got us out of the area as quick as was possible.