LAS VEGAS -- It has been an interesting "homecoming" from our most recent Fox News "embed" with U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The flights we took, from Kabul to Dubai and onward to Dulles International Airport, were full of Americans -- service members heading home on leave, a gaggle of U.S. government officials, more than a dozen civilian contractors, several private-sector engineers and technicians, and a group of executives seeking "investment opportunities" in Afghanistan. None of those with whom I spoke on these flights expressed any angst about "lack of progress" or "fear of failure" in this war.
Three days later, I was again at Dulles Airport heading for my departure gate, when a U.S. Air Force officer assigned to Creech Air Force Base, Nev., approached me in the crowded concourse. After introducing himself, he described how he had been the command pilot for an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft supporting a special operations mission our Fox News team had accompanied in Afghanistan.
When I asked him how he knew we were on that particular operation, he said, "The JTAC (joint tactical air controller) was right beside you with his ROVER (which stands for remotely operated video enhanced receiver, a device that allows an on-scene air support controller to see the images being acquired by a remotely piloted aircraft's cameras overhead) when the Hellfire missile hit. The JTAC told me you were there over our (satellite) link."
We chatted for a few moments about the extraordinary technology that allowed him to deliver a 20-pound warhead precisely on target from half a world away -- but paused when the crowd around us suddenly broke into cheers. Throughout the terminal, passengers and airline personnel were looking at ceiling-mounted televisions in the waiting areas. On the screens, a Chilean miner, trapped 2,200 feet underground for 69 days, was emerging from the Phoenix, a NASA-designed, Chilean-built rescue capsule suspended over a narrow shaft drilled with the help of American engineers, some of whom flew to Chile from Afghanistan.
Throughout the concourse, people applauded as the miner, one of 33 men once presumed dead, embraced his tearful wife, thanked his rescuers and accepted the congratulations of Sebastian Pinera, his country's president. It was an extraordinary moment -- being among hundreds of strangers, saluting a triumph of tenacity, technology and skill over what was nearly a terrible tragedy.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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