A Sitting Nuck - by Len Boyd
24 x 36 inches Acrylic on masonite, 2011
It’s 5am: suffocating swirls of blinding dust slither their snake-like plumage throughout the scorched valley below. The contrasting colours of pink and blue break their way into the dirty sky of dawn, beckoning the arrival of first light in Afghanistan’s new day of May 17, 2011.
A lone, twin-rotor Canadian Forces transport chopper sits motionless and abandoned atop an escarpment of earth just off the dried river bed’s banks. Nestled tightly within a shroud of snapped trees and brush, the helicopter’s rotor blades have been completely sheared away, its forward door and most of its port-hole windows blown free during the impact. Glints of pink light reflect off its greyish metallic surfaces. Pieces of the craft lie imbedded in the sands nearby.
Blue nylon rigging straps dangle freely from its twisted rotor housings. The Americans and Canadians had worked feverishly into the small hours hoisting the stricken beast from its side, stripping the machine of its one remaining engine and gathering all salvageable equipment and supplies from within and around its perimeter. The vulnerable troops work in full view of insurgents’ eyes.
At 5:15am, a second transport chopper is seen swirling a vortex of pinkish brown as it takes off overhead, transferring the shaken and injured to a nearby airfield in Kandahar.
Moments later, the duffels and salvaged supplies are piled up near the downed chopper and the blue rigging straps begin to come down in preparation for the impending airlift.
At 5:22am, the distinctive sounds of a US Marine Corp. heavy-lift utility ‘Sea Stallion’ helicopter pierces its way through the brightening skies enroute to the crippled machine.
During the late hours of May 16, 2011, deep inside the Panjwaii District in southern Afghanistan, a Royal Canadian Airforce, CH-47 Boeing-Vertol Chinook Transport Helicopter conducting routine operations, experienced landing difficulties upon approach to a dry river bed amid the swirling sands of the moonlit darkness.
The Quebec-based ‘Royal 22nd Regiment’ Transport carrying 5 crew, 25 soldiers and one Canadian Press reporter slammed into the unforgiving river bed with so much force that it sent the 25 ton machine twisting to its right side, shearing off its rotor blades and rendering it a smoky, fuel-leaking wreck, vulnerable to insurgent attacks as it rested on its side. A virtual sitting duck.
Four were injured, one severely… there were no fatalities.
A fictional setting inspired by actual events…
This painting is a fictional depiction inspired by actual events which took place May 17, 2011 in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
The painting I have created illustrates a second Chinook helicopter transferring the injured crew and troops from a downed Chinook Transport to a nearby Kandahar airbase. The downed Chinook Transport in the foreground awaits its airlift from a US Marine ‘Sea Stallion’ Heavy Lift Chopper (not visible in the painting).
In actuality, there was a trio of American CH-53E ‘Super Stallion’ helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 performing what is known as a ‘Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel’ or ‘TRAP’. The Chinook I added flying in the distance was to showcase the machine’s profile from two separate yet distinctive vantage points.
My main focus for this scene was to emphasize the inhospitable surroundings facing our fighting troops amidst the unforgiving climate and conditions they were subjected to working in, day in and day out, in their selfless call to duty
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