Romania 2 311.
(photo credit: Dover IDF)
BOBOC, Romania – The Sikorsky CH-53 Yasour helicopters warmed up their engines
and at 6 a.m. took off from the Romanian Air Force base, near the city of Boboc,
to the Carpathian Mountains to bring their comrades home.
boarding, the commander of the Israel Air Force elite search-and-rescue Unit
669, Lt.-Col. A., gathered his troops and gave one last briefing.
Report: IAF helicopter flew into a cloud before crashingRomania authorities: Entire helicopter crew killed in crashPhoto gallery: Rescue efforts in Romani
used to saving lives, and this is not our typical mission,” he said, according
to one officer present at the briefing.
“I personally knew the pilots who
were killed in the crash. Our motto is that we do not leave any wounded behind,
and in the same way today, we will not leave any of the dead behind.”
young soldiers were prepared for what was ahead, eager to assist in bringing
their fallen comrades to rest back in Israel. While this was indeed not their
typical mission, the elite group of soldiers had undergone years of training
that made them the right force to send rappelling down ropes into the ravine
where the remains of the ill-fated Yasour helicopter were scattered, and to
search for the bodies of the six IAF servicemen and the Romanian soldier killed
Unit 669 was founded after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, with
the mandate of extricating pilots who fall into enemy territory. Their main mode
of transportation is the Yasour helicopter.
The soldiers from Unit 669
were accompanied on their mission by members of the IDF Chaplaincy Corps and
officers from the IAF’s Safety Division.
The helicopters landed at an old
cottage about a kilometer and a half from the scene of the crash.
rescuers had to go the rest of the way on foot, up steep mountains and through
streams, some of which had to be crossed by impromptu bridges made of ladders
taken from the helicopters.
The crash site was a difficult scene to
behold. The remains of the helicopter were scatted over an area the size of a
football field, and the soldiers worked around the clock to collect both the
servicemen’s remains and the pieces of the helicopter required by the IAF to
properly investigate the cause of the crash.
The feeling among the
soldiers was difficult.
“Some hoped that a miracle was still possible,
but we knew what our mission was and what we would need to do,” a commander from
the unit said.
One of his main concerns was the weather. The other was
the darkness. The weather worked against the team, which was drenched by the end
of the operation.
But they succeeded in retrieving all of the bodies by
the end of the day and returned to the base in Boboc before dark.
soldiers worked with such motivation that the Unit 669 commander had to stop
them every once in a while and order them to drink.
commander of the Oketz canine team, said that the dogs were key to the mission’s
“There were places that we would not have been able to get to
without the dogs’ assistance,” M.
said. “We arrived focused on our goal –
to assist in the searches and to help retrieve what needed to be brought back to