Since the last military flight out of Kabul and the Khider District Massacre, both events occurring on 30 August 2021, Chapman and Pritchard have co-authored numerous heartbreaking stories about Afghans in peril.
By Scott Chapman and Russ Pritchard
Operation Freedom Birds facilitates safe and reliable air transport for American Citizens and Afghan Allies, including asylum seekers currently hiding in Afghanistan. Acronyms associated with these categories include: AMCIT’s, SIV, P1, and P2. The acronyms represent human beings hunted by the Taliban. Primarily a volunteer organization with a pending 501C3 nonprofit status, Operation Freedom Birds does not hold a political view. It is a humanitarian operation to save lives in imminent danger from the Taliban. Through working relationships with other evacuation efforts and maintaining open lines of communication with the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Members of Congress, and numerous subject matter experts, Operation Freedom Birds provides transport from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and operates strictly within airports and legal air spaces.
Flooded by requests from around the world, the unanimous message vocalized to Operation Freedom Birds is a fear-driven plea for help. In recent weeks, many have had friends and family tortured and killed by the Taliban; many are actively being hunted and in peril. Entire families, 15 or more, move every few days, hoping to stay ahead of the Taliban while waiting for a mechanism of transport to safety.
This is Rocky’s story:
Born in the Urgon District to a family of limited means, Rocky grew up surrounded by war. His uncle served in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and, like their Afghan Mujahideen brothers of the Panjshir Valley, defeated the Soviets and drove them from Afghanistan. A few hours drive south of the capital city of Kabul, Rocky’s small village has a long history of engagements with aggressors. In the final year of the Soviet occupation, Russians fired indiscriminate rockets and shells into his village to neutralize an Afghan fighting position near Rocky’s home, a common Russian tactic. The rounds that hit Rocky’s home killed his father, wounded his mother, and other family members.
After the defeat of the Russians, Rocky’s uncle supported the family, allowing Rocky and his siblings the rare opportunity to attend formal education. It took several years to rebuild their home after the barrage of shells and rockets. Before the Taliban took control and forbade women from working, Rocky’s mother worked odd jobs to bring in money to continue her children’s education and further their opportunities. Rocky dreamed of becoming a doctor; which he attributes to the dead and wounded he saw during his childhood.
When the Taliban rose to power, they issued new rules prohibiting women from working and girls from attending school. Rocky’s mother could no longer work, and his sisters had to terminate their education. “Our lives changed under the Taliban. We thought we were poor, but we became even more poor after the Taliban. Every day was a struggle to survive, eat, and find clean water. I was in my eighth year of school when I had to stop and go to work full time to support my family. I initially worked in construction. Instead of a daily wage, I was paid in food. The Russians left us a lot to rebuild. I had no choice but to work or my family would starve. My uncle, wounded in the Russian war, became weaker as he grew older and had a hard time working. He became another mouth I had to feed. I left school in a rush because I wasn’t able to wait for the year to end. I hope someday to continue my education and become a doctor. It’s what my father would have wanted for me.”
A year after Rocky left school to support his family, the United States military invaded Afghanistan and mostly silenced the Taliban rule. “The arrival of the Americans changed my life. I was fifteen and able to get a good job. I cleared mines left behind by the Russians. The Russians left mines everywhere so I had steady full time work.. As a child, I remember in the quiet of night, especially during the coldest part of winter, we could sometimes hear the mines exploding. I always hoped it was an animal that stepped on it. Sometimes, they’d explode for no reason. Sometimes they’d kill people I knew. I had three jobs with that company. They paid me to clear mines, I acted as interpreter, and I guided the bosses through rural areas in my district. I got to know many Americans well. I told them of my dreams to become a doctor and how I had to leave school during eighth grade. The Americans arranged for me to go training to become a medic. It was a dream come true. I worked six years as a medic for the Americans clearing mines and making my district a safer place to live. My father would be proud.”
In 2008, Rocky completed his “Combat Medic” training and began a three-year service with an organization that uses the underground moniker, Other Government Agency (OGA). He accompanied Americans and local commandos on clandestine missions. “I cannot talk about this period, sir. Please hope you understand. It is very private for security reasons. In 2011, I left OGA and became an interpreter and labour foreman with the 3rd Special Forces Group.”
A certificate Rocky received on 29 Sept 2011 from 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) reads, “For your hard work and selfless service to the camp and ODA 3231 from 10 Feb 2011 - 29 Sept 2011. Your dedication and great partnership reflects great credit upon you and your service to the Government and the great people of Afghanistan.”
A letter of recommendation dated 20 Dec 2012 reads, “This letter verifies the hard work and selfless service ‘Rocky’ has provided ODA 3231 and other detachments he has served under throughout his career as Foreman of Camp Young, Ghuri Ghuri over the past two years. ‘Rocky’ was the go-to individual the Detachment could always rely on...His dedication to Camp Young, U.S. and Afghan security forces bring great credit upon himself, his community and the Government of Afghanistan.”
A certificate Rocky received from the United States dated 30 Dec 2014 reads, “This certificate is presented to ‘Rocky’ for his service in the Orgun Strike Force (OSF) since Dec. 2013 through Dec. 2014. He has proven his loyalty and courage fighting enemies of his country. His continued service reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America.”
“The situation is very dangerous here. We have been in hiding since August 15th. Everyone knows I worked for the Americans for almost fifteen years. When Kabul fell to the Taliban, I tried everyday to get my family past the gate and into safety but the Taliban shot into the crowd. We turned back many times because they just shot at anyone. I could not stop and help because I had my wife and children with me. As a medic, it broke my heart to run past the wounded screaming for help. If I had stopped, the Taliban would have killed me and my family. That is not who I am. Now, my girls cannot go to school. My boys go out during the day and have to beg for food. Many days we don’t even have food to eat. We need your help sir, so please do something as soon as possible.”
Pictured is a photo of Rocky's four children the morning this story went to publication. He told them to change into their best clothes because the Americans were going to read about them.
Help Rocky and his family get to safety. Help Operation Freedom Birds
Scott Chapman is an independent journalist, author, former Army Ranger, OGA Blackwater contractor, entrepreneur, husband, dog lover, and astrophysics scholar. Scott is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at ScottChapmanAuthor@Protonmail.com
Russ Pritchard is an independent journalist, professional writer, former Chief Marketing Officer, flight medic, triathlete, husband, father, and grandfather. Russ is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at RussPritchard@Protonmail.com