- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) Three servicemen injured in a friendly fire explosion inside an ancient Afghan fortress said yesterday they hoped to return as soon as possible to the war on terrorism.
At a news conference, the men praised Northern Alliance fighters and said they trusted them to help after the explosion.
"They're our friends, and they're going to take care of us," said Paul, a 30-year-old Army captain from suburban Chicago who is a member of the 5th Special Forces Group.
Citing security concerns, military officials declined to give full names for the wounded servicemen.
Five servicemen were injured during an uprising by Taliban prisoners at the fortress outside the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Two did not attend the news conference because of their injuries.
At first, Northern Alliance soldiers were curious about Americans, said Michael, a 27-year-old Air Force sergeant from Oxford, Conn., who is based at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The other four injured servicemen are based at Fort Campbell, on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, 50 miles north of Nashville.
The Northern Alliance soldiers eventually began greeting them with what translated to "thank you" in English.
"It's hard to put into words the conditions that these soldiers are facing," Capt. Paul said of the Northern Alliance. "The lack of equipment. The lack of cold-weather clothing. And the fact is they continue to fight."
The five men had spent days in the fortress before Taliban prisoners were placed there, said Sgt. 1st Class Paul, a 38-year-old from Rockport, Texas.
On Nov. 26, an 11-member team was sent into the fortress to look for two CIA agents, one of whom was later found dead, he said.
The men never found the agents, but soon felt a massive explosion. Military officials said the servicemen were hurt by an errant U.S. missile.
"Everything went brown and we started flying through the air," Capt. Paul said.
Capt. Kevin, of Oakland, N.J., was hospitalized with a fractured pelvis and was expected to return home later this week; 1st Sgt. David, of Evansville, Ind., suffered eardrum damage.
All received the Purple Heart. The CIA agent, Johnny "Mike" Spann, was killed by rioting prisoners, becoming the first known U.S. combat death in Afghanistan.
Before the uprising, the men said, they lived at times in caves, rarely bathed and sometimes went hungry. They said they believed in their cause, especially after witnessing the transformation of Mazar-e-Sharif once the Taliban fled. "Everywhere we went, there were crowds of people," said Sgt. 1st Class Paul. "They would applaud. That was really, really a good feeling."

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