Flying with the United States Army’s 160th SOAR (A), Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Nightstalkers,” were some of the most exhilarating years of my professional Army career. These are the men and women who, when the President asks in hushed tones if our Nation has the capability to fly specially adapted helicopters into the darkest corners of the globe, raise their hands and volunteer for missions no one else will try.
A few years ago, I was a pilot and Platoon Leader in a Nightstalker helicopter unit in Bagram, Afghanistan, meaning I was legally and morally responsible for the safeguarding and employment of 4 aircraft and about 30 specially trained soldiers. We normally fly exclusively at night using Night Vision Goggles to maintain the element of surprise, and on this particular night, we’d been asked to insert a group of four US Navy SEALS deep into enemy held territory to collect valuable intelligence on a powerful militia leader in the Korengal Valley.
My immediate supervisor, the commanding officer of our helicopter task force, was Major Stephen Reich, a West Point baseball standout and experienced Nightstalker.
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