On this day in SOF history: October 16th

1981 — 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is officially established

The legendary aviation unit responsible for flying the most high-risk missions in American Special Operations was officially established on October 16th, 1981. We take for granted the incredibly skilled pilots within the Regiment, but before the Night Stalkers, or TF Brown as they are known within JSOC, had rightly earned their title as the world’s best aviators, the military simply did not have the capability for clandestine special operations missions.

After the disaster at Desert One in 1980, where a series of mishaps during an attempted hostage rescue operation in Iran led to the deaths of eight U.S. servicemen, the military was tasked to come up with another hostage rescue attempt. Recognizing a need for a specialized unit of experienced aviators that could fly almost exclusively at night, the Army began piecing together a unit at Fort Campbell consisting of men from a number of aviation battalions, with most coming from the 158th Aviation Battalion. This unit, training in secret, was known as Task Force 158.

When the second rescue attempt in Iran was called off after the hostages were released, the Army decided to retain this new unit of highly specialized pilots. On October 16th, 1981, what was then called the 160th Aviation Battalion was founded. After participating in operations in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere around the world, the Regiment has been running continuously in all theaters of the Global War on Terrorism since 2001. Apart from the grueling task of dismantling Al Qaeda in Iraq as part of JSOC for years, the 160th has cemented itself in American popular culture due to its prominent roles in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, and Operation Neptune Spear, the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Image courtesy of the Department of Defense