What does nearly every successful mission by Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, and Green Berets have in common? They’ve probably been carried to and from their missions by members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne with the abbreviation of 160th SOAR (A).

The 160th SOAR commonly known as the “Night Stalkers” are the US Army’s best aviators and the premiere rotary wing aviation unit in the military’s Special Operations Forces. Their moniker is well-deserved, many pilots in the 160th have more flight hours with NVGs than commercial airline pilots have flight hours total.

The 160th operates three different types of helicopters: the Blackhawk, Chinook, and Little Bird choppers in different designs depending on the mission. Night Stalkers are experts in flying missions ranging from direct action air assault to fast-rope insertion, overwater helocasting, extraction, and special boat support, as well as urban assault.  They can also provide their own Close Air Support (CAS) of these missions and for the supported units.

Assessment and Training

Candidates for the 160th SOAR undergo a one-week assessment process with Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion (SOATB) where they go thru interviews with military and civilian members of the SOATB and have their character and demeanor assessed. A records check is performed and the candidates are also evaluated psychologically.

Pilots will conduct two flights to test their flying and navigation skills. If at the end of assessment week, they’ve been selected, the pilots will be told what type of aircraft they’ll be flying. They may be chosen to fly a different helicopter than one that they’ve been accustomed to. That may entail further training later.

The first phase of training covers ground-based combat skills; it lasts three weeks for officers and five to six weeks for enlisted personnel. Candidates assigned to the “Green Platoon” receive instruction on basic combat tasks, first responder, land navigation, hand-to-hand combat, weapons, and teamwork. Then they must pass qualification in the helicopter “dunker” and do water survival training.

For the pilots the approximately six-month training program takes place in Company B which is responsible for aviators, crew chiefs and medics in two stages. First is a basic navigation course that lasts about a month. It is all conducted in the Little Birds because it is inexpensive to operate, compared to the Black Hawks and Chinooks.