When I went to my first rotary wing training exercise with the 160th SOAR, all I wanted to do was ride on a Little Bird (MH-6). The Little Bird is not the U.S. Military’s fastest helicopter, but it sure is the most maneuverable. I remember standing in awe watching the best pilots in the military conduct precision rooftop lip landings and racetrack fast-rope training.
As snipers, our section regularly worked with the MH-6’s in training, but not as often on overseas deployments. It still amazes me where those small little aircraft can land. Fortunately, while I was in the section, the 3rd Battalion snipers fashioned a very good working/training relationship with our Tier 1 friends. While my team was in Baghdad, we ran a number of missions with these high-level warriors.
On one particular mission, I remember sitting in the mission briefing and being told that we would be infiltrating the target by MH-6. Two two-man sniper teams would be over-watching and covering the main assaulting element. I had ridden on a Little Bird many times in the past, but the flights were always less than 20 minutes and during warmer months. This time it happened during the winter months, with temperatures in the 30’s, and the flight was over 45 minutes.
As we flew to our objective, my lanyard stretched to what felt like its maximum tolerance, and all I could think was “I am going fly off the back of the F*#$%@& helicopter.” Because of the wind catching my night vision goggles, my neck felt like someone had beaten it with a baseball bat. There were only two guys on each side, but I was at the back of the two on my side and was slowly getting pushed further and further towards the back of the pod.
Even during the colder months in Iraq I always wore minimal clothing so I wouldn’t get overheated while moving to or around the objective. Like all the other times, I decided to not wear any extra ‘snivel’ and definitely underestimated the chill of 115 mph wind piercing through my issued clothing. By the time we landed, I had slid down far enough that I was only sitting on one ass cheek for the last 20 minutes of the flight.
Thank God for those lanyards.