Read part I here.
The mere three-minute flight was as long as it could have possibly been, as the Chief’s heart sank with the dread that he might not make it in time to save these men with whom he had trained for so long. The next time he heard from Mo he was just 30 seconds out from closing with the dam and the situation was harried:
“Romeo 22, this is Varmint 41… 30 seconds out from your location.”
“Roger, Varmint 41, they are on top of us — request you make your attack Danger Close!”
“WILCO Danger Close — inbound HOT!”
Danger Close was a warning between elements that fire support was to come very close to friendly troops, therefore the attacking element was in danger of hitting friendly forces if not extremely careful. Down below Greg’s diving Little Birds, the Rangers drew in tight and low to protect themselves from the Danger Close.
The Little Bird knew that Mo’s blocking position was on the west end of the dam so he lined up his axis of attack accordingly coming in low and fast some 20 feet over the surface of the Haditha lake north of the dam. The MH-6 scout bird with the FLIR broke off and circled around to cover the rear of the AH-6 birds during the attack.
The two gunships bumped up. They climbed up in altitude to gain a better view of the battlespace and the necessary height to make diving gun runs. The scene on the ground was pitched: tracers filled the night sky “like fireflies on a Texas Summer night.” Explosions rocked the scape, heavy tracers from big machine guns thumped on while smaller caliber tracers plunged and ricocheted in all directions.
Chief and his wingman dove in and unloaded a baker’s ton of munitions on the advancing Iraqi Republican Guard and Fedayeen fighters who were closing on Mo’s Rangers at his blocking position. “We were mowing them down like bowling pins,” as Chief himself described probably on a Texas Summer night — Chief is a Texan as you should know by now.
The Danger Close run brought the Little Birds’ ordnance as close as 12 meters from the Rangers’ at Mo’s blocking position. Since anything under 200 meters is considered Danger Close, we might identify Chief’s gun run as a Danger-DANGER Close.
Haditha dam being hydroelectric meant that power lines were running all over the area, a thing that helos are congenitally unfriendly toward. The fact that it was too dark to even see the web of wires outside made the situation so ludicrous as to be laughable. Mo indicated that the threat to the front of his blocking positions had been eliminated by the attacking gunships just as an appeal for air support came in from the blocking position on the east side of the dam.
Chief had to chuckle at the rigidity of the Call For Fire (CFF) from the east side of the dam. The poor Ranger caller, in spite of the gravity of the situation, was delivering his CFF with all the formality of his Ranger training course. This was no time for all of that fluff and Chief had him just mark the target so he could get a bearing and format a plan of attack.
The two six-guns, as they are often referred to because of the six barrels of the M-34 Miniguns, lined up and laid down original smoking waste to the advancing Iraqi forces — they just mowed them down like bowling pins on a Texas Summer night! To the satisfaction of the eastern blocking force Rangers, the six-gunners banked off to spoon-feed lead to targets of opportunity.
For those who do not know what a target of opportunity is, imagine you are flying along and see an Iraqi truck and you think to yourself: “Oh, what a great opportunity!” and you dive down and waste it — that is a target of opportunity!
Chief’s team still had rockets, ammo, and gas — there was NO WAY they were going back to base with all that. What’s more, they still had 600 rounds for their assault rifles. They had a rack of rockets, a bundle of bullets, and a gaggle of grenades with them. More Fedayeen were on the six-guns’ dance cards though they just didn’t know it — yet!
One man flew the gunship while the other leaned outside and gunned downed the Iraqis below. “It put them plumb in mind of aerial shoots of wild boar back home, though you kinda felt sorry for the pigs a little,” Chief Greg (probably) thought.
As you might correctly imagine, the lobbing of frag grenades was quite effective. Windage was required to estimate the impact of grenades at speed: A hovering helo would be easier to drop from but also easier to shoot. Chief and his mates continued to thump down glory from on high until they went Winchester and only had middle fingers left to shoot, which they also did. Let’s face it… Night Stalkers were there to kick ass, and they meant it too by thunder!!
As the landed at the FARP to reload the scunion, Chief suddenly had an upset look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Gravy?” His co (probably) asked him.”
“Son-of-a-stinkin’-bitch,” he (probably) lamented, “I forgot I still had my wrist rocket under my seat!”
“It’s all good — we’ll use it on the next sortie, Gravy!”
The team loaded back up. Chief Coker busied himself with the ammo for the GAU-19. In his adrenaline fervor, he snatched up a full can of .50 caliber ammo and threw it in the back of the bird. AT 800 rounds per can that is a 268-lb container that chief man-handled in his trance. Back in the air, the dam reported taking enemy mortar fire. Greg quickly spotted the tell-tale flashes of a mortar tube just downstream south of the dam behind some small dunes. The six-guns made six gun-runs onto identified mortar positions before the mortar fire on the dam relented.
Wave after wave of Republican Guard and Fedayeen forces advanced on the strategically important Haditha Dam — Objective Lynx — hoping to overpressure the U.S. special operators holding it. The enemy forces were estimated at 3,000 that day. On the dam and in the air were 134 Special Operations Commandos, two AH-6 Gunships, and one MH-6 scout — with a FLIR!
The Night Stalkers made four trips to the FARP exhausting it. Chief requested another FARP to be put in closer to the dam but nothing was available. On one trip back to the dam Chief spotted a tarped truck next to a house. A closer look revealed four barrels of a nasty Former Soviet Union (FSU) 14.5mm anti-aircraft ZPU-4 (зенитная пулемётная установка: Zenitnaya Pulemotnaya Ustanovka = Anti-Aircraft Gun Carrier.)
With a quick loop around they put a rocket into the back of the truck to keep the pulemyot company and headed for the dam — target of opportunity! On occasion, bullets from ground fire shaped through the cockpit, a thing that warranted a no more fitting response than for Chief and his co to laugh it up with some “WTF, wattaya gonna do?” chuckles.
On the returns to the FARP, the pit crews were heads-up enough to notice the new carpet that the Chief had installed in his bird while over the dam. It was a bawdy sort of shag with a tawdry off-copper color. The crews scooped the layer of 5.56 brass off of the floor of the gunships where it had accumulated. They scooped it out in double handfuls and slung it to the dirt below, all the while replenishing the 20 magazines of the “house” ammunition.
Searching for targets of opportunity was what the Stalkers liked most because there wasn’t the infernal stress of beating the charging hun off of the backs of the brother pipe-hitters. There was a more calming pace to it — probably like picking wildflowers in a field on a Texas summer afternoon…
Below his bird, Chief Coker spied a small force creeping along under cover below the damn and stopping just next to a small building. Chief looped it and put a rocket into the building which erupted into a massive fireball. The building had been a corollary for a natural gas system. The fire burned there for days after its destruction by the six-gun.
Even as the sun came up, the six-guns continued to hammer the scape as long as AKs were being fired up at them and they still had ammunition. SFC Mo Morris urged the gunships to break station and RTB to Serpent (cease-fire and return to the airfield). Greg stubbornly plinked away at God-forsaken rag-heads flailing below with the Kalashnikovs they had schlepped to the McDonnell Douglas/Hughes gunfight.
But even Chief Gravy understood that bad things happen to Night Stalker during the day. Like vampires, the three birds of team Gravy swooshed off to wait at Serpent for the sun to dare to retire. Back at Serpent Chief Gravy (probably) joked with his Copilot:
“I think we should try and make a deal with the Guard and the Fedayeen, man.”
“What kind of a deal?”
“A deal-deal; maybe the guys are Republicans.”
All told this had been the largest engagement of the Iraq war. Intelligence estimates over 1,000 enemy personnel killed and as many more wounded on just the first night alone. Ordnance expenditures by Team Gravy — two AH-6, and one MH-6 (with a FLIR!) included:
- 231 x 17-lb 2.4” Hydra rockets
- 66,000 rounds of 7.62 Mingun ammunition
- 8,000 rounds of .50 caliber
- 6,000 rounds ammunition for the M4 assault rifles
- 90 M-67 fragmentation grenades hand-thrown on top of Fedayeen craniums
From where the sun sank, six-gun coffin lids squeaked,
as the six-gun soldiers sat up staring…
at the sky!
They checked their hearts for shards of oak,
none there — that was a plus, as they stood…
ready to fly!
They climbed grim and sour into their sky chariots,
frames dark as night, night darker than soot.
looked like a fight!
— when up from the Lynx there rose such a clatter,
a ruckus of Roufoss and Hornady splatter.
The Stalkers were up now, they’d rested by day,
they rose up at dusk, to SLAP night away.
Six-Guns Didn’t Miss!
Night Stalkers Didn’t Quit!
Rangers led the way!
Hit ‘em hard; Hit ‘em again!
By Almighty God, with honor, and on behalf of Chief Gregory “Gravy” Coker,