Special Operations Aviation Regiment

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (United States)

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is a special operations unit of the United States Army that provides helicopter aviation support for general purpose forces and Special Operations Forces. Its missions have included attack, assault, and reconnaissance, and are usually conducted at night, at high speeds and low altitudes, on short notice, and in secret. The force is headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 160th SOAR (A) are also known as the Night Stalkers and its motto is Night Stalkers Don't Quit.

Overview

The regiment consists of a headquarters company, the Special Operations Aviation Training Company, and four battalions: the 1st and 2nd at Fort Campbell, the 3rd at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and the 4th at Fort Lewis, Washington. This allows the 160th to quickly assemble mixed forces to meet short-notice special operations needs.

The 160th SOAR (A) consists of the Army's best-qualified aviators and support soldiers. Officers volunteer while enlisted soldiers volunteer or are assigned by the US Army HRC (Human Resources Command). All receive intensive training upon joining the 160th. The basic Night Stalker course for enlisted soldiers lasts five weeks; the officer course 20 to 28 weeks. A new Night Stalker is designated fully mission qualified after a year or two, and earns flight lead qualification in three to five years. The 160th recruits women, though only for staff positions.

The Night Stalkers pioneered many of the techniques and helped develop much of the equipment now used at night by other Army aviation units.

Equipment

The 160th SOAR fly modifications of MH-47 Chinooks, AH-6 Little Birds, and MH-60 Blackhawks. More specifically,

History

After the failure of 1980s Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages held in Tehran, Iran, President Jimmy Carter ordered former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway III to figure out why it went wrong and how the U.S. military could best mount another attempt. One key lesson: there were no U.S. helicopter units trained in this kind of stealthy, short-notice Special Operations mission.

The Army looked to the 101st Aviation Battalion, which had the most diverse operating experience of the service's helicopter units, and selected elements of the 158th Aviation Battalion, 229th Aviation Battalion, and the 159th Aviation Battalion. The chosen pilots immediately entered intensive training in night flying. Dubbed Task Force 160, the new unit was quickly recognised as the Army's premier night fighting aviation force, and its only Special Operations Aviation force.

As the first batch of pilots completed training in the fall of 1980, a second attempt to rescue the hostages was planned for early 1981. Dubbed Operation Honey Badger, it was called off when the hostages were released on the morning of President Ronald Reagan's inauguration.

The unit was officially established on October 16 1981, when it was designated as the 160th Aviation Battalion.

The 160th first saw combat during 1983's Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

In 1986, it was re-designated as the 160th Aviation Group (Airborne); in May 1990, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). As demand for highly-trained Special Operations Aviation assets bloomed, the Regiment activated three Battalions, a separate detachment, and incorporated one Army National Guard Battalion.

In 1987 and 1988, its pilots took part in Operation Earnest Will, the protection of re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War. They flew from US Navy warships and leased oil barges in a secret sub-part called Operation Prime Chance, and became the first helicopter pilots to use night vision goggles and forward looking infrared devices in night combat.

In June 1988, the unit executed Operation Mount Hope III. Two MH-47 crews flew deep into Chad to retrieve a crashed Mi-24 Hind medium-attack helicopter.

The Night Stalkers spearheaded Operation Just Cause, the 1989 invasion of Panama, and they were also used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

In October 1993 in Somalia, Night Stalkers became involved in the Battle of Mogadishu, which later became the subject of the book Black Hawk Down, and its film adaptation. Two Night Stalker Black Hawks, Super 6-1 (piloted by Cliff Wolcott), and Super 6-4 (piloted by Mike Durant), were shot down in the battle. Five of the eighteen men killed (not counting a nineteenth post-operation casualty) in the Battle of Mogadishu were members of the SOAR(A) Night Stalkers team, who were lost along with the two Black Hawks.

Eight Night Stalkers were lost along with eight Navy SEALs on a rescue mission for Marcus Luttrell, after their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). They were sent out to look for Luttrell after Operation Red Wing, which he was undertaking with three other SEALs, went horribly awry after their presence was revealed to the Taliban by goat herders. The Night Stalkers lost on the search and rescue mission included:

  • Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio
  • Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota.
  • Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana
  • Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee
  • Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia
  • Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida

On April 24 2008, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 160th SOAR was inactivated at a ceremony conducted at Hunter Army Airfield, GA, as part of an overall regimental transformation plan. Source: Army times: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/04/army_co_deactivated_043008w/

Operations

The 160th SOAR (A) had provided air support to most United States Army Rangers missions.

Operation Country Year
Operation Urgent Fury
1983
Operation Prime Chance Persian Gulf
1987–1988
Operation Mount Hope III
(recovery of Mi-24 Hind helicopter)
Chad
1988
Operation Just Cause
1989
Operation Desert Shield
1990
Operation Desert Storm
1991
Operation Restore Hope
1993
Operation Gothic Serpent
(operation that led to the Battle of Mogadishu)
1993
Operation Enduring Freedom
2001 - present
Operation Iraqi Freedom
2003 - present

Organization

Commander: Col. Clayton M. Hutmacher

Command Sergeant Mjor: CSM Ernest "Jake" Elliot

Regimental Warrant Officer: CWO5 David F. Cooper Jr.

Unit Location
Headquarters
  • Company HQ
  • Company Maintenance
  • Special Operation Aviation Training Company (SOATC)

Fort Campbell, KY
1st Battalion
  • Company HQ
  • Company A
  • Company B
  • Company C
  • Company D
  • Company E
  • Company F

Fort Campbell, KY
2nd Battalion
  • Company HQ
  • Company A
  • Company B
  • Company D

Fort Campbell, KY
3rd Battalion
  • Company HQ
  • Company A
  • Company B
  • Company C

Hunter Army Airfield, GA
4th Battalion
  • Company HQ
  • Company A
  • Company B
  • Company C
  • Company D

Fort Lewis, WA

Notable Night Stalkers

Books and movies

See also

References

External links

Official sites

Former Night Stalkers' websites

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