Night Stalkers Don’t Quit: Role of elite Army pilots in two daring missions recognized

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Pilots and crews from the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR) received numerous awards for bravery for two special operations missions.

According to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Night Stalkers earned the medals for their actions during two special operations. In the first one, the Night Stalkers flew in a special operations assault force that captured a terrorist leader while under heavy fire deep inside enemy-held territory; SOCOM didn’t disclose the location of this mission, presumably due to its sensitive nature.

In the second mission, which took place in Afghanistan, the Night Stalkers landed less than 100 yards from a Taliban position to evacuate casualties under heavy enemy fire.

Both actions took place over multiple days, underscoring the flexible nature of the 160th SOAR.  

U.S. Army General Richard D. Clarke, the commander of SOCOM presented the awards to the Night Stalkers in a ceremony held at Hunter Army Airfield on October 2. In total, the Night Stalkers, who came from the 3rd Battalion, received 14 awards for valor in combat (four Distinguished Flying Crosses with Combat device, three Air Medals with Valor, and seven Air Medals with Combat device).

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General Clarke awarding the medals (SOCOM).

“The heroism displayed by these crews represents the best of what Special Operations bring to the Joint Force every day,” said General Clarke during the award ceremony. “These Night Stalker Soldiers risked their lives under fire to accomplish the mission and save the lives of their comrades on the ground. These medals are small acknowledgments of what our Special Operations Aviation Regiment teams and special operations forces put on the line.”

The 160th SOAR is made up of four battalions, each of which is strategically placed next to the special operations units they support. The 1st and 2nd Battalions are based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 3rd Battalion is headquartered at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. The 4th Battalion is based at Fort Lewis, Washington.

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An MH-47G Chinook looming over the recognized Night Stalkers (SOCOM)

The Night Stalkers fly three rotary-wing platforms and one unmanned aerial system. There is the egg-shaped but lethal AH-6 and MH-6 Little Bird, respectively for attack and transport purposes; there is the well-known MH-60 Black Hawk that specializes in carrying medium-size assault elements (the Night Stalkers also fly a small number of Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) Black Hawks, a special attack version of the transport helicopter that packs some formidable firepower and is designed to destroy anything in its path); and finally, there is the stout MH-47 Chinook, the workhorse of the unit specializing in heavy-lift transportation.

The most recent addition to the Night Stalkers’ aircraft arsenal is the MQ-1C Grey Eagle, an upgraded version of the famous Predator drone. The drone is flown by E Company, a secretive unit within the 160th SOAR.

Recently, Sandboxx had the pleasure to sit down with retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Greg Coker, a Night Stalker legend, and talk about his career and his new book. You can read that interview here.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.

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