Extreme SEAL Experience Blog
SEAL Blog. YOU CANT SCARE US.Saturday February 09th 2008 - 11:12 AM EST
Never tell a Helo Pilot he cant scare you. As young SEALs, wed always
tell Pilots this and we were always wrong as they can and would scare the
Hell out of us. As I got older, Id make it a point to tell my guys not
to encourage or dare the Pilots, and I meant it, as Ive had my share of
No close calls with their bravado, very skilled guys, they just knew what
they could do to "freak us out."
The close calls came when just regular things happened on-board Helos,
and with so much time on them, lots of regular thing happened and no need
in making the normal ride any worse.
Our platoon was tasked with a POW Rescue. It was a training mission in
California at a Navy compound that taught "Survival, Escape, Resistance
and Evasion (SERE) Training.
Before we raided the camp and rescued the prisoners we sent out a couple
guys on a Helo to do a "Fly By" and take some pictures of the camp for the
mission planning. A common practice, SEALs would fly over an area theyd
be operating in and have a look at the terrain by air.
What wasnt common was the Helo having a major problem over the target and
being forced to land immediately or crash.
With no suitable landing zones nearby they set the bird down right in the
POW Compound and saved the guards the trouble of having to hunt down and
attempt the capture of our guys.
During an extraction in Alaska, after a long, tough operation, we gladly
boarded two Hueys that came for us and headed for a hot shower and chow.
My squad was STUFFED into one Helo with all our packs and skies, the other
squad STUFFED into the other and flying alongside us.
Happy to be out of Alaskas worst and warming up for the first time in
days, we waived at each other happily knowing we were done with another
"Ball Buster Operation" and heading home soon.
Not quite, as the other Helo banked sharply and went down hard in the
snow. With the blades still turning in a cloud of snow it was hard to tell
how bad the crash had been and if the guys were OK.
There was nothing we could do with a full load and no comms except head
for the base and send the Helo back for a rescue.
I took a long time to re-fuel and get permission to send the Helo back and
we waited for word on our guys.
All fine, the guys broke out their sleeping bags and made coffee with
their stoves and were picked up awhile later unharmed but shook up.
Explosions, fires, clipping power lines and chopping antennas on Ships,
Id thought Id seen it all until the "Night of the Fastrope" in the
We lived on barges in the Gulf during the Iran/Iraq War in the mid 80s.
Team One on Winbrown and Team Two guys were on the Hercules nearby.
On a stormy night we planned to "Hit" the Hercules for some training using
a Helo and Fastrope on-board.
A Fastrope is a method of insertion we use. The rope comes in lengths of
50 and 90 feet and as big around as the average guys forearm. Wed throw
the rope, which was attached outside the door of the Helo and slide down
the rope quickly one after another. ( The Fastrope was shown in the Black
Hawk Down movie.)
Being the Fastrope Master, I threw the rope when we were over the Helo pad
on the Hercules and quickly began my rapid decent to the deck.
The Helo pad was 80 feet high on the Herc and a fall over the side into
the water would have been a bad one, real bad.
On the deck, I ran to my designated corner on the pad and set security.
As I was on a knee and looking out I realized the Helo was coming toward
me and as I looked back I could see it coming at high speed wobbling side
to side and spilling guys off the rope as it headed for the side of the
A steady stream of guys were dumped along its path in a neat line across
the deck with the last guy dropping in the safety nets next to me as I
rushed to grab him preventing his long drop to the dark water below.
The Helo flew over the side of the barge out of sight and then gained
altitude and continued flying away.
We quickly gathered together on the pad and in our "shaken state" began
trying to figure out what happened and making a few jokes that only SEALs
can make after something really bad happens.
While doing this one of the guys sayss "Ooo Shit!"
As we look in the direction hes looking we can clearly see the Helo in
the distance silhouetted by a full moon. We can also see someone is still
on the rope hanging under the Helo.
The Pilots and Crew Chief are doing the same thing we are and trying to
figure out what happened and finally one of them remembered the rope still
attached and sees in horror that a guy is hanging on it.
Slowly turning around so not to shake him off the rope, they return over
the barge and Bill drops off the rope at a nice high altitude and crashes
into the deck in a heap.
Bill tells us later that he realized hed go over the side and somehow
stopped his decent on the rope even with all his gear and weapon. He also
told us he helped hold onto the rope with his teeth biting the rope a hard as he
We called it a night...