An Army helicopter pilot kept flying for five hours in support of a Delta Force ground raid into Syria in 2014, even after he was wounded by gunfire during the initial assault, according to new documents released by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Then-Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Siler piloted one of two MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator helicopters (DAPS) on a “mission deep inside enemy territory” during a classified nighttime mission by 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta in July 2014.
Siler was the lead pilot during the 10-hour-long raid, which he “meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.”
The new details emerged from the award citation for his Silver Star, which Siler received later that month in addition to the Purple Heart for combat wounds. It was recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Request from Business Insider.
Delta Force enters Syria with ‘zero illumination’
After receiving the go-ahead from President Barack Obama, the Army’s elite Delta Force loaded into helicopters piloted by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) during the late and early morning hours of July 2 and 3, 2014 to find and rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages taken by ISIS.
The raid into northern Syria happened in pitch black “zero illumination” — perfect conditions for pilots attempting to stealthily insert troops, both of whom were outfitted with sophisticated night vision goggles. Still, the citation notes the flight encountered “harsh environmental conditions” without getting into specifics.
In what was described by officials speaking to The New York Times as a “complicated operation,” several helicopters dropped off two dozen Delta operators at an oil refinery outside Raqqa, while heavily-armed DAPS helicopters circled overhead to provide air support.
Siler was shot in his right leg by ground fire during the initial assault, according to his citation and other media reports. He was on crutches and wore a walking cast at his award ceremony.
“Staying in the air with a wounded leg for five hours is no small feat, whether or not he’s on the controls,” another Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot told Business Insider. “That is pretty heroic.”
According to the pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak, a gunshot wound to the leg would make it very difficult for Siler to manipulate his foot pedals, which control the yaw of the aircraft. That’s not to mention “the loss of blood and the shattered leg,” the pilot said. “The sheer pain of that.”
The pilot speculated that the copilot likely took control of the aircraft at that point, while Siler tended to his wounds, helped direct fire, and navigated.
Meanwhile, as drones and fixed-wing aircraft flew overhead, the team of soldiers on the ground moved quickly into the safe house where James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and other hostages were believed to be held. But the operators found only ISIS fighters, two of which were quickly dispatched in a gunfight, according to The New Yorker.
“By the time we got there, it was too late,” a Pentagon official told The New York Times in 2014.
We moved ‘aggressively to recover our citizens’
Although the raid did not result in the rescue of Americans from ISIS captivity, it was notable in that it was the first time the government acknowledged U.S. troops had operated inside Syria since the war began in 2012, the New York Times Times reported.
“The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told The Times.
After the area was secure, the Delta operators gathered up anything that could yield intelligence or forensic value, according to The New Yorker. After about an hour, they departed on Black Hawks back to an unspecified “neighboring country.”
The secret mission was made public more than a month later on Aug. 20, 2014, a day after ISIS posted a video showing the beheading of Foley by a masked man later identified as Mohammed Emwazi. The British-born ISIS militant carried out the executions of many American, British, and other hostages throughout 2014 and 2015 until he was killed by a coalition drone strike in Nov. 2015.
Siler, now a Chief Warrant Officer-5, still serves with the 160th at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, according to an Army spokesman. He was recognized as the Army Aviator of the Year in 2014.
Robert J. Reeves
Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves died on August 6, 2011 in helicopter crash. He served during Operation Enduring Freedom. He became a SEAL in December, 1999 and December of 1999 and immediately serve with SEAL Team 3. Later, the path led him to the SEAL Team 6. His death was later become publicly known as part of “Extortion 17”.
“Extortion 17” is a name etched in our minds as one of the worst losses our military has ever experienced. Thirty Americans perished in the blink of an eye, half of which comprised an entire ‘troop’ from SEAL Team 6’s Gold Squadron. Senior Chief Robert James Reeves was one of those Americans.
He would go on to cheat death on numerous occasions, both in combat and in peacetime. One of those occasions took place while on a six-month training deployment to the island of Guam in 2003. Rob and a few other SEALs were out celebrating Christmas at a local bar when they got into an altercation with two men. After leaving, the two men followed the SEALs and opened fire at their taxi from their own vehicle. Rob was struck in the back of the neck and a second SEAL was shot in the head. He would go on to make a full recovery.
A couple of months after being shot, Rob would go to Virginia to attend selection and training (S&T) for entrance into the famed counter-terrorism unit, SEAL Team 6/DEVGRU. He successfully completed the selection process in late 2004 and was subsequently assigned to Gold Squadron where he would serve honorably for the next seven years as an assaulter and later, sniper.
Died with childhood friend in helo crash
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves and Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall had been childhood friends in Shreveport, La., where they played soccer together and graduated from Caddo Magnet High School, Kelsall’s father, John, told The Times of Shreveport and KLSA-TV.
Both joined the military after graduation, though the 32-year-old Reeves spent a year at Louisiana State University first, his father, Jim Reeves, told The Times.
In his 13 years of service, eleven of which were spent as an active-duty SEAL, Rob would deploy over a dozen times, earn the rank of E-8, and earn countless achievement medal.
His decorations include include four Bronze Star Medals with ‘V’ device for valor, Joint Service Commendation Medal with ‘V’ device for valor, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with ‘V’ device for valor, Combat Action Ribbon, two Presidential Unit Citations, three Navy Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.
Green Beret Medic received Medal of Honor
An Army Special Forces soldier will receive the Medal of Honor for fighting through an enemy ambush and saving his teammates’ lives 10 years ago in Afghanistan, the White House announced in late September.
Former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, who had already received a Silver Star for his actions, was honored with the nation’s highest award for valor by President Donald Trump during an Oct. 1 ceremony at the White House. Shurer served as a Special Forces medic with 3rd Special Forces Group.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 7, 1978. The son of airmen, Shurer lived in Illinois and Idaho before his family was stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Shurer attended Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington, where he was a member of the swim team and participated in triathlons and cycling.
Following his high school graduation in 1997, Shurer attended Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics. Later that year, he enrolled in a master’s degree program at Washington State.
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Shurer was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and parents by serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Shurer entered the U.S. Army in 2002 and was assigned to the 601st Area Support Medical Company, 261st Area Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In January 2004, he entered Special Forces selection and reported to the Special Forces Qualification Course in June. After donning his green beret, Shurer was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in June 2006. Shurer deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007, and again from October 2007 to May 2008.
On April 6, 2008, Shurer and his team were assigned to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, according to the Army.
In a moment of the above-mentioned action, he was a Senior Medical Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer and his team were engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The lead portion of the assault element sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer braved enemy fire to treat an injured Soldier. After stabilizing the Soldier, he fought his way across a barrage of bullets and up the mountain to the lead element.
Once there, he treated and stabilized four more Soldiers. After treating the wounded, then-Staff Sergeant Shurer began evacuating them, carrying and lowering the casualties down the mountainside, using his body to shield them from enemy fire and debris. After he loaded the wounded in the evacuation helicopter, he retook control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer’s heroic actions saved the lives of his teammates.
Today, he lives in Burke, Virginia, with his wife and two sons. After Army career, he went on to serve with the Secret Service, working as a special agent assigned to the Phoenix Field Office before being selected for the agency’s Counter Assault Team and assigned to its Special Operations Division.
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