From pirate patch-wearing SEALs on Little Birds to an operator mid-air fast-roping into a stealthy boat slung under an MH-47, these shots impress.
BY TYLER ROGOWAY
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), better known as the Night Stalkers, were flying in full force near Dam Neck, Virginia last week, hauling around Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCCs), along with their boats and other gear, during a huge training exercise. It is somewhat rare to see the Night Stalker’s heavily modified Little Birds, Chinooks, and Black Hawks operating together in one public place, especially in broad daylight, but that was the case in this instance. There was even a mass airdrop of supplies and assault boats from C-17s over the water. Yet one picture stands out above the rest—one of an MH-47 Chinook sling loading a stealthy Combat Craft Assault (CCA) boat while one of its crew, most likely a SWCC, fast ropes down into it in mid-air.
These incredible images, which, according to some sources, show SEAL Team Six at work along with their Night Stalker and SWCC chauffeurs, comes to us from aviation photographer Raven Harris. Dam Neck is home to SEAL Team Six, also known formally as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). It is also less than 20 miles southeast of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, which is home to a number of other SEAL and Naval Special Warfare units.
Overall, the images offer an awesome and rare view into this elite ‘tier one’ special operations world. The largely bearded and tattooed SEAL operators are seen hanging off MH-6 Little Birds and MH-60 Black Hawks fully kitted out with custom M4-style rifles that appear to be fitted with Simunitions kits, which converts them to be able to fire paintball-like ammunition for direct force-on-force training. One thing that is uniquely constant is the Jolly Roger ‘pirate’ patch warn by the SEALs. This type of iconography is prevalent in the special operations community, and especially the SEAL teams.
Raven Harris shares with us how he captured these awesome images:
I was really excited to obtain these photos after receiving some local information that helicopters had been flying up and down the beach near Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach, Virginia the day before with operators aboard. As an aviation enthusiast, the action sounded like it was worth the drive to Virginia Beach and sitting to watch with my Canon 90D and Tamron 150-600mm lens. It wasn’t long sitting there before you could hear rotors turning and then seeing the pack of Little Birds and Blackhawks departing out of Dam Neck for flights down the beach or across the Chesapeake Bay. Overhead, two C-17s from Charleston, South Carolina circled waiting to airdrop boats out the back. Once everything hit the water it was hard to resolve any details from the heat and humidity coming off the miles of water between them and myself.
Later in the evening, a Chinook departed the annex with a watercraft slung below. This, I thought, was very impressive to see, and I was ecstatic that I was there on the beach getting to see this, much less capturing photographs. The Chinook perfectly placed itself and the slung boat right in front of me about a mile away and directly to my 12 o’clock with perfect lighting. What happened next, I didn’t expect to see. A fast rope dropped from the bottom of the Chinook into the watercraft slung below. Operators started to fast-rope down into the boat. I was very humbled to watch these aviators flying and the operators doing their jobs.
All the operators made it into the craft and the Chinook sat the craft down into the water and the sling line detached. Then off the operators went. I went home feeling inspired and motivated seeing this level of military aviation all in one place. I’m very happy to be able to share that day’s experience with The War Zone’s readers.
The 160th SOAR has been very busy on the East Coast as of late. The week before, the unit was executing similar operations along the North Carolina coast, offering some folks a heck of a view of their exploits:
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