Wings Over Wayne Airshow


Wings Over Wayne Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airshow

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43 Sloan and his wingman dropped down to 1,000 feet, further expos- ing themselves to potential ground fire. "You're thinking, 'We've got to protect these guys,' and if the tanks decided to go into attack, then we needed to know where they were." They dove down, and Sloan and his wingman caught a glimpse of where the armor was. "But at low-altitude, when the tank drivers heard us coming, they beat feet back into the hills. So this Special Forces guy said, "Hey, when you flew down to low- altitude' –– because, you know, the F-15 makes a whole lot of noise –– 'they ran away," he said. Sloan had an epiphany. He couldn't shoot the tanks for the risk of only making them mad and for the potential of the Special Forces being dangerously close to the exploding ordnance. His only weapon was the thun- der of the jet underneath him. "So I thought, 'If our munitions aren't any good against these guys, let's go ahead and use noise.' "Then every time the tanks started moving toward the Special Forces guys, we came down and made a low-altitude pass on the tanks," he said. "So we kind of played a little cat and mouse with those guys to keep them at bay." This went on so long that anoth- er two fighters in the area had to come relieve Sloan and his wing- man long enough that they could find a taker, refuel in the air and return to the site and recommence the chess game with the Iraqi tank company. So the helicopters are flying at very low altitude. The Special Forces guys are still hunkered down, and so they can't talk to each other. And the helicopters don't know where they are, Sloan said. "So my backseater found the hel- icopters on the radar, and he vec- tored them around the tanks to where the Special Forces troops were. Otherwise, you know, no telling how long those helicopters would have been out there trying to find of them." Probably the coolest thing of the night, Sloan said, was on the infrared –– it's called FLIR, Forward Looking Infrared Radar –– the F-15E crews could see the two Army Black Hawks and two Apaches and the little black shad- ows of the Special Forces guys jumping out and getting onto the helicopters, Sloan said. He takes two fingers and makes the universal gesture of a little man running as he tells the tail- end of the story. "And then we escorted them out of the area." Senior officials who later reviewed the mis- sion determined that the pilots risked their own lives to save the eight or so Special Forces troops on the ground. They thereby not only earned a pass for breaking the rules of engagement –– they were all four award- ed the Silver Star. The FLIR recording of the rescue, however, was confiscated because the fact the Special Forces were even in the area was at the time highly classi- fied. "I never saw it again," Sloan said, laughing. Continued from 42 Silver Star

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