An Army Helicopter Pilot Kept Flying and Providing Air Support For 5 Hours After Being Shot During a Raid
Reports of sacrifice and honor are commonplace in the US military. One story of impressive willpower comes from details from a covert mission in 2014 as an Army pilot provided air support to spec ops ground forces for five hours after he was shot in the leg. The “complicated operation” earned the pilot a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Following the capture of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, President Obama gave the go-ahead for Delta Force soldiers to go deep behind enemy lines to rescue them. Chief Warrant Officer Michael Siler was tasked with flying his MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator helicopter to carry Delta Force operators to a specified location in Syria.
The operation marked the first time the U.S. government publicly acknowledged sending troops into Syria since the start of the Iraq War.
According to Business Insider, who obtained the official documents of the operation from the Pentagon, the night time operation began with inclement weather. After arriving at an oil refinery, Siler dropped off the American troops as scheduled and then began to hover overhead, providing air support as needed.
However, shortly after dropping them off, Siler was shot in the leg by small arms fire from below. A fellow helicopter pilot, whose name has been redacted, explained how getting shot in the leg while flying is a major issue as pilots need their feet to control the yaw of the aircraft.
“Staying in the air with a wounded leg for five hours is no small feat, whether or not he’s on the controls,” a separate Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot told the publication. “That is pretty heroic.” The raid lasted for an estimated 10 hours. Siler continued to provide support through five of those hours.
The operation was unsuccessful as the journalists were not being held in the building the team assaulted. Instead, they found numerous ISIS fighters resulting in a lengthy gunfight. The U.S. government acknowledged the failed operation a day after Foley and Sotloff were beheaded.
The Delta Force soldiers were able to bag and tag multiple high-level intelligence items such as documents and videos, according to the New York Times.
During Siler’s award ceremony, the military hero accepted the Purple Heart and the Silver Star while still on crutches.