I've just read a fascinating book by David Burnett, a young man who's served his country in one of the most dangerous and demanding roles, that of a "Night Stalker" in the U.S. Army. If you care about your country, it's good to know that dedicated and brave individuals like Burnett have answered this call.
There are few of us who have experienced what Special Operations team members have felt during their perilous and secretive missions. David Burnett has and he's chronicled those feelings, the dangers he endured, and challenges he faced in a powerful memoir, Making a Night Stalker. Burnett reveals the highly secretive world of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), the most accomplished and secretive special ops aviation unit on the globe. The importance of teamwork and heroism are driven home to readers in taut prose that brings to life what it's like to be at the knife's edge, knowing a moment of inattention can bring catastrophe to you and your closest comrades. It all began after a few semesters of college when in 2008 Burnett enlisted in the Army. He was stationed with 563rd ASB as a 15U (Chinook helicopter repairer). He increasingly felt that his job in the regular Army was less than fulfilling, and one day when a giant Chinook specially built for special ops landed on his tarmac, he watched as a black clad crew chief stepped from the craft to the runway.
That, he decided, would one day be him. He would become an MH-47G Chinook helicopter crew chief in the world's most secretive unit. So, he applied for 160th SOAR to begin his journey.
Despite obstacles and endless training that included dangerous tasks most of us can only imagine, he was finally able to set foot on the aircraft and soon achieved exclusive FMQ (Fully Mission Qualified) crew chief status. After being deployed with the unit five times, experiences that he shares in his memoir, Burnett decided not to reenlist and was honorably discharged from the military.
Like many of our veterans, particularly those who have been deployed on dangerous, often deadly missions, Burnett experienced PTSD, which drove him to alcohol. But that beast, he says, was finally tamed when he began to write and tell his story. For those whose only experience of war has been through media headlines, or aggrandized in movies, Burnett's book presents a vivid picture of the vaunted Special Operations Aviation unit and the toll it takes on its members.
Here's an excerpt from the Night Stalkers' Creed:
I guard my unit’s mission with secrecy, for my only true ally is the night and the element of surprise. My manner is that of the Special Operations Quiet Professional, secrecy is a way of life.
In battle, I eagerly meet the enemy for I volunteered to be up front where the fighting is hard. I fear no foe’s ability, nor underestimate his will to fight.The mission and my precious cargo are my concern. I will never surrender. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy, and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Gallantly will I show the world and the elite forces I support that a Night Stalker is a specially selected and well trained soldier.I serve with the memory and pride of those who have gone before me for they loved to fight, fought to win and would rather die than quit. Burnett was born and raised in Parker, CO. More information can be found at www.makinganightstalker.com.