FlyGirls is pleased to present There I Was, a new addition to the Woman Crush Wednesday series, consisting of short stories about the real-life experiences of women in aviation, in their own words.
by Karen Fine Brasch, CDR, USN (Ret.)
There I Was....flying a practice combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission on a dark, low-light night vision goggle (NVG) training hop with the U.S. Navy SEAL team. We were flying a simulated troop insertion exercise out in the western training area.
We were in a flight of two HH-60H Seahawk helicopters, taking liberties in the small mountainous terrain with our flying by practicing tree-top flying that included maneuvers such as a "bunt and roll" over the top of a mountain ("pop" up over the mountain then follow the slope downward). The maneuver is designed to keep us low to the terrain and out of sight of any enemy on the ground with shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. We were so low at this point, had there be any enemies, they could have thrown rocks at us and maybe scored a hit.
We were five minutes out from our destination CAL (confined area landing) site and doing our best to stay low on this dark night. As we crossed over the last ridge line, I made a very low pass, text book "bunt and roll" maneuver.
Just as I began to move the nose of the helicopter forward above the tree line, my night vision goggles suddenly flared white momentarily and I couldn't see (not a good thing). I was already pulling up on the collective (throttle for helicopters) to climb when I heard my aircrew manning the door guns yelling, "Power! Power! Power!"
I immediately climbed towards the dark sky dotted with green reflections from my NVGs. We leveled off and before I could ask what the aircrew saw, I heard one of them say, "That was a big, white mustang (horse) leading a herd, ma'am. Must have spooked him."
OK, who spooked whom? The herd of horses were probably grazing quietly when they heard the noisy helicopter overhead, panicked and ran to get out of the way -- or was it the pilot flying a crew of four and an additional four Navy SEALS into a confined area landing site at the bottom of a rocky ravine surrounded by trees in the black of night?
The adrenaline rush and excitement peaked in a matter of seconds. Then we again focused on the job at hand.
No horses or Navy SEALS were harmed during this flight.