Film 'Lone Survivor' based on real-life story of battalion based in Savannah

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comDecember 30, 2013 

The movie “Lone Survivorâ€%9D is based on the true story of the 3/160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The 3rd battalion is based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

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    Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

Thanks to Carol Megathlin of Savannah for sharing the story about heroes living among us.

Carol coordinates the Adopt-a-Soldier program for the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Ga. She also works with the Honor Flight program for the Beaufort region.

"LONE SURVIVOR"

By Carol Megathlin

On a recent night,I sat in a darkened Savannah theater preparing to watch an advance screening of the movie "Lone Survivor." The soldiers who sat around me had a particular interest in this film. Their unit, the 3/160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, had played a vital role in the real-life incident recounted in the movie.

Nicknamed the Night Stalkers, they are an elite regiment, and justifiably proud. We're privileged to have the 3rd battalion based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. The aviators of the four SOAR battalions ferry special operations troops on classified missions around the world. Osama bin Laden? SOAR pilots flew the SEALs into his compound. And got them out alive.

But sometimes things go wrong in combat.

I turned to the two soldiers sitting behind me and asked why the theater wasn't packed.

"Some of the guys chose to give the movie a pass," one explained. Beside him, his wife added, "I've been not looking forward to this movie all week. I want to see it, but I don't look forward to it."

I suspect she spoke for all the young men waiting silently in the dim light.

"Lone Survivor" centers on four SEALs tasked with a reconnaissance mission in the rugged Hindu Kush range of northeastern Afghanistan. It was late June 2005. The Night Stalkers were based nearby.

Moving with great stealth, the SEALs had established a position overlooking the targeted village. Radio communications with the base stuttered, then died.

Suddenly, three goatherders strode up the slope, stumbling upon the concealed warriors.

In accordance with the rules of engagement -- and because even our fiercest fighters are not cold-blooded murderers -- the SEALs let the goatherders go.

Before the SEALs could escape, scores of Taliban fighters materialized on the ridge above them. Bullets flew in staccato bursts, rocket propelled grenades blew the warriors from cover, their bodies tumbling helplessly down rocky slopes. Broken bones, missing fingers, wounds in necks, guts, legs, the SEALs fought on. In an act of valor that earned him the Medal of Honor, Lt. Mike Murphy ran out into the open and called for help on his cell phone. It cost him his life.

The Night Stalkers heard the call, scrambled two Chinooks, and took off.

Eight Night Stalker aviators were aboard the lead Chinook, along with eight SEALs. CWO3 Corey Goodnature was co-piloting the craft. As the helicopter hovered over a steep slope, preparing to insert the rescuing SEALs, the enemy fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the ship. The explosion sent the Chinook flaming down the mountainside. All 16 on board were killed.

As the movie drew to a close, photos of the warriors who died during the mission flashed upon the screen. An intimate picture followed each image -- young men gazing at infants, posing with friends, smiling on nameless beaches.

The Night Stalkers live among us in Savannah. CWO3 Corey Goodnature was a member of Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, where his wife, Lori, sang with me in the choir. As Corey's combat picture faded from the screen, a photo of him and Lori on their wedding day came into focus.

After the last credit rolled past, the screen went black. As the aviators sat in silence, their minds lingering on a mountain slope half a world away, a voice spoke into the darkness. It was Lt. Col. Chris Black, commander of the 3/160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. His words were simple -- the unit's motto -- a reminder of who they are.

"Night Stalkers Don't Quit."

The pride is justified.

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