This Army Helicopter Pilot Was Shot During A Delta Force Raid On ISIS. He Kept Flying For 5 Hours

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Siler, 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), accepts the Michael J. Novosel Army Aviator of the Year Award during the 2015 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit, March 30-31, at the Gaylord Opry Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo via DoD

An Army helicopter pilot kept flying for five hours in support of a Delta Force ground raid into Syria in 2014, even after he was wounded by gunfire during the initial assault, according to new documents released by the Department of Deafense.

Then-Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Siler piloted one of two MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator helicopters (DAPS) on a "mission deep inside enemy territory" during a classified nighttime mission by 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta in July 2014.

Siler was the lead pilot during the 10-hour-long raid, which he "meticulously planned and flawlessly executed."

The new details emerged from the award citation for his Silver Star, which Siler received later that month in addition to the Purple Heart for combat wounds. It was recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Request from Business Insider.

Delta Force enters Syria with 'zero illumination'

After receiving the go-ahead from President Barack Obama, the Army's elite Delta Force loaded into helicopters piloted by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) during the late and early morning hours of July 2 and 3, 2014 to find and rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages taken by ISIS.

The raid into northern Syria happened in pitch black "zero illumination" — perfect conditions for pilots attempting to stealthily insert troops, both of whom were outfitted with sophisticated night vision goggles. Still, the citation notes the flight encountered "harsh environmental conditions" without getting into specifics.

In what was described by officials speaking to The New York Times as a "complicated operation," several helicopters dropped off two dozen Delta operators at an oil refinery outside Raqqa, while heavily-armed DAPS helicopters circled overhead to provide air support.

A soldier assigned to the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), more commonly known as Delta Force.Photo via DoD

Siler was shot in his right leg by ground fire during the initial assault, according to his citation and other media reports. He was on crutches and wore a walking cast at his award ceremony.

"Staying in the air with a wounded leg for five hours is no small feat, whether or not he's on the controls," another Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot told Business Insider. "That is pretty heroic."

According to the pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak, a gunshot wound to the leg would make it very difficult for Siler to manipulate his foot pedals, which control the yaw of the aircraft. That's not to mention "the loss of blood and the shattered leg," the pilot said. "The sheer pain of that."

The pilot speculated that the copilot likely took control of the aircraft at that point, while Siler tended to his wounds, helped direct fire, and navigated.

Meanwhile, as drones and fixed-wing aircraft flew overhead, the team of soldiers on the ground moved quickly into the safe house where James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and other hostages were believed to be held. But the operators found only ISIS fighters, two of which were quickly dispatched in a gunfight, according to The New Yorker.

"By the time we got there, it was too late," a Pentagon official told The New York Times in 2014.

An MH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment provides Close Air Support for Army Rangers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conducting direct action operations during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 31, 2014.Photo via DoD

We moved 'aggressively to recover our citizens'

Although the raid did not result in the rescue of Americans from ISIS captivity, it was notable in that it was the first time the government acknowledged U.S. troops had operated inside Syria since the war began in 2012, the New York Times Times reported.

"The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens," Lisa Monaco, Obama's counterterrorism adviser, told The Times.

After the area was secure, the Delta operators gathered up anything that could yield intelligence or forensic value, according to The New Yorker. After about an hour, they departed on Black Hawks back to an unspecified "neighboring country."

The secret mission was made public more than a month later on Aug. 20, 2014, a day after ISIS posted a video showing the beheading of Foley by a masked man later identified as Mohammed Emwazi. The British-born ISIS militant carried out the executions of many American, British, and other hostages throughout 2014 and 2015 until he was killed by a coalition drone strike in Nov. 2015.

Siler, now a Chief Warrant Officer-5, still serves with the 160th at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, according to an Army spokesman. He was recognized as the Army Aviator of the Year in 2014.

View his award below:

The Silver Star citation of then-Chief Warrant Officer-4 Michael Siler, the Army helicopter who kept flying for five hours after being shot to support a Delta Force mission against ISISPhoto via Business Insider/FOIA/DoD

The Silver Star citation of then-Chief Warrant Officer-4 Michael Siler, the Army helicopter who kept flying for five hours after being shot to support a Delta Force mission against ISISPhoto via Business Insider/FOIA/DoD

More from Business Insider:


In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

Read More Show Less

An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.

This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.

Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

Read More Show Less