Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows police provided perimeter security and staffed check-in points for military and/or security experts that were arriving to the former hotel high rise for the Sheraton Chicago Northwest on Thursday evening. All driveways to the property had police checkpoints. Arlington Heights police and Rolling Meadows police were friendly while guarding the property — advising citizens that a military training operation was underway. At least 200 civilian vehicles carrying people participating in the training operation arrived at the event before dark. Police advised bystanders to stay west of Rohlwing Road. Police were also on the scene to minimize any issues with gapers. Very few people stopped to observe the event.
Security for the property was tight. Apparent military personnel also provided security for the perimeter. A civilian vehicle was parked near the southwest corner of the property. If anyone got out of their vehicle on the west side of Rohlwing Road, the personnel mirrored the pedestrian traffic — staying on the east side of Rohlwing Road. In other words, when I walked south, they walked south, When I walked north, they walked north. The personnel were not in uniform, and no weapons were visible from across the street. When asked if it was O.K. to communicate, they walked forward, as if to say, “go ahead, communicate.” I asked if cameras were O.K. on this side (the west side) of Rohlwing Road. The reply was, “No,” so I left the area.
Had a pedestrian been walking eastbound on the shoulder of Euclid Avenue east of Rohlwing Road — unlikely as that might be after dark — they probably would have been startled by the man, who was not wearing a uniform. He presumably would have told a pedestrian that no access was allowed any further east along the shoulder.
This week, several people have captured video (see below) of Black Hawk helicopters and smaller helicopters in Chicago — sometimes operating without lights. Some people expressed they were frightened by the low flying patterns of the helicopters. People have speculated that the personnel are from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The motto of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is ‘Night Stalkers Don’t Quit.’ The personnel with the 160th are known to use U.S. Army MH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and the smaller MH-6 Little Bird helicopters that were reported in Chicago.
Most recently on the global scale, The 160th ‘Night Stalkers’ are reported to have provided insert operations and cover during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed.
A partial list of other operations the 160th is known to have participated include Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada invasion), Operation Earnest Will (protecting Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980’s), Operation Desert Storm (1991), and the Battle of Mogadishu (October, 1993) when two of their Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and five personnel were killed early on the scene in Somalia.
The mission in Mogadishu ‘Task Force Ranger’ unfortunately revealed some errors that caused serious problems for the mission. The objective of the mission in Mogadishu was the capture of local warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid for war crimes and the hindering of U.N. peacekeeping forces. Aidid’s militia had detonated a remote-controlled bomb that killed four American soldiers in an American military vehicle, and had detonated a second device that injured seven more soldiers two weeks later. President Bill Clinton then approved a proposal to deploy an assault unit named Task Force Ranger consisting of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta-Force Commandos. Two of Aidid’s leader were expected to be in a meeting in a house next to the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu. The mission was expected to last about 30 minutes, but citizen resistance and local militia formed barricades in the streets of Mogadishu that blocked convoys that were supposed to meet up with Delta Force operators that had roped down from helicopters during the assault. The helicopters also came under fire from rocket propelled grenade attacks. Two pilots were killed when the first Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. A third soldier was killed in a Humvee while evacuating a Delta Force Ranger that was injured while roping down another helicopter. Communications problems also existed between the ground convoys and the assault team, over which team was supposed to first order a move-out from the scene. A second Black Hawk helicopter was shot down during the delay. Two Delta Force snipers, who requested to be inserted into the crash scene, defended the second crash site, but were eventually killed. The pilot at the second crash scene was then captured by Somalis and saved when Aidid’s militia took him prisoner.
A second task force and relief convoy was organized and sent to rescue the survivor(s) of the crashes and ensuing battle overnight. The task force consisted of U.S. MH-6 Little Bird and MH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, Pakistani tanks, and Malaysian Condor armored personnel carriers. Soldiers were from the U.S. 10th Mountain Division, Pakistan Army, and Malaysian Army. In conclusion, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in action during the battle and another 73 were wounded in action.
Mobs of Somalis swarmed the area near the crash sites, but were held off by aggressive small arms fire and by strafing runs and rocket attacks from AH-6J Little Bird helicopter attack gunships — similar to the MH-6 Little Bird helicopters apparently observed flying over Chicago this week.
Aidid was not captured, but several High-Value Targets (HVTs) were captured in the mission of Task Force Ranger/Battle of Mogadishu — part of Operation Gothic Serpent.
This month in Chicago and Arlington Heights, military authorities provided very little information about the training operation, but did say that the former hotel high rise in Arlington Heights provided a rare opportunity to train with that type of building.
No helicopters were seen in the Arlington Heights area at least up to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, but were heard and seen in the area after about 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Black Hawk helicopters viewed from an office building near the Chicago River on Monday, April 18, 2012.
Apparent U.S. Army MH-6 Little Bird Helicopters. There are several military variants of the aircraft. Unarmed versions of the helicopter have outboard benches designed to carry three commandos on each side, in addition to the two pilots.
More ‘Little Bird’ helicopters flying about 10-stories altitude as estimated by a videographer on the 39th floor of a high rise on the north side of the Chicago River, facing south, on Monday April 16, 2012.
Black Hawk helicopters flying in downtown Chicago during April 2012 training operations.
Military authorities said the risks of the training missions in Chicago were carefully calculated and that there was low risk to civilians in Chicago. Some training missions away from urban areas have been risky and resulted in loss of life and injuries to soldiers.
On August 19, 2009, four Night Stalkers from D Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR were killed when a MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Leadville, Colorado, during mountain and environmental training.
On October 22, 2009, a unit helicopter crashed into the USNS Arctic during a joint training exercise involving fast roping about 20 miles off Fort Story, Virginia. The crash killed a soldier and injured eight others –three seriously.
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