Using Night Owl vision to see, do what’s right

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- As the commander of the 67th Special Operations Squadron, I'm proud to share a story of who we are and what we stand for as 'Night Owls.' A night owl's vision is outstanding at night, an obvious choice to symbolize our squadron's heritage and mascot. The 67 SOS operates the MC-130P Combat Shadow, using night vision goggles to provide long-range, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in hostile or denied territory.

After a typical long night of flying operations, one of our captains and his crew were given an additional task. The particularly somber event was an important one: land at a remote airbase, known for its challenging environment, and upload the remains of Afghan Special Operations team members who had lost their lives fighting alongside our American soldiers. They had trained together for months and in some cases, even years, ultimately giving their lives to the Afghanistan's fight for independence from the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

When the crew arrived at their destination to pick up the Afghan remains, a 200-man formation greeted their aircraft. The formation of soldiers had just completed a ceremony honoring their teammates, and they stayed in formation as the remains of the Afghan soldiers were placed in the aircraft.

The crew took pride in flying the Afghan remains to their destination, unfortunately when they arrived in the middle of the night, no one was there to meet them. No formation, no fellow soldiers, no one but a guy with a forklift. After the full ceremony with military honors just received, the crew was alarmed at the lack of response. Armed with Night Owl pride, they took charge of the situation and demanded proper transport of the Afghan remains. A forklift was not the right answer.

Despite an already long crew day and approaching day light, the crew stood their ground and demanded proper transportation for the war dead. Nearly two hours after the standoff began, the Afghan soldiers were given military honors and properly transported to their awaiting families.

The respect paid to all Coalition Forces is vital in today's joint fight. As small an act as this might seem, imagine the impact if you were the family member receiving your loved one. Night vision is one thing, but having the ability to see beyond the night, to see beyond the task at hand and to see the full picture of the mission in Afghanistan is unparalleled. Another proud moment for the Night Owl family.