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View Full Version : 'Night Stalkers' unit honors aviator killed in Philippines


Martinez
05-26-2004, 20:40
KIMBERLY HEFLING
Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Each building in the highly restrictive and heavily guarded compound of the "Night Stalkers" pays honor to a fallen comrade. Each died on secret missions in foreign lands like Somalia or during dangerous training at home.

On Wednesday, Maj. Curtis Feistner became the latest member of the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation to have a building posthumously named in his honor. During an emotional outdoor ceremony, a plaque was unveiled with his name that will be displayed at Feistner Hall at Fort Campbell.

Feistner, a White Bear Lake, Minn., native, was among those killed in action in the early months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He and seven other Night Stalkers were killed on Feb. 22, 2002, during a helicopter crash while conducting counterterrorism exercises over water in the Philippines.

"We miss our brothers, our comrades," said Chaplain Terry Austin, during a prayer.

The 160th is an elite aviation unit deployed in nearly every conflict since Grenada in 1983 to transport Special Forces units around the world by night in specially modified helicopters. Of the unit's 2,100 soldiers, 376 are in Afghanistan and Iraq; 30 returned Tuesday from a three-month mission in Haiti.

The secretive unit was formed in 1981 following the botched rescue attempt of hostages in Iran. It was not until a decade later that the military acknowledged the unit existed.

It specializes in flying over water and using night vision technology, and developed many flying techniques now standard to Army aviators.

About 200 people attended the memorial service Wednesday, part of a week of festivities honoring current and former Night Stalkers and their families.

In January, a new, 52-foot-tall flight simulator for helicopters will be housed in the Feistner building where aviators can prepare for missions.

During the ceremony, the name of Spc. Robert Lund, of Centralia, Wash., was also added to a black marble monument honoring 160th members killed since the unit's formation in 1981. Lund was killed in March during a training exercise over water. He was the 61st member of the 160th to die on duty.

About 15 family members left red roses at the foot of the monument in his honor.

"As they have indelibly inscribed their memory into our minds, so too we inscribe their names on the buildings we work in, and on the memorial stone we cherish," said Col. Andrew Milani, commander of the 160th.

At the end of the ceremony, five helicopters flew overhead with one eventually flying out of formation as part of a missing man formation. Many in attendance wiped tears as "Taps" played.

Last year, the 160th welcome center was named in honor of Sgt. Philip Svitak, who was killed March 4, 2002, when his helicopter came under attack during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. Other buildings honor those killed in countries such as Panama and Somalia, and during training in the United States.

Kelly Tyler, a spokeswoman for the 160th, said it is a difficult process to select the name for a building. One criteria is that the building be named in honor of someone who was of equal rank to those who will use it, she said. The current command staff and members of the "Night Stalker Association" pick the individual.

"We want to remember every fallen Night Stalker," Tyler said. "Every member of the regiment has made a contribution to the unit."

Of the 61 Night Stalkers killed, 13 of them died since Sept. 11, 2001. The 160th was one of the first units to deploy following Sept. 11, and has been continuously deployed since then.

Visitors are rarely allowed to enter the 160th compound at Fort Campbell, 50 miles north of Nashville, without special clearance.

"Right now, you are in our world, and we take what we do very seriously," said Bill Feeney, president of the nonprofit Night Stalkers Association, made up of former Night Stalkers.

Source (http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/local/8766054.htm)