DoD News Briefing: Brigadier General Terry Murray, USMC, et. al.
Thursday, June 8, 1995 - 9:45 a.m.
(Also participating in this briefing were Colonel John Chapman, USAF and Colonel Douglas J. Kennett, USAF.)
Col. Kennett: Good morning, again. We have two individuals with us, here, to try to provide further background on the successful rescue, overnight, of Captain Scott O'Grady.
First, I will introduce to you Brigadier General Terry Murray, United States Marine Corps. General Murray, assigned to Headquarters, Marine Corps here, is a former Marine expeditionary unit Ccommander -- a "MEU," as we call them. The same sort of unit that, in fact, was involved in the actual rescue. He spoke at length, earlier this morning, with Colonel Marty Berndt, who is the commander of the 24th MEU, on the KEARSARGE, that did the rescue, and he's here to try to give you a few more details about the rescue itself -- realizing, of course, he is not going to jeopardize our operational security. But he'll give you what we can.
General Murray: Admiral Owens gave you a pretty good synopsis of what occurred, but what I would do, to start, is just give you a little bit of insight from the MEU commander's perspective -- Colonel Berndt's -- that I got earlier this morning.
As was indicated, the planning cycle began roughly 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the morning when Colonel Berndt was told that... "Stand by, we may have made contact with the pilot, you need to be prepared to execute a recovery operation." At that point, for Colonel Berndt, nothing was confirmed, but, as the MEUs generally do, the planning cycle began. For he and his staff, as well as the PHIBRON staff, Navy counterparts, joint effort -- they began the planning cycle aboard KEARSARGE, about 3 o'clock in the morning.
To back--up on this... They had had what we call a TRAP package -- Tactical Recovery of Aircraft or Personnel -- a TRAP package standing by, probably, for the last five days -- more likely than that, from the moment they cruised into the area of operation. In all likelihood, they had a TRAP unit standing by, waiting for an assignment -- a potential mission.
So the planning cycle began about 0300 in the morning. They did not know if they were going to get a go-ahead. They were given a warning order and an alert order. Then, somewhere around 5 o'clock in the morning -- as Admiral Owens indicated -- they were told to launch the recovery mission.
During the intervening time -- just to give you a little more background on that -- what would have taken place would have been the Marines would have been issued ammo. They probably had all of their gear staged and ready to go, so the guidance for Colonel Berndt was to be prepared to launch within one-hour. About 0500 they actually launched the mission.
The package that they went in with is a tailored package. It varies by the threat that they're going to be concerned with on the beach. In this case, roughly 60 miles inland. They had been briefed, intensely, based on internal intelligence capabilities and also national assets. So you can be quite certain that once they crossed the beach heading for the objective area, they had a fairly good idea what kind of threat would be on the ground.
So, as was briefed, they went in with a package of two 53's, and generally you would anticipate 20 packs -- 20 Marines per 53. That varies, plus-or-minus. Again, the recovery team would have been tailored to the mission. Two Cobras, to provide shooter capacity inside the objective area. And AV-8Bs -- Harriers -- that would have been flying in support. In the event they needed close air support, you would have had a complete package, self-contained, ready to go once you got into the objective area.
As you also know, additionally, they were provided with F-18s -- I believe out of Aviano -- and the TEDDY ROOSEVELT carrier battle group provided EA-6Bs to jam in the event that they were to encounter surface-to-air fire once they got inland.
Essentially, they launched about 0500. They married up the various aircraft that were to support them -- that is the EA-6Bs and the F-18s -- launched for the beach somewhere around 0545 in the morning. So, I think it's safe to say, he described to me having crossed the beach somewhere shortly after 0600 in the morning -- just as the sun was coming up. They'd have preferred to have gone in by night, most likely. That was his preference. But by the time they received the execute order, it was daylight, and the risk was assessed, and they said, "OK, let's go in and do it in daylight."
They went inland about 60 miles, made contact with the pilot en-route. The AWACS aircraft -- in constant com with its recovery package from start to finish -- played a vital role in vectoring the recovery team to the objective area. They made contact with the pilot some distance... Maybe a half-hour, I believe, was the time line that Admiral Owens gave you, a half-hour from the time they hit the objective area. He described the terrain to me as being "very hilly." I don't know if he meant mountains or hills, but he said it was very, very hilly. A pine-covered forest on the top of the hilltop where Captain O'Grady had positioned himself, and as they approached the objective, he thought that the pilot had popped the smoke. There was yellow smoke on the ground, and they went in and made the recovery.
No fire going in. Recovered the pilot. A very short time on the ground -- I would only estimate, probably, a couple of minutes on the ground.
The planes went in, the Cobras secured the terrain visually around them. The Harriers were flying in support, were they to be needed. None of those aircraft were needed. The Marines exited the plane and secured the ground. Shortly after, as he described it to me, Captain O'Grady ran out of the woods -- helmet on, flight jacket, pistol in hand, and he was quite pleased to climb on the 53. Then, they transited back to the KEARSARGE and the ARG.
Again, it was a relatively clean operation going out as well. They did take some fire he thought. Again, hadn't completely debriefed the mission. But, as Admiral Owens suggested, they thought there was one or more surface-to-air missiles that were fired, and they thought that there was small-arms fire that one or two or more of the helicopters had taken on the way out. But there were no casualties, and I would emphasize that they were trying to put things back together. That was unconfirmed.
They were recovered about 0730, aboard the KEARSARGE, so it was about a two-and-a-half hour mission from start to finish.
That's a snapshot of what he gave me last night. I've given you as much as I can.
Q: What was the time between the time Scott O'Grady got aboard the helicopter and the time they took fire?
A: I'm going to give you the windows in time and just estimate that for you because I can't tell you exactly. It was around 0645 when they recovered him aboard the second 53 that was in the zone; and they lifted off, immediately. Transit time for about a 90-mile trip -- reported as 87 miles -- less than an hour, about a 45- mile trip back out. I don't know if shortly after they left the landing zone whether they took that fire, or whether it was a longer period of time. It was somewhere within the first half hour that he was on board the aircraft, but Colonel Berndt did not give me any indication and I didn't ask the question when exactly they took that fire.
Q: If you were standing as the sun came up on the ground, how many airplanes would you have, exactly, seen coming towards you? You've named the two 53s, two Cobras?
Q: What else?
A: Two Harriers. You go back to the chart that Admiral Owens had up there. The Marine package was two 53E's, two Cobras, and two Harriers. So, if you'd have been on the ground, you'd have probably seen that flight of aircraft heading towards shore or, while they were overland, you would have seen those.
Some of the EA-6Bs and the F-18s and the F-15s and the F-16s -- and potentially there were A-10s involved -- there would have been no need for any of those shooters or jammers to be down low. They would probably have been up pretty high.
Q: What about the Harriers? Were they down low or...
A: Probably not. Probably not down low, but I am uncertain about that.
Q: Did Colonel Berndt indicate that the resistance was a lot less than he had expected it would be when he was briefed before going in?
A: I don't know. We did not discuss what the specific threat was. We did discuss the fact that much of the ground that they flew over was Serb-controlled ground, but I did not get into any details of the specific nature of the threat in the area. My guess is that the pilot probably... What is routine when a recovery is done, or when someone on the ground is calling in an extract, what is routine is for the guy on the ground to give you an assessment of the situation on the ground. So I would imagine that Captain O'Grady would have said I've been here in the vicinity for five days. He would have told them whether he had seen any movement -- Serb movement or other movement. So as they approached the zone, they would have gotten a zone brief in all likelihood from him, but Captain O'Grady had been on the ground for five and a half days at that point. My guess is he probably didn't want to talk too much. He just wanted to get that package in there. So I'm really guessing as to how much information he would have provided. I do feel quite confident that when they left the KEARSARGE they had a fairly good idea what the threat was both en-route on the track that they flew in, and in the objective area. They probably had a fairly good idea what kind of threat would be there. But they also knew that you never really know everything you'd like to know.
Q: Did the Marines fire any weapons at any point?
A: He did not indicate to me that when they secured the ground as the recovery team of Marines exited the aircraft, that anyone took any fire in the objective area. The only fire that he indicated to me they thought they took was en-route back from the objective area to the beach. That included one or more surface-to-air missiles, and they thought some machine gun fire.
Q: Did they respond to that, to your knowledge?
A: He asked the question of his door gunner whether or not they could see where the fire was coming from and apparently they could not, so the door gunners on the 53s did not return fire.
Q: Did the commander of the choppers request that a HARM be launched against the surface-to-air missile threat?
A: I don't know. I don't know if they did or not. In other words when they were exiting...
Q: ...and knew that the missile was going to come at the, did they ask for a protection from the...
A: I don't know if they did or not. They brought in that capability, but as far as I know, they did not employ it. So I would have to speculate on that. I'm not sure.
Q: Did both helicopters land, and both helicopters, all the Marines exited?
A: As I said, as they approached the zone, the Cobras secured the area. The two 53s, first bird, second bird, came in, sat down on the deck. The Marines secured the area. Captain O'Grady came running out of the tree line, jumped on the second 53, and they lifted off.
Q: ...It must have been a big landing zone?
A: He apparently picked a zone that was at least big enough for two 53s.
Q: Do you know what he said when he jumped on board? Any indication?
A: He indicated to me that he collapsed from relief on board the aircraft. Had a big smile on his face. I would correct one thing for Admiral Owens. According to Colonel Berndt, he didn't eat the MRE aboard the ship, he ate it about five minuets after they were en-route out of the zone. So he ate it on the flight back to the KEARSARGE.
Q: When you say the Cobras secured the area, what do you mean?
A: What I first said was that visually the Cobras fly a track around the landing zone with the objective...
A: Yeah. A wide track around the landing zone in the event that you do begin to take fire, or in the event that they see troops moving on the ground, they're in position to shoot.
Q: How far above the ground are they?
A: They fly low. They're probably... At that point they were probably 100 to 150 feet off the deck, something like that.
Q: Is it a normal thing that the MEU commander, that Colonel Berndt would have gone along for the actual rescue?
A: The mission commander was the BLT commander, Colonel Gunther. The MEU commander, it's at his discretion as to when and how he participates in a mission. In this instance, apparently he decided to go in on the second plane. But I'd emphasize that the BLT commander was the mission commander for the MEU commander.
Q: For the average audience, for a little bit of human interest, again explain the final moments of the rescue -- just for the average person out there.
A: Again, I'm giving you anecdotal information over the phone, but essentially the planes went into the zone, sat down very quickly, Marines exited the plane to set up security perimeter in the LZ, and immediately after, out of the tree line, came the pilot. The pilot ran onto the second of the two 53s that went into the zone -- Marines call that "Dash 2." He jumped on Dash 2 and as soon as he was on board the Marines were recovered and they were airborne. He estimated to me, he said "I think we were on the ground less than two minutes."
Q: Again, for the average person, give his own reaction. Again, explain that for the...
A: I don't know what conversation took place, but he said that when he came on the second aircraft, they grabbed him, put a cloak over him because he appeared to be very cold, big smile, and he said he collapsed from the emotion or from the exhaustion or maybe a little of both. Five or ten minutes later, they fed him on the way back to the ship.
Q: About 20 Marines would have exited each of the 53s?
A: Roughly. As I said, it's a tailored package, but the 53s, we would normally put somewhere in that number on board. The number of Marines that participated in the mission we estimate was about 40 or 41.
Q: Did the Marines -- when the helicopters were down -- did the Marines deploy out of the helicopters onto the ground and set up a perimeter?
A: They did.
Q: What sort of formation would that be?
A: Essentially what they do is they move out as quickly as they can in a perimeter subject to what the ground looks like, but in a perimeter far enough outside the immediate area of the two helicopters so that they can provide security. It could be subject to how close the heavy terrain is to you. It could be very close to the helicopters, or they could have disembarked the helicopters and gone 100 yards or more. But again, I would only be speculating if I gave you an answer on that. I don't know.
Colonel Kennett: The general will stay in the area in case you have any other questions.
As you've already heard, the fact that Captain O'Grady was able to survive on his own for five and a half days is a testament to the type of training he received. I'd like to introduce to you now Colonel John Chapman, United States Air Force, who is in charge of the Joint Survival Training for the Department of Defense. That's SERE training. Our acronym is SERE which stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance if captured, and Escape of course. I think you'll be mostly interested in the survival aspects.
Colonel Chapman is also an F-16 pilot.
Colonel Chapman: Good morning.
First of all, I'd like to thank Admiral Owens for stating that he had a young officer standing by to talk about survival training.
I'm really exited to be here, as you can understand, because this is a good news story. This is a very capable young officer. I do not know Scott O'Grady, but I feel like I've learned a lot about him over the last several days.
Scott O'Grady lives in Spokane, and I found that he, in fact, got a private pilot's license while he was there from an Air Force survival instructor who was a certified instructor in his off-duty time. He went through Embry Riddle College which is an aeronautically oriented school, so he certainly wanted to be a pilot. He did well enough in his screening to go to Shepherd Air Force Base which is a pilot training base for Euro/NATO joint training, combined training. So his credentials are good in that respect. He obviously is very careful and takes care to prepare himself well.
After that training and either en-route to or subsequent to his F-16 training, and I'm not sure which, he would have gone through survival training, and did in fact, in I believe February of '91 at Fairchild Air Force Base at Spokane, Washington. It turns out he went home to go to survival training. He may, in fact, have ended up getting some of his basic training in areas that he walked through. I don't know the facts about that, but it's possible.
So he went through that training, it's a 17-day program. Roughly -- rounding it out -- it's about a week of academics, a week of training in the field, and a week of resistance and escape training -- that portion of which I obviously won't go through in this briefing this morning.
The training is geared toward providing global survival and evasion capability. Because, just as in Scott O'Grady's case, they may go through at any time of the year -- there could be snow on the ground, or it could be hot and dry. So they're taught the principles of how to find water, even find food on the land to survive. They're taught to move from a basic survival situation into a potential evasion situation, and how to take care of themselves and avoid capture. Then subsequently, as I said of course, if the worse happens, how to try and survive a captivity experience and return with honor.
So he paid attention, obviously, to his survival and evasion training. Just as, if you'll recall, Lieutenant Colonel Couillard did when he helped himself and his son to survive the ordeal in Turkey a few months ago.
So we feel the training is well focused, and it's obviously giving some of the right skills. I won't know until I get a chance to talk to Captain O'Grady, which I certainly hope I will, to find out about his specific experiences. It would be very speculative of me here to try and tell you what he went through in the last six days because I, frankly, don't know. I know it was a rugged area. I've looked at the maps. The maps identify something called Karst which is a very sharp vertical development -- we had it in Vietnam when I flew over there. It's the kind of area that you don't want to travel in at night because you could find yourself taking one step and dropping 100 feet.
The Karst area over there doesn't look like the vertical development is necessarily as high as it might have been in Vietnam, but it was certainly rugged terrain. A great opportunity to evade.
As evidenced by the fact that he didn't go very far, he found a concealment area close to where he landed.
As was stated before, and I think you heard, when his aircraft blew up, shortly thereafter, the portion that he was still in entered a cloud deck. We had no idea whether he had escaped the aircraft and parachuted until we actually heard him on the ground, which was exciting news, to say the least.
Having done that, when he exits the aircraft, he's going to take a close look at his equipment, make sure the parachute's working correctly. He has the opportunity, even, to pull a couple of lines free which creates a bulbous effect in the back of the parachute to give him some drift capability, so he can guide the parachute slightly. So if he had a chance to do that -- and that would depend upon the ceiling that he's coming out from under the clouds at and whether he has time -- he may have time to pull those cords and steer his chute slightly and move maybe several hundred meters one direction or the other to get to an area that may, for instance, avoid a concentration of people if he happened to see that on the way down. Or to avoid a rock formation, which is obviously not some place you'd particularly like to land.
So he may or may not have been able to do that. I don't know yet. We're interested in finding that out.
But once he gets on the ground, he's going to be first taking a look at his situation, himself physically to make sure that he's not injured or that he can take care of himself. He's going to try to conceal his equipment if he feels he's in a hostile situation, and I think it's reasonable to assume he felt he was in a hostile situation.
Having done that, he's going to find concealment, and then attempt, as best he can, to make contact with friendly forces. I do not know, and I won't until I talk to him, what he did to try and contact people. We know that when he finally got contact with friendly forces it happened quickly and he was recovered quickly, and that's great news. In fact, it happened virtually textbook, I would say.
So we're really pleased at the outcome. I'd be happy to answer any further questions you may have about his survival training.
Q: Textbook, but it happened five and a half days later. Obviously, without knowing the specifics, are you trained to get away, let a certain amount of time pass if you feel there's a threat, and then try to do your communicating, or do you do it with great regularity? This is a long gap.
A: It is, and it's unexplained. We won't know until we talk to him. Certainly he's the only one that knows the situation on the ground. If he has to move, if he has to be quiet for whatever reason, that's his call.
Also, it would behoove him, obviously, to try and make contact as soon as possible to help effect his recovery. Just as the Admiral was talking about this morning, they are taught to help effect their own recovery and to help, just as General Murray was talking about, to give some of the final picture of the area when they do make contact over the radio, to let them know what the hazards to the helicopters might be, what the best ingress route might be to avoid terrain problems or troop concentrations. But again, we don't know if any of that existed.
Q: He's not trained to walk the area, to do a wide walk, looking for possible enemy areas and things like that? Is he trained to get as many miles away from the crash site as he can? Or is it all just sort of ad lib?
A: I wouldn't call it ad lib, but he's not trained to be a scout and he's not there to be a part of any kind of reconnaissance force, if you will. He's there to get himself concealed and hidden and try to help people find him. Now he's trained to try and find good hiding sites so that the recovery can be effected at minimum risk to himself or the recovery forces. But beyond that, I couldn't say anything about his specific circumstances.
Q: Could you describe to us two things? One is, what in his equipment allowed him to survive the plane being blown up in the first place? And secondly, when he hits the ground, what tools does he have with him to work with? How much food, if any? What things help him survive?
A: One of the things is the training. We teach them at our survival schools, and I would tell you that every service has the same kind of survival and evasion training. The SERE training that the colonel talked about is done at different locations for all the services, and it's all very similar. That's my job. I have executive agent responsibilities on behalf of DoD to make sure that training is consistent among the services. We also have executive agent responsibility for evasion recovery on behalf of all the services as assigned by the Chairman to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. So in that role, I'm responsible to make sure that that training is consistent among all the services. So we would expect any downed airman to follow the same basic procedures.
Now in that light, the specific equipment we had on him, we frankly, are still trying to find that out to see what options he might have, trying to second guess where he is, what he's doing, how far he might have moved, how he's surviving. I don't know the food articles he had. I know in his training he was taught to find water, even to eat insects or anything else to get him nourishment if he got hungry enough. They teach that as well. They try to get you over your food aversions.
Q: The MRE, I guess...
A: They obviously succeeded, didn't they? Proving if you're hungry enough you'll eat anything.
Q: Is there a typical package of equipment that an F-16 pilot...
Q: Would he have a sidearm?
Q: What would you go out with?
A: What would I go out with? Every pilot, and we do have F-16 pilot here that can answer some of those questions better than I, so I'd like to pass those off onto him, because what they would carry now, I haven't flown since 1987, unfortunately. Not saying I don't enjoy this job because I do, but every pilot wants to fly. [Laughter]
The point is, the equipment changes over the years, and I don't know what's currently being kept in the aircraft. They do give you enough to basically survive probably for a couple of days without trying to find other food sources, but you can survive 30 days on water alone. You won't die. You'll get tired, you'll get hungry, and you'll get uncomfortable, but you're taught to survive.
Q: What about communications gear? Did he have one radio, two radios, two or three kinds of beacons? What would he have to communicate with?
A: The primary radio that they fly with now is called a PRC-112 and it has several frequencies on it, one of which was the Guard frequency that most of the folks use throughout the world. There are other discreet frequencies that he can have, and I'm not sure, frankly, what ones they were using in this scenario.
Q: Do you know what the weather was like?
A: It's been cloudy for the entire week, and layered clouds. I don't know what it was today, but it's been quite cloudy. I'm sure it's gotten cool. I don't know the actual temperatures.
Q: Cool on the ground though?
Murray: The only thing I can tell you is that when Colonel Berndt said they went in, they were less affected by the weather. Coming back out they had to vary the altitude of the flight because of some fog and cloud cover.
Q: Was it cold on the ground? I'm looking now for the temperature...
A: I'm not sure what the temperature extremes were. I would say it's safe to say it was cold, and the longer you're out there the colder it feels, regardless of how absolute temperature...
Q: What radio would they have heard his voice on? In other words, his wing man or his fellow pilot...
A: I can't answer that. Like I say, I'm sure they were monitoring any and every freq he had access to.
Q: But there's a beacon and there's a radio, right? There are two different communicators.
A: They're all built right into the same radio.
Q: He can cycle them to any frequency?
A: I don't think he can do it on all frequencies, but yes, you can cycle it among some of the frequencies.
Q: He has Guard, right? 243.
A: Yes, 243.0 is Guard frequency.
Q: Then he has some other frequencies...
Q: Did he have identification in his radio, built in? An IFF?
A: The identification features of the radio? I'm not sure what feature he would have had. I'm not sure what the details of his actual identification might be. There is some equipment I think that they can use to try and help locate him individually, but I'd rather not comment on the details of that.
Q: Is he equipped with any GPS to let him know where he is, his location?
Kennett: If there are any other questions about his training, then I can get an F-16 pilot up here who can give you a generic explanation of what he would have been carrying.
Chapman: Excellent point, because I'm really hypothesizing since I haven't flown in the F-16 in some seven years.
Q: Can you elaborate a little bit more on the training for the survival and on the eating. Just a little bit more elaborating on the eating...
A: You want to know what kind of bugs they eat? Is that what... (Laughter)
Q: A little bit more elaboration on that.
A: In fact, I was commander of that school from '92 to '94, and I've tried crickets, I've tried ants... But no, I don't think that's what you're looking for.
They do try to teach them some of the capabilities of things, the food value of things that they can find in the wild virtually anywhere in the globe. They will normally be taught -- and they are taught when they go to a specific area to fly as an operational air crew member -- what's available in that area. There is follow-on training for all units in all the services for the area they're operating in. They'll know flora and fauna which is basically the animal and plant life.
With that in mind, they'll have some basic idea of the things they can eat. They're not going to be Neil Givens. They're not going to have expert knowledge of all the things they can and can't eat, so they're going to be very generic in the kinds of things they pick to sustain life. That's all we're interested in is sustaining life -- not having a gourmet meal in the wild.
Q: Some understanding of the local flora and fauna would come in a briefing once they're in any new region?
A: Yes, ma'am. It sure would. It would be in their self-study as well for the potential survival, evasion situation that they might encounter on any local mission. That planing is part of their operational planning.
Q: Do you know how long he had been operating out of Aviano?
A: No, I do not.
Q: The number of pilots went down during the Gulf War. Are there any changes in SERE training as a result of the Gulf experience that Captain O'Grady might have...
A: Not as it affects survival and evasion. As you'll recall, they had very little chance to evade or survive on their own for any period of time. We fold in the real time experiences of any and all personnel who find themselves isolated from friendly control. We will have a SERE debriefing of every individual in that sort of circumstance and make sure those lessons learned are folded back into the training for all the services. We've done that for DESERT STORM as well.
Q: How unusual is five days? In Vietnam were pilots rescued after a period of five times? It sounds like...
A: Yes, it's happened. It depends upon so many circumstances, it would be hard to speculate. Whether the circumstances are physical conditions, environmental conditions, enemy circumstances, friendly capability -- which obviously in this situation was not a constraint, because once we found him, they were there as fast as they could be. So I wouldn't call it normal, I wouldn't call it abnormal.
Q: What would he have to defend himself? I take it he had a handgun or...
A: I don't know the answer to that either, ma'am, quite frankly. I don't know what they carry on these missions.
Kennett: Next we have a veteran F-16 pilot who can give you some of that generic idea of what Captain O'Grady might have been carrying. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Zielinski who is United States Air Force on the Air Staff.
Lieutenant Colonel Zielinski: Good morning. I've been out of the F-16 now for about three years, serving here on the Air Staff in the Pentagon, so I'll try to answer any questions you have and relate to some of the experiences that most of the F-16 pilots should be going through in their survival training today.
After Captain O'Grady ejected, the first thing that happens is, it's very loud, and the parachute will inflate. He has a survival kit embedded in his seat, in his ejection seat. That will open up automatically and attach to about a 35-40 foot rope. At the tail end will be a raft. It's a one-man raft, should he have ejected over water.
Midway between him and the raft will be a survival kit which will include a first aid kit, some flares, additional radio batteries, water, a survival manual, and a number of other different things that are all theater-specific, depending upon what area of the world he's in.
In his survival vest he will have an additional radio, a 9mm pistol, flares smoke flares as well as night illumination flares -- a first aid kit and any other personal items that he feels he would want to put in.
That's about a rough picture of the equipment that he will have on his person as he's descending in his parachute.
Q: How heavy is this package that he would have to get, the one that's down the rope and embedded in his seat? Is that...
A: I don't know how heavy...
Q: Do you drag it with you...
A: No, you wouldn't. I don't know how heavy the raft is. I think the survival kit itself, and Colonel Chapman probably knows better, is about 35 pounds. That's the equipment minus the survival raft. As soon as he lands, he has the option of going right to his survival kit and unzipping what's called a hit-and-go package that has some of the most important items in his survival kit, and immediately start his evasion procedures, especially if there's hostile forces in the area.
Q: What's in the hit-and-go pack?
A: Hit-and-go probably is water, an additional radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, and that's about all the room there is. It's a small, cylindrical type of plastic or canvas package that he would take with him.
Q: Can you talk about his radios? You said additional radio. We know he has the PRC-112.
A: Yes. He'll have the PRC-112, and then there will be a beacon type of radio as well. That's probably what's in his survival kit. I don't recall, since it's been several years now since I've had my survival training.
Q: How are you told to use the radios, the PRC specifically? Is there a standard procedure for using that, for calling up?
A: It's going to depend upon the situation. As soon as the pilot will get out, if he's landed, if he's in a secure area and there aren't hostile forces right around, I would say the technique would be to try to initiate contact with friendly forces right away. He knew he had a wingman airborne, but from the press reports, and that's all I have, we didn't hear much at all. That could have been because of where he landed, he might have been hurt. Any number of reasons. There might have been hostile forces right in the immediate area. We know the hostile forces knew that they fired a surface-to-air missile. Whether the cloud dock prevented noticing there was an impact on it, I don't know.
Q: How long typically do they brief you that the batteries will last in this radio?
A: I don't know the answer to that. But judicial use of the battery is going to make it last a long time. You don't want to leave it on continuously. They're very good batteries. I don't remember what kind they are. They're not the standard that you buy in the grocery store today, but...
Q: After the plane is hit, it could actually travel awhile before...
A: It totally depends upon the damage to the aircraft. Any fighter aircraft can take a direct hit and go, but from what I hear, a direct impact from an SA-6 is a pretty formidable impact, and the airplane apparently was going down quickly.
Q: Can you describe a little bit the ejection seat, what protection it may have offered him? Does it activate automatically if the plane is disintegrating?
A: No, it does not automatically go. The pilot has to initiate the ejection sequence. In the airplane, the F-16 is a very quiet airplane, so it's quite a shock to initiate the ejection seat sequence. You'll have a tremendous loud bang as the canopy is separated, and then the rush from the air. But the pilot will have to reach and pull his own ejection lanyard. From there he will go through his post-ejection procedures. Waiting for landing on the ground.
Q: Does he have to deploy the chute or is it automatic?
A: The chute automatically deploys below, when I was flying, below 14,000 feet, I think. So above that he will free-fall.
Q: Did the plane give off any signal that A, an ejection has begun; and B, that the chute is open?
A: The plane does not, but there is a beacon in the ejection seat or in the survival kit that does go off.
You do have the option of turning that off before you actually eject or before you get airborne.
Q: Why would you want to do that?
A: I don't know. You do have the option, but I've never flown in a mission where I turned off the beacon.
Q: Does it emit a noise that would be, that people in the area could pick up?
A: I don't have the answer. I don't know.
Q: What are the ejection procedures? Do you have to pull a lanyard or flip switches or...
A: In the F-16 your ejection lanyard is between your legs, right in front of your seat.
A: Two hands. You reach in. It looks like a horseshoe type of lanyard. You reach in, pull, and you get immediate ejection.
As soon as you get out of the aircraft, you look up, make sure you have a good parachute. You raise your visor -- that's a very good thing to check, by the way...
Q: Do you give two parachutes or one?
A: One parachute.
Q: And if that's no good...
A: You make it work. [Laughter] In fact, there are procedures where if you have a streamer, you look up, and there are things you can do to try to inflate, and you have the rest of your life to make sure the parachute operates correctly. [Laughter]
After you raise your visor, you take your oxygen mask off and you physically discard it, get rid of it. So if you would land in water, you may be inhaling or trying to breathe water, so you want to get rid of that oxygen mask right away.
You reach down on your right hand side, and you make sure that your survival kit has indeed deployed. You do have the option of not setting it on automatic deployment or not. If not, there's a little lanyard right there you can pull. Then the survival kit will extend the raft, automatically it inflates as soon as it reaches the end of its 35-40 foot rope.
Q: The seat doesn't go down, does it?
A: No, the seat, embedded in the seat -- and it's a very good ejection seat, by the way, in the F-16 as well as all the fighter aircraft. It will physically kick you away, as soon as you eject and if you're below 14,000 feet -- if that's still the accurate altitude today. It will fall away from you. As soon as the parachute inflates, you will start to slow down, and of course the seat continues to fall. But you have no further use for the seat after that.
Q: Have you ever had to punch?
A: No, I have never had to jump out of the airplane.
Q: What was the altitude of the pilot...
A: I don't know.
Q: Above 14,000 feet?
A: I don't know. I think from reports from his wingman, from news reports, the aircraft went into a cloud bank before he saw anything, his wingman.
Q: How soon the pilot can be put into the mission again?
A: It's totally up to his commander. I'm sure he's going to be going through a lot of debriefs. There are a lot of things we'd like to find out. But after that, it's up to his commander.
Q: Did you carry any food with you when you...
A: Again, it's theater-specific. I personally would. There's a lot of small, compact, high nutritious food that you could probably stick in a lot of the empty pockets of the survival vest. I have no idea what Captain O'Grady had with him.