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Combat Story

Mar 25, 2023

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Today we hear the Combat Story of Mike Rutledge, a Navy SEAL turned to 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) aviator who completed 17 combat deployments over a 30 year career.

This is a special episode for me personally because I went to flight school with Mike (as we discuss in the episode) and I still remember being in awe when I saw this other flight school candidate wearing a trident on his uniform. 

Mike had a very unconventional route to becoming a special operator in two branches, and flew along some of the greatest pilots of our time, including Al Mack, who you’ll recall from a previous episode of Combat Story.

Among the multitude of mission during his 17 deployments, Mike found himself on a mission in 2007 when we thought we were going to capture Bin Laden. That was, of course, a dry hole but generated lessons learned that were used in 2011 in the final raid. 

I hope you enjoy this wide-ranging and humble perspective into the world of someone who went from being a SEAL to a 160th aviator as much as I did.


Find Ryan Online:
- Ryan’s Linktree
- Merch
- Instagram @combatstory
- Facebook @combatstoryofficial
- Send us messages at
- Learn more about Ryan
- Intro Song: Sport Rock from Audio Jungle
Find Mike Rutledge Online:
- Learn more about Mike

Show Notes:
00:00 - Intro 
01:07 - Guest Introduction (Mike Rutledge)
02:08 - Interview begins
02:30 - Office Statue
04:37 - Being a SEAL in Aviation classes
08:50 - SEALs in 160th
13:15 - Challenges growing up
16:56 - Experience with father
21:53 - Being bullied as a kid
25:50 - Being a parent
29:00 - Joining the Navy
49:38 - Regrets on path 
01:00:42 - Going back to Guam 
01:03:50 - First time outside the wire in combat
01:11:11 - Deciding to go into Aviation
01:23:50 - reminiscent on the SEALs
01:28:28 - First flight mission
01:39:22 - Things that go wrong 
01:45:48 - One mission from Mike's perspective
01:53:48 - Processing crew rest
01:55:19 - A tough infil/exfil
02:00:47 - Close calls
02:10:38 - Perfection in the mission
02:14:16 - The most courageous thing
02:19:19 - Transitioning out
02:24:50 - Continuing being a pilot 
02:26:35 - raising pilots
02:31:16 - Sentimental items
02:33:35 - Do it all again
02:39:47 -  Listener comments and shout outs