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Combat Story

Feb 6, 2021

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Greg “Gravy” Coker is a legend from the elite 160th Night Stalkers, the Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment (aka SOAR). He’s a long-time Tier 1 Gun Pilot who flew AH-6 Little Birds, AH-64 Apaches, and AH-1 Cobras in multiple combat theaters, providing direct support for 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta aka Delta Force, 75th Ranger Regiment, and other Special Operators.

Greg logged 7,400 hours in his career, including 1,500 hours of combat time across 11 deployments, and was in the first strike packages that went into Afghanistan and Iraq. Greg reached the pinnacle of the military aviation profession by serving as both a Flight Lead and Instructor Pilot in the most coveted and lethal rotary wing unit in the US military.

He survived a combat shootdown while laying down cover for Special Operators in Iraq during the first daylight operation for 160th since Operation Gothic Serpent in 1993 (aka Blackhawk Down).

Since leaving the military, Greg has written a memoir about these experiences and more titled “Death Waits in the Dark” and has a children’s book coming out with his daughter called “V is for Veterans.”

Show Notes

0:00 - Intro
2:25 - Watching the “Helicopter War” in Vietnam.
8:54 - A “very kind judge” changed Greg’s life (this is a story Greg’s never told publicly and well worth the listen!).
13:30 - Flight School Class 89-15 and selected guns (Cobras and then AH-64 Apaches).
15:38 - First assigned to 5/17 Cav in Korea flying Cobras and then moved to A Co, 1-101st Spectres.
20:50 - Seeing “little black helicopters” flying around Fort Campbell.
21:16 - Comparison between flying Cobras, Apaches, and Little Birds.
23:09 - The “Standard” of being on target plus or minus 30 seconds with a map, a compass, and a clock. This is an incredibly difficult standard in aviation terms.
24:56 - This section is for the aviation nerds (like myself) comparing speed, maneuverability, and build of different choppers.
27:02 - The selection process for aviation’s Tier 1 element: 160th.
36:19 - First combat experience was 2001 in Afghanistan with the first boots on the ground and in contact within four minutes.
40:43 - Greg describes a classic AH-6 Gun engagement and what “target, torque, trim” means and why a grease pencil mark is important.
50:00 - The relationship between 160th pilots and Delta Operators and Rangers.
53:00 - Description of fighting at Haditha Dam in March 2003 supporting 3/75 Rangers. This involved continuous engagements for eight hours going through 11 loads of ammo.
1:05:18 - How to handle the torque of a GAU-19 (three barrel .50 cal gatling gun) on an aircraft.
1:06:40 - Living through a shootdown in broad daylight in Iraq covering Special Operators.
1:25:18 - Dealing with Imposter Syndrome despite being a legend in the community.
1:28:10 - How a long-time elite gun pilot can also have PTSD.
1:33:50 - What did Greg carry into combat for good luck (these are some good ones!).
1:35:28 - After all the gun fights, crashes, PTSD, and time away from home, would you do it all again?
1:36:01 - Greg and his daughter are working on a new book called V for Veteran for kids using military references to teach the alphabet. Also, Death Waits in the Dark will also be available soon on Audible (with Greg’s own voice narrating it!).