Why are surprise military missions on the rise in US cities?

DOD fears of dystopia are also up

Vol. 1 issue 15

A secret Army Black Hawk mission in DC, surprise military missions across urban US centers, and the DoD’s dystopian nation  

I never intended to know so much about helicopters.

About a year ago, I was on the phone with a friend who lives in another state, when what seemed like for the umpteenth -- but was more like the 7th or 8th -- time that morning, a helicopter flew so low past the roof of my high-rise apartment building, it raised the hair on the back of my neck.

“Hang on. I can’t hear you,” I yelled at my friend. When the chopper had flown far enough away that we could resume normal conversation, I explained to her that the number of helicopters flying overhead seemed to grow with every passing week. What was worse was how low they were flying. They obliterated conversation. They made the windows shake. They made me wonder if I were living in a giant X-Box.

“It might seem paranoid, but the more this happens, the more I get a pit in my stomach. It feels like a war zone,” I told my friend, noting that it seemed to have begun shortly after POTUS 45 took office and that, although there were plenty more rotary birds than ever before, the choppers I tended to see more than in the past were smaller blue ones that flew so low and close, it was easy for me to read United States of America printed in gold on the side.

“Sounds like you should keep track of it,” she said.

In fact, I had looked into it, but the reports were that it was nothing, that in fact FAA data indicated there was less chopper activity above the Capital region than when Obama was president.

That seemed unlikely so I asked a friend who is a nationally known aviation expert, “Am I imagining things?”

He told me that sometimes chopper pilots just “burn holes in the sky” to ensure their skills and the fitness of the craft, and that it was all normal. Didn’t seem that way to me, but I considered that since I was now working from home on a regular basis, maybe I was just more sensitive to it.

That was before the choppers started flying so low, I figure the pilots could see what I was having for dinner. So, I heeded my friend’s advice and started paying closer attention.

I started keeping a pair of binoculars next to the desk in my southeast/south-facing home office, and another pair in the dining room which faces west. From the roof of my building, which sits along the DC/Maryland border, near the Potomac River, I can see in all directions.

On average, there are about 8 to 12 helicopters that fly in the area of the capital region where I live. Those are the ones I notice. Once, there were 20 in one day!

There are VH-60N White Hawks. There are Sikorsky Sea Kings, a lot of VH-60 Gold top Black Hawks. I typically see them through my dining room window, usually flying in threes, in formation up or down the Potomac River.  

There are also plenty of conventional Black Hawks that seem to head up and back from Bethesda somewhere (maybe Walter Reed Medical Center) to the White House and occasionally, other areas. Sometimes they head northwest, towards what I presume is Camp David, although rumors are POTUS 45 thinks that place is a dump.

And then there are the Maryland state police choppers. Inexplicably, there are National Park Service choppers which on occasion circle overhead where I live, miles uptown from most national monuments. There are also DC Metro Police birds, and the occasional search and rescue Dolphin that flies a up and down the river.

Wait…there’s more.

There are the Lakotas. And then there are those Hueys, part of the 1st Helicopter Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base that seem literally to circle my building and neighborhood the most, including on weekends. Why do they fly so low? I do not know.

There are also the usual traffic reporter choppers and medical evacuation ones. I figure those are normal and haven’t been worried about those.

Lastly, there is the occasional Chinook.

The war craft come and go from all directions, but from my vantage point, I see that they tend to originate most often from the southeast near the White House, Andrews Air Force Base in the east, and from the Pentagon southwest of here.

I sometimes can denote patterns in the traffic, the most intriguing of which was during this past school year: Twice a day, a blue Huey traveled back and forth from the vicinity of the White House towards Potomac, Md., just north of where I live. This tended to coincide with grammar school hours.

I casually asked a few people I know who work in government departments poised to know something. But no one seemed to know anything.

Finally, earlier this summer, The Washington Post confirmed this is not all in my head. Plenty of people who live in the general flight paths I have described are also saying it feels like an invasion. At least one Vietnam veteran is reportedly having flashbacks and a resurgence of PTSD symptoms!

So much for the validity of that FAA data.

Marine scout observer and Military Times writer J.D. Simkins, thinks it’s all baloney and wrote a snarky piece about how ridiculous it is for residents in an area filled with military installations to be upset by military air traffic. Scoff all he wants, but this is unprecedented. I’m with the woman in Arlington resident who says:

“We have VIPs living here. We’ve had motorcades at kids’ soccer games . . . The residents of this area are very, very used to what this area brings, they’re very seasoned, but this is inexplicable,” said Shearer, whose neighborhood is home to the church attended by Vice President Pence.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who requested the General Accounting Office study along with Reps. Raskin, Beyer, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.), said the fact that experienced Washingtonians are complaining means the helicopter traffic has risen to unlivable levels. (Emphasis mine.)

Meanwhile, as the GAO is looking into this insane level of helicopter traffic that we were initially led to believe was NOT actually occurring, there is another disturbing chopper-related piece of news.

A Bloomberg reporter has unearthed an Army request for 1.55 million dollars for a secret mission to do with Black Hawks and Army reserve chopper pilots.

It’s for a classified mission out of Ft. Belvoir, just south of the Pentagon in Virginia. That alone makes me wonder if this mission is to do with those gold top Black Hawks, the ones I see out my dining room window, the ones also known as limos in the sky, for the swanky brass, and who tend to work at the Pentagon or perhaps Langley, also just up the river.

The mission might be classified, but here is a clue:

Soldiers from assault helicopter company and aviation maintenance units will be supporting the mission with 10 UH-60s and maintenance capabilities for four months," according to the document, referring to the Black Hawks.

It was not immediately clear what this mission is, which service members might be involved, or why it is taking place in the nation's capital.

Another clue is that it is to do with something called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility which is the DOD’s version of the “Cone of Silence” (Would you believe…?).

This report from TIME’s The War Zone lays out the logic for why my suspicion over the gold tops being implicated is a good one, and says:

The battalion's primary day-to-day job is providing helicopter airlift support in the greater Washington, D.C. area, which the U.S. government refers to as the National Capital Region (NCR). This can include shuttling senior officials from the Army and other branches of the U.S. military around, as well as members of Congress and visiting foreign dignitaries, depending on the exact mission at hand.

The battalion is also involved in continuity, meaning if we’re nuked, they’re the fleet to fly all the top officials off to safety.

But this is what really got my attention:

What's curious in this case is that Army spokesperson Hall confirmed that the mission that the reprogramming request is referencing is new and has, at most, been ongoing for almost 10 months. This might mean that the Army has expanded its role in the continuity of government plan, or that that planning itself has evolved in some way, but it could also reflect the service taking on an entirely new mission. (Emphasis mine.)

Aside from my wondering about any correlation between those ten months and the increase in chopper traffic generally, there is something else.

Recently, the Pentagon created a video of the dystopian world US military personnel apparently think is imminent. The Gloomy Gus narrator in the piece says explicitly that the military’s future is “urban”. The urban landscapes depicted in this video tend to be from Southeast Asia and Eurasia more than US cities, and quite clearly depicts the stark contrasts between the haves and have nots. It then explicitly warns that the unrest of the have nots will be what threatens Americans.

Let me interrupt myself for a moment to note that this dystopian reality is the natural conclusion of what happens in a world where 90 percent of the global wealth is controlled by one percent of the global population. With this video’s abysmal view of coming wars fought over what it specifically says will be climate-change related scarcity, and other threats, I also would like to note that DOD officials are making the case for my five American states of mind that lead to anxiety and depression if we as individuals don’t protect our minds.

And then, oddly, the narrator states that there will be an urgent need to “drain the swamp” of these so-called have not insurgents from the cities. (Emphasis mine.)

As we said about trigger words earlier, “draining the swamp” is a phrase with a clear meaning. It is a favorite of a certain populist leader. It gives me pause to wonder why the military would also use it.

There are plenty of reasons the military could be preparing for a threat here in DC, including the threat of a North Korean missile, but could the DOD’s preparation for urban danger on American soil be part of the new, classified mission?

This is from the War Zone’s report about the leaked secret mission here in DC, written by Joe Trevithick:

In the past few years, there has been a seeming uptick in U.S. military units, as well as federal law enforcement tactical teams, training or otherwise operating in urban areas within the United States, or at least an increase in people taking notice of these activities.

In July 2015, before POTUS 45 was even elected, Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications assured citizens that the low-flying Black Hawks they were about to see were part of “routine” military exercises. The officials also stated the exercises are happening in other cities, and are designed to prepare military personnel for deployment overseas.  

In Florida, in the Miami-Dade corridor, plenty of military exercises have been underway since as far back as 2012, according to a report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

"The purpose of the exercise is to conduct routine military operations in urban terrain training," said Ken McGraw, public affairs officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command. "It is very common for U.S. Special Operations Command units to conduct training in cities all over the U.S."

But more recently, these missions are happening without warning. In addition to what I have just described, there has been some other recent aberrant US urban military activity, such as C-130s, Black Hawks and Little Birds startling residents in New York City with nocturnal missions; P-8 Poseidon jets flying low while MH-6 Little Birds spook citizens of Los Angeles; and an equally spooky mystery craft trolling Seattle.

And regardless of whether citizens are aware the choppers are coming, here’s what a South Florida witness to a surprise chopper exercise said:

“They never fly that low. This was very low,” said Christine Belleris, who lives in Palm Beach Farms at the southern end of Boca Raton.

That’s my perception of the flight behavior here in DC, too.

Although the FAA data purportedly showed that choppermania was worse under President Obama, enough of us in the Capital Region will tell you that doesn’t line up with our experience.

This, plus the increasingly low flying craft, the rising number of complex exercises day and night in cities nationwide, and the Army’s request to divert funds for a secret DC-based mission makes me think twice when I hear myself and others say that all this noise overhead makes it feel like we’re living in a war zone.

I know the official line is that these are exercises to train for “overseas” missions, but maybe we are we tapping into a possibility of something imminent closer to home because, frankly, something aberrant is happening here at home.

Trevithick lists several ways in which the secret DC mission might be connected with vehicles on the ground. He mentions six newly custom-fitted Special Operations Control Crisis Response Team Ford Roadrunners that are essentially mobile command posts that can coordinate with the choppers. These Roadrunners typically cover presidential motorcades. These six were issued from the White House.

To connect these ground and aircraft is to speculate, of course. Most likely, the parameters of this secret DC mission will remain classified and we will never know its purpose. Hopefully, the GAO’s study, which is set to begin this fall, at least will clarify whether there actually is increased helicopter traffic in DC since POTUS45.

If so, I hope we will get an official explanation for it, particularly since the urban military exercises across the nation do pre-date his election.

Until then, I’ll resist paranoia but I will also resist being told that certain things are all in my head.


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The first series, Washington Remembers, features prominent Washingtonians who were “there” when policies and protocols we take for granted (for good or for ill) were put in place and why.

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Whitney

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