In this episode of The Spear, MWI Deputy Director Maj. John Spencer speaks to Col. Phil Ryan, the commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the US military’s most elite aviation unit.

In 2003, Ryan was a pilot in the unit. On March 26, at the very beginning of the invasion of Iraq, he took part in a mission that involved fourteen aircraft targeting a facility deep inside Iraq, further than any coalition ground forces had yet made it. As Chinooks and Blackhawks landed US special operations forces, the aircraft began taking fire. As an intense firefight broke out, Ryan and the other elite aviators flew low over the target, they fired on the enemy forces, using the helicopters’ various weapons and even flying low and engaging single targets with their own M-4 rifles.

Listen to the full story of that mission below, and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.