View Full Version : Letter From Downed Pilot's Brother

04-08-2007, 02:33 PM
Letter From Downed Pilot's Brother
Dan Laguna, Brother of Art Laguna Tells Story of Blackwater Crash

From Dan Laguna, Brother of downed Blackwater pilot, Art Laguna

"First of all my brother is and was a HERO. All he ever wanted to do from the time I can remember as a child, was he wanted to fly. He became one of the most professional pilots you could have ever known. I recruited my brother to join us with Blackwater Aviation. We get a lot of resumes but only a few have the qualifications to join us. This is one of the most demanding jobs in Iraq. The military flies some every day but we in Blackwater Aviation are up flying in the RED zone every day all day.

To get to your question of what happened, I got a call that we had some of our Blackwater PSD teams in contact and needed help. We are the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for just about everyone. The military takes too long to respond because of the approval they have to get all the way up the chain of command. I am the only one that makes the decision to go or not and we always go when someone is in harm's way. I sent out two helicopters to help our team in contact. After they were on station for a very short time they began to receive automatic fire. One of my door gunners was shot immediately in the head. Both helicopters flew back to the Green zone to get him to the hospital.

I was monitoring the radio and knew we had at lest one wounded. I got my crew together and and my brother's crew then went back out to help our PSD team. When we arrived at their location which only took about three minutes, we started to receive heavy volumes of automatic fire from all around..

My brother was my wing man at that point and as we took evasive maneuvers I heard him they were taking rounds. By the time I got turned around to see him he was gone.

As I continued to look for his helicopter we were also shot down. I was able to land the helicopter in a small courtyard. I shut down the helicopter to assess the damage and to make sure my crew was ok. My crew was fine and the helicopter was shot up pretty bad but was able to fly the three to five minutes back to the Green zone.

I needed to get my crew out of that area because it would have been only a few minutes before the insurgents would have gotten to us. After I got back to our area I had the mechanics put on three more rotor blades and went back out to find my brother and his crew. It only took them about ten to fifteen minutes to get me airborne again. I was back up looking for my brother and was able to get the military to help with search.

It took about twenty minutes to locate the helicopter. It had been shot down in a small ally which made it very difficult to locate. By the time we found the helicopter two of the bodies were dragged out and into the street. The Army and our PSD team got there just in time before they could do anything with them.

I landed at that location so I could make sure they were my guys. When I unzipped the second body bag that the Army had already put them in, I found my brother.

I was told by the ground guys that they would get them all back to the Green zone. I walked back to my running helicopter, jumped in and flew back to the Green Zone. I then realized I had to make a very difficult call to my brother's wife. I did everything I could to let her know he did not suffer and how very sorry that I was. Later that night I was asked to go to the hospital to ID my guys. Latter at the hospital the US Ambassador showed up to talk with me.

I am only telling you this story because I don't believe the media really tells the public about these heroes and I wonder if civilians really believe in what we are doing over here. I know we are doing the right thing in helping the Iraqi people and wish everyone could understand that.

May God bless the men and woman here and their families.
Dan Laguna,

Blackwater Aviation Program Manager,
Baghdad, Iraq

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