ARIA Held Hostage It   was   supposed   to   be   a   typical   mission   to Ascension   Island   in   the   South Atlantic.   It   would   take   2 days   to   reach   the   island   by   aircraft.   The   mission   would   require   a   lay   over   in   Paramaribo, Suriname, South America. We would never make it to Ascension Island. I   was   a   United   States   Air   Force   Sergeant   attached   to   the   4950th   Test   Wing   at   Wright-Patterson Air   Force   Base,   Dayton,   Ohio.   I   worked   with   the Advanced   Range   Instrumentation Aircraft, ARIA, program   as   a   prime   mission   electronic   equipment   operator   and   was   affectionately   called   a PMEE.   Our   mission   was   to   acquire,   track,   and   record   data   from   airborne   vehicles,   including weapons,   from   governments   and   private   corporations.   The   Advanced   Range   Instrumentation Aircraft   allowed   us   to   go   anywhere   in   the   world   to   accomplish   this   mission.   My   job   on   the   aircraft was   to   acquire   and   track   these   airborne   vehicles.   I   have   had   my   share   of   missions   staged   from Ascension Island. It   was   late   on   Sunday,   February   24,   1980,   that   I   arrived   at   Paramaribo,   Suriname   en-root   to Ascension   Island   on   aircraft   60-0374.   It   was   even   later   when   I   arrived   at   the   hotel   with   the   rest   of the   crew.   It   was   just   past   midnight   when   Neil   Hendricks,   the   aircraft’s   radio   operator,   and   I, headed   out   to   find   some   excitement.   We   found   it   just   after   2   am   with   the   sound   of   small   arms fire.   This   was   not   a   single   shot   that   was   heard   but   the   sounds   of   many   rounds   being   fired. After the   initial   gunfire,   all   was   well   and   we   continued   our   quest   for   excitement.   It   was   about   4:30   am by   the   time   we   arrived   back   at   the   hotel,   we   didn’t   want   to   miss   the   transportation   to   the   airport. As   night   was   turning   into   day,   the   sound   of   machine   guns   firing   filled   the   air. A   few   moments   later the   sound   of   artillery   rounds   being   fired   and   then   hitting   their   target   drowned   out   the   sounds   of the   machine   guns.   I   headed   across   the   hall   into   the   room   of   Gil   Siefert,   the   aircraft’s   System Analyst,   and   through   his   window   was   able   to   view   the   destruction   of   a   block   of   buildings.   Being up   near   the   top   of   the   hotel   made   it   possible   to   view   the   city   and   the   crowds   of   people   running through   the   streets   evading   heavily   armed   military.   I   ran   back   into   the   room   when   gunfire   from the   streets   passed   so   ever   close   to   my   head.   Hours   passed   and   the   city   became   quiet   and   all signs of life disappeared from the street. In   the   mean   time,   communication   with   the   US   embassy   was   made   with   a   goal   to   get   all   of   us   out of   the   country   unharmed. Any   time   that   we   traveled   to   a   foreign   country   it   was   mandated   that   we donned   civilian   clothes   before   we   left   the   aircraft.   The   ARIA   aircraft   did   not   display   “United States   Air   Force”   on   its   exterior.   It   instead   displayed   “United   States   of   America”.   This   distinction was   shared   with   only   a   few   military   aircraft,   Air   Force   One   and   a   few   others.   We   also   had   the distinction   of   having   no   way   to   protect   the   aircraft   and   ourselves   even   if   we   could   make   it   back   to the airport. It   was   mid   afternoon   before   we   could   attempt   to   return   to   the   airport. The   crews   loaded   up   into   a bus   and   then   we   proceeded   to   the   airport   following   a   vehicle   from   the American   embassy.   When we   arrived   at   the   airport   the   Surinamese   army   welcomed   us.   The   aircraft   commander   was forced   to   the   ground   and   then   a   gun   was   placed   to   the   back   of   his   head.   The   funny   thing   was   I wasn’t   worried   about   him   at   all,   I   knew   if   they   shot   him   that   I   was   dead.   It   didn’t   seem   real,   time stood   still.   After   what   seemed   to   be   an   hour   the   aircraft   commander   was   allowed   to   get   up   and tensions   seemed   to   subside.   We   were   then   allowed   to   make   our   way   to   the   aircraft. To   this   day   I don’t   remember   making   the   walk   from   the   bus   to   the   aircraft.   The   aircraft   was   located   on   the tarmac   a   substantial   distance   from   the   gate.   Somehow   being   back   at   the   aircraft   provided   a feeling of security, a security that was short lived. It   wasn’t   but   a   few   moments   after   arriving   at   the   aircraft   that   a   military   truck   pulled   up.   The heavily   armed   soldiers   pointed   their   guns   at   us   and   flagged   us   to   get   into   the   truck. At   this   point my   mind   was   racing   with   uncontrolled   thoughts   of   how   I   was   going   to   get   to   the   tree   line   without being   killed.   I   was   trying   to   figure   out   what   I   was   going   to   do   after   I   reached   the   tree   line   when reality   struck.   It   must   have   been   our   arrogance   of   who   we   were,   men   of   the   United   States   Air Force   from   the   United   States,   which   drove   all   of   us   to   refuse   their   demand.   I   sincerely   think   that they   were   surprised   and   stunned   at   our   response.   In   unison   we   told   them   “No”.   They   looked   at us,   then   the   aircraft.   I   believe   there   was   only   one   reason   that   they   didn’t   kill   us   or   force   us   to   get into   the   truck.   It   was   those   four   words   painted   on   the   side   of   the   aircraft,   “United   States   of America”. All   of   the   three Advanced   Range   Instrumentation Aircraft   were   eventually   cleared   to   take   off   and we   returned   to   the   states   via   Patrick   Air   Force   Base   Florida,   our   mission   scrapped   and   63   very anxious   crew   members.   The   first   thing   I   did   after   arriving   back   in   the   states   was   to   call   my parents   to   keep   them   from   worrying.   They   weren’t   worried,   they   never   heard   the   news   of   the coup   in   Suriname   and   that   USAF   personnel   were   caught   up   in   the   middle   of   it.   In   fact   only   a small   hand   full   of   people   heard   the   news.   This   was   the   first   time   in   my   life   I   realized   that   there are   events   that   happen   that   the   public   are   not   made   aware   of.   We   made   our   way   back   to   Wright- Patterson   Air   Force   Base   in   the   days   following   the   coup.   I   cannot   recall   a   single   conversation taking place about the events of Suriname after we arrived back home. We   were   lucky,   oh   so   very   lucky.   We   survived   a   situation   that   could   have   proved   deadly   to   all   of us.   We   later   returned   to Ascension   Island   that   year,   and   in   the   months   that   followed,   performed our missions as though the events of Suriname never happened. Staff Sergeant Randy L. Losey Antenna Control Operator ARIA 60-0374 Proud to have been a PMEE
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ARIA Held Hostage It   was   supposed   to   be   a   typical   mission   to   Ascension Island   in   the   South   Atlantic.   It   would   take   2   days   to reach   the   island   by   aircraft.   The   mission   would   require a   lay   over   in   Paramaribo,   Suriname,   South   America. We would never make it to Ascension Island. I   was   a   United   States   Air   Force   Sergeant   attached   to the    4950th    Test    Wing    at    Wright-Patterson   Air    Force Base,   Dayton,   Ohio.   I   worked   with   the Advanced   Range Instrumentation    Aircraft,    ARIA,    program    as    a    prime mission     electronic     equipment     operator     and     was affectionately    called    a    PMEE.    Our    mission    was    to acquire,   track,   and   record   data   from   airborne   vehicles, including    weapons,    from    governments    and    private corporations.    The    Advanced    Range    Instrumentation Aircraft    allowed    us    to    go    anywhere    in    the    world    to accomplish   this   mission.   My   job   on   the   aircraft   was   to acquire   and   track   these   airborne   vehicles.   I   have   had my share of missions staged from Ascension Island. It   was   late   on   Sunday,   February   24,   1980,   that   I   arrived at   Paramaribo,   Suriname   en-root   to   Ascension   Island on   aircraft   60-0374.   It   was   even   later   when   I   arrived   at the   hotel   with   the   rest   of   the   crew.   It   was   just   past midnight    when    Neil    Hendricks,    the    aircraft’s    radio operator,   and   I,   headed   out   to   find   some   excitement. We   found   it   just   after   2   am   with   the   sound   of   small   arms fire.   This   was   not   a   single   shot   that   was   heard   but   the sounds    of    many    rounds    being    fired.   After    the    initial gunfire,   all   was   well   and   we   continued   our   quest   for excitement.    It    was    about    4:30    am    by    the    time    we arrived   back   at   the   hotel,   we   didn’t   want   to   miss   the transportation   to   the   airport.   As   night   was   turning   into day,   the   sound   of   machine   guns   firing   filled   the   air.   A few   moments   later   the   sound   of   artillery   rounds   being fired    and    then    hitting    their    target    drowned    out    the sounds   of   the   machine   guns.   I   headed   across   the   hall into    the    room    of    Gil    Siefert,    the    aircraft’s    System Analyst,   and   through   his   window   was   able   to   view   the destruction   of   a   block   of   buildings.   Being   up   near   the top   of   the   hotel   made   it   possible   to   view   the   city   and   the crowds   of   people   running   through   the   streets   evading heavily   armed   military.   I   ran   back   into   the   room   when gunfire   from   the   streets   passed   so   ever   close   to   my head.   Hours   passed   and   the   city   became   quiet   and   all signs of life disappeared from the street. In   the   mean   time,   communication   with   the   US   embassy was   made   with   a   goal   to   get   all   of   us   out   of   the   country unharmed.    Any    time    that    we    traveled    to    a    foreign country   it   was   mandated   that   we   donned   civilian   clothes before   we   left   the   aircraft.   The   ARIA   aircraft   did   not display    “United    States    Air    Force”    on    its    exterior.    It instead    displayed    “United    States    of    America”.    This distinction   was   shared   with   only   a   few   military   aircraft, Air    Force    One    and    a    few    others.    We    also    had    the distinction   of   having   no   way   to   protect   the   aircraft   and ourselves even if we could make it back to the airport. It   was   mid   afternoon   before   we   could   attempt   to   return to   the   airport.   The   crews   loaded   up   into   a   bus   and   then we   proceeded   to   the   airport   following   a   vehicle   from   the American   embassy.   When   we   arrived   at   the   airport   the Surinamese      army      welcomed      us.      The      aircraft commander   was   forced   to   the   ground   and   then   a   gun was   placed   to   the   back   of   his   head.   The   funny   thing was   I   wasn’t   worried   about   him   at   all,   I   knew   if   they   shot him   that   I   was   dead.   It   didn’t   seem   real,   time   stood   still. After     what     seemed     to     be     an     hour     the     aircraft commander    was    allowed    to    get    up    and    tensions seemed   to   subside.   We   were   then   allowed   to   make   our way   to   the   aircraft. To   this   day   I   don’t   remember   making the   walk   from   the   bus   to   the   aircraft.   The   aircraft   was located   on   the   tarmac   a   substantial   distance   from   the gate.   Somehow   being   back   at   the   aircraft   provided   a feeling of security, a security that was short lived. It   wasn’t   but   a   few   moments   after   arriving   at   the   aircraft that    a    military    truck    pulled    up.    The    heavily    armed soldiers   pointed   their   guns   at   us   and   flagged   us   to   get into   the   truck.   At   this   point   my   mind   was   racing   with uncontrolled   thoughts   of   how   I   was   going   to   get   to   the tree   line   without   being   killed.   I   was   trying   to   figure   out what   I   was   going   to   do   after   I   reached   the   tree   line when   reality   struck.   It   must   have   been   our   arrogance   of who   we   were,   men   of   the   United   States   Air   Force   from the   United   States,   which   drove   all   of   us   to   refuse   their demand.   I   sincerely   think   that   they   were   surprised   and stunned   at   our   response.   In   unison   we   told   them   “No”. They   looked   at   us,   then   the   aircraft.   I   believe   there   was only   one   reason   that   they   didn’t   kill   us   or   force   us   to   get into   the   truck.   It   was   those   four   words   painted   on   the side of the aircraft, “United States of America”. All    of    the    three    Advanced    Range    Instrumentation Aircraft    were    eventually    cleared    to    take    off    and    we returned    to    the    states    via    Patrick    Air    Force    Base Florida,    our    mission    scrapped    and    63    very    anxious crew   members. The   first   thing   I   did   after   arriving   back   in the   states   was   to   call   my   parents   to   keep   them   from worrying.   They   weren’t   worried,   they   never   heard   the news   of   the   coup   in   Suriname   and   that   USAF   personnel were   caught   up   in   the   middle   of   it.   In   fact   only   a   small hand   full   of   people   heard   the   news.   This   was   the   first time    in    my    life    I    realized    that    there    are    events    that happen    that    the    public    are    not    made    aware    of.    We made   our   way   back   to   Wright-Patterson Air   Force   Base in   the   days   following   the   coup.   I   cannot   recall   a   single conversation   taking   place   about   the   events   of   Suriname after we arrived back home. We    were    lucky,    oh    so    very    lucky.    We    survived    a situation   that   could   have   proved   deadly   to   all   of   us.   We later   returned   to   Ascension   Island   that   year,   and   in   the months    that    followed,    performed    our    missions    as though the events of Suriname never happened. Staff Sergeant Randy L. Losey Antenna Control Operator ARIA 60-0374 Proud to have been a PMEE