The National Guard Thought This Weird Sex Tape Was a Good Example of Surveillance Gear
Official manual features still from viral video
by JOSEPH TREVITHICK
“That’s a chick,” someone says over the radio.
“Ah, roger,” comes a response.
A U.S. Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter has stumbled upon a couple having sex in the back of a convertible. The small scout helicopter is out on a routine training mission around the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana.
“What’s she doing?” one person, possibly one of the chopper’s two-man crew, asks.
“She’s going up and down on him,” the other declares, based on the video coming from the Kiowa’s infrared camera.
Filmed in 2005 — at least based on metadata of my copy — the clip quickly spread across the internet and is still readily available. Eight years later, the National Guard included a still image from the video as an example of the OH-58’s surveillance gear.
In 2013, the National Guard Bureau published the third edition of its Incident Awareness and Assessment Handbook. War Is Boring obtained a copy of the unclassified document through the Freedom of Information Act.
The guide has brief descriptions of what the National Guard’s functions are and what surveillance tools are available during a national emergency. There are various checklists and sample forms explaining how to work through official procedures.
“Incident awareness information assists authorities in responding to disasters to save lives, mitigate suffering, minimize serious property damage, and protect vital infrastructure,” the manual’s foreword explains. “All … capabilities must be legally employed in accordance with federal policies on intelligence oversight and handling of U.S. persons information.”
On top of that, there is information on what other U.S. government agencies offer in terms of surveillance gear. Beyond going to the Pentagon or Department of Homeland Security for help, the National Guard might call on the Civil Air Patrol, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, if necessary.
All of these organizations have aircraft and drones fitted with various cameras and other sensors. Depending on the type of gear, the video or still pictures might show very different information.
“Each contingency has some nuances that will drive variations in the methodology for building an … operational plan,” the manual notes. “Certain sensors and platforms are better employed under specific circumstances.”
Charts show what planes and equipment might be best to keep watch over everything from terrorist attacks to volcanic eruptions. Sample images give a sense of what one might expect to see with each of these airborne surveillance systems.
The OH-58 entry has two accompanying pictures. The chopper’s infrared cameras can present hotter areas in “white” and colder areas in varying shades of gray to black — or vice versa.
The “white hot” still appears to show troops or police taking up positions outside a building. The “black hot” image is clearly a screenshot from the infamous Fort Polk video.
To be fair, the awkward sex tape — seen in full below — does feature both of the Kiowa Warrior’s camera modes.
“Oh, there we go,” someone says as the crew alternates between the two options.
“Turn it back to ‘white hot!’” another individual exclaims.
However, the pictures might not have been representative of all of the National Guard’s Kiowas. By 2013, the Army National Guard units had a mix of A, C and D versions.
As part of the so-called War on Drugs, in 1992, the Army National Guard created special helicopter units with modified OH-58A and C versions. Unlike the Kiowa Warrior’s distinctive top-mounted sight, these early “RAID” choppers — standing for “reconnaissance and aerial interdiction detachment” — came with a different type of camera underneath the fuselage.
The handbook does not make any distinctions in the OH-58 section, which appears to describe the RAID version only. A table of basic aircraft characteristics gives the top speed for the OH-58A rather than the D.
According to guide, these drug-fighting Kiowas could capture traditional, color footage in the day or infrared images at night. In addition, the choppers could transmit their video feeds wirelessly to command centers or troops on the ground up to 20 miles away.
With this data link, individuals back at base had the option to record the films for future review. From there, National Guard units could share the videos through various online portals. At least initially, each RAID helicopter had an VCR on board to save footage, too.
It’s still not clear whether images from a RAID chopper’s camera would look exactly like the old sex tape. By January 2016, the issue was moot.
In 2015, the National Guard stopped flying OH-58s of any type. The rest of the Army is on track to completely scrap the fleet by the end of 2017.