In a scene from Lone Survivor shortly after

one of the two MH-47 Chinook helicopters crashed,

a soldier on the second helicopter pulls a gun on his own pilot, telling him to land despite the area clearly being a hot landing zone with a lot of gun fire and other helicopter and soldier threatening ordnance.

Viewing it from a practical standpoint, killing one of the pilots of the helicopter you are on is not a very smart decision. Adding to that the legal repercussions only makes things worse.

On the other hand the whole operation was unquestionably an intense matter for the soldiers involved, so such a move could also be attributed to being overwhelmed by stress and fear. Then again the soldier most likely is a DEVGRU operator, so this excuse might have no merit.

I can only assume that this is a case of artistic license to heighten the drama. But hypothetically, would such a snap be tolerated by any branch of the United States Armed Forces? By tolerated I mean minor or no impact on career and/or criminal record.

Generally the answer probably is no, but I am interested if there are loopholes for special soldiers or circumstances.


There is a chain of command for following orders. If the pilot was ordered by a General to land in a specific area unless the area became hot, and a soldier forced the pilot to land in a hot zone, then the soldier would definitely be reprimanded while the pilot would be cleared due to a) the situation was life or death, and b) the situation arose by being forced to disobey the General's order in favor of a subordinate's order.

  • But does the was someone was forced to disobey orders play a role? Because I think there is a difference between just using very convincing words vs. holding someone at gunpoint.
    – pat3d3r
    Jun 26 '19 at 19:43
  • I've got limited knowledge of Military Tribunals, but I think if someone is holding a gun to your head and it's either disobey the General or get shot, you're not held liable for disobeying the General under duress. Jun 26 '19 at 20:09
  • I think there is a litte confusion here, I am talking about the actions of the soldier, not the pilot.
    – pat3d3r
    Jun 27 '19 at 12:37
  • 1
    Ahhh. Well, the answer is still legit. Orders are orders, and deviating from them comes with consequences. He forced others into a dangerous situation. This not only involves risking lives, but millions of dollars of equipment. Helicopters aren't cheap! At a minimum that would cost you a rank, if not a full-out Dishonorable Discharge. Jun 27 '19 at 13:08
  • @pat3d3r a lot of it hinges on what their actual orders were. The "unless the area became hot" isn't a reliable assumption. If implementing your ordered mission requires landing in a hot zone, then so be it, "they're shooting there and I might get killed" isn't a sufficient reason to refuse doing things in the military; and it can be justified to pull a gun on a pilot so that they keep on executing the order instead of cowardly refusing to avoid risking their life - I mean, the death penalty is considered legally appropriate for cowardice (law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/899).
    – Peteris
    Jul 26 '19 at 21:30

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