An Army helicopter pilot and a police chaplain will talk about their unforgettable experiences when they speak in Altoona later this month.
They also will talk about God and how a relationship with him has made a difference in their lives.
Pilot Jeff Niklaus of State College will talk about serving in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment when he became part of a mission in Somalia that later inspired the movie "Black Hawk Down."
(Courtesy photo) Jeff Niklaus, a former Army helicopter pilot, took part in the 1993 mission in Somalia that inspired the book and movie, “Black Hawk Down.”
Niklaus was among those assigned Oct. 3, 1993, to capture two lieutenants of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu, Somalia. The mission was to take 30 minutes but turned into a two-day nightmare when the Somalias fought back.
At the time, it was the bloodiet battle involving U.S. troops since Vietnam.
The Rev. Jack Koslowsky, a former drill sergent and Camden, N.J., police officer, will talk about his experiences at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
At the time, he was a chaplain for the Medford, N.J., police department. He and four other officers went to New York City to assist the police after the attacks.
They are two of the speakers for Awake 2011, a conference sponsored by the Lighthouse Men's Fellowship of Altoona.
The third speaker is Pastor Doug Abbey, who pastors a growing church in Milan, Pa., that started with 17 people and now has more than 100 members.
Awake 2011 will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Jaffa Shrine Center. Cost is $10 if tickets are purchased at the Lighthouse, Bloom and Woomer roads, or $12 at www.Awake2011.com
Niklaus, 49, of State College said he will talk about the spiritual applications of three lessons he learned from the humanitarian Operation Gothic Serpent that resulted in the loss of life of 19 soldiers and at least several hundred Somalians.
Now a Geisinger Medical Center Life Flight helicopter pilot, he made a career out of the Army and also served in Afghanistan and Iraq, retiring in 2006.
He never intended to speak about his experiences, but now gives a talk about once a month. He has taken his story as far west as California and as far south as Louisiana.
Niklaus was first asked to speak in 2007 only three days after he had moved central Pennsylania. The ROTC program at Penn State University needed a guest speaker for its POW-MIA remembrance day after a state senator canceled his appearance.
He said after he gave his talk, "God impressed upon me to give my testimony. That's where I started."
Niklaus said he gives his talks so others can find their strength in God and how they can have a relationship with God.
Niklaus graduated from in Hughesville High School in 1979, became a Christian at age 19 and joined the military at age 25. He said although he had made a commitment to Christ, he let his selfishness get in the way for a time.
"God was there, but I was going on a wrong path," he said.
"It was like trying to live with on foot in the world and one foot in God's will.
"God requires total devotion. "There is no room for compromise."
He said Awake 2011 is a call for men to stand up and be accountable, and apathy is one of the biggest problems.
'America "needs prayer, not politics and repentance and revival, not revolt and revolution," Niklaus said.
Koslowsky of Wilmington, Del., is an ordained Baptist pastor and chaplain for the Chief of Police Association in Burlington County, N.J.
He remembers being at Ground Zero with four other policeman from Medford when someone noticed his chaplain's cap.
The New York City firefighters had lost their chaplain in the attacks, and the captain of New York's police department assigned him to the fire department.
"It was my first day working for the fire department," Koslowsky said.
That night, he was assigned to the makeshift morque set up in the lobby of a building where firefighters were looking for family and friends. Koslowsky said because the attacks came at a shift change, many who were ending their day or beginning their day died. He said one firefighter lost his whole battalion.
And although policemen can be close, Koslowsky said firefighters are even closer to their fellow workers.
"They live together, sleep together and work together," he said. "The grief was so intense."
Koslowsky said so many people went to work that day not realizing that it would be their last.
Addressing the Awake 2011 theme, he said, "America has forgotten everything. There were standards when I was a kid. There was a church on every corner and it was God, country and family."
He said men need to take leadership roles and give direction to their families.
Koslowsky said he is excited about what God is going to do at Awake 2011. He said he spoke at the Lighthouse Men's Fellowship (held at 7 a.m. Saturdays) a few weeks while visiting his daughter Krissie, son-in-law Ben and grandson Joshua Boyes, who live in Altoona.
He said he sees churches coming together and working together on the conference and talking about God.
Chuck Dreese, Lighthouse chairman, said he felt impressed to organize Awake 2011 about a year ago and consulted with Lighthouse founder Dick Barr at that time. Barr died of cancer in December.
Dreese said the goal of the conference is to honor Jesus, for men would trust him as their Savior and for men from different church backgrounds to worship God in unity.
He believes that if men's lives are changed, they can change their households and in turn the
Dreese said men are being asked to bring a friend to the event and groups such as the men in the Salvation Army program have been invited. Information has also been given to more than 600 churches in Cambria, Blair and Centre counties as well as groups for teens such as The Door in Bellwood, Joshua House in Tyrone and Young Life in Hollidaysburg.
"It's important for young men to see older men in that environment," Dreese said.
Dreese said the theme for the conference applies to all men and that an awakening is occurring across America.
He said he was praying about a name for the conference several months ago when the word "awake" kept coming to mind. He said when he told praise and worship leader Gary Nouse about it, Nouse said contemporary Christian artist Chris Tomlin has a song called "Awakening" that he kept hearing in his head.
The theme is tied to Romans 13: 11-12: "The hour is come ... wake from sleep ... put on the armor of light."
"Something awesome is coming to Altoona," Koslowsky said. "Keep your eyes open for what God does out there. You will see changes in a lot of men."