Skip to comments.Afghan Loss of Seals & CH47: Final Update
Posted on 08/21/2005 7:27:07 AM PDT by StoneGiant
Afghan Loss of Seals & CH47: Final Update
The following was received from my West Point old grad network. The information is not validated, but appears to reflect what I know of operations in Afghanistan.
Afghan Loss of Seals & CH47: Final Update
This tells the story of what happened when the Navy SEALS died in Afghanistan several weeks back. Some of you may have already seen this, but for those who have not it is well worth reading. In the age of emails and blogsites, the soldiers themselves are best at telling the news from the front lines. They are true heroes all of them and the courage and fighting skill shown by all our men and women always amazes me.
-----Original Message----- Subject: Final Update
Hello every one, I am heading home soon. Here is my final update.
Let me start by telling you that I am in excellent health and in good spirits. I apologize for not keeping you informed these last few months but our operational tempo was too high and our operational security did not allow me to share with you what missions we were conducting.
When I return home I hope to sit down and write about our spring offensive here. However I will share with you that my team in Farah captured Mullah Sultan who was a mid level Taliban leader and a target that we had been searching for several months. He is still being interrogated in Afghanistan but should be making the long journey to GITMO (providing it is still open) very soon. I will be home in a couple of weeks and plan to have a party around Labor Day weekend so please mark you calendars because I would love to see you there. This update will be extremely short but I do want to close it by telling you some insight about the SEAL Team and Night Stalker tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago. By now you have heard a lot about what happen but I really want share how significant that event was to the soldiers on the ground here and to explain in my opinion why I feel it is important that all Americans continue the fight for freedom.
Before I explain what happen to the SEALs, I want to thank you all for your prayers, emails, care packages, yard work and all the things that you did for me in my family while I have been deployed. The support from my friend sand neighbors has been incredible and humbling. Your support has helped me to endure this incredibly long year and to concentrate on what I was doing here with minimum worrying about Pam and "A". Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
The Naval Special Forces (NAVSOF) team that was involved in the operation in Kunar Province had been traveling throughout Afghanistan conducting apprehend or kill missions against Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. They had worked with us for two weeks, three weeks before the events on June 28. While working with our teams, they attempted to take out a high value Taliban target and missed him by hours. This operation was conducted in the Zerico Valley which has been one of our hot spots. We provided the outer ring security for the SEALs with Afghan National Army soldiers and ETTs while the SEALs conducted the compound assault.
We missed the big target but did get some mid level guys so the mission was not a total bust. The NAVSOF guys are the best of the best, not cocky simply professionals in every way, we call them operators.
On June 28 a four man SEAL reconnaissance team was trying to locate Taliban in the dense mountainous and forested area of the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. They were trying to identify routes that the bad guys use to enter from Pakistan. The targeting information would be used to direct U.S. and Afghan forces who would interdict and destroy those enemy forces. The SEALs were spotted and engaged by a large force of Taliban some where between 25-50insurgents. The Taliban who are still alive and fighting in Afghanistan are very good combatants. Unlike Iraq Arabs, they are not suicidal and they use good small unit tactics.
The bad guys used Rocket Propel Grenades (RPGs), mortars and small arms to attack the SEALs. The team set up a 360 degree defense and called in Hornet Nest (troops in contact) back to their operational base. The command and control headquarters for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan moved a Predator unmanned drone over the battle location. The SEALs were located by the predator by their locator beacon and the inferred camera system of the drone.
The headquarters could see that the TEAM was encircled by bad guys and that the enemy was too close to the SEALs to use Air force close air support. A weather front was rapidly coming into the area and the SEAL Commander a Lieutenant Commander ask permission to launch his quick reaction force to go rescue his men. The commander of TF 160th (the Night Stalkers) agreed to fly the mission.
The Night Stalkers are the Army's Special Operations air wing. They specialize in high risk insertion and extraction at night. It was not nightfall yet and the command hesitated because sending the special operation birds into the area in the light was very risky. The Generals look at the screen that was giving a live feed of the fire fight, they saw that the SEALs were surrounded, they did not see a way for them to escape, a weather front was coming, it was dusk but not dark yet and time for the trapped men was running out.
Leadership requires having the guts to make a decision, based on analysis and forethought. You must totally recognize the risk and be ready to accept the results. The general in charge made the right call, he had to try to rescue the operators, we as American soldiers cannot leave our people on the battlefield, every Airman, Marine, Sailor, Coast Guardsmen and Soldier has to know that when you go down range and things go wrong keep fighting and help will come.
The decision was made, two CH 47 Pave Hawk helicopters headed toward the SEALs. The CH 47 is a large aircraft but it is fast for a helicopter, able to fly at 170 knots. The aircraft entered the mountains flying at 50 feet above the ground with 16 men aboard. All four SEALs were still alive and fighting an unbelievable battle. As the lead bird approached the landing zone they started to slow down and the air speed dropped under 100 Knots, another group of Taliban, not engaged in the initial firefight but in the area saw the aircraft and open fire with small arms and RPG's.
The lead aircraft was hit by a RPG but the aviator kept the bird in the air. They were in the mountains; therefore there was no clear place to land. He flew for about a mile and saw a ledge that he could try to put the bird down on. The CH 47 landed on the ledge hard, they almost made it. The hard landing and the palpitations of the rotors were too much for the small landing zone and weak ground. It was their time, the aircraft rolled off of the ledge onto its side and down the mountain into the valley below. 8 SEALs and 8aviators from TF 160th were gone.
The other aircraft could not land in the hot landing zone and were called back. There was not enough time to try to secure the area because the weather front moved in and night fall fell. The SEALs kept fighting and used the cover of darkness to crawl out of the initial enemy lines. The SEALs were engaged again and had a running gun battle for over two hours. The SEAL that survived was knocked unconscious by a mortar round and found that he was alone when he woke up. Two of his team members were dead close by, and the last team member was missing.
They had dropped all none essential gear during their escape therefore all contact with them was lost. Eventually the surviving SEAL ran into a villager who took him to his house. That shepherd, at great risk to himself, protected the SEAL until he could be moved six hours away to the nearest U.S. forces that the villager was aware of.
The loss of the operators really broke the hearts of all us deployed downrange. Losing men of that quality and dedication is bad enough one at a time, but to lose so many, so fast was hard to comprehend. But after the shock had worn off and we got the true story of what happen we took solace. You see every one did what they supposed to on that day, the SEAL recon team kept fighting, the SEAL commander went to get his shipmates, the Night Stalkers volunteered to fly in to harms way to rescue their brothers in arms and the generals had the guts to make the right decision. That is all you can ask for out here, it is what it is and everything else is god's will.
I have had the pleasure of serving with some unbelievable men and woman in the last year. Folks from 18 to 59 (yes 59). It has been an honor.
I really appreciated America before I came to Afghanistan but this
experience has truly opened my eyes to how bless my life has been. Folks I know this is a clich?, but freedom is not free. Embrace it, respect it and don't ever stop fighting for it. These people over here are far from free, but we have given them a taste of it. We need to ensure that we don't give up the fight because to do so would be to dishonor all the men and woman who have died to ensure we remain free.
Freedom is contagious, with it, out goes tyranny. The evil people that attacked America on September 11th were not free because if they were, they would not have cared what another's persons beliefs are they would simply accept them for what they are and moved on.
Please continue to pray for all the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, don't stop praying for me because I am still here, and your prayers have been working so keep it up, I don't want to mess up a good thing. I will be home soon, god bless you all, god bless America and thanks again, goodbye.
Wow. Thanks for posting.
Wow. Thanks for posting.