Over the weekend, Operation Red Wings hit its ten year anniversary.
For those who may have forgotten, never heard of it, or are too young to remember, the operation was a capture or kill mission aimed at a Taliban
leader in the Hindu Kush. A four man SEAL team was inserted to locate and identify Ahmad Shah, then direct a larger force for the main effort.
Shortly after insertion, the SEALs were compromised by local Afghans, who presumably reported their location to Shah in the nearby village. Within a
short period of time Taliban forces now believed to have numbered around 50 engaged the SEALs in a coordinated attack. The SEALs fought a running (and
falling down a mountainside) gunbattle, with all four SEALs enduring numerous wounds from small arms, machine gun fire, and RPGs.
After numerous failures to call for help via radio, Lieutenant Mike Murphy moved to an open area to use a satellite phone and was finally able to
relay the "troops in contact" message. A Quick Reaction Force was mounted and flew to the last known position of the SEALs. The Taliban spotted the
inbound helos and shot one down, killing eight SEALs and eight U.S. Army Night Stalkers.
By the end of the battle, three of the four members of the initial SEAL element had been killed and the fourth, Marcus Luttrell was attempting to
escape and evade the remaining Taliban forces before being taken in by local Pashtuns. Luttrell moved seven miles before he was taken in by locals who
provided rudimentary medical care and protected him from the Taliban search parties despite repeated threats to wipe out the village in an effort to
get Luttrell. A village elder undertook a long trek and cab ride to reach the nearest Marine Corps outpost, where he presented the commander with a
note that Luttrell had written. The media reported, variously, that the whole team had been killed, or that some had and some were Missing In Action,
then back to they were all dead once bodies started being recovered. Fellow SEALs, and his own brother who was also a SEAL, comforted his family by
telling them Marcus wasn't dead until a body was found. No body, no dead Marcus.
On this day 10 years ago, Luttrell was digging shrapnel out of his own legs and being moved constantly in an effort to keep the Taliban from attacking
whatever house he was held in. Eventually his Pashtun protector decided the Taliban threat was too great and they had to run for it. As they were
trying to elude Taliban forces, they were found by a combined team of Army Rangers and Special Forces. Luttrell was rescued on July 2nd.
The battle was, at the time, the single largest loss of life for U.S. forces in the war on terror, and the deadliest day for Naval Special Forces
since World War II. Mike Murphy earned the Medal of Honor for his actions. Luttrell, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz were all awarded the Navy Cross
for their actions. When he returned to the U.S., Marcus travelled across the country to meet with each of his fallen teammate's families, telling
each of them he was sorry for not bringing them all home.
I briefly met Marcus a few years ago. He's a pretty quiet guy, but his intensity and resolve is readily apparent even in just a brief meeting. When
he tells his story, his survivor's guilt is equally apparent.
If you care to read more about it, here's a brief summary of the battle from the Navy's website: www.navy.mil...