I often say that I was honored to serve with heroes. When I say that, Chief Carlson always comes to mind.
STUTTGART, GERMANY - FALL OF 2003 - A buddy from the old days back in Okinawa was passing through town; I ran into him when he dropped by the unit to check in. He had sad news: Chief Carlson was Killed In Action, Afghanistan. The news hit me like a kick in the gut.
Chief had recently retired out of "The Unit" at Bragg and had gone to work for the Central Intelligence Agency in the clandestine Directorate of Operations. While on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Chief encountered some of his old buddies and reportedly told them that contracting with The Company wasn't everything it was cut out to be, that he wanted to get back in the Army, go back to the Squadrons. He was told that this can be done. Fine, Chief said, but first he had to finish out this contract.
Chief was operaing out of a small place called FireBase Puchi Gar (Pastun for "Dog Shit") up in Konar province. On Saturday October 25, 2003, Chief Carlson and another CIA contractor, Christopher Glenn Mueller, were killed during an ambush while tracking terrorists near Shkin, Afghanistan.
According to (then) Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, both men saved the lives of others during the ambush. "Chris and Chief put the lives of others ahead of their own. That is heroism defined." He continued; "Their sacrifice was not in vain . . . two remarkable young men who died fighting a pitiless enemy in a remote, rugged place."
The circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths of these two individuals were such that CIA determined their names could be released without compromising ongoing operations or any current intelligence activities. The Agency decision was also made after consulting with the officers' families.
I served with Chief in C Co, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa; he was the quintessential 'Quiet Professional'. A remarkable warrior and one of the toughest men I've ever known, Chief was famous for not wearing socks in his jungle boots, even during ruck marches if you can imagine that.
After our time in Oki and adventures in Thailand and the Philippines, Chief moved on to serve in 1st Special Operations Detachment - Delta. As a member of Delta Force, Chief participated in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. Chief retired from the Army in 2003, took on an employment with the CIA, and deployed almost immediately to Afghanistan.
Chief Carlson is represented by one of the stars on the CIA's Memorial Wall at Langley, but he is not mentioned on the official USASOC Wall of Fallen Heroes - when in fact he should be - because technically he was no longer in USASOC when he fell in action. From what I understand, Delta Force properly honors Chief next to the other fallen brothers of SFOD-D.
Chief’s real name was Isinamakan (Ee-seen-ah-MAH-kan); Takes Rifle Ahead. A full-blooded Blackfeet Indian, Chief’s skill and courage as a modern day warrior brought great honor to his people and to his ancestors.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
from For The Fallen, by Laurence Binyon