Thursday, January 16, 2014

LONE SURVIVOR Debacle - Is Anyone Being Held Responsible?

Going out on a limb here but this is the word on the street. I wasn't going to say anything about this but at the insistence of a MARSOF SGM I've worked with and for whom I have a great deal of respect, here goes . . . S.L.

Operation Red Wing took place in the Pech District of Afghanistan's Kunar Province, on the slopes of a mountain named Sawtalo Sar, approximately 20 miles west of the provincial capital Asadabad, in June-July 2005. The goal of Operation Red Wings was the disruption of Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) activity in the region in order to further aid the stabilization efforts of the region for the upcoming September 18, 2005 Afghan National Parliamentary Elections. At the time, Anti-Coalition Militia activity in the region was carried out most notably by a small group led by a local man from Nangarhar Province, Ahmad Shah, who had aspirations of regional Islamic fundamentalist prominence - NOT al Qaeda, not even NOT Taliban. Ahmad Shah and his small group were among the primary targets of the operation.

Marcus Luttrell and Matt Axelson seen here with Patton and Suh, both KIA as part of the QRF.

Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions in the 2005 operation. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The operation utilized special operations forces (SOF) units and assets, including US Navy SEALs and the US Army Special Operations Command's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). A team of four Navy SEALs, tasked for surveillance and reconnaissance of a group of structures known to be used by Ahmad Shah and his men. The SEALs, led by LT Michael Murphy (Marcus was the Corpsman) were compromised by a group of young goatherders just hours after inserting by fastrope from an MH-47 helicopter in the area - at this point discussions amongst the team included "Should we kill the goatherders?"

The SEALs let the goatherders go and were subsequently ambushed by Shah and his group. Three of the four SEALs were killed and a quick reaction force helicopter sent in for their aid was shot down with an RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade, killing all eight Navy SEALs and all eight US Army Special Operations aviators on board.

Questions being asked at all levels within the community: Why didn't the SEALs have a plan for on-call Tac Air? Why did they go in with mbiter radios - the smallest least effective radio comms available -(straight line-of-sight FM). The most basic rule of combat is shoot, move and communicate. Why didn't the SEALs cank the mission the minute they realized there was no comm's to the rear, and why did they not move to a pre-designated emergency exfil site? THESE ARE THE MOST BASIC OF PLANNING PRINCIPLES.

Nineteen special operators dead; why aren't the mission planners who prepared and launched this SEAL debacle being held accountable for this unnecessary loss of life? 100% casualties on a very low priority mission somehow equate into a box office hit . . . go figure. There is truly something to be said for the SEAL public relations machine. Instead of being relived of command, fired and possibly prosecuted for criminal negligence they are being promoted and given decorations for exemplary service . . . just like Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize . . . the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross have just been down graded into PR vehicle status.

Convicted felon Mark Wahlberg illegaly handles firearms starring as Marcus Lutrell in the film Lone Survivor.

Simple analysis would debunk Luttrell's sentiment; "My only regret is we didn't kill the goatherders." The whole issue of whether or not to kill the goatherders should have been addressed during the planning phase, prior to infil. What would that have accomplished? What would you that done with the hundred-odd goats? How would you have stopped the goats from finding their way back to the village WITHOUT their human counterparts? The fact of the matter is they were without comm's before being compromised - why stick around on a reconnaissance mission if you can't communicate back to higher?

These are my sentiments going back decades before this mission ever took place, based on earlier debacles in Grenada & Panama. Can anybody deny that this mission is yet another episode of SEAL incompetence? The joke is that SEAL stands for "Sleep-Eat & Lift" - SEALs do heroic PT and they might be great in the water but they simply do not understand the basics of ground combat.

That's what I have to say about it - what say you?



  1. Individual SEALs - well trained and superb fighters. The bureaucrats -regardless of training - that send them into harms way, probably not so much, more concerned with 'career enhancement' than mission accomplishment. Add politicians (of any stripe) into the mix and you get a recipe for disaster. (can you say 'Extortion 17?)
    You bring up valid points regarding an amorphous (at best) mission and extremely poor contingency planning - much like Mogadishu - (especially proper resources) and totally ignoring the Murphy factor. End result - the troops pay the price while the bureaucrats wring their hands and usually get promoted. After all, they did the best they could doncha know................

    1. Simple, if somethings fishy and not right. Somethings definitely not right. I felt the same way. What where the plans if lost comms? If theu past the two check in? Oh lets sit with our thumbs up our asses. It the begining they had a C 130 Gunship shadow them for 6 hrs or more. If they lost comms they could get the C130 back on deck to have eyes on the Seals, or or at least spin. up the Attach Helicopters to check on them. If your comms arent working go back to the last peak where you had comms where you didnt have a good los on the village, of thats what they actually did. Its Like Axelsons wife said in an interview when she finally spoke. She said that Lutrells story is different, it confised her from hearing one thing to another and she just said "I dont know" I just heard too many different stories. You know what Police officers say when they arrest three people and all there stories are different. SOMEONES LYING!!! I just hope this is the truth, because if it isnt it tarnishes the uniforms of every soldier that has died up on those mountains.

  2. sean:

    some may dismiss your observations on this matter as the simple exercise of "hindsight."

    but, this misses the point, & begs the issues involved.

    the fact is that the military is a tough profession, w/ tough standards, and one of them is that in planning any mission "hindsight" is to be applied as foresight, and that all contingencies, including escape and extraction are to be considered. and, thought through. and, planned for.

    in short, the "after mission" analysis is to be done in advance.

    it's a tough standard, and it's a tough business, as all decisions are subject to later analysis and evaluation. the toughest thing about it, is that such analysis is demanded even when brave men have died w/ courage and valor, ... , as is certainly the case here.

    that cannot be gainsaid.

    i find your analysis very interesting, and very thought provoking, and more than a bit disquieting. i had suspected that the seals had been given up or discovered .... what i had not considered was that they were aware of that fact.

    it would seem that it is not an unfair judgment, even at this juncture, that consideration would have been given to extracting the team, especially if it would not have compromised other aspects of the mission.

    well, who knows? maybe this was considered, and the risk of continuing deemed acceptable. but, i find your thoughts on the matter well taken, and within the context of a soldier's analysis of what happened, fair.

    i will leave aside the issue of other thoughts on the seals. service rivalries are, after all, service rivalries. but, as to the mission itself, and your judgments on the same, i find them, without knowing more, compelling. and, as i say, i find them fair.

    john jay

    1. How many people are familiar with the Islamic fundamentalist prominence as compared to the Taliban and al Qaeda? Terms when trying to convey the just of something have to be relatable to your audience. Seals are put in harm's way constantly with they knowledge they may not return ,but they go anyway as do all the special forces teams. These individuals deserve our greatest thanks and not being second guessed. Heaven only know the persons in command have to live with these deaths if they occur and dissect these operations over and over. I wouldn't want that responsibility. Would you? I have first cousins who had to deal with these same things in "the big war" and they will tell you things are the same no matter which war or conflict you are involved in.

  3. p.s. maybe there are other views to be taken, & further context and/or facts to be considered. who knows? if others have contributions to make with this in view, it would be interesting, and vital, to know them. but, if marcus luttrell had considered killing the four goat herders to protect being discovered by his adversary(ies), that suggests the situation was dire, indeed, and perhaps justifying early extraction. it seems only fair to make that judgment.

    1. I think this is a valid point.
      While not SF I do know from experience that in the countless quiet hours of retrospect my own mind, looking back at situations like his and ours, I have had many chances to re-think every possible solution to the problems we were confronted with...'should I have handled it as I did? did person 'A' need to die? Should have person(s) 'x, y, and z' been killed?
      Did I act responsibly when I did the things I did?

      It's no excuse, especially for an operator held to the standards that our SF community is held to (and hold themselves to), but we're all human.
      I do doubt things I did, and also feel utterly confident in other things I've done. Maybe my doubt is wrong, maybe not.

      And while some of the shit I went through would win an academy award, I wouldn't write a book about any of it. Nor make a movie.

      This is confusion.

  4. This is not the first time this situation had occurred. In the first gulf war, an SF a team was on an OP mission on a highway in Iraq and was compromised by a boy; They also let him go and not much later an local Iraqi Inf patrol attacked the team forcing them to do a immediate ex fill ( no one died.). I can only guess this lesson was lost to the sands of time. Mr Lutrell stated to the effect on Fox that he "did not " regret his decision .Mr Lutrell has to live with his decision.
    In my humble opinion the 7 Ps were clearly not followed ( Don't assume what I have will work in all situations I must have plan B, C, ect. ). I can only hope that future SOF will be taught to heed the lessons learned from this movie so these mistakes won't happen again.
    Thank you

    1. I know the team that was compromised in Iraq - that was ODA 555 the Sharkmen and I know the team sergeant who got them out of there. The lessons to be learned there include how to read marginal data on satellite imagery (so you understand what vegetation to expect at what time of year) and NOT to destroy all your radio comm's and crypto immediately upon compromise - 555 was lucky enough to possess an AN/PRC-112 capable of communicating line-of-sight with Tac Air and they were lucky enough that a stray F-16 picked up their signal. Again, it's about communications. It's ALWAYS about communications...

  5. Tie up the herders and kill all the goats.

  6. First off: the American public, or a large number of us, enjoy any good story of our SF boys. Even if it has all but one of them being KIA. that is our society now days. We love to feel "in the know" when it comes to SF when in reality the less we know the better. I do feel the SEALs are a great fighting force regardless of other opinion. They are engrained with a never quit, i can and will get through this mentality from the very beginning of their training...almost to the point of recklessness, case in point; Operation Red Wings.

    Secondly: The book by Luttrell, the Movie, and the actual facts of the operation will never really be known by the majority of people who read and watch what they believe to be FACT. AARs are sometimes the closest thing to the truth, but even they are usually filled with errors from the rush of adrenaline during a combat engagement then trying to recall all that happened after the fact. Adrenaline jacks up the figures and chronological order or things most times. In Luttrell's AAR his report had far less of an enemy force than that which was in his book and subsequent movie...

    Thirdly: Lets just keep in mind this happens more than we will ever know as the general public. Stormy, you may hear more with your background, but we civies dont need to know who, how, or why some of our badass SF guys got shot up until the book comes out...(remember if its a book or made in Hollywood it has to sell; so the story may be embellished at times.) These guys make mistakes like the rest of us, but are and should be held to a higher standard.

    Agreed Sean, these SEALs did leave hastily, almost with an heir of arrogance that WE cannot be touched, cannot be taken by herdsmen... much like the Soviets and look how that turned out.

    I hate the outcome of the op and the media circus it has turned into as stated in blog, but that is our society and with the story that was told, "it is what it is"

  7. Photo caption is wrong. The two guys with Marcus and Matt Axelson are Patton and Suh, who were both KIA as part of the QRF
    Boat Guy

  8. Second paragraph is also wrong. Marcus was the Corpsman, not the "leader". The element was led by LT Michael Murphy.
    Boat Guy

  9. Not wanting to possibly increase the number (22) of veterans that commit suicide every twenty-four fucking hours and making anyone feel worse, I'll just ask: Why would any real man volunteer to put himself at the mercy of elected and bureaucratic criminal sociopaths who will then order him to go among people that have heretofore done him no harm and try to kill the poor motherfuckers?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes this is a shocking statistic but like all statistics a bit of analysis is in order:

      I'm not one to take up causes - my crusade is to honor heroism, and to do my part in the current struggle against Evil in which we are engaged. If I am to take up a cause, however, the issue of suicides amongst veterans and active-duty service men and women is a worthy one.

      Also, this site is dedicated to Honor. Please couch your language accordingly.

      Thanks, S.L.

  10. Alternatives? As one who was thinking of options, as I watched the cinematic version...Goat hunting, even with suppressors, you'd never be sure of getting the whole herd, and you'd hardly be "conserving ammo." Gag & bind the herders, bring them WITH you, then, upon reaching a PZ, pull them ONTO the chopper, cut their bands, and kick them out the door, just before takeoff. This would constitute "kidnapping," but for THEIR sakes, and not just the team's. In the movie, Marcus had already ID'd the HVT through his scope. You have coordinates, and precision strike capability. Whether you choose to employ that, or not, is Command's decision.....For NOW, the object, THEN & THERE was to get the team out, since they had no working, secure commo. I take NOTHING away from the valor of the team, but BECAUSE they were bold enough to go in, I hate to see good guys lost, or shot-up, as Marcus was. That SF team sent in to observe the Iraqi highway traffic, in the example above, was compromised by a little girl, her grandfather, and their dog. They were NOT going to knife grampa & the girl, so they subsequently had to dump MANY Iraqi (probably lower-grade) troops, simply because being captured was not an option, but they were dug-in, in a pit that was the base of a simulated "dune," & they had (some) TIME, sniping skills, a fairly clear field of fire, & were dropping the Iraqis literally as they stepped-off the BUS, before these Iraqis were allowed much, if ANY chance to support each other, as they maneuvered. Their "maneuver" was "step off the bus, and get shot dead." In the "Lone Survivor" movie, you see ONE effort to recon the inbound horde, and no stand-off sniping of those people, while they were approaching, in the open, if, in fact they actually DID. Movies show the approach of an enemy WAY more obviously than what the actual, more stealthy advance would look like, so the audience can "see all those guys coming!" Anybody who has "put the suit on" has MY respect, but I'd just like to see those who sign-on to go in harm's way have the BEST chances when going in, getting their job done, and, if possible, getting back-out, again. Instead of an inter-service pissing contest, I'd like to see a lessons-learned, "what can we do better," or "what do we avoid doing" approach. Yeah, shit happens, but the guy above who stressed the 7P's has a point. Not raggin' on Marcus, or his team, just wanting the best outcomes, considering the kinds of dangers involved. There needs to be an evenhanded, ego-free compendium of Institutional Knowledge, force-fed to "leadership," entitled, "Shit we need to AVOID." One last thing. Let me point out a non-SEAL example, but still a "parallel" issue: Let's say a guy first volunteers for the Army, not knowing if he'll be an 11B. Then he volunteers for Jump School. Then he volunteers for Ranger School. Then, SF Q Course. By now, he's volunteered HOW MANY TIMES? It's like his superiors can just ASSUME that, since he's already volunteered for all kinds of grief, and, since he's in a HABIT of volunteering, that it's like they expect him, (+ he expects HIMSELF), to jump right in, even if the OPORD is totally FUBAR, since that's what he does. Yes, soldiers DO do that, but BECAUSE they are inclined to do so, to me, that means that we owe it to them to be EXTRA-careful, and EXTRA-responsible about how, and with what we task them, or allow (at times) half-baked "leadership" to task them. I would be interested in seeing what other men, wiser and FAR more experienced than I am, have to say about these comments.


    Interesting read.

    I have no opinion, being merely a blue water sailor.

  12. hmmm, all of the questions you pose in the article can be answered by reading the book. The movie is just a movie... Does anyone read in this country anymore? I agree with the 'accountability' issue you mention but that too is addressed if not answered in the book. The PR part... c'mon, once it's out of the bag, you going to ignore these guys? Ignore them when they are down? I think not. For anyone who hasn't served and decides to read the book to clear this up for themselves, make sure you have a face to face with someone who did serve in a combat arms role b/c nothing in war is clear cut. You take risks and you don''t always have the perfect scenario. This one is clearly not perfect but neither was D-Day. At the end of the day, decision makers fell in love with their plan and paid dearly for continuing down a path that just kept getting worse with each hour. Too many red flags were flying and nobody stopped it. Yell at me if u want.

    1. I'm actually in line with your comment and am presently putting together a post that reflects your sentiments. Thanks for your support! - S.L.

  13. WATCH Lone Survivor FULL MOVIE online?? ON

    if you want to download this movie click

  14. ok, lots of stuff. first to your article... you misspelled 'relieved'. i could only guess that you were cranked up and forgot to spell check, but i knew what you meant... next, the pic with the caption - that is -not- Mark Wahlberg. interesting to note that he is a felon, but then you can point out how many action movies he has done, using firearms (to include other military themed films like 3 kings)?? since those firearms are not his property, but that of the studio's and in the studio's control, or the control of the props company that brought them, i don't think that he has been in any trouble for that...
    next, the movie lone survivor - lots of problems that i saw, pretty quick, that i just couldn't understand - 1. the rope into their target area, a mountain, but carry no rope with them of any kind, and later decide to jump over the side of the mountain when they get overrun... 2. they were on top of a remote mountain with no air retrans?? i thought that those guys get wiz bang comms support like that. and their back up was an unsecured sat phone??! just didn't make any sense to me at all...
    3. none of them do a proper recon of the mountain (or at least the part that they were on, not like they didn't have time to do so.. err, oh, they got distracted talking about horseys and bride's maids) until things go wrong, then it is too late. unless they really knew the terrain that they were on before getting there, i cannot imagine that they would not have checked out their surroundings better than that...
    4. middle of the firefight, the talis come up with rpg's and rpk, and the seals don't answer back properly on those. two team members had m203, and what, they forgot to bring rounds for those?? finally when really pressed, one of them decides to shoot -a- 203 round. also, they acted really hard pressed on using hand grenades as well. so, either their ROEs were really jacked up about use of hand grendes, or the director chose to hold back on those items to amp the drama harder, i don't know, but it was frustrating to me. that firefight made me wish that one of them had a good shotgun to flush all the talis out of there and set the top of the mountain on fire, but that probably woulda been against their ROEs as well. the whole scene gave me the impression that they were properly suited to defend themselves. now, anyone can make mistakes under combat pressure, but these guys weren't without 3 days of sleep or something, and these guys are supposed to be high speed, unless they were the second stringer crew or something...
    5. the two ch47s come in with the rescue teams, with no combat escorts, into now a hot area, choose a hasty lz surrounded with multiple bush and tree lines, but no covering fire?? also (and they did the same thing in the movie 'black hawk down'), when the first ch47 gets into hover position so the troops and line up and deploy, they appear to slowly or awkwardly fiddle around, like they have no sense of urgency, just in time for the rpg round to hit them. that is a movie thing i guess, again, the director wanting to amp the drama. but, when it was just them, why weren't the door gunners of both birds spraying those bush lines to flush or suppress anything in there. remember, they knew that they were flying in hot. the portrayal on screen to me was more like they were going in under normal conditions, or even trying to be stealthy. word to the director, ch47s are not stealthy. those weren't special birds like those used in zero dark thirty.. now, i am only speaking to the movie. i haven't read the book. there may be some real discrepancies between what was described in the book and how the movie portrayed it... my two cents, anyway..

  15. as to awards... jeez you know, isn't the going joke these days that folks in all levels of society are getting awards just for showing up or participating, making awards less meaningful?? yeah there was even a movie making a joke about that, i think it was 'meet the fokkers' (stiller / de niro)... thanks

  16. At about 50:20 in the movie it sounded like LCDR Kristensen was trying to call in some air support but CDR (Schreiber?) blew him off.

    Can anybody comment?

  17. The question I have is why did they think there was only three options when faced the goat herders??why not 1-tie just there feet together so that it would have taken them hours to get down from the mountain 2-tie only the young guys & let the 80 year old man walk down the mountain, once again taking hours leaving them with plenty of time to extract from the site? Something about Luttrells story that just doesn't ring true to me!

  18. Take them with until you are safe (extracted) and release them then.