EXTORTION 17: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission

Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later.  All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.”   Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs.  Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.

U.S Navy SEAL Tridents / Funeral

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza

As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.

Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts.  In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial Extortion 17 mission.  The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:

What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.

All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions.  In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up.  Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc.  No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.).  The person or place doesn’t matter.

On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration.   We, the team, decide how it will be done.  We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF).   Every theater has one.  The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense.  Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission.   Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission.  The dry runs involve everyone on the team.

Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel.  At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why.   Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).

Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel.  There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies.  They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.

Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief.  After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place.  Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked,  accountability is checked, and away you go.

Army SOF Soldier

U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Devon Popielarczyk.

Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers.  SEALs and Delta primarily do not.  Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel.  In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.

I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets.  My point:  The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them.  Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out.  This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.

Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model.   The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers.  While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.

When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available.  For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on.  By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.

The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations.  It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun.  All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.

Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities.  The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns.  That’s it!

To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF.  Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation  brigade member for at least four years before applying.  In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas.  Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.

Enduring Freedom

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook.

By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?”  The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:

1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.

2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel.  Who gave that order?

3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest.  Who changed the manifest?

4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together.  In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen.  Why did it happen in this case?

5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated?  Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned.  I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags.  I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects.  We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing.  I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel.  The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation.  I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is.  Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.

6)  What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?

7)  The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission.  Who were they and from what base/location did they come?

These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.

During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same.  The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below.   Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.

Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.

Order Books Graphic LR 6-15-13

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Extortion 17, Navy SEALs, Special Forces, Special Operations and tagged , , , , , by BobMcCarty. Bookmark the permalink.

About BobMcCarty

A native of Enid, Oklahoma, Bob McCarty graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in journalism in 1984. During the next two decades, he served stints as an Air Force public affairs officer, a political campaign manager, a technology sales consultant and a public relations professional. Today, Bob spends most of his time researching topics, writing about them and publishing those writings. When he’s not writing online, he’s working as an author. Bob’s first published book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice (October 2011), chronicles the life story and wrongful conviction of Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, a highly-decorated Green Beret combat veteran. In his second book, THE CLAPPER MEMO (May 2013), Bob connects the dots between a memo signed by James R. Clapper Jr. — the man now serving as our nation’s top intelligence official — and the deaths of dozens of Americans in Afghanistan at the hands of our so-called Afghan “allies” wearing the uniforms of their nation’s military, police and security forces. Bob is married, has three sons and lives in the St. Louis area. Bob is available for media and blogger interviews. Simply drop a comment here, leaving your name, organization, phone number, e-mail address and area of interest. He’ll try to respond as soon as possible.

11 thoughts on “EXTORTION 17: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission

  1. file charges through separation of powers, he has to many lawyers and planted government officials who is corrupt, we must not give up on exposing them and while they send up smoke screen through the media. Can you tell me if the Obama administration the 10,000 lawyers who protect him are attacking our military. by all of the sexual cases that are arising. they should of known the outcome of the sexual misconduct that would have accrued, soldiers in a bat field or war elements would have problems fight temptation’s, its a norm, you just don’t put women in the military . soldiers be alert stay alive, you leadership to the top is the enemy’s of our nation, pass it on. they seem to be killing our troops and replacing them with troops from a nation abroad, trust no one and be prepared to come home and fight at home for our basic God given rights. our tradition has been compromised. at home there is many diversion the administration and institutions are setting the perception to not focus on the real issues concerning our peoples safety and traditions. they have broken the laws and covered up scandals for the past 10 years plus.

  2. Many things have happened during the Obama Administration that are wrong for America and the American way! This Person is a Moslim and is trying to destroy the America we have fought to keep free for over 400 years! We must continue to fight for what is right for the American People And send this Satanist back where he came from!

  3. It is as if people are afraid of this Administration and its retribution. No one is accountable or tells the truth or knows anything. This Administration is so corrupt and has put our Country in grave danger . I see such a decline in it. We are being torn down from within in all areas–morals are out the window, our basic rights are being stripped away one by one, there is corruption and chaos in all branches of the Government with no one being held accountable. Muslins are moving in inch by inch with their religion but our basic beliefs are being gaged in the name of “Political correctness” and so sorry don’t want to step on anybodys “crooked toes!!! We are just a mess and the young generation is oblivious to what’s really happening around them –only if it helps them.They have their cell phones attached to their hips texting and game playing. They are so liberal they think everything is just peachy.Our Nation is being torn down from within and is becoming vonerable to becoming a third world country.A Nanny nation is on the rise.

  4. Pretty decent article. My only comment is that the CJSOTF does not contact the Secretary of Defense. I had to laugh when I saw that in the article.

  5. Crossfitbilly,

    I can not comment on your experience, for each person has there own. I will say the CJSOTF Commander “DOES” and “HAS” in my presence. Rumsfeld between 2001-2006 was very active in all HVT in Sadar City. Again I can only speak from my experience. I laughed myself when I read you statement as well, I mean the article is commenting about SOF who I believe with my heart died unjust, and your only contribution is only what you believe to be incorrect about whom briefs who. I think you missed the point, but again thank you for your input.

    De Oppressor Liber

  6. Pingback: Six Theories About the Deaths of 30 Americans in Afghanistan | TheClapperMemo.com

  7. There are so many things wrong with the official story in this and every other incident that has occurred on this fraud’s watch that it’s impossible to know where to start. But we must get answers because we will be pushed into a Revolution if we don’t get them. The people will only be pushed so far, we’re Americans. That should be enough in the way of explanation. From his first election, based on fraud and forged documentation–lies built upon deceit, built upon massive manipulation and more lies–to the second stolen, fraudulent election and all of the filth and lies in between, Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Soetoro aka Harrison J. Brounel (or whatever his name really is) has done his utmost to shred the Constitution, divide the American people, and destroy our way of life. Is he a Muslim? Is he a Marxist or Communist? Is he a messed up in the head crack smoking homosexual? Is he a foreigner, ineligible to serve in the office he’s currently employed in? With all the evidence against him, the answer to all these questions is yes, absolutely. Since we know without a doubt that our own government is not going to do anything about all of his fraud and forgery, the question has to be, what are we, the American people, going to do about it? How far are the Patriots in this country willing to go to remove this lying fraud from office? This is the question we must ask ourselves. Sop, how far are you willing to go to get this pile of camel dung out of the White House? And remember that our founding fathers pledged all that they had to their cause, our cause–the American Cause, and many of them lost everything they had, including their families. Unfortunately, we cannot pledge any less, no matter how great the pain. Our future generations deserve no less, just as we did.

  8. Pingback: Bob McCarty: Top Four 'Extortion 17' Stories of 2013 | TheClapperMemo.com

  9. it really doesn’t matter but he listed a 47d verus a 47H actually it is not a (H) model it is a G model the newest MH-47 for SOAR is the MH-47G for the rest of the army the new one is a CH-47F model the (F) model replaces the CH-47D and the CH-47G repaces the CH-47E which was the spec-ops chinook

  10. Extortion 17 hearing will be held at the Rayburn House, room 2154, Thursday, Feb. 27, at 10am. Chairman is Darmell Issa (R-CA) , 202-225-5074. PLEASE contact as many people as you can to help us get the word out there how after 30 MONTHS WAITING FOR THIS HEARING…NOT ONE “Gold Star Parent” from EXTORTION 17 is allowed to say anything in the so called “hearing”!!!! TALK ABOUT ADDING INSULT TO INJURY!! AND these are the people SUPPOSINGLY HELPING US GET ANSWERS!!!!

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