Tag Archives: regiment

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission — Extortion 17

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.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

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 of the 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.

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.

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. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

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. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story above was published for the first time June 4, 2013. I share it again today, because Americans need to remember it and not be satisfied until they get answers.

SEE ALSO: Did Afghan Officials Play Role in ‘Extortion 17′ Deaths?

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Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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Soldier’s First Public Statements After Release From Prison

Almost seven months after being released from behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, former Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart reached out to his friends and supporters via the email below Oct. 17, 2011:

Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart

Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It seems strange that I am finally addressing what is going on with my family, and in my life.  Throughout this whole ordeal, I have tried to protect my friends and family from the stigma associated with my trial and conviction.  I have in no way been disloyal to the Army or my Regiment.  I have not been outspoken about the mishandlings of my trial.  And I will not begin today.

I am writing now because a book is being published with detailed information regarding my case.  While still in prison, a manifesto of the book was written.  After my parole, I gave the author my first ever interview with strict guidelines that the official trial transcript be included so readers would be fully informed about the events that had transpired.  I wanted the book to tell the whole truth.  I have exposed my entire life in detail to allow the reader to make their own assessment.

I am INNOCENT of the crimes for which I have been convicted and sentenced.  I am guilty of betraying my wife and words can never express the sorrow I feel for what I have done to those that I love.  I decidedly had a one night stand and thought getting caught would be the worst case scenario.  At the time, I could never have imagined that the ripple effect from the stone I cast would touch so many people.

Throughout these past 2 years, the ripple hasn’t slowed.  I am not referring to the loss of my career or my time spent in prison.  Larger in scale are issues to include my parent’s daily struggles with finances and health during their golden years, my friends’ military careers being affected due to their support of me, and my children growing beyond what I ever knew of them.  I yearn for the day that the ripple will stop negatively affecting those around me.

To date, my family and I have had a small group of reliable supporters; My mother, Father, Heidi, Spike, Credie, Darlene, Neil, Bob, Jim, Clay, Gerri, Feryat, Bojan and Michael.  (There are more but they will remain anonymous per request.)  Through it all, they have NEVER wavered.  Many of these people have asked for your support in some form but until now, I personally have not; this was not because of my pride, it was because I was hopeless and lost.  I have always prided myself on helping and giving to others and during this dark time, I have been fortunate enough to call certain people brothers, sisters and mothers, for the support they have given to my family.  Unfortunately, there have also been many people making judgments based solely on hearsay and those who think ‘this is not directly affecting my life so why get involved?’  The book coming out will address the hearsay and I hope after reading it, you will see the injustices and be motivated to speak out against them.

I have remained quiet for a long time but today I am standing here before god and everyone acknowledging my faults, and making a promise to NEVER again betray my wife or bring shame upon our military or country.  Today I ask for your help.  I ask that you support this book.  I ask and plead with you to stand by me in this fight.  Every voice is more important than you will ever know. I have attached links below I hope each and everyone of you will do your best to support them. Either with sending it to our community, or to future supporters . Anything you do I am grateful beyond words.

I love our country.  I love the Army.  But mistakes have been made and not just by me.  I hope what you read angers you.  I hope it inspires you.

I hope the truth will finally set me free…

Sincerely,

Kelly A. Stewart
De Oppresso Liber
http://ThreeDaysInAugust.com/
http://SaveThisSoldier.com/

“Sure. Every convicted man claims he’s innocent.” If you’re thinking that thought, I challenge you to reach that conclusion about Stewart, a highly-decorated Green Beret combat veteran, after reading the story of his life and court-martial, both of which are chronicled in the book, Three Days In August. Order a copy of Three Days In August.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.