By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black
In June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs set out on a mission, code-named Operation Red Wings, to scout anti-Coalition militia leader Ahmad Shah, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. These men, motivated by their passion of service to country and Team, fast-roped onto a 10,000-foot mountain with the intent of hiking toward their target. Unfortunately, the men were spotted by local nationals who reported them to the Taliban, compromising the mission. Before long, the four men were fighting for their lives against approximately 50 local Taliban and ACM members. Wounded, bloodied, and outnumbered, the men courageously made decisions that today’s Sailors, Marines, Airman and Soldiers strive to honor.
When the situation became dire, Team Leader Lt. Michael Murphy faced the heat of enemy fire to contact headquarters in order to save the lives of his men, successfully making the call for back up — remaining calm and collected — even though severely wounded.
The other three men; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, continued the fight, running out of ammunition fast. The men made leaps, sometimes dropping 20-30 feet down the tough terrain, taking on further injuries. During the two-hour gunfight Dietz, Axelson, and Murphy were killed in action.
In response to the call made by Murphy, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter loaded with eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers, flew into the heat of battle to rescue their wounded and outnumbered brothers in arms. Knowing the risks of daylight rescue operations without the support of attack helicopters, these 16 heroes were only focused on saving their fellow friends and warriors. In a tragic and unfortunate circumstance of war, a rocket-propelled grenade tore into the rescue helicopter. The 16 men aboard embody what it means to run towards the fight, like the firefighters and emergency personnel of September 11, 2001 who ran into the World Trade Centers before the towers collapsed.
Ten Years to the day, the Naval Special Warfare community continues to remember the sacrifices of these men. On Wednesday, June 24, 2015, NSW hosted the 10-year commemoration in honor of the 19 fallen heroes of Operation Red Wings at Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, Calif.
Rear Adm. Brian Losey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
“These men embodied the SEAL Ethos,” said Losey. “They were a special breed of warrior; technically skilled and tactically proficient. Their character and honor were uncompromising. They all knew the risk they were taking and never wavered in their resolve. They did not quit.”
Approximately 60 family members attended the commemoration, which was made possible by nonprofit organizations that paid for some of the families’ flights and travel expenses.
“I’d like to acknowledge all the benevolent organizations, most especially, the Navy SEAL Foundation that so generously supports our Force and our families,” said Losey. “Their efforts are helping us to heal our wounded, develop resilient warriors and build stronger families. We couldn’t do all that we do without you.”
Stephen Gilmore, director of NSW Family Support, said the NSW community is committed to supporting and honoring all fallen heroes and their loved ones.
“I think it is important for us to remember those who have gone before us, to honor their service and sacrifice,” said Gilmore. “It is important for the active duty military to see that and to know that if they were in a similar circumstance that they would be honored. But most of all, it is important for the families to know that we make a very strong point that, if you are a part of NSW and something should happen to your love one, you are with us for life.”
While in Coronado, the families also took a tour of the Naval Special Warfare Center, the compound where Navy SEALs are forged. They were greeted by Capt. Keith Davids, commanding officer of NSW Center, and were able to ask questions about SEAL training.
Killed in Operation Red Wings were:
Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew G. Axelson
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz
Chief Fire Controlman (SEAL) Jacques J. Fontan
Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SEAL) Daniel R. Healy
Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby
Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen (SEAL)
Electronics Technician 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffery A. Lucas
Lt. Michael M. McGreevy Jr. (SEAL)
Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles
Lt. Michael P. Murphy (SEAL)
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Eric S. Patton
Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III
Maj. Stephen C. Reich
Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Quartermaster 2nd Class (SEAL) James Suh
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffery S. Taylor