The 11th Anniversary of Operation Red Wings

By Faye Higbee

The 11th Anniversary of Operation Red Wings

The Rules of Engagement that killed a band of brothers

Today, June 28, is the 11th anniversary of Operation Red Wings. Most would know it as the foundation of the movie “Lone Survivor.” But there is more to the story… a total of 19 men died that day. From fog to Taliban, the mission was a disaster, yet one that speaks of courage in the face of death.

On June 28, 2005, four SEALs – Lt. Michael “Murph” Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew “Axe” Axelson, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell – were carrying out an op to place eyes on known terrorist Ahmad Shah. After positioning themselves amongst the shale of a mountainside in the Hindu Kush east of Asadabad, they were compromised by a trio of supposed goatherders. Deciding it would violate the ROE to kill the three Afghans, the SEALs let them go and immediately moved out. Just a few short hours later, the men were fighting for their lives, and when the proverbial dust settled, only Marcus Luttrell had physically survived. USPatriotTactical blog

Heartbreaking bonds

The story is heart breaking. As Marcus Luttrell tried to move wounded SEAL Danny Dietz to a safer spot, Dietz laid down covering fire. Dietz had already been shot 5 times. Then…the kill shot. A bullet hit him in the head. Marcus held him in his arms as he died.

Michael Murphy was wounded early in the firefight. The only hope for help was the SAT phone, but to use it from their position, it would require going out into the open and a sure death. As blood poured from his stomach, Murphy went out into the open and up onto the rise to place the call. It went through, but he took a fatal bullet to the back.

Sixteen SEALs and Night Stalkers (160th Special Operatons Aviation Regiment) were killed in the first rescue attempt when an RPG hit one of the helicopters that was dispatched to rescue the men.

Matthew Axelson defended his brothers to the very end, despite being shot twice in the head and in unspeakable pain. When a grenade blew Marcus away from “Axe” they never saw each other again. The rescue party found Axelson right where Luttrell saw him last, he had fired every round he could physically fire up until his death.

Another hero

Luttrell was rescued by a Pashtun “Gulab the Shepherd” and hidden from the Taliban until located by US forces. He had been shot numerous times and his back was shattered. He was in unspeakable physical and emotional pain. His brothers, his friends were lost and he was alone.

As he tried to recover in the care of the Pashtun, there was constant danger from the Taliban. Five days after he was brought to the village, Luttrell was recovered by the 75th Ranger Regiment after the Pashtun shepherd gave a note to them advising where they were hiding him.

Sometimes heroes don’t look like heroes- Marcus Luttrell and Mohammad Gulab

After Luttrell was recovered, the Pashtun’s business was burned down, and he suffered constant threats from the Taliban. He is still under death threat. But Mohammad Gulab was finally able to leave Afghanistan in 2015.

This incident became the movie “Lone Survivor.” A movie can’t measure the physical pain, the emotional scars felt by people like Marcus Luttrell, or even the “Gulab the Shepherd.”

Operation Red Wings was a significant loss for the Special Operations Forces of the US. It’s best we remember. #NeverForget.