Tank Interviews Dylan French: More Than SEALs on Extortion 17

By Faye Higbee

On August 11, Tank (Rick Ferran) interviewed Dylan French – an 8 year US Army Combat Veteran who served in a Chinook Unit. He was friends with the National Guard and Army Reservists killed that fateful day on August 6, 2011 on Extortion 17. It wasn’t just SEALs on that helicopter.

The mix of Army flight crews and flight engineers in the helicopter has often been overshadowed by SEAL Team Six due to their famous killing of Osama Bin Laden. Dylan shared with us that he knew the Army members, some of them well. And they all loved to fly. Among the men on the helo were also USAF members and Navy members, not counting the SEALS.

Army Reservists- National Guard

SGT Alexander J. Bennett
SPC Spencer Duncan
CWO Bryan J. Nichols
CWO David R. Carter
SSG Patrick D. Hamburger

He met Alex Bennett at his flight platoon. A little over a year before Extortion 17, they became roommates.

“Got moved to flight platoon in my Chinook unit that summer in preparation for my first deployment to Iraq. That’s where I met Alex Bennett. That dude was crazy, but the right kind. Was really good at his job.When we got back in December of 2009, I got a job with an aviation support facility in Olathe, Kansas. After I moved there I found out we were going to Afghanistan. So as a reservist we are supposed to get a year dwell time before another deployment. I waived that in order to go. Alex moved in with me around June 2010 in Overland Park, KS. ”  

Bryan Nichols, Spencer Duncan

“We both Met Bryan Nichols there [Overland Park]. A young laid back pilot. He was good at his job and fun to hangout with after work. While prepping for the deployment, I met Spencer Duncan and talked him into volunteering for a door gunner spot. We got a four day pass just before we left. Spencer and I and some friends spent it in Austin, Texas having a blast.”

It was in Austin that they learned that Bin Laden had been taken out- he said they “celebrated like crazy.” They were Army brothers in a flight group that was used frequently as combat resupply, troop transport, infill. He also knew David Carter and Pat Hamburger. But Alex, Spencer, and Bryan were more than good friends … they were family.


Dylan told us that in the Obama years, the Rules of Engagement were “like having both hands tied behind your back.” You were not supposed to shoot back unless you were taking “effective fire.” Unfortunately, being shot at under those circumstances in a helicopter can be lethal. (He’s overjoyed at Mattis being SecDef now).

When the first Chinook with call sign Extortion 17 crashed, the Army moved that call sign to the now famous helicopter.

Dylan’s group was close to the border of Pakistan when the news of Extortion 17 being shot down was received.

“The commander came in and said, ‘Another bird went down’ then turned around and walked out. We found out soon what happened. … There were mixed emotions. Every reserve unit that deploys is not used to that kind of loss. Reserve Chinook operators didn’t think much about going down. They do now.”

Dylan remembers his friends as loving the military, loving to fly, heroes who wanted to serve. He visits the final resting places of his friends whenever he can.