Tag Archives: Navy SEALs

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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Veteran Interrogator’s Words Strike Chord With Author

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that a piece written by Steven F. Hayes and published today at The Weekly Standard struck a chord with me in a big way.

Ahead of Sen. Diane Feinstein's report about CIA interrogation practices, the first two paragraphs of a document by Jason Beale are spot-on when it comes to blasting irresponsible behavior by members of Congress. Click graphic above to connect with TWS article.

Ahead of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s report about CIA interrogation practices, the first two paragraphs of a document by Jason Beale are spot-on when it comes to blasting irresponsible behavior by members of Congress. Click graphic above to connect with TWS article.

Appearing under the headline, An Interrogator Breaks His Silence, the article surfaced in advance of the release of a widely-anticipated report by the Democratic staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), about Central Intelligence Agency interrogation practices.

In the article, Hayes shares a 40-page document written by a man writing under the pseudonym, Jason Beale. He goes on to describe the man as “a longtime U.S. military and intelligence interrogator with extensive knowledge of the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA on some high-value detainees.”  Further, he reports that, while Beale would not confirm he worked in the program, he was, via others, able to confirm Beale worked as a senior interrogator beginning in 2004.

In particular, one paragraph from Beale’s missive struck a chord with me:

I would examine the early days of the program and highlight the mistakes and hasty decisions made during that chaotic period, but would interview those involved to ascertain the reasons for, and lessons learned from, those mistakes. I would not allow those issues to be presented without context and follow-up.

It struck a chord, because I spent four years conducting an exhaustive investigation of the use of so-called “credibility assessment” technologies. Along the way, I had the opportunity to interview the men who interrogated members of Saddam Hussein’s “Deck of Cards,” members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and other terror suspects and detainees.

Most-closely related to the excerpted paragraph above, however, is the fact that I came into possession of never-before-published firsthand details about Defense Intelligence Agency interrogation efforts at Guantanamo Bay during the early days — what Beale described as “that chaotic period” — of the so-called “Global War On Terror.”

I learned from my extremely-reliable sources that, during a 12-month period beginning in 2004, a new-to-GITMO interrogation technology was used more than 90 times and achieved a success rate — defined as developing new, previously-unknown intelligence which was independently confirmed or confirmed existing information that otherwise could not be verified — of 92 percent despite the fact most exams were conducted using interpreters. Further, I learned that level of success stood in stark contrast to the “inconclusive” findings that had resulted from 20 percent of the polygraph exams administered previously at GITMO.

Despite the incredible success of this non-polygraph interrogation method — which, by the way, caused examinees no physical contact, pain or discomfort of any kind — Department of Defense officials inexplicably removed the new technology from the interrogators’ toolkits halfway into a two-year contract the DIA had with the company providing the technology.

After reading my book, The Clapper Memo (May 2013), in which the findings of my investigation appear, several highly-respected Americans voiced concerns about my discoveries via endorsements (below):

“An unconscionable cover-up.”Capt. Larry W. Bailey, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former commander of the U.S. Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) Training Program;

“Bob McCarty has uncovered a high-tech ‘turf war’ pitting those who want the best for our troops against others who seem to be focused on their own self-interests.  Sadly, it seems the wrong people are winning this war.  I highly recommend The Clapper Memo.” – Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, U.S. Army (Ret.), former deputy commander, U.S. Army Pacific;

“Bob McCarty’s book, The Clapper Memo, represents perhaps the most thorough investigative reporting I have encountered in years.  I direct the attention of the so-called major media to it.  This is how it’s done!”David P. Schippers, U.S. House of Representatives chief investigative counsel during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton; and

“I read your book, The Clapper Memo, and was very impressed. Your book is extremely well-researched, well-written and shocking in revealing the tactics used by President Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper. It is a must read for people to understand the depth of corruption that threatens our country. Thank you for writing it.” — William J. “Bill” Federer, best-selling author and nationally-known speaker.

Others directly impacted by the actions and events revealed in The Clapper Memo offered similar words:

“Read this book & you will see how our government has for many, many years deprived our military of the best possible tool for vetting & weeding out the enemy.”MaryLiz Grossetto, aunt of LCpl. Greg Buckley Jr., a 21-year-old Marine who died Aug. 10, 2012, as the result of a “Green-on-Blue” attack in Afghanistan.

The Clapper Memo by Bob McCarty gives the reader an in-depth look into the dirty little secrets of politics and greed triumphing over safety and security for our fighting men and women as well as the average American citizen.” — Billy and Karen Vaughn, parents of U.S. Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, a member of SEAL Team Six who lost his life along with 29 other Americans when their helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17,” was shot down in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011.

 For a complete understanding of what I uncovered, order a copy of The Clapper Memo today.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

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