July 12, 2005
Homage due our secret warriorsBy Rick Moran
I serve with the memory and pride of those who have gone before me for they loved to fight, fought to win and would rather die than quit.
(From the Creed of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment—Airborne: 'The Night Stalkers')
The story is one of tragedy for the families of the 19 dead but is also a tale highlighting the remarkable skills and otherwordly courage of America's secret warriors.
The fact that we hear so little about these men suits them just fine. Carrying out the most secretive and vital missions in the War on Terror, the SEALs and Nightstalkers are just two of the many Special Operations units operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others include the Green Berets, Army Rangers, 1st Special Forces Operational Detatchment (Delta Force), and units from the Air Force Special Operations Command and anti—terrorism units from the Marines. The men in all of these units are the most highly trained and lethally effective warriors in the military.
The story begins with the insertion of 4 Navy SEALs from Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team One into some of the most rugged and hostile terrain imaginable. Part of 'Operation Red Wing,' a deployment aimed at an apparent concentration of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the northern Kunar province of Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan, the SEALs, for reasons not revealed, got into trouble on June 28 and radioed Bagram Air Base for help. Whatever trouble they were in, it must have been very bad given that Special Operations warriors take intense pride in not radioing for help except in the most dire of circumstances.
Whatever their mission, whatever the crisis they were in, three SEALs were killed in the ensuing action. One member of the 4 man team escaped and for five days, eluded capture in the mountains until, totally exhausted, he was found by a friendly Afghan villager who got word to Bagram.
In the meantime, after the distress call several MH47E helicopters belonging to the Night Stalkers embarked on the extraordinarily dangerous daylight mission to resuce the SEALs. The MH47E is an all—weather, high flying vehicle capable of both insertion and extraction missions and is armed to the teeth. It's believed that when close to landing near the SEAL team, the helicopter was the recipient of an unlucky hit from either an RPG or some other weapon, lost control and crashed into a mountain. All sixteen aboard — including 5 SEALs from SEAL Team Ten and 1 from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two as well as 8 flight crew members of the Night Stalkers were killed.
What drives men to volunteer for these elite units? What manner of man survives the hell of a training regimen with such brutal physical challenges and agonizing psychological pressures that it would make the detainees at Gitmo and their ACLU lawyers scream bloody murder? And who in their right mind would eagerly seek out the most dangerous assignments imaginable with no chance of recieving the public honors and rewards so richly deserved, unless you make the ultlimate sacrifice for your comrades and country?
We may have known these kind of men when they were children and young boys. They always seemed to have a group of admirers trailing them around, trying to keep up with their adventurous and audacious spirit. They would have had an easy way with grownups who also liked and admired them. They were good at sports but rarely bragged about their accomplishments. They were fiercely loyal to their friends and were always there if they needed defending.
Later in life, you would probably see a quiet confidence in the young man that was striking in that it made him seem older than his years. He would have a small circle of friends who were fiercely loyal to him. A natural leader, you would have found it easy to take orders from him and delighted when he gave out praise and cresfallen when he would criticize.
At bottom, the young man would have a calling, a desire to serve. It would manifest itself most noticeably by the serious way in which he would approach planning his life. Goal oriented to a fault, you would be hard pressed to remember a goal that he set for himself that he didn't achieve.
The special forces then takes this raw material and in the crucible of a torturous training program that tests both the physical stamina and mental toughness of the volunteer, they forge a warrior who lives to fight, fights to win, and never quits.
For 11 of the SEALs and 8 of the Night Stalkers, the fight is now over. In a loving tribute to the SEAL's, and Night Stalkers, Mark Divine of NavySEALs.com and a former SEAL himself, wishes them all Godspeed:
And oh what lives they had to celebrate. For instance, Petty Officer Second Class James Suh, 28, the son of Korean immigrants, who competed on swim and tennis teams in high school, studied statistics in college and dreamed of being in the special forces from the time he was a teenager. Although slight of build, Mr. Suh trained intensely for months prior to taking the qualification course for SEALs. His sister Claudia says that James was surprised when he passed the course while other, stronger candidates washed out.
Then there's the tragic story of Nightstalker SFC Marcus V. Muralles of Shelbyville, IN. Muralles, a medic, was packed and ready to come home to his wife, Diana, and their two children — Anna Elise, 10, and Marcus Dominic, 4 — when he was sent on what would be his last mission. He had hoped to celebrate his daughter's 10th birthday with her on the Fourth of July. His family left a message on the Night Stalkers website:
And now that life, along with the lives of 18 other secret warriors, is ended. To a man, each knew the risks of their chosen profession. And each of them died doing exactly what they wanted to be doing.
That's what they want us to remember. While we sympathize and grieve with the families of the fallen, we should also remember the zest they had for living, for leading a life in their chosen profession where the hazards and challenges of deadly combat were not shirked, but welcomed. It's what they were trained for. It's what they lived for.
And God, how they lived.
Here are the names of the fallen SEALs who lost their lives in Operation Red Wing:
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.
Rick Moran is the proprietor of Right Wing Nuthouse (http://www.rightwingnuthouse.com)