Laddie Shaw: In memory of Extortion 17



August 6 is an important date in American military history for many reasons; among other things, today is the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945.

But I would like to also commemorate a more recent event – one that has particular meaning for me personally.

Ten years ago today, the most tragic single loss of life in U.S. Special Operations took place in Afghanistan. The call sign of the mission was Extortion One Seven (17) and sadly the Chinook helicopter carrying 38 occupants, including 17 Navy SEALs, would not return from its mission.

The story of Extortion 17 shall never be forgotten.

Frogmen, Silent Warriors, Men with Green Faces, all titles given to a group of combat operators with a storied history in the Naval Special Warfare community, a history within the Underwater Demolition Teams that helped to establish today’s Navy SEALs.

Since their inception, Navy SEALs have played a part in every combat operation that has taken place since Vietnam, continuing well into today’s “war on terror.” Their mission extends from counter terrorism, to hostage rescue, deep reconnaissance, foreign internal defense support and training, and counter drug operations. Navy SEALs are trained to be a tactical force with a strategic impact. SEAL Teams are deployed worldwide, willing to face adversity at any level and accept any mission with the highest level of professionalism and integrity.

Of the many worldwide engagements the SEALs have taken part in, from Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq, and beyond, the battle that took place in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011 will go down in history as the costliest day in the existence of the Navy SEALs.

The planned mission was to reinforce a special operations team of Army Rangers fighting in the Tangi Valley. En route to the objective, the Chinook took a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade fired by a Taliban insurgent, causing the helicopter to crash and killing all on board. 

Since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 Extortion 17 brought about the single largest loss of U.S. forces to date, and the most devastating day in DEVGRU (Team 6) history. It was also the most fatal incident within the U.S. Special Operations Command with the loss of all 38.

This day will stand as the most somber day in Naval Special Warfare history since the D-Day invasion in Normandy, June 6, 1944.

For the Naval Special Warfare community, the losses, as all losses, are painful, heart wrenching and devastating to the soul of a group of warriors that are bonded by adversity and loyalty to one another. It is a brotherhood beyond reproach. 

From the Navy SEAL Creed:

My loyalty to country and team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans, always ready to defend those that are unable to defend themselves… I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity…I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission.

“The cost of freedom is never free! For those who have to fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”

Laddie Shaw served two tours in Vietnam as a US Navy SEAL and 24 years in uniform. He currently represents the Lower Hillside of Anchorage in the Alaska House of Representatives.


  1. These brave special operators were the best of the best, and served our great country with honor. There are no words to adequately express the loss our nation suffered on that fateful day in Afghanistan ten years ago today! There have been many unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of their final deployment and I pray that our nation will one day see the truth revealed for all to see! One blatantly obvious Bad Decision made was putting so many skilled operators on the same insertion chopper!
    We’ve all heard the saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”! Another Bad Decision was to allow Afghan Troops to operate alongside our Special Operators, when it was well known that they had been infiltrated by the Taliban.

  2. The enlisted men and women who serve are warriors.

    Unfortunately, the staff officer class..Generals and Admirals, of the last 20-30 years…

    Not so much.

    Nowadays they are overly political and overly woke and the readiness of the war fighters under their command suffers greatly. These opportunists are in it for the book deals or getting on the board of Raytheon or Boeing after they retire, or because they have political aspirations themselves. The last 20 years prove that. No clear mission objective, no clear outcome, many lives lost, TRILLIONS spent, and endless deployments and endless mediocrity if not downright negligence on the part of the command. The recent 4 billion dollar ship burnt to scrap while in harbor in San Diego last year by, apparently, a disgruntled sailor, tells you all you need to know about the state of readiness of our military, and the worthless words of gutless know-nothings like Milley and McCraven et al, tell you all you need to know about the feckless mindset of those tasked with keeping it ready. It’s a disgrace, and it shames the sacrifice of the great heroes mentioned in this piece.

  3. Few things rise above the respect we must give those who give their lives for our country… since it is the best country in the history of the world. However, we must never stop asking important questions. What precisely were they fighting for in Afghanistan?

  4. Laddie… Your commitment to running for your seat is only outdone by your commitment to country and your fellow servicemen and Seals. You convinced me that I should vote for you and it was, without a doubt, the right choice. I wish there were many more of you in Juneau and in DC. Thank you for your continued service.

    • Before you set up shop at the church of Laddie, remember he voted against a measure to slow down the runaway government train to protect “28 year old state workers”. He supported the swamp at the expense of the rest of us.

      He did great survive to the nation. No doubt. Alaska? Not unless you’re a state worker.

      You got your wish. There ARE plenty of people like him in Juneau.

  5. Not to diminish the loss of SEALs:

    15 United States Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group’s (DEVGRU) Gold Squadron “SEAL Team 6”
    7 Afghan National Army Commandos, part of Afghan National Army
    5 U.S. Naval Special Warfare support personnel, two EOD technicians, one MWD Handler, one Cryptologic technician, and one Information systems technician.
    3 U.S. Army Reserve personnel from the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment
    2 U.S. Navy SEALs from a west coast based SEAL team.
    2 U.S. Army personnel from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, part of Colorado Army National Guard
    2 U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron
    1 U.S. Air Force Combat Controller from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron
    1 Afghan civilian interpreter
    1 U.S. Military Working Dog

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