By REP. LADDIE SHAW
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.