Monday, May 25, 2009

In 2005, Major Steve Reich and Lt. Michael Murphy perished on the same Afghanistan mountain range

Major Reich and Jill Blue were married three months before his death.

Major Steve Reich was a West Point Cadet, a left handed pitcher for Team USA, and later a Helicopter Pilot in Afghanistan. Links to Major Reich's story:

The Navy's Information Page about Lt. Michael Murphy's Medal of Honor describes Major Reich's helicopter crash:
On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.

Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the "Mountain Tigers" that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.

Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, from Patchogue, NY and Sonar Technician -- Surface 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew G. Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif, taken in Afghanistan. Murphy and Axelson were killed by enemy forces during a reconnaissance mission, Operation Redwing, June 28, 2005. They were part of a four-man team tasked with finding a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan, when they came under fire from a much larger enemy force with superior tactical position. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED) 050628-N-0000X-005

A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.

Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain's steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.

Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.

Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.

An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.

The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.

As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.

On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.

The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Gratefully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days. The Taliban came to the village several times demanding that Luttrell be turned over to them. The villagers refused. One of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.

By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.

This was the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

The Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community will forever remember June 28, 2005 and the heroic efforts and sacrifices of our special operators. We hold with reverence the ultimate sacrifice that they made while engaged in that fierce fire fight on the front lines of the global war on terrorism (GWOT).


OPERATION REDWING KIAs- On June 28, 2005, three of four SEALS on the ground (Murphy, Dietz, Axelson) were killed during combat operations in support of Operation Red Wing. ON the same say, a QRF of eight Navy SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers were also killed when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard was shot down by enemy fire in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province.

Navy SEALs
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Lt. (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew G. Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif.
Machinist Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev.
Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SEAL) Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.
Quartermaster 2nd Class (SEAL) James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2, Virginia Beach, Va.

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz, 25, of Littleton, Colo.
SEAL Team 10, Virginia Beach, Va.

Chief Fire Controlman (SEAL) Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, La.
Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, Calif.
Electronics Technician 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Ore.
Lt. (SEAL) Michael M. McGreevy Jr., 30, of Portville, N.Y.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SEAL) Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, W.Va.
Army Night Stalkers
3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Ga.

Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio.
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minn.
Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Fla.
Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Ind.
Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Conn.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Va.
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla.
HQ Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tenn.


Jack Jodell said...

Side note, Mr. Cotharn:
My father was tortured by the Germans in WWII. He told me all the gory details years ago, and he understandbly opposes the practice to this very day and no longer wishes to even discuss the matter and doesn't wish to make his experience a matter of public record or discussion. Respecting his wishes, I have not even revealed this in my blog. He did tell me all he fed the Nazis was bullshit, so that would seem to further reinforce what numerous experts who aren't lying politicians like Dick Cheney have reported: that torture most often yields nothing but outright fiction or whatever its perpetrators want to hear. Unlike Cheney, my father did not resort to deferments or have "other priorities" which led him to avoid military service. So I will simply no longer discuss the matter with you, or any jingoistic conservatives who errantly favor the practice of torture in wartime. End of discussion.

gcotharn said...

You delete my comments at your blog, then depend upon my civility in allowing you to comment at my blog. How do you know I will be civil? What, in my comments at your blog, indicated I would be so civil?

Here's what: I behaved with civility at your blog. My reasoning was fair, generous, rational. You sensed that I was the type of civil person who would allow you to comment at my blog, even as you deleted my comments at your blog.

Why do I allow your comment to remain at my blog? Am I weak? To the contrary. I seek no silly vengeance over a blog comments kerfuffle. I do not fear your reasoning - which is not because you are stupid, but rather is because (in my good moments) I seek truth, not some type of empty rhetorical victory. If you shine light on truth, I am grateful.

Even though you have declared "end of discussion", you are welcome - if you change your mind in future - to comment here. I would only ever ban abusive comments.

I'm going to post, tomorrow morning, about our exchange at your blog. Having been censored by other left side bloggers, I kept a copy of my remarks there.

My respect to your father for his service to our great nation.

I reject your premise, in your comment here, that waterboarding is torture. I reject your assertion that I favor torture in wartime. I do not.

I find this sequence to be worth a chuckle: you censor my comments at your blog, you comment at my blog, you preemptively announce "End of discussion." LOL. The left is very much about censorship of those who disagree with them. It is insecurity. It is intellectual inability to defend your beliefs - which, I empathize, as your beliefs are indefensible.

Webutante said...

Look forward to your Tuesday post.

Meanwhile, when I talk with former Marines etc, they all say the techniques that are used today were used on all of them in basic training. None of them considers any of this real torture. Torture is beheading a captive on tv, cutting off hands and fingers and various other real maiming procedures.

I also have to disagree with Mr. Jodell about the effectiveness of these stress-producing procedures. Useful information has been extracted.

Jack Jodell said...

Mr. Cotharn, I meant, of course, end of discussion on the torture issue, as it strikes home in a very direct way that you could never have possibly known without an explanation here. You are free to discuss anything else you wish at my blog at any time, be it economics, baseball, political theory, history, geography, astronomy, gastronomy, whatever you like. And I will feel free to comment on your blog whenever I see anything I would wish to comment on. I can guarantee you this, though: I won't make 5 obsessive and successive comments and split hairs with you on your blog as you did on mine, and I will no longer debate torture with you, period. Good evening, sir, and do as you wish in your blog tomorrow.

gcotharn said...


You are joined, in your opinion that waterboarding is not torture, by - among many others - Medal of Honor recipients Bud Day and Leo Thorsness - both of whom were tortured by the N. Vietnamese.

You are joined, in your opinion that waterboarding successfully elicited information, by Pres. GWB, VP Cheney, DCI Tenet, DCI Hayden, and AG Mukasey, among others.

I am not in favor, ever, of taking immoral action. I am no expert on the ethics of what does and does not constitute torture. However, in ticking clock situations, I suspect true morality involves more than bumper sticker slogans; I suspect understanding true morality involves more than a blithe belief that morality is easy and obvious in every situation.

You've an interesting concept of "obsessive". I commented at your blog. You replied. I responded to each misguided assertion in your reply. Because there were a succession of misguided assertions, my response ran longer than Blogger allows, and I broke my comment into three comments, to fit the strictures of Blogger. If you had noticed my comments occurred 30 seconds apart, you would have known what was happening. You deleted my comment, and I commented about your deleting me. And, of course, you deleted my comment about your deleting me!

mlimbolimbo said...

Great blog. I just finished reading Marcus Luttrell's book. These are incredible men that deserve every bit of support we can give them. That means that if we have to some terrorist's head under a wet towel for a few minutes to save the lives of our men, we do it. It's not torture if we train our own me with it... and we do.

I have seen pictures of the Nazi torture rooms where victims dug their fingers into concrete and stone trying to get away from the pain. That is torture. I have seen footage of a man being beheaded with a knife (slowly). That is torture. I've seen college pranks that were worse than waterboarding.

God bless our warriors.


gcotharn said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I'm with you.