First of all, a big thanks to Kit Up! readers for their support of the site and specifically for checking out and "liking" Brandon's post on the SEAL Foundation. They're going to need our support more than ever in this very difficult time and we want to encourage our dedicated readers to help.
As the investigations ramp up, details are beginning to emerge about the tragic crash which help illuminate the event and also raise some serious questions.
Our readers have helped to pull out two details:
1.) The combat controller (and two PJs) were from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron which supports Tier 1 units like DevGru and Delta.
2.) It was an Army Guard CH-47, though it's unclear whether it spooled up from Jalalabad or was on scene or nearby. But there seems to be consensus that it was a CH-47, not an MH-47.
My former colleague at Army Times, Sean Naylor, got some good details on the incident from a Naval Special Warfare "source." His sources are good and his stories unimpeachable -- he would never allow any details to the published if he were not sure they were accurate, or at least believed to be accurate at the time. According to Sean's story:
1.) The mission was an "immediate reaction force" not a "quick reaction force," meaning the helo was already in the air or spooled up nearby to respond. This undercuts our Jalalabad argument since that's not as close to the raid as, say, Bagram. But this still raises the question, why not 160th? If it was in the plan, why not use the better armed, better equipped, better trained 160th pilots?
2.) The SEALs were a mix of 6-ers and frogmen from a standard, West Coast-based team.
3.) The ST6 SEALs were from Gold Squadron.
I'm a bit flummoxed by this whole thing and I'll wait to hear what's the real deal as more information emerges. We'll also be hitting the FOIA button as we seek out the investigation reports, but that will take at least a few months.
But I wonder why it was a CH-47 from a Guard Unit (if that turns out to be true). Like our commenter, I have nothing at all against Guard units and pilots -- they're every bit as badass as any line pilot. But they don't have near the nighttime and hot LZ training that 160th pilots have.
Why use such a specialized force for an IRF? Aside from the personal tragedy, there was a lot of training, equipment cost and expertise lost in what seems to have been a pretty run of the mill mission. Again, not trying to be callous, just clinical. We lost an entire troop from Gold Squadron in the crash not on the way to kill Zawahiri, but to help out some Rangers who came under attack during a raid to kill a Haqqani crook. All life is precious, but was this the right use of this resource?
I'm also wondering whether there was another helo filled with troops like the one that went down. There most certainly had to have been. Who was in that? And where were the escorts? Chinooks on something like this never travel without Apaches in tow to prep the battlefield and kill anyone moving to shoot at the Chinooks.
We're going to keep on top of this. Please be sure to check out Defense Tech and DoD Buzz for other angles to the story. And you can always keep up to date on the latest news on the incident at Military.com.