March 18, 2012

JSOC, Hostage Rescue Track Record

In the wake of the failed hostage rescue mission conducted by the British SBS in Nigeria, it may also prove useful to take a look back at JSOC hostage rescue missions as well.  Special thanks to SOFREP reader Chris for his hard work in compiling this information for us.
The successful rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted by SEAL Team Six in Somalia.
Source: Navy Times
The unsuccessful attempt to save Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle from Somali pirates by ‘Navy SEALs’ (presumably SEAL Team Six) off the coast of Oman. (Note: Reports seem to indicate they were killed prior to the assault.)
Source: LA Times
The unsuccessful attempt to save Linda Norgrove by SEAL Team Six in Afghanistan. A grenade thrown by one of the operators killed Norgrove.
Source: the Guardian
The successful rescue of Richard Phillips by SEAL Team Six off the Somali coast.
Source: Wikipedia
The successful rescue of an unnamed 61-year-old engineer from Ohio by SEAL Team Six in Afghanistan.
Source: Army Times
The successful rescue of Ingrid Betancourt in Colombia in which CAG played some role (while all credit was publicly given to the Colombians). “A Delta Force detachment helped rescue Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and fourteen other hostages, including four Americans, in 2008, even though full credit was given to the Colombians.” — From ‘The Command’
[Just an aside here, I happened across Delta's staging area for this mission completely by accident in the summer of 2007.  I was having a scotch at a bar in Central America and suddenly started seeing people I recognized... -Jack]
Source: The Command
The unsuccessful rescue attempt to rescue David Addison by ‘American special forces’ in Afghanistan. Numerous ‘verified SOF’ on message boards state that the operation was conducted by SEAL Team Six, which makes sense considering all of the other Afghanistan hostage rescue missions conducted by US SOF that I am aware of went to ST6).
Source: Wales Online
Not technically a rescue, but it has been reported that the intense pressure of ever-closing raids by Delta, ST6, and the SAS in the search for Jill Carroll led to her being released by her captors in Iraq.
The ‘accidental’ successful rescue of Phil Sands in Baghdad by ‘American special forces’ who stumbled onto this unknown captive during the course of a raid in which they infiltrated by helicopter. A raid in Baghdad by ‘American special forces’ in 2006 may have been Delta, ST6, or Rangers. I want to guess CAG due to the fact that Task Force Green was responsible for Baghdad and I’d think if it were a non-JSOC unit then it would have been made public, but who knows?
Source: the Guardian
The successful rescue of Roy Hallums by Delta in Iraq.
Source: WTOP and the video at youtube.
The successful rescue of Jerzy Kos, Umberto Cupertino, Maurizio Agliana, Salvatore Stefio by Delta in Iraq.
Sources: Fox News and the video at youtube.
The successful rescue of Jessica Lynch by SEAL Team Six in Iraq.
Source: Liveleak.
The successful rescue of Gracia Burnham/unsuccessful rescue attempt of Martin Burnham and Deborah Yap in the Philippines, which may or may not have involved JSOC SMUs in some capacity. There are some sketchy internet rumors of a ‘back-up/advisory’ role played by Gold Squadron of SEAL Team Six.
Sources: Orlando Sentinel and CNN.
The successful rescue at the Japanese Embassy Hostage Rescue in Peru, in which Delta is widely reported to have played some sort of (advisory?) role.
Source: Wikipedia
The successful rescue of Kurt Muse by Delta in Panama.
Source: Wikipedia


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About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • RandomAnon123456

    @Canopylight  @ArcticWarrior  Not really...  All I'll say about that.

  • Jaycel Adkins

    @Coriolis effect I believe he is no longer in DevGru, the issue was raised in one of the SOFREP Radio Podcasts with the Navy SEAL guest from Stars Earn Stripes.

  • TO1389

    @AD7 I'm not sure how they're set up in Afghanistan, but in Iraq, there was always a CSAR element either on standby or with the mission package, which would have a couple PJs with a crapton of medical and extrication gear, one or two CCTs, and a security element of Rangers.  Sometimes there would also be a SOF medical element on standby also, with one helicopter set up as a mobile surgical platform with a doc and a PA or SOCM.  As far as PJs stacking up on targets, running around shootin' it up with the assault teams?  Not so much.  That's more fantasy than reality, as the teams already have their own medics, and that's not the role of PJs anyway.

  • TO1389

    I'm glad to see you mentioned the Phil Sands rescue; it didn't get much notice.  To answer your question about who performed that particular rescue, it was a Ranger element.  I know this because I infil'ed & exfil'ed the assault team (an MH-60 came and swooped up Sands as soon as the target was cleared).   Like it was reported, no one knew Phil Sands had been captured, much less that he was cuffed to a bed in one of the houses targeted that night (one of the lower priority targets too, if I recall. Might be why it was Rangers on our chalk and not operators, but I dunno).  We were like chalk next-to-last, and almost didn't go because our first bird was hard broke on the pad, and our second bird didn't want to start back up after mission brief at the MSS.  Lucky for Mr. Sands, our FE was a mad genius and somehow managed to literally suck-start the aircraft back to life!    The overall operation that night was huge, something like 20 aircraft and what seemed like all of TF Central, hitting multiple targets in this one area west of Baghdad.  We had no idea there was a hostage on any of the targets, just lots of really bad dudes, and probably lots of pocket litter.  All the colors of the rainbow participated in the op, it just so happened to be Rangers on our bird that hit the house where Phil Sands was chained up (who, as a side note, was a bit of a wanker.)   We launched on a few other hostage rescue missions - at least a couple for Jill Carroll, and one or two for Iraqis - but all of them turned out to be dry holes.  The Phil Sands rescue was definitely one of the most memorable missions I participated in over there.

  • AD7

    Just out of curiosity, and forgive me if I'm you're not allowed to say, but what percentage of these missions to PJs attach to?