This was a short-fuse project. Charlie hit me up last month and asked if I could do it in 30 days. I sat down, had a long talk with Dan Lake, the CRO (Combat Rescue Officer) in the book, dredged up some other sources (some of whom will not be identified now or ever), and pounded it out.
This is not a retelling of Marcus’ story, except for peripherally. This is the story of what was going on while Marcus was in Sabray. From the downing of Turbine 33 to the retrieval of Matt Axelson’s body, this is the story of the rescue efforts, and has a description of some of the hairiest night helicopter flying I’ve ever heard of. There’s also some stuff in here that hasn’t been made public before.
From the Author’s Note:
This account is as accurate as I could make it, 7000 miles away and 8 years after the fact. Sources differed in their recollections, and particularly timelines. Not having been there, I have had to piece together the story as best I could.
There has been a great deal of controversy about Marcus Luttrell’s account in Lone Survivor. People who were not there have called his account into question, even calling him a liar. Some have even attempted to say, beyond all logic, that Ahmad Shah only had 8 to 10 fighters. This smacks of saying anything to puff up their own credentials and discredit the one man who lived to tell what happened on that mountain.
I found a few discrepancies in Marcus’ account, particularly when it came to dates and times. While this might be an indictment to some, there is a fact that needs to be considered.
I went through several firefights as a Recon Marine, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterward, there was a lengthy team debrief, where we attempted to piece together exactly what had happened. None of us remembered it the same way; it was a process of putting together a puzzle made up of fragmented individual memories. Adrenaline has a way of scrambling short-term memory. And we were doing this the day after the fight, in which none of us had taken a scratch.
Now consider Marcus’ situation. He had been shot, fallen off a mountain, and seen three of his best friends die. That is a level of stress that most people never have to face. That some of the details may have become uncertain in his mind is not only to be expected, it is natural.
What is unconscionable is that those who were not there attempt to tear down the man who was, in order to promote themselves. They know no better than Marcus what happened on that mountain. Attacking him based on supposition or a couple of Taliban videos they watched later will not bring back the dead, but only heaps dishonor on themselves.
There is a long-held truth in the military, although it has often been ignored in this age of satellite communications and drone overwatch. That truth is, “Always listen to the man on the ground.” Marcus was the man on the ground. While some of his timelines might be corrected by those with better capabilities to keep records at the time, we should follow that hard-won wisdom, and listen to the man on the ground.
Here’s the link again: Operation Red Wings
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