It was about 1140Z. Two MH-47s, callsigns Turbine 32 and Turbine 33, were closing on the LZ (Landing Zone) near the base of Sawtalo Sar, the compromised team’s last known position. Two Blackhawks and two AH-64 Apaches were flying cover, and Grip 21, a flight of two A-10 Warthogs, were circling above.

Lt Cmdr Kristensen, commanding SEAL Team 10, and the four-man Special Reconnaissance team’s commanding officer, was aboard Turbine 33, determined to lead the effort to get his SEALs back, in one piece if at all possible.

The SEALs aboard both helos had been preparing to follow on the reporting from Murphy’s team. They had been hunting a particular ACM (Anti-Coalition Militia) leader, known either as Ahmad Shah or Sharmak, who had killed a number of the Marines of 2/3 (2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines), who were moving into Kunar Province in the Korengal and Pech valleys, and had set up in a FOB (Forward Operating Base) named Camp Blessing, named after Jay Blessing, a Special Forces soldier killed by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) strike in the area in 2002. Initial intelligence had Shah leading 100-300 fighters, and boasting that he had a weapon that could bring down helicopters.

The men aboard the helos, SEALs from both SEAL Team 10 out of Virginia Beach and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 out of Pearl Harbor, had been preparing to go in the next night, clear the target villages where Ahmad Shah was believed to be, then blow LZs for the Marines of 2/3 to come in and do a more thorough sweep of the entire area. There were about five villages on their target list, most of them clinging to the steep sides of the mountains. Now, instead, they found themselves going in in daylight, trying to retrieve their teammates under fire on the mountain.

Sawtalo Sar is the highest point on a ridgeline running between the Korengal and Shuryek Valleys, roughly in the center of Kunar Province, a mountainous province in the northeast of Afghanistan. The Pech River runs across the end of the ridge to the north, with the Korengal and Shuryek rivers running into it. The valleys are dotted with small, stone villages, surrounded by terraced fields. The heights are rocky alpine slopes, cloaked in thick coniferous woods.

Turbine 33 took the lead, descending toward the chosen LZ, an open meadow surrounded by scrubby trees on the shoulder of Sawtalo Sar, about 650 meters from the summit of the mountain. In their haste to rescue the SR team, they pushed to the LZ ahead of their escort.

As the big Chinook prepared to settle on the LZ, a white smoke trail was seen streaking up from the trees near the zone. The projectile impacted the MH-47’s exhaust duct and detonated.

The Chinook rolled over in midair at the impact. The pilot lost control and the helicopter hit the side of the mountain and exploded. All 16 men aboard, 8 members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Nightstalkers, and 8 SEALs from Team 10 and SDV Team 1, were killed.