With the FBI analysts’ confirmation that the note did indeed come from Marcus Luttrell, things began to speed up. The area of the team’s E&E had been solidified, and the search could be narrowed down to the Shuryek Valley and the eastern side of Sawtalo Sar. While the steepness of the terrain still provided plenty of challenges to the Rangers and Special Forces conducting the search, it was now workable. Furthermore, they now had a location and a contact for Marcus, and confirmation that he, at least, was still alive.

As soon as the note was verified at around 0200, Special Forces and Ranger personnel were immediately directed by the JOC to move to Objective Barracuda, which was the code-name for the village of Sabray, where Marcus was being harbored by the local villagers, led by Gulab, the son of the village elder.

At about midday, the first elements made contact with Marcus Luttrell. According to Marcus’ recollections, the first one he saw was an Afghan commando, followed by two Rangers from 2nd Ranger Battalion. The word spread quickly that Marcus had been found, and the Rangers got him to higher ground, where his wounds were further treated while the Rangers and SF ODA set security and prepared for the birds to come extract him.

The two 920th Rescue Wing HH-60 Pave Hawks would fly the extraction mission, covered by AH-64 Apaches, A-10 Warthogs, and an AC-130 Spectre. At 1452Z, the flight, callsign Halo 43, received its tasking, and Skinny and Spanky began their planning process.

Because of the Blackhawk’s vulnerability to ground fire (as had been graphically demonstrated in Mogadishu, Somalia, 12 years before), and the fear of losing yet another helicopter after the shoot-down of Turbine 33, the HH-60s had only flown at night, and would go into the extract in a pair, with one helo landing, and the other flying top cover, its door gunners vigilant for any threats to the bird on the ground. It was decided that Skinny would fly top cover, while Spanky went in, landed on the LZ, and retrieved Marcus, Gulab, and Gulab’s family. Spanky, on learning he was going to get the most dangerous part of the mission, became even more focused.

The pilots had not gotten a good look at the terrain near Sabray on their previous flights, and Spanky later recalled that the imagery they had to work off of didn’t give an entirely accurate appreciation of just how steep the terrain in the Shuryek Valley was. Regardless, they departed Bagram Air Field at 1750Z, heading east toward Kunar.

En route, Halo 43 received a radio call from Bagram, informing them that the extract grid coordinate had changed, and that the LZ was 2 kilometers over from where they had planned. They received the call while 10 minutes out from the LZ, prompting some frantic recalculation to ensure they got to the right spot. In the dark, in the mountains, a 2 kilometer error was going to make the rescue all but impossible if they didn’t figure it out.

As the copilots calculated the new grid coordinate, it made less and less sense. The flight computers were not changing the time or distance to the new grid. After what he described as trying to pull his hair out through his helmet, Skinny’s copilot, JP, figured out that there had been a misunderstanding by the source sending the new grid.