This book hits close to home for me. I remember finishing up a SEAL sniper course (at the time I was the Course Manager) in the spring of 2005. One of the graduates, a friend of mine, was Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.
Part of the Navy SEALs new 21st Century sniper training methodology is to assign instructor/student mentors to at least two pairs of students. This mentor relationship creates competition among instructors to have their pairs out compete the others, and ensures that the students get 110% out of the instruction. It’s like having a personal instructor at your disposal, and is very effective at graduating skilled marksman. As an instructor you cannot help but get a little closer to the men you mentor. I had the privilege to mentor some great students, including Marcus Luttrell’s twin brother, Morgan, and his shooting partner, Matt “Axe” Axleson, when they went through training. Both of these men graduated with high marks. I still remember hearing Morgan say, “Make sure you take care of my brother when he comes through here, Instructor Webb!”
Marcus was naturally an excellent marksman, but he had a little trouble with stalking at first, and it took him another shot at the course to master this skill. So here I was in the late spring of 2005, and Marcus had some to me with a special request. He asked to skip the final training exercise we put on for the graduating class so he could fly home and be with his family before deploying to Afghanistan in a few weeks with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One out of Peal Harbor, HI. I had no idea how special this request was at the time, or what significance the training would have on Marcus’s survival in the Afghan mountains but, I knew that Marcus had given up a large portion of his pre-deployment leave to attend the course, and I honored his request.
I remember hearing that he was missing in action, and presumed dead later that June along with the other members of Operation Red Wings. I was saddened by the loss, I knew most of the guys on that Team, and developed a relationship with both Marcus and Axelson. I also knew how close the Luttrell brothers were, and could only imagine what Morgan and his family experienced getting this news. I was glad I had decided to let him leave the course a week early to see his family. At least he’d had his one last visit, I thought to myself.
Then news came that he was still alive, it spread like a California wildfire throughout the SEAL network. A few years later Marcus was approached by the US Navy and the Naval Special Warfare community to chronicle the fateful operation. This is something few people in the SEAL community are aware of.
This book isn’t about the mission and the men who fought and gave their lives on Operation Red Wings. As Peter Nealen points out later, this story has already been told by the only eye-witness, Marcus Luttrell. It was his story, and his story alone to tell. Our story is about the rescue attempt, and mission to recover the remains of the men who fought and died with Luttrell, it’s about the heroes, some who gave their lives, who assisted in the rescue mission. Their story has largely gone untold until now, and includes some explosive revelations. I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions about how this plays into the long-term consequences of war in Afghanistan a decade later.
Hold on for the ride.
Brandon Webb, former US Navy SEAL & Editor of SOFREP.com