The Chinook helicopters lifted off, and Richard Hunter’s mind was at ease.
It was Nov. 2, 2016, and he was strapped into one of two mammoth CH-47’s flying over the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on a moonless night. Loaded with 59 men in all — a company of Afghan commandos and a team of Green Berets backing them up – the big birds were headed to a village called Boz-e-Qandahari on Kunduz’s northern outskirts.
He and the rest of the men had no idea that they were flying into a deathtrap — one that, thanks to incomplete intelligence, would claim the lives of two Green Berets, three Afghan commandos, and 32 civilians, including six women and 20 children. The civilians died as the American and Afghan raiders faced an unanticipated onslaught of Taliban fighters reminiscent of the Mogadishu slaughter memorialized in the movie Black Hawk Down.
For their actions that day, three of the Green Berets would receive the nation’s third-highest award for valor, the Silver Star, one of them posthumously, and Hunter will be honored today with the Air Force’s second-highest honor, the Air Force Cross, along with five men on the gunship above them who will receive Distinguished Flying Cross medals.
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