Just three months after Americans celebrated a daring Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, they mourned for 30 servicemembers, 17 of them SEALs, killed in a rapid-reaction operation that turned tragic.
On Aug. 6, Taliban fighters in Wardak province shot a CH-47 Chinook out of the sky, killing everyone aboard. It was the deadliest day of the war for U.S. troops and a blow to the special operations community.
The attack, which raised questions about how helicopters are deployed on the battlefield, also prompted a military investigation into whether it was proper to use the slow-moving Chinook to execute a dangerous special operations capture-or-kill mission.
In the end, chief investigator Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt issued a report that found no fault in the decision to send the Chinook, which he said was consistent with established special operations procedures.
“The loss of these selfless and courageous men was a tragedy for which this report can provide little comfort,” Colt wrote in the investigation’s executive summary.
Though risky, the tactic of helicopter night raids has proven too successful to abandon, said Jim Gavrilis, a security consultant and former Army Special Forces officer. Despite the number of troops lost, the downing of the Chinook was unlikely to alter how the military operates in Afghanistan, he said shortly after the Chinook went down.
“Special operations forces have been using helicopters and will continue to use helicopters,” said Gavrilis, an Iraq War veteran.
“It’s such a useful vehicle for avoiding everything from IEDs to ambushes. We’re not going to stop using them, and we’re not going to stop using special operators.”