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Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler » Unsung Glory #12
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In Unsung Glory #3 you read the story of Lt. Michael Murphy receiving the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during an ambush of his SEAL team in Afghanistan. Of his four man team, only one man, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Marcus Luttrell survived the firefight and began an amazing journey of escape and evasion until he was finally rescued on the night of July 2, 2005 with the help of some Afghani villagers. But it was not just the Afghanis who helped him that dark and moonless night.

The United State is somewhat unique in the way it values it’s fighting men. Most have probably heard the phrase “No man left behind”, but it is truly a catechism of the American Military that we will do what ever we can to bring a warrior home, dead or alive. So much so that an entire science of Combat Search And Rescue has been developed.

When it was learned that Petty Officer 1st Class Luttrell, who is now called “The One” in the SEAL community, was still alive, a full court press to rescue him was launched, the largest CSAR mission ever launched in the Afghanistan Campaign. As has been done so often in the past air crews sprang into action determined to bring him home.

CSAR is a dangerous business and the bravery of the men who fly into harms way to bring one downed flier or soldier out from behind enemy lines is breathtaking. Living by the motto “So that others may live”, they are aggressive and dogged in the pursuit of their mission, risking their own lives for their comrades as a matter of day to day routine.

And such was the case on July 2, 2005 when 17 aircraft sortied out to rescue Luttrell. Afghani villagers had smuggled a note from Luttrell to a Marine outpost and two of those villagers were waiting with him for a Black Hawk helicopter to land on a moonless night under heavy cloud cover.

Two of those 17 aircraft were A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes, the ugly and deadly Warthogs, of the 74th Fighter Squadron based at Pope Air Force Base N.C. A-10’s are designed for low level attack missions in difficult terrain, but the operational conditions that night were harsh even for them and the 17 aircraft were forced by weather and visibility into a sixteen square mile grid. One of the A-10’s was tasked with coordinating this aerial ballet while the other would provide suppressive fire on the LZ. On the initial rescue attempt a week earlier an MH47 Chinook had been brought down by enemy fire killing all 16 men aboard and they were determined that it would not occur again. Captain Keith Wolack, call sign “Wookie”, was supposed to do the coordinating of the rescue teams while his wingman prepped the LZ. But when the other A-10 suffered an equipment failure preventing it from attacking enemy positions, Wookie assumed both roles, directing the 16 other aircraft flying in close proximity to each other while making gun runs on the Muj heavy weapons. Even though he was able to neutralize the enemy fire, the entire mission hung in the balance. The rescue chopper had less than five minutes of fuel left and the landing zone was completely obscured. The MH60 Black Hawk pilots simply could not see the pick up site.

After one last run with his 30 mm GAU chain gun, Wolack circled, keeping the area where the LZ was supposed to be off of his wing.

Then there was a miraculous 10 second long parting of the clouds. Wolack credited the cloud break to luck, but whether it was luck or Divine Intervention, it allowed him to illuminate the site with infrared.

The chopper pilots could now see the landing zone and were able to safely land and extract Luttrell and the two Afghanis escorting him, ending his harrowing ordeal and fulfilling CSAR’s mission, “So that others may live”.

Wolack is typically humble about his actions.

“Any of the other pilots in the same shoes as me would have done the same thing,” he said. “It really pales in comparison to all the guys on the ground, all the guys in the helicopter who we lost the week before and the entire helicopter crews that night. What I did doesn’t really compare.”

The 35 year old Seattle native, now a Major, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on July 2, 2007 at Pope Air Force Base.

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11 Responses to “Unsung Glory #12”
  1. Unregistered Comment by SicSemperTyrannus

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    Best book of 2007 is “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Lutrell. It would make a great Christmas present for the book-lover on your list.

  2. Unregistered Comment by mindy1

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    Loved Lone Survivor-great reading. I heard they are making a movie out of it. If they change it to make us look bad, I will never trust hollywood again :em12: . Regarding the pilot-don’t be afraid to be called a hero, because that’s what you are. Be proud of what you’ve done, because most people would NOT be able to do it. :em69: :em93:

  3. LC Hardclimber54 Comment by LC Hardclimber54

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    A great story as usual. Damn, makes one proud to be a “winged” warrior, although I am not sure I could have accomplished that feat myself. They ARE a special kind of soldiers, no doubt.

    For now Major Wolak, congratulations! You more than earned that medal. For Petty Officer Luttrell, there was no lack of courage or determination, coupled with intestinal fortitude, not only to escape but to survive in an extremely hostile environment.

    To quote Patton “Damn I’m proud of these men!”.

    So are we General, so are we all.

  4. LC JackBoot IC/A-OBR Comment by LC JackBoot IC/A-OBR

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    Ollie North’s series “War Stories” has it right.

    “Where uncommon valor is a common virtue”

    Another reason, why the US fighting man can never be truly beaten on the battlefield. Killed or wounded or course, but not beaten. We’ve been doing it since Bunker Hill and will never stop doing it.

    The spineless, gutless weasels in Washington can bring them home, but they will never surrender, nor retreat.

  5. LC Draco Comment by LC Draco

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    If you ever want to see a Joint Operation kick in….have a CSAR call go out. The training is more than average.., for the PJs.

    God Bless, Wookie!! (Wonder how many times he has heard, “Laugh it up, Fuzzball!!” :em02: )

  6. Thresher Redux Comment by Thresher Redux

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    Good post Crunchie!

    Wookie is a better callsign then Rimjob, supposedly the callsign of a Tomcat driver back in the days of the Gipper who hit too hard on his first carrier landing and blew all his tires. Dunno if it’s true or not.

  7. SoCalOilMan, LC Comment by SoCalOilMan, LC

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    While I may not comment on this thread often I do read them. Don’t stop!

    These people deserve recognition and G-d knows if it isn’t here or one other other blogs, their heroics would just get passed over. The effort you put into posting so that we can hear about these great “Citizen Soldiers” can’t be to hard because there are so many of them. I’m sure the hard part is narrowing it down to who to highlight.

    (Watch the video in the link…with tissues close by)

  8. Unregistered Comment by mindy1

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    SoCal-love the video. Downloaded it.

  9. ahriman Comment by ahriman

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    Wow! I am in such awe of these guys.

  10. Panzermann403 Comment by Panzermann403

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    Panzermann salutes the bravery of this Seal and his pilot comrades.

    Crunchie, great post as always. Much appreciated.

  11. LC 0311 crunchie I.M.H. Comment by LC 0311 crunchie I.M.H.

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    Thresher
    Rimjob sounds like a perfectly appropriate call sign for a squid fighter jock if ya ask me. :em01: