Why Weren't They Bronzed?

SEAL Team 6 should have been immortalized and honorably removed from service. Instead...

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan, killing 30 Americans, most of them belonging to the same elite unit as the Navy SEALs who killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as well as seven Afghan commandos, U.S. officials said Saturday. It what was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war against the Taliban.

The downing was a stinging blow to the lauded, tight-knit SEAL Team 6, months after its crowning achievement. It was also a heavy setback for the U.S.-led coalition as it begins to draw down thousands of combat troops fighting what has become an increasingly costly and unpopular war.

  • Brian C

    In flew Army helicopters for 18 years until I retired in ’97 as a Standardization Instructor Pilot and Flight Standards Officer (full disclosure: I never flew Chinooks; I flew Hueys and Cobras). The reasons for flying low (used to be called “nap of the earth” but last I heard was referred to as “terrain flight”) are many but most important are these: Helicopters can’t fly with enough altitude to get out of the vertical range of even (by today’s standards) the most rudimentary air defense artillery (ADA) weapons. Therefore, terrain flight is much preferable since radars can’t see through ground clutter with any precision. For hand-held, optically tracked ADA weapons like Stingers, low altitude flattens the shooter’s sight lines, limiting the amount of time the aircraft is exposed–if you’re at the trigger of a Stinger, for example, you can’t shoot what you can’t see no matter how loud it may be. Speed is essential as well since it further minimizes exposure time. Remember: not only does the shooter have to see you, he needs time to acquire and lock on in order to shoot and hit you. For an Army aviator in a tactical environment, altitude kills.

    Yes, helicopter rotors are loud. However, the audible “footprint” is elliptical in shape and extends forward of the aircraft’s flight path. Since it’s elliptical, the closer the aircraft is to the listener, the less accurately he’ll be able to predict your flight path. Environmental factors such as elevation, humidity, wind direction and wind speed also effect the audible footprint of a helicopter.

    In my experience, most special ops insertions involved a technique known as “fast rope”. In a fast rope operation, the aircraft hits it’s release point (a terrain feature used as a final check point before arrival at the landing zone [LZ]), turns for the LZ and, depending on how far away the LZ is, starts to slow for the approach. Upon arrival at the LZ, the aircraft slows to a high hover, ropes drop from the aircraft and the insertion team slides down the ropes to the ground. Once all team members are on the ground, the ropes are either retrieved back into the aircraft or are cut and the aircraft departs.

    I used to hate doing fast rope ops since the aircraft is most exposed and vulnerable while at a hover. It’s stationery and at an altitude that makes acquisition relatively easy. For my money, I’d rather make an approach to the ground, kick the troops out and take off, pretty much all in one continuous movement–certainly with no more than about 15 seconds ground time. You can come in low and fast, if the area is wooded you aren’t exposed to the enemy until you’re actually over the LZ and if things work right you’re only in the LZ a few seconds. The ground troops can exit the aircraft, hit the ground and assume a fighting position almost immediately.

    I’m not knocking how special ops operates today; I never used to second guess what happened in someone else’s cockpit and I’m in no position to armchair quarterback now. I’m just trying to illuminate some of the tactics involved and, hopefully, make things a little more understandable.

    My heart goes out to the families of those who gave the full measure. I know what it’s like to be “over there” and what it’s like to have to wait on word when a loved one is “over there”. I wish that on no one. It breaks my heart to see the flag draped coffins come back because, it seems, so few in our country realize that they are the true cost of war.

    • Brian C

      According to the AP this morning, the aircraft was shot down during an extraction rather than an insertion. In that case, the aircraft would have to land and allow time for troops to board before taking off. No way around it: when taking off from an LZ, particularly a very confined one, the aircraft is going to be exposed and very vulnerable to ADA fire while on climb-out.

      In that scenario, it would be very hard to imagine a case for ambush since the enemy already knew our troops were there because they’d been engaged. It looks to me like a simple case of them taking advantage of a target of opportunity. It’s war. It happens, unfortunately.

  • Myhero

    asking a seal team to accept being immortalized and removed from service would be like asking you Bob to be immortalized and stop writing your blog. Could you do it?
    This is the job these brave guys have trained for for years, they know the risks and I don’t think they would have accepted being removed from service because its dangerous.
    This is very sad yes, and they will be honored as they should be.

  • Bob Rutledge

    Red meat for the conspiracy theorists, who are already saying the SEALs were ‘silenced’.

    • JMAshby

      None of the men killed participated in the Bin Laden raid.

      • Razor

        “That’s what they want you to think.”

      • Bob Rutledge

        Conspiracy theorists are not known for their adherence to logic or facts.

        • cousinavi


        • mhr_returns

          In some cases. In this case, there is absolutely no evidence that he was killed. Where are the photos? Why did they dump the body in the sea? This is a perfect opportunity for a government conspiracy. They could easily keep only a small amount of people in on it and everyone else believes its true. The ship gets a “body” and dumps it. They all think it was him.

          The 9/11 business on the other hand doesnt make any sense as a conspiracy. All the facts hold solid. There are some questions, but none of this thermite business. I dont believe any of that, but I think OBL was already dead and Obama picked up on one of Bushs old plans he never used.

          • dildenusa

            Usually, conspiracies refer to “false flag operations.”

            September 11, 2001 was not a false flag operation. It was an unconcious conspiracy in that Bush 2 and his cronies ignored repeated warnings. The operation involving Seal Team 6 was therefore technically not a false flag however you make some good points.

          • cousinavi

            You are an idiot of the highest order. Congratulations.
            What you posit is that some OTHER body was killed and dumped; that the POTUS is exposing himself to being branded an idiot and a liar on the off chance that OBL either shows up alive somewhere OR is disinterred from his kidney failure grave elsewhere in Pakistan.
            You buffoon. You blithering fucking imbecile.
            That there are people as utterly thoughtless, brainless, ignorant, stupid, illogical and just fucking too stupid to be permitted to breed is what makes shit like the fucking Tea Party and Birthers even possible.
            Fuck off somewhere, you cunting spittoon.

          • Laura

            Dang! That right there is some of the finest upbraiding I’ve ever seen.

            :::doffs cap:::

            World-class vituperation. Seriously. I’m impressed.


          • cousinavi

            They dumped the body in the sea for the same reason that Nazis convicted at Nuremberg were cremated and scattered at sea – so acolytes would have no shrine.
            No photos? There ARE photos. Releasing them seems like gloating and provokes those who are willing to strap C4 to their nuts and head off to a McDonalds.
            YOU are an IDIOT. You’re everything that is wrong with democracy – too fucking stupid to even begin to grasp how fucking stupid you are.

          • nicole

            mhr is the banned right wing troll, miseshayekrothbard.

            Just an FYI. :)

          • JMAshby

            How many times am I going to have to ban you?

          • cousinavi

            I think BCAGB needs a monthly “Commenter of the Month” award.
            I don’t want to win it, but the thing should be called “The Avi”.

          • JMAshby

            An “Avi Award” does have a certain ring to it.

          • The_Dork_Knight


    • nicole

      The conspiracy theorists along with the right wing trolls.

  • dildenusa

    I have a very bad feeling that this was not a lucky shot by the taliban insurgents. Seal Teams operate in surprise and stealth modes. In other words the insurgents had advanced knowledge that the Seal Team would be in the area and set up beforehand to shoot down the helicopter.

    • jjasonham

      Oh dear. Why did you have to say that? Now I’m thinking about it…

      • dildenusa

        All’s fair in love and war.

    • cousinavi

      Helicopters fly close to the ground. They make noise. Insurgents have stingers.
      Shit happens.
      It doesn’t require a conspiracy to knock down a chopper in a war zone.
      For fuck sakes.

      • Brutlyhonest

        Ignoring the silliness of “SEAL Team 6 should have been immortalized and honorably removed from service” …

        cousinavi you’re spot on about helicopters. It’s not a military secret that they’re especially vulnerable to rpgs during insertion and extraction. Whether the guys on the ground were warned or not (and in that shithole there’s always a chance they were warned) it’s a sad loss for all involved (SEALs, afghan specops, aircrew, FACs, dog handler & dog also reportedly on board).

        Also, too: I’ve said here before that not everyone in the military (even these “elite” units) is some great hero – some are absolute shitheads – but all deserve respect and thanks for choosing to serve and making sacrifices that people who never have can’t understand.

      • dildenusa

        Conspiracy? You totally missed the point. All’s fair in love and war.

        Helicopters like Chinooks need a lot of space to land and landing one is tricky. The insurgents need only a minimum of warning. Whether the copter tried to land in the middle of the compound or not, the insurgents had advanced warning. Rule of Thumb applies here. And just like Vietnam, insurgents needed the barest of advanced notice to set up an ambush. And that’s what this was. It weren’t no conspiracy!

      • JackDaniel07

        Spot on Cuz – the article I read and the footage I have watched from the region report that these choppers do in fact fly low, and often times down IN the canyons and between the mtn ranges – this gives the enemy not only ample time to alert outposts along the flight path, but also in many cases allows them to fire rockets at a completely level angle at the passing aircraft. They can put them right in the cockpit, not just bounce em off the belly or hope to hit a rotor.

  • cousinavi

    This is indescribably sad.

    None of these men…these soldiers…would have opted for being bronzed, lionized, or even profusely thanked despite thanks being profoundly deserved.

    The phrase, “Best of the best”, only scratches the surface of the physical and psychological heights these most dedicated and selfless men lived every day.

    It is sad thing that Congressional Medals of Honor are most commonly awarded posthumously. Sadder still that these men, who knew the risks and would have willingly chosen anything other than accident, are lost.

    So it goes.

    • JackDaniel07

      with men like these, how can anyone deny that we are the stuff of stars?

      We should, in their honor and our own, quit fuckin hurling burning hot chunks of lead at each other and start exploring space

      • muselet



      • dildenusa

        Well, Joni Mitchell would agree with you that we all are made of stardust.
        Beyond that she would definitely say that people who volunteer to become trained assassins and purposely hurl hot chunks of metal at people, whether those people are innocents or perpetrators have some serious psychological problems. But the Seals and Army Rangers manage to keep most of their problems hidden. It’s usually the grunts who suffer PTSD in war.