Watch Never Before Seen Clips of Chinook Helicopters Supporting SEAL Team Six Overseas

Dust swirls as military helicopters come in to land and pick up troops and their vehicles from nondescript fields. To the untrained eye, the grainy video clips may not seem particularly noteworthy. But what you’re looking at is an especially rare glimpse of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command in action in Afghanistan.

Ed Darack, a writer and photographer who has spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan embedded with infantry and aviation units released this never before seen footage to accompany his new book, The Final Mission of Extortion 17. The work builds off an earlier article in Air & Space Magazine focusing on the infamous crash of a CH-47D with the callsign “Extortion 17” in Afghanistan in 2011, but goes above and beyond to provide previously unknown details about the U.S. military’s controversial kill-or-capture missions targeting so-called “high value individuals” in the country.

For those who might not be familiar with the story, on Aug. 6, 2011, Taliban insurgents shot down the CH-47 piloted by members of the Colorado Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment during a raid to nab Qari Tahir in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. At the time, the helicopter, assigned to an element known as “Extortion Company,” was carrying a quick reaction for of U.S. Navy SEALs from the famous Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six.

The incident, which came three months after another raid into Pakistan led to the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, resulted in the deaths of 38 American personnel, along with a military working dog. It was and still is the single worst loss of life the U.S. military has suffered in more than 15 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

Many have pored over the event and it has become the subject of a number of conspiracy theories. Darack’s 2015 feature article is a great primer on the actual facts of the case. His book goes into further detail about the circumstances that led up to the shoot down and provides immense detail about how the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, has operated over the course of America’s longest war, gleaned from research and interviews with sources closely involved in the operations.

The first of his two videos, seen above, shows a pair of the CH-47D Chinooks from Extortion Company arriving to pick up members of SEAL Team Six after another raid in Logar Province in 2011. According to a captioned still in his book, you can briefly see the target of the raid in custody before the clip cuts to the special operators loading their all terrain vehicles and specially modified motorcycles onto one of the Chinooks.

This was a mission by what was known as the “Logar Set,” which included two task forces, Task Force Red and Blue, also known as Team Darby and Team Logar respectively. 

Task Force Blue consisted of SEAL Team Six operators and Air Force special tactics combat controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadrons. Task Force Red substituted the SEALs with troops from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The units would also work with Afghanistan equally secretive and elite Ktah Khas battalion and received aviation support from Extortion Company.

“They would take turns,” one of Darack’s sources explained, according to his book. “One night Darby would conduct a raid, with Logar remaining behind to handout as an immediate reaction force if needed. Then Logar would do a raid, with Darby standing by as an immediate reaction force.”

When Extortion 17 went down, Logar was acting as the supporting force, while Darby had taken the lead on grabbing Qari Tahir. Though special purpose MH-47 Chinooks from the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment supported many special operations activities in Afghanistan, the conventional Task Force Knighthawk,help ease the strain on those crews and worked with JSOC in Logar Province.

Though this may seem odd that National Guard personnel would work with America’s most elite forces, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation actively trains to support special operations missions, as well as other unique contingencies at home and around the world. It’s the successor to earlier National Guard special operations helicopter elements, including the 45th Aviation Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment, both formerly part of the Oklahoma National Guard. As seen in Darack’s second and less action-packed video clip, JSOC did make good use of the 160th’s MH-47s, as well.

JSOC continues to operate in Afghanistan and the majority of its missions remain as secretive as ever, but thanks to Darack’s book we now have a much better understanding of its operations and the fate of Extortion 17.

Editor’s note: Ed Darack has been nice enough to pen a special guest piece about the Chinook’s exploits in Afghanistan that will run next week, so stay tuned for that. Also make sure to grab a copy of his book by clicking here, it is getting outstanding reviews.

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