Friday, November 7, 2008

Most Daring Hostage Rescue Mission In Years

Well, maybe not the "most daring and successful U.S. hostage-rescue mission in years" as the article says--perhaps just the most recent and descriptive missions regarding operators who try their best to avoid the spotlight.

The Military Times has a report on a daring U.S. military rescue mission of a 61-year old American businessman being held in a mud hut 8,000 feet up in a remote mountain range in Afghanistan:

The element of surprise would prove critical.

As night fell Oct. 14, three Chinook helicopters flew into the mountains and inserted roughly 24 to 30 special operators — most of them Navy SEALs — about three miles from the kidnappers’ hideout to minimize the chance of being seen or heard.

As midnight came and went, the operators climbed slowly toward the objective for 4½ hours. At that altitude, the special operations officer said, “You can’t exactly exert yourself too much or you’ll be spent.” The commandos ascended 2,000 feet before pausing roughly 275 yards from the target.

There they established an objective rally point — typically, the site where a spec ops force stows unnecessary gear and puts security teams out while those making the final approach to the target transform into “pure assault mode,” said a source familiar with such missions.

From the ORP, an assault force of seven operators — all or almost all SEALs, according to the special operations officer — crept toward the objective.

Swift and sure

One of the commandos tossed a pebble against the hut’s tin door — a traditional way visitors announce their arrival in rural Afghanistan.

The rattle of the stone against the door failed to rouse the guards. “They were both zipped up inside their sleeping bags, sleeping,” one behind the hostage on the floor of the darkened hut and the other outside, the engineer said. But their prisoner was awake and suddenly alert.

“I heard the latch rattling and somebody came in,” he said. “The first guy came in with a LED light, and I just presumed that somebody was coming to visit. I didn’t think of it anymore until the second guy came in and I saw the silhouette of the first fellow. Then I knew it was U.S. mil that was coming in. I don’t know how many guys actually came into the room, but it was soon filled up, and it was soon obvious that I was being rescued.

“I don’t know what I said in English, but whatever I said I said it rather loudly evidently, because they said ‘Quiet!’ ”

The hostage’s aim was to quickly let the operators know who he was, but he understood their unease at the level of volume. “Sound carries so far, and they’d worked so hard to come down quietly across the mountain, and here I am shouting,” he said.

Nevertheless, “They knew who was who,” the engineer said. the SEALs quickly demonstrated that, aiming their silencer-equipped weapons to shoot and kill the kidnapper in the room before he could fire a round. The engineer said he heard the sounds of the operators shooting and killing a guard posted outside.

The SEALs turned to the now former hostage and told him they were there to take him back.

“I was in favor of that, 100 percent,” he said. “I was very surprised, very amazed and very happy.”

It was about 3 a.m. The operators and the newly liberated hostage began walking to the pick-up zone.

“Because of not having much exercise, I was doing OK, but I wasn’t doing good by their standards,” the engineer said.

“They saw a place that was wide enough to come down in with a helicopter and drop a cable down for me,” the engineer said.

But, the special operations officer said, bringing a Chinook to a hover at 8,000 feet at night in blackout conditions was “not an easy task” and was a testament to the aircrew’s skill.

The rescued hostage soon was safely back at the task force’s main base, where the task force gave him a thorough medical evaluation before turning him over to the U.S. Embassy.

Those in the task force were elated. The operation had been a spectacular success. The hostage was rescued unharmed and no friendly forces or non-combatants were hurt.

“It was a huge, huge win,” said the special operations officer, who described the rescue as “a perfect example of interagency cooperation across the board.”

Although the special operations forces had performed superbly, other organizations deserved to share the credit for the mission’s success, he said.

“To attribute the success of this to [special] operators or to a particular unit would be disingenuous,” he said. “They would never have gotten there or have been able to finish this without a whole lot of other people playing a key role.”

And I thought the Special Ops pebble toss against a door was only Hollywood movie fiction. Another thought I had reading this story was the number (24-30) of special forces involved in the operation was quite large. Also, for an operation of this size I would guess that at least 150-200 other people were directly involved in the support of this mission behind the scenes.

You can read the entire article "here".

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