Dakota Meyer Versus Garand Thumb, And Operation Red Wings Revisit

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 9 months ago

This is a debate I want to steer clear of, except to say that I think any civilian should be able to purchase any guns or tactical equipment available to the U.S. military.  I also think that pretending isn’t doing, and while pretension over YouTube is innocent enough (and I really don’t care about that sort of thing even though it seems to bother Dakota), the real problem with this sort of thing is with militarized police.  I notice Dakota Meyer says nothing about that.  Militarized police are the standing army that so worried the American founders.  Let’s see Dakota take that one on.  How about it, Dakota?  I think it would be awesome if a MoH winner would point out to SWAT teams around the nation that they should fly across the pond if they really want to do that sort of thing, and that Americans have rights.  So are you all in on this?

On another front (and changing the subject, for which I don’t apologize), following the comments on this video, and then on to other comments on other forums, and so on down the road like a spider web, I notice that there is an awful lot of apprehension in the reports given by Marcus Luttrell in his after action report and book.  I have said a good bit about Operation Red Wings, and I may have more to say about this operation in the future.

But for now it’s enough to point out that the operation was a total flop, and the main instigator of the trouble, Ahmad Shah, and his band of bad boys, had to be killed by Marines in Operation Whalers.  The Navy SEALs learned of Marine Corps plans and decided to take the action away from Marines.  This was a huge mistake.

Finally, I’ll point out two more things about Operation Red Wings.  First from Mohammad Gulab, who saved Marcus, and next, from a Marine Corps infantry officer.

On the night of June 27, 2005with a sense of dread creeping over him, Luttrell and his fellow SEALs—Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz—headed out for a recon mission in a dangerous part of Kunar province near the Pakistani border. A sniper and a medic, Luttrell packed a scoped military assault rifle and 11 magazines—three more than usual, he wrote in Lone Survivor.

While Luttrell wrote that he fired round after round during the battle, Gulab says the former SEAL still had 11 magazines of ammunition when the villagers rescued him—all that he had brought on the mission.

Gulab wasn’t the first to question the accuracy of Lone Survivor. In his 2009 book, Victory Point, the journalist Ed Darack wrote about the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment in Afghanistan, the unit that planned the mission. He uncovered a bevy of discrepancies in Luttrell’s account. Some are small: He got the name of the operation wrong—it was Red Wings, like the hockey team, not Redwing. Others are more significant: The target, Ahmad Shah, wasn’t an international terrorist or a close bin Laden associate. He was the head of a small Taliban-linked militia. Citing reports gleaned from phone and radio intercepts, Darack estimates only eight to 10 militants attacked the SEALs, not 80 to 200. In fact, two graphic videos the gunmen shot during the firefight show only seven men in Shah’s militia.

“[Luttrell’s claims] are exaggerated nonsense,” says Patrick Kinser, a former Marine infantry officer who participated in Operation Red Wings and read the former SEAL’s after action report. “I’ve been at the location where he was ambushed multiple times. I’ve had Marines wounded there. I’ve been in enough firefights to know that when shit hits the fan, it’s hard to know how many people are shooting at you. [But] there weren’t 35 enemy fighters in all of the Korengal Valley [that day].”

Take careful note.  I’m not saying that Luttrell’s account is wrong or exaggerated.  Others are saying that.  I make no claim to knowing these things for certain.  But I think it’s interesting, and I also think there is a lot more study to be done about this fateful operation, why it should never have been conducted, and the specific failures in personnel, weapons, tactics, techniques and procedures.

I’ve often wondered why the SEALs would have taken radio equipment only to be frustrated by mountains when trying to communicate their predicament (and ultimately killing Murphy), when they could have carried a sat phone with a MilStar uplink?

But one thing is for sure by all accounts, including post-mortem and forensic reviews.  Matthew Axelson was a stud.  He continued to lay down fires even after being shot in the head, up to and including emptying both his rifle and pistol and all backup magazines.

This is a story that in my opinion is yet to be fully told.

Prior: A Marine Corps View Of Tactics In Operation Red Wings


  1. On June 2, 2021 at 11:29 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel Smith

    Re: “I’ve often wondered why the SEALs would have taken radio equipment only to be frustrated by mountains when trying to communicate their predicament (and ultimately killing Murphy), when they could have carried a sat phone with a MilStar uplink?”

    I am not qualified to comment on the on-the-ground particulars vis-a-vis the SEAL Team under the command of Lt. Michael Murphy, as I wasn’t there as a special operator during Operation Red Wings or environs, nor was I even in the military at the time. But as a military historian of many years experience, I could not help but read “Lone Survivor” and come away with a lot of questions and even criticisms of how the operation was mounted.

    Moreover, for lack of a better term, the men lost during Operation Red Wings may have fallen victim to what I call the “myth of special ops,” about which more below….

    What is the “myth of special ops,” you ask? It is simply the belief, reinforced by Pentagon/DOD press releases, military recruitment ads, and popular culture that special operations soldiers are – quite literally supermen.

    We know that these men survive the most-grueling and difficult selection and training on earth even to enter such units as the Navy SEALs, for whom “the only easy day was yesterday.” They’re the best our military has to offer, the smartest, most-driven, most-physically fit, and most determined to win, amongst the candidates who try out. They’re the cream of the crop.

    And once inside the special ops community, a top-tier operator is trained relentlessly when he is not deployed. A friend of mine some years back, a recently-retired Green Beret scout-sniper, once told me that his individual training cost $200 million dollars. I said, “You mean twenty million, right?” and he said no, the figure was accurate. The enormous financial outlays required to train these men are one reason why their ops-tempos are so ridiculously high. This particular guy went five years without setting foot inside CONUS – the continental U.S. F-i-v-e years, folks.

    So, to survive and even thrive in such a challenging and unrelenting environment, it takes a very special man. And these are special men, every last one of them. The ones who survive to do their twenty until retirement have usually been wounded multiple times, and some sustain permanent physical damage from which they can’t fully-recover. And it isn’t just surviving the operations, but training. The training is so tough that men routinely lose their lives – a parachute doesn’t open, a man gets hypothermia on a field exercise and dies, etc.

    The amazing capabilities of these men, however, sometimes come back to bite them, however, because they do the impossible so routinely that people begin to believe that there’s nothing that they can’t do, no odds that they cannot overcome. Policy-makers and senior officers, for example, the guys who plan and implement operations like Operation Red Wings, for example. That’s the “myth” of special ops in action. That’s what it is.

    These men may be the finest soldiers on earth, but bullets and shrapnel still pierce their flesh, just as they do the flesh of lesser men. They’re not bullet-proof, explosion-proof or anything else that Superman or the other Marvel Comics heroes are, but I sometimes wonder if the Pentagon/DOD know that. They are amazingly capable, tough, and often heroic men, but they are still men.

    Herschel, your comment about sat phones is right on the money. Who sent these men into such forbidding terrain with line-of-sight comms gear? That’s a mistake so boneheaded even a civilian like me can see it.

    I get it that the SEALs are trained for and accustomed to working in small teams behind enemy lines, but was it really wise to sent them into Indian Country without even a crew-served SAW or similar weapon? Or some sort of area denial weapon, something useful against a company-strength enemy force? Even equipping each man with a couple of Claymore mines would have been a start. A mortar team would have been better, or some RPGs.

    My point being that assault rifles in 5.56x45mm weren’t enough, individual small arms were not enough – not even when wielded by SEALs.

    It would have been smarter to increase the size of the team by 2-4 men, to allow these additional weapons to be brought along. Yes, more men means a greater chance of detection, but their training and insertion methods would have minimized those risks.

    Why wasn’t the team corpsman – Marcus Luttrell – issued with some sort of chemical restraint? I’m speaking of some sort of compound which could have been used to knock-out (render unconscious for several hours) those sheep herders who discovered them – and then betrayed their presence to the Taliban. If nothing else, they should have been gagged and bound and then hidden to allow the team a chance to put ground between themselves and their pursuers.

    Such use of opioids or the like for such purposes is not a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and the fact that some scenario planner didn’t think of this, but a “dumb civilian” did, shows that they need to raise their game inside the teams, at least whoever is planning their missions.

    Or they could have taken the herders with them, and used them to bargain for their safe passage.

    Small clandestine teams are great, but sometimes, quality has its own quantity. Like dropping in a company or two of Marines and letting them accomplish the mission.

    “But one thing is for sure by all accounts, including post-mortem and forensic reviews. Matthew Axelson was a stud. He continued to lay down fires even after being shot in the head, up to and including emptying both his rifle and pistol and all backup magazines.”

    Axelson made a last stand for the ages, but he needn’t have died if his superiors had planned the mission with greater care and allocated the resources necessary for its accomplishment. Not just its accomplishment if things went by the book and according to plan, but in case things went sideways, as they so often do when that plan meets reality.

  2. On June 3, 2021 at 12:07 pm, George 1 said:

    If I understand correctly Mr. Meyer is upset about people pretending to be “operators” who were not. IMHO he needs to more closely screen what he watches and listens to on the internet. The web is full of pretenders and liars. There are also very knowledgeable people on some sites who merit respect. Watch the ones who merit respect and not the pretenders. Mr. Meyer should also be aware that many very competent instructors have not had any military experience. Even so they are quite knowledgeable.

  3. On June 3, 2021 at 3:14 pm, scott s. said:

    I’m not widely read, didn’t read the book for example, but from what little I’ve seen, I will venture an uninformed opinion. Planning for Red Wings was based on prior ops by 3/3 Marines, and taken over by 2/3 Marines when they relieved them. The Bn was task organized, but the structure of JSOC, the overall authority for the spec ops here, doesn’t seem to have a doctrine of operating within a task force. Thus 2/3 Ops had to get some buy-in for the Spec Ops role in Red Wings. And it looks like Spec Ops CoC wouldn’t allow 160th SOAR elements to participate without including a spec ops ground element. This in my mind is the kind of divided command that can get folks killed. Of course, this is also 20/20 hindsight but still.

    Also, Marines have always been heavy on “owning” all their own task force elements so it’s hard to tell if coordination with other forces is part of their talent stack.

    I know nothing of how Marine Bn staffs work, but ISTM that having a staff SOC liaison in the S-3 would help (maybe they did and it didn’t?). In my naval experience in surface operations with SSNs in direct support you need that bubblehead on the staff.

  4. On June 3, 2021 at 3:38 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @scott s.,

    The USMC certainly does like the MAGTF and chain of command. There is no doubt about that, and demanded that all SpecOps operating in Helmand report to MAGTF. It worked fine as long as everyone knew who was in charge.

    But if you’re implying that the Marines said, “Okay, if you want to run this op we’re out, good luck, see ya’,” that’s not the way it happened.

    This was a SEAL planned and led op, with their own TTPs, their own way of doing things, etc. That’s what killed them.

    If the Marines had been in charge they would have used a larger force size for the recon, even for distributed operations like that, more than 4, probably 6-8. Gulab reports that it just wasn’t the case that the Taliban beat the SEALs up the mountain after finding out they were there.

    He said everybody in the area already knew if, from his own town to the Taliban, and the Taliban had tracked them since they arrived. They came in heavy and too close with the helicopter. If the Marines had done it, they would have dropped Recon or Scout Sniper off ten or twenty miles away and required them to hump their loadout to observation.

    Scout Sniper & Recon because of know how to stay hidden, and ten or twenty miles away because they couldn’t care less about the feelings of their men or how hard they have to work.

  5. On June 3, 2021 at 9:09 pm, Fred said:

    You either kill everybody and destroy all their property until the ones left alive submit, or you stay home. Policing the third world is retarded. Minneapolis can’t even be policed.

    99 percent of the know it all gun tough guys are the very worse ambassadors for guns rights. There really no better than Po Po.

  6. On June 3, 2021 at 9:11 pm, Fred said:


    But they can probably spell. Heh.

  7. On June 3, 2021 at 11:18 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Fred

    Re: “You either kill everybody and destroy all their property until the ones left alive submit, or you stay home. Policing the third world is retarded. Minneapolis can’t even be policed.”

    There is a third option, namely establish a colonial presence in the nation in question. I mention that not because I agree with it as national policy, but because that seems to be what the ruling class/deep-state here in the U.S. have in mind for Afghanistan. A British-style colonial presence there. We’ve been there, what – twenty years now, going on twenty-one?

    We are absolutely in agreement: Policing the third-world is a fool’s errand, but is that what we’re doing there? Does anyone know why we’re still in that God-forsaken place? Notice the ever-shifting rationales for being there offered over the years…

    First, we were there to avenge 9-11-2001 and bring the terrorists to justice.
    Once we’d done some damage to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, then it shifted to catching or killing Osama Bin Laden. By and by, SEAL Team Six does the tall bearded one in the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. Oh, wait, we can’t leave until we’re done “nation-building” and bringing the wonders of Jeffersonian Democracy to the Hindu Kush. Then, around 2014 or so, the power-elites in Washington, D.C. stopped mentioning Afghanistan at all. Echoing the fatalistic Great War quip of a century ago, “We’re there because we’re there”…

    America’s foreign policy elites, having apparently decided that the public was no longer entitled to be told why their sons were still dying and being maimed halfway around the world, simply stopped offering any rationale for our being there at all.

    By this late date, even the most-obtuse observer can sense something isn’t right, and it is plainly evident that from the very start, the government and foreign-policy apparatus has been dishonest with the public about Afghanistan from the very start.

    If the stated reasons for our being there for twenty years aren’t the whole truth or are in fact lies, when what are the real reasons? Here are some possibilities…

    1. Mackinder’s Heartland Theory of Geopolitics: Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), a British geographer, scholar and writer, propounded in 1904 what has been termed “the heartland theory” of geopolitics, which states in brief:

    Who rules Eastern Europe commands the Heartland
    Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island
    Who rules the World Island commands the world

    Odd that the words of a British imperialist should still such sway within foreign policy circles after so many years, but they do, believe it or not. Mackinder is taught at some of our most-prestigious universities, and at staff colleges and service academies which educate our senior military officers.

    2. Being in Afghanistan allows the U.S. (and therefore Israel and Saudi Arabia, since we share intel with them) to keep an eye on Shi’ite Iran, which is considered to be the “monster under the bed” by these nations.

    3. Ditto keeping an eye on nuclear-armed Pakistan, our so-called “allies” in the GWOT, but an Islamic nation which actually pretends to be our ally while actively aiding our enemies. Osama Bin Laden for example, whom the ISI (Pakistani intelligence service) knew was hiding in Abbottabad).

    4. Rumor has it that one big source for unaccountable “black” funds for the CIA and other three-letter agencies is via the cultivation/harvesting of opium grown in Afghanistan.

    5. The military-industrial-Congressional complex gravy train: Sometime along the way over the last sixty or seventy years, the Pentagon/DOD and their biggest suppliers figured out that a more-or-less perpetual state of war – or at least being on war-footing – was the business model they preferred the best and which made them the most money in defense appropriations.

    A big war might last 4-5 years, but once it ends, defense budgets get cut and business drops off the charts. The post-WWII draw-down proved that. Whereas, if there is always some threat on the horizon, whether genuine or not, then budgets could be maintained more-or-less indefinitely. Hence the profitability and incentive for continuing the Cold War and now the GWOT.

    The incredible thing is that non-state actors like terrorists and jihadists, such as those in al-Qaeda, aren’t bound by geography and can/do relocate when under pressure from security & military forces, etc. In the case of A-Q, some members were lost in the Hindu Kush, but the group simply relocated to the Sudan for a while, and went to ground. Even when Bin Laden was killed, his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri followed the same pattern. Which means that the U.S.-NATO presence in Afghanistan was chasing shadows much of the time.

    Vis-a-vis “go big or go home,” and your original remark (above), we’ve done neither. Instead, we have followed the worst possible course – at least according to 4GW warfare expert Bill Lind – which is to split the difference between the two. Wage a medium-strength effort, enough to stir up the hornet’s nest and maybe claim a few scalps for bragging rights at the press conference, but not enough to defeat the enemy.

  8. On June 4, 2021 at 6:18 am, Arnold Zacknussemm said:

    I’m happy Dakota has an opinion. Being conferred the MOH doesn’t make you internet dictator. I’ve seen him on SureFire’s web site shilling their “tactical”
    Fore end lights. I guess when you’re getting paid you’ll make exceptions to the whole “I hate larpers” rap.
    I defy anyone to show me another MOH recipient acting like a salty whiny crybaby other than Mr. Meyers.
    My reply to Meyers would be dude, you got your attention, they awarded you the MOH. Now just leave everyone alone and go away.

  9. On June 4, 2021 at 8:01 am, Fred said:

    Yeah, I’ll have to circle back to read all of that but, bill crystal (sp) made the mistake of saying it right out loud during baby bush. He was speaking of Iraq but advocated for simply taking their oil while keeping them busy with various means of repression including 4gw and economic. I suppose he got quieted since we never heard another word about that policy. Point being, the us gov, in making that policy action a reality in Afghanistan is indeed the world’s largest supplyer of opiate raw materials. This was also Hitler’s plan, to invade resource rich areas for monitary exploitation.

  10. On June 4, 2021 at 8:14 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @Fred @Georgiaboy61,

    True to all of that. It could have been different. We could have put Marines and Rangers on the border while Gen. Dostum pushed the hard core AQ and Taliban fighters to the mountains, leaving them no escape, and then encircled and killed them. It could all have been over in a couple of months.

    But we decided to play “social workers with guns.” A pity and shame.

    But this post isn’t really about that or the overarching policy decisions that led to the whole debacle.

    There are things to learn about warfare in terms of human proclivities, TTPs, etc. This is a great example from which to learn.

  11. On June 4, 2021 at 1:19 pm, Fred said:

    Yeah ok, but they failed because the tactics were wrong, and the tactics were wrong because the strategy was wrong, and the strategy was wrong because the policy was wrong. I don’t disagree with making a serious study of any engagement because to do so would be foolish. I wouldn’t begin to posit a position on TTP but I do know who is guilty before the throne of Holy God for the deaths on all sides.

  12. On June 4, 2021 at 2:11 pm, Brad said:

    Arnold Zacknussemm
    Exactly. But he can’t go away. He’s trying to monetize Instagram. He’s got this “Work out with Dakota in his garage for a dollar” thing going on. And then he insulted every 15 year old kid that’s a permanent fixture on AR15.com. Not real bright. The response was over the top though.

  13. On June 4, 2021 at 3:39 pm, 41mag said:

    Never met the MOH recipient, so I don’t know him except he proves that no matter your station in life, humans retain the capacity to complain like 7 year olds.

    Also, using social media to complain when you hold the nations highest award isn’t manly at all.

  14. On June 5, 2021 at 1:07 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    Re: “But we decided to play “social workers with guns.” A pity and shame.”

    Great turn-of-phrase, and you said it with a whole lot less “ink” than I did. Bravo!

  15. On June 5, 2021 at 11:33 am, Bill Buppert said:

    You will note that if all these people Dakota has a heartache with wore mono-color civilian clothing, none of this would have drawn his attention. The fact that a select few Americans wish to increase their weapons proficiency whatever their end ambitions for fighting is clearly a good idea.

    Is there stolen valor? Yes. And it isn’t simply in uniform, stolen valor and academic fraud is legion in every industry.

    Keep this in mind: outside of CAG [Delta] innovations in weapons and TTP, all small arms advancements in the US take place in the private sector.

    All of them.

    Even the Army Marksmanship Unit draws unashamedly from advances in civilian marksmanship advanced from pistol to rifle. All the 1000m+ LR and ELR advances are taking place in the hands of talented amateurs. The fact that the Stoner platform is best of breed planet-wide is no accident.

    Just think of the American lead in selective-fire firearms, destructive devices and indirect fire weapons if it weren’t for the criminally stupid 1934 NFA preventing garage tinkerers and entrepreneurs from being all they can be.

    Per Dakota, Gods bless him for his heroism and none of his incredible martial exploits could have taken place if not for the base stupidity, martial malpractice and institutional training deficits of Big Army. Heroes don’t happen unless mistakes provide opportunity.

    Per the SEALs, if you think Red Wings was a CF, take a look at the SEAL idiocy in the Battle of Takur Ghar in 2002. How not to fight [trademark]…

  16. On June 6, 2021 at 5:32 pm, luke2236 said:

    Hey dork in the video…just because someone refuses to go be a thug for israhell via the US military doesnt mean they dont know what theyre doing; my guess is that when TSHTF, youll be there doing whatever your paymaster tells you and justifying killing American citizens because “they didnt serve” [the NWO/UN/israhell].
    Actually dont own any camo myself, but will by this time tomorrow.

  17. On June 7, 2021 at 7:09 pm, Whynot said:

    Just a side note – talking with a retired CSM who was involved in that part of the world. He said you EXPECTED to be found by kids, so prepare for it. They took candy out with them and told the kids, come back tomorrow for more….but if you tell anyone, there’s no more candy……kids tend to be the same world-wide. He said they were never compromised.

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