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30 US troops died in single deadliest incident of the Afghanistan War 9 years ago in Extortion 17 mission

U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks fly over an undisclosed location, Dec. 8, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)
August 06, 2020

The U.S. suffered its deadliest single-incident loss of life in all of Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan when a U.S. CH-47D, call-signed “Extortion 17,” was shot down on August 6, 2011.

All 38 passengers aboard Extortion 17, including 30 U.S. military personnel, eight Afghans and a U.S. military working dog, were killed after the transport helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Extortion 17 was attached to a mission to capture or kill a senior Taliban leader, Qari Tahir, near Kabul, Afghanistan.

Among the American passengers, 17 were U.S. Navy SEALs, including 15 Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team 6 or DEVGRU. Just three months before the crash, SEAL Team 6 had risen to prominence for its involvement in the raid to take out Al Qaeda terror leader Osama Bin Laden.

“Today we Honor and Remember those we lost on 08.06.11. The United States sustained the greatest single loss of lives to our Special Operations Forces in American history when U.S. Army CH-47D Chinook, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down by Taliban fighters.⁣ Never Forget,” the Navy SEAL Foundation tweeted Thursday in tribute to those who died.

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Other Americans aboard Extortion 17 included Navy Special Warfare support personnel, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aircrew members. The Afghans aboard the helicopter included seven Afghan National Army commandos and an Afghan interpreter.

Prior to the downing of Extortion 17, the previous single deadliest incident involving Americans deployed to Afghanistan was during Operation Red Wings on June 28, 2005, when 11 Navy SEALS and eight Army Night Stalkers were killed.

“Today we honor the Fathers, Husbands, Sons, Brothers and Friends that were lost 9 years ago on Extortion 17 #neverforget,” the Special Operations Warrior Foundation tweeted a video tribute.

The complete list of Americans killed includes:

  • SGT ALEXANDER J. BENNETT
  • SPC SPENCER DUNCAN
  • CWO BRYAN J. NICHOLS
  • CWO DAVID R. CARTER
  • SSG PATRICK D. HAMBURGER
  • TSGT JOHN W. BROWN
  • SSGT ANDREW W. HARVELL
  • TSGT DANIEL L. ZERBE
  • PO1 (SEAL) DARRICK C. BENSON
  • CPO (SEAL) BRIAN R. BILL
  • PO1 (SEAL) CHRISTOPHER G. CAMPBELL
  • PO1 JARED W. DAY
  • PO1 JOHN DOUANGDARA
  • CPO (SEAL) JOHN W. FAAS
  • CPO (SEAL) KEVIN A. HOUSTON
  • LT. CMDR. (SEAL) JONAS B. KELSALL
  • MCPO (SEAL) LOUIS J. LANGLAIS
  • CPO (SEAL) MATTHEW D. MASON
  • CPO (SEAL) STEPHEN M. MILLS
  • CPO NICHOLAS H. NULL
  • PO1 (SEAL) JESSE D. PITTMAN
  • SCPO (SEAL) THOMAS A. RATZLAFF
  • CPO (SEAL) ROBERT J. REEVES
  • CPO (SEAL) HEATH M. ROBINSON
  • PO2 (SEAL) NICHOLAS P. SPEHAR
  • PO1 MICHAEL J. STRANGE
  • PO1 (SEAL) JON T. TUMILSON
  • PO1 (SEAL) AARON C. VAUGHN
  • SCPO KRAIG M. VICKERS
  • PO1 (SEAL) JASON R. WORKMAN
  • MILITARY WORKING DOG “BART”

On Thursday, Forged Clothing, a clothing brand started by former Navy SEALS, tweeted a video of a letter written by one of the men killed, Heath M. Robinson days before the incident.

“Today marks the 9th anniversary of Extortion 17. We would like to dedicate this week to honoring and remembering the brothers and heroes we lost that day. 🙏🏻 Please take a moment to listen to DEVGRU Gold Squadron Heath M. Robinson’s Mother read his last words,” Forged tweeted.

Team Never Quit, a podcast started by Navy SEAL and Operation Red Wings survivor Marcus Luttrell also paid tribute to those killed in the Extortion 17 incident.

“We will #NEVERFORGET these warriors. Beloved Fathers, Husbands, Brothers, and Sons. 🔱 #Extortion17,” Team Never Quit tweeted.