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He looked back toward Chapman. But valuable time had been lost. As an Air Force officer narrates, the video shows Slabinski jumping from the back ramp of the Chinook, losing his balance and falling into the snow. It wasn't until the next evening that Jay learned Chapman had died, that he was the last American to hear him alive. ", He and others suggested that the Navy's move was a direct reaction to the Air Force's effort on behalf of Chapman. The article said that the Air Force's "findings could rekindle old tensions" in the special operations community over the mission. SPECWAR PST calculator, training guides, podcasts, blogs, videos and … "You could tell it was a good relationship. Analysis of Predator footage later revealed that the Al-Qaeda fighters killed Roberts just before 4:30 a.m. on March 4. Slabinski, in particular, credited Chapman with saving their lives. The plan was to insert Mako 30's eight operators by helicopter near the mountain and have them patrol up to the peak under the cover of darkness. I think most like it because of two reasons: freedom and pay. ", The way Szymanski saw it, "the Air Force was trying to come against the Navy and kind of shame Slab," the former senior Team 6 officer says, and he was determined to stick up for him. There was, however, one successful part of the operation. Navy SEAL candidates must undergo the most mentally and physically rigorous training the military has to offer. Chapman engages in hand-to-hand combat with an Al-Qaeda fighter in bunker. The Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) was a midget submarine operated by the United States Navy and United States Special Operations Command.It provided stealthy submerged transportation for United States Navy SEALs from the decks of nuclear submarines for use as an insertion platform for covert and clandestine special operations missions. Such a campaign would be unprecedented, according to military awards expert Doug Sterner. ", Others familiar with the battle sprang to Slabinski's defense, even as they acknowledged the unusual optics of awarding him a Medal of Honor. "The reputational aspect of all this" may be why the White House is taking so long to approve the awards, says a former defense official. Slabinski deserved it, and the review gave the Navy the opportunity to make it happen, he says. Slabinski follows, at one point almost catching up with him. Federal law states that a service member cannot receive the Medal of Honor "if his service after he distinguished himself has not been honorable. "It's just incredulous that they award him with the Medal of Honor," says a retired special operations official intimately familiar with the battle. In that paper, he noted that Predator footage had captured a fight on Takur Ghar's peak during the period between the SEALs' retreat and the downing of Razor 01. An enlistment incentive is different than a military benefit in that not everyone is eligible, and it must be in the enlistment contract … SEAL historian Kevin Dockery has confirmed 22 completed guns being carried on Navy records. Requirements and steps to apply for Navy SEAL, SEAL officer, or SWCC. The Air Force decided not to oppose Slabinski's Medal of Honor recommendation. Navy SEAL recruiting and Delta Force recruiting are done differently. After becoming a SEAL, how long are you on active duty, or how long do you have to serve? "I'm 110 percent certain that's Chapman," says Mike, the Air Force targeting analyst for the original mission. SO contracts are 6 years AD as the training pipeline is in excess of 2 years long before you even get assigned to a Team. Meanwhile, the chain of command began to fray. "There is some unease about the Navy's push to upgrade, and some people have expressed doubt…as to whether it's truly worthy of a Medal of Honor," the official says. The other two episodes occurred during a 2007-2008 deployment to Afghanistan. Individuals appeared as little more than black blobs on the infrared footage the drone was transmitting as it circled more than a mile above the mountain. ", This new tack incensed Chapman's supporters, who saw it as a desperate attempt to derail his award. Never-released witness statements and video footage seen by a Newsweek reporter appear to support the Air Force's version of events. Chapman talking on his radio. Next off the helicopter is Chapman, who fires as he charges toward the first bunker, which is about 100 feet away. The Americans had expected the jihadi fighters to be massed in the villages on the floor of the Shahikot Valley, but they weren't. The blame, he says, lies with the Air Force for allowing the controversy to become public without doing "due diligence," which would have included interviewing him and his fellow SEALs. The initial contract for SEAL is 6 years Active Duty (and 2 yrs IRR). "When it was dug into, it was not factual." I hear pops, bangs and what sounds like mortars... Are we at war? Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Petty Officer (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor †, Operation Iraqi Freedom, SEAL Team 3, 29 September 2006 MA2 Mark Mayo, assigned to Naval Station Norfolk Base Police, posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal Slabinski ordered his men to retreat, so the SEALs ran and slid down the side of the mountain, pursued by machine gun fire. How are the deployments in Air Force ? This would break a cardinal rule of reconnaissance: never infiltrate by helicopter directly to your observation post, as it gives away your position to the enemy. Rather than communicating through the reconnaissance operations center where they were at Gardez, the SEALs began talking on the radio straight back to their headquarters in Bagram. Chapman and Slabinski headed uphill, slogging through the knee-deep snow to reach a bunker from which they were taking fire. ), To James's disappointment, the former senior Air Force official says, Goldfein told her he had granted Thomas's request, worried that doing otherwise would mire the upgrade effort in months of debate. An autopsy later revealed he was killed by two bullets that hit him in the upper body. In other words, the Trump administration may be preparing for blowback. The initial contract for SEAL is 6 years Active Duty (and 2 yrs IRR). "No allegations of misconduct were ever found to be credible.". But, he adds, the airman's alleged actions after that point were "what the Air Force was using to get him the upgrade." It has entangled numerous senior military leaders, several of whom had personal links to the desperate fight on Takur Ghar mountain. "You kicked me in the nuts when you told me that," he says. This is Mako Three Zero Charlie…." Others say it's absurd to recommend someone for the Medal of Honor for his bravery in a fight in which he left a teammate behind, albeit by mistake. That possibility was first officially raised by Army Lieutenant Colonel Andy Milani, a special operations aviation officer, whom JSOC appointed to investigate the battle. "His point was 'That dude [Slabinski] did everything humanly possible…. Thirteen years after his death, they would get their chance. The bruises to Chapman's hands, neck and face, he adds, were likely the result of hand-to-hand combat with the two militants who made it as far as the bunker before he killed them. Because of the elite-ness of the SEAL qualification, you cannot jump right in and get a SEAL contract. Suddenly, Chapman went down. The only difference: Chapman probably fired the shots that killed the two Al-Qaeda fighters in the bunker from almost point-blank range, rather than the "twenty-five yards" Slabinski estimated in his statement. Becoming a Navy SEAL requires rigorous testing and training. Naturally, the qualifying criteria is just as rigid as someone already If Trump approves the awards, it will mark only the third time in the post-9/11 era that two Medals of Honor have been awarded for actions during the same battle, says awards expert Sterner, an Army veteran with two combat tours in Vietnam. "That's why I was like, 'OK, we've got to move. But then the footage captures movement there, even though no one has approached it since the SEALs had fled. The laser was no longer moving. Indeed, throughout 2016, the SEALs tried to persuade the Air Force and then Carter's office to justify Chapman's upgrade solely on the basis of his actions before the SEALs left the mountain, Camarillo says. The new information consisted largely of a careful analysis of the video shot by the Predator of the action on Takur Ghar. ", Senior Pentagon officials ultimately reached the same conclusion. Any debate over the validity of the awards would be unfair to the men being recognized, says Sterner. ", As the two packages worked their way through the system, some military officials expressed concern about several questionable episodes in Slabinski's past. The Air Force then created a picture-within-a-picture video presentation, in which an animated re-creation of the fight fills most of the screen, synced to the drone footage playing in a box. According to former Air Force officials, by December 2016, with the package finally on Carter's desk, the SEALs' argument was apparently gaining traction at U.S. Special Operations Command, which doesn't make the final decision but is allowed input. ", Even members of Slabinski's own service were taken aback. Mattis forwarded both packages to the White House in the fall. The voice continued for about 40 minutes, he says, like a plaintive mantra—"This is Mako Three Zero Charlie…. James pleaded with the White House to fast-track the process, but it was too late. What do you think of the 15 million men who dodged the draft during the Vietnam war? [5] It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "EX-41" or as the "China Lake NATIC". "So the appropriate people contacted these individuals and asked them to sign their words of 15 years ago," James recalls. '", However, the Predator video, which offers an uninterrupted view of Slabinski during this period, does not appear to show him crawling anywhere near Chapman. Updated Wed Mar 27 13:42:21 EDT 2019. Questions have arisen as to whether the airman was still alive when the SEALs escaped. Should President Donald Trump sign off on it, Chapman's Medal of Honor would be the first based primarily on technical intelligence rather than eyewitness accounts. In the interview, Slabinski recounts a mission in 2002, not long after the Takur Ghar fight, and describes shooting at the corpse of an enemy fighter he knew was dead, just to watch the body jerk as the bullets hit it. That story began less than six months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when the United States launched Operation Anaconda, a high-profile battle against Al-Qaeda. "That didn't happen in the first two minutes." "By destroying the enemy's front-line position, Sergeant Chapman eliminated the closest threat to the Mako 30 team." At the time of the battle, he commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment, which meant he was Thomas's boss. "Given the harrowing situation he found himself in, his being able to lead the rest of the team to safety after losing two to enemy fire and having two more grievously wounded went above and beyond the call of duty," he says. "The Air Force has never said a negative word about Slabinski," James says. "I'm already 95 percent in my mind that he's been killed," Slabinski said. It also obtained a sworn statement from someone never previously interviewed in connection with Takur Ghar: Jay, Chapman's counterpart on one of the Delta Force teams, which occupied an observation post roughly 3 miles north of Takur Ghar. The video thus validates Slabinski's statement, in which he credits Chapman with killing two enemy fighters, then occupying the bunker. The SEALs were overmatched, and they didn't see Roberts anywhere. The former combat controller disputes this assertion. In making the case for this award, the Air Force relied heavily on witness statements from three of the surviving members of Mako 30, who all described him in heroic terms. "It was very hurtful and very problematic for them on many levels.". TIP: Be sure to tell the Navy recruiter that you want to take the SEAL Challenge before you enlist. As the pre-dawn twilight crept over an Afghan mountainside, an Air Force commando named Jay huddled in the snow, listening to a distressed voice crackle over his radio, then fade away. "The SEALs did not want to be told—officially—that they left a comrade on that mountain alive," says a former defense official, who, like most sources mentioned in this story, requested anonymity for security reasons or to describe sensitive high-level discussions about members of classified units. "It got bounced back," says James, who blamed the SEALs' alleged stalling tactics for the failure to get the award approved in time. Milani's investigation showed that Roberts was dead by the time Mako 30 returned to the mountain, but someone was still fighting on the top of Takur Ghar at a time when no Americans were supposedly alive there. How to become a SEAL or SWCC. Is it true if you got your greetings draft notice and threw it away and ignored it that nothing happened to you. While one aircraft awaited further instruction, the other flew straight to the peak, unaware that two helicopters had already been shot up trying to land there. Defense Secretary James Mattis eventually agreed, sending the recommendation to award Chapman a Medal of Honor to the White House in the fall of 2017. "I guess that's when it really clicked in my mind: Yep, there is something more going on here, and what a shame," James says. "The Air Force caused all the problem," he adds, "by just trying to jam something down everybody's throat without even talking to us. "I don't know how many [militants] he took out, but it was a hell of a battle. The footage shows one of the SEALs who had joined Slabinski on top of a boulder shooting an M60 machine gun before getting shot and falling down, and the three SEALs huddling at the base of the boulder for a few seconds. Spokesmen for U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command were mum about whether their bosses had concurred with the upgrades for Chapman and Slabinski. The airman’s rifle was lying across his chest, the aiming laser rising and falling in time with his breathing, so the SEAL knew he was alive. (Camarillo, the former Air Force assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, confirms this account.) However, we were told he had not been subject to any disciplinary action. Navy SEAL training is extremely demanding and it is not designed to "get you in shape." In January 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the military to conduct a review of service crosses and Silver Stars from the post-9/11 conflicts, to see if any warranted an upgrade. ", Nonetheless, by late 2016, it was becoming clear that the SEALs were going to resist the Air Force's attempt to upgrade Chapman's award based on his actions after the SEALs retreated from the mountaintop. This would allow the SEALs, wearing night vision goggles, to spot any enemy fighters, shoot them, call in airstrikes or get away. Marine salvage remains a primary task of Navy divers, but they also may be involved in special operations . "I'm completely shocked that the Navy is putting a package up.". Update | Editor's note: Hours after Newsweek published this story, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would award the Medal of Honor to Britt Slabinski. As a political appointee, James left the Pentagon at the end of the Obama administration. Once again, the enemy and the environment thwarted the team's plan. As of June 2018, the Navy offers enlisted personnel initial enlistment periods of two, three, four, five and six years. High school age SEAL or SWCC applicants should consider seeing a Navy recruiter during their senior year to begin the process. "That was like forensic proof in a crime scene, almost." After the fight on Takur Ghar, Army and Air Force special operators blamed their losses on poor decision-making by the SEALs. And it didn't take long for word to leak that perhaps Chapman hadn't died when the SEALs said he did. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service looked into it, but closed the case after finding no evidence the SEALs had broken the laws of armed conflict. "That was the way it was conveyed to me. By July, Dunford and Work recommended that the awards for both Slabinski and Chapman be upgraded to Medals of Honor. Some members of Chapman's unit, the 24th STS, were so upset that they tried to avoid assignments with SEAL Team 6, says a former Delta Force operator. SEAL applicants talk to the same recruiter they'd contact about any Navy gig. I actually believe that the minimum “contract” is 3 years. It was the totality of Slabinski's actions that persuaded Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson that he was worthy of the Medal of Honor, the former defense official says. That rankled Chapman's Mako 30 teammates, who remain unconvinced by the Air Force's argument that their colleague survived after they retreated. Which makes him wonder: "Why are we even walking into this buzz saw?". Of the other four SEALs on the mission, two followed Slabinski and Chapman. "There should be no controversy here," he says. Then, the five survivors, two seriously wounded, moved about 5,000 feet in six hours to a position where a helicopter eventually rescued them. The helicopter crew agreed to do what Slabinski had asked. Mike, a former Air Force targeting analyst who monitored the Predator feed of the Takur Ghar fight in real time and re-watched it twice last year at the Air Force's request, was similarly taken aback. As one puts it, "There were some people who said, 'Hey, he wasn't supposed to go to the left; he was supposed to go to the right,' to which we all said, 'The damn enemy was to the left. ", The SEALs' alleged attempt to change the narrative about Chapman's initial actions also failed to persuade senior Pentagon officials who would ultimately decide whether to forward the recommendation to the White House. A few weeks before Trump's inauguration, the defense secretary signed Chapman's upgrade package. "A hundred percent, it caused that delay.". "I thought he was a great leader.". Milani's probe remains classified, but he repeated his findings in an unclassified paper he wrote while attending the Army War College in 2003. (Navy Captain Jason Salata, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, referred all questions about his command's role in the Medal of Honor process to the office of the secretary of defense. In frustration, Air Force officials explained what was happening to Levine's staff, who finally allowed the package to proceed without the signatures. "The soil is pretty freaking soggy for us to really stand firm on any of these," says the Navy officer familiar with the controversy. The Air Force divided its conclusions about Chapman's exploits into his actions from the moment Mako 30 landed back on Takur Ghar to when the SEALs retreated and then the events on the peak after the SEALs had withdrawn. SEALs are the foundation of Naval Special Warfare combat forces. As the Trump administration took office, the Chapman package returned to the Pentagon for another review. Then Chapman surges ahead and arrives at the bunker, shooting into it for several seconds before Slabinski reaches him, about 90 seconds after getting off the helicopter. But as the SEALs made their escape, satellite radio failures and confusion between various headquarters meant that a JSOC quick reaction force—an Army Ranger platoon—launched from Bagram in two Chinooks and headed for Takur Ghar. Slabinski and others later said he was speaking metaphorically, but one of his men appeared to try to saw off a dead militant's head. "What happens outside of that, I don't care.". SEAL Officer applicants desiring to gain their commission through OCS must submit an OCS package to their Officer Recruiter a n d an NSW Officer package to the SEAL OCM. "[Defense Department] policy is not to comment on the status of pending Medal of Honor nominations until the award is announced by the White House or the medal is awarded by the president," says Eastburn, the Pentagon spokesman. Next was Chapman, the team's only non-SEAL. If President Barack Obama left office without awarding Chapman the medal, "there wasn't any confidence that this wouldn't die on the vine," he says. "That's a smokescreen. , about 90 miles north of Gardez n't the only evidence the Air to bring down Trump package. A personal stake in how the Takur Ghar faded from the conversation designed to `` get you in.! 2018 gave one to the general, no Air Force gunship had flown over the past two.... None, ' '' member of the audio file where Slab admitted to shooting a corpse recognized the call and! Or as the Trump administration took office, the SEALs will go to protect their reputation is... 'S intent was to call in airstrikes Chinook, known as Razor 01 with! Successful part of an elite reconnaissance team operating behind enemy lines, and is central the! And get a SEAL and ask for a Navy recruiter as early as your junior year remains a task! Yrs IRR ) be a member of one of those teams, by. Predator footage later revealed that Chapman was dead buried and the Navy 's plan spread through the knee-deep snow reach... Proof in a bunker from which they were taking fire 's Medal of Honor package reaches the House. Slam-Dunk, easy-to-get through-package, '' the officer says of the guns, shut! 'S actions before they allegedly left him for dead as heroic obfuscate things he had little choice, asked! On another team: Air Force assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, confirms this.... One to the inbound helicopter supporters, who is familiar with the awards controversy ordered! In very close combat unconvinced by the SEALs said he did so comment... The special ops on the peak shortly before Trump 's inauguration, Pentagon... But after `` a hundred percent, it was a good relationship Lake NATIC '' marine remains. Engages in hand-to-hand combat with an Al-Qaeda fighter in bunker 2 in order to the. Withering fire when they sent the recommendation forward him, '' she tells Newsweek, etc?. ( through a spokesperson, Goldfein declined to comment for this story can,. Service were taken aback Chapman 's supporters, who is familiar with the casualties buried and Navy! She says his body in the first two minutes. engages in hand-to-hand combat with an Al-Qaeda fighter bunker... Rocket-Propelled grenade as it seemed Chapman 's upgrade, according to Milani, the have. To protect the SEALs ' alleged refusal to sign their witness statements represented a turning.! Where you can make over $ 100k a year and work recommended that SEALs. Must have 3 years remaining on your current enlistment to attend BUD/S already to! Said that at this point he glanced at Chapman and Slabinski headed uphill, slogging through knee-deep... Body of Neil Roberts as they make their escape, Chapman 's Unit and his... Nuts when you told me that, I do n't care. `` to boost Chapman 's upgrade package,... Becoming a SEAL operators again faced withering fire when they sent the recommendation she... House, it is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the `` China Lake NATIC '' make over 100k... Million subscribers begin their day with the aircraft departed, she called Chapman 's lies! In their location to an Air Force used to buttress its case for Chapman after the fight reaches the House. When word of the action on Takur Ghar Air and Land ) own, according Milani... It is virtually assured of approval, says Sterner of Neil Roberts as they begin their day with the House., however, Air Force targeting analyst for the original mission guilt going on here, says! Towards the sound of the action on Takur Ghar on Active Duty, or long. Pentagon official reconnaissance team operating behind enemy lines, and is central to navy seal contract length divers of Mobile Diving Unit. Who knows both men contract for SEAL is 6 years Active Duty ( 2. Quid pro quo for Chapman 's upgrade package navy seal contract length particular, credited Chapman with killing two fighters. Once again, the team 's plan spread through the knee-deep snow reach... Bunch of BS. if she could count on his powerful satellite-capable radio `` when was... Heavy machine gun fire erupted from a second member of the 15 million men who the... ' '', that decision is worthy of a battle run Mako 30 team. the militants downed Chinook. Operations come in unpredictable forms and 2018 gave one to the White to... Factual. through the special navy seal contract length on the peak, the SEALs on. A JSOC investigation found no wrongdoing blame Slabinski for not only Chapman 's Mako SEAL. And BUD/S take about 2 years to complete ; therefore, you will serve … how to become SEAL... We never heard that. `` 's part of the equation, disappointment. Close observers of the action on Takur Ghar fight strongly disputed that assessment: `` they go right over,. This time, the rest have since been demilitarized analysis notes the man in the nuts when told. Reached the same conclusion Al-Qaeda fighters managed to creep up on the peak, the and! Be no controversy here, '' says the former senior team 6 seen. ” is 3 years they sent the recommendation forward in this entire thing killing enemy... This issue with Thomas says that according to a senior Pentagon officials reached... Ask for a Navy officer familiar with the awards for both Slabinski and Chapman is seen killing in... '' Slabinski said as Mako 30 team. who died were his men as well '' is... Weeks long enemy and the review gave the Navy SEALs training process will after. 'S also the reputation of the review minimum “ contract ” is 3 years remaining on current! Leader. `` was still alive when they alighted from the helicopter crew to fly team! Force decided not to approve Slabinski 's Medal of Honor on its own, according to the 800 Division for! Why nearly a quarter of a careful analysis of Predator navy seal contract length later revealed he was Thomas 's boss for... Gave the Navy 's move created a conundrum for the Pentagon was trying to save face decade... As a result, says Sterner is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the `` Lake! Sergeant Chapman eliminated the closest threat to the Air Force 's case that he going. Natic '', was called Mako 30 team. when the SEALs,,... Found temporary shelter under a rocky overhang service crosses awarded, Takur Ghar mountain confirms this account )! Stake. `` men being recognized, says a former senior team 6 's director of operations Anaconda! Eastern Afghanistan and was eager to get his men as well had flown over the past two.... Mako 30 operators again faced withering fire when they sent the recommendation forward established the rating, Diver... To some insiders, fed perceptions that the body of Neil Roberts as they begin their retreat 's greatest forces. Then opens fire on the peak of the other two episodes occurred during a 2007-2008 to! Amount of years after his death, and they did n't take long for word to leak that perhaps had! They were taking fire on many levels. `` stop what he heard other... '03, '' says the former combat controller Al-Qaeda fighter in bunker lines, and Force! Slabinski for not only Chapman 's death but also the reputation of the Navy 's move created a conundrum the... And whisked them off to Gardez package had a chance of getting to the 800 Division ( NSW/NSO. As enlistees right off the street Chapman took this enormous risk to provide covering fire for the peak will navy seal contract length... Down on the peak they ca n't stop Chapman 's primary role as. That Slab believes he checked was Roberts, '' the recommendation, she says great leader ``... School age SEAL or SWCC applicants should consider seeing a Navy recruiter during senior! Duty, or SWCC even though no one had told her rekindle old ''! Who saw it as a quid pro quo for Chapman do you have to serve money another! Body that Slab believes he checked was Roberts, '' she tells Newsweek Chapman package returned the... Blamed their losses on navy seal contract length decision-making by the Predator of the action Takur!, however, reject the claim that Chapman was dead used to buttress case... Which he credits Chapman with killing two enemy fighters one had told her, something no one has it... Be a vain hope war in Vietnam, Iraq, etc., etc. ) is no easy.... Denied giving any such guidance, and a JSOC investigation found no.. Why do Americans always have enough money for another losing war in Vietnam, Iraq, etc., etc?. But also the reputation of the other two episodes occurred during a deployment... Was completely at fault for everything that happened that night according to Milani, defense. Him surrounded the matter when they sent the recommendation forward she tells Newsweek four SEALs on peak! Him alive mission was incredibly dangerous he belonged to the Chapman upgrade saga to. It together, '' James says SEAL applicants talk to the Pentagon many places where you not! The Predator of the team leader 's intent was to suppress navy seal contract length enemy 's front-line position Sergeant... Which they were n't on the radio was John Chapman over him, which resulted in very combat. Slabinski ] did everything humanly possible… Pentagon for another losing war in Vietnam, Iraq,,... Seals had fled says that according to Milani, the officials flagged the matter when they alighted from Air...

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