Jonathan Harmon

U.S. Air Force PJ Opens Up On Operation Redwing & What It Took To Save Marcus Luttrell (Part 2)

This week, Marcus Luttrell and former U.S. Air Force PJ and combat rescue officer, Jonathan Harmon, pick up where they left off in their last episode, bringing to the table a deep dive discussion regarding the details of how Jonathan was able to reasonably calculate Marcus’ direction and future location during the Operation Red Wings series of events in Afghanistan in June, 2005. Many details of that op are included in today’s discussion. It has now been 18 years since Operation Red Wings occurred.

NOTE: “PJ” (Air Force Pararescuemen) are the only DOD elite combat forces specifically organized, trained, equipped, and postured to conduct full spectrum Personnel Recovery (PR) to include both conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations.
Listen in as Jonathan & Marcus discuss the details of the efforts it took to bring Marcus home as the lone survivor of that operation.

In this episode you will hear:
• He [Matt Axelson] had made it close to a village and ended up being shot and killed. And then a villager took his body even further away and buried it. (4:27)• The best record we have [of Operation Red Wings] is from Marcus’ memory. (5:24)
• I think the American public would find it completely fascinating to learn what efforts our government will go to, to bring their people home. (10:24)
• What if you had the ability – and we knew there was a television close by – and you’re being held in a foreign country. It [a discrete message] could be so much as just a message on the television as simple as a small American flag on the screen. (11:55)
• If you can think of the worst day of your entire life, and how despondent you can be – that’s every day in captivity. (13:17)
• He [Marcus’ primary target] – disappeared through an air strike. (18:31)
• So I hand my map off, [and proceeds to list his specific findings] and predict where they would end up, and I’m told: “We’re going to Afghanistan.” (23:36)
• The two [sources of information – the Army’s findings and Jonathan’s findings] validated one another. So we had a location and we had confirmation. (28:07)
• For those that don’t know, we stripped that aircraft down. We took nothing that wasn’t necessary. (30:00)
• I like to call it a recovery – not of remains – but of a person because rescue would imply that we are rescuing you from our friendly forces. That’s not necessarily the case. (30:58)
• I think the first thing [that should happen to Marcus after his recovery] is that and he needed to get a full blown medical evaluation. (33:27)
• Doc Dickens will convince you that you are superman. You’re the fullest expression of yourself. (38:32)
• If there was a father figure for all of us – it was him [Doc Dickens]. (40:29)
• One has to consider the gravity of the circumstances [of Operation Red Wings]. The single most loss of life in the history of the United States Navy SEALS just happened. (42:27)
• To be given the clothing of the village elder is a personification of being him himself. (51:10)
• [Jonathan telling Marcus] Your adherence to your faith in captivity was unique among all stories I’ve ever heard. (51:48)
• If you pull the John Wayne act [while in enemy captivity], you’re gonna get tortured and killed. (53:52)
• He [Marcus] rewrote singlehandedly a lot of our resistance posture training because we were fighting a different kind of enemy that we didn’t write manuals for. (56:10)
• [Marcus] They would laugh at me because I would fall down, and I just kept trying. I would fail all the time. I can’t believe they kept me. (60:19)
• [Jonathan to Marcus] I have a question to ask you and I want you to think about this. Do you want to continue to operate? Or do you want to be a hero? And he thinks about it and says, “Fuck, man. I wanna operate.” (71:58)
• We learned early on that asking permission wasn’t gonna work. The very first thing I learned from the SEALS – beg for forgiveness. (87:55)

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