Breaking News
Chinook in Afghanistan

Extortion 17: Raise a Glass to Those Lost, and Continue Looking for Answers

Share this article

by Susan Katz Keating

Eleven years ago today, 30 American military servicemen and a U.S. military working dog were killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down in Afghanistan. Within hours of this shocking event, I began searching for whatever I could learn, for an article for PEOPLE magazine. As part of the investigative team, I was assigned to write about Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn. My colleagues wrote about other men who were aboard the helicopter. Over the course of the next few days, our team learned who was killed – but not much else. The event remains to this day the greatest single loss of life to Naval Special Warfare since the Afghan War started in 2001.

Many questions remain about what happened in the moments leading up to when Extortion 17 was shot down. Much remains to be uncovered. For now, on this day, please take a moment and pause to honor and remember those who were lost.

The following sailors assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

Lieutenant Commander (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana

Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, California

Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Connecticut

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Massachusetts

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Missouri

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer(Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, West Virginia

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana

Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Michigan

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, California

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, North Carolina

Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah

Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Nebraska

Cryptologist Technician(Collection)Petty Officer 1st Class(Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL)Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Florida

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL)Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah

The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL)Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, California

Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL)Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minnesota

The soldiers killed were:

Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, CO. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colorado.

Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment(General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas.

Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Nebraska (he was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant).

Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas.

Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kansas.

The airmen killed were:

Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Florida

Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, California Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pennsylvania. All three airmen were assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina.

Seven Afghan National Army commandos and one Afghan civilian interpreter were also killed in the crash.

Raise a glass to their memory. Never forget.

About Susan Katz Keating

Check Also

Four Marines and a Night on the Town: What Possibly Could Go Wrong?

Share this article        by Al Hagan The night started off fairly typically, just four Marines …