Aviation News

September 9, 2012

VIDEO: Navy Seal Mark Owen Credits Army Pilots for Success of Bin Laden Raid

Osama bin Laden is marked as "deceased" on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List web page following the US raid that left him dead.

We thought we had a pretty good idea of the badassery of the helicopter pilots who participated in the Seal Team Six raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Thanks to former Navy Seal and recent author Mark Owen’s appearance on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, we now have an even clearer picture of what those pilots did to pull off one of the most daring operations in US history.

Mark Owen (not his real name) was a US Navy Seal Team Six member and, he says, the second man to arrive in Bin Laden’s bedroom during the raid. In his just-published book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden,” and in the 60 Minutes segment, Owen says that while he was not the first to shoot Bin Laden, he did fire “a handful of times” to make sure he stopped moving. Owen also says he snapped the infamous death photos that have never been published.

Along with his fellow Seals, Owen credits the pilots of the two highly modified Army Blackhawk helicopters, callsigns CHALK 1 and CHALK 2, that delivered them across the Pakistan border. The choppers flew an hour and a half from Afghanistan to Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, just a mile from a Pakistani military base, buzzing just above the treetops the whole way to evade Pakistani radar. As CHALK 1, carrying Owen and about two dozen other Seals, approached the compound to drop the sailors off via fast ropes, it crash landed in the courtyard. There is speculation that the helicopter got caught in its own downdraft, which may have been amplified by the compounds high walls. No matter the cause, Owen credited the pilots for putting it in one piece, a rough landing that was gentle enough for everyone to walk away.

Reports shortly after the raid revealed that a crashed helicopter had been destroyed by the Seals before they left to prevent its secret gear from falling into the wrong hands. We now know that was CHALK 1. What we did not know was that following the raid, CHALK 2 ran out of fuel on the way back to Afghanistan, the raid having taken a bit longer than expected. Still under the threat of Pakistani forces who would have been none-too-pleased to find an American military operation being conducted within their borders, CHALK 2 actually landed in western Pakistan, sipped some fuel from an accompanying CH-47 Chinook and took off again.

Owen’s 60 Minutes appearance and the book (which I have not yet read) do deserve a large asterisk: None of the content has been vetted by the Pentagon, and there is not any way of confirming his account of events. 60 Minutes does note that Owen’s details about the sequence inside Bin Laden’s room differs slightly from the Pentagon’s version. I found Owen to be a credible storyteller on TV, but you can judge for yourself. The Dept. of Defense has made rumblings about legal action against Owen, but I suspect if there were anything to this, these would be more than just rumblings and Owen would have been court-martialed the day the book was published.

Some have blasted Owen as a traitor for revealing background on the ultra-secretive Seals for a quick buck. With publication just eight weeks before election day, there have been charges that it was a ploy to boost support for President Obama. Owen, for his part, says the book’s release was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, not with the political season.

No matter what Owen’s motivation, I think it’s an inspiring story that needed to be told, and I am happy that someone did.

The entire 60 Minutes segment is shown below:

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  • The only way that the Secretary of Defense will authorize the court martial of the US Navy Seal, is if the book has clearly moved across the line of the secrecy agreement with the author. The damage has been done, and the government is faced with two options. The first is to court martial the Navy Seal, and file suits for damages with the publisher. The second isn’t much of an option, where nothing is done, and a brave new world develops with secret topics of our US government. In either approach the secrecy agreements will become very restrictive to members of the military service, and civilian members of secret agencies like the CIA or NSA. Maybe the best policy would be that the President of the United States be the only person who would report a secret operation, and if even a breath by someone else would bring immediate and harsh prison date for those involved. The world of total transparency of Julian Assange would never come to fruition. I believe that it was a mistake to have the Freedom of Information Act, and that the law that allows the disclosure of military and government secrets should be corrected by Congress as soon as possible.