RANGER AGAINST WAR: MOH #3: Michael P. Murphy <

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MOH #3: Michael P. Murphy

Michael P. Murphy

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy
--F. Scott Fitzgerald


The third MOH is Michael P. Murphy, Lieutenant, US Navy, SEAL, 28 June 05. Lt. Murphy is the lone MOH out of Afghanistan.

While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged, enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy's team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team.

The citation indicates the team was trying to locate "a high-level anti-coalition leader." A mouthful, but what does it mean? We are also told anti-coalition militia sympathizers revealed Murphy's team's position to the Taliban. What is going on here?

The team is looking for one leader who is not Taliban, and is ratted out by the locals to the Taliban.
This is layers upon layers of junk.

The team has several key problems which should have been addressed prior to launch and should have been discussed before mission brief during isolation.
Number One: What was the threat, and what were the levels of threat?

What military logic would have placed a 4-man reconnaissance team into a hostile environment where they were bound to be compromised? Recon teams are just that. They are not put on the ground to fight, and if they do fight they can only survive if they run and utilize pre-planned, on-call fire support and aviation assets.

Once they are decisively engaged, they are dead. The history of MACVSOG in the Republic of Vietnam clearly reveals this fact. All today's planners need do is read the after action reports. All of Murphy's team were killed, save for one.

Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of his team.

Engaging a larger enemy force in hostile denied areas with a small team is in itself a violation of recon tactics. A light recon team is not equipped to fight a protracted contact -- they only fight to break contact and be extricated. A recon team's only purpose is to gain intelligence to be exploited by future operations.

Murphy's unit was placed in a scenario which was a death sentence, and exceptional bravery does not mitigate that fact.
Remember, this is a 4-man team.

Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into an open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call.

In the middle of a heated fight is not the time to realize that communication with higher is non-existent. A commo check should be the first thing the unit does when it hits the ground. If it has a negative contact, they should abort. Otherwise they are isolated, which is not good.

During mission planning, an aerial or ground radio-relay site should have been planned and on-station
BEFORE the team launched. Anything less indicates poor leadership.

Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team.

Why was immediate support not provided before the team became decisively engaged? Why was there no extraction available immediately? Why no air cover? Why no indirect fire support?

In fact, why are the team's emergency personal radios not being utilized? Is this an SOF operation or Loony Tunes? The final statement really disturbs Ranger:

In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom.

How can we say these brave men gave their lives for their country? They gave their lives for lack of timely support, and their heroism was the result of poor planning.

This is reminiscent of Roger's Ridge, which was a thrown-together haphazard operation resulting in needless loss of SOF assets without harming the enemy in any significant manner.

Michael Monsoor

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just goes to show you that most of us who don't know crap about combat would have read that description and said "Wow! what a heroic person in such a tragic position" BUT when someone who actually knows what they are talking about breaks it down and puts what really happened in English, you realize - What the Hell else don't I understand that I think sounds so simple......and that is scary as HELL!

My dad always told me to keep my mouth shut about any given subject if I don't feel like I can adequately argue both sides and anticipate objections from either direction. He also taught me a lot about whom and how to gather the information I needed to be able to argue both sides.

Now, I try not to think about military stuff. I know, you are thinking "What?" but it a self preservation thing and yes, I do know that sticking your head in the sand makes your butt an awfully large target.

So, if I should choose to think about military/combat stuff, I know where to get one side of my information from now on.

Thanks Ranger!

Karen/Antique Lady

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 8:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Karen, Planning and executing a military operation is similar to the guidance you recieved from dear old Dad.
Soldiers must evaluate enemy courses of action as well as friendly mission requirements.Both sides of the equation must be thoroughly evaluated , this is doubly true when the assets engaged are SOF types. WE SHOULD KNOW BETTER.
When soldiers die it should be for unavoidable reasons. jim

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 9:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

after a medal ceremony, i proudly walked by a legendary master chief boatswain's mate who i wanted to impress with my bright shiny decoration. he glared at me (which was his main look) and said

if that operation had been done right none of this would have been neccessary.

if you hear about special ops activity, things have gone horribly wrong.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 10:02:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB, Thanks for weighing in.
Yes this Murphy scenario is horribly wrong.And of couse things do go wrong but that is why we have contingency planning and E&E and so on. This all seems AWOL in this Action and i find it professionally embarrassing.It's the same amatuer hour that led to Tillmans death.It all could have been avoided with solid planning and mission execution.
The commo situation keeps getting stuck in my craw. jim

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 10:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was tangentially associated with that mission (actually, the rescue/recovery portion) and you are more right than you know. There's a book coming out that may tell more of the story than Luttrell's book.

One good thing that came about as a result from this mission was needed changes at all levels and planning and operations have improved drastically since 2005.

Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 9:34:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Anon, thanks for your comment.Always nice to hear from SOF types.
I did not read Luttrells book b/c a casual glance at it showed disdain for liberals who are responsible for us loseing the war on terror. I WON'T READ SUCH CRAP.!
All of my cmt's were taken from the official MOH citations and my analysis of what this really meant in plain language.
It's absolutely criminal that it took until 05 to institute changes that were solid doctrine in SOG in the 60's and 70's.People in the SOF world should know the history and operational procedures of snoop and poop work that has gone before.
It's my guess that this mission was NOT recon as stated BUT RATHER a direct action mission.And if this is so then the citation is erroneous, but since this is supposition i left it out of my essay.
My respect for the Seals and their mission and heritage is boundless, But this mission was a bit loose around the edges and good men died as a result. I WISH I DIDN'T HAVE TO WRITE THESE THINGS. respectfully , jim .

Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 1:14:00 PM GMT-5  

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