U.S. NavySEAL Afganistan News
1. ' I Died Doing What Made Me Happy,' Navy SEAL Wrote In Letter to Wife
2. Norfolk-based SEAL is among battle's dead
3. Navy SEALS recount time behind Afghan enemy lines For 96 hours they waited undetected for U.S. Marines sleeping under dirt and speak ing only when necessary.
Press Gannett News service Tucson
Citizen submitted to me by Capt. Bill Hamilton (SEAL)
CORONADO, Calif. --
Four days before the U. S. Marines touched outside the Taliban stronghold of Kandshar, the SEALs were on the ground there, miles behind enemy lines.
Their target was a private airstrip built by a wealthy Arab to reach his hunting lodge. With in two weeks, the world would know it as Camp Rhino, and the Marines there would be helping opposition Afghan forces run the Taliban out of town.
The Navy took the unusual step Thursday of having two SEALS who were among the first U.S. troops in Afghanistan speak about the 96 hours they spent outside Kandahar. Their names were withheld, and they declined questions that could compromise security.
"I've been in 16 years, and this was like the big game," said the platoon's chief enlisted man. "We're real fortunate to get a tested."
The airstrip that would become Camp Rhino was believed to be deserted. The SEAL team, one of three based in Coronado, was sent in to make sure.
With each carrying 100 pounds of food, weapons and gear, the SEALs were dropped "a significant distance" from the strip. Between them and their target was a silent, uninhabited landscape of sand and dust.
"The only thing you hear is the wind," said a 34-year-old lieu tenant from Iowa, the platoon's No.2 in command.
It was an area so isolated they found no land mines even though Afghanistan is one of the most heavily countries in the world. To remain undectedted, they communicated by hand signals and spoke only when necessary and in a close whisper. They left no traces, packing out even their body waste.
They moved at night under moonless skies, lighted by a dome of stars. The lieutenant brought along a small thermometer that showed the temperature dropping into the 20's. During the day, they slept out of sight. Dirt covered their bodies.
Through night-vision goggles they could see animals that resembled coyotes. During thd days, U.S. jets streaking over head. "It's a cold, desolate place where anything could happen. You have to be prepared for anything," said the top enlisted man, a 35-year old from Ohio.
They found the unoccupied and passead the word that all was clear. But as the Marines grappled with the logis tics, for landing, the SEALS' 24- hour mission stretched into 96 hours.
Their silence wasn't broken until Nov.25 when the thunder of the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters announced the arrival of the Marines. For the SEALs pro viding security, this was the most dangerous moment, but the landing went off without a hitch.
"I want to thank you guys for freezing for us," the Marines' company commander told them. Hours later, the SEALs were gone, heading back to an unnamed base in the Middle East. Twelve days later, on Dec. 7, the Tailban abandoned Kandahar.
The Navy's elite "Sea, Air, Land" force has served as an advance guard for the Marine COrps in nearly every U.S. conflict since its formation in 1962. Its members are trained to handle almost any mission on any terrain, drom deserts to frozen tundra to the high seas.
'That's why we exist," said Evin Thompson, chief staff officer for the Coronado SEAL teams. 8A
Email from UDT-SEAL Assn.
As you have seen on national television and read in the newspapers, Special Operations has suffered causalities in Afghanistan. We are saddened to report SEAL PO1 Neil Roberts is one of the men who gave his life in the fight against terrorism. Details of this tragedy are reported in the following article from the Virginian Pilot and the attached article from the New York Times.
Neil was a graduate of Class 184 and served in several SEAL Teams. His wife Patty and 18-month-old son, Nathan, currently reside in Virginia Beach where Neil was assigned.
A memorial service is schedule for 1400, Monday (11 March 2002) at the Base Chapel NAB Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia. Uniform for Navy personnel is Service Dress Blue.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, P.O. Box 5365, Virginia Beach, VA 23471, or to the Neil Roberts Memorial Fund, Navy Federal Credit Union, Lynnhaven Branch, 509 Viking Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.
Condolence should be mailed to Patricia Roberts, 2513 Quail Hollow Place, Virginia Beach, VA 23454.
God bless Neil and his family. my note: Amen. May he rest in peace in the arms or our heavenly father.
Norfolk-based SEAL is among battle's dead
By DALE EISMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
© March 6, 2002
WASHINGTON -- A Norfolk-based sailor who was part of an elite special warfare unit was among seven Americans killed in what for U.S. forces has been the deadliest battle to date in Afghanistan.
Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Christopher Roberts, 32, died after falling from a special forces helicopter as it made an emergency takeoff while under fire late Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon announced. He apparently survived the fall but died after being captured and wounded by terrorist forces on the ground, Marine Maj. Ralph Mills told The Associated Press.
Roberts was the first Navy combat death in the Afghan war. A friend from his hometown in California described him to a reporter there as ``a real nice kid -- kind of a tough kid who didn't let things bother him.'' An aviation boatswain's mate, Roberts was a Navy SEAL and part of Special Warfare Group Two, based in Norfolk. The SEALs are considered among the world's toughest fighters and are trained for sea, air and land combat.
Roberts was a native of Woodland, Calif., but lived in the Hampton Roads area with his wife and 18-month-old son, a Navy spokeswoman said. His mother and a sister live in California. The family declined all requests for interviews.
Roberts apparently was the first casualty of a firefight that began when the MH-47E Chinook helicopter carrying him and other U.S. troops landed in the rugged Gardez area of eastern Afghanistan.
'I Died Doing What Made Me Happy,' Navy SEAL Wrote In Letter to Wife
Saturday, March 9, 2002; Page A18
NORFOLK, March 8 -- The Navy SEAL who was slain after falling out of his stricken helicopter in Afghanistan wrote his wife an open-in-the-event-of-my-death letter in which he assured her: "I died doing what made me happy."
"Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave. My time in the Teams was special," Neil Roberts, 32, wrote. "For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast."
Roberts, a Norfolk-based petty officer 1st class from Woodland, Calif., was one of seven Americans who died Monday after U.S. helicopters were hit by enemy gunfire in Afghanistan. Roberts fell to the ground as his helicopter, hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, veered away. He apparently survived the fall and was shot on the ground.
The U.S. military encourages members to update their wills and otherwise put personal affairs in order before they leave on assignment.
The Roberts family is grieving in private, but friend Christina Kalassay released a portion of the letter because Patty Roberts wanted to tell people a little bit about her husband, who is the father of her 18-month-old son.
"Neil would want everyone to remember him as a loving husband and father, a loving son and brother, a true friend and warrior who never once questioned his commitment to his family or his country," Kalassay said in a statement.
Roberts had a twin brother and 10 other siblings. He wrote in his letter that he treasured his childhood and that his family's support and care made him the person he was. He also expressed how much being in the Navy meant to him.
"I consider myself blessed with the best things a man could ever hope for," he wrote. "My childhood is something I'll always treasure. My family is the reason I'm the person I am today. They supported and cared for me in the best way possible. . . .
"All the times spent in the company of my teammates was when I felt the closest to the men I had the privilege to work with. I loved being a SEAL. If I died doing something for the Teams, then I died doing what made me happy. Very few people have the luxury of that."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company