How Operation Red Wings will forever be honored at the gym

Jessica Evans
Jun 28, 2023 7:43 AM PDT
4 minute read
operation red wings

Navy file photo of Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y.


Here we look at the harrowing events of Operation Red Wings that unfolded in the unforgiving mountains of Afghanistan.

On June 28, 2005, Operation Red Wings' harrowing events unfolded in Afghanistan's unforgiving mountains, showcasing the relentless bravery and sacrifice of Navy SEALs and special forces personnel. This high-stakes mission targeted Ahmad Shah, a notorious Taliban leader in the Kunar province, whose lethal tactics and command earned him a deadly reputation. Taking down Shah would disrupt the Taliban's operations and deal a blow to their command structure.

Here we examine the history of Operation Red Wings:

The Reconnaissance Team's Dilemma

Dropping deep into enemy territory, the four-man reconnaissance team – Navy SEALs Lt. Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell – faced an impossible decision when they encountered goat herders. Abiding by the Rules of Engagement, they let them go, likely leading to their exposure to Taliban forces.

The Ferocious Firefight

Suddenly, the SEALs found themselves outgunned, battling 30 to 40 Taliban fighters in a ferocious firefight. With unwavering resolve, they fought against impossible odds. Tragically, three of the four SEALs lost their lives in the struggle.

Map drawn prior to Operation Red Wing, briefing the Navy SEALs.

Ultimate Sacrifice and Backup

Lt. Murphy, despite being severely wounded, made the ultimate sacrifice to call for backup. His selfless actions earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor and led to the deployment of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to help the beleaguered team.

The Lone Survivor

Luttrell, the lone survivor, evaded the Taliban with the help of local Pashtun villager Mohammad Gulab. Gulab and his village harbored Luttrell from the Taliban, risking their own lives. Luttrell's gripping account of the mission later became the bestselling book and film, "Lone Survivor."

Tragic Rescue Attempt

The QRF, a mix of SEALs and Army Special Forces, raced to the scene. In a devastating turn of events, a Taliban-fired rocket-propelled grenade downed the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying 16 Special Operations personnel. This marked the deadliest day for US Special Operations Forces in the Afghanistan conflict.

A Somber Reminder

Operation Red Wings serves as a somber reminder of the immense courage and dedication of the elite warriors in the U.S. military. While failing its primary objective, the mission left an indelible mark on history as a testament to the selflessness and heroism displayed by those involved.

Facing Challenges and Complexities

Beyond the tragedy, Operation Red Wings symbolizes the challenges and complexities U.S. forces faced in Afghanistan. The brutal terrain and tenacious enemy tested even the most elite units, while crucial decisions in the heat of battle led to dire consequences.

Lessons Learned

Since Operation Red Wings, the U.S. military has adapted and learned from its experiences. The mission has provided invaluable lessons on intelligence, communication, rapid decision-making under pressure and the importance of supporting and protecting the servicemen and women who risk their lives for our safety.

Resonating Worldwide

The story of Operation Red Wings resonates worldwide, thanks to Luttrell's book and film adaptation. Additionally, this powerful tale of heroism, sacrifice and survival continues to inspire countless individuals to honor and remember the brave servicemen who selflessly gave their lives for a safer, more secure world.

Hawaiian lei decorate the stone memorial dedicated to the service members who sacrificed their lives in Operation Red Wings. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan/Released)

An Inspiring Legacy

Operation Red Wings remains a poignant reminder of service members' courage, dedication, and sacrifices, particularly those serving in elite special operations units. This mission's tragic outcome and its participants' extraordinary acts of valor exemplify unyielding determination and commitment. Their inspiring spirit continues to resonate and reinforce the values of selflessness, bravery, and dedication that define the military.

A Tribute to Lt. Michael Murphy: The "Murph" Workout

In CrossFit and functional fitness, "Hero Workouts" honor fallen heroes, pushing participants to their limits while remembering the sacrifices made in the line of duty. One of the most renowned Hero Workouts, "Murph," pays tribute to Lt. Michael Murphy, Medal of Honor recipient. This arduous workout embodies Murphy's heroism, reminding us of the sacrifices made by our military members. The "Murph" workout consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats, followed by another 1-mile run.

Often, participants wear a 20-pound weight vest. This simulates the load carried during combat missions. Additionally, it amplifies the workout's intensity and symbolizes the burdens service members bear.

050628-N-0000X-005.Navy file photo of SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue, N.Y., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif., taken in Afghanistan. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED).

Memorial Day Tradition

United in Sweat and Remembrance Each Memorial Day, CrossFit gyms and fitness enthusiasts worldwide perform "Murph," honoring Lt. Michael Murphy and fellow heroes. The workout's challenging nature, coupled with its connection to Operation Red Wings, fosters camaraderie, determination, and resilience – qualities that mirror those of our military members.

A Growing Legacy

Due to their close ties with the fallen, it's no surprise that the popularity of Hero Workouts continues to grow. Unfortunately, these days there are plenty of Hero workouts to honor those who have died in service to the country. For example, "DT," honors U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Davis, while "Glen," commemorates former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty. Additionally, "Randy," remembers Los Angeles SWAT officer Randy Simmons. Each Hero Workout celebrates a specific individual, allowing participants to connect with their stories and sacrifices meaningfully.

Forging Bonds and Supporting Charities

Fitness Hero Workouts foster a sense of community as participants endure intense routines, forging bonds through shared challenges. The experience also inspires support for various charitable organizations dedicated to veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families. Events like the annual "Murph Challenge" raise significant funds for nonprofits such as the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, providing financial assistance to students pursuing higher education.

Hero Workouts like "Murph" provide a unique, powerful way to honor fallen heroes. These workouts ensure the legacies of these heroes live on, one drop of sweat at a time.


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