Marcus Luttrell: How I Became the Lone Survivor

Updated: Jul 6

Oliver Greeves: Thank you to Marcus Luttrell who has submitted this guest blog in response to my question to authors in ‘The Business in the Writing’. A memoir is certainly the ultimate way of life experience impacting on your writing! Further contributions on this topic are still very welcome. Here is Marcus’ response:

The US invasion of Afghanistan comprised of many tactical and strategic operations by the US military forces that are worthy of notice by military fiction writers. However the story I can best tell is my own and I was encouraged to do so for the sake of those who could no longer tell their stories. I am the lone survivor from Operation Red Wings against the Taliban forces back in June 2005.


Early Life and Navy Career

Born on the 7th of November, 1975 in Houston, Texas, I had aspirations of becoming a US Navy SEAL early on. I began training at the age of 14 under the guidance of US Army veteran Billy Shelton who at the time lived near my home.


I was quite enthusiastic and trained with my twin brother Morgan every day as we were both really motivated to join special operation forces. Their exercises included various weight training and endurance-building excursions. After completing high school at Willis High School, I was enrolled in Sam Houston State University where I graduated with a B.S degree in International Business in 1998.


In March 1999, I was finally enlisted in the US Navy and underwent various forms of special training. I first graduated from BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) with class 228 on the 21st of April, 2000. Soon afterwards, I attended the Army jump school and SQT (SEAL Qualification Training). After completing my SQT, I earned my NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) and Naval Special Warfare Insignia on the 2nd of February 2001.


After this I was sent for SOCM (Special Operations Combat Medic) course in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There I was educated in the use of conventional and unconventional medical skills for six months. On the 14th of April, 2003 I was deployed to Iraq with SEAL Team 5 in search of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was 2005 when I was deployed in Afghanistan with SEAL Team Ten as part of the SDV-1 (SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One).


The Fated Operation Red Wings

Operation Red Wings was carried out from late June to mid-July 2005 on the slopes of a mountain called Sawtalo Sar which is located around 20 miles west of Asadabad’s provincial capital. The operation was envisioned to interrupt the ACM (anti-coalition militias) aligned with the local Taliban in order to contribute to regional stability as well as facilitate the National Assembly of Afghanistan’s parliamentary election.


It was on the 27th of June late at night when two MH-47 helicopters approached Sawtalo Sar and one of them inserted a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team. This team included me. Amongst my companions were:

· Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1

· Petty Officer Second Class Danny Dietz from SEAL Delivery Team1

· Petty Officer Second Class Matthew G. Axelson from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1


We all quickly moved to a covered overwatch position in a pre-determined manner allowing us to observe the Named Areas of Interest. However, our team was discovered by local goat herders. After careful consideration, Lieutenant Murphy decided to release them as there was no evidence they were not civilians and in accordance with the rules of engagement.


Knowing our position was compromised, we retreated to a fallback position but to our dismay, just within an hour, we were attacked by Mohammad Ismail (aka Ahmad Shah) and his men from three sides. Unable to establish consistent communication, my three team members were killed. I was left as the sole survivor.


I was left unconscious with a broken back, a number of fractures, and several shrapnel wounds. I only survived thanks to the help of local Pashtun villagers. On the 2nd of July I was rescued by the Afghan National Army and Army Rangers. I was treated by Capt. Joshua Appel and Technical Sergeant Christopher Piercecchi of the United States Air Force Pararescue.


Retirement and Personal Life

Soon after recovering from my injuries I returned to full duty as part of SEAL Team Five and was deployed to Ramadi during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006. However there I suffered from blown-out knees and a fractured spine. In 2007 I was medically discharged from the Navy and in 2009 I was granted medical retirement through the Board for the Correction of Naval Records.


On the 27th of November, 2010 in Texas, I married Melanie Juneau. Not long after, our first son Axe arrived and then our daughter Addie. I founded the Lone Survivor Foundation back in 2010 in Texas. I co-authored my story, Lone Survivor with Patrick Robinson and it became a New York Times bestseller Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.


I am the proud recipient of the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for acts of heroism as a Navy SEAL. I’m now co-host of the TV show After Action where veterans of special operations speak regarding issues in the United States. The show airs on TheBlaze. In 2013 I was portrayed by actor Mark Wahlberg in the film titled Lone Survivor. For more information see military fiction writers




Oliver: I hope you enjoyed Marcus’ guest blog and I’m delighted his story became such a successful film – and with Mark Wahlberg too! Who would you like to portray you if your biography became a film? Tell us in the comments below!

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