Congressman joins search for answers

  • A letter drafted by Rep. Robert Brady on behalf of the Strange family to the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MICHAEL STRANGE FOUNDATION

  • Charles Strange presents Rep. Robert Brady with a Seal Team Six jacket. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MICHAEL STRANGE FOUNDATION

The Strange fam­ily has moved a step closer to get­ting the an­swers they have been in search of since Navy Petty Of­ficer 1st Class Mi­chael Strange was killed in Afgh­anistan on Aug. 6, 2011.

Strange was one of 30 U.S. ser­vice­men killed when Taliban fight­ers in the Wardak Province shot down their CH-47 D Chinook heli­copter, Ex­tor­tion 17. 

It was the greatest loss of Amer­ic­an life from a single battle in the 13-year con­flict. 

Among the 38 killed in the mis­sion that day were 25 Spe­cial Forces per­son­nel, in­clud­ing 17 Navy Seals and 15 mem­bers of Seal Team Six, which was re­spons­ible for killing Al-Qaeda lead­er Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.

Since then, Strange’s fath­er, Charles Strange, has sought to find out what ex­actly happened to his son.

On March 6, U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D-1st Dist.), a mem­ber of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, draf­ted and dis­patched a let­ter to De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel, ask­ing him to meet with the Strange fam­ily to in or­der to re­spond to their ques­tions re­gard­ing the Ex­tor­tion 17 mis­sion.

On Feb. 27, the Con­gress over­sight com­mit­tee held a hear­ing in Wash­ing­ton in an at­tempt to ask ques­tions about the shoot-down of the heli­copter and the way that the re­mains of the fallen ser­vice mem­bers were handled. 

Des­pite the fact that the fam­il­ies were ori­gin­ally told that they would be giv­en the op­por­tun­ity to testi­fy at the hear­ing, none of the fam­ily mem­bers were per­mit­ted to ask ques­tions that day.

Some of the ques­tions that Charles Strange con­tin­ues to seek an­swer to are:

• Why was his son’s body cremated by the mil­it­ary?

• Why was a re­fur­bished 1960s CH-47D Chinook heli­copter used that day, as op­posed to a more mod­ern AH-64A Apache Heli­copter?

• Why were so many elite U.S. ser­vice­men put in­to a single heli­copter?

• Why was the Black Box aboard the heli­copter nev­er re­covered?

• Why were sev­en Afghan Com­mandos switched out of the heli­copter at the last minute?

• Why were the U.S. ser­vice­men aboard Ex­tor­tion 17 denied per­mis­sion to ini­ti­ate fire after spot­ting armed Taliban fight­ers in the area?

• Why was the Ex­tor­tion 17 heli­copter flown in­to the Tango Val­ley, a Taliban strong­hold, without any mil­it­ary air sup­port (Apache or Ac-130 air­craft)?

On March 18, Charles Strange, along with three oth­er fam­il­ies, filed a law­suit against Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai, ac­cus­ing him of be­tray­ing their sons in the heli­copter shoot­down. 

The fam­ily is again rep­res­en­ted by Larry Klay­man of Free­dom Watch, the same at­tor­ney who won their case last year against the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion in a rul­ing that deemed the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of phone data to be prob­ably un­con­sti­tu­tion­al. 

The new law­suit seeks $600 mil­lion in dam­ages from Kar­zai and the coun­try of Afgh­anistan.

“I want to know why win­ning the hearts and the mind of the Afghan people is more im­port­ant than pro­tect­ing our sol­diers,” Strange said. ••

Gregory Pacana can be reached at gp­pacana@ya­

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