About halfway through the deployment, we got word that we were to prepare for a new recce mission, one that had special significance for the Ranger regiment. We were to recon the compound harboring the suspected Taliban leader who’d planned the Pat Tillman ambush, so that it could be assaulted by a Ranger strike force. Pat had been an NFL player who’d quit his high-paying job as a professional athlete to become a Ranger, making national headlines by doing so.
I had never actually met Tillman; he was maybe one or two cycles ahead of me in training. I saw him once in the Ranger regiment chow hall, but that was about it. I did speak to guys in his battalion when I was in pre-Ranger, getting ready for Ranger School, and they told me that Pat Tillman was a good guy—the real deal. So I was shocked when, after Ranger School, I went into an internet café in a small town where I was backpacking in Costa Rica and saw on the front page the news of the day: Pat Tillman had been killed in Afghanistan. Initially it was reported that he was killed by the enemy in a firefight, but later on it came out that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire. Fast-forward to the winter of 2004–05: Now we were looking for the guy behind it.
I worked with Paul, the assistant recce team leader; Grant, the recce team leader; and their recce team on immediate action drills, rehearsing what we would do if we got ambushed, if a vehicle was disabled, if both vehicles were disabled, and other contingencies, down to simple things like changing a tire. We got our desert tiger-stripe uniforms and pakol hats, which have flat tops and a roll of fabric that goes around the top of your head, to disguise ourselves as Afghan paramilitary soldiers. The plan was to drive our vehicles down to the Pak border and link up with the paramilitaries at their border control point (BCP). From there we would team up and accomplish our mission of laying the groundwork for Charlie Company to conduct a direct-action raid and police up this guy who had been involved in the Tillman ambush.
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Jack served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and Gray Matter Splatter. His memoir, "Murphy's Law" is due for a 2019 release and can be pre-ordered now.