Author Ed Darack details realities of modern war in ‘The Final Mission of Extortion 17’ |

Author Ed Darack details realities of modern war in ‘The Final Mission of Extortion 17’

Former military photographer and writer Ed Darack will discuss his book, "The Final Mission of Extortion 17" at The Bookworm of Edwards on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The book details the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan with 38 personnel that would never return.
Special to the Daily |


Who: Ed Darack, author of “The Final Mission of Extortion 17.”

When: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.

Cost: $10, includes appetizers .

More information: Call 970-926-READ, or visit

“The story of Extortion 17 made the news, but with misinformation on who these men were and what happened. Because I have been in the world of Afghanistan and HAATS, I felt compelled to write the definitive story,” said Ed Darack, a military photographer and writer.

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, at The Bookworm of Edwards, Darack will be speaking about his book, “The Final Mission of Extortion 17.” Learn about the “single greatest moment of sacrifice for Americans in the war in Afghanistan.”

‘Reality of Modern War’

On Aug. 6, 2011, the helicopter call sign Extortion 17 flew toward a landing zone in Afghanistan to reinforce special operations troops. Insurgents fired at the U.S. Army CH-47D Chinook helicopter upon approach. The 38 personnel on Extortion 17 would never return.

“The event was a monumental moment in America’s war in Afghanistan,” Darack said. “The book explains who the people were while giving a great untold story of the reality of modern war.”

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On an assignment for Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine, Darack met Darien Fryer at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum. Fryer introduced Darack to the story of Extortion 17.

“HAATS is where this story started,” Darack said. “It was a story of stories.”

The men who perished were some of the military’s highest trained and battle-honed commandos, including 15 men from the Gold Squadron of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known popularly as SEAL Team 6.

“News sources barely glanced over the story and when they did say something, the information was often offensively wrong,” Darack said.

The inaccurate details of inexperienced pilots and conspiracy theories prompted people close to the story to come forward to correct the media’s portrayal of what happened. One of the leading influencers of Darack’s book was Pat Gates, chief war officer and member of the Colorado Army National Guard.

“I interviewed the people that knew the pilot Dave Carter who flew Extortion 17. None of these people had been interviewed before. They all told personal stories about the pilots who were uniquely capable of their mission.”

Stories from ‘Worst Places’

Darack, as a military photographer and writer, was sent multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq. He knew that the story had to be told correctly and respectfully.

“The book gives in-depth information on war fighters, what they go through and who they are. It’s an important story with great people,” Darack said. “It’s a tragic story but opens the window to non-war fighters, to see what modern war in Afghanistan is like on a full spectrum.”

After a long career in Afghanistan and Iraq documenting the modern war, Darack today is working on novels in Colorado. He has decided to retire from covering war zones.

“The Marines always sent me to the worst places, but I came away with the best stories. I loved it,” Darack said. “I realized that once I became comfortable with the dangerous things I was doing, it was time to stop.

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