In this edition we look at the decision made by Lieutenant Mike Murphy in the movie 'Lone Survivor' where the team was compromised by local goat herders. Sadly, everyone now knows how it ended. The SEALs released the goat herders and soon found themselves outnumbered by a Taliban force. Only Marcus Luttrell survived the ensuing firefight. Sixteen more Americans died when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter responding to the gun battle was shot down by the Taliban, killing eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers.

The clip below (best viewed off DPN) depicts the scene from the movie. Allow ten minutes for soldiers to view the clip and then you can either use the questions below to create a discussion or come up with your own questions.

Discussion points

  1. Was the decision to release the detainee the correct one? Justify your answer.
  2. What other actions could the commander have taken?
  3. Matthew 'Axe' Axelson firmly states: 'We're not murderers. No matter what we do. We're on active duty behind enemy lines, sent here by our senior commanders. We have a right to do everything we can to save our own lives. The military decision is obvious. To turn them loose would be wrong'. What are you thoughts on this comment?
  4. Are your answers to the previous questions in line with the rules of engagement? Justify your answer.


Reflection is an important element of learning. It allows us to consider theories or events, and understand how they might apply to us. One way to conduct reflection is using the 'what, so what, now what' process. In this instance, this process could be used like this:

  • WHAT did I learn from considering this scenario?
  • SO WHAT am I going to do about what I’ve learned?
  • NOW WHAT does that learning mean for my own practice as a military professional?

Other activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other QMEs available on The Cove?

Concluding comments

The information in this package is designed to help junior commanders to develop and deliver PME in the unit environment. If you have suggestions for improvements – additional readings or reference material, alternative discussion points, new delivery methods – or if you just want to provide feedback, please contact The Cove Team via