7:05 | Zack Knight's platoon was stationed at a remote camp in Kunduz Province where there was a small Green Beret contingent and a lot of unreliable Afghan Army soldiers. When bad intel led to a firefight that cost the unit its first casualties, it hit him hard because he wasn't there and he watched it unfold on remote video.
Keywords : Zack Knight platoon leader Afghanistan Green Berets Special Forces (SF) Afghan National Army (ANA) proxy war Taliban civilians drone video Improvised Explosive Device (IED) fire extinguisher survivor’s guilt
He flirted with the idea of joining the Air Force at eighteen, but flirting with girls distracted him. At twenty one, Zack Knight became a police officer, a job that might have been a little too much for his young head to handle. Then, at the ripe old age of twenty eight, he decided to take his skills to the Army.
It angered him at the time, but Zack Knight's run in with his boss on the police force taught him a valuable lesson that he only realized later. After seven years on the force and with a new college degree, he decided to enlist and take his passion for service to a wider arena.
While in basic training, former police officer Zack Knight sketched out an idea for a business that would make good use of his security knowledge. He got it going in his hometown while undergoing National Guard training and just as it began producing decent revenue, his unit was activated for Afghanistan.
The new operation in Afghanistan was named Freedom's Sentinel. Zack Knight was a brand new platoon leader who was told to forget guard duty, he and his men were going straight into combat ops. The rules of engagement had been loosened and they were told to go out and make contact.
There were cease fires but the Taliban always did something anyway, which made a farce of the situation. The locals could be friendly and helpful, making short work of a landing pad and painting a mural. To platoon leader Zack Knight, the best were the interpreters, some of whom were killed after the disastrous American withdrawal.
The Taliban was warned that if they engaged in attacks during the withdrawal, the Americans would revert to combat operations. There was no response when they did, however, and platoon leader Zack Knight returned home with remorse and anger over how his Afghan allies had been abandoned. His downward spiral increased with the discovery of a hidden injury.
After he had to leave the service because of a health issue, Zack Knight kept busy with an array of businesses that he started, ranging from a media company to veteran related non-profits. He also channeled his energy into a book called A Legacy of Love: A Journey Of Self Mastery.
Why were we there? Afghanistan veteran Zack Knight recalls what a General said to him while he was there. If what he said is true, the withdrawal could be troublesome for us as well as the Afghan people. He also has some surprising ideas on leadership and a not so surprising choice of inspirational music.
Perhaps the scariest experience for Jon Keen in Afghanistan was the night time drive on a particular mountainside road in the Korangal Valley. It was a long way down with not much clearance for the vehicles. One of his most rewarding experiences was the mission to recover a fallen comrade.
After the IED sent him flying, Adam Keys was talking and yelling for his buddies. He doesn't remember any of it and only knows this because he was told bout it. A long recovery began in hospitals back home and even they gave up on him but his mother never did.
Following the September 11th attacks, the path to war was unclear. General Dick Myers describes the weeks following from his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
Britney Alexander was born and raised in Louisiana and had a dad who was an Army figure. Because of her great love for her dad, she wanted to enlist in the Army just like him. She talks about where she was on 9/11, her basic training at Fort Jackson, and Fort Lee where she had her training to be a cook.
They were looking for a giant IED that was over a thousand pounds. Adam Keys was on the ground team that day and that meant he had to exit the vehicle and sweep the area. What he didn't know is that they were parked right on top of what they were looking for. As he stepped from the door, the bomb was detonated.
At long last, Britney Alexander was allowed to fly back home to American soil. When they finally landed in the US, they were met with all kinds of cheering and applause from the people waiting for them. Instead of getting deployed to Afghanistan a second time, she was forced to step down after discovering the effects of a hip injury she had gotten. Soon after, she took a job as a truck driver and decided to go to business school, with plans to start up her own truck company later on down the line.
Leading men in war is a difficult task for many, and leading many men through wars in two countries is not something you can prepare for. General Myers reflects on the weight of making decisions at the level at which he served. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
Alexander remembers being put on Quick Reaction Force duty, which essentially meant that she aided in one of the first lines of defense of the Shindand Air Base. When she first got there it was in the middle of the Islamic month of Ramadan, a very peaceful time in which there was little to no fighting from the enemy. Once that time ended, however, she was surprised to see that violent mortar attacks started up again.
What would be the positive memories of his time in Afghanistan? For General David Barno, the best thing was seeing young officers blossom into senior leaders. He had a quiet, lone homecoming and then a radically different operating environment, the Pentagon.
Mike Barno recalls his experiences with local civilians during his tour in Afghanistan. The dental officer had staunchly pro-American Afghan translators in his company. The Afghan Army dentists weren't very friendly but the children from the nearby school sure were.
In contrast to Fort Lee, at Fort Hood Alexander found that she did little to no cooking whatsoever so she could prepare to go to Afghanistan. Once she had flown overseas, she was stationed at Shindand Air Base and was tasked with all of the mundane jobs no one else wanted to do, in addition to cooking the food, such as being put on Quick Reaction Force duty.
Mike Barno was leaving a class at the Citadel when he noticed students had gathered around the television in the student center. They told him a plane had just hit a building in New York. As they watched, a second plane hit and from that point forward, everything changed.
Unlike wars of the past, Alexander actually had a way to talk to her family back home while she was away at war. She would use Skype and a phone line to talk to her family every so often. During her downtime, she would interact with the Italian Army soldiers, go to the gym, and try to enjoy herself with the people around her. There was one mortar attack in particular that she remembers being really close to their base.
It was a tough job for the top commander in Afghanistan. General David Barno had to manage relations between President Karzai and the United Nations and the forces fighting the war. He soon determined that a fair and free election was the best way to thwart the efforts of the Taliban.
As documented in the movies Restrepo and Korangal, the action in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan was fierce. During one firefight, platoon leader Jon Keen took cover and when he looked around for his men, he had a startling discovery.
Mike Barno noticed there was suddenly a SEAL unit on the base near the Pakistan border. Then there was an order that everyone had to wear body armor all day. Something big was going on, something that would bring some closure to the 9/11 attacks.
The unit prepped for a year in Hawaii for deployment to Afghanistan. Dentist Mike Barno's job was to get the men in good dental health before they shipped out. The route to the war zone was a strange one that included the North Pole and Germany.
On a mission to visit the Afghan villages in his area, Jon Keen's unit experienced its first casualty and he experienced his first live fire. Many of the civilians were resentful of the American soldiers and he relates two incidents which contributed to this feeling.
He left the Army Dental Corps and settled into private practice, but Mike Barno was having trouble due to his vivid memories of treating casualties in Afghanistan. The VA has helped him a lot, as did the blog he posted while he was in country.
His father had a long Army career so it was not unusual for Jon Keen to join ROTC in college and then enlist in the National Guard. He was in basic training on September 11, 2001 and the events of that day would have a profound effect on the rest of his training and on the rest of his life. After Airborne and Ranger schools, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2005.
General Richard Myers served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until 2005. In this clip he reflects on what he saw as some of the difficulties and successes from his time serving. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)