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.
Justice describes life at F.O.B. Shank as well as the many different types of people that worked there. She details everything from the initial arrival at the F.O.B. to taking care of EPW’s that had significant cultural differences from the members of the FST.
On the Afghan border with Pakistan, platoon leader Jon Keen had the difficult job of finding Taliban fighters and sympathizers among the local population. Sometimes, this did not make many friends. He did have a good friend in his interpreter, who at great risk to himself and his family, helped the Americans.
It was the spookiest place he had ever been. Army dentist Mike Barno was part of a medical team visiting even the tiniest outposts in the Afghan mountains. When he arrived, he was briefed on the last-man-standing protocol.
With over 30 years of service in the military, General Myers was about to be nominated as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but September 11th, 2001 would prove to be a much more eventful day than he anticipated. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
General David Barno formed a task force to train Iraqi exiles during the preparations for that conflict and he managed it so well that he got some attention up the chain. His next assignment was a big one, command of the combined forces in Afghanistan.
Taking advantage of an Army scholarship, Mike Barno attended dental school and became a member of the Army Dental Corps. He went to a residency at Fort Benning, where, in addition to fixing teeth, he want to Airborne School. Then he was attached to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, which was slated for a tour in Afghanistan.
There was one last big action just before his tour was over and then Jon Keen could look forward to returning home. The replacement unit that moved into his position in Afghanistan began taking casualties right away, so nothing had changed. He reflects on the challenges he faced there and how the attack on September 11, 2001 shaped his life.
General David Barno describes the evolution of the Joint Special Forces Command into the high tech force it is today. He also looks back on his command in Afghanistan and wonders, could he have done more to bring the conflict to a conclusion?
The sniper was hidden in the hills above the base in Afghanistan. Dental officer Mike Barno was there for routine procedures, but no one wanted to go see the dentist with that sniper out there. He got a patient eventually, the hard way.
His father was a career Army officer from West Point. Mike Barno did not have the desire to attend the Academy, but he was attracted to the military and went to the Citadel. There he became focused on academics and a pre-med path.
Due to the prominence of poppy, Zach Pena and his platoon found many inventive ways that the plant was hidden. After he got a lower GI infection, Pena was almost unable to return home with his platoon, but fortunately mustered the strength to go home with his friends.
Returning to the States after his first tour was relieving but difficult for Aaron Cox as he acclimated back to the U.S. climate. After time in North Carolina, he shipped back off to Afghanistan and found quite a few major changes between there and Iraq.
It was tough during his second tour of Afghanistan, but Jon Keen reveals how he tried to help his platoon cope, including that most sacred of American male rituals, the video game. Not that he had much spare time, because in addition to his duties as scout platoon leader, he ran the detention facility in Asadabad.
Zach Pena remembers some of the most inventive IEDs that his platoon came across as they patrolled the Afghan desert. After one particularly hairy encounter in the desert, his platoon had to secure the area and make it back to safety.
He rose early to play golf but the sight of the Twin Towers in flames changed his plans. Doug Heckman was a Green Beret in the reserve and he knew what was coming. Soon he was selected by Col. John Mulholland for the Special Forces team leading the mission in Afghanistan.
Coming back to civilian life, Zach Pena found his time at University of Tennessee to be a smooth transition. Coming back to civilian life can bring some hurdles but he was able to excel at his new challenges and came out for the best.
Jon Keen was back in Italy training with his Airborne unit when he got two pieces of news. One was that deployments would be extended to fifteen months and the other was that they would be returning to Afghanistan instead of going to Iraq. This time it would be the Korengal Valley which challenged the men and the action began the very first day.
Justice describes dealing with the locals and their injuries. Most were mild mannered civilians, but occasionally someone would show up on the HIDE test as either Taliban or former Taliban. Justice describes the HIDE test as well as an incident in which she and the other members of the FST were reminded that they could not always trust everyone that came through the doors of the F.O.B.