4:58 | Bart Cole was in the fourth grade when he wrote to the Marines and asked to join. He was a little premature, but during his senior year, he enlisted after a disappointing spring break.
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Bart Cole felt he was lucky to be doing his Marine basic training on the West Coast. He thought it compared favorably to wrestling, football and farm work and it didn't faze him a bit. He was impressed by the kind words for his family from the DI and that became a foundation for him. (Caution: coarse language.)
His first deployments took him to Egypt and up and down the US west coast. Then Marine Bart Cole undertook some training in special ops and at the thoroughly enjoyable Coronado boat school.
When he shipped out in 2001 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Bart Cole got to visit some interesting places. Thailand was the hands down favorite. Back in Hawaii, a special cruise with family members was loaded up and got under way and it was during this excursion that Sep.11 dawned at sea.
He was at sea when the 9/11 attacks occurred, then he was locked down at Camp Pendleton. Finally, Marine Bart Cole was given leave at home. Everybody knew there would be some action soon, and a deployment to Afghanistan was scheduled and then cancelled. Disenchanted, he left the Corps and went to college, but he felt left out.
Marine Reservist Bart Cole was called up and deployed to Iraq. After an uncomfortable stay in the deep desert, his unit was tasked with security around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. He found out why Marines were sent there, because they weren't Army. The Army ran the prison and was dealing with the abuse scandal, which caused a torrent of outrage.
He'd been in the Corps for quite a while, but Bart Cole had not yet seen any combat. That all changed on a highway in Iraq as he and eight fellow Marines were returning from a supply run. They drove up on a MP Humvee which was under an all-out assault by insurgents. He jumped from his vehicle and joined the fray. Part 1 of 3.
Bart Cole had stumbled upon some American soldiers in the process of being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents. He jumped up on their 50 cal and began firing at two Iraqi positions. He and his fellow Marines broke up the attack, which was short but intense, especially because it was his first firefight. Part 2 of 3.
A Major showed up after the firefight, surveyed the carnage and said to Bart Cole, "There were only eight of you?" He and his fellow Marines had just saved a group of Army MP's from being wiped out by insurgents. It had been his first taste of combat and it took a while for his mind to settle down. Part 3 of 3. (Caution: coarse language.)
The Marines were a security force for the exterior around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Bart Cole was a squad leader who was experiencing the hate and discontent the abuse scandal had sparked in the populace. After a rocket and mortar attack killed some of the Iraqi prisoners, he was given a particularly morbid task.
Bart Cole had a Humvee blown out from under him. The squad leader wasn't seriously injured, but one of his Marines took a round and was evacuated. He wrote the man's family to offer support, something he learned from one of his mentoring sergeants.
Bart Cole's squad inherited some nice up-armored Humvees from the 82nd Airborne. He stenciled "US Marines" on them to distinguish his unit from Army units. They had some extra guns, but no mounts for them. Time for a little midnight requisition.
The insurgents used several vehicles as they were attacking the perimeter of the Abu Ghraib complex. The last was driven by a suicide bomber, but he was blown up before he could get anywhere. Bart Cole had to go collect what was left of the driver. A young Marine said he wanted to look inside the body bag. No, kid, you don't.
The bond is tight with the men in your unit and Bart Cole names and salutes several of his comrades. He recalls a mission which had them take up a position near a mosque. Suddenly, he heard movement in the dark.
What just happened to us? Bart Cole, along with many others, asked himself that question when he returned from Iraq. It was difficult to just absorb back into society. He stayed in the Marine Reserve and, eventually, his service was again needed overseas.
Squad leader Bart Cole had been there before, but many of the Marines with him in Iraq were on their first deployment. They were in Fallujah, which was supposed to be quiet, but wasn't. Vehicles were getting blown up at the rate of one a week, so they switched to foot patrols.
He figured he would die. He was a target everywhere he went and the MRE's were spoiled. Bart Cole made it out of Fallujah but not all the men in his squad did. He recalls a fellow Marine who reminded him of a character from Lord of the Rings.
Everybody loves Doc. The Corpsmen were universally popular and respected and Bart Cole had a couple of good ones in Iraq. He also grew to respect the rural Iraqis, who were only trying to scratch out a living like he had done, growing up on a farm.
He had only been in country for a month. Larry Draughn was supposed to be training with a drone, but when he heard that his unit was going out, he insisted on going with them. They found twenty IED's before he found the wrong one. (Caution: strong language.)
Qalat is a village in Zabul province that was in the area of operation for the 618th Engineer Support Company. The job for Adam Keys and the others was to locate IED's built and hidden by the Taliban. You look for any anomaly, anything out of place, but when you are foreign, everything looks out of place.
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.
Jon Keen was helping unload casualties in Asadabad, Afghanistan when he saw his platoon sergeant among the wounded, a sight which seared his memory. It was difficult for the Afghans as well. The dead children he carried from helicopters is another forever memory. During this time, two Medal of Honor events occurred in a large operation called Rock Avalanche.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
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.
Fishing tournaments and training for hand cycle marathons have kept Larry Draughn busy since he was grievously wounded in Afghanistan. He relishes the time with his family and enthusiastically supports the growing movement for veteran reunions. (Caution: strong language.)
Adam Keys describes the various methods of building and detonating IED's used by the enemy in Afghanistan. His unit's job was to find these things. Back at the base, you might get a little time to watch some DVD's of the latest TV shows.
Only days after an IED blast nearly killed him in Afghanistan, Larry Draughn was awake and flattering nurses in a hospital in Germany. A man in a suit came in and he had the president on the phone. What happened next caused a bit of consternation. (Caution: strong language.)
Larry Draughn got to his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night. He knew it was gong to be a rough time, but when the sun came up, it was absolutely beautiful, a stunning countryside. Then the dirty business of patrolling began.
His determination to recover from his severe wounds surprised his doctors. Larry Draughn quickly got free of the IV's and took his son to a baseball game. In less than a month, he was discharged. No one had ever recovered that quickly. Then he determined that he would meet the airplane when his unit returned form Afghanistan.
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.
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.
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)
One thing about the Army, you make tons of friends. That was a great part of training for Adam Keys. Not long after that was over, orders came for Afghanistan, so he married his girlfriend and flew off to join the buildup ordered by President Obama.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.