5:07 | After his Afghanistan deployment, Andrew Witzel made the tough decision to get out of the Marine Corps. Returning to his home and starting post-service jobs helped him deal with his personal problems. Especially helpful were the jobs that dealt with helping fellow veterans. (Caution: strong language.)
Keywords : Andrew Witzel Afghanistan drinking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Camp Lejeune Fort Detrick veterans Maricopa County Arizona
Joining the Marines was his way out of the small Arizona town where he grew up. Andrew Witzel had a single father and three brothers so the Marine Corps may have been a little quieter. He was still in high school when the 9/11 attacks hardened his desire to become a Marine.
The rumor was that Andrew Witzel's company had been disbanded because the Marines in it were degenerates, but then there are a lot of rumors among PFC's. At any rate it was reconstituted in the run up to his battalion's deployment to Iraq. They stopped briefly in Kuwait, which he remembers as the hottest place on Earth.
During the Battle of Fallujah, Andrew Witzel's unit was tasked with securing the two bridges where a mob had lynched American contractors. Then, they set up a blocking position on the Fallujah peninsula. His light armored vehicle had already taken an IED blast before they got there and, before they would leave, it would take an even bigger one that nearly knocked it out of the war. (Caution: strong language.)
The men of C Company got a belated Marine Cops birthday celebration while refitting at Camp Ramadi. Even then, it was kind of an insult considering what happened with the awards handed out that day. Their new mission was overwatch on one of the big Iraqi highways, where there was a blind spot between two outposts. That was trouble. (Caution: strong language.)
After his Iraq deployment, Andrew Witzel did what Marines like to do. He had a few drinks. Then he had a few more. Eventually, this would lead to him not drinking any more. At the time, though, he was lucky to get an assignment to Okinawa and then with a Marine Expeditionary Unit that would see him on a year long voyage around the Pacific. (Caution: strong language.)
Andrew Witzel got a lot of bonus money to reenlist. All he asked is to not be sent to Camp Lejeune. After a year, the Iraq veteran was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was stationed at a tiny outpost in the desert.
There was a bazaar in a village that was a Taiban stronghold and the Marines were ordered to shut it down. Andrew Witzel remembers that the operation was going well until a suicide bomber detonated his device. The casualties included Afghan children and a very close friend of his. (Caution: strong language.)
Afghanistan veteran Andrew Witzel is not at all happy about the pullout from that country. How in the world would anyone want to be our ally? He feels remorse for the women and girls who are losing their opportunity to thrive in an open society.
His platoon was exhausted, up for 24 hours on an overwatch mission. Platoon leader Josh Rodriguez had just got them settled when his commander radioed that they had to move out immediately. Mindful of the danger at night on mountain roads, he asked to wait until dawn. Part 2 of 9.
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.
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.)
Josh Rodriguez and his men were running on adrenaline and guilt. The platoon had been ordered into the area hours ago but were too late. It's unsure if an earlier arrival would have helped at OP Bari Alai which was devastated by a Taliban attack. They began a sweep of the nearby area searching for a missing American. Part 5 of 9.
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.
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.
Between his Afghanistan tours, Josh Rodriguez was lucky to be mentored by his commander at the Recruiting Command. He learned to work a room and how to network, valuable skills for an Army officer. After that assignment and after the Captains Career Course, he readied to return overseas.
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.
After being a live fire trainer for a few years, Jason Wilebski got to see the operations side of the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. There were hundreds of thousands of dollars in high tech equipment in the HQ but he still maintained a map with push pins. This impressed the brass. (Caution: strong language)
Josh Rodriguez had just rushed his men to the base of a mountain where OP Bari Alai was under furious attack at the top. Helicopter pilots reported that at least one of the defenders looked to be alive, so there was hope. He and his platoon were under fire as they climbed the steep path to the top where they found total devastation. Part 4 of 9.
He had a greater appreciation for life when he returned from his first tour of Afghanistan. But Josh Rodriguez had to readjust to family and finances and continue with his career. He wanted more than anything to get back into combat as a company commander.
In the aftermath of the deadly attack on OP Bari Alai, Josh Rodriguez and his men were sent to man another lofty observation post to overwatch construction at the base below. The defensive walls were totally inadequate but they dug in the best they could. It didn't take long. That night, the Taliban stormed the post, determined to kill all inside. Part 6 of 9.
Due to his peculiar enlistment contract, Robert Rose didn't have to go to Afghanistan, but when his Reserve unit deployed, he felt he had to go. It was a civil affairs unit and, once he was there, the missions were varied and, inevitably, involved something that he had to study to understand, like prison assessments.
After his train up, Joe Diomede's motor transport outfit joined the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit on a cruise. He spent a lot of time fighting rust on his trucks down in the hold but he had time to visit a lot of interesting ports of call and he got to meet a SEAL team celebrating a successful mission. (Caution: strong language.)
There was no surge yet in the area where platoon leader Josh Rodriguez was operating. You had all the personnel you were going to get. In an attempt to clear and secure a road connecting bases, he and his men were posted on a high point where they could overwatch the road below. The only problem was that now the Taliban had something to distract them from the road. Part 1 of 9.
When he got to Afghanistan, he knew the mission was going to be frustrating. Colin Walsh was in a Civil Affairs unit with erratic project funding and unreliable Afghan partners. It was a good team, though, and they decided to make the best of it.
It was their worst day in Afghanistan. Joe Diomede's Motor T unit was in a convoy when a truck up front hit a mine. Another truck moved up to help and it hit a mine. Then his truck got hit. Before it was over, at least nine trucks were disabled.
Platoon leader Josh Rodriguez had just told his commander that his exhausted men were not going to move out as ordered. He didn't have much time to question that decision because the radio came to life with the news that OP Bari Alai, near where he declined to go, was under attack with just a handful of defenders. Part 3 of 9.
Now he understands how those Vietnam veterans must of felt. When the Afghanistan withdrawal unfolded the way it did, Michael Trost felt a new kinship with them. Still, he was proud of his team and he knew they made the best of a bad situation.
He didn't get the combat command he wanted but Josh Rodriguez set about his duties as a logistician when he got to Afghanistan for his second tour. As soon as he arrived, it was announced that most of the bases in his area of operations would be closed. There was no plan and he had to figure it out fast.
It was a big convoy with over a hundred local Afghan national fuel trucks along with Marine tactical vehicles. As soon as they set out, torrential rains began and everything slowed to a crawl. Joe Diomede remembers the boredom of being stuck in one place for days at a time. This was interrupted more than once by attacks, including one that crippled his vehicle.
Was it worth it? Josh Rodriguez says yes. We gave Afghanistan a taste of what is possible and he has hope that the newer generations will be a catalyst for change. What was a shame is how hard earned lessons were quickly forgotten on the battlefield.
Mobilization is a lot of work for a sergeant like Michael Trost. Paperwork and medical stuff. He nearly didn't make the tour because of high cholesterol. He persevered and he was glad because it had been a long wait for action and he had assembled a great team
Joe Diomede was one of five boys growing up in New Jersey in what was a pretty rowdy home. One of his brothers was serious about becoming a special forces member but it wasn't on Joe's radar. After 9/11 he was angry, like everyone else, but the memory had faded somewhat by the time he graduated high school.
The pilot said he could take out the attackers but the blast would be in the danger close zone, almost right on top of the position where Josh Rodriguez and a handful of men were nearly overrun by the Taliban. Drop it, he said. Everyone hit the deck. Part 8 of 9.
It was armor training at Fort Knox and new lieutenant Josh Rodriguez was on the lighter vehicle reconnaissance track. A year after he graduated from West Point, he deployed to Afghanistan. As he traveled to his remote forward operating base, he was struck by the natural beauty of the place.
As the Taliban swarmed his position, Josh Rodriguez called for final protective fire, your own artillery right on the perimeter of your position. When the machine gun went down, he gave his rifle to the gunner and continued tossing grenades. He didn't know who was going to win this fight but, thankfully, it started to ease off. Then a helicopter pilot reported that the enemy was massing behind a ridge. Part 7 of 9.
Josh Rodriguez knew he had to get a Ranger tab to continue on the path he wanted. He got in as a walk on and made it through Ranger School, but he didn't get the assignment he wanted. Then, he heard about a position as an aide de camp to a general officer.