3:56 | 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.
Keywords : Jon Keen Afghanistan Kunar Province Asadabad casualties indirect fire civilian children Operation Rock Avalanche Salvatore Giunta Medal Of Honor (MOH) Matt Ferraro Kyle White The Ranch House
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The transition from military to civilian life is never easy, but Jon Keen credits Deloitte with making incredible efforts to help him and other veterans who are undergoing this change of life.
Jon Keen's photos give a glimpse into daily life for him and his unit during his 1st tour in Afghanistan. These photos show what the terrain, living conditions, and civilian interaction were like. (Jon is also a dedicated volunteer interviewer.)
Jon Keen's photos from his 2nd Tour in Afghanistan show the mountainous terrain, what it's like to spend the holidays in a war zone, and the grief of losing your fellow soldiers. (Jon is also a dedicated WTW volunteer interviewer.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.