5:29 | 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?
Keywords : David Barno Afghanistan Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Stanley McChrystal Iraq The Surge Anbar Awakening election Taliban Hamid Karzai Donald Rumsfeld North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
David Barno relished the challenge of rebuilding a broken Army in the years after Vietnam. He finished a four year run with the 25th Infantry Division as a company commander, and began to develop a respect for the new Ranger battalions. That's where he felt he should go next.
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.
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.
Following the tragic deaths of ten Afghan children, it fell on General David Barno to tell President Karzai about the incident. He describes the effect this had on the rules of engagement going forward and he discusses a document he drew up to give guidelines to the troops that would keep them in the good graces of their hosts.
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.
What's it like for a retired general to watch from the sidelines as wars continue? David Barno answers that and has a few observations about how his former command in Afghanistan is being managed.
He grew up in a house full of military memorabilia and in the eighth grade, David Barno decided that not only would he become an Army officer, he would go to West Point. He immediately began to execute a plan to make it happen.
Many of the instructors at West Point had served in Vietnam, recalls David Barno. The war was on the mind of every cadet and when Vietnam fell, they knew they would not be going there. This particular class would become known for the number of future generals it produced.
He heard of Grenada on a Friday and on Monday he was flying there. David Barno was a Ranger company commander who took part in the hastily put together operation. It was such a patchwork of units and plans that everything went wrong that could. It spurred congressional hearings that actually helped correct the situation.
It was assumed to be a one day operation, but it was on the the third day of action on the island of Grenada that David Barno faced his first combat. The Ranger company commander took away many important lessons from that chaotic operation.
After attending the US Army Command and General Staff College, David Barno went to the 2nd Ranger Battalion as the operations officer. Preparations were underway at the time for Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama.
It was freezing cold at Fort Benning, where David Barno boarded a C-130 with the 2nd Ranger Battalion to jump into tropical Panama. It was time to clean up a mess there and, unlike the chaotic Grenada operation, there was a rehearsal and a real plan.
The invasion of Kuwait was a heavily mechanized operation, so infantry commander David Barno watched that from afar. In the 90's, the Army was focused on various peacekeeping operations. Was that going to be their new focus? On September 11, 2001, it became clear what the new mission would be.
Every Army officer has had mentors and for David Barno, it was not only men he had served under but men who had served under him. Since his retirement, he has been busy writing and teaching and remembering how his military career was the dream of a lifetime.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
He had an Iraq tour under his belt, but Colin Walsh wanted something different and he got reclassified into Civil Affairs. The medical and humanitarian aspect appealed to him. He managed to get into a unit that was slated for Afghanistan and began working to get a plum assignment there.
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.
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.)
The fighting was getting intense in his area and it was really evident when Josh Rodriguez responded to a Taliban attack on a small convoy of American contractors and Afghan workers. If only they'd asked for an escort.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.