3:59 | 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.
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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.
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.
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.
The unit prepped for a year in Hawaii for deployment to Afghanistan. Dentist Mike Barno's job was to get the men in good dental health before they shipped out. The route to the war zone was a strange one that included the North Pole and Germany.
The dentist was part of the medical company at the base in Afghanistan. Mike Barno describes the operation of that unit and the importance of his additional duty, triage officer in mass casualty events.
When a vehicle loaded with explosives blew up at the gate, dental officer Mike Barno hurried to his emergency assignment, triage at the aid station. A truck with wounded men from the Afghan Army pulled up and he jumped into the back, ready to help.
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.
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.
Mike Barno explains why it may not be a great idea to take a free phone from a CIA guy. Another incident with a care package full of soap caused him to take some flack from the other guys.
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.
In the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, small arms fire from above was a big problem. Army dentist Mike Barno remembers a visit to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) during which his assistant had to dodge that fire.
When he got his orders to go home, Mike Barno started a game of hurry-up-and-wait. When he finally got to Hawaii, he was surprised to find a noisy 2 AM escort for the buses.
He left the Army Dental Corps and settled into private practice, but Mike Barno was having trouble due to his vivid memories of treating casualties in Afghanistan. The VA has helped him a lot, as did the blog he posted while he was in country.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
He had just returned from leave when Colin Walsh was awakened by the supply sergeant who told him their team leader had been shot. They rushed to the hospital to see if he was going to make it. When they got there they heard him grousing as he came out of surgery and they knew he would be OK. (Caution: strong language.)
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.
Colin Walsh describes an incident in which an Afghan Police colonel sought justice when a drunk American threatened a relative. He was in the man's office surrounded by Afghan police and he was starting to fear for his safety, but then he spoke to the men like a diplomat. (Caution: strong language.)
The business of a civil affairs unit is trying to win the hearts and minds of a local populace. You have to deal with a lot of things that aren't in the book. Michael Trost had a great team with him in Afghanistan but it was tough in a tribal society. Finding humor in the daily grind provided a little relief, like the trouble he had with a containerized housing unit, or CHU, which housed the showers.
His memories from Afghanistan that stand out are either funny or learning experiences. Josh Rodriguez had just pulled up to a security assignment when an explosion rocked the ground. That attack was short lived but suddenly two SUV's raced at high speed right through their position. The chase was on!
The fight was over. Miraculously, no one had been killed in the nearly overwhelming Taliban attack. Josh Rodriguez had given the command for a close air strike that wiped out the attackers. For that and other actions, he would be awarded the Bronze Star, but not without some controversy. Part 9 of 9.
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.
The first firefight was the most memorable. Platoon leader Josh Rodriguez was asleep, dreaming of popcorn. It wasn't popcorn that woke him, though, it was bullets coming through the thin walls. As he scrambled for his equipment, he made an embarrassing discovery that would soon have him running like a movie star with bullets hitting around his feet.
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.
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.
The first helicopter ride he had in Afghanistan was the scariest. What was going to happen when they landed? Lt Josh Rodriguez was part of an advance team tasked with scouting and then planning his brigade's deployment. Immediately, they were dealing with mortar attacks and firefights.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.