3:59 | 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.
Keywords : David Barno Afghanistan Congress Douglas Lute North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Stanley McChrystal David Petraeus insurgency
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.
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?
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.
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.
Career Marine Jay DeGraw served a tour as a recruiter. He had fourteen high schools in his area so he was good at it. He learned to keep a special group of potential recruits in his back pocket in case another station was running short. A boy asked how he could get some of those sharp pants. He said, "These are trousers. Girls and sailors wear pants!" That was good for six recruits and he used it again.
According to Intelligence Officer Bill Person, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a ploy by Nikita Khrushchev to get the United States to remove it's missiles from Turkey, no more and no less. He succeeded but his country was still in the cross hairs of American military might.
"Get up! The world's ending. I'm making eggs." His roommate's words woke Blake Bourne on 9-11 and his whole world changed over the next few days. Savagery threatened the Norman Rockwell world he had grown up in and it led to his graduation from Ranger school as an Army officer.
Stationed in Okinawa, Ruth Kulvi experiences multiple life-threatening typhoons. Her first priority is the safety of the soldiers and children whose lives are imperiled by the merciless storms. While attempting to relocate a sick GI, her team must brave intense winds and stubborn roads.
Working with the Iraqi Army was difficult because they didn't have the same sense of nationalism as American troops. As the war went on, it got increasingly difficult, especially as the casualties started to mount.
The missions were so secret, that when the plane returned from the East with no insignia, our own fighters were scrambled to intercept it. Bob Bruffey maintained that plane and when one of the crew defected to the East, he had to go to Washington for debriefing. He couldn't help but laugh at his intelligence contacts there.
His tests showed high aptitude for math and science so Bob Wylie was able to get into the Navy school he wanted, air traffic control. The federal regulations at the time fit on four pages. The contemporary ones fill a book. They also taught him air navigation when he got past the fundamentals.
The enemy had learned not to directly engage American troops in Iraq. Their main tactic was the use of IED's, improvised explosive devices of several kinds that were almost impossible to spot. Blake Bourne found one of them when he decided to take a different route one day.
His final service in Vietnam was not for the Army but for the State Department. Kenneth Moorefield was in Hanoi to open the US embassy and served there from 1995 to 1998. He says that the government officials who had been in combat were much easier to deal with due to their mutual respect as soldiers.
Kulvi's Army career lasts well into her later years, taking her from Kentucky to Germany to Walter Reed in D.C. She works her way to a Masters Degree, endures a serious back injury, and navigates the challenges of being a woman in a rapidly changing military - all the while raising her departed sister's children.
Growing up with both parents as Marines, Christina Cross grew up with a military influence in her family that caused her to want to join. Living on a military base as a kid was very influential for her and helped give her a sense of what it was like. She still remembers the influence that 9/11 had on her life and desire to join the service.
Blake Bourne expected to do cool "guy stuff" involving weaponry and bombs when he joined the Army. He remembered that and laughed when he had to navigate nearly impossible logistics to supply an ice cream social for some Arab sheikhs.
Kenneth Moorefield came out of West Point expecting to go to Vietnam, but instead was posted to the Dominican Republic, where he underwent his first medical evacuation in the wake of a riot. He already had a sense of what he would face once he got to Vietnam from the writing of Bernard Fall.
At the end of the Big War, Bill Bates served as commander at two Marine barracks including Lakehurst, New Jersey, where airships were stationed and where a famous zeppelin had crashed. Then it was back to Quantico for amphibious warfare school, where he learned the complex and difficult aspects of landing troops on an unfriendly beach.
After his deployment to Korea, Joe Estores came back to the States and spent time stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On his next assignment abroad, he got to experience the Cold War through his patrol of the East & West German border.
Mike Schlitz is very proud of being a Ranger and stands by everything that that stands for. At the end of the day, he is glad that he served his country and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Patrick Sauer remembers his training at Fort Knox and later his stationing in Germany during the era of the Berlin Wall. The presence of communism in the areas he was stationed helped to give him a will to keep fighting for American values.
While unloading equipment from one of the milvan containers in Balad, Iraq, there was suddenly some indirect fire. Steve Hamlet discusses the experience and describes it as being “unnerving” and “shocking” when experiencing it for the first time. He also touches on the role of embedded reporters and the significant amount of falsified information found in their reports.
Blake Bourne's second deployment to Iraq was more exhausting than his first, not because of more action, but because of less. He spent long night shifts staring at a computer screen, monitoring less and less action as the war wound down. Eventually, he was one of the last soldiers to leave Iraq.
Doug Heckman had been part of the initial Special Forces leadership in Afghanistan and in 2005 he volunteered for Iraq. He and his men got their combat badges the very first day when an IED hit their convoy. He says the Iraqi people are like people anywhere and were very hospitable to him.