5:07 | 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.
Keywords : Jon Keen Ken Keen Columbus GA Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) National Guard Airborne 9-11 9/11 Ranger School Afghanistan Zabul Province
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 Korangal 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.
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.
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.)
It was a small detachment from the North Dakota National Guard that flew together with their vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Angela Beltz describes the scene as other units waited in the desert for their gear to arrive. Her unit had their own vehicles with them, which was a huge advantage. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
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.
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.
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.
During the period of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, Kirby was stationed yet again. This time, she was working in Portsmouth, Virginia. She talks about how her children are now in the military themselves, and gives her thoughts about the ending of the Vietnam War.
Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz wanted to deploy to Iraq and he got his wish. The spartan conditions were bearable, but he had a sergeant who badgered him about his English and relegated him to KP duty. Fortunately, he was able to move to another company, where he was wanted, with the help of some breakfast cereal.
After getting back on flight status, Knisely also worked under General Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. He gives his reflections about the Vietnam War as a whole and what he wants people to take away from it.
After being thrown into combat right away, Marine air traffic control technician Nate Winkler's time in Iraq got a little more settled down. He was in country for eight weeks doing his part to set up and operate forward air fields. Then, relief was sent and he came home, which was fine. He'd got his taste of the war. Part 3 of 3.
When he landed in Iraq, Mike Pickrel felt like he was in a very unpleasant place. It was hot and it smelled bad. He was in a tight knit Cavalry unit which was immediately poached for manpower, so they would face their assignment shorthanded.
Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom Nate Winkler looks back with pride on the job he and other service members did in that war. However, he's unsure about the lasting value of it, similar to how older veterans feel about their service in Vietnam. He is sure of one thing, the lessons he learned in the Marines guided his life and made it more successful.
His second tour in Iraq was a waste of time to Mike Pickrel. Just sit in the base, pretty much. He has some observations on the enemies we face in these latest wars, on the men he served with who inspired him and on what servicemen need from their leadership and their government.
While in Iraq, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz got the idea he wanted to go to Ranger school. He began hard physical training with Rangers in his unit and one of them had an unorthodox idea. Why not provoke his platoon sergeant? (Caution: strong language.)
Morale was high on the ship to Kuwait, but Nate Winkler remembers how some were questioning the reasons they were going. Regardless of politics, everyone was anxious to do their jobs in a real world situation. Once there, his job was to set up and operate small air support bases.
His first day in the field in Iraq, Mike Pickrel learned some valuable lessons. He learned not to drive up to a visible IED, he learned not to return by the same route and he learned not to talk to the locals or give them anything.
After a four year stint in the Marine Corps, Mike Pickrel could get no traction as a civilian. The Marines wouldn't take him back, so he enlisted in the Army. Then came 9/11 and, like so many others, he was anxious to do something about it.
Nate Winkler's first duty was at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point with a small air traffic control unit. He was there when the 9/11 attacks riveted the entire nation. That night, as he patrolled his base in the dark, he remembered something his drill instructor had said about why they had all joined the Marine Corps.
If you are a woman veteran, reach out, find a network of women who have been there. That's the advice of Angela Beltz, a veteran of Desert Storm. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
You learned the little things that helped you spot IED's. Mike Pickrel tells how he looked for them and how the Surge never really made it to where he was. No more boots on the ground there. He chafed at partnering with former insurgents and was angry when he finally got a chance to engage in a real firefight, but was withdrawn.
It was a surprise when her National Guard unit was activated for Desert Storm. It gave Angela Beltz a new appreciation of the hands on training the water distribution detachment had received in the mountains of California. As she readied for deployment, she had to make a choice regarding her long hair. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
Brett Stroney was just a high schooler on the day of the 9/11 attacks. He recalls the sense of duty that led him to consider the United States Military Academy as America entered the Global War on Terror.