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.)
LTC Garnet Derby was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle, also taking 3 other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Brett Stroney recalls the incident and the memories of LTC Derby.
Kim Tapia describes working at night in the tactical operations center, managing and directing support for the convoys traveling through Iraq. It was an important job and she gradually realized just how important. She still hangs on to the DVD's she bought in Iraqi shops to watch in her off hours. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)
It was good training that helped her get through a stressful deployment to Iraq. Kim Tapia worked inside the wire instead of out on the roads, but it was her job to manage and support all those convoys. She remembers the ribbing the support soldiers took from the ones who ventured outside, something that never bothered her. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and 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.
Iraq war veteran Kim Tapia describes her work with Bunker Labs, a non-profit that helps veterans become entrepreneurs. Transitioning back to civilian life can be daunting, and she says that communities need to step up with support. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)
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.
Brett Stroney had an assignment to El Salvador to assist local forces in fighting back narcotics trafficking. This inter-agency work gave him a new appreciation for the DOD, as well as working closely with other countries and learning their culture. Things he learned in Iraq and Afghanistan gave him better insight into how to assist the Salvadorans in their efforts.
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.
The long hours often faced by servicemen and women weren’t just in the field, as Brett remembers a mission to apprehend a high value target that led to a full day’s worth of administrative work.
It was very odd to transition from her tense situation in the war zone of Iraq to the tranquility of the Georgia countryside. The Army had changed Kim Tapia, but it was a good change. It was so good she enthusiastically entered the reserve force for a long run. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)
Deploying to Iraq was a wide-eyed experience for a young Kim Tapia. The older soldiers who had been there before were complaining, something that she can look back on, now, in solidarity. The heat of Kuwait was overwhelming, but she soon moved to a forward operating base in Iraq. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)
The Iraq war required a huge supply operation to staff and stock the bases scattered around the country. Kim Tapia worked in the tactical operations center at one of these bases, monitoring and managing the patrols on the road. She recalls when a daisy chain IED hit one of the convoys, and the time a vehicle borne device exploded near the front gate. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)
Kim Tapia was lucky to be assigned quarters in one of the hardened concrete spaces at the base near Mosul. When the base came under mortar fire, she didn't even wake up. She received plenty of training and briefings on what she would face in the war zone, but she feels the support was lacking for soldiers transitioning back home. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and 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.
Air Force wives are tough. Bob Wolfe was over the ocean looking for Soviet ships when his wife checked herself into the hospital to deliver their first child. She joined him briefly at his next post in Columbia, but she stayed at home while he was in Ethiopia on a mapping mission. While there, he had an odd encounter with some local tribesmen.
She joined the Army to get help with paying for college, but the brotherhood and sisterhood was so strong and so satisfying that Kim Tapia is still there, 15 years later. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.- https://nationalvmm.org/)