4:45 | 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.
Keywords : David Barno Afghanistan Johns Hopkins University Pentagon retired National Defense University
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'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.
It was all propaganda, everything on the radio and in the newspapers. That was life in communist Hungary as Bob Ratonyi was coming of age. He urged his mother to take an offered post as the party representative at her factory so she could take advantage of it.
Operation Eagle Claw was the name of the attempt by US Special Forces to rescue the hostages from the embassy in Iran. The mission was aborted because of mechanical failures in helicopters and then turned tragic when eight men died in a fiery crash. Pilot George Ferkes was part of that team and he describes the events from his perspective.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
The decimation of the Army was complete. The leadership had punted in Vietnam and there was no support among most of the public. Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams decided to rebuild the Army around a reborn Ranger Battalion, which would be built from the ground up as the finest light infantry in the world. Keith Nightingale found out about this and made sure he was in on it.
The rebuild of the 75th Ranger Regiment was underway at Fort Benning. Keith Nightingale was the headquarters company commander among other odd jobs. They were developing a new training regimen that was to be the finest anywhere. One important task was the creation of a Ranger Creed.
When the Iran hostage crisis happened, President Carter asked the joint chiefs if there was any way they could be rescued. This set off a mad scramble to put together a multi-branch operation and Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes was right in the middle of it.
It was a lousy assignment. Jim Bolan was one of the first Special Forces officers and, after Vietnam, he wound up in a training unit with no jump slot. Prodded by his wife, he went to Washington to dust off his most valuable inside contact, who was now the Army's Chief of Staff.
When he returned from Vietnam, George Ferkes is fairly sure he saw his old hooch burning on the television when Quang Tri fell. After a couple of years he leapt at the chance to join a special ops outfit, even though, at the time, there was little interest in those units.
There was some good intelligence available during the planning of the Iran hostage rescue attempt. For instance, pilot George Ferkes knew that an aircraft could easily avoid the radar at the border. That was not the problem, though, once the effort got underway.
After his Vietnam tours, Jake Jacobson served in Thailand and the Philippines, among other places, with different Special Forces teams. After almost thirty years of service, he retired, but was soon in Saudi Arabia training Bedouins. He didn't care for that job. (Caution: coarse language.)
Lt. Geoff Farrell was sleeping in the command track when he heard it on the radio. We were at war with Iraq. His armored cavalry unit crossed from Saudi Arabia into Iraq where they were greeted by friendly children in the middle of nowhere.
Bob Stewart was more nervous going to Vietnam than he was going into space the first time. You could get maimed in combat but in space you were either A-OK or completely gone. He made two flights on the space shuttle and, along with Bruce McCandless, made the first EVA with the new MMU, the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
In the aftermath of the debacle at Desert One, an effort to plan and execute another mission to rescue the hostages in Iran got under way. Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes recalls that new tactics and equipment were developed that served as the blueprint for the revitalization of special operations units throughout the military.
After the battle, the men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry did humanitarian work for the Iraqi civilians, then it was time to return to Germany. For Geoff Farrell, a feeling of unreality set in on the flight home. How do you decompress from combat? At least those who fought in this war were not going to experience the humiliation that Vietnam veterans had faced.
Special forces went through a bit of a renaissance after the failed rescue of the hostages in Iran. Never again would US special operations be caught flat footed and unprepared. Pilot George Ferkes was a part of that mission and it provided him with a purpose that guided him through the rest of his career.
Bob Stewart arrived in Houston as the first active Army officer to become a space shuttle mission specialist. After a year of classes, he was given a technical task, develop the shuttle's entry flight control system. The first flight was scheduled for two years out but he had to give management some bad news.
When Bob Ratonyi heard that a good friend had fled the country after the Hungarian Uprising, he decided to do the same. He recruited another friend and they began to plan their escape. Their group of two expanded to seven and they naively set out for the Austrian border. Part 3 of 4.
The rumor was that the Iraqi's Soviet made tanks were superior to ours. Geoff Farrell had this on his mind while rolling across the desert to engage them. Just as they got near, a sandstorm came up. Then the Iraqi artillery began to fall. Then the first Iraqi tank was destroyed, shattering the myth.
The student led march to the parliament building had been exhilarating for Bob Ratonyi and he got up the next morning to go to his classes but there were no streetcars running. Then he saw two dead Russian soldiers in their vehicle. The peaceful march had turned into the bloody Hungarian Uprising. Part 2 of 4.