ODA 595 fought with warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum in northern Afghanistan.
You said earlier that Dostum thought you had a death ray. What can you tell
me about that?
Due to the altitude that the aircraft was flying with the laser-guided
munitions, when it dropped its ordnance the bomb was falling for a minute and
half to two minutes. If you timed it just right, as the laser target
designator is engaging and [targeting the] enemy position, you let your
Northern Alliance commander take a look through the laser target designator.
He sees it going, but he doesn't see the bombs fly into the target. He hears
that chirping noise from the laser target designator and then the enemy
position explodes. They believe that we have the death ray, and this was a
myth that we were willing to perpetuate. Every one of us on our rifles carried
a smaller laser. We let the Northern Alliance guys look through our night
vision goggles. ... I think Will has summed it up best. This whole situation
is like the Flintstones meet the Jetsons. And those guys could not fathom that
we have some sort of aiming device that would allow us to hit a target at night
on the first round.
I think something that's key in all this is that both Northern Alliance and
enemy communications were, for the most part, CB radios. They would be arguing
with each other in the heat of battle. The Taliban would be saying, "nanny,
nanny, boo, boo" and the Northern Alliance would be saying, "hey, we're coming
to get you." They would also tell the Taliban about this death ray. At
Kunduz, we were negotiating back and forth to try to get these guys to
surrender. They were saying, "We'll surrender, we'll march into your camp, but
we want to keep our guns." Dostum finally said, "Put your guns down, take your
jackets off, march in here or we're turning the Americans onto you with the
death ray." Instantly you could see the guys bend over. They put their guns
down, they took their cloaks off and they started marching in, in single file
right up into the middle of our perimeter, because they knew that it was over
if that death ray was coming out.
This was also perpetuated by the presence of the AC 130 Spectra gunship. They
had a female fire support officer that was on the radio. Dostum heard her
voice and he brought Mohammed Fazal, who's the former Taliban chief of staff.
He's trying to delay this surrender in Kunduz while his forces are attempting
to recapture Mazar-e-Sharif. Dostum brings Fazal near the radio so that he can
hear this female voice. Fazal hears her voice as it's being explained to him,
through the translators, that we have the angel of death overhead, from the AC
130 gunship. Dostum explains to him that we have the angel of death overhead
and that we possess the death ray. If they don't surrender now all of their
troops will burn in hell. Fazal jumped on the radio and his men were
surrendering within minutes. ...
. . . .
I had a particularly good, strong, spirited horse one day. And, we had been
riding for a few hours, not terribly long. And I had already gone through
several ordeals with this horse, being thrown off, and drug for kilometers
through the desert, but nothing seemed to tire this horse out.
So, when these guys would come down off of a high mountain pass, they would
double back, I guess. I don't know what you would call it, zig-zag down an
incredibly steep slope. If you had fallen off the side of this thing, I mean
you would fall to your death probably. But these horses would zig-zag down in
each others' tracks.
I had zero control of my horse for some reason. And, he's coming down this
mountain pass. And right where they're breaking, and going into the zig-zag,
happened to actually be General Dostum. When our horses came together, he
looked at me a little concerned. And I wasn't sure why. But I think he knew
why, being more of a horseman than I was. And my horse turned and faced
straight down the hill. And I was thinking, "Hmm, this is going to be a pretty
quick zig-zag, I think." And he crouched down like a cat, and just sprung off
the side of the mountain.
And, I think about three to five horse lengths later, his front feet hit. And,
this guy just took off like lightening down the side of a cliff. The only thing
that went through my mind was this 1980s movie, "The Man from Snowy River." And
so, I was like, "Okay, the guy from Snowy River, he put his head on the back of
the horse, and he put his feet up around his neck."
And so, my feet came up, my head goes back. And I have like horsetail on the
back of my head. And this guy just tears down the side of this mountain where
at the bottom of it is like a gully about six to 12 feet deep, and about four
So, he comes to that thing. And of course, I'm thinking, "Well, we're going to
crash because we don't have wings or brakes." And he successfully jumped over
that. And, I just pulled back on one side of the reins. Because pulling back on
both of them didn't do anything. And we ran around in a pretty tight circle
until he stopped.
And I guess about 20 minutes later, the General and some of his entourage had
finally caught up. And he had stopped, and looked at me kind of strange again,
but a little different this time. And, he said something to me. And he started
off again on his horse. And he turned around, and he said something again. And
I knew that he was pretty serious about what he was saying. And, then we walked
off. And, his translator said, "The General just paid you a great compliment."
And I was like, "Wow, that's great. What did he say?" And, he said, "Truly, you
are the finest horseman he has ever seen."
And I'm thinking, "Great. Let him think that anyway." And then he had stopped
and said, "In addition to this, I was the most daring and brave man he had ever
known." So, I guess if you get a good horse, he'll make you famous. A cowboy is
nothing without his horse.
ODA 555 joined Northern Alliance warlord Mohammed Fahim Khan near Kabul.
Russell (Staff Sgt.):
[The Northern Alliance soldiers] had these little walkie-talkies that worked
basically on a repeater system. They had all the same frequencies that the
Taliban had. I'm sure that they talked back and forth to each other, and
probably cussed each other out on the radio from time to time. But Northern
Alliance guys had guys that could speak and probably talked the same slang in
Arabic and sound just like a Talibani or an Arab soldier.
They did it, and they were able to talk to them and ask them questions when we
would drop a bomb, and it sounded like a fellow Talibani soldier. The Talibani
guy possibly sometimes was crying, or all the time they were saying, "That was
close. They missed us. Can you give us some help or support? They missed us to
our west or whatever by whatever distance." They would translate to us, and
tell us, and we would just adjust our fire, based on the information that they
Then the next thing you know, that guy who was basically saying how far we
missed them by -- he would no longer was there. You'd hear people on the other
end of the radio complaining or [being] upset about a friend he'd lost on the
Of course, Northern Alliance guys didn't care. They were happy about it. By the
end of the conversation, they'd close it, and close it with a good cussing or
something. I was just amazed. I couldn't believe that they were able to do that
for us; helped us in a very big way. ...
Commander, 5th Special Forces Group
In the course of our war, a fellow Special Forces officer who did have direct
family connections with New York had given me a strip of metal from one of the
towers to use as we saw fit. So [we did] what we thought was appropriate -- we
cut it into many small pieces. We gave some of it to the A-teams that were
already on the ground. We sent it in to them and just asked them, that when
they were in their operational area, to find a place that was appropriate, to
bury it and to take a satellite location, a GPS level location, and send it
back to us, so that we could keep track of it on our map. This is kind of our
way of making that connection between what happened in New York and D.C. and
what we are now there to do -- to kind of put paid to what these enemies did to
us. It just seemed to be a way of connecting the two events. ...
When we went into Kabul, it seemed very appropriate that one of the [pieces]
that we [buried] would be at the American Embassy, which had been abandoned
back -- well, not abandoned -- had been forced to be left, I think in 1989, if
I remember correctly. Again, [this was] American territory there, and in the
heart of the enemy. So it seemed appropriate that we plant a piece there by the
flagpole at the American Embassy. So we did that, just as a symbol to say,
"Hey, you know we're back, and things are going to be different now." We did
that, as well as put up our flag up over the embassy ...
[There was] nothing particularly elaborate about what we did. We just kind of
formed up and dug a hole and planted it and went about doing business. But
throughout the country, where we came to operate, there is a piece, and that's
been captured on a flag on a map. We hope to present that map someday to the
police and firemen in New York, so they've got a copy of it, too.
ODA 534 partnered with warlord Mohammed Atta to take down Taliban
Jason (Staff Sgt., ODA 534 Medic):
I think it wasn't more than a few days before we started having casualties, and
they were all Afghani casualties -- no Americans at that point. We initially
got one casualty and we treated him. I believe it was an amputation of his leg,
which in and of itself was something that I never thought that I'd wind up
doing. We're trained to do it. But as you go through the training, you think,
"Boy, when would it ever get this bad that I would amputate a leg on some dirt
somewhere in who-knows-where?" Then to do it in the middle of the night with a
headlamp on and your weapons guy, I believe it was, assisting you, is pretty
phenomenal. I think once that casualty lived, and word got out that there're
some guys on the ground here that can do something when you're injured by a
land mine or a gunshot -- it was like the floodgates were open after that. We
were open for business. It seemed like every time I tried to sleep, somebody
pulled up with some degree of injury and they wanted it taken care of.
Where did that amputation take place? What was the setting?
The setting for the first procedure we did, the amputation, was basically what
you'd call a courtyard, which was also the cooking area and assembly for the
troops; a sleeping area for some. Even some animals ran around there from time
to time. So it was definitely not a hospital condition. It was the definition
of austere. We did it right there on the ground on what was basically
hard-packed mud; tried to lay a blanket down to keep it as clean as possible. I
think we did our best to preserve a sterile environment. ...
home + on the ground + assessing the campaign + with us or against us? + fighting on two fronts: a chronology
epilogue + discussion + interviews + links & readings + introduction + video + reporter's notebook
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