Tampa, Florida — A few weeks back, a new documentary came out that tells the true story of the men of the U.S. Army Special Forces, better known as the Green Berets. They answered the call to seek vengeance upon the perpetrators of one of the worst terrorist attacks the United States has ever seen. On September 11th 2001 terrorists coordinated a series of attacks by way of hijacked commercial passenger airliners. Two of the hijacked passenger planes slammed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center of Lower Manhattan in New York City, another speared itself into the outer rings of The Pentagon, and the final, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers decided to fight back and bravely attempted to overcome their hijackers to prevent more harm to their Nation.
Nearly 3,000 American lives were lost that day and the fabric of the United States was indelibly changed forever.
Caller: “There’s smoke everywhere! I can’t…I…can’t breath! I don’t want to die!”
NYPD Dispatch: “Ma’am, firefighters are just a few floors below you. They are coming—”
Caller: “Please, I don’t want to die like this. Please, [inaudiable screams and loud rumbling].” CLICK. Call ended.
NYPD Dispatch: “Ma’am, ma’am…[audible weeping]…ma’am….oh God, please…?”
Batt Command Line: “Battalion one to Manhattan, the south… [audible sounds of gasping due to running] the south tower of the World Trade Center…it’s collapsing! [off radio] Get them out now! MIKE!” CLICK.”
-0958:59 11 September 2001
The attacks of September 11th fell on the shoulders of a then little-known terrorist group named al-Qaeda and its Salafist leaning jihadist leader Osama bin-Laden. The al-Qaeda terror group was being harbored by a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement who was in total control of Afghanistan at the time and was enforcing strict sharia law upon the people of the Asian country.
The United States and then president George W. Bush needed answers, the president wanted options outside of just a limited bombing campaign. Bush was given what was deemed “SF (Special Forces) Option 1” which encompassed Special Forces teams of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to infiltrate the country of Afghanistan, develop rapport with rebel groups actively fighting Taliban rule, and destroy the group responsible for attacking the United States.
President Bush took that option and thus tasked the Green Berets of 5th Group into becoming the spear of the American vanguard and sent these men to off to exact vengeance in the name of the innocent American lives lost on 9/11. Once President Bush gave his blessing, the Green Beret teams of 5th Group selected were given orders to prepare for a secret war in Afghanistan which the mission was simply stated: Overthrow the Taliban government, Disrupt al-Qaeda.
This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin–war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It is a form of warfare uniquely adapted to what has been strangely called “wars of liberation,” to undermine the efforts of new and poor countries to maintain the freedom that they have finally achieved. It preys on economic unrest and ethnic conflicts. It requires in those situations where we must counter it, and these are the kinds of challenges that will be before us in the next decade if freedom is to be saved, a whole new kind of strategy, a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training.”
– President John F. Kennedy
The documentary Legion of Brothers from the independent documentary producers, Gravitas Ventures, tells the true story of America’s Response to the 9/11 attacks and the true story of the birth of the Green Beret legend of The Horse Soldiers of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595, the first American military unit to enter Afghanistan led by then Captain Mark Nutsch. It also tells the story of ODA 574 commanded by the then Captain Jason Amerine and Scott Neil along with some of his teammates from the direct action team of ODA 515.
Mark Nutsch and ODA 595 were to be the first Green Beret warfighters to enter Afghanistan. Nutsch’s ODA 595 was to link up with the warlord, General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Northern Alliance who were fighting Taliban rule in and around the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The documentary paints a harrowing picture of what it was like for ODA 595 to not only be dropped off in the middle of nowhere with no support. It also shows how this band of Green Berets built rapport with a rebel force and also became the legends known as The Horse Soldiers.
The movie then goes into Amerine’s ODA 574 which infiltrated into the city of Tarin Kowt within the southern region of Afghanistan with the goal to seize Kandahar. ODA 574 was also tasked with supporting and developing rapport with a fledgling politician attempting to oust Taliban rule, Hamid Karzai. The U.S. was looking at Karzai to become the new leader of Afghanistan once the U.S. (with the help of the Green Berets) routed the Taliban from the country. It also deals with overzealous commanders wanting to get into the war before it was over, directly undermining ODA 574’s operational command of the region. Which led to a controversial air strike decision by two senior officers wanting to put “combat action” on their Officers Evaluation Report (OER) that instead of hitting an enemy slotted to surrender later that day, hit and killed Green Berets Master Sergeant J.D. Davis, Staff Sergeant Cody Prosser, and Sergeant First Class Dan Petithory.
These Green Berets were the first U.S. military casualties of the Afghan War, and they were killed by their own people.
Legion of Brothers lays out the strategic mindset of the United States along with providing an amazing glimpse into the world of the Green Berets. The tactical and personal accounts within this documentary are reason enough to see this piece of history and therefore I will not ruin the tactical portion of this well-produced movie. Yet, one thing this documentary does that few have accomplished is provide the viewer a front row seat into the human aspect of what the warfighter experiences, both in combat and on the home front.
You see what it takes to be a married man of action and you also hear from the wives and loved ones who are a part of the lifestyle that encompasses the warfighter ethos. It also shows a rarely talked about or even acknowledged “daily grind” the men of Special Forces endure by way of a constant operational tempo, deployments, gunfights, and yes the death of teammates cobbled with the eventual transition out of the service all Special Forces soldiers will eventually have to navigate to “re-integrate” back into what is known as the civilian world.
Something Scott Neil of ODA 515 explained to SOFREP, “This film is a gritty truth of the realities of war. Everyone has accepted the Good bad and ugly. Obviously we were young and fit. In the film you see what the effects of 15 years of war has been. Those 15 years have taken 30 years off of our bodies, families, and emotions.”
This film has also been met with some degree of controversy and rumored animosity within the leadership of U.S. Special Operations Command, and it mainly leveled at now-Colonel Jason Amerine, “I believe the SOCOM Command as well as USASOC have come from [General] Mulholland’s disdain from LTC Amerine and how Jason had constantly broadcast the CAS [Close Air Support] incident in Dec of 2001. Jason became very vocal and was blackballed out of SF. Jason was a lightning rod for not only the bombing but most recently his job at the Hostage Working Group at the Pentagon.” said Neil.
When asked what the command may not like about the film, Neil replied, “I say it’s more a passive resistance. I’m not sure anyone is ASKING them but there hasn’t been any support. Remember – It is about the victory and the victorious wasn’t a General or Task Force Colonel. It is a story of Captains and Sergeants and some don’t like that the only time you see a flag-officer of Field Grade Officer is for the controversy – which is very true.”
SOFREP contacted the Special Operations Command public affairs office for comment on the film, yet was left unanswered at the time of publication.
SOFREP then reached out to a Public Affairs Officer, LTC Nathan Broshear, in regards to the documentary and the reasons why SOCOM public affairs office may have not wanted to reply to our email and he had this to say, “We’re (military PAOs) not authorized to give our opinion on films—it’s a DoD [Department of Defense] policy thing…. think about it this way, if I were to say, “This film is great–go see it!” Then that’s a direct endorsement of a commercial product by the Department of Defense.” This documentary is not officially endorsed by Special Forces or the command.
The simple truth of this documentary is that 100 Green Berets went to Afghanistan and on 90 days while assisting their host nation rebels and armies of the Northern Alliance, destroyed the Taliban and chased al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin-Laden into Pakistan. These Green Berets with limited supplies and weapons accomplished something historic and amazing. They are living legends of Special Forces and heroes who were personally thanked by President Bush for avenging the United States for the attacks of 9/11 and helping free the oppressed people of Afghanistan from the rule of the Taliban.
And not one of the Green Berets received anything higher than a Bronze Star. Retired Green Beret Scott Neil summed it up like this, “There is a hidden truth of the film that victory was achieved and now lost. Those same men didn’t do it for recognition and also they didn’t receive anything higher than a Bronze Star except for Dan and JD who were killed. We were all told that is what Green Berets do. Almost everyone from the teams that initially deployed are now retired – except for Col Jay Powers who was my ODA commander who is taking over 5th Group this summer. What is not in the film is the mention that we immediately went to Iraq – same guys and did great things again. Then to Africa and did great things – AGAIN. Then back to Iraq and did great things AGAIN. No wonder we are old and tired.”
As a former Green Beret and veteran of The Legion, 5th Special Forces Group, I highly suggest watching this film. It provides a first person account of what truly went down in Afghanistan following 9/11 from the men that were on the ground and fighting to liberate an oppressed country. Something that Hollywood right now is getting completely wrong in its upcoming movie “Horse Soldiers.” None of the Horse Soldier Green Berets were asked to advise on the Jerry Bruckheimer production unlike the survivors of the Benghazi attacks did for the movie, “13 Hours.”
This film at its heart truly shows the sacrifices each and every one of these Green Berets endured for what will always be the most dangerous and rewarding path in the U.S. military, the path of a Green Beret warfighter.
Feature image courtesy of: Gravitas Ventures