SOFREP is pleased to present the second part of our two part interview with Scott Zastrow, whose ODA was the first into hostile territory during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

How did your ODA get inserted into Afghanistan and what was this experience like?

Task Force 160th flew us in. We actually had a dry run first because the birds we were flying in lost instrumentation the first time and didn’t want to risk going over the mountains without them, so they turned us around and we tried again the next night. I guess you could say we got the ‘penguin’ from them that first night.

When we finally did infil, the biggest memory I had of it was just that eerie quietness after landing, when the birds took off and everything was this dusty haze from the rotor wash. Pitch black and I couldn’t see two feet in front of me and remember just giggling to myself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

People throw the word surreal around a lot, but in a time like that, you have no idea what to expect when that dust settled. We work with 160th quite a bit because they are co-located at Campbell with us, so we know their capabilities and weren’t really worried about the trip. I have tremendous respect for those pilots because they have so much experience in their platforms.

But flying in Chinooks, you always have this fear that any tool with an RPG can take you down. You aren’t really being secret in something that size. On previous trips, we operated with pretty good freedom of movement, so knowingly going somewhere that people not only didn’t like you, but actually wanted to shoot you on site, definitely came with a pucker factor.

We didn’t even discuss it until a year later when one of the reporters asked us what it was like being the first men America called on in response to a terrorist incident, and if that much responsibility weighed in on what we were doing. We all kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow, never thought of it that way.’

How did you link up with the Northern Alliance and what was your first impression of them?