In an exclusive interview with Scott Zastrow, Jack Murphy delves into the remarkable journey of a man who became a Green Beret in the United States Army’s Special Forces. Scott’s story is a testament to the power of determination, mentorship, and the unexpected twists and turns that life can take.

Note: More than ten years ago, Murphy, one of the pioneering writers of SOFREP, had the chance to conduct an exclusive interview with Zastrow, an 18D (Special Forces Medic), about the latter’s experiences during the initial invasion of Afghanistan as part of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 555. Zastrow was among the country’s first boots on the ground on October 19, 2001. Enjoy the first of the two-part throwback interview below.

Scott Zastrow’s Patriotic Calling

Growing up in the heartland of America, Scott Zastrow was surrounded by a strong culture of patriotism and American pride. It was almost inevitable that he would follow in the footsteps of his father and brother, both of whom had served in the US Army. For him, becoming a Soldier was not a difficult choice; it was a natural progression and a way to contribute to his country.

Early Adventures in Germany

After completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), the now-veteran found himself stationed in Germany as a medic. Here, Zastrow experienced the typical adventures of a young soldier – from raucous nights in local pubs to bonding with fellow soldiers over shared experiences. However, a memorable encounter with a demanding Platoon Sergeant taught him important life lessons about discipline and resilience—transforming him and his fellow soldiers from naive recruits to capable, competent soldiers.

A Crucial Turning Point and His Path to Special Forces

A pivotal moment in Zastrow’s early Army career occurred during a road march when he, as a medic, mistakenly joined a platoon without his weapon. The fear of facing repercussions for his oversight quickly dissipated when the platoon leader recognized him as their medic. Little did he know that this incident would be the beginning of his reputation as a high-speed medic, setting him on a path toward Special Forces.

While serving in his unit, Zastrow had the privilege of working alongside an experienced 18D (Special Forces Medical Sergeant), who set a high standard for their team. The 18D’s unwavering commitment to excellence left a lasting impression and fueled the veteran’s desire to become an 18D himself. This rigorous standard became their baseline, instilling in them a relentless pursuit of excellence.

But the path to becoming a Green Beret was not without its challenges. Soon, Zastrow found himself competing against seasoned soldiers from prestigious units like the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, and Ranger Battalions during Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). Despite feeling out of place initially – aside from being the youngest and least experienced candidate – the rigorous training and relentless encouragement from older candidates only fueled his determination to succeed.

Scott Zastrow
Scott Zastrow with Northern Alliance fighters

After successfully completing SFAS, the veteran shortly joined the arduous journey through the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q course). It took approximately two years to graduate as an 18D, where his endurance and determination were tested to the brim. Pushing through the mentally and physically taxing process, he finally graduated, achieving his long-cherished goal and proudly donning the coveted Green Beret.