The man you see in today’s photo, then Captain Mark Nutsch, grew up on a cattle ranch in Kansas. As part of his upbringing, he became an accomplished rider, a skill he never figured he’d have to put to use in the Special Forces. That was before October 19, 2001, when he and the 11 other men of 5th Special Forces Group’s Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 were inserted into Afghanistan as part of Task Force Dagger.

Says Nutsch:

“We didn’t know horses were going to be involved until about 48 hours prior to our insertion when we were given the phrase ‘be prepared to use indigenous animals for transportation.’”

Nutsch led the ODA for 2 years before 9/11. He had already been deployed to the Middle East a handful of times.  To get ready for this mission, he and his Team reviewed maps from National Geographic Magazines as well as tourist brochures.  Only one other guy on the ODA had ever ridden a horse, and that was way back in high school. He had to teach the other 10.

Given all of their initial challenges, overall, I’d say their mission was a success.