In this exclusive interview, Green Beret veteran Scott Zastrow shares his firsthand account as one of the firsts during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Here, he also shared insights about his book, The Deguello, a fictionalized rendition of his experiences during service. This is the second of the two-part piece about the interview conducted over ten years ago.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the United States found itself facing an unprecedented global threat posed by terrorist organizations. To combat this threat, American Special Operations Forces were deployed to various theaters around the world. Among these deployments was Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, which saw a unique team of soldiers, known as Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 555, play a pivotal role in the early days of the conflict.

This article delves into an interview with one of the members of ODA 555 back in 2012, shedding light on their insertion into Afghanistan, their interactions with the Northern Alliance, and the unique challenges they faced during their mission.

Insertion into Afghanistan

The story of Triple Nickel’s insertion into Afghanistan begins with a flight provided by the 16oth Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).  This mission was not without its challenges, as the initial attempt to fly in was aborted due to instrumentation issues with the aircraft. The second attempt proved successful, and the team found themselves in the heart of a country teeming with uncertainty.

In the interview, Zastrow recalls the eerie quietness that followed their landing, with dust and darkness enveloping the scene as the helicopters departed. The realization that they were in Afghanistan, in a hostile environment where the slightest mistake could have dire consequences, was a surreal moment for the team. The fear of being spotted by the enemy loomed large, given the size of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters they were flying in.

“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,” Zastrow recalled. “We all kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow, never thought of it that way.'”

Linking up with the Northern Alliance

Oftentimes, Hollywood portrays Special Operations as lone wolves embarking on solo missions. However, the reality is often quite different. In the case of ODA 555, their integration with the Northern Alliance was facilitated by Agency (read CIA) involvement, serving as a crucial liaison between the two groups.

The initial impressions of the Northern Alliance were tempered by the team’s previous experience in the Middle East, allowing them to keep their expectations low. Language barriers and the need for translation added complexity to their interactions, but they soon discovered that the Northern Alliance had educated leaders who were familiar with American tactics, thanks to their training in Russia.