Below the Surface : The Dog Company: Part 1

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In 2007 US forces were part of a NATO collation in Afghanistan. Among the division stationed there was the 101st Airborne. Dog Company, part of the division, was led by Captain Roger Hill. His experience in Afghanistan was chronicled in the book Dog Company and today he sits down w/ Dr. Hirsch alongside his good friend and former guest, Lieutenant ColonelĀ Erhan Bedestani.

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Below the Surface
Each week Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Dr. Elliot Hirsch, sits down with patients, celebrities and experts to go below the surface on topics within the field of medicine and current events.

Episode transcripts


Straw media. This week we havea very special guest. We talked to
Lieutenant Colonel Arahan Benistani and Captain RogerHill, author of the Book Dog Company,
which details his experiences in Afghanistan intwo thousand and seven. I'm Dr
Elliott Hirsch. Welcome to below thesurface. A few months ago we talked
to my good friend Lieutenant Colonel ArahanBenistani about the US special forces. After
the interview he and I talked andhe mentioned a book called Dog Company that
he highly recommended that I read.He sent me a copy and I read
that entire book in the weekend.It was it was absolutely an incredible book.
It really opened my eyes about themilitary and about what it was like
to be deployed in Afghanistan, notjust about the enemy combatants and the other
challenges that are military faces, butalso with a bureaucracy within the military and
some of the obstacles posed by therules of engagement. Are had and I
talked about the book and he offeredto come back on the podcast along with
the author of the book, CaptainRoger Hill, so I thought it would
be a great opportunity to go intodepth about some of the issues that come
up in the book and today we'lltalk to the two of them about dog
company and what they're taught. Theirtime deployed was like, Arahan and Roger,
welcome to below the surface that's goingto be here. Yeah, thanks
for having us. No, Ipleasure or how you are actually the first
two time guest on our show.How does that feel? I don't it
feels great. I think at theend of the last interview I was begging
to be on again. So you'rethe only person that really thought I had
anything interesting to say. So thanksagain for having me on. My pleasure,
you know right. Besides, besidesyour mom, I'm probably the only
one who listens to you talk forthat long of an amount of time.
So it's it's I'm glad that you'reable to take more time out to talk
to us. So that's excellent.Yeah, thanks a lot. Absolutely.
I want to start you guys.So, are Han I went to college
together, so we've known each othersince two Tho or one thousand nine hundred
and ninety eight actually, so prettylong time. Are Han, Roger,
how do you guys Know Each Other? From Afghanistan, I mean, I
mean that was the first time we'veever known of each other or met on
that deployment. So roughly, whatyear you think that was? April,
two thousand and eight two, wasn'tokay. Yeah, Roger, one question
that I kind of wanted to getout there because it's it's been on the
back of my mind. I've beenthinking about this for a while. You
guys were deployed together for about howlong? About about five months? Five
months, okay. Did did areHan use avocado cream face masks at night
in the desert on deployment and,if not, how did he take care
of his skin during the Windy DesertNights? You know, it's it's funny.
You mentioned that he does have beautifulskin. He's got that nice coastal
Mediterranean yeah, it just beautiful.I did notice a little like dabs of
Green Goop, yes, from timeto time. Yeah, yeah, tell
me the outstretches of his face orkind of where your ear meets your sideburns,
and I always wondered like maybe thatwas Camo that had come off just
after a mission I didn't know about. But yeah, that could have been
avocado cream. I actually kind oflet myself go a little bit during that
deployment, not gonna lie, wasn't. I wasn't as good on the the
metrosexual portions of my skin carry andas I was in college. Beautiful,
beautiful skin, flawless. It's gaypretty much flawless, all because because I
am a plastic surgeon and you knowthis is plastic to me. Do you
have any skincare tips for the peoplelistening? During deployment? You know,
what did you do? You sayyou let yourself go on this deployment,
other deployments. What did you dothe Kelp keep your skin looking so beautiful
and flawless? Oh Man, Idon't know. I just, you know,
try to take a shower and it'severy few days. Okay, okay,
thanks. Folio I remember an explanatingwith Afghan dirt and Sam in time
to time. So I think hejust he just constantly wore a new layer
of skin. It was. Yeah, well, we do recommend for our
our patients. We talked about myqueen needling and chemical peels to help exfoliate
that skin. So I'm glad thatArehon you were able to find a way,
even when you're on deployment, touse that, the natural form of
exfoliation use, as some Afghan DrAfghans and to really keep your skin looking
so healthy and fresh. I'm surepeople that we had was pretty chemically treated
too. It's somewhat sustainable for lifeand and hygiene well keeps you nurse and
will burn off your outer layers.So that's a good thing, very good.
Well, now that I've kind ofof gotten that off my chest,
for everybody he's listening, Roger wrotea book during his deployment. There's a
lot that one on. The bookis called Dog Company and I highly recommend
that people read it. It's veryeye opening look at what happens in the
military, what it's really like ondeployment and just kind of a looted the
behind the scenes things about the militaryand deployment that can go wrong that I
had no idea about before I readthe book. So for me, very
I opening. It's a great book. Highly recommend it. I wanted to
start with you too, and there'sa lot of stuff that we kind of
unpack and, as you say onthe show, go below the surface.
But I wanted to start with somethingvery basic and for me, before I
read the book, before even beingfriends with air home for so long,
I really had no idea what itwas like to actually be in combat.
You know, for me I hadthis idea in my head that it's similar
to a game of Halo. Youknow, you guys are playing halo or
I've never played, but I knowyou're talking about. Yeah, yeah,
can't run around first person shooter,shooting stuff, stabbing things, that kind
of thing. Obviously it's not likethat. So I wanted to start with
you too, Roger Hunt, whatis actually like to be in combat?
Paper rock sissors, Rogers, yougo first. Okay. For me,
like whenever there's been an engagement,you know, and typically whenever I've experienced
combat, we've always been surprised.It was always the enemy that was ambushing
us. So there was always justkind of a second where, or a
few seconds if you will, whereyou're just trying to understand what's happening,
you're just kind of things are sortof erupt and you're sort of in shock,
and then there's just, at leastinitially, there's confusion because you don't
really know were the enemy is shootingyou from or exactly how they're engaging you.
And so for me, in theway of experience, a lot of
kind of what I had to dois just suppress, I guess, my
my natural inclination to kind of react, but to just take a moment and
really soak in and and try toobserve what was going on or what was
happening, because it was just veryconfusing. It was very I don't know,
is it overwhelming, I guess,is another way to put it.
So for me, but the initialparts of being in an exchange within combat
is that way. And then,you know, sometimes a lot of that's
just how your body reacts to loudnoises. You know, like there is
kind of what you see and experiencein the movies where if you're not wearing
you're hearing protection, there is kindof a ringing and until you're hearing kind
of kind of adjusts or the smokekind of clears, you're kind of blind
and deaf to what's going on untilall of that initial rush of adrenaline is
dumped and you have a chance tokind of catch up to what your body
is processing to so sounds like savingprivate Ryan and that movie. Yeah,
maybe that's a good way to putit. Maybe that was why that movie
was so impactful for so many veteransand World War Two veterans especially that went
through that. there. How youyou have a little different experience as special
forces. You weren't always reacting there, are you? I mean you'd have
told me stories about times are youkicking indoors and stuff like that. What's
your take on this? I thinkyou know Rogers account is is really dead
on. A lot of times wedon't get to dictate when and where,
you know, we where we engagewith the enemy, and a lot of
times it's really just a requirement ofthe mission to get out there and assume
a lot of risk by being outin the open during daylight. And that's
when you're really a greatest risk.and Rogers Point about when you first take
some kind of incoming fire, whetherit's, you know, somebody shooting at
you with with rifles or an automaticweapon or rocket propelled grenade, there is
an immediate shock. And the addedpiece too, I think, is when
you're the leader of the group,you know there's an added stress of you
have. Everybody's going to be turningto you to try to make sense of
what's going on and kind of organizethe chaos. Right and there, even
well trained units, people will verymuch not know what to do and they
need somebody to kind of lead fromthe front, like you back. It's
okay to back right, like justfire, because this is coming in from
really close and we need to getthe hell out of here. And sometimes
you're the first one to engage withyour weapon because you want to be able
to show that it's okay to fireand then kind of organize everybody and then
still maintain some level of situational awarenessand calmness to be able to report back,
because when you're the leader of theunit, you're also kind of like
a a cell tower, right,like you're the one that's really taking in
what's happening in front of you andthen relaying that back to either the the
remainder of the unit that's back in, you know, the base, or
asking for additional assets to potentially come, like close air support, you know,
with an air air plane, afighter jet or a helicopter or gun
ship. So you're battling both what'sin front of you and then trying to
process that. Didn't relay that.In addition to like what Roger said,
is just kind of like gather yourselfafter the immediate shock. In it's it
does require, you know, compartmentalizinga lot of things and just kind of
focusing on one task at a time. And you know, as a special
forces guy, you know we didhave the opportunity a few times to do
missions where we got to dictate wherewe conducted the mission. We got to
ride on helicopter doctors at night,land at the special you know, the
specific place that we wanted to andthat way we had the advantage. You
know, for a little bit wehad the advantage because we were dictating.
Those experiences were few and far betweenactually, and most of the most of
the situations and dynamics were a lotlike what Rogers said. You know what
would infantry and special forces or MarineInfantry, what you know the ground pounders
are doing in combat. Is Allal it's all the same and it's all
reactionary. It's all reactionary and veryfew times do you really get to dictate
play. And and when you doget to dictate play, hopefully it all
goes well and you get to dictateplay for a while, but a lot
of times you made dictate play earlyon and then eventually you're also in a
reactionary game, right, so itcan change very quickly. Is there a
point after that initial shock where you, like Roger said, your senses are
clearing, your your visions coming back, your hearing is coming back. Does
the training kick in or is itsomething where you you have to consciously say
to yourself, okay, breathe,you know what I learn in training?
What have I done my past experiences? How do I move forward? I
mean, for me, I thinkthere's a little bit of gathering yourself,
but once you kind of put ittogether, you know, after that initial
kind of being on your heels,then it's all it's all going through your
mind. You know exactly what youneed to do and you're just focused on
the immediate kind of actions. Youknow, there's a little bit of a
law there and then you're back atit and and now you're really focused on
trying to face the enemy, tryingto react, and then, you know,
after that it kind of like clicks, but there is a little bit
of, you know, being offand on your heels. The training that's
provided for those sorts of situations isvery good in that it's very formula if
you're dealing with this set of circumstances, then you respond this way. For
example, we're just talking about anambush, though. There are what are
called battle drills, which are reactionarydrills that you train to to the point
of they become muscle memory for yourselfat an individual level, at a team
level and then at a unit level. And really the the trick is to
identify what's happening to you so thatyou can flip through your Rolodex of reactions
and then, you know, beginto put out the correct order if your
team isn't already reacting in the appropriateway, so that you respond, you
know, in that formula matter.So it's like a playbook. You have
a playbook of things to get through. Yeah, it's like one of the
things that made Bill Belichick is agreat coach with the Patriots is he always
talks about situational excellent, and sowith his team, he always with Patriots,
I read stories of how he drills. It's third and you know,
third and eight. You're on thefifteen yard lines. Third Eight, you're
on the twenty. Third Eight you'reon the forty. This is the score.
This is course, so being excellentin situations, in sports, in
the army and surgery, it's allkind of about situational reaction. Situational excellence.
But there's something else too that wehaven't touched on that I want to
kind of hear what you do thinkabout this and just get some more explanation
governing your response, is what youcan actually do. I believe it's something
called the rules of engagement which,and I would like to hear from you
guys about this, the rules engagementminders thing is that they determine kind of
the playbook for you. We're okay, you know, if you're out,
you're pushing it, you're in theYou'r Afghanistan, you're going through the countryside.
You may be told do not engage, you may be told respond if
you are taking fire. So tellme what specifically are the rules of engagement
and how does that dictate your responsesto these situations? I'll just I'll say
one thing and then I'll kind ofdeferred aren and you know, expands as
we go, as needed, butI would look at the the mission that,
let's say, the infantry had.That's the type of unit that we
were and your mission is to closewith and destroy the enemy, and so
the idea is that you are allowedto do anything to defend yourself. You
know, against attack and you've gotthis arsenal of weaponry and technology and then,
of course, all the tactics andtraining to do so. But then
what happens is based on the theaterthat you're in, and all kinds of
different variables or constraints are replied Jewpolitically and otherwise there's a governor or a
you know, a mechanism to dampin your ability to respond based on,
you know, whatever the situation orcircumstances requires. And so that's kind of
how I would look at rules ofengagement. Is it's a governor that's placed
on your engine or your ability torespond at your greatest potential or capability.
It's supposed to be there to kindof damp in that, to keep you
within a certain set of constraints.Yeah, yeah, I think Rogers hidden
the nail on the head the rulesof engagement. I think when someone who's
not involved in a theater of conflictlike we were in Afghanistan or Iraq,
and and I'll speak to Afghanistan specificallybecause that's where I had a lot more
combat operational experience, I didn't Ididn't do a lot in Iraq other than
kind of just guard a gate.And so when I was what I realized
very quickly in Afghanistan was the therules of engagement allow you to take action
if you feel like there's a threat. The the issue becomes what you perceived
to be a threat when you're onthe ground. A lot of times is
different than how somebody a thousand milesaway may perceive what the threat was based
on an account of the hearing.Right. So that's that's one issue.
So that starts to kind of impacthow you decide to operate in your environment.
Like what you know, this iswhat I want to do, this
is but how will this be perceived? Right? So it starts to enter
into your decision cycle and I thinkthat's that's part of the issue sometimes with
rules of engagement is it may bean inhibitor to the best course of action
that somebody could take to try toclue yes, you one second are so.
So you're saying that that your actionswhen you are deployed and you're on
the mission, your action, youractions are subject to some type of external
review and you might like have thisMonday morning quarterbacking where somebody looks back who's
not in the situation with you andsays hey, you know, why did
you do X, Y and Z, and your response as well. We
thought we were taking fire. Arewe thought that we were immediate danger,
and they could say, well,you weren't and you can be penalized for
that. You you could. Ihaven't come across that myself specifically, but
I think that when you are operatingyour you are very much sensitized to the
fact that if I continue, ifI continue down this road and I want
to call in a close air strikeor if I want to bring in a
helicopter gunship, and you know that'sfine, but like at what point,
at what point am I potentially goingto be accountable for some stuff? And
you know you're going to do everythingyou need to to bring all the assets
you can to bear for your guys, but I think in the back of
your mind the rules of engagement andthen potentially, like the the the potential
that you are going to be subjectto a review, starts to enter into
your mind. You start hearing enoughstories and and you know, vignettes of
people who are coming under scrutiny andit does start to get into your decision
making calculus. It didn't stand somuch. You're in my first deployment,
but maybe a little a bit moreduring my second to Afghanistan because I went
another time around. But you know, the other piece too, is like
the tyranny of distance. So,you know, the rules of engagement are
set up so that you can engagewith the enemy and call all these other
assets to bring to bear if youwant, but a lot of times it
just ends up being like an equallymatched fight between gun rifles and other guys
with rifles. So you know,the planes in the air and the helicopters,
you don't always get that kind ofstuff and so, depending where you
are and what time of day,those assets may not be available. So
it's just a bunch of, youknow, barrel chested freedom fighters out there
and it's trying to do the bestthat they can and a lot of the
weaponry and technology that we pride ourselveson, it's it's really nothing other than
just a bunch of guys with gunsshooting at each other. Now is that?
Is it kind of an overarching thisis what this mission is like,
or is it for the overall whileyou are in Afghanistan, this is what
you must follow? I think it'sstill ladder of the two and it's it's
driven by politics. That was somethingI wanted to kind that's where I was
going with that, Soak. Yeah, so by politics. Now, when
you guys were deployed in Afghanistan,I think Obama was the present correct.
Yes, will owit was a transitionbetween Obama, but yes, both.
So did you, Roger, youwere you are to play once before and
then again after the transition. Didyou know this? was there a difference
in the rules of engage or orthe like? We said before, just
how your conduct was supposed to bebetween those two different administrations? Yeah,
and there's a couple of dimensions tothat that make it hard to sort of
baseline, you know, an applesto apple, or oranges to orange.
Can comparison if you will. Somy first employment was TAIRAK HMM and Iraq.
You operated under and we literally worethe patches to represent ourselves. You
operate under a US command at thehighest level, and so they were.
You felt like, I think youfelt somewhat more secure that the decisions that
you would make wouldn't be held tothe type of scrutiny they would be if
you had a global body that waslooking at your actions under a coalition,
let's say, of leadership. InAfghanistan, we fell under a coalition of
leadership around the world. We fellunder NATO, and we, instead of
wearing a US patch as the seniorpatch of authority on our uniform, we
wore a NATO patch and our USpatches were subordinate to that command. And
so you're you're the level of scrutiny, the that was being applied was you
were scrutinized by the US command onthe way up, but above the US
command there was a coalition of differentcountries and observers that apply their own scrutiny,
and that's ultimately what you answer to. As a complicating factor in how
we operated in Afghanistan, it wasmore political because we had more, more
countries, more stakeholders to answer to. If that makes sense. Yeah,
no, absolutely, and you knowthat's that's something too, because the rules
are ultimately determined by whichever whoever theleader is, and if the leaders the
US, then that maybe one saidrules. If it's NATO, you've got
a multinational force, and I meanit makes perfect sense that there are different
things you have to worry about,different things you have to follow. Let's
take a quick break and when wecome back we'll talk with Roger about his
experiences with the rules of engagement inAfghanistan. So I want to jump ahead
a little bit. Question for you, Roger. In the book there and
we're going to kind of will comeback to this by one to get out
there in front. In the bookyou have a an issue later when there
is a situation where you have enemycombatants and you have to release them within
a certain amount of time unless youhave unless you have a confession from them.
So can you tell me what thatspecific situation not not so much what
happened to you, but the whatwas the rule? You had to release
them within x amount of time unlessyou had a confession. What was that
situation? And I know this isa great segue into the specifics of the
dog company story and that which createdthe tension or the conflict that ultimately led
to me, yes, almost goingto prison and being investigated and having to
live through, you know, avery difficult legal battle investigation. So in
Afghanistan, because we answer to thisNATO coalition, they had their own set
of rules of engagement and one ofthose rules of engagement that was different than
what we dealt with an Iraq waswhat was called the ninety six hour rule,
and so whenever you picked up anenemy combatant, whether it was somebody
that was spying on you, whichis what we dealt with in our case,
or let's say you fought through anambush and you picked up one of
the guys captured, one of theguys that was trying to shoot and kill
you, those two people were inthe same category as being an enemy combatant.
So they went through this process which, ultimately, if you did everything
the right way, would lead to, quote unquote, charges against that individual.
And so yet four days to workthrough this process. The forday limit,
or the ninety six hour limit thatwas being applied, as we learned
over time, was an arbitrary timestandard that was put in place by a
diplomat and at the end of theday, you know, when they were
pressed through a series of interviews andinvestigations that happened after mine was completed,
we all learned that the reason thatfor day time center was put in places
because they just didn't want to havedetainees held for an indefinite period of time,
which I understand. I think youknow, everyone listening or who's been
involved would never want to just holdsomebody indefinitely. But the for day time
period that they put in place wasarbitrary. I mean beyond that, they
didn't really have a reason or alogistical justification, because it's very difficult to
get back and forth and in Afghanistan. Sure, and so four days is
really not a lot of time toonce you've captured somebody, to get them
to, you know, the rightplaces and have them processed, you know,
in the same sense that we wouldprocess people under a rule of law
framework here in the US, rightthrough a police department, etc. So
we had this for day standard thatmade things very difficult for troops on the
ground and so a lot of timeswhat happened is commands unless the offense was
really bad or the offender was reallybad or was you know, and how
you measure that? I don't know, it's really subjective. Sure they would
just keep people back on the streetbecause that ninety six hour standard was too
hard to adhere to, too difficult. And so the joke in Afghanistan under
NATO, which is different than whatwe dealt with in Iraq, was that
the the ninety six hour rule,the rules of engagement surrounding it and the
whole detention process as a whole wasa revolving door. People would come in
and then they would just stay inthe door and then be set right back
out within that for day window becauseyou just you couldn't do it with the
constraints that were given. You justcouldn't make it happen. It wasn't realistic.
But Hey, I want set.So so you've got nicety hours to
do what you said, to process, to move them on to some other
facility. Are you have to geta sign confession from them? If somebody
shooting at you? Does that apply? Like what? What are these specific
variables within the ninety six hours thatallow you to move somebody forward or to
release them like well, you haveto accomplish I'll just describe it in this
way, without trying to go intodetail because I'm not going to remember all
of it and maybe Arajon can kindof help fill in the blanks. But
what was happening is the the NATOcommand was trying to push down our throats
a rule of law framework that wasreminiscent to what their countries had operated under
within their own first world countries.Right so we're in a not even what
I would consider a third world country, where a six world country, it's
Afghanistandard, it's a getting ten ina combat zone, and they want to
take an apply what you and Ido with on a day they basis,
with a functioning judicial system, offunctioning police or sheriff's department, you know,
and all of the you know,the capabilities that come to bear in
a functioning society. They wanted toapply that level of process and to the
apprehension of quote unquote, bad peopleor, you know, enemy combatants,
when we had none of the training, none of the resources and, you
know, none of the facilities tofacilitate it. So you're saying that that.
You said this was done by abureaucrat somewhere, not even in consultation,
necessarily, with the people who areon the ground who had some idea
with the capabilities, are some ideaof what can be accomplished with travel constraints,
with with communication constraints, that somebodysomewhere said we're going to do four
days, not five days, notsix days, not three days, it's
going to be four days. You'vegot this amount of time to get a
sign confession out of the person youcaptured or to have them, I don't
know how he catch them in theact or just something so egregious. And
that's that's basically what you guys areoperating under. Yeah, more or less
ere I was that. Yeah,it's weird, it is, and I
think what I've started to kind oflearn a little bit more over time is
we like to think that a lotof these aspects of conflict are preset and
they're all kind of well understood beforethere's a decision to even engage. But
what we have to appreciate is whenthe initial overthrow of the Taliban occurred in
two thousand and one, there wasno vision that there would be soldiers still
deployed to Afghanistan in two thousand andeight, and so this idea of overthrowing
a regime which was the Taliban,over time just incrementally grew into okay,
well, we need to help andcreate a functioning, stable, democratic Afghanistan.
And then you know, when youstart getting into issues of now we're
trying to move a society and ajudicial structure from non existent to first world,
like Rogers saying. But you're applyingrules of engagement up front that are
in line with the first world country. This is the tension that occurs.
You're never going to meet the evidentiaryrequirements and unless somebody is truly a bad
actor that is recognized throughout the countryor is regionally a really bad actor.
You know if somebody has been belowthe radar within your locality, you know
a key leader in the Taliban networkor in surgeon network, but hasn't come
up a lot in interfaced with Americanor NATO forces, doesn't have a lot
of reporting about them now, thenhe's not on the top twenty list or
the top ten lists. He's noton the Afghanistan top ten list. So,
making a deck of cards, he'snot on the deck of cards.
And for these guys that are badactors that are not on the deck of
cards, the system was woefully inadequateto deal with them. And when we
talk about an insurgency, many timesit's not the leaders on the deck of
cards but the middle men that arethe critical cogs in the engine right and
this system of revolving door is allowingcritical cogs in the network, whether they
be informants or fighters, to constantlyrevolve back into the battlefield with better knowledge
of how we operate and then betterknowledge about how to exploit the de tension
system. Hey, I'm in forninety six hours and I'm going to get
out. So this, this wasoccurring. It was occurring all too often
and you know, Roger and Iwere working a lot as the leaders of
our respective units to try to figureout how do we take the Tan and
knees and have some level of transparencywhere we know that we can get them
off our hands and then into thehands of some type of confinement that they're
going to be held for a while, and that was really difficult. There
were a lot of things emerging atthe time where, you know, the
Afghans were being trained and and resourceto develop their own judiciary and their own,
you know, prison system, butit was still really limited and so
there just was in a capacity tokeep a lot of people detained. So
what you're say this, so makesure I got this straight, and this
yeah, I read the book andthis is what you're saying is similar with's
in the book. You could,and you probably both experience this. You
can seeably have a direct mission tocapture somebody. You go out, you
may take casualties American soldiers can getkilled. You can capture the person you're
looking for plus a few other people, and not only you have to worry
about that finding them getting shot atmaking it back to base, but then
you also have to worry about howyou're going to hold onto them for a
long enough amount of time to beable to process them, to keep them
outside of the combat theater. Andif you're not successful in that second part
of the task, then you essentiallywill let them go right back into combat
and oftentimes you give them a handfull of cash on the way out the
door to well, they need capfair, let's not be assholes here.
Make sure they get home. Butthat's that's pretty accurate, though, right
it is. There's one other aspectof of this that I think that's accurate,
and there's one other aspect of thisthat I want to make sure we
touch on because it's it's important forawareness. Surem in Iraq. One of
the reasons the surge in Iraq wassuccessful for the time period that it was
deemed successful, we're talking thus sixhundred and seven, is because prior to
six hundred and seven, we builta huge detention facility and central south Iraq
and it could hold tens of thousandsof people. So just think of a
big federal prison. We built onewith all the staffing and all the capability
that was needed. And so whenyou took people off the battlefield, because
we're in a US led command,that processes were much, much better streamlined
to get those people into this facility. In Afghanistan we didn't have the same
capability, and this is something thatwas not made known to the lower commands
on the ground. We just kepthaving enemy combatants rejected. So we would
put together evidence packets and we wouldjust be told over and over again,
it's not good enough. And sowhat's not good enough about it? Well,
it's just not strong enough. Andthis literally happened a dozen times or
more, you know, within mycommand alone, and we had no idea
that the real reason was because therewas no room at the end. And
it's a really messed up situation setof circumstances. But we were being lied
to in a sense that our evidencepackets weren't good enough, because a lot
of times they were. There justwasn't enough room. But no one wanted
the bad pr to go along with. You know the real reason. They
didn't want to be exposed. Forthe real reason, which is why there
there wasn't enough room to keep inthe end or the the tension facility to
keep these people off the battlefield foran extended period of time. That's really
what it takes to win a counterinsurgency, as you have to take the bad
actors off the battlefield for an extendedperiod of time. And if you can't
do that and you have this revolvingdoor dynamic, you're just, you know,
it's a definition of insane that you'redoing, doing the same thing over
and over again expecting a different result. Yep, but a lot of that
was not known, it was neverreally publicized, and but that was a
major difference between what went on inIraq and what went on in Afghanistan.
So when you got there, whenyou get to Afghanastand you know, I'm
sure you have some orientation time andthen you start doing missions. You you
had there was an area. Whatwas the size of it? You had
a quote in the book Roger There'sit was their area and like the number
of guys you had defending you hada nice in the analogy out. Remember
what that was? Yeah, Imean between are Hans Team and my company.
We had a total of probably ahundred or just over a hundred between
us for an area and area thatwas the size of Connecticut. Okay,
so a hundred soldiers for the areathe size of Connecticut. And you not
only have to capture me, avoidcasualties, avoid getting killed, your subject
to Monday morning quarterbacking, but youalso have to build a case against the
guys you're going after. Yeah,and when you get to a Daniskan,
this is all assume. Nobody tellsyou to stuff. You kind of figure
out as you go. For me, I didn't know because it was my
first time to Afghanistan. There Ihow about you? Same I it was
definitely for the first three four monthsand really that whole first deployment, it
was it was learning by like drinkingfrom a fire hose, right. I
mean every every aspect of that deploymentwas learning and the hubrisk that existed with
in us, as a team oftwelve guys. We said a Wardak has
six districts and you know what,we're here for six months. We're going
to clean up a district a monthand we'll be having beer back in Germany
before you know. Right and prettyquickly we started to figure out that the
entire province was really just a thinveneer of stability and with the spring fighting
season the lid was about to comeoff right and Roger and I are rung
at at the same time with theprevious infantry unit redeploying and then the other
SF team, Special Forces detachment,redeploying and basically doing high fives with me
and Roger as the leadership for thenew infantry company in the new Special Forces
team. And it was it waspalatable the difference in the environment the immediate
it's like they almost knew that therewas a transition and leadership. And the
spring fighting season was on, becausewe were welcome with rockets a blazing and
ambushes and you know, from thevery Gecko it seemed like the enemy knew
exactly what we were doing and whatwe were up to and it was reactionary
for basically the entire time. Sowhen you get there, like we said,
you guys are kind of learning onthe go. What was the general,
I would say environment, but whatwas the general state of your base
when you got there, Roger?Was it? Was it like this is
a tiptop base? With well fortifiedarea, or was it kind of like,
Oh my God, I can't believewe have to stay here for,
you know, five months or sixmonths? I've been in worse, but
that was also, you know,during the surge in Iraq and you know,
we were in a mode of expansion, so it was expected that for
something is going to be very spartanlike and then you can build permanence over
time. We were coming into aplace that was supposed to be permanent,
but we felt but felt very transient. You know, it had like the
infrastructure was not being built out ina way that made it feel like anyone
had any intention of it being permanent. If that makes sense, sure.
And the other part of it too, was we were our province, the
area that we were in was consideredan economy of force mission, which basically
means somebody else is getting all theresources and you're getting leftovers because you're not
in the limelight. HMM. Toare Hans Point, our province was also
on the outskirts of Kabbal the capitalcity, and what we learned, because
are Han and his team and,you know, my guys, we were
all sort of the same mindset thatwe wanted to kind of get out and
push the envelope in terms of discoveryof where the enemy might be. So
we really went out patrolled and areasthat had not been patrolled in previously.
And what we discovered was the areathat we were in was actually full of
enemy, but it was a restand refit area by default because of previous
units had not gone past, youknow, a certain line of demarcation.
MMM. So the enemy that wasconducting operations within Kabbal, the capital city,
to effect, you know that thethe government of Afghanistan, we're living
and operating and training and building theirbombs. Literally, they had car bomb
factories and ID factories in the areathat we were in. We discovered all
that was all there. When theyou know, the previous I guess,
intelligence preparation of the battlefield or intelligenceof the area was not tracking any of
that. It was all in ourtenure that that was discovered. And so
as you're out there, you guysare pushing forward, like you said,
you were trying to establish like theparameters, try to fail where the enemy
are. If you need equipment ora few jeep breaks are your humby breaks
down? I mean it seems likea simple thing to fix it. But
how do you get like how youget a carburetor, you know, how
do you get a new oxygen sensor? Like how you get this stuff whereon
always had more money than we did. So let him go first. See.
You know, we were we werereally fortunate with the first deployment because,
like Roger said, Wardak is onlyan hour drive from cobble and so
our special forces task force was basedout of cobble. And so, you
know, with respect to our vehicles, we were fortunate in that none of
them ever broke down on us whilewe were on a mission. And then
when we would travel back to Cobbwe would try to do that trip back
once a month, maybe twice amonth, drive up, you know,
early in the morning and then usethe weekend while we were in cobble to
rest and refit and get the vehiclesservice at our base. Roger had a
lot more equipment than we did forhis infantry company and did not have a
logistical hub and cobble that they couldjust quickly go to. So I think
they had a much more difficult piece. They all had a lot more guys,
I mean carrying and feeding and logisticallymaintaining the number of vehicles that Roger
had probably had anywhere from like sixteento twenty, as opposed to us,
we had, you know, three. It's just a scale and size that's
a big difference. So we couldjust routinely go up to cobble and take
care of our our vehicles and luckily, like I said, nothing ever broke
down on us when we were outin the field during emission. But for
Roger, yeah, I'll have tolet him talk about his logistical plan.
It was much more intense for them, you know. I mean we were
the economy of force mission for theentire region and so we were a low
priority going into the deployment. Now, over time people started to realize,
because of the amount of enemy activitywe were engaging with, that we need
to become a higher priority. Butthe army's not quick to pivot. If
they've already got a pipeline pushing resourcesto a certain area that they've targeted,
it takes them a while to youknow, to then turn and make another
area, you know, an equalor greater priority to you know, to
turn on into their sticket, orpipeline, if you will. HMM.
And so we just we weren't therelong enough to see any of that.
Love. Now the IT's worth notingthat when Air Han and I left,
another unit came in and replace us, just like we replaced a previous unit.
And whereas we had about a hundredpeople between us, the next unit,
to include the special operators and theconventional infantry that were on the ground,
had in excess one hundred people versusour hundred. So that gives you
any indication as to how short wewere of resources just in terms of manpower
alone. So you think, youknow, that's probably twelve times the amount
of vehicles and you know Chow andwater and you know space technology, etc.
That came with that next footprint,you know, beyond ours. That's
that's how bad it was for us. That's how short we were logistically,
that they had to come in withtwelve times the amount just to meet the
threat that we discovered while we wereon the ground for the you know,
the six to ten months that wewere there. Sure, I mean that's
I read. I remember Rogers guyshis mechanics basically taking pieces and parts of
the vehicles that were in worse shapeand basically making the conscious choice to cannibalize
those vehicles and those pieces to tryto keep other vehicles running right. So
yeah, there were. There wasa lot of that kind of risk management
going on all the time until theycould get additional support. So, you
know, you're robbing, you know, what do they say, like Robbing
Peter to j Paul, like theywere doing that all the time with their
equipment, specifically their vehicles. Andthen, you know, the other big
piece of, I guess, logisticswas artillery. I mean, Roger,
how many artillery rounds were you guysgoing through a night? Yeah, I
mean it was a lot. Imean because, I mean you're probably at
least a dozen. So yeah,I mean just we were constantly being a
rocky that that was the type ofthe a version of many types of forms
of harassment that the enemy was inflictingupon us. Just send the rocket,
tell you got a worst down.Thanks so much for listening. That's it
for today. Be sure to tuneinto our next episode in two weeks,
when we continue our discussion with arehung and Roger. If you enjoyed this
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