Below the Surface : The Dog Company: Part 2

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PART 2 In 2007 US forces were part of a NATO coalition 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. This week the conversation continues starting with language barriers in Afghanistan, and ultimately how the rules of engagement can affect their ability to run operations and keep their team safe.

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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 continueour conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Air Hon Veni
stanging and Captain Roger Hill, authorof the Book Dog Company, about their
experiences in Afghanistan when they were deployedtogether. I'm Dr Elliot Hirsch. Welcome
to below the surface. Welcome backto blow the surface some Dr Eliot Hirsh.
This week will pick up where weleft off with are hon and Roger.
We were last talking about interpreters andhow to communicate with the locals.
We were we were woefully ill preparedto engage with the locals in their native
tongue. I mean special forces guystry to do language training in the areas
that they're most likely focused on,but we were a European unit coming out
of Germany and a lot of ourlanguages were either all you know from the
Balkans, like Serb, Croat,European languages, Russian. So we have
to use interpreters and a lot ofours we're locally high hired interpreters, and
so we just took over the SFteams interpreters that they were using before us.
So guys that were local or fromfrom Afghanistan and had been working with
military for a number of years.That was kind of a word of mouth
vetting. These guys are good guys. Use these guys and Roger, you
guys had interpreters with you to correct. We did. We as the book
demonstrates, and and as we discoveredover time, the vetting process and quality
of vetting that we had access tois way different than you know with the
special operations community has access to.And so we were also being handed down
translators that had worked with previous units. And there is a procurement process that
you know, is conducted at levelsway beyond and above. You know where
Aaron and I sat, where peopleare interviewed and allegedly background checks or conductive
you know, you would think thoroughones at that, but we learned we're
not at all. And we hada number of guys. I think we
had maybe eight to ten different translatorsthat work with us, because we had
to have one purple tune and thenwe had had to have a surplus just
in case something happened to a translator. We needed translators on our base,
you know, to help us withthe logistics on the base, and then
there was a rotation based on thecontracts that we had with these guys that
they were rotating home about every twomonths, so they'd be with us for
about two months and then they wouldgo home for a week of vacation.
You talk about the translators. Correct, that's right. Okay, you're totally
depended on them for your communications withthe locals and just kind of knowing that
they are around the base and thattype of thing. Yeah, I mean,
if if you were to think ofany type of business model or operation
or, you know, organizational corporatefunction that had a choke point, in
this case the translators were the chokepoint that we lived and died by,
if everything because of our mission set, which was to train the local nationals,
security forces, Afghan police, Afghanmilitary, to assume the security mission.
That was that was the whole reasonare Han and his team and my
team were on the ground, atleast from a collective standpoint. That was
the fastest ticket out of Afghanistan isto get their security forces up to speed
and self sufficient. And the onlyway you could do that, since none
of us really spoke posh to orDory, is we had to have somebody
who would do it for us.So everything went through them for better force,
and so now you're deployed. Kindof setting the stage here. You're
deployed. You are already kind ofdiscussed some of the issues with the like
your supply issues. You discussed kindof what the limitations of the rules of
engagement. We've talked a little bitabout how you rely on your translators and
kind of overall state of the base. And then you're kind of doing this
mission with your limited resources and itall of a sudden some of the comes
in and tells you that you thinkyou have an insider threat in your unit
and they suspect that it's probably yourlocal translators. What's your reaction to that,
Roger? But yeah, what's goesthrough your head? Well, the
translator that was suspected. I didn't. I didn't believe it was my translator
and I knew my translator. Atleast I thought I did really well.
And just a little backstory for contextin terms of relationship and how these relationships
form and what they mean on boththe professional and personal level. When I
was in Iraq, I had twotranslators that operated on our small combat advisor
team and they are both now inthe US. With via a visa program
that we applied for, and thenI sponsored both of them to come to
the US. I took responsibility forthem in the ways that were required to
this visa sponsorship program, Hmm.And I did that because I love these
guys and they were my brothers andthey, you know, wore the same
risks that my teammates and I did, and I thought that they were more
hero or more heroic than we were, you know, guys who were coming
in to spend a year at atime. They lived this year in,
year out, being handed off fromunit to unit, putting their families at
risk, etc. Yeah, theymight even have more risk than you because,
like you said, their families andthey have to at some point,
they have to go back home,and they're very vulnerable. They're definitely and
so I took the same general impressionand care that I had of that class
of support, the translator class ofsupport, and I immediately applied it to
my translator. I opened and withwelcome arms all of them, and treat
I mean, I really treated themwell, thought to make sure they had
everything they needed, because I justI felt like I had an appreciation for
what they were sacrificing and the,you know, the essential nature of what
they were providing it. It brokemy heart when we, you know,
when we were told or when wefound out ultimately that, you know,
my translator, amongst other Afghans orworking on our base were in fact dirty.
But initially because I had such astrong feeling for and such a loyalty
to, which originated during my deploymentto Iraq in the translators I brought back
from Iraq, it just that sentimentjust carried over to my transit or an
Afghanistan. I pushed back. Isaid, nope, he's not dirty,
there's no way, I don't believeit. Prove it to me. That
was the attitude I had, andsoon enough it was proven to me that
he was, and that was heartbreakingfor me. Yeah, here. How
were you involved at all in thatkind of investigation or are were you in
contact with Roger and this is allgoing down? Yeah, so I want
to set it up relate to justhelp appreciate where we were. So at
this stage in the deployment. Ithink we're at about month three or four.
Rider correct me if I'm wrong,but we're starting to make some headway
I think when we first came inwe were handed over from the outgoing special
forces team leader an idea that look, if you want to make your money
in warred act, the best placeto make your money in Ward Act,
as an area called jaw res.Jahres is a section of ward act very
mountainous, you know, three tofour thousand meter peaks and valleys that really
go far back and allow for insurgentactivity, Taliban activity, to go on
below the radar and as a greatstaging point, like Roger was saying,
to get into cobble. The firstthree four months we spent a lot of
time working with the Afghan police andarmy, basically forcing them to get out
and do missions, tell us wherethey thought the bad guys were, and
and we were getting out on areally routine basis and it had kind of
built up to look, we're goingto do one big mission in Jahres,
and and Roger and his unit hadalready been doing that incrementally, standing up
a firebase and a very hard foughteffort to get up a firebase in that
area. And so in the inthe lead up to the into the whole
thing that rodgers just talked about nowin the the depth and scope of the
Taliban that had infiltrated the base asinterpreters and support. That all came about
because before this one big mission wewere going to do, the command for
the hundred and first Airborne Division wantedto send someone down from a counterintelligence team
to actually figure out what's going on. They had a pretty good reason to
believe for a while that our basehad been infiltrated by workers or interpreters.
So there was a sense that thiswas going on and that this big mission
that we were about to do warrantedwarranted a counterintell team coming out and trying
to snuff out this this unit ofwhatever it was you want to call a
Taliban, supporters, insurgents. Butthey wanted to break up the group and
bring them to the forefront before themission, because we wanted to execute this
mission in jowl Ras Valley and reallylock it down and try to get as
many Taliban as we could add ofthat valley. So that was kind of
the lead up to it. Andand when that unit that came to our
firebase briefed Roger and I about thescope and scale of how our base was
being infiltrated and had been for awhile now by the local support and the
interpreters. You know my jaw draw. You know that the enemy was inside
the wire for that long. Youknow that had taken us this long to
kind of get a handle on it, and you know I pushed back a
lot to you. Didn't want tobelieve it. You don't want to believe
that the enemy is inside your wire. So when that happened, yeah,
needless to say, you know myinterpreters also. We're part of that review
and you know, fortunately enough,it wasn't one of our two interpreters are
working for us. But for Roger, I mean the idea that we do
develop very strong bonds with these interpretersthat were working with and we empathize so
much with the risk that they assumes. It's like being betrayed by your family.
That's the easiest way to really,I think, sum it up is
it's betrayal by a family member.But that's, you know, for bls
like that. From your standpoint,though, if you look at it now,
you look back and you say,okay, it seems like every time
we go on the mission then,I mean those were coming there one step
ahead of us. We're just youknow, we're not making progress and we're
getting ambushed. It's almost like thesimplest explanation is the most likely explanation.
where, if you look back atit now, do you say, okay,
well, yeah, we just,like you said, we trusted them
like family and we didn't even thinkabout them as being potential working with the
Taliban? Can you look back onthat now and say, yeah, we
were just blind, or is thissomething where still you think about and you're
like, yeah, there's no way, because have seen that coming? I
mean, I think there are thoseare all potential biases or blind spots that
we can all bring to the table. Right I think that all those definitely
could apply, or may even allapply in varying degrees. We did bring
in a COUNTERINTEL team to screen ourbases for nationals, all the Afghans or
working on a base, and weended up kicking a couple of guys off
the base and so we thought wehad locked the base down because we brought
in the right resources to screen ourbase. And without getting into the type
of technology that's used to connect thesescreenings, you know, we thought we'd
done a thorough job, at leastby the book. You know, to
mitigate that risk. So that wasone part of, I guess, as
having a blind spot, as wethought we had checked, we thought,
we thought we had taken care ofthe problem and we'd used a right or
appropriate resources to do so. Butcertainly to your point, you know,
you you develop personal relationships and yougo out on missions and you bleed and
you sweat, you know, withpeople and you you can create a bias
for them, just like you cancreate a bias against somebody that you know
causes maybe a, I don't knowwhat, a level of loyalty that's maybe
not warranted, it's based on somethingthat's not real, and I know that
that happened with me in the inthe APP and the culture and the culture
of Afghanistan. How do you maynot know they answer this question if you
don't totally find how did they lookat the people who are working with NATO
and the American forces, the interpreters? They look at them as traitors?
Are they look at them as aspeople who are just doing their thing for
their family? Or I mean,I obviously they're vulnerable to exploitation, but
do you know, like culturally,how these guys are viewed there on what
do you think, bud? Ithink they're I think they're caught in the
middle a lot of times. Ithink they have to make a living.
Some of them maybe genuinely, Ithink, genuinely in line with what NATO
in the US is trying to do. I think other times they may not
be necessarily aligned, but not necessarilyagainst, but just trying to make money
because it's good money to be aninterpreter in comparison to the other types of
jobs. You know they are assuminga great deal of risk, but I
think it's a very it's a veryvaried experience, depending on one each individual.
I know, for me, theinterpreter that worked for me, like
Rogers in Iraq. He I wasable to help him immigrate to America.
So he wanted to come to America, who wanted a better life. He
also assumed a great deal of riskwhile he was in Afghanistan in the years
after working germists as well. Soyou know whether they're idealistically driven to work
for Nado at some point I thinkthe environment in the country never really turned
around so that those that did endup working for NATO or the US,
they had to be all in oneway or another. There was no going
back because I don't think even ifthey wanted to stay in country they could
do so safely. So it depends. Maybe in the urban areas they would
have some little some ability to kindof live, but I think, you
know, in some of these otherareas of Afghanistan where the government has absolutely
no control and no influence, there'sno way they could go back to those
areas. So I think it's reallydepends. Culturally speaking, Afghanistan was a
patchwork of hundreds of, you know, little communities that were isolated from one
another, and we really took thatfor granted when we went over there.
Here in the US, you know, you can go to a McDonald's on
the west coast and then drive overto the east coast and the McDonald's is
run looks feels, you know,the food is exactly it's all the same,
right. I'm OK, the interstatesigns, you know in New York
or this or the same red,white and blue interstate signs that you see
in California. I mean you cango down the list of the standardization that
exist in the country that we liveand which really does create a lot of
commonality and bonds between us as aas a people group. It really makes
us the same in a lot ofways in terms of perspective and appreciation.
In Afghanistan it's not that way.I mean there are hundreds of individual communities
that, ever fire, walled offfrom one another and they are over time,
over the hundreds of years, youknow, leading up to us going
over there, there are constantly vyingfor power and leverage over one another and
that was done often, you know, in physical, strung struggles, you
know in fighting, and so thatthere's just I think one of the things
that people have to appreciate about Afghanistanto appreciate how things have turned out and
that can stand for us, isthat there is just this blanket of trauma
that exists where people are constantly hedgingtheir bets by stone, where they think
the strong actor is going to comeout, like who's going to come out
to be the strong actor or thewinner in an engagement, and you know
that happens on an individual community level. So it's certainly as a culture exists
on a national level. So everybodythat we dealt with was constantly holding their
cars very tight to their chest becausethat was a matter of survival based on
that dynamic alone, and I'm I'mgiving a very gross representation. I don't
claim to be an expert on Afghanistanor psychology or any of that, but
I can see this. I thinkare Han would, you know, also
agree with our own eyes, justhaving spent that, the short time that
we did there. And you know, these translators and these Afghan workers that
worked with us are just an extensionof these, you know, hundreds of
years of living in this really shittydynamic, this back and forth, both
at the community level on up tothe national level, where you're you're constantly
holding your cards very tight to yourchest, acting like you're okay with whoever's
in front of you, and thenhedging your beds in secret towards, you
know, whatever direction you think thestrong party or the winning party is,
where they're going to end up.You're doing you're going to try to meet
them there and be on their side. And you know, I think that's
exactly what's going on with us,you know, and and our presence there.
Well, look, you know,it makes it makes perfect sense from,
I would say it from from abiased perspective of where we are all
influenced by our past experiences and youknow the things that you saw in Iraq
and they will definitely impact how youare in Afghanistan. The things that the
Afghans have gone through over the pasthundred, couple hundred years will definitely impact
how they interact with the US forcesnative forces when they're there. And so
it's almost like you know understanding thehistory. I mean you, I'm sure
you guys in military and you studyhistory right way more than other people do,
but understanding the history of the areawill definitely help improve your under understanding
of the present time of the area. And when you look back, you
say, yeah, these guys havebeen in a constant state of conflict with
neighboring tribes and therefore they're hedging theirtheir behavior to work with whoever's most likely
to be in power. It makessense that they're not going to be as
reliable as you might want them tobe. I get that. And so
so again, when coming back tothat, to the point in the story
in the book when you are findingout that, okay, you know,
count Intel's come through and they aresuspecting your personal interpreter to be the one
who might be not the ringleader butvery high up in the the group of
people who are betraying you. It'sunderstandable why you would not necessarily suspect that
or why you wouldn't have thought aboutit. But then, looking back at
the history of the area, youcan understand them why they're doing it.
So the question becomes, though,with a level of futility that the army
is already kind of demonstrated with holdingon to people and being able to prosecute
them, you know that if youjust if you get these guys you can
you can get them to maybe youcan get them arrested, you can get
them out of the out of yourbase. But what's there to stop them
from leaving your base with, likewe said, couple bucks for for cash
to get their cab home or whatever? What's to stop them from just going
to next base and doing the samething? And from the book, I
understand, Roger, there is afair amount of that going on. Correct
absolutely. I mean it was arevolving door and people, or there was
a revolving job market where people aregoing from base to base, region to
region, doing the same thing overand over again for different units, because
we didn't have a continuity and weweren't plugged in or connected well enough from
an intelligence standpoint to track even thethreats that were removed from bases to prevent
them from going to other basis.And it happened with my transitor. He
ended up popping up on a differentbase applying for a job. HMM.
And the enemy has no they donot have rules of engagement either. Correct.
There's not. It's not like thetalentent says you can't, you can't
do this, you can't do that. They just pretty much it's all outlaw
against the NATO US forces. Correct. There's a valley called Tangy Valley and
I know the story will come tomind as I start to describe it.
We had a an advisor team fromthe New York National Guard drive through this
val alley to get, you know, through a series of mountains and it
was a very treacherous road were therewas a dropoff on one side and equip
on the other, one way in. When we out, there's no way
to turn around, nowhere to turnoff. Nobody. You just had once
you started, you had to getthrough it. And they were ambushed,
vehicles burned to the ground and theyhad to call in for support to help
them retreat under fire, but acouple of guys didn't make it. A
couple of guys were actually captured,killed and their bodies chopped up in the
little pieces and their body parts soldat the local bizar. All confirm,
all confirmed, because my guys wentin and picked up the pieces and put
them in body bags and Adams athome. So, to answer your question,
no, let's take a quick breakand when we come back Roger will
walk us through the climactic moment ofhis book when the captured spies are questioned
by him and his team. Sothen, you know, this is just
kind of building the scenario. Andnow, Roger, when you guys would
aby that WHO's listening reads the book, there is kind of that. The
climactic moment of the book is whenRoger and your sergeant can in front the
interpreters who and the other workers onthe base who have been spying for the
Afghans. And so yeah, Ithink we've done a pretty good job of
kind of setting the stage for forwhat what your mental state is, what
the state of the base is,and so, Roger, rather than me
tell can you tell us, justjust kind of walk through people who have
read the book. What happens where? You're in there. You know you've
got ninety six hours to get aconfession out of these guys. Are they're
going to be right back on thedoor, right back out the door,
right back to another base, doingthe same thing, putting more American more
natal lives at risk. What happens? You know your clock is taking you're
in there with these guys. Isend frustrations building from the book. Walk
me through it. We had anexcess of fifty Afghans that worked on our
base all kinds of jobs, anythingthat was outside of the scope of,
you know, being a soldier orsomething you could do in uniform, that
we could outsource. We tried outsourceof that. We could have more people
on the ground to do operations,so cooking, cleaning, translating, which
was a necessity, of course,construction are. We had a barber on
our base because there's no way togo out and get haircuts, that kind
of thing. And at least twelveof that fifty plus were confirmed, I
mean with in controvertible evidence, asdirty as having spied on us, as
having set us up for casualties andpeople killed, and so twelve is a
lot of people in Afghanistan. Andyou know the way a gun truck works
in Afghanistan, Ahumbes. You've gota driver, a vehicle commander, you
want to have one dismount they canget out and provide on the ground security,
and you have a gunner. There'stotal of five seats in the vehicles,
so that means you have one seat. That's fare. It would have
taken us our entire company of twelvevehicles to take these twelve spies to go
anywhere. So US driving off withthem was not an option. We needed
someone to provide support, to pickthem up and take them away, and
we tried like hell to get thempicked up. We didn't understand why our
higher command would not pick them up, but I suspect now in hindsight,
that it was due to this dynamicthat I described earlier, where there just
wasn't enough room at the higher leveldetention center to support these people that we
knew were bad. So in thiscase it wasn't like, you know,
I was the one that discovered themor I was a one that picked them
up off the battlefield. The intelligencecame from the top, the division level,
all the way down to tell usthat we had spies. So I
it wasn't like I had to goconvince somebody these guys were bad. They
already knew. I just needed themoff my hands. And we couldn't do
it ourselves logistically. So we neededsupport. Well, because there was no
room at the detention center. Theyweren't going to on pick him up and
take him away, but they weren'tgoing to tell us that. And so,
you know, one day turned intotwo, two turned into three and
at about the eighty hour mark outof ninety six hours, you know,
I said Shit, we're going tohave to get to the bottom of this
ourselves, because it looks like thecommand who keeps telling US stand by,
staying by, we're trying to figuresomething out. When nothing happened after three
days, we just kind of figuredokay, we're into solve this farm ourselves.
The issue, the main issue,was at all of these Afghans it
worked on our base. They knewthe INS and out of our base,
which is dangerous for, I think, any number of very obvious reasons.
Start one of the one of thebiggest ones, was there were lots of
holes in our base perimeter because wewere trying to expand the footprint of the
base. So the literally the wall, the ten foot wall that went around
our base had holes that were bigenough to drive a vehicle through and we
only had so many guard towers andthere were lots of waddies and canyons leading
up to the base. You know, if you were really crafty and careful,
you could, through a night movementinfiltrate the base from the outside end.
You could lead an element in,you know, and try to attack
us from the inside. So itwasn't a good idea to just let these
guys go and we knew it,and so I decided to interrogate them myself
and I had my first sergeant,Tommy Scott, who you mentioned earlier,
very senior, very accomplished combat hardenNCO. He and I took the lead
and we pulled these twelve aside.Through the intelligence we had, we were
able to kind of narrow down theone that we wanted to put the most
pressure on because we suspected they werethe ringleaders, being as high up at
the intelligence network that they were.My translator was one of those. We
had two that were we're working withan IED facilitation cell based in Iraq,
and these two were Iranians. Sothere was there was a lot of stuff
going on our base that we didn'tknow about and when we discovered this,
it was just, you know,like we were our minds were kind of
blown him as to what was goingon underneath our noses. So when we
realized that our command was going topick him up, we started or created
or ruse a mock execution to makethe higher level or more valuable enemy combatants
or spies that we captured think thatwe had killed some of the lower level
guys. So I, you know, in the area that we were detaining
them, I took the lower levelguys out, fared my weapon into the
ground some number of meters away fromthem, but left them outside, returned
to the building that we were keepingthem in and just really tried to intimidate
the ones at the higher level intospeaking. And again, yeah, these
could be guys who directly chopped upother American soldiers and put them into body
bags. And you know you're not, you're not as, you're not shooting
them, you're not pistol with methem, you're just discharging your weapon in
a in a way to intimidate thepeople in the inside the the other tension
facility to get them to confess.Couple guys get slapped across the face with
an open palm. I mean wereally tried to put on an act to
make hm feel like they were goingto be hurt or killed. So then
they were. Again, without goinginto too much detail, because the book
does you there's a lot more detailthere, but obviously the armony are the
army did not look favorably upon thisand you know, the outcome of all
this was that the pretty much everybodygot let go, correct, and then
you got into a ton of troubleand about out of the army, along
with your first sergeant correct. Yeah, I mean there were a handful of
guys that were involved in as muchas they were following my orders to move
detainees back and forth, and theywere there and witnessed mine and First Sergeant
Scott's actions, but that was reallythe you know, their involvement. That
was it for Sergain Scott and Ireally took the brunt of the punishment that
came out of that investigation. Theythey charged us with war crimes. Initially,
they backed off of those. Chargedus with assault, you know,
conduct and becoming inappropriately discharging a weapon. I mean they try to rack and
stack whatever they could, you know, out of the ucmj against us.
Yeah, and so now, lookingback on this and what's your what's your
kind of take home from this?Have things change in the military or you
know, I can tell you mighttake home from reading the book, among
other things, is that the army, and I always thought you don't think
of the army like this, butthe army is just a big bureaucratic organization
and it has internal politics, ithas external pressures and has everything that you
would you would not expect from somethingthat's supposed to be very idealistic in terms
of freedom fighting, and I don'tlook at questions free in Frence, should
say democracy defending. It's a betterway of thinking about it, but I
don't look at it now the armyin the same way as I did,
certainly before reading your book. Andyou know, do you have that same
kind of viewpoint from the army orwhat's your kind of take home from this
experience? I don't know, Ithink they're on. It might be better
if you answered this, because thishappened to me. So I'm I'm a
little I'm probably a little Jad there. I'll just I'll say this and I'll
turn over to are Han. Let'sjust say I don't encourage people to go
into the military. What, whereasI want did hare. What do you
think? Yeah, I grew upa lot during that deployment. I grew
up a lot. I lost alot of my naivete about service in the
sense that there's a lot of stakeholderswhen you go fight overseas and the the
anem you think is really clear andwhat you have to do is really clear,
but there's a lot of stakeholders involved, you know, and on the
military side of the house, you'reright, it's a giant bureaucracy and I
think as I've gotten older, whatI realize now is, you know,
you hope that our nation, whenit makes a decision to go overseas and
engage in these types of conflicts,that the decision to go is really well
thought out, with all the collateralissues that can occur really well understood,
because when they're not, you know, then the type of experience that Roger
and his men went through and dogcompany and the hard decisions that Roger had
to make, those are those arethe decisions that leaders on the ground are
having to make because the effort inthe energy up front, you know,
to really think through the decision todeploy military forces wasn't really well thought out.
And I think the biggest thing isI come out of that having wanting
to relate to as many people asI can that, yeah, before you
go to war, it's really importantto look at every option shy of going
to conflict, and the deploying ofmilitary forces overseas is not to be taken
lightly and I deeply appreciate the factthat our military forces for the past four
years, you know, have beenfortunate to not have to deploy in the
same capacity overseas and there's been areal hard look at how many people we
need to continue to leave in yourrock and Afghanistan, and that debate is
continuing. But when decisions to goto war are made specifically through executive decision
and and article to authorities, theseare the problems that you have because there
isn't a long, hard debate inthe nation before the decision to go to
war, and then these are theproblems that occur. And unfortunately, with
a with the military that is notconscription based but volunteer based and becomes a
smaller minority in the population in termsof overall general population. These stories don't
really get out very well and Ithink people just don't appreciate what it means
when you send troops overseas and thedifficult situations that they come under. And
you know, it's a sobering experienceand it changed my view about about life
and about a lot of things.I think what it also did for me
is helped me realize that in Roger, I had a brother and a man
that looked out for each and everyperson that was under his leadership and that
there's a lot of people today thatare walking on this earth because of him,
no matter what decision was rendered bythe military. Yeah, when you
when you look back and you readthrough the book, you see it,
the one of the things that reallycomes through is how much roger cared about
everybody under his command and, youknow, really even willing to just keep
put his career on the line tokeep the other guys safe by trying to
get these these dirty interpreters off thestreets. And ultimately it did. It
did cost Roger, you your careerand you know, who knows what you
would have accomplished in the military.Had you gone through it, and so
when you look back on that now, it's that's one of the things that
kind of struck back with me aboutthe book is all that, all that
care and your concern for everybody.And so with Afghanacy in general, I
had things changed since your experience,Roger, are Hon you guys? Do
you know? Are you in contact? Like is that ninety six hour rule
still there? Did the people finallywake up and say, Hey, you
know, this is not a tenablesituation, we need to need to take
a better look at this, betterlook at logistics. They're looking at how
eve people have things change from yourexperience? All, I'll answer the ninety
six hour rule question and then it'sprobably better if Air Han because he's got
more recent experience and in better contactsabout what's going on in Afghanistan now.
They did change the ninety six hourrule. Once I was kicked to the
curve by the army and you know, I took my uniform off. In
two thousand and nine I end upbeing approached by CNN to do an investigative
special and they did a fantastic joband we spent weeks just sifting through the
case, the case files, interviewingpeople, and the final cut was about
a twelve minute long show that airedon a c three hundred and sixty,
Wolf Blitzer's situation right, and thenthe morning program a couple of times.
And as a part of that investigativepiece, the journalist who was the lead
journalist for the for the piece endedup ambushing General Petray as at a speaking
event in Buckhead, Atlanta. Andso what she did is she snuck in
through the kitchen of the hotel banquetroom that he was speaking at and it
was hit. She must have gottenIntel somehow, but she she basically met
him and cut him off from leavingwith a camera on a Mike in his
face and said, what are youdoing about the situation? We've already,
you know, we've already lost afantastic officer for losing people. What's going
on here? And just, youknow, quickly described this the situation.
He said he'd look into it and, you know, to be totally aired.
Well, I'm they all did,but now he was. But in
peop being put on the carpet,you know, are called to the carpet
to account for it. So thisreporter also reached out to Senator Lindsay Graham.
Now, I'll be honest with you, I'm not big fans of Lindsay
Graham or general betray us, okay, but in this instance, when they
were called to account, regardless ofwhat their motivation was, even if it
was out of selfpreservation politically, they, Lindsay Grahm, put pressure on Petrey
us. PETREYUS put pressure on NATOand they reviewed the ninety six hour rule
and they ended up extending the windowof time from ninety six hours to fourteen
days and in addition to that,they gave commanders the option to to basically
say that fourteen days is enough,and all they had to do was submit
a memorandum justifying why they needed longerthan fourteen days to give them more time
with enemy combatants that they picked upoff the battlefield. Huge windfall change,
you know, to increase protection andsecurity and you know the potential for,
you know, just maintaining life,limb and welfare of our troops overseas,
both, you know, soldiers andMarines. I mean that was a major
change one that one that you know, I'll never get any credit for,
not that I'm looking for, butthere were people that were sacrificed on the
way to seeing that change. Youbeing one of them. Yeah, being
one of them. Did that changechange the trajectory of what was going on
in Afghanistan? It changed how counterintelops were done around the globe. So
there's a character named Dave yes inthe book who's a counter Intel he's a
major character. Pitch, you know, just did a phenomenal job for us
in Afghanistan. He became he continuedto rise in the ranks and the counterintell
community ended up working on a partas a part of a project to revise
how counterintel ops, ground ops,were conducted for US Army forces. And
so one of the issues that wefaced and wardact on thought airborne was the
COUNTERINTEL team came in only with counterintelofficers, investigators. They didn't come with
any anybody that had to tension authority. So these are all functions or roles
that have to be provided for isresources during an operation. So Dave didn't
have the authority to then handcuff peopleand say they're coming with me. All
he could do is identify right.So their entire process, their entire organization
changed because of what happened to usand the counterintell community started to operate for
ground operations in this sort of environmentin a very different way and they were
able to take a lot more badpeople off the ground with the lessons learned
from our situation. Dog Company.Again, a handful of people paid a
heavy price for those lessons learned,you know, to rise to the surface.
But there was a lot of verypositive change that came out of what
happened to us. And it wasn'tjust change for Afghanistan, it was changed
for the entire military and how theyconduct a lot of these more sort of
secret, secretive or, you know, below the radar type of operations.
Are Anything you had to not yeah, I think at the time that we
were in Afghanistan, the idea ofa counterinsurgency that really needs to be won
by winning the hearts and minds ofthe local population was a very strong operating
concept. You know, that's drilledinto everybody's head, at least it was
at that time. You've got towin buy with them through the locals and
you've got to endure yourself to themand try to isolate them from the enemy,
the Taliban, you know, thethe gangs that are patrolling their neighborhoods
at night and holding them in fear. But I know that in the years
after, in two thousand and fourteen, two thousand and fifteen, two thousand
and sixteen, there was a significantinflection in the number of what they call
blue on green attacks, which wereAfghan forces that were embedding themselves with US
units and within those Afghan police ormilitary units were Taliban, so sleeper agents,
and so there was a period oftime where these sleeper agents within the
Afghan police or army had embedded themselvesand then basically firing on American and Afghan
forces on firebaces. And there wasa really like tenuous period for anywhere,
for I would say like a yearto two years or this was going on
and it, I think, broughtto the forefront the issue that Roger and
those of us have five airborne wereliving in two thousand and eight right,
this idea of insider thread and therisk to the force that it posed.
It it sounded too much like aHollywood movie for people to really believe it
and put it around their minds.But by two thousand and fourteen you were
seeing it again and again and againwhere American forces were being killed on bases
by Taliban agents that had embedded themselvesin the police, in the military forces,
of the Afghan military and police.And it was happening again and again
and again, to the point thatyou had to walk around the firebase with
your weapon with you at all timesand you were allowed to engage somebody on
base that you thought was a threatned. What was that whole prop Roger,
you know what I'm talking about,right like in two thousand and fourteen,
two thousand and fifteen, two thousandand sixteen, the the amount of insider
action kind of reached a real peakand the US had to take a hard
look on how it was betting peoplethat were in the police and in the
military. Yeah, and so finallyit became part of the culture in the
military to appreciate that the people thatwere working alongside with can very well still
be the enemy too. And andat our at our point, it seemed
like that was a Hollywood story toofar fetch you people to appreciate. By
two thousand and fourteen, thousand,two thousand and sixteen, it was expected
that you had that kind of skepticismabout the person that was alongside hide you.
Yeah, it's kind of like theway people react to cancer, right,
like all of a sudden are diagnosedwith cancer and it's like, no,
hang on a minute, your body'sbeen creating cancer cells for like forever,
Dude. Yeah, but but allof a sudden you've got a grapefruit
size tumor and it's pronounced. Butthis has been going on for a while.
We just not been tracking it,we've just not been aware. We've,
you know, for whatever reason,because it's not in our face.
This insider threat thing was going on, you know, I'm sure since the
war started in Afghanistan, because youknow, any military is dealt with this
sort of Shit, no matter whattheater of conflict they've been and it's just
it just happens. This is howthe enemy operates, especially an accounter and
insurgency type environment. But it gotso bad, to are Han's point,
that the army, are the military, had to create a program they called
The Guardian Angel Program where you hadto have people that were dedicated to just
watching the Afghans at all times whenyou were conducting operations there. Their I.
Their goal, their mission inside thethe unit was just to be focused
on the Afghans to make sure thatthey weren't going to turn around and blow
everybody away, because it was happeningso frequently prior to that point in time.
Part of that program coming online.If you look at reports, and
I'm not shitting you, this ishard for a lot of people to believe
or fathom, but these insider threatattacks were being categorized as workplace violent by
US Army, and you can,you can go back and look at these
pdf that are still online, wherewe were just in total denial about what
was going on. They were like, well, we can't validate that these
guys shot US forces because they werebad. Maybe they were just frustrated.
I don't know, it's a tossup. Let's just say they were frustrated
about their workplace. They're frestrated,but there's super other supervisors. That's right,
you know, and that's what theyopted for. And so all these
things were overwhelmingly being categorized something otherthan what they were as a way to
suppress what was going on, untilI got so bad. Because suppress it.
Yeah, like there's a journal calledLong War Journal and it starts to
highlight this in its series of articles, and you know I'm just remembering here,
but like in two thousand and eleventhere was only a handful attacks and
by two thousand and twelve there wasforty four of these and it continues to
grow. And in two thousand andfourteen, what really hit the press and
reverberated to create the Guardian Angel Programwas a two star general who's killed from
the US military. So I thinkit was an army to star general.
And so that the insider threat whichreally dog company experience and we experienced colocated
with them, is a threat thatbecame a really good tactic that the Taliban
continue to use and used it increasinglyso and it took a real long time
for the military to take it seriously. The idea in two thousand and eight
that you could stare at your interpreterand look at him as if he potentially
could be an enemy would be unpalatablefor anybody. But by two thousand and
fourteen, you know, it wasexpected that you had that level of security
on your base and you took greatcaution when engaging with the locals on your
base. You know. So thatwhole hearts and mind's piece of the two
thousand and eight era was long goneby, twenty four other we the reality
of the situation had sunk in atthat point and you know, looking back
in the history of F K Shim, it's not like this. This
was the first war that had everbeen fought there with outside forces. You
know, Russia was there fairly recently. You know, it's it's not like
that area was a stranger to conflict. Not that, like Rob Rogerson,
conflict internally, but also conflict externally, and their battle hardened people who are
very scarred and you know, youwill you. We wish that the people
who are making the decisions with kindof taken into account when going there,
so that people like Rogerton have toexperience what they did and lives with had
to be lost for essentially what wasyou only call it a failure of leadership,
and it's tough to to take thathard lesson and move forward from it.
But I mean, ultimately that's whatit is. He and we always
want to you know, I talkedto my kid. My son plays baseball,
and one of the things that wealways talked about was it's okay if
you make mistakes. You know,it's not the end of the world,
but you never want to make samemistake twice, and so if you feel
the ground ball the first time,it goes through your gloves and you get
the next I make sure you getyour glove on the ground. And so
it's you hate to hear of anorganization like that, the army, where
the same mistake is made it overand over and over again, and who
knows how many lives were lost andpeople injured and dollars were spent on something
that just took such an egregious thinglike a two star general getting killed before
something was done about it. Youknow I mean, it's so it's tough
to hear that from the outsider.I've got a message to for your Taliban
listeners, with some so dark heresomething. Yeah, so, well,
who knows, you know, maybewe'll help you market directly to them.
I've still got some of their phonenumbers in a cell phone somewhere where they
would literally call and taught me myselfmy Afghan all my Afghan cell phone.
Oh yeah, that, yeah,Oh my God, this is a true
story. Yeah, I had Talibana BC all the way through D e
F. Yeah, Taliban a throughF, like you, programmed in my
phone because I didn't know their names, but when they called me on different
numbers, I would say them.So, yeah, I still have that
cell phone today. He speak English, I mean for letter words all day,
like Yau and yeah, they inspads, but import you know.
Yeah, but you know, theTaliban failed too, because if they hadn't
to kill that two star general,they could still be doing this at will
today without the Guardian Angel Program butthey fucked up because they went and killed
somebody that was too high up inthe food chain. Yeah, so,
anyways, shame on you guys fora blow in your wide so early on.
They're sorry. That's kind of theygot greedy. anyways, are high.
They don't add this. Yeah,no, not at all. I
I'm just glad that we were ableto get together. It was it meant
a lot to me that Roger wasable to to share. I mean,
I I got to tell you,having seen Roger during the deployment and then
after the deployment, in the yearsince being friends, I mean this this
story and telling it. It's soimportant to him to ensure that all the
members of dog company are appreciated,are respected and that are never forgotten,
because what they did down range inAfghanistan during that two thousand and eight period
was heroic. Each day that theywere out there was herodism at the highest
level and he doesn't do enough toreally talk about that. He's not going
to tout his own horn and he'sthe consummate professional and gentleman, but his
unit, his men him, justcontinue to look up to him to this
day and, you know, justfeel blessed he was able to join us
here today and talk about his experiencesand you know, I was just kind
of here along for the ride withyou, Eli at the year no,
it was it was great and,you know, for me, very insightful
conversation and kind of a lot ofquestions I had about the things that happened
in the book. Roger, it'sme. It was really nice to talk
to you and kind of go throughall this stuff and so, yeah,
thank you both for taking the timeout to talk to me today. Thank
you. I really enjoyed it.Her on, I love you, brother.
Thank you leaving you man, I'lltalk to you. I'll give you
a called a bad yes, lookforward to it. So for every listening.
The book is called Dog Company.Roger Hill is the author. It's
a fantastic book. You learn alot about what happened during Afghanistan. You
know, hopefully we've learned some lessons. Sounds like we are moving forward and,
yeah, thanks, guys. Itwas excellent. Thank you. Thanks
so much for listening. We hopeyou enjoyed episode. That's it for today.
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