Team Tells Students of Special Forces Role in Afghan War
By Glenna L. Linville
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 11, 2002 They call themselves Texas- One-Two, this Special Forces team that returned from the war in Afghanistan in early December.
Though their deployment ended unexpectedly and tragically on Dec. 5, Capt. Jason Amerine, Staff Sgt. Chris Fathi and Sgt. 1st Class Chris Pickett swell with pride regarding their mission and success in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Team commander Amerine, weapons specialist Fathi and medic Pickett answered questions posed by political science students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Campus, Jan. 31 and Baltimore area high school Junior ROTC cadets Feb. 1. The trio's appearances were arranged by Staff Sgt. Matthew O'Donnell and Sgt. Christopher Belcher of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion at Fort Meade, Md.
In early November, the 12 members of Texas-One-Two said goodbye to families and friends at Fort Campbell, Ky., and headed off to Tarin Kot, Oruzgon Province, and Sayyd alma Kalay, Afghanistan. Their mission as Southwest Asia and Middle East experts would not be an easy one. Though the mission was not clearly defined, the team fully expected it to last six months to a year.
"Historically, the bordering countries of Afghanistan never wanted stabilization," Amerine told the students. "They have needs and goals of their own and wanted the region as chaotic as possible and did everything they could to influence that. We stopped support to the freedom fighters after the Soviet defeat in '89. Normally once war is over, you get the country stable before you leave. We didn't do that. Now, 15, 20 years later, we have people fighting for power again.
"In the 90s, the Taliban began with noble ideas, religious ideas," he continued. "They talked about nationalistic pride, and people agreed with it at first. The Taliban swept north and Afghanistan became like two small countries. The Taliban gained financial and arms support from Osama bin Laden, who set up terrorist camps throughout Afghanistan. Up until Sept. 11, bin Laden operated his terrorist camps without being bothered too much.
"We thought that we'd send in teams and link up with a conventional unit," Amerine said. "Special Forces is all about getting on the ground and making the best of what could be a bad situation." He talked about going in behind enemy lines and linking up with a "G force" -- guerrillas -- and a Pashtun tribal chief named Hamid Karzai.
"We had weapons, ammo and provided humanitarian assistance (food)," he continued. "We re-established a headquarters in Tarin Kot, a place where the Taliban began, and where a psychological victory for Karzai took place. People began switching sides.
"The Taliban sent 500 soldiers and 100 trucks to a region 50 miles south of Kandahar to put down the uprising," Amerine said. "The Taliban didn't know that F-14s and F-18s would bomb the convoy. Daily offensives were directed through air strikes.
"We re-established security, trained and organized G forces. The bombing continued, humanitarian assistance continued. We swept south toward Kandahar, the last major city where we had to develop trust. Firefights ensued and we launched counterattacks. The G force fought back. On Dec. 4, 30 kilometers north of Kandahar, Hamid Karzai was named the interim leader of Afghanistan."
Texas One-Two went about normal business Dec. 5 as B-52s bombed enemy positions nearby. The soldiers were opening mail and "care packages" and getting on with their work when an errant bomb from a B-52 landed 100 yards away. Three of the U.S. soldiers and 10 Afghan guerrillas died and 40 to 50 others were wounded. The entire team was withdrawn from the theater.
There was an understandable uneasiness in their voices when they talked about the events surrounding Dec. 5. All three men are still recovering from wounds in the accident.
"What made it easier was the fact (we) were all 'medevac'd' out of Afghanistan together and were allowed to attend the funerals of (our) colleagues and fellow soldiers," Amerine said. "In war, you don't normally get to do that or have this type of closure. While it was not typical, it made things easier for those left behind."
Amerine told students of the different closeness soldiers share that is difficult to describe to outsiders. When you go through an intense emotional time, only people you work with can fully understand, he said. You eat the same food, spend a lot of time with them every day -- you're a close group, like family. Talk about warrior ties that may seem clichs make sense "out there," he added.
He summed up by saying they worked closely with Karzai, genuinely liked him, respected him and want him to succeed. They are satisfied that they did their job and did it well: The Taliban is gone, the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan is gone, and Karzai is in power.
"Professionals take great pride in how they do their jobs. It makes Special Forces enjoyable and makes you want to stay," Amerine said. "We were appropriate troops to take care of what was needed in Afghanistan. President (Bush) entrusted the war effort to a small number of individuals. I can't tell you we will fight every conflict, but I believe we will have a role in it."
"Special Forces looks for dedicated, mature individuals, real team players that love what they do," Fathi said. "It's the greatest experience. You have the opportunity to socialize and communicate with foreign individuals and cultures. You adjust and adapt to the environment (culture, people, religion), and feel good about helping and serving your country in other places. You don't do it because it's cool or a Rambo thing, you do it because you truly love your country and want to serve people."
He continued to say that the support since their return home has been overwhelming. "Sept. 11 changed the way people believe. It united us," Fathi said. "This is your country, I will do whatever it takes to defend. I would do it again. The job is not done. We haven't even warmed up yet."
(Glenna L. Linville is a public affairs specialist of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion at Fort Meade, Md.)