“The mission was destroy the Taliban regime and render Afghanistan unsafe as sanctuary for Al Qaeda,” explained Retired Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., former commander of 5th Special forces Group (Airborne) and former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Task Force Dagger, a Joint Special Operations Task Force entered Afghanistan.
12 Strong, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, a film premiering across the country on Friday, tells this story.
The movie is an adaption of the book, “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan,” by author Doug Stanton.
In support of events celebrating the release of the movie, three members of TF Dagger, Mulholland, Retired Maj. Mark Nutsch and Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert “Bob” Pennington, visited Fayetteville, Saturday.
The three members of TF Dagger introduced 12 Strong during an invitation-only, pre-screening for Fort Bragg Soldiers, Families and guests at the AMC Fayetteville 14.
After the premiere they also attended a question and answer session at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum organized by the Sandhills Military Affairs Council and the Special Forces Charitable Trust.
Fact or Fiction
Although the movie is fact-based it does take some artistic liberty.
It is a fictional movie with threads of the truth woven through, said Nutsch to the audience at ASOM.
Mulholland, Nutsch and Pennington all agreed that the films depiction of Karshi-Khanabad, a then secret base also known as K2, was far better equipped than TF Dagger’s reality upon arrival.
“I would love to have had what the movie has, but that was not the case,” said Mulholland.
The film depicts an established outpost.
“We were chalk seven to land there, so there was nothing built up, and we slept on the ground next to a former Soviet MIG bunker for the first couple nights outside, you know, under the stars,” said Nutsch.
Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commander of the U. S. A. John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was in attendance for the day’s events. Sonntag was part of TF Dagger, arriving in Afghanistan after the events depicted in the movie. He served as an executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 5th SFG (A). Sonntag feels the story of the Horse Soldiers and TF Dagger is one that needs to be told.
“The fact that we were able to send just a small amount of people quickly into Afghanistan to basically exert a little revenge to those who brought pain and suffering to our nation, that’s important, and again it speaks to what Americans and the American Military are able to do when they set their mind to it,” said Sonntag.
‘It touched my heart.’
“I hope it (the movie) inspires the public to learn more about our Special Operations teams and their incredible history, and there’s so many great untold missions that are out there,” said Nutsch during an interview on Saturday.
And, reach the public it has.
Not even in the theaters yet, the movie had a powerful impact on local Judy Dawkins, whose husband Frank Dawkins is a former service member.
During the question and answer session at ASOM, Judy stood up, not to ask the former members of TF Dagger a question, but to tearfully thank them for their service and sacrifice.
“I don’t have a question, but I have lived here in this community for about 55 years … when I saw that movie today, I don’t think I had ever fully appreciated what you have done for this country… It touched my heart …What all of these in this room have been through and are still going through to keep us safe, and I am personally thankful, on behalf of this community and for myself and for America.”
Pennington rose to meet Judy in the middle of the theatre and embraced her.
“Thank you, ma’am, we were so honored to be there,” said Nutsch. “It was a very challenging situation there, the environment, the weather, the terrain, the animals and then the enemy as well. Thank you ma’am.”