Monday, November 11, 2013

Task Force Dagger honored with memorial dedication

Story by Drew Brooks, from the Fayetteville Observer.

The first U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan were honored Thursday with the dedication of a memorial stone outside the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. 

The picture at right is of the SF Horse Soldier statute near Ground Zero in New York City. 

Task Force Dagger, composed of the 5th Special Forces Group, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and special tactics airmen from Air Forces Special Operations Command, entered Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Working with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the troops, never numbering more than 300 men, were able to "bring down a regime in less than a few months' work," Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr. said.

Mulholland, the deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, was the keynote speaker at the dedication.  In 2001, Mulholland was commander of the 5th Special Forces Group and led Task Force Dagger.  He called Thursday's ceremony a "very important moment."  "It's a really big deal for us who had the honor and privilege to serve in this task force," he said.

Mulholland laid a wreath at USASOC's memorial wall before a moment of silence was held for fallen operators.  He related how, on Sept. 11, 2001, he was finishing his daily physical training when he heard about the attacks.  "We all knew we were going to war and we were going to war in Afghanistan," he said.

Mulholland spoke of the initial confusion and how members of "another government agency" flew to Fort Campbell, Ky., to provide intelligence and information on Afghanistan.

He credited the leader of the Air Force units paired with Mulholland's soldiers, recently retired Lt. Gen. Frank Kisner, for helping make a harmonious force.

He also spoke of the initial buildup for war.

Mulholland said his Green Berets were "not in good shape" before Afghanistan.  Special Forces was not high on the resource chart for the Army or special operations, he said.  The soldiers had old or poor equipment. "It was not a pretty picture," Mulholland said. "Decades of neglect became apparent.

"What we did have was extraordinary men," he said. "Those A-Teams were what made Task Force Dagger successful."

Brig. Gen. David Fox, who earlier in the day took command of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was one of the battalion commanders who led troops in that initial push into Afghanistan.

Fox said Thursday's recognition was "a long time coming."

"We went into Afghanistan not completely unprepared, but unknowing," Fox said. "It was the beginning of things that we didn't really realize."

Fox was one of five people who helped unveil the stone. Each participated in some part of Task Force Dagger, Mulholland said.

Fox represented the Green Berets. Retired Col. John Buss was an Army aviator. Retired Air Force Col. Patrick Pihana was a combat controller. Retired Col. Frank Hudson was Mulholland's deputy commanding officer and led the remaining elements of the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell. And Mulholland's wife, Miriam, represented the spouses left behind who had to manage conflict and crisis.

The memorial stone, located in the Meadows Field Memorial Plaza, is decorated with the dates of Task Force Dagger, October 2001 to April 2002, a map of Afghanistan and the name of the task force.

Three of the aircraft used in support of the task force are to the right - Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters and an AC-130 gun ship.

To the left of Afghanistan is the silhouette of the Twin Towers and an image of one of the iconic "Horse Soldiers," who were among the first into Afghanistan.

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