Inside the Green Berets
At a remote outpost in south-central Afghanistan known as Firebase Cobra, a group of Americans face the front lines every day. They are the Green Berets, part of an elite division of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Protecting local civilians from the Taliban, these elite soldiers navigate an uncertain landscape on enemy territory, never knowing what lies ahead from one minute to the next.
For this film, the Pentagon waived their 48-hour limitation on embedded media and allowed National Geographic to chronicle the lives of the Green Berets for ten days. But their window was unexpectedly cut short by an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion, killing two soldiers and wounding five others.
Behind the Scenes
The trip over to Afghanistan was intense. One of the most remarkable moments of my career was riding in the cockpit of the C-117 as a refueling plane attached itself to the top, the entire plane and ourselves shook while we refueled under the cover of night over the Black Sea. The next time I was in the cockpit was during landing while we descended in a corkscrew and soldiers looked out the window for possible threats.
Then, the waiting began. We were scheduled to get out to Firebase Cobra for our embed but the planes going from Kabul to Kandahar were full. Eventually we were on our way to Kandahar, spent a night, then headed in a Chinook to forward moving Firebase Cobra. Impressed by the professionalism and courage of the Green Berets we were with, we had full confidence in them and they looked out for our every move.
We were only a few days into our time at Firebase Cobra when the Green Berets needed to take an overnight trip to patrol. They had planned to make a few medical stops and camp on a hill where they had before. The time flew by.
At the final village before our destination for the night, the soldiers picked up radio traffic. Someone was on a radio describing our every move. As we drove there was only one person visible, a farmer by a village where they had found an IED just weeks before. After raiding the compound and coming up empty, it was getting dark and we still had a ways to go before we reached the landing where we would camp. Finally, we were almost there when everything stopped. Using night-vision goggles, the soldiers saw a group of Taliban soldiers waiting to ambush us in the distance. But they had a bigger problem. An IED had just been found and destroyed where we were planning to camp. Then another. With dogs and metal detectors they found four more over the course of the next several hours.
The first humvee drove to the top of the hill. We climbed on the back of the second. Stepping off to film the third humvee drive in was when the explosion happened. Steve and I were 25 feet away from the humvee as it drove over an IED that hadn't been detected. The last thing I remember seeing was a geyser of fire.