3212 Un-redacted (2021) Movie Script

[ crickets chirping ]

REPORTER: We learned overnight
that at least three
U. S. Special Forces
were killed in an ambush in
the African country of Niger.
REPORTER #2: Officials say
a joint U. S. Nigerien patrol
was ambushed by suspected
Islamic militants
near the Mali border.
REPORTER #3: The names
of the American
Special Forces soldiers
is being withheld,
to nextofkin notifications.
MAN ON TV: You must not draw
until that clock makes the
first chime of the hour.
Once that happens, you may fire
at your convenience.
ARNOLD: I was sitting here
watching TV.
It was like 10:30 at night,
and somebody knocked
on the door.
I didnt know who it was,
so I got up
and I went to the door
and I opened the door.
And I want to say it was
a captain and a master sergeant.
They were in dress blues,
and I knew.
I just said, "No, no, no."

I mean, I just knew because
they dont show up
at 10:30 at night
unless hes dead.

[ sighs ]
TERRI: "Attached for your review
and action,
this USAFRICOMs completed
investigation conducted..."
to Army Regulation 15.6..."
"...and to the facts and
circumstances surrounding..."
"...the enemy contact event
that occurred..."
"...on 4 October 2017..."
"...in Tongo Tongo, Niger."

[ gunfire ]

[ gunfire continues ]

[ gunfire continues ]

[ crickets chirping ]
ARNOLD: My first thought was
"What the hell happened?"
And it was like
I got shot or something.
I mean, it was like my insides
just went empty.
I almost fell down.
The master sergeant, he said,
"Youre number one on the list.
Number two is Will."
And so I came to Wills house.
At about 11:30 that night,
two officers showed up,
and, uh, they told me,
"On behalf of a grateful nation,
we regret to inform you
that your brother
has been killed in action."

ARNOLD: And then Will drove
all the way to Brunswick,
which is about 90 miles away,
to tell Dustins mom.

TERRI: It was the worst day
of my life.

Opening that door
and seeing Will
and Mandy and my mom
and my sister standing there.
And in that instant,
I knew that something was wrong.
But it took me a minute
to get it.

It really took me a minute.
All I can say is, "No."

[ train whistle blowing,
bell ringing ]
REPORTER #4: Tonight,
we are getting no details
beyond this statement
that U. S. forces have come
under hostile fire
in this area of southwest Niger
near the border with Mali.
They are not offering
any other details.
We will stay on this story...
KAREN: I had come home from work
and sat down in the living room,
kind of do, you know, the little
relaxing kind of thing
and check the news.
And while I was on my phone,
a little news alert popped in
that there was an incident that,
um, had just happened in Nigeria
along the Mali border.
And it was like, "Uhoh,"
and that got my
my, uh, attention
and, uh,
I had a real bad feeling.
Karen called me at work.
She said that something
had happened in Niger.
And I said, "Okay,"
and, uh, hung up.
I went to a friend
of mine there.
I said, "Hey, my sons deployed,
and we heard about something.
Pray for my son."
And then Karen called me
at whatever time it was
to say that she had gotten,
uh, the knock on the door.

Theres nothing really to say.
I mean, at that point,
its shock.
You just...
I dont really even
remember reaction.

HENRY: I couldnt leave
till the next morning,
and so I spent, uh,
just a grieffilled...
grieffilled night.
Just just unimaginable...

[ bell tolling ]
REPORTER #5: The three
Green Berets who were killed
and the two wounded
were on a patrol
with the Niger soldiers
when they were ambushed.
It is not clear...
The American soldiers
were part
of a Green Beret battalion
called the Bush Hawks,
assigned to train
and assist the Nigerien army
in fighting terror.
Did the biscuits get in?
Two piece, dirty rice,
mac and cheese.
I was at work.
Morning was going normal
and somebody turned around
and said, "Debbie,
your husbands here."
And I went, "No, hes not.
Hes in Texas."
Somebody else said, "No, Deb,
your husbands here."
I turned around and saw him
and my mothers health
isnt that good.
So I looked at him
and I thought,
"Hes only home
if its my mother or my son."
And this may sound terrible,
but I was thinking,
"God, let it be my mother."
And as I got closer to him,
I could tell by the look
on his face,
it wasnt my mother.

I told him he was lying to me.
That couldnt be Jeremiah.
He was too good.
There had to be a mistake.

MYESHIA: My dad called me,
and he was like,
"Hey, babe, where you at?"
I said, "Oh, Im out.
Im doing some errands
for auntie really fast.
What happened?"
He said, "Because the Army
people at the house for you."
I said, "What?"
He said, "The Army people
at the house for you."
I said, "Okay, Im coming right
now. Im coming right now."

We get there.
They tell me, um...
that they was
in, um, a rapid gunfight.
And as of October 4th,
Sergeant La David Johnsons
whereabouts is unknown.
I asked him, I said,
"What you mean unknown
Like, you cant find him,
you dont know where he at?"
They told me, "No."
After that, I couldnt eat,
I couldnt sleep,
I couldnt do anything,
Im just sitting here
wondering about,
"Where is my husband?"
"They gonna find him."
Thats what Im saying
to myself.
They gonna find him.
They gonna find him.
Then I get a call
saying that, um,
they have an American soldier
and they are willing
to do a trade
or something like that.
MEEK: For who?
They didnt say for who.
They just said they willing
to do a trade.
In my mind, they still
didnt find my husband.
I dont know whats going on.
So any little thing
that somebody tells me,
Im thinking,
"Could this be my husband?
Could this be my husband?"
If I can go back
and figure out
who gave them that first report,
Id fucking choke the shit
out of them.
I mean, its just
Its egregious
that somebody would share
that unconfirmed report
with them and...
Unconscionable that the family
would be given
conflicting statements.
I didnt hear anything else
until my casualty
assistance officer
came to my home October 6th.
And he told me,
as of October 6th,
Sergeant Johnson went
from missing in action to KIA.
Everybody went bananas.
I was screaming and crying.
My motherinlaw
was throwing, um, glasses
and screaming and crying.
She falling on the floor,
just throwing things.
COWANDA: Aunt Rachel
used to always say,
Lord, please take her before
you take one of her children
because shes gonna go insane.
October 6, 2017,
was the day
I think I went insane.
The Pentagons Africa Command
does not know for sure
if this American soldier
was wounded
and alive on the battlefield
and if he was even, for a brief
time, in ISIS hands.
MEEK: Did that phone call,
the memory of that,
sort of leave you
with lingering doubt
about whether La David
was captured?
And today,
do you think he was captured
or have you been convinced
that he died fighting?
At that moment, yes,
I believed that...
I felt that my husband
was captured.
This is a serious incident.
Very little information
being publicly offered
by the U. S. military.
It was a very frustrating time
for me
and I think for everybody
in the Pentagon
to not have a clear
and really, um...

...we felt accurate description
of what had transpired
on the ground.
I served 28 years on active duty
as an Army Special Forces
and most recently served
as a senior civilian executive
in the Office
of Secretary of Defense.

I was recognized for my actions
during the 4day battle
to retake the fortress
at QalaiJangi...
[ gunfire ]
...which had been seized
by 600 Al Qaeda
and Taliban prisoners.
[ gunfire continues, explosion ]
[ shouts indistinctly ]
MARK: I received
the Distinguished Service Cross.
On October 4, 2017,
I was the acting
Assistant Secretary
for Special Operations.
I think there were
multiple factors
that contributed
to the, um, inability
to get a complete picture
early on.
First of all, the fog of war
certainly contributes
at the tactical level,
but there seemed to be
a reluctance
to share the full scope
of everything that was going on.
REPORTER #8: The week ended
the same way it began
with questions
about why President Trump
still hasnt addressed
the ambush in Niger.
Thank you all very much.
REPORTER #8: The Pentagon has
launched a full investigation.
FBI agents on the ground
in Niger to assist.
In a rare moment today,
the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford,
coming before the cameras
after the President today
would not answer questions
sent his way.
I think first and foremost,
in this particular case,
we owe the families as much
information as we can find out
about what happened.
REPORTER #8: On the Hill,
frustration is growing.
REPORTER #9: Members of Congress
are now asking
whether this was a failure
of intelligence or preparation.
Even if there were mistakes,
if there were mistakes
from the team
or there were mistakes
in the chain of command,
the families deserve the truth.
I mean, I think thats truly
the heart of the issue here.
The families deserve the facts
of what happened.
RAY: We asked,
"What exactly went wrong?
Why did these four men
lose their lives?"
And no one would
give us an answer.

MEEK: I spent years
the friendlyfire death in Iraq
of Private First Class
David H. Sharrett II
with his dad, Dave Sharrett Sr.,
who was my high school
English teacher.
In 2018,
Dave and his wife, Vicki,
went down to a retreat
in Tennessee
for families
of fallen service members,
and they met Ray
and Debbie Gannon,
who approached them and said,
"Our son was killed
a few months ago in Niger.
We dont think the Army
is leveling with us.
We dont know what to do."
So, Dave said, "Talk
to my former student James."
And he put them
on the phone with me.
And we talked and I told them
that I had had concerns
since the incident
in Tongo Tongo happened
that the full truth
was not being told
to the American public.
And so I promised Jeremiah
Johnsons mother, Debbie Gannon,
that I would not rest
until I knew what was knowable.

Thank you for joining us today
in remembrance
of our fallen brothers.
My name is Colonel Brad Moses.
Im the 3rd group commander.
On 4 October, Team Quallam
and their Nigerien partners
were attacked by an enemy
that didnt want them
to make this small spot
in the world a better place.
MEEK: When did you first feel
like there was something wrong
with the story?
Or when was the first moment
when you were like,
"Whoa, wait a minute"?
When Colonel Moses came in,
and from the time
he starts talking,
it just seemed to me
everything was a lie.
Because I had already
had someone already came
and spoke to me
about another story.
So Im thinking when he came,
it was gonna be exact
same story that I heard before,
but it was totally the opposite.
Colonel Moses told me
that La David
was in the back of the truck.
The truck hit the tree.
And La David He said
that La David flew 900 meters
and wind up in the bushes.
[ laughing ] Yes.
So I looked at him
and I told him,
"You must think Im really...
Im really crazy
to believe a story like that."
Just stuff that they said
didnt add up at all.
Everybody came telling me
different things.
First day, um, Moses came
to my auntie house,
sat on a couch saying
that my husband, um, was
on the back of the truck
shooting a machine rifle.
They hit a tree.
He flew off.
Then he say he was
the one driving the truck.
So which one was it?
Did he hit the tree and flew off
or was he driving the truck?
Everybody was just
saying anything
because they know that mission
went horribly wrong.
And it was gonna be a lot of
fingers to point and to blame.
The ODA caught
in a near ambush,
made a decision to plant
their feet and fight.
MEEK: Colonel Moses refused
to do an oncamera interview,
but he denied to me on the phone
that he ever
gave conflicting information
to the Johnson family
regarding La Davids death.
However, the first
and most consistent thing
I was told
by all the family members
was that they, too,
had received dubious
or conflicting information
from the military.
WILL: The immediate report
was that
he had been killed in combat
and it had been by mortar fire.
Mortar fire was the explanation
for his death.
I didnt have any reason
to think otherwise,
but I viewed his body.
I served for seven years
and saw my share.
And what a mortar does
to the human body
shrapnel and fire
is a lot different
and is much more graphic
and and sinister
than smallarms fire.
And he was not charred flesh.
He was a man who had stood
his ground and fallen
by smallarmsfire bullets
riddling his body.
So the autopsy report was where
it really started clicking
that something didnt add up.
DEBBIE: I had a gut feeling
when I heard all this
from the very beginning
that something wasnt right.
I had already been
somewhat speaking with, uh...
Dustins family,
and what they were being told
and what we were being told
were two different things.
And Im thinking, "Well, Dustin
and Jeremiah were side by side,
so there cant be
different stories."
And thats when Im going,
"Now I know
were being lied to."
And thats the only damn thing
I asked him to do
from the very beginning.
Just tell me the truth.

Everybody knows Afghanistan.
Everybody knows Syria.
Everybody knows those places.
They dont know about
Niger, Africa.
I didnt realize that...
we even needed troops there.
DEBBIE: I never thought
there was anything
going on over there.
Absolutely nothing.
Never heard it on the news,
never saw anything
that was going on over there.
Had no idea
we had troops over there.
I used to always tell him,
"Make sure you stay alert.
You know, dont let
your guard down with nothing."
And he reassure me.
He was like,
"No, My, its not
nothing like that.
You know, were just
going over here to train
the African soldiers
and stuff like that."
And I aint think nothing
about ISIS
and stuff over there
coming to get him.
No. That was the least
of my worries.

ALAN: Having been in Iraq
and Afghanistan previously,
theres just
a different mindset in Niger.
But I would never fool myself
and think nothing could happen
in West Africa.
We know why we were there.
I joined the Army because
I wanted to serve others.
I wanted to make a difference
in the world.
I do not come
from a military family.
I think most of
my military influence
came from too many movies
as a child,
probably watched "Rambo"
one too many times.
And Im not afraid
to admit that.
As a Special Forces
Detachment Commander,
when I was a captain
leading a 12man team
in both eastern Afghanistan
and southern Afghanistan,
we saw quite a bit of combat.
In Niger,
I was the advanced operations
base Niger commander.
We were partnered
with Nigerien forces.
We were there to work with them
because there was a very real
and active threat in West Africa
in the form of both
Al Qaeda affiliates
and Islamic State affiliates,
not to mention some other ones,
kind of an alphabet soup
of threat forces out there.
[ all yelling
in foreign language ]

[ horns honking ]
MOUSSA: The biggest problem now
is this area
near the Malian border.
These guys are very mobile.
They move on motorcycles,
land cruisers.
Any time we have
an encounter with them,
we will just try to [inaudible]
and then cross the border.
In normal time, you dont see
them in large group.
So just like scattered
in villages, you know,
they have those small camps
that only will group
to conduct an attack.
Surprise to us, we still
cant get towards the enemy.
Lets go to Quallam.
Stabilizing this part
of the world
is part of the overall
global, like, uh,
fight against, uh, evil.
[ explosion ]

DONALD: This environment
in Africa is no joke.
It is just like Afghanistan,
just like Syria, just like Iraq,
but it doesnt get
the resourcing
because its not
a combat environment, right?
But it is a combat environment.
And so stop putting lipstick
on the pig.
It is what it is.
[ all yelling
in foreign language ]
DONALD: Most foreign fighters
that joined the fight
in Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Syria and other places
come from North Africa.
Theyre all now
starting to come back.
Most of the designated
what they call terrorist groups,
um, by the State Department
reside in Africa.

ALAN: Alright,
so were getting ready
to fly out to see Team Quallam.
This will be
my first time out
to see the guys
since weve gotten here.
People are familiar
with the show "The ATeam."
"The ATeam" is modeled
off of an ODA,
an Operational Detachment Alpha,
a 12man Special Forces team.
[ helicopter blades whirring ]
As a major in Special Forces,
my ODAs included ODA 3212.
Im coming to check out
the barbershop.
I heard good things.
Whos next?
You, sir.
Im good.
I got mine in the capital
the other day.
La David Johnson
stood out to me
as the soldiers soldier.
He like like
all good mechanics,
he was the jackofalltrades.
He could fix anything.
When youre not cutting hair,
what are your other, uh,
camp duties around here?
Finding stuff to do, like
make sure my trucks good,
making sure my generators good,
like regular maintenance
on the daily.
SOLDIER: Hey. Hey.
SOLDIER #2: There you go.
There you go.
SOLDIER #1: Hey!
ALAN: La David was
a kindhearted person
who would give you
the shirt off his back
in a rainstorm.
He would help
anybody who needed it.

COWANDA: Sergeant
La David Johnsons mom passed
when he was 5 years old.
I am his auntie,
Im married to his uncle,
which made me become
his auntie/mom.
Yeah, Im his uncle,
you know what I mean?
But I raised him as my son.
He was always a spiritual kid,
and he always told us,
we need to be more grateful.
He always said
that we more blessed
than a lot of people
that we dont see.
He was sweet, he was kind,
and he always was creative.
He always found something to do.
He never was a kid
just sit in the house.
Like kids nowadays...never.

They call him the Wheelie King
because down here in Miami,
hes known for riding his bike
with one wheel.
His name is La David Johnson.
He rides from his home
in Miami Gardens
to his job in Pembroke Pines
on one wheel.
He even was on the news for it.
So he was very known
in our city.
YOUNG MAN: My homie,
he do a catwalk
from here to West Broward
with no wheel on the front.
Thats crazy, man.
We love you, David.
Love yall, too, man.

COWANDA: Our block,
we had a good block,
but around us,
it was a lot of killing.
And I think that he thought
maybe if he get out,
he could have
a better life for himself.
He see me grind it out
all my life.
And he was just saying,
"There got to be a better way."
I would ask him, "Why you dont
try and go to the military?"
Hed be like, "Ive been
thinking about that."
I was like, "You should go."

REPORTER #11: A community coming
together to honor a local hero.
Today Puyallup remembers
Staff Sergeant Bryan Black.
Black graduated from
Puyallup High School in 2000
and enlisted nine years later.
He spoke several languages,
including the one spoken
in Niger,
where he often tended
to injured civilians.
A man they say...
ALAN: Bryan Black, one of
the smartest man Ive ever met.
Extremely cerebral.
Theres always something
on his mind.
But he was so cool and calm
that he knew
just when to speak his mind.
And when he did,
you knew you were wrong.
KAREN: I knew something was
different the day he was born.
When I held him right
after he was born,
he immediately pushed up
against me
and did his first pushup
and literally
looked around the room.
And its like, "Infants
that just were born
dont do that."
And that pretty much
is what persisted
throughout his entire childhood.
Always having
the strong determination
to do whatever it is
he wanted to do.
HENRY: I remember the first year
when he was playing chess.
He didnt win many, uh, games
that year.
And I remember
It may have been the last
tournament of the season
and he went out
in the parking lot.
He sat on a curb
and he was really mad.
And I went and talked to him,
sat down.
I said, "Look,
if you study and work at it,
youre gonna be good."
And he did the whole summer
and next year,
he, uh, won just about every
chess tournament he played in.

ALAN: Jeremiah Johnson was
a new member of the team
and had previously been
at my company headquarters.
He had the instincts
of the perfect soldier.
DEBBIE: He was just about like
any other little boy,
outside running around
all the time.
He broke a couple of bones
and didnt even whine about it.
Hed just come home
and go, "This hurts."
JENNIFER: Jeremiah
was the fucking badass.
Theres just no other way
around that.
He was just a badass.
He was scared of nothing.

Growing up, he was a pain
in the butt,
but he was also a hero
and a protector.

You know, military kids,
you move around,
people would pick on us,
and he would always defend me.
Being younger three,
almost three years younger
he would still defend me.
RAY: When we first met,
Jeremiah was about 16.
And, you know, we got together
and I told him
I was I was gonna ask
his mother to marry me.
And, uh, he said,
"Well, you know, I dont think
Ill ever call you dad."
I said, "I understand that.
You already have a father."
I said, "But, uh, you know,
if I could just be your friend
and mentor, thatd be
thatd suit me fine."
And over the years,
I became Pops.
And it did my heart good.
DEBBIE: He, uh, joined the Army
at a late age.
That kind of shocked us.
He wanted to do his part.
He wanted to serve his country.
He wanted to do
what he could to, uh,
take care of the terrorists
that were out there.
I remember very clearly
the day he told me
he wanted to join the Army.
I said, "Why?
You are 29 years old.
Why now?"
He said, "Because I want
to legally kill people
and blow shit up."
I swear to God.
And I went,
"Alrighty, that works."

Well, this is how
we set the charge.
This will not make
the final cut.
Tom Hanks
in, uh, "Saving Private Ryan."
This should make the final cut.
There you go.
ALAN: Dustin Wright.
Dusty could walk into a crowd
of a thousand people
and within an hour, be best
friends with all of them.
DUSTIN: I actually like
this kind of stuff.
I mean, anybody can shoot a gun.
You know?
Demo is something else.
Its a lot more fun.
[ explosion ]
Mission success.

Our whole family served.
My granddaddy
and his four brothers
were in World War II.
My grandmothers three brothers
were in World War II.
Our family goes back
to the War of 1812.
WILL: We had a family member
in service at any point
through constant engagement
since that war.
And to our knowledge,
weve never lost anyone
except for Dustin.
When I think about Dustin,
its my best friend
and hes half my soul.
We nailed it as brothers.

We had a blessing
that most people dont get.
We had each other
through thick and thin.
TERRI: He and Will
were always together.
They didnt go a day
without speaking.
Just not one day.

So I havent told him yet
about him having aa niece.
So thats what, um, I wanted
to come out here
and talk to him about today
because I dont know
what Im gonna do
with a little girl.
[ laughs ]
Them damn Wright boys.
Little spice and trouble
and meanness
and a whole
whole lot of fighting,
but end of the day,
a whole lot of love, too.
To Dustin.
I love you, brother.

[ Man singing
in foreign language ]

MEEK: Five months after
the gunfight in Tongo Tongo,
ISIS in West Africa claimed
responsibility for the attack.
They released
a propaganda video,
which included clips
from Jeremiah Johnsons
helmet cam,
which they took off his body.
[ gunfire ]
The video shows the final
desperate minutes of battle
from Bryan, Jeremiah, Dustin
alone around their vehicle,
exchanging heavy fire
with the enemy.
[ gunfire continues ]

REPORTER #12: Newly released
video shows the deadly ambush
of American soldiers
and is raising new questions
about the U. S. military mission
in the African country
of Niger.
It shows just how outgunned
and overwhelmed they were.

Good afternoon, everyone.
We are here this afternoon
to brief you
on the findings of U. S. Africa
Commands investigation
into the ambush of U. S.
and Nigerien soldiers
near the Tongo
near Tongo Tongo, Niger,
in early October 2017,
and also to answer
your questions.
Before we begin, however,
I would like to extend
my deepest condolences
to the families and loved ones
of those lost in this attack.
Our commitment,
first and foremost,
has been to provide a complete
accounting to the families.
I would like to talk with you
in greater detail
about the preparedness
of Team Quallam to conduct,
partnered, advise, assist
and accompany operations
on 3 and 4 October.
The investigation discovered
the integration and training
with partnered forces
in Niger was inadequate.
Team Quallam did not meet
the appropriate standards
of familiarization
and integration
with the Nigerien
Partner Force
prior to conducting the initial
mission on 3 October.
In addition, routine tasks
such as conducting rehearsals
for immediate action drills
upon enemy contact
were not completed prior to
stepping off for this mission.
The team did not conduct
those basic soldierlevel skills
that would
that are really necessary
to go on an operation
such as this.
So in laymans terms,
how would you characterize this?
Are they sloppy
or are they cowboys?
Are they taking too much risk?
What would you tell
the American people about this?
How would you characterize
your behavior?
The special operators on
the continent are serving well.
They do highrisk missions
and based on my observations,
this particular
this particular team
is not indicative
of what they do.
KAREN: That was infuriating
to me, and its like,
"Oh, my gosh."
I didnt even finish listening
to the news conference.
I turned it off.
I couldnt stand to even
look at him after I heard that.
Its like,
"How can you possibly say that?"
I think its an unfair
characterization of an ODA
that found itself
in a bad situation
and did the best
that they could.
And to say
that they werent indicative,
I just dont think
its a fair characterization
of of the the men
on that detachment.
It stung.
It hurt...
really bad to hear that
because it was clear
that a statement like that
was protecting the command
and, in a way, trying
to protect the community
while badmouthing a team
that had the odds overwhelmingly
stacked against them.
Those briefings,
I thought, were embarrassing
Infuriating, unbelievable
to to literally say these
about my stepson
and his comrades.
I mean, it, uh,
just besmirches their memory.
General Waldhauser.
General Waldhauser,
ABC News.
General, your public comments
about the team
and its competence,
which you said
they were not indicative
of other special operators
who are doing great work
on the continent.
Thats what they had
They said that was hurtful
to the families of the fallen.
They told us that.
Well, it wasnt intended
to be hurtful
to the families of the fallen.
The intent was to make that
the special operations forces
have difficult missions
on the continent.
They carry them out every day
and to try to highlight
some of the shortcomings
that the investigation found
with regards
to contributing factors
to the overall situation,
but it was never intended
to be hurtful to the families.
Thank you for your time.
TERRI: Well, maybe he didnt
mean to hurt us, but he did.
And not just as a gold star
mother whos lost a child,
but as an American.
Why would you throw your people
under the bus?
Why would you...
blame your men...
...who were following
your orders
and who youre responsible for?

Doesnt the buck stop
with the leader?
Isnt that why
theres a chain of command
and isnt that why the chain
of command is followed?
But according
to General Waldhauser,
ODA 3212 did not follow
the chain of command.
He alleged that the team
did not inform
their commanding officers of the
true intent of their mission.
The investigation
also found the team
inaccurately portrayed
the concept of operations
for the first
of three total missions
on 3 and 4 October.
Mark: If I were to summarize
the report in one sentence,
it said that the ODA
was illprepared
and conducting
an unauthorized mission.
Not only did
General Waldhauser suggest
that ODA 3212
was relatively incompetent,
he went on to claim
that this team of Green Berets
left base under false pretenses
to try to capture or kill
one of the most dangerous
terrorists in the region
A man named Doundou Chefou.
In effect, he accused the team
of going on a rogue mission
for the ISIS commanders scalp.
The Pentagon investigation
found the teams commanders,
two captains,
the initial mission,
claiming it was less dangerous
than it really was.
ROGER: Had the first mission
been properly characterized,
it would have been required
to to be approved
at a higher level.
And by being approved
at a higher level,
it would have received
more oversight
from the chain of command.
We started to see press reports
come out
that there was, you know, claims
that ODA 3212
decided on their own
that they would, um, institute
a kill/capture mission
to one of the lieutenants
of, uh, ISIS in Niger.
That kind of narrative,
as it started to leak out,
kind of gave me pause
because something like this,
from what I understood,
was going after a, you know,
a highly targeted,
wellknown terrorist commander
and would have had
a lot of visibility.
So to think that the team
could just kind of go rogue
on its own
just didnt make sense to me.
I dont buy the fact that
the ODA submitted their plan,
and then at the last minute,
rolled over in their trucks
to to the Nigeriens
and said, "Lets go.
Were Well tell you
when we get there."
It doesnt work like that.
Thats not how we operate.
Going after
a highvalue target,
like this gentleman,
is a topdown process,
and it is topdown approved.
Its a 4starlevel
approval conop.
You dont You cant get away
with cutting and pasting
and, you know,
getting in your trucks
and going, "Yeehaw," right?
You just cant do it.
They dont need to act
like my son
was some kind of damn Rambo
out there on his own
doing something.
Because all he was doing
was what he was told,
and...he fought his ass off.
ALAN: On September 28,
I left Niger
and went back to Fort Bragg,
North Carolina,
where my pregnant wife
and daughter
were waiting for me.
We went to the hospital
on October 1st
for my wife to be induced,
and my second daughter
was born
early in the morning
on October 2nd.

On the morning of October 4th,
were getting ready
to be discharged.
I brought the car seat up,
get the baby loaded up,
and my phone, uh, received
a text message
and all it said was,
"You need to come in to work.
Something has happened."
Exactly what did happen
is in dispute.
The United States Africa Command
released their version
of the events in this 268page,
heavily redacted report.
Its a combination of facts
and what many people
close to the investigation say
are omitted details
and unsubstantiated opinion.
NARRATOR: The teams manning
for this mission...
MEEK: Accompanying the report
was a narrated video
with mission footage
and animation
to support AFRICOMs account
of what went wrong
on the illfated mission.
DEBBIE: "Team Quallam
and partner forces
depart at Camp Quallam
at 5:59 on October 3rd, 2017,
traveling in a military convoy
in a northwest direction."
The teams U. S. soft personnel
traveled in three vehicles,
two of which were equipped
with mounted M240 machine guns.
The 34 Nigerien personnel
traveled in
five additional vehicles.
RAY: "The convoy continued
from checkpoint one
in the northeastern direction
for 43 kilometers,
arriving 5 miles south of Tiloa
on approximately
ten hundred hours."
The concept of operations
that was submitted
for approval stated
that the purpose of the mission
was to conduct a civil
and military reconnaissance
in the vicinity of Tiloa.
MARK: The plan, submitted
to higher headquarters,
called for them to do a patrol
that would include a series
of what we call
key leader engagements
to meet with local leaders,
discuss the situation
on the ground,
and, if possible,
find any intelligence leads
that the locals
may be able to give them.

NARRATOR: The mission plan did
not accurately characterize
the intended purpose
of the mission.
From the beginning, everything
was negative about the team.
Basically, what they said
was the team leader lied
in the brief that he submitted
to hire for the mission.
The mission was, in fact,
to pinpoint the location of
and capture
or, if necessary,
kill the ISISGS subcommander.
MARK: I have a really hard time
believing that to be the case.
Doundou Chefou was identified
as a leader of the Islamic State
in the Greater Sahara,
and to say
that the ODA went rogue
and not only
the detachment commander,
but that the team sergeant
and all these
other experienced NCOs
all agreed to go on a mission
to kill or capture
Doundou Chefou
and just blatantly lie,
it would be a big deal.
A captain on an "A" team
does not have the authority
or the power
to make those decisions.
I didnt have any inside
information telling me all this,
but I just know,
as an infantry man,
we would never do that.
We would never go
on a rogue mission
outside the wire
to track down somebody.
And so, it just did not
smell truthful.
NARRATOR: Once in Tiloa,
the team searched for
but could not
successfully locate
the ISISGS subcommander.
They conducted the rest
of their mission
and began their return to base.

MARK: The first mission
had been completed.
They made it to Tiloa.
They checked on the Nigerien
checkpoint that was out there
and the team was returning back
to base in Quallam.
WILL: "At approximately 1700
hours on 3 October 2017,
Team Quallams convoy halted
approximately 5 kilometers
south of..."
"...in order to receive
additional information
for a possible remission."
Well, they go
They headed back to base.
End of the day.
and, um,
they got to change the mission.
NARRATOR: During the teams
return to base from Tiloa,
they received
highconfidence intelligence
that placed the ISISGS
northwest of Tiloa,
near the Mali border.
MARK: This is when they were
redirected to go to a location
where the higher headquarters
believe that Doundou Chefou,
or at least a cellphone
associated with him,
had been present for the night.
This timesensitive intelligence
gave the Nigerien
and U. S. forces
a narrow window to capture him
while he remained in Niger.
At this point,
you have Colonel Brad Moses
getting involved
and Lieutenant Colonel Painter
getting involved.
Lieutenant Colonel Painter
was the Special Forces
battalion commander,
and he was also, uh,
the task force commander there
on the on the continent.
NARRATOR: The approved
concept of operation
called for another U. S.
and Nigerien partnered force
to clear the target,
with the Quallambased team
as a quick reaction force.
MEEK: The new mission called
for a second,
more seasoned ODA team
to fly in on helicopters
and raid the campsite
of Doundou Chefou.
Thats the same ISIS commander
who the team
was accused
of going rogue to hunt down.
So at this point, ODA 3212,
also referred to
as the Quallambased team,
is ordered
to play a backup role.
Their job will be to reinforce
their comrades if they need it.
[ thunder rumbling ]
NARRATOR: However,
due to weather constraints,
the other team was forced
to return to base.
RAY: The initial ODA coming
from another part of Niger
couldnt make it
due to weather conditions,
and now the responsibility
goes to Jeremiahs team.
Instead of ending the mission
and 3212 going back to camp,
they told them to continue
without the other forces
being a part.
Upon receipt of that directive,
Team Quallams mission changed
from providing a flexible,
redacted force
to capturing and detaining."
MEEK: Now, you might think that
the team would be thrilled
to be the main reigning force.
After all,
according to the AFRICOM report,
they had just set out on a rogue
mission to do exactly that.
Have you ever seen that image?
No, Ive never seen this image.
But thats Captain Mike Perozeni
on a satellite phone
not looking happy, concerned.
Captain Perozeni was assigned
as the Special Forces
detachment commander,
so he is the senior officer
on that detachment
and is responsible for the
conduct of all their operations.
MEEK: According to those
who were there,
this is one of the moments
when the detachment commander,
Captain Mike Perozeni,
was pushing back
against the new orders.
He spoke to his command
in satellite phone calls
and text messages,
telling them that to head north
deep into unfamiliar desert
with no backup force available,
no possibility of speedy
medical evacuation,
an exhausted Nigerien
partner force,
and his own lightly armed team
was needlessly risky.
TERRI: He protested vigorously
is my understanding.
He knew that
they werent...equipped.
He knew that
that wasnt their mission.
Thats not what
they were there for.
He objected because he knew
that his unit
was not prepared to do this
this new mission
because they left
for a day trip,
not an overnight movement,
and not to go fight somebody.
In Mike Perozenis mind
on the ground,
hes identifying risk.
He was communicating back
to the company headquarters
and ultimately back up
to Lieutenant Colonel Painter
the risks that were involved
from his standpoint
on the ground.
Now, deep in the highly
censored AFRICOM report,
they do acknowledge
that Captain Perozeni
tried to have
the mission scrubbed.
"In order to conduct this raid,
Team Quallam
and their partner force
would have to move an additional
25 kilometers north
through difficult terrain
under limited visibility.
Given that distance
to travel..."
"...and the fact
that his partner force
have been up for over 18 hours,
redacted expressed to redacted
his preference
that the force return to base."
ARNOLD: "...redacted relayed
redacteds preference
to redacted."
MARK: "...but redacted
directed that redacted
move to objective north
and conduct the raid."
ALAN: I highly doubt
that Mike politely, uh,
expressed a "preference"
as it said in the investigation
of of his concerns.
Mike will speak his mind.
Mike, uh, will not
hold anything back,
and so I have no doubt that
he expressed those concerns.
The U. S. Special Forces
commander for Northwest Africa
was Lieutenant Colonel
David Painter,
who was hundreds of miles
away in Chad,
and he overruled
Captain Perozenis objections.
Colonel Brad Moses,
the 3rd Special Forces group
commander based in Germany,
also was informed
of the changes to mission
and that Perozeni and ODA 3212
were now going to be the main
force raiding the campsite.
But Colonel Moses told me that
Lieutenant Colonel Painter
did not tell him about
Captain Perozenis objections
to going forward.
He says had he known about
the captains concerns
about the mission, he would have
called him directly.
They were told to go anyway.
They didnt care that there was
no backup for those boys.
The way I operated as a
as commander of SOC Africa was,
my guys on the ground tell me
what theyre going to do
and what theyre not
going to do, right,
based off of the risk.
And the captain tells me
a team leader
on the ground tells me
"Hey, sir." Or it comes up
through the chain.
"No way.
This is just
I just dont feel comfortable
with it."
Then the brake goes on hard.
MEEK: I guess one big question
that comes to mind with all this
is if your captain had come up
with this plan
and "Were gonna
Were gonna make our bones.
Were gonna make our careers.
Were gonna go kill this guy
or capture him
and well be the heroes,"
or whatever their motives
would have been,
if Africa command was correct,
that thats what they were doing
from the start,
if all that was true,
why would this guy,
Captain Mike Perozeni,
object to searching
his targets campsite?
ALAN: It makes no sense.
Why would he push back now
if he was supposedly on board
at the very front?
Why would he be issuing
or expressing concerns
about not being equipped
or prepared
if that was his intent
all along?
Not only did Captain Perozeni
object to the missions
assigned in the field,
he first voiced concerns
before his team
even left their base in Quallam.
ALAN: The people
in my company headquarters
knew that Mike pushed back.
So why that wasnt shared
with the families,
Ill never know,
but I will say theres no reason
it should not have been
shared with the families.
I was left with the impression
that this guy was a screwup.
And he screwed up and carried
my son off and got him killed
because thats what
I was led to believe.
And I think thats probably
the biggest injustice
was I walked around
pissed off for a year
and my anger was directed
toward somebody
that was completely innocent
of what they told me he did.
HENRY: Its clear that
if he had been listened to,
my son and Jeremiah,
La David, and Dustin
would be here today.
MARK: The only reason why they
would accuse Captain Perozeni
and the team of lying
and mischaracterizing
is to somehow absolve
the chain of command above them
and basically say because they
went out under false pretenses,
they put themselves
in a bad situation
and are therefore responsible
for what happened.
Theres no way
Like I say,
anybody with any common sense
would be headed back to base
and then all of a sudden decide
to turn around
and go six hours the other way
in the middle of the night.
NARRATOR: Through the night
of October 3rd,
the team made the difficult
movement north to the target.
MARK: They traveled
from late afternoon
till early the next morning
to get to the position.
On the morning of October 4th,
the team reached the objective
at sunrise,
but the enemy had already
departed the area.
The team discovered
enemy rations,
a motorcycle, drying uniforms,
and warm fire pits.
This campsite was abandoned.
Nothing there to speak of.
And that they were
just gonna go off
looking for trash
and pocket litter.
In the middle of the desert,
there is nothing urgent enough
to send an improperly
supplied element
that far out into the desert.
NARRATOR: After completing the
mission near the Mali border,
the team was directed by
AOB Niger to return to base.

While returning to base,
Team Quallams partner,
Nigerien forces, needed water,
so the convoy stopped
near the village
of Tongo Tongo to resupply.
NARRATOR: As the team waited,
they conducted an impromptu
key leader engagement
with the village elder.
the key leader engagement,
team members met with leaders
and 27 men of the village.
The meeting lasted
about 30 minutes longer
than the team commander
WILL: "Witnesses believe
the village owner
deliberately delayed the convoy
from departing in an effort
to allow the enemy time
to set up the ambush."
NARRATOR: At 11:35 hours,
the team
moved out of the village
of Tongo Tongo
on their planned route.
"The convoy traveled southeast
along the eastern edge
of the village.
Shortly thereafter,
a villager approaching
the village from the tree line
to the east directed
the convoy down a road,
which appeared to cut
through the wood line
due east from Tongo Tongo."
ARNOLD: "As the convoy
moved through the narrow road
between two wood lines,
the vehicles to the rear
of the convoy
began to receive
smallarms fire."
[ gunfire ]
NARRATOR: At this point,
the convoy halted.
The team reported enemy contact
to the advanced operating base
and returned smallarms fire.
DEBBIE: "I was starting to pick
back up even more.
I could see Jeremiah,
Dustin, Bryan
shooting their M4s
at muzzle flashes
and suspected
likely enemy locations."
MEEK: After the first shots
were fired,
most of the three dozen Nigerien
troops with the ODA fled,
leaving less than a dozen
to fight out the battle
alongside the American team.
RAY: "Realizing then
that the team was
significantly outnumbered
by a welltrained force,
Team Quallams commander ordered
everyone to break contact
and to withdraw to the south."
As the rest of the team
loaded into their vehicles,
they saw Staff Sergeants
Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson,
and Dustin Wright in the
vicinity of U. S. vehicle 2.
The team commander signaled
to begin movement,
and Staff Sergeant
Jeremiah Johnson
acknowledged the order
with a thumbsup.
A team member
threw a smoke grenade
to conceal the teams movement.
MEEK: No one knows
exactly what happened,
why U. S. vehicle 2 with Bryan,
Dustin, and Jeremiah
did not follow the rest of
the team out of the kill zone.
But now they were alone.
A large attacking force
descended upon them.
[ gunfire ]
WILL: Staff Sergeant Wright
began driving U. S. vehicle 2
slowly south,
while Staff Sergeant Black
and Staff Sergeant
Jeremiah Johnson
walked along next
to the vehicle,
providing suppressive fire.
HENRY: "During the movement,
enemy smallarms fire
hit Staff Sergeant Black,
killing him instantly."

[ gunfire ]

RAY: We saw Bryan Black
fall first.
Watch Dustin and Jeremiah
pull him back to safety,
realizing that Bryan
had lost his life.
Jeremiah and Dustin
tried to leave the area.
[ gunfire ]
But there was no, uh,
no support fire
from the other team members.
They were just left
to fend for themselves.
[ gunfire ]

"Overrun by enemy fighters,
Staff Sergeant Wright
and Staff Sergeant
Jeremiah Johnson
were forced to evade on foot.
Approximately 85 meters
from the vehicle,
enemy smallarms fire
hit Staff Sergeant
Jeremiah Johnson..."
"...severely wounding him."

"Staff Sergeant Wright stopped,
returned to Staff Sergeant
J. Johnson
and continued
to engage the enemy..."
"...attempting to protect
Staff Sergeant Johnson,
Staff Sergeant Wright
fired his M4
at the enemy
as they advanced on his position
until he was fatally wounded.
The enemy killed both soldiers
with smallarms fire."

WILL: I know what it took
to take him down.
And Im proud of it.
It makes me want to strap
on my boots and go back.
It does.
I have no problem
with how he went.
Im Im jealous.
Thats Its crazy,
but as a warrior, Im jealous.
He He fought more than
10 men could fight.
Till his dying breath.
He did it for love.
He did it for the man
standing next to him, so...
I dont have an issue
with that at all.

The team quickly realized
that Bryan and Jeremiah
and Dustin
had not followed them.
Four of the Green Berets
went off on foot
to try to find them
but were pinned down
by heavy fire.
The remainder of the team
and their vehicles
were forced to withdraw again,
but this time La David
and two Nigerien soldiers
were lost in the chaos.
Believing Sergeant Johnson
was in control of his vehicle,
the driver of U. S. vehicle 1
accelerated hard
to the northwest.
"Sergeant La David Johnson
and the two Nigerien soldiers
were unable to get
into their vehicle
and with enemy forces rapidly
closing on their position,
they were forced
to evade on foot."
NARRATOR: The Nigerien soldiers
were killed
with smallarms fire.
roughly 400 meters
from position 2.
MYESHIA: "Sergeant La David
Johnson continued to evade,
running west
for an additional 450 meters
before eventually seeking cover
under a thorny tree.
Sergeant La David Johnson
fired his U. S. M4 weapon
a total of five times
on advancing enemy
before being killed."

The rest of 3212
had no idea that La David,
Bryan, Jeremiah, and Dustin
had been killed,
along with
four Nigerien soldiers
and a Nigerien
civilian contractor.
Two other members of the team
had been wounded,
including Captain Perozeni,
who was shot in the side.
The six Americans
and four Nigeriens remaining
were down to a total
of 60 rounds of ammunition.
They made a desperate call
on their radio broken arrow,
which is a term that goes back
to the Vietnam War
and means essentially
all hope is lost.
MARK: "With enemy vehicles
fast approaching,
Team Quallam and the Nigerien
partners realized
their unit was being overwhelmed
and radioed higher headquarters
for the first time
since the initial contact."
MEEK: Captain Perozeni
texted frantic messages
to his headquarters, saying...
And two U. S. commanders in Niger
that day told me
that dozens
of Special Forces soldiers
were eager to fly to Tongo Tongo
to save ODA 3212.
One of those ODAs
had helicopters
at their disposal,
immediately got in the air
and started flying
in the direction of Tongo Tongo
because they were fighting
tooth and nail
to get in there
and help their brothers.
They radioed back
to Lieutenant Colonel Painter
to receive permission to go in,
and multiple times were denied.
MEEK: Lieutenant Colonel Painter
was the same officer
who, the night before,
had denied
Captain Perozenis request
to return to base.
MARK: At 14:58, a French Mirage
fighter jet
made a show of force
by flying over the troops in
contact site at a low altitude.
The enemy broke contact
and departed the area
after the show of force.
ALAN: The French were the ones,
at the end of the day,
who came in
as the quickreaction force
and and rescued the ODA.
And that really frustrated
and and pissed off the guys
who were sitting there
at Quallam
with helicopters ready to go
and to this day does not
sit well with a lot of the guys.
"French forces evacuated
the surviving members
of Team Quallam
from the battlefield."
The deaths of the four
Special Forces soldiers
and the failure to even rescue
their own men
from the battlefield
was a huge embarrassment.
And in spite
of what AFRICOM claimed,
there was little
or no evidence at all
that the team had gone rogue
as they were accused of.
In fact,
Captain Mike Perozeni
pushed back against
the superior officers twice,
which begs the question
Why were the captains
concerns overruled?
What was driving his immediate
chain of command
to push ODA 3212 forward
against the teams
better judgment?
And did a mysterious
additional vehicle,
which joined the convoy
as they left base
on October 3rd,
factor in to that decision?
Ive confirmed
with intelligence officials
that what was identified
in the AFRICOM animations
simply as a 3man
Nigerien reconnaissance team
and a truck they labeled
Nigerien vehicle number 3
was, in fact, a team
of Nigerien CIA operatives.
Its not at all uncommon
for CIA operatives
who are going
into dangerous areas
to be in the company of
U. S. Special Forces soldiers.
But because of the topsecret
nature of their work,
its not always clear to the
troops theyre operating with
what or who theyre looking for.
In this case, the American
trained and outfitted operatives
were carrying
a sophisticated device
which can covertly lock onto
and track a cellphone signal.
And with it, we have learned,
they were the ones
who were hunting Doundou Chefou
in the hope that he would lead
them to an even bigger prize
an American Christian aid worker
named Jeffery Woodke,
who was being held hostage
somewhere in the region.
ELS: When Jeff was a child,
he used to spin the globe
and look where he stopped.
And one time he stopped
and his finger was pointed
at Niger.
And he told his mom,
"When I grew up,
Im gonna go to Niger."
When he was grown up,
he remembered that moment
and he looked up and saw
how poor the nation was
and when he sees suffering,
he wants to alleviate it.
He looks for ways to help
the people.
So he build wells.
He did animal vaccinations.
He helped create schools for
kids so they could be educated.
He worked very close
with the local population
in view of their needs.
This was the start
of the whole process
of the upwards budget.
ELS: That morning,
Jeff announced
this special project.
Were seeing the video of Jeff
with the leaders
of the community.
After all that, he went home.
And then it happened.
He heard he heard shots.
He ran away.
He fleed.

But they they got him.

Then it was just all a blur.
I just kept saying no.
It took a long time for me
to, um,
to really accept the reality
that it had really happened.
[ sighs ] Yeah.
Certainly, we knew
who Jeff Woodke was in Niger.
His clothes were
in my headquarters,
so that should he be freed
during our time there,
he would be brought through
and given back his belongings
as part of his reintegration
to feel human again.
But when ODA 3212 left the wire
on their reconnaissance mission,
never was there an understanding
that it related
to Jeffery Woodke.
It wasnt in any
of the mission plans.
It was never told to me
after the fact.
It was never in any of the
conversations that took place.
Jeffery Woodke
was never brought up
in any of the mission planning
and his name appears nowhere
in the 268page
redacted AFRICOM report.
Plus, the four families
of the fallen
were never told about
any connection between Woodke
and the missions until General
Waldhauser alleged that
in his press conference,
shocking nearly everyone
who heard it.
And I think its important
to underscore why then
was that mission undertaken?
Why was it so important
to send those people up there?
Weve had an American citizen
by the name of Jeffery Woodke,
whos been captured
and held hostage
in somewhere in that area
for the last year and a half,
and there was a possibility
that what they might find
at that target
would be a piece of the puzzle
of the whole
of government approach
to try to return an American
whos been held hostage
for over a year and a half.
MEEK: Youll recall at General
Waldhausers press briefing,
he wasnt asked
a question about this,
but he just sort of
brought up Jeffery Woodke.
And he said that third mission
in searching that site
was to look for intelligence on
that hostage Jeffery Woodke.
Is that something
that youve ever heard?
I had never heard that,
and I dont recall that ever
being part of the instructions
that were given to
Captain Perozeni and his team.
So Im not sure where
that characterization came from.
MEEK: Jeffery Woodke,
this hostage thats been held
since October 2016.
MEEK: His name come up
in the briefings?
No, never once.
The mission was
a sensitive site
clear a sensitive site
for intelligence.
ALAN: For General Waldhauser
to say,
"We were out there
looking for Jeff Woodke,"
seemed like a convenient excuse
on his part
as the commander of AFRICOM
to try and put a, uh, noble
cause about what we were doing.
MEEK: Does that change things,
how you see what Jeremiah
was doing out there at all?
If he was part of a team
that was helping
to facilitate efforts to locate
and eventually recover
an Americanheld hostage
by ISIS?
Yes and no.
It still could have
waited another day.
I mean, Im all for finding
the American, definitely, but...
another day...
when they could have had backup
would have made a world
of difference.
Wed have four boys
back home, probably.
If this was indeed
on my husbands behalf,
I would have to say
thank you so very much.
Im still Im very sorry
it happened.
And that would be
a terrible burden
to know that people might die
in the attempt
to rescue my husband.
I dont take that lightly.

[ wind chimes chiming ]
Colonel, come on in.
My name is Lieutenant Hudson.
Tom, how are you?
Real pleasure.
Come on in.
OFFICER: This week is about, you
know, recognizing the valor.
You know, our gold star families
and our fallen heroes
national treasure.
Obviously theres nothing
Im gonna be able to say
that will, you know,
do much for your loss, frankly,
but, you know...
MEEK: Despite the fact the
official military investigation
tarnished the actions
of ODA 3212,
nearly two years
after the attack in Tongo Tongo,
the fallen soldiers were finally
given some recognition
for their sacrifices.
So Id like to present you
with the Bronze Star award.
Bronze Star with valor.
You can see the award there,
and you can read
the citation there.
DEBBIE: Well, thank you very
much for bringing this down
and presenting it to us.
OFFICER: Yes, maam.

Hes truly missed.

DEBBIE: He deserves it.
Hes earned that honor.
But Ive lost my child.
Thats never gonna
make that right.
But my son would not want me
to turn my back on the military.
My stepsons in the military,
in the Marine
in the Marine Corps
My grandson Danny
is in the Army.
My granddaughters
in the Army Reserves medic.
And I am still
all for the military.
I am very...
very infuriated with the Army
and the ones involved with this.
Im sure they wake up
every morning now,
and they dont think
about those four boys.
I wake up without my son
every morning
just as the other parents do.

The wives wake up
without their husbands,
the brothers and sisters wake up
without their brother,
kids wake up without their dads,
and we deserve the full truth
and some accountability.

HENRY: I feel the pain of
the families as much as I can.
I understand their grief.
I grieve with them
for their loss.
And I think that they grieve
for our loss.
KAREN: For me, I dont want to
just constantly living my life.
"Okay. In October of 2017,
this happened.
Lets rehash it again and again
and again and again."
Thats not me.
[ train whistle blows ]
You dont live with your head
in the sand
and act like it never happened,
but move forward,
do positive things,
continue to grow and learn
and impact other people
in their lives.

Well, yeah, its already
Its already named,
but I think you can change
their names
up to, like, a year.
WOMAN: Is it Opie?
KAREN: Yeah.
Whats their name?
WOMAN: Opie.
Oh, thats perfect.
I get a new granddog.
I know.
[ laughter ]
HENRY: Its a routine now
of life without Bryan,
adjusting but remembering
and thanking our Lord
for what we had with him
for all those years.
[ dog barking ]
We all family now.
Their pain is my pain,
and I know my pain
is their pain.
We all going through
the same thing.
We just want to know the truth.
OFFICER: The president of
the United States of America,
authorized by Act
of Congress 9 July 1918,
has awarded the Silver Star
to Sergeant La David T. Johnson.
Sergeant Johnson,
with total disregard
for his personal safety or life,
maneuvered multiple times
across open terrain
through intense
and accurate fire
from an overwhelming hostile
force to protect his team.
MEEK: I want to ask you
about the ceremony.
At one point, you kind of
like turned away,
like, your back to the audience.
Do you remember that moment,
how you were feeling?
I was angry.
I wanted my husband
to be here with me.
No A war medal or anything
could bring him back.
Im angry and Im still angry
to this day.
Come on. You ready?
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday,
dear Shay Shay
We love you, we do
You love Mommy?
BOY: Blow.
[ laughs ]
Ooh, pretty girl.
Yeah, I dont got anything
to make him sit up.
GIRL: Daddy can sit
on Shay Shay lap.
I cant.
I got to hold it.
but Ill lay it like that.
They still
ask questions every day.
"Mommy, when Daddy coming home?
When Daddy coming home?"
And I have to tell them,
"Daddy not coming home.
You know, Daddy in Heaven now,
you know.
So, you know, you could see
Daddy in your dreams."

And when Im dead and gone,
Im gonna reunite
with my husband.
Hes gonna be waiting for me.

You wanna go get the doggie?
Huh? Abigail.
Hey. Abigail.
You want to go get the doggie?
A lot of changes
on the personal front.
Ive been married now
September 22nd,
it was a year.
I have a 9monthold daughter,
Far as my brother and his life,
his legacy and his death,
its been a long,
arduous process
over the last two years.
Um, the most recent development,
you know,
was obviously his award.
He was awarded the Silver Star
for Valor in Combat.
[ "The StarSpangled Banner"
playing ]

OFFICER: Staff Sergeant Wright,
with total disregard
for his personal safety or life,
maneuvered multiple times
across open terrain
through intense
and accurate fire
from an overwhelming
hostile force
to protect and recover
two of his fallen comrades.
His courage...
TERRI: I cant change the past.
I cant bring Dustin back.
But I can have a voice.
And I can be a thorn
in your side...
...to get my point across.
And that point is
if were gonna have
a strong country,
we have to have
a strong military.
And that means
when you make a mistake,
you are accountable.
And you must hold yourself
because that is what my son did.
He held himself accountable
for his actions that day.
He had a choice.
He could have kept running.
He didnt.
He stopped.
He stopped.

He turned around,
and he faced his enemy.
Not everybody can say that.

WILL: Im gonna share
a few quotes.
Theyre not from a writer.
Theyre from a man
named Dustin Wright.
"Life boils down to a series
of choices.
Before long,
the choices you make
and the ones you dont
become you.
All choices lead you somewhere.
Bold choices take you
where youre supposed to be."
He may have gave
his last breath,
but thats not
where his life ended.
And thats not where
our lives ended.
Thats where we were challenged
to truly live again.
The sacrifices by men
like La David Johnson,
Jeremiah Johnson,
Bryan Black, and Dustin Wright
require a response
from us as Americans.
Have you rejoined the Army?
I have.
MEEK: Have you rejoined the Army
to avenge Dustins death?
I think...
it would be easy to say
and completely understandable
if I said,
"I want to go get em,"
but thats not why I rejoined.
I rejoined because I care
about my country.
I care about the men and women
that are still going to combat.
I care about American blood
being spilled,
and if I can do something
to help, I want to.
I should do something.
MEEK: Your son Will
reenlisted recently.
Not with my blessings.
He did that on his own,
and thats his prerogative.
Hes a grown man.
And I dont know
I dont know his motivation.
But I was
I was not happy
when I found that out.

[ sighs ]

The Army let me down.
They let my son down,
and then they lied about it.

It was like the guys that
actually made the decision
for them to do that mission
ran from their decision.
And did everything they could
to force the blame
down the ladder
as far as it could go.
Secretary Mattis wanted scalps.
I mean, weve heard that.
He was the Defense Secretary
at the time,
and he wanted accountability.
He wanted to pin blame
on people.
ARNOLD: Correct.
Wheres the accountability?
Where is the blame?
And it became very apparent
that there were certain levels
of the chain of command
that were being targeted
and other parts
that really werent.
MEEK: Above your rank.
ALAN: Above my rank.
MEEK: And the people
above your rank were...
ALAN: Lieutenant Colonel
Dave Painter,
Colonel Brad Moses
my commander
and my commanders commander.
MEEK: People close to
the investigation have told me
that the move to protect
higherranking officers
began almost immediately.
Just a week after its launch,
General Waldhauser replaced
the lead investigator
with his own Chief of Staff,
Major General Roger Cloutier.
ROGER: In October of 2017,
General Waldhauser appointed me
to conduct an investigation
into the enemy attack
on U. S. and Nigerien forces
near Tongo Tongo in Niger.
My first responsibility was
to the families of the fallen.
DONALD: This is wrong.
This is wrong.
Using your chief of staff,
as much as I love the man,
to do the investigation
The last thing we want
controlling an investigation
of themselves.
The idea that the Secretary
of Defense let AFRICOM
investigate themselves here
and that the combatant commander
appointed his chief of staff
to look at this,
I felt was just unconscionable.
And their unwillingness
to look at those commanders
above the company level
is an egregious shortcoming
and dereliction
of their responsibilities
to really assess
what happened here.
The investigation
was an attempt
to protect senior leaders
and their careers.
And a deliberate attempt
to hold the...company commander
and the detachment commander
and the team members
I was ultimately
held accountable.
I ultimately received
this reprimand.
for Major Alan Van Saun
dated October 9, 2018.
You are hereby reprimanded
for failing to ensure
that the members of Operational
Detachment Alpha ODA 3212
were adequately trained
prior to conducting
combined operations
with a Nigerien partner force."
And then
Major General John Deedrick
came to visit me at the Pentagon
to give me the final results
of my punishment.
And he notified me
that, more or less,
my future in the Army was over.
So my words to him were, "Sir,
just so were straight here,
just so I understand
were on the same page,
you are essentially
ending my career
over something
that I was not part of,
nor did I have authority over."
"ODA 3212 was trained
and certified and validated
by Lieutenant Colonel Painter
and Colonel Moses."
Then he changed the topic,
asked if I had any questions.
We shook hands,
and I went on my way.
Colonel Moses
and Colonel Painter
were not held accountable,
but they should have been
held accountable.
And the reason
they werent held accountable
is because
theyre cardcarrying,
you know, members of the club.
He was a scapegoat
to protect higher officers
from being punished.
They gave him a reprimand.
For what?
He wasnt even much there.
His daughter is born
the same day my husband died,
and Im pretty sure
that eats him up every day.
Its all about the club.
Its all about protecting
the establishment.
Its all about, you know,
circling the wagons
around the senior leaders.
They spent months
and months and months
trying to formulate a damn story
that they thought
would protect their ass.
So that first mission
was the one
that was not
properly characterized.
It was characterized as a civil
military reconnaissance
when it was actually focused
on the ISISGS subcommander.
MEEK: So if you were sitting
across from Roger Cloutier
right now instead of me...
Id say, "Get your ass
in the yard."
Thats exactly what Id say.
And Id try to beat
that son of a bitch to a pulp.
He would need medical assistance
to leave my house.
If I had to hit him
with a damn ball bat,
it wouldnt matter.
Id Id put something on him
he would remember
as long as Im gonna
remember my son.

MEEK: The Pentagons response,
what we found, is to stand firm
by their investigation
and its conclusions
by refusing to comment.
Military officials have also
avoided answering questions
of many of the family members
of the four fallen soldiers.
And so the official record
remains unchanged,
despite the preponderance
of the evidence
showing ODA 3212
did not go rogue
or contribute
to their own downfall
as the Pentagon suggests.
Theres been a lot of ink
spilled on this, uh,
on this incident in Niger.
And I think a lot of...
of what actually occurred
and to the detriment,
not only of the men
on the ground
and their legacy
and their performance,
but also to the special
operations community in general.
And its important to me
that we attempt to set
the record straight
and recognize
that these men served
with honor.
They didnt mischaracterize
their mission.
They fought valiantly
and made the ultimate sacrifice.
And its important to tell
that whole story
so that America
knows the truth.

[ grunts ]
I turned 33 three days ago.
I am a bit of an old man
compared to most.
But I know
I had unfinished business.

The events of my brother
solidified that position.
I admire him, I respect him
and everything hes done
and everything he was able to do
in the short time he had here.
And I wanted to do things
with my life
that would make him proud
and to go into Special Forces
is part of that.
For me, this is a bold choice.
For my wife and my family,
this is a bold choice.

I think my dad...
He is, uh...
Throughout my career,
my brothers career,
hes kind of had
the same stance.
Hes proud of us
but doesnt want it to be us.
And I get that.
To willingly watch
another son go down that path,
I cant imagine
how hard it would be.
WIFE: Ready?
God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
[ Praying indistinctly ]
Yay, Abigail.
WILL: You know,
I am painfully aware
of what can happen
on the worst day.
Its terrifying.
I mean, I...
I know what I stand to lose.
And thats why Im not
taking it for granted.

[ indistinct conversation ]
I wasnt called
to live a cautious life.
And, you know,
I believe
it was Andrew Jackson said.
"I was built for the storm
and the calm doesnt suit me."
So this is...
where God has placed me.
This is what
hes put on my heart.
This is where he called me,
and Im gonna see it through.