Infiltrating Afghanistan: Two Special Forces Soldiers Reflect On Their Operations In 2001

Joshua King & John Anderson


CSM Joshua King and CW5 John Anderson both serve in 5th Special Forces Group, and in October 2001, they participated in Task Force Dagger, the infiltration into Afghanistan to partner with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. King was born in 1978 and grew up in East Point, Georgia. His parents met when both were serving in the Army. He always knew he wanted to be in the military, and spent quite a bit of time in high school preparing for his future career, even enlisting at 17 on the delayed entry program. Anderson was born in 1969, raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by serving as a Marine. In 1988, he joined the Marine Corps with the goal of being the “best Marine.” He was promoted to Corporal, and was doing well, but the drawdown following the Gulf War prevented him from reenlisting, and he transferred to the Army in 1993. In 1995, King enlisted as an 11X (not realizing that he had to request Airborne and Ranger in his enlistment contract), and following Basic Training, he was assigned as an 11M (Mechanized Infantry) in Korea. Both King and Anderson then saw Special Forces recruiting videos and realized that they wanted to serve as Green Berets. Describing their Special Forces training, King cites the importance of small unit tactics and training in movement techniques, while Anderson mentions the level of responsibility placed on leaders and the need to hone time-management and prioritization skills. Both agreed that the Robin Sage training was essential, preparing them very well for real-world experiences. King became a Weapons NCO while Anderson trained to be a Medic, reasoning that if there were another reduction in force, he would have a skill for life outside the military. On September 11, 2001, King had just finished physical training (PT) and was eating breakfast in the DFAC (dining facility) when the first plane hit the tower. He was scheduled for a range that day, and his team executed their mission, not finding out about the extent of the attack until they returned from the field that evening. Anderson was attending ANCOC (Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer’s Course) at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, when the attack started. He was in a darkroom developing film at the time, and when a fellow student opened the door, some of the film was ruined. The students then spent as much of the day as they could clustered around the CQ’s (Charge of Quarters) desk and the TV that was broadcasting the news. Anderson’s wife was teaching in Clarksville, Tennessee, at the time, and struggled to get through the security at the gates of Ft. Campbell to get home to her two children, who had been let out of school in the aftermath of the attacks. The ANCOC class graduated early and Anderson returned to Ft. Campbell two weeks later, just as some of the Special Forces teams were going into isolation to prepare for their deployments to Afghanistan. In mid to late-October, both King and Anderson deployed to Uzbekistan, where they again went into isolation to prepare their final plans for infiltrating into Afghanistan. All teams had to brief the 5th Group Commander, and some were told to revise their plans before being given the “OK” to proceed into Afghanistan. All had questions, and some of the most pressing were about CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation) procedures, or who they were linking up with from the Northern Alliance. Both King and Anderson’s teams infiltrated into Afghanistan in MH-47 helicopters and linked up with their Northern Alliance counterparts before also linking up with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Anderson’s team). Initially, the teams experienced some difficulty communicating with their Afghan allies, occasionally resorting to a mix of English, Russian, Urdu, and Persian. Occasionally there were “flare-ups” between the rival factions of the Northern Alliance, and the Green Berets had to keep the peace. The high altitude and cold weather influenced operations, and Anderson’s team occasionally relied on horses and a mix of trucks and old Soviet vehicles to get around. The use of horses contrasted with the employment of American technology supporting the operation in the form of advanced radios, artillery, and air support, including B-52 strikes. Looking back on their first deployment to Afghanistan, King appreciated working with a well-trained and cohesive team, while Anderson focused on the Special Forces mission of partnering with indigenous forces and building rapport to accomplish the mission. At the end of the interview, both King and Anderson reflect on what their service means to them.


conflicts Afghanistan War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Military Families September 11 2001
interviewer David Siry
date 22 November 2021


name Joshua King & John Anderson
service USMC / Infantry / Special Forces
unit ODA 594 and ODA 592, 5th Special Forces Group
specialty Afghanistan Invasion
service dates 1988