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Bronze Star Recipient
Jason Amerine

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Jason Amerine -  Bronze Star RecipientMajor Amerine's actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression resulted in the surrender of Kandahar by the Taliban Forces...

"BEING IN THE SPECIAL FORCES HAD BEEN MY DREAM..."

Jason Amerine grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. From childhood he had been interested in the Army and took his first step toward a military career when, as a freshman at Roosevelt High School, he joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).

Upon graduation from high school in 1989, Jason entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. After four years of rigorous academic, physical, leadership and military education he graduated from West Point in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Arabic and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. His fluency in Arabic was uncommon for a brand-new Second Lieutenant in the Army, but Jason knew that it would be a valued asset in pursuing his later goal of joining the Army's Special Forces. "Being in the Special Forces had been my dream since I was 14 years old. In high school and at West Point, I focused on cultural and language studies with the objective of preparing myself to become a Special Forces Soldier."

As a new lieutenant, Jason volunteered for Ranger School, where he earned the distinction of Officer Honor Graduate and the Merrill's Marauder Award.

After Ranger School, Jason joined his first unit, 5th Battalion, 87th Infantry (Light), stationed in the Republic of Panama. During that assignment, he led a Light Infantry Platoon of 31 Soldiers.

Thereafter, Jason joined the elite Joint Security Force Company at Pan Mun Jom within the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

"A RITE OF PASSAGE..."

After his assignment in Pan Mun Jom, Jason was selected for promotion to Captain and volunteered for Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). As he observers
SFAS is not really a school or a course, it's a rite of passage. When you're in SFAS, the Green Beret cadre run you through the ringer, to see how well you operate in a team, see how well you operate individually, and in the end the cadre assess if they want you to go on to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC or Q Course). Well, I completed SFAS and I was selected for training at the Q Course and, following that, I attended the Detachment Officer Qualification Course, where I learned to be a Special Forces Team Leader."
Following his Special Forces training, CPT Amerine earned the right to wear the Green Beret and to lead Special Forces. With this distinction, he was selected to command ODA 572 (Operational Detachment A-Team) within the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Campbell, KY.

"WE KNEW IMMEDIATELY THAT IT WAS WAR"

On September 11, 2001, as terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Jason and his team were in the Republic of Kazakhstan where they were training Kazakh paratroopers in counter-insurgency operations.

"When we heard about the World Trade Center being hit," he recalls, "we knew immediately it was war. I was definitely certain that this war was going to take place in Afghanistan."

Jason began preparing for the fight he knew was coming. "We didn't know what kind of mission it would be," he says. "We were already forward deployed so we began our preparations, identifying equipment we needed, what equipment we had, and what sort of training we needed to catch up on, given the fact that we'd been deployed for the better part of a year."

"TRAINED TO RESPOND TO THINGS LIKE THIS"

On 14 November 2001, CPT Amerine led ODA 574 into Afghanistan on an undertaking of importance that was seemingly out of all proportion to the team's small size. Acting in concert with Afghan freedom fighters, ODA 574 was to spearhead one of several coordinated efforts to topple the Taliban regime. For years, the Taliban had imposed increasingly tyrannical rule on Afghanistan. The Taliban had also fallen in league with Al Qaeda, providing Osama Bin Laden a sanctuary from which he and his lieutenants could hatch new terrorist plots and within which they could recruit and train new generations of terrorist myrmidons.

What ODA 574 lacked in numbers it made up for in daring, advanced training, and capabilities in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense - hallmark competencies of Army Special Forces. Equipped with special communications systems and augmented by combat controllers, ODA 574 could operate independently from U.S. ground forces and yet bring the capabilities of supporting naval and Air Force systems to bear at the key time and place on the battlefield. That battlefield lay in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan - terrain into which historically, foreign armies had ventured to their demise. However, Amerine and his Soldiers would enter Afghanistan not as elements of a foreign army, but rather, as allies of indigenous freedom fighters.

For years, Afghan freedom fighters struggled to end Taliban rule. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Taliban's failure to expel Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, these freedom fighters gained the support of a new ally, the United States. To destroy Al Qaeda, the United States had to eliminate Bin Laden's sanctuaries in Afghanistan. This meant ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and establishing a popularly elected Afghan government. To lay the groundwork for Taliban defeat, and establishment of a stable and democratic government, Army Special Forces entered Afghanistan to provide advice, support, and leadership to Afghan freedom fighters. Amerine and his team undertook just such a mission in concert with Afghan fighters operating under leadership of Hamid Karzai. For years Karzai had struggled against the Taliban rule of Afghanistan. With the help of ODA 574, Karzai and 200 freedom fighters embarked upon military operations that would contribute to the demise of Taliban tyranny, ultimately clearing the way for democratic elections that would see Karzai become the freely elected president of Afghanistan.
 

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On November 16, Karzai's Afghan force, in company with ODA 574, entered the town of Tarin Kot within the province from which the Taliban had begun their rise to tyrannical rule. After conferring with local leaders, Karzai notified Amerine that the Taliban had gathered a large force into a convoy of more than one hundred vehicles at Kandahar. Moreover, in 24 to 48 hours, they would debouch from one of two intervening mountain passes to the south with the intent of retaking Tarin Kot. While Karzai readied the Afghans, Amerine prepared his team for the coming battle. Today Amerine observes... We are trained to respond to things like this. I had my weapons sergeants analyzing the maps. I had my combat controller send a warning order to the Air Force and to the Navy that we'd probably need a lot of aircraft-fast. My communications sergeants were calling back right away to our higher headquarters, letting them know what was coming our way. We worked through the evening, waiting for Afghan guerrillas to show up. When they arrived, our plan was to grab as large a force as we could and move out to the edge of town.

"WELL, SMOKE 'EM"

Around 0200 the next morning, Amerine received reconnaissance reports that Taliban vehicles were approaching Tarin Kot from the south. Based upon word from Karzai that any northbound convoy would be Taliban, he gave his response: "Well, smoke 'em."

With the approach of first light, Amerine led his men and a few dozen of Karzai's freedom fighters south from Tain Kot. They planned to take up positions on a mountain from which they could cover the likely Taliban avenue of advance. Enroute, they reached the edge of a plateau that opened into a wide valley. Amerine recounts
It was just perfect terrain to defend from, from there, we had great visibility. We could bomb them as they came through the mountain pass.

In company with the Afghan fighters, ODA 574 established itself on the edge of the plateau. The Special Forces Soldiers set up their laser designators and radios, the combat controllers established communication with the forward air controller loitering overhead. In turn, the air controller began coordinating air support for the coming battle. When, after a few hours, the Taliban convoy entered the valley below Amerine's force, it looked like a scene from "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." It included vehicles ranging from Toyota pickups to large trucks outfitted with artillery and anti-aircraft guns. With the Taliban force in the open, Amerine's team began designating targets for air strikes. The effect was immediate and devastating - the lead Taliban vehicles were incinerated.

While ODA 574 continued vectoring aircraft against Taliban targets, Amerine and his men heard shouting and the noise of vehicle engines behind them. The ferocity of the American air strikes had unnerved the accompanying group of Afghan freedom fighters. Confronted with the chaos of battle and a substantial language barrier, Amerine was unable to persuade the fighters to stay on the scene. Knowing that their departure would strand his team without transportation, CPT Amerine and his men jumped into the trucks with the Afghan fighters. They headed back to Tarin Kot where Amerine found Karzai in front of his headquarters, organizing his force. CPT Amerine briefed him on the situation and requested use of the trucks so that his team could go back to the plateau and finish what they'd started.

"IF THE TALIBAN GOT PAST US, WE LOST THE TOWN"

Because the Taliban convoy, by this time, had advanced through the pass and overrun the team's previous position, CPT Amerine led his men south to new positions just outside Tarin Kot. Amerine recalls this was the last line of defense for the town
If the Taliban got past us, we lost the town, I had no real hopes whatsoever of keeping Tarin Kot if the Taliban made it into the town in large numbers. All the aircraft in the world weren't going to help us once the Taliban got into the town and it turned into an urban fight.

As Amerine's team resumed vectoring in aircraft, armed townspeople began to arrive, cheering the destruction of the Taliban convoy. After several hours of close combat, the Special Forces had held their ground. They had engaged the Taliban with their light weapons as well as countless air strikes, decimating the enemy force so that not even the few remaining trucks attempting to flee back to Kandahar escaped.

Over the next few weeks, ODA 574 interdicted Taliban convoys attempting to move north from Kandahar, destroying dozens of Taliban vehicles loaded with the means of war. These actions near Tarin Kot earned Amerine and his team the trust and respect of Hamid Karzai and tribal leaders throughout the area. The success of the combined Afghan and Special Forces team also opened the door for Karzai and Amerine to move on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

"IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING ODDS"

By late November 2001, Karzai had assembled a formidable force. He had negotiated several Taliban surrenders and begun the work of creating a new governmental structure. With the assistance of ODA 574 he was ready to move south against the Taliban in Kandahar. Leading this effort, CPT Amerine organized the advance in two elements of freedom fighters. He gathered a contingent of 150 Afghans and half of his Special Forces team into one element under his control. The remainder of his team with another force of Afghans were to follow a few hours behind.

On December 3rd, after a pitched street-by-street battle, the freedom fighters seized the town of Showali Kot. Directing in AC-130 gunship support, they also fended off a Taliban counterattack that threatened to surround the town.

Thereafter, CPT Amerine's objective was to seize the lone bridge that crossed the Arghandab, a major river between Tarin Kot and Kandahar. While traversing the last major ridgeline before the Arghandab River, his force came under fire from Taliban in the town of Sayyd Alma Kalaya below the ridge. After a fierce firefight, Amerine's force drove the Taliban off and took the town.

Throughout the night and into the next morning, Amerine's team fought off Taliban counterattacks, engaging the enemy in close combat and with air strikes. The following afternoon, as the enemy fire died down, the first element of an American command team arrived by helicopter.

With the arrival of leaders from his battalion headquarters, Captain Amerine and his team recovered to a hill near Sayyd Alma Kalaya and, for the first time in a long time, got a good night's sleep. On December 5th, the Taliban sent a delegation to surrender Kandahar.

For his contributions in leading ODA 574, Captain Amerine was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" Device. In part, his award citation states that his actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression resulted in the surrender of Kandahar by the Taliban forces .. directly contributed to his unit's and his country's success

"THE GREATEST PRIVILEGE OF MY LIFE"

After returning from Afghanistan, the Army selected Captain Amerine to join the faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As with his preparation to become a Green Beret, this new undertaking entailed a substantial period of education and development. The Army assigned Captain Amerine as a student at theGeorge Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University. For 18 months, Jason focused his attention on graduate studies in international relations. Thereafter, he joined the faculty at West Point, where as an Assistant Professor of International Relations, he assumed the mantel of mentoring and developing a new generation of Soldiers. Just as other Soldiers had prepared him to dominate the challenges of life and battle, he now set about preparing West Point cadets for challenges they would face in the defense of freedom. Today he states
Serving as an officer in the United States Army has been the greatest privilege of my life. In Afghanistan, I commanded American and Afghan soldiers, each fighting for his own nation and his people, yet united in a common cause as they entrusted one another with their lives. There is no greater courage than for people to fight side-by-side against the terrible odds they faced with such impenetrable faith in one another.
Photo and information courtesy of US Army / Dept. of Defense
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