The Spear is a podcast from the Modern War Institute at West Point. It aims to explore the combat experience, with each episode featuring a guest who tells a detailed and personal story, describing the events and exploring topics like decision-making under stress and what it feels like to be in combat.
Calling in the Quick Reaction Force
In this episode of The Spear, John Amble is joined by Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Kurek. One day in 2010, during a deployment in Afghanistan, his squad was designated as the QRF—quick reaction force—ready to respond in case any Marines needed support. When a patrol hit an IED, the call came in and he and a group of Marines responded. He tells the story of the fight that ensued.
Note: This episode was originally released in 2019.
A Sniper Section's Fight in Ghazni
In 2012, Master Sgt. Brody Hall was a sniper section leader in a scout platoon in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, deployed in eastern Afghanistan's Ghazni province. Tasked with providing overwatch during a mission to establish a joint security station, the mission quickly changed after enemy fighters attacked. Listen as he tells the story in this episode.
Coming in Low
During a deployment in Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dylan Ferguson was flying an Apache, providing close air support to a special operations ground force below. When his aircraft's 30-millimeter cannon failed and there wasn't space to get the standoff distance required to fire Hellfire missiles, he and his copilot changed tactics—flying in low over enemy fighters to bait them into opening fire on their helicopter, so the other Apache flying with them could identify the enemy location and target it.
Combat in the Kunar River Valley
In this episode Maj. John A. Meyer shares a story from his first deployment, in 2007, to Afghanistan. On July 27, his platoon and a group of Afghan National Army soldiers were moving along the road next to the Kunar River during a squadron mission to secure the valley. The Afghan soldiers began to cross a bridge when they looked down and saw a group of enemy fighters. The massive fight that ensued would involve the other platoons of Meyer's B Troop, as well—matched up against an enemy force three times the size of their own.
The Reaper in Combat
This episode features a story from Maj. Joe Ritter, an MQ-9 pilot—the first remotely piloted aircraft story featured on The Spear. The MQ-9 has a wide range of the capabilities—from providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to conducting battle damage assessments to helping a ground element direct their fires to striking enemy targets with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles. Ritter and his sensor operator brought all of these capabilities to the fight during a single mission in Afghanistan in October 2018.
The Most Challenging Start to a Platoon's Year in Afghanistan
In 2010, Maj. Tyson Walsh was a platoon leader on his first deployment. Just ten days after arriving in Afghanistan, the platoon suffered its first casualties when an IED—an improvised explosive device—killed one soldier and wounded another. Eight days later, the battalion chaplain visited the platoon's combat outpost to perform a prayer service for the soldier they had lost. Afterward, when he left, his vehicle also struck an IED, killing him and four other soldiers. It was only the beginning of a very difficult deployment, and led to leadership challenges Walsh would have to overcome.