Inside the 82nd’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Mission

Inside the 82nd’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Mission

82nd Airborne soldiers evacuating Afghanistan
Photo by: U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

A new special podcast from the Association of the U.S. Army reveals the thoughts of 82nd Airborne Division leaders about the unprecedented Afghanistan evacuation mission they undertook in August. 

Released Nov. 29, the podcast features Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the division commander, and others talking about the dangers they faced as the last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul at 3:29 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 30, ending more than 20 years of U.S. military operations. It was a treacherous finish as the airport was under constant threat while American forces rushed to get U.S. citizens and supporters out of a country that had just been overrun by the Taliban. 

“Everyone who came through, you had to assume that they were wearing a suicide vest,” Donahue says in the podcast. At any given time, U.S. troops and the airfield faced “somewhere between 50 and 60” threats from the Islamic State terror group, he says. “They were throwing the kitchen sink at us up until the very end,” Donahue says.

At a big moment in U.S. military history, troops on the ground were determined to fulfill their mission. “I don’t think people understand the drive, the demand and how everyone was trying everything they could to get every Afghan, every U.S. citizen out,” he says.

Command Sgt. Maj. David Pitt, the 82nd Airborne’s senior enlisted leader, describes his feelings as he looked around the airplane as it prepared to take off from Kabul for the last time.

“Someday, this is going to be really important, and you look at the paratroopers on the aircraft with you, you’re extremely proud of them,” he says. “They did something really good.”

Featuring exclusive interviews conducted by retired Col. Scott Halstead, director of the AUSA Center for Leadership, and Gina Cavallaro, ARMYmagazine senior staff writer, the special edition podcast, part of AUSA’s “Army Matters” series, is available here. 

Two more episodes, featuring other soldiers who deployed to Kabul, are planned for Dec. 8 and 15.

More information on AUSA podcasts is available at Listeners also can subscribe to “Army Matters” for updates.