Documentary shows military's fight against terrorism, highlights roles of Fort Bragg troops
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: January 12, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Fort Bragg soldiers have starring roles in a new documentary series debuting on the National Geographic channel on Monday.
The eight-part series, “Chain of Command,” was filmed over several months while crews were embedded with troops and military leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, west Africa and Latin America.
The first two episodes, narrated by “Captain America” Chris Evans, will premiere Monday, Jan. 15, starting at 9 p.m. The third episode will be shown a week later, on Jan. 22. at 9 p.m.
It’s little wonder that Bragg troops would have a major role in a series that aims to tell the story of the military’s ongoing fight against violent extremism.
Thousands of local troops were deployed last year alone to parts of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Africa and other parts of the world.
The National Geographic series will touch on some of those deployments, including that of the 18th Airborne Corps, which returned from a year-long deployment leading the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria last year; and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division which was deployed for nine months advising and assisting Iraqi forces in the liberation of ISIS-held territory.
The fight against ISIS plays a prominent role in the first three episodes of Chain of Command, which were provided to the Observer ahead of the series’ release.
Latter episodes will include other familiar Fort Bragg faces, such as the soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group who are deployed to parts of north and west Africa.
Officials behind the series said they intend to show how the American military fights terrorism, from the streets of Mosul to the upper echelons of the Pentagon.
To do so, they mix interviews between senior leaders like Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with that of soldiers living alongside their Iraqi army counterparts, like Capt. Mark Zwirgzdas.
Zwirgzdas, who led a company within the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, arrives with soldiers near the end of the first episode of the series, titled “By, With and Through.”
He would become the American commander closest to the fight in Mosul, with his soldiers operating out of a converted schoolhouse that was decorated with a simple cardboard sign reading “Trump Tower Mosul.”
For the next two episodes, Zwirgzdas played a key role in telling the story of the fight against ISIS, along with Lt. Col. James Browning, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and Col. J. Patrick Work, the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Each have their own perspective on the fight and their own role in the mission, which the series seeks to explain while also connecting those roles to that of leaders at the Pentagon and as high as the President himself.
“This is what war looks like, when you’re a captain in the U.S. Army,” Evans narrates at one point in the first episode. “When you’re less than a thousand yards from the front lines.”
“Chain of Command” features the highs and lows of that fight. From the liberation of parts of Mosul, to the aftermath of a U.S. airstrike that killed more than 100 civilians.
Periodically, the documentary jumps away from the fight in Iraq to visit other parts of the globe, showing how the fight against terrorism is a global battle with tendrils in every hemisphere.
According to officials with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the documentary crew was embedded with the brigade’s troops for six consecutive weeks, then a few more days after that.
A crew also followed Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, on a battlefield circulation, during which he helped explain the fight against ISIS to small groups of troops with very specialized roles in the effort.
According to the Department of Defense, work on the documentary began two years ago and spanned two administrations.
Videographers and reporters were sent around the world, filming in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger and Washington.
During that time, the crews were granted first-of-its-kind access to many locations, including the cockpit of a F-22 Raptor during missions over Mosul and discussions between strategic advisors within the Pentagon.
For more information on the documentary series, visit channel.nationalgeographic.com/chain-of-command
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3567.
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