CIA Marks Anniversary of Officers Entering Afghanistan After 9/11

On September 26th, the Mi-17 helicopter that took the first CIA agents into Afghanistan was dedicated.

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CIA Marks Anniversary of Officers Entering Afghanistan After 9/11

Journalism teacher Mitch Schwartz, Ali Rogan of PBS NewsHour, Leah Clapman of PBS NewsHour, Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, Karen Ramos and Briget Gansky of PBS NewsHour stand in the entrance of the Old Headquarters Building of the CIA prior to the ceremony.

Journalism teacher Mitch Schwartz, Ali Rogan of PBS NewsHour, Leah Clapman of PBS NewsHour, Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, Karen Ramos and Briget Gansky of PBS NewsHour stand in the entrance of the Old Headquarters Building of the CIA prior to the ceremony.

Courtesy of the CIA

Journalism teacher Mitch Schwartz, Ali Rogan of PBS NewsHour, Leah Clapman of PBS NewsHour, Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, Karen Ramos and Briget Gansky of PBS NewsHour stand in the entrance of the Old Headquarters Building of the CIA prior to the ceremony.

Courtesy of the CIA

Courtesy of the CIA

Journalism teacher Mitch Schwartz, Ali Rogan of PBS NewsHour, Leah Clapman of PBS NewsHour, Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, Karen Ramos and Briget Gansky of PBS NewsHour stand in the entrance of the Old Headquarters Building of the CIA prior to the ceremony.

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On Thursday, September 26th, in Langley, Virginia at the CIA headquarters, the Mi-17 Helicopter was dedicated in a ceremony that included Director Gina Haspel and the team leader Gary Schroen. This marked 18 years to the day after the helicopter landed in Afghanistan bringing in the first CIA officers in response to the 9/11 attacks. 

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, George Bush ordered the CIA to “launch operations immediately against the al-Qa’ida terrorist organization and its Taliban supporters in Afghanistan,” which was stated in the pamphlet given to attendees of the dedication. This kicked off an operation that would take fifteen days for the CIA to land a team in Afghanistan and begin their operations to take down al-Qa’ida. 

This team of seven men named themselves “JAWBREAKER” as their radio call sign and assigned “91101” as their tail number as a reference to that fateful day on September 11, 2001. The original team was also at the ceremony being recognized, as the ceremony was not only dedicated for the Mi-17 Helicopter itself, but also the men who took the first flight into Afganistan, launching an attack on terrorism. 

Robert Byer, the CIA Museum Director, kicked off the ceremony, with some remarks about the vehicle itself and how the helicopter came to the spot where it is today, as well as the restoration that went into getting the helicopter in good shape after many years of CIA use. 

Director Haspel celebrated the spirit of the CIA and praised the motivation, skill, and courage of the Jawbreaker team. She also introduced the keynote speaker of the event, Gary Schroen, who was the leader of the Jawbreaker team. 

Schroen, who has been working at the CIA for 50 years, talked about how the team emphasized utility and service over style. He described the environment of the trip in great detail, and how each team member put aside everything for the mission. He described how they had to build a team and getting members such as a medic, field communications officer, an accomplished officer who spoke Farsi, as well as someone who spoke Russian, and a Navy Seal. 

With humor mixed in with recapping the years prior to 9/11, in addition to telling the JAWBREAKER mission, Schroen detailed for the captivated audience the relationships that had been built prior which was necessary to gain access to Afghanistan. This included a recap of multiple team members running into each other at REI buying winter gear for their trek ahead.

While the team was very successful in their trip to Afghanistan, especially that it only took them 15 days to put the mission together after 9/11, Schroen emphasized that the mission was not easy, one that was very stressful and took a massive amount of effort and teamwork, but not only the Jawbreaker team, but also so many others at the CIA to make sure that their mission went smoothly. Schroen described the rough conditions of the flights itself as he said the trip to Afghanistan from Frankfurt, Germany, as, “sitting in a rattling and rough metal box.” 

Once in Afghanistan, the team, “immediately got to work and began collecting intelligence on the Taliban, reporting the latest developments back to Headquarters every two hours”. After the jawbreaker team had its first mission in Afghanistan, many CIA and additional military deployments followed as roughly 100 CIA officers and 300 US Special Forces personnel followed.   

The Mi-17 Helicopter, which was originally a Russian helicopter flew 300 missions and 994.1 flight hours, and the last CIA flight was on March 1, 2012. This helicopter marks an important significance in the actions taken after the 9/11 as well an exemplifying the spirit of the CIA. 

*As guests of PBS NewsHour, Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, Karen Ramos, and Mr. Schwartz attended the event on Thursday, September 26 at CIA Headquarters.

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