Faith helped unite and drive the men of one of the Army Special Forces teams that launched the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, retired soldier Will Summers told about 1,200 people Saturday night at one of Manna Church’s Easter services.
Summers was part of a team of 12 Special Forces soldiers, plus two Air Force combat controllers, who slipped into the country shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They connected to the Northern Alliance, a group of resistance fighters in the northern part of Afghanistan.
The Americans and the Northern Alliance brought war to the Afghanistan’s Taliban government.
The team is portrayed in the recent movie, 12 Strong, and in the 2009 book “Horse Soldiers” that the movie is based on. During his military service, Summers spent time at Fort Bragg and was a member of Manna Church. The church invited him to speak at Easter services this weekend.
In the initial push, the military had little hope for success, Summers said. He said the team’s supervisors told them, “We have no expectations of you all returning. So your job — your job is to get in as far as you can and then we’ll send reinforcements and we’ll pull whoever’s left out.”
The team said, “All right. Let’s do this,” Summers said.
“Here’s what they didn’t count on," he said. "We had God-fearing guys on our team, who loved God.”
The congregation applauded.
“When we were there, we committed to pray," Summers said. "We committed to do something simple. We memorized Psalm 1. And we said every time we come together, we’re going to read the Bible. We’re going to pray. We’re going to pray for our enemies to know specifically the truth of who Jesus is.”
The Northern Alliance was mounted on horseback and the Americans had to learn to ride to fight with them. In about six weeks, Summers’ team and the Northern Alliance routed the Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. They were part of a larger operation that toppled the Taliban government by the end of the year.
The Afghan people were surprised that the Americans began trying to help them rebuild, Summers said. Afghanistan had been at war for many years, and when one set of bad guys were defeated, he said, they were replaced by a different group of bad guys or dictators.
“We were given an opportunity to speak to the elders of the town,” Summers said. “They wanted to know, 'Why, why are you doing something different?'”
The soldiers told them.
“We’re believers," Summers said. "We come from a country of Godly people. We still exist. We know who Jesus is. And he’s called us to come in here. And for those of us on the team who are believers, we said, ‘Look, we’re extending the love of God to you. This is how Jesus lives through people.’”
Summers described that as “eye-opening” to the Afghan elders.
"And we had a lot of discussions about that," he said.
Nearly two decades later, the Afghans don’t remember Summers’ team as soldiers or Americans, he said.
“The story that they tell is that 12 — this gets me every time — 12 angels of light descended in Afghanistan," he said. “And led us to freedom, and delivered us from those who oppressed us.”
Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin fires a fortress cannon. (Associated Press/Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Russia will target the U.S. with new weapons should Washington decide to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to Europe following the recent death of a Cold War-era arms control agreement, according to multiple reports.
He threatened to target not only the host countries where U.S. missiles might be stationed but also decision-making centers in the U.S.
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)
The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.