Last week I attended an exclusive sneak peek of the finale episode of National Geographic’s eight-part docu-series, Chain of Command. Videographers were embedded with US soldiers for over two years capturing unprecedented access inside the walls of the Pentagon and on the front lines of the war against violent extremism.
Footage includes a rare on-camera interview with Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stories of the men and women who are devoting their lives to the mission.
The series, narrated by Chris Evans (the actor who famously portrays Captain America), opened last month with a look at the efforts of US and Iraqi forces to regain control of eastern Mosul. Midseason we watched U.S. Marines advise and assist the Afghan army against the Taliban. Then we cried and smiled while watching one officer witness the birth of his son via Skype. Later we experienced the agony of a dual military family with three kids who had to choose between deploying separately back-to-back for six months or deploying together for six months.
It’s all been leading up to tonight’s finale where Task Force South West Marines return from Afghanistan and Special Forces in Niger endure a tragic loss when the 82nd Airborne soldiers and Green Berets were ambushed this fall. Four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops were killed, becoming the focus of an incredibly intense debate in Washington regarding the oversight of the mission. National Geographic cameras were the only ones to capture never-before-seen footage of three of the soldiers while preparing for the series and the heart-wrenching unit memorial ceremony.
What’s unique about Chain of Command is its new perspective on the War on Terror and demonstration of the connection of the higher echelons of service to younger soldiers.
“Viewers will get a more complete picture of the soldiers lives around base and hear from them in their own voice and their belief in the mission,” said Lani Levine, producer of Chain of Command.
The docu-series connects the viewers with exactly where our military forces are in the world and what we’re doing there. Often we forget men and women are serving and fighting in some of the most remote and dangerous spots in the world. The incredible sacrifice that is made daily to protect our country and our freedom and ultimately defeat global terrorism isn’t lost on viewers.
I’ve seen tons of military documentaries, and very few make an intentional effort to highlight the every day military heroes. Despite the terrifying reality of their job, you’ll see the human side behind the heroes. One soldier jokes about wrestling a cow for chow while cooking pasta with meat sauce. Army Sgt. La David Johnson–who died in Niger— was resident barber and shares how he learned how to cut hair by watching YouTube videos.
“I think there’s a misconception when men and women put their uniform on and serve their country. This series does a really good job of showing the human factor and pulling the curtain back on those who devote a great part of their life for the betterment of other people and other countries,” said SgtMaj Darrell Carver, 6th Marine Regiment.
The finale episode of Chain of Command airs tonight, Monday, February 26 at 9 PM EST on National Geographic. For more information or to see past episodes of the documentary series, go to channel.nationalgeographic.
By Lakesha Cole