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The Spear

Storytelling Podcasts

The Spear is a podcast from the Modern War Institute at West Point. It aims to explore the combat experience, with each episode featuring a guest who tells a detailed and personal story, describing the events and exploring topics like decision-making under stress and what it feels like to be in combat.

The Spear is a podcast from the Modern War Institute at West Point. It aims to explore the combat experience, with each episode featuring a guest who tells a detailed and personal story, describing the events and exploring topics like decision-making under stress and what it feels like to be in combat.


United States


The Spear is a podcast from the Modern War Institute at West Point. It aims to explore the combat experience, with each episode featuring a guest who tells a detailed and personal story, describing the events and exploring topics like decision-making under stress and what it feels like to be in combat.




Calling in the Quick Reaction Force

In this episode of The Spear, John Amble is joined by Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Kurek. One day in 2010, during a deployment in Afghanistan, his squad was designated as the QRF—quick reaction force—ready to respond in case any Marines needed support. When a patrol hit an IED, the call came in and he and a group of Marines responded. He tells the story of the fight that ensued. Note: This episode was originally released in 2019.


A Sniper Section's Fight in Ghazni

In 2012, Master Sgt. Brody Hall was a sniper section leader in a scout platoon in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, deployed in eastern Afghanistan's Ghazni province. Tasked with providing overwatch during a mission to establish a joint security station, the mission quickly changed after enemy fighters attacked. Listen as he tells the story in this episode.


Coming in Low

During a deployment in Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dylan Ferguson was flying an Apache, providing close air support to a special operations ground force below. When his aircraft's 30-millimeter cannon failed and there wasn't space to get the standoff distance required to fire Hellfire missiles, he and his copilot changed tactics—flying in low over enemy fighters to bait them into opening fire on their helicopter, so the other Apache flying with them could identify the enemy location...


Combat in the Kunar River Valley

In this episode Maj. John A. Meyer shares a story from his first deployment, in 2007, to Afghanistan. On July 27, his platoon and a group of Afghan National Army soldiers were moving along the road next to the Kunar River during a squadron mission to secure the valley. The Afghan soldiers began to cross a bridge when they looked down and saw a group of enemy fighters. The massive fight that ensued would involve the other platoons of Meyer's B Troop, as well—matched up against an enemy force...


The Reaper in Combat

This episode features a story from Maj. Joe Ritter, an MQ-9 pilot—the first remotely piloted aircraft story featured on The Spear. The MQ-9 has a wide range of the capabilities—from providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to conducting battle damage assessments to helping a ground element direct their fires to striking enemy targets with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles. Ritter and his sensor operator brought all of these capabilities to the fight during a single mission in...


The Most Challenging Start to a Platoon's Year in Afghanistan

In 2010, Maj. Tyson Walsh was a platoon leader on his first deployment. Just ten days after arriving in Afghanistan, the platoon suffered its first casualties when an IED—an improvised explosive device—killed one soldier and wounded another. Eight days later, the battalion chaplain visited the platoon's combat outpost to perform a prayer service for the soldier they had lost. Afterward, when he left, his vehicle also struck an IED, killing him and four other soldiers. It was only the...


Spectre Gunship Overhead

In August 2007, a US Army Special Forces team came under fire while passing through a valley in Afghanistan. The call for support went to a nearby base, where an AC-130H Spectre gunship crew was standing by. The crew quickly launched, and shortly later, the aircraft was overhead. This is the type of job the AC-130H was designed for. In the hours that followed, they engaged enemy targets a number of times with both a 40-millimeter cannon and a 105-millimeter howitzer. Lt. Col. Michael Murphy...


Support the Ground Force

Just six weeks out of flight school, Jordan Terry was in Afghanistan. On one of his first days flying, he took off on a flight that was supposed to be straightforward—he and three other pilots left their base in two OH-58D Kiowa helicopters, intending to help get him oriented to the rugged, mountainous area the unit was responsible for. On their way back, they they flew around a bend in a valley and came upon an Afghan unit under fire from Taliban fighters. The mission quickly changed, and...


Hostage Rescue

On October 22, 2015, members of a special operations joint task force deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve were given a mission: rescue seventy hostages being held by ISIS. Along with a partner force, they launched the operation. One of the US soldiers who took part in it was Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne. On September 11 of this year, during a ceremony at the White House, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the raid. He joins this episode of The Spear to...


Three Missions in Panjwai

This episode features a conversation with Ryan Hendrickson. After almost losing his leg in an IED blast in 2010, he was back in Afghanistan just eighteen months later. He shares the stories of three missions from that first deployment back, when he was testing his body physically and working to prove that he was ready to be back at the tip of the spear, on a US Army Special Forces team.


Chasing Ghosts

In 2012, Mike Kelvington was a company commander in 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment, deployed in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. He joins The Spear to share a story of a two-day operations during which his company confronted a number of challenges. Some members of the Afghan National Army unit they were partnered with essentially quit during the mission. They took casualties from improvised explosive devices. And perhaps most challenging, the enemy was inflicting damage...


An Infantry Company at War

In 2007, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment deployed to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Over their months in a combat zone, they would see some of the most intense fighting of the long war. Chosen Company's commander and first sergeant from that deployment, along with one of the company's platoon sergeants, join for this episode to discuss the fighting their company experienced. *Note: This episode was originally released in 2018.


A Platoon's Fight in Paktia Province

In this episode of The Spear, MWI's John Amble is joined by Maj. Jacob Absalon. He shares a story from his first deployment, as a lieutenant and platoon leader in eastern Afghanistan. Toward the end of a five-day operation, after meeting with a local key leader, the platoon and a partnered Afghan National Army force came under fire from two enemy positions. He tells the story of the fight that ensued—and what came next.


Command and Control

In 2006, Lt. Col. James Enos was a company commander deployed in Ramadi, Iraq. One day, his company's company's foot patrol turned quickly into a firefight. He knew his job was to gain situational awareness and exercise command and control over his three platoons, which were stretched across a wide front, as well as the quick reaction force that was sent to provide support. In addition, he had indirect fire support and aircraft available to provide close air support—two additional moving...


Calling in the Fast Movers

In this episode of The Spear, retired Marine officer David Berke joins to share a story from 2006, when he was a forward air controller attached to an Army unit in Ramadi, Iraq. During a movement-to-contact patrol, they began to take fire, and his job became especially important. He declared the TIC—troops in contact—and two Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornets headed their way to provide close air support. Listen as he tells the story, explaining what it's like to work with the pilots in the air to...


A Tough Fight in the Saw Valley

In 2009, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Ambriz was on his first deployment in Afghanistan. When a platoon became pinned down by enemy fire, he was among the soldiers sent to help. The highest ranking soldier on site asked for volunteers to work their way up the mountainside to treat and evacutate the platoon's casualties. It turned into an hours-long fight to get to them, and continued as they worked their way back down the mountain with the casualties. He shares the story in this episode.


Rescue on an Afghan Mountainside

This episode of The Spear features a conversation with Josh Webster. A US Army officer, he previously served as a US Air Force pararescueman—a member of an elite part of the Air Force whose mission includes rescuing and providing medical treatment to wounded military personnel. He shares a story from 2010, when his team was called on to evacuate casualties thirteen times during a day of intense fighting.


Taliban Assault at Wanat

On July 13, 2008, around two hundred Taliban fighters ambushed American and Afghan soldiers in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan. The ensuing fight would become one of the deadliest battles for American soldiers during the United States' long war in the country. In this episode of The Spear, the battalion commander of the forces engaged in that fight reflects on the battle, the challenges that would follow, and the sacrifice of the paratroopers he commanded.


The Fight for Barawala Kalay

In 2010 Kevin Mott's unit arrived in Afghanistan's Kunar province for a deployment that would see months of hard fighting. At one point, he was even wounded so badly—shot in the head, four fractured vertebrae, a broken leg, a torn labrum—that he was sent back to the United States for medical care. After he returned, the battalion conducted a mission aimed at clearing an area known to have a strong Taliban presence. Kevin shares the story of his platoon's heavy fighting as they worked their...


Flying and Landing a Busted, Shot-Up Plane

In this episode of The Spear, US Air Force Col. Kim Campbell joins to share a story from 2003. A career A-10 pilot, during one mission in the opening weeks of the war in Iraq she felt and heard an explosion. She knew immediately that she had been hit. Listen as she explains what happened that day and how she responded when she suddenly found herself flying a heavily damaged aircraft.