Mark Nutsch was a member of a squad of U.S. Army Special Forces, or Green Berets, deployed to Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 on a mission to assist a diverse group of Afghans in toppling the Taliban. They were known as the “Horse Soldiers,” with a heavily dramatized depiction in the 2018 film “12 Strong.” As recounted by Nutsch and fellow ODA 595 member Bob Pennington in their new book “Swords of Lightning,” the actual incident parallels how Ukraine inflicted massive damage on a Russian army. Nutsch, draws similarities between the Green Berets’ actions against al-Qaeda and Ukraine’s actions against Russia.
The key, according to him, is empowering small teams and using modern technologies to accomplish the task efficiently. There are also parallels between the Northern Alliance, Russian soldiers battling the Taliban, and Ukrainian forces fighting Russia. Written by ODA 595 members Mark Nutsch, Bob Pennington, and author Jim DeFelice, Swords of Lightning provides a historical perspective with contemporary teachings. In Afghanistan, small Green Beret squads equipped mostly with Javelin anti-armor missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles annihilated whole battalions. In the United States, “the commander’s aim is disseminated to the squad level.”
The flood of Javelins, Stingers, and other shoulder-fired weapon systems has significantly assisted Ukraine’s operations. However, they have also benefitted from a growing supply of heavier weaponry, such as M777 howitzers. The Ukrainian military will continue to rely on nimble and agile units capable of swift strikes. Nutsch thinks that many of the lessons from ODA 595 are relevant today.