This was the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11

Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.

Mike Spann during operations in Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo from CIA)

Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.

In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.

Johnny “Mike” Spann (Photo Arlington National Cemetery)

Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.

The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.

In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.

A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.

Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.

Northern Alliance troops in 2001 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.

After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.

American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.

After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.

A memorial to Spann, built at Qala-i-Jangi (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.

Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.

TOP ARTICLES
Nigeria will spend a billion dollars to fight Boko Haram

Boko Haram, once one of the most feared groups in Africa, is still a problem. Nigeria, however, has decided they aren't putting up with them anymore.

ISIS may have obtained anti-tank missiles from the CIA

Somehow, ISIS has gotten a hold of weapons purchased by the CIA and Saudi Arabia and dispersed, without permission from either, to allied fighters.

How the Army plans to counter massive drone attacks

The United States military is experiencing more and more drone attacks in combat zones, and they have a plan to start shooting them down faster.

Marines want to swarm enemy defenses with hundreds of small boats

It looks like the Marine Corps is ready to get their own boats instead of borrowing them from the Navy all the time. Is this the end of water taxis?

This bearded Marine brings joy to the Corps

He's making a gear list. He's checking it twice. Gonna find out who's boot or grunt. Gunny Clause is coming on base. So stand at ease, kiddos.

This new device helps amputees manage phantom limb pain

Amira Idris designed a device helps amputees experiencing the phenomenon known as phantom limb pain (PLP) — and now she's giving the device to vets.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

With everything going on in the world, it's difficult to keep track of every story that pops up. Check the stories you may have missed this week.

This is why the U.S.military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

A common debate among gun enthusiasts revolves around why the U.S. chose to implement the 5.56mm N.A.T.O. round into service instead of the 7.62mm.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Buy a comfy pair of flip flops — put Afghanistan to work. Buy your lady a sarong — put an Afghan girl through school. This is global democracy, step two.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 15

I hope you're ready for a Star Wars heavy meme cache this week. A lot happened since the last meme call, but c'mon... we know what you really care about.