I’m proud to present to SOFREP readers this special interview with Scott Zastrow about his experiences with ODA 555 during the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Scott was an 18D (Special Forces Medic) on his Special Forces team and was among the first boots on the ground in country on October 19th, 2001. This will be the first of a two-part interview, and maybe I can twist Scott’s arm into having him come back again to tell us more of this incredible history of Green Beret’s waging Unconventional Warfare during the opening salvo of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tell us about what prompted you to join the Army in the first place, and Special Forces in particular?
I was raised in the Midwest where there is a lot of Patriotism and American pride. My father and brother had both been in the Army, so it was an easy choice for me to make.
I went to Germany as a medic right out of Basic/AIT, and luckily landed in a unit with a handful of guys I trained with. Like most young soldiers, we took to drinking, fighting and trying to find love in the local pubs. We had this asshole PLT SGT who was your standard E-6 with 24 years in, three ex-wives and a couple DUIs. He lived in the barracks with us and made our lives hell daily, but it turns out that’s exactly what we needed. I owe that crew a lot to the man I am now. The first month I was there, I was supposed to cover a road march for one of the Scout Platoons and was told to link up with the PSG the day before. I asked him what they were carrying and where to meet and he said they were running 65lb rucks and were starting at 0500 at the motor pool. So the next morning I showed up with my 65lb ruck at the motor pool and jumped in with the PLT. Halfway through the ruck, the PLT LDR came up to me and asked me where my weapon was, and I told him I didn’t have one, that no one told me to get it. Well, he flipped, he started screaming at me for being such a dumbass, and I felt like one. Who doesn’t bring a weapon on a road march? I knew he was going to tell my PSG and I was going to get killed, great way to start my Army career. The PSG came over to help him scuff me up and he noticed who I was. “Sir, that’s our medic,” while I’m in the front leaning rest; under-ruck. “Oh, sorry, Doc. Get up. Thought you were one of our guys. Normally the medic follows behind us in the ambulance, good for you for walking. Catch back up with the boys.” As I ran back up to the PLT, all I could think about was why no one told me I could be driving behind them instead of walking with this ridiculous weight on my back for 12 miles. Then the word got out there was this new high-speed medic in the unit and anytime someone went out dismounted, they requested me by name, not knowing I was just stupid, not hard. We had an old 18D as our PA in that unit and after hearing his stories and watching him do his job, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. He held us to a higher standard and that became our minimum standard, which was a great thing to learn at that young age.