12 strong: Movie Review

Sarah Bohl, Staff Writer

12 Strong is the latest war movie to come out on DVD, having just been released in the last two weeks. Over the years there have been a lot of war movies, some based on real stories and others more fiction than fact. 12 Strong is based on a real life mission that occurred shortly after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The movie tells the story of a group of Special Operations soldiers sent to work with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in a critical mission to retake the city of Mazar-i Sharif from the Taliban. The Northern Alliance was an unlikely group of Afghani leaders that came together with a common goal of overthrowing the Taliban and retaking their country. This mission was viewed as a key to winning the war with the Taliban. The movie is not about the entire military operation in Afghanistan and rather only chronicles the 22 days that it took for this small team of 12 men working with the Northern Alliance to take Mazar-i Sharif.

The group of 12 men was referred to as Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595. Because of their use of horses in this mission they are sometimes also referred to as the horse soldiers. While technically an Army unit, this group of special forces included CIA and Air Force personnel as well. The men aligned with the forces of the Northern Alliance under the direction of General Dostum with their primary role to help protect the Northern Alliance soldiers by providing them cover through use of air strikes which the ODA team called in. In order to accomplish their mission of retaking Mazar-i Sharif, the men would have to navigate some very harsh terrain in the mountains. In order to traverse the terrain, the Northern Alliance provided horses to the US special forces. It was the only way the men were going to be able to reach the city before the winter weather made it nearly impossible to navigate in the mountains. Toward the end of the 22 day journey a disagreement with General Dostum left the ODA unit on their own and they decided they had come that far that they were not going to stop. The US horse soldiers attacked with intent to take Mazar-i Sharif. They met heavy resistance and several suffered serious injuries. When it started to look like they might fail, General Dostum returned with his Northern Alliance soldiers and the reunited group of soldiers was able to secure the city.

This is widely regarded in military circles as one of the greatest individual military battle wins and at the same time the Taliban have referred to this battle as their greatest defeat. In the end, the 12 US horse soldiers all survived. Their missions was held as a secret for quite some time but this recent movie sheds light on this group of heroes.

This movie was of special interest to me as my father is a former member of the US Special Forces. He was in a unit of the Air Force called Combat Control. ODA 595 included US Air Force Combat Controllers. The primary role of the combat controllers is to be deployed with special forces units and the be the ones that perform the air traffic control, provide positional information and call in air strikes to support the operations on the ground. The Air Force personnel that were part of ODA 595 were Combat Controllers. So when I watched the movie it was a way for me to see the kind of work that my father did during his 10 years in the Air Force. While my dad was not on this particular mission, he was deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm and in Somalia to do similar missions. I always knew my dad was pretty badass when he was in the military, but it was really cool to be able to watch this movie knowing that my dad had been involved in these kinds of missions.

While the movie 12 Strong has not received a lot of high ratings, it had personal meaning to me so I would highly recommend it. It is based on a true story of a very unique and challenging battle that took place fairly recently so provides a realistic look at the more modern day battlefield compared to all the war movies about Vietnam and World War II so it should prove to be interesting for the younger generations that may not be able to really identify with the older war movies.

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