Book Review

Operation-Pineapple-Express

By How Miller

book, Operation Pineapple Express. I could save you some reading and simply write in large bold letters “Go buy the book!” It is that good.

Instead I would like to begin by introducing most of you to a truly remarkable man. His bio will tell you he spent about 3½ years in the Sandbox as a career Green Beret officer, while maintaining a relationship with his eventual, and also remarkable, wife and raising three kids. That was not easy to accomplish and it took its toll on all of them.

When he retired he built a business as a much sought motivational speaker, including such things as his Rooftop Leadership organization. The concept was to teach leadership the way Green Berets practiced it, starting with him and his men going up to the rooftop each night with his men and fighting off the Taliban. The credibility and trust they exhibited encouraged the Afghans to gradually join the effort and learn to succeed. He gave a TED Talk in Santa Barbara in 2016, called “Rooftop Leadership” that described that method in a very straightforward and enthusiastic way. You can see that at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M78sDuehUnk.

He later found a need to dig deeper and share more of himself so he could help other veterans dig themselves out of the hole he had found himself in. And somewhere in there he did another TED Talk called “The Generosity of Scars with Scott Mann.” View it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_szAosvdWdM.

Perhaps emboldened by his TED Talk success, he decided, with the help of his wife Monty to create, produce and be the lead character in a play called Last Out. The play starts out with action and never lets up in intensity. His purpose was to share a story built loosely around his and others’ experiences and show the myriad ways todays volunteer soldiers face so many more stresses than even we old timers did. It was very intense and emotional, superbly performed by his awesome cast and crew, and intended to reach past the barriers we combat vets put up. They were extremely veteran friendly and even had the foresight to bring along PTS professionals to each show.

After I saw their last public performance in January 2020 I was enthused enough to write my first article for the Sentinel describing it. Unfortunately, COVID put a long stop to it, though a new tour is not out of the question.

The cast from Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret. In front, from left to right, Ame Livingston, Scott Mann, and Leonard Bruce. Bryan Bachman stands behind the group. (Jamie Dunn / Heroes Journey photo)

You can see my article in the February 2020 Sentinel. And you can also see the whole Last Out play on Amazon Prime.

Time passed. Trump made a deal with the Taliban. Biden decided to roughly follow the agreement and finally leave our 20 year war. And inevitably, but with astounding speed the Taliban took over the country. That left a lot of people unprepared to make a quick exit. That is roughly where this book starts.

There were people we knew who had been working behind the scenes trying to get interpreters, their families, and others out. And when word started getting out about Operation Pineapple Express, I was not at all surprised to hear that Scott was involved in it.

Knowing what I already knew of the quality of Scott’s productions, I was happy to say yes to his surprise request that I review his book. As curious as most of the country was, as a Green Beret I was especially curious how that whole scene played out. I have to tell you that it was hard to put down.

He tells the story from a deeply personal level and uses a style that builds in intensity and bares the good and the bad. He starts out hoping he can provide moral support for Nezam, with whom he had worked in the Village Stability Operations in Kandahar Province, now stuck in SIV hell. As it dawns on him that the government is not going to be much help to the incredibly courageous people who so many Green Berets trusted their lives to, he realizes that these folks would have to depend on him and, at first, just a handful of others if they were to stay alive, because the Taliban were hunting them.

Scott and young Nezam after completing a combat patrol during Village Stability Operations in Khakrez district in Kandahar province in June 2010. (Photo courtesy Scott Mann)

Sergeant Jason Milstead of the 82nd Airborne was spotted by Finnish Special Envoy Jussi Tanner inside HKIA as he held a newborn Afghan. The action helped Jason cope with post-traumatic stress triggered by the last of many Afghanistan deployments. (Photo courtesy Scott Mann)

The story describes the dangers and fears faced by those on the ground, and the ups and downs of the struggle they faced in trying to leave. It also tells of the obstacles faced by those that were trying to help with the clock ticking relentlessly, and how small successes led to larger successes amidst the chaos.

Scott’s group was not the only one working the problem, but eloquently serves as an example of the intense effort put in by a combination of vets, civilians, and active duty personnel to extricate as many as possible in the time allowed.

At the end of the book he expounds on his exasperation with the abominable way our folks were seemingly hung out to dry by the government while SF typically did things our own way to get the job done.

He also has some suggestions on how to proceed, because the mission continues, with thousands more to save who are far more deserving than the many who made it out without ever having picked up a rifle. I am forwarding those suggestions to my congressman who happens to be a vet.

Go buy, borrow, or steal a copy of this book. It is inspiring for the general public, but right in the headspace of any Green Beret.

******

2:00 p.m. on August 24, 2021: U.S. Marines and NATO forces (left) stand on the wall of the sewage canal near Abbey Gate, which is clogged with Afghan civilians and former military members. (Photo courtesy Scott Mann)

Captain John Folta (second from left), aka “Captain Red Sunglasses,” and his paratroopers brought this group of Afghan special operations forces and family members into HKIA on the Pineapple Express in the early afternoon on August 26, 2021, just hours before the ISIS-K bomb detonated at Abbey Gate. (Photo courtesy Scott Mann)

Scott introduces Nezami’s children to fishing on his pier. (Photo courtesy Scott Mann)

LT. COL. SCOTT MANN (RET.) is a retired Green Beret with more than twenty years of Army and Special Operations experience. He has deployed to Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is the CEO of Roof- top Leadership, a professional training and coaching company specializing in human connection skills, and the founder of The Heroes Journey, a 501c3 committed to helping U.S. and Afghan veterans tell their stories and transition to civilian life. Scott regularly speaks to corporate leaders, industry associations, law enforcement officers, and special operations forces on how to forge deeper connections with the people they serve and create more powerful outcomes in business and life. He is also an actor and playwright who has written and performed in a play about the war called Last Out—Elegy of a Green Beret which can be seen on Amazon Prime. A recent empty nester to three grown boys, Scott lives in Tampa, Florida, where he chases his wife Monty around the house on every possible occasion.

About the Author:

How Miller has served as the editor of Chapter 78’s Sentinel since January 2021. Read How’s Member Profile to learn more about him.

How-Miller