HOBART - A twisted and marred 3,000-pound steel I-beam – a floor brace from the World Trade Center – has sat quietly in a museum in southwestern Oklahoma since Sept. 11, 2016.
Surrounded by images and related information, the beam – given to the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – serves as a solemn reminder of the events that changed our world less than two decades ago. Just a short distance past the I-beam, a room set aside for traveling exhibits is filled with informative banners and memorabilia, along with video footage that recounts a story involving 3,000 allied troops who traveled across the rugged Afghani terrain on horseback to “destroy the Taliban regime and deny Afghanistan as sanctuary for al-Qa'ida”.
As the opening banner to the Task Force Dagger exhibit reads, “After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Commander of Central Command, General Tommy Franks recommended a military course of action that linked the U.S. military, the CIA and the Northern Alliance in unprecedented teamwork.” In his 2004 book, “American Soldier,” co-authored by Malcolm McConnell, General Franks states, “There were so many problems inherent in waging war in remote, landlocked, mountainous Afghanistan that any workable plan would have to transcend conventional thinking.”
One of those plans involved unconventional logistics that had not been utilized by U.S. troops since World War II. Although American forces had not fought on horseback since 1942, “On Oct. 19, Special Forces 595 was inserted from Uzbekistan where the 12-man ODA-595 team... joined CIA’s Team Alpha who were with the Northern Alliance Resistance fighters,” states one of the banners. For many of the American soldiers, this would be their first time on a horse.
“Horseback was just how the Northern Alliance got around,” Franks earlier stated. Detachment commander of the 595, Mark Nutsch, is said to be the only experienced rider of the force. Nutsch, a Kansas rancher, taught the rest of the team how to ride, explained Executive Director D’Lese Travis and Museum Manager Scott Cumm. “That’s how they got around... they didn’t shoot from horseback,” said Travis. They used the horses to move troops in efforts of capturing the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, they said. Referring to the expediency of the operation, Travis stated, “It was unprecedented – the CIA, all branches of our military and the Northern Alliance being able to work together and join forces – on such a short notice – and be able to conquer like they did.”
With more details outlined in the exhibit, museum staff members believe Task Force Dagger has brought an increase in patrons to the museum. A few groups of high school students have scheduled visits, and several Vietnam veterans and motorcycle riding clubs have visited the exhibit as well. The Task Force Dagger exhibit will run until Dec. 31, said Travis. The museum is also preparing to present a Pearl Harbor exhibit beginning Dec. 1, she