Walking the Route of the Horse Soldiers
Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan – “K2”
As Mitch Nelson's ODA team departed K2 on October 19, 2001, Colonel John Mulholland (now a retired Lieutenant General and member of SFF's Board of Advisors) spoke to them next to the helicopter. He was frank when he informed them that there was a good chance that they may not return from the mission.
The teams left K2 with very little gear, but the plan was to resupply them via airdrop. In the early days of OEF, these drops came from Germany, but later on, they came directly from K2.
The 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was one squadron that operated from and through K2 before moving to Bagram - as one C-130 crewmember said in an interview "If there is a something you need, and it'll fit in a Herc, just pick up the phone and give us a call...we deliver." Or to quote a Loadmaster from the 777th EAS who spent time at K2 - "Airdrop solves everything."
Intel was pretty thin on what they would find when they landed in Afghanistan. In fact, the planners in DC believed that the ODA teams would spend a frigid winter training the Northern Alliance fighters for an offensive in the spring. Although the teams were prepared to dig in for a long haul, they were all in for a very big surprise.
In 2019, a small group of K2 veterans, including the "horse soldiers" and their families exerted pressure on Congress to pass legislation to help the veterans of Karshi-Khanabad.
We are holding this walk not only to remember the first successful ground attacks in Afghanistan that were deemed improbable by military leaders but to recognize that those who were stationed at K2 have lived with unimaginable illnesses and even deaths due only to the location in which they were sent. The members of ODA teams are among the ill, and we recognize them as K2 veterans. It is to them and those that we have lost that we dedicate this walk.