The only two National Guard Special Forces Groups, 19th SFG and 20th SFG, have seen their share of frontline action in the Global War on Terror. Like their active duty counterparts, the men who serve in these units wear the Green Beret because they earned it. They are rugged and versatile commandos, capable of striking deep into difficult to reach places, usually to train and fight alongside indigenous forces, or to neutralize high-profile enemy targets. But as National Guardsmen they also hold down civilian jobs, maintaining a range of professional backgrounds and skill sets that can be instrumental on the battlefield as well.
In 2009, the men of 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, comprised of four Companies – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and HHC – representing four states – Rhode Island, Ohio, West Virginia and Utah – put their civilian lives on hold to do the work of elite soldiers in some of the most arduous sectors of Afghanistan. Russell Klika, an award-winning Army combat photographer, joined the Green Berets on their odyssey. Over the course of the deployment, Klika took part in over 60 combat operations, deftly capturing the life of the modern American commando at war, as well as the Afghans for whom that war was – and continues to be - an inescapable part of daily life.
For his actions, Klika, who retired from the Army last year and who is about to embark on a months-long journey across India to photograph that country, was awarded the Bronze Star. This is his story.
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