It was three weeks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and 12 brave men of the Army Special Forces entered into a remote region of Afghanistan to fight back against the Taliban for the first time since the attacks.
Led by a captain who had never before engaged in combat, they were forced to work with an army of Afghan men who also were against the Taliban movement. The men rode on horseback to reach their target in the rugged hills of Afghanistan—a region known as the "Graveyard of Empires."
It is there where the captain's childhood spent on a ranch in Kentucky came in handy and ultimately aided them in an historic and strategic win for the U.S. military. Thus, goes the story of 12 Strong, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.
Here are six more facts about this military action drama based on true events that I learned after meeting the real men behind the movie:
- Afghanistan is known as the "Graveyard of Empires"
That's because many foreign governments have unsuccessfully tried to fight wars in the region, and they have always retreated. It's home to some of the highest, most jagged mountains in the world, including the Hindu Kush, which means "Indian Killer," according to retired Army veteran Major Bob Pennington, whose work in the Special Forces is depicted in the movie. Coupled with a plethora of warring tribal communities, Afghanistan is very difficult to navigate, says Pennignton.
- Childhood pony rides helped the U.S.
Captain Mark Nutsch, played by Chris Hemsworth, was the leader of the Special Forces unit that carried out the treacherous post 9/11 mission on horseback. Nutsch was the only one on the team who knew how to ride a horse. That was thanks to his boyhood experience growing up on a cattle ranch around horses. It was his knowledge of horses that is credited with helping them complete their mission successfully.
- A modern war was fought on horseback
The U.S. Army didn't initially believe their men were really fighting a war on horseback. It was only after the Special Forces unit sent photos back to the command center of them riding that the Army sent in extra supplies, like saddles. It just so happened, the Army had some left over from last century, says General John Mulholland, who is depicted by actor William Fichtner in the film. The rest of the team hadn't been on horses since the pony rides of their childhood.
- A first timer was behind the lens
- They were high-tech cowboys
The 12 Strong actually shot assault rifles while on horseback, says Nutsch. They learned from the Afghan counterparts who were masters at it, recalls Nutsch.
- The Taliban likes to trash talk
The Special Forces men would often hear trash talk over their two-way radios from the Taliban they were moving in on. After one air strike in particular, the opposition even slipped up and taunted, "You missed us by 200 hundred meters!" Needless to say, the U.S. military was right on target the next time.
Markette Sheppard is host of Great Day Washington and your resident "Mom at the Movies." She is also a wife, mother of a rambunctious 4-year-old and avid film lover. You can see more of her movie previews and reviews weekdays at 9 am.