As part of the Center for Leadership and Ethics’ Courageous Leadership Speakers series, Virginia Military Institute will host Toby Harnden, author of “First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11,” and guests. This event will be held Friday, Feb. 18, at noon in Gillis Theater in Marshall Hall. It is free and open to the public. Books will be for sale in the CLE lobby beginning an hour before the panel presentation, and a book signing will follow the panel.
Immediately following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA formed a handpicked team to go into Afghanistan, which included two VMI alumni who were in special forces. Details of the first mission post-9/11 into Afghanistan are told in Harnden’s newly released book. VMI will host a moderated panel presentation featuring the book’s author and three members of Team Alpha to share their personal accounts of that mission that took place just weeks after the terrorist attacks. Harnden is an Orwell Prize for Books winner and former foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times of London and the Daily Telegraph. He will be joined by members of the CIA’s Team Alpha, including Dave Tyson, a CIA case officer, then a four-year veteran of the CIA, who is an Uzbek linguist; Scott Spellmeyer ’90, third in command of Team Alpha and a former U.S. Army Ranger; and Col. Justin Sapp ’94, who was a captain at the time. The moderator will be military historian Col. Dave Gray, Ph.D., director for the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics.
The CIA was the first U.S. agency with a plan to infiltrate Afghanistan to track down Al-Qaeda and stop further terrorist attacks on the United States’ homeland. Panelists will share their insights on the many lessons learned in terms of intelligence operations, improvised military response, and the principles involved in how the war in Afghanistan was fought. Their talk will include Team Alpha’s partnership with the Northern Alliance warlords, specifically Abdul Rashid Dostum, their Afghan “host.” Together, they conducted combat operations behind Taliban lines that led to the fall of the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the first major defeat for the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda partners. In the subsequent battle of Qala-i-Janga, Team Alpha lost a team member, Mike Spann, the first U.S. citizen killed in action in the 20-year war.
For more information, including speaker bios, click here.
Catherine Roy VMI Center for Leadership & Ethiccs