Major Jim Gant
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Major Jim Gant, a U.S. Special Forces officer, is known for advocating a strategy that many believe - had it been implemented - would have made a big difference in the outcome of the Afghanistan conflict. He was also known for being a little too far "outside the box" and somewhat cavalier in observing some of the rules the military follows in Afghanistan.
"One Tribe at a Time". In the fall of 2009 Major Jim Gant wrote a paper entitled "One Tribe at a Time" that was 45 pages long and provided "a strategy for success in Afghanistan". It immediately recieved favorable reviews and caught the attention of high ranking officers. The paper was sent over email and posted to numerous Internet web sites and read by thousands. This paper put Jim Gant on the map and he became well-known within the Special Forces community as well as within the general military community. 3. The paper also produced a number of detractors who analyzed the paper paragraph by paragraph and provided unfavorable comments about the Gant approach to using the tribes as a force to defeat insurgents. 4.
Background of Jim Gant. Gant served as a communications NCO during the first Gulf War in 1990-1991. He later earned his commission. He subsequently served in Afghanistan in 2003-2004 and in Iraq in 2006-2007. Many say that the worst timeframe in Iraq was the 2006-2007 period - during this tour Gant would be awarded the Silver Star. Gant would later deploy again to Afghanistan in 2010 - first as a battalion level staff officer to head the Village Stability Coordination Center (VSCC) for the SOTF East located at Bagram Air Field (BAF) and later as a commander of a unit conducting Village Stability Operations or VSO along the Pakistan border.
"The Perfect Counterinsurgent". General Petraeus, a former commander of ISAF, described Jim Gant as "the perfect counterinsurgent". 1. Many would look at Gants' perspective on how to fight the Afghan war and try to adopt his tactics.
Mangwel village, Khas Kunar district, Kunar province. Gant spent his first tour in Afghanistan in 2003-2004 in this area of Afghanistan. He would later return in 2011 to the same area to re-establish his relationship with the Pashtun people who lived in this region.
Ann Scott Tyson. Tyson is a war correspondent who at first was intrigued with Gant and wrote a news column on him. 2. She later fell in love with him and married him in May 2013. Her role in his life played a large part in the trouble he got into with the U.S. military - he secretly had her living with him at a remote U.S. Special Forces base quite near the Pakistan border for an extended period of time.
Demotion and Forced Retirement. Shortly after his return from Afghanistan Major Gant was demoted to the rank of Captain and forced to retire. Essentially, this retirement cost him two pay grades - as he had been selected for promotion to LTC. The commander of USASOC, LTG John Mulholland, played a role in Jim Gant retiring early.
Who Turned Him In? A junior officer, a 1st Lieutenant on his first tour in Afghanistan, decided to inform his superiors about Jim Gants infraction of the rules. Gant drank alchohol, did not wear body armor, and failed to obey other rules and guidance from higher.
Alcohol. If you are caught drinking alcohol in a war zone your career is pretty much finished. However many Soldiers do - especially those located on small, remote posts away from the eye of higher ranking officers and NCOs. What you don't expect is for a 24-year old 1st LT to turn you in to higher.
Classified Material. Supposedly he kept classified documents in his "hooch" or room on the base he lived on. Is this a big deal? Not really but combined with other charges it makes him "appear" irresponsible. Consider this the "pile on" effect.
No Body Armor. He and his men conducted operations without body armor. In that part of Afghanistan it is hot and mountainous. Wearing heavy body armor fatigues a Soldier quicker and slows him down. Trying to chase down insurgents carrying an AK and two magazines is difficult when you are wearing a helmet and body armor. The advantage goes to the insurgent who is maneuvering against you or who is evading you.
Drugs. Gant used pain killers and other drugs without a prescripton. Sure . . . against the rules but really?
Women Living with You? Okay. Here is where he goes wrong in a big way. Kind of hard to justify or explain away this one. A civilian woman in country living with you and the rest of the men you command get to look at Maxim. Not quite fair is it?
"The Petting Zoo". Jim Gant's camp was frequently visited by high-ranking military officers and other government officials as an example of how to fight the war. His camp eventually was named the petting zoo.
Cult Hero. Jim Gant is considered by many Special Forces officers and NCOs as an example of someone who should be admired and who had the intelligence to figure out how to fight the war and the courage to fight the war his way. There is no doublt that Gant will endure as a controversial figure with supporters and detractors within the Special Forces community.
American Spartan. Ann Scott Tyson has authored a book about the Jim Gant affair entitled American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant.
June 24, 2014. "Top Green Beret Officer Forced to Resign Over Affair With WaPo Reporter". ABC News.
November 29, 2015. "Small Farms and Small Wars: Planting The Garden in Village Stability Operations", by Doyle Quiggle, Small Wars Journal.
July 11, 2015. "Going Local - Game Changers on Jim Gant "Getting It Right . . . Well, Almost", LinkedIn Pulse. The author comments on his personal experience on meeting Jim Gant while he was conducting Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan.
June 30, 2014. "The Real Apocalypse Now: How Jim Gant did a Colonel Kurtz in Afghanistan". International Business Times. Gant's time in the small Afghan village of Mangwel is hardly the "heart of darkness" that it is compared to but he did get caught breaking some rules that terminated his Special Forces career.
June 29, 2014. "US Green Beret compared to Acopcalopse Now Colonel Kurtz after hiding lover on Afghan posting". Mirror (UK).
June 29, 2014. "Green Beret brings girlfriend to Afghanistan, 'goes native'". New York Post. Sheds body armor, grows a beard, speaks the local language, and brings his girlfriend to live with him in a local Afghan village.
June 27, 2014. "Green Beret Kicked Out of Army for Alcohol, Pills, and Secretly Living with His Wife in Afghanistan". Slate Magazine.
June 26, 2014. "Jim Gant, Ann Scott Tyson and their Afghan Affair". BBC News.
June 25, 2014. "The Fall of the Green Berets' Lawrence of Afghanistan". Time.
May 27, 2014. "Unwelcome warrior: New book details rise and fall of Special Forces leader". Bainbridge Island Review.
May 17, 2014. "The Devil and Jim Gant". The Washington Free Beacon. A lenghty article that provides extensive information about Jim Gant, his problems, and a military that has trouble with unconventional Soldiers.
April 15, 2014. "The Rise and Fall of Major Jim Gant". War on the Rocks.
April 9, 2014. "The Odyssey of Jim Gant: An Insurgent within the U.S. Military". Foreign Policy book review of American Spartan.
March 24, 2014. "In Afghanistan, A U.S. Special Forces Major's Meteoric Rise and Humiliating Fall". The Huffington Post.
1. Called the perfect counterinsurgent in an interview of General Petraeus - "People Make Mistakes", ABC News, June 25, 2014.
2. Tyson's article was entitled "Jim Gant, the Green Beret who could win the war in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, January 17, 2010.
3. The paper "One Tribe at a Time" was first posted on a website by the author Steven Pressfield. See an introduction to the paper by Pressfield and view the document online or download it here.
4. See "Petraeus and McChrystal Drink Major Gant's Snake Oil", Ghosts of Alexander Blog, January 18, 2010. Read the blog post here.