Maj. Dan Kearney on ‘Restrepo’
The documentary Restrepo played in theaters this summer, and the National Geographic Channel is going to air it starting November 29. The documentary by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington follows the unit led by Maj. Dan Kearney setting up an outpost in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Kearney was in Los Angeles to discuss the latest on Outpost Restrepo.
Crave Online: Where was your deployment after Restrepo?
Maj. Dan Kearney: Right now I’m still in the army and unable to really talk about all those things. I’m really only able to talk about what went on during the Korengal Valley and stuff like that because of where I’m at now.
Crave Online: If you wake up every morning knowing you’ll be taking fire, how do you face the day?
Maj. Dan Kearney: It’s kind of my job. At the end of the deployment, if I didn’t feel like we were doing something better for those people and for myself and my kids, I probably wouldn’t want to do it. That’s what makes me put my foot up every morning.
Crave Online: I could sense your frustration in dealing with the locals. Do you feel you made progress by the end of the deployment?
Maj. Dan Kearney: I did and the reason is because towards the end of the deployment, we’d be in firefights and the elders would come out and tell me to stop shooting up here and to move my fire down here because that’s where the enemy was. It took 15 months to get to that place but that was my gauge that we were succeeding. The fight moves at the speed of glacial thoughts.
Crave Online: Your unit plays war games on your PSPs. What is the appeal of that when you’re living it?
Maj. Dan Kearney: I think it just breaks the monotony. It gives the guys something to do to take their minds off what it is they’re going through. Just like anything else, the guys need to be able to unwind. I don’t know if there’s any correlation between the war game that they’re playing on their PSP and living in the actual thing.
Crave Online: As opposed to a different sort of game.
Maj. Dan Kearney: I think that’s just what they connect to because that’s their job and their occupation. I assume football players probably play Madden NFL. My guys play soldier games.
Crave Online: What is going on at Outpost Restrepo today?
Maj. Dan Kearney: If you watch the film, you know that at the end of it, in April 2010, OP Restrepo and the Korengal Outpost were retrograded which meant that coalition forces left the valley and postured themselves in another place so they could start influencing the fight someplace else.
Crave Online: How does that feel after all the time you spent there?
Maj. Dan Kearney: Initially, it’s kind of hard to take that. I knew that we weren’t going to be making headway in the Valley, like bringing the government down there. We weren’t going to be putting in banks and a paved road with lights. We fought down there so that the place that the government of Afghanistan could touch, they would touch it. They would make it better and they would bring some kind of security and commerce to that. Then they could eventually maybe take that deeper into some of these offshoot valleys.
Crave Online: Has your family seen the film?
Maj. Dan Kearney: Yeah, my wife and entire family has seen it. They actually saw it before I did.
Crave Online: Has it helped them understand what you go through?
Maj. Dan Kearney: Definitely. My wife called me up and told me basically, “A, I understand. I don’t need to ask any questions. I appreciate what you do and I love you for it.” My mom used to be one of those people who always asked questions. She thought that there was something wrong or that I was off keel or different. She goes, “Hey, I understand what it is you went through and I’m not going to ask any more questions anymore, Dan. Again, I love you.” It was awesome for me because it answered a lot of questions that I didn’t have to answer for me.