CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Eight years after he retired from the military, the mission continues for a Navy SEAL.
Jason Redman is part of a network of veterans who now engage in a different kind of battle fighting for American allies in harm’s way.
A little Afghan girl was led to safety with her family. She could have been killed. Instead, she was saved, thanks to veterans like Lt. Jason Redman, US Navy (Ret.).
He knows what it means when someone says “a matter of life and death.”
Redman says in September of 2007, he was at the height of his military career. He was attached to an East Coast SEAL Team when he was badly wounded in a firefight in Iraq. His face and nose bear the evidence of that near-death experience.
“That kind of started a new journey. It took about four years and 40 surgeries to put me back together,” he said.
Before that he had been deployed to Afghanistan. Redman and other special operators had developed key relationships there with interpreters and other allies.
“These interpreters truly are life-savers. They understand the culture, and especially to work with special operations.”
Those Afghans have always been targets for the Taliban, but it got worse once the US military began its withdrawal.
“And they said, ‘we all need help. The Taliban is sweeping in. We’re all super high-risk, they’ve already threatened to kill all of us if they get their hands on us,'” Redman said.
That’s when a special ops colleague of Redman, a retired Green Beret, contacted him.
Redman and hundreds of others would use their knowledge, connections and technology to get people out.
“His inspiration for it was Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Basically he created a virtual underground railroad.”
The first stretch of that railroad was when the network got an interpreter into Karzai airport in Kabul to facilitate people getting out of the country. They used the password “pineapple” so the operation was dubbed Task Force Pineapple.
Others in the network knew interpreters, the plan was repeated and the operation grew. By the American deadline just before Labor Day, Task Force Pineapple had helped to spirit about 1000 Americans, interpreters and allies away from Taliban oppression.
The operation wasn’t without its setbacks.
“Frequently we would get them to the gate and the Taliban would disperse them – firing over their heads, beating them, beating people, beating kids,” Redman said
For these Afghans who had helped American forces, the recent terror was just the latest in many years of horror.
“The Taliban put money on their heads, trying to get these guys frequently. Over the course of the two decades, individuals’ families were killed.”
Redman recalls one case where the operation povided virtual life-saving medical help. A father had been captured by the Taliban and his pregnant wife went into premature labor.
“There was a lot of bleeding and the individuals there did not know how to stop the bleeding. One of the medics in the network actually got on the line with one of our interpreters and basically told the people what to do, walked them through how to stop this bleeding and save this baby.
Redman retired from the military eight years ago after 21 years of service. With Task Force Pineapple, the mission that he sees as lifelong continues. Among many medals, Redman was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.
“We don’t leave our citizens behind, we don’t leave the people that helped us behind.”
Redman has authored two books on leadership and overcoming adversity, appeared on national news programs, and given TED talks. He has also appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-0 as a wounded veteran. The producers told him they wanted to make the role as authentic as possible.