National Geographic's Documentary Series Chain of Command
In an unprecedented collaboration with the Pentagon, this illuminating eight-part series explores the lives of soldiers
Published on LatinoLA: January 6, 2018
With incredible access inside the walls of the Pentagon and to the front lines of the U.S. military's mission to fight violent extremism around the world, National Geographic's new eight-part documentary series Chain of Command offers a new perspective on what has been dubbed "the war of this generation."
Filmed over 18 months and narrated by Chris Evans ("Captain America," "The Avengers"), the global event series paints an intimate portrait of how men and women in the U.S. military handle authority and responsibility, as well as the sacrifices they make in their personal lives. The series premieres Monday, Jan. 15, at 9/8c with a double episode, and will be available for sale the day after broadcast on digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay. It will air in 171 countries and 43 languages in early 2018.
Chain of Command delivers extraordinary insight into a line of authority and responsibility as never seen before, including a rare on-camera sit-down with Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From the halls of power at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., to the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger and South America, and to the surprising ISIS recruiting ground of Trinidad and Tobago -- only 1,600 miles from the coast of Florida -- viewers will see firsthand how decisions made at the Pentagon have a direct impact on our service members on the ground, fighting to protect Americans and our allies from radicalized extremists.
"What's really important is that we have clear communications. And that clear communication runs from the president and the secretary of defense, who make decisions, all the way down to the Marine lance corporal or the Army specialist out there executing the mission," says Chairman Dunford in the series, adding, "The No. 1 priority for us is to protect the homeland and the American people from an attack and also to protect our allies from an attack against violent extremists. This is a global challenge; we call it a trans-regional challenge, but it literally is in every corner of the globe."
In a command post sheltered inside a school in Mosul, Iraq, Capt. Quincy Bahler of the 101st Airborne Division works hand in hand with Iraqi Security Forces on a range of issues. Together, they monitor live camera feeds from U.S. combat aerial drones, deciding when to drop missiles on ISIS fighters while also figuring out ways to stop ISIS-flown camera drones from dropping bombs on U.S. and coalition forces. Meanwhile, on the streets in Mosul, Iraqi forces undertake a civilian rescue, getting families out of the combat zone on foot and under enemy sniper fire. In a quieter moment, at the end of his nine-month deployment, Capt. Bahler savors the simple pleasure of a well-brewed espresso as he prepares to hand over the reins to Capt. Mark Zwirgzdas of the 82nd Airborne Division and return to his wife and civilian life.
Over a thousand miles away at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian leads a coalition of 20-plus nations with their own internal chain of command. The commander of Air Forces Central Command, he is the first pilot ever to let a media camera inside the cockpit of his F-22 stealth fighter while on a mission. This hands-on combat mission is in addition to his role overseeing an ultra-secure facility that tracks every plane in the sky over the Middle East, including American, Iraqi, Syrian, Russian and civilian. His direct report, Lt. Col. Gregory Wintill, keeps him appraised on the progress of enemy weapons being loaded into trucks. They must wait for visual confirmation on the remote surveillance feed before they can act to disrupt the deadly supply chain.
To fully comprehend the threat these soldiers face alongside their comrades and allies, Chain of Command also goes deep into the mindset of what makes a radical extremist tick. Umar Abdullah, who heads the Islamic Front in Trinidad and Tobago and previously encouraged armed resistance, reveals the emotional triggers and hooks ISIS recruiters use on a daily basis to attract fighters to their mission to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Touting a new civic, economic and religious reality via web-based propaganda, recruiters decry American intervention in the region as a disruptive and invasive force in the lives of Muslims. Deterring recruits from this call to arms is something Abdullah struggles with --as does the U.S. military -- despite his having formerly encouraged jihad.