"There was a point when I stood in my closet holding a .45 caliber," recalls Scott Mann, a Green Beret who suffered severe trauma after his three tours* in Afghanistan. He resolved never to have anything to do with the country ever again.
"I didn't wanna go back to that," he says.
Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021, Mann got a call from an Afghan special operator named Nezam whose life was in danger. He was one of hundreds of Afghans who had worked with the Americans being targeted by the Taliban.
"It was very obvious that he was in severe duress," Mann tells Reason. "This guy was the quintessential special operator and truly a brother…how do I leave this guy?"
Mann decided he had to help save his friend's life. "I ended up calling a couple of buddies who were still in active duty [and] who had fought with Nezam [and] who loved him." Working their contacts, the group managed to get Nezam out of harm's way in a harrowing sequence of events.
"That's how Task Force Pineapple was born," he recalls.
Mann received the 2022 Savas Award for privatization, awarded annually by the Reason Foundation, which is the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV, Reason magazine, and Reason.com. The prize recognized his extraordinary effort in creating Operation Pineapple Express, a volunteer network that has helped hundreds of Afghan nationals escape the country.
*CORRECTION The original copy and the voiceover narration say that Scott Mann served six deployments in Afghanistan. The correct number is three.
Produced by Noor Greene; edited by Danielle Thompson; illustrations by Joel Connell; camera and motion graphics by Isaac Reese; narrated by Nick Gillespie; sound editing by Ian Keyser.
Photos: Saifurahman Safi / Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; DPST/Newscom; DPST/Newscom; EyePress/Newscom; Isaías Ibáñez/Dreamstime.com
Music: "Back Home" by Max H. via Artlist; "Until Then" by Michael Ellery via Artlist; "Discovery" by Roman P via Artlist; "Heart" by Roman P via Artlist; "On the Edge" by Max H. via Artlist