Never before in American history has Special Operations troops carried the burden in a conflict as the way they have done in Afghanistan. Much of what these soldiers did was in secret. Their primary mission was intelligence gathering in the mountains of Tora Bora, just two miles from the Pakistan border.

Special Operations troops hiked rugged terrain or rode donkeys for hours and sometimes days to reach the suspected abandoned caves.  Since the local Afghan soldiers knew the best paths and could work as translators, they accompanied the Americans to the caves. Each cave was searched, sometimes bags of documents were found.  In some cases, the soldiers found no caves. Some caves were large and networked with living areas.

Among the Special Operations troops it was difficult to tell between officers from the enlisted men. Because of their ununiformed appearence, they did not look like normal American soldiers. This was part of the "low signature" concept so they could not be identified from a distance as an American force. This American soldier wears an Army issue black jacket with civilian blue jeans and hiking boots.  He wears a New York Yankees baseball cap in memory of the September 11th attacks.

His weapon is a SPAS, (Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun), Model 12. It is a shortbarrelled semi-automatic shotgun with a folding butt which has been configured so that it can be locked under the armpit and allow the gun to be used one-handed. The SPAS-12 is capable of taking a lot of abuse and operates in conditions that will make many sporters inoperable. The weapon's weight, coupled with its gas action, makes it more comfortable to shoot than most other 12-gauge shotguns. The metal folding stock is ideal only for soldiers who need a shotgun which can fit into a tight space.
Special Operations, Tora Bora, Afghanistan, 2002