Scott Mann didn’t come on the #STFpod to promote his book or business. Scott has a story to tell— the story of “Operation Pineapple Express”— a dramatic, last-minute rescue operation during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
Scott Mann is a retired US Army Green Beret who has served on tours worldwide, including Columbia, Iraq, and multiple tours in Afghanistan.
He is a warrior storyteller and the founder of Rooftop Leadership where he shares the rapport-building skills he learned in Special Forces to help today’s leaders make better human connections in high-stakes, low-trust engagements.
Scott is also the international best-selling author of “Game Changers: Going Local to Defeat Violent Extremists” and “Operation Pineapple Express.”
What you’ll hear in this interview is an incredible story— a success through failure story— of Operation Pineapple Express or the heroic rescue operation headlined by Scott and other retired Green Berets that saved their former comrade and 500 other Afghans targeted by the Taliban in the chaos of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. Don’t miss it! Tune in now!
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode— as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode— at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.
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[00:00] Scott Mann: And that's why I wrote the book because I want Americans to understand that we may be done without kata. They are not done with us. I guarantee it, and it's gonna follow us home, and we're gonna find ourselves going back into that country again, having to carve out worse than what we had to do before.
[00:20] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Welcome to another episode of Success Through Failure. This is your host, Jim Harshaw, Jr. and today I bring you retired us. Green Beret, Lieutenant Colonel, Scott Mann. Scott has served in tours all over the world, including Columbia, Iraq, and multiple tours in Afghanistan. He's a warrior storyteller and the founder of Rooftop Leadership, where he shares rapport-building skills that he used in special forces to help today's leaders make better human connections and high-stakes, low-trust engagements.
[00:54] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I wanna be very clear. Did not agree to come on this show to promote his book, to promote his business or anything else like that. And he sure those are gonna be the after-effects of this. The side effects of this conversation. But Scott has a story to tell and he tells it through his book, operation Pineapple Express, which we talk about today during the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
[01:23] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: There were gonna be a lot of very good people left behind. There were a lot of very good people left behind, and Scott was connected very closely with an amazing warrior from Afghanistan who trained and served with the US soldiers. Just an incredible human being. and he was about to be left behind, and Scott found a way and, and searched for a way and pulled things together and did things that our government couldn't even do to get him and others out.
[01:51] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: It's an incredible story with ups and downs. It's a, it's a success through failure story. Scott is just a uniquely incredible human being in that. Um, he's an amazing warrior. He's an author, he's a speaker, he's an entrepreneur. He's a playwright and an actor, and he talks. These things in this episode, so check it out.
[02:12] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And just as importantly, if you could please, there were 13 US service members killed in an explosion suicide bomber during the withdrawal. So just if you could, you know, five seconds. I'm gonna give five seconds right now. Five seconds moment of silence. If you could just as we go into this interview with.
[02:34] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Okay, let's get into it. My interview with retired Lieutenant Colonel Green Beret, Scott Mann, tell us about your journey to becoming a Green
[02:44] Scott Mann: Beret. That's a good word for it because it was that I decided to go special for Special Forces is the actual title of the Green Berets. Green Beret is kind of our nickname, and I decided to do that when I was a 14-year-old kid, grew up in a little logging town in Mount Ida, Arkansas, and we didn't even have a stoplight, little bitty town, still don't.
[03:03] Scott Mann: And when I was 14, was sitting in Harold Soda shop in this Green Beret on leave visiting his parents walks. Full dress uniform and big shiny boots and blouse trousers and all these ribbons. And I just, as soon as I saw the guy, I knew that's what I wanted to do, and I had no clue what he did, what his name was anything.
[03:25] Scott Mann: But what I still remember about it was he sat down with me and took the time to talk to me. And I mean, I was a scrawny run. I maybe weighed. a buck oh five soaking wet, you know? And this guy was just so cool. He took plenty of time to talk to me and he explained to me what special forces were. Cause I had so many questions and I can just remember as he was talking, I was just, I was like in a trance.
[03:49] Scott Mann: I could totally see myself doing what he was doing. And he explained to me how Green Berets, they go into these low-trust tribal area. Oftentimes behind enemy lines and everything they do is based on relationships and connection. But then they also are like Lawrence of Arabia, you know, and they, they do missions with these tribal people and partners.
[04:08] Scott Mann: And I was just, I was gone, man. I knew that's what I wanted to do. So from that point on at 14, I just obsessed over becoming a Green Beret. I. Posters on my wall. I probably saw Rambo 25 times. I researched special forces, everything I could think of. And then when I got in the Army, I went in, I wanted to go ROTC cuz I wanted to be an NSF officer.
[04:30] Scott Mann: And so I, I went to college, got commissioned, and then, Basically decided to, you can't try out to be a captain or a, a special forces officer for like four years. So I just went to all of the hard schools that I could go to. Airborne School, air Assault school, ranger school where they take away your food ex and your sleep.
[04:48] Scott Mann: I failed every single school I went to twice. When I connected with you and your approach to high performance and I saw it, I'm like, yeah. This guy's literally been following me. So tell me
[04:59] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: about those failures. I mean, you have this chance meeting, by the way, I gotta ask you this. If you didn't meet that Green Beret when you were 14 years old, do you think we would be here talking right now?
[05:08] Scott Mann: I've actually asked myself that before and I. Feel like it was destiny. And by the way, most of the Seals, green Berets, Delta Rangers, Marines that I've talked to that were in the special ops world, they have a similar kind of story. Some found their way there. , you know, because they were in trouble with the law or whatever.
[05:27] Scott Mann: But a huge chunk of the men and women that I've talked to, they met a mentor or someone that was doing it, and they saw that, and that's what they wanted to become. So I feel like probably if I hadn't met Mark, it would've been somebody else would've presented themselves in my life and I still would've gone that route.
[05:45] Scott Mann: I it was that deep in my DNA I think.
[05:48] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: So you say Mark, do you still know him or did you.
[05:49] Scott Mann: he mentored me all the way until my retirement. Wow. Yeah. In fact, he, uh, when I was a senior, this is how bad I wanted to, I mean, I had no life. On my senior trip, I went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and stayed with him at his little house on base and trained with his 12-man detachment for a week at the John F.
[06:10] Scott Mann: Kennedy Museum on base. My last day, he bought me a green beret, showed me how to shave it, how to shape it, and he let me put it on my head. Shape it and he goes, all right, you know you can carry this thing everywhere you go, but you cannot put it on your head again until you earn it. It was like 11 years later that I put that beret on my head at the Crown Coliseum, and it was, and is still one of the most special things in the world.
[06:32] Scott Mann: And yes, he mentored me all the way through my career.
[06:35] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Wow. What a story, what a chance meeting that led you down this interesting. I mean, Fascinating path that most of us, my listeners and myself included, could, could never even imagine. So you mentioned failures, you said you failed. Like every school. Tell me, you have this vision of who you are, who you are going to become.
[06:53] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: We're starting at 14 years old and you invest in this, obviously you spend your senior year trip, you go and train for. And then you get into these schools and you fail, and it's easier for us to go, ah, yeah, you failed, and then you did again, you succeeded, blah, blah, blah. You know, end of story. So you get to a point where you fail.
[07:10] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Like were there moments of doubt where you thought maybe just, this isn't my journey.
[07:15] Scott Mann: There were moments of, can I do this? Am I the right person for this? Have I made a mistake and am I up to this? Because, for example, in my sophomore year, I is a cadet. I went to a school called Aero Assault School. And so it's where you repel outta helicopters and you learn how to sl load equipment.
[07:34] Scott Mann: It's actually one of the hardest schools in the army because of the technical inspections that you have to do on all this gear. And so I, I went, I got a slot. I was. Proud to get a slot. I went down there, I drove to Fort Rucker in my beat up little Chevrolet citation cause I wasn't on active duty yet.
[07:49] Scott Mann: So I spent two weeks in my summer, unlike the third to last day, I failed out cuz I failed the inspection of a piece of sling load equipment. And so that was my first experience to an army failure where you get in your car or you get on the bus and you leave. You are. Thank you for coming. And I remember just on that drive I was driving back to Kentucky.
[08:08] Scott Mann: I barely had enough money for gas and I was just thinking to myself like, what am I doing? You know, I'm not big enough to do this kind of work. I fa and I all that self-doubt. And I got home and my dad, who's a career wildland firefighter, and just my hero has always. Talked to me about failure and cuz I was always a runt in sports and things like that.
[08:26] Scott Mann: So he was always having these talks with me about failure and, and I had learned some lessons along the way. I had bought into the notion, Jim, that your mindset and the way that you train and if you push yourself, you can actually do more than people twice your size if you put in the work. And I believed that for me it was more.
[08:44] Scott Mann: Okay. I just don't know that I'm cut out for this. And my dad, you know, he said, look, you are cut out for this. You were born to be a soldier. You can't quit. Well, it was like the next day I got a phone call from my RO t c department and I thought they were probably calling me to tell me, you know, that I was in trouble for not making it or whatever.
[09:02] Scott Mann: I'd wasted a slot, but it was my colonel. And he said, Hey Scott, I know how you are and I know what you're probably feeling. I just wanted you to know that we got another slot back to Fort Rucker. It starts. Four days and we are not gonna pay for your travel. We're not gonna pay for anything. But if you want to go, you can go.
[09:19] Scott Mann: And I was a vapor trail back out the door. I literally got back in the car that day, drove back to Fort Rucker, Alabama, and I made it. I picked back up with the sling load and I made it through. . And for me, that was a pivotal moment in my life because I remember standing in that formation on graduation day and everybody was happy.
[09:38] Scott Mann: But I was especially happy because I had proven something to myself in spite of everything else, and it became a recipe for me for the rest of my life. Quick interruption. Hey, if you like what you're hearing, be sure to get the
[09:51] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: notes, quotes, and links in the action plan from this episode. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. That's JimHarshawJr.com/action to get your free copy of the action plan. Now back to the show. For the listener, I want you to think about where you're at in your life or, or some failure that you've experienced before and you've experienced the failure and maybe you've settled. You said, okay, that's not for me.
[10:17] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And you didn't attack, like Scott said, is, you know, the vapor trail to right back out there. Think about you and, and your opportunity to get back out there. And interestingly, one of the things that research shows is that there are a lot of people who fail, but people who go from failure. To the next attempt.
[10:35] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: The shorter the duration of time in between attempts is a predictor of eventual success. And so you're, you're a perfect example of that. .
[10:45] Scott Mann: Yeah. I'll give you another, uh, example on that, that reinforces the science of that gym is in, in the airborne community. If you have a jump, um, like I had a, a jump one time where my parachute malfunctioned, which is a terrifying thing.
[10:57] Scott Mann: It's not very fun. It was a partial malfunction, so it wasn't, you know, I just had a hard landing, but it was really scary and I was young at the time and they put me back in a parachute and I was right back up within minutes. , I was back up and I look back on that and I'm absolutely convinced that's what allowed me to keep jumping.
[11:16] Scott Mann: I think if I had had to stew on that, just knowing how I felt on the way down, I don't know that I would've done it again. So I, I think your point is absolutely right and. . I think we have to give ourselves some grace too. That was the other thing that I had to, I still have to learn how to do cuz I fail so much in even now, especially in what I do.
[11:34] Scott Mann: Learning how to give myself some grace when I fail and recognize that it's actually a, you know, a necessity that I'm going through. You would think I would've figured that all out by now, but I still can be pretty hard on myself.
[11:46] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Scott, where were you? September 11th, 2001.
[11:50] Scott Mann: I was in seventh Special Forces.
[11:53] Scott Mann: and that's Fort Bragon, North Carolina. I was on my way to a training event when the, we got the news over the radio and we turned around in the median of the interstate with my first sergeant. I was a company commander at the time, my first sergeant and an NCO named Eddie. And we drove back to the base and we walked into our orderly room, which is the headquarters room for my company.
[12:10] Scott Mann: And all the Green Berets were standing in there, all these senior NCOs. And I can remember watching on the television in our day room, watching the first tower and then the second tower. and what I remember more than anything about that moment is there were probably eight or nine Green Berets in that room.
[12:27] Scott Mann: Probably half of 'em did not make it through the war, but I remember the feeling in that room that was permeating it. As we watched those towers fall, you could feel the heat coming off these guys and everybody knew, you know, everybody knew that particularly for us and our families, that our lives. Would never be the same again.
[12:47] Scott Mann: That our youth and everything that we thought we knew about the world was gone and that it had just changed in the blink of an eye. And I'll never forget that feeling. And no one talked, no one said a word, but everybody knew what was coming.
[13:02] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And so you served a lot of years in Afghanistan. You served with gentleman by the name of Naza.
[13:10] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Can you tell us about Naza?
[13:12] Scott Mann: Yeah, so that was on my third tour in Afghanistan in 2010. We were doing this program called Village Stability Operations that I helped put in place late into the war. It was 10 years into the war. Think of it this way, the first 10 years of the war, we were really focused on walking the enemy down and attribution.
[13:28] Scott Mann: Retribution and it didn't really work very well. It actually created a vehicle for the Taliban to really use against us, which was we were not connecting to the people in the rural areas. We were more interested in walking the enemy down. Village stability was a magnificent seven in modern times kind of approach of working in these villages, living in the community, dressing like the indigenous people do, and really getting back to our Green Beret roots.
[13:52] Scott Mann: I had the opportunity to help put that program in place and we also had Afghan special forces who we trained and. Who worked alongside us. Naza was one of the first, in fact, was on the first Afghan special forces team to deploy into Kandahar province. I spoke at his graduation weeks later. We were doing missions together, and we've been friends ever since.
[14:10] Scott Mann: But he, um, was shot through the face defending US forces was shot multiple times after that by ISIS on unilateral operations, the most loyal, compassionate, dedicated. And by the way, another runt probably weighs like 95 pounds. He's five foot tall, but. Absolutely devastating on the battlefield. And it was 10 years after I met him that everything fell apart in Afghanistan this past summer and or 21 when he reached out for help.
[14:37] Scott Mann: But we've been friends a long time.
[14:39] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Yeah. So you in the ZO served for I think a decade, uh, as a commando.
[14:44] Scott Mann: Yeah. About a decade as a commando and an Afghan special forces. And went to our Q course, he went to our Green Beret. Just an
[14:51] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: absolute warrior in every sense of the word. I mean, what a Strat mean.
[14:55] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Just reading your book about him in incredible stories.
[14:59] Scott Mann: Yeah. Yeah. He's a great friend and stood up for us so many times. It just, when he reached out for help in the summer of 21, that was, for me, probably the low point in the whole war. Was hearing the sound in his voice. I really felt like we were talking to a dead man walking, and the thought that this guy was gonna get killed and abandoned and killed and that I couldn't do anything about.
[15:22] Scott Mann: It was the worst. You talk about failure, let me tell you. That one almost put me down. The failure of not being able to help Naza and watching, you know, the Taliban strutting around in our gear, driving our vehicles, and my friend who had done so much for our country and for Afghanistan, literally hiding in his uncle's house like Anne Frank and not being able to do anything.
[15:44] Scott Mann: It was the absolute worst feeling in the world, and I felt like a total failure, as did most veterans that were involved in. . And you were retired at this point? I had retired in 2013. I, you know, I actually retired. I was at the top of my game really as an SF officer. I had been selected for a battalion. I turned it down.
[16:01] Scott Mann: I didn't like the way things were going in Afghanistan. I didn't like the, frankly, the careerism that was seeming to permeate the ranks at the special operations community at the senior levels. So I just decided to, to go a different path, and I did. And I was really enjoying it. And when Afghanistan collapsed, it was like getting sucked back into a vort.
[16:20] Scott Mann: So
[16:21] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: tell me about when you learned about the United States is withdrawing from Afghanistan, I guess, what was your initial. Reaction. Did you think it was a good idea or it could go
[16:32] Scott Mann: well? No, because the way that I, you know, I've always been, this is one of the reasons I retired in 2013, because I felt like one, the political leadership under multiple administrations, both sides of the aisle, Frankly, very underwhelming in how we prosecuted the war in Afghanistan.
[16:50] Scott Mann: They did not have the depth, nor did they consider the effort to develop the knowledge that they needed to prosecute that war. I think it was a mistake to detach it from the American people to have 775,000 veterans and their families deal with the war for 20 years while three. 40 million people don't, makes no sense to me.
[17:12] Scott Mann: I'm not saying it should have been a draft, but to just fight it the way we did in the shadows with no connection to the American people. I even wrote a play about the war. It's on my website, scottman.com. But if you watch that play now, you'll think that we produced it after the war because we called the ending exactly the way it went down so you could see it coming and, and it was just, it was so disappointing.
[17:33] Scott Mann: But it also it felt like betrayal really, you know, at its purest.
[17:39] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: In your view, what could have been done differently at the end? Do you think? We, and I'm so curious to hear from somebody like you with knowledge who's had boots on the ground, who just has a really good perspective on things as far as I've, you know, the little time that I've known you and, and read about you and learned about you, what should or could have been done and, and should we have stayed there?
[18:03] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Should we have planned a different kind of exit? Well, what. , it seemed like there was no, it was a no no win situation. Staying
[18:09] Scott Mann: or leaving. Yeah. I think that to really answer that question fully and accurately, we have to look at what happened on nine 11 2001. We suffered the worst terror attack in our history and it was planned, prepared for, trained, and launched from Afghanistan as a strategic safe haven.
[18:30] Scott Mann: and when we went into the country, it was with the knowledge that we needed to dismantle that safe haven We did needed to dismantle the terror network that did it, and we needed to prevent them from doing it again. And even the nine 11 commission, Jim, when they looked at this, they saw there was no substantive intelligence network at all on the ground before nine 11.
[18:47] Scott Mann: And there was no partner force. No partner, Afghan army. The resistance. We were not partnered with the way we should have been. So the antibodies to Al-Qaeda that you know, could have been there, we did not have them. So we spent 20 years dismantling al-Qaeda, preventing other attacks from happening, which we did.
[19:05] Scott Mann: I mean, constantly keeping Al-Qaeda on the roll, keeping ISIS on the move, disrupting them at every turn. But also, and this is where I don't think the message got to the American people. We spent 20 years building from zero. An intelligence network and a partner force that was immensely capable. People like Naza who were, by the end of the last five years of the war, they were carrying 90% of, of the load for combat of the entire Afghan army and the Afghan army to get, put it in perspective, 2000 plus casualties in AF Afghanistan for our guys, which is terrible.
[19:40] Scott Mann: 66,000 casualties with the Afghan National Army against the Taliban, and rightfully so as it should be. But the point. We had built a partner force, particularly in the Afghan special operators, that was very capable and could have sustained the fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIS for the foreseeable future, and it would've minimized our need to be in that country at all.
[20:04] Scott Mann: Now we are at a complete reconstitution of Al-Qaeda. They're back on the same basis that we were training Afghan Army on two years ago. They have foreign fighters from Syria, Iraq, north Africa, and Southeast Asia and Anne Bin Laden's. is back in Afghanistan. So you know what's gonna happen now when we do have a catastrophic attack on our soil because we're at the reports I'm reading from agency friends are saying we're actually worse than where we were pre nine 11 in terms of intel and partner capability.
[20:37] Scott Mann: So, That to me is like we could have maintained our partner force and just kept them in the fight with 2,500 to 5,000 troops. And we do that in the Philippines. We do that in Columbia. Like why would we not have done that there? And that's the point that the American people don't hear. And that's why I wrote the book, because I want Americans to understand that we may be done with Al Kata.
[21:02] Scott Mann: They are not done with. I guarantee it and it's gonna follow us home and we're gonna find ourselves going back into that country again, having to carve out worse than what we had to do before, and it could have been completely prevented with just a thoughtful partnership approach over the long haul.
[21:19] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Another whole podcast episode there, Scott. Thank you for sharing that insight. So we develop warriors like Nizam and you serve with Nizam, you retire, and August, 2021 you get a message from Nizam. What's happening with him?
[21:36] Scott Mann: Well, it started to fall apart in the early summer. You know, even late spring provinces started falling and he was working up in the north at a, at a security site, and he was sending messages to me all the time that things were getting bad.
[21:48] Scott Mann: So I was getting a play-by-play from Nizam and other partners who were. It's not gonna hold much longer. So we were already trying to, to put together something. But you know, again, I, I'm sitting here going, okay, I retired in 2013. I'm a 53-year-old storyteller. Like, I'm not your number one draft pick for personnel extraction.
[22:08] Scott Mann: You know what I mean? And I kept telling myself, I'm not the person. I should not be doing this. This should, this should be the State Department. This should be special Operations Command. Should not be a retired dude, a retired old. You know, with a whiteboard behind him, you know, and a Mac, it's, it's insane.
[22:25] Scott Mann: But it kept getting worse. Kept getting worse, and I kept thinking, as did my buddie. From the special ops community thinking veterans, surely somebody's gonna step up and they're gonna start doing recovery of our commandos and they're not gonna leave 'em to out. And when Kabul fell and Naza texted me and he said, sir, they're sending me text messages.
[22:45] Scott Mann: The Taliban are appearing in Michael's window right now. I don't mind dying. I just don't wanna die alone. And that's when it just, it really hit me that nobody was coming. Nobody was going to do anything. He was either gonna die in cobble or he was gonna get. By his buddies helping him somehow. And, and that the plan that you see behind me on the whiteboard was what I sketched out on 18 August, I think of 2021.
[23:10] Scott Mann: And then just started calling friends that were either Green Berets or Washington Insiders. And we just started working a plan to become his eyes and ears using our phones and our knowledge of the area and, and guiding him through. And ultimately, you know, we.
[23:24] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And the name of your book that I'm holding right now is Operation Pineapple Express.
[23:29] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Where did that name come from?
[23:30] Scott Mann: Like everything else? You know, there were so many volunteer groups that did amazing work, and I have to throw a shout-out to Dun Kirk and Team America Relief and Project Exodus Relief and Sacred Promise. They. all these groups and they were mostly veterans. Our name actually came because Naza got within four feet of the perimeter.
[23:50] Scott Mann: The Marines were not gonna let him in cuz he didn't have any paperwork and his phone was on 10% power. And this is the perimeter of Of Kabul Air Field. Yeah. And you know, he's already burned his safe house. He's out in the middle of broad daylight. The Taliban are closing in, so we're thinking he, if he doesn't get in soon, he's gonna be swinging from a lamp post.
[24:07] Scott Mann: So we had a phone number to a diplomat named jp, and we called it. and we very quickly explained to him what was going on. And it turns out JP was our former Green Beret and he said, you know, we gotta take care of our own. They're gonna toss him out without any paperwork. So tell your boy to say pineapple as loud as he can.
[24:26] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And this is in the chaos. This is in the midst of the chaos of people, uh, of the evacuation and people trying to get into the airport. People trying to get on airplanes and there's mobs of people, people getting crushed, people. Getting killed, uh, bucked up against the fence. And Naza looks like just another Afghan and you're trying to get, this is, this is a war hero and you're trying to get him out of there and you're on the phone with him and other people and he's up close to the fence and you tell him to say,
[24:55] Scott Mann: Yeah, pineapple.
[24:56] Scott Mann: And we're saying, we're trying to say scream it. You know, you've gotta say it right now or they're gonna throw you out. And Naza is like, Mr. Prim and Proper, I wish he was on here with us. He's so funny when he says it, but he's all prim and proper and he doesn't wanna make a scene. So he walks up to this bearded special operator and he says, hello, sir, I am the pineapple.
[25:14] Scott Mann: and the guy's like, you're the pineapple. He said, yes, I'm the pineapple. So he said, okay, just go right down this corridor. We'll get you in processed and you're good to go. And that was how you know, he got through. And I remember when he did, I was standing in my driveway and I hadn't slept in probably three days.
[25:30] Scott Mann: None of us had. And when he sent that picture of him on the other side of the wire, I just collapsed in the driveway and just started crying like a little baby man. And my wife, she came up to me and she, she thought something happened to him, and I just said, no, he made it. I just wept because it was. , at least one good thing had happened that week and I was so grateful that he made it through.
[25:54] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And you have success with Nizam and, and lots of others.
[26:00] Scott Mann: We did. We, you know, I thought that was it. And then we started getting, my phone just blew up. Hey, I heard Nizam made it, you know, and, and it was buddies of mine who were seals and rangers and SF guys and you know, they're all doing the exact same thing.
[26:13] Scott Mann: And I just looked at my wife and. She goes, I'll start supper. Do what you gotta do. And I knew we were back in it, you know? And I was like, fuck. But there was no way, you know, that we were gonna leave our friends like that. And so we started a chat room called Taskforce Pineapple. and we started working to get as many, we built basically an underground railroad, and I have to give props to the younger Green Berets that did this.
[26:38] Scott Mann: But basically it was an unopen sewage system that led to a four-foot hole in the fence, manned by a captain and a first sergeant from the 82nd named John and Jesse. And it, it was inspired by Harriet Tubman, uh, Syracuse School teacher, former Green Beret. We called it the Pineapple Express, and that was how we moved.
[26:56] Scott Mann: A whole range of commandos, special forces. Even the Minister for Women's Affairs moved through that express and then out the other side onto airplanes. And you know, it was great in the sense that we got several hundred out, but you know, again, you go back to failure. There are tens of thousands that we couldn't get out and a lot of them are dead now or on the run or starving, you know, that was another instance where it.
[27:22] Scott Mann: You really had to talk to yourself. , you know, after it was on, nobody was doing any high fives or victory dances. It was wow. We did not get a fraction of the people out that we needed to, and, and that was a really, it still is a really heavy load for our community. It's really taken a toll on 'em too, on their mental health.
[27:40] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: I imagine it's, you know, from the outside looking in, the rest of us out here seeing what you did. Scott, we see it as a success story, and I know that there's so much more that you wanted to do, but, um, man, you guys saved and, and changed many, many lives. Um, incredible.
[27:56] Scott Mann: Well, thank you. I would say one thing to that real quick, just from the success side, is there's a phrase that I say at the end of the book is that for us, we looked around and saw that nobody was coming and getting our friends out.
[28:06] Scott Mann: That was our pineapple express. But in the country today, I think where we are, so many people are in a similar boat where they look around the arena and they see things that are really broken and not right. And you know, I think the response. Nobody's coming. You know, what's your pineapple express? And I think if people would take that from the book, and what these veterans did is that we don't have to wait for permission to lead.
[28:27] Scott Mann: We don't have to wait for permission to fix things that are broken in our society and our community. We just lead and we just step in and do the best we can with it. And a lot of times it's a lot. It's a lot. And I think our veterans showed us that in a very dark time. And I hope that people will take.
[28:44] Scott Mann: more than anything else away from this is that what's your pineapple express? And go do it.
[28:51] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: had you waited to go and, and, and tried to go through traditional channels, I guess you guys did wait, assuming somebody was coming. Once you realized nobody did, nobody was coming. You took it upon yourselves.
[29:02] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: What would've been like trying to pull this off through traditional channels? I mean, you guys overcame incredible logistical hurdles, doing it your own way. .
[29:09] Scott Mann: Yeah. I mean, in some ways we were agile and fast. Our value proposition to the whole thing was imagine these 10,000 people pressing on the gate, all of them holding up certificates and different forms to vouch that they should get out.
[29:20] Scott Mann: And then you've got this young group of guys and girls on the perimeter. Most of them have not been in Afghanistan before, and they're looking out at these faces. Fathers holding up their children who are suffocating, begging them for medical care, others, you know, showing certificates of me. How do you know?
[29:36] Scott Mann: You know, how do you know who to let in, who not to let in? And what we believed our value proposition was, we knew who. These at risk, particularly the special operators were we knew where they were and they trusted us, and so we could move them responsibly to that four-foot hole in the fence, communicate an actual tactical plan to that 82nd airborne paratrooper where you know, he has a green chem light on.
[29:59] Scott Mann: The commando and his family looks for the green chem light. They flash the signal of the pineapple, they call out the name. There's whole challenge and password and it works. And that was our value proposition and that was the role that we focused on playing. And it did, it actually a, a lot of these volunteer groups moved the right people through that way.
[30:15] Scott Mann: But what I would say is, had we waited on the normal channel, They wouldn't have got in. I, I can tell you, I, they wouldn't have, and most people that were involved, including those on the inside that worked with us, said there's no way that the vetted and truly at risk people who got out would've got out to the scale that they did without volunteer groups doing what they did.
[30:37] Scott Mann: So now, all that to say, if the institutional leadership had done what they were supposed to do, and I'm setting politics aside. We don't abandon our allies. If they had just said, we're going to make sure the commandos and the special forces get out, or at least their families get out, they could have done that in a month, a week.
[31:00] Scott Mann: It would've been much easier, and much more effective. So I don't wanna lose sight of that, that there was an institutional failure in leadership here across all levels, and a bunch of volunteers tried to make it. and did the best they could, but they didn't come close to doing what could have been done if institutional leaders had done their job.
[31:21] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: You'd like to think that there's a success through failure story that's gonna happen, or is that's gonna come from this. What would that look like? Like for the United States, for the military, for a government, you know, again, either side of the aisle, uh, you know, multiple administrations. What is the success through failure story or lesson?
[31:38] Scott Mann: I will put it like this. I mean, first of all, for, I think people don't get the full story on Afghanistan, for example. Afghanistan, people see it as this primitive, backward country, you know, that is completely tribal and not worthy of democracy. But let's remember that before the Soviets invaded that country,
[31:57] Scott Mann: It was a thriving, thriving country in Kabul and many of the other urban areas. It was very liberal in, in fact, with discos and women were not only going to school and working, but they were modern garb. Mini skirts and it was a different, different country. And yes, a, a very heavy conservative flavor as well.
[32:21] Scott Mann: But I tell you all that because most people don't know that that was where Afghanistan was in terms of its social evolution and for. 20 years, and then they went into this dark period of the Soviets, the Civil War, and then the Taliban, 40 years of non-stop war. And then our presence, you know, millions and millions of their all they've known their entire adult population have never known peace.
[32:48] Scott Mann: Can you imagine? So we go in there after nine 11 and we being NATO for 20 years. And we made a lot of mistakes. We got a lot wrong, but for 20 years, an entire generation of young boys and girls experienced a version of democracy never before seen in that country, and 8 million Souls went to school, a whole new force, a national military of Hazaras Tajis posh tunes.
[33:18] Scott Mann: Uh, Ooz Becks formed the Afghan Special Operations Commandos, the Special Forces, the Special Mission Wing, a professionalized arm of the military, and, uh, not to mention a range of other experiments in democracy and arts. , it all flourished during that period. And remember we said that one of the biggest problems pre nine 11 was no intelligence capability, no partner force.
[33:41] Scott Mann: All of those things were developed during that time. I believe that the abandonment of those people while egregious and while AOR injury and staying on our country, I think what, what I would say to people watching this is don't count. The sacrifice of our military families and our warriors who held space for 20 years because those 8 million souls, those commandos, those special forces, those educated girls, look at what they're doing in Afghanistan right now.
[34:11] Scott Mann: What are they doing? They're standing up in Bock, Sean and Bald province, the Hazara girls in the schools. They're standing up and they're standing up one after the other. It would not surprise me at all if we saw, and it's already happening. A new resistance emerge of this generation of Afghans who benefited from our blood and our sweat and our treasure to really fight for a country they believe in and.
[34:36] Scott Mann: Be an antibody to violent extremism and a model around the world. Now, I don't think that's little boy with something in the dark. I, I watch that country very closely. I talk to people who's going on there, and I think we as Americans need to take the longer view and even to any gold star families, if you lost loved ones there, I'm telling you that nothing is written, it's not done yet.
[34:56] Scott Mann: And what we paid the price for and gave our youth. Has yet to be realized, but it will be
[35:02] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: in Gold Star families for the listeners are families who, who've
[35:05] Scott Mann: lost loved ones. Yes, absolutely. Direct family members. Thank you. Yep.
[35:09] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Scott, what is the Hero's Journey?
[35:10] Scott Mann: So, it's a nonprofit that my wife and I started.
[35:14] Scott Mann: I had a really talk about failure. I had a really bad transition from the army. Uh, I retired on my terms, but within 18 months, I had lost my purpose and my passion. and I found myself standing in a closet holding a 45-caliber pistol. Came very close to ending my life. And, uh, grace of God, I didn't. And I found a couple of mentors who were storytellers.
[35:34] Scott Mann: They were ex-pro football players, turned storytellers, and they took me under their wing and they showed me how to use storytelling to reconnect to your life's narrative, to heal yourself, to validate your journey. And then, To bridge those gaps and use storytelling as a way to educate, train, connect, and I fell in love with it, man.
[35:54] Scott Mann: I just, I became a consummate storyteller and I teach it in my rooftop leadership business, but I also formed a nonprofit with my wife Monty, called The Heroes Journey. Which is the framework for a protagonist in Joseph Campbell's storytelling approach. But really what we do is we help warriors and first responders and military family members learn how to find their voice as they transition out where I lost mine, and then tell their story.
[36:20] Scott Mann: and tell their story in a way that is as a transition tool, whether it's job interviews, speaking from the stage. And I've even written a play about the war in my performant with other veterans called Last out. And we travel around the country and we use storytelling to open people up to the hard conversations of war, to talk about trauma and to connect with their communities.
[36:39] Scott Mann: And we run workshops on the backside of it. So we are all about, uh, warrior storytelling as a way to heal, connect, inform, and. What about
[36:48] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Rooftop Leadership? Tell us about
[36:50] Scott Mann: Rooftop Leadership. So Rooftop Leadership is what I do on the for-profit side, and it's my passion as well. It's my other flagship. And what we do there is, uh, we really focus on, in Afghanistan, that program I was telling you about called Village Stability, where we would go into a Village, magnificent Seven Style, and we would live there, work there, and then.
[37:09] Scott Mann: We, the Taliban would attack us because they didn't like Green Berets being in these villages, cuz that was their center of gravity and just building relationships with these Afghan villagers. One farmer at a time would go up onto their rooftop and fight back, and pretty soon you had the whole community going up on their rooftops fighting.
[37:25] Scott Mann: Not because they had to, they had no authority over them, but because they chose to. Based on relationships that were built when risk was low. And so when I got back to the United States and I came through that dark period in my life, I started thinking, man, I look at trust in this country right now and where it's going and, and it's very similar to Afghanistan.
[37:41] Scott Mann: What if I could teach business leaders and others how to use storytelling, active listening, non-verbal communication, diaphragmatic breathing to hold space in a room. All of those interpersonal skills, those old-school interpersonal skills infused with purpose. What if I could arm leaders with. To talk to their clients coming out of Covid to talk to their associates around the great resignation and just make better connections and put the science to it.
[38:06] Scott Mann: So that's what Rooftop Leadership is. I work both of those a lot. It's all [email protected], and our goal is 10 million inspired rooftop leaders in 10 years. That's my, that's my goal,
[38:18] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Scott, you are an incredible human being. You have just incredible stories to tell a lot of them through very, very difficult, tragic circumstances.
[38:29] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Thank you for being here. Thank you for the work that you do for everybody who you serve and for the world, and thank you for sharing your story here on the podcast.
[38:36] Scott Mann: Yeah, thanks Jim. And I hope everybody keeps failing, man, because we need what you are putting out there, Jim. It really is. I think it's our last best hope in this country is the ability to lead through our failures and our scars, because that's where the real power is, and that's what people are so hungry for.
[38:52] Scott Mann: Leaders who can lead through failure, they're starving for it.
[38:55] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: Well, thank you. We'll keep the message going. I appreciate your. Yes, sir. Thanks for listening. If you want to apply these principles into
[39:03] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: your life, let's talk. You can see the limited spaces that are open on my calendar at JimHarshawJr.com/ apply, where you can sign up for a free one-time coaching call directly with me.
[39:15] Jim Harshaw, Jr.: And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. And lastly, iTunes tends to suggest podcasts with more ratings and reviews more. You would totally make my day if you give me a rating and review. Those go a long way in helping me grow the podcast audience. Just open up your podcast app. If you have an iPhone, do a search for Success Through Failure, select it, and then scroll the whole way to the bottom where you can leave the podcast a rating and review. Now, I hope this isn't just another podcast episode for you. I hope you take action on what you learned here today. Good luck and thanks for listening.
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