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Cast of a Few, Courage of a Nation

Art Details

A painting of CIA officers unloading supplies from a Mi-17 helicopter in Afghanistan at night

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, CIA was first on the ground in Afghanistan to target al-Qa’ida. This painting from our Intelligence Art Gallery depicts CIA officers unloading supplies from a Mi-17 helicopter in Afghanistan at night. The real helicopter now resides as a memorial at CIA Headquarters. The Afghanistan Team received the coveted CIA Trailblazer distinction in 2006.

by James Dietz,

Oil on Canvas, 2008

Donated by Alan Seigrist and Christopher Exline

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush ordered DCI George Tenet to launch operations immediately against the al-Qa’ida terrorist organization and its Taliban supporters in Afghanistan.  This order called for CIA to collect real-time, actionable intelligence in the prelude to Operation Enduring Freedom and to use all possible means to target al-Qa’ida.  Within 15 days of the attacks on US soil, the first team of CIA officers was on the ground and operating in Afghanistan.

The combined efforts of US intelligence, US military forces, Afghan allies, and America’s coalition partners formed the cornerstone of success in Afghanistan.  CIA leadership provided guidance and sent numerous paramilitary teams consisting of extremely resourceful and courageous specialists hand-picked to work alongside key opposition tribal groups around the country, doing whatever was necessary to accomplish the mission.  Teams typically worked in complete isolation, far behind enemy lines or away from ground reinforcements, to reveal the enemy’s capabilities, plans, and intentions.  In just two months, their combined efforts had liberated Kabul and all major cities in the north, overthrown the Taliban, killed or captured a significant number of the al-Qa’ida leadership, and denied surviving terrorist elements their safe haven.

The painting depicts a Russian-built, CIA-modified Mi-17 helicopter conducting a night resupply mission of food, equipment, operational funds, and ammunition to a collection team in Afghanistan, an activity performed countless times in support of each team’s operations.  This dramatic scene conveys the hardships and challenges of the hostile environment in which CIA officers have operated with indigenous allies and US military forces during this counterinsurgency effort.  Not shown, but critical to the success of such missions and often oceans away, are the many highly skilled support officers who collect intelligence, acquire equipment and materiel for timely delivery, arrange security, and plan and coordinate each mission.

Cast of a Few, Courage of a Nation commemorates the Intelligence Community’s collaborative paramilitary intelligence collection operations, in remote areas of the world and austere field environments, to prosecute the Global War on Terrorism.  The painting honors their valiant efforts in pursuit of national security objectives across far-flung battlefields and serves as a memorial to our colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The painting was unveiled on 17 April 2008.  Co-donor Alan Seigrist said that with this donation he has also honored the contribution to CIA operations over a three-decade period of his father, Connie Seigrist, who, as a CIA contract pilot, logged more than 30,000 hours in Agency aircraft, including the B-17 pictured in the painting of the COLDFEET mission.

Art Specs

75 cm x 150 cm

(H x W)