Cast of a Few, Courage of a Nation
by James Dietz, Oil on Canvas, 2008
Donated by Alan Seigrist and Christopher Exline
In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the President of the United States ordered the Director of Central Intelligence to immediately launch operations against al-Qa’ida and its Taliban supporters in Afghanistan and to collect intelligence to help pave the way for US military operations. Within 15 days of the attacks in the United States, the first team of CIA officers was on the ground and operating in Afghanistan to make contacts with opposition groups in the prelude to Operation Enduring Freedom. Under CIA leadership, multiple paramilitary teams composed of extremely resourceful and courageous people worked alongside every key opposition tribal group around the country, usually in isolation far behind enemy lines and away from ground reinforcements.
Cast of a Few, Courage of a Nation was unveiled on 17 April 2008 to commemorate these early operations and the later combined efforts of US intelligence and military forces, Afghan allies, and coalition partners in Afghanistan. The painting depicts a CIA-owned, Soviet-built Mi-17 helicopter conducting a night resupply mission of food, equipment, operational funds, and ammunition to a team in Afghanistan. The scene, repeated hundreds of times in Afghanistan, conveys a sense of the perils and physical difficulty faced by small groups of paramilitary officers working in the hostile environment. The work resonated strongly for the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom who were present at the unveiling. They all said Dietz’s painting has masterfully captured their own personal moments in the experience.
Unseen but implied is the full range of activity that goes into such missions, not only in Afghanistan, but in places many miles distant. Each landing would have included contingency planning and intelligence collection done months before; planning and coordination of the specific mission; rapid acquisition of equipment involved in the delivery; and the assembly and delivery of goods from main bases oceans away. People engaged in these efforts, but not seen in the painting, would have included operational planners, intelligence analysts, logisticians, security officers, indigenous allies, and US military components.
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.