Not every freshman congressman can say he took part in the capture of fugitive Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and interrogated him to boot.
Rep. Mark Green, elected in November to represent Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, is an Army special operations veteran as well as a physician and businessman.
One of his most memorable missions in the military, Green recalls in an interview with The Daily Signal, was helping to capture Saddam on Dec. 13, 2003.
“That was amazing,” Green says. “And it’s interesting: I did a lot of missions where we thought we had him, and we didn’t.”
“And of course, you build up this expectation that the mission isn’t going to be successful,” he says. “You always hope that it will be, but OK, you’re on your 50th similar mission.”
“But about three weeks before we actually caught him, the operational tempo began to really pick up and we were getting what we called enablers who were much closer to Saddam. So we began to think, ‘OK. Maybe we’re going to get this guy.’”
Green had graduated in 1999 from Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, did his residency in emergency medicine at Fort Hood, Texas, and was subsequently chosen to serve as a flight surgeon for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Also called the Night Stalkers, the Army regiment provides helicopter support for both general purpose and special operations forces.
Green previously commanded an infantry company in the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
As it turned out, the U.S. military found Saddam hiding in a 6- to 8-foot-deep “spider hole,” 9 miles outside Tikrit, his hometown in north central Iraq.
Green describes the final, successful mission as “unbelievable,” recalling:
Anytime you climb into a special operations helicopter with a bunch of tier one special operators, it’s a rush to say the least, right? And then to be in the helicopter listening to them describe how they’re going over the target, and they have a special way to do that and code words that they use and things like this.
Green recalls being in the helicopter and listening over satellite radio, waiting for any casualties because he was the physician on call:
We’re listening and we’re listening, and then suddenly you hear one of the operators come on and say, ‘We got Jackpot.’
And the task force commander, who I believe was Admiral [William] McRaven, came on the line and said, ‘Do you have Big Jackpot or do you have Little Jackpot?’ Because supposedly he had a cook on that target as well.
The feeling was akin to something monumental like winning a Super Bowl, Green says, but probably more intense and definitely more historic:
I’m in the back of a helicopter, fully kitted up, body armor, weapon, equipment, night vision goggles, flight helmet, everything. And we’re doing high fives in the back of this helicopter because it was just … I mean, I just took part in a mission to capture a totalitarian dictator. …
The Pats won the Super Bowl this year, right? Somebody’s going to win it next year. But we’re not capturing another totalitarian dictator next year, I don’t think.
His superiors asked Green to spend six hours in a detention facility with Saddam the night of his capture.
“I’m sitting there looking at him try to sleep, and then of course he sits up and starts talking to me,” Green recalls, adding:
It was amazing. He of course was very charming, which is what I would anticipate [of] anyone who has a cult of personality, which he did. Of course, he was a murderous dictator, too. But I mean, obviously, you don’t rise in the ranks to become Saddam Hussein without some ability to have a cult of personality.