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Combat Story

Oct 8, 2022

Today we hear our first Combat Story from a former Marine Corps Infantry Officer turned Civil Affairs Officer Frank “Gus” Biggio. Gus has a very unusual history in that he served his initial five years in the Marine Corps pre-9/11 and then got out to begin a very promising and successful career as an attorney.


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In the years following 9/11, however, Gus felt the need to return to service and support the war effort. So rather than hold onto a profitable and cushy corporate career, Gus did what many of dream of doing and went back in. 


He deployed in 2009 as a Civil Affairs officer which you can think of as a local mayor or governor of a particular area - in his case Nawa - where he settled local disputes, funded development efforts, compensated families for losses as a result of the war and far more. This required significant time outside the wire and in harm's way. 


Do not be fooled into thinking that this is an administrative role. I spoke to now Sergeant Major David Wilson who led the patrols that protected Gus as he moved around the battlespace and he confirmed that it was anything but quiet and that Gus shifted the balance of power locally, driving significant counterinsurgency wins.


Gus chronicled his experience and the service of his fellow Marines in the book ‘The Wolves of Helmand: A View from Inside the Den of Modern War’ (which is a great read) and is now directing proceeds to a charitable cause supporting efforts in Ukraine.


This is a wide-ranging discussion with the laughs, heartache and nostalgia of someone who gave up everything (including missing the birth of his second child) to be downrange with his fellow Marines and I hope you enjoy his Combat Story as much as I did.


#marines #veteran #helmand #army 


Find Gus Online: 

The Wolves of Helmand website


Show Notes: 

0:00 - Intro 

0:34 - Guest Introduction (Frank “Gus” Biggio) 

2:43 - Interview begins 

5:31 - Growing up, military family, and being a hell raiser 

7:04 - Why Marines and the influential  people at that time 

15:04 - Feeling like he's missing his big war, about Marines, and choosing to walk away  

17:45 - Successful career as a civilian and the impact of 9/11 

21:30 - Choosing to go back into the Marines in Civil Affairs unit 

30:56 - What Civil Affairs is and the mission set 

33:22 - Context for  Operation Khanjar a.k.a. Operation Strike of the Sword 

39:25 - Combat Story -  first kinetic engagement in Afghanistan as a passenger in a helicopter 

43:35 -  Combat Story - first outside the wire engagement on the ground getting shot at including with RPG 

52:18 - The conversations leaving law firm to go to Afghanistan  

55:23 - Why he kept a journal 

57:03 -Civil Affairs operations and how he sees his role supporting the Battalion 

1:02:09 - Story of settling a land dispute local farmers 

1:05:53 - Using a Polaroid camera as an icebreaker in Afghanistan 

1:09:04 - Funny and surreal story of getting paid in watermelons 

1:14:09 - Story of a moral failure and how it changed his approach to future engagements 

1:23:52 - Still wanting to do more after leaving a second time 

1:34:56 - Story of where the name of the book ‘The Wolves of Helmand” comes from 

1:38:46 - What did you carry into combat?

1:42:20  - Would you do it again? 

1:46:48 - Listener comments and shout outs 


This video covers the following subjects:


- US Marine Corps

- Marine Corps Infantry & Civil Affairs 

- The Wolves of Helmand 

- Frank “Gus” Biggio


Frank (“Gus”) Biggio served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from mid-1993 until December 1997 after graduating from Denison University. He then returned to his native Ohio where he earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, then worked in jobs in finance and law in New York City and Washington, DC, picking up a degree from Georgetown University along the way. Nearly ten years after first leaving the service, he rejoined the Marine Corps in October 2007. With his country at war, the same itch that drove him to volunteer in the 1990s drove his desire to serve again. His writing about the military and politics has appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, and the online journal, War on the Rocks. The Wolves of Helmand is his first book. Through his work, he spends his time between Switzerland and Washington, DC, but has always called Ohio home. 


If you would like to learn more about Civil Affairs Officer, Frank “Gus” Biggio I suggest you look into our various other video clips:


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