Todd McKinley was a 2018 Republican Candidate for Congress in TN-01, he's a retired Army Paratrooper, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Presidential Service Badge recipient. He’s served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as well 6 ½ years at the White House Communications Agency & White House Military Office. He’s served as an Advance Representative for the Trump Administration, and as an Advance Representative for the 2020 Trump Campaign. Follow Todd: ; ; ; ;

On December 31st, 2019 just hours before U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad were set to ring in a new year, the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia and their Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and supporters had other plans. Instead of calling for peace in a region that’s in shambles, Iran decided to throw gasoline onto the fire as they attacked our nation’s largest embassy. The mainstream liberal media blamed President Trump given he ordered an airstrike just days earlier that killed 25 fighters of Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria. However, in response to the attack on our embassy, President Trump, ordered an airstrike on Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, at the Baghdad airport. General Soleimani is responsible for hundreds if not thousands of attacks on Americans and American forces throughout the region. Oddly, the same liberal media called the General’s death an assassination instead of what it really was. The General was a uniformed member of an armed force, actively sponsoring attacks on our men and women in uniform. He was in Iraq organizing the embassy attack and many more. Once he presented himself in Baghdad, he became a “target of opportunity” and was eliminated. He wasn’t assassinated as he had no official business in Iraq, instead, he was merely another enemy combatant who didn’t believe the U.S. would dare strike at him, but his calculation was wrong.

Since our Embassy came under siege, the President determined that this wasn’t going to be his “Benghazi moment” as so many on the left were gleefully espousing. Instead, he ordered hundreds of more troops to the region, including 100 U.S. Marines to reinforce the Baghdad embassy. Since then, “Americas Guard of Honor” aka “America’s 911 Force” the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina was also called into action. In fact, it was my former Brigade, the 1st Brigade aka the “Devil Brigade” that got the call. For the 82nd Airborne, no notice deployments are old hat, in fact, the 82nd is no kidding, America’s 911 Force as an entire Brigade of Paratroopers was always on alert as the “Global Response Force” (GRF) now known as the “Immediate Response Force” (IRF).

“Boondock Saints”

I remember serving in Iraq on a Military Transition Team (MiTT) 10521 known as the “Boondock Saints” aka “Saints” for a little more than a year. In fact, we arrived in the country on September 11th, 2009 after months of training at Ft. Riley, Kansas. During this time, our team was assigned to three different higher headquarters, the last of them being the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division after we were re-missioned to the Provincial Government Center (PGC) in Ramadi in the Al Anbar Province. Before moving to Al Anbar, our team enjoyed our mission at the Joint Strike Station (JSS) Deason and our expansive area of operation in Mahmoudiyah which was near Baghdad. In fact, we had a team house on the airbase which was also co-located with the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). While assigned to the PGC, I took over the communications section at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in addition to my advisory role with the Iraqi Police Force (IPF) and it was where I found out that my follow on assignment would be a trip back to Ft. Bragg and my first assignment in the 82nd.


Devil’s in Baggy Pants

My return assignment to Ft. Bragg which began in October, 2010 was a great way to really get back to “Soldiering” given that I had spent 6 ½ years at the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) before spending more than a year on a MiTT team assignment. Altogether, I had been in special assignments for 8 years. In fact, I was recruited for WHCA while assigned to the 35th Signal Brigade Airborne which was then the Corp Forced Entry Signal Brigade. Once I was back at Ft. Bragg, I knew that I had to get up to date with the latest equipment being used by Brigade Combat Teams and fast as I knew it would only be a matter of time before we would get the call to deploy. Thankfully, the Platoon in which I was now the Platoon Sergeant, was full of technical and tactical go-getters and had me up to speed in no time. These Paratroopers were young, smart and tested and ready to go back at a moment’s notice and when you’re America’s “global response force” it can happen lightning fast.

One morning after P.T. in late 2011, I was told to report to Brigade HQ for a briefing, no other information was given. After attending these briefings and hearing our Brigade Commander give us his expectations, the clock was ticking. At this point, the 1st Brigade wasn’t the GRF Brigade, but given that one Brigade was already in Afghanistan and one was operating as the GRF and the President and Secretary of Defense didn’t feel that sending a “surge” force rose to the level of sending the GRF, the 1st Brigade was the logical choice to deploy in preparation for the “fighting season” in Afghanistan.

Note: The term “fighting season” refers to seasonal armed offensives by different militant groups, and in particular, the Taliban.

Platoon HQ at FOB Arian

Flying from FOB Warrior to a JSS

Taking a break at the Combined Joint Task Force-East Headquarters

“2012 Afghan Surge”

When I first heard that President Trump ordered the 82nd Airborne Division to send Paratroopers to the Middle East in response to Iran’s attack on our embassy, I was relieved. I was doubly relieved when I heard it was the 1st Brigade, a brigade I spent 3 ½ years serving with. When I heard through numerous reports that this would be akin to the Iraq and Afghanistan surges used to great success by two previous Presidential Administrations, I knew that President Trump couldn’t have picked a better group of Americans to send into harm’s way. I’m not saying that every branch of the Armed Forces doesn’t have great people who stand ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice, what I’m saying is…I’m an unapologetic Paratrooper.

Paratroopers are a different bread, we’re trained to fight longer, fight harder, adapt to our environment, fight superior forces all while being surrounded and make it all look good. It may sound cocky, but it’s truly not about being cocky, it’s about being confident. Confident that your training was the best, your equipment is the best, you’ve planned for every scenario and left nothing to chance and if you forgot something, the Paratrooper to your left and right didn’t, they picked up your slack and did so without being obnoxious about it.

In early 2012, we deployed to Afghanistan as part of a needed surge, we only had a short amount of time to train, equip and go. In doing so, we were limited in the number of people we could legally take, and it was up to me to decide who from my Platoon would go. I consulted with my seasoned Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and decided that every NCO and Soldier who had previously deployed would be allowed to deploy with a couple of exceptions. Of those we left, one was a troubled soldier and was booted out while we were downrange, thank you “Rear Detachment First Sergeant” and the others weren’t as skilled or experienced which were two main characteristics of each person who would be asked to deploy needed. All these experiences and more leads me to know that our nation is in great hands with the 82nd Airborne and so many other great units being tasked by President Trump to rapidly deploy in this tumultuous time in our nation’s history.

30 seconds later a mortar fell within 50 feet.

Street Sign at Bagram Airbase






In Great Hands

Personally, I’m relieved that we have a President that will use force when needed, all while recognizing that America can’t go on indefinitely fighting wars with no strategic end game. Certainly, the U.S. Armed Forces aren’t in any danger of being defeated militarily, although we’re in danger of losing the fight on Capitol Hill. We’re in danger of losing if we let Democrats gain control of the White House or Congress, we’re also in danger of losing by continuing to let the Leftist ideology to ooze unchecked through every crevasse of society. Thankfully, for the time being, we have a President who will fight back against Leftist lies and propaganda as well as fight back with every tool in his proverbial and literal arsenal. President Trump isn’t afraid to use stern warnings, bold rhetoric, the bully pulpit, tariffs, and real force if called for. That’s why I believe we’re in great hands.

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