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12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

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Long before Bob Pennington was old enough to join the Army, it was a movie that set him down his life’s path. After watching “The Green Berets,” a 1968 film starring John Wayne, Pennington turned to his father – then still in the U.S. Army – and announced that he, too, would be a Special Forces soldier.

“I said, ’That’s what I’m going to do,” Pennington told the Observer on Saturday. “I’m going to be a Green Beret.”

Decades later and Pennington once again sat down to watch a film starring Special Forces soldiers. But this time, it was his own life portrayed on the screen.

More than 16 years after Pennington served with one of the first Special Forces teams to enter Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the story of Operational Detachment-Alpha 595, better known as the famed “Horse soldiers” has been made into a major motion picture by Warner Bros.

The film is based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book Horse Soldiers, which tells the story of CIA paramilitary officers and U.S. Special Forces sent to Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 attacks.

The film, “12 Strong,” is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who also produced Black Hawk Down and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It stars Chris Hemsworth and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon, among others.

Pennington, whose character is named Bob Spencer in the film, is played by Shannon. Nutsch, whose character is named Mitch Nelson, is played by Hemsworth. And Mulholland, whose real name is used the film, is played by William Fichtner.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which is headquartered at Fort Bragg, cooperated with Warner Bros. in making the movie, which is billed as the “declassified story of the first American soldiers sent into Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

According to officials, the film is a realistic look at the work of Green Berets, the nation’s elite unconventional warfighters. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces often get more attention in Hollywood, while Green Berets, which pride themselves on being “quiet professionals,” are not often the focus of big-budget films.

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