Nearly two decades after the capture of Saddam Hussein, a member of the operations unit offered his candid reflections on apprehending the dictator “you could feel…was just an evil guy.”
U.S. Army Master Sergeant (Ret) Kevin Holland served in the armed forces for 20 years and holds the distinction of first being a member of the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 until 1999 and then a Green Beret when he joined the Army in the wake of 9/11 to serve in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. In December, he joined veteran Navy SEAL and author of “The Terminal List” Jack Carr on the “Danger Close” podcast where he spoke in detail about the mission to bring in the Iraqi president.
“I don’t know if we can talk about it or not–we’ll edit it out,” Carr suggested when he prompted Holland to discuss the 2003 mission that brought the special operations unit to the town of Ad-Dawr outside Tikrit, Iraq.
It was then that the master sergeant assailed his fellow SEAL and the third member of their discussion, Master Bladesmith Daniel Winkler, with whom both men have collaborated to produce axes and knives used by special operations forces, of the details of the encounter that led one of the soldiers to tell Hussein, “President Bush sends his regards.”
On last week’s episode of DANGER CLOSE, I sat down with Master Bladesmith Daniel Winkler and special operations legend Kevin Holland. In this clip, we listen as Kevin describes what it was like to capture Saddam Hussein. Find the full episode here: https://t.co/qdOpFfdSDI pic.twitter.com/51ow8vpalM
— Jack Carr (@JackCarrUSA) December 10, 2022
On locating the hole where the dictator was hiding, Holland explained, “we had some human intel that showed us exactly where it was at,” and, “They had a big Styrofoam plug, you know, that they would put in there and then cover it with leaves and dirt, sand, and it had a pipe for air–we had noticed it when we cleared it. Just dug it way, pulled it up, and sand fell in.”
“And in goes a banger,” he described clearing the hole with a grenade.
When a service dog refused to enter the hole to flush out any occupants an interpreter began speaking in Arabic with a man who drew closer to the entrance before, “hands come out of the hole, and then a big bushy head of hair.”
“We grab him and jerk him out, and it’s like, ‘that’s him,'” Holland said to his rapt audience of two before Hussein soon attempted to draw a handgun on the team, “Then, a big Texan nails him in the mouth, knocks him down–cause he’s got a gun he’s armed. So we had to make sure that he couldn’t get to that gun.”
That pistol, a fully automatic Glock 18, would go on to be presented to then-President George W. Bush before being featured at his presidential library in Dallas, TX.
“He was pretty beatdown…He just said he was the president of Iraq and that he’s ready to negotiate, and he said that in English. And we’re like, ‘That time’s passed, brother.'”
Holland would later go on to describe the “nice” accommodations that Hussein had with bricked walls and a ceiling fan despite it being a cramped space and added that the dictator certainly hadn’t stayed in there the entire time he was in hiding as informants would notify him if anyone was approaching, giving them time to leave a nearby hut, get in the hole and “cover him up.”
It wasn’t until they airlifted Hussein back to the palace in Tikrit that Holland “could feel he was just an evil guy. He had this presence about him that was very unnerving.”
“He was just–he had a presence. I don’t know what it was. A presence of evil,” the master sergeant said.
The entire interview where Holland also discusses his inspiration to join the armed forces can be viewed below:
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