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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

A Soldier's Story

Aired December 18, 2010 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JASON CARROLL, CNN HOST (voice-over): In the fading light of a cold December evening barely one full year ago, the president of the United States boards Marine One. And then Air Force One for a trip to West Point, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

CARROLL: The 33-minute speech he is about to deliver will affect the lives of every cadet in Eisenhower Hall.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And as Commander- in-Chief, I have determined to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

CARROLL: Along with every man and woman serving or about to serve in the United States military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number?

LATRICIA ROSE, US ARMY RECRUIT: I'm nine-seven.

CARROLL: For more than a year, CNN has followed three of these soldiers. Together, they tell a story of how the president's decision to expand the war in Afghanistan affects the people most directly in harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, you got it. Come on. You got it.

CARROLL: Latricia Rose joins the army.

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

CARROLL: Leaving behind a two-year-old daughter with a husband wondering how he can do it alone.

RANDY SHORTER, SERGEANT, US ARMY: Here we go.

SOLDIERS: Hey!

SHORTER: We're almost done. SOLDIERS: Hey!

SHORTER: Let go. Freeze.

CARROLL: Sergeant Randy Shorter is a husband and father of two. Just 32 years old, he's already a veteran of two combat tours. Now, he's about to return to Afghanistan, to an area the military calls "Hell on Earth."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what?

RECRUITS: Safe! Huh!

CARROLL: And then, there's 18-year-old Will McLain who, weeks from tonight, may find himself carrying out the president's mission into the very heart of Afghanistan.

(PLANE FLYING)

CARROLL: Rosamond, California is high desert, 7,000 miles and a world away from the killing fields of Afghanistan.

WILL MCLAIN, US ARMY RECRUIT: Sorry for the mess. That was the bike I learned to ride first, that little Kawasaki 80.

(MOTORCYCLE STARTING)

CARROLL: This is where we first meet Will. In two days, he will join the army.

MCLAIN: I'm kind of glad to be getting out of this little town, you know? Just because it gets old. But there's a lot of things you will miss, like the dirt biking, the friends and stuff. And football, yes.

CARROLL (on camera): How you feeling at this point? Because you're so close, at this point, to --

MCLAIN: Well, kind of like -- I don't want to say "nervous," because I'm not too nervous about what I'm going to go do. It's kind of like anxious, like, oh, it's finally here. Because it's been -- I signed the papers forever ago. Pretty much May. So, now that it's time, you're just like, oh, wow, it's finally here, you know?

LORI MCLAIN, WILL MCLAIN'S MOTHER: "Sign, sign, do it, do it, I've got to go, I want to go, this is my dream. This is -- " And we said, "When you're 18, make up your mind, and it's your life." That's it.

WILL MCLAIN: That's pretty much it.

BILL MCLAIN, WILL MCLAIN'S FATHER: We are worried that he'll come home in one piece. But you look at some of the statistics I've read, it's -- you're more apt to get hurt in New York City than it is in the service, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to make you chop that beard off.

WILL MCLAIN: Yes, tonight.

CARROLL (voice-over): Will's friends are all there on his big day. So are his parents and two younger brothers.

MCLAIN: How you doing, Sergeant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

CARROLL: How are you feeling right about now?

MCLAIN: I'm nervous, but --

CARROLL (voice-over): As Will removes his piercings before the army does, his little brother breaks the tension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Write me.

MCLAIN: Definitely, I'm going to see you, bud.

(LORI MCLAIN CRYING)

MCLAIN: It's all right.

BILL MCLAIN: Head down, brain on, OK?

WILL MCLAIN: It's going to be enough.

BILL MCLAIN: She wasn't looking forward to this moment.

TEXT: MILITARY ENTRANCE PROCESSING STATION, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're shipping today?

WILL MCLAIN: I think so, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good luck.

MCLAIN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take this to the counter.

MCLAIN: OK. I think it's a little further back. No, it won't be past that. Maybe it's on the other side?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're shipping out today, right?

MCLAIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any tattoos?

MCLAIN: I have one, but you guys saw that last time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead and put your finger on the light. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any questions?

MCLAIN: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Good luck in the army.

MCLAIN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

MCLAIN (taking oath with other recruits): I, William McLain Jr. --

TEXT; FORT LEONARD WOOD, MISSOURI, 1:30 AM.

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

CRYSTAL SCOTT, SERGEANT, US ARMY: Do you understand?

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

SCOTT: Congratulations on your enlistment into the military!

CARROLL: Just 12 hours after taking the oath, Will finds himself halfway across the country at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

SCOTT: Pick up your bag!

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

CARROLL: Basic training begins now.

SCOTT: Any and all electronic items, take them out, hold them up in the air. You are not authorized to have the following items. Drug and narcotics, aspirin, vitamins, cigarette papers, water pipes, drug paraphernalia, cocaine, coke spoons, roach clips, gambling devices, playing cards, dice. All that crap is gone. McLain!

CARROLL (on camera): What do you think about this recruit?

SCOTT: He looks to be a bit overweight, here. He looks to be in non-physical condition. And that's going to be a challenge for his drill sergeant down the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extra-large regular, extra-large regular. Have a seat, there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you will lay those collars down flat, do you understand?

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it.

CARROLL: Anything about the process so far, any surprises or anything that's cropped up? MCLAIN: I expected there to be tons of paperwork. There was, of course. And I expected them to come yelling on the bus. They did. I'm surprised I haven't had to do push-ups or anything yet, so that's always a plus.

CARROLL: Well, it's coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right?

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not share bunks. One private, one bunk. You understand?

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, Price, let's go, hurry up.

(TAPS PLAYING)

CARROLL (voice-over): Day one is almost over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Hey, you two, right here.

CARROLL: The prospect of a good night's sleep is at hand.

TEXT: 4:52 AM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, everybody get up! Get up! Let's go!

CARROLL: Well, maybe not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Private McLain! What are you doing? Let's go, let's go, crowd. Let's go.

CARROLL: Wake up is followed by a hearty, leisurely breakfast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suck this food down, private. Suck it down, private!

CARROLL: Or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over there!

CARROLL: Will doesn't quite get it, yet. He's wasting precious time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up! You all got one minute! You'd better put that stuff in your face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, let's go, you're done! Take your trays!

CARROLL: Next up, a numbers game. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up! Why did you not get up when you're daggum number was called? Go to the back of the daggum line!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero three seven, Drill Sergeant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero three eight, Drill Sergeant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero three nine, Drill Sergeant.

MCLAIN: Two one seven, Drill Sergeant. Two one seven, that's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think they're a little long? Two- point-seven does not come after zero three seven and zero three nine.

MCLAIN: No, Drill Sergeant.

CARROLL: And then, just a little off the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a new style at Fort Woods. You'll enjoy.

CARROLL (on camera): How'd it go, Will?

MCLAIN: It wasn't bad. It was just done real quick. A little bit short, but I can't see it, so I don't know yet.

Oh, man.

CARROLL: Breakfast was funny, because as we're watching everyone having breakfast and everyone yelling, "You've got to finish your food, finish your food!" And I think we timed you. I think you ate your food in under four minutes.

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAIN: They said eat it quick, so, I was trying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your enlist?

MCLAIN: Twenty-one bravo.

CARROLL (voice-over): From afar, Will's first 36 hours may seem almost comical but, to the army, it's all part of a very serious plan to transform raw recruits into soldiers ready for battle.

CARROLL (on camera): Even though, I know, it's early, but what's the biggest adjustment so far?

MCLAIN: I guess just being away from everything I know. Like, there's not friends to go to. You can't go do what you want.

TEDDY ROSS, SERGEANT, US ARMY: It's very confusing for them, because they're used to having all this freedom and not having people tell them what to do on a regular basis. CARROLL (voice-over): For Private Will McLain, weeks of grueling basic training stand in the way of reaching his goal of becoming a combat engineer. It's a job that could take him to Afghanistan.

MCLAIN: Yes, Drill Sergeant.

CARROLL: With the task of defusing deadly roadside bombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire in the hole!

(ARTILLERY FIRING)

CARROLL: We'll check on Will later in the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, men, rotate that selective switch from "safe" to "semi." Fire when ready.

CARROLL: Up next, a sergeant from Kentucky comes face-to-face with deadly roadside bombs in a place he calls "IED Alley."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHORTER: Come on, you guys hungry?

(CHILDREN SHOUTING)

SHORTER: Come on.

TEXT: FORT CAMPBELL, KENTUCKY, AUGUST 20, 2010.

CARROLL (voice-over): For Randy Shorter, there's family.

SHORTER: You OK?

CARROLL: And Army family.

SHORTER: You've got to get the pork chop.

CARROLL: This time, this moment, is bittersweet for both of them.

SHORTER: My last day here in the States. Enjoying it.

CARROLL: Tomorrow, Sergeant Shorter's 14-man platoon ships out to Afghanistan. It's his second deployment there.

SHORTER: All right. This is the last time in the States. All right, let's go and execute rendez-vous with destiny, all right?

It's the day before we go, so me and my wife, we opened the doors. We're like, you know what?

SHERYLL SHORTER, RANDY SHORTER'S WIFE: Feed them. Get their bellies full.

RANDY SHORTER: These are family. Because when we're there, we're family.

CARROLL: Specialist Frank Whorton is shipping out, too. His second with Sergeant Shorter. The first time, he was injured by a roadside bomb. Shorter came to the rescue, returned fire, and received a Silver Star for bravery.

FRANK WHORTON, SPECIALIST, US ARMY: When we're over there and he says, "Do something," I'm not -- I don't second guess. I'm going to do it. Because I know it's for a good reason. And he's saving my tail and the guy beside me and the guy beside him.

SHORTER: Hey, sweetie.

CARROLL: For Shorter's own family, the pain of separation is palpable.

MAYLANIE SHORTER, RANDY SHORTER'S DAUGHTER: Well, this time, we thought that he was going to stay home, so we were OK with it. And so, when we found out -- (crying) I just don't want him to go. I just don't want to miss anything with my dad and family and all of them.

TEXT: THE NEXT DAY.

SHERYLL SHORTER: Say "cheese!" You're good.

We wouldn't wish this kind of farewell to anybody. But just being a veteran wife and soldier, it does come easy, but it's all the same emotion, and you just live every second that you have with them, up until they get on that bus and head out.

RANDY SHORTER: Whether it's one week, one day, it doesn't matter. Saying good-bye is hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust your training. Trust yourselves. Trust your buddy next to you.

CARROLL: Does it feel more real now, when you're boarding, or when you finally get there?

SHORTER: Now.

CARROLL: Now?

SHORTER: You look back and -- once you look back, that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to put them back there? All right, take the right.

SHORTER: Well, we've got some leg seats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no storing of weapons in the overhead bins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Comfortable?

SHORTER: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good?

CARROLL: The Shorter platoon and 300 other troops from the 101st Airborne Division are on the move. Destination, Sharana, Afghanistan.

From start to finish, the 8,623-mile journey will take seven days, six hours, and 30 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. Welcome to Manas.

CARROLL: Shorter and his men deplane. They are now just 400 miles from the Afghan border.

SHORTER: We're just getting settled in, figure out where we're going to tuck for the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take care of these guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, do it now.

CARROLL (on camera): Any idea how long you'll be here before you have to move out, or is that just sort of -- ?

SHORTER: I think 24 to 48 hours. Hopefully 24 hours. I'd like to get to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

TEXT: BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN.

CARROLL (voice-over): Boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Shorter has gotten his wish. And then, 48 hours later, the platoon is en route to their final destination, Sharana in the southeastern part of the country. But mid-flight, they are turned around. There is heavy fighting in the area.

SHORTER: We're never leaving this place.

ADAM BOYETTE, SPECIALIST, US ARMY: It's kind of hard. You kind of get psyched up, ready to leave, and then you get told you're not leaving.

SHORTER: The longer they stay here, the more stories they hear about what's going on down range. And then, they'll hear some of the combat stories that's going on, and then, that just builds more -- it just makes them more nervous, only because they don't know what to expect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good. Get it over with, get back home.

CARROLL (on camera): Just 15 minutes ago, we arrived here in Sharana, finally. So, at this point, Sergeant Shorter is checking his men in, making sure that all the paperwork is squared away. Then, they can finally get on with their mission.

So, what happens next? What's the next step?

SHORTER: Well, the next step is, obviously, verify baggage. And then from here, link up with our counterparts. Once we link up with our counterparts, they'll get us settled.

CARROLL: So, building 306 is where you guys are going to?

CARROLL (voice-over): Shorter's mission here is to go on patrols outside the wire, outside the protection of the base. It's a world filled with suspicious locals, hostile insurgents, and roadside bombs. A place the army calls "Hell on Earth."

In a moment, the next chapter in Sergeant Shorter's story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready to roll?

CARROLL: And coming up, our third soldier, a 20-year-old mother who leave behind a husband and a two-year-old daughter.

LATRICIA ROSE: I can't deal with not being with my baby. I don't know how I'm going to deal with it.

(CHILD CRIES)

BRANDON ROSE, LATRICIA ROSE'S HUSBAND: Say "Bye, Mommy."

AYONA ROSE, LATRICIA ROSE'S DAUGHTER: Bye Mommy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRANDON ROSE: All right, give Mommy a kiss.

TEXT: COLUMBUS, GEORGIA, APRIL 18, 2010.

AYONA AND LATRICIA ROSE: Mwa!

CARROLL (voice-over): Family matters most to 20-year-old Latricia Rose.

LATRICIA ROSE: Well, you all not kicking it to me.

BRANDON ROSE: One, two, three.

CARROLL: That's why Brandon, her husband --

BRANDON ROSE: Come on, you got it.

CARROLL: Is putting her through the paces at the local high school in Columbus, Georgia.

BRANDON ROSE: Come on, you got it.

CARROLL: Latricia is shaping up to ship out with the army. Sees it as a way to help provide for her husband and daughter, Ayona.

LATRICIA ROSE: With the military, they'll help me go to school and I'll be able to work and take care of my family. So, that's what I decided to do.

CARROLL: But that also means possible deployment to Afghanistan and months away from her two-year-old.

ROSE: I don't know how I'm going to deal with it. I'm probably going to be crying and everything.

BRANDON ROSE: My gut reactions is like, oh Lord, I'm doing it by myself. But I have confidence in myself, I can do it.

CARROLL: On Latricia's last day before heading off to basic training, a farewell dinner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say "cheese!" There it is.

CARROLL: A family portrait.

AYONA ROSE: Mom!

LATRICIA ROSE: Hi, Ayona!

CARROLL: And a family outing.

AYONA ROSE: Hi!

CARROLL: In just a few hours, Latricia Rose leaves home to become Private Rose. Only, Ayona doesn't know.

LATRICIA ROSE: I know I have to tell her, but I don't really know what to say to a two-year-old that Mommy's leaving.

TEXT: 9:30 PM.

LATRICIA ROSE: Ayona, it's OK.

(AYONA CRYING)

LATRICIA ROSE (crying): Help me, because I don't know what to say.

Ayona. Mommy's leaving tomorrow. OK?

AYONA ROSE: OK.

LATRICIA ROSE: OK?

AYONA ROSE: OK.

LATRICIA ROSE: But I'll be back in a little while, OK?

TEXT: 4:30 AM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

BRANDON ROSE: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing this morning?

BRANDON ROSE: All right. LATRICIA ROSE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ready to roll?

LATRICIA ROSE: I suppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready as you're going to be, huh?

LATRICIA ROSE: All right, bye baby.

BRANDON ROSE: Give Mommy a kiss.

LATRICIA ROSE: Love you.

BRANDON ROSE: Give Mommy a kiss.

LATRICIA ROSE: Love you.

(AYONA CRIES)

BRANDON ROSE: Say, "Bye, Mommy."

AYONA ROSE: Bye, Mommy.

TEXT: MILITARY ENTRANCE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many years are you joining the military for?

LATRICIA ROSE: Five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pick it up, put it back down slowly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your last time before you fall on the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Is there anything I need to know about?

ROSE: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Room, attention. Raise your right hands and repeat after me. "I," state your full name.

RECRUITS: I, (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do solemnly swear.

RECRUITS: Do solemnly swear.

TEXT: 8:35 PM.

ROSE: There's no turning back, now. I have to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From this moment on, you will address me as "Drill Sergeant." Understand?

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. On behalf of the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Romero, I'd like to welcome you to 43rd AG Reception Battalion Fort Leonard Wood.

CARROLL (voice-over): That's right, Fort Leonard Word, Missouri, the very same base where Private Will McLain arrived months earlier.

RECRUITS: Yes, Drill Sergeant!

CARROLL: Same walk in, same instructions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your bag goes up underneath the bench seat behind you.

CARROLL: Same wake-up call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, time to get up! Get up! Let's go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up, private!

CARROLL (on camera): What were you expecting it to be like?

ROSE: I was expecting the yelling and the discipline, but I was just hoping --

(LAUGHTER)

ROSE: Hoping otherwise.

CARROLL (voice-over): But no. Just 48 hours into basic training, Latricia's and Will's journeys are about to take them on very different paths.

ROSE (via telephone): Me and my mom talked about it. I think Brandon is just more overwhelmed than anything.

CARROLL: Brandon has walked out on Ayona.

YARONDA NEEL, LATRICIA ROSE'S MOTHER: Now, clean it up for you.

CARROLL: Latricia's mother is forced to care for her.

BRANDON ROSE: I just go. I go to Atlanta, and I dropped Ayona off.

CARROLL (on camera): You dropped her off. With --

BRANDON ROSE: Her mother.

CARROLL: With Latricia's mother?

What's happening? NEEL: Well, as far as Brandon, I think that he's just overwhelmed right now, because he's not getting the support that he thought he was going to get.

CARROLL (voice-over): Brandon eventually agrees to take Ayona back, but it's too late. The army won't tolerate an unstable home life. Latricia is ordered to take what an army calls an "uncharacterized discharge."

LAURIE NIELSEN, CAPTAIN, CO COMMANDER, US ARMY: You need to make sure that your home life is strong enough to handle a separation for a period of time, and you need to make sure that your children are taken care of.

LATRICIA ROSE: I was told that I can come back after a certain period of time. I have intentions on coming back. I'll have -- once I get home and get everything straightened out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should not see equipment laying on the ground!

CARROLL: For the next few weeks, until paperwork is completed, basic training continues for the rest of the recruits. Latricia is reduced to private without a gun. In its place, a single water bottle.

ROSE: I'm kind of jealous. I would love to do the things that they're doing right now. But it makes me want to come back even more.

AYONA ROSE: Mommy!

LATRICIA ROSE: Hey, little girl! Hey, baby! Hey!

CARROLL: Coming up, as Latricia returns home and contemplates returning to the army --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go go go go go!

CARROLL: Private Will McLain moves through basic training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to move!

CARROLL: All systems go for possible deployment to Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go! You've got to get in the room!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon with a look at your top stories right now. New developments tonight involving North Korea where CNN's Wolf Blitzer is traveling with New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson. At Russia's urging, the U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency session tomorrow to discuss tensions on the Korean peninsula. Richardson describes the region as a tinderbox. He is meeting Sunday with the top North Korean general. The North and South have been trading threats since last month when North Korea shelled a South Korea Island.

A historic day for gay rights. Gays and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military after the Senate passed a repeal today in the 65 to 31 vote. The House already passed it. Now, it's awaiting the President's signature and he says he's going to sign it, of course.

American Amanda Knox won a major victory today when an Italian appeals court agreed to independent testing of key pieces of evidence in her murder case. Knox was convicted of murdering her English roommate at a home they shared in Italy in 2007. The Judge is allowing new forensic tests on the knife believed used in the attack and he's also agreed to allow testimony from new witnesses for the defense who are said to have information showing Knox was not involved in the killing.

Federal officials in Mexico are blaming local authorities for sloppy security that led to a major prison break near the U.S. border. At least 141 inmates escaped through a service entrance for staff vehicles. Authorities say they apparently had help from prison workers. The prisoners broke out of the penitentiary in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, one of the prisons housing inmates connected to drug gangs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's different (inaudible) it's quite nice (inaudible) snow everywhere. It's quite nice. I enjoyed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The way he says it makes it sound not so bad. People across Europe are finding the silver lining in a very white weekend. Blizzard conditions are dumping massive amounts of snow from London and Germany to Ireland and Austria. Many airports are closed, including London's Heathrow, making pre-holiday travel quite a challenge and a big mess.

Okay, never ever do this. We always tell you that. Driving across a flooded road is a big no-no. A major Pacific storm dumping huge amounts of rain on the West Coast causing this flooding in Sacramento, California. Good news though for skiers though. Higher elevations are seeing snowfalls measured in feet.

Those are headlines this hour. I'm Don Lemon. Now, back to "A Soldier's Story."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: For Private Will McLain, losing weight here and here are early lessons in basic training and Will is certainly not alone. But as days become weeks, basic training becomes less about this and this and more about learning combat skills.

SGT BASHIR ANTHONY, U.S. ARMY: They will get gassed. They will go in, they'll learn how to seal their mask and they'll learn how to react. (inaudible) You are going to take off your mask, put it straight in the air to where your elbow is locked. Understand?

CROWD: Yes Drill Sargent.

ANTHONY: All right, do it.

(COUGHING)

SGT JOSEPH RIX, U.S. ARMY: In through the mouth, out through the nose. It's like a riot control gas. It messes with your lungs a little bit, messes with your eyes a little bit, gives you the runny nose.

CARROLL: Will gets the point and completes the task successfully.

(on camera): Didn't you take it off to show you what the point of the mask is?

MCLAIN: Yes. And right now, you-- I don't-- I like the mask.

CARROLL: You like the mask.

MCLAIN: Yes.

CARROLL: Will and every other private must pass the weapons test before moving on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the gloves off superstar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably got to put it on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How'd you like that?

MCLAIN: It was pretty fun. (inaudible). That was fun.

CARROLL: What do you think so far of our guy?

RIX: He's all right. He's actually kind of quiet, to tell you the truth. I really don't hear too much out of him. He's pretty good though. He qualified with his weapon. He's having a little problem with the PT.

CARROLL: What has he got to improve on in the PT, the physical training?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you can always improve on everything on PT.

CARROLL: All right.

MCLAIN: I hate this. CARROLL: Weeks move into month. Weapons and physical training tests now successfully behind him, McLain moves on to advanced individual training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what are you shooting at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that tells you what? When you go into a room, you don't fire!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right behind this corner, son! You can't shoot around a corner! (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stuff that you mess up on is more learned behavior. You'll gain that with experience. But you did an outstanding job at communicating and you covered each other real well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, not everybody got Hawaii (ph). Sorry.

MCLAIN: Hey mom, it's Will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

MCLAIN: I was just calling to let you know, we got our orders in today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ft. Stewart McLain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And?

MCLAIN: Yes. I'm stationed at Ft. Stewart, Georgia.

CARROLL: On this day, Will practices how to detect and remove IEDs and other bombs. As a combat engineer, it is a critical skill he will need if sent to Afghanistan.

MCLAIN: Halt. Danger.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes Drill Sargent. Fire in the hole.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPT. ROBERT WILEY, U.S. ARMY: You volunteered to be a solider in a time of war and by doing so you told the American people I've got to fight, I'll make the sacrifices, I'll do the hard things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Private William McLain, Rosemont, California. Congratulations, welcome to the Corps of Engineers. Good job, McLain. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at you, transformed.

CARROLL: Just four months have passed since a very raw recruit arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood. On this graduation day, Private First Class Will McLain is nearly battle ready. But, up next, Ft. Stewart, Georgia, where he will fine tune his skills at defusing roadside bombs and in Afghanistan causalities mount as two suicide bombers launch an attack steps away from Sergeant Shorter's home base.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARROLL: Tonight, Sargent Randy Shorter and his men could be soldiers in any war.

SHORTER: You're still talking to that girl huh?

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: This war has brought them to an Army base in Sharana, Southeastern Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine more months, two weeks, and eight hours.

CARROLL: They are here to fight the Taliban while trying to win over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Their one-year mission is about to begin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're doing tonight is actually preparing the ammo before we go out on patrol. Our patrol actually carries 6 mm mortars. A lot of these got condensation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey Horton, you tracking this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of ammunition was damaged so it's a good thing, you know, we did the inspection. We have to make sure we have enough ammunition to sustain us for a certain period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the move again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our enemy situation in the last 24, a lot of IEDs, you anticipate the worst, everybody track him.

CARROLL: Okay, right now, Sargent Shorter and the rest of the men in his unit, you can see that's Frank Whorton right there, are about to head outside the wire for the first time on foot patrol so we're going to be going along with them.

SHORTER: All right, if you haven't done so, lock and load. It's game time now.

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: Our first stop outside the wire on this particular day is a meeting with the village elders but security is such that you really have to have troops surrounding you in order just to get to this location. SHORTER: I need shooters on this side. You need to have eyes in every direction possible.

(AFGHAN MAN TALKING)

CARROLL: Inside, Shorter's superior officers are trying to build bridges with Afghan elders. Some are Taliban sympathizers. They are demanding the release of Afghan prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have six prisoners at the (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you guys are all vouching that they are innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't just randomly go and take people. Usually there is a reason why we take prisoners. That doesn't mean that we're right all the time.

CARROLL: Did anything happen while we were inside while you were outside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, nothing significant, just a lot of traffic coming in. Searched a lot of motorcycles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) unlock your doors, seatbelt. (Inaudible) they are ordered back to base.

CARROLL: What just happened?

SHORTER: There was speculation on whether or not there was an IED explosion up to the North of (inaudible). It's unconfirmed, but there have been reports regarding, I guess, two teenagers on a motorcycle and they had set off a remote IED.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is an evil - there is an evil out there and you can't live in denial, you can't live in denial. The American people don't know that there are people out there that are killing women and children and they're out there to try to make, you know, trying to not have (inaudible). Stay center of the road.

CARROLL: Today's danger passes. The IED explosion hurt no one. The platoon is back on the road.

SHORTER: This whole stretch used to be pretty much a good IED alley.

CARROLL: During his second tour, Shorter stood at this very spot 18 months ago.

SHORTER: It felt like I never left this place, but I'm starting to see the same IED holes that I remember back to a lot of flashbacks coming back. I think the pressure plate IEDs are the biggest risk. All right, you see that right there, that's an IED.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir.

SHORTER: That's exactly what happens. That's why you don't travel on the sides. You got it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir.

SHORTER: Middle. Move to the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of times, what I do is I sit here and listen to music and look at this here, that's my wife, Heather.

SPC ADAM BOYETTE, U.S. ARMY: This is the best part of the day, man. You come home after a mission and really relax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got my PS3 over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) nobody wants to play (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already told you about that. I'm done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm kind of the champ right now, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still not working?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working with (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, (inaudible).

SHORTER: (inaudible) moving out time now.

CARROLL: Shorter is all about the safety of his men. Sometimes that means getting tough, very tough. Even when it includes his friend, Frank Whorton. The language is coarse.

SHORTER: You better pull your head out of your (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I thought we discussed this last night, Whorton. Are you here? Are you permanently in my vehicle? What can you take time to do when he's up in here? Make sure he's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) straight. If you literally have to choke his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to get (EXPLETIVE DELETED) done, then we'll do that because I'm not going to put all our lives in jeopardy because you're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up. Do you understand me? I will hang you by your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) nuts. Do I make myself clear?

CARROLL: Minutes later, another side of Sargent Shorter. Another part of the mission.

SHORTER: You take off your sunglasses so they can see your eyes and if you're willing to shake hands then they're more receptive to, you know, just come over to you and try to pick at you and see what they can get off of you.

CARROLL: So, tell me, why is it important to have the team engage the Afghan people in this way. Why is that?

SHORTER: Well, you can kind of see, you know, how they react to us when we come. Obviously, the kids are more curious than, you know, the adults but, it's always a good sign when they come up to you because, you know, they're not -- they don't feel threatened.

CARROLL: But, for Shorter and his men, the threat in an unpredictable war zone is a constant so on the drive back he follows up on that dressing down.

SHORTER: Why do you need to take it upon yourself Brian? I'm just hard for a reason, we've been here before.

CARROLL: We leave Sargent Shorter and his men after three weeks. There are 49 more weeks to go of this delicate balancing act between embracing Afghans and watching their own backs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope that the American people think, "Look at this," and realize they say they're disgruntled about the war but we're here, join us in support. So, support us, I mean, help us out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think most Americans when they watch the news all they see is oh, well, eight American soldiers died today and that 10-second story turns into, oh, McDonald's burger went up in prices. You see - that's all you see. You don't see the good that we're doing over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Americans and we are fighting for you all, so, whether you agree or disagree, just keep us in your prayers regardless, you know. Keep us in your heart.

SHORTER: They don't understand the (inaudible). We can be arrogant about it or we can go home and try to explain it to people. You know, that's why I accepted to do this because it gives them a sense, you know, to actually see what it's like and I think we're making a difference and that's what you want your life to be. You want to make a difference in life.

(INAUDIBLE)

CARROLL: Coming up, two suicide bombers launch an attack steps from Sargent Shorter's home base. Latricia Rose decides her Army future and Private McLain moves even closer to combat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARROLL: In Georgia, the holidays offer a brief respite from the war but deployment or the prospect of deployment weighs heavily on every family, on every soldier, including Private McLain.

MCLAIN: (inaudible). There you go.

CARROLL: After a year of intense training and conditioning, Will has finally been told he is being deployed to Afghanistan. He leaves in two months. MCLAIN: Yes. It's a nervous feeling knowing you're going over there and you see the news and stuff but, at the same time, it's part of the job.

CARROLL: Twelve months of hard work finds Will a year older and 50 pounds lighter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how much Will?

MCLAIN: About 199.

CARROLL: Full of confidence.

MCLAIN: You go through it and do everything you possibly can to make yourself ready for it. It's also a proud thing knowing that I can go there and actually make a difference.

CARROLL: In Georgia, there is no talk of deployment or war. Ayona is 3 now.

ROSE: Say thank you, Daddy.

CARROLL: Brandon has a new job. He's a steel worker. And Latricia is taking an online course to be a nurse.

ROSE: I still kind of wish that I was still in the Army to have that sense of duty but the other part of me is just like, ok, well, I don't know if I was ready for it so, I'm glad I'm in school.

CARROLL: At Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, the Shorter family trims the tree. Dad is 8,000 miles away.

SHERYLL SHORTER: I am so lucky, you know, that 14 years I've had him consecutively for Christmas but this one is going to be very hard.

CARROLL: December brings the family's first face-to-face contact since deployment last August. Diego joins in on the reunion too.

SHORTER: Hi Diego, I love you. (inaudible).

MRS. SHORTER: I was in tears. I was just overwhelmed with just happiness just seeing him. The butterflies in the stomach, the clammy sweaty hands. You know, it's like our first date.

SHORTER: You know, right now, we're getting ready to move south.

CARROLL: Since we last saw Shorter his platoon has visited 100 villages and gone on hundreds of patrols.

SHORTER: It's taking a toll on some of the guys, especially Whorton. He possibly might have to have surgery. I guess he ended up getting a hernia out here.

CARROLL: And then, there was this.

SHORTER: We had a couple of suicide bombers infiltrate the compound here.

CARROLL: The bombing happened at the same place where we met the Shorter platoon before their first mission outside the wire.

SHORTER: That whole place is blown up. The suicide bombers came out and killed 11 of our real good friends, Afghan guys, you know, the guys that went out on patrols with us so we lost quite a few good guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're never promised tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We try not to think about it, like, we see other families go through it and it's a really big loss but due time they get through it, they move on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Randy's unit is a band of brothers and spouses back here are a band of sisters and what we want from the world is, you know, know that we are here and we're very strong and we're resilient and we will get through this.

CARROLL: The shorter family and all the other military families are here. Forget them, forget their sacrifice, and a nation does so at its own peril. You're moving out now?

SHORTER: Yes, they're all waiting for me in the truck so we're going to do our little - going to do our patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you.

SHORTER: Good night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Be safe.

SHORTER: Love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you.