This November, National Geographic / Nat Geo Mundo will premiere a gripping, intimate look at the human toll war takes on both soldiers and their families in The Long Road Home, an eight-part global event series and the latest scripted project from the network.
Based on the New York Times best-selling book by internationallyacclaimed journalist Martha Raddatz, The Long Road Hometells the story of April 4, 2004, when a small platoon of soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, was ferociously ambushed in the teeming, mazelike Baghdad suburb of Sadr City— a day that would come to be known in military annals as “Black Sunday.”
No soldier fights alone. The soldiers in this story areno exception. The scripted series offers viewers an intimate window into the experience of war as seen through the eyes and the hearts of the soldiers themselves and the families back home. It is an adrenaline-fueled and heart-filled journey that follows the action of the battle on two simultaneous fronts — the chaotic, terror-filled streets of Sadr City, where a group of inexperienced young soldiers face an unexpected and unimaginable attack with bravery they never knew they had, and the homefront at Fort Hood, where family members, desperate for news of their loved ones and fearing the worst, discover their own bravery as well.The eight-part series, which lasts the exact amount of time the soldiers were pinned down, tells the story of not only these men, but also those in the three desperate rescue missions launched to save them.
The series stars Michael Kelly(“House of Cards,” “Taboo”) as then Lt. Col. Gary Volesky (now Gen. Volesky), the incoming battalion commander who was in his first hours of assuming authority over Sadr City as the battle broke out;Jason Ritter (“Parenthood,” “Girls”) as Capt.Troy Denomy, who bravely led a rescue convoy into the city;E.J. Bonilla(“Unforgettable”) as stranded platoon leader 1st Lt.Shane Aguero; Kate Bosworth(“Blue Crush,” “SS-GB,” “The Art of More”) as Gina Denomy, a young wife and new mom battling her own fears while reaching out to the families of the fallen and wounded;Sarah Wayne Callies(“Prison Break,” “The Walking Dead,” “Colony”) as Family Readiness Group leader and Gary Volesky’s wife LeAnn Volesky; Noel Fisher (“Shameless”) as a heroic 24-year-old warrior and later peace activist Pfc. Tomas Young;and Jeremy Sisto(“Suburgatory,” “Law & Order,” “Six Feet Under”) as reluctant hero Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger.
Additional cast includes Jon Beavers(“NCIS,” “Gotham,” “The Fresh Beat Band”) as the hot-tempered and heroic young Sgt. Eric Bourquin; Darius Homayoun (“Tyrant”) as the platoon’s Iraqi interpreter, Jassim al-Lani; Jorge Diaz (“Jane the Virgin”, “The 33”) as Spc. Israel Garza; Ian Quinlan (“Gotham”) as Spc. Robert Arsiaga; Patrick Schwarzenegger(“Stuck in Love”)as Sgt. Ben Hayhurst;Kenny Leu(“NCIS”) as Sgt. Eddie Chen; and Joshua Brennan(“Skinford”) as Sgt. Jackson.
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In The Long Road Home, National Geographic and Emmy-winning directorsPhil Abraham (“Daredevil,” “Mad Men,” “Orange Is the New Black”) and Mikael Salomon (“SIX,” “Band of Brothers”) take viewers inside the pulse-pounding battle action of the Iraq War like never before, putting them right alongside the soldiers as they face down constant danger, diminishing resources and fading hope over eight harrowing hours. Meanwhile, on the homefront, the soldiers’ wives, girlfriends, sons and daughters are confronted with their own realities of war and bravery.
The series, created for television by screenwriter and showrunner Mikko Alanne (“The 33”) focuses on the stories of eight key soldiers from the battle as a way of bringing viewers inside the action, including the stern test of leadership faced by Aguero (Bonilla); the battle against doubt waged by Denomy (Ritter); the test of enormous faith faced by Volesky (Kelly); and the story of Jassim (Homayoun), the company’s Iraqi interpreter, who faces an existential crisis of his own and highlights the humanity of the story by giving a name, face and heart to the many innocent Iraqis whose lives were also plunged into horror that day.
THE STORY OF THE BATTLE
The men of Task Force Lancer, part of the 1st Cavalry out of Fort Hood, Texas, were hot, tired and ready to go back to base after a long day of escorting Iraqi sewage trucks on a routine mission in the teeming, mazelike Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. For many, it was their first day on patrol and fourth day in the country for what would be a yearlong deployment in a place unofficially nicknamedthe “safest place in Iraq.” This, the soldiers had been told, would be a peacekeeping mission, an effort to win the hearts and minds of a deeply oppressed population that had suffered mightily under the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein.
It was just nearing 6 p.m.on April 4, 2004.
Seven thousand miles away at Fort Hood, the families were enjoying a lovely spring morning and acclimating to a new reality. It was Palm Sunday.
In Sadr City, the days preceding had been tense ones. Protesters filled the streets, some brandishing swords and even guns. The crew of Iraqis manning the sewage trucks had been scared off by threats from their fellow countrymen. The platoon was more than ready to get back to base. They were instructed to take one more trip past the mosque where unrest had been reported earlier in the day. After a lengthy discussion with leaders there, they turned a corner to head back to base. The streets that had been so full of activity were suddenly empty.
The first shots sounded like popcorn. Within minutes they pounded the lightlyarmed vehicles in a relentless hailstorm of bullets that would quickly take one of their own, disable two of their four vehicles and put the remaining platoon members squarely in the middle of thefight of their lives.
Aguero and his men were hopelessly outnumbered as they raced through the Sadr City streets. The bullets came from every direction, disabling two of the platoon’s vehicles. Getting back to base would not be an option. Aguero, in his first real-world test of combat leadership,immediately rose to the challenge, bravely leading his men into an alley where they could find cover, regroup, fight and wait for reinforcements.
Meanwhile, at Camp War Eagle, the Forward Operating Base for the 1st Cavalry Division, where Voleskywas scheduled to formally take command of Sadr City that day, he and Denomy furiously prepared a rescue plan. Communications systems were not yet fully installed, leaving vehicles without functioning radios. The vehicles themselves were lightly armored and no match for the constant barrage that awaited them. Many soldiers climbed onto LMTVs, which were essentially large open-bed pickup trucks that made the men sitting ducks for the insurgents that day. They would find routes blocked with makeshift barricades that would further complicate the mission, keeping them from finding their way to their stranded brothers and making them even more vulnerable to the seemingly endless enemy fire.
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Yet none of these obstacles or none of this danger deterred the men of Alpha and Charlie Companies from trying to bring their brothers home. Even as the battle raged, and the wounded returned to Camp War Eagle in battered and blood-soaked vehicles, they would climb in yet again, blinded by all but their mission to save their soldiers. Volesky, who along with Denomy joined the rescue effort himself, said later of the effort, citing the words of many who had come before him, “Uncommon valor was common that day.”
Eight Americans would make the ultimate sacrifice that day, and 65 more would suffer combat injuries, many life-changing. All who were there will forever carry the scars of what they experienced. Black Sunday was,at the time, the U.S. military’s worst single-day casualty event since the Vietnam War.
That uncommon valor noted by Volesky would also reveal itself over those eight hours back at Fort Hood. As the first news flashed across the bottom of television screens, a different sort of battle began. Information was scarce;families were anxious. Lee Ann Volesky (Callies),who headed the Family Readiness Group, prepared to do a job she hoped would never be necessary. Gina Denomy (Bosworth), brand new to the FRG, tried to summon the strength to help others through the worst moments of their lives, still not knowing for certain the fate of her husband. She and Troy had welcomed their first child just days before his departure.
The Long Road Home was filmed almost entirely on Fort Hood, the largest military installation in America, spanning 341 square miles. It is also home to the 1st Cavalry and the place where the soldiers profiled in the series lived and trained prior to their fateful deployment. The Long Road Homepremieres globally in November on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages as well as on Nat Geo Mundo in Spanish.
The Long Road Home has been adapted by screenwriter Alanne. The series is directed by Emmywinners Abraham andSalomon. Executive producers are Mike Medavoy, Alanne,Jason Clark, Benjamin Anderson and Edward McGurn. For National Geographic, Carolyn G. Bernstein is executive vice president and head of global scripted development and production.
For more information, visit www.natgeotvpressroom.com, or follow us on Twitter using @NGC_PR and for more information about the series premiere in Spanish, visit www.natgeomundo.com and follow us on Facebook (Nat Geo Mundo), Twitter (@natgeomundo) and Instagram (@natgeomundo).
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