The film explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair, embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley. The 2nd Platoon is depicted defending an Observation Post (OP) named OP Restrepo, for PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo, a Colombian-born naturalized U.S. citizen platoon medic who was killed earlier in the campaign.
The film follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan in the Nuristan area. The Korengal flows north to the Pech, which then flows east to the Kunar River valley on the border with Pakistan. The film chronicles the lives of the men from their deployment to the time of their return home. The Korengal Valley was at the time regarded as “the deadliest place on Earth” (as stated in the documentary itself, trailers, and television commercials on the National Geographic Channel). The goal of the deployment was to clear the Korengal Valley of insurgency and gain the trust of the local populace.
They begin their deployment at OP Korengal, and early in the campaign PFC Restrepo is killed, as well as another team member, PFC Vimoto. The film portrays negotiations with the local people, construction of an advanced outpost, OP Restrepo, as well as the challenges and intermittent firefights they face.
In the latter portion of the film, the dangerous mission Operation Rock Avalanche is shown along with some of its tragic consequences, such as dead civilians and soldiers, as well as the emotional distress that the soldiers are left with in its aftermath.
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