The CIA Book of Honor — Star 79 : Johnny Micheal Spann

“IN HONOR OF THOSE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY”

Memorial at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia

“He [Johnny Micheal Spann] led one of our teams into Afghanistan, then under the sway of a dictatorship aligned with global murder.  There, he tracked the authors and allies of terror.  There, while fighting for the future of the American people, he fought to bring a better future to the Afghan people.  And it was there, one evening, that he said he would gladly risk his life if he could help make the world a safer place for his wife and children. As we know, those were much more than words. Our battle with terrorism will be long and difficult.  But those who have taken Mike from us cannot prevail.  And they will not.  Not while a single decent person—who not only loves liberty, but is ready to protect it—stands against them.”

Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet (May 31 2002)

May 10 2019 — Currently, there are 129 stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall: 91 are unclassified. Who are those men and (11) women? When did they die? Why are they honoured by a star? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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In 1974,  the CIA dedicated the Memorial Wall with 31 stars in 1974 to honor those who had fallen since the Agency’s founding in 1947.

On June 8 2001, the CIA formally commemorated the 78th star on its Memorial Wall, honoring former Agency officer Tucker Gougelmann, who died in Vietnam in the summer of 1976 after 11 months of torture.

Since the attacks of September 11 2001, 51 stars have been added to the Book of Honor and the Memorial Wall.

Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann (March 1, 1969 – November 25, 2001) was a paramilitary operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division (renamed Special Activities Center in 2016).

Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann (March 1, 1969 – November 25, 2001)

Spann joined CIA in 1999 as a paramilitary officer. He deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

Spann was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He died at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress in a Taliban prisoner uprising.

Spann’s star was the 79th carved on the Agency’s Memorial Wall and his name appears in the CIA Book of Honor. (Annual ceremony May 31 2002)

On April 18 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel visited Auburn University in Alabama, where she delivered remarks and participated in a Q&A moderated by retired Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Auburn’s chief operating officer and former DIA director.

During her short talk, Haspel spoke about Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann.

Before I close, I’d like to share the story of one of those heroes—someone with a special connection to Auburn.

Nearly 20 years ago, we had an officer who was on assignment in Afghanistan. He had deployed there in the fall of 2001 as part of our government’s immediate response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. His name was Johnny Micheal Spann, and he was an Auburn Tiger, Class of 1992.

Mike was born and raised in Winfield, Alabama. A natural athlete, he played wide receiver and running back for the Winfield High Pirates.

As a child, he dreamed of becoming a soldier—his bedroom walls were covered with Marine recruitment posters. He joined the Marines as a student at Auburn, where he graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice, and during his military service rose to the rank of Captain.

Mike came to us as a paramilitary officer after eight years of military service.

In his application to CIA he used the words “action, responsibility, and leadership” to describe himself. And he embodied these traits when he deployed to the arid plateaus of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

On November 25th of that year, Mike was in an ancient Afghan fortress where Taliban prisoners were being held and questioned. These captives had supposedly capitulated to US troops, but their pledge of surrender was a ruse.

Mike was interviewing a group of them when hundreds of prisoners suddenly revolted. Immediately before he was attacked and killed in the uprising, Mike was able to warn an Agency colleague of the imminent danger, allowing that officer to get to safety.

After hearing of Mike’s death, former Director of CIA George Tenet said the following:

“He led one of our teams into Afghanistan. There, he tracked the authors and allies of terror. There, while fighting for the future of the American people, he fought to bring a better future to the Afghan people. And it was there, one evening, that he said he would gladly risk his life if he could help make the world a safer place for his wife and children.”

Mike was the first American to die in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

He demonstrated the highest standards of duty and sacrifice at the forefront of our fight against terrorism. In his short time in Afghanistan, Mike’s actions played a pivotal role in our battle against the Taliban and al-Qa‘ida in the region.

His story is a poignant reminder of the unwavering commitment of all our men and women serving on the front lines.

Note: “Micheal” is the correct spelling of Mr. Spann’s name.

REFERENCES

Johnny Micheal Spann — Wikipedia

Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Johnny Micheal Spann — CIA website

DCIA Haspel Visits Auburn University — CIA Website

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The CIA Book of Honor — Star 79 : Johnny Micheal Spann

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