The Story of Scott Henkel and Ahmad Siddiqi


Scott Henkel and Ahmad Siddiqi embracing at DIA(Photo via the Henkel Family)

Morgan Salter, Staff Writer/Editor

The world throws many rigors and tests at people throughout life. Even with its extreme hardships, it gives you blessings. Friendship withstands all trials, and it can be forged into a family. Scott Henkel and Ahmad Siddiqi can attest to that. This is their story.

It all started in 1998, when Scott Henkel served as a Commission Officer out of ROTC at Colorado State University. He served on active duty for four and a half years. His first duty station was up in Washington at Fort Lewis as a journalist. He then went to Officer Basic in Texas at Fort Bliss, and after spending some time there, he went on to Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia. He finally got his first long-term duty station in Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the 3488 Air Defense Artillery Regiment at the 82nd Airborne Division.

He spent two years at that station, and while he was there, he was selected to be a two-star general’s aide-de-camp. At the time, Henkel was a young captain and the general served as a mentor to Henkel. After two years he switched to inactive ready reserve to pursue a family. He had a baby, Connor, in Huntsville, Alabama. However, the nation called him back into service when Connor was only a year and a half old for deployment in Afghanistan. He answered the call only twenty-seven days after and reported to North Carolina.

Henkel was shipped off to the Zabul Province, in which he spent a year on tour. The Zabul Province is the poorest in the country with its main economy driven by the U.S. and foreign aid, as well as the production of poppy, which is then turned into heroin and hashish.

When stationed in Zabul, Scott Henkel was given the position of Civil Affairs Alpha Team Leader. He worked with Governors, locals, tribal leaders, and many others to help gather intel. In part with gathering intel, he helped build infrastructure. He did not just build infrastructure, but his “pride and joy was building a school for girls”, which in Zabul was severely frowned upon, as the Islamic Law in the region was very oppressive. Throughout his time in Afghanistan, he had help: a man from northern Afghanistan named Ahmad Siddiqi who served as a translator to Henkel and his team. The Americans and other westerners, however, had difficulty pronouncing his name and called him Kevin.

Scott Henkel, center, and Kevin, right, working in Afghanistan(Photo via the Henkel Family).

Scott and Kevin went on over four hundred-plus missions together all over the province. Scott remembers one of the missions very clearly: “We were getting mortared and had about fifty Afghan National Army Members. They were running on foot which was not what we wanted them to do, we wanted them to get on a back of a truck. So I had Kevin yelling to get the Afghan National Army back in the truck, he actually started throwing several in the back of these trucks, so we could get out of this bad spot.” Through multiple missions, Scott and Kevin grew closer, and by the time Scott’s tour was over, he trusted Kevin with his life and they became very close friends.

When Scott’s tour was over, he begged Kevin to come back home to the States with him.

Kevin with his daughter(Photo via the Henkel Family).

Kevin “knew Afghanistan would fall eventually, just didn’t know when.” However, “Kevin was a patriot,” and decided to stay back in his home country and help rebuild his home. He stayed there for fourteen years, working for the UN, U.S., and Afghan Embassies, as well as various other military units.

During this time Kevin started a family with a wife and four kids while Scott had another child. Scott failed his first top-secret polygraph test because the individual questioned his loyalty and patriotism due to the fact that Scott was still talking with Kevin. “Questioning my patriotism is definitely not a way to keep me cool which was the intent,” says Scott Henkel. However, he did eventually pass it, granting him top-secret clearance.

The Taliban looking for Kevin and his family in Kabul(Photo via the Henkel Family).

But by June, Kevin sent Scott a message out of the blue saying, “The Taliban is taking over the country again, it’s going fast, it’s only a matter of time.” Kevin was right. By August the Afghan government had fallen and Kevin and his family were stuck in a one-bedroom apartment in Kabul. According to Scott, “The Taliban was walking door to door, fully armed, knocking on doors, talking to kids and asking if there were interpreters who lived there because the work he did for me was one of the worst sins in the eyes of the Taliban in that aiding and infidel was worse than being an infidel, is what they think. So any Muslim who betrays ‘Islam,’ because it’s not, to work with the infidels is only punishable by death. Their wife, if they have one, is going to get moved into sex trafficking as well as any daughters they have and their son would be given an opportunity to join the Taliban or be executed on-site. That was the fate he was facing.”

Scott and his family could not just sit back and watch their friend and his family perish. They developed a plan, and in June, July, and August they started a campaign to tell Kevin’s story and try to get help and get him out of Afghanistan. “When I was in Afghanistan I had the power of life and death, back here I have no power and what we figured out is, the only power we had was our story.” And what a powerful story it is. Soon thereafter, Scott went on Fox and Friends on an early Sunday morning at five o’clock to tell the story on a worldwide broadcast. The plan worked. A few hours later, a contact from an organization with people on the inside reached out to Scott’s wife, Heidi, saying that he could help get Kevin and his family out. Heidi checked out the source, and with it being legit, they gave Kevin’s information, and with the State Department’s help got to work getting Kevin out.

“We told Kevin to have their phones fully charged and have a bag packed and ready to go at any time. A couple of hours later, sure enough, his phone rang. He took his family, his wife, and his four kids, on a one-kilometer sprint to a post on the Kabul International Airbase. He had to run through sewage canals and throw his kids into the arms of the awaiting marines on the other side. They took him and his family after he had to show a special code, we don’t know what that is yet, it is still very clandestine. But he had to show a code and repeat a sentence over and over again to prove that he was a legit interpreter to get out.”

He finally got out and was on a flight to Qatar. “We found out later that there was an operation we believe he was a part of called Pineapple Express, where they smuggled out over eight hundred interpreters and their families under the nose of the folks in charge of the airbase which was noble and brave.” They moved from Italy to Philadelphia to New Jersey at Fort Dix. Then finally, on Tuesday, October 5, Kevin arrived at DIA, and waiting for him there was the press, Representatives Jason Crow and Joe Neguse, but most importantly, his longtime friend Scott Henkel and his family who embraced Kevin dearly.

Kevin’s temporary house gifted by the Broomfield police officer(Photo via the Henkel Family).”

Waiting for Kevin and his family in Colorado was a myriad of support from the local community. “We have been stunned by the generosity and the kindness and the patriotism that we’ve seen from people in America but specifically here, the Broomfield area and the northern Colorado area. Unbelievable generosity, we had a Broomfield police officer and his family gift their AirBnB to us as long as Kevin and his family need to get on their feet. And just financial donations, clothing, food, TV, computers, we just had a grill delivered today. So it is just incredible the amount of folks willing to volunteer and help drive him to appointments. Appointments such as for his Special Work Visa, which he is going to be getting after shortly arriving in Colorado. Even airline miles and limo ride from Fort Dix, New Jersey, and a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Denver International and all of this are donated through people’s generosity and patriotism and I could not be more proud.”

Car gifted to Kevin’s family(Photo via the Henkel Family).

After Kevin and his family arrived they settled in, with the help of the Henkels, to their new home which is only about a mile away from the Henkels. On Friday, October 8 his two oldest, a son and a daughter are going to start elementary school. His third child, a daughter, is going to be sponsored at the Children Center in McKay Landing. Thankfully, the three of them speak good English and will fit right in for school. “The generosity has continued to amaze me and inspire me and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to talk about Kevin and tell his story and we are really really happy to have him be our neighbor and for his kids and my kids to know each other.”

All of this could not have been done if it was not for Representatives Jason Crow, Joe Neguse, and Ken Buck who helped speed up the process. More importantly, the success of Kevin and his family’s safety came from the story which the Henkel family told to the world and was spearheaded by Broomfield Councilwoman Heidi Henkel. So, as a member of the Holy Family community, I thank Scott Henkel for his service, the Henkel family for sharing the story with us, and welcome Ahmad Siqqidi and his family with open arms!

Rep. Jason Crow, Scott Henkel, Kevin, and Rep. Joe Neguse talking in DIA(Photo via the Henkel Family).