Author Topic: Our Troops in Action  (Read 164299 times)


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WSJ: Salute to West Point
« Reply #100 on: January 04, 2010, 05:55:52 PM »
Even in the age of emails, blogs and tweets, the formal letter can still command attention. Especially when it bears the signature of the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point—and congratulates the recipient on his appointment.

Along with hundreds of other anxious high-school seniors, my nephew opened such a letter over the Christmas holidays. For his family, it brought back many memories. Just about all of us live within an hour's drive of West Point. For most of our lives, the academy has been a beautiful backdrop: for football games, wedding receptions, the occasional drive up for lunch at the Thayer Hotel, and so on.

Now the beauty mixes with apprehension. For me it was brought home in 2006, when I attended the commencement as part of the president's entourage. Theirs was the first class to enter West Point after the attacks of Sept. 11. As I watched these happy graduates, I thought: In a few years, some of those celebrating today will not be with us. Thus far, alas, war has claimed two young men who received the gold bars of a second lieutenant that day: Lt. Nick A. Dewhirst, killed in Afghanistan; Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham, killed in Iraq.

Can my nephew comprehend the sacrifice he commits himself to? The critics say we romanticize war and hide the realities from those who will do the dying. I'm not so sure. At West Point this past autumn for a football game, I went to the refrigerator of a helicopter pilot-turned-instructor in search of a Diet Coke. On the door I found a yellow ribbon with the name of the officer's West Point roommate, an infantry captain named Doug DiCenzo who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad when his son was just 16 months old.

.On a campus where the cemetery includes the dead from two centuries of American wars, sobering reminders are everywhere: the young wife and children left behind, the good friends who do not make the trip home, the empty space at the reunion. The true glory of West Point is that all know the fear and cost of war but refuse to surrender to them.

Whether character can be taught is an age-old question; usually we refer to its being built. West Point does not pretend its cadets are immune from the normal temptations of our culture. After all, they come from the same towns and high schools other universities draw from. The difference is that at West Point, words such as duty, honor and country are spoken without irony—and a scandal is a scandal because behavior is still measured against standards.

A paper on the academy's Web site explains the honor code this way: "An officer who is not trustworthy cannot be tolerated; in some professions the cost of dishonesty is measured in dollars—in the Army, the cost is measured in human lives. The ability of West Point to educate, train and inspire outstanding leaders of character for our Army is predicated upon the functional necessity of honesty."

In other words, the promise is not that West Point will produce the next generation of Grants, MacArthurs, Eisenhowers or Petraeuses—though it will. The promise is more consequential. To the moms and dads of all those in uniform, West Point says: When America puts your sons and daughters in harm's way, they will be led by men and woman of character and ability.

In the days since my nephew's acceptance, the reaction has been interesting. Some are impressed. Others . . . well, let's just say the assumption often seems to be that a student chooses a service academy because he or she was not accepted anywhere better, or is going simply because it's free.

In my nephew's case, neither is true. His father and his father's father both served in the Navy; his other grandfather was a Marine. So his loved ones are a little saddened when we come across people apparently unable to process the idea that an intelligent young American with the world at his feet could be led by a sense of duty to West Point in a time of war.

When I look at my nephew, I can still see the baby I once lugged to the car in his carrier. A few springs from now, if he rises to this challenge as we know he will, I will sit in that stadium high above the Hudson as Timothy Dore, USMA Class of '14, takes his place in that long gray line. Around me that day will be thousands of other uncles, aunts, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents who are now, with great pride, passing around a letter from the West Point superintendent like the one my nephew received.

This academy is not for everyone. But the choice made by these young men and women makes this uncle want to salute.


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Foot on Bomb, Marine defies a trap
« Reply #101 on: January 24, 2010, 09:02:48 AM »
January 24, 2010

Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap

SHOSHARAK, Afghanistan

If luck is the battlefield’s final arbiter — the wild card that can trump fitness, training, teamwork, equipment, character and skill — then Lance Cpl. Ryan T. Mathison experienced its purest and most welcome form.

On a Marine foot patrol here through the predawn chill of Friday morning, he stepped on a pressure-plate rigged to roughly 25 pounds of explosives. The device, enough to destroy a pickup truck or tear apart several men, was buried beneath him in the dusty soil.

It did not explode.

Lance Corporal Mathison’s weight triggered the detonation of one of the booby trap’s two blasting caps. But upon giving an audible pop and tossing small stones into the air, the device failed to ignite its fuller charge — a powerful mix of Eastern Bloc mortar rounds and homemade explosives spiked with motorcycle parts, rusty spark plugs and jagged chunks of steel.

Lance Corporal Mathison and several Marines near him were spared. So began a brief journey through the Taliban’s shifting tactics and the vagaries of war, where an experience at the edge of death became instead an affirmation of friendship, and in which a veteran Marine reluctantly assumed for a morning one of the infantry’s most coveted roles: that of the charmed man.

“Goddamn Matty, man,” said Cpl. Joshua D. Villegas, the patrol’s radio operator, allowing his eyes to roam over the intact Marine after the patrol had backed away from the dud. “Lucky son of a bitch.”

Homemade bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, have become the insurgents’ killing tool of choice in the Afghan war, a complement to the Taliban’s assault rifles, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. They serve as a battlefield leveler for elusive fighters who are wary of meeting Western forces head-on.

As their use has multiplied several-fold in the past two years, bomb-disposal specialists and American officers say, the Taliban’s bomb-making cells have sharpened their skills, moving away from smaller bombs in cooking pots to larger bombs encased in multigallon plastic water jugs, cooking-oil containers or ice coolers.

The bombs typically contain a slurry of fertilizer mixed with aluminum-based paint, and are triggered either via switches tripped by their victims or by a militant who detonates the weapon remotely when a victim moves near. Sometimes the insurgents use military-grade explosives from unexploded ordnance or conventional land mines.

No matter their determination or rising level of experience, those who manufacture or place the bombs still make mistakes, as evidenced by events on Friday morning on ground that the Marines call Cemetery Hill.

A foot patrol from Charlie Company, First Battalion, Third Marines left Patrol Base Brannon, a remote outpost in Helmand Province, at about 4:30 a.m., two hours ahead of the sun. The Marines said they were headed to a knoll to settle into an observation post beside a cemetery and watch over a road dubbed Blue Moon.

The cemetery, contained by mud walls and shaded by three tall trees, overlooks part of the small village of Shosharak, including a house from which the Taliban have often fired on Marine patrols. A Marine was killed here last year. It is bitterly contested ground.

The Marines reached the wall. About a half-hour before sunrise, Lance Cpl. Dario P. Quirumbay, 20, the assistant patrol leader, called softly to Lance Corporal Mathison, 21. He wanted to give him a thermal sight to scan the surrounding terrain.

Lance Corporal Mathison moved toward his friend. When he was a few feet away, the weight of his footfall depressed something hidden in the dirt. There was a muffled pop, a sound resembling a man stomping on a bottle. A small explosion — like that of firecracker — lifted his boot. Rocks peppered the two Marines.

“Don’t move!” Lance Corporal Quirumbay said.

Wary of stepping on another bomb, the patrol sat still until light glowed in the eastern horizon, when other Marines unfolded a metal detector and swept around their friend. The detector emitted a loud whine, signaling that a large bomb remained in the soil.

The Marines radioed for a team that specializes in dismantling explosives and backed off the knoll.

By the time the disposal team arrived, sweeping down Blue Moon with metal detectors, most of the Marines understood how lucky they had been. “We were what? Ten meters from it?” said Hospitalman Joseph R. Korte, 20, the patrol’s trauma medic.

“Five,” said Lance Corporal Hickson, 21.

Hospitalman Korte looked over at Lance Corporal Mathison, who was crouched against a wall. “That would have killed you and Q,” he said, using Lance Corporal Quirumbay’s nickname.

Lance Corporal Mathison is a big Marine, thick at the neck and light on his feet, and a veteran of a tour in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He seemed to be suspending belief. He listened to his friends in silence.

“I’m still calling it nothing,” he said at last. “I’m going with that it was nothing.”

He finished his thought. “Makes me feel better,” he said.

The rest of the patrol would not have it. “Well, Matty,” said Lance Corporal Hickson, his voice rising. “You might want to stop drinking, stop cussing.” Someone else mused about all the free beers Lance Corporal Mathison could expect.

Lance Cpl. Jacob M. Ohl, 19, interrupted. “Hickson was reading the Bible last night,” he said. “Been to church three times in his life, and last night he was reading the Bible.”

“I saved you,” Lance Corporal Hickson said.

He grinned. No one seemed sure what to think. They passed cigarettes, except for Lance Corporal Mathison: He pulled a lollipop from a plastic bag and popped it into his mouth.

He watched the two Marines in the disposal team working on the hill. They were busy, and moving cautiously. Lance Corporal Mathison had not wanted to accept that it was a bomb. He was beginning to shift his point of view.

“If this really was an I.E.D, then you ain’t drinking with me,” he said. “Because I’m done drinking. I’m going back to the way I was before I joined the Corps.”

An improvised bomb is a simple thing — a few batteries, a few wires, a blasting cap or two inserted into a stable explosive charge. A pressure plate serves as a switch. When depressed, the circuit is closed, the current from the batteries flows to the blasting cap, igniting the cap and setting off the full blast.

Ordnance specialists have a label for devices designed this way: victim-operated.

As simple as the system seems to be, there are many opportunities for malfunctions. But the Marines were puzzled. Up at the cemetery, a blasting cap had exploded, suggesting that the bomb maker had rigged a working circuit. Were it not for some unexplained fluke, these men knew, the bomb should have detonated, too.

Corporal Villegas, the radio operator, jogged over. “Matty, I love you,” he said as he ducked along the wall.

The arrival of the radio operator meant the Marines now had an infantryman’s oxygen: information. They could overhear radio traffic between the patrol leader and the disposal team.

Word began to reach them. The pressure plate had been connected to two 82-millimeter mortar rounds and a directional fragmentation charge weighing roughly 20 pounds. The meaning of that sunk in. If it had exploded, it would have killed more than the two nearest Marines.

“Oh God, dude,” one of the Marines said. Another strung together a profane phrase. The first word was dodged. The last was death.

“Oh Matty, get over here,” said Lance Corporal Hickson. The two men hugged. They slapped each other’s backs. They let go.

Lance Corporal Mathison was convinced. It really had been a bomb. “We’re all lucky, man,” he said. “That would have hurt us all.”

A few minutes later, Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Dreher, from the disposal team, called for the man who had stepped on the pressure plate. The staff sergeant had collected evidence from the bomb and rigged a small charge of plastic explosive to destroy what remained. He asked Lance Corporal Mathison to ignite the blast.

“If that I.E.D. had worked like it was supposed to?” the staff sergeant said. “Bye-bye, sweetheart.”

“Fire in the hole!” he shouted three times. Then the blast shook the earth. Dirt, stone and bits of metal showered the ground for several seconds — the end of a weapon that had nearly decimated a small patrol.


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USMC Sgt Proietto
« Reply #103 on: January 29, 2010, 08:45:02 AM »
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Marine Corps MGySgt Peter Proietto
United States Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Proietto was serving in Afghanistan when, on March 12, 2003, his patrol was ambushed by Taliban fighters. As the other Marines in the forward element of the patrol sought cover, Proietto stayed in position -- exposed to enemy fire though he was -- in order to provide suppressive fire for the protection of his comrades.

ProiettoAs the firefight continued, Proietto bravely stayed at the machine gun atop his unarmored vehicle on an open road. The Team Sergeant advised him to leave that position for cover, but he stayed and fired on the enemy for almost an hour until he ran out of ammunition. When the ammunition was gone, he grabbed his M4 carbine and continued to engage the enemy. Soon, the Taliban were pushed from their positions. For his actions, Proietto received the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor. His citation says he "displayed himself in a courageous professional manner and his heroic and immediate response to enemy fire and willingness to jeopardize his own safety to provide supporting fire for the rest of the team demonstrated a level of dedication to the mission and his fellow soldiers, which is rarely surpassed."


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It began here
« Reply #104 on: February 12, 2010, 08:30:43 AM »
"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country." --George Washington, address to the New York legislature, 1775


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #105 on: February 18, 2010, 06:12:25 AM »
MARJA, Afghanistan — In five days of fighting, the Taliban have shown a side not often seen in nearly a decade of American military action in Afghanistan: the use of snipers, both working alone and integrated into guerrilla-style ambushes.

Five Marines and two Afghan soldiers have been struck here in recent days by bullets fired at long range. That includes one Marine fatally shot and two others wounded in the opening hour of a four-hour clash on Wednesday, when a platoon with Company K of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, was ambushed while moving on foot across a barren expanse of flat ground between the clusters of low-slung mud buildings.

Almost every American and Afghan infantryman present has had frightening close calls. Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.

The near misses have included lone bullets striking doorjambs beside their faces as Marines peeked around corners, single rounds cracking by just overhead as Marines looked over mud walls, and bullets slamming into the dirt beside them as they ran across the many unavoidable open spaces in the area they have been assigned to clear.

On Wednesday, firing came from primitive compounds, irrigation canals and agricultural fields as the bloody struggle between the Marines and the Taliban for control of the northern portion of this Taliban enclave continued for a fifth day.

In return, Company K used mortars, artillery, helicopter attack gunships and an airstrike in a long afternoon of fighting, which ended, as has been the pattern for nearly a week, with the waning evening light.

The fight to push the Taliban from this small area of Marja, a rural belt of dense poppy cultivation with few roads and almost no services, has relented only briefly since Company K landed by helicopters in the blackness early on Saturday morning. It has been a grinding series of skirmishes triggered by the company’s advances to seize sections of villages, a bridge and a bazaar where it has established an outpost and patrol bases.

Over all, most Taliban small-arms fire has been haphazard and ineffective, an unimpressive display of ill discipline or poor skill. But this more familiar brand of Taliban shooting has been punctuated by the work of what would seem to be several well-trained marksmen.

On Monday, a sniper struck an Afghan soldier in the neck at a range of roughly 500 to 700 yards. The Afghan was walking across an open area when the single shot hit him. He died.

The experience of First Platoon on Wednesday was the latest chilling example. The platoon, laden with its backpacks, was moving west toward the company’s main outpost after several days of operating in the eastern portion of the company’s area.

Marines here often stay within the small clusters of buildings as they walk, seeking the relative protection of mud walls. But it is impossible to move far without venturing into the open to cross to new villages. As First Platoon moved into the last wide expanse before reaching the command post, the Taliban began a complex ambush.

First bullets came from a Kalashnikov firing from the south, said First Lt. Jarrod D. Neff, the platoon commander. The attack had a logic: to the south, a deep irrigation canal separates the insurgents from anyone walking on the north side, where the company’s forces are concentrated. Vegetation is also thicker there, providing ample concealment.

There have been several ambushes in this same spot since the long-planned Afghan and American operation to evict the Taliban and establish a government presence in Marja began. Each time, the Marines and their Afghan counterparts have run through the open by turns, some of them sprinting while others provided suppressive fire.

The routine had been a long and risky maneuver by dashing and dropping, without a hint of cover, as bursts of machine-gun bullets and single sniper shots zipped past or thumped in the soil, kicking up a fine white powder that coats the land. At the end of each ambush, each man was slicked in sweat and winded. Ears rang from the near deafening sound of the Marines and Afghan soldiers returning fire.

As First Platoon made the crossing under machine-gun fire, at least one sniper was also waiting, according to the Marines who crossed. After the Taliban gunmen occupied the platoon’s attention to the south, a sniper opened fire from the north, Marines in the ambush said.


The Marine who was killed was struck in the chest as he ran, just above the bulletproof plate on his body armor, the Marines said. The others were struck in a hand or arm. (The names of the three wounded men have been withheld pending government notification of their families.)

All three were evacuated by an Army Black Hawk helicopter that landed under crackling fire.

Whoever was firing remained hidden, even from the Marines’ rifle scopes. “I was looking and I couldn’t see them,” said Staff Sgt. Jay C. Padilla, an intelligence specialist who made the crossing with First Platoon. “But they were shooting the dirt right next to us.” The sniper also focused, two Marines said, on trying to hit a black Labrador retriever, Jaeger, who has been trained for sniffing out munitions and hidden bombs. The dog was not hit.

The platoon was just outside the company outpost when the ambush began. A squad from Third Platoon rushed out and bounded across the canal, trying to flank the Taliban and chase them away, or to draw their fire so that First Platoon might continue its crossing. The squad came under precise sniper fire, too, while the company coordinated fire support.

First the company fired its 60-millimeter mortars, but the Taliban kept firing. Company K escalated after the Third Platoon commander reported by radio that several insurgents had moved into a compound near the canal.

The forward air controller traveling with Company K, Capt. Akil R. Bacchus, arranged for an airstrike.

About a minute later, a 250-pound GPS-guided bomb whooshed past overhead and slammed into the compound with a thunderous explosion.

“Good hit!” said Capt. Joshua P. Biggers, the company commander. “Good hit.”

After the airstrike, two pairs of attack helicopters were cleared to strafe a set of bunkers and canals that the Taliban fighters had been firing from.

They climbed high over the canal and bore down toward a tree line, guns and rockets firing. Explosions tossed soil and made the ground shudder. First Platoon pushed toward the outpost.

For all the intensity of the fighting in this small area of Marja, and in spite of the hardships and difficulties of the past several days, both Captain Biggers and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, suggested Wednesday that the seesaw contest would soon shift.

Company K had been isolated for several days, and by daylight was almost constantly challenged by the Taliban. But on Wednesday morning, before the latest ambush, the battalion had cleared the roads to its outposts, allowing more forces to flow into the area, significantly increasing the company’s strength.

By evening, as Cobra gunships still circled, the results were visible to the Marines and insurgents watching the outpost alike. The company had more supplies, and its contingent of several mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop carriers, called MRAPs — each outfitted with either a heavy machine gun or automatic grenade launcher — had reached the outpost.

Colonel Christmas looked over the outpost’s southern wall at the vegetated terrain beyond the canal. “We’ll be getting in there and clearing that out,” he said.


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #106 on: February 22, 2010, 08:28:09 AM »


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #107 on: March 10, 2010, 08:51:05 AM »
An ret. American SF officer sends me the following:

Real allies. None finer.


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2d Lt Eliot Ackerman USMC, Silver Star
« Reply #108 on: March 12, 2010, 08:35:08 AM »
On November 10, 2004, then-2nd Lt. Elliot Ackerman of the United States Marine Corps led a platoon into Fallujah -- at that time, still a hotbed of insurgent activity. The platoon's mission was to establish a foothold from which the battalion would then clear the city. As the Marines pushed into the city, enemy fighters attacked from all sides. Twice in the early fighting, Ackerman risked himself to pull wounded Marines to safety, and then organized their evacuation. As the battle raged, however, the vehicle sent to evacuate the wounded couldn't find their position, so Ackerman again headed into the open and risked what his citation called a "gauntlet of deadly enemy fire" to direct the vehicle to the Marines.

Later in the battle, Ackerman and his team were working to clear a building when he saw some of his Marines exposed on a rooftop. He ordered them down, but took their place to mark targets for American tanks. Under a barrage of enemy fire, he suffered shrapnel wounds in his leg but continued to direct both the attack and four medical evacuations. For his bravery and leadership, Ackerman was awarded the Silver Star. Semper Fi!


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JP Jones 1778
« Reply #110 on: May 11, 2010, 08:22:56 AM »
"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way." --John Paul Jones, letter to M. Le Ray de Chaumont, 1778


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John Paul Jones
« Reply #112 on: May 13, 2010, 05:39:08 AM »
An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it." --John Paul Jones, letter to Gouverneur Morris, 1782


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POTH: Where's the medals?
« Reply #113 on: May 30, 2010, 05:58:31 AM »
ON NOV. 15, 2004, several Marines in dress uniforms came to Rosa Peralta’s San Diego home to tell her that her 25-year-old son, Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, had been killed in Falluja by an improvised explosive device. Rosa Peralta was widowed three years earlier when her husband, a mechanic, was crushed to death in a freak accident while working on a garbage truck; now her son’s death seemed every bit as senseless.

 A few days later, while watching the nightly news, Peralta heard a different account of her son’s death. According to the televised report, Rafael Peralta emerged as the hero of the Second Battle of Falluja after deliberately sacrificing his life to save fellow Marines. He was with a unit clearing houses of weapons and insurgents when a group of insurgents attacked from the back room of a home the Marines had entered. A firefight ensued, and Peralta took a bullet in the head — a friendly-fire ricochet. Then an insurgent threw a grenade. Despite his injury, Peralta pulled the grenade under his body before it detonated. By absorbing the force of the blast, he saved the lives of an estimated six of his fellow Marines.
When I visited Rosa Peralta in December, she choked briefly with emotion as she remembered hearing, for the first time, her son called a hero. Shortly after the news story appeared, the Marine Corps informed her that what she heard was true and that the Marines were initially mistaken about the circumstances of her son’s death. Around this time she was also told unofficially, by Marines who knew her son, that he had been nominated for America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, and that he was considered certain to receive it.

“I didn’t know anything about medals,” Peralta told me. But she said that the idea that her son would be remembered as a national hero slowly became a source of comfort to her. The Peralta family, which includes Rafael’s three siblings, moved to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, when Rafael was a teenager, and he joined the Marines the first moment he could legally do so, on the same morning he got his green card. Though the Peralta parents spoke little English and felt like foreigners in Southern California, Rafael “really loved this country” and loved being a Marine, Peralta told me. As the months after his death wore on, she began to look forward to the day when she would receive the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

But that day never came. Almost four years later, on Sept. 17, 2008, Peralta was summoned to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where Lieut. Gen. Richard F. Natonski informed her of the Pentagon’s decision: Rafael Peralta would not be awarded the Medal of Honor after all. Instead he would receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest American military decoration that can be awarded to a Marine. Natonski was not able to offer an explanation at the meeting, but George Sabga, a former Marine who has known Rosa Peralta since her son was killed (and now works, pro bono, as the Peraltas’ lawyer), soon uncovered the story: after Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates reviewed the findings on the circumstances of Rafael Peralta’s death compiled by a review board made up partly of civilian medical specialists, he decided that it could not be determined with sufficient confidence that Peralta deliberately pulled the grenade under his body.

Rosa Peralta was stunned. Her family had received thousands of letters expressing admiration for her son’s already-famous heroism. When Marine officials asked her how she would like to have his Navy Cross presented, she declined it. “I said no,” she told me. “I can’t take that medal now.” In the year and a half since, Peralta has continued to refuse to accept the Navy Cross on Rafael’s behalf, a decision that has placed her in the thick of a growing controversy over how — and how often — Medals of Honor are being awarded.

THE AMERICAN MILITARY has dozens of medals that can be awarded for performance or participation in various endeavors, but only a small handful, known as “valor awards,” are given for acts of courage. The highest and most revered of these is the Medal of Honor. (It is sometimes mistakenly called the Congressional Medal of Honor, presumably because, unlike other military decorations, the Medal of Honor is awarded in the name of Congress.) According to military regulations, the Medal of Honor is awarded to a soldier who performed a deed of “personal bravery” that was “beyond the call of duty” and “involved risk of life.” The heroic actions of Medal of Honor winners are frequently cited by military instructors, and their names are even on occasion chanted in cadences during boot-camp training runs. By custom, all service members, regardless of relative rank, salute a Medal of Honor recipient.


Despite its symbolic importance and educational role in military culture, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only six times for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. By contrast, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. “From World War I through Vietnam,” The Army Times claimed in April 2009, “the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.”

Since that article was published, President Obama, on Sept. 17, presented the sixth post-9/11 Medal of Honor to the family of Army Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti for his heroic efforts, under intense enemy fire, to rescue a wounded fellow soldier in Afghanistan in 2006. Monti died in the attempt. In fact, all six medals since 9/11 have been awarded posthumously. For service during World War II and the Vietnam War, by comparison, roughly 60 percent of all Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously.

The steep decline in the awarding of Medals of Honor — along with the absence, post-9/11, of any Medal of Honor bestowed on a living serviceman — has spurred many military officers and veterans to speak out in protest. These servicemen complain that higher-ups at the Pentagon either downgrade valor-award nominations — as with Peralta’s Navy Cross — or reject them altogether. Petitions supporting a Medal of Honor for Peralta have circulated widely, and there have been calls to reconsider awarding the Medal of Honor to other servicemen, like Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for tackling a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2007, shielding several nearby soldiers from the blast. On the blog of the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center, based in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Major Niel Smith wrote: “I, like many commanders, have submitted soldiers for combat valor awards which have been knocked down at higher levels. I defer to their judgment, but I think we are overhesitant to reward bravery that doesn’t result in death.”

Last year, in response to the controversy, Congress required the Pentagon, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, to review its criteria for Medal of Honor awards. (The report is scheduled to be released on July 31.) A Defense Department spokeswoman, Eileen M. Lainez, assured me in an e-mail message that the criteria for awarding the Medal of Honor are “longstanding and have not changed.” Addressing the drastic drop in Medal of Honor awards, she cited changes in the nature of warfare, noting that the enemy forces of Vietnam and earlier wars typically engaged in “close conflict” with U.S. forces, whereas today’s “non-uniformed insurgents” rely on “remotely detonated improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.’s), suicide bombers and rocket, mortar and sniper attacks” — all tactics, her statement implied, that create fewer opportunities for U.S. soldiers to demonstrate the traditional valor of close-quarters combat.

In January, I sat down with Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, at Washington’s Fairfax hotel, to ask him about the Medal of Honor controversy. I raised the issue of Sergeant Peralta and asked why his nomination was downgraded. Petraeus declined to address Peralta’s case (internal deliberations over Medal of Honor recommendations are kept confidential, and Peralta was not under Petraeus’s command at the time he was nominated for the medal), but he did speak of a generalized anxiety among commanders, surrounding the Medal of Honor, about getting a recommendation wrong. “They’re something that everyone in the chain of command wants to ensure is done absolutely right,” he said.

Petraeus emphasized the thoroughness of today’s review process, noting that the packets of data that are circulated to review-board members about Medal of Honor nominees are often as thick as phone books. “They want to ensure that these medals are approved for those who have earned them, but they also want to make sure that they never, ever, in a sense, get it wrong,” he said, referring to the review boards. “There’s a band there, and the difference between the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross is sort of in the eye of the beholder on a given day. And that’s tough. But decisions do have to be made.”

IS THERE LESS heroism today, or fewer opportunities for it, than in earlier eras? Has the Pentagon, despite its insistence to the contrary, raised its standards for what counts as bravery? Has a rigorous review and investigation process made it all too easy to raise doubts about individual acts of bravery? In an age of the all-volunteer military, is the Pentagon taking sacrifice for granted and failing to recognize “today’s heroes,” as many servicemen and veterans are arguing?

Some analysts agree with the Pentagon that there is less heroism today — at least in its traditional forms — as a result of the nature of modern warfare. When I spoke with Michael E. O’Hanlon, a defense-policy specialist at the Brookings Institution, he argued that counterinsurgency efforts, which place greater emphasis on avoiding the use of force (to minimize civilian casualties), call for “a quieter daily kind of courage,” one that rarely requires “that moment of extreme valor” typically honored with a medal.

Many combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan dispute this explanation. Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican congressman from Southern California, served two tours as a Marine in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and one tour in Afghanistan in 2007. He led the effort last year to include the language in the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Pentagon to review its criteria for Medal of Honor awards. When I met with him recently in his Washington office, he insisted that moments of extreme valor are still occurring frequently — almost as frequently as they did in Vietnam or during World War II. “Warfare has changed,” he said. “But 90 percent of it hasn’t. You’ve still got to take ground, and you’ve got to hold it.” He raised the possibility that, in today’s all-volunteer military, expectations and standards have gone up: an action that would have been considered heroic in the mid-20th century is seen today almost as routine conduct — “just being a Marine.”


Page 3 of 3)

Other observers have suggested — and Petraeus’s comments to me could be seen to support the idea — that the military, after its recent experiences with Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, is hesitant to publicize or otherwise herald tales of heroism, for fear of later embarrassment. Both Lynch, in 2003, and Tillman, in 2004, were initially celebrated as war heroes. But Lynch herself was highly critical of those who described her as a heroine, later testifying before Congress that she had been falsely portrayed as a “little-girl Rambo from the hills.” Tillman’s family also testified before Congress, suggesting that his story was deliberately manipulated by officials in order to gather support for the war effort. “They have to be very careful,” O’Hanlon told me. “The idea of first building up this great story and then having it proven factually inaccurate would be very damaging.”

For many criticsof the Pentagon’s handling of the Medal of Honor, Rafael Peralta’s case is a vivid example of the perils of an overly cautious, overly bureaucratic approval process. The standard for awarding the Medal of Honor has always been “incontestable proof of the performance of service,” but critics charge that in recent years the standard for “incontestable” must have been raised. “The eyewitness accounts, it seems, they mean much less than they used to,” Hunter told me. “Now there’s much more weight placed on forensic evidence.”
George Sabga obtained redacted copies of the Medal of Honor recommendation packages that were submitted for Rafael Peralta by the Marine Corps in 2005, which he shared with me. The contents of these packages suggest that, long before the case reached the Pentagon, a pathologist working on an earlier-level review of Peralta’s Medal of Honor case raised questions about his gunshot wound. The pathologist expressed the opinion that, given the particular location of the head wound that Peralta received at the start of the firefight, he would have been cognitively disabled and could not deliberately have brought the grenade in toward his body. A letter included with the pathologist’s report suggests that Peralta’s “scooping/grabbing” was more likely to have been a result of “involuntary muscle spasms” than of a conscious act of courage.

After the pathologist’s report, the packet was returned to Peralta’s division for reconsideration. General Natonski, then commanding general of the First Marine Division, was evidently unconvinced by the pathologist’s interpretation. He ordered a thorough review of the investigation, enlisting medical specialists of his own. In a letter addressed to the secretary of the Navy, dated Aug. 8, 2005, Natonski restated the case on Peralta’s behalf: “This package is being resubmitted based on re-interviews and sworn statements from eyewitnesses as well as new statements from three neurosurgeons with outstanding credentials who have given their medical opinion. These doctors opine that Sergeant Peralta could have scooped the grenade under his body despite his head wound. However, regardless of the medical opinions rendered after the fact there is sufficient eyewitness testimony and physical evidence (grenade fuse lodged in Sergeant Peralta’s flak jacket) to support this award recommendation.” But the pathologist’s original opinion, it appears, continued to sway those in the Pentagon reviewing the file.

MUCH OF THE anger expressed by officers and veterans groups about the decline in Medal of Honor awards reflects their perception that Pentagon officials are disrespectful, even dismissive, of eyewitness accounts by servicemen. The feeling is compounded by the fact that, in today’s military, younger servicemen sometimes have far more combat experience than their seniors now working in the Pentagon, who often progressed through the military hierarchy in a time of relative peace: after Vietnam but before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In a phone conversation with me, Robert Reynolds, one of the Marines who was with Peralta during the firefight in Falluja, expressed frustration that his testimony was not taken seriously. He, like Peralta, was shot during the firefight, and he said he clearly recalled Peralta smothering the grenade. “Knowing what Sergeant Peralta did for me,” he said, “it angers me to know that the Marines that day are basically called liars.”

Peralta is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. One recent afternoon, Rosa Peralta, along with Rafael’s 19-year-old brother, Ricardo (only weeks from beginning Marine Corps boot camp himself), and George Sabga, drove to the cemetery with me. As we stood around Peralta’s simple white marble headstone, Sabga recounted the moment when he and Rosa Peralta learned that Rafael would not receive the Medal of Honor. General Natonski had slid a copy of the Navy Cross citation across the table to Rosa. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety,” the citation read, “Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away.”

The wording of the citation is strikingly similar to the description of the events as Peralta’s fellow Marines have related them, not as the pathologist interpreted them. “I asked the general, ‘How can you say that there were doubts and yet you give us a Navy Cross citation that says that Sergeant Peralta did the exact same thing that the Marines say he did?’ ” Sabga recounted. “I told him, ‘Every single Medal of Honor from now on is going to be tainted because of what’s been done to Peralta.’ The Marines are never going to give up. We’re never going to give up fighting for Peralta’s medal.”


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #114 on: May 30, 2010, 07:45:28 AM »
I see no reason why Sgt. Peralta should not get the MOH. In time, I think the right thing will be done.


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #115 on: May 31, 2010, 07:06:28 AM »


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #116 on: June 25, 2010, 07:01:52 AM »
From South Korea, a note of thanks

The war broke out 60 years ago today. Tens of thousands of Americans gave their lives to preserve democracy.

By Lee Myung-bak

June 25, 2010

Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected.

On the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, I remain grateful to America for having participated in the war. At that time, the Republic of Korea was one of the most impoverished countries, with an annual per capita income of less than $40. In 2009, my country became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, the first aid recipient to become a donor and in only one generation. The Republic of Korea is engaged in peacekeeping missions in 14 countries to promote global peace. It will host the G-20 summit in November, and in 2012 the second nuclear security summit.

The Republic of Korea has emerged as an important partner of the United States in many parts of the world. Also, in the course of investigating and responding to the North's March sinking of our naval vessel the Cheonan, Seoul and Washington have closely coordinated efforts and expertise. In all these endeavors, we are not losing sight of the necessity of eventually turning the Korean Peninsula into a cradle of regional and world peace.

On this significant occasion, all Koreans pay tribute to the heroes fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. I firmly believe that future generations in both countries will further advance the strong Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance into one befitting the spirit of the new age.

Lee Myung-bak is president of the Republic of Korea.


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Marine receives Silver Star for Afg firefight
« Reply #117 on: July 16, 2010, 09:36:45 AM »
Camp Pendleton Marine receives Silver Star for Afghanistan firefight
July 16, 2010 |  9:20 am

A Marine from Camp Pendleton has received the Silver Star for bravery and leadership during a firefight in Afghanistan that began with an insurgent ambush and ended with Marines counterattacking and killing 13 insurgents.
Warrant Officer John W. Hermann, 32, of Tucson, Ariz., received the medal Thursday at a Marine base in Helmand province in Afghanistan where he is serving his second tour. The firefight occurred in 2008 during his first tour; he has also served in Iraq.

Hermann, then a staff sergeant, was on a reconnaissance patrol near the village of Dahaneh when his squad was attacked with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire and machine-gun fire. Hermann left his vehicle and with another Marine charged toward the enemy position, according to the Silver Star citation.

Hermann "single-handedly" killed insurgents in a trench line, then moved across open terrain and under machine gunfire to help a wounded Marine. He applied a tourniquet to the Marine's bleeding leg and despite  shrapnel wounds in his own legs returned to assault an insurgent machine-gun position.

"His quick decision-making, technical competence and bravery saved the wounded Marine from enemy fire and enable the platoon to continue clearing the village, resulting in the destruction of 13 enemy fighters," according to the citation, signed by Commandant Gen. James Conway.

At the time, Hermann was an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.  He is now a platoon commander with the 1st Explosive Ordnance Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Warrant Officer John W. Hermann receives the Silver Star from Brig. Gen. Charles Hudson at a ceremony Thursday at Forward Operating Base Delaram II in Afghanistan. Credit: Marine Corps


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Recon Team Kansas
« Reply #118 on: July 19, 2010, 06:54:06 PM »
Outnumbered worse than the Alamo defenders, here's the story of a SOG team's
desperate last stand.
By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)

The once bustling Khe Sanh Marine Base in South Vietnam’s
extreme northwest had been a ghost town more than three years
by the summer of 1971. Though used briefly that February to
support the South Vietnamese Army’s invasion of Laos, after that
bloody debacle the South Vietnamese abandoned not just Khe
Sanh but the entire region, yielding immense areas to the NVA,
who almost overnight began extending their Ho Chi Minh Trail
highways into South Vietnam.

In late July 1971, U.S. intelligence began tracking a large enemy
force shifting across the DMZ a dozen miles east of Khe Sanh,
threatening the coastal cities of Hue, Danang and Phu Bai where
the last sizeable American ground units were based.

It was essential to learn what was happening near Khe Sanh, a mission assigned to a
shadowy organization called "SOG." Created to conduct covert missions deep behind
enemy lines in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, the top secret Studies and
Observations Group had shifted most of its operations in-country by 1971 to cover the
continuing U.S. withdrawal. From among its clandestine assembly of Army Green
Berets, Navy SEALs and USAF Air Commandos, the Khe Sanh mission eventually
became a prisoner snatch assigned to Recon Team Kansas, an 11-man, Special
Forces-led element, which included eight Montagnard tribesmen.
But how do you grab a prisoner in the midst of 10,000 or more
NVA? Headed by an easygoing, lanky Midwesterner, First
Lieutenant Loren Hagen, along with Sergeants Tony Andersen and
Bruce Berg, the RT Kansas men had brainstormed through several
scenarios until settling upon the best option: They would land
conspicuously on an abandoned firebase -- which obviously would
draw some sort of NVA reaction -- put up a short fight, then extract
by helicopter. Except half of Hagen’s men would stay hidden on
the hill. When the NVA sent a squad up to see if the Americans
had left behind sensors or bombing beacons -- as SOG teams
often did -- the hidden men would ambush the NVA, seize a
prisoner and come out.

In case a serious fight developed, Lt. Hagen reinforced his team
with three more Green Beret volunteers, Staff Sergeant Oran
Bingham and Sergeants Bill Queen and William Rimondi, for eight Montagnard
tribesmen and six U.S. Special Forces, a total of 14 men.

"Recon Team Leader Loren
Hagen shortly before his final
mission." (Photo by Tony

Landing at last light on 6 August 1971, Lt. Hagen surveyed the scrub brush and bomb
craters below them and split his defense into three elements to cover the hilltop’s three
slopes. Immediately they went to work restoring the old firebase’s two dilapidated
bunkers and shallow trenches. The enemy must have seen them land, and Hagen
reckoned to be ready.

A Foreboding Night

It was well after dark when the SOG
men noticed campfires on two facing
ridgelines, unusual because the NVA
normally masked itself. By midnight
enemy probers were at the base of the
hill, firing provocatively from the north,
south, east and west.

At 1 a.m. a USAF AC-130 Spectre
gunship arrived, walking 40mm and
20mm fire around the hill nearly all night.
Never once did the team fire their
weapons, staying blanketed in darkness.
Then at 3 a.m. the SOG men heard
trucks and tailgates dropping. This was odd, very odd.
Beneath the hill, dismounting NVA soldiers formed up into platoons and companies,
which their leaders marched through the darkness to their assigned attack positions, to
wait for dawn.

Just before sunrise it became forebodingly quiet. Then Lt. Hagen heard more trucks
arriving.  Fifty miles away at a coastal airbase, a USAF Forward Air Controller (FAC) and a flight
of helicopters was lifting away for the false extraction; they would be above RT Kansas
in 30 minutes.

As darkness gave way to light, Lt. Hagen detected glimpses of NVA on one slope; then
on another slope pithe helmets appeared, bobbing in the fog. When his men reported
NVA on the third slope, too, Hagen realized the hill was completely encircled by NVA --
but that would require a whole regiment, at least a thousand men!
The NVA regimental commander understood he had to
dispatch the Americans quickly. They'd inadvertently
landed almost within sight of the Hanoi High Command's
most critical new venture, the first six-inch fuel pipeline
laid across the DMZ, absolutely essential in a few
months when entire tank battalions rolled through here
for the war's largest offensive. Already the 304th NVA
Division was massing here, plus a regiment of the 308th
Division, preparing for the 1972 Easter Offensive.
A fourth battalion moved into place; then, concealed in
the ground fog, a fifth battalion arrived. Later, SOG’s
commander, Colonel John Sadler, would learn an entire
regiment had stormed the hill, supported by a second regiment, a mass assault by
approximately 2000 enemy infantry.

A Human Wave

As the clearing ground fog disclosed that terrible truth, Lt. Hagen had no time for
inspiring words, just serious soldier work; in those final moments he repositioned
weapons while his men readied grenades and stacked magazines. The Catholic
Montagnards made the Sign of the Cross.

Then they came.

A well-aimed RPG rocket smashed into Bruce Berg's bunker, collapsing it and signaling
the attack -- fire went from nothing to ten thousand rounds per second! Andersen could
see dozens of NVA rushing in lines up his slope, meeting them with his M-60
machinegun. Hagen hollered that he was going to check Berg, and ran directly into a
ferocious maelstrom, with bullets ricocheting and slamming the earth in front of, behind,
and beneath his dashing feet. He made it a dozen yards when fire from the other slope
cut him down, killing him.

Then Klaus Bingham left a bunker to reposition a claymore and a bullet struck him in the
head, apparently killing him. One Montagnard in a trench below Tony Andersen fired
several bursts then jumped up to pull back and fell into Andersen's lap, dead.
Four men had died in less than four minutes. It was up to Andersen now, the senior

The Last Stand

Small arms fire rattled closer on all sides and grenades lobbed up from below the
hillcrest where waves of NVA were scurrying behind small rises and rolling from bomb
crater to bomb crater. Andersen dashed over the hill to look for Hagen but couldn't see
him anywhere -- just 100 khaki-clad NVA almost at the top! He fired one M-60 belt at
"The NVA were laying a Soviet-made tactical
fuel pipeline, like this one, near RT Kansas'
hilltop, the first ever extended into South
Vietnam. It would be of strategic value a few
months later during the Easter 1972 Offensive."
(Def. Intell. Agency)

NVA advancing up his own slope, then sped to the other approach and ran belt after
belt on the 100 assaulting enemy. By then grenades started coming from behind him as
NVA closed in from his rear. Just a dozen yards away, beyond the curvature of the hill,
enemy heads popped up, cracked a few shots, then dropped back down.
Still a dozen minutes away, the approaching Cobra gunships went to full throttle, leaving
the slower Hueys behind.

Meanwhile RT Kansas had just run out of hand grenades when a North Vietnamese
grenade exploded beside Andersen's M-60, rendering it useless; he spun his CAR-15
off his back and kept shooting, then he tossed back another grenade but it went off in
front of him, nearly blinding him, yet he kept shooting. More shrapnel tore into him, then
an AK round slammed through his webgear and lodged in his elbow, knocking him
down. He stumbled back to his knees and kept firing.

The perimeter was pinched almost in half when Andersen grabbed his last two living
Montagnards, circled below the nearest NVA and somehow managed to reach the
survivors on the opposite side. He found Bingham, started to lift him, and saw he, too,
was dead from a head wound. All around him he heard, "zzzsss, zzssss, zzssss," as
bullets flashed past his ears.

He dragged Bingham back to where Bill Queen lay, wounded. Only Rimondi wasn't yet
hit and still fired furiously. Andersen put them in a back-to-back circle just off the hilltop
where they would make their last stand. AK bullets had destroyed their team radio,
another slug had shot Andersen's little survival radio out of his hand so Rimondi tossed
him another survival radio, their last.

Now the NVA were streaming, rolling over the crest like a tidal wave, their rattling AKs
blending together into one never-ending burst. Andersen's men were firing not at NVA
but at hands wielding AKs over parapets and around bunkers. There was no place left
to fall back. Andersen was shooting NVA little further than the length of his CAR-15
muzzle, and the time it took to speed-change a magazine meant life or death.
From the air it looked like an ant mound, with moving figures everywhere. Cobra lead
rolled in and sparkled 20mm cannon shells around the surviving SOG men, and at last
fighters arrived, adding napalm and Vulcan cannons to the melee. Then at last the
assault ebbed, turned, and the NVA fled for cover, just as the Hueys arrived.
Though wounded repeatedly, Andersen crawled out to fire his CAR-15 to cover the
landing Hueys. With Rimondi's help, Andersen dragged as many teammates’ bodies as
he could to the first Huey, then helped the wounded Queen and others aboard the

"3 months before RT Kansas fought the most one-sided fight in American history, the
USAF already had plotted three enemy pipelines running out of North Vietnam but these
extended into Laos. The most critical pipeline was secretly being laid across the DMZ
into South Vietnam." (USAF)

A Terrible Toll

In one hellacious half-hour, nine of Recon Team Kansas’ fourteen men had been lost.
Lt. Hagen had died, along with Bingham, Berg was presumed dead, six Montagnards
had died, Rimondi and Queen both suffered multiple frag wounds, Andersen had been
struck by both smallarms fire and shrapnel, and their other two Montagnards, too, all
had been wounded

"It’s amazing that any of us came through it with the amount of incoming that we were
getting," Tony Andersen says today, 25 years later. He attributes their survival to his
deceased team leader, Lt. Loren Hagen. "He epitomized what a Special Forces officer
should be -- attentive to detail, a lot of rehearsals, followed through on things," he
explains. "We were ready. I think that was probably the only thing that kept us from
being totally overrun. Everybody was alert and knew what was happening and was

As for Hagen’s bravery, dashing into a wall of AK fire to try to save Bruce Berg, that
didn’t surprise Andersen, either. "Lt. Hagen was that kind of officer. He was a good

Against the lost of most of his teammates, Andersen learned, the USAF counted 185
NVA dead on that hill little RT Kansas had killed half a battalion and probably wounded
twice that many NVA. But that gives Andersen sparse satisfaction compared to the loss
of most of his team.

"Lt. Loren Hagen (right, rear) and Bruce Berg
pose with five indigenous teammates. Both
Hagen and Berg would die on the small hilltop,
along with six of their Montagnard soldiers."
(Photo by Tony Andersen)

Perhaps Andersen’s most difficult duty was carrying the bodies of his six Montagnard
teammates -- his "family" he called them -- to their home village. "As soon as they saw
us driving up in the truck, they knew. Wailing and moaning started, and all the grieving."
The villagers gathered in a circle around the headman’s stilted longhouse. "Through one
of the interpreters I tried to explain how proud we were of them, what good fighters they
were, that they had died for a good cause."

That would be borne out a few months later when the intelligence generated by RT
Kansas’ spirited defense helped U.S. analysts read enemy intentions, enabling
American airpower to counter the NVA’s Easter Offensive.

And though details of this incredible fight would remain classified for decades, enough
was disclosed that First Lieutenant Loren Hagen's family was presented the U.S. Army's
final Vietnam War Medal of Honor; Tony Andersen, who held together what remained of
RT Kansas through those final mass assaults, received the Distinguished Service
Cross, while Queen, Rimondi, Berg and Bingham were awarded Silver Stars.

And now, today, with full disclosure, we can appreciate the significance of their fight:
At the Alamo, 188 Americans had stood against 3000 Mexicans, a ratio of 16-to-1; at
Custer's Last Stand, 211 cavalrymen succumbed to 3,500 Sioux warriors, or 16.5-to-1;
at the 1877 Battle of Rorke's Drift, the most heralded action in British military history
resulting in -- 11 Victoria Crosses -- 140 British troops withstood assaults by 4000
Zulus, or 28-to-1. Lt. Hagen’s 14 men had held on despite being outnumbered 107-toone,
four times as disadvantagous as Rorke's Drift and seven times worse than the
Alamo, one of the most remarkable feats of arms in American history.

(This article is derived from Maj. Plaster’s book, SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s
Commandos in Vietnam, published by Simon & Schuster.)


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Silver Stars
« Reply #119 on: August 30, 2010, 06:10:06 PM »

Fort Bragg, North Carolina (CNN) -- It's been clear for months that the fighting in Afghanistan is more intense than it's been since the war there started nearly nine years ago. Yet, from the midst of those increasingly violent firefights come some amazing stories of heroism.

On Monday, seven soldiers will receive public recognition for their actions during a Silver Star ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The medals -- the third-highest award for valor in the Army -- are being awarded for five separate battles over a span of more than two years.

Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Gonzalez and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roland were part of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA) 732.

On June 11, 2007, their unit was sent to help a group of Afghan soldiers who had been pinned down by an enemy attack. When the unit arrived, they and their fellow soldiers were immediately enveloped in the same ambush by a much larger enemy force.

Even though the enemy was firing from just 10 feet, Roland immediately climbed out of the relative safety of his armored vehicle and started attacking enemy fighters in a nearby wadi, or dry streambed.

He and his fellow soldiers killed two of the enemy and cleared the rest of the wadi of enemy attackers, all while under fire from snipers. Their actions meant the enemy was no longer a threat to his unit's rear flank.

About the same time, Gonzalez saw that four Afghan soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran nearly 40 yards through enemy fire.

"Without regard for his life," the Army account read, "over the course of three trips through enemy fire, he rescued all four soldiers and brought them back to the safety of his armored vehicle." He did it all while under fire from enemy sniper and machine gun fire.

After clearing the wadi and getting back in his vehicle, Roland saw eight Afghan soldiers who were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. He got out of his vehicle, ran through enemy fire and moved four of the Afghan soldiers back to his vehicle and directed the other four to another armored vehicle.

All told, the actions of Roland and Gonzalez -- both of whom had already received the Bronze Star for past battle -- and their fellow soldiers defeated the ambush and led to the death of 60 enemy fighters including two Taliban commanders, according to the Army.

Staff Sgts. Mario Pinilla and Daniel Gould also had Bronze Star medals to their name, and Gould had also received the Silver Star for past heroics. They were both serving with Special Operational Detachment Alpha 7134 near Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

The two were checking reports of Taliban movements near the village of Faramuz when they were ambushed near a river. Pinilla saw one of his fellow soldiers pinned down by enemy fire and already shot twice. Pinilla grabbed a large machine gun, ran through enemy fire, shooting back the entire time, then dived to the ground to block the enemy fire from his wounded colleague, according to the Army

During a 10-minute firefight, he was shot twice. Eventually, more soldiers showed up to help Pinilla and the other wounded man. The Army account says even though he was wounded, Pinilla didn't stop fighting.

"While his fellow detachment members fought to get to him back to safety, Sergeant Pinilla drew his 9mm Beretta and continued engaging the enemy's ambush line, despite being critically injured," the account reads.

Gould also put his life on the line to save a fellow soldier.

When the Taliban ambushed the unit, he got into an intense half-hour gun battle with the enemy. His helmet was shot off his head, and he was hit once in his body armor.

During the fight, he saw one of his teammates, who was much closer to the enemy, get shot and critically wounded. According to the Army, he used a large machine gun to neutralize the enemy that was the greatest threat to the wounded man, giving a medic a chance to go help the soldier. Then, knowing then man need to be evacuated, Gould joined the medic first in dragging the wounded soldier through nearly 50 yards of enemy fire, and then carrying the wounded man the last 40 yards on his shoulders until they all reached safety.

An enemy unit ambushed Master Sgt. Julio Bocanegra's convoy on August 26, 2008. During the attack in Paktika province, Bocanegra noticed that a group of four Afghan national policemen were pinned down by the enemy, their pickup truck blocking the route for the rest of the unit. According to the Army, Bocanegra jumped out of his vehicle and ran through a hail of fire to reach the Afghan police, all but one of whom was wounded. The Army account spells out how he helped get them to safety.

"Sergeant Bocanegra then disregarded the enemy fire and picked up one of the wounded and placed him into the vehicle which [was] continuing to receive effective fire. Continuing to ignore the danger to his life, Sergeant Bocanegra then picked up a second policeman with multiple gunshot wounds to both legs and placed him into the vehicle," the account said.

Bocanegra, with the help of the one policeman who had not been shot, got the third wounded officer into the Afghan police pickup truck and moved them all to safety. All three Afghan police officers and three soldiers who had been wounded in the fight survived their injuries.

Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse, an Army veteran, was working with a Marine special operations unit and was walking along a boulder-strewn path when one of his teammates was badly wounded. He immediately provided medical attention to that man. Then, according to the Army, another teammate was wounded.

"SFC Clouse ran through the kill zone to render further medical attention under head machine gun fire that struck the back of his body armor," according to the Army summary of the battle. The second man's life couldn't be saved.

The summary says Clouse continued providing advanced combat first aid amid intense enemy fire.

"Reacting to the calls for assistance from other wounded, SFC Clouse again ran through the kill zone to provide medical assistance," according to the report.

One enemy sniper bullet destroyed Clouse's weapon, but he kept on. All told, Clouse provided medical assistance to four American wounded and one Afghan soldier who'd been wounded in the attack and helped moved them to safety.

Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez was in a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan national army soldiers traveling through the village of Shewan in Ferah province on May 29, 2008.

As many as 60 insurgents attacked the convoy, disabling Nunez's vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade. The vehicle started burning, and Nunez was worried that other soldiers were still in the vehicle, according to the Army.

"Without regard for his own life, [Nunez] began to discard ammunition and explosives from the rear of the vehicle in order to ensure others were not injured. During this entire period of time, SFC Nunez was engulfed in flames. Ignoring his wounds and the intense concentration of enemy fire, he continued to assist the convoy pinned in the kill zone until he eventually succumbed to his injuries," the battle account reads.

Nunez's obituary noted that he had already received a Bronze Star, an Army commendation medal and numerous other decorations.

After Monday's ceremony at Fort Bragg, his record will be upgraded to include the Silver Star for "his bravery in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, this command and the United States Army."


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True warrior mindset, true heroism
« Reply #120 on: September 25, 2010, 04:44:59 PM »

Wounded in Iraq, double-amputee returns to war

By TODD PITMAN (AP) – 1 hour ago

ASHOQEH, Afghanistan — When a bomb exploded under Dan Luckett's Army Humvee in Iraq two years ago — blowing off one of his legs and part of his foot — the first thing he thought was: "That's it. You're done. No more Army for you."

But two years later, the 27-year-old Norcross, Georgia, native is back on duty — a double-amputee fighting on the front lines of America's Afghan surge in one of the most dangerous parts of this volatile country.

Luckett's remarkable recovery can be attributed in part to dogged self-determination. But technological advances have been crucial: Artificial limbs today are so effective, some war-wounded like Luckett are not only able to do intensive sports like snow skiing, they can return to active duty as fully operational soldiers. The Pentagon says 41 American amputee veterans are now serving in combat zones worldwide.

Luckett was a young platoon leader on his first tour in Iraq when an explosively formed penetrator — a bomb that hurls an armor-piercing lump of molten copper — ripped through his vehicle on a Baghdad street on Mother's Day 2008.

His Humvee cabin instantly filled with heavy gray smoke and the smell of burning diesel and molten metal. Luckett felt an excruciating pain and a "liquid" — his blood — pouring out of his legs. He looked down and saw a shocking sight: his own left foot sheared off above the ankle and his right boot a bloody mangle of flesh and dust.

Still conscious, he took deep breaths and made a deliberate effort to calm down.

A voice rang out over the radio — his squad leader checking in.

"1-6, is everybody all right?" the soldier asked, referring to Luckett's call-sign.

"Negative," Luckett responded. "My feet are gone."

He was evacuated by helicopter to a Baghdad emergency room, flown to Germany, and six days after the blast, he was back in the U.S.

As his plane touched down at Andrew's Air Force Base, he made a determined decision. He was going to rejoin the 101st Airborne Division any way he could.

For the first month at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Luckett was bound to a wheelchair. He hated the dependence that came with it. He hated the way people changed their voice when they spoke to him — soft and sympathetic.

He wondered: how long is THIS going to last? Will I be dependent on others for the rest of my life?

At night, he dreamed of walking on two legs.

When he woke, only the stump of his left leg was there, painfully tender and swollen.

His family wanted to know, is this going to be the same Dan?

He assured them he was.

**Read it all**


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Staff Sgt Robert J. Miller, CMH
« Reply #121 on: October 06, 2010, 06:50:52 PM »

An American warrior's heroic last stand. Never forget.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 08:18:05 PM by Crafty_Dog »


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Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
« Reply #122 on: November 19, 2010, 08:40:03 AM »
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
In a ceremony at the White House Tuesday, United States Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta became the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the account of Giunta's actions, click here.

Of Giunta, Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote, "When we think of military heroism, we may think of Rambos decorated for great damage inflicted on the enemy. In fact, the opposite is true. Every Medal of Honor from these wars has been for an effort to save life. Even more telling, each specifically recognizes bravery that cannot be commanded."

"On that ridge in Afghanistan, Salvatore Giunta could not save his sergeant," McGurn continued. "But he did deprive the enemy of its victory -- and death of some of its sting. ... [A] fellow soldier (who earned a Silver Star in the same firefight) put it this way. 'The last thing [Sgt. Josh] Brennan ever saw was us,' says Sgt. Erick Gallardo. 'You know, he saw us fighting for him. ... We fought for him and he's home with his family now because of that.' It's a soldier's gift. Because of Sgt. Giunta, the family of Josh Brennan know that when their loved one breathed his last, he did so knowing he was among friends willing to put their own lives at risk for him." A fine gift, indeed. Thank you, Staff Sgt. Giunta, for your service to our great country.

Spartan Dog

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Spirit of the Green Beret
« Reply #123 on: February 08, 2011, 11:42:54 AM »
On behalf of Crafty Dog

« Last Edit: October 24, 2011, 12:19:45 AM by Kostas »
Dog Brothers Training Group, Athens, Greece


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Shoot like a warrior....
« Reply #125 on: March 01, 2011, 06:47:22 PM »
....For all of your days.



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WSJ: Meanwhile , , ,
« Reply #127 on: April 10, 2011, 05:43:19 AM »
On March 17, St. Patrick's Day, a dozen Marines, coated in mud, were sloshing through poppy fields in southern Afghanistan. Walking point for the patrol, Lance Cpl. Cody "Yaz" Yazzie swept a small metal detector back and forth. Twelve grunts from the Third Platoon followed carefully in his footsteps.

Back in the U.S., the news was dominated by events in Libya, the start of March Madness in college basketball and the latest court appearance of Lindsay Lohan. The fighting season in Afghanistan had begun, too, but in the U.S., the decade-old war is now largely ignored.

It can't be ignored here in the farm fields of Sangin district, where the Taliban have buried thousands of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One wire is attached to a flashlight battery and another to a plastic jug of explosives, and each is glued to a thin board. When one board is pressed against the other, the wires make contact, sparking an explosion.

Over the past six months, two members of the Third Platoon of Kilo Company, Fifth Marine Regiment, have been killed, two have lost limbs and eight have suffered shrapnel or bullet wounds. A quarter of the original platoon is now gone.

I had embedded with the platoon once before, in January, so the routine was familiar. A point man on a patrol detects one or more IEDs, and then a Taliban gang in civilian clothes usually opens fire. Marine snipers and machine-gunners shoot back, while a squad maneuvers around the flank, forcing the enemy to retreat.

Nighttime brings an interlude. The Taliban stay snug indoors, safe from night-vision devices. Third Platoon lives in cave-like rooms inside an abandoned compound. In the evening, the young men, all in their early 20s, act their raucous age, playing loud music and laughing hilariously at absurd jokes.

When I rejoined the platoon in mid-March, the rhythm hadn't changed. We were only an hour into the patrol when Yaz detected a wire buried in the soil. He snipped it and marked the location of the explosives for disposal by engineers. The patrol proceeded north, passing pulverized compounds and a few groups of men who stared with flat hostility. The Marines ignored them. With no police or language capabilities, the platoon knew who was an enemy only when he opened fire.

On the roof of a small, square house, a large white Taliban flag was flying. "That's the classic Italian salute," Lt. Vic Garcia, the platoon commander, said. "There's probably an IED hidden inside."

Now on his third combat tour, Lt. Garcia has infused his platoon with an aggressive instinct, but he's not foolhardy. "We're looking for a fight," he said. "But we think before we move. There's no way we'll search an empty house."

Over the radio came a report of a dozen motorcyclists converging to our front. We watched as several families ran from the fields into their compounds. About 700 yards away, two motorcyclists puttered to a stop and sat watching us.

"We got a dicker [watcher]," Sgt. Joseph Myers said. "He's crawling in the ditch to our left."

The rules of engagement forbid shooting a man for crawling forward to take a closer look or for talking on a hand-held radio, but such actions usually tip off an attack. For several minutes, the Marines watched the Taliban watching them. No shots were fired, so Yaz slowly led the patrol to the west.

The motorcyclists paralleled our movement, keeping their distance. It reminded me of an old Western movie, with the Comanches riding along the skyline, staying out of range of the cavalry's rifles. In this case, the Taliban knew they were safe as long as they didn't display weapons. Eventually we headed back to base, and the motorcyclists drove off in the opposite direction.

Since September, the Third Platoon has shot somewhere between 125 and 208 Taliban—as many as one enemy killed per patrol. That rate may not seem high, but the cumulative effect has been crushing. Marine tactics, like Ohio State football, have the subtle inevitability of a steamroller.

"We got a radio intercept yesterday," Lt. Garcia said. "Some Talib leaders in Pakistan were chewing out the local fighters for quitting. The locals yelled back, 'Marines run toward our bullets.'"

When we arrived at the Marine base a few miles away, Capt. Nick Johnson, the commander of Kilo Company, was waiting. He had watched the patrol's movement via video streamed from a tethered blimp overhead. I said it reminded me of the blimp at the Super Bowl.

"That's a different world," replied Capt. Johnson, who is on his third combat tour. "In the States, a bad day for a guy on his way to the office is a flat tire. A bad day out here is a double amputee. The public pays attention to Charlie Sheen. No one's heard of Sgt. Abate."

Sgt. Matthew Abate is the Third Platoon's hero. When a patrol hit a minefield in late October, Sgt. Abate had left his safe position and run to apply tourniquets and carry out the screaming, grievously wounded men. He was killed in action five weeks later, but only the platoon remembers his name.

When the U.S. military withdrawal begins this summer, the generals will declare success. But no one knows what will happen after that. Half of the Third Platoon believes the Afghan government will succeed, and half believes the country will remain a mess, with continued tribal fighting. Either way, airpower will prevent the Taliban from seizing Kabul.

The members of the platoon do not care about bringing freedom and development to Afghanistan. They are here because they believe they're defending America. They have volunteered to serve, and most of them will leave the military after four years, with no pension or benefits. They endure the mud, heat, stench, blood, fatigue and terror of lost limbs and lost lives. There is hard bark on these young men.

What bothers them is that the valor of grunts like Sgt. Abate goes without much public recognition. Hollywood's recent war movies tend to feature psychotics instead of heroes. Only one Medal of Honor has been awarded to a living infantryman in 10 years, and the paperwork for a second one has languished for 18 months.

The grunts chose their profession, and they draw satisfaction from their Spartan existence. Almost every member of the Third Platoon said he wanted to be right where he was, living in a cave on the most dangerous battlefield in Afghanistan. It has been a long war, and the American public has understandably lost interest, but these soldiers have not lost their devotion to the mission or their country.

—Mr. West's latest book is "The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan."


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #128 on: April 10, 2011, 09:06:29 AM »
I DO NOT mean this as an editorial on "war tragedy"; bad things happen in war, but I did find the article interesting on how wars are changing,
on how wars are now being fought with Predators,0,200182.story


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #129 on: April 10, 2011, 09:11:21 AM »
"Lance Cpl. Cody "Yaz" Yazzie"
Glad to see the Navajo tradition of Marine Corps service continues.


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Marines honor ancestors, ties to Navajo Code Talkers
« Reply #130 on: April 10, 2011, 10:30:00 AM »

Marines honor ancestors, ties to Navajo Code Talkers

OB DELARAM II, Afghanistan-Forward Operating Base Delaram II, Nimruz province, Afghanistan – Lance Corporals Devin Bidtah and James Nelson, PFC Uriah Billie and Lance Cpl. Travis Yazzie, share a common past through their ancestors. These Navajo men are brothers as Marines, but more profoundly, because their clan ties bind them through the retracing of their ancestry, for some to Navajo Code Talkers of WWII. (Official US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dean Davis)

Sgt. Dean Davis, Regimental Combat Team 2

 • Mon, Dec 13, 2010

FOB DELARAM II, Afghanistan —Many triumphs and sacrifices distinguish the military service of the Navajo people. Perhaps most famous, is the story of the Navajo Code Talkers. During WWII these men ciphered thousands of battlefield messages in the Pacific theatre, saving countless lives and helping end the war. Few of these men are still here today to tell their account, but as Lance Cpl. Devin Bidtah, a Navajo Code Talker descendant explains, their legacy still thrives, and their story that inspired so many, will be honored.

“The Navajos have a strong history in serving,” said Bidtah, a field radio operator with Regimental Combat Team 2. “As my Navajo elders are watching, I try not to upset them. Being out here, I try to do my best.”

Bidtah is not alone in his efforts. Here at Delaram II he has three brothers. They are brothers as Marines, but more profoundly, because their clan ties bind them through the retracing of their ancestry.

“Coming out here, the only family you really have is your platoon,” said Lance Cpl. Travis Yazzie, a field radio operator with 5th Battalion, 11th Marines.

After arriving, Yazzie and Pfc. Uriah Billie, a high school friend of Bidtah, saw him around camp.

“I met Lance Cpl. Bidtah and we talked. We compared our clans,” said Yazzie, 22, from Rocky Ridge, Arizona.

They discovered that they were related. Along with Lance Cpl. James Nelson, a friend of Bidtah’s since radio operator school, the four brothers now enjoy a company others can’t fully appreciate.

“When I found out James and I shared clans, it brought us closer, it made us family” said Bidtah, 20, from Shiprock, New Mexico.

For as close as they are now, these Marines all have different stories of how they came to be in the same place. For Lance Cpl. Bidtah, the events that brought him here were set in motion by the actions of his grandfather, or cheii’, Leroy Johns Sr. and his fellow Code Talkers many years ago.

“I was going to join the Army,” said Bidtah, about the day he was rummaging through his cheii’s things. “I found the Presidential Medal the Code Talkers received.

“I have always tried to be the best at everything, why stop?” said Bidtah. “He was a Marine. I wanted to follow on that same path.”

That path Leroy Johns Sr. and his fellow Marines embarked upon was not an easy one. The fierce fighting in such places as Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Peleliu found the Code Talkers battling the Japanese in dense jungle and sweltering heat.

Because no written key to the secret language was permitted in theatre for fear it may be discovered, these Navajo became “walking codes,” carrying the source of their encryptions entirely by memory.

In the first two days of fighting at Iwo Jima, the Code Talkers transcribed more than 800 messages, with perfect accuracy.

At the war’s end, they were sworn to secrecy. The oath these silent warriors honored protected the secret techniques, but also served to deny them the accolades they deserved.

Decades later the Code Talkers were acknowledged, and awarded gold and silver congressional medals, one of which Bidtah found that fateful day he decided to join the Corps.

“It’s an honor,” Bidtah said. “It feels good knowing my cheii’ did something good for the Navajo people; his name; our family.”

Bidtah, Billie, Nelson and Yazzie continue to honor the deeds of their grandfathers as Marines by doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. They also revere the traditions of their people. Through rituals such as a “fanning off” ceremony, where they burn bits of cedar and talk about their pasts and futures, they reflect on the paths they have chosen, hoping their actions will be akin to those who have gone before them.

“It’s a blessing. I’m very honored to know that someone in my bloodline was a Navajo Code Talker,” said Nelson, 20, from Jeddito, Arizona. “Knowing what huge sacrifices they gave is big part of why I serve today.”


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #131 on: April 10, 2011, 10:36:23 AM »
Dear Readers:  Please note there are four prior posts in this thread today.


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WSJ: Remembering Ramadi
« Reply #132 on: May 16, 2011, 09:37:24 AM »
Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

When death came to Ramadi, it came, as any unwanted guest, to stay. It took a bleached, sand-blown landscape and flooded it red. It seized one Army brigade after another, gutting the ranks so deeply that, between my embeds with the First Armored Division's First Brigade Combat Team (1/1) in Iraq, it carved in granite a quarter of the names in my email inbox. It claimed so many lives and mangled so many others that, even now, on what ought to be the eve of the team's fifth anniversary reunion, the brigade's commander, then-Col. Sean MacFarland, cannot tote them up.

So, no, Brig. Gen. MacFarland's decision to call off the reunion celebration did not astound me. With nearly 100 of his soldiers killed and 500 wounded in eight months, I didn't know how many would (or could) summon the will for a jamboree to cast a glance backward. Instead, from his living room on the bank of the Missouri River, Brig. Gen. MacFarland and I—soldier and civilian, the neatly-ordered student of logic and the disheveled embodiment of what he defends—hold a micro-reunion.

Vacations, kids, work: Brig Gen. MacFarland credits his bare list of RSVPs to the routines that saddle us all. I pin the blame on what is being celebrated. That is, we pick up our argument where we left it five years ago. Not even the 7,000 miles that separate America and Iraq can measure the distance between us, or between the officer corps and the country it serves. In Iraq, the U.S. mission entailed complex operational schemes and thorny moral dilemmas. In the journalist's notebook, the U.S. mission required easy certainties and narrative simplicity.

Where I saw only mayhem in Ramadi, Col. MacFarland saw method and a path forward. One day, as we visited a local sheikh, the sheikh's radio crackled with panicked tribesmen under siege. "We'll bring in air," Col. MacFarland assured the sheikh, who was so busy shouting and being shouted at that it wasn't clear he actually heard the lanky, soft-spoken colonel. "So, um, get your men inside."

Antennae relayed a flurry of coordinates; one of the F-18s on station above Ramadi banked toward the insurgents. Problem solved. Later that day, Col. MacFarland told me he viewed the battle in the way of a mathematical equation: "Within its chaos there can be order," the historian Clayton Newell writes of the paradox of war. And, indeed, by "flipping" Ramadi's tribes, erecting small combat outposts, and otherwise anticipating the tenets of counterinsurgency that Gen. David Petraeus would later enshrine in official policy, 1/1 transformed a blasted shell into a place that bustled with the everyday vibrancy of a living community.

To assert that the outstanding officer can mitigate the chaos of war, however, is not to assert that he can mitigate its horror. Instead, Ramadi's horrors multiplied in direct proportion to the clarity of 1/1's advance.

On my first day back in Iraq, 1/1's public affairs officer and a young captain I admired were killed by a fuel-enhanced IED. Every day supplied a new variation—a marine shot in the neck, a soldier burned alive in his tank, a pilot disemboweled and set alight. Yet even as he devised tomorrow's plans on his color-coded tribal map, Col. MacFarland banished from brigade headquarters photos of yesterday's dead.

Serene in the conviction that Col. MacFarland cared more about victory than about its cost, I soon learned that my biases had things backward. At the landing zone where he loaded body-bags onto helicopters, the colonel was spotted one night behind a stack of medical kits, sobbing into his shirt sleeve. Toward the end of the deployment, one of the brigade's officers told me, he sensed that Col. MacFarland wanted to climb into a body bag.

At his promotion ceremony years later, it became clear what a steep price had been exacted by the tension between battlefield gain and human loss, between his steely command persona and his genuinely warm persona. Quietly and haltingly, Col. MacFarland confessed to the audience that "the many shattered bodies and shattered lives that made victory in Ramadi possible" had led him to ask himself if he was worthy of this honor. "I am not."

Back in Kansas, Brig. Gen. MacFarland says that, with the brigade's achievement now well-chronicled, the unpleasant images have become cloudy and flickering. "I have to believe all of it meant something," he says. "When my son-in-law, serving in southern Iraq, tells me he's bored, that means something."

And the reunion he put so much effort into assembling? The notion that the exquisite sensitivities of men who paint skulls on their tank turrets keep them home-bound seems far-fetched: Soldiers regard themselves as agents, not victims. So, yes, they're busy making other plans, mapping the routes to amusement parks and camp sites. Like Sean MacFarland, I have to believe this. And that, on this reunion day, even the dead have plans.

Mr. Kaplan is a contributing editor at the New Republic and a visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College.


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« Reply #133 on: June 01, 2011, 08:27:58 AM »
« Last Edit: June 01, 2011, 08:31:32 AM by Crafty_Dog »


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Happy Birthday US Army and American Flag!
« Reply #134 on: June 14, 2011, 01:25:54 PM »

Patriot Post

Today, June 14th, is both the 236th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Army, and fittingly, the 234th anniversary of the adoption of our nation's flag.

In 1776, Thomas Paine opened his famous pamphlet, "The American Crisis," with these words: "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

On this June day in 2011, America is once again in crisis, and the Liberty won at great price and bequeathed to us by generations of Patriots is in eminent peril. Paine's words from 1776 ring true today.


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Shifty; an action in Afpakia
« Reply #135 on: July 17, 2011, 06:15:31 AM »
If you watched the series, “Band of Brothers”, you will remember Shifty as the guy who was the best shot in the company. He was called upon several times in the series to take care of a German sniper or to give cover so other troops could maneuver.

SHIFTY DIED JAN 17, in peace.                                                                                            
 "Shifty" By Chuck Yeager

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st  Airborne Infantry.  If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty.  His character appears in all 10 Episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

 I met Shifty in the  Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time.I just saw an elderly gentleman having Trouble reading his ticket.I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle," the symbol of The 101st Airborne, on his hat.
 Making conversation, I asked him if he d been in the 101st Airborne Or if his son was serving.  He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I  guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 ... " at which point my heart skipped.

 At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training Jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into  Normandy ..    Do you know  where  Normandy is?"At this point my heart stopped. I told him "Yes, I know exactly where  Normandy is,and I know what D-Day was."

At that point he said "I also made a second jump into  Holland , into  Arnhem ."
 I was standing with a genuine war hero ....And then I realized  that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day. I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from  France , and he said "Yes...  And it's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip."My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats.  When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

 He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat.  Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to make an old man very happy."  His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on Jan. 17 after fighting cancer.
There was no parade.
No big event in  Staples   Center ..
No wall to wall back to back 24x7 news coverage.
No weeping fans on television.
And that's not right!!

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way.
Please forward this email to everyone you know.  Especially to the veterans.
                                          Rest in peace, Shifty.

Chuck Yeager, Maj Gen. [ret.]
P.S.  I think that it is amazing how the "media" chooses our "heroes" these days... Michael Jackson & the like!    

Please do me a favor and pass this on so that untold thousands can read it.....

                    We owe no less to our REAL HEROES

« Last Edit: July 17, 2011, 06:18:34 AM by Crafty_Dog »


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WSJ: The SEAL tragedy in Afpakia
« Reply #136 on: August 09, 2011, 12:38:41 AM »
I recently visited a Special Operations headquarters in the Middle East—the location, along with other details, must remain classified. I received an incredibly impressive briefing on how U.S. commandos generate intelligence, locate targets, and then swoop down on them. The "operators" are the model of manly understatement. They don't brag but convey a quiet confidence that they know what they are doing—and they do.

As has been reported in several outlets, the Joint Special Operations Command—which comprises Navy SEALs, the Army's Delta Team, the Air Force's "Night Stalker" helicopter crews and other, even more clandestine forces—carries out a dozen operations a night in Afghanistan alone. Other JSOC contingents carry out raids in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and other lands where al Qaeda and its ilk operate. Most of these operations go so smoothly—resulting in a "jackpot," a wanted suspect killed or captured—that there is no mention of them in the press.

JSOC—and the entire U.S. Special Operations Command, of which JSOC is only one element—has come a long way since the 1980s. It was formed then in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw, the Iranian hostage rescue mission that resulted in disaster at a rendezvous point code-named Desert One.

Robert Gates was working at the CIA at the time, and as secretary of defense earlier this year he feared that the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden would turn into another Desert One. His fear was understandable but misplaced. Such operations have become much more routine than they were in 1980. Since 9/11, JSOC has become the most experienced and capable special-operations force the world has ever seen.

Yet things can still go wrong, especially when the element of surprise is lost. Normally the enemy has no idea when the raiders are coming, since they descend from the night sky and surround their targets before they have time to respond. But it's different when another special operations element is caught in a firefight and a Quick Reaction Force is sent out to rescue them.

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 .In 2005, a SEAL team was caught in a firefight in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. A Quick Reaction Force aboard a lumbering Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by the Taliban with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 on board. (The only SEAL to survive that harrowing mission, Marcus Luttrell, was part of the ground element being rescued and subsequently wrote a best-selling memoir, "Lone Survivor.")

History repeated itself on Saturday. Another U.S. contingent was caught in a firefight—this time in the treacherous Tangi Valley south of Kabul—and another Quick Reaction Force of SEALs was sent out in a Chinook helicopter. The Taliban, undoubtedly knowing the SEALs were on the way, used another rocket-propelled grenade to bring down the giant helicopter. This time the loss of life included 30 Americans, most of them members of the ultra-elite Seal Team Six, along with eight Afghan counterparts.

The loss underscores how heroic these men are—volunteers multiple times over who give up hope of a normal life to spend month after month deployed in one war zone after another chasing some of the most dangerous terrorists on earth. They know the risks they run: All Special Operations headquarters have a "wall of honor" displaying the pictures of fallen heroes—all supremely fit and dedicated young men struck down in the prime of life. Yet their comrades routinely strap on body armor and mount helicopters, night after night, knowing that their picture could soon hang on that wall.

While we should be in awe of special operators and their accomplishments, we should keep their capabilities in perspective: They cannot win a war by themselves.

The Tangi Valley is an area infested by Taliban. Even if Saturday's raid had been a success, killing or capturing some local Taliban leaders, it would hardly have ended the insurgent threat in that area. Counterterrorism raids are a vital part of any integrated counterinsurgency strategy, but they cannot substitute for the lack of such a strategy. The loss of leaders hurts any organization, but terrorist groups like the Taliban—or al Qaeda or Hezbollah—have shown considerable ability to regenerate even after major losses.

Only one thing can lead to their decisive defeat: a critical number of boots on the ground. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and our allies have the necessary ratio of ground forces in only two provinces—Helmand and Kandahar. The rest of the country is an "economy of force" mission. U.S. commanders hope to shift resources from the south, once that has been secured, to the east to gain control of ungoverned areas. But that strategy has been thrown into jeopardy by President Obama's decision to pull out 30,000 U.S. troops by September 2012.

Many in the administration wanted an even more precipitous withdrawal, arguing that we could rely on Special Operations troops to keep our enemies from establishing control of critical terrain. Saturday's disaster shows the risks of that strategy and underlines the limitations of even the world's best special operators. So we should honor them, but we should not exaggerate what they can do.

Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is completing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.


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SEAL Jon Tumilson and Hawkeye
« Reply #137 on: August 25, 2011, 12:58:39 PM »

Dog mourns at casket of fallen Navy SEAL
Labrador retriever Hawkeye lays down with a sigh at funeral of his owner


Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson lay in a coffin, draped in an American flag, in front of a tearful audience mourning his death in Afghanistan. Soon an old friend appeared, and like a fellow soldier on a battlefield, his loyal dog refused to leave him behind.

Tumilson’s Labrador retriever, Hawkeye, was photographed lying by Tumilson’s casket in a heart-wrenching image taken at the funeral service in Tumilson’s hometown of Rockford, Iowa, earlier this week. Hawkeye walked up to the casket at the beginning of the service and then dropped down with a heaving sigh as about 1,500 mourners witnessed a dog accompanying his master until the end, reported CBS.


Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson was killed along with other SEALs on Aug. 6 in Afghanistan.

The photo was snapped by Tumilson’s cousin, Lisa Pembleton, and posted on her Facebook page in memory of the San Diego resident. Tumilson, 35, was one of 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, who were killed when a Taliban insurgent shot down a Chinook helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 6.

“I felt compelled to take one photo to share with family members that couldn't make it or couldn't see what I could from the aisle,” Pembleton wrote on her Facebook page. “To say that he was an amazing man doesn't do him justice. The loss of Jon to his family, military family and friends is immeasurable.’’

Hawkeye was such a huge part of Tumilson’s life that Tumilson’s family followed the dog down the aisle as they entered the service in front of a capacity crowd in the gymnasium at the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School. Hawkeye then followed Tumilson’s good friend, Scott Nichols, as Nichols approached the stage to give a speech. As Nichols prepared to memorialize his friend, Hawkeye dutifully laid down near the casket.

The youngest of three children, Tumilson had wanted to be a Navy SEAL since he was a teenager. Friends and his two older sisters remembered a fearless soldier, and a Power Point presentation was shown that illustrated Tumilson’s active life outside of the military, which included scuba diving, martial arts, and triathlons.

"If J.T. had known he was going to be shot down when going to the aid of others, he would have went anyway," friend Boe Nankivel said at the service.

“Your dreams were big and seemed impossible to nearly everyone on the outside," his sister, Kristie Pohlman, said at the service. "I always knew you'd somehow do what you wanted."

As for Hawkeye, the loyal Labrador will now be owned by Nichols, Tumilson’s friend.



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« Reply #138 on: September 04, 2011, 11:05:54 AM »
Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command
By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, Published: September 2
The CIA’s armed drones and paramilitary forces have killed dozens of al-Qaeda leaders and thousands of its foot soldiers. But there is another mysterious organization that has killed even more of America’s enemies in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

CIA operatives have imprisoned and interrogated nearly 100 suspected terrorists in their former secret prisons around the world, but troops from this other secret organization have imprisoned and interrogated 10 times as many, holding them in jails that it alone controls in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, this secretive group of men (and a few women) has grown tenfold while sustaining a level of obscurity that not even the CIA has managed. “We’re the dark matter. We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen,” a strapping Navy SEAL, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said in describing his unit.

The SEALs are just part of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command, known by the acronym JSOC, which has grown from a rarely used hostage rescue team into America’s secret army. When members of this elite force killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, JSOC leaders celebrated not just the success of the mission but also how few people knew their command, based in Fayetteville, N.C., even existed.

This article, adapted from a chapter of the newly released “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State,” by Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, chronicles JSOC’s spectacular rise, much of which has not been publicly disclosed before. Two presidents and three secretaries of defense routinely have asked JSOC to mount intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countries with which the United States was not at war, including Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Syria.

“The CIA doesn’t have the size or the authority to do some of the things we can do,” said one JSOC operator.

The president has given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them. Critics charge that this individual man-hunting mission amounts to assassination, a practice prohibited by U.S. law. JSOC’s list is not usually coordinated with the CIA, which maintains a similar but shorter roster of names.

Created in 1980 but reinvented in recent years, JSOC has grown from 1,800 troops prior to 9/11 to as many as 25,000, a number that fluctuates according to its mission. It has its own intelligence division, its own drones and reconnaissance planes, even its own dedicated satellites. It also has its own cyberwarriors, who, on Sept. 11, 2008, shut down every jihadist Web site they knew.

Obscurity has been one of the unit’s hallmarks. When JSOC officers are working in civilian government agencies or U.S. embassies abroad, which they do often, they dispense with uniforms, unlike their other military comrades. In combat, they wear no name or rank identifiers. They have hidden behind various nicknames: the Secret Army of Northern Virginia, Task Force Green, Task Force 11, Task Force 121. JSOC leaders almost never speak in public. They have no unclassified Web site.

Despite the secrecy, JSOC is not permitted to carry out covert action as the CIA can. Covert action, in which the U.S. role is to be kept hidden, requires a presidential finding and congressional notification. Many national security officials, however, say JSOC’s operations are so similar to the CIA’s that they amount to covert action. The unit takes its orders directly from the president or the secretary of defense and is managed and overseen by a military-only chain of command.

Under President George W. Bush, JSOC’s operations were rarely briefed to Congress in advance — and usually not afterward — because government lawyers considered them to be “traditional military activities” not requiring such notification. President Obama has taken the same legal view, but he has insisted that JSOC’s sensitive missions be briefed to select congressional leaders.

Lethal force

JSOC’s first overseas mission in 1980, Operation Eagle Claw, was an attempted rescue of diplomats held hostage by Iranian students at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It ended in a helicopter collision in the desert and the death of eight team members. The unit’s extreme secrecy also made conventional military commanders distrustful and, as a consequence, it was rarely used during conflicts.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, smarting from the CIA’s ability to move first into Afghanistan and frustrated by the Army’s slowness, pumped new life into the organization. JSOC’s core includes the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and 75th Ranger Regiment.

The lethality of JSOC was demonstrated in the December 2001 mountain battle at Tora Bora. Although bin Laden and many of his followers eventually escaped across the border into Pakistan, an Army history said that on the nights of Dec. 13 and 14, JSOC killed so many enemy forces that “dead bodies of al-Qaeda fighters were carted off the field the next day” by the truckload.

It also made mistakes. On July 1, 2002, in what the Rand Corp. labeled “the single most serious errant attack of the entire war,” a JSOC reconnaissance team hunting Taliban came under attack and an AC-130 gunship fired upon six sites in the village of Kakarak. The estimates of civilian deaths ranged from 48 to hundreds. The “wedding party incident,” as it became known because a wedding party was among the targets accidentally hit, convinced many Afghans that U.S. forces disregarded the lives of civilians.

Nevertheless, on Sept. 16, 2003, Rumsfeld signed an executive order cementing JSOC as the center of the counterterrorism universe. It listed 15 countries and the activities permitted under various scenarios, and it gave the preapprovals required to carry them out.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal action against al-Qaeda was granted without additional approval. In the other countries — among them Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria — JSOC forces needed the tacit approval from the country involved or at least a sign-off from higher up on the American chain of command. In the Philippines, for example, JSOC could undertake psychological operations to confuse or trap al-Qaeda operatives, but it needed approval from the White House for lethal action. To attack targets in Somalia required approval from at least the secretary of defense, while attacks in Pakistan and Syria needed presidential sign-off.

In the fall of 2003, JSOC got a new commander who would turn the organization into arguably the most effective weapon in the U.S. counterterrorism arsenal. From his perch as vice director of operations on the Joint Staff, Brig. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal had come to believe there was an aversion to decision making at the top of government. No one wanted to be wrong, so they asked more questions or added more layers to the process. The new emphasis on interagency cooperation also meant meetings were bigger and longer. Any one of a multitude of agencies could stifle action until it was too late.

McChrystal believed he had “to slip out of the grip” of Washington’s suffocating bureaucracy, he told associates. He moved his headquarters to Balad Air Base, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, and worked inside an old concrete airplane hangar with three connecting command centers: one to fight al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, one for the fight against Shiite extremists in the country and a third for himself, so he could oversee all operations.

He coaxed the other intelligence agencies to help him out — the CIA presence grew to 100, the FBI and National Security Agency to a combined 80. He won their loyalty by exposing the guts of his operation to everyone involved. “The more people you shared your problem with, the better you’d do in solving it,” he would say.

McChrystal installed a simple, PC-based common desktop and portal where troops could post documents, conduct chats, tap into the intelligence available on any target — pictures, biometrics, transcripts, intelligence reports — and follow the message traffic of commanders in the midst of operations.

Then he gave access to it to JSOC’s bureaucratic rivals: the CIA, NSA, FBI and others. He also began salting every national security agency in Washington with his top commandos. In all, he deployed 75 officers to Washington agencies and 100 more around the world. They rotated every four months so none would become disconnected from combat.

Some thought of the liaisons as spies for an organization that was already too important. But those suspicions did little to derail JSOC or McChrystal.

Stories spread that he ate just one meal and ran 10 miles every day. He looked the part, with his taut face, intense eyes and thin physique. A sign inside the wire at Balad said it all: “17 5 2.” Seventeen hours for work, five hours for sleep, two hours for eating and exercise.

McChrystal’s legendary work ethic mixed well with his Scotch Irish exuberance and common-man demeanor. He viewed beer calls with subordinates as an important bonding exercise. He made people call him by his first name. He seemed almost naively trusting. (This trait would become McChrystal’s undoing in 2010, after he was promoted to commander of forces in Afghanistan. He and members of his inner circle made what were seen as inappropriate comments about their civilian leaders in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. McChrystal offered to resign, and Obama quickly accepted.)

Harnessing technology

The Iraqi insurgency’s reliance on modern technology also gave tech-savvy JSOC and its partners, particularly the National Security Agency, an advantage. The NSA learned to locate all electronic signals in Iraq. “We just had a field day,” said a senior JSOC commander, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe secret operations.

One innovation was called the Electronic Divining Rod, a sensor worn by commandos that could detect the location of a particular cellphone. The beeping grew louder as a soldier with the device got closer to the person carrying a targeted phone.

Killing the enemy was the easy part, JSOC commanders said; finding him was the hard part. But thanks to Roy Apseloff, director of the National Media Exploitation Center, the U.S. government’s agency for analyzing documents captured by the military and intelligence community, JSOC’s intelligence collection improved dramatically. Apseloff offered to lend McChrystal his small staff, based in Fairfax, to examine items captured in raids. Apseloff’s team downloaded the contents of thumb drives, cellphones and locked or damaged computers to extract names, phone numbers, messages and images. Then they processed and stored that data, linking it to other information that might help analysts find not just one more bad guy but an entire network of them.

The major challenge was how to find the gems in the trash quickly enough to be useful. The key was more bandwidth, the electronic pipeline that carried such information as e-mail and telephone calls around the world. Luckily for the military and JSOC, the attacks of 2001 coincided with an unrelated development: the dot-com bust. It created a glut in commercial satellite capacity, and the military bought up much of it.

Within a year after McChrystal’s arrival, JSOC had linked 65 stations around the world to enable viewers to participate in the twice-daily, 45-minute video teleconferences that he held. By 2006, JSOC had increased its bandwidth capability by 100 times in three years, according to senior leaders.

The other challenge JSOC faced was a human one: Ill-trained interrogators had little information about individual detainees and didn’t know what questions to ask or how to effectively ask them. Worse, some members of the JSOC’s Task Force 121 were beating prisoners.

Even before the Army’s Abu Ghraib prison photos began circulating in 2004, a confidential report warned that some JSOC interrogators were assaulting prisoners and hiding them in secret facilities. JSOC troops also detained mothers, wives and daughters when the men in a house they were looking for were not at home. The report warned these detentions and other massive sweep operations were counterproductive to winning Iraqi support.

An investigation of JSOC detention facilities in Iraq during a four-month period in 2004 found that interrogators gave some prisoners only bread and water, in one case for 17 days. Other prisoners were locked up in cells so cramped they could not stand up or lie down while their captors played loud music to disrupt sleep. Still others were stripped, drenched with cold water and then interrogated in air-conditioned rooms or outside in the cold.

Eventually, 34 JSOC task force soldiers were disciplined in five cases over a one-year period beginning in 2003.

McChrystal ordered his intelligence chief, Michael Flynn, to professionalize the interrogation system. By the summer of 2005, JSOC’s interrogation booths at Balad sat around the corner from the large warren of rooms where specialists mined thumb drives, computers, cellphones, documents to use during interrogations. Paper maps were torn down from the walls and replaced with flat-panel screens and sophisticated computerized maps. Detainees willing to cooperate were taught how to use a mouse to fly around their virtual neighborhoods to help identify potential targets.

JSOC had to use the rules laid out in the Army Field Manual to interrogate detainees. But its interrogators were — and still are — permitted to keep them segregated from other prisoners and to hold them, with the proper approvals from superiors and in some case from Defense Department lawyers, for up to 90 days before they have to be transferred into the regular military prison population.

The new interrogation system also included an FBI and judicial team that collected evidence needed for trial by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court in Baghdad. From early 2005 to early 2007, the teams sent more than 2,000 individuals to trial, said senior military officials.

Body counts

Al-Qaeda used the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a call to arms to terrorists and recruits throughout the Middle East who flooded in from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — as many as 200 of them a month at the high point. By the end of 2005, a shocking picture emerged: Iraq was rife with semiautonomous al-Qaeda networks.

Al-Qaeda had divided Iraq into sections and put a provincial commander in charge of each. These commanders further divided their territory into districts and put someone in charge of each of those, too, according to military officials. There were city leaders within those areas and cells within each city. There were leaders for foreign fighters, for finance and for communications, too.

By the spring of 2006, using the expanded bandwidth and constant surveillance by unmanned aircraft, JSOC executed a series of raids, known as Operation Arcadia, in which it collected and analyzed 662 hours of full-motion video shot over 17 days. The raid netted 92 compact discs and barrels full of documents, leading to another round of raids at 14 locations. Those hits yielded hard drives, thumb drives and a basement stacked with 704 compact discs, including copies of a sophisticated al-Qaeda marketing campaign. Operation Arcadia led, on June 7, 2006, to the death of the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, when JSOC directed an airstrike that killed him.

JSOC’s lethality was evident in its body counts: In 2008, in Afghanistan alone, JSOC commandos struck 550 targets and killed roughly a thousand people, officials said. In 2009, they executed 464 operations and killed 400 to 500 enemy forces. As Iraq descended into chaos in the summer of 2005, JSOC conducted 300 raids a month. More than 50 percent of JSOC Army Delta Force commandos now have Purple Hearts.

The most intense Iraqi raids reminded McChrystal of Lawrence of Arabia’s description of “rings of sorrow,” the emotional toll casualties take on small groups of warriors. Greatly influenced by T.E. Lawrence’s life story, McChrystal thought of his JSOC troops as modern-day tribal forces: dependent upon one another for kinship and survival.

If killing were all that winning wars was about, the book on JSOC would be written. But no war in modern times is ever won simply by killing enough of the enemy. Even in an era of precision weaponry, accidents happen that create huge political setbacks.

Every JSOC raid that also wounded or killed civilians, or destroyed a home or someone’s livelihood, became a source of grievance so deep that the counterproductive effects, still unfolding, are difficult to calculate. JSOC’s success in targeting the right homes, businesses and individuals was only ever about 50 percent, according to two senior commanders. They considered this rate a good one.

“Sometimes our actions were counterproductive,” McChrystal said in an interview. “We would say, ‘We need to go in and kill this guy,’ but just the effects of our kinetic action did something negative and they [the conventional army forces that occupied much of the country] were left to clean up the mess.”

In 2008, Bush also briefly sent JSOC into Pakistan. To soothe the worries of U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson about the mounting civilian deaths from JSOC raids in other countries, commandos brought her a Predator console so she could witness a raid in real time. Because of public outcry in Pakistan, U.S. officials canceled the mission after only three raids. The CIA has continued to conduct drone strikes there.

Targeting bureaucracy

The Defense Department has given JSOC a bigger role in nonmilitary assignments as well, including tracing the flow of money from international banks to finance terrorist networks. It also has become deeply involved in “psychological operations,” which it renamed “military information operations” to sound less intimidating. JSOC routinely sends small teams in civilian clothes to U.S. embassies to help with what it calls media and messaging campaigns.

When Obama came into office, he cottoned to the organization immediately. (It didn’t hurt that his CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, has a son who, as a naval reservist, had deployed with JSOC.) Soon Obama was using JSOC even more than his predecessor. In 2010, for example, he secretly directed JSOC troops to Yemen to kill the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Arab Spring forced the White House to delay some JSOC missions. In the meantime, the organization is busy with its new 30,000-square-foot office building turned command center. Unlike previous offices, it is not in some obscure part of the world. It sits across the highway from the Pentagon in pristine suburban splendor, just a five-minute drive from McChrystal’s civilian office and the former general’s favorite beer-call restaurants.

As its name implies, the focus of Joint Special Operations Task Force-National Capital Region is not the next terrorist network but another of its lifelong enemies: the Washington bureaucracy. Some 50 battle-hardened JSOC warriors and a handful of other federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies work there.

Mexico is at the top of its wish list. So far the Mexican government, whose constitution limits contact with the U.S. military, is relying on the other federal agencies — the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — for intelligence collection and other help.

But JSOC’s National Capital task force is not just sitting idly by, waiting to be useful to its southern neighbors. It is creating targeting packages for U.S. domestic agencies that have sought its help, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the second-largest federal law enforcement agency and the latest to make a big play for a larger U.S. counterterrorism role.

From the book “Top Secret America.” Copyright 2011 by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Co., New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.


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A little tribute from Gene Simmons
« Reply #139 on: September 06, 2011, 01:52:14 PM »

Gene Simmons and the troops.

No love for the Coasties though.


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The last six seconds
« Reply #141 on: November 07, 2011, 02:36:30 PM »

From: Albright, Andrew Mr CIV USA IMCOM <>
Subject: Fwd: "THE LAST SIX SECONDS...!!!"
Date: Saturday, December 18, 2010, 12:13 PM
Please thank an access control professional the next time you have a chance--the trailing speech by Lt. Gen Kelly pays tribute to two US Marines on ACP duty.  Pray for their souls.

De Oppresso Liber,


To Marines & My Friends:

On Nov 13, 2010 Lt General John Kelly, USMC, gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis, MO.  This was 4 days after his son, Lt Robert Kelly, USMC was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour. During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of the young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us. During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son.  He closed the speech with the moving account of the last 6 seconds in the lives of 2 young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother Marines.


"I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are, about the quality of the steel in their backs, about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform. and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 "The Walking Dead," and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines; "Corporal Jonathan Yale" and "Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter",
22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.  The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.  Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well.  He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000.  Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.  They were from two completely different worlds.  Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America's exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born.

But they were Marines, combat Marines, 'forged in the same crucible of Marine training', and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: "Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass."  "You clear?"  I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: "Yes Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding sweetheart, we know what we're doing."  They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way - perhaps 60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls.  The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed.  A mosque 100 yards away collapsed.  The truck's engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.  Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives.  Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn't have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different.  Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat.  We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes.  But this just seemed different.  The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police.  I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I'd have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements.  If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story.  The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine.  They all said, "We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing."  The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.  All survived.  Many were injured, some seriously.  One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, "They'd run like any normal man would to save his life."  "What he didn't know until then," he said, "and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal."  Choking past the emotion he said, "Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did."  "No sane man."  "They saved us all."

What we didn't know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack.  It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it.  It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives.  Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley.  Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do.  Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: "let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass."  The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up.  By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time.  Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were - some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines' weapons firing non-stop. the truck's windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers - American and Iraqi - bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.  If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe. because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.  The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines.  In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated.  By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back.

--- They never even started to step aside.  They never even shifted their weight.  With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons.  They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes.  The camera goes blank.  Two young men go to their God -- Six seconds.  Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty. Into eternity.

That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight - for you...and for us!!!!!!!

We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth - FREEDOM...!!  We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious - our Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen - to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away.

It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

God Bless America, and...SEMPER PARATUS!"


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The real OBL hit
« Reply #142 on: November 09, 2011, 10:59:47 AM »

New book, just released, contradicts earlier reports about the raid. The author, a former SEAL, can be heard in this interview with Mark Levin, beginning at about 92:20. A worthwhile listen, it provides more meat than the following column, written by the book's author.

Exclusive Excerpt: ‘Seal Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden’

Posted by Chuck Pfarrer Nov 8th 2011 at 9:47 am

Winston Churchill said that “history is written by the victors,” and that maxim is as correct today as it was in 1945. But in order to write history, one needs access to the facts–the accounts of eyewitnesses, or, at the very least, access to people who know the truth.

In the six months since Navy SEALs staged their successful raid against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, history has been impossible to write, in the first place because the “facts” put forward by the United States government were incomplete and then embarrassingly contradictory.

Like everyone else in the world, I heard the first accounts of the raid, and the contradictory details leaked by politicians. They didn’t add up. If the lead helicopter crashed as it approached the target, why didn’t the second helicopter land in its place? What was the purpose of setting down an assault element outside the compound’s walls—only to have them use explosives to get back in? Most glaring of all was the idea of a SEAL Team engaging in a 45-minute firefight. It didn’t jibe with either the casualties suffered by the assaulters (zero) or the killed and wounded inside the compound (one wounded and five dead). Clearly something was wrong, but no one came forward with clarifications. In the absence of facts, the New Yorker pulled together a “ground up” version of the assault, a very ugly tale of murder–complete with a SEAL Team that fought its way up three flights of stairs to shoot a man and his wife in their bedroom.

In the course of my research, I found that the Administration was not particularly helpful. Not everyone who asked for White House help was blown off, but I was. At first I wondered why such an incomplete and obviously false story was allowed to stand. I still don’t know. But history and the brave men who conducted this operation deserved better.

They deserve the truth, and the facts of the mission are these: The raid on Abbottabad had achieved its objective in the first two minutes. The downed helicopter did not crash “on insertion” but only after it had successfully landed operators on the roof of bin Laden’s residence. Assaulting from the top down, these assaulters quickly took over the building.

There were as many as twenty non-combatant women and children within the compound. The operators who entered bin Laden’s bedroom did not wait for him to arm himself; they shot first. Amal was grazed by a bullet when the SEALs fired at her husband, who was at that instant concealed behind her nightgown and reaching for an automatic weapon. The second civilian casualty, the wife of Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, was standing behind her husband as he exchanged gunfire with a passing helicopter. From start to finish, the operation took 38 minutes.

The Navy SEALs who attacked the compound did so with the stealth and precision that has been the hallmark of Naval Special Warfare for more than 50 years. The events at Abbottabad exemplify the fighting spirit and professionalism of the United States Navy, and the facts of that operation are a vital part of our nation’s history. I am honored to tell the story.


Exclusive Excerpt

On the night that Osama bin Laden was killed, Sohaib Athar could not sleep. The thirty-three-year-old IT consultant had moved his young family to Abbottabad almost six months earlier. He’d come to this quiet city after his wife and son were hit by a car on the teeming streets of Lahore. A physics grad of Forman Christian University, Sohaib also held a master of science from the University of the Punjab. He liked to say that in his previous life he was a “start- up specialist”—he’d come to Abbottabad to open a coffee shop and Internet café. Business was good. His Web site said proudly that his was the first coffee shop in Abbottabad to brew fresh espresso. Sohaib Athar was a quiet man and he wanted a quiet life. That night, the windows were open in his apartment on the Jadoon Plaza. The heat of the day was slow in breaking, and by midnight, scented wind blew down from the Shimala Hills above the city. Spring was coming to the foothills of the Hindu Kush, and as the days had grown hotter, people were shifting their activity to the evening, when it was cooler. Past midnight, a handful of shops were still open, and now and again a truck would rumble past the dusty strip mall sprawling on either side of Sohaib’s balcony. The city of Abbottabad was falling asleep.

Just before one in the morning on May 2, Sohaib heard a buzzing sound; it grew in volume and faded, came in with the wind and left with it. Finally, he could tell it was the noise of a helicopter— or maybe a couple of them. Sohaib looked out the window toward the echoing hills. The night was hazy, and above the glare of the streetlights he could see nothing. The sound came again and then it was gone, like someone had thrown a switch. He crossed from the balcony to his laptop and logged on to his Twitter account: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” Sohaib could have no idea of what was unfolding three miles to the east of his balcony. It was 12:58 a.m., and at a place called Yaba Yar, a team of United States Navy SEALs were jumping from helicopters into the high walled compound of Osama bin Laden…

Sohaib listened; another helicopter, this one an MH-47 Chinook, flew nearby and lumbered off to the east. He heard the Chinook, but did not see it. Like the other helicopters used in the assault, this aircraft flew without lights and was painted the exact color of the dusky night. Sohaib went to his keyboard and tweeted again: “Go away helicopter—before I take out my giant swatter ;-/”.

At four minutes past one in the morning, an enormous boom shook the city— a thunder blast out of a cloudless sky… Traffic on the street below Sohaib’s window had now stopped completely. The entire city of Abbottabad seemed to hold its breath. There were two or three more explosions, smaller, muffled, but Sohaib thought they might be just as deadly. Maybe he had been foolish to think that this was a safe place. He walked back into his living room, sat down at his laptop and tweeted again: “Funny, moving to Abbottabad was part of the ‘being safe’ strategy.”

Sohaib Attar and Osama bin Laden had both come to Abbottabad for the same reasons — to put themselves, and their families, beyond danger. Both of them thought that Abbottabad was a safe place.

One of them had been wrong.


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« Reply #143 on: November 18, 2011, 08:53:59 AM »
My nine hunting companions last weekend in South Texas didn't look particularly special. Ranging from early-30s to mid-40s, they could be mistaken for the young doctor down the street, the general manager of the car dealership, the guy who builds custom motorcycles.

But they are extraordinary. Among them, they had a Navy Cross, four Silver Stars, 26 Bronze Stars for valor and four Purple Hearts. These were Navy SEALs with a combined 150 years of service and more than 67 overseas deployments in the war against terror.

The men had taken leave time to spend Veterans Day hunting quail and deer with friends of the Navy SEAL Foundation at Loralee and Al West's San Rafael Ranch just north of the Rio Grande River. It was their way of expressing thanks for all the foundation does to support their families and teammates. For the rest of us, it was an extraordinary honor to share the pleasures of their company.

At a Saturday luncheon, a SEAL no longer on active duty spoke to the group about his last mission, which took place in 2007. (I withhold his identity, as SEALS are generally not publicly named.) Seven days before his deployment in Iraq's Anbar province was to end, his unit received intelligence about the presence of 16 to 20 al Qaeda combatants in a remote compound. In the dark of night, helicopters dropped his SEAL team and Iraqi scouts 3.5 kilometers from their target. After surrounding the building, they assaulted it by blowing the main door.

Inside, the SEAL found himself in a foyer with doors leading to two interior rooms. He and another SEAL kicked in one door and were confronted by four al Qaeda, two armed with AK-47s, one with an M4, and the final one with a pistol. In the darkened room, both sides immediately opened fire. The second SEAL and an Iraqi scout were killed almost immediately.

The rifle of the remaining SEAL, our speaker, was shot out of his hand. He drew his pistol and returned fire, killing two al Qaeda fighters. He was then knocked to the ground as a grenade that one of them was preparing to throw instead exploded in the room.

When he regained consciousness, he realized the two remaining al Qaeda had driven off his assault team and were still firing at the retiring Americans and Iraqi scouts. He discarded his momentary impulse to play dead and instead re-engaged, emptying first one pistol magazine and then another as he shot it out with the two terrorists, killing both.

Staggering to his feet, he found his dead SEAL comrade and then two dead Iraqi scouts. He attempted to communicate with his unit before realizing his radio had been shot away. He recovered his dead teammate's radio to communicate with the rest of the assault team, which was about to have the compound pulverized by a C-130 gunship orbiting overhead, assuming since their calls had gone unanswered that none of their comrades in the building was still alive.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Fox News Contributor and is the author of the book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

Click here to order his new book,Courage and Consequence.
.Despite grievous wounds, the SEAL explored the rest of the house, collected three Iraqi scouts and two terrorists they detained, and then moved his people outside to link up with the assault team. He refused to be carried to the evacuation chopper: He hurt so badly he felt he'd be further injured. Once on board, an airlift medic cut away all his clothes, stabilizing him as best as he could.

When the chopper landed at base, airfield personnel had difficulty assembling a litter. Spotting a nearby golf cart, the SEAL walked off the chopper and across the strip, wearing only his boots.

Driven to the base hospital, he was found to have 16 gunshot and shrapnel wounds. An additional 11 rounds had slammed into his body armor. Within 48 hours, he was airlifted to Bethesda Naval Hospital and 16 days later he talked his way out and went home to convalesce.

On Veterans Day 2011, in a south Texas pasture, this former SEAL said he'd learned from this experience the importance of empathy. He now works as an advocate for wounded warriors.

Some warn that America's freedom, like all things human, may crumble into dust. The reason it doesn't is because in times of trial our country produces men and women of courage and fortitude, honor and sacrifice. Which is another way of saying America produces self-effacing heroes like last weekend's hunting companions.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.


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Dog Soldiers
« Reply #144 on: December 26, 2011, 01:37:48 PM »


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #145 on: December 26, 2011, 03:55:35 PM »
My respects for all those K-9 in the military and in Law enforcement. We have used K9s in some of our arrests and works great, you should see the fear in the  eyes of the bad guys. They sure surrender very fast.  Thank God for the trainers also, they do a great job.


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Re: SEAL Sniper in action
« Reply #147 on: January 03, 2012, 01:56:03 AM »


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Language warning
« Reply #148 on: January 05, 2012, 11:35:39 AM »

Kyle is an even bigger hero, if that was possible.

Note that Ventura wasn't a SEAL during Vietnam and never saw combat, despite what he leads many to believe.


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Re: Our Troops in Action
« Reply #149 on: January 05, 2012, 12:53:07 PM »
Good story. "We deserved to lose a few guys"?  What a jerk.  Ventura was part of UDT (underwater demolition team) 8 years before they merged with Seals.
He is also the most prominent of 9/11 truthers.  :-(  Don't get him started on the JFK assassination.