Friday, May 29, 2020

Some of the Greatest Generation

This is a very touching video, actually a piece of film that has been made into a video, this is one that is NOT Photo-shopped, it's real.

Notice in the opening shot of the plane landing on the carrier deck the gunner's position is all shot to hell while the pilot's cockpit ahead of it is undamaged. Later on notice the corpsman taking a fingerprint of the deceased gunner, before the film continues, then shows the chaplain saying final prayers, followed by taps, then the sailors push the aircraft and this patriotic airman over the side and watch it sink into the sea.

This is what 18 to 24 year old "boys" were doing from 1942 to 1945. (Half of them not even old enough to vote.)

No safe spaces, no hurtful unthinkable remarks that they couldn't cope with, just dying for their country so the ungrateful, uninformed snowflakes of today could act like fools decades later.

This 2 minute video is pretty moving. Worth your while. "What actually made this country great is ordinary people like this doing extraordinary things."

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

SFA Chapter Commo Sgt's comment: I do not know the origin on the following article. It was sent to me in an e-mail. It gives a slightly different perspective on Memorial Day and still recognizing the obligation and honor to remember those who gave all.

Here are some numbers we might remember on Memorial Day:

In World War II more than 16 million Americans were in uniform, and 400,000 died—or, 2.5%.

More than 5.7 million were in uniform during the Korean War, with 1.8 million deploying to the theater, and 37,000 dying (or 2% of the deployed).

During the Vietnam War 9 million were in the military, with 2.7 million actually serving in the combat zone. The 58,000 American deaths in the war were about .65% of 9 million in uniform and about 2% of those who went to Vietnam.

The First Gulf War, Desert Storm/Desert Shield, saw 2.3 million in uniform, with 700,000 deploying and about 400 dying. Testament to how lightning quick we won the war, those 400 were .06% of those who deployed.

In the fifteen years of the present two wars, 2.5 million individual Americans have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with just under 7,000 dying. With our population of over 310 million, that is less than 1% of all us Americans going to war. Of that tiny 1%, the 7,000 who died represent just .35% of those who deployed—a third of one percent.

On Memorial Day, simply because of the proximity to these two present-day wars, it might be more natural to think first of those 7,000 who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. After all, they are our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces and high school buddies and college chums—if only knowing them not by name or face but by a couple of degrees removed, as a relative or friend of a friend of a friend.

On Memorial Day we might also have a special remembrance for those 58,000 from Vietnam, who many of us are old enough to remember personally as family or friends. And perhaps we should even recognize those Vietnam veterans still living, if for no other reason but to counter the undeserved scorn heaped on many of them upon returning from the war, (yes, they were even spat upon). A thanks today acknowledges the wrongness of disrespecting and scorning soldiers for serving honorably in a war that they did not start, had no say in its horrible execution and could not be held accountable for its loss?

In its essence Memorial Day is our country’s honoring of those who accepted the obligation asked of them, no matter the war, but were unfortunate to be that small percentage who did not return home. A part of me also can’t help but acknowledge those who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe physical wounds. Limbs lost, eyesight gone, bodies deformed and scarred with terrible burns, disabling brain trauma.

Friday, May 15, 2020

RIP Ron Shurer MOH

Green Beret SSG Ronald J. Shurer II, who earned the Medal of Honor during a chaotic firefight on an Afghan mountain, died Thursday at the age of 41 after a long struggle with cancer.

Mr. Shurer was a Special Forces medic in 2008, on Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336, Special Operations Task Force-11, when his team was ordered to helicopter into the Shok Valley, near the Pakistan border, climb 1,000 feet up a sheer incline and kill or capture a top leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin insurgent group.As the ODA navigated through the valley, a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms and machine-gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position. Around that time, Shurer received word that his forward-assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.

With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent rocket-propelled grenade blast.

After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned-down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. Soldiers and 10 injured Afghan commandos until teammates arrived.

For the next five and a half hours, Shurer braved enemey fire and received gunshot wounds moving from wounded to wounded all along helping keeping the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Overall, Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care. Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory teammates down a near-vertical, 60-foot cliff – all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.

It was this action against over whelming enemy forces fighting from superior positions of advantages that led to SSG Shurer's Medal of Honor Award.

Ronald J. Shurer II born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 7, 1978 (Pearl Harbor Day). Moving to Washington State then following his high school graduation in 1997, Shurer attended Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics. Later that year, he enrolled in a master’s degree program at Washington State. But after the cowardly terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001, Shurer was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and parents by serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Shurer entered the U.S. Army in 2002, began the Special Forces Qualification Course and after earning his green beret, Shurer was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in June 2006. Shurer deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007, and again from October 2007 to May 2008.

After separating from the Army in May 2009, Shurer was hired by the U.S. Secret Service and was stationed in Phoenix, Arizona, to investigate financial crimes, perform advance work and protect the president, vice president and high-level dignitaries. In May 2014 he moved to Washington, D.C., as part of the U.S. Secret Service Counter Assault Team, the tactical team that works to suppress, divert and neutralize any coordinated attack against the president of the United States.

Shurer’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Valorous Unit Award, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Special Forces Tab.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Pascal Poolaw - Kiowa and three war Veteran

Pascal Cleatus Poolaw, a native of the Kiowa Nation, served in the US Army during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War amassing quite a valor record in the best keeping of Native Americans who have served this Nation in all our Wars.

Poolaw, born in 1922 in Oklahoma, is possibly the Nation's highest decorated Native American earning the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, as well as three Purple Hearts – one for each war he served in.

In World War II, Poolaw fought in Belgium, while serving in the 8th Infantry Regiment's M Company, leading his unit against German forces, clearing machine gun positions with hand grenades, an action in which he was wounded.

He served in the Korean War, where he earned two more Silver Stars, and in July 1950, another Purple Heart. He returned to the United States in 1952, and served until his retirement from the Army in 1962.

Two wars and two war wounds weren't enough for this Warrior. Poolaw's son, Pascal Jr., had also joined the army and was serving in the Vietnam War in 1967, when he was wounded by a landmine and had his right leg amputated. Poolaw's youngest son Lindy was also drafted and set to deploy to Vietnam shortly thereafter.

Poolaw unretired and re-enlisted in the Army following son Lindy to Vietnam and serving as the first sergeant of Charlie Company, 26th Infantry Regiment. A couple months later, while on a search and destroy mission during the first battle of Loc Ninh, 1SG Poolaw and his unit were ambushed by the Viet Cong. He was killed while attempting to pull a unit casualty to safety, and posthumously awarded a fourth Silver Star.

At his funeral his wife stated: "He has followed the trail of the great chiefs." A building at the U.S. Army base in Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma— where he was stationed prior to his deployment to Vietnam — is named in his honor. He is interned at the Fort Sill National Cemetery.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Pandemic Perspective

This is easily one of the most meaningful pieces I’ve read yet during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Maybe we don't have it that bad?

It’s a mess out there now. Hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.

On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million. v On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII.

Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, as it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth, until you were 55, you dealt with the fear of polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or dying.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict. During the Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, almost ended. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? When you were a kid in 1985 and didn’t think your 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art. Refined and enlightening as time goes on. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Your parents and/or grandparents were called to endure all of the above – we are called to stay home and sit on our couch.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Special Forces Training Video

One of the better videos explaining how Green Berets are trained and selected.

Friday, May 1, 2020

70 veterans die in horrific conditions in a Massachusetts soldiers’ home

With COVID-19 dominating the headlines nationally and globally, it is still shocking to see what has happened in Massachusetts at a Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, where more than 70 veterans died in a short span. Families are searching for answers while the state is coming under fire for putting these veterans’ lives at unnecessary risk.

Families of the deceased veterans said that the home was not only ill-prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, but the home’s management also made poor decisions that unnecessarily put more veterans at risk leading to the death of many. Even health care workers who work at the facility called out the protocol, calling the facility at Holyoke, “a death trap.”

The facility is coming under increasing scrutiny as federal officials are conducting an investigation into whether the veterans were denied proper medical attention.

Bennett Walsh, the Superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in western Mass. has been placed on paid administrative leave. He insisted earlier in April that he relayed to the state government what was transpiring. According to Walsh, he informed that the facility was in “crisis mode” as severe staff shortages and the rapid spread of the coronavirus was crippling it and overwhelming the staff.

“What kind of a system is this? We’re talking about 21st century United States of America,” Kwesi Ablordeppe, a certified nurse aide who has worked at the soldiers’ home for many years said in an interview with WCVB Channel 5 in Boston. “We’re talking about the veterans who put their lives on the line to save us, okay. And is that how we’re going to treat them?”

Ablordeppe makes a good point. It was learned that when the first Covid-19 case was diagnosed, the facility initially moved out the other veterans from the patient’s room. But then, inexplicably, moved other veterans in. Worse still, after the first diagnosed veteran became symptomatic, he was still shockingly allowed to use the common areas, thereby infecting others.

Staffers at the hospital said that when patients started dying, rather than separating the residents from one another to lessen the chance of exposure, every veteran was moved to the same floor.

Six veterans were tightly clustered in rooms that had previously held four beds. Nine veterans were moved in the dining room, which was ill-equipped to handle sick patients and did not provide privacy. One staffer told the television station that while one veteran was gasping for his last breath and dying, right next to him, sans any screens or privacy curtain, another veteran was being fed.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes […] we packed so many veterans, six in the room, and we put nine in the dining room,” Ablordeppe added in the television interview. With a dearth of protective equipment available to the staff, some CNAs were reprimanded for wearing personal protective equipment without permission.

Joan Miller, another longtime nurse at the facility, said that persistent issues that have been plaguing the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home caused the pandemic there to “spread like wildfire.”

“Veterans were on top of each other,” she said. “We didn’t know who was positive and who was negative and then they grouped people together and that really exacerbated it even more,” Miller said. “That’s when it really blew up,” she added.

Holyoke held 230 veterans at the end of March. Less than 100 remain as the state has been moving out several of them in an effort to cut down on the virus’s spread.

Since late March, 71 residents have died of the virus. Among the employees 81 have also tested positive.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has hired an outside attorney to conduct an investigation into the deaths. Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey is also investigating the facility’s actions to determine “what went wrong at this facility and determine if legal action is warranted.”

At best, there was some horrible mismanagement at this facility. It will be up to investigators to determine if that mismanagement was criminal — although, at first glance, it certainly appears so. Our veterans and senior citizens deserve better care.

Article from SOFREP

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Women Warriors: Simone Segouin, World War II

Women can be awesome warriors! Simone Segouin, mostly known by her codename, Nicole Minet, was only 18 when the Germans invaded. Her first act of rebellion was to steal a bicycle from a German military administration, slicing the tires of all of the other bikes and motorcycles so they couldn't pursue her.

She found a pocket of the Resistance and joined the fight, using the stolen bike to deliver messages between Resistance groups. She was an extremely fast learner and quickly became an expert at tactics and explosives. She led teams of Resistance fighters to capture German troops, set traps, and sabotage German equipment.

As the war dragged on, her deeds escalated to derailing German trains, blocking roads, and blowing up bridges, helping to create a German-free path to help the Allied forces retake France from the inside. She was never caught. Segouin was present at the liberation of Chartres on August 23, 1944, and then the liberation of Paris two days later. She was promoted to lieutenant and awarded several medals, including Croix de Guerre.

After the war, she studied medicine and became a pediatric nurse. She is still going strong, and this October (2020) she will celebrate her 95th Birthday. What a warrior!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

5th Special Forces Group races in the Mint 400 Desert Off-Road Race

The 5th Special Forces Group had a team racing in the Mint 400 – an annual off-road desert race that took place in Las Vegas, Nevada in early March 2020. The Mint 400 is one of the oldest and prestigious off-road races in America. It is held every year in March. This years event had over 550 race teams competing in many race classes over a very rough 400 mile course.

The race was started in 1968 by the Mint Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The event discontinued after the 1989 race but then resurrected in 2008. Currently the Mint 400 is one of the largest off-road races in the world. This years event was observed by over 65,000 fans.

One of the events in the race was the Mint 400 Military Challenge. This year over $100,000 was raised for charitable foundations that support veterans and their families. The military class featured a variety of combat vehicles in the race and for display to the fans.

The 5th Special Forces Group operational detachment ‘A’ entered two GMV 1.1 vehicles loaded with weapons, radios, and other geared suited for combat rather than a off-road race. The ODA pushed the vehicles to the limit in the unique desert setting. This was the first time that an active duty military element has participated with military vehicles.

The Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 is highly mobile and suited for all-terrain. It is considered armor ready and can carry four occupants in a multi-role configuration. The vehicle can be transported inside a CH-47 Chinook and the V-22 Osprey aircraft.

In 2019 representatives from the Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) participated in the event. They were able to raise funds for the Marine Raider Foundation.

The Mint 400 Military Challenge will likely be an annual event that will add to the overall Mint 400 race. In addition, it is an event that will continue to raise money for worthy causes that help military service members, veterans and their families.

View the short video of the Mint 2020 race highlights:



Article from SOF News

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Green Beret Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins dies of coronavirus

Green Beret Medal of Honor recipient Command Sergeant Major (retired) Bennie Adkins, died April 17 from complications caused by the coronavirus. Killed by an invisible enemy after scores of communists with rifles could not get the job done.

Adkins, was 86, and was hospitalized March 26 at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama. He was placed into ICU and put on a ventilator after experiencing respiratory failure. He is one of thousands of Americans to die from the virus since late February.

Born in Waurika, Oklahoma, was drafted into the military when he was 22 years old in 1956, during the very early years of the conflict in Indo China. He volunteered for Special Forces and completed three times to Vietnam between 1963 and 1971.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of valor during his second tour in Vietnam in 1966. At the time, he was a Sergeant First Class serving with detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as an intelligence sergeant. He and his unit were responsible for tracking enemy troop movements. Providing exceptional intelligence on enemy movements, dispositions and strengths always made their A camp a target.

March 9th, 1966, in the early morning hours, hundreds of North Vietnamese attacked A-102's base camp, Camp A Shau, preceded by indirect fire from enemy mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Adkins rushed through the extensive enemy fire to man a mortar pit, firing mortar rounds against the enemy onslaught, he was wounded with shrapnel but still left his relative protected position exposing himself to enemy direct fire in order to drag wounded soldiers to safety.

Enemy forces launched their main attack the following day. Within hours of the main attack SFC Adkins was the only soldier left firing mortars. When he was out of rounds, he used a recoilless rifles, small arms and hand grenades to fight off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong. He ran back and forth from a mortar pit to a bunker through enemy fire through the battle, gathering ammunition and killing NVA soldiers who had penetrated that far into the camp.

Adkins is credited with killing 135 to 175 Vietnamese in a nearly four-day battle while being wounded 18 times and helping fellow soldiers to safety. For those acts, former President Barack Obama presented Adkins with the Medal of Honor in 2014.

He and a small group of other soldiers destroyed their sensitive communications equipment and classified documents, then escaped by digging through the back of the bunker and fighting their way out of camp. Adkins led the men through the jungle until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12. “We were not going to be prisoners of war, whatever we had to do,” Adkins said in a 2015 interview with Stars and Stripes.

Adkins and Katie Jackson, an instructor at Auburn University, co-authored a book in 2018 titled, “A Tiger Among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley.” The book details Adkins’ military experiences and his life after the Army. Jackson said she sat for multiple interviews with Adkins, collecting about 20 hours of tape to use for the book. “I think what probably struck me is that he wasn’t interested in bragging — it wasn’t about him,” Jackson said. “It was almost a challenge to get him to talk about himself. To talk about his own accomplishments was really hard for him to do.

Also apparent was his resilience, she said. “He not only survived the battle and a number of other close calls in his years of service, but he came back to a time when Vietnam veterans were discriminated against,” Jackson said. “That’s when he began to realize he wasn’t going to have opportunities, job wise, when he retired. His further education became important to him.”

Following his tours in Vietnam, Adkins held other jobs with the Army, including as a trainer at the jungle warfare school at Fort Sherman, located at the northern end of the Panama Canal. He retired from the Army as a command sergeant major in 1978.

Adkins obtained a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees after his military service. Later in life, he was inspired to help other retired service members with college. He created the Bennie Adkins Foundation to provide educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers to aid their transition from military to civilian life.

He and Mary, who were married more than 60 years, had four sons, a daughter and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mary Adkins died in February 2019.

Article mainly taken from Stars and Stripes

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Green Beret Training Pipeline Continues Amidst COVID-19

Training for roughly 2,500 students in the Army’s special operations pipelines is not stopping for the coronavirus pandemic, said JFK Special Warfare Center and School commander Maj. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson. Green Beret, civil affairs and psychological operations training courses have continued, though Army Special Operations Command has shut down some advanced training, to include shooting courses and the combat diver course, Roberson said during a livestreamed town hall Thursday.

A Special Forces selection class slated to start in April was cancelled due to the Pentagon’s travel ban, but SWCS is planning to run another selection class in May, Roberson added. The next Robin Sage exercise, the training program’s culminating event, is still scheduled to start in roughly six weeks, with soldiers currently working through the phases leading up to it. But not all are happy with the decision to continue. Roberson read a question submitted during the town hall that asked why SWCS is “choosing to endanger students, cadre and their families” by training in the "middle of a quarantine period.”

Roberson responded that SWCS’ training programs have been deemed “mission critical," pointing to the Army’s need for an uninterrupted stream of new special operations soldiers. “We don’t want to start from a cold start, getting our production line back up,” he said. “Now, again, we’re mitigating risk as best we can. As of right now, no one in the SWCS enterprise has tested positive for COVID and we’re testing as often as we can.”

Army basic training recently entered a two-week pause before shipping any more new recruits, giving hotspots where military entrance processing stations are located a chance to tamp down on the pandemic. However, basic training classes are different in that they’re taking new recruits from the civilian population, according to the SWCS leader. “We’re actually working with clean populations for the most part. The people we’re taking have been in the Army,” Roberson said. “As of right now we haven’t had anybody who has really been off of Fort Bragg since this started, [who] we’re training.”

Article from the Army Times

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Happy Birthday Special Forces Branch

Happy 33rd Birthday to the Special Forces Branch - U.S. Army's Special Forces Branch was established on 9 April 1987.

"Department of the Army General Order No. 35. ARMY SPECIAL FORCES BRANCH. Pursuant to the authority contained in Title 10, United States Code, section 3063(a)(13), the Special Forces Branch is established as a basic branch of the Army effective 9 April 1987."

Career Management Field (CMF) 18 series - within the Special Forces Branch.

MOS/Title

18A Special Forces Officer
180A Special Forces Technician (Warrant Officer)
18B Special Forces Weapons Sergeant
18C Special Forces Engineer Sergeant
18D Special Forces Medical Sergeant
18E Special Forces Communications Sergeant
18F Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant
18Z Special Forces Operations Sergeant (Team Sergeant, sometimes called SF Senior Sergeant)
18X Special Forces Candidate

Current Organization of Active Duty Special Forces Groups Airborne, abbreviated as SFG(A), which are the 1st SFG(A), 3rd SFG(A), 5th SFG(A), 7th SFG(A) and the 10th are as depicted in the chart below. The 19th SFG(A) and 20th SFG(A) are the National Guard SF Groups. (click on the chart to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Army Special Forces Command disbands elite units

U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has ordered the disbanding of the five CRF (Crisis Response Force) companies. These units were established after September 11, 2001, and were based on small units Special Forces Group commanders had already created for emergency situations that involved classical commando-type skills. This included “Direct Action”, as in hostage rescue or difficult raids or any operation that would involve combat situations where success was very important but difficult to achieve. The CRF companies were small, under a hundred men, and were heavily used for about a decade. But after American troops left Iraq in 2011 the war on terror, while not over, saw less demand for the skills that the CRF operators had in abundance.

Acquiring those skills was time consuming and expensive. CRF members had to attend a number of special courses and excel in all of them. At the same time after 2011 counter-terrorism technology and tactics changed. There was more use of SOCOM operators for collecting intelligence and letting a missile-armed UAV take care of the direct action. The few CRF type missions were easily taken care of by the two elite direct action units; Delta Force and SEAL Team 6. These included the raids that killed Osama bin Laden and ISIL leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Same with hostage rescue and unexpected threats to embassies, where security had been improved since 2001 and other types of emergencies that did not occur as much anymore. As a result, the several hundred CRF personnel will be used to fill key vacancies in Special Forces units.

SOCOM is now concentrating more on traditional (pre-2001) functions which includes training troops of allied nations that are in desperate need of improving their ground forces. That was one task SOCOM has been dealing with since its beginning. One of the World War II organizations SOCOM evolved from was OSS (Office of Special Services) which, among other things, provided needed training and support for resistance units in enemy (German and Japanese) territory. Many countries are still threatened by Islamic terrorists, drug gangs and Chinese aggression and want to quickly upgrade their ability to deal with this. SOCOM has always had the ability to do that and the demand is stronger than ever.

SOCOM has greatly expanded since 2001 and evolved considerably. After 2001 SOCOM personnel strength has increased from 42,000 to 67,000. The budget went from $3.1 billion to nearly twelve billion dollars a year with plans to increase that to $16 billion. SOCOM personnel were 1.9 percent of Department of Defense personnel in 2001 and are now nearly three percent. But when you factor in the additional support and personnel involved, SOCOM is getting the use of over five percent of Department of Defense personnel.

Spending on SOCOM is actually higher if you take into account additional spending on American special operations not part of the SOCOM budget. This non-SOCOM spending on SOCOM operations varies but in some years goes as high as $8 billion a year. The reason for this is that other services were always obliged to provide SOCOM with things like supplies, transportation, artillery and air support when SOCOM is carrying out a mission that aids the regular forces, or simply because SOCOM needs the extra help to get the job done.

One of the more telling statistics is the average number of SOCOM deployed on operations. In 2001 (before September 11) is was 2,900. By 2014 it was 7,200. So while overall SOCOM personnel has increased 48 percent the number of operators overseas has gone up three times as much. This has made it more difficult to keep the fighters (“operators”) in uniform since more frequent trips to combat zones make married life difficult and increase the likelihood of stress-related problems. At the same time, the greater number of SOCOM operators out there in combat means SOCOM more frequently must call on non-SOCOM units for support.

While SOCOM does have its own support troops, SOCOM cannot afford to maintain such support forces for the high intensity of operations in wartime. Since 2001 the fighting has been the sort that SOCOM does best at and that is why SOCOM is so much in demand and non-SOCOM army, air force, navy and marine units are willing to help out. This is often because the supporting organization called on SOCOM to provide specialized troops to deal with a local situation.

Thus while SOCOM strength has increased the need for the kind of people the CRFs had is even greater. So is the need to provide SOCOM operators with more “dwell time” at home with families or just away from a combat zone. While back in their American home bases the SOCOM personnel also have the opportunity to acquire new skills and help train new operators. It is also important to keep teams (the twelve-man ODAs or “A-Teams”) together and all this is easier to achieve it you don’t have chronic personnel shortages.

Article from the Strategy Page, 2 April 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coronavirus: Advice from a retired SF officer locked down in COVID-19 ravaged Italy

My wife and I are U.S. citizens living in Rome, Italy. For the last three weeks we have been in government-mandated COVID-19 lock-down. I note with rising alarm that significant numbers in our home country are not yet convinced of the virus’ mortal threat.

Nothing that I have experienced in either my U.S. military or United Nations careers is comparable.

Nearly 1,000 people died in one 24-hour period two days ago in Italy, while the country passed the grim marker of 10,000 total dead on Sunday. Caskets filled with human remains are stacked like cord wood awaiting military convoy movement to crematoriums. Health care professionals are suffering significant infection rates due to shortages in protective garb. Physicians are performing triage—selecting those who have the best chance for life while regrettably allowing others to die because there aren’t enough ventilators to go around. My advice for all Americans is to take the threat seriously!

Thus far my wife and I have not been infected. In my estimation, that is no accident. We do nothing that might lead to exposure to the virus.



Photo above: Medical staff wearing protective suits carry the coffin containing the body of Assunta Pastore, 87, after she passed away in her room at the Garden hotel in Laigueglia, northwest Italy, Liguria region, on March 1. The woman, part of a group of elderly tourist from the Lombardia region, tested positive of the COVID-19.

What’s it like in lock-down? We watch the local and international news every morning. The Italian mortality and infection rates are of intense continuing interest. To date, the most dangerous region is in the north. Now the south is reporting more cases. Rome is right smack in the middle. That is worrisome, as we are both seniors and in the most potentially vulnerable demographic. My wife and I both try and remain upbeat. Neither of us wants to worry the other.

If groceries are required, I am the one to do it once a week. Before departure from our apartment my wife masks and gloves me very much like what you might see when a nurse assists a physician prior to entering a surgical theater.

Then, I take a short walk to the neighborhood market ready to stand in line. Current hours of operation are governed by edict—8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sunday. Only a very few persons are permitted to enter at a time. A security guard stands at the entrance—controlling access—while squirting sanitizer in the cupped hands of each person as they enter. Every cashier and everyone stacking shelves inside is masked and gloved. There is one designated entrance and exit—to further control traffic flow.

The often-long line outside is staggered. Waits of an hour or more are not unusual. Those in line pay close attention to keeping as much space as possible between themselves with a one meter minimum. Everyone is intensely aware that the virus can be transmitted by air and touch. Nobody wants to fall victim. We all watch the same news broadcasts. The video footage of military trucks carrying the many recently decreased is haunting.

A visit to the grocery store is only one of three reasons when I am permitted to be in the street. The other two permitted trips are to the local ATM, and of course the pharmacy for necessary medicines. Fines of up to 3,000 Euros (roughly $3,300) can be levied by the police should I be found on the street without state-approved cause. One infected person can spread the disease to many others. These seemingly Draconian measures are necessary and prudent.

All other business establishments are shuttered. There are no open cafes, restaurants, hardware stores, hair salons, or barber shops. The usually bustling city of Rome has taken on the appearance of a dystopian future science fiction movie—a ghost town.

Re-entering our apartment requires some care. I must assume that I may have inadvertently picked-up the virus while outside. 1. Use hand sanitizer on my gloves before removing them. 2. Trash the gloves. 3. Disinfect my hands. 4. Remove the mask — all before delivering the groceries to the kitchen — and while avoiding touching my face. I take a shower afterward. Common soap and hot water thankfully kill the virus.

Getting seriously ill reflects only one part of our unease. The place where we would usually go to get well, the hospital, may not be much help. There is a valid concern that medical facilities could become epicenters for the virus’ spread.

At the human level, and even worse, the terminally ill most often die alone with no family or friends in attendance. The hospital wards are too infectious to permit visitors. Nobody wants to die that way. But perish they do and thereafter the bodies are moved straight to refrigerator vans. The morgues in some regions are full. The psychological toll on effected families as well as the general population is profound. Death suddenly seems to be hovering nearby tugging at your elbow.

The lock-down in Italy—the whole of the country—began in early March. The thinking then was that a 3-week lock-down would be enough, but no longer. Based on some reports, we could easily be looking at the whole month of April in self-isolation as well, and perhaps longer if the current protocols in place need more time to be fully effective.

The Italian prime minister was made aware that the pandemic could not be successfully dealt with region by region. The virus does not recognize borders. He instead instituted a national response, which has been proven to be the best possible solution under these unprecedented circumstances. Tragically, the US thus far refuses to learn from the Italian experience—a fully coordinated nation-wide response is clearly needed. The ultimate cost of a failure to recognize this fact will be eventually measured in lives lost and grieving families.

I have recently seen a couple of near fights and shouting matches in grocery lines. The pressure is building. Nerves are beginning to fray. Families that are unaccustomed to 24/7 close quarters in Roman apartments creates a no doubt challenging situation. Many of these people have lived week by week on the tourist trade. The tourists are gone. The economy is in tatters. Several are wondering when they will see another paycheck.

In my former professions, the best course forward often demanded some sort of action. This unprecedented circumstance is the near mirror opposite. Remaining at home, while limiting all outside human-to-human contact is the safest and therefore best path to follow.

Every evening at 6 p.m. our neighbors living around the local piazza look out their windows or stand on their balconies to either listen or sing songs to one another. Morale, at least in our small enclave, remains surprisingly good and despite the uniformly bad news. But underneath it all, I sense some foreboding: a largely unexpressed fear of the next sun rise. Nobody knows what tomorrow might bring.

Robert Bruce Adolph is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel and UN Chief Security Advisor. He has recently published a startling new book entitled “Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge.”

Article from the Military Times, 29 March 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COL James "Nick" Rowe: KIA this day, 1 April 1989 in the Philippines

On April 1, 1989, Colonel James Rowe, a legendary Green Beret, was killed by rebel group hit squad in the Philippines. Rowe was being driven to work at the JUSMAG (Joint United States Military Advisory Group) headquarters in Quezon City shortly after 7 in the morning when gunmen fired more than 20 bullets into his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at a nearby military hospital.

Philippine officials believed the killers were members of the New People's Army's (NPA) Alex Boncayao Brigade, although no group claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier, the NPA have threatened to attack American targets unless the United States closes its military bases in the Philippines and end its support of the Philippine military's fight against the insurgency. Rowe was involved in helping the Philippine anti-insurgency campaign.

In the fall of 1963, Colonel Rowe, then a first lieutenant in the US Army Special Forces serving as an adviser to South Vietnamese irregulars, was captured by Vietcong guerrillas in the Mekong River delta. He was held in jungle camps from which he tried repeatedly to escape. For much of his captivity he was held in a bamboo cage and permitted to venture only 40 yards during the day. He busied himself chopping firewood and setting traps to capture small animals to supplement his diet of rice and fish.

On December 31, 1968, he succeeded in escaping and was spotted by a crew of an American helicopter, which lifted him to safety.

In 1985, Colonel Rowe was placed in command of the First Special Warfare Training Battalion at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, a post he held until last May 1985, when he went to the Philippines. While at Fort Bragg, COL Rowe was the driving force behind the creation of the USAJFKSWC Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion (SERE) course, considered the best of it's type across all services.

Colonel James Rowe was 51. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.