Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Green Berets awarded Silver Stars for bravery in Afghanistan

Nineteen Special Forces soldiers with the Utah National Guard were awarded on Sunday for their acts of valor during their 2017 deployments to Afghanistan. Several of these soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group teams returned home wounded, and one — Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler — was killed in combat. Four of the Green Berets were awarded Silver Stars during the ceremony in Draper, Utah. Five soldiers earned the Bronze Star with V device, seven soldiers received the Army Commendation Medal with V device and three were awarded the Purple Heart.

Capt. Nelson, Sgt. 1st Class Madsen, Staff Sgt. Walrath and Staff Sgt. Caldwell were awarded the Silver Star for their actions in May and August 2017. The soldiers’ first names were not announced for security reasons. On May 21, 2017, Nelson was commanding a clearance operation in Afghanistan to drive enemy fighters out of village homes they were occupying, according to Nelson’s Silver Star narrative.

The mission was to secure a new position to disrupt enemy operations in the area. Nelson had led his troops through the ISIS-Khorasan, an offshoot of the Islamic State group stronghold of Maktaab Bazaar when they were hit with machine gun and sniper fire, the narrative said. The trail vehicle’s gunner was shot in the head by a sniper, and Nelson ran to the wounded soldier amid the continued enemy fire.

He pulled the gunner from the vehicle, called for a medic, requested a medevac and directed close-air support and artillery fire missions. The captain exposed himself to fire to encourage the Afghan forces traveling with his team to suppress the enemy and shield the soldiers’ movement. Nelson made sure his dismounted troops had gotten into the armored vehicles while remaining dismounted himself as he ran in front of the casualty evacuation vehicle, drawing fire from multiple enemy positions as he cleared a route for the convoy, the narrative said.

Nelson guided the convoy to the improvised helicopter landing zone, where he helped load the injured soldier onto the medevac. “His independent actions that day inspired many to fight back in the face of overwhelming and unrelenting enemy fire, ensuring the safe evacuation of a critically wounded U.S. casualty,” the narrative said.

Less than 24 hours after this ambush, Nelson commanded another dismounted patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Afghan local police. Even though his team had fought to defend its new stronghold the day before, the surrounding area needed to be cleared to keep the enemy from attacking. After leaving their covered position at the police compound, Nelson and his team came under interlocking machine gun fire, which split the element into three groups. One group took cover behind a small wall, one group moved back to the compound for cover, and the group with Nelson was pinned down behind small rocks in an open field, the narrative said.

Nelson came out from under cover and drew the fire to himself so two of his soldiers could run back to the compound. He then ran through more enemy fire to encourage the first group to find a safer spot. He stayed in an exposed area until everyone from his team safely made it back to the police compound. “Captain Nelson constantly demonstrated an unbreakable devotion to his U.S. and Afghan soldiers through his inspiringly persistent disregard for his own safety and his violently tenacious protection of his subordinates,” Utah Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn said during the ceremony.

Three months later

On Aug. 16, 2017, U.S. soldiers with the Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan conducted a dismounted mission alongside the Afghan National Army’s 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos. The goal was to clear the area in the highly contested Mohmand Valley in Southern Nangarhar, Afghanistan, to dislodge entrenched ISIS-K fighters.

The element had taken heavy fire for eight hours, and as darkness fell, an explosive weapon detonated inside the building the team had been preparing to occupy, according to the Silver Star narratives. The enemy fighters launched a coordinated attack, using the explosion that injured more than 30 troops to their advantage. After the explosion, three Special Forces soldiers stood out for their actions.

‘Courageous and determined’

Despite his wounds, Sgt. 1st Class Madsen crawled into an armored vehicle and pulled his way to the turret while directing the U.S. soldiers around him to return fire on the enemy. Madsen took control of the vehicle’s MK19 automatic grenade launcher and began delivering “punishing suppressive fire upon the emboldened ISIS-K fighters,” his Silver Star narrative said.

Once he was out of ammunition, he switched to a light machine gun, firing on the enemy until he used up that ammo, too. But he wasn’t done. He then unleashed an MK14 grenade launcher on the enemy as his fellow soldiers matched his volume of fire, the narrative said. “Sergeant First Class Madsen’s courageous and determined example inspired the limited number of troops who were not already wounded or rendering aid, to violently strike back at their attackers, ultimately suppressing the threat long enough for the medical evacuation helicopters to load the most critical patients,” according to his narrative.

‘Disregarded his own suffering’

Staff Sgt. Walrath was one of the soldiers injured from the explosion, with hundreds of fragments of shrapnel and concrete lodged in his body. But that didn’t stop him from ignoring his own injuries and turning his attention to his teammates. “Though Staff Sergeant Walrath was bleeding freely from his own wounds, he completely disregarded his own suffering to immerse himself in the care of his wounded comrade,” his Silver Star narrative said.

He assessed and aided the injured soldiers closest to him, then moved throughout the blast area to help move and treat a mortally wounded soldier. Walrath did this while exposing himself to enemy fire, the narrative said. At one point, he used his own body to shield one of the wounded soldiers from an incoming rocket-propelled grenade.

In the middle of the chaos, Walrath calmly communicated with the caregivers under his direction so they could provide aid to the wounded. He ensured that as many wounded troops as possible were placed on the overcrowded medevac helicopters, declining to evacuate himself before anyone else. “On his own accord, he ignored all sense of self-preservation and continued to maneuver dismounted with his element, exchanging fire with the enemy until he was no longer able to walk under his own power,” the narrative said.

‘Judgment matched with devoted care’

Staff Sgt. Caldwell also began to collect and assess the wounded after the explosion went off. He began directing the organization and management of the patients, stopping only to deliver critical life-saving interventions, the narrative said. Caldwell performed at least four surgical procedures in the field, according to his Silver Star narrative.

He raced from patient to patient while under heavy enemy fire and made sure no troops or weapons had been left behind in the building. Caldwell then communicated critical information to the ground force commander related to the medevac, all while intermittently exchanging fire with the enemy. “While inescapably exposed at the staging area, he displayed exemplary clinical judgment matched with devoted care as he prioritized patients for MEDEVAC and helped coordinate the load-out of the arriving aircraft himself,” his narrative said.

For their bravery, these four soldiers received the Silver Star during Sunday’s ceremony. The Colorado National Guard has also approved a Silver Star for a soldier from Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). This is along with seven Purple Hearts, 10 Bronze Stars with V device and eight Army Commendation Medals with V device. Details of the Colorado soldiers awarded and the actions involved were not yet available. These soldiers were deployed to the same missions as the Utah soldiers, but two separate ceremonies were held to minimize the travel impact on service members.

Article from the Army Times

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tuareg in Mali alliance claims recovery of US Special Forces vehicle from Niger ambush

The Tuaregs (nomadic Arabs of Northern Mali)Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA) and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) alliance claims its fighters have recovered a vehicle used by US Special Forces from last October’s deadly ambush in northern Niger. Four US Special Forces soldiers and several Nigerien troops were killed in an attack by the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).

According to these Tuareg groups, its forces recovered one of the vehicles used by the US soldiers through recent clashes with ISGS in northern Mali’s Gao region near the borders with Niger. Two rifles supposedly used by the soldiers were also reportedly recovered from the Islamic State-loyal militants. Photos of the vehicle and weapons were also released.

The Tuaregs, while being Muslims and of Arab desacent, are largely not supportive of the radical brand of al-Qai'da or Islamic State inspired Sharia law. Some Tuaregs have fought briefly for extremist Islamist groups, but their overall focus is some sort of autonomy or indpendence from the Black-African controlled Malian government in the South.

The Long War Journal cannot independently verify the claims, but they came after Islamic State supporters uploaded a video of the ambush. The footage was largely from a captured US helmet cam. The vehicle, shown above, matches one of the vehicles seen in the video. The US Department of Defense has released a harsh statement regarding the bloody video, saying “you are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda” if you view or share it.

GATIA and MSA first reported offensives against ISGS militants in February. The clashes have continued, with the two groups claiming to have killed or captured dozens of ISGS fighters. Additionally, RFI reported French forces have also conducted joint operations with the Tuareg groups. The Islamic State-loyal forces led by Abu Walid al Sahrawi, referred to as “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” (ISGS), have been linked to several attacks in the Tillabery region of Niger, the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, and in the Gao region of Mali. Aside from the attack on US Special Forces in Niger, ISGS is also responsible for suicide bombing on French troops in the Gao region earlier this year.

Article is from The Long War Journal, 14 March 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Special Forces Soldier Honored for Saving Lives after Wreck

Staff Sgt. Adams didn't hesitate. As he watched a truck veer off the road ahead of him and tumble down a steep, tree-covered embankment, the Fort Bragg soldier knew what he had to do. When he lost his shoes running to the vehicle, he didn't stop -- even as glass became embedded in the soles of his feet. And when he reached the truck, the billowing smoke gave him no pause. "The only thing I could really think about was the people in the vehicle," Adams said, two years after he leapt into action to save two people following a deadly crash on U.S. 64 near Asheboro.

Adams, a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, repeatedly returned to the scene of the crash, carried four victims up the steep embankment and rendered emergency aid until rescue personnel arrived.

On Monday 5 March 2018, Adams -- who is not being identified by his first name because of the nature of his job as a Special Forces soldier -- received the Army's highest award for heroism outside of combat. During a ceremony on Fort Bragg, officials praised Adams for risking his life to save others and presented him with the Soldier's Medal. More than 100 Special Forces soldiers and members of Adams' family attended the event, during which a 3rd Group chaplain called him a "guardian angel" and proof that "good exists in the world."

"There's two folks who are alive today because of the acts of (Staff Sgt. Adams)," said Brig. Gen. Richard Angle, the deputy commanding general of the 1st Special Forces Command. Angle said Adams made a conscious decision to risk his own life to save others. "He not only made that choice once," he said. "He made that multiple times."

Adams said he and his wife were returning from a weekend trip at a family lake house on Oct. 10, 2016, when they witnessed the crash. According to the Asheboro Courier-Tribune, the single-vehicle wreck occurred about 4 p.m. The newspaper said a N.C. Highway Patrol trooper reported that Lillie Mingin, 33, of Lexington, was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado when the vehicle ran off the road, went into a ditch and then down the embankment.

One passenger, 26-year-old Brittany Goodman of Salisbury, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. A child, 12-year-old Colby Springle of Angier, was trapped in the vehicle and died shortly after being extracted. Springle was the son of Mingin, who survived the wreck alongside another of her sons, 7-year-old Eric Mason Mingin of Fuquay-Varina.

Army officials said the pair likely would not have lived were it not for Adams, who pulled them from the vehicle before a fire could start and provided lifesaving medical care. Speaking about his actions two years later, Adams said there was no time to wait for emergency personnel or to see if others on the highway would stop. "We were the first there," he said. "It was my responsibility." As his wife called 9-1-1, Adams ran to the wreckage and went to work. "I just did all I could do," he said.

Adams has served with the 3rd Special Forces Group since 2015 and has deployed twice with the organization. He said his Special Forces training helped him remain calm as he helped pull the family from the wreckage. But Angle said it was more than training that led Adams to risk his life for the family. The Special Forces community looks for physical and moral courage in soldiers well before they have earned the coveted Green Beret, he said.

The Army may have provided Adams tools to help do what he did, Angle said, but that is only part of the story. Adams' actions were rooted in his upbringing, the general said. "We simply refined it," Angle said. "We reinforce it." "Mom, you raised a heck of a young man," Angle added while turning to Adams' family, some of whom traveled from Vermont for the ceremony.

After the ceremony, Adams said his actions that day were "just another day on the job." "Things happen," he said. "You have to deal with it." But leaders said what Adams did was anything but ordinary. Angle said soldiers are prepared to risk their lives when deployed in combat, but few are ever asked to do so when they are home. "That's not what you're expecting to do," he said.

Adams knew the risks of being near the truck, which could have caught fire at any moment, Angle said. Yet he returned to the vehicle "again and again and again." "It takes a special person to do what he did," added Maj. Crocker, the acting commander of 1st Battalion. He said 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers are accustomed to being honored for valor in combat. Most would say that's simply part of their jobs. What Adams did was entirely different, Crocker said. "Staff Sgt. Adams saw four of his fellow human beings in desperate need of help," he said. And in trying to save them, proved that the Army's "capacity to do good in this world is not limited to the battlefield."

Officials said the Soldier's Medal requires that a soldier do more than save a life. The soldier also must voluntarily risk his own life to save others. That Adams was willing to do that came as no surprise to his Special Forces team, according to team leader Capt. Blake. "He's one of the most hardworking guys on the team," the captain said, describing Adams as a soldier always looking to learn and improve and the team's "go-to" guy.

Blake said Adams came to work the day after the wreck and was more quiet than normal. He initially didn't want to share any details from his heroics, but officials learned of his actions through his wife and others. "We had always called him the hero," Blake said. "It just kind of confirmed my beliefs." Angle said many people say they would risk their lives to save others, but Adams is one of the few who proved that he would. He said the soldiers in attendance could learn from him. "My challenge to all of you... use (Staff Sgt. Adams) and his actions as an example," he said. "Make that decision to do the right thing. No matter how big or how small the act."

Article from the Fayettteville Observer

Monday, March 12, 2018

The USAF Medal of Honor Recipient Who Got Away: the Legend of John Levitow

On February 24, 1969, Airman First Class John L. Levitow was assigned duty as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 “Spooky” gunship flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army Post in South Vietnam when his aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 3 feet, 1/4 inches in diameter through the wing along with more than 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants in the cargo compartment were wounded and slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion ripped an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Airman Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering over 40 fragment wounds in his back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and bleeding heavily.

As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Airman Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Airmen Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air but clear of the aircraft.

Airman Levitow, by his selfless actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death. For his heroism he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon on May 14, 1970. He is the lowest ranking Air Force member ever to receive the honor.

Now here's what happened to Airman Levitow after receiving the Medal of Honor:

When he cross-trained into the loadmaster career field before his tour in Vietnam, Levitow was instructed that still had two more years to serve as an E-3 before he could become promotion eligible. In reality, his cross-training made him eligible for promotion to E-4.

It’s not clear why he was advised improperly, and the rules are different enough today to make the concept quite foreign and perplexing. But apparently, Levitow didn’t see any reason to question what he was told and, and no one in his chain of command intervened to contend otherwise. As a result, he spent two more years as an Airman First Class and was not at the appropriate rank to be considered for reenlistment when his window opened. This resulted in Levitow being separated from the service involuntarily. In fact, he didn’t receive his medal until after becoming a civilian on May 14, 1970 by President Richard Nixon.

Following his separation, Levitow worked diligently with the veteran community, showing up to events that honored or featured veterans. On Nov. 8, 2000, John Lee Levitow passed away after a year-and-a-half battle with an unspecified cancer. He was 55 years young.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Battlefield Medics may slow biological time to save soldiers' lives

Battlefield medics frequently only have a brief window of opportunity to treat an injury before it's fatal or causes permanent disabilities, and it's frequently so fleeting that there's not much they can do. When a Service member suffers a traumatic injury or acute infection, the time from event to first medical treatment is usually the single most significant factor in determining the outcome between saving a life or not. First responders must act as quickly as possible, first to ensure a patient’s sheer survival and then to prevent permanent disability. The Department of Defense refers to this critical, initial window of time as the “golden hour,” but in many cases the opportunity to successfully intervene may extend much less than sixty minutes, which is why the military invests so heavily in moving casualties as rapidly as possible from the battlefield to suitable medical facilities. However, due to the realities of combat, there are often hard limits to the availability of rapid medical transport and care.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is exploring an unusual solution to that problem: slow the biological processes to give medics more room to breathe. Its new Biostasis research program aims to bring cell activity to a near halt by using biochemicals that control energetics at the protein level. If animals like tardigrades and wood frogs can stabilize their cells to survive freezing and dehydration, similar techniques might offer more time to medics who want to treat wounds before a victim's vital systems break down.

DARPA knows this won't be easy. The trick is to slow down every cellular process at roughly the same rate -- you can't just pause a few while others run at full speed. You'd also have to minimize any damage when the cells return to their normal function. The Biostasis program is still very young (its first day for answering proposers' questions is March 20th), and DARPA isn't expecting too much even from complete projects: it's initially focusing on "benchtop" proofs of concept and will focus on real-world uses as the program nears its 5-year end. If it has any success, though, the program could prove to be a breakthrough for the medical field as a whole, not just in combat. Paramedics could buy themselves enough time to get a patient to hospital, and doctors could focus less on basic survival and more on full recoveries. Link to the DARPA detailed article on extending the Golden Hour

Original Article from Engadget

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Army Infiltration Platform, the V-280 Tilt Rotor

Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft should be a welcome addition to units conducting fast rope insertions, rappelling, or any other air assault operation, company officials said. “This will carry a squad of Army soldiers, or a squad of Marines, to an assault area faster and increase the lethality compared to the V-22 [Osprey], which is a larger platform and more of a utility aircraft,” said Jeff Schloesser, a retired Army major general and executive vice president of strategic pursuits for Bell’s Washington operations.

Schloesser spoke to Army Times Thursday during the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual special operations/low-intensity conflict symposium and exhibition in Arlington, Virginia. Beyond the increased functionality, it should be more comfortable, too. Troops who have used the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System, or FRIES, on a V-22 can probably recall the intense rotor wash and engine heat pounding them while trying to grip the rope on insertion.

Because the V-280’s wing doesn’t tilt like a V-22, a necessity for shipboard operations, fast-ropers leaving the aircraft’s side-door avoid “the hot air from the engine going out backwards,” Schloesser said. “Essentially, what you got is two six-foot doors, you just slide your fast rope bar out, and out you go, and this [wing placement] protects you from that downwash,” he added.

The Army had been planning — through its Joint Multi-Role demonstrator program — for two very different vertical lift prototypes to begin flight demonstrations last fall as part of a critical path to informing and shaping the design of a Future Vertical Lift helicopter fleet expected to hit the skies in the 2030s. The V-280 had its maiden flight Dec. 18. The other prototype, the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter, is expected to take its first flight some time this year after falling behind on the original goal of September. Bell’s Valor will come in both an armed and an assault version.

The V-280 isn’t designed for ship launches, but in a pinch, takeoff from the deck of a carrier would be possible. “It’s shipboard compatible, but it’s not meant to be living on a ship for extended periods of time,” Schloesser said. “This gets a squad into a combat zone faster, and from a much longer range,” he added. “You could actually use this in the Pacific, and be able to operate off islands.”

Roughly 12 to 14 assault troops would be able to fit in the V-280 during those hypothetical island-hopping scenarios. “This is an advanced tilt-rotor, so it’s a generation beyond our V-22, that’s currently flying with both AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] and the Marines,” Schloesser said. Compared to legacy helicopters, like the UH-60 Black Hawk, the new V-280 will fly at twice the speed and twice the range, Schloesser confirmed. At “500 to 800 nautical miles ... it increases your survivability,” he said. “You don’t have to stop for FARPs [forward air refuelling points], and the speed in which you go over a hostile zone is twice as fast.” “In other words, the time an enemy has to engage you is cut in half,” he added.

That speed and range isn’t just good for the air assault mission. Bell advertises that its V-280 will have a medical evacuation coverage area five times greater than current helicopters. In an era where the ‘golden hour,’ the Defense Department policy that whisks wounded troops off the battlefield to lifesaving care within the first hour of injury, is being stretched thin, that increased coverage could save lives.

Article from the Army Times

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Former slave and two-time Olympian becomes an USAF airman

Airman 1st Class Guor Maker fled war and slavery in South Sudan almost 20 years ago, came to the United States, and has become a college graduate, an Olympian, and, now, an airman. As an 8-year-old, Maker, now 33, lost eight of his nine siblings in the Sudanese Civil War and was captured and enslaved twice, once by Sudanese soldiers and once by herdsman, according to a Joint Base San Antonio press release.

He escaped both times, and in 2001, he and his uncle’s family were granted permission to come to the U.S. He settled in Concord, New Hampshire, where he learned English by watching cartoons, and later received a running scholarship to Iowa State University. “I wanted to change my life, help my parents back in South Sudan, and give my future children a better childhood than the one I had,” Maker said in the release. “And the only way to do that was through education and determination.”

He dreamed of qualifying for the Olympics, and he did — one year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. But though South Sudan was now independent, they were not a member of the International Olympics Committee. Not yet a U.S. citizen, Maker ran the marathon without a country. The experience inspired him to bring South Sudan to the Olympics, and in 2016, he was one of three athletes to represent South Sudan in the Olympics for the first time.

Maker, now a dental assistant in technical training, is turning his eye to serving his new country in the Air Force. Maker hopes to join the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, which gives elite athletes the opportunity compete in national events to train for the Olympics. He wants to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, where he’ll have the opportunity to represent his new home country. “All of the things I’ve accomplished have derived from the opportunities the U.S. has afforded me,” said Maker. “When I first came to America, I didn’t have hardly anything, but with the support and opportunity this country has given me, I’ve been able to completely change my life.”

Article from Air Force Times

Monday, February 26, 2018

Special Forces and Army Infantry Train Nigerian Infantry to Fight Boko Haram

Background. Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi (kown by it's former name - Boko Haram) is an extremist Islamic terrorist organization, affilated with, or has sworn allegiance to ISIS and is operating in Northeast Nigeria, using the dense Sambisa forest as an operational base as well as the adjacent borders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger to continue their extremist Islamist campaign against Christians. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls (the Chibook girls) for sex slaves and wives) and again in February 2018, another 110 girls were thought to have been taken captive by Boko Haram. Founded in 2002 and led since 2009 by Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands and displaced over 2 million from their homes, ranking as one of the the world's first or second deadliest terror groups.

A dozen U.S. troops just wrapped up a seven-week trip to Nigeria, where they trained local soldiers in advanced infantry tactics that, in all likelihood, they’ll use to beat back religious extremist terror in their country. The soldiers, some Green Berets performing a trtaining missions under Fort Bragg’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization (SATMO) with some assistance from some infantrymen from 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, visited the Nigerian Army Infantry School to train 200 soldiers from the 26th Infantry Battalion.

“They face a significant threat from both Boko Haram and ISIS,” Capt. Stephen Gouthro, the group’s officer-in-charge, told Army Times in a Feb. 15 phone interview. “We, as Americans, have been working with this country in various capacities, and this is just one more of those capacities where they would like our assistance with tactics … the way we do business.” SATMO, is mostly known for providing support to foreign military sales. Recently, SATMO soldiers have gone to countries like Slovakia and Colombia to train their troops on that new equipment.

The group in Nigeria focused on advanced infantry skills, starting with patrolling and counter-IED training, working up to movement-to-contact and ambushes or raids with a platoon-sized element. Every day, according to the group’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, the U.S. soldiers would take the Nigerian soldiers through a variety of training lanes. “One lane could be doing IEDs and raids that day,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Campbell. “Another lane would be doing enemy prisoner-of-war searches or ambushes.” Those rotations would go on all day, with a midday break. “We take them out, we assess their capes, and then we try to improve what they already have,” Campbell said.

According to Gouthro, what they already had was more than his soldiers expected going into it. “They’re structured very similarly to what we’re used to, which helps us. They have similar roles,” he said. “They understand that the platoon leader is in charge of the overall plan, understand the platoon sergeant is there to take care of – as we say – the ‘beans and the bullets.’ Sustainment-type operations.”

They had the basics, Campbell said. “I think, really, what they need help with is, a little bit of planning and a little bit of employing leadership tactics on their platoon,” he said. “Because they move well, they just need a little tweaking in controlling, planning and executing their missions at the leadership level.” So the group shared their skills, while being careful not to dictate how they manage discipline and organization. “We do give guidance on that, but at the same time, it’s their army — so we’re not changing the way they do business,” he said. “We’re just building on what they already have.”

The SATMO mission members had some experience with training Iraqi and Afghan forces, he added, but they didn’t want to pre-judge the Nigerian army. “We were very impressed at the level of motivation and desire to learn that the Nigerian soldiers brought to the training,” Gouthro said. And, he added, in all likelihood the 26th Infantry Battalion will soon be using those honed skills in theater. “They’re not specifically slated for a deployment, that we’re aware of, but we know that the rotation will come around for them to rotate up north, to the Lake Chad Basin, where most of the conflict is in the country,” Gouthro said.

While soldiers from both Special Forces and civil affairs backgrounds have been deploying to the area for years to help local forces stabilize, the U.S. presence in the region came to a head late last year when an ambush killed four Americans deployed to Niger.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Latest 2018 SFA Convention Schedule

The following has been posted to the 2018 Special Forces Association National Convention site - We posted the changes to the hotels and Convention schedule (see below) on 14 December 2017.  The only additional changes at this time is the scheduling of two "soft events":  a Wine Tasting trip to  La Vina Winery, a local New Mexico Winery, which be on Thursday 14 June 2018 and a El Paso Lower Valley Spanish Mission Trail tour which will on Friday 15 June 2018. 

Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel is the Anchor Hotel

Because of rehab construction delays at our planned anchor hotel, we have moved the 2018 Convention to the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel and it's co-located partner, the Microtel Inn and Suites. This two hotel campus will provide over 350 rooms plus overflow accommodations of an additional 100 rooms at the Marriott, one block away. The other overflow hotels are:   The Radisson, Hawthorn; Comfort Suites; Chase Suites, Fairfield Inn and Town Place Suites.  Other hotels at the airport location will also adhere to the $98 per night contract rate. Click on the map below for a larger view.   

The plusses in this change of hotels offers the closet location to the Airport, adjacent to the short term parking - right across the street as a matter of fact. The Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel offers large meeting area/room for the hospitality room; free breakfast; pool and water slide; and is 10 minutes to the downtown venues for the Convention Banquet, Green Berets Movie and Green Beret night at the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball.

Those who have already committed to the Paso Del Norte Hotel are being accommodated on a first come, first served basis at the new Hotel HQ. You are supposed to be re-registered and contacted for your payment information by Debbie Lowrance (915) 778-4241.  Previously registered attendees should feel free to contact Debbie before she contacts you.  Be sure to obtain a confirmation number.  New registrations can call her directly and avoid the national booking number. 

Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel and Water Park
Convention Anchor Hotel
Address: 2027 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 778-4241

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport
Convention Associate Anchor Hotel
Address: 2001 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 519-1164

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham El Paso Airport
Convention Bronze Sponsor
Special SFA Convention pricing at $89
Address: 6789 Boeing Dr, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 613-3798

Comfort Suites El Paso Airport
Convention Bronze Sponsor
Special SFA Convention pricing at $89
Address: 1940 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (520) 257-3113

El Paso Marriott
Address: 1600 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 779-3300

Radisson Hotel El Paso Airport
Address: 1770 Airway Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-3333

Chase Suite Hotel El Paso
Address: 6791 Montana Ave, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-8000
POC:  Rene Baz,

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott El Paso Airport
Address: 6611 Edgemere Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 772-2202

Towne Place Suites by Marriott El Paso Airport
Address: 6601 Edgemere Blvd, El Paso, TX 79925
Phone: (915) 493-6781

Change 2

The events previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday have mostly flip flopped - the new schedule is below. The Golf Outing remains unchanged for Wednesday.

Change 3

The annual picnic is now at the War Eagles Museum on Wednesday. The event will now be named the "Whole Enchilada Picnic" and will be organized by Robert Phillipson and our brothers from SFA Chapter 80 from nearby Las Cruces, NM. This takes the place of the previously scheduled "Mexican Fiesta Lunch" picnic originally scheduled for Friday.

Schedule of Events

As previously announced in December, the annual picnic is now at the War Eagles Museum on Wednesday. This event, the "Whole Enchilada Picnic", is organized by Robert Phillipson and our brothers from SFA Chapter 80 from nearby Las Cruces, NM. 

Tuesday 12 June 2018
0800-2000          Convention Registration - Wyndham Hotel Lobby
1700-1830          SFA President's Reception
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel

Wednesday 13 June 2018
0800-2000          Convention Registration continues - Wyndham Hotel Lobby
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0800 - ??            Golf Outing, Butterfield Trail Golf Course
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1200          Chapter Presidents' Meeting
1200-1400          War Eagles Museum Tour and Whole Enchilada Picnic
                            Free OH-6A "Loach" rides
                            Sky Diving available through Sky Dive El Paso (at your own cost & risk!)
1900-2200          50th Anniversary showing of the film classic "The Green Berets" starring 
                            John Wayne - at the historic Plaza Theater with special guest and
                            cash bar

Thursday 14 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1330          New!  La Vina Winery Tour ($15 fee covers transportation and wine tasting)
1400-2200          Cattleman's - Indian Cliff Ranch Dinner   

Friday 15 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1200          Briefing (TBD)
0830-1300          New!  Spanish Mission Trail Tour ($10 fee covers transportation)
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1000-1200          General Membership Meeting
1900-2200          Green Beret Night at the El Paso Chihuahua's - AAA Baseball (tickets at $20 at the gate)

Saturday 16 June 2018
0800-2200          Hospitality Room Open -  Wyndham Hotel
0900-1130          Vietnam Memorial Ceremony Excursion
0900-1800          SF Marketplace
1700-1800          Pre-Banquet Cocktail Hour, El Paso Convention Center
1800-??              Annual SFA Banquet, El Paso Convention Center

Sunday 17 June 2018
0800-1000          Bloody Mary Morning Breakfast and Send Off, Wyndham Hotel

Friday, February 16, 2018

President Trump's 2018 National Prayer Breakfast Speech

It’s an honor to be with so many faith leaders, members of Congress, and dignitaries from all around the world as we continue this extraordinary tradition. I’m very glad to be joined by many members of my Cabinet. You’re doing a terrific job.

I want to extend our appreciation to the First Lady of Rwanda for leading the opening prayer. Thank you. Thank you very much.

I also want to thank my two great friends, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. They’re some here. Where are they? They are two terrific people. Stand up, Mark. You deserve it. Even though he comes from Hollywood. (Applause.) Roma, thank you very much. Thank you for being here.

Major Scotty Smiley and Tiffany, we’re moved by your faith and your courage, and inspired by your service and sacrifice. That was really beautiful. Thank you very much. Thank you.

And to my friend, and everybody’s friend, Steve Scalise, we are so glad to have you with us today. Your presence reminds us of Jesus’s words in the Book of Matthew: “With God all things are possible.” You are fantastic. You really are, Steve. Fantastic man.

America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer. This morning, our hearts are full of gratitude as we come together for the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast.

But our hearts are also saddened by the absence of the co-founder of this wonderful breakfast who passed away last year, Doug Coe, who everybody loved. (Applause.) For 60 years, Doug devoted his time and passion to this Prayer Breakfast and to many other wonderful causes. Today, we are blessed to be joined by Doug’s wife Jan, and two of their sons, David and Tim. Thank you. Thank you very much. Great man.

I want to thank you for carrying on Doug’s legacy also, and bringing our nation together in prayer. You are indeed carrying on his great legacy.

Each year, this event reminds us that faith is central to American life and to liberty. Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares, “In God We Trust.” (Applause.) And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are “One Nation Under God.”

Our rights are not given to us by man; our rights come from our Creator. (Applause.) No matter what, no Earthly force can take those rights away. That is why the words “Praise be to God” are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.

So today, we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American. (Applause.) Across our land, we see the splendor of God’s creation. Throughout our history, we see the story of God’s providence. And in every city and town, we see the Lord’s grace all around us, through a million acts of kindness, courage and generosity. We love God.

We see the Lord’s grace in the servicemembers who risk their lives for our freedom. We see it in the teachers who work tirelessly for their students, and the police who sacrifice for our communities — and sacrifice they do.

And we see the Lord’s grace in the moms and dads who work two and three jobs to give their children the chance for a better and much more prosperous and happier life.

As the Bible tells us, for we are God’s handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works. America’s heroes rise to this calling. In their selfless deeds, they reveal the beauty and goodness of the human soul.

When catastrophic hurricanes struck, first responders and everyday citizens dove into rushing waters to save stranded families from danger. And they saved them by the thousands. Neighbors opened their homes to those in need of food, clothes, shelter. Firefighters braved blinding smoke and flames to rescue children from devastating wildfires.

During the horrific shootings, strangers shielded strangers, and police officers ran into a hail of bullets to save the lives of their fellow Americans, right in Las Vegas. A terrible day, a terrible night. But such bravery.

Families have adopted babies orphaned by the opioid epidemic and given them loving homes. Communities and churches have reached out to those struggling with addiction, and shown them the path to a clean life, a good job, and a renewed sense of purpose.

And soldiers, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, airmen, and Marines have spent long months away from home defending our great American flag.

All we have to do is open our eyes and look around us, and we can see God’s hand. In the courage of our fellow citizens, we see the power of God’s love at work in our souls, and the power of God’s will to answer all of our prayers.

When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all.

Together, as Americans, we are a tireless force for justice and for peace. We have witnessed this truth over the past year.

For years, ISIS had brutally tortured and murdered Christians, Jews, religious minorities, and countless Muslims.

Today, the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and all throughout Syria.

Much work will always remain, but we will never rest until that job is completely done. And we are really doing it like never before.

We know that millions of people in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and other countries suffer under repressive and brutal regimes. America stands with all people suffering oppression and religious persecution.

Last week, during the State of the Union, the world was inspired by the story of a North Korean defector, Mr. Ji Seong-ho, who is now back in South Korea.

Before his escape, when Seong-ho was being tortured by North Korean officials, there was one thing that kept him from losing hope: Over and over again, he recited the Lord’s prayer. He prayed for peace, and he prayed for freedom. And now, as you know, Seong-ho is free and a symbol of hope to millions of people all around the world.

Here with us today is another symbol of hope, a very brave 9-year-old girl named Sophia Marie Campa Peters. Sophia suffers from a rare disease that has caused her to have many strokes. At one point, the doctors told Sophia that she would not be able to walk. Sophia replied, “If you’re only going to talk about what I can’t do, then I don’t want to hear it — (laughter) — just let me try to walk.”

She tried, and she succeeded. And one of her doctors even told her mom — and theyre right here in the front row where they should be — “This little girl has God on her side.” Thank you, Sophia. Thank you, mom. Great mom.

I said, Do you love your mom? She said, I have a great mom. I love my mom. Right?

Just two weeks ago, Sophia needed to have a very high-risk surgery. She decided to ask the whole world to pray for her, and she hoped to reach 10,000 people.

On January 24th, as Sophia went into surgery, she far surpassed her goal. Millions and millions of people lifted Sophia up in their prayers.

Today, we thank God that Sophia is with us, and she’s recovering, and shes walking very well.

And I have to say this, Sophia: You may only be 9 years old, but you are already a hero to all of us in this room, and all over the world. Thank you, Sophia.

Heroes like Sophia come from all across our country and from every different background. But they all share one thing in common: Through their love, their courage, their sacrifice, we glimpse the grace of almighty God.

So today, inspired by our fellow citizens, let us resolve to find the best within ourselves. Let us pray for that extra measure of strength and that extra measure of devotion. And let us seek to build a more just and peaceful world, where every child can grow up without violence, worship without fear, and reach their God-given potential.

As long as we are true to America’s founding and the example that all of these great founders have set, we can all be heroes to everybody, and they can be heroes to us.

As long as we open our eyes to God’s grace and open our hearts to God’s love, then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations.

Thank you for this incredible event and to our wonderful hosts. And thank you to all of our heroes for serving, protecting, and inspiring America each and every day.

God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

William H. Carney - First Black MOH Recipient

Of all the men who wore blue uniforms in the Civil War, none felt more keenly the purpose of his mission than the African American soldier. Every marching step, every swing of a pick and every round fired at Confederate enemies gave him a chance to strike a blow against slavery and prove himself equal to his white comrades.

U.S. Colored Troops were consistently good fighters, performing well in every engagement in which they fought. Even their enemies had to grudgingly admit that fact. One USCT member, William H. Carney, transcended good to become great, and was the first black U.S. soldier to earn the Medal of Honor.

On February 17, 1863, at age 23, Carney heeded the call for African Americans to join a local militia unit, the Morgan Guards, with 45 other volunteers from his hometown of New Bedford, Mass. That unit would later become Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. There was something unique about the new regiment, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw; it was an all-black unit with the exception of senior officers and a few senior non-commissioned sergeants. The 54th Massachusetts was created to prove that black men could be good soldiers.

Carney was born a slave on February 29, 1840, at Norfolk, Va. His father, also named William, escaped slavery, reaching freedom through the underground railroad. William Sr. then worked hard to buy the freedom of the rest of his family. The free and reunited family settled in New Bedford in the second half of the 1850s. Young William learned to read and write, and by age 15 he was interested in becoming a minister. He gave up his pursuit of the ministry, however, to join the Army. In an 1863 edition of the Abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Carney stated: “Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short — I enlisted for the war.”

That career change had momentous impact on Carney’s life, as the 54th Massachusetts had a chance to prove its mettle in the July 18, 1863, Battle of Fort Wagner outside of Charleston, S.C. During the fight, the 54th made heroic attacks on the garrison, and Carney’s bravery earned him a promotion to sergeant and the U.S. military’s most prestigious award.

Fort Wagner on Morris Island guarded the entrance to the harbor of Charleston. Shaw and the 600 men of the 54th Massachusetts would spearhead the federal assault from a slim strip of sand on the east side of the fort, which faced the Atlantic Ocean. The 54th burrowed into a sand dune about 1,000 yards from Fort Wagner. Behind it was the 6th Connecticut. Federal land and sea artillery bombarded the fort all day long. By nightfall, orders were passed down and the 54th stood up, dressed ranks and attacked in two wings of five companies each.

As the men advanced they were immediately hit by a barrage of canister, musketry and shelling from the fort. A bullet struck the 54th’s color sergeant, and as the wounded man faltered, Carney threw down his gun, seized the flag and moved to the front of the 54th’s assaulting ranks. He soon found himself alone, on the fort’s wall, with bodies of dead and wounded comrades all around him. He knelt down to gather himself for action, still firmly holding the flag while bullets and shell fragments peppered the sand around him.

Carney surveyed the battlefield and noticed that other Union regiments had attacked to his right, drawing away the focal point of the Rebel resistance. To his left he saw a large force of soldiers advancing down the ramparts of the fort. At first he thought they might be were Union forces. Flashes of musketry soon doomed his hopes. The oncoming troops were Confederates. He wound the colors around the flagpole, made his way to a low protective wall and moved along it to a ditch. When Carney had passed over the ditch on his way to the fort, it was dry. But now it was waist deep with water.

He seemed to be alone, surrounded by the wreckage of his regiment. Carney wanted to help the wounded, but enemy fire pinned him down. Crouching in the water, he figured his best chance was to plot a course back to Federal lines and make a break for it. Carney rose to get a better look. It was a fateful move. As he later wrote: “The bullet I now carry in my body came whizzing like a mosquito, and I was shot. Not being prostrated by the shot, I continued my course, yet had not gone far before I was struck by a second shot.”

Despite carrying two slugs in his body, Carney kept moving. Shortly after being hit the second time he saw another Union soldier coming in his direction. When they were within earshot, Carney hailed him, asking who he was. The Yank replied he was with the 100th New York, and asked if Carney was wounded. Carney said he had indeed been shot, and then flinched as a third shot grazed his arm.

The 100th soldier came to his aid and helped him move farther to the rear. “Now then,” said the New York soldier, “let me take the colors and carry them for you.” Carney, though, would not consent to that, no matter how battered he was. He explained that he would not be willing to give the colors to anyone who was not a member of the 54th Massachusetts. The pair struggled on. They did not get far before yet another bullet hit Carney, grazing him in the head. The two men finally managed to stumble to their own lines. Carney was taken to the rear and turned over to medical personnel. Throughout his ordeal, he held on to the colors. Cheers greeted him when Carney finally staggered into the ranks of the 54th. Before collapsing, he said, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!”

During the battle, Company C of the 54th Massachusetts was able to, for a short time, capture a small section of Fort Wagner. The 54th suffered 272 killed, wounded or missing out of the 600 in the battle. Colonel Shaw was among the dead. Total Union casualties were 1,515 out of about 5,000 in the assault force, while the Confederates had 174 casualties out of about 1,800 defenders. Although the Union forces were repulsed and had to lay siege to Fort Wagner, which the Confederates abandoned two months later, the 54th was widely hailed for its bravery. Like a pebble dropped into a puddle, the regiment’s heroism had a ripple effect, spurring thousands of other black men to join the Union Army. Even Abraham Lincoln noted that the 54th’s bravery at Wagner was a key development that helped secure final victory for the North.

William Carney recovered from the four wounds he received at Fort Wagner, and word soon spread of his unselfish actions. When Carney’s commanders heard about his conduct, he was promoted to sergeant. Later in the war, the 54th fought a rear-guard action covering a retreat at the Battle of Olustee, but Sergeant Carney could not participate in that engagement due to the lingering effects of his wounds. Because of his injuries he was discharged from the Army a little more than a year after the battle, on June 30, 1864.

Carney subsequently married Susannah Williams, also of New Bedford, on October 11, 1865. They had one child who later became an accomplished music teacher of the New Bedford area. In 1866 William Carney was appointed superintendent of streetlights for the city of New Bedford. He then went to California to seek his fortune but returned to New Bedford in 1869 and took a job as a letter carrier for the Postal Service. He worked at that job for 32 years before retiring. After retirement he was employed as a messenger at the Massachusetts State House, where in 1908 he would be fatally injured in an accident that trapped his leg in an elevator.

William H. Carney’s valor at Fort Wagner was honored on May 23, 1900, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That was almost 40 years after he so proudly served with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He was the first black soldier to receive the award. When asked about his heroic actions, he simply said, “I only did my duty.”

Article from the Military Times

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Frederick Douglass’ friend named Abraham Lincoln

February is Black History month and it is fitting to post an article on President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. One who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the other a tireless leader in the black community and advocate for Black-American Union soldiers.

Today it seems unthinkable but in August 1863 — the summer of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the bloody New York draft riots — anybody could walk into the White House and ask to meet the president. Abraham Lincoln’s advisers warned him not to welcome strangers during wartime but he persisted. He called these meetings “taking a public opinion bath.”

On the sweltering morning of August 10, one of Lincoln’s uninvited visitors was Frederick Douglass, a tall, burly black man dressed in a dark suit and a high-collared white shirt. He had no appointment. He simply walked in off the street, handed his business card to a secretary and joined the people waiting to see the president.

“They were white,” he recalled later, “and as I was the only dark spot among them, I expected to have to wait at least half a day. I had heard of men waiting a week.” Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, Douglass secretly taught himself to read and write, and in 1838, he escaped and fled north to become the most famous black man of his times, an eloquent abolitionist orator, writer and newspaper publisher. He was also a radical who repeatedly criticized Lincoln for moving too slowly to free the slaves. But when the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation in late 1862, Douglass rejoiced and began recruiting black men to fight in the Union Army: “Men of Color, To Arms!”

On this day, though, he’d come to Washington to protest the Army’s discrimination against black soldiers. Douglass made his case to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that morning then walked to the White House to see the president. He settled in for a long wait but within a few minutes, he heard an aide holler his name.

“Mr. Douglass!” As Douglass elbowed his way up the crowded staircase to the president’s office, he heard somebody grumbling, “Damn it, I knew they would let the nigger through.” Douglass ignored the slur and entered the office. Lincoln stood up and held out his hand. Douglass shook it and began to introduce himself. The president cut him off. “Mr. Douglass, I know you. I have read about you,” he said. “Sit down. I am glad to see you.”

The two men sat and Lincoln said he’d read a speech Douglass had delivered in early 1862, lambasting the president for his “tardy, hesitating and vacillating policy” regarding emancipation. Lincoln recalled the attack without anger and admitted that he could justifiably be criticized as slow to move against slavery. But on the charge of vacillating, the president pled not guilty. “I do not think that charge can be sustained,” Lincoln said. “I think it cannot be shown that once I have taken a position, I have ever retreated from it.”

Douglass was amazed at the president’s candor and delighted that Lincoln was speaking to him as an equal — a courtesy that white people, even abolitionists, did not always grant him. “Mr. President, I am recruiting colored troops,” Douglass said, quickly adding that his efforts were hampered by the Army’s discriminatory practices. Black soldiers were paid only about half of what white troops earned, he said, and were not promoted no matter how bravely they fought.

Lincoln listened, then sat silently for a long moment. Finally, he responded by giving his radical visitor a gentle lesson in practical politics. The reason he acted so slowly, he explained, is that a leader cannot get too far ahead of his people.

“Mr. Douglass, you know that it was with great difficulty that I could get the colored soldier — or get the colored men — into the Army at all,” Lincoln said. “You know the prejudices existing against them. You know the doubt that was felt in regard to their ability as soldiers. It was necessary at first that we should make some discrimination against them: They were on trial.”

Moreover, Lincoln said, black men had a greater incentive to enlist than whites did — they were fighting for their freedom. But as black troops continued to prove their courage to the nation, he added, they would eventually receive equal pay. “I assure you, Mr. Douglass, that in the end they shall have the same pay as white soldiers.”

As for the promotion of blacks, Lincoln promised that he would sign any promotion recommended by the secretary of war. Douglass didn’t agree with everything the president said — he saw no reason for the continued pay gap — but he was impressed with Lincoln’s honesty. He brought up reports that Confederate troops had been executing the black soldiers they’d captured, and he thanked Lincoln for his recent proclamation promising to retaliate against the executions. “In case any colored soldiers are murdered in cold blood,” Douglass said, “you should retaliate in kind.”

Again, Lincoln heard Douglass out. Again, he felt compelled to disagree. “Once begun, I don’t know where such a measure would stop,” he said. Lincoln had, Douglass later recalled, a “tearful look in his eye and a quiver in his voice” when he spoke of his aversion to retaliatory executions. “If I could get hold of the men that murdered your troops — murdered our prisoners of war — I would execute them,” Lincoln said, “but I cannot take men that may not have had anything to do with this murdering of our soldiers and execute them.”

Before leaving the office, Douglass showed Lincoln the document he’d received when visiting Stanton that morning — a pass proclaiming him to be “a loyal free man” and “entitled to travel unmolested.” Lincoln laid the paper on a table, wrote, “I concur” and signed it. “Douglass,” Lincoln said as his guest departed, “never come to Washington without calling on me.”

Douglass left with a new fondness for Lincoln: “I was impressed with his entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race.” Four months later, Douglass addressed an abolitionist group in Philadelphia. “Perhaps you may want to know how the President of the United States received a black man at the White House,” Douglass said. “I will tell you how he received me — just as you have seen one gentleman receive another, with a hand and a voice well-balanced between a kind cordiality and a respectful reserve. I tell you, I felt big there!”

The two men met twice more. Their final encounter occurred at a White House reception after Lincoln’s second inauguration. Policemen stopped Douglass at the door and told him that blacks were not allowed to enter. Douglass protested, then sent word to the president that he was outside. Within minutes, he was admitted.

“When Mr. Lincoln saw me, his countenance lighted up,” Douglass recalled, “and he said in a voice which was heard all around: ‘Here comes my friend Douglass.’” The president shook his friend’s hand. “I saw you in the crowd today listening to my inaugural address,” he said. Then he asked Douglass, one of America’s finest orators, what he thought of the speech. “There is no man’s opinion that I value more than yours.”

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Four Chaplains Day honors heroic chaplains’ last sacrifice

It’s been 75 years since the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was hit by German submarine U-223 while transporting 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers to Greenland. On Feb. 3, 1943. four Army chaplains on board gave their lives to save others.

“It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” recalled one survivor, quoted in an Army history.

The ship was hit below the water line with a torpedo, initially killing and wounding many men on board. Lt. George Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister; and Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest, acted quickly to calm the men and distribute life jackets.

When they ran out of life jackets, the four chaplains removed their own and gave them away as well. As the ship sank, the chaplains could be seen, arms linked, on the deck, and heard, singing hymns and offering prayers.

Each man was determined to serve God and his country, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Army website. They were among the 672 men who died that day.

Fox, raised Catholic, fell away from his religion and embraced the Methodist church after serving in World War I, becoming a reverend and then state chaplain of Vermont before serving as an Army chaplain in World War II.

Goode applied first to the Navy, where he was rejected. But after Pearl Harbor, the Army accepted his chaplain application, and he asked repeatedly to be deployed overseas. He finally was, aboard the Dorchester.

Washington, who lost much of his eye sight in a BB gun accident as a child, was turned down by the Navy. He then went to the Army, where he covered his bad eye both times when reading the eye chart. They didn’t notice, and he was accepted.

Poling was the seventh generation of his family to become a minister, and he signed up to be an Army chaplain despite his father’s concerns. Poling asked his father to pray for him before boarding the Dorchester, according to information from the Army. “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty ... never be a coward ... and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

Each chaplain was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart in 1944, but many thought they deserved Medals of Honor. To work around the medal’s requirement of heroism under fire, Congress authorized a Special Medal for Heroism.

The Four Chaplains’ Medal was awarded to the chaplains’ descendants by Secretary of the Army Wilbur Brucker on Jan. 18, 1961. In 1948, Congress designated Feb. 3 as “Four Chaplains’ Day,” in honor of the four brave men whose loyalty to both their religions and their country shined bright that day in 1943. The Field of Four Chaplains at Fort Benning, Georgia, was named in their honor.

Article from the Military Times

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

U.S. Commandos Test Southern Border wall

Recent assaults by tactical teams on prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico indicate their imposing heights should stop border crossers, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the rigorous assessment told The Associated Press. Military special forces based in Florida and U.S. Customs and Border Protection special units spent three weeks trying to breach and scale the eight models in San Diego, using jackhammers, saws, torches and other tools and climbing devices, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not authorized for public release.

A Customs and Border Protection report on the tests identifies strengths and flaws of each design but does not pick an overall winner or rank them, though it does point to see-through steel barriers topped by concrete as the best overall design, the official said. The report recommends combining elements of each, depending on the terrain. The official likened it to a Lego design, pulling pieces from different prototypes.

Carlos Diaz, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the agency is still in “the testing phase” and that results are being evaluated. He said combining elements of different prototypes instead of picking a winner is consistent with previous statements by officials. He noted that the agency said in its bidding guidelines that a minimum height of 18 feet (5.4 meters) would be a key characteristic. He said he did not have additional details on test results.

Contractors were awarded between $300,000 and $500,000 for each prototype. Prototypes were built last fall to guide future construction of one of Trump’s signature campaign pledges. Four were concrete and four were made of other materials.

Ronald Vitiello, the agency’s acting deputy commissioner, said after visiting the prototypes in October that he was struck most by the 30-foot (9.1-meter) heights, which are significantly higher than existing barriers. Taller barriers are undoubtedly more effective, but whether the cost is justified will be up for debate.

The highly trained testers scaled 16 to 20 feet (4.9 to 6.1 meters) unassisted but needed help after that, said the official who described the assaults on the wall prototypes to the AP. Testers also expressed safety concerns about getting down from 30 feet. Only once did a tester manage to land a hook on top of the wall without help, the official said. Tubes atop some models repelled climbing devices but wouldn’t work in more mountainous areas because the terrain is too jagged.

The report favors steel at ground level because agents can see what is happening on the other side and holes can more easily be patched, the official said. With concrete, large slabs have to be replaced for even small breaches, which is time-consuming and expensive. Topping the steel with smooth concrete surfaces helps prevent climbing.

Customs and Border Protection leaders were scheduled to be briefed on the findings this week amid intensifying discussions between the White House and Congress on immigration legislation to avert a government shutdown and renew protection for about 800,000 young immigrants who were temporarily shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is scheduled to end in March.

The administration has insisted wall funding be part of any immigration deal but Trump has been unclear about how long the wall would be and how it should be designed. The administration has asked for $1.6 billion this year to build or replace 74 miles (118.4 kilometers) of barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and San Diego and plans to request another $1.6 billion next year.

A proposal by Customs and Border Protection calls for spending $18 billion over 10 years to extend barriers to cover nearly half the border, though it is unclear if Trump supports that plan. The agency proposes 316 miles (505 kilometers) of additional barrier by September 2027, bringing total coverage to 970 miles (1,552 kilometers). It also seeks 407 miles (651 kilometers) of replacement or secondary fencing.

Mexico has steadfastly rejected Trump’s demand that it pay for the wall.

Contracts to do work on that scale would be hugely lucrative, and the prototypes, spaced tightly together in a remote part of San Diego, have captured widespread attention, including from architecture critics. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Caddell Construction Co. of Montgomery, Alabama, built one concrete model and one of other materials.

Texas Sterling Construction Co., a unit of Sterling Construction Co., and Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. of Tempe, Arizona, did concrete designs. ELTA North America Inc., part of state-run Israel Aerospace Industries, and KWR Construction Inc. of Sierra Vista, Arizona, built models from other materials.

Vitiello said in October that the testing could last up to two months and lead to officials to conclude that elements of several designs should be merged to create effective walls, raising the possibility of no winner or winners.

Article from Defense News

Friday, January 26, 2018

Vietnam Chaplain praised for bravery, but haunted by War

Retired Navy chaplain Ray W. Stubbe leaned over his diary and ran his finger to the entry for Feb. 23, 1968, the 34th day of the Vietnam War’s siege of Khe Sanh and the day the bunker was hit.

The small, sandbag fortress was on the perimeter. He had spent the night there three weeks before, as a half-dozen nervous young Marines sat under a single lightbulb, making coffee in a ration tin and playing a recording of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” over and over.

Now the bunker had been smashed with some of those Marines inside, and Stubbe, then 29, a bespectacled Lutheran minister, rushed from a nearby medical shelter to help.

What he found would haunt him for years. The Marines inside were in pieces. One was headless. Stubbe carried what was left of another to a military ambulance. “A hand, an arm, a stringy piece of flesh intertwined with cloth and caked with mud,” he recorded.

“I knew them all,” he wrote. They were barely out of their teens. One had been an altar boy. Another had a death wish since he had accidentally killed several buddies in a friendly fire incident during an earlier tour of Vietnam.

“I took this very hard,” Stubbe wrote.

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the war’s most famous siege, a 77-day struggle for a rain-swept plateau in central Vietnam that riveted the U.S. in 1968, and opened a year of often-bloody social upheaval that resonates today.

The siege was front-page news for almost three months. President Lyndon B. Johnson pored over a scale model of Khe Sanh in the White House. He vowed that the base would never become another Dien Bien Phu, where a besieged French garrison surrendered to the North Vietnamese communists in 1954.

In 1968, Khe Sanh heralded the start of the enemy’s sweeping Tet offensive, in which Vietnamese forces launched a barrage of deadly attacks across South Vietnam, stunning American officials. Tet wound up souring much of the American public on the war and set the stage for the gradual withdrawal of the U.S. troops.

It also opened the bloodiest year of the war, and for many of the 6,000 Marines and others besieged there by 40,000 North Vietnamese, it left physical injuries and disturbing images that would last a lifetime.

Hundreds of Marines were killed and thousands were wounded at Khe Sanh, as the enemy rained as many as 1,300 shells, rockets and mortars on the base a day. The Americans burrowed into the reddish earth, and shared a muddy, subterranean world with the well-fed local rats.

The prospect of death was ever present, and oblivion could come to anyone in a flash. (A Catholic chaplain, Father Robert R. Brett, was killed in a rocket attack the day before the bunker was hit.)

Stubbe developed a fast, 10-minute service focused on the Bible story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. He once conducted 13 services around the sprawling base in one day.

In his diary entry, probably penned that night, he listed the dead and their faiths.

“PFC CHISHOLM, James,” 20, Baptist, of Savannah, Ga.

“LCPL MCKEEVER, Michael Edward,” 20, Roman Catholic, of Duluth, Minn.

“CPL THORPE, Gary Wilford,” 20, Mormon, of Bear River City, Utah.

He noted that amid the carnage the big recoilless rifle outside the bunker was unscathed, and the missing head was never found.

A ‘foreshortened future’

Ray Stubbe sat down at the kitchen table in his brick home in this Milwaukee suburb one gray day earlier this month and began his story.

He wore blue jeans, a denim shirt and black sneakers. A vase of white flowers sat in the middle of the table. A Tiffany-style lamp hung from the ceiling.

He is 79 and lives alone. He never married, has no close family, doesn’t use the Internet and doesn’t like to travel out of the area — a legacy, he believes, of Khe Sanh. He said psychologists call this a “sense of foreshortened future.”

“Part of it was the siege,” he said. He and others developed the mentality that every day might be their last. “We could never count on another day.”

He was affected by other things at Khe Sanh, and suffered so much from PTSD after the war that he had to be hospitalized twice.

He had nightmares and crying jags, and relived scenes like that in the bunker over and over, as if on a record with a skip in it, he said.

He was troubled by an incident where he was caught in the bottom of a shallow trench during a ferocious barrage. The ground shook, and when he tried to pray, all he could do was babble.

And he was distraught when, on Feb. 25, a patrol of 45 Marines was ambushed outside the base and only half of them returned. Again, Stubbe knew many of those who were lost.

He said he often had a dream where he was in a bunker under attack and was the only one left.

For a time, Khe Sanh colored everything in his life, like dye in a clear liquid, he said. “It was all that there was.” Now it’s “become increasingly set in its place,” he said. “It doesn’t overshadow. It doesn’t preempt. It doesn’t monopolize.”

He gradually realized that his recovery from the trauma of Khe Sanh would be helped if he chronicled the details of the siege. As an historian of the battle, he could step outside his experiences, he said.

He was already a beloved Khe Sanh figure: “A couple of the Marines swore they once saw him walk across a puddle of water and not get his feet wet,” veteran Steven A. Johnson wrote in a memoir.

“He was the real deal,” said retired Marine officer Kenneth W. Pipes, who was a company commander at Khe Sanh. “He did an awful lot of good for an awful lot of people.......Pretty much fearless......Stubbe turned up at the key places at the right time for the right reasons.”

In an oral history for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Stubbe recalled that he once recited Psalm 91 while holding the hand of a wounded Marine — Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Another time, he wrote, he fed cookies to a Marine with burned hands, as if the snacks were Communion wafers.

After he got home, he immediately transcribed his diary. “I just had to get this out of me,” he said. He retired from the Navy in 1985 and established a ministry in a Milwaukee church visiting shut-ins.

All the while he researched Khe Sanh, exchanged letters with veterans and their families, and gathered memorabilia and artifacts. He wrote books, essays, and sermons, and his work is often cited by historians. He founded the group, Khe Sanh Veterans Inc., in 1983. When Stubbe donated much of his material to the Wisconsin veterans museum in 2005, he said it took two trucks to carry it all away. And still, an upstairs room is filled with mementos, photographs, maps, plaques, news clippings and boxes.

One famous photograph, which appeared in Life magazine, shows Stubbe conducting a service at Khe Sanh. He stands with head bowed, hands clasping a piece of paper, as a group of Marines sit around him in prayer. Rugged mountains and mist where the enemy lurked appear in the background.

Stubbe said he realized later that nobody was wearing a helmet, a potentially catastrophic mistake at Khe Sanh.

An unlikely warrior

Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty and maketh it waste. And turneth it upside down and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof ......

The opening bombardment of the base began before dawn on a Sunday morning, Stubbe recalled in an autobiographical essay several years ago.

The darkness was illuminated by explosions. A supply depot nearby caught fire. And the air was filled with the odor of burning sandbags, and gasoline that had ignited in a petroleum dump. As the barrage died down, he emerged to survey the damage, and thought of the prophet, Isaiah: the earth is crumbled in pieces.....and a drunken man.

Stubbe was perhaps the most unlikely participant at Khe Sanh. A Navy lieutenant, he had a degree in philosophy from St. Olaf College and had started a PhD program in ethics and society at the University of Chicago. He had translated scripture into Greek, and carried a Greek New Testament in his uniform pocket.

He said he only carried a rifle once. He was going out with a patrol and the Marines told him that if he didn’t carry a rifle the enemy would think he was an officer and gun for him.

Stubbe had grown up in Milwaukee, the only child of a draftsman and homemaker. He joined the Navy Reserve in high school. In college he decided to attend the seminary. While there, he said in his essay, he joined the Navy’s Reserve Chaplain Company, became an ensign and attended the Navy Chaplains School.

He was ordained in 1965, started a church in a Milwaukee suburb, and began his PhD program in 1966.

But by 1967, the war had heated up, and, feeling a call, he volunteered for active duty. “I was deeply interested in the interface of religion and war,” he said in his oral history. “Can a Christian be a soldier — or a Marine?”

He reached Khe Sanh on July 17, 1967, and left Feb. 29, 1968, although he went back once a week or so through April.

Khe Sanh was relieved by American ground forces that April, and the base was destroyed and abandoned in July, according to historians.

Throughout his ordeal there, Stubbe said, he never had a crisis of faith. “I always knew that God was with us,” he said, as he sat in his kitchen. “I saw many of the good parts of people.....Especially there. It was very apparent to me how good people were to each other.”

Marines shared food, water, letters from home, and gave their lives for each other. “These are mainly 19-year-olds … happy, friendly, frolicking kind of people playing practical jokes,” he said. “But also just had that genuine sense of caring for each other.”

Those seeking to destroy them were largely distant and unseen, he said. “I’ve really been enriched,” he said. “I think we’re enriched by the difficulties we pass through, as long as they don’t crumble us.” Even a half-century later, Khe Sanh still is instructive. “For those of us that were there, it isn’t 50 years ago,” he said. “It was, like, last night.”