Friday, August 26, 2016

U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan was an ‘exceptional Green Beret’

The service member killed in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province earlier this week has been identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Thompson’s patrol triggered a roadside bomb Tuesday, wounding another American and six Afghan soldiers.

According to a statement released by the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, U.S. troops were accompanying their Afghan counterparts near the province’s capital of Lashkar Gah when their unit came under attack.

Thompson, 28, of Irvine, Calif., was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces group, according to an Army release. The incident is under investigation. “He was an exceptional Green Beret, a cherished teammate, and devoted husband. His service in Afghanistan and Iraq speak to his level of dedication, courage, and commitment to something greater than himself,” said Lt. Col. Kevin M. Trujillo, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations task force in Afghanistan.

According to the Army release, Thompson enlisted in the Army in 2011 and reported as a medical sergeant to 1st Special Forces Group in 2014. He was on his first stint in Afghanistan when he was killed and had previously deployed to Iraq in support of the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State there. Thompson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star with a V for valor in combat and the Combat Infantry Badge.

Helmand province has been the site of heavy fighting in recent weeks as Taliban forces have used the summer months to launch multiple offensives across the country. The group is estimated to control well over 50 percent of Helmand, and its pressure on the provincial capital has forced U.S. and NATO troops to shuttle resources to help prop up the embattled Afghan security forces. Despite their gains around the periphery of Lashkar Gah, the Taliban has been unable to enter the city limits in the face of near-constant U.S. and coalition airstrikes.



On Monday, the NATO-led mission announced that 100 U.S. troops had been moved to Lashkar Gah to primarily advise Afghan police in the area. Col. Mike Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Thompson was not a part of the 100-troop detachment. U.S. Special Operations forces have been operating in and around the city since the Taliban began its offensive in the province earlier this summer.

Thompson’s death marks the second combat death in Afghanistan this year. In January, Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock was killed in a pitched firefight alongside Afghan commandos in Marjah, a city in a fertile area just west of Lashkar Gah.

Helmand province, known as the birthplace of the Taliban and nicknamed Marine-istan following President Obama’s 2009 surge into the country, is an opium-rich area that has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the nearly 15-year-old war.

While conflict continues unabated in Helmand province, Taliban forces have also recently made gains in the northern part of the country. In the last few days, Kunduz — the city that briefly fell to the Taliban in October 2015 — has been the site of combat between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.

U.S. helicopter gunships and the small prop-driven aircraft of the fledgling Afghan air force have since helped repulse attacks on the city, and officials from the NATO-led mission were optimistic that the Afghan forces would be able to hold their ground.

Article from the Washington Post

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Jerry Rainey Scholarship Awards

On Saturday 20 August 2016, the Special Forces Association Chapter IX awarded three outstanding young ladies with $1,000 checks each to help with their college expenses. Kayley Maloney and Marissa Thompson Potter, both attending New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and Nicole Ruiz attending University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are the 2016 Jerry Rainey scholarship winners.



Picture (above) from Left to Right): Greg Brown Chapter, IX member and 2016 Rainey Scholarship Chairman; Kayley Maloney, Scholarship winner; Carol Rainey, widow of Jerry Rainey; Brigadier General Kurt S. Crytzer, Commander JTF-N; and, Pete Peral, Chapter IX President - the handsome devil that he is, according to himself.

On Saturday 20 August 2016, the Special Forces Association Chapter IX awarded three outstanding young ladies with $1,000 checks each ot help with their college expenses. Kayley Maloney and Marissa Thompson Potter both attending New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and Nicole Ruiz attending University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are the scholarship winners.

Brigadier General Kurt S. Crytzer, Commander of Joint Task Force North (JTF-N) was the presenter of the awards. BG Crytzer previously served as the Deputy Commanding General of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and Commander of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Iraq (SOJTF-I) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. He also has served as a Special Forces SCUBA Detachment Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Commander, Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander, Counter Lord’s Resistance Army Control Element (ACCE) Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force Commander. Additional assignments include Special Forces Battalion S-3, Joint Operations Center Chief, Balkans Desk Officer and Current Operations Chief with Special Operations Command Europe, Director of Operations (J3) with Special Operations Command Africa, and as a Faculty Member at the United States Army War College.

This was the ninth (9th) year we have honored the legacy of Jerry P. Rainey with scholarship awards to deserving college students. Jerry meant a lot to many people in any community where he lived, know for his primary focus on helping others.

Jerry enlisted in the Navy at the start of the Korean War and one of his primary duties in Korea was rescuing downed pilots, often times behind enemy lines. After Korea, he spent the next nine years living in Athens, GA where he served as the head of the Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Rainey joined the Army in 1962 and attended the year long Special Forces Medic Course during 1964 - 1965.

His first of two tours in Vietnam was from September 1965 to September 1966. The first nine months was as a medic with a Special Forces A Team (Det A-415) in Tuyen Nhon. His last four months was as the Public Information Office NCOIC, 5th Special Forces Group in Nha Trang. As an editor of the Green Beret Magazine he traveled throughout all 4 CTZ's gathering information about Special Forces activities for publication in the magazine.

Jerry’s second tour in Vietnam was from July 1969 to June 1970 with 5th Special Forces Group. Assigned to Det C-4 (IV Corps) HQ medic, he traveled throughout the Delta region assisting where needed. He often provided coverage for "A" Detachments needing additional medical support or replaced medics who were WIA or KIA. His military awards include the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal w/ OLC, Good Conduct Medal (2nd award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation w/palm, Combat Medical Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Expert Rifleman Badge.

Monday, August 22, 2016

RIP "Beamy" Beamesderfer WWII PathFinder and Paratrooper

The El Paso Community and indeed the United States lost a warrior when Maynard L. "Beamy" Beamesderfer passed away last week. A World War II Paratrooper making a combat jump into Normandy on D-Day, Beamy was also a Pathfinder jumping into Operation Market Garden.

"Beamy" was born 92 years ago in Lebanon, PA. the first born child of LeRoy & Helen Beamesderfer. He had four other siblings, Marion, Christine, Kenny and Janice. In 1939 his family visited the New York World's Fair where Beamy was given an opportunity to ride the Lifesavers Parachute Jump. He was so taken by the ride, that he decided he wanted to be a paratrooper and enlisted in the US Army on July 17, 1942.

Following basic training he qualified to serve in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, as a Pathfinder. They were the first US troops on the ground on D-Day. Beamy survived Operation Overlord and went on to jump in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge where he was severely wounded and left for dead. He spent the next several years in and out of Veterans hospitals.

After his recovery he married his childhood sweetheart (his "angel Mimi") in 1947 and they remained married until her death in January 2016 (69 Years). Mimi and Beamy raised their family (Carey, Carole & LuAnn) in Lebanon, PA until they reached adulthood. During that time, Beamy worked for several years as an Electrician/HVAC Mechanic for the Bethlehem Steel Co., and served as a volunteer Boy Scout leader. He enjoyed coin collecting, camping, visiting with family, and watching the Philadelphia Eagles play football. He was always working around the house, fixing, repairing and remodeling.

When Mimi & Beamy became "empty nesters" they sold their home; lived and traveled in various RV's for 5 years; travelling the country. In 1977 they bought a home and settled in El Paso. Beamy volunteered much of his time helping neighbors and friends with his trade skills. He was an outstanding "handyman" and everyone knew it.

Beamy & Mimi joined UPC Church family when they moved to El Paso. Beamy was a leader in the construction and major expansion of the church facilities in the late 1980's. In the 1980's he also joined the Benavidez-Patterson All Airborne Chapter as one of its founding members. Together with several other highly decorated veterans, Beamy helped build, develop, and maintain the chapters headquarters, which was later renamed "BEAMESDERFER HALL" in his honor. The chapter awarded him numerous decorations, medals and plaques for his meritorious and heroic military service to our country.

He was a proud soldier, great American and avid collector of military memorabilia. Beamy is survived by his three children (Carey & wife Donna) (Carole Green & husband David Green) and (LuAnn Wieland), along with 11 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren, and his siblings Marion & Janice.

Beamy was a highly decorated war veteran, but first and foremost he was a kind & loving husband to Mimi; a strict father dedicated to making sure his children understood and valued hard work, fair play and Christian values. He loved being around his close friends, fellow bridge players, grandkids and others with whom he could share his story. His family particularly enjoyed the times when he & Mom would play cards with us. He was a true "survivor," a man who had to deal with his war injuries and other health concerns. He lived most of his life with two artificial knees, an artificial shoulder and a pacemaker.

His was surrounded by family in the last few hours of his life, who heard him mumble "I'm too dumb to die" and "Did I do good?" The answer to his last question is obvious. Yes, and thank you dad/Beamy, for a life well lived and for what you've done for all of us.

A memorial service will be held at University Presbyterian Church, 244 N. Ressler on Thursday August 25 at 4:00pm. Donations in lieu of flowers should be sent to the Benavidez-Patterson All Airborne Chapter. A military grave site service will be held on Friday, August 26 at 9:00am at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.

Article from the El Paso Times

Friday, August 19, 2016

RIP General John W. Vessey 1922 - 2016

Retired Army Gen. John W. Vessey, who rose through the ranks in a 46-year military career to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Ronald Reagan, has died. He was 94.

Vessey — who enlisted as a private in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939, fought in World War II and Vietnam, and was the nation's top military officer when he retired to his home state of Minnesota in 1985 — died Thursday evening, his daughter, Sarah Vessey told The Associated Press. He was surrounded by family and died of natural causes, she said.

After being named chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1982, Vessey helped oversee the military buildup that Reagan championed when he took office just over a year earlier.

"It was probably the greatest peacetime modernization of the American military establishment that ever took place," Vessey recalled in a 2004 interview. "We improved every facet of the armed forces, from the recruiting and retention, the selection of individuals, to the way they lived, but most importantly to the way they fought."

Vessey said the Soviet Union had been making a "big push" to solidify its position in Europe, deploying SS20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles and strengthening its ground forces in East Germany, "dabbling" in West European elections at a time when NATO was shaky, and stepping up its espionage.

By the time Vessey retired in 1985, he said, NATO was strong once again, the United States had deployed Pershing II and cruise missiles in response to the Soviet SS20s, and negotiations with the Soviets to eliminate each side's intermediate-range missiles were just about complete.

"He was smart and combined good common sense with good military judgment, and he knew how to get things done," Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, said in a 2006 interview. Korb worked with Vessey while serving as an assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985. "He was a person of integrity."

Even in retirement, Vessey heard from presidents and the Pentagon looking for help. Reagan sent Vessey back to Vietnam in 1987 to account for Americans missing in action and bring back any still alive. His other tasks included reuniting separated families and getting former South Vietnamese leaders out of prison camps, Amerasian children out of Vietnam and the Vietnamese out of Cambodia.

"In typical Ronald Reagan optimistic fashion, he said, 'Well, it ought to take you about three months,' " Vessey recalled with a laugh. "Six years later I told Bill Clinton that I had checked off all of those things and would like to be relieved."

Vessey's work to resolve the fate of the MIAs was "terribly important" because the issue had become a "rallying cry" for people who thought the United States had pulled out of Vietnam too soon or that the Pentagon was covering something up, Korb said.

In retirement, Vessey also chaired the advisory board of the Center for Preventive Action, an arm of the Council on Foreign Relations that seeks to prevent conflicts before they erupt; consulted for the Defense Science Board, Army Science Board and the Sandia National Laboratory; and led a campaign to build up the endowment funds of colleges affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

While Vessey generally wielded his influence in military and foreign policy circles away from the public spotlight after he retired, he made news in 2006 when he spoke out against a push to weaken protections under the Geneva Conventions against torture of prisoners, particularly as they applied to suspected terrorists.

He wrote Sen. John McCain expressing concern that doing so "would undermine the moral basis" that had traditionally guided U.S. conduct in war, and that "could give opponents a legal argument for the mistreatment of Americans being held prisoner in time of war."

Another retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, called Vessey's comments "powerful and eloquent" in his own letter to McCain. Those letters became ammunition in the congressional debate over the use of coercive interrogation techniques in the war on terror.

"He never strayed from his morals or values or faith and he was an extraordinary patriot," Sarah Vessey said of her father.

Vessey was born in Minneapolis in 1922. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard at age 17, when the threat of Nazi Germany was looming over Europe. He was called to active duty and fought in Northern Africa and Italy, where he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant at the battle of Anzio in 1944.

He married his wife, Avis, right after he shipped home. He made the Army his career, serving mostly in field artillery units stateside and abroad. His postings included several in West Germany.

During the Vietnam War, Vessey was a lieutenant colonel in the battle of Suoi Tre, where U.S. forces held off a fierce attack from a much larger North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in 1967. Vessey was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest medal, and his unit received a Presidential Unit Citation.

He was promoted to brigadier general in 1971. He earned his fourth star in 1976 and was put in charge of U.S. and U.N. forces in South Korea.

Vessey showed his character after his opposition to President Jimmy Carter's proposal to withdraw from Korea cost him a promotion to Army chief of staff, Korb said. Instead, Vessey became vice chief of staff of the Army in 1979 under the younger Gen. Edward C. Meyer.

"You never heard him complain or not defer to the real chief," Korb said.

Vessey was building a lake home back in Minnesota when Reagan asked him to defer retirement and named him the 10th chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The general was never a self-promoter and never lobbied for the job, Korb said.

Congress didn't strengthen the chairman's role until 1986, Korb said, so while Vessey was nominally in charge, he had to lead by consensus. Vessey "had the perfect temperament" for that, Korb said.

Vessey and the Joint Chiefs advised against the 1982 deployment of Marines to Lebanon, which ended after 241 Marines were killed in a suicide attack on their barracks in Beirut in 1983. However, he directed the swift and successful 1983 U.S. intervention in Grenada.

"Jack Vessey always remembered the soldiers in the ranks; he understood those soldiers are the background of any army," Reagan said at a ceremony when Vessey finally did retire in 1985. "He noticed them, spoke to them, looked out for them. Jack Vessey never forgot what it was like to be an enlisted man, to be just a GI."

Vessey then settled on Little Whitefish Lake near Garrison, Minn., keeping a promise to his wife that they'd return before the snow fell. "He and my mom were so happy to be back," Sarah Vessey said Thursday. The couple had two other children: John III and David.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush awarded Vessey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, paying tribute to his efforts to account for the missing in action. Bush called him, "the ultimate never-say-die soldier, the last four-star combat veteran of World War II to retire."

Article from the Associated Press, posted on Stars and Stripes

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1st SFG HALO Parachute Death

Originally published under the title "JBLM soldier falls to his death; ‘unprecedented’ manufacturing error blamed" by The News Tribune, 11 August 2016

Capt. James Ahn stepped onto a small plane on the Olympic Peninsula with his Special Forces team almost a year ago and incorrectly rigged his parachute, setting him up for a challenging jump. But that isn’t what killed the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier.

An “unprecedented” manufacturing defect in his pack’s reserve parachute — the line he would pull if he needed a backup — had gone unnoticed during four years of use. The combination of faulty parachute and other mistakes proved to be too much.

“Capt. Ahn likely misidentified which parachute had malfunctioned and lost what little chance he had to land safely,” wrote an Army investigator in a report obtained by The News Tribune through the Freedom of Information Act.

Ahn’s death Sept. 11, 2015, stunned the JBLM’s Special Operations community. His was the first parachute-related death for a local unit since 2005 and the ninth in the Army in the past five years. The accident led to a 10-hour search for his body in the woods around Shelton. It also prompted an investigation that concluded in a 409-page report that the defect that killed him went unnoticed by six professional inspectors from the company that manufactured the chute and at least 22 Army riggers.

The error was so obscure — the manufacturer neglected to stitch a 4-inch ring that guides parachute cords — that experts from the Army Safety Center took four days to identify it when they traveled to JBLM to investigate Ahn’s death.

He died while using an MC-4 parachute, a standard piece of equipment for Army Special Forces. After the Safety Center pinpointed the defect, the Defense Department suspended use of its 10,000 MC-4 parachutes. None had a defect like the one in Ahn’s pack. “The defect was unprecedented in parachuting and not obvious to the naked eye, but was deadly,” the investigator wrote.

Ahn’s death is marked at the 1st Special Forces Group headquarters, where his name is etched on its memorial wall. His name is the newest addition to a tribute that pays respect to Green Berets who died on battlefields from Vietnam to Iraq.

Away from the Army, loved ones described Ahn as an athletic, easygoing man dedicated to his church and his country. He coached a youth basketball team and was involved with youth ministries. “I don’t know anyone who would have anything bad to say about him in any way,” said his friend, Kelley Marshall, who attended the Korean church with Ahn when he lived in Virginia. “Everything about him was good.”

Marshall was impressed by the example Ahn set for kids at the church and found his quiet, reserved demeanor surprising in light of his being a Green Beret. He’s remembered by his former teammates as a dedicated Green Beret who embraced the unit’s charge to mentor U.S. allies along the Pacific Rim. He volunteered for training events that were not required of him, and often excelled at exercises that were know to injure his peers. “He really wanted to get the full gamut of experiences of the military and Special Forces,” Maj. Vincent Enriquez said. “He was very much dedicated, an absolute professional.”

Ahn grew up in La Crescenta, California, and learned Mandarin, enabling him to make connections and friends when he and teammates traveled to train with American allies in East Asia. Sometimes, the connections got his teammates invitations to local parties. “He had a big smile and would always grin ear to ear,” Master Sgt. Dan Linderman said. “He always found time to smile about something and made friends with our Asian counterparts. They latched onto him.”

One of Ahn’s favorite stories was about the time he and a Korean officer had to walk a long way to resupply. When they came to a road, they asked a Korean farmer for a ride and offered to pay him. The farmer declined the money and instead asked Ahn to speak English with his son. Ahn and the boy happily chattered the rest of the way.

On a recent holiday break, Ahn took personal leave to fly back to visit some of the East Asian allies he met on training events. “We do it because we’re professionals and that’s the military-to-military partnership we want to build,” Enriquez said. “James went above and beyond and saw them as friends. We got nothing but brave and positive reviews from people he worked with.”

After Ahn’s death, several foreign teams held services to pay their respects.

Before his fatal fall, Ahn participated in at least 50 jumps. On Sept. 11, 2015, his team used a civilian-flown plane from Kapowsin Air Sports in Shelton. The company often works with Special Operations units at JBLM. The team boarded the cramped plane at 10:50 a.m. They did standard equipment checks and prepared for the jump, which took place at 18,000 feet.

In freefall jumps, the jumper deploys the parachutes himself. The team planned to do so at 16,000 feet. Ahn was ninth in line, making him next to last.

What he and his fellow jumpers failed to notice was that Ahn accidentally attached his ruck sack to the ripcord of his reserve chute. When Ahn jumped, the weight of the 39-pound pack immediately deployed the reserve parachute.

One of four lines connecting him to the chute broke loose due to the manufacturing defect. Ahn likely believed it was his main parachute that was malfunctioning and didn’t realize he didn’t have the reserve chute as a backup.

He started spinning in mid-air. A jump master in the plane noticed Ahn was in trouble and tried to follow him down, but Ahn fell too fast. To deploy a second chute, Ahn needed to jettison the malfunctioning parachute so the two canopies would not become entangled. He apparently used a knife to cut the three lines suspending him, detaching himself from the reserve chute.

When he went to deploy what he thought was the reserve chute, he would have been confused to find it gone, investigators said, and probably pulled the ripcord for the main parachute instead. Unfortunately, he’d already separated himself from the lines connecting him to the main chute and it flew away. “At this point, Capt. Ahn’s situation was unrecoverable and unsurvivable,” the investigator wrote.

When reserve parachutes are made, a 4-inch loop is temporarily held with hot glue to ensure it is folded properly before being permanently stitched. Ahn’s parachute was never stitched.

Reserve parachutes are inspected every 120 days, and the one Ahn used was last looked over June 11, 2015. It was reinspected and repacked 15 times over 4 1/2 years, the report said. “Any follow-on inspectors would have little suspicion of a manufacturing defect with each successive inspection,” investigators wrote.

On the morning of his last jump, Ahn cajoled teammates into posing for a photograph just before they boarded their plane. He put on his best tough guy face. It matched the camouflage uniform, combat equipment and night vision goggles he and his nine teammates wore. It was the last photo taken of Ahn.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Colorado Springs One Stop Veterans Center

Lost amid the clamor of the presidential election campaign trail was the recent grand opening of a help center in Colorado Springs that has already assisted 950 veterans in getting their lives on track.

As Donald Trump stumped in Colorado Springs, veterans advocates cut the ribbon on the Mount Carmel Center of Excellence on the city's west side. It bills itself as a one-stop shop for veterans in need. "We're going to keep working to expand," said Bob McLaughlin, the retired Army colonel who runs the place.

Mount Carmel, which began helping veterans this year, is something new for Colorado Springs, a city that's home to nearly 80,000 veterans and 40,000 active-duty troops. The center is a clearinghouse and landlord that brings together public and private organizations to help troops and veterans in need. The center is at 530 Communications Circle, just west of South 8th Street.

For example, a veteran who shows up at Mount Carmel's door with a spouse and kids can get behavioral health counseling, family counseling, financial counseling, job referral help, veterans benefits assistance, help with state benefits and a mentor to help with life transitions. He or she - and loved ones - can get all that help in one place and many of the services can begin that same day. "There's no wrong door," McLaughlin said. "Whoever comes to our center will get the help they need."

Getting all that help delivered means getting nonprofits to work in concert - not a small task in a city where many military-aimed charities compete for donor dollars. McLaughlin said a key component of the center's success is an agreement among the nonprofits. "Each partner agency has its own mission and goals and governance, and we must respect each other," he said. "We believe co-locating services is a benefit to our guests."

The agencies and charities have agreed to share information to ensure veterans are getting all the help they need. "They are integrating services," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the philosophy of one-stop help is something he picked up at Fort Carson, where he helped construct a service center for soldiers when serving there as garrison commander. "Everything I did as a garrison commander to help soldiers and families directly translated here," he said.

Soon another concept with Army roots will start taking shape at Mount Carmel. This fall and winter, workers will remodel a nearby building that will house agencies that provide health care services for veterans. The new facility will include mental health counseling, mind and body therapy and specialists who can provide care that now requires a long wait at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Colorado Springs. "It is really about (addressing) mind, body and spirit," McLaughlin said.

Article from the Colorado Springs Gazette

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Former 82nd Paratrooper John Diffin, 94, is a link to the past

SFA Commo Sgt remarks: I once saw a t-shirt that said "Paratroopers Don't Die,...They go to Hell and Re-Group".  And in another tribute to Paratroopers, there was a poster with a World War II era Paratrooper standing with a 2.75 inch rocket launcher and a M-1 Garand slung on his shoulder talking to retreating Army Tanks during the Battle of the Bulge with the caption " Looking for a safe place to park that tank?......pull in behind me. I'm the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are coming."

John Diffin bristled a little under all the attention. The retired sergeant major had been at Womack Army Medical Center for days, but proudly said he only hit his alert button once or twice. And even then, all the old paratrooper wanted was a razor.

"I hadn't shaved in two days," Diffin said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for having fluid in his lungs. "Even in war time, I shaved every day."

Diffin is that rare veteran, a lifetime paratrooper who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam before his retirement in 1975. At that time, he was the last serving World War II veteran in the 82nd Airborne Division and had earned seven Purple Hearts, seven Bronze Stars and two Soldier's Medals.

But while his service is decades behind him, and the 94-year-old is unlikely to jump from another airplane, Diffin remains a link to the past for one of the nation's most storied fighting divisions. Growing up in the Depression, Diffin said his family had it better than most. His father always had a job, he said. His family was well supported. But when war broke out in Europe, the young man was eager to play his part. At first, Diffin went to work in a shipyard. But soon, he set out to play a more direct role.

Some recruiters turned him down, he said. Then, just as he was set to join the Army on his own, he was drafted. When representatives of the Army airborne, then still a relatively new force, visited Diffin and his fellow new trainees, he was one of two men to volunteer.

That would get him sent to the 82nd Airborne Division, which he joined in England just before the invasion of Normandy. Diffin fought in France and Holland with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He said the 82nd had the best soldiers in the war effort and leaders who have gone down in Army legend. "We never lost a firefight," the retired paratrooper said, his chest still puffing out with pride.

After the war, Diffin was forced out of the Army, but the Army couldn't keep him away. In 1948, he re-enlisted. Diffin served with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in Korea and the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, but it was the 82nd Airborne that always had his allegiance. "I served in every regiment of the 82nd," he said. "I never wanted to be anything else."

Diffin said he's not sure how many jumps he made in his career, although he recorded enough to earn his master parachutist badge. Today's force is much different from when Diffin served. But that doesn't make it any less impressive, he said. "The 82nd right now is the best Army in the whole world," he said.

Diffin, who lives in Fayetteville, ran an auto salvage yard after his Army retirement. He said he's only recently begun to slow down. He said he's still in relatively good health. "My heart is good," he said patting his chest.

"I made 82," Diffin said of his age before chuckling to himself. "I'm going for 101. I know I'm never going to make 187 or 505."

Article from the Fayetteville Observer

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Next President: Comparison of Military Priorities

SFA Commo Sgt comment: This article, from Military Times was originally titled "The next president's military: Here's a comparison of the candidates' priorities". There seems to be a recent phenomenon whereas retired Military Generals have become more public and outspoken in their political commentary, supporting one candidate or another. Most recently USA retired LTG Michael Flynn came out in support of Donald Trump whereas USMC retired General John Allen came out in support Hillary Clinton. Given Mrs. Clinton's support for the lifting of Iranian sanctions, her in-actions before/during Benghazi, and her security violations with classified material it is strange times when military Generals can support this. Watch for more General Officers to come out in support of one candidate or the other, or publically addresing a specific policy stance such as in the instance of Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McCrystal publically supporting enhanced gun control. In fact, the Special Forces Association National Headquarters issued a membership resolution, at the annual convention in July 2016, addressing the SFA stance against Petraeus and McCrystal stating "the U.S. Constitution and all of its amendments, realizing that only the existence of the Second Amendment guarantees the freedom of the American people and that the Bill of Rights was written to delineate and restrict the power of government and not to restrict the powers and rights of the people or states.”

Troops and veterans voting in the presidential election this fall won’t just be picking their choice for commander in chief, they’ll also be choosing which political party sets the agenda on military issues for the next four years.

Democratic and Republican leaders finalized their party platforms at their respective conventions in July, outlining a broad set of goals for handling national defense, Veterans Affairs reform and maintaining service members' morale. Both parties call for a stronger military. Both promise to defeat terrorism abroad and target Islamic State fighters in the Middle East. Both pledge to overhaul veterans’ healthcare programs.

But like the party’s presidential picks, the two plans also offer stark contrasts. Republicans promise to take a more aggressive stance against hostile threats abroad. Democrats advocate the importance of diplomacy and alliances as the smartest path to security. Neither plan agrees on what VA reform means.

For military personnel and their families, those stances could have implications beyond just the next president’s time in the White House. Here are some of the key distinctions between the two parties' platforms.

Military pay, benefits

Democrats want to expand troops’ benefits, promising to push “more educational benefits and job training” for troops and veterans. Party leaders also vowed to ensure reservists and National Guard personnel are “treated fairly” when it comes to benefits, and to improve services to help them transition to civilian careers.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has reinforced that idea in recent months on the campaign trail, and speakers at the party convention in Philadelphia reiterated those general promises.

But the Republican platform on military benefits is significantly more detailed. It supports a full military pay raise equal to the private sector's average annual rise. It also decries Pentagon cuts to other benefits, proposals that many conservative lawmakers have reluctantly approved in recent years.

“Military families must be assured of the pay, healthcare, housing, education, and overall support they have earned,” the Republican platform says. “In recent years, they have been carrying the burden of budgetary restraint more than any other Americans through cuts in their pay, health benefits, and retirement plans. We cannot expect that level of patriotic commitment to continue among young people who have experienced the way their families have been treated.”

Neither party’s plan fully outlines how to pay for any benefits expansion. Both sides blame ongoing budget caps, approved by Congress in 2011, for the financial squeeze being put on service members and their families. Yet neither party has identified a compromise that would replace those spending limits.

Military size, strength

Republicans promise in their platform to “reverse America’s military decline,” a situation they blame on too little funding and too few troops. Their plan calls for adding military personnel, “increasing investments in training and maintenance,” and rebuilding military facilities worldwide.

“Successive years of cuts to our defense budget have put an undue strain on our men and women in uniform,” the platform states. “This is especially harmful at a time when we are asking our military to do more in an increasingly dangerous world.”

That message has been underscored repeatedly by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In his convention acceptance speech on July 21, he vowed to "completely rebuild our depleted military" and make foreign allies "pay their fair share" of the cost of stationing U.S. troops and equipment overseas.

The Democratic platform calls for “a smart, predictable defense budget that meets the strategic challenges we face.” The document makes no mention of force size, but it does promise to address the readiness shortfalls that Republicans highlight.

“We must prioritize military readiness by making sure our active, reserve, and National Guard components remain the best trained and equipped in the world,” it states. “We will seek a more agile and flexible force, and rid the military of outdated Cold War-era systems.”

Clinton underscored her message of relying on both diplomacy and military might in her nomination acceptance speech Thursday night.

"America's strength doesn't come from lashing out," she said. "Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power..."

"Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority."

The Democratic plans also include promises to end waste in the defense budget, detailing a high-level commission to review the role of defense contractors in Pentagon operations.

Social issues

The Democratic platform praises repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which prohibited gay troops from publicly revealing their sexual orientation, and lauds efforts to open all combat roles to women. It promises to build on those ideas, looking to ensure that minority groups within the military are protected while still being held to high standards for service.

Republicans call this social experimentation.

“We believe that our nation is most secure when the president and the administration prioritize readiness, recruitment, and retention rather than using the military to advance a social or political agenda,” the GOP document states.

That includes suggestions for requiring women to register with Selective Service — a proposal currently circulating on Capitol Hill — as well as creating rules governing the discussion of religion in the ranks and unspecified “intra-military special interest demonstrations.”

Republicans want “an objective review of the impact on readiness of the current administration’s ideology-based personnel policies” to determine if any such personnel changes need to be rolled back.

Democrats reject that stance entirely in their platform.

“Our military is strongest when people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities are honored for their service to our country,” their document states. “Democrats welcome and honor all Americans who want to serve and will continue to fight for their equal rights and recognition.”

Veterans healthcare

The Republican platform promises to massively expand health care options outside VA as a way to alleviate wait times and get all veterans the best care possible.

The Democratic platform calls that idea a disaster.

“We reject attempts by Republicans to sell out the needs of veterans by privatizing the VA,” their plan states. “We believe that the VA must be fully resourced so that every veteran gets the care that he or she has earned and deserves, including those suffering from sexual assault, mental illness and other injuries or ailments.”

Most of Clinton’s campaign focus on veterans in recent months has centered on the issue of voucherizing or privatizing VA, an idea she has also promised to vigorously oppose.

Instead, both her staff and the Democratic platform have pledge to put in place more resources to make VA services operate better, rather than moving those appointments outside the system.

But the Republican platform — and Trump — see that approach as naive and too reserved.

“We cannot allow an unresponsive bureaucracy to blunt our national commitment” to veterans, the party’s platform states. “The VA must strengthen and improve its efforts through partnerships with private enterprises, veteran service organizations, technology and innovation.

“That includes allowing veterans to choose to access care in the community and not just in VA facilities, because the best care in the world is not effective if it is not accessible.”

In his convention speech, Trump promised to make every federal department leader, including the next VA secretary, "provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days." He has repeatedly said eliminating fraud and abuse will help fund numerous reforms at the agency.

Republicans in the planning document also outline plans to bolster support for veterans’ cemeteries nationwide and improve transition support for troops leaving the ranks.

Any comments by the SFA Commo Sgt (highlighted in yellow font at the beginning of this post) who serves as the SFA Chapter IX website administrator and moderator, are his comments alone, and are not necessary shared by the general Chapter memberership nor cordoned by the Chapter Executive Board.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Interview with Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV)

US Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., heads the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, where he is fighting, amid Democratic objections, to freeze Obama administration’s planned troop cuts.

The House-passed version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would roll back planned end strength cuts, nudging up the Army's active-duty force from 475,000 to 480,000, the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000. But it hinges on a funding mechanism opposed by the White House, the Pentagon and the Senate Armed Services Committee that raids the emergency wartime spending account by $18 billion to pay for manpower, ships and jets the administration did not request.

As the military stretches across a range of missions around the globe, Heck is among Republican lawmakers who say now is not the time to cut troop strength.

“The op-tempo has not slowed down,” Heck told Defense News on July 14. “We can’t expect the current force, those that remain, to pick up the slack and deploy even more."

Meanwhile Heck — who is a one-star general in the Army Reserve and a physician — wants yet another job. He is running in a competitive race for the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, one of the few Republican targets this election as the party seeks to maintain its slim Senate majority.

Meanwhile, Heck must face the down-ballot impact of Donald Trump’s candidacy. An estimated 20 percent of Nevada ballots cast in the Nov. 8 general election are expected to come from Latino voters, according to polling firm Latino Decisions. Seventy percent of those polled said Heck’s support for Trump — which has been tepid — makes it less likely they will vote for him.

Q. There’s long been a tension in military budgets between hardware and controlling personnel costs. Where does the House NDAA come down and how well does it deal with that tension?

A. I think we have done a good job in the House version of the bill and with our Senate colleagues striking that balance. As the chairman of the military personnel subcommittee, obviously my bias is with manpower. While it is important to have the next, greatest weapons system, if you don't have someone to pull the trigger, it doesn’t do anything for you. As we get into a more competitive economy, the ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest is going to depend on having a competitive benefits package that we can offer, not just for those aspiring to be in the military, but those in the military. We don’t want to lose them to the private sector.

Q. Some Democratic colleagues criticize that by raising end-strength, OCO is being short-changed, that it’s ultimately going to result in a hollow force and that it could create a situation where the Army has to cut end-strength 30,000 in a single year. Are they wrong?

A. I don’t necessarily disagree with Ranking Member [Susan] Davis’s comments in the mark-up, I don’t disagree that yes, if we increase end-strength this year without a commitment to maintain that end-strength in the out-years—which means not just from the personnel cost, but he readiness cost of those individuals—we will have a hollow force. But it was important that we send a message to the Pentagon, that the House believes we are reaching a critical level in manpower, and that short of repealing sequester or addressing the impact of sequester, we cannot go to 450,000 or 420,000 for a total active duty Army. So we have to plant a flag and say this is where we think the lowest end-strength is for active-duty Army and active-duty Marines, based on what we see going on around the world and the missions we ask our troops to execute.

Q. Is the House making that statement without paying for that increased end-strength?

A. We’re paying for it in the House bill. The increased end-strength in the House bill is paid for in the House bill. So we’ll see what happens in the negotiations.

Q. It’s paid for with the $18 billion that’s the sticking point, and we’ve already seen the folks in the Senate talk about increased end-strength but not support that same method. Is there a path toward a compromise?

A. That will be left to the Big Four [the GOP chairmen and ranking Democrats from the both chambers' armed services committees]. Our hope is that staff will work out 80 percent of the differences [over the summer recess] and we’ll come back and finish up the final 20 percent. Whatever we can’t do will be bumped up to the Big Four to figure out. Whether or not it is successful up until the final bill, I thought it was important to make the statement, put DoD on notice that we are reaching a critical shortfall in manpower to meet the demands being placed on troops.

Q. What are the other priorities for you, and are they some of the more contentious issues?

A. The four big areas that I consider in our mark are pay raise/troop strength, commissary reforms, military health reform and [Uniform Code of Military Justice] reform. Other than the end-strength/pay-raise, I don’t think the other three are really contentious. We’re working really well with Senate staff. [Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chair] Sen. [Lindsey] Graham and I have had several conversations, and there will be some tweaks, but I don’t think they’ll be contentious.

Q. You’re past the point where you’re trading personnel for equipment. There’s no chance of victimizing over her to pay over there?

A. I don’t believe so. The end-strength we put into the HASC remains it isn’t because we have to pay for another [Littoral Combat Ship] or another F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter].

Q. Is there any way to get at that pay raise without that extra money, which the Senate and the White House say they don’t like?

A. I don’t want to tip my negotiating strategy with the Senate, but I think there’s plenty of opportunity to address those issues.

Q. HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry’s argument for the funding strategy is related to readiness, but links readiness to modernization. Are you sensitive to that argument?

A. Certainly. Readiness is an all-encompassing term. It’s making sure we have the right body in the right billet, with the right training, the appropriate equipment and the appropriate exercise. On the materiel side, its not just modernization but recapitalization too. Fifteen years of war is taking a toll on the equipment we already have in the military. Even if we aren’t coming up with the next generation of a system, the legacy system we continue to use needs to be recapitalized. So there are a lot of pieces to that readiness and there needs to be that balance. From a from personnel-centric position, you just can’t just keep spending money on the next generation of a weapon system without investing in the person who is operating that system.

Q. We’re going to go into recess, you have a race to run, and you’re running for Senate minority leader’s seat. Why are you leaving all this for the musty old Senate?

A. Because I think there is a lot of opportunity to work on the SASC and that the knowledge and experience from working with 435 members, leverage that to work with 100 members.

Q. How much do the military issues resonate back home with voters?

A. They’re a critical issue with voters. We have Nellis Air Force Base, the [Air Force] Weapons School, Creech [Air Force Base], which is responsible for a lot of the [remotely piloted aircraft] operations. We have Hawthorne Army Depot and Naval Air Station Fallon, the home of Top Gun. We have 300,000 veterans who call Nevada home, and they are still engaged on national security issues, so the issues related to active duty or retiree side.

Q. Does national security occupy the space it should in the election? As we sit here, Senate Democrats have voted against their defense appropriations bill, and Republicans are calculating it will hurt them, but will it?

A. I think it will. I can speak for what it means for Nevada. It’s a significant loss of funds to Nellis, Creech and Fallon. National Security itself has been the number one or two issue as I talk to folks in Nevada over the past several months. They see whats continuing to happen around the globe, but more importantly they see what’s happening in our own country. We had San Bernardino, our neighbor to the West. We saw what just happened in Orlando, and especially in southern Nevada when we knew the 9/11 hijackers spent some time in Las Vegas, when we know ISIS has a video that has the Las Vegas strip prominently depicted that people are concerned. They realize when you come from a state that’s so dependent on travel and tourism, national security is a big issue. Anything that gives people pause to wanting to take a trip has a significant impact on the economy.

Q. The seat you're seeking is also a pivotal one for control of the Senate. What does that mean to you, and do you have any worries about the down-ballot impact of a Donald Trump candidacy?

A. Certainly we realize that this is a critically important seat as far as who’s going to have a majority in the Senate, and I think that regardless of who the occupant of the White House is, it will be important to have a Republican senate, especially as we move forward with Supreme Court nomination proceedings. I’m focused on making sure I’m the best candidate to represent the state of Nevada. As we travel around the state and talk to folks about what’s important to them — and invariably its jobs and the economy, national security, healthcare and education—I can talk to them about the fact that I’ve actually lived and worked in all of those areas.

Q. At the same time, your opponent is Hispanic, Donald Trump’s statements on Hispanics are well known. As strong as you are on the concerns of constituents, are you concerned the numbers might just be against you?

A. We have spent the past several years building incredible relationships in the minority community, whether it be in my district, which is 19 percent Latino and 16 percent Asian-American, so we are relying on the relationships in those communities to stay strong into the next race. People might hear what’s being said by others, but they’ll say, I know Joe, and that’s not how he feels—or he’s shown that’s not his position. In 2014, I took 40 percent of the Latino vote in my congressional race, and that’s the highest Latino-vote-getter in our state, other than our governor, who is a Latino.

Q. I have to ask, because this has been a fairly historic year for military personnel policy, as far as the inclusion of women in combat roles, and the new direction with transgendered troops. It’s often a Republican position the military gets used to conduct social experiments and shouldn’t be. Where are you on all this?

A. My primary concern isn’t the women’s service. The DoD to the best of their ability did their due diligence. I was disappointed that they discarded the Marine Corps study. I had the researchers in here, and as a medical guy, I know how to do research. Those guys came in here and we walked through the study to make sure it was statistically valid. I thought it should be given more deference. I’ve served in a combat zone with women, and we’ve had women serve in combat zones, and the idea of putting them in infantry, doing a convoy operation though a hostile situation as an 88M [truck driver], in a firefight, they’re still becoming a rifleman. My concern was that we have gender-neutral requirements that were not lessened. The process they used was a valid process and they kept the [armed services] committees well informed of what they were doing. On the transgender issue they did not, and that’s my concern. They did not keep my committee informed of the process, and in fact we got no official head’s up notice. That’s not the way they should be operating.

Article from Defense News http://link.defensenews.com/click/7177425.58905/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5kZWZlbnNlbmV3cy5jb20vc3RvcnkvZGVmZW5zZS8yMDE2LzA3LzE2L2ludGVydmlldy11cy1yZXAtam9lLWhlY2svODcxNDc2NDAv/57588508498edb7fd674588eBbb63142d

Monday, August 1, 2016

Secrets, Denial, and, Decades Later, a Medal of Honor for a Vietnam Green Beret Medic

Unofficially, in the jungles of Laos in 1970, hundreds of North Vietnamese troops closed in on a small team of United States Army commandos. Unofficially, as men were shot down, a medic sprinted through a hail of bullets to help, hefting a man over his shoulder as he fired back with one hand. Unofficially, even when bloodied by a rocket, the medic kept going, not sleeping for days as he cared for 51 wounded soldiers.

Officially, though, American troops were not in Laos. So officially, nothing happened. The medic, Sgt. Gary Rose, was part of the secret Studies and Observations Group, an elite division of Special Forces. After the assault, the group recommended him for the military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. But at the time, President Richard M. Nixon was denying that American troops were even in Laos. The nomination was shelved, an example of what veterans of the group say was a pattern of medals being denied or downgraded to hide their classified exploits.

This summer that decision is poised to be reversed. After more than a decade of lobbying, Congress authorized the medal for Sergeant Rose, who now lives in Huntsville. His will be the first Medal of Honor to expressly acknowledge the heroics of a soldier on the ground in the so-called Secret War in Laos.

In the past, medal citations for the unit listed men only as “deep in enemy territory,” said Neil Thorne, a researcher and Army veteran who has drafted a number of medal applications in recent years for the group. “The Army still doesn’t want to admit it,” Mr. Thorne said. “Even to this day, I put in Laos in a citation, the Army takes it out. It’s almost a game, but it’s not really funny. Rose is unique in that they finally left in the truth.”

During the Vietnam War, Laos was neutral and off limits to foreign troops. But the North Vietnamese used the jungles on the border between Vietnam and Laos to funnel weapons along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States secretly sent in Special Forces to disrupt the enemy while not arousing protest from allies or the American public.

Since then, veterans of the Studies and Observations Group, which had one of the highest kill rates and highest casualty rates in Vietnam, have worked to gain recognition for men like Sergeant Rose. “Because we were where we weren’t supposed to be, a lot of men never got what they deserved,” said Eugene McCarley, a retired lieutenant colonel who was the medic’s commander. “Rose is one of them. He was a damn good medic and the level of gallantry and disregard for his own safety that he showed — I’ve rarely seen anything like it.”

The group operated in Vietnam under the cover story that it was an academic unit evaluating strategy. In fact, its mission was to sow mayhem. Small teams tapped communication lines, sabotaged convoys, snatched captives and peppered enemy territory with fake documents, counterfeit money and exploding ammunition intended to confuse, demoralize and kill communist troops.

The Special Forces teams paired with indigenous mercenaries who opposed the North Vietnamese. They relied on stealth, many using weapons fitted with silencers. A few even carried hatchets and bows. “It was a deadly game,” said Fred Dye, a company commander. “A lot of times we got the hell shot out of us. Sometimes teams didn’t come back.” Mr. Dye was recommended for the nation’s third-highest military honor, the Silver Star. He never got it.

To hide American involvement, teams wore Asian uniforms with no rank and often carried foreign-made weapons. Even underwear and rations were from Asian countries. They called it “going in sterile.” “That’s part of the reason so many awards were never given,” said John L. Plaster, a retired major who was in the group and has written books about its deeds. “We couldn’t really say what was going on.” Mr. Plaster was also recommended for the Silver Star. He never got it.

On Sept. 11, 1970, the group launched one of its biggest missions of the war, Operation Tailwind. Helicopters dropped 136 men about 40 miles into Laos to “cause a huge ruckus,” Mr. Plaster said, and draw attention away from a C.I.A. operation to the north.

According to interviews and Army documents, North Vietnamese forces hit before the team even landed, piercing the helicopters with bullets. Three were shot before any boots hit the ground. When the choppers touched down, the team swept into the jungle to escape enemy fire. The lone medic was Sergeant Rose, a soft-spoken 22-year-old from Southern California wearing a floppy jungle hat and camouflage face paint that did not quite hide his nerves. It was his second real combat mission. He had been wounded on his first.

Over the next four days, the company blew up ammunition bunkers and set fire to a supply camp, chased by an ever-increasing enemy force. By the end of the operation, a third of the company was wounded. When a soldier was shot down in a clearing raked by machine guns, others yelled to stay down until the team could set up cover fire. But Sergeant Rose ran forward, firing as he went. He shielded the man to treat his wounds, then carried him to safety. “How or why Sgt. Rose was not killed in this action I’ll never know,” one platoon leader wrote in a statement at the time.

A few hours later a rocket-propelled grenade hit the command team, blowing the medic off his feet and punching shards of metal into his hand and foot. Ignoring his own wounds, he patched up the other men, stopping only later to fix his bloody boot.

That evening in the steaming forest, Sergeant Rose, already exhausted, dug long foxholes so the wounded could lie under cover. “All the night the enemy pounded us,” Mr. McCarley recalled. “Rose went from position to position, offering medical help and words of encouragement. I never saw him stop to eat, rest or treat his own wounds.” v Mr. McCarley was recommended for the nation’s second-highest military honor, the Distinguished Service Cross. He never received it.

By the third day, Sergeant Rose was all but out of morphine and bandages. He had rigged litters from bamboo for the worst off and tied the wrists of delirious men to other soldiers so they would not get left behind. By the fourth day, when helicopters came to extract the team, enemy troops were so close that American planes dropped tear gas on their own men to drive the enemy back. Sergeant Rose was one of the last on the last helicopter, firing as he hobbled aboard.

When they lifted clear of the trees, he slumped to the floor of the helicopter, his marathon mission complete. Then a bullet pierced the neck of a door gunner, and the medic was up again. Out of bandages, he stopped the bleeding with a spare piece of cloth. As he worked, enemy fire hit the engines. The crippled aircraft crashed on a riverbank, spitting out men as it rolled.

Sergeant Rose, bleeding from his head, crawled into the wreckage. “Fuel was leaking everywhere, that thing was ready to blow,” Dave Young, a sergeant in the company, said in an interview. “Rose went back in repeatedly until everyone was out.”

Few details of Sergeant Rose’s actions were ever made public. When his name was submitted for the Medal of Honor in 1970, Adm. John S. McCain, the father of Senator John McCain and commander of all forces in the Vietnam theater, turned it down. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1971.

Operation Tailwind stayed secret until 1998, when CNN and Time magazine erroneously reported that the mission’s aim had been to kill American defectors, and that the team had massacred hundreds of villagers while pilots dropped nerve gas. Tailwind veterans united in fierce protest, then began pressing for recognition of men like Sergeant Rose. They spent years submitting applications and sworn statements. Now the sergeant’s medal just awaits the signature of the president.

A 68-year-old grandfather, the former medic lives in a tidy one-story brick house, and spends much of his time volunteering with poor and disabled people. On a recent morning, as he gave a tour of his church, he was more eager to talk about the congregation’s Tootsie Roll fund-raiser than about his role in a top secret commando raid. “I just try to go through life doing as much good as I can,” he said with a shrug. Over the decades, he has rarely thought about Operation Tailwind, he said, and is a bit embarrassed about the Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t do anything heroic,” he said. “I was just doing my job like everyone else.” “It’s all a blur,” he continued. “I was oblivious. I was just so focused on the wounded that I didn’t see the machine guns.” He paused, then added: “I don’t want to make it sound like I’m brave. The trembling, the throwing up, the fear, that always happened, but only after. In the moment, I was just concentrating on what I had to do. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”

Article from the New York Times, 30 July 2016



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MARSOC receives new commander

The parade field on Stone Bay hosted top ranking U.S. Special Operations Command officials, Marine Raiders and their families to witness Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III assume command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) on Tuesday morning. “I’m privileged to be able to be a part of this wonderful organization. Everyday that I’m in this billet ... would be a privilege to serve alongside you, and an honor to command you,” Mundy said early Tuesday.

The Change of Command ceremony was held on Stone Bay and included the passing of the Marine colors to symbolize the transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from the outgoing commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, to Mundy. “It’s always nice rolling into the front gate and see a couple things that you remember, like the Driftwood Lounge. I don’t think that place has changed since I was a second lieutenant. It was the bane of the blotter on Monday morning,” Mundy quipped during his remarks.

Mundy served his first tour in the area 30 years prior to assuming command of MARSOC. Gen. John M. Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was the presiding senior officer at the ceremony, representing Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Osterman was relieved of his command effective at 9 a.m. Tuesday after two years commanding MARSOC. “The thing that has most impressed me is the caliber of the Marine, sailors, soldiers and civilians that we have here. I mean it really is extraordinary,” Osterman said after the ceremony. He will report to U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida for service as its deputy commander.

Osterman will also be promoted to lieutenant general, according to ceremony officials. “I’ve had some of the most sophisticated political-military discussions of my career sitting down with a sergeant or a staff sergeant at the team level during a RAVEN exercise,” Osterman said. “That’s a great example of just the caliber, depth of intellect and professionalism that they have as individuals.”

His accomplishments include the regionalization of the three Marine Raider Battalions and their support battalions; significant expansion of MARSOC’s intelligence organization and capabilities; the development of the Special Operations Forces Liaison Element concept, which integrated planning and coordination between special operations and Marine Expeditionary Units; and much more.

“One of the big things I had to do was adjust my thought from maneuver battalions and regiments when I got here to understanding that small teams have strategic effects out in the battlespace, out globally,” Osterman said of some early challenges commanding MARSOC.

Article from JDNews

Monday, July 25, 2016

Army accepts first women to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection

Two female Army officers will make history when they report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in their first step toward earning the Special Forces tab and becoming Green Berets. The female officers, whom Army officials declined to identify, could attend their first Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) class as early as October, though neither has yet received orders for training at Fort Bragg, The Washington Times has learned.

Col. Nestor A. Sadler, commandant of the Special Forces Regiment at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center School at Fort Bragg, confirmed that the two female candidates had accepted invitations for the SFAS class. “Two females met the requirements for SFAS and were nominated by the ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces selection] panel to attend SFAS. One candidate declined her invitation and withdrew from the process. Special Forces Branch asked why. On the last day to accept or decline the invitation, she changed her mind and accepted the invitation to attend SFAS,” Col. Sadler said.

At a recent Special Forces Association conference in Jacksonville, Col. Sadler said that the Army selection panel had reviewed the application packets of seven female officers. Of those, two were approved for the SFAS class, he said.

Officers may apply for special forces positions once a year. The Army selection panel in April reviewed application packets from 860 officers for the three Special Operations Regiments, which include Special Forces, Civil Affairs and PSYOP. Maj. Melody Faulkenberry, spokeswoman for the Special Warfare Center and School, said that 71 women applied for the various Special Operations Regiments forces positions, and 65 were selected for consideration.

“This was the first time females had the ability to choose Special Forces, and nine female officers marked Special Forces as their first choice in their packets,” Maj. Faulkenberry said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opened all combat occupations to women in December, ending a ban on women in direct ground combat roles.

The female officers must pass the SFAS and the subsequent Special Forces Qualification Course before earning the coveted green beret.

Both female officers are on active duty and have served in combat support roles. Neither attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. One received her commission via ROTC, the other via Officer Candidate School.

Citing the Privacy Act, Army officials declined Freedom of Information Act requests for the officers’ service background information such as their military occupation specialties, awards and deployment history.

“An important thing to remember is, these are volunteers. Special Forces is something soldiers volunteer for,” Maj. Faulkenberry said.

The two female officers are “triple volunteers,” having volunteered for the Army, airborne training and now Special Forces, she said.

In announcing an end to the military’s ban on women in direct combat roles on Dec. 3, Mr. Carter said that some military occupational specialties will likely have few women, noting the physical differences between the sexes.

“Thus far, we’ve only seen small numbers of women qualified to meet our high physical standards in some of our most physically demanding combat occupational specialties, and going forward, we shouldn’t be surprised if these small numbers are also reflected in areas like recruitment, voluntary assignment, retention and advancement in some of these specific specialties,” he said.

So far, no female officer has been able to complete the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course in order to join the ground combat force. Three female soldiers have completed the Army’s Ranger School but not the qualification for the special operations Ranger regiment.

Maj. Faulkenberry said that the two female officers and 338 male officers aiming to join Special Forces first must complete the grueling, weeding-out process of Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFA), which last 21 days.

“It’s a challenging and scientifically based process that allows the regiment to predict a candidate’s ability to succeed in the intensive training that’ll follow, as well as operate in a team environment,” the major said.

Retired Col. David Maxwell, who commanded Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, said the SFAS is “built on lessons learned dating back to World War II and Office of Strategic Services [OSS] selection.”

“The OSS is the predecessor to today’s CIA and, of historical note, women went through OSS selection and training,” said Mr. Maxwell, who is now the associate director for the Center for Security Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

According to the course description, the SFAS cadre evaluates each candidate on eight core Army Special Operations Forces values or “attributes”: integrity, courage, perseverance, personal responsibility, professionalism, adaptability, being a team player and capability. Unique tests push each candidate’s strengths, determination, intelligence and willpower to the limit.

“SFAS tests the candidates on those attributes under extremely stressful conditions. We’re looking to see what they’re made of,” Maj. Faulkenberry said.

Article from the Washington Times, 22 July 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chapter Meeting Notes - 25 June 2016

Jerry Rainey Scholarship: Greg Brown, Chair. Committee is Sam, Chuy, Pablo and Steve. More than 20 applications were received. 3 x $1000 scholarships will be presented at the 20 August 2016 Chapter Meeting.

2017 1st SF Group Reunion, El Paso: Ike Camacho – Chair. Committee is Gus, Chuy, Duke, Steve, Leo, Jerry and Bill. Date proposed are 5-10 June 2017. This will be the 3rd time we hosted the 1st Group. Ike locked in Chase Suites for $69.

2016 USASMA Reunion: Al Hobbs is Chair. El Paso is hosting the reunion at the Wyndham from 14-17 July, 2016. This is not an SFA project but many of our SGM members will participate. Late Registration is $150. Contact/E-mail the Chapter for a registration form.

11th Annual John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament: Chair is Al Hobbs. Location is the Underwood Golf Course and Tournament date is Saturday 10 September 2016. Committee so far is Gus, Ike, Leo. 1st Golf Meeting was held this past Saturday, 16 July.

SFA 2016 National Convention, Jacksonville, Florida: Held 12-19 June, Hyatt Regency. Attendees: Pete and Trini Peral, Brian Kanof, Bill Snider, Bill & Linda Lewis, Randy and CC Fogel, Walt Wilczak, Leonard and Arlette Pope, Tony Beltran and Dede Dominguez, Gary Baura, Joe “China Boy” Lopez, Jerry Campos and Catherine from Visit El Paso.

2018 SFA Convention – El Paso: Chair, Brian Kanof; Committee Bill, China Boy and Joe Kerwin Junior. Brian and Catherine of Visit El Paso. Pete made the pitch for the 2018 Convention and we received the bid. The best date for the City seems to be between 11-17 June, 2018 . . . we may cut the days down to 5 or 6 from 7 in the past. SFA 80 will assist. Brian plans to reach out to some other military and Veteran groups for assistance. Last month’s Chapter 9 meeting was moved to the 4th Saturday so we could discuss the bid. Brian and Pete fielded questions, but we need to get the committees organized. Brian will give us a meeting plan, but he asked the members to start seeking $5K sponsorships now.

Return to Devens Reunion: SFA 9 Member Gary Baura is running a 10th SF return to Fort Devens from 5-10 October, 2016 . . . just in time for the foliage tour. Email was sent out. Contact Gary at freefallgb@aol.com

3rdAnnual Joshua Mills Competition –Fort Bliss: SF Recruiters have set the date for 8-9 September 2016. Details will come later.

Massing of the Colors: Tom M mentioned that we need a Chapter Flag for events like this. Committee is looking into options –T om, Jerry, Pablo and Hugo.

Christmas Food Drive: Tom Melgares, Chair. Dates and details coming soon. Committee is Pablo, Sam, Greg, Chuy and Al.

Korean War 66th Anniversary: Roy Aldridge and several Members attended, 25 June at the Fort Bliss Cemetery. The event honored all the veterans who paid the “final price” in the Korean War.

Ed and Blanca Trout Toast: Member Ed Trout and his wife Blanca had a 14th Anniversary Toast on Saturday 9 July 2016. They are getting married again in Maui, Hawaii later this month. Ike and Gracie, and Bill attended. It was fairly short fuse so full invitations were not sent out.

Message from the Chapter President:

Welcome to one HOT week here in El Paso. I think this has been the hottest we’ve been in a while. Oh well it is the desert. Anyway, we have some items coming up that need to addressed. First is the scholarship. I want to thank the scholarship committee; Greg Brown, Sam Morgan, Chuy Zamora, Pablo Sanchez and Steve Franzoni. They reviewed over 20 application (the most we’ve ever had) and had to cut it down to just three. At the August meeting we’ll present the scholarships to the recipients and as it stands, BG Kurt Crytzer will present the awards. BG Crytzer is the Commander of JTF-N here in El Paso and is one of us.

Next in the door is the golf tournament. Flyers are attached to the e-mail and we’ll have some FLYERS at the meeting this Saturday. WE WILL HOLD A GOLF MEETING THIS SATURDAY AT 1100. We have less than two month before the tournament and to my knowledge we old have one person paid (me) and one hole sponsor. WE NEED TO GET HOT ON THIS. I know some don’t like to ask folks for anything and that’s fine but support the chapter. A $100 hole sponsor for a family member, IMO someone, a business or any other reason will help. If $100 is too much purchase beer or a bottle/s of alcohol for door prizes. If you do venture out ask for prizes. Anything will help. Prizes that always go over well are tools, alcohol, day spa passes, gift certificates golf items etc.

As always, thank you for your support and continued friendship.

De Oppresso Liber!

Pete Peral

Monday, July 18, 2016

Chaplains Corner June 2016 - God Promises to Never Leave or Abandon Us

Recently I was asked to write a letter to an Air Force ROTC cadet to help him get through the challenging times he would be facing while completing his summer training requirement. I wrote a short letter and included the following story named “Footprints.”

Footprints

One night a man had dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied,, “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave ;you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of foot prints, it was then that I carried you.” (Author unknown)

When we pray to God for His immediate help, He reassures us with His Promise in the Bible in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake (abandon) you.” With God beside us, guiding us with each step, all of life’s difficulties can be resolved in accordance with God’s plan and purpose for our lives. God's presence and help in rough times has really helped me many times (I Thank you, God)

Love you all,

Your Pastor and Chaplain

John Szilvasy SFA Chapter IX

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick retires

A rainy day in San Francisco set Bennet Sacolick on course to become an Army general, one of the nation's top special operators and a driving force in the nation's counter-terrorism policy. But after 35 years in uniform, including time in command of Delta Force and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Sacolick only recently took time to reflect on that career.

Lt. Gen. Sacolick, most recently the director for strategic operational planning at the National Counterterrorism Center, retired July 1, 2016. His last act in uniform was speaking to a Special Forces graduation in Fayetteville late last month. Now he and his wife, Joyce, have moved back to Fayetteville for a new chapter in their marriage. Sacolick plans to make up for more than two decades of constant deployments by staying in one place and working on the couple's dream home.

It's a marked change of pace for a man who, for the latter half of his career, has been focused on fighting terrorism across the globe. "I started as a private. I'm a three star general. I did something right. But I was a bad husband," Sacolick said.

Even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sacolick said he often was deployed nine months out of the year. After 9/11, he was gone for three of the first four years, serving in either Afghanistan or Iraq. "And she never wavered," he said of his wife. "She always adjusted so well. She's been through a lot. Now this is her time."

Passing the baton. In his speech to roughly 100 new Special Forces soldiers at the Crown Arena on June 23, Sacolick said the nation's counter-terrorism mission was now in their hands. He said they would be well-prepared and better positioned to make an impact in the fight than any other force in the world.

Sacolick would know. A Special Forces soldier for the last 30 years, Sacolick spent 15 years with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, more commonly known as Delta Force, and that unit's higher headquarters, Joint Special Operations Command. He also served as deputy director for defense at the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center.

In his last assignment, at the National Counterterrorism Center, he helped craft the nation's strategy to combat the Islamic State and wrote several executive orders pertaining to terrorism on behalf of the president. Sacolick said the country is winning the fight against terrorism, but the retired general isn't without concern. He worries the nation - and specifically the military - could suffer from "special operations fatigue," and that the nation's elite forces could become the target in future budget cuts. The country can't accept that, he said. "I'm concerned that (the Department of Defense) doesn't embrace us like it should," Sacolick said. "I hope that's not the case."

The concern springs from a characterization of the threats facing the nation. To Sacolick, terrorism is the most significant threat. But military leaders more often place that threat below Russia, North Korea, China and Iran. "I look at the world through a counterterrorism lens," Sacolick said. And from that vantage point, he said he's less concerned about a North Korean nuclear attack and more worried about an "ISIL inspired knucklehead grabbing an AK-47 at Cross Creek Mall."

The FBI is "really good at keeping America safe at home," he said. But it's the role of special operations to combat terror where it grows, on every corner of the globe. "The threat is as complex and challenging as it's ever been," he said, citing a 10-fold increase in global terrorism in the last decade. "The sky is not falling, but I'm concerned," he said. "The world is more complex, more confrontational and more volatile than it's ever been. But that's the job of special operations - adapt and defeat."

'Accidental General'. Looking back on his career, Sacolick said he was proud of his efforts in helping the nation fight terrorism. But he said his most important responsibility in recent years has been building a new generation of leaders. "It's pretty rewarding," he said. "If there's a legacy, it's the people who worked for you, who you've influenced in some positive way."

Sacolick is quick to thank those who helped him, the former commanders, deputies and brothers in arms. But he'll also readily admit that luck helped propel him through the ranks. If he ever wrote a memoir, he said, it would likely be titled "The Accidental General." That's because there's one area of military service where Sacolick has a horrible record: getting the job he wanted. "Throughout my career, I never got the job I wanted," he said. "I always got a better job."

That luck began Dec. 8, 1980, the day a soaking wet Sacolick was sprinting from business to business in downtown San Francisco. Sacolick was in graduate school, studying to become an actuary. But the tall and lanky young man running through the downpour that day didn't feel good about that decision. "I was frustrated," he said. "I kind of kept waiting for something else."

He found that "something else'' as he ducked into buildings in a futile attempt to keep his suit from being soaked. In a recruiter's office, he came face-to-face with a poster of a soldier holding an alligator. "Go Ranger," the poster read. "I wasn't even sure what a Ranger was, but this San Francisco-based recruiter, whose annual quota was probably only one or two people a year, told me that the Rangers are stationed in Seattle, which sounded great," Sacolick said.

Until that point, Sacolick said he had never considered military service, but within a few months, he was a 25-year-old private in basic training. His first assignment came with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington. There, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School, and, once commissioned in 1982, moved to Italy to serve with the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team.

Sacolick's next assignment was the captain's career course, but the young officer was committed to leaving the service and returning to school. Instead, he met Fayetteville native Ed Reeder, another man destined to become an Army general. Sacolick may have been thinking of going back to school, but Reeder was dreaming of joining Special Forces.

Last year, Reeder retired as an Army major general, having most recently led NATO special operations in Afghanistan. But as a young officer, Reeder proved to be one of Special Forces' greatest recruiters as he convinced Sacolick to join him amid promises of language school, scuba school and action overseas. Soon, the two friends were serving together in South America with the 7th Special Forces Group.

Sacolick deployed with an Operational Detachment-Alpha, or A-team, to support counter narcotics missions in Peru, Colombia and El Salvador. But more importantly, he found what makes Special Forces so special. "There was not one special thing about us, but together as a 12-man team we did the most amazing things," Sacolick said.

Invasion changes plans. Sacolick was serving in Panama with 7th Group when his career was next shaped by happenstance. At the time, he wanted to join the Foreign Area Officer program, becoming a defense attache in Colombia and attending graduate school at UCLA en route.

In the days leading up to Operation Just Cause, he learned he was accepted into the program and mailed his acceptance letter and matriculation fee. But the American invasion of Panama would change those plans. "My battalion was already there," Sacolick said. "We weren't the invaders, we were kind of the invadees."

In the chaos, he said the Green Berets found themselves caught between opposing American forces, Army on one side and Marines on the other, who "fired up anything that moved." "It felt like all of Panama City was on fire - buildings were burning all over the place," he said.

Sacolick later realized that one of those buildings was the post office, which went up in smoke along with the paperwork for his new position. So instead of heading back to school, Sacolick moved back to Fort Bragg. He thought he would teach at the school where he would later command, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. But that, too, wasn't meant to be.

Two nights after reporting to Fort Bragg, an officer Sacolick had never heard of called him with a job offer. The next day, Sacolick had a job interview in the officer's Fayetteville home. "I didn't know what I was interviewing for," he recalled. But within a week, Sacolick had joined what is arguably the most secretive organization in the Army.

Delta Force and Mogadishu. As assistant operations officer for Delta Force, Sacolick was the elite organization's most junior officer. But he wouldn't stay that way. Over 15 years, Sacolick rose through the ranks, eventually serving as the commanding officer and a task force commander leading the organization in Iraq.

In between, Sacolick deployed with the unit as part of Operation Desert Storm, where it was charged with hunting down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles, and to Somalia, where he helped plan the mission that led to the famed Battle of Mogadishu.

The events of that battle, depicted in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," are now the stuff of Army legend. And on that Oct. 3, 1993, mission, Sacolick - who was promoted to major in Somalia - was to be the ground force commander. But days before the mission, Sacolick was called back to the United States. His father had died, Sacolick said. And it wouldn't be until days after the ill-fated mission that Sacolick would return to embrace his colleagues. "It was an exceptional group of people," Sacolick said. "I believe Delta enjoys such a great reputation because of its focus on character. It's not about shooting, it's all about building and maintaining good character."

In the 1990s, Delta Force underwent a transformation of sorts, Sacolick said, all aimed at preventing another "Black Hawk Down." The Battle of Mogadishu, "revolutionized how we did business," he said. Operators received better equipment, better body armor, and developed new tactics aimed at ensuring the force would never again be overwhelmed. "Something like that can destroy you," Sacolick said. "It made us better."

At the same time, the nation had an aversion to using the force after Somalia, he said. Leaders preferred to keep boots off the ground, relying instead on airstrikes. But if the Battle of Mogadishu helped propel special operations forward in the 1990s, it was the Sept. 11 attacks that has defined it ever since.

Sacolick was chief of current operations for Joint Special Operations Command when the attacks occurred. At the time, he was flying into Bosnia as part of a training exercise with other special operators. The men weren't sure at first if the news of the attack on the Twin Towers was part of the training scenario. The exercise was soon canceled, and Sacolick and his men waited for what would come next. "We all just sat there, kind of numb," he said. "We were all thinking worst case."

Afghanistan and terrorism. Like it did for many soldiers, Sept. 11 proved to be career defining for Sacolick. And it all started, Sacolick said, about a month after the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. "By mid-October, we were gone," Sacolick recalled. At first, the soldiers deployed to Qatar, he said. From there, they pushed into southern Afghanistan. At the time, no one was thinking the war in Afghanistan would become the nation's longest, or that special operations forces would carry so much of the load. "We had that mind-set that we'd go in, transition to conventional operations and pull out," Sacolick said.

That wasn't to be the case, but Sacolick did return home in January 2002, not of his own accord, but because of a battle with Hodgkin's disease. Before falling ill, he believed he would be the next Delta Force commander. The cancer could have derailed Sacolick's career. "I kind of thought that was it," he said. But instead of giving up, he fought. After surgery, Sacolick underwent seven months of chemotherapy.

Most of 2002 is a blur, he said, but by the end of it, Sacolick was again healthy and cleared by doctors to command a month before the Army was set to make its decision. In 2003, Sacolick was preparing to take command of Delta, but first had to report to the Army's War College. He planned to attend the year-long course before returning to Fort Bragg to assume command.

But as they often did in Sacolick's career, plans changed again. "It was a shock," he said. "I was there 10 days before I was called back to Fort Bragg." As Delta Force leaders were planning their part of the Iraq invasion, the then commander suffered an aneurysm, Sacolick said. Army leaders gave him 30 days to assume command and lead the organization into war. "It was like a whirlwind" he said. "I inherited an organization in combat. I moved back in and, a month later, I'm in Baghdad."

That was April 2003, Sacolick said. But it also would be the beginning of yet another transformation for the unit. Delta, and JSOC as a whole, perfected its mission in Iraq, Sacolick said, moving away from "tracking people by moving pins on a map," to using unmanned aerial vehicles, like the MQ-1 Predator, to help "find, fix and finish."

"I like to believe that the things (Joint Special Operations Command) does so well started right there," Sacolick said.

Article from The Fayetteville Observer