Thursday, February 23, 2017

Green Beret Earns Silver Star for Afghanistan Action

On Feb. 1, U.S. Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Brian Seidl was presented the Silver Star, becoming the third member of his 59-man team to be awarded the medal for actions during the Battle of Boz Qandahari, which began on the night of Nov. 2, 2016, and cost the lives of two of Seidl’s teammates.

The battle was fought in a village surrounded by steep cliffs in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. One team member later described the heavily fortified village as “something like a castle.” The team and its Afghan army counterparts arrived in the village after an hour trek through waist-high mud and were clearing compounds when they came under attack.

“We heard a distinctive thud,” Seidl recalled in an Army press release. “That’s when the first grenade detonated.” The blast, which injured several Afghan soldiers and two Americans, one mortally, was followed by a barrage of enemy fire from all directions. Seidl and his team leader, Capt. Andrew Byers, sprinted toward the casualties and pulled two of them out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, a Green Beret went down elsewhere in the village with five gunshot wounds to his legs, hip, hand, and wrist.

The team’s final objective was a compound blocked by what Seidl described as a “huge metal gate.” As casualties mounted, Seidl and Byers first attempted to breach the gate with grenades. When that didn’t work, Byers tried kicking the gate open, at which point he was mortally wounded. The Green Berets and their Afghan allies managed to enter another compound, but with one-third of the team either killed or wounded, they were forced to hunker down and hold their ground until a quick reaction force arrived. Small arms fire and grenades continued to rain in from everywhere. “For two hours we fought in that compound,” Seidl said. [We] fought for our lives.”

The fighting continued even as the team exfiltrated the objective across approximately 800 meters of open territory and a medevac helicopter landed to retrieve the wounded. Byers died from his wounds during the flight out and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Due to the intensity of the enemy fire, the second medevac helicopter was unable to land and the operators were forced to push forward another 300 meters to another landing zone. Seidl and another teammate found a donkey and loaded it with Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, the soldier who had been mortally wounded by the initial grenade blast. “I know we’ve taken losses in the past,” Seidl told the Army. “But I don’t know that we’ve ever taken a loss like this in quite some times, where a team is hit this hard.”

The mission concluded the following morning, on Nov. 3, after every member of the team had been evacuated. According to the release, 27 Taliban insurgents and three Taliban commanders were killed in the battle. In addition to the three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars with Valor, four Army Commendation Medals with Valor, and six Purple Hearts were also earned during the fight.

“For his efforts taking charge of a severely injured and depleted force, leading them out of a kill zone and establishing a defensive posture that repelled every subsequent attack, for making the tough call on multiple danger-close air strikes near his own position in an effort to eliminate an overwhelming enemy force, and for leading every man under his charge out of a hostile city after inflicting catastrophic damage on multiple Taliban enemies, Seidl was recognized and awarded with the Silver Star Medal,” reads the press release.

Article from Army Times

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Real Housewives of ISIS

About time for some levity on this site. This was actually sent ot us by our unit Chaplain. Thanks!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blackwater Air Supporting Special Forces

From the article "Blackwater Air’ Is Back, and Flying for U.S. Special Forces", posted in the Daily Beast saying that a corporate descendant of the notorious guns-for-hire firm just got a $204 million contract to support American troops in Africa.

A mercenary air force that became a symbol of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is back in action—this time in Central Africa, supporting a shadowy American U.S. Special Forces commando operation targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army. In late January, a source on the ground in Central African Republic spotted a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter with the registry number N408RC carrying American Special Forces troops. The LRA, a cultish band of thieves and rapists led by warlord Joseph Kony, is most active in the forested region where Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet.

In 2010, President Barack Obama deployed around 100 Green Berets and other personnel to Central Africa to help local forces hunt down Kony and the LRA. Seven years later, Operation Observant Compass continues, mostly unnoticed by the press. The Pentagon asked Congress for $23 million to extend the operation through 2017.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Sikorsky helicopter that The Daily Beast’s source observed in Central African Republic belongs to Illinois-based EP Aviation, LLC. EP Aviation was once a subsidiary of Academi, the Virginia-based company that was formerly known as Blackwater. The “EP” stands for “Erik Prince,” Blackwater’s founder and the younger brother of billionaire U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The copter’s appearance is a reminder of the tangled web of corporate relationships that support the Pentagon’s expansive shadow wars in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa—and some of the companies’ ties to wealthy, powerful American politicians. During the height of the Iraq War, Blackwater managed a for-profit army in Baghdad that included Little Bird helicopters and other aircraft. The U.S. State Department and Defense Department have awarded Blackwater and its successors contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In Iraq, Blackwater's diminutive Little Birds usually carried a crew of four—two pilots and two door gunners armed with assault rifles. With their very corporate-looking blue-and-silver paint schemes, the Blackwater copters became icons of a grinding, unpopular war. The Little Birds were also symbols of Blackwater's heavy-handed tactics. The company and its employees in Iraq were involved in several suspicious killings -- and worse. In September 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square. Four of the mercenaries went to prison for the killings.

Blackwater's aviation operations were also controversial. One Little Bird was shot down in Baghdad and its five-man crew was killed. Another Little Bird crashed in Iraq and the two pilots died. The company lost several other aircraft in fatal accidents in Iraq. In 2004, a Blackwater transport plane crashed in a mountain canyon in Afghanistan, killing the three crew and three U.S. troops who were passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the pilots deliberately flew a risky flight path through the mountains. "I swear to God, they wouldn't pay me if they knew how much fun this was," the cockpit voice recorder captured one pilot saying shortly before the crash.

Dogged by lawsuits, Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 and moved to the United Arab Emirates. He subsequently founded Frontier Resource Group, a company that reportedly provides pilots for the Emirates’ brutal air war in Libya. Prince’s new company also tried to skirt U.S. regulations in order to sell attack planes to Salva Kiir, one of two warring strongmen in South Sudan. Prince has reportedly advised President Donald Trump, who appointed DeVos as education secretary despite stiff opposition from Democrats and even some Republicans. DeVos contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of senators who voted to approve her appointment.

Following Prince’s departure, Blackwater changed its name several times and came under new ownership. In 2010 it sold EP Aviation and other aviation assets to Illinois-based AAR, also known as Airlift Group, a self-described provider of “world-class expeditionary and conventional aviation solutions.” Around 60 ex-Blackwater aircraft continue to be registered in EP Aviation’s name. AAR did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment.

U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa rely heavily on innocent-looking, civilian-style aircraft. Some are actually military aircraft that wear civilian paint schemes. Others are civilian aircraft operating under contract with the Pentagon. On Feb. 6, the Defense Department awarded AAR/Airlift Group a $204-million contract to support U.S. forces in Africa through January 2018. According to the military's official "Central Africa Task Order," dated November 2016, American troops in the region need at least two fixed-wing planes in Entebbe, Uganda; another two fixed-wing planes in Nzara, South Sudan; plus five helicopters in Obo, Central African Republic. U.S. Special Operations Command was not able to fulfill an interview request before this story's deadline.

The civilian planes and copters transporting American commandos in their hunt for Kony and the LRA can expect to come under fire, according to the military's official work statement, dated October 2016. "In the event a contractor operating a mission is illuminated or 'spotlighted,' or is fired upon in the air or on the ground, the crew shall note the date, time and approximate area from which the event originated," the statement noted. But unlike Blackwater's Little Birds in Iraq, the mercenary copters in Central Africa aren't armed—and cannot shoot back.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RIP LTG Hal Moore - "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young"

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died. He was 94. Joseph Galloway, who with Moore co-authored the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press that Moore died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama.

Note: Joe Galloway has came to New Mexico State University in nearby Las Cruces to speak at annual ROTC events, including the annual event that awards the former SFA Chapter IX member CSM Mike Jefferson Memorial Scholarship.

Galloway said Moore, his friend of 51 years, died two days shy of his 95th birthday. "There's something missing on this earth now. We've lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend. They don't make them like him anymore," Galloway said.

Moore was best known for his actions at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. His actions were later reflected in the movie "We Were Soldiers" in which actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore. The book tells what happened to virtually every trooper involved in the 34-day campaign and the climactic four-day battle in which 234 Americans died at landing zones X-Ray and Albany in November 1965.

Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was "without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action." "Those of us who survived Landing Zone X-Ray survived because of his brilliance of command. I think every one of us thought we were going to die at that place except Hal Moore. He was certain we were going to win that fight and he was right," Galloway recalled. The picture at left, depicts LTC Hal Moore, Commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, on the radio during the fight for LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam.

Galloway and Moore wrote a second book, "We Are Soldiers Still," which he said grew out of a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam 25 years later. "We went back and walked those old battlefields. At the end of the day, Hal Moore and Col. Nguyen Huu An, the North Vietnamese commander, stood in a circle in the clearing and prayed for the souls of every man who died on both sides."

He said the two shared an "instant brotherhood that grew out of combat." "When we were discussing the book contract with a lawyer/agent, he asked to see the contract between me and Hal Moore, and Hal Moore said 'I don't think you understand. This isn't just a matter of money. We have trusted each other with our lives in battle and we have no contract before that.' I absolutely agreed."

On a Facebook page managed by Moore's family, relatives said he died on the birthday of his wife, Julia, who died in 2004 after 55 years of marriage. "Mom called Dad home on her day," the statement said. "After having a stroke last week, Dad was more lethargic and had difficulty speaking, but he had always fought his way back."

Before serving in Vietnam, Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then commanded a battalion in the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning. Born in Bardstown, Kentucky, he served in the U.S. military for 32 years. Galloway said the family has tentatively scheduled a religious service Friday in Auburn and a memorial service at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Georgia.

Friday, February 10, 2017

RIP Admiral Richard Lyon, First SEAL Admiral

Richard "Dick" Lyon, the first SEAL to rise to the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy has passed. He was 93 years old.

As a youth, he was selected a member of the United States Olympic swim team for the 1940 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but the 1940 games were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II. Lyon graduated from Yale University in 1944, and received a master's degree from Stanford University in 1953.

Lyon attended Columbia University Midshipmen's School, receiving his commission in the United States Navy in October 1944. He served as a Navy Scout and Raider in the Pacific Theatre and in China as an Intelligence Officer. He was released from active duty in 1946, subsequently joining the Naval Reserve. He returned to active duty in early 1951 he commissioned the "Underwater Demolition Team FIVE" and served in the Korean War until late 1952. Upon release, he resumed his Reserve participation.

In July 1974, Lyon became the first "Special Warfare" (SEAL) admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy, and regulary attended U.S. Navy Special Warfare Center (NAVSPECWARCEN) SEAL graduations.

Lyon was a graduate of both the National War College and the Naval War College. He was the first Reserve officer to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the United States Naval Institute where he served as Chairman of the Editorial Board. He has received decorations for the Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He returned to active duty as Deputy Chief of Naval Reserve in July 1978, and retired in July 1983 at the rank of Rear Admiral after nearly 41 years of naval service.

Admiral (retired) Lyon served two 4 year terms as Mayor of Oceanside, California. In 2013, Lyon was the recipient of the prestigious Yale University George H.W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award. He was reported to be a avid private pilot and golfer and with his wife Cynthia (Gisslin) who survives him, they have children, 14 grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

Link to the Navy SEAL Foundation

Monday, February 6, 2017

Military Retirement - A New Blended System

The Defense Department on Wednesday laid out the final details for its new blended retirement system for military personnel, which will automatically enroll new service members and give existing troops the option of signing up.

The changes were included in the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization bill as the result of a longstanding effort to reform military service members’ compensation package. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, an Obama appointee who President Trump asked to stay on, officially issued the policy that will take effect in 2018.

Under the system, new troops would automatically be enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan and receive a matching contribution from the government. The government will contribute between 1 percent and 5 percent of service members’ salaries toward their TSPs, depending on what they elect to contribute themselves, though they will be defaulted into contributing 3 percent of their paychecks. The TSP account will begin 60 days into their service. Those who stay in the military for 20 years, and are thereby entitled to a retirement pension, would receive a less generous calculation for their annuity.

The new system moves away from the 20-year, all-or-nothing pension system currently in place for military members. Only about 17 percent of troops serve for 20 years and become eligible for the benefit.

To encourage members to stay in the military, they would receive “continuation pay” after 12 years of service. That payment will amount to between 2.5 and 13 times service members’ monthly basic pay. The guidance allows members to receive the payment in one lump or in four equal installments spread out over four years. Individuals who accept the bonus must sign on to at least three additional years of service, and may have to repay it if they do not complete the added time.

The new blended retirement system only automatically affects new service members starting Jan. 1, 2018. Current service members are grandfathered into the existing system, but can opt into the new one. They will have all of 2018 to make their decision. The Pentagon is in the process of educating troops about the modified retirement system, and launched its third of four courses this week. Troops electing to enroll in the blended system must complete the training to be eligible. Once enrolled via the “myPay” website, the decision is irrevocable, the guidance stated.

Article from

Saturday, February 4, 2017

U.S. Special Forces Host Islamist Who Urged Support for Radical Faction

The U.S. Special Forces Command hosted Mouaz Moustafa, an American Islamist who urged U.S. policymakers to embrace the Islamic Front in 2013, at their Tampa headquarters on Thursday, a post on his Facebook page shows. The Islamic Front's charter called for replacing the Assad regime with an Islamic theocracy ruled by shariah law.

Moustafa heads the Syrian Emergency Taskforce (SETF), an organization that lobbies on behalf of anti-Assad rebels. SETF organized U.S. Sen. John McCain's May 2013 Syria trip. SETF also enjoyed close ties with the Obama State Department.

"The focus now is to depose the regime and kick out people like Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and others that are killing us. And so that's the best way to describe their ideology," Moustafa said in 2013. "I think the international community and the West ... must engage with the Islamic Front and need to be more pragmatic and realistic about what is going on ground in Syria in order to bring them on board with whatever political solution will happen in the future."

SETF tried to push the State Department to deal directly with the Islamic Front, records show. Robert Ford, then the U.S. ambassador to Syrian, met with Islamic Front representatives later in 2013.

The Islamic Front was a coalition of rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham (aka "the Syrian Taliban"), Suquor al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, Ansar al-Shariah, Tawhid Brigade, and Liwa Al-Haqq. Suquor al-Sham and Liwa al-Haqq have since merged with Ahrar al-Sham.

Ahrar al-Sham remains one of the most important factions in Syria's ongoing civil war. Its founder, Abu Khalid Al-Suri, acted as al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri's right-hand man there. Late Ahrar al-Sham leader Hasan Aboud condemned democracy, calling it a "sword hanging on everyone that Western powers want." He preferred establishing a caliphate under shariah law.

Last July, Amnesty International accused Ahrar al-Sham of torture and other human rights violations. Ahrar al-Sham also has been known to engage in beheadings. Similarly, Jaish al-Islam's late leader Zahran Alloush endorsed restoring the caliphate and expressed support for Osama bin Laden.

Jaish al-Islam also engaged in atrocities, including beheading captive ISIS fighters while forcing them to dress in uniforms similar to "Jihadi John." In one instance, Jaish al-Islam executed and subsequently crucified a man it accused of cursing God, practicing witchcraft, taking drugs, committing adultery and kidnapping. Images of the executed man's crucified, decapitated body were circulated online.

Groups comprising the Islamic Front also fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra prior to Moustafa's request for the Obama administration to work with the jihadist coalition.

The above article is from Steven Emerson's The Investigative Project on Terrorism

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Navy SEAL Killed in Yemen Raid

The Navy SEAL killed in a raid targeting senior Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen was identified Monday as Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens. "Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service. The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

At least three other U.S. service members were injured in the raid. In addition, three service members were hurt in a crash-landing of an MV-22 Osprey sent in to evacuate the wounded, the Pentagon revealed on Monday. "A lot of female combatants" were part of the resistance the SEALs encountered on the target, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff David told reporters. "Some of the enemy killed in action were female." Davis said the women took what he called pre-arranged fighting positions when they came under attack by the Navy SEAL assault force.

The Pentagon was "still assessing" reports of civilian casualties in the Yemen operation, Davis said. He would not confirm whether any children were killed as well. The raid on Al Qaeda headquarters was the first counterterrorism offensive under President Trump aimed at gathering intelligence about the militant group, a U.S. official told Fox News. It was also first combat death under the new administration.

A total of 14 fighters from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed in the assault, and U.S. service members captured "information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots," according to the military. A U.S. official told Fox News planing for the operation began before Trump assumed office, but had not been given the green light.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

New CIA Director - Mike Pompeo, Army Veteran

On November 18, 2016, Mike Pompeo was selected by President Donald Trump to be the nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on a vote 66-32 on January 23rd and took the oath of office the same day.

Pompeo attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he majored in Mechanical Engineering, graduating first in his class in 1986 and subsequently serving in the Regular Army as an Armor Branch cavalry officer from 1986 to 1991. He spent five years on active duty in the Army — part of it along the East German border — serving as a tank platoon leader. Pompeo left the Army as a captain to attend law school where he received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then worked as a lawyer for Williams & Connolly.

Pompeo then founded Thayer Aerospace and Private Security. In 2006 he sold his interest in Thayer (which was renamed Nex-Tech Aerospace). He became the President of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment company.

Then he was elected the U.S. Representative for Kansas's 4th congressional district from 2011–17. Pompeo is a member of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party and served as a Kansas representative on the Republican National Committee.

Pompeo's Positions on Issues:

He supports the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, saying "Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed. That includes Presidential Policy Directive-28, which bestows privacy rights on foreigners and imposes burdensome requirements to justify data collection."

On July 21, 2015, Pompeo and Senator Tom Cotton (another Army Veteran) alleged the existence of secret side agreements between Iran and the IAEA on procedures for inspection and verification of Iran's nuclear activities under the Iran nuclear deal. The Obama administration denied any clandestine or secret actions. However, the Obama Administration officials acknowledged the existence of agreements between Iran and the IAEA governing the inspection of sensitive military sites, but denied the characterization that they were “secret side deals,” calling them standard practice in crafting arms-control pacts and arguing the administration had provided information about them to Congress.

In a 2013 speech on the House floor, Pompeo said Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam are "potentially complicit" in the attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Pompeo to revise his remarks, calling them "false and irresponsible".

Pompeo opposes closing Guantánamo Bay detention camp. After a 2013 visit to the prison, Pompeo said, of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, "It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight." Pompeo has criticized the Obama administration's decision to end the CIA's secret prisons (so-called "black sites"), and the administration's requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.

Monday, January 23, 2017

General Mattis as Defense Secretary - "It's Good to be Back"

Confirmed just Friday afternoon, new Defense Secretary James Mattis wasted no time in dispatching a letter to the American troops and civilians who now work for him. The recently retired Marine general — who needed a congressional waiver to serve in the civilian role — stuck with his signature plain-spoken style. “It’s good to be back,” he began.

Federal statute requires a seven-year gap between military service and the Pentagon's top job. Mattis retired in 2013. The last time a waiver was used was for Gen. George Marshall in the early 1950s. Here’s the text of the short letter, which advises that Mattis is “devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense.” The retired four-star ends the memo in a battlefield-style tone: MATTIS SENDS, it says.

Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary of Defense James Mattis


It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense. Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind. Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people. I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Chapter Meeting Notes December 2016

SFA Dues Increase: Dues have increased slightly for 2017. Life membership is still a good deal at $440 (current Member) $475 (Not current). It is $320 for members age 65 and over. Annual renewal = $40, New Member dues = $50. Reinstatement = $45. National sent us the current roster showing who is due.

Christmas Food Drive: Tom Melgares served as the Chair with Committee members, Pablo, Steve, Sam, Greg, Chuy and Al. 82 boxes were requested and Chuy did a great job on getting the hams for this year and we hooked up with the EPVRA Food Drive to obtain additional food items. We are preparing certificates for the major contributors.

2017 1st Group Reunion, El Paso: Ike Camacho is the Chair. Committee members are Gus, Chuy, Duke, Steve, Leo, Jerry & Bill. Dates are 5-10 June 2017. This will be the 3rd time we hosted the 1st Group. The Chase Suites has rooms for $69, registration is $120 until 15 May, then it will be $140 (Hospitality Room only $50). Banquet will be at the Marriott. Billy Waugh will attend. There is a two page ad placed in the Drop for this Reunion.

2018 SFA Conference – El Paso: Chair is Brian Kanof with Committee members Bill, China Boy, Roy, Steve, Joe Kerwin Jr and Catherine from the City. Dates are set for 12-17 June, 2018. It will be a 5-night conference with events beginning on Wednesday. SFA 80 and the 82nd Airborne chapter will assist. Brian plans to reach out to some other military and Veteran groups for assistance. Brian asked the members to start seeking $5K sponsorships now. Committee is meeting before the general meetings at 12 noon. All committee Sub-Chairmen will be selected by March meeting. Honorary Members and Associate Members may be Sub Chairs and Assistant’s, volunteer now! The Camino Real Hotel is doing a makeover (to be re-named Paso Del Norte Hotel) and will be finished about the time of the reunion. We are looking at that as a HQ Hotel.

Chapter Flag: Tom Melgares is the Chair with Committee members Jerry, Pablo and Hugo. Committee is still looking for options.

Public Address System: We are looking at quotes to purchase a system.

Wreaths Across America: Debbie Torres of the local Civil Air Patrol Chapter and wife of SFA Chapter IX member Rolando, served as the Chair. Steve & Monica, Tom M, Leo and Wayne placed the 35 wreaths that we paid for - all SF and prior SFA 9 Members and spouses who are interred, as usual.

Chapter Member Photos:

SF Room at the VFW: Chair Tom Brady, Committee members are Leo, Brian, Chuck and Al. Plaques and contents will be decided by the committee.

2017 SFA National Convention, Fayetteville, NC: Pete says the HQ Hotel rooms are already filled, so the Holiday Inn across the street seems to be the best bet. Go to this link for more information. Don't be worked up whether it is called a Convention or Conference. Everyone is using those terms interchangeably.

John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament: Scheduled at Fort Bliss for 9 September. Committee will form soon.

US Border Patrol Special Operation Group (USBP-SOG) Law Enforcement Equipment and Technology Expo, aka the SOG Expo: The SOG Expo, our major fundraiser, is scheduled for 3-4 May, 2017. Go to this link for more information:

Pack 58 Pinewood Derby Track: Pack 58 sent a request for SFA 9 to buy them a new track for $1700. Chapter voted to authorize $500 but directed Bill and Steve to find out more information. A meeting with the Cubmaster determined that the old track, which SFA 9 purchased about 6 years ago, just needs repairs. He will get back to us with the repair quotes.

Ceremony Procedures for Deceased Members: Chaplain John mentioned that all members need to tell their families that they wish to have “Tap the coffin” and any other Chapter procedures they want in the event of their death. This tradition is performed after the graveside services where the Chapter members line up and file past the coffin one by one, pausing to salute then tap the coffin three times.

Freezer for VFW: Al wanted to thank the members for helping with the new freezer delivery on the night of the Food Drive. Sun Bowl Flag: Bill was in charge of the Sun Bowl Giant US Flag ceremony at the beginning of the game on 30 December. There were several Chapter Members among the 120 Veterans who carried the flag.

Chapter President's Message:

Welcome to 2017!! We have a busy 2 years ahead of us. We have the SOG Expo in May, 1st Group reunion in June, National convention also in June where we have to lock down the events, cost and processes for the 2018 convention, and the golf tournament in September. All will require a ton of support but all will make Chapter 9 healthier and better prepared for the 2018 National SFA convention (or conference depending on what we call it). We have to have a 90% solution by June of 2017 to brief at the National convention and we can’t do it without your support.

As mentioned above, we will be meeting at 1200 before every schedule Chapter 9 meeting for the general members that want to attend. We will need to meet more often with the Chairperson/co-chairperson and any committee members but we’ll hash that out with Brian later. Again as Bill mentioned, we need to lock down the events, location, cost, and other misc. items to make the event run smooth. By the February meeting we will have all of the committee’s that we’ll need leaders for and I hope we get the Chapter 9 member support to pull this off.

Pete Peral, President SFA Chapter IX

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chaplain's Corner - January 2017

What do you do when you are confronted by person(s) who is on the verge of totally losing control of themselves in a middle of having a conversation about a sensitive matter? And if you confront them with your telling them that they are making fools of themselves and that you might soon lose control of yourself. And if you don’t stop, you indeed do lose your self-control as you stand there and exchange nasty, heated, cutting words that cut deep. And you hear yourself saying, dumb, stupid words that you know might seriously strain, shatter, even destroy your relationship with the person in front of you.

Let’s stop here and take a look at what is happening in your head as I ask you . . . What would you do? I would urge you to stop the conversation and go somewhere to regain your self-control. I suggest you offer a prayer to God and ask Him to help you to heal and restore your broken relationship. I urge you to ask God for the strength to apologize with the right words, and to ask God to become more important in your future relationship. After you have done all that I have recommended, offer your loved one a hug and a kiss, and an invitation for dinner at your favorite place for time to heal the strained relationship.

Love You All,......Chaplain John

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Green Beret say's: U.S. Fighting 100 Year War

Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity. “Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” -- Mullah Ghafoordai - tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan.

It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country. Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.

The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.

Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces. Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.

Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued. “It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.

Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years. During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.

Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career. “Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” said Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation.

While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy. “We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”

Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity. “This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.

Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity. The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book - “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret. The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.

Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat. “While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 - 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.

Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language. Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.

Article from The National Interest

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New VA Secretary Nominated

President Elect Donald Trump announced David Shulkin as his pick for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Shulkin is currently the undersecretary for health at the VA, which means he runs the Veterans Health Administration. He was nominated for that position by President Obama in March 2015 and confirmed by the Senate that June.

Shulkin's official bio says he is a physician — a board-certified internist — and was the chief executive or chief medical officer of several hospitals and hospital systems. He is also an entrepreneur who founded a health care information company called DoctorQuality. Notably, he is not a veteran. As NPR's Quil Lawrence reported last month, the VA has always been headed by a veteran. "I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs," Trump said in a statement following the announcement. "Dr. Shulkin has the experience and the vision to ensure we will meet the healthcare needs of every veteran."

Last year, NPR and several member stations jointly reported on the flaws and failures of the VA's "Veterans Choice" program, which is meant to allow veterans to find private doctors. As the head of the Veterans Health Administration, Shulkin spoke with NPR about the experiences of veterans left waiting months for treatment under the program. "When I hear stories like that, it's completely unacceptable," he told NPR: "The first responsibility that we have to our veterans is to make sure those that need urgent care are getting care on time. "This is a different VA. We've brought in people from the outside who have private sector experience. And what we're saying is that we have to do business differently. ... We know how to make this program work better."

Trump considered a series of possible VA secretaries before deciding on Shulkin — he said on Wednesday that he interviewed more than 100 candidates. Quil reported that the president-elect met with Iraq veteran Pete Hegseth, who favors privatizing VA health care, as well as former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is a National Guard veteran. Just-retired Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who was the head of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, was a Trump adviser who was also considered a candidate.

Both Politico and The Washington Post report that several possible candidates for VA secretary rejected Trump's overtures. The secretary of agriculture and chair of the Council of Economic Advisers are the only Cabinet-level positions for which Trump still has not announced his choice of nominee.

Article from NPR

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

US Special Opns Strikes into Syria

U.S. special operations troops struck deep in Islamic State territory in Syria in a raid targeting the terrorist organization’s leadership, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, described the raid conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command-controlled Expeditionary Targeting Force as “successful,” but he declined to provide specific information about the mission near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. “It was focused on [Islamic State group] leadership,” Davis told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. “We don’t provide specific details on these types of operations.”

Davis said the mission was focused on gathering intelligence that could be used to inform future operations against the Islamic State group, such as the continuing assault on Mosul, the militants’ last urban stronghold in Iraq, and the future attack on Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria. No Americans were killed or injured during the operation, he said. Some Islamic State group fighters were killed.

The raid took place near a remote village along the Euphrates River, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog organization, which reported 25 Islamic State group militants were killed. Davis said the estimate was “grossly exaggerated,” but he did not provide a number of enemy casualties in the raid. Additionally, Davis denied local Syrian news reports that claimed American commandos had arrested several Islamic State fighters in the raid and freed hostages.

The special operators were able to gather useful intelligence from the raid, Davis said. “The goal of the Expeditionary Targeting Force … is to be able to provide an additive capability to [the anti-Islamic State group coalition] to not just kill people with airstrikes and hit targets with airstrikes, but to have a force on the ground – a special operations force – to use to gain intelligence,” Davis said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the formation of the Expeditionary Targeting Force in December 2015. He described the unit as a group of about 200 Iraq-based commandos tasked with conducting raids, freeing hostages, gathering intelligence and capturing Islamic State leaders. It was formed after a top Islamic State group leader’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured during a special operations raid in Syria in May 2015 that killed her husband, Abu Sayyaf. U.S. commandos were able to gather a cache of intelligence during the raid and Umm Sayyaf provided the coalition valuable information about Islamic State group’s operations and planning, U.S. officials said.

The ETF’s operations are rarely publicized. Davis said Monday that the unit routinely conducts raids to gather intelligence or target top terrorist leaders in Iraq and Syria. “We’ve done them before and we’ll do them again,” he said. “The U.S. and the entire anti-[Islamic State group] coalition will continue to pursue [Islamic State] leaders wherever they are, to ensure the stability of the region and the safety of our homelands.”

Article from Stars and Stripes