Thursday, September 21, 2017

Former Special Forces medic to receive MOH for mission long kept secret

If he hadn’t wanted to avoid the Marine Corps so badly, retired Capt. Gary Michael ”Mike” Rose might never have been on the secret 1970 operation that earned him the military’s highest award for valor. On Sept. 11, 1970, a few minutes into the helicopter ride from his southeastern Vietnam base, then-Spc. Rose knew that they weren’t in Vietnam anymore. “You get on a helicopter and you fly for 45 minutes, an hour west — when you know by helicopter the border’s only five minutes away — you know you’re in Laos,” Rose told Army Times in an Aug. 28 phone interview. ”It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.” What followed was Operation Tailwind, a four-day battle in support of the Royal Lao Army, creating a diversion aimed at North Vietnamese Army troops.

But Rose didn’t know that at the time, he said, because the mission was classified, and it would remain that way until the late ‘90s. Most of what he knows about those days, he added, he learned after 1998, when a joint report by CNN and Time magazine — which was later discredited — discussed the operation publicly for the first time. Now, almost 50 years after the battle and nearly a decade since his unit’s actions were brought out of the dark, the White House announced Wednesday that Rose would receive the Medal of Honor in an Oct. 23 ceremony.

Southern California native Rose, then 20, walked into an Army recruiter’s office in early 1967, he said, with a particular goal. The draft board had been pulling numbers left and right in the Los Angeles area, sending pretty much all of those young men to the sea services, he recalled. “I was in the North Hollywood draft board region,” he said. ”I knew that they were drafting into the Marine Corps and the Navy, and those were not my two choices.” His father had been drafted into the Marines during World War II, he said, and ”he suggested that you don’t want to be a draftee in the Marine Corps.”

Rather than roll the dice, Rose decided to volunteer for the Army and head off to Fort Ord, California, to learn how to be a grunt. Thanks to high aptitude test scores, jump school and Special Forces training followed, and by October 1968, he was a Special Forces medic. He re-enlisted for the chance to pick where he wanted to go, settling on supporting the 46th Special Forces Company in Thailand, where they were training local soldiers and border police. I thought, ‘Thailand, that sounds like a pretty good, exotic place to go.’ Which, in my mind now, as I look back, was really good experience,” he said. “It made me better prepared for when I went to Vietnam.”

After a year, he called up his assignment coordinator — a woman known as Mrs. Alexander — and told her he was ready for Vietnam. She placed him with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group, based in Kontum. Rose earned his first Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with ”V” device during a June 1970 mission, but in general spent his time tending to local Vietnamese and providing back-up for others’ missions.

In mid-September, he got a second mission briefing. “In those days — and I’m sure it’s true today — you’re only told what you need to know to be able to prepare and go out and do your job on that mission,” he said. “So I was told that we were going to an area to create a diversion for another operation that was going on.” What he did realize, though, was that it was going to be ugly. “I noted that all the guys that I was going with, including [allied fighters from the indigenous Vietnamese] Montagnards, were loading up with a lot more ammunition than they normally did,” he said. “I’m fairly intelligent, and I deduced that if you normally go in with 200 rounds and you’re going in with four, something’s probably going to be up.”

Once they crossed the border, he said, he can vividly remember the popcorn-popping sound of rounds hitting the helicopter. According to the battle narrative, Rose and a company-sized element were dropped 70 kilometers into NVA-controlled Laos. Casualties came quickly. “One of the wounded was trapped outside the company defensive perimeter,” the narrative reads. “Sgt. Rose, engaging the enemy, rushed to get the wounded Soldier. Sgt. Rose rendered expert medical treatment and stabilized the wounded Soldier, and carried the man through the heavy gunfire back to the company defensive area.”

The company pushed deeper into Laos, and Rose treated each casualty along the way. “The fire becoming so intense, Sgt. Rose had to crawl from position to position to treat the wounded,” according to the narrative. ”As he moved, Sgt. Rose gave words of encouragement and directed the fires of the inexperienced and terrified Vietnamese and Montagnard troops.” He was first wounded on Sept. 12, day two. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded as he was dragging a wounded soldier, spraying shrapnel into his back and leg and crippling his foot. He used a stick as a crutch for the next two days.

“I suspect what was going through my head was trying to take care of the wounded,” Rose said. “We were just busy. I had two that were split from the hip to the knee, down to the femur. I made sure they were breathing, no shock, then stop the bleeding.” At one point, a medevac tried to land to take away the wounded, but enemy fire was so intense that it had to back off. But it quickly succumbed to damage, crashing a few miles away, where the crew were safely recovered. “I wasn’t frantic,” Rose said. “By the time I got there, I’d been three years in the Army, and I’d been trained, trained, trained, trained.”

With over half of the company wounded, Rose lashed together bamboo to make litters. “Despite his own painful and debilitating wounds, Sgt. Rose never took time to eat, rest, or care for his own wounds while caring for his fellow Soldiers,” the narrative said. On the last night, with the company surrounded, Rose dug trenches and moved from casualty to casualty to treat wounds. The next morning, they learned that 500 North Vietnamese were closing in on their position, and helicopters were on the way to extract them.

“The NVA, close on the heels of the company at the landing zone, causing even more casualties among the allied personnel,” the narrative reads. “Sgt. Rose moved under the intense enemy fire of the assaulting NVA, completely exposing himself, to retrieve the allied dead and wounded, and return them to the company defensive perimeter.” He boarded the last helicopter out, but before settling in for the trip home, treated the wounds of the helicopter’s Marine door gunner, who had taken fire during the extraction.

Minutes later, the helicopter crashed, smoking and leaking fuel. “Sgt. Rose, knowing the helicopter could explode at any moment, worked quickly while ignoring his own injuries, to pull wounded and unconscious men from the wreckage, saving lives,” according to the narrative. ”Moving the wounded and unconscious men a safe distance away from the smoldering wreckage, Sgt. Rose continued to professionally administer medical treatment to the injured personnel.”

A second helicopter came to retrieve them, but Rose doesn’t remember getting on it, he said. “When you sit down and you start talking about these things, you cause people to have little memories, vignettes, little visions,” Rose said. “The one thing that we’re all agreed upon is that starting with the crash, none of us were operating on all cylinders. It’s such a blur.” All told, according to the battle narrative, only three men died during the four-day onslaught.

Back to work. Rose’s memory picks up again back at Doc To, he said, where he grabbed a shower and a change of clothes before seeing a surgeon to get the shrapnel removed from his foot. Then he had some chow and a couple beers, took a picture for posterity, and debriefed with the group’s intelligence shop before sacking out. “I got up the next morning, put my uniform on and went back to the dispensary,” he said.

Soon after, he was meant to go to the field, but his platoon leader held him back. “I said, ‘Why, sir?” Rose recalled. “And he said, because you’re being put in for an award and we don’t want you in the field right now.” He didn’t know at the time, but he had been nominated for the Medal of Honor. It was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, which he received in January 1971.

Three months later, he was back home and at the Army’s Spanish language school in Washington, D.C., preparing for a tour with 8th Special Forces Group in Panama. It was at that point, he said, that he decided to go to Officer Candidate School, because extending his contract with the Army would allow him to bring his new wife, Margaret, with him to Central America. Rose became an artillery officer in December 1972, where he spent the last 15 of his 20 years in the Army. After retiring in 1987, he moved on to the manufacturing industry, where he wrote manuals and designed training programs, settling in Huntsville, Alabama.

In the meantime, his time in Laos, which had been dubbed Operation Tailwind, became front page news. In 1998, a joint venture by CNN and Time described the mission as a raid on a Laotian village to kill American defectors holed up there, and alleged U.S. troops used sarin gas on civilians. The Defense Department pushed back on the claims and CNN retracted the story. But in the aftermath, soldiers who had been a part of the now-declassified mission began pushing for recognition of their brothers’ heroism.

In 2013, he said, Rose got a call from retired Col. Eugene McCarley, who’d been company commander back in 1971. He said a guy named Neil Thorne, who worked with veterans of the MACV-SOG, wanted to put in a packet to upgrade his DSC. “He worked on it for over four years,” Rose said. “Every time he would call for information, I would give it to him.” Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved the award, and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-South Carolina, and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, wrote Rose’s name into the National Defense Authorization Act, waiving the requirement that the Medal of Honor be awarded within five years of the designated action. It was the same piece of legislation that opened the door to the Medal of Honor for former Spec. Jim McCloughan, who received his award on July 31, more than 48 years after the fact.

On Aug. 3, Rose finally got his own call. Rose picked up the phone that afternoon to a voice that asked him to hold for the president of the United States. “Margaret tells me I immediately came to attention, my feet at a 40-degree angle, my fist curled to my palm. My thumbs went along the seam of my trousers,” he said. ”And she said the only thing that was missing was a uniform and being in a formation some place.”

Rose has asked that not only his fellow MACV-SOG veterans be included in his ceremony, but that the White House reaches out to the Marines and Air Force personnel who supported the mission, particularly the A-1E Skyraider and AH-1 Cobra pilots who were there. “To me, this medal is a collective medal, and it honors all those men who fought. A lot of them were injured and killed in that operation,” he said. “It represents the fact that North Vietnamese Army troops were tied up along the Ho Chi Minh Trail because of what we were doing in Laos and Cambodia.” “I’m confident, without those 50,000 troops down in the south, that the names on that [Vietnam memorial] wall – instead of being 58,000 might be 100,000 or more,” he added.

Article from the Army Times

Monday, September 18, 2017

Chapter Meeting Notes - 19 August 2017

2018 SFA Convention – El Paso: Chair, Brian Kanof; Co-Chair Bill Snider. Dates are 12-17 June, 2018. Convention Theme is “Mexican Americans in Special Forces”. It will be a 5-night conference with events beginning on Wednesday. SFA 80, VFW 812 and the 82nd Airborne chapter will assist. Brian has asked the members to seek sponsorships. Committee is meeting before the general meetings at 1200 every month. All committee Sub-Chairmen have been selected – A roster was emailed to all on the roster. Headquaters (HQ) Hotel is the Camino Real – they are currently doing a makeover and have been renamed “Hotel Paso del Norte”. They should be 100% finished before the convention. Full registration is set at $150 early (By 1 March 2018) and $165 late. Vendor tables are $150 for each table for the week. More details are forthcoming. Our link to the 2018 SFA Convention for general and hotel information and registering is: http://www.sfa2018elpaso.com

Blazers: The new source for Blazers are selling them for $79-$119. You need to order the pocket patch from National – listed in the DROP. Go to this link: http://www.blazerboutique.com/product/hunter-green-mens-blazer

Counter Insurgency Writing Contest - USASMA: Greg Brown announced the contest. Named after COL “Splash” Frances J. Kelly. His 5th Parachute jump was a water jump – thus the nickname. He served as Commander of the 1st Group. Tom M. announced that a book is being donated for us to raffle. More info to follow. Honorary Members to Associate: Our first attempt at upgrading membership is stalled. Cliff does not seem to remember the details of the meeting with Bill and the Membership Committee is looking at feasibility of Honorary time counting toward Associate Membership.

US Border Patrol Special Operations Group Law Enforcement Technology and Equipment Expo 2018: Pete and Steve have begun work on the next Expo, to be held on 1-2 May 2018. This is our largest annual fundraiser. website is:  http://www.sogexpo.blogspot.com

VFW Post 812 News: Commander Pete Peral - hey wait just one dang minute,...isn't he the SFA Chapter President too?   Oh yeah, now he gets double the discounts at the PX.  Anyway, meetings are held the 1st Saturday’s 1000 hrs. 1st Sunday of every month is a fish fry from 1100-1400. Bar is open every evening. Fun Food Friday is held each Friday evening. Bill Snider presented a motion for the VFW to feed all SFA Chapter senior citizens Monday through Friday, in an obvious attempt to get free food during the week, but was voted down as Chapter members saw through his pathetic attempt.  Friday 8 September the VFW hosted the annual remembrance for September 11, 2001.

82nd News: Benavidez-Patterson All Airborne Chapter: www.bp82eptx.org Chairman Jesus Bravo. Meeting is 4th Saturday’s, lunch 1200 hours and meeting 1300 hours. Bar is open every Friday and Saturday from 1700 till whenever. Airborne Day Celebration – 12 August, Saturday – 1100 till 1600. Yard Sale 14 & 15 OCT. Donations accepted.

Chapter President's Message:

The golf tournament is over now we have to start looking at the next event which should be the Christmas food boxes. Then we’ll start all over with the 2018 events with the concentration on the convention. Thank you all for your great support and continued efforts. We don't have enough space to post pictures of all those who helped make the Golf Tourney a success, but the picture collage below is a representative example.



I want to share this from COL Gus:

The 12th Annual CSM John McLaughlin Golf Tournament was the best ever with almost 27 Teams. As you can see from Thomas' figures, YOU have cleared more Tournament Revenue than ever before. When I say You, I counted nearly 30 Chapter Members that sponsored Teams, Holes, brought in Donations and Gifts, Brought in Multiple Hole Sponsorships, and never stopped grinding until the Tournament was done. This overwhelming success happened due to your tremendous dedication to Chapter IX , and your terrific enthusiasm and hard work. With this in mind, we can easily conduct the May SOG Event, the June 2018 National Conference, and we can surely help VFW Post 812 with their Golf Tournament in Apr-May.

Please note that on Saturday, due to our Ladies efforts, we cleared more than $3K on our Mulligans, Raffle, Silent Auction, and Steve and Monica's Putting Contest. What a Terrific Team Effort!!!!! Also, note that virtually all our Prizes were donations secured by Chairman Pete Peral, Tom Brady, Tony Lara, Al Hobbs, Phil Sloniger, Brian Kanof, Ike and Gracie, Jerry Campos, and other great members.

Just Food for Thought, but Ike and I have discussed that if we begin planning now, perhaps we can bring more Corporate Partners aboard such as SWA for flight tickets, Sports Franchises for tickets, prizes, etc. All it takes is making our mind up to do these things, just like Al Hobbs makes the Wounded Warrior Tournament a great credit to our community.

Pete Peral
President
Chapter IX

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Chaplains Corner - September 2017


Being On Time.

This past week, I kept getting my days mixed up. I was surprised at how easy it was to forget a lot of little things. I’ve wondered more than once what day it is. It seems that my typical day consists of rushing around town with my wife’s “honey do list”. This keep us moving through each day, fulfilling our obligations and keeping our needs satisfied. Sometimes it’s a circus in our households and life-styles. We all need to get off the world’s fast-track, and slow down so we can focus on our individual tasks one at a time. What makes what we do with our time, money, possessions, and relationships important, are our moral values, and our religious faith in God.

Take a good long look at the way you are living your life in this growing secular, atheistic and evil world. If you need help to get your life in order, go to God in prayer. Ask Him to help you live in this world now in preparation for living in heaven for eternity where God is in control and everything is perfect. There will be no concern about “what day is it.” I know I’m going to enjoy living in heaven forever with a loving God. See you there…

Love you all,
Chaplain John Szilvasy

Monday, September 11, 2017

North Korea's Unconventional Threat

North Korea's antique airplane could be its most dangerous weapon yet amid escalating tensions with the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may use a seemingly laughable, but key part of his arsenal, a old bi-plane, to infiltrate North Korea commandos or even a Weapon of Mass Destruction into South Korea as footage recently emerged of North Korea paratroopers jumping out of what seems to be two 70-year-old Antonov An-2 transport aircrafts. While the concept of Pyongyang using these Stalin-era planes seems far-fetched considering the nuclear weapons at its disposal, the aircrafts could be North Korea’s most deadly weapon.

The dated aircraft raises the concern that they could be used to transport a nuclear bomb to be dropped quite easily without triggering any radar at any specific target. According to several reports, the North Korean army has a fleet of 200 Antonov An-2 aircrafts. They were first “introduced” in 2015, but disregarded as obsolete by many. However, what makes them so dangerous is that they have an incredibly low radar profile, meaning they are difficult to track using conventional aircraft.

Antonov An-2 (NATO code name Colt) flies at such a slow speed and low altitude that modern surface-to-air missile systems would have a very hard time detecting and engaging them. The plane can carry 12 pasengers or paratropers up to 4,700 lbs and fly at a maximum speed of 160 miles per hour with a range of 525 miles allowing North Korea to fly deep into South Korea or launch from bases a considerable distance away from the demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea.

The aircraft, initially designed as a crop duster and utility transport, can land on short sections of a road that would make disembarking soldiers quite easy and sneaky. According to the BBC, the Antonov An-2 first flew in 1947 as the Soviet Union was rebuilding after the end of World War II. Aside from its remarkable short take-off and landing, it can basically fly backwards. “The reason the An-2 still flies is that there is really no other aircraft like it,” aviation writer Bernie Leighton, who has flown in an An-2 in Belarus, told the BCC. “If you need an aircraft that can carry 10 soldiers, people or goats, that can take off from anywhere and land anywhere ? it is either that or a helicopter.” The Soviet Union built more than 10,000 airplanes before it fell in 1991.

On 12 January 1968, a clandestine TACAN site (call sign: Lima Site 85/Phou Pha Ti) installed by the United States Air Force in Northern Laos for directing USAF warplanes flying from Thailand to Vietnam, was attacked by three North Vietnamese An-2s. Two An-2s fired on the outpost using machine guns and rockets while a third An-2 orbited overhead to survey the assault. An Air America Bell UH-1B, XW-PHF, resupplying the site chased the two attacking aircraft. By using an AK-47 the American crew (Ted Moore Captain, Glen Wood kicker) succeeded in shooting down one of the An-2s while the second aircraft was forced down by combined ground and air fire and crashed into a mountain. The surviving Antonov returned to its home base, Gia Lam, near Hanoi.

There are reports of Russian and fabrication firms from other countireiss modifying An-2 aircraft with composite materials, both lightening up the airframe for increased speed and decreasing the already small radar signature.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

General Mad Dog Mattis' Speech to West Point Cadets

General Mattis speaks to West Point graduates and this is how leaders speak. Very much different from the reaction to President Obama's speech last year when the class of 2016 was told that their most important responsibility would be climate change management. These soon to be second lieutenants who have trained and studied for four years to be combat leaders were not impressed with former President Obama, but they were very pleased this year with the Secretary of Defense remarks.

From Mad Dog Mattis, a speech that will never be shown on CNN or MSNBC. What the private said to the tank sergeant sums up what happens every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever our fighting forces deploy.

Here’s the speech, as prepared:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: what a day…It is a great honor to be here today at West Point, one of the foundational keystones of our nation, and to join you on behalf of our commander-in-chief, President Trump, to pay his respects, and the respects of the American people, to the Military Academy’s class of 2017.

I would never have imagined when I joined the military at age 18 that I’d be standing here, nor can you anticipate where you’ll be many years from now.

By the time this class was in first grade classrooms in every state in our union, our country had been thrust into a war by maniacs who thought by hurting us they could scare us. Well we don’t scare, and nothing better represents America’s awesome determination to defend herself than this graduating class.

Every one of you could have opted out. You’d grown up seeing the war on ‘round-the-clock news. There was no draft. Colleges across this land would have moved heaven and earth to recruit you for schools that would never make such demands on you as West Point, starting with Beast Barracks, an aptly named introduction to the long gray line, creating American soldiers who are at their best when times are at their worst…

Today in honoring you graduates, in celebrating your achievements and giving thanks for your commitment, we can see clearly your role in our world.

You graduate the same week that saw the murder of 22 innocent young lives. Manchester’s tragic loss underscores the purpose for your years of study and training at this elite school.

For today you join the ranks of those whose mission it is to guard freedom and to protect the innocent from such terror.

We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of the normal.

This is not normal and each of you cadets graduating today are reinforcing our ranks, bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the Army’s lethality needed to prove our enemies wrong. you will drive home a salient truth: that free men and women will volunteer to fight, ethically and fiercely, to defend our experiment that we call, simply, “America.”

You graduates, commissioned today, will carry the hopes of our country on your young shoulders.

You now join the ranks of an army at war. Volunteers all, we are so very proud of you, cadets, for taking the place you have earned in the unbroken line of patriots who have come before.

Your oath of office connects you to the line of soldiers stretching back to the founding of our country…and in the larger sense, it grows from ancient, even timeless roots, reflecting the tone and commitment of youth long ago who believed freedom is worth defending.

In terms of serving something larger than yourself, yours is the same oath that was taken by the young men of ancient Athens. They pledged to “fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city…to revere and obey the city’s laws and do [their] best to incite a like respect” in others, and to pass on their city-state as “far greater and more beautiful” than they had received it.

In that sense, it is fitting the cadet cover you wear today, for the last time, features the helmet of the greek goddess Athena, echoing respect of civic duty found in a democracy, and of a nation, in President Lincoln’s words, of the people, by the people, for the people.

After four years at West Point, you understand what it means to live up to an oath; you understand the commitment that comes with signing a blank check to the American people, payable with your life.

My fine young soldiers, a few miles northwest of Washington at Antietam battlefield cemetery is a statue of a Union soldier standing at rest, and overlooking his comrades’ graves. It is inscribed with the words, “not for themselves, but for their country.”

How simple that thought. So long as our nation breeds patriots like you, defenders who look past the hot political rhetoric of our day and rally to our flag, that Army tradition of serving our country will never die.

To a high and remarkable degree, the American people respect you. We in the Department of Defense recognize that there are a lot of passions running about in this country, as there ought to be in a vibrant republic.

But for those privileged to wear the cloth of our nation, to serve in the United States Army, you stand the ramparts, unapologetic, apolitical, defending our experiment in self-governance…you hold the line.

You hold the line…faithful to duty…confronting our nation’s foes with implacable will, knowing if there’s a hill to climb, waiting won’t make it smaller.

You hold the line…true to honor…living by a moral code regardless of who is watching, knowing that honor is what we give ourselves for a life of meaning.

You hold the line…loyal to country and Constitution, defending our fundamental freedoms, knowing from your challenging years here on the Hudson that loyalty only counts where there are a hundred reasons not to be.

Behind me, across Lusk Reservoir, stands a memorial dedicated to the American soldier. On it are inscribed the words: “the lives and destinies of valiant Americans are entrusted to your care and leadership.”

You have been sharpened through one of the finest educational opportunities in America, given to you by the American people via General Caslen’s superb faculty, who expect admirable leadership by example as soldier leaders.

My view of a great leader is the player-coach. We need coaches, men and women who know themselves, who take responsibility for themselves, coaching their soldiers to the top of their game.

Every soldier in your platoon will know your name the day you step in front of them.

Your responsibility is to know them. Learn their hopes and dreams. Teach them the difference between a mistake and a lack of discipline. If your troops make mistakes, look in the mirror and figure out how to coach them better.

And while we never tolerate a lack of discipline, we must not create a zero-defect environment, because that would suffocate initiative and aggressiveness, the two attributes most vital to battlefield success.

In leading soldiers, you will have what F. Scott Fitzgerald called, “riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” So recognize you should never permit your passion for excellence to neutralize your compassion for the soldiers you serve, and who will follow you into harm’s way.

Remember that when the chips are down, it will be the spirits of your often rambunctious soldiers that will provide the reservoir of courage you will need to draw upon.

Rest assured that nothing you will face will be worse than Shiloh. Nothing can faze the U.S. Army when our soldiers believe in themselves.

The chips were down in the freezing cold days before Christmas, 1944, when the Nazi army was on the attack in the Ardennes.

A sergeant in a retreating tank spotted a fellow American digging a foxhole. The GI, Private First Class Martin, looked up and said to the sergeant in the tank, “are you looking for a safe place?”

“Yeah,” answered the tanker.

“Well, buddy,” the private said with a drawl, “just pull your vehicle behind me…I’m the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going.”

On the battlefield, no one wins on their own. Teams win battles, and if you can win the trust and affection of your soldiers, they will win all the battles for you.

If you wish to be a credit to our nation, you must carry West Point’s ethos everywhere you go and practice every day the integrity that builds your character.

When destiny taps you on the shoulder and thrusts you into a situation that’s tough beyond words…

…when you’re sick and you’ve been three days without sleep…

…when you’ve lost some of your beloved troops and the veneer of civilization wears thin, by having lived a disciplined life, you’ll be able to reach inside and find the strength your country is counting on.

You are privileged to be embarking on this journey. You will learn things about yourself that others will never know.

We can see the storm clouds gathering. Our enemies are watching. They are calculating and hoping America’s military will turn cynical. That we will lose our selfless spirit.

They hope our country no longer produces young people willing to shoulder the patriot’s burden, to willingly face danger and discomfort. By your commitment you will prove the enemy wrong.

We are not made of cotton candy.

You are a U.S. soldier, and you hold the line.

The class of 2017 now joins an Army that left bloody footprints at Valley Forge…an army that defeated the Nazis’ last gasp at Bastogne…

Your class will be remembered for an Army football team that took to the field of friendly strife and beat Navy…but you will also be remembered for the history you are about to write, and when you turn over your troops to their next commander, they will be as good or better than you received them.

I may not have had the pleasure of knowing each of you personally, but I have very high expectations of you…

Your country has very high expectations of you…

And we are confident you will not let us down because while we may not know you personally, we do know your character, West Point character.

So…fight for our ideals and sacred things …incite in others respect and love for our country and our fellow Americans…and leave this country greater and more beautiful than you inherited it, for that is the duty of every generation.

To the families here today, I can only say: apples don’t fall far from the tree. Thank you for the men and women you raised to become U.S. soldiers.

Thank you too, General Caslen and your team, who coached these members of the Long Gray Line. They will write the Army’s story, and in so doing will carry your spirits into our nation’s history.

For duty, for honor, for country…hold the line.

Congratulations, class of 2017, and may God bless America.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Green Beret Mental Preparation Tips

 
The U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets, are masters of warfare, fitness, endurance, and preparation. Like the U.S. Army Rangers, the U.S. Navy SEALS, or the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operation Raiders, the U.S. Army Special Forces are an elite force with a mission that includes everything from attacks against enemy forces deep behind enemy lines to training foreign military forces to working with allied partners on disaster relief. While the public is often enamored with the sleek weapons, high-tech equipment, stealthy night vision devices, and arduous physical fitness utilized by the Special Forces, their mental preparation techniques — which include breathing and imagery exercises, among other things — can actually be used by professionals at all levels and in all industries with overcoming their daily challenges.

Breathe slow, breathe deep, and clear your mind.

One of the most difficult tasks in the Special Forces to do well is running, skiing, or climbing and then having to shoot a rifle or pistol accurately. During training, it’s not uncommon to sprint 100 yards to the firing line, ready your weapon and then immediately shoot at a target. Obviously, a heaving chest and wobbly arms do not make for an accurate shot. Green Berets are taught to slow their breathing, take several deep breaths, and then clear their minds to focus on the sole task at hand: shooting accurately. This technique can be of great service in the professional world, too. Before talking on the phone with an angry customer, presenting at a conference, or pitching a new customer, try the following: (1) Pause, (2) Focus and slow your breathing, (3) Take several slow deep breathes, (4) Clear your mind, and (5) Focus 100% on the task at hand. This process takes only a few seconds, but endows you with extraordinary control to tackle a complex task with clear mind.

Slow, step-by-step mental rehearsals create mastery.

We all know about the importance of practice and rehearsals from sports, dance, gymnastics, theater, and public speaking. Special Forces rehearse nearly everything — shooting, parachuting, speaking foreign languages, assembling radios — because they know they will encounter situations when time, resources, and security don’t allow for full, complete, and resource intensive rehearsals. This is where mental rehearsals, process in which you clearly imagine what the absolute perfect completion of your task looks like, can be very helpful.

Let’s try one example: imagine the act of hitting a baseball. See yourself walking up to the plate, hearing the soft crunch of gravel under your cleats, faintly smelling the cut grass, and seeing the glint off the top of the catcher’s helmet. Then, you step into the batter’s box, secure your feet, bring the bat back, and glare back at the pitcher. Now you see the pitch — a heater — and whip the bat around for swing for a clean single over the second baseman’s head. This level of detailed imagery, rehearsed over and over in your head, is invaluable for using mental discipline to master complex tasks.

Do the best you can for the next five minutes.

The Green Berets use a grueling three-week assessment and selection process to find the candidates with the correct combination of physical fitness, motivation, and determination to attempt the Special Forces Qualification Course. All together, the Special Forces Selection course, the Qualification Course, language school, and survival school is a nearly two-year intense training session just to achieve the minimum level of proficiency to be considered deployable on a Special Forces “A” Team. During this training period, fear of the unknown, incredible physical pain, and wavering determination can begin to get to even the most motivated candidates.

Rather than worrying about the future, candidates are taught to do “the best you can for the next five minutes.” I remember one grueling hike, a 12-hour slog where we were forced to carry filled sandbags, where I found myself dehydrated, demoralized, and exhausted. Blocking out discouraging thoughts of the hours ahead, I focused on doing the best marching I could for the next five minutes. When those five minutes had passed, I focused on doing well for the next five minutes, and so on and so on. By concentrating only on short periods, I mastered my own exhaustion and ultimately finished the hike. Next time you’re faced with a seemingly impossible task, try focusing on doing the best you can for the next five minutes, then repeat until you cross the finish line.

Put your mind on autopilot.

To ensure the success of their mission and the safety of their team, Special Forces need to be constantly in the present, even in the most trying situations. The best way to do this is to “switch” your mind to autopilot, focusing intently on the present and only the present. Don’t be concerned with what happened in the past or what the future could bring — you must live exclusively in the present. Focus on your surroundings, doing your job well, helping your team, and let go of everything you can’t control. Going on autopilot will help you succeed, regardless of the nature of the challenge in front of you.

Act and look relaxed — even if you don’t feel it.

One of the best ways to manage your own stress is to make sure you project an image of personal calm, serenity, and relaxation, even if you’re tangling with a really difficult situation. The mere act of looking relaxed, confident, and in command of the situation actually helps you control and reduce your stress level. This ability to look relaxed under the most stressful conditions is basically an Olympic contest between Special Forces members and those in other parts of the Special Operations Community. I once watched a U.S. Army Special Operations helicopter pilot fly through mountain valleys of Colorado at night — an extremely harrowing experience — with the same expression he probably had driving his truck to the grocery store. Remember, just the image of control helps relieve stress and injects you with a belief of your actual level of command of a situation.

Each day in our world brings its own trying situations, everything from household chores to work-related tasks. Learning and utilizing these techniques can help you conquer any challenge — whether it’s a speech to an important investor group or a trip with the kids to the shoe store — like a Green Beret would.

Article written by Chad Storlie, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel (Special Forces), and currently a marketing executive and an adjunct professor of marketing at Creighton University. He is the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Follow Chad Storlie on Twitter @combattocorp. This article was posted on Task and Purpose

Friday, September 1, 2017

Destroying Veteran's Memorials

Unless you have been hiding under the couch you likely haven't missed the masked, snot nosed antifa haters who want to change America's history by destroying every mention and monument related to the Confederacy and the famous veteran's who fought faithfully and gallantly for the Southern cause. The high value target for these dung eating protesters are the statutes and memorials of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. But what is sad is that these destroyers know nothing about the man nor history.

The anti-confederate destruction just did not materialize overnight. It was just given a boost by the hatred of the violent left of President Trump. In fact, Jim Dean, managing editor of Veterans Today, wrote this in 2011: "The anti-Confederate smear campaign is becoming recognized for what it always was, a political campaign to denigrate Southern heritage. The ignorance of this was on the scale of your left arm not liking your right arm and then beginning a process of eventual amputation. But this would include a period of cigarette burning and razor slashing to get the process rolling."

And while these anti-military, anti-America punks want Confederate statutes destroyed, they say nothing of the five statutes of the murderous Vladimir Lenin located across the United States.

President William McKinley, on 14 December 1898 gave a speech in which he said in part "every soldier’s grave made during our unfortunate civil war is a tribute to American valor… And the time has now come… when in the spirit of fraternity we should share in the care of the graves of the Confederate soldiers…The cordial feeling now happily existing between the North and South prompts this gracious act and if it needed further justification it is found in the gallant loyalty to the Union and the flag so conspicuously shown in the year just passed by the sons and grandsons of those heroic dead.”

McKinley's speech led to later legislation, in the Congressional Act of 9 March 1906 becoming Public Law - "Authorized the furnishing of headstones for the graves of Confederates who died, primarily in Union prison camps and were buried in Federal cemeteries." This act formally reaffirmed Confederate soldiers as military combatants with legal standing. It granted recognition to deceased Confederate soldiers commensurate with the status of deceased Union soldiers. Robert E. Lee (b. 19 January 1807, d. 12 October 1870) was married to George Washington's granddaughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis. He served with future General (and war nemesis) and President U.S. Grant during the Mexican-American war where he was credited with several victories gained from his battlefield reconnaissance of Mexican positions finding avenues of attack for the U.S. Army. He was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.

Lee was also very torn about the prospect of the South leaving the Union. His wife's grandfather George Washington was a huge influence on him. Lee and the Confederate States broke away from the Union not because of the slavery issue, but because of an increasingly powerful federal government contrary to the what the founding fathers envisioned for these united States. He believed that ultimately, states rights trumped the federal government and chose to lead the Southern army. He believed slavery was a great evil and his wife broke the law by teaching slaves to read and write. The fact that Lee was not credited with speaking out about slavery, is not key, since soldiers and especially Generals, even back then were supposed to be apolitical. After the Civil War he worked with Andrew Johnson's program of reconstruction. He became very popular with the northern states and the Barracks at West Point were named in his honor in 1962.

General Lee was a great man who served this country his entire life in some form or other. His memorials are now being called a blight. No American military veteran should be treated as such. People keep yelling, "You can't change history." Sadly you can. This is no better than book burnings. The Islamic extremist-terrorist group ISIS tried rewriting history by destroying historical artifacts. Is that really who we want to emulate? As they tear down this "blight" keep these few historical facts in your mind. No military veteran and highly decorated war hero should ever be treated as such. This is not Iraq and that is not a statue of Saddam Hussein.

Lee's estate, Arlington, near Washington DC, was his home and while away fighting the war, the federal government demanded that Lee himself pay his taxes in person (so they could capture him no doubt). He sent his wife but the money was not accepted from a woman. When he could not pay the taxes, the government began burying dead Union soldiers on his land. Then the U.S Government confiscated the property. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arlington had been taken without due process and ordered it returned to the Lee family. Robert E. Lee's son Curtis Lee sold it back to the U.S. Government where it became what is known as now,... Arlington National Cemetery, and the government is still burying people there today. I wonder if the confederate haters knew this they would want Arlington National Cemetery destroyed.....just like ISIS did to cemeteries of World War II allied soldiers buried in North Africa.

So, I'll leave you with a little lighter tone,....



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chaplains Corner - August 2017

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it more difficult to handle the growing evil that is so prevalent in the news reports on worldwide situations. Evil appears to be growing very rapidly. I can thank my God for giving me the wisdom to understand (though barely), to keep myself stable and in control of my emotions and responses to what evil is doing to individuals, organizations, and countries.


I pray for the families of those who are killed or wounded in combat, for all first responders, military, firemen, and medical personnel. I also pray for innocent bystanders, and lastly, for those evil doers who did the killing and wounding. I have found that after watching the news, praying for others has allowed me to maintain the necessary emotional and mental stability to face the demands of each day. It is the knowledge that God hears and answers prayers that allows me to persevere.

Love you all,
Chaplain John Szilvasy

Friday, August 25, 2017

Chapter Meeting Notes - 15 July 2017

John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament: Scheduled at Fort Bliss for 9 September. The Committee is Gus, Al, Ike, Leo. Ike discussed the upcoming Tournament and mentioned that everything is set up and that everyone needs to go out and sell hole sponsors - the Chapter currently has 40 hole sponsors. Teams are full. Committee Meetings are every Thursday at 1700 hours at VFW 812. In August, we will meet every week.

2018 SFA Convention – El Paso: Chairman is Brian Kanof. Co-Chair Bill Snider. Dates are set for 12-17 June, 2018. Convention Theme is “Mexican Americans in Special Forces”. It will be a 5-night conference with events beginning on Wednesday. SFA 80, VFW 812 and the 82nd Airborne chapter will assist. Brian has asked the members to seek sponsorships. Committee is meeting before the general meetings at 1200 hours every month at VFW 812. All committee Sub-Chairmen have been selected – A roster was emailed to all on the roster. HQ Hotel = Camino Real – they are doing a makeover (to be re-named “Hotel Paso del Norte”) and will be finished before the reunion. Full registration is set at $150 early (By 1 March 2018) and $165 late registration after 1 March 2018. Vendor tables are $150 for each table for the week. More details are forthcoming. The 2018 SFA National Convention website is http://www.sfa2018elpaso.com or you can access the site through the Chapter Website. Steve Franzoni and Tom Melgares (see picture at right) are working the registration for the 2018 National Convention.

USASMA Class 68: Class is arriving. 10th SF MSG Michael Bixler visited us at the golf meeting on Thursday and will coordinate the 13 SF guys and other Special OPS attendees for Chapter 9.

Korean War Veteran News: On Armistice Day - Roy Alridge was recognized in the Congressional Record by Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Roy announced that the El Paso area had 3 MOH recipients . . . more than any town in Texas. At the Chihuahuas Game on Armistice Day, Roy threw out the first pitch at the Ball Game.......we heard it was a strike.


Chapter President's Message:

Welcome to another month of fun in the sun and rain all over the place. As you may remember this Saturday is our general membership meeting at 1300 followed by the Jerry Rainey scholarship. There are three (3) recipients who, as of now, are attending with their family. This brings up two points, 1st let’s not get in the weed’s on any one item. I want to take no longer than 45 minutes for the meeting so we can have a break before the scholarship starts at 1400. 2nd point is dress appropriately for the occasion and for the Rainey’s. No shorts and/or flip-flops. At the least, wear a Chapter shirt. Not only will Rainey family be there but also the family of the recipients.

Our golf tournament is 3 weeks away and we’ll concentrate on discussing the tournament at this Saturday’s meeting. Gus, Ike and Al are the leads on this and will have an update on the 5 W’s Saturday. If you haven’t purchased a hole sponsorship, you can do it Saturday with a check, cash or credit card. If you can’t afford $100 for a hole sponsor then think about buying beer or sodas (No water we have plenty of that) to help offset the Chapters cost. We also need items for goodie bags, raffles and door prizes so beat the bush for that support. Look for gift coupons for restaurants, spas, automotive centers or any other business. Also look for things like McDonalds coupons or any other place where you can get at least 110 of the item for the goody bags. Lastly on the golf tournament, we need volunteers for both the inside, set-up and the refreshment points. We are meeting every Thursday at 1700ish so if you want to support, come to a meeting SOON.

On the 2018 convention, Brian and the committee are going full speed and it’s looking good. After the scholarship and golf tournament we’ll go knee deep on the convention.

Lastly I want to thank each and every one of you near and far for the support that you gave our granddaughter. Whether it was monetary or prayers everything helps. People were coming out of the woodwork to support. I want to give a special thanks to those from the VFW and Chapter who put the fund raiser on. It was a huge success, so thank you.

Pete Peral
President
SFA Chapter IX

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jerry P. Rainey 2017 Scholarship Awards

On 19 August 2017 SFA Chapter IX presented three Scholarship Awards to deserving applicants. Greg Brown again headed the scholarship committee and Stacey Rainey Meyers, daughter of Jerry Rainey, was the Guest Speaker. Not only is Stacey the daughter of a great man who has called El Paso home for 23 years, she is the mother of three successful adult children, which she refers to as her proudest achievement. Stacy is an Emergency Room /Cardiac Nurse, published author and animal welfare activist. Stacy gets her drive and determination from her father, but her good looks from her mother Carol of course.

The three awardees from left to right in the picture are:

Linda Cisneros – NMSU
America Ceniceros – UTEP
Amanda Arellano – Southwest University

Jerry P. Rainey was born at Fort Benning, GA on January 25, 1932. As part of a military family, Jerry spent his childhood years in several locations. He graduated from Lanier High School in Macon, GA followed by one year at Clemson University before enlisting in the Navy at the start of the Korean War. 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.

Jerry married the former Carol Thompson on August 21, 1963, two years after they met at a Shriner's dance. 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. Between tours in Vietnam Jerry and Carol were stationed with 8th Special Forces Group in Panama. He was part of the team that trained the Bolivian Army unit formed to track down and capture Che Guevera. During 1970 – 1971, he was a Medical Instructor at the Advanced Medical Training School, SF Training Group, Ft Bragg, NC. While stationed at Fort Bragg Jerry assisted in writing the U.S. Army Manual for Physician Assistants. After Mr. Rainey departed the Army he and his family lived in several locations including, New Orleans, LA, Tyler, TX, and Beaumont, TX. He worked in media sales and participated in political campaigns. Jerry was selected for and attended the Graduate Congressional Campaign College in the late 1970s. During his time in Beaumont, he taught at Lamar University’s Small Business Center and provided motivational and time management speeches for the DuPont Corporation. Jerry and Carol settled in El Paso, TX in 1993 where he worked two years as the general manager of Power 102 radio station. Mr. Rainey was a life member of the Special Forces Association and served as president of Chapter IX, the Isaac Camacho Chapter, in El Paso, TX. Jerry succumbed to leukemia, a result of exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam, in March 2007. He is survived by his wife Carol, daughter Tammy and her husband Gil, daughter Stacy and her husband Jerry, son John and his wife Julie, and six grandchildren.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Green Beret killed in Afghanistan: RIP SSG Aaron Butler

The Defense Department on Thursday night released the name of the soldier who was killed this week in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, 27, died Wednesday in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, from wounds he suffered when an improvised explosive device exploded during combat operations.

Butler, of Monticello, Utah, was a Special Forces soldier assigned to the Utah National Guard’s B Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. Butler had been a member of the Utah Guard since 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan in April. “Ultimately, what we do is very dangerous business,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, Utah’s adjutant general, in a statement. “Our hearts are broken when we lose one of our own. We know these people personally, they are our friends, we respect them and it’s very painful.”

The Green Berets from 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group who are deployed to Afghanistan were on a mission alongside Afghan forces to reduce the presence of ISIS-Khorasan fighters in the country. ISIS- Khorasan is an offshoot of the Islamic State terror group.

On Wednesday, Butler was killed and 11 others were wounded while clearing a building. Initial reports indicate the building was wired with explosives, and the soldiers were struck upon entry, according to the Utah Guard. Butler was a Special Forces engineer noncommissioned officer. On the teams they are called "the Demo Sergeant".

He joined the Army in April 2008, and after training was assigned to C Company, 1457th Engineer Battalion in Blanding, Utah, according to bio information released by the Guard. In June 2015, Butler transferred to 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. He arrived at the battalion’s B Company in June 2016. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

God Speed Brother. You will be well received by our brothers who have gone before you.

This brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 11, the same number as were killed in all of 2016 in Afghanistan.


Monday, August 14, 2017

New Mexico VA office denies 90 percent of Gulf War claims

A Veterans Affairs office in New Mexico during the 2015 fiscal year denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses, marking the ninth-lowest approval rating among VA sites nationwide, according to a federal report. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Albuquerque office denied 592 of 640 Gulf War illness claims in 2015, which is the latest yearly data available, The Albuquerque Journal reported earlier this week.

The report released in June from the Government Accountability Office found approval rates for Gulf War illness claims are one-third as high as for other disabling conditions. The Gulf War illness claims also took an average of four months longer to process. Gulf War illness was first identified in troops returning home from Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s. But it has been found to afflict troops who have served in other parts of the Middle East since then as well. The illness includes a wide variety of symptoms and conditions, from fatigue and skin problems to insomnia and indigestion. It is believed the conditions may be the result of exposure to burn pits, oil well fires or depleted uranium weapons during service.

The report concluded that instituting required training for medical examiners, clarifying claim decision letters sent to veterans and developing a single definition for the illness would increase consistency in approval rates and reduce confusion among staff and veterans. Currently, a 90-minute training course on Gulf War illness is voluntary. Only about 10 percent of the VA’s 4,000 medical examiners had completed it as of February, according to the report.

Sonja Brown, acting associate director of the New Mexico VA Health Care System, did not say how many of the Albuquerque medical examiners have completed the course. “The Gulf War Examination training is currently on the curriculum for our medical examiners with a due date of 8/10/2017 to complete,” Brown wrote in an email. “While I don’t have a percentage of those completed, I can tell you that the training is being taken.” The VA plans to make training mandatory, with all medical examiners expected to complete the program by October.

Article from the Associated Press, 13 August 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

U.S. Special Operations - Fighting Terror in Africa

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “war on terror” – much like his predecessor’s – uses partners’ capabilities against terrorists in an effort to protect the country from potential attacks, while minimizing U.S casualties. In Africa, Trump’s continuation of this strategy has resulted in increased reliance on U.S. special operations forces.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Africa now conducts around 100 activities in 20 countries with 1,700 personnel at any given time, according to an October strategic planning guidance report from the command’s head, Brigadier General Donald Bolduc. That is nearly double the number of U.S. special forces operators in Africa since 2014. Moreover, current plans call for the command’s staff to increase by about 100 from its current level of around 275 “over the next couple of years,” Bolduc told online publisher African Defense in September.

This year’s 10th annual Africa special operations forces-focused Flintlock exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command in February and March, was the biggest it has ever been, with more than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations participating. After the exercise, U.S. President Donald Trump approved removing certain constraints that former President Barack Obama had put in place on special operations forces airstrikes and raids in Somalia against the al Shabaab terrorist group, which is linked to al Qaeda. Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of the Africa Command, told reporters at the Pentagon in March that the loosening would increase his troops’ flexibility and ability to prosecute targets quickly – although he noted no real authorities under the Trump policy change had yet been handed over. “The threat hasn’t changed. The threat is still there, but I think it’s fair to say that our ability to strike al Shabaab targets in this particular instance will have an impact on their ability to continue what they’re trying to do,” he said.

Critics say this measure removes constraints that minimize civilian casualties. “The Administration appears to believe that U.S. interests would be better served in these places by taking the gloves off and being more forceful and constraining the U.S. military less,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. “They seem to think it was political correctness for the Obama Administration to have worried so much about civilian casualties, and unlike Obama they’re not politically correct; therefore, they’re not going to be as constrained,” he said.

Waldhauser said a high priority will be placed on preventing civilian casualties. For their part, U.S. special forces operators have had a number of successes against al Shabaab in Somalia. In 2016, a U.S. airstrike killed 150 al Shabaab fighters at a militant graduation ceremony, and in 2014, an American airstrike killed then-al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.

But even with these and other successes across Africa – including U.S. and allied countries’ pursuit of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa – terrorism continues to proliferate. A June al-Shabaab attack in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region killed at least 70 people in one of the region’s deadliest attack in years. The militant group Boko Haram terrorizes Nigeria and surrounding countries, such as Chad and Niger. An attack in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, along with coordinated attacks near Nigeria’s Lake Chad Basin Research Institute, in June killed at least 17 and left 34 wounded.

ISIS is also attempting to gain ground in Africa through established groups that affiliate with ISIS and then receive ISIS training or funding in return. “If you view ISIS in Iraq and Syria as core ISIS, I think a good way to characterize ISIS on the African continent is global ISIS,” Waldhauser said. It is the job of the Africa Command, he said, “to make sure that those groups stay internal to those countries or internal to those regions” and do not move into Europe or the United States. “A lot of these groups, al Shabaab included, has the intention to do that,” he said, adding, “it’s a question of whether they have the capacity or capability to do that, and al Shabaab has not really demonstrated that.”

Although the U.S. wants to protect itself and its European allies from terror attacks from Africa, the problem is that the United States has “real, but limited, interests in a lot of places around the world, and especially in a lot of parts of sub-Saharan Africa,” Biddle stated. While the United States does not want African countries to become terrorist safe havens, “it’s not a big enough interest that we’re willing to send 100,000 troops to any of these countries to stabilize their real estate,” Biddle said, which is why the Administration is using more special operators who can both aid operations and train and advise African militaries.

The Pentagon has allocated around $250 million over two years to help train the armies and security forces of North, Central, and West African countries. However, “many of those countries keen to engage with the U.S. military have appalling records of poor governance, corruption, and human rights abuses,” said the head of business intelligence for Africa at the Risk Advisory Group, John Siko. Moreover, said Siko, “the gaps between their [U.S. special operations forces’] professionalism and extensive resources and those of the militaries they are training are often vast. … Unless Washington has the patience, money, and political willpower to keep special operators in [a] sort of hybrid role for decades, this is a situation best avoided.”

Still, Army General Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said Trump made clear his priority on counterterrorism missions using the military’s elite forces on a February visit to the command’s headquarters in Tampa, FL. However, without an equal focus on diplomacy – most high-level Africa roles at the State Department have yet to be filled, and Trump has vowed to slash State’s budget by around 30 percent – it is unclear whether a mostly military strategy will be successful.

Article written by Kaitlin Lavinder and originally published on the Cipher Brief

Monday, August 7, 2017

Purple Heart Day

Today is Purple Heart Day. Each year on August 7th, Americans pause to remember and honor the brave men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. The Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces that has been wounded or died as a result of a wound in battle. This now includes those persons who died in captivity while a prisoner of war (POW). We now celebrate Purple Heart Day on the anniversary of its inception, August 7th. On this day it is our patriotic duty to remember and recognize those people willing to serve our country, no matter the price.

History of the Purple Heart.

On this day in 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, creates the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word Merit stitched across the face in silver. The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action” and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge. The honoree’s name and regiment were also to be inscribed in a “Book of Merit.”

Washington’s “Purple Heart” was awarded to only three known soldiers during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. The “Book of Merit” was lost, and the decoration was largely forgotten until 1927, when General Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to “revive the Badge of Military Merit.” In 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. On February 22, 1932, Washington’s 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart.”

In addition to aspects of Washington’s original design, the new Purple Heart also displays a bust of Washington and his coat of arms. The Order of the Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart. Chartered by Congress in 1958, The Military Order of the Purple Heart is composed of military men and women who received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in combat. Although our membership is restricted to the combat wounded, we support all veterans and their families with a myriad of nation-wide programs by Chapters and National Service Officers.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vietnam vet James McCloughan, new Medal of Honor recipient

“They called me ‘Doc,’” Vietnam War veteran and Army medic James McCloughan said of his fellow soldiers. “You know … it’s probably one of the best titles I’ve ever had.” During the bloody, days-long battle of Hui Yon Hill in Vietnam, then Private First Class McCloughan risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue and treat his wounded comrades despite his own shrapnel injuries from a rocket-propelled grenade. On Monday (31 July 2017), 48 years after the battle, McCloughan is scheduled receive the nation’s highest military honor — the Medal of Honor. McCloughan will be the first person to receive the honor from President Trump.

During the May 1969 battle, the 23-year-old McCloughan was serving in the 21st Infantry Regiment, Americal Division. The first morning of the battle May 13, 1969, McCloughan ran 100 meters through enemy fire across an open field to rescue a wounded soldier. Later that day, he leaped out of a trench to tend to two of his comrades. While McCloughan was examining them, he was hit with shrapnel and started bleeding extensively, but he managed to pull the two men back to the trench.

When medical evacuation helicopters arrived to take wounded soldiers off the field. McCloughan, one of two medics, refused to leave, ignoring orders from his platoon leader. “You’re going to need me,” McCloughan told him. The other medic, Dan Shea, died the next day, and McCloughan became the unit’s sole medic. He stayed with his company until the fight ended the morning of May 15, continuing to treat casualties while firing back at the enemy.

The Pentagon credited McCloughan with saving the lives of ten members of his company. Looking back decades later, McCloughan called the battle “the worst two days of my life.” A few months after the battle, McCloughan received orders to transfer to the main hospital in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Decades later, a visibly emotional McCloughan recalled the moment he spoke to his boss about the transfer. “I knew I was going to safety, but I was also leaving my men, and I was their medic,” McCloughan said. “They were glad I was getting out of the field, but they, they didn’t want to lose me as their medic.” For the last five months of his tour, McCloughan served as the liaison for Americal Division, and was discharged with the rank of Specialist 5.

McCloughan grew up in Bangor, Mich., where he became a varsity athlete in high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Olivet College, then taught and coached sports teams at South Haven Public Schools in Michigan — his dream job. But in August 1968, three months after he started teaching, he was drafted into the Army. Thanks to his sports background, McCloughan had skills in sports medicine, and he completed advanced training as a medic. On his last day of training at Fort Knox, Ken., the company commander deployed him to Vietnam.

“I’m thinking, ‘He must’ve been wrong. He’s gotta be wrong. I’m staying here,’ ” McCloughan remembered thinking after the announcement. He was so shocked that he spoke to the company commander, who told him that a higher-ranking soldier had wanted his position, which would have allowed him to stay in the U.S. “Sorry, Private,” the commander said. “You’re going to Vietnam.” McCloughan took the assignment in stride. “OK, I’m going to serve my country,” he thought. He went into the field March 1969. After his years as an athlete, McCloughan was in good physical shape in Vietnam, and the mental discipline he’d learned from sports helped him focus while he treated wounded soldiers even during the heat of battle.

After McCloughan returned home in 1970, he earned a master’s degree in counseling and psychology from Western Michigan University, then returned to South Haven High School, where he taught and coached until 2008. Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter recommended McCloughan for the Medal of Honor in 2016. But according to regulations, the Medal of Honor must be awarded within five years of the action. So three Michigan lawmakers — Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and Rep. Fred Upton — introduced a bill to waive the five-year provision.

On May 25, 2017, McCloughan received a call from an Army captain informing him that he would receive the award in July. “I have the president of the United States on the other line,” the captain said. “I said, ‘Can my wife pick up another phone?’” McCloughan told the Army Times.

McCloughan has earned several other top Army honors for his service, including the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster. To date, 2,449 Medals of Honor have been awarded to U.S. Army soldiers. Trump is scheduled to present the medal to McCloughan at a ceremony Monday afternoon.

Article from Yahoo News.