Thursday, November 16, 2017

RIP Yvonne Burney, World War II SOE agent

Yvonne Burney (Yvonne Jeanne de Vibraye Baseden), a World War II Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent who parachuted into France 44, survived torture and Ravensbruck, died Saturday 28 October 2017. She was one of approximately 50 brave and highly skilled female SOE agents.

She was born in Paris from a father who was a World War I pilot in the Royal Flying Corps that had crash-landed in France then met and married a daughter of the count an countess. Yvonne was born in, and traveled round Europe learning English and French as well as other languages.

Baseden nee Burney joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) at 18 years old nd was commissioned as an officer in 1941 working in the RAF Intelligence branch, where she assisted in the interrogation of captured German airmen and submarine crews. This is where the Special Operations Executive (SOE) discovered her talents nd she joined this famed organization in May 1943.

One of the youngest SOE women to be dropped by parachute into France at age 22 she was dropped South West France, close to the village of Gabarret. She worked with the Frence resistance for four months as the wireless operator until she was captured by the German Gestapo in June 1944. In August 1944, she was transferred to a prison in Saarbrücken and then to Ravensbrück concentration camp in September of the same year, enduring depredations and torture. After the liberation of the camp Yvonne Burney was awarded the MBE by Britain and the Legion of Honor; the Resistance Medal and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Green Beret Dead in Mali - SEALS suspected

We were going to wait until the facts became more clearer surrounding the death of Green Beret Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar but the story surrounding the slaying of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar keeps unraveling, starting with the SEALs-turned-suspects’ assertion that the soldier was drunk the night he died. Logan Melgar hadn’t had a drink on June 4. The Green Beret sergeant’s dry day became a key to unraveling the narrative spun by the elite Navy commandos whom military investigators now suspect killed him, officials familiar with the case said.

Melgar, a staff sergeant in the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group, was specifically selected for an intelligence operation in the West African nation of Mali. He was well respected by the American Embassy staff and the partner forces there, a former U.S. Africa Command official said. But shortly before he died, Melgar told his wife that he had a bad feeling about two of his partners in that effort, both of whom were members of SEAL Team Six. Not wanting to say much more, Melgar informed his wife, Michelle, that he’d tell her the full story when he got back home, according to an official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing.

Now those two Navy SEALs are under investigation for killing Melgar—an investigation, first reported by The New York Times, sending shockwaves throughout the special-operations community. Military experts were hard-pressed to think of another case where elite U.S. troops turned on one another. This account is based on five members of the special-operations community who were not cleared to speak publicly. Representatives of both U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) declined comment for this story, as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has an active investigation into Melgar’s death. NCIS would not comment beyond confirming the investigation is underway.

Dirty Money, Damning Excuse

There is a minimal U.S. troop presence in Mali at most—nothing compared to the 800 troops in neighboring Niger, another West African nation that hosts a sizable special operations cadre. But special operations forces aid U.S. diplomats, Malian soldiers and their French partners in gathering intelligence on a confluence of capable local militants trending Islamist. As the elite troops do in so many countries, they operate in the shadows, with comparatively little oversight—and what their actions actually look like on the ground can be much dirtier than the heroic image the Pentagon prefers to portray.

For example, part of the intelligence gathering operation in Mali involved a fund used to pay informants. Melgar, two special operations sources say, discovered the SEALs were pocketing some of the money from the informant fund. The SEALS offered to cut him in, but Melgar declined, these sources said.

It is unknown what specifically started the June 4 altercation at 5 a.m. but it escalated. Melgar lost consciousness—and, worse, stopped breathing. The SEALs attempted to open an airway in Melgar’s throat, officials said. It is unknown whether Melgar died immediately. The SEALs and another Green Beret, according to former AFRICOM officials, drove to a nearby French clinic seeking help. Melgar was dead when he arrived at the clinic, the official said. Asphyxiation was the cause of death.

With Melgar dead, an apparent panic set in. The SEALs told superiors that Melgar was drunk during so-called combatives—that is, hand-to-hand fighting exercises. The Intercept reported that one of the SEALs, Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph, was a mixed-martial arts pro. A source told The Daily Beast the SEALs filed at least one operational report about the incident and possibly two. At least one of the reports included an account that Melgar was drunk.

It was the worst excuse the SEALs could have made up. A former AFRICOM official who saw the autopsy report said no drugs or alcohol were found in Melgar’s system. At least one source believes he did not drink alcohol at all. The SEALs’ story was unraveling.

Skeptics From the Start

A second former Africa Command official said Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, then commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, was skeptical of the initial reports from the outset. He alerted Army Criminal Investigation Command and told commanders in Mali to preserve evidence.

Melgar’s wife, Michelle, was also suspicious, three sources tell The Daily Beast. She raised concerns about the cause of death and allegations of drinking, according to three people familiar with the investigation, including providing investigators emails sent by her husband about problems he was having with the SEALs.

The Daily Beast has reliably heard Michelle Melgar does not wish to be contacted by reporters and has respected that wish. Just 34 years old when he died, Melgar, a Texan, was an Afghanistan veteran twice over. His hometown paper, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, reported that Melgar was a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech. He enlisted in 2012 and joined the Army as an 18X—an off-the-street Special Forces recruit. He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification course in 2016. “Staff Sgt. Melgar did what most only dream of and excelled at every turn!” wrote a Melgar family representative on social media. “His life was epic! He is missed dearly every single day, but his legacy lives on.”

Article from The Daily Beast, 12 November 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day Salute

In a Proclamation issued in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called “upon all of our citizens to observe....November Veterans Day.”

He went on to ask that America “solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Green Beret Killed by Sniper in Afghanistan

Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Cribben was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

Cribben was born on Jan. 27, 1984, in Rawlins, Wyoming. He began his military service on Nov. 20, 2002, as a Military Police Officer and attended One Station Unit Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. "We will honor and preserve his legacy. We will cherish, protect and support his Family. Our focus is with them at this time. We will never forget," said 10th Group's commander, Col. Lawrence Ferguson.

SFC Cribben served with the 55th Military Police Company at Camp Page, Korea, from 2003 to 2004; the 716th Military Police Battalion from 2004 to 2010; and USAG Baumholder Provost Marshals Office from 2010 to 2011. In November of 2011, Cribben attended Special Forces Assessment and Selection, and then was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). In December of 2014, Cribben graduated SFQC and was assigned to 10th SFG (A) at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served in the positions of Special Operations Command Forward-NWA Future Plans NCO and then as Senior Communications Sergeant for a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha.

Cribben deployed three times with the 716th military Police Battalion. He deployed to Egypt in support of Bright Star in 2005, to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2006, and to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007. Cribben deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG (A), in September of 2017.

His military education includes Military Police Advanced Individual Training, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Path Finder School, Emergency Medical Technician-Basic Course, Basic Leader Course, Advanced Leader Course, Senior Leader Course, French Special Operations Language Course, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape High Risk Course, Communications Sergeant Course, Special Warfare Operational Design Course, Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course, Advanced Special Operations Techniques Level II, and the Static Line Jump Master Course.

Cribben's awards and decorations include the Bronze Start Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, nine Army Achievement Medals, a Meritorious Unit Citation, five Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon-3, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon-3, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Special Forces Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Pathfinder Badge.

Article from

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Attack on U.S Special Forces in Niger: A Preliminary Assessment

Of all the potential terrorist hotspots in the world today, Niger is an unlikely country to take center stage. However, the killing of four members of U.S. Special Forces in Niger, near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, on October 4, has forced the U.S. military, Congress and foreign policy community to ask many questions: one such question is “who did it”? This Hot Issue explores the various militant actors present in the area where the attack on U.S. Special Forces took place, assesses which actor was most likely involved in the attack, and offers an explanation as to why there has been no claim of the attack despite the high profile of the operation.

According to the Pentagon, on October 4, 2017, around 50 militants ambushed a 12-member team of U.S Special Forces in Niger, near the country’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, killing four U.S Special Forces members and wounding two. The U.S. patrol was considered routine. This specific patrol, however, may have sought a particular Islamic State (IS) factional leader, such as Abu Walid al-Sahrawi. Some suspect that the U.S. Special Forces team may have been purposefully delayed in the village they were visiting, which allowed the militants to carry out an ambush. Presumably, more details will emerge, and some details about the mission are still being withheld. The Pentagon, however, asserted that IS-affiliated militants or “local tribal fighters” affiliated with IS carried out the attack.

Jihadist Networks in the Sahel
The primary militant actors in the Niger–Burkina Faso–Mali border area operate under the al-Qaeda and Islamic State umbrellas. However, the al-Qaeda affiliate in the region, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is much stronger than IS in the region and has withstood IS attempts to recruit AQIM foot soldiers.

For much of the past decade, the Algerian leaders of AQIM have sought to devolve power to “sub-affiliates” in West Africa. The apex for AQIM gains began in 2011, when Tuareg militants who fought in Libya for Muammar Qaddafi’s regime returned to Mali after Qaddafi fell from power. They brought with them their weapons and reignited a northern Mali Tuareg separatist insurgency against the Malian state. By 2012, some of these Tuaregs were co-opted by Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg former Malian diplomat-turned jihadist. Ag Ghaly formed a new jihadist group called Ansar al-Din.

In 2012, Ansar al-Din joined in a coalition to govern northern Mali with AQIM and an AQIM sub-affiliate called Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). MUJWA was led mostly by Mauritanian or Malian Arabs. Each of the three militant groups dominated a different region of northern Mali: AQIM was strong in Timbuktu; Ansar al-Din was strong in Kidal; and MUJWA was strong in Gao.

After the French-led intervention in northern Mali began in early 2013, AQIM, Ansar al-Din and MUJWA dispersed. By 2016, however, they resurfaced in the rural areas of Mali. Additionally, AQIM carried out several attacks in late 2015 and early 2016 on an international hotel in Bamako (Mali’s capital), a hotel and a café in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso’s capital) and a resort hotel outside of Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire’s largest city). AQIM often praised Fulani members in the attack “martyrdom” claims. As West Africa’s most transnational ethnic group, the Fulanis in AQIM’s ranks are an important and often used asset that helps AQIM expand beyond Mali into a number of other countries in the region.

Enter Ansaroul Islam
Differences exist, however, between AQIM’s current coalition in Mali and AQIM’s allies in Mali in 2013. After France intervened militarily in 2013, MUJWA allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s brigades for a short time. Together, they carried out the suicide bombings of French energy installations in Arlit and Agadez in northern Niger, in June 2013, along with elements of the AQIM-overseen Boko Haram breakaway faction, Ansaru. However, MUJWA and Ansaru are now rarely active, and Belmokhtar is believed to have been killed in Libya (but this remains to be confirmed).

One reported member of MUJWA was Amadou Kouffa, a Malian ethnic-Fulani Islamic preacher who participated in MUJWA’s final battle in Konna in January 2013 before the French intervened and even named himself the “sultan of Konna”. Kouffa has since come to lead the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), which primarily recruits Fulanis. Also known as the Macina Brigade, the MLF is a “sub-sub affiliate” of AQIM under its own sub-affiliate Ansar al-Din.

The MLF has been increasingly active since 2016 and has extended AQIM’s insurgency to central Mali. Additionally, the MLF has its own “sub-affiliate,” Ansaroul Islam — it is technically a “sub-sub-sub-affiliate” of AQIM via Ansar al-Din and the MLF. Ansaroul Islam operates primarily in northern Burkina Faso. The group is led by Fulanis and has targeted military outposts in the Burkina Faso–Mali–Niger border area. Ansaroul Islam is a possible culprit in the attack on the U.S Special Forces unit because its area of operations extends near the area of the attack in Niger, and its previous strikes on military outposts show it has the ability to carry out such attacks.

Ansaroul Islam is nonetheless distinct from MLF, Ansar al-Din and AQIM. For example, when the latter three groups merged into a new coalition in January 2017, called Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM, Group for the Support of Islam, and Muslims) with the approval of al-Qaeda’s overall leadership, Ansaroul Islam was not included in the coalition. Before JNIM formed, Ansaroul Islam wrote a message on its Facebook page saying that Ansaroul Islam’s leader, Mallam Dicko, disapproved of Kouffa’s joining JNIM. Rumors swirled around that Dicko suspected Ag Ghaly was an Algerian government agent, that Dicko was coming under the influence of IS or that Dicko had a falling out with JNIM over Ansaroul Islam’s attacks on schools — JNIM had in fact claimed one of those attacks, but this is not generally a tactic promoted by AQIM.

Whereas JNIM prolifically carries out and claims attacks, Ansaroul Islam has maintained only its Facebook page for making attack claims or statements. Ansaroul Islam’s lack of sophisticated media use could explain why so far there has been no claim of the attack that killed the four U.S. Special Forces members. The more media-savvy JNIM’s lack of claim three weeks after the attack strongly suggests that JNIM is not behind the attack.

The Islamic State Network in the Sahel
Ansroul Islam is not necessarily the most likely culprit behind the attack on the U.S. Special Forces, even though some of its members may overlap with the group most likely responsible for the attack. An IS faction under the leadership of Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, which uses the name “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” can also be found in the same vicinity of Ansaorul Islam. However, al-Sahrawi’s has more capabilities in Niger than in Burkina Faso. Al-Sahrawi’s faction is most likely to have been behind the October 4 attack on the U.S. Special Forces unit in Niger.

IS’ auxiliary media agency, Amaq, formally recognized the pledge of loyalty of al-Sahrawi’s faction to IS leader Abubakr al-Baghdadi in October 2016. This was followed by a video of al-Sahrawi physically making the pledge alongside over 20 other militants. However, IS did not name al-Sahrawi’s faction as a “province” like it did when it renamed Boko Haram as “West Africa Province” in 2015. This means that al-Sahrawi’s faction is not a “province” of IS, though it can still feature in Amaq claims and videos.

Al-Sahrawi had initially pledged loyalty to IS in 2015, so the roughly one year between his pledge and IS’ recognition of his pledge raises questions about the proximity of lines of communication between al-Sahrawi and IS. Immediately before Amaq recognized al-Sahrawi’s pledge in October 2016, al-Sahrawi’s faction had claimed three attacks, indicating that al-Sahrawi may have had to prove himself to win IS recognition. The three attacks that al-Sahrawi carried out before Amaq recognized his faction included:

•  An attack on a Burkinabe border post, killing two Burkinabe soldiers;
•  An attack on a military post in Burkina Faso near the Mali and Niger borders, killing at least three Burkinabe soldiers; and
•  An attack on a prison north of the Nigerien capital of Niamey that held several prominent jihadists, which was repelled.

In addition to these incidents, the Nigerien interior minister claimed that militants aligned with MUJWA—possibly a reference to al-Sahrawi’s faction, because al-Sahrawi was aligned with MUJWA in 2012—were responsible for the October 2016 kidnapping of Jeffrey Woodke, an American aid worker, in the town of Abalak in central Niger. That kidnapping, like the attack on U.S. Special Forces on October 4 and another attack on October 21, 2017, that killed 12 Nigerien gendarmeries, has not been claimed.

Since al-Sahrawi’s faction is the most likely culprit behind Woodke’s kidnapping and the prison break outside of Niamey, his faction may also be behind the other two attacks in October 2017 on U.S. Special Forces, which the United States has said was “Islamic State-affiliated,” and the 12 Nigerien gendarmeries. The killing of the 12 gendarmeries (in the village of Ayorou) occurred so close geographically and temporally to the attack on the U.S. Special Forces (in the village of Tongo Tongo) that it suggests the two attacks may be related. However, these two attacks were also close to the Burkinabe and Malian borders, where Ansaroul Islam operates. Al-Sahrawi’s faction may rely on Ansaroul Islam fighters when his faction, which may only have 50 to 60 members, approaches near the Burkinabe border.

One reason why there may have been cooperation between al-Sahrawi’s faction and Ansaroul Islam — regardless of the former being on the periphery of the IS network and the latter being on the periphery of the al-Qaeda network — is that despite pledging allegiance to IS, a JNIM commander has admitted al-Sahrawi has maintained contact with some elements of JNIM. Two months after the commander’s admission of this contact, on January 1, 2017, a prominent online al-Qaeda propagandist also posted a tweet saying that “unconfirmed news indicates that the Abu Walid al-Sahrawi group and Daesh [IS] have split”. Al-Sahrawi’s ties and even loyalty to IS may now be too tenuous for IS to claim an attack on his behalf, especially with IS on the run in Libya and Syria-Iraq. At the same time, it would not be surprising if al-Sahrawi’s faction cooperated with Ansaroul Islam, which has ties to JNIM.

The attack that killed four U.S Special Forces members was most likely carried out by al-Sahrawi’s faction but possibly with some support from Ansaroul Islam. The attack may not have been claimed because al-Sahrawi prefers to operate in the shadows. Additionally, his faction is only tenuously in contact with IS, and Ansaroul Islam is only tenuously in contact with al-Qaeda (or AQIM or JNIM). Thus, this was an attack that was too far removed from any umbrella group—al-Qaeda or Islamic State—for any claim to be made. Al-Sahrawi’s faction may nonetheless represent a future trend in West Africa, where jihadists shift between alliances but act locally and mostly independently while operating less predictably and leaving less of a “media trail” than do the umbrella groups.

In addition, jihadism is spreading deeper into the interior of Niger and elsewhere on the periphery of West Africa. The region is likely to see more U.S Special Forces encounters with jihadists in the years to come. The U.S. military, Congress and foreign policy community should be aware of the factions in the region and the threats they pose before the next U.S. Special Forces unit ventures into potential enemy territory.

From the Jamestown Foundation

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chaplains Corner - October 2017

Managing Your Anger With God's Help The Apostle Paul writes his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil…..Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And, do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of salvation. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander - all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

This biblical approach to anger management helps to clear the air and restore relationships. When we keep God and His love involved in the situation, restoration of the relationship is more easily achieved. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Love you all,

Chaplain John Szilvasy

Monday, October 30, 2017

Native American Marine vet considered a homeland hero

Charting Jesse DesRosier’s 28-year journey is a dizzying endeavor, even if he’s right back where he started — living on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, a community that at once seems tucked away and exposed, situated on an ecological nexus where rolling, wind-whipped foothills meet the jagged expanse of the Rocky Mountain Front and the birthplace of the Blackfeet creation story.

DesRosier’s connection to his homeland runs deep, and he’s dedicated most of his adult life to mounting a full-throated defense of his country, his culture, his community, and his heritage. It is, he says, the Blackfeet way. But it’s a way that was almost lost and forgotten. As a Pikuni (or Blackfeet) warrior and veteran of the United States Marines Corps, DesRosier believes it is his duty and obligation to protect his country and lands, as well as to uphold the tribe’s traditions and culture while safeguarding its natural resources for future generations. “We’ve been serving this country since before it was a country,” DesRosier, a fourth-generation veteran of the U.S. Armed Services, said. “We’ve had a warrior culture that served this country since time immemorial. For thousands of years my people defended our territory, battling disease, starvation, genocide, and forced colonization. That warrior culture still exists today.”

Despite the oppression experienced by Native Americans at the hands of U.S. forces, the desire to serve their country as honored warriors remains a strong current running through the culture, DesRosier said. Today, Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at the highest rate per capita of any ethnic or cultural population, and Montana is home to more than 6,000 tribal veterans, many of them Blackfeet. “You can’t throw a rock on this reservation without hitting a veteran,” DesRosier said. “We’re everywhere.”

Stationed in the Pacific, DesRosier returned from overseas in 2011, and has since obtained degrees in anthropology and Native American studies from the University of Montana. He is now teaching at the same Blackfoot-language immersion school he and his brother, also a veteran, attended nearly 20 years ago — the Cuts Wood School, a program under the Piegan Institute, the brainchild of the late Darrell Kipp, whose son Darren now runs the school.

It’s an unlikely feat in its own right given that, 30 years ago, the traditional Siksika language appeared on the cusp of extinction, due to a legacy of cultural erosion born of oppression, assimilating native people into English-speaking society, and the systematic stigmatization of Native American culture.

A 1985 survey of Blackfeet members showed that essentially no one on the reservation under the age of 50 actively spoke Blackfoot, a “crucial thread” to maintaining the tribe’s uniqueness, DesRosier said. “Language is the vehicle that drives our culture. It’s what makes us us. But people became so ashamed of their identity that if we weren’t creating new speakers today, the culture and the language would go away. Culturally, we’ve reached a period now where it’s OK to be native again. It’s cool to be native. I would say that there’s a real reawakening.”

When DesRosier first landed at Cuts Wood School in the third grade, the notion of Blackfeet learning Blackfoot was still a novel concept, and the curriculum hadn’t yet expanded to accommodate his age group. So, he began skipping classes at the public school in order to attend Cuts Wood covertly. Finally, Darren Kipp broadened the program to its current format, an accredited full-time K-8 institution that stands out as a model for native language schools across the country.

But DesRosier recalls that wasn’t always the case. The notion of revitalizing a language that had been successfully demonized was met with hostility after a century of conditioning by public and religious institutions. “I remember when my brother and I started learning the language, my mom asked my grandma why she hadn’t taught them Blackfoot,” he said. “She told her, ‘It’s because we loved you.’ So my mom learned the language right along with us.”

Leading a visitor on the tour of the Cuts Wood School, Darren Kipp likens it to a temple housing something sacred — the east-facing doors reveal a traditional Native pedagogy relating to the placement of tipi poles, pointing in the direction of the rising sun. Vaulted ceilings and expansive skylights illuminate the rooms with natural light, and traditional Blackfeet games allow the students to play outdoors while still engaging their culture, performing the same rituals as their ancestors. “Your language is your identity,” Kipp said. “It’s so empowering to learn your language. And when you put your language in a beautiful building with cutting-edge resources, you put your language in a place of prestige.”

In 2014, DesRosier brought the Cuts Wood model to Missoula when he and a group of UM students formed the Sacred Roots Language Society, an effort to raise awareness about endangered indigenous languages and their direct association with Native American culture. "It is the belief of our society that without language, we will lose our culture,” he said. He teaches a native language class once a week at UM, and has started offering an online course to a group of Yale students.

But it’s at Cuts Wood where language and culture merge into the strongest sense of identity. “We produce speakers and cultural leaders in here,” said Diana Burd, 75, a Cuts Wood teacher since the school’s inception, and DesRosier’s former instructor, whom he affectionately calls “Miss Piksi,” the Blackfoot word for bird. “Their whole personality changes once they understand who they are and where they come from.”

Although Cuts Wood critics were initially skeptical of whether students would seamlessly transition into high school after attending the nonprofit language school, Kipp said it has built a strong tradition of more than adequately preparing young people for the public school system. Not only do Cuts Wood students speak Blackfoot and English in concert, but they also learn Native Sign Language, which for centuries served as a universal language that united tribes. “They’re essentially using three languages every day they’re here,” Kipp said.

Another challenge for the institute’s programs is applying an age-old language to modern times and keeping it culturally and socially relevant. Traditional Blackfoot was devoid of words for computers, cell phones and other staples of the time. In most cases, tribal elders and others are consulted before new words are adopted in the Blackfoot lexicon, DesRosier said, recalling one early case in which a multiple-choice question on a standardized test asked him to identify the safest place to ride his bicycle — the street, a gravel road or a sidewalk. “I answered gravel road and I got it wrong,” he said. “I lived on a gravel road and we didn’t have any sidewalks.”

Not only has DesRosier joined the ranks of Cuts Wood teachers working to perpetuate Blackfeet heritage, but he’s marshaling resources to defend another critical aspect of Blackfeet identity — the natural landscape where Blackfeet derived much of their spirituality. Specifically, he and dozens of other Native American veterans and active-duty members have petitioned U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to defend a sacred ancestral homeland known as the Badger-Two Medicine, a 130,000-acre area named for the two rivers that define it.

DesRosier and other tribal members, as well as numerous conservation groups, are seeking to furnish the wild and sacred Badger-Two Medicine with permanent protections from oil and gas drilling. They’re currently calling on the Interior Department to defend the Obama administration’s cancellation of the last remaining oil and gas leases and to protect the area in perpetuity. “The Badger-Two Medicine is our Vatican,” DesRosier said. “It’s a temple for us, and it remains under attack.”

Bounded on the north by Glacier National Park, the east by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the south by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the Badger-Two Medicine comprises an expanse of roadless mountainous river valleys that serve as a powerful source of the Blackfeet tribe’s cultural and religious practices, and is the birthplace of Blackfeet creation stories, as well as a critical ecological corridor.

John Murray, the Blackfeet tribal historic preservation officer, has been at the vanguard of efforts to protect the area for years, and said a renewed interest in Blackfeet culture from members of the tribe’s younger generations gives him greater hope that they will prevail. “The young people are reviving that cultural spirituality and are moving in a positive direction,” Murray said. “It is a renaissance. It’s the beginning. We can see the re-flowering of our culture. We just need to put more sunshine on it and more water to encourage that growth.”

Original Article by Tristan Scott, The Flathead Beacon [Montana].

Monday, October 23, 2017

Chapter Meeting Notes - 6 September 2017

John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament: Held at Fort Bliss 9 September. The Committee was Gus Gonzalez, Al Hobbs, Ike Camacho, Leo Enriquez . . . .and a host of others. Thanks for the SF Wives and the VFW Auxiliary for much of the success. This was the most successful golf tournament to date for this Chapter.

2018 SFA Convention – El Paso: Chairman 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. Headquarters Hotel is the 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. Vendor tables are $150 for each table for the week. Movie “The Green Beret” celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year – Warner Brothers is assisting us with the film. Convention coin finalized. The website for the 2018 SFA National Convention is:

Honorary Members to the SF Association: Our first attempt at upgrading membership was successful. See Bill Snider about how to write your resume,'ll be doing in with crayons. Some may be selected, some may not. National will still maintain their standards in the bylaws.

Chapter IX's SF Room at the VFW: Bill is providing a list for Tom of the Deceased Members for a plaque honoring these past members. He will review the list at the October Meeting for the membership.

The 22nd Annual Jerry Montoya/Ralph Dominguez Food Drive: Tom Melgares is the Chairman, again. Wednesday, 13 December at the VFW is scheduled for the Food Box Party. Tom is working with El Paso JROTC as in the past and hopes to escalate their support this year.

US Order Patrol Special Operations Group LE 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, where 120+ vendors come to EL Paso to display and demonstrate their equipment, material and technology.

Chapter Storage Unit: Phil moved to establish a committee to purchase a storage unit on a motion passed by the Chapter.

Chapter SF Christmas Party: Scheduled for Saturday, 16 December; 1800-Midnight at VFW 812.

Update on Johann "Joe" Lee. Joe tok a position at Fort Polk, Louisiana with JRTC SOT-D as a scenario writer. He plans to stay on the 2018 National Convention Committee and hopes to attend meetings 3-4 times a year until he can retire here.

Chapter President's Message:

Greeting all, I don’t have a lot this month but start thinking about the food drive and Christmas party. We’ll make motions at the October meeting for both for funds, and themes. I do want to thank COL Gus and all of the folks who supported the golf tournament. It was the best ever and it will be hard to beat.

Pete Peral President, Chapter IX

Friday, October 20, 2017

General Kelly sets the record straight

Many of us were shocked to read or hear News coverage of President Trump's call to the family of one of the 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers recently killed in action in Niger. The News only reported a selected portion of the President's call, received via Florida Congresswomen Frederica Wilson who eavesdropped on the conversation and used that selected portion to further advance her hatred of President Trump and demonstrate her contempt for the military and disrespect for the ultimate sacrifice any service member can make.

John F. Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, delivered an emotional statement on Thursday in the White House briefing room, defending Mr. Trump’s call to the widow of a slain soldier and responding to criticism from Representative Frederica S. Wilson, Democrat of Florida.

The following is a transcript of those remarks, as prepared by the White House:

JOHN F. KELLY, White House chief of staff: Well, thanks a lot. And it is a more serious note, so I just wanted to perhaps make more of a statement than an — give more of an explanation in what amounts to be a traditional press interaction.

Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, our Coast Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens:

Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine, and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when they’re packed in ice, typically at the airhead. And then they’re flown to, usually, Europe where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the medals that they’ve earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with a casualty officer escort that takes them home.

A very, very good movie to watch, if you haven’t ever seen it, is “Taking Chance,” where this is done in a movie — HBO setting. Chance Phelps was killed under my command right next to me, and it’s worth seeing that if you’ve never seen it.

So that’s the process. While that’s happening, a casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door; typically a mom and dad will answer, a wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places; if the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until — well, for a long, long time, even after the internment. So that’s what happens.

Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best this country produces, and they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right.

Who writes letters to the families? Typically, the company commander — in my case, as a Marine — the company commander, battalion commander, regimental commander, division commander, Secretary of Defense, typically the service chief, commandant of the Marine Corps, and the President typically writes a letter.

Typically, the only phone calls a family receives are the most important phone calls they could imagine, and that is from their buddies. In my case, hours after my son was killed, his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was. Those are the only phone calls that really mattered.

And yeah, the letters count, to a degree, but there’s not much that really can take the edge off what a family member is going through. So some Presidents have elected to call. All Presidents, I believe, have elected to send letters. If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you could imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call.

When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. It’s nice to do, in my opinion, in any event.

He asked me about previous Presidents, and I said, I can tell you that President Obama, who was my Commander-in-Chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family. That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say, I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing. I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any President, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high — that Presidents call. But I believe they all write.

So when I gave that explanation to our President three days ago, he elected to make phone calls in the cases of four young men who we lost in Niger at the earlier part of this month. But then he said, how do you make these calls? If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call. I think he very bravely does make those calls.

The call in question that he made yesterday — or day before yesterday now — were to four family members, the four fallen. And remember, there’s a next-of-kin designated by the individual. If he’s married, that’s typically the spouse. If he’s not married, that’s typically the parents unless the parents are divorced, and then he selects one of them. If he didn’t get along with his parents, he’ll select a sibling. But the point is, the phone call is made to the next-of-kin only if the next-of-kin agrees to take the phone call. Sometimes they don’t.

So a pre-call is made: The President of the United States or the commandant of the Marine Corps, or someone would like to call, will you accept the call? And typically, they all accept the call. So he called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could. And he said to me, what do I say? I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.

Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.

That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day. I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion — that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist; he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted.

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying, and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery. I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.

I’ll end with this: In October — April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty, and I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 — a guy by the name of Grogan and Duke. Grogan almost retired, 53 years old; Duke, I think less than a year on the job. (note: The F.B.I. agent for which the building is named was named Jerry L. Dove, not Duke.)

Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, and now retired. So we go down — Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well, and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were three or four years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there, and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money — the $20 million — to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, O.K., fine So I still hope, as you write your stories, and I appeal to America, that let’s not let this maybe last thing that’s held sacred in our society — a young man, young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country — let’s try to somehow keep that sacred. But it eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.

So I’m willing to take a question or two on this topic. Let me ask you this: Is anyone here a Gold Star parent or sibling? Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or sibling?

(pointing to a reporter who raised his hand) O.K., you get the question.

Question: Well, thank you, General Kelly. First of all, we have a great deal of respect — Semper Fi — for everything that you’ve ever done. But if we could take this a bit further. Why were they in Niger? We were told they weren’t in armored vehicles and there was no air cover. So what are the specifics about this particular incident? And why were we there? And why are we there?

GENERAL KELLY: Well, I would start by saying there is an investigation. Let me back up and say, the fact of the matter is, young men and women that wear our uniform are deployed around the world and there are tens of thousands, near the DMZ in North Korea [sic], in Okinawa, waiting to go — in South Korea — in Okinawa, ready to go. All over the United States, training, ready to go. They’re all over Latin America. Down there, they do mostly drug and addiction, working with our partners — our great partners — the Colombians, the Central Americans, the Mexicans.

You know, there’s thousands. My own son, right now, back in the fight for his fifth tour against ISIS. There’s thousands of them in Europe acting as a deterrent. And they’re throughout Africa. And they’re doing the nation’s work there, and not making a lot of money, by the way, doing it. They love what they do.

So why were they there? They’re there working with partners, local — all across Africa — in this case, Niger — working with partners, teaching them how to be better soldiers; teaching them how to respect human rights; teaching them how to fight ISIS so that we don’t have to send our soldiers and Marines there in their thousands. That’s what they were doing there.

Now, there is an investigation. There’s always an — unless it’s a very, very conventional death in a conventional war, there’s always an investigation. Of course, that operation is conducted by AFRICOM that, of course, works directly for the Secretary of Defense.

There is a — and I talked to Jim Mattis this morning. I think he made statements this afternoon. There’s an investigation ongoing. An investigation doesn’t mean anything was wrong. An investigation doesn’t mean people’s heads are going to roll. The fact is they need to find out what happened and why it happened.

But at the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, you have to understand that these young people — sometimes old guys — put on the uniform, go to where we send them to protect our country. Sometimes they go in large numbers to invade Iraq and invade Afghanistan. Sometimes they’re working in small units, working with our partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America, helping them be better.

But at the end of the day, they’re helping those partners be better at fighting ISIS in North Africa to protect our country so that we don’t have to send large numbers of troops.

Any other — someone who knows a Gold Star fallen person. John?

Question: General, thank you for being here today and thank you for your service and for your family’s sacrifice. There has been some talk about the timetable of the release of the statement about the — I think at that point it was three soldiers who were killed in Niger. Can you walk us through the timetable of the release of that information? And what part did the fact that a beacon was pinging during that time have to do with the release of the statement? And were you concerned that divulging information early might jeopardize the soldiers’ attempt to be (inaudible)?

GENERAL KELLY: First of all, that’s a — you know, we are at the highest level of the U.S. government. The people that will answer those questions will be the people at the other end of the military pyramid. I’m sure the Special Forces group is conducting it. I know they’re conducting an investigation. That investigation, of course, under the auspices of AFRICOM, ultimately will go to the Pentagon. I’ve read the same stories you have. I actually know a lot more than I’m letting on, but I’m not going to tell you.

There is an investigation being done. But as I say, the men and women of our country that are serving all around the world — I mean, what the hell is my son doing back in the fight? He’s back in the fight because — working with Iraqi soldiers who are infinitely better than they were a few years ago to take ISIS on directly so that we don’t have to do it. Small numbers of Marines where he is working alongside those guys. That’s why they’re out there, whether it’s Niger, Iraq, or whatever. We don’t want to send tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines, in particular, to go fight.

I’ll take one more, but it’s got to be from someone who knows — all right.

Question: General, when you talk about Niger, sir, what does your intelligence tell you about the Russian connection with them? And the stories that are coming out now, they’re........

GENERAL KELLY: I have no knowledge of any Russian connection, but I was not, in my position, to know that. That’s a question for NORTHCOM or for — not NORTHCOM — for AFRICOM or DOD.

Thanks very much, everybody.

As I walk off the stage, understand there’s tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing their nation’s bidding all around the world. They don’t have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran — World War II, Korea, and there was the draft. These young people today, they don’t do it for any other reason than their selfless — sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

And I do appreciate your time. Take care.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Army Special Operations Command preparing for the next decade

The head of the Army’s Special Operations Command sees the capabilities of his forces as a crucial but sometimes misunderstood component of future warfare. Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo sat down with Army Times at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition to discuss how USASOC’s “four pillars of capability” will set the course for the coming decades of change in the face of myriad threats and missions. He plans to illustrate those capabilities during the panel he is leading Wednesday. Also speaking on the panel are a U.S. ambassador, an acting assistant secretary of defense, and directors and commanders of associated special operations-related groups.

The special operations soldiers’ four pillars include:

1. Indigenous Approach: The original mission of the Army’s Special Forces, special warfare. Developing foreign forces to conduct their own operations and build a professional fighting force among U.S. allies.

2. Precision Targeting: The most well known work of special operators, raids that capture or kill high value human targets, gather critical intelligence or render some enemy efforts ineffective.

3. Developing Understanding and Wielding Influence: Likely the least well known area of special operations work, developing long-term trust and relationships with partners and allies that help those forces and aid future work by the U.S. military and diplomatic corps.

4. Crisis Response: With more than half of all special operators calling the Army home and more than 60 percent of all such operations being conducted in more than 70 countries on average, the likely first responders, be it local or regional security challenges, will be special operations forces.

The Army’s new Field Manual 3-0 on operations highlights the importance of commanders at all levels, especially those in charge of conventional forces in large-scale combat operations, understanding the capabilities and limitations of special operations. Tovo said that modern warfare cannot be all one or the other. There is a place in the mix for both conventional forces and special operations forces. The key is matching the balance to the mission. “They are complementing capabilities,” Tovo said. “You have to have the right tool for the job.”

SOF can be used to deadly effect with a small number of soldiers choosing the right target at the right time with the right effect, speed and violence of action. But special operations “doesn’t bring bass to the battle,” Tovo said. Tank formations are still needed to fight enemy tank formations, for example.

But an underappreciated value that special operations soldiers bring that is often overlooked is the training, advising and assisting that can create capable allied units. Tovo pointed to successes by Colombian SOF-trained forces in their decades long fight against terrorist groups. He noted that early successes by the Iraqi army against ISIS groups came mostly from SOF-trained troops.

Article from Defense News

Thursday, October 12, 2017

US War against Islamic Extremists actually 200+ years old

The United States has actually been at war with Islamic Extremists since 1801 - that's over 216 years according to my calculator. It began with the first Barbary War (1801 - 1805) also called the War against Tripoli (in present day Libya) when North African Berbers demanded that the U.S. pay tribute to the Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli based Muslim Sultans. Then U.S. President Thomas Jefferson sent the infant U.S. naval fleet on May 13, 1801 under the command of Commodore Richard Dale as the Pasha of Tripoli, Yusuf Qaramanli, citing late payments of tribute, demanded additional tribute and declared war on the United States. The Famous Naval hero, Stephen Decatur, was assigned to the frigate USS Essex under Captain William Bainbridge. Other ships under Commodore Richard Dale's squadron included the Philadelphia, the President and the Enterprise. 

Prior to 1801, and actually prior to the American colonies winning the war of independence against Great Britian, ships from the United States were protected by the large and feared British Navy. Even then, both Britain and France, found it expedient pay tribute to the Barbary States as it allowed their merchant shipping to operate safely with an increased share of the Mediterranean trade. Barbary leaders chose not to challenge the superior British or French navies. But Thomas Jefferson said no to any extortion, however previous U.S> administration had paid some sort of tribute for protection on shipping. So the war under Jefferson was actually a culmination of 16 years of attacks by the Barbary pirates, led by Dey Muhammad of Algiers who had been capturing U.S. merchant ships since 1785.

During the first Barbary War is war, the ship Philadelphia was blockading Tripoli's harbor when she ran aground on an uncharted reef. Under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitania gunboats, the Captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her by casting off all of her guns and other objects that weighed it down. The ship was eventually captured and the crew taken prisoners and put into slavery. To prevent this powerful war ship from being used by the Barbary pirates the ship was later destroyed by a raiding party led by Stephen Decatur.

The War concluded in 1805 with a treaty after U.S. Marines supported by Naval gunfire successfully defeated Qaramanli’s forces with a combined naval and land assault - hence the line in the Marine Corps Hymn " the shores of Tripoli.....). The U.S. treaty with Tripoli included a ransom for American prisoners in Tripoli, but no provisions for tribute. In fact, the nickname "Leatherneck" came from the thick leather collars the Marines wore to protect their exposed necks from the Scimitar wielding Barbary pirates.

The Second Barbary War, also known as the Algerian War, began in 1812. In 1812, the new Dey of Algiers, Hajji Ali, rejected 1795 treaty and declared war on the United States by capturing an American ship with his Algerian corsairs. This was actually a Algerian-British conspiracy as Britain declared war on the U.S. (the War of 1812). After this war ended in 1814, U.S. President James Madison and the U.S. Congress declared war on Algiers on 3 March 1815. The U.S. Navy, now greatly increased in size after the War of 1812, sent an entire squadron, led by Commodore Stephen Decatur, to the Mediterranean.

Upon the show of U.S. naval fire, not to mention several naval bombardments, the new Algiers ruler, Dey Omar, accepted the treaty proposed by Decatur that called for an exchange of U.S. and Algerian prisoners and an end to the practices of tribute and ransom. Having defeated the most powerful of the Barbary States, Decatur sailed to Tunis and Tripoli and obtained similar treaties. In Tripoli, Decatur also secured from Pasha Qaramanli the release of all European captives. The Muslims reneged on the treaty so a second U.S. Naval Squadron combined with Dutch Naval assets bombarded Algiers again submitting the hostiles to the treaty. While the Barbary pirates continued to raid ships from other countries, U.S. flagged vessels remained free from attacks until 1830 when France occupied Algeria ending the pirate threat.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Green Berets Killed in Niger

U.S. Special Forces soldiers were training their Nigerien counterparts in the West African nation’s volatile southwest, a growing hot-bed of jihadist violence, when the report came in of a raid nearby. The assailants were believed to be led by Dondou Chefou, a lieutenant in a new group operating along the Mali-Niger border and called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. A decision was soon taken to pursue them.

The mixed force was ambushed by fighters on dozens of vehicles and motorcycles. Under heavy fire, U.S. troops called in French fighter jets for air support. But the firefight was at such close quarters the planes could not engage and were instead left circling overhead as a deterrent. The version of events, as told by two Nigerien and two Western sources briefed on the incident, shines a light on Washington’s increasingly aggressive Special Forces-led counter-terrorism strategy in Africa and its risk of casualties.

The Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group died in the firefight, killed in a country where most Americans were unaware their army is deployed but Washington has steadily grown its presence. Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39; and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, and a fourth yet to be named soldier died in the firefight. Two other Special Forces soldiers were wounded and are expected to recover.

There are conflicting reports. One report states that the Green Berets were coming back from a meeting with village elders when the Jihadist used a decoy on the road to stop the convoy then ambushed the Americans and their Niger Army counterparts.

At least four Nigeriens were also killed and, according to one Niger security source, militants seized four vehicles in the ambush. French helicopters, scrambled after the U.S. call for help, evacuated several soldiers wounded in the clash. A diplomat with knowledge of the incident said French officials were frustrated by the U.S. troops’ actions, saying they had acted on only limited intelligence and without contingency plans in place.

U.S. officials declined to comment on details of what happened in the Nigerien desert on Wednesday. “The U.S. military does not have an active, direct combat mission in Niger,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Army Major Audricia Harris. U.S. assistance to Niger’s army, however, includes “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” she said.

U.S. military deployments are on the rise in Africa. In May, a U.S. Navy Seal killed in a raid on an al Shabaab militant compound in Somalia became the first U.S. combat death in Africa since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” disaster in Mogadishu.

In Niger, Washington has deployed around 800 soldiers, runs a drone base in the capital Niamey and is building a second in Agadez at a cost of around $100 million. U.S. Special Forces help local troops develop counter-terrorism skills to tackle threats from al Qaeda-linked groups, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Islamists who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State. “It’s a pretty broad mission with the government of Niger in order to increase their capability to stand alone and to prosecute violent extremists,” the U.S. military’s Joint Staff Director, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said on Thursday.

Washington has long seen the Sahel as a security threat but involvement increased in the wake of a 2012 occupation of northern Mali by Islamist militants. France led an offensive against the Islamists a year later, and the U.S. government now provides logistical and intelligence support to a 4,000-troop French counter-terrorism operation in the region.

There are two major Islamic Extremists groups operating in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger area: The JNIM which is comprised of Ansar Dine, al Mouritbitoun, and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), all which combined to form the umbrella organization Group for Support of Islam and Muslims known by their French acronym - JNIM, and are affiliated with al-Qai'da and also known as Al Qai'da in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM. The other major group broke off from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, to form Islamic State in the Sub - Sahara.

The U.S. military organizers an annual, high-profile U.S. drill as well as longer-term, more discreet training of regional forces. But experts say U.S. involvement in the fight does not stop there. “It is likely that there are other operations going on aside from just the training operations,” said Andrew Lebovich, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. In missions run out of a base in the northern Niger town of Arlit and others like the one that led to the ambush of U.S. troops, sources say they have helped local troops and intelligence agents make several arrests. “It is discreet but they are there,” a Nigerien security source told Reuters.

Analysts are awaiting the political fallout of Wednesday’s ambush with some speculating it may spark a reversal of the U.S. stance on a new regional force - known as the G5 Sahel - which France is pushing but which Washington is cool on. Others however like Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, a former top United Nations official in West Africa and Somalia, recall with concern the American pullout following the “Black Hawk Down” incident. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed when Somali militia shot down two helicopters in Mogadishu. “In Somalia, they over-reacted and withdrew their troops ... My worry is that after this attack they will also over-react. Trump might just say ‘Why should we die for this?’ I hope they don‘t.”

Article from Business Insider

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Anniversary of Blackhawk Down - Let Us Not Forget

October 3rd. On this day in 1993, the Battle for Mogadishu begins. During Operation Gothic Serpent, Task Force Ranger, US Special Operations Forces composed mainly of Bravo Company 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1SFOD-D), and a deployment package of the 160th SOAR (A), attempted to capture Somali Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid's foreign minister Omar Salad Elmi and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale. The ensuing battle would soon come to be recognized as the fiercest fighting US Forces engaged in since the Vietnam War.

On 22 August, Task Force Ranger was ordered to deploy to Mogadishu, Somalia. They departed on 26 August. The mission as defined by the task force commander was: “When directed, [to] deploy to Mogadishu, Somalia; [to] conduct operations to capture General Aideed and/or designated others. The aviation task force must be prepared to conduct two primary courses of action: moving convoy and strong point assault. . . . Success is defined as the live capture of General Aideed and designated individuals and recovery to the designated transload point; safely and without fratricide.” In Mogadishu the task force occupied an old hangar and old construction trailers under primitive conditions. During the month of September, the force conducted several successful missions to arrest Aideed sympathizers and to confiscate arms caches.

On the afternoon of 3 October 1993, informed that two leaders of Aideed’s clan were at a residence in central Mogadishu, the task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest them. During the mission, one of the Rangers fast-roping from an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, missed the rope and fell 70 feet to the street below, badly injuring himself. The two leaders were quickly arrested, and the prisoners and the injured Ranger were loaded on a convoy of ground vehicles.

Alerted to the task force actions, armed Somalis began converging on the target area from all over the city. In the meantime, another MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, call sign Super 61 and piloted by CW4 Clifton P. Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley, was flying low over the street a few blocks from the target area, and was struck from behind by an rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The MH-60 crashed to the street below. The US convoy and the Somali crowds immediately headed for the crash site.

An MH-6 Little Bird, call sign Star 41, piloted by CW4 Keith Jones and CW3 Karl Maier, landed in the street next to the downed MH-60 and attempted to evacuate the casualties. Both Wolcott and Briley had been killed in the crash. Jones went to assist survivors, successfully pulling two soldiers into the Little Bird, while Maier laid down suppressive fire from the cockpit with his individual weapon. Under intense ground fire, the MH-6 departed with its crew and survivors.

Meanwhile, Blackhawk Super 64, with pilot CW3 Michael Durant, copilot CW4 Raymond Frank, and crewmembers SSG William Cleveland and SSG Thomas Field, moved in to take Super 61’s place in the formation. As Super 64 circled over the target area, an RPG suddenly struck it. The Blackhawk’s tail rotor was severely damaged, and the air mission commander ordered it back to the airfield. En route to the airfield, the tail rotor and much of the rear assembly fell off, and the helicopter pitched forward and crashed.

As the battle intensified the ground convoy lost its way, and rescue forces were already overtaxed at the site of the first Blackhawk crash.

At the second crash site, two Delta snipers, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart, were inserted by Black Hawk Super 62 – piloted by CW3 Mike Goffena. Their first two requests to be inserted were denied, but they were finally granted permission upon their third request. Durant and Frank had both suffered broken legs in the crash, and both of the crew chiefs were severely wounded. A large crowd of Somalis, organized by the local militia, surrounded the crew and their rescuers and engaged in a fierce firefight.

The crew of Super 62 kept up their fire support for MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart, until it too was struck by an RPG. Despite the damage, Super 62 managed return to base. When MSG Gordon was eventually killed, SFC Shughart picked up Gordon's CAR-15 and gave it to Super 64 pilot CW3 Michael Durant. SFC Shughart went back around the chopper's nose and held off the mob for about 10 more minutes before he was killed. The two warriors had ultimately sacrificed their lives for their downed comrades.

Another Blackhawk carrying a rescue team arrived over the crash site of Super 61 and the 15-man team fast-roped to the ground. They found both Wolcott and Briley already dead, but crew chiefs Staff Sgt. Ray Dowdy and Staff Sgt. Charlie Warren were still alive in the wreckage. It took hours to pry Wolcott’s body from the wreckage. In the meantime, the soldiers set up a perimeter to protect against attack from Somali militia and armed civilians and awaited the arrival of a convoy from the 10th Mountain Division to rescue them.

The militia had taken Mike Durant captive, planning to trade him for Somali prisoners. But before they could get him back to their village, they were intercepted by local bandits, who took Durant, intending to use him for ransom. He was taken back to a house where he was held, interrogated, and videotaped. Later, after Aideed paid his ransom, Durant was moved to the apartment of Aideed’s propaganda minister. After five days, he was visited by a representative of the International Red Cross and interviewed by British and French journalists.

Finally, after ten days, with the intervention of former U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Robert Oakley, he was released and flew home to a hero’s welcome.

The mission was over. Task Force Ranger had been involved in the fiercest battle since the Vietnam War. It had lost two MH-60 aircraft with two more severely damaged, suffered eight wounded and five killed in action, and had had one of its pilots taken captive. Despite the public perception that this was a failed mission, Task Force Ranger did take into custody and delivered the two leaders from Aideed’s clan, resulting in mission success.

On 23 May 1994, SFC Randall Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony for recognition of the heroic actions they voluntarily took and the sacrifices they made to help protect the life of Durant and the crew of Super 64.

Master Sergeant Gary Ivan Gordon is buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Penobscot County, Maine.

Sergeant First Class Randall David 'Randy' Shughart was killed in action on 3 October 1993 in Somalia. He is buried at Westminster Cemetery in Carlisle, PA.

American Heroes and History worth remembering - Lets Us Not Forget.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Joe Romero, Bataan Death March survivor, gets his medals

Walking into the Visitor Center of the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial on Saturday afternoon, you’d have thought a rock star had stopped in. A throng of people were amassed around someone near the front of the center’s banquet hall, cellphones and cameras flashing. It was no rock star: it was one of New Mexico’s own Battling Bastards of Bataan, Joe Romero, who was at last presented with his World War II medals during a ceremony there Saturday. “As long as there is a New Mexico National Guard, these men will never be forgotten,” said New Mexico National Guard Adjutant General Kenneth Nava. “We will never forget their sacrifices.”

Nava pinned medal after medal — including a Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in combat — to Romero’s chest, as many in the watching crowd shed tears. Though almost 97 years old, wheelchair bound and unable to speak, Romero still has a sparkle in his eye and it was clear he understood and appreciated all that was happening.

Romero, a Las Cruces native, joined the National Guard in 1941 at 19, along with his younger brother, Frank. He was soon deployed to the Philippines with the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment to participate in combat training. But by the end of 1941, the 200th came under very real attack by the Japanese, though they’re credited as the “first to fire.” After holding off Japanese forces for months, the U.S. troops were surrendered in April 1942.

Tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were taken as prisoners of war and forced to march more than 60 miles in what became known as the Bataan Death March. It’s estimated that 10,000 died during the march.

But the Romero brothers survived. Joe Romero spent 42 months as a prisoner of war, mostly doing hard labor in a lead and zinc mine, but also serving on “burial duty,” his daughter, Ana Marie Gonzales, said. “My dad said there was nothing more beautiful than seeing the flag when he was liberated,” Gonzales said. Gonzales said she doesn’t know whether her father ever received his service medals.

So to ensure her father received the recognition he deserved, she undertook the tedious process of having his medals reissued. “It’s taken me 40 years of trying to obtain these medals, always coming to a dead end,” she said. With the help of New Mexico Department of Veterans Services Cabinet Secretary Jack Fox, Romero finally received his medals.

Romero worked for many years at Levine’s Department Store in Albuquerque, where he now lives with Gonzales. He turned 97 on Tuesday. In a 2012 Journal story on Bataan Death March survivors, Romero spoke of the feeling of liberation. “I was one of the happiest men in the whole world,” he said, “because I had freedom.”

Article from the Military Times

Monday, September 25, 2017

Oldest living West Point grad dies at 105

The oldest living West Point graduate passed away four months after returning to the academy to participate in its alumni review, nearly 85 years after he graduated. Retired Lt. Gen. William Ely, who was the only remaining grad from the Class of 1933, died on Tuesday at his home in Delray Beach, Florida, according to a West Point Association of Graduates spokeswoman. In the photo at right: Lt Gen Robert Caslen, Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, joins retired Lt Gen William Ely, Ely's son Bill, and Command Sergeant Major Timothy Guden during a wreath laying ceremony on May 23 on West Point, N.Y. (photo by Sgt Vito Bryant, US Army).

Ely, who was 105, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., said Kim McDermott, the association’s director of communications. He will be buried with his wife, Helen, who died in 2014. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ely was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers after graduating from West Point in 1933. His assignments included civil works construction, military construction and troop duty with an engineer unit.

In a May interview with Army Times, Ely said he started out on the Mississippi River learning how to build bridges and levees, but then his Army career took him out to the Pacific. “The most important job that I had was at Midway Island from 1938 to 1940, building an entrance channel into the harbor,” Ely said. “It was one of the most difficult bridging jobs the Corps of Engineers ever had. ... Here I was, a lieutenant in charge of about 300 or 400 civilians. It set the stage for my later assignments.”

The construction of the entrance channel paved the way for the Navy to build Naval Air Station Midway, roughly halfway between North America and Asia. Less than a year after the air station’s commissioning, the U.S. Navy would defeat Japanese forces at Midway in what many consider the pivotal naval battle of World War II.

Ely’s decorations include the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star, according to the Defense Department. He was honored during West Point’s alumni review on May 23, where he laid a wreath at the academy’s Thayer Statue near the parade field in a ceremony leading up to graduation. Ely told Army Times before the ceremony that it was going to be a “once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Article from the Army Times