Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kurdish General Dies

The Commander of the Golden Division at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) has died in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil due to health complications. Maj. Gen. Fadhil Barwari, the Kurdish commander of the US-trained Golden Division, has passed away due to a heart attack, a source close to his family told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday. His body was transferred to the Department of Forensic Medicine in Erbil. He will then be transferred to his hometown of Duhok for burial.

Born in 1966 in the northern Kurdistan Region city of Duhok, he joined the Peshmerga forces in his late 30s during the resistance against the former Iraqi Ba’ath regime before joining the Iraqi army following the collapse of the dictatorship.

Since 2014, Barwari played a vital role in leading Iraqi forces, particularly in the Golden Division, in the fight against Islamic State (IS) extremists across Iraq.

Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter IS, described the late Kurdish commander as “a legend.” “General Barwari was a heroic fighter and commander in the campaign against IS to whom the world owes a debt of gratitude.”

Article from Kurdistan 24

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Legendary WWII Paratrooper SSG Russell Brown Passes

One of the last legendary WWII soldiers to make four combat jumps into Europe has died. Former Staff Sgt. Russell Brown was one of the legendary paratroopers who made every combat jump during World War II, forever cementing his place in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division. Photo at right is British Infantry soldiers of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry talking to an American Paratrooper from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR in Avola, Sicily in July 1943.

Brown passed away Aug. 31 at the age of 96 in Georgetown, Kentucky, according to an obituary. A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne confirmed the Purple Heart recipient had been one of the lauded soldiers who parachuted into Salerno and Sicily, Italy, as well as Normandy, France, and Njimegen, Holland.

His story was featured in “Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry” and “All American, All the Way: The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division,” non-fiction accounts by Phil Nordyke, where he told the story of his time as a mortar squad leader with Brown, who had been a mortar squad leader with F Company.

After the Army, Brown went to work as an explosives technician at DuPont and Co. He is survived by two daughters, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, according to his obituary. Brown was one of about a dozen soldiers still alive who had made all four jumps. Retired 1st. Sgt. Harold Eatman died in July at the age of 102.

Article from Army Times

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Chaplains Corner September 2018

With Chapter IX's own Chaplain, John Szilvasy, in a rehabilitation center - please say a prayer for Chaplain John - we have enlisted Deane Schultz a retired SFC/E-7 who served in 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) primarily as a Medical Sergeant, and for a long time on a HALO team. Deane currently resides outside of Fort Campbell, where he sends near daily devotionals and lessons contained therein through an e-mail distribution.

Deane is one of the best human beings you'll ever meet, so this month's Chaplain's corner is better served coming from him rather than any of the heathens in Chapter IX hovering around the bar at the VFW.

From Deane: "Here is a powerful video for those interested in how the devil works in messing up our lives, our relationships, and any confident in God we may say that we have."

"By pastor JD Farag - an Arab originally from Lebanon, son of Egyptian father and Palestinian mother. He has an unique perspective on some items many modern pastors don’t delve into – this time he gets into Satan’s schemes in messing with us and his subtleness thereof."

"It...explains some things..."


Monday, September 10, 2018

Intervierw with CPT Jerry Yellin, World War II Pilot

This is an excellent interview with Captain Jerry Yellin, veteran of World War II, flew combat missions in the P-40, P-47, and P-51 throughout the Pacific theater. Captain Yellin flew the first land-based fighter mission over Japan, and the final combat mission of the war on August 14, 1945.

Interview from 24 March 2017.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Last reunion for famed US WWII unit, Merrill’s Marauders

It’s the last reunion for members of the famed U.S. Army jungle fighters called Merrill’s Marauders. Three thousand volunteered for a dangerous secret mission during World War II — a mission so secret they weren’t told even where they were going. They hacked their way through nearly 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) of jungle behind enemy lines in Myanmar, then called Burma, fighting in five major and 30 minor actions against veteran Japanese troops. "This is the last of the outfit," said David Allen of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

He's among 13 of the original volunteers still alive. Five are in New Orleans this week, along with three men who joined the unit as replacements or were at its final battle to take an airfield held by the Japanese. With the veterans are more than 90 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They filled a meeting room Tuesday at a New Orleans hotel, gathering at round tables to reminisce and look at small black-and-white photos, articles about the campaign and their old reunions. Children and other descendants were collecting autographs and listening to memories.

It was the first reunion for Ethan Glen Byrne, 15, of Hamilton, Alabama, and his grandfather Rick Lowe, whose father was a Marauder. Lowe was in his teens when his father, Delbert P. Lowe, died. He began researching Merrill's Marauders several years ago and learned about the reunions. He came because it was the last. "I wanted to honor my dad," he said.

The unit won a Presidential Unit Citation, six Distinguished Service Crosses, four Legions of Merit, 44 Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for every man in the regiment. Their shoulder patch was adopted by the 1st Battalion of the 75th Infantry Ranger Regiment. And their families are pushing a pair of bills to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill's Marauders. A war correspondent created the nickname, after Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, because the formal name was a mouthful, according to the 2013 history "Merrill's Marauders: The Untold Story of Unit Galahad and the Toughest Special Forces Mission of World War II."

The men of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) were a thoroughly mixed bag. Some were seasoned jungle fighters. Others were city boys without much service. Still others, some of them joining when the unit was training in India, were like the "Dirty Dozen," leaving the stockade for danger and a pardon. Allen said he was a "college playboy" when he was drafted.

Robert "Bob" Passanisi, 94, of Lindenhurst, New York, said patriotism and family solidarity were his reasons for volunteering. He had two brothers serving in Europe. "I somehow felt that me doing my part would relieve my brothers," he said Tuesday.

Gilbert H. Howland, 95, of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, said he was among 124 volunteers out of 500 gathered in a Puerto Rico stadium. "These guys were my buddies," he said. "I didn't want to be with any strange unit."

Marcos M. Barelas, 96, then a private and a machine-gun operator, was pragmatic: "If I had to go, I may as well go now."

With mules and horses to carry 70-pound (32-kilogram) radios and airdropped supplies, they also had muleskinners and others to care for the animals. Lester Hollenbeck, 96, of Deltona, Florida, shod them. "Mules sometimes were ornery," he said. "We sometimes had to throw 'em down on their side to put shoes on them." He signed autographs Tuesday with a pen made from a 50-caliber bullet.

During the six-month campaign in 1944, malaria, amoebic dysentery and other tropical diseases took down five times as many members as bullets and shrapnel, which wounded 293 and killed 93. When they reached the airfield at Myitkyina (MITCH-ih-nuh), fewer than 500 were in shape to fight. Howland and Passanisi both said they were hospitalized — Howland with shrapnel wounds and Passanisi with malaria — when the Marauders took the airport, but were shipped back with other just-discharged "walking wounded" to help hold it.

The reunions may be over, but not the closeness, said Linda Rose Burchett of Hampton, Virginia. She said her father, who died in 2003, attended every reunion from 1949 through 2003. Burchett and her daughter, Lara Watson, 32, of Rockville, Virginia, also have attended steadily, starting as babies. “These men have seen me grow up,” she said. “They are my family. Absolutely. They were my dad’s family. Absolutely. But through social media now we’re all going to remain connected to honor our fathers.”

Article from the Army Times

Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 Jerry Rainey Scholarship Winners

On 18 August 2018 Chapter IX, the Isaac Camcho Chapter, awarded three $1000 scholarship to three deserving college students. Valeria Ramirez, Diego Lopez, and Carisma Ortega (pictured at right) each were presented a check by Carol Rainey, widow of Jerry Rainey who the scholarship is named after. The development of a scholarship to honor long time Chapter IX member Jerry Rainey, also a Korean War and Vietnam War veteran, is fitting as Jerry will always be remembered as a giving person - money out of his pocket, advice from his wife ranging experience and last by not least his generous (and often) renditions of Frank Sinatra songs.

Photo at left is Carol Rainey (Jerry's widow) and Greg Brown (Scholarship Chairman) and one of the scholarship winners. The idea for a scholarship was hatched when a story about Jerry chatting up a waitress who told him she was working to save money for college tuition and books, and Jerry wrote her a check on the spot. When Jerry was but days away from passing, he greeted each visitor (and their was a ton of them) with the words "Hey buddy, good to see you,..can I do anything for you today?" - and he meant it.

The words "he will be missed" is heard quite often. In Jerry's case, - he will always be missed....each and every day.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Eight soldiers nominated for DSCs, Silver Stars for actions during deadly Niger attack

The team leader at the center of the investigation into a deadly ambush of a special operations unit in Niger last year has been recommended for an award for his valor in combat, the New York Times reported Thursday. Capt. Michael Perozeni, the Green Beret in charge of the mission, could receive a Silver Star for his actions, despite bearing some responsibility, according to the military’s investigation, for the botched mission. Seven more soldiers from that mission are also up for awards, according to the New York Times.

“There will be awards for valor,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser. commander of U.S. Africa Command, told reporters when the Pentagon released the investigation in May. A Defense Department spokeswoman would not confirm Thursday whether Perozeni was on that list. “Individual members of the U.S. Special Operations team performed numerous acts of bravery while under fire on Oct. 4, 2017, and their actions are being reviewed for appropriate recognition," Air Force Maj. Sheryll Klinkel said in a statement.

Perozeni, according to the New York Times, was called out in the 8,000-page incident investigation for filing a misleading mission plan, taking 11 U.S. soldiers and 30 Nigeriens into a dangerous area without a back-up plan. According to the official report, the team was going after a key member of the local Islamic State cell, but did not obtain the higher-level approval required to step outside of their train-advise-assist mission with Nigerien counter-terrorism forces.

The New York Times also reported that Perozeni had pushed back against the part of the mission that would turn deadly, but he was ordered by a lieutenant colonel based in Chad to continue the mission. When the soldiers came under attack, each of their eight vehicles — three U.S. vehicles and five Nigerien vehicles became separated from each other within minutes, in a kill zone that was thousands of yards long. Under heavy enemy fire, the vehicles had stopped, and U.S. and Nigerien forces exited to return fire. As enemy forces closed in, Perozeni made a string of split-second decisions to have the U.S. and Nigerien troops get back in their vehicles and pull back to avoid being flanked. But the vehicles ultimately lost contact with each other and did not immediately have visibility on the forces left behind.

Four more soldiers are up for Silver Stars, the third-highest award for valor, the Times reported, and three are recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross ? the award second only to the Medal of Honor. All four soldiers killed in the ambush are under consideration: Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson for the Distinguished Service Cross, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black for the Silver Star.

During the ambush, La David Johnson and two Nigeriens had been returning fire from outside his vehicle. He fired the vehicle’s M240 mounted machine gun until it ran out of bullets, then picked up an M2010 sniper rifle. When the call came to pull back, the three were trapped. Intense incoming fire kept La David Johnson from being able to reach the driver’s seat.

So, they ran. The Nigeriens were shot; La David Johnson was the only one left. He ran the length of five football fields to reach the only cover in the area: a single thorny tree. He took his position and returned fire as an enemy truck with its own mounted machine gun closed in.

Article from the Army Times

Monday, August 20, 2018

This is North Platte, Nebraska

"We were overwhelmed," said Lt. Col. Nick Jaskolski. "I don't really have words to describe how surprised and moved we all were. I had never even heard of the town before."

Col. Jaskolski, a veteran of the Iraq war, is commander of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard. For three weeks earlier this summer, the 142nd had been conducting an emergency deployment readiness exercise in Wyoming, training and sleeping outdoors, subsisting on field rations. Now it was time for the 700 soldiers to return to their base.

A charter bus company had been hired for the 18-hour drive back to Arkansas. The Army had budgeted for a stop to get snacks. The bus company determined that the soldiers would reach North Platte, in western Nebraska, around the time they would likely be hungry. The company placed a call to the visitors' bureau: Was there anywhere in town that could handle a succession of 21 buses, and get 700 soldiers in and out for a quick snack?

North Platte said yes. North Platte has always said yes.

During World War II, North Platte was a geographically isolated town of 12,000. Soldiers, sailors and aviators on their way to fight the war rode troop trains across the nation, bound for Europe via the East Coast or the Pacific via the West Coast. The Union Pacific Railroad trains that transported the soldiers always made 10-minute stops in North Platte to take on water.

The townspeople made those 10 minutes count. Starting in December 1941, they met every train: up to 23 a day, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending after midnight. Those volunteers greeted between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers a day. They presented them with sandwiches and gifts, played music for them, danced with them, baked birthday cakes for them. Every day of the year, every day of the war, they were there at the depot. They never missed a train, never missed a soldier. They fed six million soldiers by the end of the war. Not 1 cent of government money was asked for or spent, save for a $5 bill sent by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The soldiers never forgot the kindness. Most of them, and most of the townspeople who greeted them, are dead. And now, in 2018, those 21 busloads from the 142nd Field Artillery were on their way, expecting to stop at some fast-food joint.

"We couldn't believe what we saw when we pulled up," Col. Jaskolski said. As each bus arrived over a two-day period, the soldiers stepped out to be greeted by lines of cheering people holding signs of thanks. They weren't at a fast-food restaurant: They were at North Platte's events center, which had been opened and decorated especially for them. "People just started calling our office when they heard the soldiers were on their way," said Lisa Burke, the director of the visitors' bureau. "Hundreds of people, who wanted to help."

The soldiers entered the events center to the aroma of steaks grilling and the sound of recorded music: current songs by Luke Bryan, Justin Timberlake, Florida Georgia Line; World War II songs by Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey. They were served steak sandwiches, ham sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, deviled eggs, salads and fruit; local church groups baked pies, brownies and cookies.

Mayor Dwight Livingston stood at the door for two days and shook every soldier's hand. Mr. Livingston served in the Air Force in Vietnam and came home to no words of thanks. Now, he said, as he shook the hands and welcomed the soldiers, "I don't know whether those moments were more important for them, or for me. I knew I had to be there."

"It was one soldier's 21st birthday," Lisa Burke said. "When I gave him his cake, he told me it was the first birthday cake he'd ever had in his life." Not wanting to pry, she didn't ask him how that could possibly be. "I was able to hold my emotions together," she said. "Until later."

When it became time to settle up, "the Army, after all, had that money budgeted for snacks" the 142nd Field Artillery was told: Nope. You're not spending a penny here. This is on us. This is on North Platte.

Article from the Wall Street Journal

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Taliban Ambush Kills 3 Czech Soldiers

A Taliban suicide bomber killed three Czech soldiers as they were patrolling the Parwan’s provincial capital of Charikar today. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, and said it occurred after Afghan and Coalition forces conducted a night raid. Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, confirmed that three Czech soldiers were killed, and one American and two Afghan National Army soldiers were wounded in the attack. The Czech Republic, one of 29 NATO nations, joined the Alliance, March 12, 1999. The Czech Republic contributes more than 280 service members to the Resolute Support mission.

The Taliban, in a statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, claimed that 15 US soldiers were killed “following a nighttime raid.” The Taliban routinely inflates the number of Afghan and foreign casualties that are inflicted during its operations. The Taliban has successfully targeted Czech soldiers operating in Parwan in the past. In July 2014, a Taliban suicide bomber killed four Czech troops in an attack in Charikar.

Parwan province hosts Bagram Air Base, the largest NATO facility in Afghanistan. The Taliban has teamed up with al Qaeda to attack Bagram Air Base several times in the past. The Taliban remains active in Parwan. Of Parwan’s 10 distrcts, five (Kohi Safi, Sayd Khel, Shinwari, Sia Gird/Ghorbund and Surkhi Parsa) are currently contested. The Taliban uses areas that it controls in these contested districts to launch attacks in both the provincial capital and Bagram Air Base. Late last year, the Taliban occupied the Fanduqistan Valley in Parwan’s Ghorbund district after Afghan forces fled following a brief firefight. The area is only 30 miles north of Kabul City, Afghanistan’s capital.

Article from the Long War Journal

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fallen Air Force combat controller to receive Medal of Honor for 2002 Battle of Roberts Ridge

Tech Sgt. John Chapman, the combat controller who was killed during the fierce Battle of Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan in 2002, will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Friday. President Donald Trump will present the medal during a White House ceremony Aug. 22. Chapman’s wife, Valerie Nessel, and his family will attend the ceremony.

Chapman will be the first airman to receive a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, for actions since the Vietnam War. He will be honored for his actions on March 4, 2002, on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan, according to the White House. Chapman’s award comes just three months after retired Navy Master Chief Britt Slabinski, a former Navy SEAL, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the same battle. The award for Slabinski stirred some controversy when it was announced, as news reports surfaced that the SEALs left the badly wounded Chapman on the mountaintop, thinking he was dead.

On March 4, 2002, during a helicopter insertion, Chapman’s aircraft came under heavy enemy fire and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the White House. One teammate was ejected from the aircraft, and the crippled helicopter crash landed in the valley below. Chapman and the remaining joint special operations team members voluntarily returned to the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold, in an attempt to rescue their stranded teammate, according to the White House. Chapman charged into enemy fire through harrowing conditions, seized an enemy bunker, and killed its enemy occupants.

He then moved from cover to engage a machine gun firing on his team from a second bunker. While engaging this position, he was severely wounded by enemy gunfire. Despite severe wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before paying the ultimate sacrifice, according to the White House.

Chapman is credited with saving the lives of his teammates, according to the White House. “Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest airmen.”

Chapman originally received an Air Force Cross, the second-highest valor award an airman can receive, for his heroism during the March 4, 2002, battle against al Qaida fighters. But newly enhanced video from a Predator drone showed more evidence that Chapman was not dead, but instead unconscious, when the team of Navy SEALs withdrew from the battle under withering fire. Slabinski told the New York Times in 2016 that he crawled to Chapman but detected no response and thought he was dead before he retreated down the mountain’s face.

The Air Force’s video analysis suggested Chapman regained consciousness and resumed fighting al Qaida members approaching on three sides. Chapman is believed to have crawled into a bunker, shot and killed an enemy fighter charging at him, and killed another enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat. This new evidence prompted former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in 2016 to recommend his Air Force Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Retired Delta Force commander Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell was quoted by the Times saying that if anyone thought Chapman was still alive, “we would have been trying to move heaven and earth to get him out of there.” Harrell also cautioned anyone against armchair-quarterbacking the harrowing events, or the men who endured them. “It’s easy to say, ‘well, I’d never leave someone behind,’” Harrell was quoted as saying. “It’s a lot harder when you’re getting your ass shot off.” Chapman joined the Air Force in September 1985 as an information systems operator, according to the White House. He later volunteered to be a combat controller and was an expert in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control, and terminal attack control operations.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein said in a statement. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow soldiers and sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American airmen.” The Medal of Honor for Chapman is a “huge deal” for the Air Force special tactics community, Master Sgt. Robert Gutierrez, an Air Force combat controller who himself was recognized with the Air Force Cross, recently told reporters. “We are very fortunate to even have someone who’s already up for the Medal of Honor: John Chapman — huge deal for us," he said.

Article from the Air Force Times

Friday, August 3, 2018

Korean War remains repatriated

Decades after the end of the Korean War in 1953, the remains of dozens of presumed U.S. war dead began their journey home following a repatriation ceremony in South Korea on Wednesday. North Korea handed over the remains in 55 boxes last week and allowed a U.S. military transport plane to move them to the Osan Air Base near Seoul in South Korea. While it was an apparent goodwill gesture by North Korea toward the United States, the return comes amid growing skepticism about whether the North will follow through on its pledge of nuclear disarmament.

Hundreds of U.S. and South Korean troops gathered at a hanger at Osan for the repatriation ceremony, which included a silent tribute, a rifle salute and the playing of the U.S. and South Korean national anthems and dirges in front of the U.N. flag-covered metal cases containing the remains. “For the warrior, this is a cherished duty, a commitment made to one another before going into battle, and passed on from one generation of warriors to the next,” Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said at the ceremony. “This is a solemn reminder that our work is not complete until all have been accounted for, no matter how long it takes to do so.”

The remains were then moved in gray vans to an airfield where U.S. and South Korean soldiers loaded them one by one into two transport planes. Four U.S. fighter jets flew low in a tribute. Later Wednesday, the transport planes left for Hawaii, where the remains will undergo an in-depth forensic analysis, in some cases using mitochondrial DNA profiles, at a Defense Department laboratory to establish identifications. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week that the return of the 55 boxes was a positive step but not a guarantee that the bones are American.

A U.S. defense official said Tuesday that it probably will take months if not years to fully determine individual identities from the remains. The official, who discussed previously undisclosed aspects of the remains issue on condition of anonymity, also said North Korea provided a single military dog tag along with the remains. The official did not know details about the single dog tag, including the name on it or whether it was even that of an American military member.

Vice President Mike Pence, the son of a Korean War veteran, is to fly to Hawaii for what the military calls an "honorable carry ceremony" marking the arrival of the remains on American soil. The repatriation is a breakthrough in a long-stalled U.S. effort to obtain war remains from North Korea. About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. "The remains received from North Korea are being handled with the utmost care and respect by professional historians, forensic scientists, uniformed personnel and government officials," the U.S.-led U.N. Command said in a statement. It said it "never leaves troops behind, living or deceased, and will continue the mission of repatriation until every service member returns home."

Monday, July 30, 2018

Fuerzas Comando 2018 - Colombia Takes First Place; U.S. is Runner-Up

Military and police Special Operations Forces from Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago also participated in the event from July16-26, 2018. The grueling nine-day competition tested the elite forces in physical fitness, weapons marksmanship, aquatic skills and tactical capabilities, concluding with an award ceremony on July 26th to recognize the top team in each category.

“It’s a great honor to be here,” said U.S. Army Colonel Brian Greata, deputy commander of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH). “This competition gives us the opportunity to establish and strengthen relations with special operations professionals in our region facing criminal and terrorist challenges.” Panama hosted the 14th iteration of Fuerzas Comando for the first time in 2018.The multinational SOUTHCOM-sponsored and SOCSOUTH-directed Special Operations Forces competition took place in Panama’s Police Academy.

Senior Leader Seminar

A Senior Leader Seminar took place simultaneously to the competition. During the 2018 edition, senior military and government officials from more than 20 nations gathered in Panama City, July 23rd-25th, to discuss opportunities to enhance regional and hemispheric cooperation and the impact transnational, transregional threat networks have in regional security and stability.

Alexis Bethancourt, minister of Public Safety of Panama, opened the event and expressed the importance of facing the challenges of the future by creating a system of collective security to counter threats from terrorism, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime.The main goal of the event, he added, is to seek strengthened solutions through cooperation mechanisms to defend the Western Hemisphere. “Hemispheric security is a joint commitment, and forums such as this are very important for an open dialogue and exchange,” he said.

“Fuerzas Comando is extremely valuable for the relations between the members of the Special Operations Forces of different countries, and an opportunity to strengthen the ties of friendship and the exchange of information between them,” Paraguayan Army Major General Eulogio Ramón Nortega Peña, commander of the First Infantry Division and a Fuerzas Comando veteran, told Diálogo. Paraguay hosted the event in 2006 and 2017.

The exercise and Senior Leader Seminar strengthen regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness, and interoperability of Special Operations Forces in the Western Hemisphere. Fuerzas Comando takes place annually in rotating partner nations since 2004 for a display of physical fitness, weapons marksmanship, tactical capabilities, teamwork, and cooperation.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Is Special Opns Deployment Tempo a National Security Risk?

The article below was written by Stu Bradin, a retired Special Forces Officer and the President of the Global SOF Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for all aspects of SOF on a global scale. This was published on the Cipher Brief.

Most of my adult life was spent as a soldier in special operations. One of the most persistent issues throughout my career was finding the right balance of deployment tempo (DEPTEMPO) with time in garrison to train and to be home.

It wasn’t always balanced. A big part of this problem is that special operations forces (SOF) are comprised of people that want to run hard. After all, this is one of the reasons they are selected. When someone joins special operations, they do not do so hoping to have time to coach their kid’s little league team or to get a PhD. These are people that want to see more action than what the conventional military offers. This is not a slight on the conventional forces—it’s just that special operations units are taking on different missions with historically high DEPTEMPOs. This was true even before September 11th. Afterwards, the DEPTEMPO got even worse, but that is to be expected in war. Over time, U.S. Special Operations Command has been able ensure units get some relief, but the operational environment dictates that SOF (Special Operations Forces) carry a heavier load.

Today, SOF is conducting the bulk of the operational deployments across the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCCs) submit a “request for forces” (or RFF) to the Joint Staff to meet a mission requirement. The RFF is very detailed, and the Joint Staff is tasked to thoroughly vet the requirement and validate the request. Once validated, the Joint Staff then determines the best force for the mission. In the current operational environment more often than not, SOF is the chosen tool in the DoD tool kit.

There is growing public concern that SOF is deploying too much. If that is true, then it falls to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense to not sign the deployment orders. But the reality is that they are signing them because they alone have a holistic view, and they assess the threats and weigh the risks across all GCCs. Additionally, the Joint Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense are aware of the SOF requirements inherent in every operational plan because they approve them ahead of time. People are asking, for example, why is SOF ramping up for Korea? The answer is simple: they are directed to do so in the plan.

The current DoD guidance is for SOF units to have 2 to 1 DEPTEMPO, meaning a service member will be home or in garrison two days for every one day he/she is deployed. There is a movement afoot to get SOF to a 3 to 1 rotation, but that will be tough to achieve given the threat landscape and operational demands placed on special operations. Moreover, I am not sure SOF should go to 3 to 1. Had Special Forces been on a 3 to 1 rotation during my time in service, I am certain I would have left the military. I knew that I would deploy often and to places that are not vacation spots. That is what motivated me through the entire process. I signed up for that lifestyle, but it must be noted, however, that my family did not.

When Admiral Eric Olson was the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, he commissioned a survey because the stress on the force was high. The command wanted to know what the situation was and what might help relieve some of the pressure. One of the interesting survey results: the operators were less concerned with their well-being and more focused on channeling additional support to their families. The biggest thing the force and the families wanted was predictability. U.S. Special Operations Command has made amazing strides in this area through its Preservation of the Force and Families initiatives. And the public, DoD, and Congress should continue to support them.

There is a lot being written in the news about U.S. Africa Command cutting SOF deployments in its theater by fifty percent. I doubt that this will happen because the threats certainly have not decreased by fifty percent. It is more likely that our leaders are making a judgment call—weighing the preponderance of threats against the risk to the force. This is what they are tasked to do. As the name implies, our special operators are unique. They will go and go until the last drop of blood flows through their veins. The downside is that they will self-destruct if you let them. This is nothing new. Unfortunately, the current threat environment and the reality of modern warfare means that SOF and DoD leaders will continue to struggle to find the right balance for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Green Berets and Afghan commandos announce capture of ISIS stronghold

U.S. and Afghan special operations troops in one of their largest joint operations captured a stronghold that Islamic State fighters claimed as their local capital, military officials said Saturday. No Americans or Afghan troops were killed in the offensive, which the U.S. military said killed 167 fighters from the Islamic State group – also known as ISIS or Daesh – and involved a complex multipronged attack on Gurgoray, a town purported to be the group’s capital in Deh Bala district in Nangarhar province. “This area, two months ago, was controlled by Daesh,” Brig. Gen. John W. Brennan Jr., commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan, said at a special operations outpost in Deh Bala. “We pushed them into the mountains, so they cannot harm the people here.”

The U.S. and Afghan offensive involved five Special Forces teams and three Afghan commando companies. In total, 600 members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as Green Berets, participated in the mission, which began in April and continued into June, a U.S. military officer said. Checkpoints manned by U.S. Special Forces, Afghan commandos and police now rise high above the valleys of Deh Bala, while American fighter-bombers continue to blast the Gurgoray Valley to stifle movements there by ISIS remnants.

Nangarhar province is one of the few places Americans continue to fight alongside Afghan forces in battle, and it has also been the deadliest spot for U.S. servicemembers, with a third of American combat deaths occurring there last year. Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, a Green Beret, died during a foot patrol in Nangarhar in January and was the first U.S. combat death of 2018 before the death of another servicemember in an insider attack Saturday.

The finger-like mountain ridges and wheat-filled valleys of Deh Bala district in Nangarhar have long provided shelter to insurgents – the Taliban, al-Qaida and now ISIS. The district’s center lies 21 miles south of Jalalabad, the provincial capital where ISIS claimed recent deadly suicide attacks, and 11 miles west of Aachin, where the U.S. military in April 2017 dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal, “the mother of all bombs,” on an ISIS cave network. Due to its location on the border with Pakistan, Deh Bala served as a key supply route for ISIS. “ISIS was using this site as a site to prepare and stage high-profile attacks,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Thiel, commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group.

Examples of attacks staged in the region include a bombing that killed 12 at a gathering of key religious gathering in June and another bombing that killed eight at a cricket match last year, Thiel said. When ISIS first arrived in the area, reportedly around 2014, the militant group used its money reserves to convince locals to join them. U.S. and Afghan officials said the group then began taxing and extorting locals, killing those who did not comply and selling off the region’s trees and minerals.

The militant group beheaded a police officer following an attack two months ago, said Ghulam Sakhi, commander of the 200 Afghan Local Police in the district. “In the beginning, ISIS seemed really nice,” Sakhi said through a translator. “All the people liked them. They were good with the people, but then by the time they were beheading people, people realized they were not good people.”

A team of Green Berets and Afghan commandos arrived in Deh Bala and dug into a position on a ridge overlooking the Gurgoray Valley on April 28, Thiel said. This position, Observation Post Krakken, was east of Gurgoray and fired down into the valley as other U.S. and Afghan forces built up a larger base, Camp Blackbeard, near the Deh Bala district center. “They put the capital under fire for about 30 days as they built up this space,” Thiel said while at Camp Blackbeard.

Machine gun and mortar fired rose up from Gurgoray and valley below OP Krakken, and U.S. airstrikes pounded the valley as ISIS fighters dug in. Afghan soldiers fasted during the day and ate only at night during the offensive, which overlapped with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Thiel said. Then helicopters filled with Green Berets and Afghan commandos landed on ridgelines to the northwest of Gurgoray on May 30 and built outposts overlooking Gurgoray. This maneuver placed ISIS fighters under attack from both west and east, Thiel said.

ISIS fighters had built their defense to guard against an attack from the east, through the valley leading from OP Krakken to Gurgoray, Thiel said. Militants emerged from their positions and attacked the Green Berets and Afghan commandos to their west. Heavy airstrikes called in by Afghan commandos killed more than 100 ISIS fighters.

Article from Stars and Stripes

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Military Retirees TRICARE Dental Plan Changing

Military retirees and their families will have to change their dental plans for 2019 by switching over from the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program to the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program will end on December 31, 2018, requiring those enrolled in the program to switch their coverage over to one of 10 dental plans under the FEDVIP program. Automatic enrollment will not occur when the TRICARE dental plan ends, meaning that recipients will have to actively chose plans during the FEDVIP open enrollment season, which takes place November 12 through December 10.

The change is prompted by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, which granted eligibility for certain TRICARE members to transition over to benefits offered under FEDVIP.

In addition to retirees and their families, members of the Retired Reserve, non-active Medal of Honor recipients, survivors and family members of active-duty service members also have the option to enroll in dental and one of four vision plans under FEDVIPS. This is the first time that most military families will have the option to sign up for vision benefits, though they must be signed up for a TRICARE Health Plan to be eligible. According to OPM, this change could impact approximately 5.4 million individuals.

Article from the Federal Times