Thursday, December 1, 2016

Urgent Request - Please Support Wreaths Across America

Donations are still needed to honor fallen US veterans on December 17, 2016. SFA Chapter IX is heavily involved in this effort for the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, sponsoring at least 35 wreaths for fallen Green Berets buried there.

On Saturday, December 17, volunteers all across the United States will place donated wreaths on the graves of hundreds of thousands of veterans. The annual tradition known as National Wreaths Across America Day got its start in 1992 as a way honor their service and remember their lives. If the event took place today, however, over 100,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery would be left without a remembrance wreath.

Wreaths Across America is a donation-based organization that receives no money from the government. They raise more than $3 million each year to reach their goal of honoring hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with wreaths, and the number grows as more and more men and women who have served pass away.

A mission to honor heroes. Every December, thousands of wreaths are escorted from Harrington, Maine to the nation’s capital, where they are placed at Arlington National Cemetery with the help of many volunteers. The result is a breathtaking sight. On the same day, hundreds of thousands more wreaths are distributed around the country and beyond.

What has become known as the country’s longest veterans parade will begin this year on Saturday, December 10 with a sunrise service at a state park in Maine. For the next seven days, trucks filled with wreaths will caravan down the East Coast to Washington, D.C., stopping at schools, memorials and other locations along the way to spread the Wreaths Across America mission: Remember, honor and teach. The organization’s website details what that mission really means:

“Remember our fallen U.S. veterans. Honor those who serve.
Teach your children the value of freedom.”


The escort to Arlington is symbolic of that mission. According to the Wreaths Across America website, the pilgrimage began 25 years ago when Maine wreath maker Morrill Worchester discovered he had a surplus of holiday wreaths. Worchester was greatly impacted by a visit to Arlington as a child, and he wanted to do something to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes. So, he donated the extra wreaths to be placed on graves in one of the cemetery’s older sections. This tribute continued each year until 2005, when a photo showing the donated wreaths on graves covered in snow went viral. Requests began pouring in from all over the country from people wanting to help honor our nation’s heroes.

In 2007, the Worchester family and many of those who had helped with the annual wreath donations formed the non-profit organization known as Wreaths Across America. In 2008, over 100,000 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves at over 300 locations, and Congress declared the day of the event Wreaths Across America Day.

In 2014, volunteers laid over 700,000 wreaths at more than 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond. The event is usually held on the second or third Saturday in December. Volunteers who lay a wreath on a grave are encouraged to take a moment to say that veteran’s name aloud and thank them for their service. It’s about remembering their lives, instead of their deaths.

The mission continues in 2016. As of Wednesday morning, a Wreaths Across America spokeswoman said approximately 130,000 individual wreath sponsorships had been received for Arlington National Cemetery. A total of 245,000 sponsorships are needed to ensure every service member buried at Arlington is honored with a wreath placement—meaning 115,000 more sponsorships are still needed to meet the goal.

But the overall need is even greater than that. Close to 1,000,000 wreaths are expected to be placed on the graves of veterans across the country-- aside from Arlington-- on December 17. Donations for locations nationally are up more than 20 percent from last year, a spokeswoman said.

How you can help:

SPONSOR A WREATH: Wreath sponsorships are $15 each, and can be purchased online. Click here for a link to donate.

The deadline for online donations for the 1,200 participating locations around the country has been extended through December 3. The deadline to sponsor a wreath at Arlington is December 14, or until the last truck of wreaths leaves Maine headed for the nation’s capital.

Sponsor a wreath around the country. Search for a specific cemetery, or find one that is participating near you. You’ll find options to donate, volunteer or see information about ceremonies planned for Dec. 17. On each page, you’ll find information about how many wreaths are needed, and how many have already been sponsored.

Sponsor a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. A total of 245,000 remembrance wreaths are needed at our nation's most hallowed ground. If you'd like to donate one, click here.

VOLUNTEER: Help is needed at each cemetery, including Arlington, to place wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day. If you’d like to volunteer to help, you’re encouraged to register online. Though registration isn’t required, those who register will receive updates specific to their location in advance of the event.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2017 Proposed Military Pay Raise

Over Obama's objection, Congress agrees on a bigger military pay raise, more troops. Military personnel would see a 2.1 percent pay raise starting in January and a significant manpower boost within the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps as part of Congress' annual defense spending bill unveiled Tuesday.

The compromise measure also includes a massive overhaul of the military health care system, but it eliminates a controversial proposal to change troops' housing allowance, leaving the military's current stipend program largely unchanged. Totaling nearly $619 billion, the bill represents lawmakers' final offer to the White House, omitting several problematic provisions debated in recent months.

But that's still about $3.2 billion more than President Barack Obama's request, setting up a potential veto. Obama has said he won't accept an increase in defense spending without corresponding increases in nonmilitary programs. If the president intends to make good on that threat, he'll have to squash several measures that would benefit the military workforce at a time when many troops and their families feel their compensation and overall quality of life have slipped.

That's because the extra money — tucked into overseas contingency funds, to get around defense spending caps — is used mainly to pay for additional pay and personnel costs. It pushes the 2017 military pay raise from the Pentagon-preferred rate of 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent, a mark equal to the projected rise in private sector wages.

If it stands, 2017 will be the first time in six years that the military pay raise tops 2 percent. For a snapshot of annual salaries for selected ranks, see below:

Private E-1, under two years of service, annual pay is $ 19,188. That would be $9.22 an hour based on an 40 hour work week, however if you consider Army privates work at least 10 hours a day, the hourly wage would be $7.38 - and American fast food worker wants $15 a hour!!

Sergeant, E-5, over 8 years of service, annual pay is $ 36,624

Master Sergeant E-8, over 20 years of service, annual pay is $ 64,116

Captain O-3, over 4 yesrs of service, annual pay is $ 64,776

Colonel O-6, 0ver 20 years of service, annual pay is $ 120,648

For the complete 2017 Proposed Pay Schedule, click here.

Military budget planners had said that money would be better used to pay for training and modernization costs, but lawmakers have argued that three consecutive years of pay raise trims have begun to hurt military families' finances.

Lawmakers also used the additional funds to reject Obama's plans to draw down Army and Marine Corps end strength, again to cut long-term personnel costs.

Article from Military Times

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RIP - Vern Walden (MSG, US Army Special Forces, Retired)

Vernon Walden, age 89, MSG, U.S. Army Retired, formally of Greenville, South Carolina died on November 17, 2016 in El Paso, Texas. He was the last surviving member of his immediate family and a member of Special Forces Chapter Association IX, El Paso, Texas.

Vern served over 25 years in the Army. First in the Korean War with D Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division where he was wounded thus earning a Purple Heart as well as a Combat Infantryman's Badge and Bronze Star.

He earned his Parachute Wings in 1957, then served as a Jump School Instructor before volunteering for Special Forces and serving with the 7th and 5th Special Forces Groups until his retirement in 1971. While serving three combat tours in Vietnam Vern earned his second Bronze Star and a second award of the coveted Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Vern was a member of El Maida Shrine Temple, El Paso Scottish Rite of Freemasonry 32nd degree, York Rite Bodies El Paso, BPOE Lodge #856, Loyal Order of Moose, Lodge #749, Veteran of Foreign Wars #10330, Empire Lodge #213 A.F.M., The American Legion Post #3, and was a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the 82nd Airborne Division Association (Benavidez Patterson) Chapter El Paso, Texas.

He is survived by his two daughters, Polly and Carol. Services are pending. Memorials may be made to Shriner's Hospital for Children , 950 W. Faris Road, Greenville, South Carolina, 29605 or to one's choice.

Friends can go to the El Paso Times Obituary page to write a memory of Vern.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chapter Meeting Notes - 15 October 2016

Christmas Food Drive: Tom Melgares, Chair. Start scrounging food for the boxes. Drop off donations at the VFW 12 and 13 DEC -Packing day 14 December, 5-9 pm. Committee = Sam, Greg, Chuy and Al. Need to find more schools to assist –letters were sent to 4 schools -letters are available if you want to take them to possible donors. Cutoff date to order boxes is 30 NOV.

Chapter Flag: Tom Melgares Chair -–Committee -Jerry, Pablo and Hugo. Chapter voted to buy the flag at $795 and to have the charity portion of the cost go to the Montagnards.

2017 1st SF Group Reunion, El Paso: Ike Camacho –Chair. Committee –Gus, Chuy, Duke, Steve, Leo, Jerry and Bill. Dates proposed are 5-10 June 2017. This will be the 3rd time that Chapter 9 has hosted the 1st Group. Anchor hotel is the Chase Suites for $69, full registration is $120 until 15 May, then it will be $140 (Hospitality Room only is $50). Banquet will be at the Marriott. Registration forms went out in August and the information was sent to the DROP. You can also contact Ike at powike@sbcglobal.net.

SFA 9 Christmas Party: Scheduled for 10 December with the meet and greet starting at 1800, dinner at 1900 and entertainment starting at 2000ish. Tony, Martha and the Villa band will provide the entertainment. Trini and the ladiesfrom the VFW Aux will run it this year. Members and 1 guest are no charge –extra guests are $10 each. Motion by Chuck for $4000 max expenses –passed.

Donations: Pete decided to discuss the donations vote from last month since he was not present. Update is that any donation over $1000.00 requires an email, since the board has the authority to approve expenses of $1000 or less.

2018 SFA National Conference –El Paso: Chair, Brian Kanof; Committee Bill, China Boy and Joe Kerwin JR. The best date for the City seems to be between 11-17 June, 2018. We may cut the days down to 5 or 6 from 7 as in the past. SFA 80 will assist. Brian plans to reach out to some other military and Veteran groups for assistance. Brian will give us a meeting plan, but he asked the members to start seeking $5K sponsorships now.

A Co 5/19th SFG Troop pre-deployment party: Chapter voted to spend up to $1000 to host a party for their 85 men who are preparing for a OCONUS deployment. Their SGM, Hank Eylicio spoke. He is a former member of SFA 9 and now belongs to SFA 78 in California. Hank is also a US Border Patrol BORTAC member. Party was held on 8 November at 1730 hrs and lasted way into election night. Leo gave each member a special Native American blessing with the burning fragrance and an Eagle Feather. The unit passed the hat (at their request) and gathered $409 to support the chapter. We may have another function when they return in 6 months.

U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group (USBP SOG) Expo scheduled: SOG Expo, our major fundraiser is scheduled for 3-4 May, 2017.



Wreaths Across America: Debbie Torres, CAP Chair. Event = Saturday, 17 December at 10:00 am –FT Bliss Cemetery. Chapter reviewing the list in November but we will pay for all SF and prior SFA 9 Members and spouses who are interred, as usual. Members can purchase wreaths at $15 each for non-SF. Questions call Debbie at 915 207-2231.

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

MAJ Chester Garrett: Steve announced that MAJ Garrett received the Distinguished Member of the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment (DMOR) honors, posthumously, at FT Bragg -on 28 October. SFA 9 has 2 other members who were inducted into this elite group in the past –Isaac Camacho & Billy Waugh.

SF Room at the VFW: Chapter discussed hanging the plaques and items we have. Leo suggested a Native American section. Committee was formed –Chair Tom Brady, Committee Leo, Brian, Chuck and Al.

Chapter member Tommy Buchino (SGM ret) lost his bid for County Sherriff runing against an incumbent Democrat Sheriff in a largely Democrat region. Chapter Member Sam Morgan is running again for City Council on 18 May.

Chapter President's Message:

As winter approaches, we start our transition not only to pants, coats and heaters but also the food drive, wreaths across America and the Christmas party. As listed above we have pledged Chapter funds for the 21stannual food drive but we do not have the support of the schools as in the past.

Think about it, we’ve been doing this food drive for 21 years and have alwayssecured SOME help from outside sources but it doesn’t look good for us this year. I ask EVERYONE from Chapter 9 to support this by donating non-perishable goods or making a cash donation. Also, talk to stores that you frequent and ask them for donations. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to help with this worthy cause. For those who do take boxes, we do not want to give less than we normally do and we DO NOT have a quota for boxes. If 50 or 150 boxes are requested, that’s what we pack so please support this.

The other item that needs to be addressed is the committee heads for the 2018 National Convention. At the last meeting Brain had asked for volunteers and I don’t believe we had anyone stand up. The convention is in 2018 but we only have until June of2017 to get the plan at a 80-90% solution that’s when we have to brief the master plan at the 2017 SFA National Convention. Issues like hotels, transportation, venues, cost, etc. need to be ironed out so please get with Brain and do you part. Hopefully we can get some of our Chapter 9 members not in El Paso to come help.

Last but not least, our Chapter Christmas party is scheduled for 10 December at the VFW Post 812. As stated above, the Chapter member and one guest (this includes spouses of past members and 1 guest) are free. Your invited guest will cost $10.00. We have Tony, Martha and the Villa band for entertainment so it will be a great time. This is the time of the year where we get to see old friends and make new ones. As always, thank you for your support and friendship.

Pete Peral,
President, SFA Chapter IX

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chaplains Corner - November 2016

“Trust me – I’m still in control”

I sure am glad the voting for president is over. I felt some relief after I had voted, but it was a short relief. It seems that every day was like riding a Yoyo – being played by persons I didn’t respect too highly. Trusting my loving Holy Father in Heaven, I went to Him in prayer and I thanked my Him for the peace of His presence and placed my frustrations and fears in His care. I felt a gentle peaceful renewal of my faith, and during my time with God in prayer, He gave me the following comforting words. He told me to continue to trust Him, because He is still in control of everything in His creation.

I felt my frustrations and fears slip away and I felt calm and loved by my God, as I did as He told me, everything turned out as I had hoped would be God’s Will for me and the USA. I am at peace with God and His plan for me, the USA, and His Church, and the world. My hope in this article is that when you feel you are in a similar situation as I was, you would remember the comforting words God gave me to move forward with my life.

“Trust me – I’m still in control”

Love You All;
Chaplain John

Monday, November 14, 2016

Honoring surviving OSS members must be a priority for lame-duck Congress

This article was written by Bob Dole, and published on Military Times. Bob Dole was a former Senator who represented Kansas in Congress from 1969-1996. He served as an Army combat infantry officer in Northern Italy during World War II.

The Office of Strategic Services, better known as the OSS, was the World War II predecessor to the CIA, U.S. Special Operations Command and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It was created after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt believed the war necessitated the creation of a centralized intelligence agency with the capability to conduct unconventional warfare.

Roosevelt chose as its director Army Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who earned the Medal of Honor fighting with the legendary “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment in World War I. Roosevelt called General Donovan his “secret legs.” Donovan was a man of seemingly limitless intelligence, vision and bravery who is considered the founding father of the intelligence and special operations communities.

The OSS Maritime Unit was a predecessor to the Navy SEALs. Its Jedburgh and Operational Groups were predecessors to Army Special Forces. Elements of the Army Air Corps served as the air arm of the OSS and as predecessors to Air Force Special Operations Command. The Marines who served in the OSS were predecessors to the Marines Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

Donovan said OSS personnel performed “some of the bravest acts of the war.” They were drawn from every branch of the military and the civilian population. Donovan called them his “glorious amateurs”:





• Army officers including Col. Aaron Bank, considered the “father of Special Forces,” and Maj. William Colby, who would become head of the CIA.  See picture of Col Aaron Bank at left. 


• Marines including Col. Peter Ortiz, the most highly decorated member of the OSS; Col. William Eddy, who some consider the American “Lawrence of Arabia”; and Sterling Hayden, the famed actor who served under the name John Hamilton and would earn a Silver Star before returning to Hollywood for roles in “The Godfather” and “Dr. Strangelove.”


• Coast Guard personnel, including Lt. John Booth, served as the OSS’s operational swimmers. • Navy Lt. Jack Taylor, a Navy Cross recipient who led one of the deepest parachute missions into occupied Austria and survived captivity in a Nazi concentration camp.



• Fred Mayer, the real “inglorious bastard” who was nominated for the Medal of Honor.  See picture of Fred Mayer at right. 


• James Donovan, the OSS general counsel who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies”


• Virginia Hall, the only civilian woman to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II.


• Ralph Bunche, who would go on in 1950 to become the first African-American to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.   See picture of Ralph Bunche at left. 



The OSS supported resistance movements around the world. General Eisenhower said the intelligence it gathered before D-Day alone justified its creation, but the OSS played a critical role in other invasions.


Its Morale Operations Branch pioneered the use of psychological warfare. It brought leading academics into the war effort to work for its Research and Analysis Branch and created area studies. It led Operation Halyard, one of World War II’s most famed rescue missions. Its Communications, Presentation, and Research and Development Branches created new technologies and devised innovative methodologies.

OSS personnel went behind enemy lines on the war’s most dangerous missions. Historian Patrick O’Donnell said one would “be very hard-pressed to find a smaller group of individuals who made such a profound difference in the history of modern American warfare."

The Office of Strategic Services Congressional Gold Medal Act will honor the men and women who served in the OSS. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., introduced this bill in the Senate, where it was passed unanimously with 73 co-sponsors earlier this year. The House bill has 320 co-sponsors – nearly 75 percent of the body’s members.

The House has honored many other groups of World War II veterans, including the Doolittle Raiders, the Tuskegee Airmen and the 1st Special Service Force. Under new rules enacted for the 114th Congress, House leadership must issue a waiver to allow passage of Congressional Gold Medal bills that honor groups of people. It granted such a waiver to the only other Gold Medal bill passed in this session of Congress, which honored civil rights marchers. There is no reason a waiver should not be granted for the OSS bill, too.

Time is running out pass this bill before Congress adjourns. If the gavel falls before the bill is passed, some of the greatest and unrecognized heroes of World War II will never be honored for their service. This would be a travesty. When Donovan died in 1959, President Eisenhower said he was the “last hero.” It is time to honor the “last hero,” and all the heroes of the OSS, with a Congressional Gold Medal.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day 2016

We awake this Veteran's Day to honor those who served but we cannot overlook the divided country, still in turmoil after the historic election of a non-career politician. The national government is under-represented by veterans, more so than any other time in this country. However, there is light ahead. I believe many more Vets, either retiring from active duty or leaving service before they accrue a pension, will step forward and continue to serve in legislative or executive positions at the local, state or federal level. Missouri elected Eric Greitens a retired Navy SEAL as Governor. Ryan Zinke, another retired SEAL, will continue to serve as a Senator from Montana. I believe many more will step forward,...God knows we need them,......and they will do so not from the standpoint of beginning a new career, but from a deep felt obligation to continue to serve. Isaiah 6:8, 'And I heard the voice of the Lord saying', “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

As another veteran, friend and unabashed patriot, KC Caulder, wrote:

As we, as a nation, go about our day, on this Veteran's Day (November 11th) please remember one thing: Someone laid down their life to make it possible for you to be FREE.

No matter how you try, those that have never been away from family for any extended period of time, you cannot understand what it is like to say goodbye not knowing when, or if, you will see each other again. Or, will your kids forget who you are while you're gone.

No matter how hard you try, those that have never been a military wife/husband, you cannot understand what it is like to stand alone with all the responsibilities of home. And, also wonder will I ever see my soldier alive once more?

No matter how you try, those that have never been on a battlefield, you cannot understand the fear, courage, fortitude, and determination it takes to face the enemy knowing he wants to kill you and say no I won't let him.

No matter how hard you try, those that have never stood before a flag draped coffin, you cannot understand the sorrow, pain, anguish, and yes, pride that comes by knowing he/she is gone but they left me for duty, honor, and country.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best, "Those that have long enjoyed the privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them."

No matter how hard you try, don't go through this sacred day without stopping, thanking God, and thanking the men and women who stood in the gap and laid down their lives so you could be FREE.

A veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check, payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact.

Monday, November 7, 2016

3 Green Berets from 5th SF Group Killed in Jordan

The Pentagon has identified the three Special Forces soldiers supporting the anti-Islamic State coalition who died after their convoy came under fire on Friday while entering a military base in Jordan.

The Green Berets were identified in a statement released Sunday as Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27. All three were assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky., and were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. See photo below, from left to right: Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27.



The incident is under investigation, the military said. The U.S. Special Operations Command said in a statement that all three of the decorated soldiers killed in the attack had served multiple overseas tours.

Lewellen, a native of Lawrence, Kan., had more than six years of service in the Army and was serving his second overseas tour. Among his awards were a Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Tucson native McEnroe was an eight-year Army veteran on his third overseas tour. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Hailing from Kerrville, Texas, Moriarty, had more than five years of service in the Army. This was his second overseas tour. His awards include the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The deaths bring to seven the number of Americans killed in action since the start of the anti-Islamic State mission in 2014.

Article from Stars and Stripes

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Two 10th SF Group Green Berets Killed in Afghanistan

A Special Forces soldier from North Carolina was one of two Americans killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, according to the Pentagon. Capt. Andrew D. Byers, 30, of Rolesville, was killed in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Friday. Byers and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan A. Gloyer, 34, of Greenville, Pennsylvania, were killed while trying to clear a Taliban fighting position.

According to reports, more than 30 civilians and four Afghan Special Forces soldiers were also killed. Byers and Gloyer were assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.

In a statement Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the news of their deaths and the injuries of fellow American soldiers deeply saddened him. "The two service members killed and the four who suffered injuries were with Afghan forces as part of our train, advise and assist mission," Carter said. "Some of our Afghan partners also died. Our service members were doing their part to help the Afghans secure their own country while protecting our homeland from those who would do us harm.

"On this difficult day, please keep their families, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers. We will honor their sacrifice by finishing our important mission in Afghanistan."

Byers had served in the Army for more than eight years, according to officials. He was on his third deployment. He had previously earned the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal, among other awards and recognition.

Gloyer had served in the Army for more than 11 years, including time spent with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, and was on his fourth deployment, officials said. He had previously earned the Bronze Star Medal with Valor device, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal, among other awards and recognition.

God Speed Brothers. John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Article from the Fayetteville Observer

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SFA HQ Falls victim to Hurricane Matthew's floodwaters

History has been left out to dry in a secluded compound south of Fayetteville. Filing cabinets sit open with fans trained on the papers inside. Books have been piled up to be sorted and salvaged at a future date. They sit atop display cases, filled with patches, berets and artifacts from wars from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Cliff Newman walks through it all, occasionally pausing to thumb through a book or peak at debris stored in plastic bags. "We're still kind of in a state of shock," he said.

Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association, said the nonprofit was hit particularly hard by the floodwaters that came with Hurricane Matthew last month. The 52-year-old association's compound off Doc Bennett Road - which includes picnic areas, a memorial garden and office space - was covered in nearly five feet of water at the flooding's peak.

Nearby Rockfish Creek, located down a steep embankment from the roughly 20-acre compound, rose 40 feet to flood all but a small chapel and rows of memorial stones, Newman said. "It was like a big lake," he said. "It just surged right in here and flowed back out again."

Weeks later, the national organization, which counts roughly 10,000 current and former Green Berets among its members, is still picking up the pieces. A team building used by the association's Fayetteville chapter, Chapter 1-18, was damaged so badly that it will likely need to be torn down.

Fences have been uprooted. Picnic tables and other debris are sticking out from a small manmade lake in the center of the compound. The group's headquarters, the Frenchy Amundson Building, will survive but has been gutted in the aftermath of the flooding, Newman said. Carpeting and insulation are piled outside. Ruined furniture is stacked by four flagpoles - with national, state, Special Forces and prisoner of war flags flapping in the breeze.

Inside is where the damage is most evident. "It's a little stale," Newman said, commenting on the musty smell of the once-flooded building. Parts of the walls are missing. Each room is stacked with piles of debris, some of which will be salvaged. Some is too destroyed to keep. Ruined electronics are stacked amid piles of plastic bags, destroyed magazines - archives of the association's quarterly Drop magazine - and documents which dated to the 1960s.

In another room, a bust of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, one arm outstretched, gazes at the damage. Awards and mementos from many a Special Forces career are disheveled amid the still-drying display cases. Photos and posters, some decades old and tracing the history of Special Forces, are stacked on top of them.

There are flags, uniforms and traditional clothing from around the world. "Some of this is salvageable and some isn't," Newman said. "Some of this is irreplaceable. It's history."

Newman is one of three employees at the Special Forces Association headquarters, which helps oversee 85 chapters across the globe. He was out of town when the hurricane struck on Oct. 8. He was called home with news of the devastation. "I got a call that my office was under water," he said.

The Special Forces Association saved what it could, Newman said. Board members grabbed what they could, and carried important artifacts home with them for safekeeping. Others have been to the compound since the water receded to take stock of what was left and begin to sort through the debris.

Meanwhile, the organization itself is in a holding pattern. Newman said the compound regularly hosts Special Forces veterans and their families. New Special Forces soldiers have a tradition of attending a barbecue there after their graduation. And veterans return each year for major holidays, memorials and celebrations. It's unclear when those activities will resume.

In addition to replacing most of their electronics and furniture, Newman said there is structural damage to be repaired. There was insurance, he said. But nothing for flooding, which had seemed like a slim possibility with the compound situated at least 25 feet up a steep embankment from the creek. "It's about $250,000 in damages," Newman said. "It's hard to say what will happen next."

The association doesn't have deep reserves, he said. It publishes its magazine at a loss as a service to its members. And it provides more than $30,000 a year in scholarships. After that, there's not enough left to rebuild and replace what was lost. "We need some help here," Newman said.

The Special Forces Association's board had an emergency meeting in the wake of the flooding. It will meet again today - in space borrowed from the Green Beret Foundation - to discuss what will come next. A priority will be getting operational again, Newman said.

The organization depends on its members' paid dues, he said. And the headquarters needs to stand back up to accept them. But that could take weeks, Newman said. Any repairs to the buildings will likely take months. "What are we going to do with this building? Where are we going to go until then?" he asked. "It's hard to say what will happen."

Article from the Fayetteville Observer

Monday, October 31, 2016

Iraq's Vaunted Special Forces



Iraq's special forces, which barreled into a town east of Mosul on Thursday despite a wave of suicide attacks, are the country's most professional and least sectarian fighting force. Officially known as the Counter Terrorism Service or CTS, the U.S. trained troops have played a key role in wresting back towns and cities from IS, and are expected to lead the charge in Mosul, their toughest battle yet.

Here is a look at Iraq's special forces:

MADE IN AMERICA

The CTS was established by the American military shortly after the 2003 invasion as an elite commando unit charged with hunting down top insurgents and carrying out complex raids. They were trained, armed and supplied by U.S. Special Forces, who fought alongside them at the height of the insurgency.

The force proved to be a more reliable partner to the Americans than the mainstream security forces, where corruption was rife and many units were tied to parties or militias. But many Iraqis saw the special forces as the shock troops of an occupying power, and took to referring to them as the "Dirty Division."

A PRAETORIAN GUARD?

The force grew in size over the years and expanded beyond its commando roots, with some taking part in conventional battles and even mundane tasks like manning checkpoints. Today they number around 12,000 men, including administrators, and up to 2,600 are taking part in the Mosul operation.

The unit was never incorporated into the Defense Ministry and answers directly to the prime minister. In the latter years of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's rule, many feared the special forces had become a praetorian guard that would cement his grip on power, but those fears were laid to rest when al-Maliki peacefully stepped down in 2014.

FROM "DIRTY" TO "GOLDEN"

When the Islamic State group swept across northern and central Iraq in 2014, Iraq's security forces crumbled. Officers fled and their soldiers beat a humiliating retreat, many stripping off their uniforms and leaving their weapons and Humvees behind.

But not the special forces, who held their ground and became a source of national pride. The CTS "retained its organizational cohesion and structure in 2014 when many other units of the Iraqi army fell apart," said David M. Witty, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel and former adviser to the CTS. "The key leaders of CTS have become central figures in the Iraqi public's perception of the campaign to destroy IS." "Dirty" no more, the 1st Brigade is now widely known as the "Golden Division."

A NON-SECTARIAN FORCE

The CTS was designed to be a non-sectarian force, with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members who were strictly vetted to ensure they had no ties to political factions or militias. In the early years, the force mainly battled Sunni insurgents, but it also played a lead role in a 2008 offensive against Shiite militias. Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari, who leads the Golden Brigade, is a Kurd.

The force also has a better human rights record than most of the other participants in the Mosul Offensive. An Amnesty International report released this week documenting abuses in Anbar mainly focused on state-sanctioned Shiite militias, and included only passing mention of the CTS.

LEADING THE CHARGE INTO MOSUL

The special forces launched their first assault in the Mosul operation early Thursday, pushing into the town of Bartella with the aid of attack helicopters despite stiff resistance from IS, which unleashed nine suicide truck bombs, one of which struck an armored Humvee. The rest were destroyed before hitting their targets.

"We will lead the charge into Mosul as we are specialized in the battles in urban areas and guerrilla war," said special forces Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil. "We are trained to break into towns and cities with fewer casualties."

The special forces are expected to help drive IS out of Mosul in the coming weeks or months. But they can't police the country, and will eventually have to hand things off to Iraq's army and police, as well as Shiite militias and Sunni tribal fighters. It will be left to them to ensure that IS, which has recovered from past defeats, does not return.

Article from the New York Times

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

National Day of the Deployed - October 26th

 
October 26 is annually designated as National Day of the Deployed. National Day of the Deployed honors all of the brave men and woman who have been deployed, are sacrificing, or have sacrificed their lives to defend our country. The day also acknowledges their families who are separated from them during deployment and the sacrifices they make in order for their family members to serve our country. Since 2012, all 50 states observe National Day of the Deployed. 

As the threat environment has grown globally since 9/11, the Green Berets continue to be called upon to meet the challenge. Currently, Green Berets are deployed in over 52 countries securing America’s strategic interests. The heavy deployment rotations have come at a price however, as Green Berets have sustained the highest casualty rate in the Special Operations community. Nevertheless, The United States Army Special Forces remain the most capable and effective fighting force that the world has ever seen.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Federal Court Strikes Blow Against Military Reservists

A high-level federal court on Friday delivered a blow to the rights of military reservists. The case involved a Navy reservist who claimed that his civilian employer fired him because he was mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan, a violation of federal laws designed to protect reservists from discrimination based on their military service. But Kevin Ziober lost his case before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that his pre-employment arbitration agreement prohibited him from suing his former employer.

And although the court ruled against Ziober, the judge appeared to urge Congress to consider changing or strengthening the 1994 law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA. “If we have erred by construing [USERRA] too narrowly, Congress will surely let us know,” Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford wrote in a concurring opinion released Friday.

The USERRA law requires employers to allow reservists to return to their civilian jobs after periods of active-duty service. Ziober testified before Congress in June, describing his experience and the need to strengthen the law.

Ziober was a Navy lieutenant in 2012 when he was working for a California real estate management company, BLB Resources. He was fired on his last day of work before deploying to Afghanistan. The company said he was fired for reasons unrelated to his military service. However, when Ziober started working for BLB Resources, he signed an contract agreeing to resolve outside of court any future legal disputes with his employer. Such arbitration agreements typically bar employeees from filing lawsuits.

Ziober tried to file a lawsuit in federal court after he was fired. It alleged discrimination in violation of USERRA. But that lawsuit failed when a district-level federal court said the arbitration agreement stripped Ziober of his right to sue under USERRA.

Ziober’s attorney suggested the ruling could harm military recruiting and retention, and ultimately impact military readiness. “USERRA is there to protect the rights of service members and veterans, and without USERRA rights, and enforcement of those rights, [National] Guard and reserve members can’t do their duty with the confidence they need that they can get back to their jobs and put food on the table for their families,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, a Washington attorney who has represented numerous reservists with USERRA claims. “Court decisions take away USEERRA rights, they weaken our armed forces, they make us less safe and less secure.”

The appellate judge acknowledged that Ziober made a strong case. But the USERRA law does not specifically include language stating a power to legally supersede arbitration agreements. “With reasonable arguments to be made on both sides, I don’t think it’s prudent for us to [reverse] the district court’s ruling, particularly given the ease with which Congress can fix this problem,” Wagner wrote. “If we and other circuits have misinterpreted the scope of [USERRA] Congress can amend the statute to make clear that it does render pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate USERRA claims – unenforceable.”

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, has proposed a law that would eliminate any ambiguity in the USERRA law and state explicitly that service members cannot be blocked from the court system by arbitration agreements. Ziober remains in the Navy reserve and is now has a federal civilian job in California.

Article from Military Times.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Army wants to field better Jungle Boots in 2017

Say it isn't so!! The Army wants to get rid of our old friend, the steel soled Jungle Boot!! The Army wants to get upgraded jungle boots to soldiers by March, according to a program manager at PEO Soldier. Soldiers have been enduring missions in the wet, humid Pacific with boots geared toward the hotter, drier environments of Iraq and Afghanistan. The result: soggy, heavy boots.

The Army has been testing new uniform designs over the past year and a half to help soldiers perform in tropical regions, and now officials say they want to take those designs to the field.

Col. Dean Hoffman IV, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at PEO Soldier, said the Army can use the Soldier Enhancement program to find off-the-shelf solutions for equipment problems. "We focused on the Middle East a long time," Hoffman said, but now the focus is turning to tropical environments.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently visited the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, where he saw limited user evaluations on jungle uniforms and boots, Hoffman said at the Association of the United States Army conference.

Article from the Army Times

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chapter Meeting Notes - 17 September 2016

3rd Annual Joshua Mills Competition – Fort Bliss: SF Recruiters held the competition on 8-9 September. SFA 9 paid for a Bar-B-Que at the end of the competition, and supplied the funds for oranges and gator aid as usual. It was a big success, but next year we will not hold this the same week as the Golf Tournament. As studly as these young troops are, they do not hold a candle to Tony Beltran, see picture at right.

12th Annual John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament (2017): Chairman is Al Hobbs. Location is Underwood Golf Course 9 September 2017. Final financials from the Sept 2016 tournament are not yet available. Could not have done it without support from many people including the Chapter IX ladies and the VFW Aux, see picture below.



2017 1st Group Reunion, El Paso: Ike Camacho is the Chairman. Committee members are Gus, Chuy, Duke, Steve, Leo, Jerry & Bill. Dates proposed are 5-10 June 2017. This will be the 3rd time we hosted the 1st Group. Chase Suites for $69, registration is $120 until 15 May, then it will be $140 (Hospitality Room only is $50). Banquet will be at the Marriott. Registration forms went out in August. Information was sent to the DROP.

2018 SFA Conference – El Paso: Chairman is Brian Kanof; Committee members are Tranny Bill, China Boy and Joe Kerwin Jr. The best date for the City seems to be between 11-17 June 2018; we may cut the days down to 5 or 6 from 7 in the past. SFA 80 will assist. Brian plans to reach out to some other military and Veteran groups for assistance. Brian will give us a meeting plan, but he asked the members to start seeking 5K sponsorships now. Committee is forming now. The Camino Real hotel is doing a makeover and will be finished about the time of the reunion. We are looking at that as a HQ Hotel.

Return to Devens Reunion: SFA 9 Member Gary Baura, now in Melbourne Florida ran this 10th SF return to Fort Devens event from 5-10 October, 2016. Emails coming in say it was a great success.

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

Christmas Food Drive: Tom Melgares, Chairman. Start scrounging food for the boxes. Packing day 14 December. Committee members are Pablo, Sam, Greg, Chuy and Al. Goal is 100 boxes this year. Need to find more schools to assist – Collins is closed.

SFA 9 Christmas Party: Trini and the VFW Post 812 Ladies Auxiliary will run it again this year. 10 December at VFW 812 reserved. More details coming soon.

Donations: Motion made by Brian: That all requests be submitted in writing in advance to Chapter Secretary via email and brought to the floor during the next general meeting for vote. In addition, there will always, at the discretion of the President, exceptions to be made during the meeting to accommodate emergencies and short term requirements. 13-7 Passed.

Public Address System: John asked if we could get a PA system. We will look at quotes.

USASMA Class 67: There are about a dozen SF guys in this class and they have already met with the Chapter. It should be a good year.

VFW Post 812 News: Commander Al Hobbs (see picture). Meeting is held the 1st Saturday’s 1000 hrs. 1st Sunday of every month is a fish fry from 1100-1400. Bar is open every evening. Fun Food Friday is held each Friday evening.

82nd News: Benavidez-Patterson All Airborne Chapter: www.bpaac.org Chairman Jesus Bravo. Meeting = 4th Saturday’s, lunch 1300 and meeting 1400. Bar is open every Friday and Saturday from 1500 till whenever.

Chapter President's Message: Welcome to October. Two more months and we’ll be in 2017 go figure. The next event will be the Christmas party to be held on 10 December at VFW Post 812. Trini and the Post want to take the lead on this year’s event so I’m sure it will be a great one. More to come but the event will be free to the Chapter 9 members and one guest. All other guest will be $10 as in past years. Along with the Christmas party we have the Christmas food drive as mentioned above. I encourage everyone to seek donation of non-perishable food items or go out and buy a case of canned food to help the cause. The schedule is to have the food brought to the VFW on 12-13 December (or on the 14th) and we’ll pack boxes on the 14th at 1800. Tom is the chair so if you want a box call or e-mail Tom Melgares. Phone 915-873-2183, or E-mail: tmelgares@hotmail.com

DOL

Pete Peral