Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Marine who escorted the Unknown Soldier was a hardcore combat veteran

On Nov. 9, 1921, the steamer USS Olympia sailed into Washington Navy Yard. Aboard the storied ship were 39 United States Marines. Its leader, Captain Graves B. Erskine was as salty as they came by then, and had a lot more years left in him. The ship and its Marine detachment were escorting the Unknown Soldier of World War I from Le Havre on a trip that was as trying and difficult as anything Capt. Erskine had done up until that point. By the end of his time in the Marine Corps, his career would be almost as storied as the USS Olympia. By the time he’d boarded the Olympia with his Marines, the ship had already seen combat as Commodore George Dewey’s flagship in the Battle of Manila Bay, patrolled the American East Coast during World War I, and ferried American troops to Russia during the Polar Bear Expedition.

Carrying the Great War’s unknown soldier home for the last time would be the Olympia’s crowning achievement, but it wouldn’t be easy. Capt. Graves Erskine, not knowing the dangers of the trip ahead, would come face-to-face with that difficulty. Erskine cut his teeth in combat on the American border with Mexico, fighting bandits and rebels who were raiding American towns as a soldier in the Louisiana National Guard. When World War I broke out, he joined the Marine Corps and sailed for France with the 6th Marine Regiment.

As a Marine in the American Expeditionary Force, he fought at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and the St. Mihiel Offensive. There, he was so wounded that he had to be sent back to the U.S. to recover. Gen. John J. Pershing himself cited Erskine’s Silver Star medal. Shortly after the Great War ended, Erskine, then a captain, had the honor of leading the Marines escorting the Unknown Soldier home. With the coffin lashed to the deck of the ship Erskine had his Marines stand four-hour watches. Soon the ship hit stormy weather. It wasn’t just any storm, however, it was one of the largest hurricanes to ever hit the continental United States. It killed eight people and caused $10 million in damage (more than $165 million in today’s numbers). As Marines were swept across the deck, tying themselves to the rails, and watching their boots swept overboard, they never left their watch.

When the Olympia arrived in Washington, the Marines had enough time to polish their shoes and their brass before carrying the casket to the U.S. Army’s awaiting funeral caisson. As one team of Marines carried the remains of the Unknown Soldier, the rest saluted and fired off a volley of salute. Erskine’s career as a Marine was young, despite being seriously wounded in the greatest war the world had ever known until that point. It would continue with the young officer in a Marine Corps uniform. He would spend the interwar years fighting in the jungles of Nicragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Then, World War II broke out. Erskine was promoted to Brigadier General, where he would oversee the training and preparation of dislodging the Japanese invaders of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. He went further west, participating in the invasion of the Marianas Islands of Kwajalein, Saipan, and Tinian. He was promoted to Major General in 1944 and given command of the 3rd Marine Division in time to lead it into battle during the Invasion of Iwo Jima. Under his command, the 3rd Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation. He would remain in the Corps until 1953 as a Lieutenant General, but would retire as a four-star General. It was a special recognition for his heroism under fire and his nearly 40 years of service.

Article from We Are The Mighty

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Passing of CSM (ret) Ricky Smith

Command Sergeant Major (Ret) Ricky E. Smith passed away on July 25th, 2022, peacefully in his home in El Paso Texas. His battle with cancer showed his courage in facing life challenges with a smile. Despite all odds Rick came out a hero and stayed strong until the end.

Ricky E. Smith was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on 14 June 1954. Command Sergeant Major (Ret) Smith enlisted in the Army in July 1974. Following Basic andAdvanced Training, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 508th (ABN) Infantry, 82nd (ABN) Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Following into 3rd and 7th Special Forces Group (ABN) and United States Army Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina; 2nd and 3rd BN 1st Special Forces Group (ABN) in Fort Lewis, Washington; 1st BN Special Forces Group (ABN) Okinawa, Japan; Yongsan, South Korea; and Fort Bliss, Texas.

During his Army service, CSM Smith served in every Leadership position from Fire Team leader to Platoon Sergeant in the 82nd ABN DIV, Senior Weapons Sergeant, Assistant Operations Sergeant, Team Sergeant, Battalion Operation Sergeant Major, Company Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major for a Joint Combined Theater Command, Command Sergeant Major for a classified Theater Command, United States Army Sergeants Major Academy Instructor, and as the Director, Directorate of Training and Doctrine at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Command Sergeant Major (Ret) Smith’s formal education includes BS In Business Administration, and Associates Degree in Liberal Arts. He is also a graduate of the Basic Noncommissioned Officers Courses, Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course, (IOBC) Course, and the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Class 46.

Awards and decorations which Command Sergeant Major (Ret) Smith has received include the Legion of Merit (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal (with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), the Army Achievement Medal (with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Good Conduct Medal (Ninth Award), the National Defense Service Medal (with Bronze star), NCO Professional Development Ribbon (with #4), the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Tour Ribbon (with #2), the NATO Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Master Parachute Badge, the Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge, Special Forces Tab, Jungle Expert Badge and 7 Foreign Jump Wings.

Command Sergeant Major (Ret) Smith was responsible for The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide (FM 6-22.7) from start to finish in Oct 2002. The First NCO to have such responsibilities and Leadership.

Upon his retirement Ricky settled in and made El Paso home. He enjoyed golfing, marksmanship, boating and fishing, traveling, RV’ing, Western reenactment, Oktoberfest (CSM Weitzenbier), enjoying military associations, and most of all the company of his family.
br> Ricky is preceded in death by his father Jimmy Smith. Ricky is survived by his wife of 27 years, Linda Smith; Mothers, Catherine Brokaw, Betty Smith; Son, Andreas Burt and wife Marilyn; Daughters, Michaela Stephens and husband Steve, Christy Klinger and husband Brent, Barbara Grummert and husband Corey; Sisters Candy Carter, Penny Silvers, and Cindy Waters; Brothers, Michael Smith, Herbie Beasley, and Christopher Cook; 6 grandchildren; 1 great grandson. Rick will be missed by Miss V & Max, who laid by his side until his very last day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

GIGN: Elite French counterterrorism unit gained worldwide fame for a daring raid on a hijacked plane 28 years ago

On December 24, 1994, Air France Flight 8969 was set for a routine flight from Algiers to Paris. Instead, the passengers and crew spent three days as the hostages of Islamist extremists. They were freed in a raid that was caught on live TV and introduced France's elite GIGN to the world.Pictue at right - French President Fran├žois Mitterrand congratulates GIGN agents who freed Air France Flight 8969.

The more than 230 passengers and crew aboard Air France Flight 8969 on December 24, 1994, were looking forward to a quick and uneventful flight from Algiers to Paris. Before they took off, four men dressed as Algerian policemen boarded the plane for what appeared to be a routine check. Three days later, on the tarmac in Marseille, the passengers were freed by a daring raid that was broadcast on live TV, displaying to the world the unique skills of France's elite GIGN.

In 1989, Algeria wasn't the safest place for foreigners, especially the French. France had colonized Algeria in the early 19th century and hundreds of thousands of French settled there over the following decades. In 1962, Algerians won independence from France after a brutal eight-year fight. Internal conflict increased afterward, and by 1989 Algeria was on the verge of war between the government and Islamist rebel groups.

Relations with France, however, seemed normal, and the passengers and crew of Air France 8969 weren't expecting the four "police officers" to be terrorists set on hijacking the plane and killing everyone on board. The four men were members of the Armed Islamic Group, a hardline anti-Algerian government group that wanted to establish an Islamic state in Algeria. They were armed with AK-47s, Uzi submachine guns, sidearms, grenades, and even sticks of dynamite. They demanded the release of some of their comrades in Algerian prisons and to show their commitment they killed an Algerian police officer who happened to be a passenger on the flight.

Once French officials confirmed the hijacking, the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group was put on standby for an immediate hostage-rescue attempt should the negotiations fail. GIGN, as the group is known, is the French police's elite counterterrorism unit, similar to the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. It specializes in counterterrorism and hostage-rescue and has become well known for its responses to deadly terrorist attacks in France.

The Algerian government barred France from sending the GIGN to its territory, but the French commandos continued their planning and preparations, even using an Airbus A300 to get familiar with the layout of the hijacked plane. The terrorists initially indicated that they would release the passengers and crew if their demands were met. But an agent inside the GIA reported to the Algerian government, and by extension to the French, that the hijackers' true aim was a suicide attack on France.

On December 25, the terrorists released about 60 passengers, mostly women and children. But they then killed another passenger and threatened to shoot one every 30 minutes unless the aircraft was cleared for takeoff. After much pressure from the French government, the Algerians let the plane depart to Marseille to refuel before heading to Paris. The GIGN operators were waiting.

Once in Marseille, the terrorists demanded three times more fuel than necessary to reach Paris, indicating they had a much longer trip planned — or wanted to turn the plane into a firebomb. GIGN operators disguised as airport personnel boarded the aircraft to provide food and clean the toilets, using the opportunity to scout the plane and verify that there were no explosives on the doors.

By the morning of December 26, the terrorists had grown agitated by French efforts to delay meeting their demands. They ordered the plane to taxi next to the control tower and began shooting at the negotiators there. Three GIGN teams on staircars sped toward the plane. Assault team one would secure the cockpit while assault teams two and three took over the cabin.

Close-quarters-combat operations "inside an aircraft are pretty challenging," a retired Delta Force operator told Insider. "On the one hand, you don't have any serious corners to clear, which is what gets a lot of people during room clearing. But on the other hand, you've got potential hostages all over the place."

In preparation for a news conference aboard the aircraft — a ruse by the French police — the terrorists had placed most of the passengers in the back of the plane. During hostage situations aboard planes, the hijackers will normally herd people to one part of the aircraft in order to better control them, but they may also spread them out to use them as human shields, the retired operator said.

The latter scenario is where good close-quarters-combat skills, target discretion, and trigger discipline "really shine," the retired operator added. Depending on operational needs, special-operations teams can find lots of ways into an aircraft — Delta Force has developed specialized equipment and techniques to go in through the roof, the former operator said. The GIGN operators forced their way in through the cabin door after their staircars reached the plane.

Their dramatic dash into the aircraft was captured on live TV. Once inside, a fierce firefight with the terrorists broke out around the cockpit. After 22 minutes of fighting, during which grenades and other explosives were detonated and 400 rounds were fired, the standoff was over. See photo below - Bullet holes in the windows and fuselage of Air France Flight 8969 after GIGN agents freed the plane from hijackers, December 26, 1994.

All four terrorists were killed. Nine GIGN commandos were wounded. Three passengers had been killed prior to the raid, but none were killed during the gun battle, though 13 of them and three crew members were wounded. One of the pilots managed to open the cockpit window and jump to the tarmac, fracturing his leg upon landing. The GIGN had made its name. "An aircraft-hijacking situation is where you tell the difference between a Tier 1 and any other SOF [special-operations forces] unit," the retired Delta Force operator said.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Special Forces Officer Profile - Major Nicholas Dockery

Maj. Nicholas Dockery’s resume stands out even among his fellow Special Forces officers. The West Point graduate is enrolled in Yale University’s global affairs graduate program as part of the competitive Downing Scholars program. He’s led an Operational Detachment-Alpha and commanded the headquarters company for 7th Special Forces Group before completing a tour as the aide-de-camp to the officer in charge of 1st Special Forces Command.

The former infantry officer received the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award in 2020, an honor reserved for the service’s top company grade officers. Dockery also received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for his work to help foster children. The rest of his recognitions tell another story — that of an officer who performs under fire. He’s received two Purple Heart medals, and two of his other awards bear “C” devices that denote they were received for performance under combat conditions.

And according to Defense Department records, Dockery is the sole Army officer and one of only two U.S. officers to receive two Silver Stars for gallantry in the post-9/11 era, the other being Navy SEAL Cmdr. Seth Stone, who died in a 2017 skydiving accident. Dockery received the West Point Association of Graduates’ Alexander Nininger Award for Valor at Arms in 2017, as well.

Now, the Military Times Foundation has named him the 2022 Soldier of the Year. Army Times interviewed Dockery in late June, ahead of the award ceremony in July. ‘For several years, I thought about it every single day’. Dockery’s first Silver Star came during his first deployment to Afghanistan as a fresh infantry platoon leader assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, part of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

He was deployed immediately after arriving at Carson, joining an experienced platoon a few months into their deployment. His unit moved into Kapisa Province in late September 2012, Dockery said in a 2017 podcast interview. Days later, on Oct. 2, 2012, his life changed. Dockery’s platoon and a platoon of Afghan National Army troops were maintaining a security perimeter around the provincial governor’s compound during a high-level meeting when Taliban fighters attacked with machine guns, grenades and RPGs.

The lieutenant gathered half his troops and counterattacked, but as they continued to press their advantage, his weapons squad leader, now-retired Staff Sgt. Eric Mitchell, was wounded. That set off a close-quarters firefight in a compound where Dockery and a team of four killed several fighters. But a Taliban counterattack with a series of grenades and RPGs wounded all of the Americans.

As the dust settled, according to his Silver Star narrative, Dockery realized that one of his NCOs, Sgt. Jack Hansbro, was missing. The officer charged into a nearby alleyway and killed two Taliban fighters who were dragging away an unconscious Hansbro. “[That day] was a very harrowing event,” Dockery told Army Times. “For several years, I thought about it every single day.”

He acknowledged that his desire to “ and confidence that I was a competent and deliberate leader” may have led him into “a little bit riskier situations than I needed to be [in],” but emphasized that the work of his soldiers in the compound was what carried them through the fight.

Both in the podcast and to Army Times, Dockery recounted how Mitchell (who nominated him for Soldier of the Year), Hansbro and the other two troops in the compound — Sgt. 1st Class Bill Nabinger and Sgt. 1st Class Roshan Baum — repeatedly saved each other’s lives.“I was the fortunate recipient of some higher-level recognition, but those things are done with teams,” he explained. Dockery recovered from his wounds and finished the deployment with his platoon.

Becoming a Green Beret, and a second Silver Star

After completing his platoon leader time and a tour as a company executive officer, Dockery deployed as a combat advisor, where his work along side Special Forces troops solidified his desire to become a Green Beret. “That’s what drew me,” he said. Following selection and his training pipeline, Dockery deployed again to Afghanistan with 7th Special Forces Group, with whom he would earn a second Silver Star.

The second valor award came from a fight in which about 250 Taliban fighters attacked a combined U.S.-Afghan force, and the then-captain’s decisions and rapid response were credited with blunting the attack. More than 110 enemy fighters were killed. Since then, he’s continued to advance his career, collecting fellowships and accolades. After finishing his graduate degree in spring 2023, he’s likely to take command of a Special Forces company. Dockery said he hopes to take some of the knowledge he’s gaining at Yale — including work on international diplomacy, cybersecurity and more — back to the special operations community.

Addressing mental health issues

Asked what he wants to see improved in the Army, Dockery expressed hope that a forthcoming overhaul of the service’s suicide prevention program can help to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with seeking behavioral health treatment. He explained how the loss of some comrades who died by suicide affected him, describing it as “a phenomenon that’s [been] impacting [me] for years, and years and years.”

Dockery contends that although tragic, “it’s more palatable to understand” deaths in combat. “It’s never who you would suspect [who dies by suicide],” he said. “When I think about what they must have gone through to get to that point, it’s so difficult.” He’s optimistic that empowering commanders and getting them to understand the options and tools at their disposal will help. He pointed to the Army’s advances in understanding the science on brain injuries and “invisible wounds” as evidence of the potential “social impacts” of policy changes. “I hope when they put [this] policy out, it kind of helps shape” and reduce some of the stigma and engrained worries about seeking behavioral health treatment, Dockery said.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

MARSOC Submarine Infiltrations

Recent drills involving US Navy submarines and Marine Corps special operators in the Pacific and the Mediterranean highlight an overlooked insertion and exfiltration method that would be relevant in a conflict with China. In early 2021, Force Recon Marines conducted a rare training with USS Ohio near Okinawa, and earlier this year US Marines trained with USS Georgia in the Mediterranean "to synchronize" Navy and Marine Corps operations.

Although submarine operations are mostly associated with Navy SEALs or US Army Green Beret combat divers, Marine special operators have a long history of submarine operations — Marine Raiders were the first US military unit to conduct a submarine-borne raid, attacking Makin Island in the Pacific in August 1942.

Submarine operations

The main benefit of using submarines for exfiltration and infiltration of special-operations forces is the difficulty of detecting them. Getting to the fight on a submarine is considerably more discreet than arriving on an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter or jumping from an MC-130 Combat Talon airplane. If the infiltration and exfiltration are performed properly, the adversary may never know that US commandos and the sub carrying them were there.

Submarine operations allow "Recon Marines and Raiders to infiltrate undetected and conduct reconnaissance or raid missions with low probability of compromise," said retired Marine Raider Maj. Fred Galvin. This allows those operators to carry out missions of a "strategic nature" but it also "affects the enemy's psychology in that they cannot easily defend against it and in order to defend against it they must commit massive personnel and material resources," added Galvin, who began his career in the Marine Reconnaissance community.

In the vastness of the Pacific, submarine operations could be very important in a conflict with China, allowing Marine special operators to conduct offensive and defensive operations.

Friday, July 1, 2022

LTG Fenton nominated for CINC, USSOCOM

Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced this month. Fenton is currently serving as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command Forward at Fort Bragg.

The U.S. Special Operations Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. SOCOM is the higher command for the Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Command and U.S. Special Operations commands in Africa, Central, Europe, Korea, North, Pacific and South regions. Pentagon officials have not publicly announced who will replace Fenton.

Fenton’s nomination was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 6. The committee’s calendar does not list when Fenton’s confirmation will be held, as the committee has been focused on reviewing the National Defense Authorization Act this month.

Fenton, who commissioned into the Army as an infantry officer in 1987, has led the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg since July 2021. He previously served as the senior military assistant to the secretary of defense in Washington, D.C., deputy commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and commander of the Special Operations Command Pacific.

According to Fenton's biography, his past Fort Bragg assignments have included serving as a battalion commander at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and as a brigade commander for the Joint Special Operations Command.

Operations he’s participated in during his military career include Operation Joint Force in Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Africa, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Odyssey Dawn in Libya.


The Washington Post, New York Times and have reported that the Joint Special Operations Command is responsible for the military’s special mission units such as Delta Force, the Navy Seals and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. The Joint Special Operations Command falls under the U.S. Special Operations Command.

According to the SOCOM website, the Joint Special Operations Command “prepares assigned, attached and augmented forces; and when directed, conducts special operations against threats to protect the homeland and U.S. interests abroad.”

SOCOM is currently commanded by Army Gen. Richard Clarke, who leads more than 70,000 personnel. According to SOCOM, its mission is to develop special operations forces “to conduct global special operations and activities as part of the joint force to support persistent, networked and distributed combatant command operations and campaigns against state and non-state actors to protect and advance U.S. policies and objectives.” Among the jobs of its service members are civil affairs, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, foreign humanitarian assistance, hostage rescue and recovery and unconventional warfare.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

3rd Special Forces Group welcomes new Commander

Fort Bragg's 3rd Special Forces Group welcomed a new commander as it said goodbye to its outgoing commander with little fanfare this week. Col. Jason A. Johnston (below left) handed over command of the group and its 2,400 soldiers to Col. John D. Bishop (below right) on Tuesday, a news release stated. A traditional change of command ceremony was not held “due to operational requirements,” a news release stated.

The 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers deploy at any given time to support operations throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. According to the group’s website, its soldiers' missions are unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, combating terrorism and information operations. “These missions make Special Forces unique in the U.S. military because they are deployed throughout the three stages of operational continuum — peacetime, conflict and war,” the website states.

Johnston, who led the group since June 12, 2020, won’t be leaving the area. His next assignment is as chief of staff for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which is also at Fort Bragg.

Bishop is no stranger to the group, previously serving as its deputy commander and serving as commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Bishop also served as a former detachment commander for Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Robby Miller, according to an Army article. Miller, 24, was killed Jan. 25, 2008, during his second tour to Afghanistan and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. "He was always quick to volunteer and never thought it should be any other way," Bishop said about Miller during a 2008 memorial ceremony. "On numerous occasions when the detachment was faced with a difficult task, Robby would just stand up and say, 'I got this one; I'll do it. Send me."

Article from the Fayetteville Observer

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Special Operations: Special Secretive Missions

U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has greatly reduced its spending on counterterrorism over the last five years and that alone greatly reduced expenses. More importantly, SOCOM personnel spent less time overseas in combat zones. This was good for morale and necessary so training for new tasks can take place. SOCOM is returning to its traditional (pre-2001) missions that included training foreign special operations forces and developing relationships with military forces and civilians in foreign nations. This often involved working with the CIA and Department of Defense intelligence agencies. The SOCOM personnel spoke the local language and had learned about local customs. SOCOM personnel were often the best source of what was going on in nations where SOCOM was invited in to help with training and organizing forces to carry on the fight if that country was overrun by an enemy. After 2014 this applied to Ukraine and as is customary in such situations, details of SOCOM assistance in Ukraine were not publicized. It was understood that the SOCOM assessment of Ukrainian readiness for a war and willingness to fight the Russians was the most accurate available to NATO nations. SOCOM also passed on assessments of Russian forces in Donbas and the Russian military in general. SOCOM shared and compared assessments of Russian forces. All of this was done quietly, as was customary for this sort of thing as long as SOCOM and its U.S. Army Special Forces component have been around (since the 1950s). American military personnel were withdrawn from Ukraine after the Russian invasion but that did not include all SOCOM personnel, some of whom could be attached to the U.S. embassy staff for a while as the rest moved across the border to Poland and Romania where there were already SOCOM contingents doing what they usually do. Many details of SOCOM activities in Ukraine after 2014 and especially after the Russian invasion were kept secret. SOCOM wasn’t doing any fighting but were often the best qualified NATO personnel to coordinate American and NATO support for Ukrainian forces fighting the Russians.

SOCOM greatly expanded after 2001 and evolved considerably. After 2001 SOCOM personnel strength has increased from 42,000 to 73,000 in 2020. The budget went from $3.1 billion to nearly $13.7 billion dollars a year before declining after 2020. The 2022 budget is $12.6 billion for 70,000 personnel.

Before 2001 SOCOM specialized in training troops of allied nations that were in need of improving their ground forces. That was one task SOCOM has been dealing with since its beginning. One of the World War II organizations SOCOM evolved from was OSS (Office of Special Services) which, among other things, provided needed training and support for resistance units in enemy (German and Japanese) territory. Many countries are still threatened by Islamic terrorists, drug gangs and Chinese aggression and want to quickly upgrade their ability to deal with this. SOCOM has always had the ability to do that and the demand is stronger than ever.

SOCOM personnel were 1.9 percent of Department of Defense personnel in 2001 and that rose to nearly three percent by 2020. But when you factor in the additional support and personnel involved, SOCOM was getting the use of over five percent of Department of Defense personnel. Spending on SOCOM is actually higher if you take into account additional spending on American special operations not part of the SOCOM budget. This non-SOCOM spending on SOCOM operations varies but, in some years, went as high as $8 billion a year. The reason for this is that other services were always obliged to provide SOCOM with things like supplies, transportation, artillery and air support when SOCOM is carrying out a mission that aids the regular forces, or simply because SOCOM needs the extra help to get the job done.

One of the more telling statistics is the average number of SOCOM deployed on operations. In 2001 (before September 11) it was 2,900. By 2014 it was 7,200. While overall SOCOM personnel has increased 48 percent the number of operators overseas has gone up three times as much. This has made it more difficult to keep the fighters (“operators”) in uniform since more frequent trips to combat zones make married life difficult and increased the incidence of stress-related problems. At the same time, the greater number of SOCOM operators out there in combat means SOCOM more frequently must call on non-SOCOM units for support. While SOCOM does have its own support troops, SOCOM cannot afford to maintain such support forces for the high intensity of operations in wartime. Since 2001 the fighting has been the sort that SOCOM does best at, which is why SOCOM is so much in demand and non-SOCOM army, air force, navy and marine units are willing to help out. This is often because the supporting organization called on SOCOM to provide specialized troops to deal with a local situation. While SOCOM strength has increased the need for the kind of specialists SOCOM had was even greater. So is the need to provide SOCOM operators with more “dwell time” at home with families or just away from a combat zone. While back in their American home bases the SOCOM personnel also have the opportunity to acquire new skills and help train new operators. It is also important to keep teams (the twelve-man ODAs or “A-Teams”) together and all this is easier to achieve it you don’t have chronic personnel shortages.

As part of the conversion to more traditional roles, in 2020 SOCOM ordered the disbanding of the five CRF (Crisis Response Force) companies. These units were established after September 11, 2001, and were based on small units Special Forces Group commanders had already created for emergency situations that involved classical commando-type skills. This included “Direct Action”, as in hostage rescue or difficult raids or any operation that would involve combat situations where success was very important but difficult to achieve. The CRF companies were small, under a hundred men, and were heavily used for about a decade. But after American troops left Iraq in 2011 the war on terror, while not over, saw less demand for the skills that the CRF operators had in abundance. Acquiring those skills was time consuming and expensive. CRF members had to attend a number of special courses and excel in all of them. At the same time after 2011 counter-terrorism technology and tactics changed. There was more use of SOCOM operators for collecting intelligence and letting a missile-armed UAV take care of the direct action. The few CRF type missions were easily taken care of by the two elite direct-action units; Delta Force and SEAL Team 6. These included the raids that killed Osama bin Laden and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Same with hostage rescue and unexpected threats to embassies, where security had been improved since 2001 and other types of emergencies that did not occur as much anymore. As a result, the several hundred CRF personnel were used to fill key vacancies in Special Forces units.

Article for the Strategy Page, 26 May 2022

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Green Berets come home

In 2021, the Indianapolis Colts’ season was off to a disastrous start. Straight-shooting head coach Frank Reich’s team was 0-3 and riddled with injuries. At the core of Reich’s coaching philosophy were growth, performance, and resiliency. Reich deeply believed that character matters. On Reich’s staff was the relatively unknown Director of Team Development Brian Decker. “Deck” brought an unusual background to the NFL: 22 years in the Army, most as a Green Beret.

From draft day through training camp and the regular season, Decker had worked behind the scenes with players and coaches to foster a team-oriented approach to overcoming adversity. The work came naturally. It was what he had embraced since he first became a Green Beret. Early in his military career, Decker had been deployed to combat zones as part of 12-man operational teams. Later, he had helped to improve the assessment and selection process that soldiers must maneuver to earn the coveted green beret. It became clear to his bosses that the modest and self-effacing Decker had an innate understanding of what few others in the NFL possessed: how human beings can operate at maximum efficiency while at the edges of their physical limits and in highly stressful environments. The Colts won nine of their next 12 games, just missing the playoffs.

“Deck is a thought leader in the areas of leadership, culture, and character,” observed Reich, entering his fifth year as head coach and one of the deeper thinkers in the game. “The experience and skills he developed in Special Forces has helped shape our thinking about how to build and develop our team. He provides an unconventional, people-centric approach to situations and problem-solving, which is invaluable.”

In transitioning from Green Beret to senior executive in the civilian workforce, Decker is hardly alone. A growing number of blue-chip companies are going all-in on hiring as many of them as possible. “The transitioning Green Beret community is the most extraordinary untapped labor force in the U.S. today,” said Dan Fachner, CEO of J&J Snack Foods, a $1 billion-plus publicly traded company in New Jersey. “These Green Berets have been so good and competent that I only wish I had discovered this sooner.”

From industries as varied as investment banking, real estate development, consulting, and manufacturing, CEOs running large, complicated, and extremely valuable firms are all but backing up their trucks to Special Forces bases around the country and loading up on members. (For practical purposes, Special Forces and Green Berets refer to the same soldier.)

Why are they so keen to hire these ex-soldiers? Todd Koetje, who oversees business development and finance at Cable ONE, the massive broadband communications provider, has a theory: “Every high-performing organization realizes its most important mission is investing in its people and developing a strong leadership bench; filling that key need is what keeps the best C-suite executives up at night.” Green Berets, explained Koetje, have earned “advanced leadership degrees as a result of their extensive, mission-driven experience.”

“Green Berets,” Koetje continued, “have a humble confidence in their ability to accomplish objectives in difficult and stressful environments, a unique drive to learn, a solution-oriented, outside-the-box problem-solving style. They are self-starters. They know how to build and motivate a high-performing team. Perhaps most importantly, Special Forces operators know they have to learn it before they can lead it. Self-promotion is not in their DNA.”

For years, retired Green Berets told us, companies told Green Berets they would love to hire them but couldn’t figure out how to translate their skills. Decker, the Colts executive, sent out 200 job search letters; he got three lukewarm responses. Making the job interviews even harder, Green Berets are not allowed to talk about what they do when deployed in war zones; such information is often classified under U.S. national security laws.

Despite these challenges, Green Berets are finally breaking through. Take the case of Mark Whaling, head of global securities at Canaccord Genuity, the largest independent full-service financial services firm in Canada. He said that his “biggest no-brainer ever was to bring ex-Special Forces guys onto our corporate team. They are selfless. Just being selected as a Green Beret says all you need to know about their physical and mental skill sets. Where in life do you find someone who’s the best at something and doesn’t talk about it?”

In our interviews with senior business executives and experienced Green Berets in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, one thing became clear: The race to hire these Green Berets is on.

The number of Green Berets hired in high-level jobs in corporate America is hard to quantify. But the anecdotal evidence is clear; executives are effusive when asked about Green Berets they have hired. In all our interviews, we didn’t hear a single complaint from executives about Green Berets they had hired.

There are several reasons why Green Berets are so coveted by the private sector. First, Green Berets are modest in extremis. Second, many corporate executives prefer Green Berets to Ivy-educated MBAs since the retired warriors lack any sense of entitlement; you don’t hear them asking what the company has done for them lately. Third, Green Berets have already been assessed and found worthy in a brutal and rigorous training process that takes at least two years.

It is in the unique and hidden world of the selection and training of Green Berets where the entire process begins. The selection process exposes any weakness in a would-be Green Beret and eventually weeds out those who don’t have the right stuff.

Contrary to what may be public perception, Green Berets don’t want the first guy who crosses the finish line on a rugged, 20-mile hike with a heavy rucksack. Strong, fit soldiers who can run far and shoot straight are a dime a dozen in today’s military. Instead, Green Beret leadership wants the soldier who sees a fellow candidate struggling on the long march and offers to carry both their packs until his colleague is strong enough to hoist his own again. It grows from there. Leadership wants the soldier who can work within a team to devise strategies to achieve complex objectives across a range of skills beyond kicking down doors and killing bad guys. These could involve engineering tasks, negotiations with leaders from different cultures, logistics and supply chains, or the training of foreign soldiers with very different backgrounds than their own.

Explains a Green Beret in Syria, “Corporate America needs to understand that Special Forces have previously done 90% of the necessary evaluation.”

One executive who came to that conclusion is Dave Pearson, a leader in Deloitte’s digital transformation practice. He explained that Deloitte, the massive global consulting and professional services firm, has hired seven Green Berets and placed them in disciplines as varied as corporate strategy, human capital, technology, operations, and supply chains. Labeling Green Berets “professional culture agents,” Pearson focuses on one transitioned Green Beret named Ben. “We brought Ben into Deloitte a few months ago, and he has already been recognized as a super high performer by leadership. Ben and the other Green Berets whom we have hired definitely have the DNA and traits we look for as the next crop of partners at Deloitte.” Pearson is actively seeking to hire more transitioning Green Berets, particularly in management consulting.

So, what is it that Green Berets actually do downrange, the Army euphemism for war zones, that prepares them so well for jobs in corporate America? Interestingly, these missions often mirror business-world tasks. They are essentially trained experts in negotiations, sales, marketing, and training. But the environments in which these Green Berets accomplish these tasks are vastly more difficult and arduous than what they find in corporate America. Comparatively speaking, sitting around a boardroom table is a piece of cake. Says one ex-Green Beret, “The hardest day at my firm is nothing compared to what I saw in combat.”

While the vast majority of their missions are classified, we did have permission to share a few relevant stories. We spoke with a Green Beret whose 12-man team landed at the international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, to relieve a SEAL team and to train Yemeni special operations forces. They landed at night, unarmed, only to be surrounded by heavily armed hostiles in jeeps. For 36 hours, this team of Green Berets was held hostage while calmly trying to negotiate, mostly in Arabic, the terms of their own release. (All Green Berets speak one or more foreign languages.)

“There were multiple negotiations going on involving us on the tarmac, the Houthi rebel contingent on the tarmac, the Yemeni government, Houthi ‘central command,’ customs officials, and the SEALs commander and our captain, who were separated from us,” explained the soldier. “Lines of authority were very confused, and communication between everyone but those on the tarmac was difficult. Further, the Houthi rebels on the tarmac were undisciplined, unpredictable, high from chewing on khat or wired from drinking chai coffee, and very uncertain where they wanted this unexpected situation to end up.”

Their negotiating strategy was practical, not aggressive. “We drank tea and coffee with them,” said the Green Beret. “We expressed sympathy with their protests against corrupt government and engaged in conversations about our common enemy al Qaeda and whatever else came to mind. We humanized ourselves as best we could and reached out to them with great empathy.” The Green Berets were released without harm.

Another Green Beret recounted a dicey incident that took place during a firefight in northern Syria. “We were dealing with a situation where there were several wounded among our partner force, somewhat overwhelming our one available medic,” he explained. “I watched a weapons sergeant, at the direction of our medic, make an incision [in one injured man] and insert a chest tube. He saved that young man’s life.” A Green Beret, trained in weapons, and under duress, had to morph into another role completely — a surgeon.

Green Berets, who typically go to war in 12-man teams with little oversight, are comfortable operating independently while improvising under difficult circumstances. One Green Beret recalled being sent to Kyrgyzstan on a mission and believing that his team had the necessary papers to pass through customs in a lawless, rural location. “The border officials didn’t think our papers ‘looked official’ enough, whatever that means,” he said. “So, we came up with the idea of stamping our papers using ink and various foreign coins that we had in our pockets.”

“We’re creative in SF downrange, even with bullets flying,” said a veteran Green Beret. “We are experts at $20 solutions to $1,000 problems.” Sometimes, these problems are very real. We spoke with yet another Green Beret whose team was among the first to enter the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, a former ISIS stronghold. “When we entered the city, there were no essential services,” he explained. “Our 12-member team had to get clean water from the Euphrates River to citizens with a tiny budget. We devised a plan to get water [tanks] and chlorine tablets. The sheer size of the problem was astronomical.”

Another problem loomed in Raqqa: Bread was in short supply. Speaking entirely in Arabic, the team devised and implemented a plan to get local bakeries up and running. On this mission, the Green Berets had to become instant experts in opening small businesses.

At GE Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky, CEO Kevin Nolan has a program to bring in Green Berets as interns for several months at a time to problem-solve at his multibillion-dollar company, before returning them to the Army. Nolan said these Green Berets were “able to look at a problem with fresh eyes and not be tied to the corporate way of looking at things. They could do assessments that involved going outside the swim lanes we typically kept ourselves in.” He added that “they were especially adept at assessing our corporate culture and where it helped and at times hindered our business operations. The SF interns were also very skilled at managing their teams in ways that inspired deep thinking and collaboration on ideas.”

Nolan believes that the resumes of SF soldiers looking for civilian management jobs “are not adequate guides to a skill set and personality that is impossible to get down on paper.” He encourages other CEOs to “look behind the resume” and spend time with the Green Beret in order to “understand that Special Forces’ training and experience provides a strong foundation for a corporate management position.”

Various nonprofit groups have sprung up in recent years to assist Green Berets and other special operations warriors in making their way to corporate America. One of the best is the Special Operators Transition Foundation, whose CEO, Tommy Stoner, is himself a retired Green Beret with 29 years of military service. Stoner is forever preaching to corporate America that Green Berets in the private workforce are “the connective tissue in order to influence behavior and decisions.” Stoner, who was a senior banking executive as well, added that Green Berets “do not accept mediocrity. They win as a team and gain credibility by their skills and professionalism.”

Explains an Iraq-based Green Beret, “We need to be able to communicate effectively with the lowest-rank soldier in partner forces to military and government leaders in foreign governments as well as our own government; we like to say, ‘From the s***house to the White House.’”

Craig Powell, recently retired CEO of Motus, the fast-growing workplace solutions firm, was among the first to recognize the unique skills of Green Berets. Powell describes the Green Berets as “the poets of the military, combining creative intelligence and brawn.” He was first drawn to hiring Green Berets because “they put a huge wrapper of humility around their capabilities, which only adds to their stature and effectiveness in their leadership roles.”

We caught up with a Green Beret in Iraq recently and asked what he would tell an interviewer if he ever went courting a job outside the Army. His response was revealing: “I am a person who has been tested under conditions of the most extreme stress. I am used to dealing with complex and ambiguous data where answers are far from clear, shades of gray, and still find a way to accomplish the objectives I have been given. I am in no way intimidated by that kind of situation. I have proven over and over that I am a good team member — you are not in Special Forces if you are not — and I willingly make sacrifices for the good of the team. I have a mission-first orientation, and I have dedicated a large part of my adult life to something larger than myself.”

That doesn’t fit well on a resume, but it’s proving a good match for the corporate world.

Article by the Washington Examiner

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Irregular Warfare Thinking

We need to infuse “irregular warfare thinking”* into DOD and “political warfare thinking” into the US government. Because IW is the dominant form of war in the emergent human domain.

*What is “Irregular warfare thinking?” It is thinking about the human element in the full spectrum of competition and conflict up to and including conventional and nuclear war. It includes but is not limited to all aspects of lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, terrorism, political resistance, non-violent resistance, political violence, urban operations, stability operations, post-conflict operations, cyber operations, operations in the information environment (e.g., strategic influence through information advantage, information and influence activities, public diplomacy, psychological operations, military information support operations, public affairs), working through, with and by indigenous forces and populations, irregular warfare, political warfare, economic warfare, alliances, diplomacy, and statecraft in all regions of the world.

Irregular warfare is the military contribution to political warfare. Political warfare is the action of the whole of government in strategic competition.

Watch the video below from the 4th PSYOPS Group.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Eight Green Berets quietly disciplined after Afghan prisoner’s beating death

American Green Berets beat an Afghan commando, twisted his testicles and slammed him against a breaker box during an interrogation in western Afghanistan on Oct. 22, 2018, a civilian translator claimed as part of a criminal probe that only closed last year.

The commando, Wahedullah Khan, was detained after he opened fire on Czech special operators, killing one and injuring two others. Wahedullah was captured, handed over to NATO forces and interrogated in a cramped room on Shindand Air Base, according to the redacted case file obtained by Military Times through a Freedom of Information Act request and reported here for the first time. “I want to break his jaw,” the translator recalled one U.S. soldier saying. “No, not yet,” another responded, according to the translator. “I need him to finish answering my questions.”

Hours later, Wahedullah was dead from blunt force trauma. The translator said Americans approached him that same night and told him to keep quiet about the incident. “Forget that this happened,” the translator recalled several soldiers warning him. “You didn’t see anything.”

Soon, the Green Berets came under scrutiny from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, aggravated assault, voluntary manslaughter and murder. They denied harming Wahedullah and blamed the death on other Afghan commandos. Blood found in the interrogation room suggested another course of events. “CID conducted a crime scene examination of the room, where Mr. Wahedullah was assaulted,” CID’s final report stated. “The room appeared to have been cleaned; however, blood spatter was identified on the walls and ceiling. A laboratory analysis of the blood spatter revealed the blood matched the DNA profile of Mr. Wahedullah.”

The case closed in May 2021. All evidence was turned over to 1st Special Forces Command, where leadership decided against prosecution. General officer memorandums of reprimand were instead issued to eight Green Berets from 7th Special Forces Group, including a captain, a chief warrant officer, a master sergeant, three sergeants first class and two staff sergeants. All names were redacted in the case file, but six letters were permanently filed, meaning they will follow those soldiers throughout their careers.“In this case, the investigation’s results did not present sufficient evidence of misconduct beyond a reasonable doubt for any of the offenses, which is the standard required to obtain a conviction at court-martial,” Maj. Dan Lessard, spokesman for 1st Special Forces Command, said in a statement. “Furthermore, there was not probable cause to believe that the most serious alleged offenses, including murder, had occurred.”

Even with the translator’s testimony, CID did not determine in its final report who delivered Wahedullah’s death blow. Wahedullah was passed between troops from three different countries over 10 hours and his blood was found in a room where both Americans and Czechs took turns questioning him.

‘He just lost his mind’

Wahedullah attacked at about 2 p.m. earlier that day. Czech special operators were escorting a civilian truck onto Shindand Air Base when their rear vehicle suddenly took gunfire from a nearby compound owned by Afghanistan’s 4th Special Operations Kandak, according to the case file. After Wahedullah opened fire, the Czechs raced three casualties to a medical clinic on Camp Conde, which was part of Shindand.

Afghan commandos later called the U.S. base to say they had the shooter in custody. The Afghans arrived with Wahedullah at roughly 5 p.m. He was dressed in a track suit with sandals, according to an American who escorted the Afghans to two Green Beret intelligence sergeants waiting near the interrogation room. The American who escorted the truck later told investigators the building was chosen because it was far away from the medical evacuation area and from unnecessary personnel watching everything unfold.

U.S. forces needed to know whether another attack was coming, according to the investigation. The base heightened its security posture following the shooting. And Jaguar 50, call sign for the Green Beret team’s JTAC, a close air support specialist, spotted an individual crawling towards the camp with a satchel when helicopters came for the Czech casualties.

With the help of the translator, the Green Berets sifted through Wahedullah’s phone and other personal items for shreds of useful information. Meanwhile, the Czechs interrogated Wahedullah. The translator told investigators he heard screams coming from inside the room. The Green Berets and the translator entered next. They wanted to know if “there were more people or threats waiting,” one Green Beret later told investigators.

The Green Berets denied harming Wahedullah during questioning. They said the turn-coat commando failed to answer most questions. Wahedullah told them he had been feeling ill and went “crazy” while on guard shift. “He did not know the names of any of the soldiers he lived with, ate with, or prayed with because he was new to the unit and had only been there for five months,” one Green Beret stated. “Again we asked him who hired him to do this or why he did it and he insisted he just lost his mind. We could not get him to explain if it was in retaliation or if he had ever been in contact with the Taliban.”

Wahedullah at one point recalled Americans mortaring his village years ago, killing three women. “He claimed that Americans make mistakes all the time when they kill innocent civilians and it was the same as his mistake,” another Green Beret stated. “When asked to further elaborate on that comment he just kept referring to that he went crazy.”

‘You never saw anything’

The Americans questioned Wahedullah for about 30 minutes before turning him back over to Czech special operators, according to the investigation. Wahedullah wasn’t harmed while in either group’s custody, the Americans said. In a statement made days after the shooting while still on Camp Conde, the translator largely agreed with the Green Berets’ version of events. But on Nov. 7, 2018, now on Bagram Air Base and away from the remote camp, the translator provided a statement with a far different narrative.

During the interrogation, a zip-tied Wahedullah was repeatedly assaulted by multiple Americans from 7th Special Forces Group, the translator told investigators at Bagram. The Americans choked Wahedullah, hit him in his crotch, slammed his head off objects and beat him, the translator alleged. One of the interrogators brandished a knife, the translator added. “Now you are going to tell me the truth or I am going to slit your throat,” the U.S. soldier warned, according to the translator. But another man, who the translator referred to as “chief,” told him to put the knife away.

At one point, a Czech soldier entered the room. “He had big eyes, and was bald, and started choking the shooter and spitting on him, grabbing his hair, he yelled at the shooter and pounded on the desk,” the translator stated. Questions were asked during the interrogation. But Wahedullah had a “hard time talking” and “struggled to answer,” the translator said.

Eventually, the Americans decided they wouldn’t get any information and ended the interrogation. The translator claimed that the last time he saw Wahedullah outside the room, the man was was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and his face was swollen around his eyes and forehead. The translator said he was then approached by an American and told, “Listen, this never happened, you never saw anything, forget this.”

Later that night, more Americans knocked on his room door. “They told me, if you are ever asked what happened to tell them we only asked a few tactical questions and collected biometric information and then left,” the translator stated. “They asked me to repeat it several times, which I did.”

Wahedullah was turned back over to his unit at roughly 7 p.m. Other Afghan commandos put him in the bed of their Ford Ranger truck. An Afghan commander ask why Wahedullah was in the back, according to the translator, who was present. “He was bleeding so badly, we put him in the back instead of the back seat,” the other Afghan commandos answered.

‘They beat him’

Hours later, an individual from the U.S. Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan called the operations center on Camp Conde to say they received reports that Wahedullah was about to die after he was abused by Czech forces. It wasn’t clear from the redacted investigation how the task force learned of the situation. Regardless, Wahedullah was once again brought back to the Americans, this time in an attempt to save his life. He arrived on a stretcher. A dressing was over his head, an IV was in his arm and a plastic tube was inserted into his nasal airway to help him breathe, according to an American doctor who saw Wahedullah at Camp Conde’s clinic.

Wahedullah had no pulse when he arrived. A surgical team tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail. After he was pronounced dead, one doctor turned to the Afghan sergeant major who brought the beaten body and asked questions. “l asked what happened and [the sergeant major] answered me, ‘They beat him.’ I asked when and he repeated it,” the surgeon said in his witness statement.

While in the clinic, the Afghan sergeant major said openly that every commando at the 4th Special Operations Kandak “had a go” at Wahedullah, implying they were the ones who beat him, several Green Berets stated. When investigators questioned one of the Green Berets further about this exchange, and who heard it, the soldier explained that the surgical team was too far away and distracted to listen in.

The translator, who was also in the clinic, disputed that the Afghan sergeant major made those comments. “No, l never heard that,” the translator stated, adding that those individuals never spoke in the clinic.

Czech officials conducted their own investigation into Wahedullah’s death, according to the case file, but those details were withheld in the copy provided to Military Times because it was considered third-party information. Czech Ministry of Defense spokesman Jakub Fajnor told Military Times that their investigation remains open, but declined to comment further. “The Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic is not allowed to comment on an ongoing investigation,” Fajnor said in an email. “The supervising public prosecutor’s office in Brno has reserved the right to provide information about the case. According to our sources, the public prosecutor’s office is planning to contact the American authorities with a cooperation request.” The Czech prosecutor’s office in Brno did not return a request for further information.

‘I know I can’t do that’

The case file indicates that Czech special operators were highly regarded by Americans. One Green Beret, who the redacted investigation suggests was in a leadership position, said in his statement that Czech troops took great pride in being one of the few allied forces to conduct missions outside the wire.

The Czechs wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize that, according to the Green Beret leader, who was interviewed as part of the investigation but who was not present during the interrogation or Wahedullah’s handoff.

He also told investigators about an encounter he had hours after the attack. An individual, who contextual clues in the case file suggest was a Czech commander, walked into the American’s office and shut the door.

“He was visibly upset [over Wahedullah’s attack] and frustrated yet composed,” the Green Beret leader said. “He had tears welling up as he told me, ‘I want to kill him, that shooter needs to be dead, but I know I can’t do that.’ It seemed he needed to vent in private where his guys couldn’t see. According to what l saw of his body language and heard in his voice, he truly understood the rules, even if he was frustrated with it.”

The translator’s second statement, which implicated both Green Berets and Czech troops, was made two weeks after the incident. Some disturbing accusations remained the same in both statements, including that the translator heard screaming while Czech troops were questioning Wahedullah without Americans and that Wahedullah was bleeding badly when turned over to the other Afghan commandos. But the translator’s detailed account of Green Berets beating Wahedullah was new.

Defense lawyers could’ve pounced on that change, said retired Army Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt, who served as the lead military defense counsel for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American held captive by the Taliban for five years after deserting his post.

However, the translator could’ve also explained in court why he initially withheld details. “There could be reasons why [the translator] did this. If he was under some sort of coercion or threat or intimidation before and once he was free of those things, he was liberated to speak and said what he had to say,” Rosenblatt explained.

When Wahedullah’s death first became public, it was reported that the Green Beret team had been withdrawn early from Afghanistan. Taking troops out of a war zone where alleged crimes occurred can make cases more difficult to prosecute because of difficulties obtaining the necessary evidence and witnesses, according to Rosenblatt, who has argued that the court-martial system should be able to follow U.S. forces on deployment. “These are crucial Afghan witnesses,” Rosenblatt said. “Good luck being able to identify them and work out the visa issues to get them here. The Czech soldiers, they’re also essential witnesses for this. The prospects for prosecution, even if the prosecution did have merit, really changed once everyone flew back to the States.”

The general officer memorandums of reprimand, or GOMORs, may have been the most aggressive action available given the evidence. “Credit goes to [1st Special Forces Command] for seemingly doing all that could be done in this situation,” Rosenblatt added. “The result of permanently filed GOMORs is significant and will likely have career consequences for each of those implicated.”

Article from the Army Times

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

General Wingate's Chindits - The WWII Burma Theatre Guerilla Force

Upon the beginning of Japan’s China-Burma campaign, just prior to the US entry into World War II, the British Government sent Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate to India to employ his experience as a guerrilla fighter and organize what became known as the Chindits—a brigade of specially trained Gurkha (Nepalese), Burmese and British troops.

Wingate was no stranger to Guerilla Warfare or working with indigenous troops.  He was a graduate of the Royal Military Academy, and a well known eccentric who both quoted the Bible and advocated irregular warfare tactics. His career as a guerrilla fighter began as he organized Jewish underground patrols to beat back Arab raids in British-controlled Palestine in the 1930s. In 1941, Wingate led a mixed Ethiopian and Sudanese force in retaking Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, from the Italians, who had invaded in 1935.

The Chindits were composed of two units of Long Range Penetration Groups, each made up of men-and mules. Wingate and his brigade entered Japanese-controlled Burma from the west, crossed the Chindwin River, and proceeded with sabotage activity: sneakily penetrating Japanese-held territory, attacking supply lines, and cutting communications. Once in the field, the Chindits were cut off from other units and could be supplied only by airdrops.

One of the most effective Chindit attacks was against the Mandalay-Myitkina railway, when they blew up three bridges while also beating back Japanese troops determined to stop the demolitions. The Chindits continued to wreak havoc–at one point killing 100 Japanese soldiers while suffering only one loss themselves–until a lack of supplies and troublesome terrain forced them back to India.

On the night of 24 March 1944, General Wingate boarded a transport plane at the Broadway Base in Burma, destined for India. The pilot had complained earlier about the performance of one of the plane’s twin engines, but after Wingate talked with the aircrew, a decision was made to take off. The plane crashed in what is now Manipur in northeast India. The crash was so violent that virtually none of Wingate’s remains were found.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill eulogized Wingate before the House of Commons that August: “There was a man of genius who might well have become also a man of destiny. He has gone, but his spirit lives on in the long range penetration groups, and has underlain all these intricate and daring air operations and military operations based on air transport and on air supply.”

Sunday, March 27, 2022

1836 - Mexican army executes 417 Texicans at Goliad

On this day, 27 March in 1836, Mexican army executes 417 Texas revolutionaries at Goliad in a disastrous setback for the Texans resisting Santa Anna’s regime, the Mexican army defeats and executes 417 Texas revolutionaries at Goliad.

Long accustomed to enjoying considerable autonomy from their Mexican rulers, many Anglo Texan settlers reacted with alarm when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna proclaimed himself dictator of Mexico in 1835. Santa Anna immediately imposed martial law and attempted to disarm the Texans. Yet, this move merely fed the flames of Texan resistance.

In November 1835, Texan leaders proclaimed their resistance to Santa Anna’s dictatorship, though they stopped short of calling for independence. The next month, the Texans managed to defeat 800 Mexican soldiers stationed in San Antonio. However, the rebel leaders remained deeply divided over what to do next, making them vulnerable to Santa Anna’s ruthless determination to suppress dissension.

While the Texas rebels dallied, Santa Anna moved decisively. In mid-February he led a massive Mexican army across the Rio Grande, and after a 13-day siege of the Alamo, crushed the rebels in San Antonio. Meanwhile, to the south, Santa Ann’s chief lieutenant, General Urrea, moved to destroy another faction of the rebel army attempting to defend the town of Goliad.

Disagreements among the Texans had led to a division of the rebel forces. James W. Fannin was left with only slightly more than 300 Texans to protect Goliad, a position the rebels needed in order to maintain their supply routes to the Gulf Coast. As Urrea’s much larger 1400-man army approached, Fannin acted with indecision, wondering if he should go to the aid of the besieged men at the Alamo.

Belatedly, Fannin attempted to fall back from the approaching Mexican army, but his retreat order came too late. On March 19, Urrea surrounded the small column of rebel soldiers on an open prairie, where they were trapped without food, water, or cover. After repulsing one Mexican assault, Fannin realized there was no chance of escape. Rather than see his force annihilated, Fannin surrendered.

Apparently, some among the Texans who surrendered believed they would be treated as prisoners of war. Santa Anna, however, had clearly stated several months before that he considered the rebels to be traitors who would be given no quarter. In obedience to Santa Anna’s orders, on this day in 1836 Urrea ordered his men to open fire on Fannin and his soldiers, along with about 100 other captured Texans. More than 400 men were executed that day at Goliad.

Ironically, rather than serving to crush the Texas rebellion, the Goliad Massacre helped inspire and unify the Texans. Now determined to break completely from Mexico, the Texas revolutionaries began to yell “Remember Goliad!” along with the more famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” Less than a month later, Texan forces under General Sam Houston dealt a stunning blow to Santa Anna’s army in the Battle of San Jacinto, and Texas won its independence.

Article from the History Channel

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Jerry P Rainey Memorial Scholarship

The Special Forces Association Chapter IX, the Isaac Camacho Chapter is announcing that the Jerry P. Rainey Memorial Scholarship is open each year with the application window from 15 May through 15 June.     

Three scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each will be awarded in person, on or before the 3rd Saturday in August. The scholarship presentation ceremony is usually held at VFW Post 812 in McKelligon Canyon.

At least two of the three scholarships will be awarded to undergraduate students unless there are less than two qualifying undergraduate students, at which point more than one scholarship can be awarded to a masters or doctoral student. The review process will be limited to the first 50 applications received. Additional scholarships may be awarded at the discretion of the scholarship review committee.

The Scholarship packet request window opens 1 April of each year.  Interested applicants may request a scholarship application packet through e-mail by a request to or or through the form below.

The Jerry P. Rainey Scholarship Fund focuses on assisting qualifying students who display outstanding potential in their chosen major. Academic excellence, community involvement, and personal character are the primary considerations weighted for selecting a recipient. The fund was established in memory of Jerry P. Rainey, a U.S. Army Special Forces Medic. Mr. Rainey’s lifelong endeavor, driven by his infectious optimism, to assist those with which he came into contact inspired this fund. His belief that each individual possesses the ability to positively impact others is the basis for the intent of the fund. The intent is twofold; assist a student in obtaining his or her educational objectives and perpetuate the spirit of selfless giving to others, a standard which Mr. Rainey so admirably inspired those around him to follow.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants will meet the following requirements in order to be considered for the scholarship:

  • Must reside in the greater El Paso, Texas/Las Cruces, New Mexico area.
  • Must be enrolled in an accredited university, college, or technical school.
  • Must have completed at least 24 credit hours of college coursework.
  • Must have maintained a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Must have contributed or are contributing to the local community.
  • Must not have previously been awarded the Jerry P. Rainey Scholarship.

In returning the application packet, the applicant will be required to:

  • Complete the Application Form.
  • Provide proof of GPA through the current spring semester.
  • Provide proof of completion of at least 24 credit hours of college coursework.
  • Submit a written or typed essay, 500 words or less, describing contributions to the community and life goals.
  • Include reference letters recommending scholarship award from two members of the community other than family members.

To request a Scholarship Application Packet, use the form below:

Jerry P. Rainey Biography

Jerry P. Rainey was born at Fort Benning, GA on January 25, 1932. As part of a military family, Jerry spent his childhood years in several locations. He graduated from Lanier High School in Macon, GA followed by one year at Clemson University before enlisting in the Navy at the start of the Korean War. One of his primary duties in Korea was rescuing downed pilots, often times behind enemy lines. After Korea, he spent the next nine years living in Athens, GA where he served as the head of the Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Rainey joined the Army in 1962 and attended the yearlong Special Forces Medic Course during 1964 -1965. Jerry married the former Carol Thompson on August 21, 1963, two years after they met at a Shriners dance.

His first of two tours in Vietnam was from September 1965 to September 1966. The first nine months was as a medic with a Special Forces A-Team (Det A-415) in Tuyen Nhon. His last four months was as the Public Information Office NCOIC, 5th Special Forces Group in Nha Trang. As an editor of the Green Beret Magazine he traveled throughout all 4 CTZ's gathering information about Special Forces activities for publication in the magazine.

Jerry’s second tour in Vietnam was from July 1969 to June 1970 with 5th Special Forces Group. Assigned to Det C-4 (IV Corps) HQ medic, he traveled throughout the Delta region assisting where needed. He often provided coverage for "A" Detachments needing additional medical support or replaced medics who were WIA or KIA.

His military awards include the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal w/ OLC, Good Conduct Medal (2nd award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation w/palm, Combat Medical Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Expert Rifleman Badge.

Between tours in Vietnam Jerry and Carol were stationed with 8th Special Forces Group in Panama. He was part of the team that trained the Bolivian Army unit formed to track down and capture Che Guevera. During 1970 – 1971, he was a Medical Instructor at the Advanced Medical Training School, SF Training Group, Ft Bragg, NC. While stationed at Fort Bragg Jerry assisted in writing the U.S. Army Manual for Physician Assistants.

After Mr. Rainey departed the Army he and his family lived in several locations including, New Orleans, LA, Tyler, TX, and Beaumont, TX. He worked in media sales and participated in political campaigns. Jerry was selected for and attended the Graduate Congressional Campaign College in the late 1970s. During his time in Beaumont, he taught at Lamar University’s Small Business Center and provided motivational and time management speeches for the DuPont Corporation. Jerry and Carol settled in El Paso, TX in 1993 where he worked two years as the general manager of Power 102 radio station.

Mr. Rainey was a life member of the Special Forces Association and served as president of Chapter IX, the Isaac Camacho Chapter, in El Paso, TX. Jerry succumbed to Leukemia, a result of his time in Vietnam, in March 2007. He is survived by his wife Carol, daughter Tammy and her husband Gil, daughter Stacy and her husband Jerry, son John and his wife Julie, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler hits #1 with “Ballad of the Green Berets”

Thanks to Hollywood, America’s collective memory of the Vietnam War is now inextricably linked with the popular music of that era. More specifically, it is linked with the music of the late-'60s counterculture and antiwar movement. But opposition to the war was far from widespread back in 1966—a fact that was reflected not just in popular opinion polls, but in the pop charts, too. Near the very height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, on March 5, 1966, American popular-music fans made a #1 hit out of a song called “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.

Sadler was exactly what his name and uniform implied he was: a real-life, active-duty member of the United States Army Special Forces—the elite unit popularly known as the Green Berets. In early 1965, Sadler suffered a severe punji stick injury that brought a premature end to his tour of duty as a combat medic in Vietnam. During his long hospitalization back in the United States, Sadler, an aspiring musician prior to the war, wrote and submitted to music publishers an epic ballad that eventually made its way in printed form to Robin Moore, author of the then-current nonfiction book called The Green Berets. Moore worked with Sadler to whittle his 12-verse original down to a pop-radio-friendly length, and Sadler recorded the song himself in late 1965, first for distribution only within the military, and later for RCA when the original took off as an underground hit. Within two weeks of its major-label release, The Ballad of the Green Berets had sold more than a million copies, going on to become Billboard magazine’s #1 single for all of 1966.

While it would not be accurate to call “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” a pro-war song, it was certainly a song that enjoyed popularity among those who opposed the growing anti-war movement. A year after “Green Berets” came out, Buffalo Springfield would release the anti-war anthem “For What It’s Worth,” which continues to be Hollywood’s go-to choice for many films and television programs depicting American involvement in the Vietnam War. On this day in 1966, however, the American airwaves belonged to a clean cut, uniformed member of the U.S. Army and his anti-antiwar epic.

Article from History Channel