Friday, December 3, 2021

Go Army! Beat Navy! wearing uniforms honoring Special Forces

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is honoring the first U.S. Special Forces units to infiltrate Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on their 2021 Army-Navy football uniforms. The Special Forces units, known as Task Force Dagger, teamed up with anti-Taliban Afghan allies to form the first U.S. military response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. West Point unveiled the new uniforms on a special website, titled “unitedwestand.football,” on Monday.

The new football uniforms follow a tradition West Point has held of honoring specific Army units on its uniforms during its annual rivalry game with the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. This year’s uniforms pay tribute to Task Force Dagger, comprised of Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) of the 5th Special Forces Group, known as ODAs 534, 555, 574 and 595. These four Special Forces teams served as America’s initial response to the 9/11 attacks, perpetrated by Al Qaeda terrorists.

The four Special Forces ODAs teamed up with anti-Taliban Afghan allies, as part of early efforts to unseat the Taliban government. ODA 595, in particular, used borrowed horses to quickly navigate the mountainous Afghan terrain, earning them the nickname “Horse Soldiers.”

This year’s choice to honor the Special Forces ODAs comes just months after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan and the U.S. concluded its 20-year military campaign in the country.

The new uniform features a camouflage pattern reminiscent of the Desert Combat Uniforms (DCU) worn by the Army in the later 1990s and early 2000s, during the start of the war in Afghanistan. The uniform also features a pair of twin stripes on the front and back, representing the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which were toppled in the 9/11 attacks.

On the back of the uniform is the phrase “United We Stand,” a common post-9/11 rallying cry for the U.S. On the front of the uniforms is the Special Forces motto “De Oppresso Liber,” Latin for “To Free the Oppressed.”

The uniform also pays tribute to the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command and the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD), all of which worked with the Special Forces teams of Task Force Dagger during the early days of the war in Afghanistan.

“The personnel of Task Force Dagger answered our nation’s call in a time of great uncertainty,” the West Point website reads. “America reeled from the attacks on September 11, 2001, and though it took long months and years for New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania to clean up the rubble, these ODAs and those who supported them deployed into an incredibly complex situation even as the fires still burned at Ground Zero. They represented the tip of America’s spear aimed at the heart of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

“Our nation remembers and honors the soldiers of these ODAs and of Task Force Dagger—some of whom continue to serve as Special Forces operators to this day,” the website continues. “Their sacrifices, and those of the ones who never came home, are emblazoned on these uniforms. We must never forget that no matter the uncertainty or the darkness at hand, Army Special Operations soldiers stand ready to overcome whatever challenges our people ask them to face. This uniform represents the undaunted courage of these ODAs, as well as those who supported them. After 9/11/01, America called upon them to stand tall and take the fight to a distant enemy under extremely adverse conditions. They readily answered that call. De Oppresso Liber.”



Article from the American Military News

Friday, November 26, 2021

Joe Medicine Crow, The Last Plains War Chief Who Fought The Nazis During World War II

Born in 1913 on the Crow Reservation in Montana, Joseph Medicine Crow was raised in his people’s warrior tradition — which he put to good use while serving in France and Germany. And when Joe Medicine Crow died in 2016, he was the last living Plains Indian war chief, ending a tradition that stretched back hundreds of years.

Becoming a war chief was not easy — and even less so after the U.S. government had all but eradicated the Indigenous way of life on the Great Plains. The feat required passing four tests, including touching a living enemy, stealing an enemy’s weapon, and successfully leading a war party. Finally, a person had to sneak into an enemy camp to steal a horse.

Generations of men passed this test and became war chiefs. But the last feat became all but impossible as Native Americans were forced onto reservations and horses slowly disappeared from the battlefield in the 20th century. And yet Joe Medicine Crow managed to accomplish all four tasks almost by accident, and in a place few members of the Crow Nation had ever visited. He earned the honor fighting Nazis in Germany with the U.S. Army.

Born on the Crow Reservation in Montana in 1913, Joe Medicine Crow learned the traditions of the Crow Nation from an early age. His grandfather, White Man Runs Him, had been a scout for General Custer prior to the Battle of Little Bighorn. His other grandfather, Chief Medicine Crow, was a revered war hero. Joe grew up hearing stories about Crow warriors. He learned to ride horses bareback, survive the harsh Montana winters, and hunt game. Joe also heard how his ancestors had become celebrated warriors and war chiefs.

As he grew older, his tribe’s history inspired Medicine Crow to study history and anthropology in college. And in 1939, he became the first member of the Crow Nation to earn a master’s degree. But on his way to a doctorate, Medicine Crow left the University of Southern California to volunteer for the Army. Joe Medicine Crow came from a long line of Crow scouts. The Army recognized his skills and assigned Joe to scout for the 103rd Infantry Division in 1943. And by the end of 1944, he was in France, pushing the Nazis back to Germany.

Before battles, Joe Medicine Crow painted two red war stripes on his arms in the Crow tradition, hidden under his uniform. He also carried a yellow eagle feather into battle. The sacred feather came from a Sun Dance medicine man. Fighting across France, it seemed unlikely that Joe Medicine Crow could pass every test to become a war chief. But somehow, he did.

During a raid in a small French town, Joe found himself alone in an alley with a German soldier. Medicine Crow used his rifle to knock the German’s gun to the ground, thus taking a weapon from an enemy. He was also able to take the German as a prisoner of war, touching a living enemy.

As an infantry soldier, Joe rarely led missions. But during a dangerous moment when German soldiers surrounded Joe’s company, his commanding officer put Joe in charge. He had to brave land mines, enemy fire, and overwhelming numbers of enemy soldiers to bring ammunition back to his company. Joe Medicine Crow took on the challenge and successfully led seven men in the mission, saving the company. At that point, Joe had completed three of the steps to become a war chief. But how was he going to steal horses from the Nazis?

Horses and modern warfare seem incompatible. The rules for becoming a Plains war chief had been created for a different type of battle than American troops faced on the front lines of World War II. But even modern armies relied on horses to transport artillery and in cavalry units. And although the Nazi army was famously mechanized, some companies still relied on horses because of their limited access to oil.

During the chaotic German retreat in the war’s final days, Medicine Crow tracked Nazi SS troops fleeing on horseback. The loud clopping on the road made it easy for Joe to follow the men. “We followed their trail in the moonlight and arrived at a villa,” Joe recalled. “We came there and found a little pasture with a barn.” Joe’s company surrounded the barn in the early morning hours, ready to attack — until Joe came up with an idea for the horses.

He told his commanding officer, “Maybe I should get those horses out of the corral before you attack, because some of those SS guys might be able to escape on them.” With his commanding officer’s consent, Joe snuck toward the corral. He quickly created a bridle from a short rope, the same way Crow warriors had done for centuries. And then Joe leaped on a horse and rode away, creating a stampede of 50 more horses and causing chaos in the Nazi ranks. And just as Joe made it out of firing range, his Army division started launching artillery shells.

As Joe Medicine Crow rode back to his camp, he began singing a Crow praise song. “I sang this song a little bit and rode around the horses,” Joe said. “The horses looked at me. Finally, I left them in the woods.” By the time Joe returned to the farmhouse, the Germans had surrendered. Used to covering long miles on his feet, Joe decided to stay on his horse a while. “It was good, better to ride than walk.” But a mile down the road, his commander said, “You better get off. You make too good a target.”

When Joe Medicine Crow returned home after the war, the elders named him a war chief. Joe Medicine Crow became a war chief for the Crow. He also earned a Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor for his service. In 1948, Joe became the official Crow Nation historian and anthropologist. He taught younger generations about the Battle of Little Bighorn and Crow traditions. He even wrote the script for reenactments of the Battle of Little Bighorn that is still used today. And it’s based on oral histories he was told as a child.

And in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Then 95 years old, Joe Medicine Crow performed a ceremonial dance after receiving the medal. Joe died in 2016 at the age of 102.


To this day, the only other Crow soldier who has come close to achieving the four feats of valor necessary to become a war chief is Joe Medicine Crow’s nephew. During the Vietnam War, Carson Walks Over Ice served as a Green Beret and managed three requirements. But he was unable to snag a horse. “I did get two elephants, and that should have counted for something,” Carson Walks Over Ice said. “But the elders did not see it my way.”

Article from All That is Interesting

Saturday, November 13, 2021

How Army Special Ops can push back against Russian aggression

With an ever-diminishing role in counterterror, special operations troops are in transition, moving back toward a traditional supporting role in a larger effort to deter countries with navies and air forces and other capabilities more on par with the U.S.


Army special operations forces in particular have a role to play in countering Russia, according to an Army Special Operations Command-funded Rand Corp. report released Monday, but they’ll need more concrete direction to be useful going forward. “Although U.S. strategic guidance proclaims that the United States has entered a new era of great-power competition, concepts for succeeding in that competition remain underdeveloped,” according to the report.

So what can Army special operations bring to the fight? By returning to its roots, particularly for Special Forces, Army special operations can work with allies to strengthen their capabilities against foes like Russia, while at the same time giving the U.S. situational awareness of conditions on the ground.

“In conditions of more intensified competition, when the risk of armed conflict is high, ARSOF can help to defend against proxy forces used by U.S. adversaries,” according to the report. “ARSOF can also be used to disrupt adversary operations in denied environments or to impose costs on adversaries, although the most aggressive uses of ARSOF—unconventional warfare intended to overthrow adversary governments—have traditionally been high-risk activities with relatively low rates of success.”

In order to be successful, the authors wrote, Army SOF needs a few things:

  • Army doctrine, specifically Multi-Domain Operations, needs to include specific guidance for SOF.
  • Special Operations Command and the assistant defense secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict should do regular reviews of Army SOF activities to make sure they are in line with the change in focus to “strategic competition.”
  • SOF should only engage directly with Russia, through unconventional or information warfare, in rare circumstances.
  • Special operations troops should be embedded with allies as part of a “long-term political-military strategy,” as their progress tends to be incremental and measured by the successes of those partner nations in their own strategies.

“There may well be specific contexts in which UW and aggressive uses of [operations in the information environment] are appropriate tools for the United States to compel Russia to cease certain activities or to disrupt and degrade its ability to pursue them,” the report found. “But the potential benefits of such instruments must be carefully weighed against the costs, risks, and likelihood of success.”

Article from the Military Times

Saturday, November 6, 2021

President Biden left 14,000 US residents behind in Afghanistan after promising to get every American out

The Biden administration has left behind as many as 14,000 U.S. legal permanent residents in Afghanistan after President Joe Biden repeatedly promised that he would not leave any Americans behind after the U.S. withdrew troops from the country. Following the Pentagon's disclosure last week that 439 American citizens are still in Afghanistan, a new report from Foreign Policy indicates thousands more U.S. green card holders are still stranded in the Taliban-controlled country.

The finding, disclosed by a congressional aide familiar with the matter, has been transmitted by the State Department to aides on Capitol Hill in private, but officials demurred on revealing the figure when questioned by Republican lawmakers on Wednesday, insisting the agency doesn't track the figure.

"Isn't the operating assumption about 14,000?" Republican Rep. Chris Smith asked Brian McKeon, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, at a hearing on Wednesday, referring to the figure briefed in private.

"We don't track [legal permanent residents]," McKeon responded. "It's a good question why we don't," he added, suggesting the lack of clarity might be because the State Department does not require Americans and legal permanent residents traveling abroad to report their whereabouts.

According to McKeon's testimony Wednesday, there are still 289 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan as of Tuesday and another 81 Americans who are ready to evacuate the country. McKeon said the Biden administration got 140 Americans out last week.

Foreign Policy reported that the State Department is prioritizing American citizens for evacuation over legal permanent residents and green card holders. In a statement, the State Department said there is no exact tally of U.S. legal permanent residents in Afghanistan. "We do not have an exact number of LPRs and their immediate family members who have departed or who remain in Afghanistan," a spokesperson said. "In this extraordinary situation we are facing in Afghanistan, we have helped LPRs seeking assistance to depart wherever possible."

Foreign Policy noted that lawmakers have expressed frustration with the Biden administration for being opaque about the exact number of citizens, legal permanent residents, and Afghan allies of the U.S. who were left behind. Administration officials have responded by saying the number is in constant flux as more people are coming forward with a desire to leave the country.

On Aug. 19, Biden told ABC News: "If there are American citizens left, we're going to stay until we get them all out."

U.S. troops were withdrawn on Aug. 31. At the time, Biden estimated there were 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.

Again on Sept. 5, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said about 100 Americans were still in Afghanistan who wanted to leave.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter echoed that estimate on Sept. 10.

But one month later in October, the Pentagon clarified there were actually more than 400 American citizens still in the country.

Now it's revealed that 14,000 green card holders are still trapped in Afghanistan, people who can apply for U.S. citizenship and enjoy many of the same rights as citizens with the exception of the right to vote.

The rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdrew obviously complicated evacuation efforts. But the responsibility for failing to get thousands of American citizens and legal permanent residents out of the country before U.S. forces withdrew lies squarely with the Biden administration.

Article from the Blaze

Sunday, October 31, 2021

WWII veteran’s grave rediscovered and marked by US military in Djibouti

Nathan Reynolds’ passion for replacing U.S. military veterans’ broken or missing headstones took him to a little-known graveyard for foreigners in the Horn of Africa. Without Reynolds, a 40-year-old Army veteran deployed to Camp Lemonnier with the Defense Logistics Agency, World War II veteran Arthur R. Lewis would likely still be buried in an unmarked grave covered in broken bits of coral at the New European Cemetery in Djibouti city. “This is definitely the hardest one I’ve ever done,” Reynolds, an Ohio native, said of his work to help the Lewis family get a Department of Veterans Affairs headstone placed at Lewis’ grave.

Lewis, a Massachusetts native, had served as a radioman in the Coast Guard in the 1920s, then on a Liberty ship for several years with the Merchant Marine during WWII. He was working aboard the S.S. Steel Vendor, a former troop transport that had become a cargo ship after the war, when he died at sea in 1959 while transiting from a Red Sea port to Djibouti city. At the time, Djibouti was still known as French Somaliland.

The humble gravestone was all the family expected, said Chaplain James Parnell, an Army major who helped Reynolds. But the deployed Americans didn’t stop there. “We were like, ‘We gotta do more than that,’” said Maj. Jay Cavaiola, of the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, who joined the effort in June.

On Thursday, American and foreign dignitaries and service members from several countries gathered in the baking sun to render Lewis his long-overdue military honors. Presiding over the event were the U.S. ambassador, the two-star Army commander of the U.S.-led military task force in the region and the Navy captain who oversees nearby Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. base on the continent.

Guests included the Djiboutian defense minister and senior military officers of that country as well as counterparts from France and Canada. Lewis’ family, who regretted they could not attend the ceremony, were “blown away” by the honor shown their father, Parnell said. It was an opportunity to recognize not only Lewis’ life and wartime service but also the long-standing partnerships between the U.S., its Djiboutian hosts and their allies, said Maj. Gen. William Zana, commander of the combined joint task force. French, British, Australian and Canadian service members are also interred at the cemetery.

Reynolds called it fortuitous that he was among the 5,000 troops, civilians and contractors deployed last year to Camp Lemonnier, a few miles from where Lewis was laid to rest. A frequent contributor to the website Findagrave.com, Reynolds gets notifications via the website’s app of requests for gravesite photos.

That’s how he learned that Lewis’ daughter, a Washington state resident, was seeking a photo of her father’s grave. She’d uploaded a black-and-white photo of a flag-draped casket taken before it was lowered into the grave. But despite scouring the cemetery, Reynolds could not find the burial plot.

He offered to send Lewis’ daughter information on how to ask the U.S. Embassy to place a marker. She told him she’d been trying since 2011 to get U.S. officials to help her do just that, but kept running into roadblocks, Reynolds told Stars and Stripes this week. “That actually hacked me off,” he said. “I was like, ‘no, no, no, this needs to be done.’”

Staff Sgt. Rolland Cheng of the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion offered to help find the grave and get it marked. He and Reynolds eventually recruited Army chaplains and a French liaison officer. They handed off the project to other civil affairs soldiers when they rotated back to the U.S. last spring.

The biggest challenge was driving around town and knocking on doors looking for the right people to help them, said Cavaiola, the major from the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion. Americans met with the city’s mayor, the national coroner-mortician and a local bishop. After locating the burial plot, they helped the family purchase it in perpetuity, which is uncommon in Djibouti, Cavaiola said. Back in Ohio, Reynolds filed the request with Veterans Affairs for the stone, approved by the family.

“The VA was a little confused,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think they get many requests for places like that.” Earlier this year, the Defense Logistics Agency warehouse at Camp Lemonnier received the 240-pound slab of granite. Members of the Army’s 377th Engineer Vertical Construction Company installed it earlier this month. Parnell, the chaplain, said it hadn’t been “anybody’s mission” but rather something they did out of a sense of duty. One last thing remained after Thursday’s ceremony: flying the neatly folded U.S. flag and other mementos back to the U.S. for handover to the Lewis family. Parnell said he’d personally make the 8,000-mile trip if necessary. Article from Stars and Stripes

Sunday, October 24, 2021

October 24th, 1921 - Unknown Soldier is selected

On October 24, 1921, in the French town of Chalons-sur-Marne, an American officer selects the body of the first “Unknown Soldier” to be honored among the approximately 77,000 United States servicemen killed on the Western Front during World War I.

According to the official records of the Army Graves Registration Service deposited in the U.S. National Archives in Washington, four bodies were transported to Chalons from the cemeteries of Aisne-Marne, Somme, Meuse-Argonne and Saint-Mihiel. All were great battlegrounds, and the latter two regions were the sites of two offensive operations in which American troops took a leading role in the decisive summer and fall of 1918. As the service records stated, the identity of the bodies was completely unknown: “The original records showing the internment of these bodies were searched and the four bodies selected represented the remains of soldiers of which there was absolutely no indication as to name, rank, organization or date of death.”

The four bodies arrived at the Hotel de Ville in Chalons-sur-Marne on October 23, 1921. At 10 o’clock the next morning, French and American officials entered a hall where the four caskets were displayed, each draped with an American flag. Sergeant Edward Younger, the man given the task of making the selection, carried a spray of white roses with which to mark the chosen casket. According to the official account, Younger “entered the chamber in which the bodies of the four Unknown Soldiers lay, circled the caskets three times, then silently placed the flowers on the third casket from the left. He faced the body, stood at attention and saluted.”

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

What is new is as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier prepares to mark 100 years at Arlington National Ceremony, a historic first took place October 1st, 2021 during a guard change when for the first time in the 84-year vigil, on the 30,770th day of continuous guarding, an all-female guard change occurred with the 38th Sergeant of the Guard.

Article, in part, from History.com

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Green Berets’ work to free Afghans comes with a personal cost

It didn’t take long for Carrie Elk to realize something was different with the Green Berets at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A psychotherapist who specializes in war-related psychological trauma, Elk was at Bragg Sept. 12 to deliver PTSD resilience training to Green Berets preparing to transition out of the military.

She was invited by an NCO she had worked with for years to discuss caring for special forces soldiers who struggle to cope with the aftermath of exposure to brutal combat and the other miseries of protracted conflict. “As I walked in, he felt different,” Elk said of the Green Beret NCO, who were both authorized to talk about the situation. The Green Beret NCO spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive nature of the Afghanistan rescue efforts. “His presence was very different than I’ve known. Something was off.”

Later, Elk noticed another sight that made her wonder. “We walked by the offices, to the conference room, and I saw a couple of cots set up,” said Elk, founder and CEO of the Elk Institute for Psychological Health & Performance. “I thought that was awfully strange, and was wondering if that is how they do things at this unit or was something going on?”

Having worked with special operations units around the country for years, Elk knew better than to ask questions. But she overheard snippets of desperate conversations, observed a high level of tension on the faces of those in the room and saw things that seemed out of place.

There were cots. A whiteboard with maps and photographs of people. Afghans on cell phones, having furious conversations in Dari with people back home. A Green Beret was at his computer. His hands were on his forehead as he had a hushed conversation with the man next to him. “What if I miss one?” she recalled him saying. “What if I miss the name? Dude, what if I miss a name?”

The Green Beret tried to reassure him. “Dude, your job is to do the best you can to keep track of what you can and do as much as you can with what you’ve got. Their souls are not your responsibility.”

The souls, Elk learned, were U.S. citizens and Afghan allies trapped by rapid advance of the Taliban. Their lives hung in the balance and 7,000 miles away, there was nothing the Green Berets at Fort Bragg could do by way of direct action to help them.

But despite the admonishment, the men felt a responsibility. Moderator's Note: Something Joe Biden, nor the top Generals, apparently didn't feel when he deserted them, sentencing them to horrific deaths at the hands of the brutal Taliban.

So day after day, night after night, with the implicit approval of their command, the small group of five Green Berets at Fort Bragg spent their off hours working to find and guide American citizens and Afghans to safety. They took turns spending nights in the office transformed into a tactical operations center. And for men used to responding, Elk could see that as the Taliban captured district after district, the pervasive feeling of helplessness and hopelessness was taking a mental and emotional toll, even as they managed to help hundreds escape. Hundreds more are still on their waiting list, a small portion of the tens of thousands wanting to get out.

The command is aware of the toll the rescue effort has taken on the Green Berets. “Some of our people experienced a range of powerful emotions over the last few months because Army Special Operations is more than a job, and our soldiers care deeply about the people they have worked closely with on deployments,” said Army Maj. Dan Lessard, a spokeman for the 1st Special Forces Command said in an email to Military Times. “We implement U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Human Performance and Wellness program to provide our soldiers and families a holistic array of resources to build resilience, improve performance, and mitigate the acute effects of stress over their careers in Army Special Operations.”

Elk’s visit to Bragg, arranged long before the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, was part of that program. “Their hands are tied everywhere they go,” Elk said of the Green Berets. “And then they’re still watching all these people dying, that saved them half of the time, looked out for them, gave them information they needed, some interpreters for them. And now they feel they’ve left these guys in harm’s way. And that’s opposite of their ethos and just soul crushing.”

Send us

A day before Kabul fell on Aug. 15, the small group at Fort Bragg appealed to the chain of command to head to Afghanistan. “We made a promise to these people that we’d get them out, and we knew exactly what would happen to them if they were left there,” said the Green Beret NCO. “It is happening. And so that’s what killed us the most. Because we knew if we were on the ground, we could speed those processes up. We actually tried to go over there. We want to go over there.”

But leaders rejected the idea. “It’s just like, ‘hey it’s never gonna happen,’” he said. “The Department of Defense doesn’t want any more people to be responsible for over there, you know? It’s a Department of State thing. They do immigration, not the military and so they didn’t want anyone getting in the way of that. Our command supported it, but it was just never going to happen, especially in such a short timeframe. By time we got there. It would have been over anyway. It was just so frustrating.”

Instead, the Green Berets began working in an unofficial capacity because what they were seeing was anathema to their motto, said the NCO. “What we saw happening over there was the opposite of De Oppresso Liber,” he said, referring to the Green Beret’s Latin motto meaning “to free the opressed” in English. “I’ll say it over and over again, it was De Liber Oppresso. It was legitimately undoing everything we have done for 20 years. Just all of a sudden it was, we oppressed all the people that we’ve been trying to free from oppression. And it was like a light switch. “It’s been mentally challenging for a lot of people because, you know, how many people we buried,” he said. “And because of that place, because of going to war for 20 years all the funerals we went to, all the family members we had to say sorry to and notify, just think about that. I’ve been going there since 2005, and I’ve been to memorials every single year.”

The Green Berets were operating with the knowledge of their command. “1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) is aware of the informal efforts by soldiers within the command to assist former Afghan partners and their families with evacuation from Afghanistan,” Lessard said. “Our soldiers have built lasting relationships with partners during deployments over the last 20 years, and some soldiers have used their previous relationships and networks to provide unofficial assistance to those partners in their time of need.”

Taking action

“If you put a curtain over the window and not know where you were, you’d think you’re in Afghanistan running a mission,” said the Green Beret NCO. The effort started with attempts to rescue family members of two Afghans. One of those Afghans is a Green Beret, the other a contractor who worked with the team. It became even more difficult after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15.

“That was one of the horrifying things,” said the Green Beret NCO. “One of the Afghans that’s working with us, his wife is stuck over there. He’s an American citizen. So imagine him helping us get all these people out and his wife can’t. Right? Because she has pending [special immigrant visa]. I have to look at his face every day. Not being able to go get her, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t walk away every day, and go home and sleep knowing that. It was crushing.”

So the Green Beret NCO reached out to a friend in Kabul. “He was like, ‘hey man, this is, this is how it works. These units are controlling these access points.’ And he said, ‘you know, reach out to see who’s there, build contacts with them, and then see if they’ll vouch for your people and get them in and that’s what we did.”

Soon, the Green Berets were in contact with the family members, offering advice and helping guide them past Taliban checkpoints, toward contacts at Hamid Karzai International Airport who would let them in. They helped move people to safe houses and transport them when the time was right. But it wasn’t easy and not every attempt to reach the airport worked. Eventually, though, the families of the Afghan team members made it out of the country.

News of the initial success quickly spread. “Once we were successful getting those people out, it started,” said the Green Beret NCO of a torrent of requests for help. “Everyone else was like, hey, my friend’s family is there. Or, some general or colonel would be, okay my interpreter is stuck there. And they just kept asking me if you can get these people, and the other people, and it just became the larger operation overnight.” It wasn’t easy at first “because they were overwhelmed,” said the Green Beret NCO. “Everybody was doing the same thing. So it just happened to be like, who could get there? How we can identify them? And who would vouch for him. And we did that.”

Helping hands

The Green Berets at Fort Bragg also worked with friends in several private organizations trying to rescue American citizens and Afghan allies. They worked, directly and indirectly, to help move people to safety with veteran-run volunteer groups like Pineapple Express, Digital Dunkirk and Team America, said the Green Beret NCO.

The pleas have become increasingly desperate. “Those people are stuck in a bad situation because they can’t do it the legitimate route through the Taliban or they’ll be hunted,” said the Green Beret NCO. “And they’re currently being hunted and killed. “We’ve got videos of it, proof of like all the atrocities happening, these people being, you know, shot with their families in their homes or [the Taliban] going door to door looking for people,” he said. “It’s happening 24/7. What I had to look at for the last two weeks, you know, it was eating me alive.”

Duty still calls

Even as all this was going on, the Green Berets had their day jobs. For the NCO, it was running the transition workshop. Elk was there to talk to the group about post-traumatic stress disorder and resilience, and then set up individual sessions for anyone wanting additional help. For the Green Berets at Fort Bragg, the timing could not have been better, and 17 Green Berets came forward. “That’s unheard of to have that many people, during a couple-day period, reach out for help for behavioral health,” said the Green Beret NCO.

That response, he said, was the result of steadily building pressure on the force, exacerbated by the rescue effort. “It was just like everything at once,” he said. “Transitioning our military is one of the most stressful points of your entire life. And then you had a pandemic and Afghanistan on top of it. So imagine that it’s just one relentless catastrophe after another, stacking up and all the other crap you’re already dealing with prior to it also. It definitely sent a lot of people over the edge.”

Elk treated those she could, but the slots quickly filled, which she said is typical for the SOF units she has been working with over the past decade. “I am going to go back to help the others,” she said.

A very bad day

Meanwhile, there was more misery to come. At Fort Bragg, as in so many other places, Aug. 26 was a day of sadness and grief as an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. troops and 169 Afghans. It was especially tense at Bragg, because there were families being rescued at the Abbey gate, the site of the bombing. And Marines who were working with the Green Berets. Two families at Abbey gate made it into the airport, but a Marine they were working with was killed. “You feel helpless and hopeless that, you know, you can’t be there do something and like you know contribute and then you’re just sitting on the other side of the world, on a phone going out, you know, should have would have could have, so it was, it was horrible,” said the Green Beret NCO.

The mission continues

To date, the Green Berets at Fort Bragg helped rescue about 400 people, said the Green Beret NCO. But as the sleepless nights wear on, and the ability to effect change diminished with the withdrawal of U.S. troops on Aug. 31, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are hitting hard. “I feel good getting the families we got out,” he said. “We did our part but now it’s like, there’s humanitarian crisis.”

There are still another 500 people on the Green Beret’s waiting list. But with no U.S. presence on the ground in Afghanistan, the messages are still coming, while the evacuation effort has wound down “to a slow trickle,” said the Green Beret NCO. “It is finding any way necessary” to help them escape, he said. “Whether it was across land or by any type of aircraft that could fly out of Afghanistan, And we’ve only got probably about a dozen people out after that date, and then now it’s just like coming to a standstill.”

The challenge now is working under the legal framework for evacuation while still trying to help and not putting people at risk. “You can’t support illegal immigration,” he said. “So, you have to do everything by the book. And we don’t want to be playing chess with other people’s lives over there. I mean it’s not a video game, it’s real life. So you’re not on the ground, you can’t see what’s happening so you have to trust what the people over there are telling you, and then give them the best advice possible but let them make the decision. We facilitate their decision making based on what we know and understand that come together with a unified decision of, are you willing to accept this risk but we’re not telling them what to do.”

The Green Berets have vowed to continue to help. Elk says that’s one reason she is going to return to Bragg. “Their values are ‘never leave a comrade behind,’ and ‘to free the oppressed’ but the situation created the opposite scenario,” she said. “It is easy to understand why things were different. Daily operations were being carried out at a high level of performance as always while in the background an existentially heavy 24-hour sustained mission weighed on the human hearts and minds. “This incongruence, living against their ethos/motto, coupled with the understandable feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to directly act on or ‘right’ the situation, has potential to greatly impact their psychological and emotional health,” she said. “So it’s more important than ever to equip them with straightforward, operator-friendly resilience training to maintain their high level of performance.”

Article from the Army Times

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Give that Kid a Green Beret!

"Trained to live of nature's land"........a sentence from the Ballad of the Green Beret

A missing 3-year-old Texas boy was found in the woods miles away from his parents’ house, three days after he disappeared. Christopher Ramirez had last been seen by his family on Wednesday when he chased a neighbor’s dog into the woods around 2 p.m. while his parents were unpacking their food truck. The dog returned, but Christopher never did, prompting a major search by local agencies, Texas EquuSearch, and the FBI’s Houston office as well as volunteers.

Christopher was found around 11 a.m. on Saturday “a bit dehydrated as well as hungry and in overall good spirits and healthy,” Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said in a statement on social media on Saturday evening. It was not yet clear how exactly the toddler survived on his own. He was recovering at Texas Children’s Hospital in Woodlands “with his mother by his side.”

The man who found him, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told the sheriff that God had told him at bible study the day before that he would find the boy if he went searching. “The kind and humble citizen that found Christopher was indeed a special and Guardian Angel that was in the right place at the right time. He is a humble and kind man that did not want his name mentioned,” Sowell said. “I had several good visits with him and thanked him for being there. He replied that God told him at Bible study yesterday evening to go look for him and he would find him. This morning the man did just that and the rest is a happy ending to this story.”

Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller told KHOU that he had been ready to give up the desperate search for Christopher. “In my 21 years with EquuSearch, this is only the second time when we had a child like this. Today, this morning, sheriff, honestly, I gave up,” Miller said. “But God works amazing, I got goosebumps. He works amazing. To see him and to hear that loud cry, sheriff, it was just unbelievable.”

Friday, October 8, 2021

This day 8 October 1918, U.S. soldier Alvin York displays heroics at Argonne

On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York reportedly kills over 20 German soldiers and captures an additional 132 at the head of a small detachment in the Argonne Forest near the Meuse River in France. The exploits later earned York the Medal of Honor.

Born in 1887 in a log cabin near the Tennessee-Kentucky border, York was the third of 11 children in a family supported by subsistence farming and hunting. After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a fundamentalist Christian around 1915. Two years later, when the United States entered World War I, York was drafted into the U.S. Army. After being denied conscientious-objector status, York enlisted in the 82nd Infantry Division and in May 1918 arrived in France for active duty on the Western Front. He served in the successful Saint-Mihiel offensive in September of that year, was promoted to corporal and given command of his own squad.

The events of October 8, 1918, took place as part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive—what was to be the final Allied push against German forces on the Western Front during World War I. York and his battalion were given the task of seizing German-held positions across a valley; after encountering difficulties, the small group of soldiers—numbering some 17 men—were fired upon by a German machine-gun nest at the top of a nearby hill. The gunners cut down nine men, including a superior officer, leaving York in charge of the squad.

As York wrote in his diary of his subsequent actions: “[T]hose machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful…. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn’t even have time to kneel or lie down…. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”

Several other American soldiers followed York’s lead and began firing; as they drew closer to the machine-gun nest, the German commander—thinking he had underestimated the size of the enemy squadron—surrendered his garrison of some 90 men. On the way back to the Allied lines, York and his squad took more prisoners, for a total of 132. Though Alvin York consistently played down his accomplishments of that day, he was given credit for killing more than 20 German soldiers. Promoted to the rank of sergeant, he remained on the front lines until November 1, 10 days before the armistice. In April 1919, York was awarded the highest American military decoration, the Medal of Honor.

Lauded by The New York Times as “the war’s biggest hero” and by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), as “the greatest civilian soldier” of World War I, York went on to found a school for underprivileged children, the York Industrial Institute (now Alvin C. York Institute), in rural Tennessee. In 1941, his heroism became the basis for a movie, Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper. Upon York’s death in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called him “a symbol of American courage and sacrifice” who epitomized “the gallantry of American fighting men and their sacrifices on behalf of freedom.”

Article from History.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Special Operations Forces video - 1984

My, how times have changdd and how they also femain the same. Enjoy the video.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

This Day in History, 11 September

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Islamic Terrorist flying airplanes in the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon. And let's not forgot the passengers who took over an airliner from terrorists bent on flying it into the US Capitol instead driving that plane into the ground into famr land, knowlingly giving their lives to save others. But I chose not to expand on what is known as 9-11, as that attack and the debacle that unfolded just two weeks ago in Afghanistan where the US withdrew, souring massive amounts of top end US military equipment and leaving American citizens and our Afghan allies at the mercy of a terrorist group, its just too much sorrow and shame to remind ourselves of. Instead I'd like to focus on another day, this on in 1965 where 1st Cavalry Division arrives in South Vietnam.

1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) begins to arrive in South Vietnam at Qui Nhon, bringing U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam to more than 125,000. The unit, which had a long and storied history, was the first full U.S. Army division deployed to Vietnam. The division consisted of nine battalions of airmobile infantry, an air reconnaissance squadron, and six battalions of artillery. The division also included the 11th Aviation Group, made up of three aviation battalions consisting of 11 companies of assault helicopters, assault support helicopters, and gunships.

The division used a new concept by which the ground maneuver elements were moved around the battlefield by helicopters. Initially deployed to the II Corps area at Qui Nhon, the division took part in the first major engagement between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley fought in November, just two months after the division began arriving in Vietnam. Later, the division moved further north to I Corps in 1968 to relieve the embattled U.S. Marines at Hue during the Tet Offensive; in October of the same year, they redeployed to III Corps to conduct operations to protect Saigon; and in 1970, the division took part in the invasion of Cambodia and conducted operations in both III and IV Corps (the Mekong Delta). Thus, the 1st Cavalry Division, popularly known as the “First Team,” was the only American division to fight in all four corps tactical zones. The bulk of the division began departing Vietnam in late April 1970, but the 3rd Brigade remained until June 1972.
br> If you haven;t read the book "We were Soldiers Once and Young", then you are missing posible the best war bok every written and captured in a movie ofthe same title.

The 1st Cavalry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and “First Team” soldiers won 25 Medals of Honor, 120 Distinguished Service Crosses, 2,766 Silver Stars, 2,697 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 8,408 Bronze Stars for Valor.

Article from History.com

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Former SecDef Chris Miller on US withdrawal from Afghani - ‘We mishandled this so dramatically’

Christopher C. Miller, then-President Donald Trump’s surprise pick to replace fired Mark Esper and serve as acting defense secretary, has a personal stake in the outcome of events in Afghanistan. As an officer with the 5th Special Forces Group, he was one of the first troops into Afghanistan after 9/11 (see period photo right), and he fought with and trained Afghan forces. Miller, a retired colonel, was working on plans to leave Afghanistan by May before the election of Joe Biden. In this Aug. 18 interview with Military Times, Miller  talks about his reaction to the chaos unfolding in Kabul. how the decisions to bring the war in Afghanistan have played out, his impressions of Trump, how the U.S. might prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing a presence there, why Afghan National Security Forces were unable to defend their territory, and what he might have done differently.

MT: Chris, as a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, who fought there and helped train Afghans, what was it like to watch the fall of Afghanistan and the unfolding chaos in Kabul?

CM: It’s heartbreaking. I spent last Friday weeping all day long, because I was just so heartbroken. And then I just kind of got angry after that because I think I was going through the process of mourning. And now with what’s going on, it seems like the United States military has finally established some capabilities there. But it seems so preventable. And as a military person that understands military operations and planning and how we do these things. it really bothered me a great deal. What went wrong? I don’t know. I mean, it’s easy for me to sit here and Monday morning quarterback, and I don’t want to do that, because everybody’s doing that and all the shows, pointing fingers and whatnot. I don’t know, I wasn’t involved in those conversations. I wasn’t in those rooms, where the president and his leadership team made those decisions. I heard the president speak and you have to give them respect as he’s the president of the United States. And we all want this to turn out as well as it can. But you just can’t help but think as a former military person, as former secretary of defense … you can’t help but wonder what was going on that we mishandled this so dramatically.

MT: What made you so angry?

CM: I felt so much of this could have been prevented. With a little diligence and planning. That’s probably the most powerful part of our military is logistics and planning ability, and the ability to get any place in the world. So, I had questions and I still have questions, but the team that’s in there now, they just need our support. And I don’t want to be finger -pointing nerd second guessing or chicken-lipping them at this time. What’s concerning to me, though, is … it all seemed to start to really hit Sunday. Of course, that’s the day where the Taliban entered Kabul, with people that are stuck in bed-down locations and are in a bad way, asking for assistance. It seems like things are coming together now. But at the time, I couldn’t help wonder if we couldn’t have predicted that was going to happen. We’d been there for 20 years. Obviously, we had all the intelligence we needed there. To use the horrible Rumsfeld phrases about known unknowns and unknown unknowns, this was not an unknown unknown. This was a known known, we knew what was going to happen. Certainly, after 20 years on the ground, we had all the information we needed. And somehow it wasn’t. I want to know, I really want to know what the decision=making process was and why we didn’t take different actions and put in place different plans. So, that’s kind of where I am.

MT: What would you have done?

CM: It’s easy for me to say what I would have done. It’s not relevant. I thought we very much had a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in an orderly, deliberate process. Now, why that wasn’t executed by this administration is beyond my knowledge at this time. I don’t know why that is.

MT: Have you been in touch with people who are stuck in in Kabul, maybe former Afghan security forces, Afghan interpreters?

CT: Yes

MT: What’s that been like?

CM: It’s so hard. In one weird way. I was talking to a colleague of mine that I’d grown up with and who just left a very high-level position in the military, and he replied, ‘I feel like I have a mission. For the first time, I’m just not fighting the bureaucracy or trying to protect my people, I actually feel like I’m trying to do something worthwhile and relevant.’ So, that’s it. You’re sitting there at 1:30 in the morning, on Sunday night, Monday morning, just absolutely exhausted. But you couldn’t help but think, I might be exhausted here, but I can’t imagine what those folks are going through. So, you’re like, I’m going to go a little bit further, I’m going to try a little bit more. So, in a weird sort of way, it felt like you had a mission again, but you were also just heartbroken that it all played out this way, where these people were put in such risk and without any deliberation, it seems, obviously.

MT: In your initial message to troops in November, 2020, you wrote that ‘This war isn’t over. We are on the verge of defeating al Qaeda and its associates, we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish.’ Did we see the fight through to the finish?

CM: I thought there was a different way to end our operations in Afghanistan. I do firmly believe that. We have to remember, defeat is a very specific, very specific definition in the military. And I had to look this up. Defeat is not a permanent state. Defeat could be a temporary state. I felt strongly at the time that we had defeated al-Qaida, I still think they’re defeated. Now the question is, can we maintain pressure on them to deny them the ability to mass and train and equip and plan and execute follow-on attacks that could change our way of life? I strongly felt that we had defeated al-Qaida. We had not defeated the Taliban. We were absolutely in a stalemate at the time. I felt that in the administration that I represented — the Trump administration — I felt we had a good plan for how we were going to wind this thing down. You know, the idea was, we would force some sort of coalition interim government and use traditional Afghan processes and governmental structures — the Loya Jirga. And much like happened after the Bonn accords in 2001, 2002, of course, was the Loya Jirga. There was a way that we could have had an Afghan solution. Now the counter argument is [Ashraf] Ghani, the president wouldn’t have allowed that. I felt we still had leverage over the process. And I don’t know why we gave that leverage up. I wasn’t a part of the discussions after 12:01 a.m. on the 20th of January 2021.

MT: Do you think the over-the-horizon approach being suggested by the Pentagon now of being able to provide some level of security from afar to prevent groups like al-Qaida from re-establishing themselves is feasible?

CM: Absolutely. After Desert One in 1980, when we failed to rescue our hostages that were being held in Tehran, we’ve created the most remarkable counterterrorism organization in the world. It can go any place in the world in 24 hours or less and protect Americans or strike back when needed. We know how to do this. That’s not the question. It’s the will to do it. And so yes, we can absolutely prevent al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that have an international inclination or an international reach from massing, we can do that.

MT: In December 2020, you met with Ghani and Afghan officials. What was your sense, then, about their ability to defend their own country?

CM: President Ghani was enormously gracious and so was his vice president. He recognized the sacrifice of so many Americans and also cautioned that the Taliban were a great threat. We all knew that. It wasn’t anything I didn’t know. We didn’t talk specifically about the durability of the Afghan National Security Forces. I’d been there long enough and I knew the challenges there and I’d worked with surrogate forces. Oftentimes, in the past, there were methodologies and ways of using special operations forces or paramilitary forces, to provide capabilities to the Afghan National Security Forces. Specifically to call in fires, close air support, sustainment assets. So, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. … I’d argue we’re doing it in Syria very effectively. Right now. I believe the strategy that was used in the operational plan that was used to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was very effective. I know we could have done something of the same sort with the Afghan National Security Forces.

MT: What was your sense of their capabilities? Did you get any sense that something like what we’ve seen in the last seven days would happen?

CM: I think any intelligence assessment analysis would recognize that the Afghan National Security Forces have great heroism and fighting ability. They needed some stiffening and some support from very low-key, small … American and allied support that probably would have given them the confidence to continue to fight. I have a lot of empathy for the young Afghan soldier in an outlying province … to see that the Taliban had moved in and recognizing that you didn’t have any support. I think it would be obvious and based on your tradition of warfighting, that probably you’re going to not continue to fight at that point.

MT: Do you think the U.S. announcing the withdrawal was the final straw?

CM: I have no idea. But I think we had all the information we needed about the tradition of Afghan warfighting and how they conduct combat. And it would be it was very clear to me that without some sort of support the Afghan National Security Forces … would be likely faced with significant resistance to not continue to fight.

MT: What advice did you give President Trump about how to proceed in Afghanistan? And how did he take that?

CM: We didn’t talk specifically about tactics or force structure or force capabilities. He agreed to — I think we were at 5,800 [U.S. troops}, then you had probably another 1,000 … people that were temporary duty and rotating through country. He agreed to withdraw forces down to 2,500. We didn’t specifically talk about operational capability or going forward in the future of how this would look.

MT: Did he object to the 2,500 number?

CM: No. The president was comfortable with that. The idea that we would maintain leverage and try to, as I mentioned earlier, try to establish some sort of interim government and coalition government that would have reduced the chance of a chaotic departure.

MT: What was his grasp of the situation in Afghanistan? And what did he want to see, from your vantage point as the acting defense secretary?

CM: I felt that he had a very good grasp. One of the criticisms is that, you know, he didn’t understand national security. He had enormous common sense when it came to how things work. And I was always intrigued, if not surprised, because I picked up all the press that, you know, he didn’t know what he was doing and whatnot. I never really knew that. I didn’t know the president until the night where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in that operation. That’s where I met him. I was with all our national security interactions, I was always very, very impressed with his grasp of the details and grasp of the overarching situation. And people will say, Well, he didn’t use typical national security language, which most people would like. ‘What’s the most dangerous course of action, what’s the most probable enemy course of action? And that sort of vernacular. But I always saw that he actually covered all that stuff in his own way, because he’s a businessman and he was looking at it from that context, the way he was trained. But at the end of the day, everybody got his say, he listened to everybody. He asked really good questions. And at the end of a cabinet level meeting in the Oval Office, he always went around and asked for your final recommendation. And then he made a decision. And I’m like, ‘What more could you want from a boss?’

MT: Do you think that negotiating with the Taliban was ultimately a mistake?

CM: No, it wasn’t. That’s how these wars end. You have to negotiate with your opponent and that [for] insurgencies and counterinsurgency, this is kind of par for the course, this is a standard. There was no ability to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. There was the ability — we just decided not to do what was necessary to do that, which I, as an American, agreed with, by the way. We can win. But is it worth the trampling of American values and ethics and norms? The United States military can win any war, let’s be perfectly clear. But we also have our value-based democracy where there’s some things that we’re not going to do. And I totally agree with that.

MT: What would it have taken to win to win the war in Afghanistan.

CM: In 2002, deciding to make it a special operations theater and just keep it small footprint and not expand the war the way we did.

MT: Was there mission creep in Afghanistan?

CM: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Classic example of mission creep and lack of strategic coherence. I was just a young person when I went. I had orange hair then. So, I wasn’t involved in those discussions. I was just an implementer, like so many of our current members and veterans were. So, I wasn’t involved in that, but you execute the orders given by your superior.

MT: But now, you look back, you have the white hair. You were acting defense secretary. What are the lessons to be learned by the U.S. military and the American public about getting involved in a foreign conflict?

CM: They’re not lessons learned. They’re lessons relearned. No. 1 is cultural arrogance will hurt you, and understanding local dynamics and how foreign countries and their populations interact is really important. No. 2, we did it again. We tried to — just like we did in Vietnam — we tried to create an army in our image, which was completely inappropriate for their skills, their desires and their traditions of warfighting. So, that was another lesson relearned, I would argue. And then I really think we have to be honest with ourselves as a military. In these wars, the United States military, we pretty much had full authorization and the ability to execute the strategy we decided, and I think we need to do some serious soul searching. The thing is, we came out of Iraq, it took forever to do Iraq lessons learned — the military was very adamantly opposed. Some very courageous general officers and others decided to do that, of course. That occurs, what, eight years after the end of the war? I think it’s really, really important that the military does an accurate, fair, unbiased assessment of what occurred.

MT: When you were part of the decision-making system, were you confident in a May withdrawal as President Trump had wanted? Would it have worked and why?

CM: Yeah, I mean, there’s this. The negotiation process wasn’t over with the agreement between the United States and the Taliban. There was a follow-on phase, which was going to be to establish an interim coalition government and let the Afghans use their traditional structure of the Loya Jirga to ratify the next government and the next stage of their development as a country. I don’t know, because I’d never happened. And also the idea was that we maintain a small counterterrorism footprint there as well. … So, it wasn’t executed. So, I can’t say. Well, maybe it was. I don’t know.

MT: What were the plans that you were talking about? Would there have been a complete withdrawal, giving up Bagram for instance, or have it maintained as a U.S. base?

CM: At that point, we weren’t into the details,. Gen. [Scott] Miller and CENTCOM Commander Gen. [Frank] McKenzie had numerous courses of action for how to retrograde, so I did not go into the precise details of that. And giving up Bagram — I mean, those were always the questions, you know? Is it Kandahar? Is it Bagram? But we weren’t at a point where we could go into those details yet because we still had some other things that we needed that we planned to do.

MT: Was giving up Bagram a mistake?

CM: It is easy for me to sit here and Monday morning quarterback. I don’t know the challenges they were under. And I don’t know, the decision-making that went into giving up Bagram. Having an [air base] in the middle of nowhere, where you can control a large amount of space outside the perimeter is always helpful. But by the same token, you know, how would people have gotten to Bagram, it’s, what, 60 miles north of Kabul? I don’t know. So, it’s easy for me to sit here and throw rocks. But I’m just not going to do that. MT: Should President Biden have blamed President Trump for what is taking place now in Afghanistan?

CM: Straight politics. Don’t want to get involved. Don’t care. It’s not helpful to America. I think the question is, who’s going to accept responsibility? And I think that my thing is, I was always raised as a military enlisted man — never was an NCO — then was an officer. I was always raised to accept responsibility when something goes wrong. That was the ethos. And that was the core value that I felt strongly about. I haven’t seen anybody accept responsibility yet. I think there does need to be accounting because something went dramatically wrong — someone should accept responsibility. I don’t know who that is. I don’t have enough information. … Here’s what I’m concerned about, like if you’re a young buck sergeant, or you’re a young second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and you’re watching your leadership kind of play these politics. I mean, what is that the message that that our leadership should be sending? These kids are desperate for authenticity, they’re desperate for just truth. And when they see the involvement of the military in these political affairs, it must be very confusing for them. And that’s what concerns me the most about what’s going on right now.

MT: Do you accept any responsibility for any of this? And if so, what is that?

CM: I’d gladly, eagerly accept all responsibility for every Department of Defense decision that was made up till 12:01 a.m. on the 20th of January 2021. I’ll stand by these decisions. I’m a career Special Forces special operator, and I’m extremely critical of my performance. That’s the beauty of special operators, they always do their after-action review and try to improve their performance. And obviously, there are things I always want to improve. But I will take full responsibility for every decision that was made there in the department.

MT: Is there anything you would do differently?

CM: I probably should have been more vocal in guaranteeing that the incoming administration recognized the challenges they were going to face. I also was quite aware that they are part of the foreign policy intelligentsia and elite and, and I thought they would understand what was going on. I probably should have been more forceful. I don’t know if it would have done any good, because the whole process of transition was so politicized at that point. I wish it was about national security. I thought it was about America. That wasn’t the experience I had, and I probably went a little weak and kind of got puffy-lipped and, you know, took my stuff and went to the corner. I probably should have been much more dramatic. But I didn’t want, I didn’t think it was appropriate at the time, to go public with those things. Because you know, what’s good for the Department of Defense is good for America. So, I did not want to further politicize a horribly complex and difficult situation for the incoming team. So … I’ll accept full responsibility for that.

MT: What would you have said?

CM: I wasn’t asked. So it doesn’t make any difference. I mean, it would have been nice to be able to sit and go through the top five issues that were coming up and have a conversation about that. But that wasn’t the way it worked. And so, so be it.

MT: So, over this long, 20 years of war, you’ve known people who have lost their lives, who have lost limbs, who have continued to suffer the seen and unseen wounds of war. You know many families that have lost loved ones, who paid the ultimate price for this last 20 years. What’s your message to those people?

CM: I mean, that’s really what brought me out to speak with you and go public, that hasn’t been what I’ve done since I left the office. My heart goes out to the Gold Star families. And I can’t even fathom what they’re going through, the re-injury and the re-traumatization of what they’re going through. And every you know, the cliche question now is, was it worth it? I’ll go to my grave, believing this: There’s just an inherent value of service to your country. And the tragedy that befalls, that’s the nature of war. … War wouldn’t be war if there wasn’t tragedy, right? So, I can’t even fathom or have any words of solace or anything like that. I just, you know, been so honored to serve with them, and they’re well-served with their loved ones.

MT: Earlier, you said that your objective is to see this war end responsibly. We all saw the tumult and chaos in Kabul. Is this war being ended responsibly?

CM: Time will tell. It certainly didn’t get off to a good start. I thought there were other ways we could have brought this end-state into being without the chaos and the crisis that we have seen in the last couple days. I also understand, fundamentally, the challenges and the nature of war, fog, friction, chaos. But we do have a military that’s extremely well-trained, extremely experienced, that is designed to wring out as much of the unknown as they can. We have an intelligence community that we spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on. There’s been a fundamental failure that we need to look at and see how this happened and what we’re going to do to prevent it from happening again.

MT: At this point, you’re not prepared to say what that failure was.

CM: I think it’s just too politicized right now. With all the finger-pointing, I hope to assist our nation as we go through this reckoning and our after-action review and develop our lessons learned about how we can avoid something like this in the future.

Article from the Military Times

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Surrender of Afghanistan

The mastermind of the Taliban offensive and subsequent take over of the country is former detainee Khairullah Khairkhwa (who freaking ugly mug you see to the right), a Taliban mullah whom the Obama Administration released from the Guantanamo Bay Prison (Gitmo) even though the Pentagon classified him as too dangerous to release. Mullah Khairkhwa previously served as the Taliban’s interior minister in Afghanistan, prior to the US liberation of Afghanistan, where he oversaw enforcement of brutal Islamist punishments, including beheadings and stonings. After the US invasion and liberation of Afghanistan, Khairkhwa was arrested in Pakistan, handed over to the U.S. and subsequently sent to Gitmo in 2002. The Pentagon accused him of closely associating with Osama bin Laden and bin Laden’s al-Qai’da henchmen.

Twelve years later, the Obama Administration released Khairkhwa and four other top Taliban leaders (together known as the "Taliban 5") in exchange for the Taliban releasing US Army Sgt. Robert “Bowe” Bergdahl, who was captured after deserting his post in Afghanistan. Khairkhwa and his fellow parolees, who were immediately flown to Qatar, were the only “forever prisoners” released without being cleared by the Gitmo parole board. Western intelligence reported that the Taliban 5 formed a Taliban government in exile in Qatar, where they received support, and planned the Taliban offensive that the world saw.

Earlier this year, Khairkhwa assured the Biden Administration that the Taliban would not launch a spring military offensive if Biden committed to removing all remaining American troops. He also promised not to retaliate against any Afghans who worked with the US military or the US-backed government in Kabul. But Khairkhwa showed no signs of remorse or rehabilitation inside Gitmo — if anything, he’s probably more embittered toward the United States. Why would they believe him? Reports coming out of Kandahar and Kabul indicate the extremists have already broken their word. Taliban thugs have started a reign of terror against people who cooperated with Westerners. Guided by a “kill list,” they are going door to door to punish their enemies.

The release of was not the only high profile Gitmo prisoner paroled. On 19 July 2021, the Biden Administration released Abdul Latif Nasir to the Kingdom of Morocco. Nasir was reportedly fighting with al-Qai'da against American forces in Tora Bora, Afghanistan in late 2001 then captured by Pakistani agents and transferred to US Custody. According to US Intelligence Nasir (aka Nasser) was a member of the al Qai'da military committee of the al Qaida Shura Council and directly associated with Osama Bin Laden. Nasir also reportedly trained AQ fighters how to use explosives and poisons.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has published many articles on how the Qatari royal family has supported not only the Taliban but other radical Islamic movements for years even as it simultaneously hosts the U.S. American CENTCOM base, Al Udeid Air Base, located southwest of Doha, Qatar. Qatar has played this stealth role (supporting the Taliban) while masquerading over the past two years as a mediator between the democratically elected government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Qatar money pays the Taliban fighters and at a level better than what the U.S.-supported Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). In fact, some of the rapid failure and deconstruction of the ANDSF was undoubtedly due to low and unreliable payroll.

  • The fall of Afghanistan and what is seen worldwide as foreign policy humiliation for the U.S. has emboldened our enemies:
  • Iraq based Shia militias now using man modes of social media to threatening U.S. forces that are in Iraq in an advisory role, as well as Iraqi contactors working with U.S. military and diplomatic bodies.
  • In Syria, the Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) launched a recruitment campaign urging Syrians to copy the Taliban's example if they wish to experience the victory attained by the Taliban.

Iran's renewed promise to help the Palestinians in their fight against Israel shows that the mullahs in Tehran feel emboldened by the perceived weakness of the Biden administration and other Western powers, from the debacle in Afghanistan and in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and sanctions. Recently Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) visited Iran, to attend the inauguration of President Ebrahim Raisi, and received promises of continued financial and military aid. In fact, there is reporting that the Iranian regime now believes is the time for an all-out joint attack on Israel by Hezbollah and the Palestinians terrorist groups.

The Daily Mail (United Kingdom) is reporting that an additional 300 British troops, likely SAS and Marine Commandos, deployed to Kabul specifically to extract trapped British nationals earlier in the week. Within hours of touching down in Kabul, the British troops retrieved some 200 British nationals from around Kabul, the Telegraph (United Kingdom) reported. Prompting the mission were reports of Taliban hunting down former Afghan government officials, along with Britons stuck behind a web of Taliban checkpoints lining the route to the airport. Additionally, France 24 reports that the French military has been conducting similar operations since Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron thanked French security forces on Twitter for executing a ‘sensitive operation’ which evacuated more than 200 French and Afghans.

Thousands of Americans, as many as 15,000, are reportedly trapped behind enemy lines in Afghanistan with no indication that the Biden administration is going to go and get them out. US DoD (Secretary Austin) and Chief of Staff General Milley have admitted that they (DoD) do not know how many, nor the locations of these Americans. The U.S. State Department has informed Americans trapped that they cannot ensure safe passage to the Kabul airport where they can be exfiled. What is complicating U.S. efforts by the State Department is the June 2021 abolishment of the Trump Administration's Crisis Response Bureau within the State Department who was established to rescue Americans who became trapped overseas. The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that a memorandum signed by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon, approved the “discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR).” The CCR bureau was established late last year by then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo. In a notification sent to Congress in October and also obtained by the Free Beacon, the Trump administration said the new bureau would provide “aviation, logistics, and medical support capabilities for the Department’s operational bureaus, thereby enhancing the secretary’s ability to protect American citizens overseas in connection with overseas evacuations in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster.”

The Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses, a a nonprofit intelligence and information analysis firm that undertakes analytical, assessment, training, and other forms of support for the U.N., stated that despite the Taliban's announcement and promise of “complete amnesty” for Afghanis, the terrorist group is carrying out a highly organized door-to-door manhunt for people on their wanted list, “they have lists of individuals and even within the very first hours of moving into Kabul they began a search of former government employees—especially in intelligence services and the special forces units.”

The Hill has reported, based on a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, that between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. gave Afghan government forces 75,898 vehicles, 599,690 weapons, 162,643 pieces of communications equipment, 208 aircraft, and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. And with the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, hundreds of thousands of weapons, tens of thousands of ground vehicles, and hundreds of aircraft have been left up for grabs and the Taliban have taken control of much of it. Furthermore, a 2020 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that between 2017 and 2019, the U.S. gave Afghan forces an additional 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, along with other equipment.

Additional likely consequences of the Afghanistan debacle and the perceived or real American political and military disarray in the withdrawal of troops and AMCITS is the Chinese live fire naval drills near Taiwan. Chinese fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and combat ships conducted assault drills near Taiwan on Tuesday 17 August 2021, with the People’s Liberation Army saying the exercise was necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty. China has stepped up military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan, which it considers its own territory as the PRC believes recent U.S., Taiwan and other Nations' provocations have severely violated Chinese sovereignty. These provocations are mainly political warnings (from the U.S. and Japan mainly) to China about ideas on invading Taiwan, who the PRC considers a province of China, and the sale of military equipment and other military defense measures taken by Taiwan in lieu of the PRC posturing and likely rehearsing OPLANS for an invasion of Taiwan. The latest enhancement of Taiwan defense was the announcement of plans by the U.S. to sell 40 self-propelled howitzers to Taiwan in a deal valued at $750 million that drew strong condemnation from Beijing.

The American Thinker is reporting a story that not only British 22 SAS and 2 Para and French launching missions outside of Kabul airport into Kabul to rescue their citizen and Afghans that have served their respective countries, but that the German's are also involved in operations in Kabul rescuing German nationals and those who served German's diplomatic mission. Additionally, the American Thinker is reporting that the American Ground Commander, 82nd Airborne Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, has told his British Army counterpart, a high-ranking field-grade officer of the British army's 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, that British operations were embarrassing the United States military in the absence of similar U.S. military operations. Apparently the Brits rejected that request.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

RIP Joe Galloway, of "We Were Soldiers Once and Young"

Longtime American foreign correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, best known for his book recounting a pivotal battle in the Vietnam War that was made into a Hollywood movie, has died. He was 79.

A native of Refugio, Texas, Galloway spent 22 years as a war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International, including serving four tours in Vietnam. He then worked for U.S. News & World Report magazine and Knight Ridder newspapers in a series of overseas roles, including reporting from the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Galloway died Wednesday morning, his wife Grace Galloway told AP, after being hospitalized near their home in Concord, North Carolina. He is also survived by two sons and a step daughter. “He was the kindest, most gentle and loving man,” Grace Galloway said. “He loved the boys and girls of the U.S. military. He loved his country.”

With co-author retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Galloway wrote “We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young,” which recounted his and Moore’s experience during a bloody 1965 battle with the North Vietnamese in the Ia Drang Valley. The book became a national bestseller and was made into the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Moore and Barry Pepper as Galloway.

Galloway was decorated with a Bronze Star Medal with V in 1998 for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire during the la Drang battle. He is the only civilian awarded a medal of valor by the U.S. Army for actions in combat during the Vietnam War. After reporting from the front lines during Operation Desert Storm, Galloway co-authored “Triumph With Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War.” As he approached age 50, that was Galloway’s last combat assignment, but not the end of his career covering the U.S. military.

In 2002, Knight Ridder asked Galloway to return to reporting after a stint as an adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell to bolster its Washington bureau’s skeptical coverage of the Bush administration’s case for ousting Hussein. Galloway did that by contributing, often anonymously, to his colleagues’ stories and by writing a column that often was critical of Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their aides who were bent on invading Iraq.

John Walcott, Galloway’s longtime editor and friend, recounted how an exasperated Rumsfeld finally asked Joe to meet with him alone in his office. When Joe arrived, he was greeted by Rumsfeld — and a group of other high-ranking Pentagon officials. “Good,” Galloway reported when he returned to the Knight Ridder office. “I had ‘em surrounded.”

Galloway then described how after Rumsfeld accused him of relying on retired officers and officials, he had told the group that most of his sources were on active duty, and that some of them “might even be in this room.” Asked by his colleagues if that was true, Galloway replied, “No, but it was fun watching ‘em sweat like whores in church.”

Galloway’s contributions to Knight Ridder’s critical coverage of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq was later portrayed in another movie, Rob Reiner’s “Shock and Awe,” in which fellow Texan Tommy Lee Jones played Galloway. “The thing about Joe is that there wasn’t a dishonest bone in his body,” director Reiner told the AP by phone. “He spoke truth to power. … We will miss him, there’s very few people who hold his level of integrity.”

Clark Hoyt, former Washington editor for Knight Ridder, said it was a privilege to work with Galloway, who he called one of the great war correspondents of all time. “He earned the trust and respect of those he was covering but never lost his ear for false notes, as shown by his contributions to Knight Ridder’s skeptical reporting on the run up to the Iraq war,” Hoyt said.Walcott said he was an exemplar of what journalism should be. From the People’s Army of Vietnam to Rumsfeld, no one ever intimidated Galloway other than his wife Gracie, Walcott said. “He never went to college, but he was one of, if not the, most gifted writers in our profession, in which his death will leave an enormous hole at a time when our country desperately needs more like him,” Walcott said. “He never sought fame nor tried to make himself the star of his stories. As sources, he valued sergeants more than brand name generals and political appointees.”



Article from the Military Times

Saturday, August 7, 2021

George Washington creates the Purple Heart

On August 7, 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, creates the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged with a narrow binding of silver, with the word Merit stitched across the face in silver.

The badge was to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action” and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge. The honoree’s name and regiment were also to be inscribed in a “Book of Merit.”

Washington’s “Purple Heart" was awarded to only three known soldiers during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. The “Book of Merit” was lost, and the decoration was largely forgotten until 1927, when General Charles P. Summerall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to “revive the Badge of Military Merit."

In 1931, Summerall’s successor, General Douglas MacArthur, took up the cause, hoping to reinstate the medal in time for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. On February 22, 1932, Washington’s 200th birthday, the U.S. War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart.”

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

Article from the History Channel