U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher Bolt reacts to being sprayed with a fire hose aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in celebration of his final arrested landing as the ship’s commanding officer in waters south of Japan, Nov. 22, 2015. The Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force to protect and defend the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane
An E/A-18G Growler launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 21, 2015. The Growler is assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 137. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Seaman Chad M. Trudeau
U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct diving operations with a South Korean underwater demolition team in waters off Santa Rita, Guam, Nov. 20, 2015. The U.S. sailors are assigned to Commander Task Force 75. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Rolston
Since it seems to be the thing to do, I am running a sale on all my works on Kindle starting this Friday. For a limited time, the three books in my "A Different View" photography series (A Different View: Travels to Al Qa'im and Beyond , A Different View: Travels with Team Easy, Iraq 2007 , and A Different View: DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour) which showcases day-to-day life of the troops in Iraq will be available for just $0.99 cents. My short story "Flight of the Fantasy " will also be available for just $0.99 cents, and my latest short story "Slaughterhouse " will be available for free. You don't have to have a Kindle to read them, you can download a free app for your computer or smart phone. If you have read, or do read them, please do leave an honest review of them.
[This post is an annual event here...]
Blackfive: "How To Cook A Turkey"
1) Go buy a turkey.
2) Take a drink of whisky.
3) Put turkey in the oven.
4) Take another 2 drinks of whiskey.
5) Set the degree at 375 ovens
6) Take 3 more whiskeys of drink.
7) Turn oven the on.
8) Take 4 whisks of drinky.
9) Turk the bastey.
10) Whiskey another bottle of get.
11) Stick a turkey in the thermometer
12) Glass yourself a pour of whiskey.
13) Bake the whiskey for 4 hours.
14) Take the oven out of the turkey.
15) Take the oven out of the turkey.
16) Floor the turkey up off of the pick.
17) Turk the carvey.
18) Get yourself another scottle of botch.
19) Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey.
20) Bless the saying, pass and eat out.
[This is an annual repost from 2005. It's still appropriate...Javier Alvarez is Someone You Should Know]
Randy sends this email, a must read if ever there was one, that he received from Captain James Eadie today:
A Time for Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I eagerly anticipate the plates of turkey and stuffing, the moments of camaraderie around the TV watching football and the sharing of stories amongst friends, but it is the soldiers’ stories of bravery and courage that should be shared on this day of Thanksgiving.
I had the rare chance to talk in depth with one of my CCATT patients on our last flight, a young 24 year old Marine from Camp Pendleton, California. It is Javier’s story hangs with me this day. Javier gave me permission to share his story with you, a true story of heroism, and sacrifice that deserves to be told on Thanksgiving.
On the morning of 16 November 2005, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were taking part in operations along the Iraq-Syrian board to clear the towns of insurgents.
Javier [Alvarez], a strong and sturdy looking square jawed Marine Corporal was on his third deployment to Iraq. He had seen heavy combat in his previous two deployments, and had been injured once before earning him a Purple Heart. On this day he was in command of a Squad of fourteen men. I knew just by talking to him that his men were fortunate to have him leading them into battle. He spoke with clarity and confidence of a man twice his age. In the truest essence, he was a Marine.
On this morning Javier’s Squad was providing tank security (I still don’t fully understand how infantry provides security to tanks, but that’s why I am in medicine).
The morning of the 16th started like many – early. The operation was going well. The Marines were taking some fire, but were successfully clearing the town they had been assigned. Urban warfare is extremely dangerous. Each house must be searched before it can be “cleared.” US and Iraqi Security Forces have taken heavy losses in past urban offenses such as Fallujah. Javier had no intention of letting that happen to his men today.
As the tanks were rolling down the street they began taking heavier fire. The Squad broke into a brisk jog to keep up with the tanks as they pushed forward into the fire fight. Ahead was a house that seemed to be the focus of the fight. Lying in the doorway to the house was a downed Marine. He laid motionless spread across the sill. Further in there lay another Marine.
The Platoon Sergeant grabbed Javier and told him to send his half of his Squad to the house to pull out the downed Marines. Normally, the Squad leader would stay back to coordinate the assault, but Javier told me ‘I could not send my men into harms way without me.”
Taking point, Javier led his five man team towards the house. Shots rang out around them as they advanced. They could see the downed Marines ahead. A young Lieutenant lay face down outside the house. Javier did not know if he was still alive. They would have to act quickly if they were to save him and the others.
As they approached the house the enemy fire intensified and Javier felt a sudden sting and burning in his right leg. He looked down at his leg. Damn, he thought, “I’ve been shot.” He indeed had taken two bullets to his thigh, but he pushed on.
Undeterred, Javier continued to lead his men towards the house. With increasing fire, they took up a defensive posture against the house wall. Slightly protected there, he began tending his wounds with direct pressure as the others returned fire. He could see several downed Marines only arm lengths away, but they could not be reached safely. Gun fire continued to rain down on them. Another member of the squad was hit. They were in a bad position.
What happened next was recalled to me by the Medic that they called Doc. During the barrage of fire, with their backs literally up against a wall an enemy grenade was thrown out of a window landing in the middle of the five men. Doc told me “It was amazing. I was applying pressure to one of the injured soldiers when someone yelled out GRENADE. Javier just dove at the grenade. I have never seen anything like it.”
Javier grabbed the grenade with his right hand. He told me “I knew I only had three to five seconds before it would go off.” With his body shielding his men from the grenade, he made a valiant effort to heave the grenade away. As the grenade left his hand it exploded.
Javier’s right hand was immediately amputated at the wrist. Shrapnel from the grenade penetrated his left thigh. Others in his group took shrapnel to their arms and legs, but no one lost their life.
Doc told me on the plane that he was convinced that they all would have died if it were not for Javier’s heroic actions.
The fighting continued. As more Marines approached the house to provide covering fire, Javier now with two gun shot wounds to his right leg, shrapnel to his left leg and an amputated right hand worked to get his injured men clear. With the aid of his Platoon Sergeant, Javier and his men walked out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point away from the fighting.
Doc stayed in the fight for a while despite being hit with shrapnel from the grenade. He tended to the downed Marines and at one point crawled into the house to pull out the Marine who lay inside. Unfortunately, most of the Marines they came to help had been fatally injured. There was little that could be done. Doc continued to care for the downed soldiers until others noted his wounds. Doc was finally escorted out of the fight to attend to his injuries.
In all told, Javier’s Squad took heavy injuries. We air lifted out 6 members who had sustained shrapnel injuries and one who lost his leg. Javier clearly took the brunt of the injuries, but miraculously no one lost their life. Javier’s selfless action had saved the lives of many men.
I spoke at length with Javier on the flight to Germany. Perhaps it was the awe that I felt talking with him that kept me coming back, or maybe the fact that his men admired him so much. In the end, I think I was drawn in by him because he was just like you and me. He was real. A soldier who had done everything asked of him by his country. He fought with honor and dignity, and led his men with courage. Above all, he put his men’s life above his and protected them from harm.
He didn’t ask for honors or special treatment. His biggest concern when we were loading him onto the plane was his fellow soldiers. He would not lie down until he had visualized and spoken with all of his troops on the plane.
When I arrived home from the mission, I opened the paper. There before me in simple bullet format read the names of the most recent US deaths in Iraq. I generally do not look at these lists. They are just names with no personal connection. But this day, halfway down there were five Marines listed including a young Second Lieutenant all from the 2 nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Pendleton, California who had died on 16 November, 2005. These were the men that Javier and his Squad gave everything to try to save.
I stared at the paper for many minutes, recalling the story Javier and his men had told me. I marveled at the sacrifices they made and felt a tremendous sense of loss for these men whose names now stood out from the paper as not mere records, but as living, breathing men who gave everything their country asked of them.
As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Iraq, I have so much to be thankful for. My wife is amazing, we have been blessed with a child on the way, and I feel like I have the greatest family and friends that one could ever wish for, but there is more. I see around me everyday soldiers giving everything they have with the full belief that their actions do make a difference. That their sacrifices are for freedom and will one day improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
When I sit down on Thursday to my thanksgiving meal, I will be holding these soldiers and their families close. We as a country have so much to be thankful for.
For me, on this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for Javier. He has given the gift of life to his men and their families. I often ask myself if I was in his position, what would I have done? I don’t know, but I certainly hope that I could be like Javier.
My warmest wishes to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving, we truly have a great deal to be thankful for.
James S Eadie, Capt USAF MC
332 Expeditionary Air Evacuation Squadron
Critical Care Air Transport Physician
The men who died that day were Lance Corporal Roger Deeds, Lance Corporal John Lucente, Corporal Jeffrey Rogers, Corporal Joshua Ware, and 2nd Lieutenant Donald McGlothin - all from the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 13th MEU, 1st Marine Division.
Army paratroopers descend to the ground at the Sicily drop zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Nov. 21, 2015. The soldiers were participating in the Saturday Proficiency Jump Program, which aims to allow paratroopers to build additional proficiency and confidence for airborne operations. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Marshall jumps into the ocean from an MH-60S Sea Hawk to place an explosive charge onto a mine-like object in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2016. The sailors assigned to the Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14, are participating in a sustainment training exercise with the John C. Stennis Strike Group. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago
Amazon has grown to become a major part of our lives, to the tune of more than $88 billion in revenue in 2014. Think about that number a minute, and then think about the Amazon Smiles program. This is a program from Amazon that, if you enter Amazon through an Amazon Smile account link, a small percentage of your purchase will go to that charity. Yes, it is a small percentage, but look at that total revenue and think what half a percent of that would be.
Right now, small charities -- and I suspect military charities even more so -- are struggling for donations. Shopping Amazon via an Amazon Smile link costs you nothing, but it can provide much needed funds to the charity you find worthy. The more who use it, and especially if you use it all year, the more that charity will get.
While I hope you will consider using the Mission: VALOR Amazon Smile link, I ask you to pick the charity of your choice and use that link now, and all year long. It's a small way to make a difference, and a potentially large difference at that without you having to fork out a dime.
The following author interview is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth is a memoir and not an autobiography. It is series of recollections and not a chronological narration. Although this book reads more like a thriller, readers get a glimpse of those events and personalities Forsyth has come in contact with that he based some of the stories upon. Unfortunately, this will be his last book because he has decided to put his pen out to pasture.
Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to write a memoir at this time?
Frederick Forsyth: I had nothing to do so I decided to write a collection of anecdotes.
EC: You are proud of your journalistic career. What did you see as your style?
FF: I consider myself a journalistic writer, keeping to the facts and making sure they are accurate. I do not write much emotional stuff or fancy language. My books were all contemporary current affairs based on what I had seen. Hell, I made mistakes and have done so many things I chose to write about them, or maybe not.
EC: Why do you think a journalist needs the qualities of detachment, curiosity, and skepticism?
FF: A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments. It is our job to hold power to account, not join it. In a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money, and fame, a journalist and a writer must remain detached, like a bird on a rail, watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining. In short, an outsider. I believe a journalist’s job is to check out something and write about it, but not get at all involved. We live in an age where they want to be a part of the Establishment, running with the herd, and a member of the Brotherhood. Instead, they should hold those they are covering to the account. They should never interject their opinions.
EC: You covered the actual assassination attempts of France’s President Charles de Gaulle. Is the story the Day of the Jackal factual?
FF: Yes, except for the actual character, the Jackal. I included all the police methods and the French security service operations. It is a twin hunt story where the Jackal is hunting the President and the police are searching for him. But there is no similarity between my affair and the Jackal’s. I had an affair with the East German defense minister’s mistress. She was a cougar, about twenty years my senior. I remember her singing this song to me and one day I found out she was a Nazi singing one of their songs. I thought it amusing that she was doing it with me, a part of the race that conquered her.
EC: You also included humor in the book. What was one of the most humorous?
FF: I wanted to interview Ezer Weizman, the first commander of the Israeli Air Force. I thought he was going to take us in a limo to Tel Aviv, but he actually meant to fly us there. As he was describing to me the first dogfight he was in during the War for Independence he took his hands off the controls, which I grabbed. I got a history lesson and a flying lesson all at once.
EC: Who is one of the people you interviewed you most admired?
FF: David Ben-Gurion. I consider him the founding father of Israel and one of the greatest men I have ever met. I was allotted twenty minutes, but we actually spoke for three hours. He described the creation of Israel in a step-by-step manner. As we talked I thought how he was a walking history lesson. I could have filled ten notebooks, but I just sat and listened to someone who had seen it all.
EC: What will you do in retirment?
FF: This was the last book. I consider it a postscript. I hope I am going out on top. For now I will enjoy my life by walking the dog, playing with the grandkids, and having, in the evening, a glass of wine by the fireplace.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Ainley, left, supervises the use of the DNS-300 underwater sonar system to South Korean navy forces during Exercise Clear Horizon 2015 on Commander Fleet Activities Chinhae, South Korea, Nov. 5, 2015. Ainley is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Mobile Unit 1. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Rolston
Army Green Berets fire a mortar system at training targets during Southern Strike 16 on Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., Nov. 4, 2015. The soldiers are assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group. New York Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy
Army Lt. Col. Scott Nicholas and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Fred Heer fly a Texas Army National Guard AH-64D Apache helicopter while firing a 30 mm cannon during an aerial gunnery exercise on Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 9th, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Major Randy Stillinger
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
The Promise by Robert Crais is a thrilling mystery. Fans will enjoy the pairing of the well-written characters he has brought to the page including Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, Scott James, Maggie the German Shepherd, and Jon Stone. The storyline is realistic and action packed, making for an enjoyable novel.
The author stated to blackfive.net, “I saw potential for all three to come together as a group, although Elvis is the featured character. I consider myself their daddy and its all a big playground for me. I wanted to find a really good believable reason for them to cross paths and did not want it to appear contrived. Once the notion of explosives found in Echo Park came to me I knew I could bring everything together. Remember Maggie was an explosive detection dog in the Marines. After that it was having fun with the scenes.”
The format of the book has each chapter told from the perspective of a different character. This allows readers to get into the minds and thoughts of the various personalities. For those Americans frustrated with the current policies of political correctness and at times having the terrorists appear as sympathetic figures the plot is a welcome alternative. Its main focus is a grieving mother, Amy Breslyn, who searches for retribution after losing her son, a journalist, in a suicide bomber attack in Nigeria. Being a chemical engineer allows her the capability to get revenge on the terrorists. Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find her, but his investigation leads to more questions than answers. He stumbles into a police raid of a house where someone is murdered and a huge amount of explosives have been found. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time he becomes a person of interest. Meanwhile the killer targets LAPD dog handler Scott James and his dog Maggie because they are the only ones who can identify him.
Crais stated, “When I started writing in the late 1980s the subject matter of The Promise was not even on the drawing board. The impact of terrorism on all of us from ISIS to Al Qaeda has us dealing with certified crazy people. Through my character Amy Breslyn I can release my anger. Here is this woman who loses her son, a non-combatant, by a lunatic, a suicide bomber. We all carry Amy’s anger and frustration about what is happening. I hope readers can share and feel what Amy has gone through.”
But more than anything this is a story of commitment, loyalty, and partner devotion. There are multiple teams at play. The plot becomes increasingly interesting as the teams cross over and intermingle appearing at times to be an army unit. But the partners of Scott and Maggie will pull at reader’s heartstrings since they are comrades in arms. Both have lost their partners, had traumatic injuries, and have nightmares about their experiences. They also have PTSD and are helping each other heal. There is a strong bond between them.
Maggie, the German Shepherd K-9, stole the show by often showing more sense and intuition than her human counterparts. What any dog owner will enjoy is the fact that Robert Crais narrated parts of this story through Maggie's eyes, presenting a humanistic interpretation of her words and thoughts. Crais also writes believable scenes between Maggie and her handler Scott. It becomes obvious he has done his homework, allowing readers to understand that handlers need to trust their partner’s instincts and not to influence them through some subconscious changes in body language, tone, and movement.
The Promise has compelling characters that enhance the plot. Anyone wanting an action packed story that is embedded in realism should read this book. But a word of warning, have the time because readers will not want to put it down.