The 8th of November, 1965

Posted By Blackfive

[Annual repost]

173rd_2

The Fallen Angel remembers the 173rd Airborne today...on the 8th of November in 1965, one of the toughest Airborne battles was fought in the jungles of Viet Nam.

At about 0600 on the morning of 8 November C Company began a move northwest toward Hill 65, while B Company moved northeast toward Hill 78. Shortly before 0800, C Company was engaged by a sizable enemy force well dug in to the southern face of Hill 65. At 0845, B Company was directed to wheel in place and proceed toward Hill 65 with the intention of relieving C Company.

B Company reached the foot of Hill 65 at about 0930 and moved up the hill. It became obvious that there was a very large enemy force in place on the hill,C Company was getting hammered, and by chance, B Company was forcing the enemy's right flank.

Under pressure from B Company's flanking attack the enemy force—most of a Viet Cong regiment—moved to the northwest, whereupon the B Company commander called in air and artillery fires on the retreating troops. B Company halted in place in an effort to locate and consolidate with C Company's platoons, managing to establish a coherent defensive line running around the hilltop from southeast to northwest, but with little cover on the southern side.

Meanwhile, the VC commander realized that his best chance was to close with the US soldiers so that the 173rd's air and artillery fire could not be effectively employed. He attempted to out-flank the US position atop the hill from both the east and the southwest, moving his troops closer to the Americans. The result was shoulder-to-shoulder attacks up the hillside, hand-to-hand fighting, and isolation of parts of B and C Companies but the Americans held against two such attacks. Although the fighting continued after the second massed attack, it reduced in intensity as the VC commander again attempted to disengage and withdraw. By late afternoon it seemed that contact had been broken off, allowing the two companies to prepare a night defensive position while collecting their dead and wounded in the center of the position. Although a few of the most seriously wounded were extracted by USAF helicopters using Stokes litters, the triple-canopy jungle prevented the majority from being evacuated until the morning of 9 November.

The result of the battle was heavy losses on both sides—48 Paratroopers dead, many more wounded, and 403 dead VC troops.

Here is the link to the tribute video by Big and Rich:  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozpdBvB0hek

 

If you get a chance, raise a glass to the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd tonight ("Airborne!").  Many of the Viet Nam vets that trained me and my generation of paratroopers wore the 173rd patch on their right shoulder.

Thank you.

Update: In the Company of Soldiers has more on Lawrence Joel who saved a lot of lives on the 8th of November in 1965 and was awarded the Medal of Honor.



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Book Review: The Memorial Edition of Chris Kyle's "American Sniper"

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special provided for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062306708_p0_v7_s260x420The Memorial Edition of American Sniper by Chris Kyle with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen has just been published.  This Memorial Edition reminds Americans that there are true heroes that need to be remembered. Re-reading this book will enable people to understand why it has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since its release in January 2012. 

This edition still has the moving first-person account of Chris’ extraordinary battlefield experiences when he became the top American military sniper of all time.  There is something for everyone in the book: technical details including why a certain gun is preferred in a certain situation, types of guns used, plenty of combat action, and a discussion on relationships with fellow SEALs as well as his wife and children. His story is at times funny, scary, sad, and intense.

Kyle once stated to blackfive.net that he never saw himself as a “killer but as a Guardian Angel for our troops on the ground, and that he never apologized or regretted what he did because my shots saved several Americans whose lives were clearly worth more than the enemy savages who tried to take those lives. I don’t worry about what other people think of me.” This is exemplified in the book quote, “People fighting in Iraq were fanatics.  They hated us because we weren’t Muslim.  They wanted to kill us…because we practiced a different religion than they did.” His brother Jeff, a former recon Marine, who now is the owner of a weapons training company, www.tetatx.us.com, concurs, “SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, those in recon, were happy with the book because Chris showed how we take on our roles to protect as many people as possible. He pulled the trigger for the right reason, to bring everyone home alive.”

The book also includes the insights of his wife Taya, what she had to endure as a military spouse.  What it was like to be left at home for months on end, having to be a single mom, worried wife, and someone responsible for the finances and upkeep of the home.  She recently commented to blackfive.net, “Chris laid it on the table, both our flaws and good qualities that people can relate with.” The co-author, Jim DeFelice also thinks American Sniper is an important read because it showed the other side of a warrior, that of a husband and father.

What the Memorial Edition does have that the original American Sniper did not is the more than eighty pages of remembrances by those close to him including his wife, brother, mother/father, children, fellow veterans, fellow warriors, and lifelong friends.  In this portion of the book readers will see his life after retiring from military service and the person he became.  Taya noted, “I hope people see these recollections as an understanding of what people will say about someone who has passed away, how they are touched personally. In addition, anyone who wants to continue to learn about how the family will carry on Chris’ torch can go to www.chriskylefrog.com.”

Although this Memorial Edition brings back the sorrowful death of someone who died way too young, it also allows Americans to openly remember the warrior and the regular guy who decided to share his life, views, and personality.  He did not only touch those who personally knew him but readers as well.  The Memorial Edition of American Sniper is a thrilling eyewitness account of service and sacrifice and a heartfelt recounting of the man.


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Video: M.O.H. Ceremony for U.S. Army Captain Will Swenson

Posted By Blackfive

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President Barack Obama awards former Army Capt. William D. Swenson the Medal of Honor. Swenson received the Nation's highest honor for his courageous actions while serving as an embedded advisor to the Afghan National Border Police, Task Force Phoenix, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in support of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on September 8, 2009. He is the sixth living recipient and the first officer to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

OFFICIAL NARRATIVE:

On Sept. 8, 2009, elements of the 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps; 3rd Kandak, 1st Zone Afghan National Border Police, known as the ABP; U.S. Marine Corps Embedded Training Team, or ETT, mentors; U.S. Army ABP advisors; and Task Force, or TF, Chosin, conducted Operation Buri Booza II (a.k.a. Dancing Goat II) in the valley of Ganjgal Gar, in Eastern Afghanistan, along the volatile Pakistan border.

The operation, Buri Booza, was to engage the elders in the lower Ganjgal Valley, in both the villages of Dam Darah and Ganjgal, in order to separate the isolated mountain communities from insurgents, and, through engagement and development initiatives, connect them with the Afghan government. The Afghan National Security Force-led mission also provided an opportunity for the Afghan National Security Force, known as the ANSF, to demonstrate their capabilities.

For Maj. Kevin Williams and Capt. William D. Swenson and the Marine ETTs, the mission was particularly significant because it represented the culmination of a series of operations, a necessary step for the eventual transition of lead security responsibilities in areas where insurgents still undermine the state.

The rugged terrain in Ganjgal Gar is typical of the capillary valleys seen throughout Eastern Kunar Province, where a steep mountain range marks the invisible boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The valley begins just off of the Kunar River and east of Auxiliary Supply Route, or ASR, Beaverton. A narrow, ungraded trail created by small vehicle and taxi traffic leads into the valley, and rock walls lining the sides of the road limit traffic by larger coalition vehicles. Opportunities to turn around are limited, and it is not until the road cuts north and across a large “washout” that there is any real space to spread out and expand mounted formations. The road ends just beyond Ganjgal village.

The grade on all sides rises considerably off of the valley floor, and terraced fields and boulders provide excellent observation of any approaching mounted and dismounted elements. The valley itself winds eastward nine kilometers, slowly rising in elevation, until it eventually peaks at the Pakistan border. Travel beyond Ganjgal and Dam Darah is rare because of the restrictive terrain, the lack of a viable road, and the sparse population that lives in this valley – although insurgents are known to traverse the seasonal passes with abandon.

Elements of the ANSF and TF Chosin had recently been in Ganjgal and Dam Darah. Four days prior to Operation Buri Booza II, Sept. 3, 2009, the Afghan National Army, known as the ANA, the Afghan National Border Police, referred to as ABP, and TF Chosin conducted a cordon and search in Dam Darah, in an attempt to engage the elders and search for an enemy mortar position. The engagement with village elders was positive. The elders traveled to Forward Operating Base, or FOB, Joyce, Sept. 4, provided a public radio announcement to be played over the FOB’s radio-in-a box, or RIAB, that denounced the insurgents, and invited the ANSF and Coalition Forces back into the valley to assess needed improvements to the Ganjgal mosque. To follow this momentum, Operation Buri Booza II was planned for Sept. 8.

Unknown to the ANSF and Coalition Forces, up to 60 insurgents had infiltrated Ganjgal Village from deeper within the valley, and from Pakistan. The insurgent presence was not reflected in corroborated advance intelligence. When combined forces entered the valley, they were ambushed by a host of well-armed, well-positioned insurgents, and the six-hour firefight that ensued produced 15 coalition and ANSF deaths – including four ETTs (three Marines and one Navy Corpsman) and one ETT interpreter – plus 17 more were wounded-in-action.

On Sept. 8, ANSF entered the mouth of the valley. Though a large or heavily-armed foe was deemed unlikely, patrols that entered into the valley historically were engaged by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, known as RPGs, usually from small groups from the high ground. Before dawn as the combined force turned off ASR Beaverton east toward Ganjgal Gar, all were prepared for the potential of small arms contact and RPGs, despite the warm invitation by the elders to come into the village.

Shortly after twilight lifted, at approximately 5:30 a.m. local time, the column departed the vehicle objective rally point, or ORP, at the bottom of the valley and began the movement up the long, gently sloping hill toward Ganjgal Village. Because of the rough road and intelligence suggesting improvised explosive devices along the route, they approached on foot. The column consisted of 106 personnel, which included 60 ANA soldiers, 14 ANA mentors, 30 ABP members, and U.S. Army Soldiers Capt. William Swenson and Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, both advisors to the ABP. After departing the ORP, Marines and ANSF broke off to the north and south to take up various support positions, while a smaller contingency – approx. 65 troops - continued up the center of the treacherous wash leading to the village.

At the front of the column approaching the village were four ETTs – three Marines and a Navy Corpsman – and their ANA counterpart. Behind them was the command element, or Tactical Action Center (TAC), led by Maj. Kevin Williams and consisting of 1st Lt. Ademola D. Fabayo, a Marine ETT operations officer; First Sgt. Christopher Garza, ETT first sergeant; an ANA radio telephone operator, or RTO; and Jonathan Landay, an embedded reporter with the Marine ETT. To the rear of the TAC and their ANA counterparts were Swenson and Westbrook, with their ABP counterparts.

As the lead Marine ETT mentor crested the washout and moved within 100 meters of Ganjgal Village, an RPG motor suddenly ignited from the front of the column. Before this round even had time to impact, the combined force in the valley had already begun to take enemy PKM machine gun and AK-47 small arms fire from the east. The enemy had maneuvered into the village from the north and south using previously unobserved trenches, and heavy fire erupted from homes and buildings to the front of the dispersed lead column. Coalition forces and the ANSF dove for cover and returned fire with their individual and crew-served weapons. Swenson observed enemy fighters to his east, swarming out from the high ground, attempting to flank his position. He immediately returned fire, and directed and coordinated the response of his partnered ABP soldiers, upon the visible enemy, in an effort to establish a base of fire for the ANA soldiers in the front of the column, who were pinned down by the insurgent’s initial volley.

While the enemy fire at that time remained effective and accurate, the combined force most exposed within the wash were successful in moving out of this dangerous area with little cover and into the limited protection provided by the terraced farmland to the north and south. The TAC struggled to maintain command and control as, once out of the wash, squads and platoons disappeared from visual and voice control, swallowed by the extreme terraces. Swenson remained aware of his position relative to the dispersed column of ANSF and coalition forces, and called in fire missions on known targets to disrupt the enemy’s efforts to maneuver and mass on individual pockets of ANSF. As coalition artillery fell, the enemy drew closer to both the column and the population center, hugging the protective southern terrain and friendly positions. Due to the extreme close proximity of insurgent fighters to the ANSF positions, multiple fire missions were unsuccessful in deterring the enemy’s advance. In the span of 45 hectic minutes, the initiative passed to the insurgents. The calls of wounded Soldiers began to make their way over the din and crash of rockets and artillery.

It became evident that coalition forces were now effectively flanked, under defilade fire from multiple angles and elevations, and even individual squads were becoming suppressed and maneuvered upon by the enemy. Unable to observe the most forward coalition forces and ANSF elements, the TAC could not perform any sort of retrograde until they could be assured their lead elements were informed, and covered by fire. Repeatedly, Swenson called for white phosphorous smoke to obscure the valley, but wary of placing incendiary rounds into a populated civilian area, the closest obscuring effect of the shells placed was 400 meters away.

An hour into the firefight, communication with the lead elements had been lost and could not be re-established. Surrounded on three sides, and fixed by overlapping fields of fire with crew-served weapons, RPGs and sporadic enemy indirect fires, the TAC’s position was desperately untenable. Wounded troops accumulated, including Williams, who had been shot in the arm, and Garza, whose eardrums were ruptured by an RPG. Physically unable to evacuate the wounded down the steep terraces and unwilling to enter the enemy kill zone in the wash, Swenson coordinated for combat aviation and helicopter support.

The enemy, now within 50 meters, had successfully isolated Swenson from his partner advisor, Westbrook. Swenson learned that Westbrook was shot in the upper chest, and lay in an exposed position. Attempting to reach Westbrook, Swenson returned accurate fire on the enemy, despite coming under direct enemy fire that killed two adjacent ANA soldiers, and wounded another. Finally able to repel the enemy with the assistance of another ANA soldier, Swenson, Garza and Fabayo maneuvered over 50 meters of open space, fought their way to their fallen comrade, and began to render first aid.

Now consolidated, but still in the kill zone under a barrage of enemy fire, Fabayo observed three insurgents maneuvering out of a house to the front of the TAC. Fabayo made direct visual contact with an insurgent who was wearing fatigues, body armor and a helmet, waving for Fabayo to surrender. Calling to Swenson, Fabayo reported the insurgent’s presence and their demands to surrender to the Taliban. Outnumbered, flanked and facing enemy capture, Swenson put down his radio and halted his treatment of Westbrook long enough to reply to the enemy’s demands for surrender, by throwing a hand grenade. Following his example, the members of the TAC rallied. Swenson’s example, and his element’s stout resistance, effectively disrupted the enemy attack and pushed them back beyond hand grenade range.

At 7:47 a.m., after an hour and forty minutes of fighting, a team of OH-58D Scout Helicopters – call signs Palehorse 50 and Palehorse 60 – arrived in the valley. Swenson, still treating Westbrook, whose condition was quickly deteriorating, began to talk the aircraft’s fires on the various enemy targets he had observed around the valley. The enemy sporadically engaged the aircraft, yet appeared hesitant to engage coalition forces while they were overhead. This provided the TAC the slim opportunity they needed for successful retrograde back to the support-by-fire position A, or SBF-A. Swenson, Fabayo, and Jonathan Landay carried Westbrook, and with the group suffering more casualties every moment, the column ran, bounded, and broke contact down the steep terraces.

After what seemed like hours under effective and suppressive enemy fire, the combined force arrived at SBF-A and began immediate medical evacuation, or MedEvac, procedures. Soon after, a UH-60 helicopter arrived at the landing zone, located outside of small arms and RPG fire, and Swenson loaded Westbrook who was immediately taken to the forward support hospital at FOB Wright. The valiant effort by Swenson and the members of the TAC to maneuver under accurate and unmitigated enemy fire, moving Westbrook as well as ambulatory and non-ambulatory Afghan casualties, no doubt saved the lives of Westbrook and several others. Unfortunately, Westbrook would later die of his wounds, but not before departing theater and spending the last few weeks of life with family and loved one.

After Westbrook’s evacuation, Swenson and Fabayo manned an ABP unarmored vehicle and reentered the kill zone at least twice, evacuating wounded and bringing them to the casualty collection point, or CCP. Throughout, Swenson communicated via radio with the air support pilot, attempting to determine the location of the missing ETTs. At the same time, Marine Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez and Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer were retrieving wounded in an up-armored Humvee.

At around 8 a.m., contact was still not established with the three Marines and one Navy corpsman ETTs, and the unarmored truck carrying Fabayo and Swenson was too damaged to take back into the wash. A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter arrived on station, but it was clear that any landing zone in the immediate area would be dangerously close to enemy positions and RPG teams. The need for a ground recovery of all remaining casualties became clear. Going above and beyond the call of duty, Swenson began making preparations to return up the wash into the kill zone.

After convening with Fabayo, Rodriguez-Chavez, and Meyer at the CCP, Swenson returned with Rodriguez-Chavez and Fabayo to the ORP to gather all available combat power. Meyer remained at the CCP and evacuated injured teammates Williams and Garza. The convoy assembled by Swenson consisted of an up-armored Humvee, an armored ABP Humvee, and two up-Armored ANA vehicles. After picking up Meyer at the CCP, the convoy continued into the wash. The ANA vehicles stopped early in the movement to recover the first set of casualties encountered. Under withering fire and without the necessary combat power to sustain the rescue or the ability to extract themselves, Swenson pressed on. Swenson, Fabayo, Rodriguez-Chavez and Meyer took the up-armored Humvee all the way to the suspected objective area in the village.

While they succeeded in rescuing and recovering several ANSF wounded and dead, they were forced by the volume of fire to drive past several marked positions deeper into the ambush, because of the pinpoint accuracy of the enemy’s small arms fire. Throughout the trip, Swenson communicates with the air support pilot, calling in targets and inquiring about the location of the missing ETTs.

After a dismounted search was unable to find the ETTs, the rescue party realized that previously isolated ANSF have been moving from the cover of their terraces to the wash in a desperate attempt for extraction, and were taking effective small arms fire, which produced three new casualties. Swenson made the decision to return to SBF-A, to download casualties, and assist the ANSF who had just come down off the terraces and into the wash.

At around noon, the CSAR aircraft finally spots the location of the missing ETTs, and attempts to land and recover the fallen. The rescue convoy provided covering fires from a westerly position as the CSAR bird tried to land, but is forced under close RPG fire to leave station. Swenson called for smoke to mark the location of the bodies, and then from the position at the entry of the town, the convoy began to maneuver the CSAR bird into a supporting position. ANA joined to support a rescue attempt of the fallen.

Swenson, Fabayo, Rodriguez-Chavez, Meyer, with another small contingent of ANSF following, moved back east to a closer position to the fallen. Their objective was now the smoke rising at the top of the hill that marked their fallen comrades. With Palehorse elements suppressing known and suspected insurgent strongholds, and Fabayo operating the M240 machine gun, they faced precise and deadly fire for a second time. Coming to a stop directly adjacent to the ETTs’ position, they found their comrades in a deep trench that had been impossible to see from ground angles during previous trips into the valley. Meyer and Swenson, along with ANA and ABP soldiers, dismounted and loaded the bodies into the back of the flat-bed ANA Humvee, while Rodriguez-Chavez and Fabayo provided covering fire. Driving back down the wash, receiving accurate and sustained fire to their rear, they completed the recovery operation.

Swenson drove straight to the ORP to verify accountability of all soldiers with the ANSF. It would be determined after the engagement that Swenson’s actions directly contributed to the preservation of more than a dozen Afghan lives. Swenson was the core of the initial defense and two subsequent rescue efforts. In seven hours of continuous fighting, Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy’s main effort, multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades, his unit, his country, and his endangered Afghan partners.

 You can read more at the official US Army site for Captain Swenson including the Battlescape.



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No Death Gratuity Benefits For Families of Fallen Rangers - Help Now!

Posted By Blackfive

Unfortunately, as a result of the shutdown, we do not have the legal authority to make death gratuity payments at this time.  However, we are keeping a close eye on those survivors who have lost loved ones serving in the Department of Defense.” - Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the DoD

Several Rangers have Fallen in combat during the shutdown.  The Rangers' families need your help.  One such family is the Pattersons.

Due to the government shutdown and the denial of death benefits, PFC Cody Patterson's family is under severe financial distress.  The 75th Ranger Regiment is currently attempting to collect donations through the Ranger Assistance Fund.

Contributions can be made at the RAFs website at http://www.75thraf.org/ by clicking the "Donate Here" button.

Checks can be sent to:

The Ranger Assistance Fund
2733 Summerfield Pl. 
Phenix City, AL 36867

Here is more about Cody Patterson from the 3-75th:

Pfc. Cody James Patterson
Patterson was born April 12, 1989 in Corvallis, Ore. After graduating from Philomath High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army from his hometown of Philomath, Ore., January 2012 and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga., as an infantryman. After graduating from the Basic Airborne Course there, he was assigned to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program also at Fort Benning. Patterson graduated from the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was then assigned to Company B, 3rd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment November 2012 where he served as a Rifleman.

“Pfc. Cody Patterson was the poster child for the Ranger Regiment,” said Lt. Col. Patrick J. Ellis, Commander of 3rd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment. “He was courageous and dedicated and lost his life while fighting tenaciously against our Nation’s enemies alongside his fellow Rangers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Patterson family.”

This was his second deployment to Afghanistan.

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. His awards and decorations include the Parachutist Badge and the U.S. Army Expert Rifle Marksmanship Qualification Badge. 

Patterson has also been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon.

“Pfc. Cody Patterson had a limitless future,” said Col. Christopher S. Vanek, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. “He would have been successful in whatever path he had chosen in life. He chose to serve his country by volunteering for the most difficult and challenging duties of a United States Army Ranger. His loss is devastating to his fellow Rangers, our Army and our Nation. Our country was fortunate that he chose to serve in our ranks. Our thoughts and prayers are with this young Ranger’s family.”

He was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart and NATO Medal.

Patterson is survived by his mother, Nancy R. Wilson of Corvallis, Ore., and his father, Randy L. Patterson, and his sister, Taylor, both of Philomath, Ore.

Update: Tommy at Ranger Up has an excellent post up about this very issue. Go check it out.

...The government voted, overwhelmingly, to continue to pay and fund our armed forces as they gripe and moan and take pot shots at each other over Obamacare. Yet, they are refusing to do the most important thing when things go horribly wrong: take care of the families of those we lose.

Inside the past 24hours a mother had a man knock on her door and told her son died half way around the world. Half a day later the same guy is about to knock on her door and tell her that she’s going to need to cash in her savings account until Washington “re-opens for business” as the political pundits have been saying all the past week.

Stop. Think about that for a second...

Update 2: Representative Renee Elmers [R - NC] is working on fixing this issue:

Update 3: We have word that several oranizations have stepped up and will cover Cody Patterson's family for the Dover flights and the burial. Please push Congress to get off the dime and provide these needed funds!

Via Tommy for Ranger Up:

"I just got off the phone with a staffer for the Armed Services Committee, at present there "no pending or current proposed legislation" to help the new or future gold star families while the government shut down is in place. If you'd like to give them a piece of your mind like I did, here's the #: 202-224-3871"

 

Update 4: To help the wounded in the recent attacks, you can visit the following to help:

http://americasfund.org/
http://semperfifund.org/
http://www.soldiersangels.org/

Update 5: Asking the House Armed Services Committee "what gives?!" and the repsonse is here:

Chairman Joe Wilson from South Carolina runs the military personnel subcommittee and sent this letter up to Secretary Hagel on Friday.

In it, they attached the list of pay and benefits that are included in the Pay Our Military Act. See the list below the letter. The House interpretted this as including the Death Gratuity. The Obama Administration  chose to read it as not including the Death Gratuity. 

So now the HASC is working to give them the specific authorization for Death Gratuity in shutdown.

[PDF File attached.  Right clck Here and "Save As"]

Update 6:  Response from the Chairman of the Armed Service Committee:

McKeon Statement on Death Gratuity

Washington- Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee made the following statement on the provision of death benefits to families of fallen troops during the government shutdown.

 "Last week Congress unanimously passed the Pay Our Military Act with the express intent that all military pay and allowances would be dispersed during a government shutdown.  Judging by the Department of Defense's own summary of those programs, we believed that 'death gratuities' would continue to go to the families of those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Without question, that was our clear intent.  However, we can never let the welfare of our troops and their families become pawns in a political contest.  If the Pentagon believes they need more explicit authority to disburse these payments, I am sure the House will provide it in very short order."

 Last week, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel wrote to Secretary Hagel seeking clarification on what pay and allowances from DoD's own comprehensive list would be permitted under the Pay Our Military Act. 



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20 Years Ago Today - Operation Gothic Serpent and Task Force Ranger

Posted By Blackfive

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Over at This Ain't Hell is their annual post about MSG Tim "Griz" Martin and Operation Gothic Serpent.  Check it out here.

www.ReturntoMogadishu.com For the first time since the events of "Black Hawk Down" twenty years ago, U.S. Army Rangers from the battle return to Mogadishu, Somalia to relive the firefight in the city streets.  This story chronicles the journey of Army Best Ranger Jeff Struecker’s return to Mogadishu, Somalia, as he reflects on the experience that transformed his life twenty years ago. As the film revisits the traumatic events of October 1993, we learn about the routine military mission that went awry and quickly unraveled into brutal warfare. It was in the middle of the violent combat when Struecker realized that He was free to LIVE because he wasn’t afraid to die.

Directed by Matt Knighton, Produced by Mary Beth Minnis, Director of Photography Jacob Hamilton, Editor Gabriel Cox, Original Score by Kyle Lent

 Update:  Here is the NRA's Life of Duty video "BLACK HAWK ECHOES" Trailer
NRA Life of Duty Correspondent Chuck Holton and the Frontlines team ride through Somalia’s war-torn streets alongside former U.S. Army Rangers Keni Thomas and Jeff Struecker, reliving a scene of intense personal tragedy, sacrifice and heroism.



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While We Honor them Everyday, Sunday is the official Gold Star Mother's Day

Posted By Blackfive

Sunday to honor Gold Star Mothers

September 26, 2013

By Army News Service

Sunday to honor Gold Star Mothers
Gold Star Mother's Day will be observed Sept. 29, 2013, around the nation. Here, during Gold Star Mother's Day in 2012, electric candles light each of the 295 luminaries representing Soldiers from South Carolina who died while on active duty since 2001. The event was hosted by the Survivor Outreach Services, Fort Jackson, S.C.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 25, 2013) -- This Sunday, the Army and the nation will, for the 77th time, turn their attention to mothers who have lost sons or daughters while fighting America's wars.

The Congress first created "Gold Star Mother's Day" in 1936 to honor those women whose children were taken from them as a result of war.

"The Gold Star Mothers, as well as all family members who bear the enormous burden of loss, will always be cherished members of our great Army family. We maintain our commitment to support these families while honoring the legacy of our fallen Soldiers," stated Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III in a tri-signed letter to the Army.

Donna Engeman, program manager of the U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services, is also a "Gold Star Wife." She lost her military husband. She said just the letter from Army senior leadership -- proof that the Army recognizes the heartache of those who lost their loved ones -- is meaningful.

"The feedback we get is that this is very important to our Gold Star Mothers," said Engeman. "They tell us it's very heartwarming to them, it's comforting to them to be remembered and recognized by the Army."

The Army's Survivor Outreach Services provides access to support, information and services for those who have lost a Soldier. The services are provided at the closest location to where the survivor resides, Engeman said, and for as long as they desire.

In the nation's capital, the Army will join all Americans in support of the 2013 Gold Star Mother's Day. Memorial events will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknowns. Army leaders are also encouraging Soldiers, their families, and Army civilians to take time to remember both those who have given their lives in service to their country and the loved ones they have left behind.

Around the Army, Engeman said, many installations are having events to honor and recognize Gold Star Mothers. Included are various picnics, luncheons, and breakfasts.

"Gold Star Mother's Day is important because it's a day set aside to recognize mothers who have lost a son or daughter on active-duty service," Engeman said. "If you think about it, we have Mother's Day, every May. But when you have lost a son or daughter in service to our nation, Mother's Day is not the same. This day, Gold Star Mother's Day, is set aside to honor mothers who have lost a son or daughter who made the ultimate sacrifice. And it recognized the loss of our mothers."

Survivor Outreach Services works with more than 56,000 "survivors." That includes not just Gold Star Mothers, but also spouses -- like Engeman -- and other family members, including children.

"The Survivor's Outreach Services is kind of a big process, but a simple concept," said Hal Snyder, chief, Wounded and Fallen Branch, U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services. "It's to continually link our surviving families to the Army for as long as they desire; that they remain part of the Army family. That is a promise that has been made to our surviving families and it is part of the job of SOS to honor that promise and to provide the services and support that link these families to the Army."

Engeman said services to Gold Star mothers and other surviving family members are provided by local resources such as support groups. The SOS works to put surviving family members in touch with those services, and can also coordinate counseling.

"Many of our survivors have asked for and sometimes need some financial counseling and education on how best to care for their families after the loss of their Soldiers," Engeman said. "We have extensive financial counseling and education available. Our job is really to get to know our survivors and develop a personal and professional relationship with them, and help them walk through their grief journey. As you get to know your survivors, you find out or you come to understand what they are looking for and what their needs are and we help them navigate that."

The SOS is available to surviving family members of Soldiers across the total Army -- including the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

During World War I, families would hang flags in their windows that were white with red borders. Inside, a blue star would represent each family member who was serving in the military. When a service member was killed, the blue star was changed to a gold star. In 1947, the Gold Star Lapel pin was designed and created to be presented to eligible surviving family members of service members who died while deployed in support of overseas contingency operations, or who died from wounds sustained in theater.

(For more ARNEWS stories, visit our homepage at www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService)



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A Newly Minted American Finds Inspiration - Robert L. Howard, MOH

Posted By LongTabSigO

Dave Feherty, is a golf analyst for CBS Sports and - until recently - an Irish citizen. In 2010, he became a naturalized US citizen and penned the following article regarding at least one of his inspirations.

Among his activities, and why he bears mention here on Blackfive, is that he runs Feherty's Troops First Foundation.  

He is outspoken - he and CBS Sports have had some disagreements about some of his political views - but it is clear he is focused on supporting veterans in his now adopted country.

In June of 2010, he penned an article in "D Magazine" regarding Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient COL (R) Bob Howard.  He was shocked he'd never heard of this true hero, and learned that Bob was on short final.  

I'd not want to spoil it - please just read the essay.  It is very interesting.

Dave Feherty's Essay

 



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Must See Video: Found Video of CPT Swenson During Battle...no words for this...just no words...

Posted By Blackfive


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You Sicken Me....

Posted By Deebow

Not that I haven't had a sickening feeling from politicians in both parties whose spine has an elemental consistency that ranges somewhere between gelatin and mannecoti since about 2008 (ish), but the blood pressure machine was about to spontaneously combust after I saw this about the testimony of the parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods and then read this list of the people who walked out that hearing.

And one name stuck out to me because her hackitude is epic; Rep. Tammy Duckworth. 

I have searched for a way to say this, but I can think of no other way:  You madam, are an epic POS. 

You, Representative Duckworth, of all the people who sat on that esteemed panel, should be acutely aware of what must have been running through the minds of Tyrone and Sean as they waited on the ground for a rescue force while enduring hostile fire.  A rescue force, that it turns out, the President in Name only was of no mind to send, because he had something pressing in the morning and he wanted to get his rest. 

You, having endured being grievously wounded and fighting to land an aircraft that was falling out of the sky in hostile territory probably can tell the story of how the minutes felt like hours until you saw a QRF that had IR "U.S." tabs on the chest plates of their IBAs coming to secure your aircraft, help treat you and your crew for your wounds, and evacuate all of you to safety at the risk of their lives so that you could be treated and returned to your families.

I bet you are glad that the QRF did their duty November 12, 2004 huh?  Couldn't be bothered to do yours though right?  Didn't you want to hear how those men and those families deserved the same response you received?  For you to walk out on those families and not even give them the common courtesy to listen to their story speaks to the epic hackery that is your career in politics and speaks volumes of your (in)ability as a leader.

You have insulted those families by refusing to hear their concerns, as elected representatives are duty bound to do. "Leave No Man Behind" evidently means nothing to you, along with your oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

My bet is that you don't know this, but when you are a leader, you can't just take the easy ones, you have to take the hard ones too.  And sometimes, you have to do the hardest thing and take the lead when you are in the wrong and make something right, that in this case, has your political party's fingerprints all over it.

But evidently, that is just a bridge too far for you because your allegiance to your party trumps your humanity, integrity and common sense.  You dishonor your service to this country as a member of the US Army and as a Congresswoman and your dereliction of duty is noted.



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On 9/11, two pilots in unarmed F-16s were ready to ram their jets into United Flight 93

Posted By Blackfive

Pretty amazing story about a commander and one of his pilots being the only two hot jets available for take off to defend DC against any other threats on 9/11...and United Flight 93 was still in the air and headed their way.

Awesome story and wouldn't expect anything less of our pilots (said with respect and with zero inter-service rivalry that might usually be seen here):

Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft...

Her only weapon was her fighter jet so she planned to crash into the tail of the hostile flight...read the whole thing here.



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