Military

Robert "Concrete Bob" Miller - Someone You Should've Known

I’ve seen Concrete Bob cry. 

That’s not the normal opening for a SYSK, is it?

Robert “Concrete Bob” Miller did not have the sobs of a wimp – instead it was gigantic howling, mad physical crying, leaving him breathless.  Crying the way a strong man shows grief. Then, Bob would stop and say, “We got work to do.”

Everyone that knows Bob also knew that he laughed in the very same way...

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I don’t recall if I first met Concrete Bob in the basement bar at Fran O’Brien’s or at the gate at Walter Reed.  It was about twelve years ago, and my first recollection of him was standing on the corner on a Friday night, outside the gate at Walter Reed, counter protesting Code Pink - a group of hardcore socialist women deliberately trying to demoralize our newly arriving wounded troops with signs that said "you got maimed for a lie" and displaying coffins, among other nasty things. Once per week, on Friday night, our most severely wounded troops came to Walter Reed from Germany.  Once on the ground, a bus brought them to the base at about 9pm.  And Code Pink would be there to send a horrible message.

I remember getting off of the Georgia Ave bus and Bob handing me the flag when the Army bus of wounded troops arrived at about 2130.  The flag was huge and I stepped out into the street to block the hags from Code Pink protesting our wounded warriors just arriving.  I know that Major Pain was there, too. Maybe John and Mary Bell, among others. 

After the bus with our wounded troops entered the fort, we all went to Malone House (Fisher House) to see if anyone needed anything. 

In Malone House, Bob wanted to check on a few of the long term guests there.  He hadn’t seen some of them in a few months. The wounded soldiers and their families greeted Bob like a hero.  Because Bob was a hero.  A big damn hero.

Concrete Bob was a Marine veteran - street smart and cunning.  As my friend Jonn Lilyea wrote the other day:

“When Code Pink’s protest permit expired, Bob was at the DC office and got permission for the counter-protest to occupy both sides of the main gate. The Code Pink protest got moved down the block away from the sight of the wounded troops as they arrived on the Friday night bus.”

Bob ensured that those horrible people would not damage our troops any more than they already had been. 

Big. Damn. Hero.

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Your BBQ sauce is a healing elixir of joy and goodness.” – review of Concrete Bob’s BBQ Sauce

If you knew Bob, you never were hungry around him.  Bob fed everyone.  

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There are stories upon stories upon stories of Concrete Bob and his amazing-kick-ass-best-sauce-you-ever-had BBQ. When Malone House was under construction and a new patio was added in 2010, Bob fed the construction workers, along with the families there.  Just because.

Once when I was in DC and Bob couldn’t meet me due to a work conflict, he sent BBQ sauce in mason jars to my hotel room.  Just because.

Recently, one of our friends shared a story about Bob running a veteran support event in a park, and then feeding homeless people there, saying, “No one goes hungry around me!”

No one ever did.

Big. Damn. Hero.


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Bob teamed up with the boys from BlackFive on many ambitious endeavors.  I became acquainted with United Conservatives, folks from the Free Republic (FReepers), Vets for Freedom, Protest Warrior, The Gathering of Eagles, etc.  Early on, I began to understand that Concrete Bob was not just a follower but a nexus connecting many of his friends.  While Bob would never admit that he was a leader, he led by example.  He showed great humility at times.  And, others, it was the Concrete Bob Show.  You all know what I mean.

Bob championed, I mean CHAMPIONED, veteran causes.  His work on behalf of veterans raised tons of money, awareness and gave vets and their families hope.  Of all people, Concrete Bob brought a sense of normalcy to people whose lives had changed dramatically.  Bob would hear of someone in need and immediately reach out to his network to find a way to help.  He saved lives.  Because that’s what Concrete Bob does.

Big. Damn. Hero.


Bob wasn’t a blogger when we first met.  He became one soon after meeting Smash and Jimbo and I.

One of his first posts was about his critics posting comments:

To the asshats who wrote the dumb posts, you should Thank God you live in a country that allows you to be as stupid as you want to be, and no one can bitch slap you for it.

That, my friends, was the essence of Concrete Bob – humor, pride in his country, ire at those who oppose us, and a point to be made in one single sentence.  He would never be deterred from saying what he thought needed to be said.

Big. Damn. Hero.

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What I haven’t said before is that Bob was one of my biggest supporters, one of the first, and a huge fan of BlackFive.  He sent encouraging emails to me week after week after week…He handed out our cards, our shirts, everything.  Bob was all in.  Hell, BlackFive would have been so much less without Concrete Bob in our corner.

He sent me this a few years ago.  I hadn’t heard from him in a while.

Thanks for taking an interest, Matt. Great to hear from you as well.
You keep amazing me with your posts. Don’t stop.

But I did stop. I burned out.

Bob saw it coming at me and wouldn’t quit. While I wish I had his unbreakable spirit, I am so very grateful to have been propelled by it over the years.  I am in his debt.

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Bob would be happy and completely embarrassed to be in the Someone You Should Know category (as he sent us many candidates for the posts).  We all know that he belongs with that group.


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Bob died on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 after a long fight with cancer.  He leaves behind a wife, children, and grandchildren along with an outstanding legacy that I only began to touch upon.

A memorial service will be held 10:30 a.m. Saturday, December 16, 2017, at Hunton Baptist Church, 11660 Greenwood Rd., Glen Allen, Va. 23060.

There’s an old saying that you die twice.  Once when your heart stops beating.  The second time when no one remembers you.  No one who met him can ever forget Concrete Bob Miller.

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Bob is now free.  A great man with a generous heart, he had faith in many of us, despite our own doubts, and that energy carried us through many storms.  He gave us many, many laughs, great food, and his enduring loyalty and friendship…even when we didn’t deserve it. 

Semper Fidelis, indeed.

Bob loved and was loved imperfectly, honestly, fiercely, and he gave away love, respect, and kick ass BBQ, all with a great sense of humor. After all, that is what life is all about - Bob gave away everything that he received.

Bob believed in us. He never stopped. I pray that he knows the effect that he had on each of us.

Bob would frequently close his correspondence with, “you can count on me” and “I love you all.”

We love you, too, Bob.


May 5 in U.S. military history

1862: Disappointed in the lack of progress of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln departs for Hampton Roads, Va. on the Treasury Department revenue cutter Miami to personally oversee operations. Over five days, the president - a former militia rifle company commander - directs the bombardment of Confederate positions and lands to conduct reconnaissance of the area with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.

1864: The bloody albeit inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) opens between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Fighting is grim: Casualties will be heavy on both sides. Union and Confederate generals will be killed. Wounded and trapped soldiers will be burned alive by a battle-sparked woods fire. Within two days, Grant will disengage and advance toward Spotsylvania Courthouse.

1916: Two companies of Marines from the transport USS Prairie (AD-5) land at Santo Domingo, beginning the United States' eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic. The leathernecks provide protection for the U.S. Legation and Consulate, and occupy the nearby Fort San Geronimo.

1917: Eugene J. Bullard becomes the first black combat aviator, earning his wings with the French Air Service. The Columbus, Ga. native's father came to America from the Caribbean island of Martinique and his mother was a Creek indian. Bullard fled to Europe to escape racism in the United States and joined the French Foreign Legion as a machine gunner, seeing action in the Somme, Champagne, and Verdun campaigns before being wounded. After recovering, he joined the air service and earned his pilot's license. The "Black Swallow of Death" would fly 20 combat missions for the French - claiming two aerial kills - before war's end. He volunteered for the infantry when Germany invaded France again in 1940 and was wounded.

Excerpt - the rest of the post can be found at Unto the Breach.


Book Review - "The Iron Major Survival Guide" by David W. Dunphy

This book is f#cking awesome.  

BLUF:  First off, this book should be read by every military officer and senior NCO.  Second, I wish I had one back when I was a Group S2/S3Air or the Brigade Training Officer in the 3 shop.  It is useful for all but I would strongly recommend that all 2nd LTs and ensigns have a copy.  This is what they DON'T teach you in ROTC or the Academies or OCS...

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Penned with a wry wit, LTC Dunphy outlines the do's and, more importantly, the don'ts of leadership from a staff officer's perspective.  Politically incorrect as hell, Dunphy has items like "mouth breather" alerts and "bush league/amateur hour" statements.  As I read through the survival guide last night, I found myself nodding in agreement or outright laughing along with the author.  However, the book is not about entertaining Major B, it is about making Major B a far better officer than he thinks he is.

With chapters like "The Beer Math of Doctrinal Consumption", Dunphy usually opens up with some smart-ass remark that then evolves into the lesson to be learned. Por ejemplo, in the section about building a solid relationship with your commander, Dunphy starts with, "Fight the close fight and run the daily operations of the Battalion so your boss can look at the big picture, fight the deep fight, and make out with the good idea fairy." before outlining some common sense methods to accomplish that goal. 

While most of the information should be intuitive, with 15+ hour days, deployments and field work, leaders may miss some/most of the points made by Dunphy. The survival guide serves as reminders to us all on (1) what to focus on, (2) what not to step in, (3) how to be a better leader and (4) how not be f#cked up like polio.


Book Review - "Legend" by Eric Blehm

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.

9780804139519_p0_v3_s192x300In a just released book, Legend, (WWW.ERICBLEHM.COM) author Eric Blehm recounts the heroism of Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company. 

The first part of the book details Roy’s early life from birth until marriage, enlistment, and examples of the his tenacious spirit. In 1966, Roy suffered a serious injury from his first tour in Vietnam, having been told he would never walk again. Yet, a year later after much therapy and willpower, Roy not only regained his ability to walk, but qualified to become an elite Army Green Beret. The 2nd part of the book gives a lot of background into the special operations out of Vietnam and the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, including how the US covertly inserted and removed 12-Man Special Forces A Teams. The last part of the book details the events of May 2nd, 1968.

Benavidez went into the firefight to bring out the wounded soldiers, part of a team sent into Cambodia.  Upon arrival he jumped out and into the withering enemy fire. Despite being immediately and severely wounded, Benavidez reached the perimeter of the decimated team, provided medical care, and proceeded to organize an extraordinary defense and rescue. During the hours-long battle, he was bayoneted, shot, and hit by grenade shrapnel more than thirty times, yet he refused to abandon his efforts until every survivor was out of harm’s way.

Ingrained into his thinking by his grandfather, Benavidez had the attitude ‘if someone needs help, you help them.’  Blehm told blackfive.net, “He knowingly went into a place of chaos.  It is obvious it is not the size of the man, but the size of his heart.  The story is surreal considering after putting the wounded on the helicopter, he went back to rescue the interpreter, while holding his own intestines.  As I recount in the book, he crawled around the seriously wounded, giving tactical orders, took charge of air support, medical aid, ammunition, and boosted the wounded morale.” He saved the lives of eight men and eventually recovered, receiving the Medal of Honor thirteen years later. He dedicated his life to inspire those in his situation, from humble and difficult beginnings.

A powerful part of the book is when Blehm discusses the treatment of those who fought in Vietnam.  The Army told them to be proud of their service and go home to rejoin their family and friends.  Telling them, “They are proud of you and are anxiously awaiting your return.”  Yet, in direct contradiction Roy was told not to wear his uniform in public.  However, Blehm recounts how Roy disobeyed those orders.  It was not the veterans who were the “baby killers,” but the North Vietnamese who crucified children to walls and used them as target practice. 

Legend is a moving story.  Through extensive research readers get to know Roy personally and understand that the American soldier had their hands tied by politicians.  After reading this book people should realize that there is a great debt owed to those that fought in Vietnam, soldiers who were doing their patriotic duty.


Marine Raiders Film at Indiegogo

Kat Croft befriended a Marine Raider.  After his death, she was witness to the way his brothers in arms welcomed him home from war and honored his memory.  She has decided she would like to try to capture the story on film, and is seeking a very modest budget of $15,000 for production.  She has raised more than a third of this money already.

If any of you would like to support her efforts, please follow the link above. 


New Website Launches on Veterans Day for Veteran Authors

The outlook on life from the perspective of someone who’s comfortable with violence and death makes a book not just a book, but a seminar on what it means to be human.” -Kelly Crigger, President of Graybeard Books

BooksbyVeterans.com, powered by Graybeard Books, will go live today, on Veterans Day. The company is dedicated to giving U.S. military veterans and their spouses an outlet to share their stories and get their works seen by more people than they could have reached on their own.
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BooksbyVeterans.com will provide an website for readers who want to find a book by a veteran, an outlet for authors who want to write their book, and a blogging platform for veteran writers. But beyond providing these services to veterans and customers, BooksbyVeterans and its parent company, Graybeard Books, strive to help veterans navigate the publishing world, which can be daunting. Besides the traditional publishing houses, platforms like Createspace, Nook, Kindle, Lulu, iBooks, and Smashwords offer authors a self-publishing outlet that can be confusing. Every author has the difficult task of figuring out which platform is right for them and how to use it to their advantage...

Go here to read the press release or just go here and visit the site - BooksbyVeterans.com


National Airborne Day 2015 - The Video Edition

Here are some awesome videos.  [Reality videos after the "jump" (ha, I kill me).]

 

 In order to send the Air Force some love, there were two USAF Pararescue (PJs) HALO jump videos which are shared below and then one rockin' compilation video after the jump that's a must see:


I swear, that @#%& is better than a cup of coffee...

Jimbo posted these before:

Oh man, that was fun. I don't care whether you have or haven't ever jumped out of an airplane, this is a great look at it. I think what it reminded me most is exactly how much of a giant bag of shite on a rope you are on a static line jump. Even so, I still felt the rush.

Continue reading "National Airborne Day 2015 - The Video Edition" »


National Airborne Day 2015

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The first official Army parachute exercise was conducted on August 16, 1940.  The Army Test Parachute Platoon convinced "the powers that be" that forcible entry or mass vertical envelopement - or whatever you want to call dropping thousands of pissed off paratroopers to take and hold ground until reinforcements arrive - was possible.  On August 15, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division was re-purposed and renamed...well, you know damn well what they were renamed...AIRBORNE!

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This led to the creation of a force of airborne soldiers that included the 11th, 13th, 17th, and 101st Airborne Divisions.  

These men knew, as do Airborne men and women of today, that, in the air and certainly upon landing, will be outnumbered by the enemy, surrounded, and have to fight like hell until they are reinforced by heavier ground units...in many cases, surprising and quickly killing the enemy is the only way that they will survive.

In November of 1942, just a few months after the unit was formed, those paratroopers would perform the first combat jump into North Africa.

AirborneAirborne 1943 - Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division jump en mass, during a demonstration at Oujda, French Morocco, North Africa, on 3 June 1943, shortly before the Sicily invasion. (World War II Signal Corps Collection).  Photo courtesy of SOCOM.

In 2001, President George W. Bush proclaimed that August 16th was National Airborne Day.  In 2002, he issued this proclamation, which more or less, has been designated by Congress.  That means that you Legs have to deal with our glorious egos for one whole day.

Here is the first proclamation from President GW Bush:

The history of airborne forces began after World War I, when Brigadier General William Mitchell first conceived the idea of parachuting troops into combat. Eventually, under the leadership of Major William Lee at Fort Benning, Georgia, members of the Parachute Test Platoon pioneered methods of combat jumping in 1940. In November 1942, members of the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, conducted America's first combat jump, leaping from a C-47 aircraft behind enemy lines in North Africa. This strategy revolutionized combat and established airborne forces as a key component of our military.

During World War II, airborne tactics were critical to the success of important missions, including the D-Day invasion at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Southern France, and many others. In Korea and Vietnam, airborne soldiers played a critical combat role, as well as in later conflicts and peacekeeping operations, including Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm, Haiti, Somalia, and the Balkans. Most recently, airborne forces were vital to liberating the people of Afghanistan from the repressive and violent Taliban regime; and these soldiers continue to serve proudly around the world in the global coalition against terrorism.

The elite airborne ranks include prestigious groups such as the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, "Sky Soldiers," 82nd Airborne Division, "All American," and the "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Airborne forces have also been represented in the former 11th, 13th, and 17th Airborne Divisions and numerous other Airborne, glider and air assault units and regiments. Paratroopers in the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps, the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment and other Special Forces units conduct swift and effective operations in defense of peace and freedom.

Airborne combat continues to be driven by the bravery and daring spirit of sky soldiers. Often called into action with little notice, these forces have earned an enduring reputation for dedication, excellence, and honor. As we face the challenges of a new era, I encourage all people to recognize the contributions of these courageous soldiers to our Nation and the world.

Now, therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 16, 2002, as National Airborne Day. As we commemorate the first official Army parachute jump on August 16, 1940, I encourage all Americans to join me in honoring the thousands of soldiers, past and present, who have served in an airborne capacity. I call upon all citizens to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-seventh.

George W. Bush

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Today, Airborne forces of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force serve around the world.  Not only did they volunteer to go into harm's way and be tired, cold, wet, and hungry, they also volunteered to be delivered to that fight by a very violent and risky means...

 

Today is the day that we honor those who have honored that commitment - past and present.

ALL THE WAY!

#NationalAirborneDay


Ghost Fleet - A Review

Ghost Fleet.  PW Singer & August Cole, (2015). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY: 404 pages

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 If you've ever wondered what an operationalized version of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” might look like, noted national security analysts Peter W. Singer and August Cole have a book just for you.  A true triad of military, bureaucrats, and corporations overthrows a long-running government to form an uneasy alliance to run a rather large country.  Singer and Cole throw us the first of many curves by teeing this up, not in the US, but China...or, as they now call themselves, "The Directorate."

 This first fiction effort by the duo delivers wide-ranging action at a frenetic pace. The story begins in outer space and, in mere moments, the action plunges far below the Pacific Ocean's surface.  Throughout the story, as venues change, the reader gasps for breath and delves back in as the action continues.  This is a Tom Clancy-esque thriller with most of the pieces one would expect:  people unexpectedly thrust into difficult situations; well-researched, accurate portrayals of current capabilities; imaginative exploration of new, emerging, or desired technology; as well as good old fashioned palace intrigue and political gamesmanship.  For those making the Clancy connection, you’ll find this book of the Red Storm Rising genre - a look at how a world war type scenario would likely go. 

   Ghost Fleet looks at how the "Pivot to Asia” could go - and it can go bad pretty fast.  It also plays on many of the fears that serious analysts ponder regarding military procurements, military readiness and other economic tradeoffs.

 Buoyed by the massive changes spurred by their recent revolution, the Directorate decides that it is time to achieve their "Manifest Destiny" in the Pacific.  A major energy discovery gives them the opportunity to challenge US supremacy in the Pacific and even take on the US militarily, with the tacit assistance of Russia.  What ensues is a massive and coordinated sneak attack that cripples US capabilities throughout the Pacific Rim, most notably in Hawaii.  The Directorate, now occupying US sovereign territory and positioned to prevent response either from space or across the vast ocean, looks to turn America into a third-rate client state.  To counter this the US decides to reactivate ships (and some aircraft) mothballed by the significant cuts that US politicians foisted upon itself.  This is the rebirth of the Ghost Fleet that gives this story its name.

 It also evokes a slightly different comparison: this is the Navy's version of "Team Yankee".  Team Yankee was a very popular "must read” in the late 1980s, especially popular with the mechanized/armor community of the Army.  It is about warfare at its base level, but with existential impact.  In this case, the crew of a one-of-a-kind ship – rejected by the Navy when cuts were made – is being brought back to life by a crew trying desperately to make it work in very trying circumstances – fights the battle of its life for a noble cause.

 Singer and Cole introduce a number of characters including a Navy Officer whose transition to retirement is rather violently interrupted; a Marine thrust into the role of guerilla; a Sun Tzu-quoting Chinese Admiral; and a seductive assassin.  The story explores the very tempestuous relationship between father and son bonded in a moment of crisis while wrestling with demons of the past.   The duo’s style offers some nice bonuses.  The reader gets a murder mystery. The idea of "privateers” in the 21st Century is presented.   For the geopolitical thinkers, Singer and Cole skewer a lot of the shibboleths of current alliances and ask “who will really ‘step up’ when the going gets tough?”  The authors present some very interesting ideas of what could happen and what could emerge if all the geopolitical knowns were to suddenly change. Rather than distract, these threads are woven into a complex but compelling story that is both provocative and frightening.

 What this book does do well - and in a scary way - is show how pervasive a wired world could be and what would happen if a major actor were to severely upset the proverbial apple cart. Among the discoveries in the opening salvos of The Directorate’s aggression are the vulnerability of so much of the electronics used both in military equipment as well as the networks that course through the US.

  Ghost Fleet explores the extent to which autonomous systems change life and warfare. .  Can we trust the electronics we buy from overseas? Do we depend too much on automatic, autonomous and “linked” systems in our basic and daily lives?  What if a major competitor played on those fears with ruthless precision and execution?   This will confirm the worst fears of the Luddite or conspiracy theorist.  Those that are on the fence about the impact of autonomous systems will likely find that this book tips them one way or the other. 

Two things that one would expect to find in such styled books are not found in this one.  One is probably the book’s only serious flaw. The story does not give time stamps and the reader may not realize that the scenario has advanced in time as it changes chapter.  Without this context, the reader may become confused on why or how things changed so fast within the story.

The other creative difference is a positive: there is very little discussion of the machinations of the American politicians.  Singer and Cole - in a choice very likely calculated to avoid the politics of the moment - do not really describe much, if anything about the moves, motives, or response of the President, or most of the National Security apparatus.  While the Secretary of Defense is omnipresent, no one else is - nor are there any real discussions on the national politics at play.  Some may be greatly disappointed by this while others may find it a welcome departure in the genre.

Although cyberspace capabilities are a significant aspect of the storyline, this is not a book about “cyber war.”  If anything, this is may be the first real exploration of Demchakian "cybered conflict" in story form. Cybered Conflict is a construct provided by Naval War College professors Chris Demchak and Peter Dombrowski.  The premise is that the nature of conflict remains the same but that cyberspace capabilities add a new dimension.  They further purport that cyberspace is not a separate domain, per se, but is instead just another aspect of how humans interact and compete.  Cyberspace is itself not decisive but can certainly tip the scale in an existential conflict.  There are ample examples in this book on how this could occur. It is certain to ignite debate on the nature of “cyber war”.  

Thriller readers will find this a welcome addition to their collections.  Thinkers, advocates, policy wonks, geeks and nerds will all find something to chew on that will confirm or challenge their own biases.  Scheduled for a June release, this highly recommended story is a daring look at the fusion of traditional and modern warfare, delivered at "machine speed".