December 15, 2004

Can a Paratrooper Be a Wingman?

Seriously, I'm the best damn Wingman out there.  I'm a professional.

Some interesting entertaining articles about other Wingmen was sent by Roger:

What Is A Wingman - How it Works

Wingperson becomes commodity in dating

Posted by Blackfive on December 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Absent Companions - Sergeant Hook

Sergeant Hook's blog is leaving the blogosphere.  I've received about fifty or sixty emails and I've tried to answer each one.

To a one, they all ask for me to use whatever undue influence I may have with Hook to encourage him to keep blogging.  Believe me when I say that I already have.  I want him to keep writing as much as you do.  But also ask yourself if you ever heard of an Officer influencing a Sergeant Major to do anything?...really.

Sergeant Hook has chosen his soldiers over his blog.  I know that you all understand that, as much as you don't like it.  Leaders have to make tough decisions every day. 

For Hook, and unfortunately for us, that was an easy one for him to make.

Posted by Blackfive on December 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Great MilBlog

Redsix (the callsign for a MilBlogger in Fallujah) drinks Tabasco to win over his men and then unleashes hell on Fallujah...cool.

Here is First Lieutenant Neil Prakash of Armor Geddon - a Soldier You Should Know.

Thanks to Tim Oren for the head's up on Prakash.

Posted by Blackfive on December 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

Gunner Palace - Coming to a Theater Near You Soon

I've posted about Michael Tucker's Gunner Palace before - specifically, the Rap Video and the Jimi Hendrix Style Soldier Video (Specialist Wilfenstein on a Baghdad roof).

Now, the Gunner Palace Trailer is out.  Gunner Palace will hit theaters in March, 2005.

It's not pro-war or anti-war, it's just about war and the soldiers who were there.

Posted by Blackfive on December 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"This Is The Real America..."

Via Seamus, comes this email from Sergeant Mike Stutzke - a soldier in the Washington Army National Guard - who was home on leave in September.  Sergeant Stutzke is a Corrections Officer in Airway Heights, WA, when not in the Guard.  Stutzke's father is a Viet Nam vet who has stated that he is glad his son is treated differently than the way he was treated when he came home.

This is the real America ignored by CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS

I am a member of the Washington National Guard, an infantry squad leader, assigned to the 1st Calvary division, in Baghdad Iraq. After spending approximately 6 months in Iraq, I got to go home on leave. I had many people, strangers, walk up to me and thank me in a variety of different ways. I would like to share some of the experiences I had while traveling across our great country.

Some of the people would look at me, and quickly look away when I looked at them, eventually they would say something. Some would see me from across the airport or wherever I was, and make a B-line to me and say something. They all appeared to have nothing in common, some were old men, old women, young men and women and children. I enjoyed the children the most, the way they look at a soldier, with wide eyes and open admiration. I told each of them about my daughter who was at home who I was getting to see after a long time of being away from her.

Most started out the conversation by asking where I was going, or where I was coming from, others asked if I had been in Iraq. When I told people I was on leave from Iraq, they all made some kind of physical contact, shaking hands, putting a hand on my shoulder or arm, and a surprising number hugged me.

Some bought me drinks, some bought me lunch, some gave up their first class seat to me, some shared stories about their family members or friends who were in Iraq, and each asked me if I knew their family member or friends. Some asked for my address to send care packages to me and my platoon. All were incredibly polite, thankful, and inspiring.

Some, who spoke to me, did so with a red face, some with tears in their eyes, some crying. Each were, once again, inspiring.

The people who I spoke with made a lasting impression on my life, to me it was awe inspiring. I wish everyone could experience the love and appreciation I felt while traveling home to see my family.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people who have inspired me.

To the people at the Bangor Maine airport, who where there at 5:30 am with coffee, cell phones, cookies, a handshake or a hug. THANK YOU!

To the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport fire department (real American heroes), who showered our plane with water, with their lights flashing, giving us a "heroes welcome". THANK YOU!

To the people at the Dallas/Ft.Worth airport, who applauded, shouted, held up "welcome home" banners, handed out water, and made us feel great. THANK YOU!

To the bartender who bought me a drink at the Sacramento airport, who only said to me, "Thanks" THANK YOU!

To the man at the Sacramento airport who spent almost 2 hours just visiting with me and insisted on getting my address so he and his company could send me and my platoon care packages. THANK YOU!

To the woman at the Sacramento airport who shared her stories of her family members who were in Iraq, shared her fears, hopes and dreams for when they came home. Who hugged me to the point where I didn't think she was going to let go. THANK YOU!

To the cab driver in Portland OR., who was a Vietnam vet., who I had to argue with to pay my cab fair. THANK YOU!

To my daughter, who nearly knocked me over at the airport. I LOVE YOU!

THANK YOU!

To all my family who traveled from all over the state of Washington to have BBQ's with me. I LOVE YOU! THANK YOU!

To the TSA lady at the Spokane airport who shook my hand and hugged me on my way back to Iraq. THANK YOU!

To the maintenance supervisor at the Spokane airport who visited with me and bought my lunch. THANK YOU!

To the women who were going on vacation from Spokane who invited me to be in their group picture. THANK YOU!

To the many, many people at the Denver airport who spoke to me, thanked me, and told me they will pray for me and all the soldiers in Iraq. THANK YOU!

To the woman who approached my friend traveling back to Iraq with me, and said "Thank you." Then later returned and gave us a hundred dollar bill and said "I came across this unexpectedly and want you guys to buy
lunch somewhere nice" Then quickly left the area with tears running down her face. THANK YOU!

To Keith, who I sat next to on one of the flights, who visited with me the hole flight, and offered many things, which I could not accept because I was reporting for duty. THANK YOU!

To my new friends at Belo interactive in Dallas. Who took my friend and me out, welcomed us, then opened their business to us, took us to lunch and just spent time hanging out with us. Who also send our whole platoon care packages every month. THANK YOU!

To all the people at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport who took time out of their schedules to visit with me. THANK YOU!

To all the flight crews who flew us overseas and back. THANK YOU!

To all Americans who support the American soldiers, simply because we are serving all over the world, who we will never meet, or get to personally thank for their enormous support. THANK YOU!

The support, love and respect that I received all across America, is humbling. To be treated like a hero for doing one's job, is something I wish everyone could experience. It is incredible. For the record, none of us consider ourselves heroes, we are just soldiers trying to do a job, then to get home to our families.

I know I've said it many times, but THANK YOU AMERICA.

A grateful American Soldier

Sgt. Mike Stutzke C co 1-161 Infantry Baghdad, Iraq

Sergeant Stutzke patrols Baghdad's Greenzone.  He is due to come home in four months.

Posted by Blackfive on December 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

December 13, 2004

The Future of Democracy - Stangers In A Strange Land Part 2

    "People are hungry to speak out.  They are just waiting for a way to express their ideas.  We are going to find...thousands of bloggers expressing their thoughts from inside the Iraqi world." - Omar of Iraq the Model (from my hand written notes)

    "Through blogging we can spread love more than hate." - Mohammed of Iraq the Model (again, from my notes)

Here is the follow up to yesterday's Strangers In a Strange Land post that I promised.  I'm still waiting to see if the audio transcripts are available from the Global Voices On Line conference.   A lot of bloggers have done their own reporting on the discussions stirred by Omar and Mohammed.

For now, you'll have to settle for this:

1.  Freedom, Democracy, Peace

Imagine what would happen to the spin of the Main Stream Media and Al Jazeera if there were thousands of Iraqi bloggers.  Imagine what that would do for Freedom and Democracy.  Imagine what that would do for Peace.

That's what Spirit of America is all about...Freedom, Democracy, Peace.  And they are doing something about bringing those concepts into reality.

They developed an Arabic Blogging Tool prototype (with help from Iraq the Model and Jeff Jarvis) that will help to stimulate discourse in Iraq.  Not pro-American discourse, just free and open discourse.

I can see it now - "The Arabic Blogosphere - Fact Checking Your Ass Since 2004".

Don't know about you, but people like the folks at Spirit of America and Iraq the Model give me hope for the future.  I remember looking around the dinner table and being proud to be in that company and feeling lucky to have spent the day with them.

2.  I Don't Use The Term "Friend" Lightly 1.0

There were signs on the doors to our lecture hall -  "No Photographs".  The reason behind this is simple - there are dissident bloggers and bloggers who's lives may be in jeopardy who were in attendence - they don't want to go home and get killed, jailed, etc.  Omar and Mohammed are in that category.

Of course, several people still took pictures.  And, no, I didn't bust their chops.  Probably should have, though.

I spoke to Mohammed about the security issue before dinner.  We were standing at the bar when I told him that I thought that he and Omar were very, very courageous.  Of course, Mohammed didn't agree with that.  To make my point, I pulled out my placard from the conference that had my full name and the blog name on it.

"Mohammed, this is the first time that my name has been associated with Blackfive.  I've been careful about it and I live here in the states.  And I don't have death threats and mujahadeen looking for me."

I was trying to make a point of admiring their courage.  It wasn't lost on them.  It just made them uncomfortable.  To good men, that's the correct reaction. 

So we new friends had a few rounds.

3.  "MilBlogs" the Movie

I tried to represent my brother and sister MilBloggers well.  Sgt Hook or Smash or Greyhawk (or the others who have been or are fighting the War) really should have been there instead of me.

We are all different, have different political views, have inter-service rivalries, and are flung far and wide.  We also have our own language.  [More than a few non-military visitors have pointed that out to me.]  In order to reach the maximum amount of people, you need to use the lingua franca (which happens to be English, for now).

Some of us have become activists - whether counter-protesting moonbats, funding resources for our wounded, getting an important Bill passed or just telling the stories that might never be heard.  I never thought I would be an activist, but that's what I've become.

Hoder has a few theories about blogging - there are three types of blogs - Windows, Bridges, Cafes.  Many of us MilBloggers are Bridges.  We connect veterans, military, and others by our blogs.

Another point was that, in order to build a blogosphere, you have to have several bigger bloggers promote the smaller promising blogs.  We MilBlogs were fortunate to have Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt and others write about us in their blogs and in their articles.

I spoke of Mudville getting things started for us and how we've grown as a group.  I spoke about the need for us to counter the negativity of the Main Stream Media - not that there aren't negative stories that need to be told, but that there are hardly any good stories reported.  There are thousands of great stories for every Abu Ghraib.  But good news doesn't sell.

I was asked a few questions.

Jeff Jarvis wanted to know if we MilBloggers were connected with Iraqi bloggers.  I answered that I didn't think so other than by reading blogs.  I am a fan of Iraq the Model but wasn't "connected" to Omar and Mohammed before that first morning coffee across the street from our hotel.

The founder of OhMyNews (a left leaning South Korean amateur reporting phenom) asked an interesting question about reports about many soldiers in comas but not being reported as such.  I responded by first explaining that our body armor, while protecting vital organs, has created the situation where we have more amputees than corpses (a good thing).  But that many are put into drug induced comas to stabilize until they get to the States for treatment.  I said that I highly doubted reports that thousands had nerve damage or were in comas.  I don't think he liked my answer.  I offered to have lunch with him to discuss it further.  Then, I talked to him during a break.

4.  Where the Hell is Phil Carter?

Phil Carter of Intel-Dump was on the guest list, but I didn't see him there (and I was trying to find him to say hello).  He just had a piece in the NYT published so maybe he was busy.

5.  I Don't Use The Term "Friend" Lightly 2.0

I've been wanting to meet Marc Danziger - Armed Liberal of Winds of Change - for some time now.  And I was able to spend time with Tim Oren of Due Dilligence and Winds of Change - which was one of the first blogs on my blogroll when I was a blogspotling.

Let's just say that I about fell over when Tim ordered Laphroaig...I've been drinking Laphroaig for years and never witnessed anyone else ordering it.

Marc drank Oban - another great choice.  Had some myself.

Also with us all day was Donovan Janus.

It wasn't until dinner that I put two and two together - Donovan is the Founder of Exposure Manager - a service where you can store, share, and print your digital photos - and we had talked via email months ago when he offered free photo storage for any military deployed overseas.  Marc put him in contact with me in order to spread the word amongst the troops.  I was able to finally thank him in person for his generosity.

We didn't tie one on, but had a good time.  Everyone was tired, and they were headed for LA the next morning.  I was *slightly* disappointed that we couldn't keep going and that I wasn't going to Roger Simon's house for dinner.

Oh, and it was determined that I need to have a drink (or twenty) with Joe Katzman sometime.

5.  Final (and Weird) Observations

I noticed that the guy (at the conference) talking about his work at Microsoft building their blogging software was using a G4 (Mac).

On the flight home to Chicago, as I boarded the plane, I noticed one of the Soros Open Society folks sitting in First Class.

Draw your own conclusions.

Update: Grim met Omar and Mohammed in DC.

'The Iraqi people will never disappoint you.'

He means, of course, the ones who have not chosen to join the insurgents. But he is dismissive of them, in spite of all they do. What we don't understand, he said, is that the kind of terror they can create is nothing to the people of Iraq. Under Saddam, terror was systemic. It was daily. It meant every night, listening for the police at the door.

'Compared to that, these insurgents are nothing.'

Chap and Patterico met them in Santa Monica.

You can help by donating to Spirit of America's Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge.  It's tax deductible.

Posted by Blackfive on December 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

Strangers in a Strange Land

In a comment on my trip to Harvard to be at the Global Voices OnLine Conference, I said that words can't describe the experience of meeting the brothers from Iraq the Model.  They can't.  But I'll give it a shot.

I'm sitting in Logan right now (6am EST) trying to download and understand all of the information from the last 24 hours.

First, Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine) sums up a bit about the brothers. 

The conference was led by Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon.  They are both brilliant (both in the cool sense and the intelligent sense) and Ethan ROCKED as the host/moderator.  I have a lot of respect for those two.

I met Omar and Mohammed 22 hours ago in the hotel lobby.  They were with Kerry from Spirit of America who sponsored their trip to the conference (and mine as well - THANKS SOA!).  Naturally, the first thing that I said was, "Hey, do you guys want to get some coffee?"

We found our way to the conference.  While waiting for things to kick off, the brothers had a smoke outside (having to smoke outside is intriguing to them), we talked about Harvard.  We joked about a school in America being old after a few hundred years, but in Iraq, a few millenia earns an institution that title.

Often you hear/read about people chosing to read blogs based on which bloggers they would rather have a beer with...Omar and Mohammed are no exception to that rule.

Once the conference began, I looked around.  Sitting on my left was Jeff Jarvis.  Yeah, I was sitting next to Jeff Jarvis...never thought THAT would ever happen.  On my right, Armed Liberal.  In the seats in front of me were Omar and Mohammed.  Behind me was Jim Hake, Tim Oren, and several boy geniuses.

Hey, over there.  That's Dan Henninger from the WSJ.

Over across the way was Hoder, Jeff Ooi (the guy can write), Joi Ito, Isaac Mao and many, many others.  All politics aside, the bloggers at the conference are some of the best and brightest thinkers (especially about blogging as a communication tool). 

Oh yeah, the Soros people were everywhere too (as they were sponsors of the conference).

With company like that, I wondered what kind of reception a MilBlogger might receive. 

As much as I was a fish out of water, the brothers from Iraq the Model must have felt like strangers in a strange land.  They were the first up to bat and I would follow...

Gotta catch my flight to Chicago - Part 2 will be posted later where you find out what's in store for Iraq, whether there are thousands of brain dead soldiers being hidden from the media, and if Tim, Marc, Mohammed, Jeff, Jim, Omar, Kerry, Donovan, Janice and I really did tie one on...

Update 12-13-04:  Here is Part 2.

Posted by Blackfive on December 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 11, 2004

Sergeant Bozik Update

Here's an update on Sergeant Joseph Bozik who you have helped tremendously through prayers and substantial donations (you people ROCK!!!).  I'll place some recent pictures associated with the emails below in the Extended Section (you can click on the thumbnails for larger images).

Joey is having a rest from surgery this week.  He will go to casting on Tuesday and also the hand doctor will remove 3 pins from his left hand.  The other pins and metal plates will be removed surgically.  He is still running fever, 101.8 this a.m.   It seems to fluctuate so keep praying about this acinedobacter, bacteria the soldiers are bringing back from Iraq in their wounds.  It is resistant to antibiotics.  This morning was a setback as he was overmedicated with morphine and had to be reversed with versaid (sp.)  I stay by his side so that these mistakes can be caught right away.
Joey is placed in an electronic wheel chair and taken to occupational therapy.  Yesterday, a demonstration for voice acitvation for electronic devices, such as tv, lights, etc. was done for Joey and hopefully he will have this help in his room and his residence if it gets approved financially by the government. 
Joey is still his wonderful, sweet self with a big smile.  He keeps me upbeat and everyone around him.  Keep praying and helping us through these months.
Love,
Gail and Joey
Purple Heart Pinning on Dec. 5th by Gen. McNeill (Joey guarded him in Afghanistan for 7 months before going to Iraq.
And here's another update from a few hours ago:
Thought you might want to see this upclose pic of Joey and his Purple Heart.  His commander emailed me yesterday to say that he has requested another award called the Bronze Star.  I hope Joey can receive it too.  I'll keep you posted. 
The doctors are still trying to regulate his pain medicine this week.  His blood count is 8.7 so he is feeling a little tired.  He goes to casting on Tuesday to remove the cast to check his left stump.  Pray all will look well and they don't have to open it again for that bacteria and that the skin graft is ok.  Also on Tues. they will remove 3 pins from left hand.
Monday, MSNBC, Chris Matthews with Hardball is suppose to interview Joey.  If this happens, it will air on Wed. night I think.  You can double check this as I may have it all wrong.  Also, MTV called Joey and talked for long time.  The interviewer is presenting Joey's life story to his bosses to see if MTV wants to do an documentary on him.  I'll let you know if this is successful.  Also, CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) wants to interview Joey.  Pray about all this.  I want God to receive the praise and glory.  Joey was in his coma upon arriving from Germany and on the 3rd day he opened his eyes and said, "Dad, come here Dad, this is my calling".  He laid back down and closed his eyes. He was still in the coma for several day.  Later,  we asked Joey if he knew anything and he said no.  We are taking this as comfort that his life is in God's hands and that his deceased Dad of 24 yrs. visited us through Joey to comfort us.  May God Bless all you good people.
Keep praying for us.
Love,
Gail and Joey Bozik
One last thing, Sergeant Bozik is going to marry his fiance on December 31st in a brief ceremony (they'll do the whole wedding/party thing later).  Any ideas on what we should do?  Start a registry or just donate?
The last update for Sergeant Bozik is here.  Pictures are below.

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Above:  General McNeil pins Purple Heart on Sergeant Bozik

Below:  Wounded hero, Sergeant Joseph Bozik

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Posted by Blackfive on December 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004

Rumsfeld And Military Discontent

I have received a few emails that were mostly critical that I didn't post something about Donald Rumsfeld's latest remarks to troops in Kuwait.  From the New York Times:

...One soldier, Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit, said his unit had been forced to dig through local landfills to find enough scrap metal to bolt on to their trucks for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq.

Another soldier from an Idaho National Guard unit asked what Mr. Rumsfeld and the Army were doing to addresses shortages and outdated equipment that reservists were taking into Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld responded that the Army was sending armored vehicles to Iraq as fast as it could, but growing frustrated with the complaints, he then retorted: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want."

Then, of course, the Democrat response:

"I was deeply disappointed to hear Secretary Rumsfeld's callous and dismissive attitude toward our troops," Representative Martin Meehan, a senior Massachusetts Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "When confronted with multiple instances of National Guard units about their lack of preparedness and equipment, it is the responsibility of the secretary of defense to fix the problem, not disregard the concerns. Secretary Rumsfeld's dismissive attitude simply should not be tolerated."

Mr. Meehan called on President Bush to dismiss Mr. Rumsfeld, barely a week after asking the secretary to stay on the job in his second administration.

Now, a few emailers point to this confrontation as a failure of the administration to properly conduct the military in war.  And they point to it as a failure on my part to criticize the administration.  I've been critical of the administration and Republicans.

As you might recall, I had pushed for the Rapid Acquisition Authority Bill to be sent out of the Senate Armed Services Committee and into a vote.  The RAAB gave commanders the ability to make purchases that would protect their troops in a combat zone - purchases without going through the laborious and lobbyist intense acquisition process for the Pentagon.

Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats killed the bill.  Their excuse was that the 2005 Defense Budget addressed the need for Rapid Acquisition. 

They were/are incorrect.

Commanders in the field need the ability to quickly acquire materials - whether it's heavy steel plating to "armor" trucks or vehicle parts to keep equipment running - and they need it last year.

But, back on topic, did Rumsfeld do something wrong?  Did he finally slip up and show his true hand at the town hall meeting?

Why don't you read about it from the MilBlogs?

Sergeant Missick was actually at the meeting

2Slick has some points about the meeting, Rumsfeld, and armor in general.  He also relates it to an experience he had with the Clinton Administration.

And Froggy Ruminations has had similar experiences with the Chief of Naval Operations.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

The President That You Never Hear About

Below is a link to one of many stories about the President's recent visit to Camp Pendleton on Tuesday to speak to the Marines and their families.


San Diego Union Tribune


In all of the stories about the President's visit, there are many soundbites and a lot of quotes of the President praising Marines for a job well done in Iraq.


But what you may not know from the MSM is that he was at Camp Pendleton for another reason.  Some of the articles touch briefly on that reason, but they don't (or won't) do it justice.  This is from a Marine Colonel at Pendleton who writes of the President's visit:


...we had the lead for the POTUS visit and I was privileged to spend much of the day with him.  Let me tell you something that was, very deliberately, not in the news.  President Bush came here for two reasons.  To thank the Marines and sailors of Camp Pendleton for all they do, and to meet with the families of our fallen warriors.  The first part was public.  The second - and I believe far more important - was to meet privately with 170 family members who had lost a loved one.  He forbade the press corps from viewing or photographing any of it.

The Plt Sgt Mitchell Paige Fieldhouse (a brand new $12.5m facility) has two basketball courts.  One was curtained off and decks covered where he met with them together.  Then, he met with the family members of each fallen Marine in the other gym individually.  Having had the duty of a Casualty Assistance and Notification Officer many times in the past, I know how emotionally draining it is to talk to even one family at a time.  When we put the President back on Marine One some three hours later, he was as somber and drained as I've ever seen him.  It took an emotional toll on everyone involved.

Obviously, he did not have to make this visit.  He could have delegated that task to anyone to do it for him.  I have great respect for ones that will do the "right" thing, regardless of how tough it is.

Just thought you would like to hear a bit of the background.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Victory for Ohioans in the Armed Forces

Thanks to all who supported the Ohio Patriot Plan.  Below is a message from Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Steve Lynch for you:

Blackfive:

Great news on the Ohio Patriot Plan - it passed UNANIMOUSLY in the Ohio Senate yesterday afternoon!!  By early next week it is expected to be "reconciled" with the original House version, and then move on to the Governor's office for signature early in January!!.  This is really great news for Ohioans in the military and their family members.  I sincerely believe that without your help and the help of other bloggers who linked to http://www.blackfive.net, that the bill would have died in committee.  Please accept my sincere thanks for all of your help and please convey my thanks to all those who have answered the call. 

I would encourage supporters to e-mail/fax/write or call in a word of thanks to the bill's primary sponsor, Peter Ujvagi (v:614-644-6017, f:614-644-9494, district47@ohr.state.oh.us), and do the same for any other legislators you may have contacted.  They came through for the men and women in uniform who could not be here to fight for themselves - because they are away from home fighting for us.  Not only is our thanks in order, but it can help to keep the path open for further legislative progress on issues of direct interest to Ohioans in the military - such as tax relief.  There is the possibility that in 2005 a bill will be introduced to exempt from Ohio state income tax ALL Ohioans in the military who are stationed outside of Ohio.  Similar legislation is already the law of the land for Pennsylvania, New York, California and elsewhere.  More to follow.

Again, many, many thanks, Blackfive, Happy Holidays.  I haven't posted the news - I thought I'd let you know directly first.


Sincerely,


Steve
Thank you all.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smashing a Deserter

Deserter Pablo Paredes refuses deployment as a protest against war...and MilBlogger Smash writes him a letter.

...In the big scheme of things, your action will have no impact on the war. The Bonhomme Richard sailed out of San Diego on Monday, along with her entire battle group. Your attempted desertion may have caused a media stir, but you did not delay the battle group’s departure by so much as a minute. The embarked Marines are on their way to the Sandbox, to perform the mission that they were trained to do.

You did, however, manage to @#$% up your own future...

Smash attempts to have a man-to-man chat with Paredes.

Update:  Heh.  Sgt. Hook labels him a Disgrace You Should Know...aside from Hollywood and a very, very few in the military, there aren't enough of those to start a series with that title.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Want to Send a Message to a Soldier in Iraq...

...but don't know one or have an address?

Air Force Sergeant and blogger, Slaglerock, has an option for you.  His friend is heading for Iraq on December 24th and will hand carry your comments/messages to the soldiers there.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

BBC Video - Fallujah - Marine Assault

This is a BBC video by Paul Wood covering U.S. Marines during the attack on Fallujah.  It is about 20 minutes total, but the footage is outstanding and well worth watching the entire thing.  It does have some graphic footage. 

It contains interviews, then fighting at about the five minute mark.

Posted by Blackfive on December 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Military Transformation

Winds of Change has a new chapter for their MilStuff for Dummies series.  This one is on Force Structure

It's a good read for all - novices and experts - as it depicts the transformation from Cold War orientation to modularization.  The content includes links to more detail for those military *ahem* enthusiasts who want more information.

Posted by Blackfive on December 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

Compassion From Killers - Marine Commander Speaks Out

    "We're going out where the bad guys live, and we're going to slay them in their ZIP code."  - Marine LtCol Mark Smith, Commander of 2/24 Marines before the Assault on Fallujah.

The following is an email from Marine LtCol Mark Smith who commands the 2/24 Marines - a Reserve Battalion out of the great city of Chicago.  LtCol Smith is an Indiana State Trooper in civilian life.  The New York Times recently wrote an article about 2/24 (thanks to JarheadDad for the link).  Here is what the LtCol has to say:

If you will indulge me a few moments of your time, I feel absolutely compelled to share some thoughts with you, based on some recent events.

I have expressed with you on many occasions that I am a simple man. To me "class" is where you go in school and "sophisticated" is drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon from a bottle, and while wearing a tie.  With that said, and with the disclaimer that for me "art appreciation" was a required class before I could be commissioned in the Marine Corps and learn how to kill things and blow trash up, not a skill; I would like to communicate to you a recent masterpiece I was subject to.

You see, I like to think of God as an artist.  His painting is life, his subjects are us and his canvas is the earth we live on.  Now, under normal conditions, you see the painting and only identify the biggest shapes and the brightest colors.  However, either when one takes the time to focus, or when situations of intensity change the prism through which you view the painting, you start to notice the incredible amount of work that the artist puts into his creation.  You notice subtly of color.  You notice various shapes.  You notice fine details.  You notice intricate patterns. You notice connection and blending and contrast and shadow.  You find yourself immersed in the study of the work and inside the mind of the artist, trying to see and FEEL what he was thinking as he created.

In the attached photo [Blackfive note: Click on thumbnail below to enlarge picture], I would ask you to take the TIME TO FOCUS.  In focusing, I believe you will see what I am talking about!  It is a picture of some of our Marines and Sailors on an operation we run as frequently as we can that we call "CandyCaps."  These are ops where we send the Marines into an area, solely to distribute candy, toys and hygiene items to the kids of an identified neighborhood.

Showletter

Now, as you FOCUS on the photo, please keep in mind the following while studying the photo.  The Marine and Sailor in the photo have seen more than their fare share of violence!  They have seen death.  They have seen IEDs explode on their patrols.  They have been engaged in firefights, have seen their fellow Marines and brothers injured and bleeding, have patched many an Iraqi who was the victim of insurgent and terrorist violence, and have stood by my side as we recovered and transported our fallen and honored dead. They could easily be filled with hate, rage and indifference! 

Now, as you FOCUS on the photo, please keep in mind the following while studying the photo.  The woman in the photo has known a life of repression and poverty.  She lives in squalor and draws her water from a wastewater infested canal.  She has been inundated her whole life with a hate of Americans and everything western.  She has probably known countless dozens who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in a previously psychotic "nation" known as Iraq.  She could easily be filled with hate, rage and indifference!

Now, I ask you, in the Marine and Sailor, do you see hate, rage and indifference?  I don't!  I see compassionate, kind, gentle Warriors who are showing love of their fellow human beings.  I see the best humanity has to offer in the worst of human conditions.  I see what we bring to the oppressed of the world, HOPE, and it comes in the form of a UNITED STATES MARINE and one of the UNITED STATES NAVY'S FINEST who serve with them.

Now, I ask you, in the woman, do you see hate, rage and indifference?  I don't.  I see JOY!  The pure joy that can be the only explanation of a smile that cuts to your core and says "good servants are at work here."  I see beauty!  In a land where just surviving is a challenge and living is a daily and fantastically hard chore, and where there are few amenities, I see a woman that is strikingly beautiful.  I believe my wife will forgive me, as I am quite sure she too will see the natural beauty of this woman, that is enhanced by the quality of her smile that is fueled by the pure joy of being on the receiving end of something she has rarely, if ever, known:
true unsolicited COMPASSION!

And, the Masterpiece of God's work on this one, as always with the Lord, is: the child.  Look closely, what do you see?  I see only two things.  One, the comfort that all children should know: the comfort of being held in their mother's arms nestled in the warmth of her bosom.  Two, the unbridled curiosity of "who are these Gentle Giants who bring my mother joy?"  At her tender age, the question beckons with no answer, for the mind is not yet developed.  But the question will continue to beckon.  And, in God's masterpiece, and through the work of his hands, the question will stir in the young girls mind for many years to come.  Particularly in her formative years, the question will beckon, and she will judge manhood against the answer.  And I believe that on this day, and in this way, God has planted not only the question that will beckon through the years, but the answer that will echo through the winds, with a hush that comforts the weary and oppressed.  Yes, when the question beckons, who are the Gentle Giants, the winds will echo in the memory and whisper into the mind..."Marines, Marines, Marines."  This will not square with the diatribe of hate, and the cycle will be broken.

Yes, God is a Master, life his masterpiece, and your Marines some of his finest work.

WE ARE WINNING!  Stay safe and strong until you are reunited with your loved one.

LtCol Mark A. Smith
Mark A. Smith, LtCol USMCR
TF 2/24 Commanding Officer, 24 MEU
Mahmudiyah, Iraq
"Mayhem from the Heartland"
or as the terrorists call us
"The Mad Ghosts"

The 1st Marine Division's motto is "No better friend, no worse enemy."  It seems that LtCol Smith's 2/24 is just that...

Posted by Blackfive on December 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Why Americans Fight

I believe that a lot of MilBloggers were hit with an email from a Sophomore in High School requesting some information - basically his teacher is getting the students to compare All Quiet on the Western Front to today's Iraq War.  I answered the email and, apparently, so did American Soldier.  While our responses were similar, I also questioned the vast educational, political, and economic differences between 1918 Germany and America today. 

The email is in the Extended Section.  How would you answer it?

My name is Misha and I currently attend Shorewood High School in my sophomore year. In our English class, we have recently been looking at many blogs on the Internet about the Iraq war, because we are currently reading "All Quiet On The Western Front" and comparing the epic war book about WWI from the German point of view with the Iraq war today.
First of all, would you have happened to read All Quiet On The Western Front because if not, It is a very interesting book to read and it makes your mind really think. It is a war novel talking about the trench fighting of the newly recruited teens in the war on the German side, and I really liked how this was the first book about war which I have read about another sides point of view other than the United States.
I have accumulated many questions over the time of reading this book and discussing it in class, but I would highly appreciate it if you would take the time and answer these few questions comparing your everyday war experiences with the story from All Quiet On The Western Front.
In All Quiet On The Western Front, I have recently read about how the main character kills a French man, and all the guilt he feels. He even wants to keep the family of the soldiers' address, so that he can send money to them anonymously. In the Iraq war, what do soldiers on the U.S. side do when they kill a man with force or at close distance and see what they have really done?
In the book, there are rankings for every soldier just like in any other war, but a higher ranking soldier in this book, Himmelstoss, is a huge jerk to the privates and other soldiers ranked lower than him, even though many other troops have higher rankings than Himmelstoss. In the Iraq war, do higher ranked officials treat other soldiers like this? And if they do, what do the soldiers do to stop these actions?
In the book, the main character starts to feel a little crazy and is sent on a "vacation" to visit back home and to take more training courses; in the Iraq war, do troops still get sent back to training even after they have arrived in Iraq and started fighting? Also, are the short breaks from war to visit families even possible in this war?

My final question is: what inspired you and some of your friends to enlist in the army and go off to war? In the book, the young soldiers talk about how their old teacher persuaded and inspired them into joining the army, but out of knowing all the risks of joining the army at times like this, what encouraged you to do this?
Thank you for your time and a reply would be very kind,
Misha

Posted by Blackfive on December 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

December 03, 2004

Does Enlisted Time Make An Officer A Better Leader?

Based on a few threads generated from some posts here, there has been discussion and many, many emails to me about the topic of the difference between Officers who have been prior Enlisted and those who have not.

I was a Sergeant before becoming an officer - more commonly known in the Army as a Mustang.  Many of the men that I served with would like to believe that I was a good leader based on my previous experience as an enlisted man.

I believe that this is not true.  Sure, my experiences in the Special Operations side of the house gave me a lot of responsibility at a very young age and helped me to see how things SHOULD be done.  Most Officers that I've met who were previously SF, have been incredible leaders.  But they are the exception rather than the rule.

Officers spend approximately 30% or more of their careers in training and education.  They have the tools to lead and to do great work.  Some just don't have the capacity to execute leadership and mission accomplishment, though.

I've known Mustangs who were the worst officers in the service.  Some just became officers in order to stop painting rocks or pull KP.  I've known West Pointers who were absolutely terrible, too. 

There is no formula other than caring about your troops and doing the best job that you can - whether you are the Mess Hall Officer or a Ranger Commander.  Being a leader is like defending a hill top - there is never a finish line, never a time when you can sit there and look around and say "This defensive position is good enough".  Constant improvement and attention to the details of your unit's mission never stop.  Take care of your troops and they will take care of you.  Taking care of the troops also means kicking them in the ass when needed, but also patting them on the back when they deserve it, too.

Any job is what you make of it (military or civilian).  You can make it more than what it is if you want to...it's all up to you.  Some people, whether they had enlisted experience or not, just don't want to be the best that they can be.  They might care about their careers but they just don't care about their troops.  You all know someone like that.

No amount of Enlisted experience would ever change that.

Posted by Blackfive on December 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (60) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

Sergeant Hook is Home!!!

Sergeant Hook says goodbye to his troops in Afghanistan after eight months and heads home to find his new billet somewhere as a Sergeant Major.

Finally!  Instead of hearing it from Hook about a Soldier, we now get to say to him, "I'm proud of you, Soldier!"

Posted by Blackfive on December 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I'm An Abberation...

And so are a lot of you. 

Good point.

Posted by Blackfive on December 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Blog Challenge

The Donovan has another interesting post about the SOA Blog Challenge and the Fighting Fusileers.  And here is the roster of the team:

Posted by Blackfive on December 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2004

Tie Stick a Yellow Ribbon (Magnet)

First, let me say that I have been (pleasantly) surprised by the amount of cars with the yellow ribbon magnets on them.  Usually, they have the words "Support Our Troops" on them.  It's a welcome sight as I recently moved from downtown Chicago  (which means there's no support your troops magnets) to the suburbs (where about every other car has at least one ribbon magnet) - they've got them for POW/MIA and God Bless the USA, too.

I want to thank all of those people that spent $5 at Walgreens to buy a magnet that displays their patriotism and support for our troops.  Just one thing though (and it's going to make some of you angry at me)...

How about spending $5 (or $50 or $500) really supporting the troops?

I don't mean to pick on Walgreens.  I was filling up my truck with gas the other day and the guy next to me noticed my veteran license plates.  And he told me about the magnets. 

I have a few friends who work for Walgreens.  It's a great company - one of the very best.  But I haven't heard that the profits from those magnets are going to help the troops.  And Walgreens is certainly not the only place where you can buy them...my point is that displaying your support and actually supporting the troops are two very important but very different actions.

So think about it and ask those nice people (with the best intentions) who display their support to spend their hard earned money on organizations that truly support the troops.  You might say, "Hey, that's great that you support the troops!  Have you heard of Soldier's Angels or Spirit of America?"

Soldiers' Angels and Spirit of America, while two of my favorites, are not the only organizations out there that help our military (and most are non-profits so your donations are tax deductible).

Look into donating money to these two foundations:

    A. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation

    The SOWF provides scholarships for the children of Special Operations soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have lost their lives (in training or combat). A few dollars would go a long way in providing for the children of those who have died defending America. 

    B. United Warrior Survivor Foundation

    UWSF offers scholarship grants to surviving spouses, along with educational counseling, financial guidance, investment planning, and other programs.

Or think about donating your unused frequent flyer miles for a soldier to visit his or her family. Check out Operation Hero Miles.

Operation Gratitude - another site where you can help send care packages to troops in Iraq.

Books For Soldiers - it's one more way to show troops that you care.

Operation AC - Commenter Retread reminds me to include this charity which sends 110v single phase air conditioners to our troops in Iraq. They also send medical supplies to the Combat Support Hospitals for both injured American Soldiers and for the staff, as well as care packages to our troops overseas.

AnySoldier - a great organization that provides soldier contacts where you can read through the names and select the ones you wish to support. They list what they need and want, we even have a search capability so you can easily identify what units need.

Keystone Soldiers also takes care of soldiers by adoption, matching pen pals, or sending care packages.

Adopt-A-Platoon - another source for adopting soldiers who don't have someone on the homefront.

And, for the more martial people out there, you can even Adopt-A-Sniper.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, and their eligible family members and survivors, when in need. To do this, counseling, loans, grants, various services, and referral to other community resources are available. There are no fees for such help. The Society, operating in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, administers nearly 250 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases around the world.

Whatever steps that you take to take care of our troops - no matter how large or small - will resonate beyond just one American soldier.

Someone that was referred by this site to Soldiers Angels also was responsible for donating their extra frequent flyer miles to bring a family to see their wounded soldier at Walter Reed. Just some simple actions made all the difference in the world.

Displaying your support is wonderful, but, please, think about how you can actually support our troops. The men and women fighting around the world can't see the magnet stuck to your car.  Pick one of the organizations above to support the troops - show that you care about their lives while they defend yours.

Thank you.

Posted by Blackfive on November 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

November 29, 2004

Negotiate with OBL?!

The only negotiating should be our size 12 shoe right up his...

But if you want to know who really thinks that we should negotiate with bin Laden, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross lays it out for you...

Posted by Blackfive on November 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Apache Rescues Kiowa Crew

Stuart sends this one from Ft. Hood:

On the wing of an Apache
1st Cav. pilots make daring rescue
By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel - 122nd MPAD

CAMP TAJI, Iraq –For two Apache Longbow pilots, the night of Oct. 16 was just a regular night flying a reconnaissance mission around southern Baghdad. A distorted cry for help came across the emergency radio shattering the chatter of all other communications. They recognized the call sign, they recognized the area and a few minutes later, they were in route to perform what would become a heroic rescue.

“I really couldn’t make out at first what was going on. The transmission over the radio was broken up and weak, but I could make out that it was a distress call,” said Lodi, Ca native Chief Warrant Officer Justin Taylor, an Apache pilot, with Company C, 1st Battalion 227th Aviation Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

At first, the transmission seemed as though it might be coming from U.S. Marine Corps aircraft. The call sign speaking to the downed aircraft was of Marine Corps designation Taylor said. He radioed to Marine Corps headquarters asking if any aircraft of theirs was down in the area, to which the response came back negative. Then a call sign familiar to Taylor and Capt Ryan Welch, the air mission commander, came across the guard, or emergency channel.

“We’re in zone 43….” came the weak transmission

“I recognized the area and immediately made the decision that we were going to break from our sector and go over to the area,” said Lebanon, N.H. native Welch. “Those were our guys on the ground and we had to help. My first thought was we would provide aerial security.”

As the team changed flight paths they notified the USMC aircraft of their intention as well as calling back to 4th BCT headquarters to alert them to their movement. When they arrived on station they began trying to contact the pilots on the ground.

“As soon as we told the Marines what we were doing, a call came up on the guard channel, it was the same call sign but a different numerical designation,” Welch explained.

The wounded pilot explained that the previous pilot was unable to respond, that two pilots were killed in action and that he and the other survivor were trying to make their way to a defendable position but having difficulty as one of the wounded was unable to walk.

“When we flew over the sector, we immediately picked up the heat signature of a burning fire,” said Welch.

“But at first we weren’t sure what it was, it kind of looked like one of the many trash fires you see all over Baghdad,” Taylor added.

Flying over the fire to try and get a better look at the ground an excited call came up.

“You just flew over our position,” the transmission informed.

Standard operating procedure has helicopters flying in pairs, one main and one wingman. Welch’s wingman noticed the emergency strobe on the ground and notified Welch of the positive identification.

“Once we had identified the crew on the ground, I made the call that we were going to land and get those pilots out of there,” Welch commented. “I had no idea of the situation on the ground or what the landing zone looked like, so I informed my wingman to fly a tight defensive circle around our position to provide cover if needed. As we landed and I got all the cords off of me, I looked back at JT (Taylor) and told him, if he started taking fire, get this bird out of here, leave me and we’ll collect all of us later.”

Welch had landed his Apache approximately 100 meters from the crash site, armed with his 9mm and an M4 Carbine rifle he set out to collect the downed pilots.

Welch contacted the pilots and asked if they were ready for self-extraction and again it came over the radio that one of the pilots couldn’t walk, they would need help getting out of their location.

“I basically had to stumble my way through an open field, it was treacherous with pot holes and low brush, I stumbled a couple times,” recalled Welch, “but I finally came up on the crash site about ten minutes later.”

When Welch arrived on the scene he saw one pilot standing and one sitting, the two had been able to get a fair distance away from the aircraft.

“As I came up on them, I noticed they looked pretty bad, multiple cuts on their face and both looked like the early stages of shock had set in. I called out to Beck (Chief Warrant Officer Chad Beck, 1st Battalion of the 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division attached to the 4th BCT) who was standing, to get him to help me with Mr. Crow (Chief Warrant Officer Greg Crow, also of 1-25 Aviation). It took a few seconds to get Mr. Beck’s attention as he was visibly shaken and dazed.”

As the two got Crow up and between them to begin the long trek back, the mess of tangled cords attached to all their equipment nearly tripped them up.

“We stumbled initially with all those wire just everywhere… I pulled out my knife and just cut them all away and we took off.”

Carrying two wounded back over the treacherous 100 meters to his waiting Apache, Welch said the time seemed to slow down to an absolute crawl as they inched their way back, working carefully not to further injure Mr. Crow.

“We had to move kind of slow,” he explained. “I swear it probably took us like ten minutes to get back but it seemed like we were out there for hours, I was never so relieved to see JT and my bird sitting there.”

Four personnel, two seats in the Apache. Self-extraction was a maneuver the pilots had been told about in flight school. A maneuver considered dangerous enough that no practical application was given, just the verbal “Here’s how you do it”

Hanging from a pilots flight vest is a nylon strap attached to a carabineer. On each side of the Apache, hand holds are bolted on, primarily to assist maintenance crews as they work on the birds. They also have another purpose, to be used in the event of a self extraction. The general idea being a pilot attaches to the side of the helicopter with the nylon strap wrapped through the hand holds connecting the nylon strap with the carabineer, and then flies off to a safe location.

“I knew getting back to my bird,” explained Welch, “that Mr. Crow was in no position for self extraction that I would have to put him in the front seat. I radioed to JT and told him what I intended to do, Crow in the front seat, Beck and I strapped to the outside.”

At first Taylor just looked at Welch, a little surprised at the plan.

“It kind of surprised me at first and then I just thought, ‘Cool, that’s what we’re going to do,’” said Taylor.

Beck and Welch worked to get Crow into the front seat as Welch explained what was next to Beck.

“At first Beck really didn’t want to leave, his commander had just been killed and he still wasn’t thinking 100% clear”

“I can’t go, I just can’t go,” pleaded Beck but soon enough he understood the situation and then another problem surfaced.

“The mechanism Kiowa pilots use for self extraction is different then the set up Apache pilots use,” explained Welch. “But we finally got it worked out, got Beck hooked up and then secured myself to the aircraft.”

Secured and assuming a defensive posture with his rifle, Welch gave Taylor the thumbs up sign and the Apache lifted off.

“I was a little bit freaked out,” explained Taylor, “you just don’t fly an Apache by yourself, it’s definitely a two man aircraft”

At 90 miles per hour the two helicopters flew 20 kilometers to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon, the closet FOB with a Combat Support Hospital (CSH).

“I only had my night visor on,” said Welch. “I thought my eyes were going to rip out my sockets and that my nose would tear from my face, the wind was so strong.”

Landing on the emergency pad, Welch and Taylor jumped out and helped medical personal take Beck and Crow inside for treatment.

“One of the medics asked me if I was a medical flight pilot,” chuckled Welch. “You should have seen the look on his face when I told him, Nope, I’m an Apache pilot.”

The patients safely delivered to the CSH, the two exhausted pilots looked at each other with the same thought.

“We both climbed back into our bird,” Welch said, “and almost simultaneously said to each other, ‘Lets go home.’”

Posted by Blackfive on November 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I've Re-Enlisted...

...for a new blogwar for Spirit of America (Okay, so SOA likes to call it a "Blog Challenge", not a war).  Once again, the Donovan is gathering the Fighting Fusileers to raise $$$ for the very worthy Spirit of America.  We helped to raise over $50,000 in the last challenge.

Standard

Here is the information on the challenge:

Leading bloggers are competing to raise funds to benefit the people of Iraq. 100% of all donations go to needs selected by these bloggers. Many of our projects support requests made by Americans serving in Iraq (Marines, Army, SeaBees) for goods that help the Iraqi people. Other projects directly support Iraqis who are on the front lines of building a better future for Iraq.

We are joining the Blog Challenge late and are far, far behind in donations.  So, go here and donate to the Spirit of America.  Your donations are tax deductible.

Posted by Blackfive on November 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When Rivalries Return...

While I have been accused of even-handedness when posting about the different branches of the military, there comes a time when the rivalry returns, when I have to take a shot at the Navy...and that time will be at the kickoff of the Army-Navy Game this Saturday.

Goarmy_1I'm a mustang and didn't go to West Point, but I remember a few years that I was overseas where everyone - Enlisted or Officer gathered round to watch the game.  I've been to a few of the games in Philly, too. 

Now, there is no doubt that the Army team is on the way back from the worst record in College Football history.  But if they defeat Navy? 

Well, then, Sailors will be crying the world over, crushed and defeated by one of the worst teams in football.  And that, my friends, is a worthy endevour.

[Hey, Smash, notice how it's not called the Navy-Army Game?]

Posted by Blackfive on November 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Sergeant Bozik - Update 4

Just got an email from Sergeant Bozik's mother, Gail.

Joey was in a lot of pain after this surgery yesterday because the dr. had to cut his bone.  His fever is still running high, 101.9.  They gave him two more pts. of blood during last night.  This means they take vitals every 15 minutes during the 4-5 hour procedure.  We didn't get any sleep but today we are resting better.  Tomorrow, Monday, they take him down to unwrap his leg to check on infections.  The skin graft didn't take and they still have a wound vac on it.  However, Dr. Hampston did close the leg and said he hoped it healed and didn't have to be re-opened.  So pray for this problem.

And here is the latest news story about Sergeant Bozik:

Wounded soldier: I'm going to be OK

Editor’s note: This story is part of an occasional series chronicling the recovery of Army Sgt. Joseph Bozik, who was severely wounded while serving in Iraq.

By GREG OKUHARA
Eagle Staff Writer

The day began like any other for Army Sgt. Joseph Bozik.

He was patrolling an area south of Baghdad, Iraq, when his life turned upside-down in the time it took a roadside bomb to explode.

But despite losing parts of his legs and right arm, Bozik said his future won’t fundamentally be much different than the life he envisioned before the explosion. He’ll still have his fiancee, Jayme Peters, his supportive family, a career and even his beloved game of golf.

“I didn’t realize how bad things really were,” Bozik said, describing his wounds during a telephone interview Monday from his hospital room. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk again. It was hard at first. But having my family and Jayme here has really made a huge difference.

“I’m going to be OK. I’m thankful to be alive.”

Bozik was severely wounded Oct. 29 when the Humvee he was riding in struck a roadside bomb. He lost his left leg about midway down the shin. All that remains of his right leg is his thigh. Bozik’s right arm is gone from the middle of the forearm, and several bones were fractured in his left arm and hand.

He said he still doesn’t remember anything about his ordeal immediately following the explosion, which nearly killed him. Fellow soldiers rushing him to the hospital, the numerous surgeries to stabilize his condition and the quiet times with his fiancee as she lovingly recounted her happy memories with him — none of those events made it into his memory bank.

When Bozik finally woke up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he still was heavily medicated and didn’t realize the extent of his injuries. He thought he had only been shot.

Bozik, who is from North Carolina, is one of about 5,000 U.S. military personnel who have been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom and did not return to duty, according to the Department of Defense Web site. But he acknowledged he’s more fortunate than the 1,230 service men and women who have died and won’t have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays at all.

The makeshift Thanksgiving celebration planned at his hospital room is much better than the alternative, he said.

Peters, a Texas A&M University senior, has been at Bozik’s side since he returned to the United States and said she’ll remain there until he is able to leave the hospital. The recovery process will depend on how long it takes Bozik’s body to heal, a timeline doctors can’t predict, she said.

Not slowing down

Even though his body is not 100 percent of what it used to be, Bozik said he intends on living life to the fullest.

He said he is anxious to begin rehabilitation and already has been told about the different types of prosthetic limbs available. With today’s medical technology, Bozik said, doctors believe he will be able to do 80 percent of the things he did before the explosion.

“As long as I can play golf again,” he said in response to the news that he’d still be able to lead an active lifestyle. “I’m not the kind of person who wants to sit around all day. It’s one of the hardest things to do — lay around in bed and heal.”

His mother, Gail, said she understands the road ahead of them will be tough. There will be painful rehabilitation exercises and a learning curve to get used to the prosthetic limbs.

But she said her son is the kind of person who will take an optimistic approach to the life ahead of him — because she raised him that way.

“As long as he’s got that brain and that wonderful smile, I know he’ll be OK,” she said. “I’m just thankful he’s alive.”

She said watching her son in his wounded condition is “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

“I need to be strong for him because he’s being so strong for me,” she said, breaking up in tears.

Peters said, just like she predicted, Bozik is taking his injuries in stride and with a positive outlook.

“I think he sounds great,” she said. “His attitude is amazing.”

She said he has a full understanding of how his life has been changed and is ready to meet those challenges head-on.

In the meantime, Peters said, she’s eager to celebrate the holiday season with Bozik, something that probably wouldn’t have been possible had he not been wounded. He was scheduled to remain in Iraq until February or March.

“We’re very happy he’s here for the holidays and alive,” she said.

His other family

Although he is spending the holidays with his loved ones, Bozik said he hasn’t forgotten about his close friends in Iraq who won’t have the same joy of eating a Thanksgiving meal with their families.

The stress of combat situations, Bozik said, allows soldiers to forge strong relationships with the others in their company.

“You become very close to the people you work with,” he said. “It becomes more like a brotherhood than just guys who work for you.”

Bozik’s job was to guard the Main Supply Route, the road military vehicles use to carry supplies from the ports in Kuwait to places all over Iraq. He was stationed at a small camp south of Baghdad and helped keep the road clear of Iraqi insurgents’ roadside bombs and ambush sites.

“Every firefight is intense,” he said. “Anytime you have to pull the trigger and fire at someone, it’s not a fun thing to do.”

Bozik said he forged strong friendships as a result of the violent situations he and other soldiers encountered. They became like family to each other. At 26, Bozik was older than many other soldiers with whom he was stationed, so he found himself playing big brother.

“I could give them advice if they were having problems with their girlfriends or whatever,” he said.

Since being wounded, he’s had a chance to speak with some of his friends who still are serving in Iraq. He said they were glad to hear he’s doing well and offered their best wishes. They said they couldn’t wait to visit him when they got back to American soil.

“They saw what I looked like and had to go to combat stress [counseling],” he said. “They were so happy to hear my voice.”

New path

Bozik has lived an extraordinary life in the past few months, but he now he faces an altered version of the future he once saw for himself.

“I do envision myself in the future, what life is going to be like,” he said. “I know things will be different than they would have been [before being wounded], but for some reason, God chose me. I know things will be OK.”

Once he is able to go back to school, Bozik wants to earn a degree in criminology. Initially he wanted to work for the U.S. Marshals, but now he’ll concentrate on getting a job with the Department of Defense or as a consultant, he said. He also would like to work with other amputees and help them return to as much of a normal life as possible.

Bozik said that without the love and support he’s received — from his family, friends and complete strangers — he doesn’t think he would have been able to make such a strong and quick recovery.

“I want to thank Jayme,” he said. “I want to thank her and my mother for staying by my side. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

He’s received about 100 cards from across the country, which Peters said adorn the walls of his hospital room. Not a square inch hasn’t been decorated, and there’s still a couple of dozen cards left.

The support also has come from caring Brazos Valley residents. Peters said Bozik particularly enjoyed a set of support cards he received from a second-grade class at St. Joseph Catholic School.

“The cards made him smile because kids have a tendency to say some funny things,” she said.

Bozik also said he is astounded at the amount of support he has received from complete strangers.

“I wish I could meet every single one of them, shake their hands and thank them for their support,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much it helps me and my recovery.

“It makes me proud to be an American. That’s why I joined the military, to support my country so those supporting me wouldn’t have to.”

Gail Bozik said the presence of Peters has helped her tremendously, as well

“I couldn’t do it without her,” she said. “She’s wonderful. I love her so much. I love her like one of my own.”

Love story

When Bozik talks about the future, he doesn’t stop at the things he’ll be able to do once he is fitted with prosthetic limbs.

In addition to his unfinished schooling, he has unfinished business when it comes to his life with Peters. Bozik said he looks forward to spending the rest of his life with her and starting a family.

One of the things he’s thankful for this season is the opportunity to look at her “beautiful face” once again.

The two plan to get married Dec. 31. It will be a new beginning of their lives together at the beginning of a new year.

Peters said the ceremony will be a small, quiet affair. They will have a larger wedding later when Bozik is able walk down the aisle, something he wants badly to be able to do.

“Our love is there,” she said. “He knows now that I’m here for the long run. I don’t see a guy who doesn’t have two feet or his right hand. I still see the same old Joey. He still has that smile that I love — that dimple in his cheek. I see the whole person, and there’s no way he’s going to get rid of me.”

[Previous Sergeant Bozik Posts: Original, First Update (with pictures of Sergeant Bozik), Second Update, and Third.]

Posted by Blackfive on November 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 27, 2004

And You Thought Your Turkey Was Important?

Angel M. sends this USAToday/Army Times story about soldiers that drove through a car bomb and possible ambush to get turkey to their fellow soldiers.  It has a lot of comments from the troops, too.

Posted by Blackfive on November 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Letter From Fallujah

2Slick posted a must-read letter from an Army Officer who was part of the assualt on Fallujah.

...The enemy tried to fight us in "the city of mosques" as dirty as they could. They fired from the steeples of the mosques and the mosques themselves. They faked being hurt and then threw grenades at soldiers when they approached to give medical treatment. They waived surrender flags, only to shoot at our forces 20 seconds later when they approached to accept their surrender...

And there's plenty more - what they found, the intelligence gathered, etc.  Go check it out.  It's worth your time to read.

Posted by Blackfive on November 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004

Proud Thanks by Russ Vaughn

Proud Thanks

Across the world, in far off lands,

On heaving seas, on desert sands,

You serve our flag, you guard, you fight,

Make despots quake and fear our might.

You show the world a fearsome face,

But do it with a noble grace.

The same steel fists that man the guns,

Unfold in kindness to little ones.



How can you warriors fight through the night,

Then hand out food when comes the light?

Unlike other armies, you American G.I.’s

Are not viewed with fear by civilian eyes.

Other nations see this and are amazed

Not us, we know it’s how you’re raised.

Wherever you serve, the world can see,

You’re the fine result of our democracy.

On this day of grace we send our prayer,

And give proud thanks to you everywhere.



Russ Vaughn

2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment

101st Airborne Division

Vietnam 65-66



That’s The Way They Were Raised


While surfing through websites for information on my old unit, the 101st Airborne Division, I ran across a quote by a reporter, who was embedded with the 101st in Iraq during the invasion. In his tribute to the young troopers he served beside, he marveled at how they could fight Iraqi forces so ferociously through the night, then spend their days handing out food and medicine to Iraqi civilians. The reporter observed that Stephen Ambrose, historian and author of “Band of Brothers,” another tribute to the Screaming Eagles, but those of an earlier war, had this to say about American troops,


    "When soldiers from any other army, even our allies, entered a town, the people hid in the cellars. When Americans came in, even into German towns, it meant smiles, chocolate bars and C-rations.”


The reporter followed that quote with two sentences of his own which I find truly moving and profoundly insightful,



    “Ours has always been an army like no other, because our soldiers reflect a society unlike any other. They are pitiless when confronted by armed enemy fighters and yet full of compassion for civilians and even defeated enemies.”

Those words should be chiseled into granite on a prominently displayed memorial somewhere, because they speak a great truth, not just about our fighting men and women, but also of the nation and society that molded them.



As a former combat infantryman, I will wager that for every single occurrence of violence and mayhem reported from Iraq, there are hundreds of acts of kindness and generosity by American forces, which go unreported. And that’s fine because that’s as it should be. Their compassion shouldn’t be remarkable. They do it, quite simply, because that’s the way they were raised, and they don’t change just because they put on battledress uniforms and become proficient with deadly weapons.



I am so proud of those young Screaming Eagles serving in Iraq, and proud to be a part of that fine unit’s legacy. I’m proud, as well, of all the other young servicemen and women who are contributing to the effort to create peace and build a democracy in Iraq.  But, Folks, I am most proud of being just one of you, a nation and a way of life, that creates such valiant yet kindhearted warriors. We should all be proud of what we’ve produced.



Russ Vaughn

2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment

101st Airborne Division

Vietnam 65-66

Posted by Blackfive on November 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 24, 2004

Fallujah Reality Check

John Donovan has photos from a presentation about Fallujah.  It demonstrates that War Crimes actually happened in Fallujah.  Some of the photos are not for the more gentler folk.

Posted by Blackfive on November 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thanksgiving in Fallujah - Emails Home

Via Seamus and Gunny Gregory come a few emails sent home from Marines in Fallujah.  The Marines only have about a minute to fire off emails home.  These were sent at 5am CST today.

The first is from Marine Corporal Joel Yeager who happens to be General Chuck Yeager's grandson.

How's everyone doing, well i I cant complain  much here cause i'm out of the city right now. Im pretty sure im going back in tomorrow for about two weeks but the marine corps loves to change their mind all the time so that will probably change. We did some pretty crazy stuff and about pissed my pants a few times. Ill have some good storys for all of you when i get back. The first few days were pretty ruff cause we really didnt sleep and we didnt have any food. By the time i got my first mre it was the greatest meal i had ever had. well at least i thought it was. Pretty much we just stormed through the city and searched every house one by one. We found tons of weapons and ied making materials. I got to blow a alot of it up. Also we ended up in the building were they have been doing those executions over the internet, it was weird that we ended up in that same building. I'm attached to 3/5 Lima Co. 3rd plt. So if you here anything about 3rd plt or lima co. im probalby right there. our path was threw what was supposed to be the hardest area but i dont think it was that bad. I was the only engineer with my squad. i had alot of weight on my shoulders but when all was said and done they were very happy wih all i did. Except one of the first things i blew up was a safe. I was just supposed to blow the door off the safe so they could see what was in it. Well i got a little into the moment and used 4 times the amount of c4 i should of used and ended up blowing the whole house up. They gave me a hard time about it but luckily they laughed it off. There was alot of things i did that i could of been hurt really bad but thanks to everyones prayers back home i made it out ok. i need to go but ill try to write again when i can.
Joel Yeager      

If for some reason you didn't visit the Greenside to read LtCol Bellon's description of Fallujah (linked to it a few days ago), LtCol Bellon mentions the heroics of Corporal Yeager:

...I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet.  I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred.  No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5.  His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson).  As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door.  As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out.  The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg.  He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway.  Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover.  As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway.  Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety.  The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in.  He immediately entered the room following the second explosion.  He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine.  You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled.  Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in.   Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds...

Of course, Corporal Yeager doesn't mention that except that he has lots of stories to share once he gets home. He also requested candles that smell like the holidays (ie Thanksgiving) to remind him of home.  Don't worry about sending him candles, his family is already handling that request. 

The next email is from Marine Sergeant Jason Talmadge:

Family and friends, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm alive and doing well. The past 2 weeks has been very challenging and nerve racking as we attacked the city of Fallujah. I am back at the base right now for a couple days of R and R. I don't know how long I will be back out there for so that's why I am writing one big letter. I want to thank everyone for their prayers as God truly seemed to be with us out there. Out of my platoon we only had one Marine go down with multiple gun shot wounds. He is doing well and already back in the states. He took one shot to the arm and one to the leg while being ambushed by six insurgents. I say that because there is no way he should be alive and to only get hit twice and where they landed was a true blessing. He was a part of my team so we were down to only 3 men. My men rose to the occassion and picked up the load and performed beautifully in combat. Again, God is good and he takes care of his own. I know it's not over and we have a long way to go until March, but it was a great step for americans as the total number we killed was around 1800 insurgents and muslim radicals. Thank you for your continued support and prayers for myself and the rest of the Marines and soldiers, fighting on little rest and food, to make America a safer place. For the people who don't think we should be here, I would rather fight and destroy them and their cities here than allow them to penetrate American soil and do it on our homeland. Take care everyone I Iove you all - Jason Talmadge/ Sgt USMC

So there you have two emails from extraordinary Americans who just survived one of the toughest battles anyone will ever face.  I won't draw conclusions for you about them - if you read the emails, you can do that for yourself.  Be thankful for Marines like Yeager and Talmadge.

Posted by Blackfive on November 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

Mosque Shooting - Defense Fund for Marine

I have received many, MANY emails with requests for me to set up a fund for the defense of the Marine involved in the shooting.

Right now, as I understand it, the Marine has NOT BEEN CHARGED with any crime.  The Mosque Shooting is under INVESTIGATION.  The investigation will determine whether the Marine will be prosecuted or not.

If charges are filed, the name of the Marine should be released, and then we can talk about helping him.  And help him, we will!

I appreciate everyone's concern.  Right now, that Marine needs prayers and support.  The two things that you could do right now is pray and write a letter to your editor (of your local paper).

Posted by Blackfive on November 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

Another Way to Help

Brian, a Naval Officer, sends this first hand report. If you do buy some service member dinner, try to do it anonymously as you might embarrass them otherwise.

Matt, I live in suburban Washington, DC. I’ve been in the Navy 29 years; 12 enlisted (hospital corpsman), 17 commissioned (Medical Service Corps). Got a few more to go…

But anyway, I’m up at the National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda) yesterday for a post-op check on some back surgery I had on Monday. My sister, who’s a State Farm agent in the Midwest, has sent me a few hundred phone cards to pass out to the Marines and sailors in the hospital, so I’m making rounds on all the wards, giving them to the nurses to pass around. There’s some great work getting done there (and at every other military hospital), but that’s for another story.

<...> As we’re having dinner at a nice little eatery up the street, I spot a young Marine I’d seen at the hospital a little earlier. He’s an inpatient, just back from the shit; still sporting the wristband and wearing his hospital pajamas under a windbreaker. He’s lost an eye, a good-sized patch of his cheek and who knows what else. My guess was that the couple he’s eating dinner with are his folks, but I’m wrong.

I pop over to check on him, thank him for his service and subsequently find out the following. They aren’t his parents. His parents live in California and wouldn’t be getting in until tonight. These folks had driven down from Philadelphia for a week, on their vacation time, to visit the troops in Walter Reed and Bethesda. Every night, they’re taking a troop out for dinner, someone who’s able to ambulate and who doesn’t have family in the area. You could tell this meant everything in the world to the Marine, and, to them.

They have 7 of their own children, 2 still at home. The two at home are staying with friends. I got it immediately (I have a flair for the obvious)—they had taken vacation time from their jobs, farmed the kids out with friends, just to drive 300 miles on their own dime, to visit wounded American troops.

Jeez, I could hardly make it back to my table without spilling tears.

It gets better. I decide a good idea would be to pick up their check, so I call over the waitress. “Too late,” she says, “somebody else already has, but you’re the fourth person who’s offered.”

That, my friend, sounded pretty good to me. In fact, I hadn’t heard anything like it in 29 years in the Navy.

Listen, since you’re in a position to do so, how about encouraging your readers in the Metro DC area to call Walter Reed and Bethesda to see what they can do to help out this holiday season? I’m opening my home to any family member who needs a place to stay while in town. The Navy Lodge and the Fisher House are full up through the New Year, so this might be well-received.

Thanks for all you do.

V/R
Brian

Brian makes an excellent point. My wife and I recently bought four Marines lunch at PJ Clarke's (after a parade here in Chicago) and talked them into a beer - they were in uniform and drinking "adult beverages" while in uniform is a BIG no-no; however, one of them was Irish and had parachutist wings (like another paratrooper that I happen to know very well...) - I knew I could wear that guy down. We tried to buy their lunch anonymously, but they were insistent on knowing who we were.  It actually embarrassed the waitress as she went back and forth between our tables making it obvious to the Marines who their friend was...I finally just got up and went over to their table.

If any family member of someone at a military hospital in the DC area would like to take Brian up on his offer, please email me.

Posted by Blackfive on November 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

SF Chronicle Readers Respond to Marlboro Marine

Banagor rounds up the whacky reactions to the famous photo of the Marine with the cigarette dangling in his mouth.

Really, people, preaching to a combatant about the dangers of smoking just might be lost on them while they are assaulting Fallujah...

Posted by Blackfive on November 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Local Ways to Help

Of course, anyone can help these folks, but as a reader pointed out, maybe some of you in the area would feel more connected by donating to a local cause/Soldier or Marine. 

Here are just a few ways to help people in your area.  If you have more stories with ways to help, please place them in the comments section.  URL's become links automatically in the Comments so there is no need to use HTML to make a link active.

Omaha - Rachelle sends this article about a Marine who was killed just hours before his son was born.  You can donate to a trust fund for his son at any Wells Fargo branch.

Minnesota - Kelly, the Patriette, has details on how you can help a Marine who was grievously injured while saving another Marine.  She has information on how you can help.

Florence, SC - Pam sends this story about a Marine who is in critical condition in Germany.  His church has set up a fund to help the family stay with him in Germany until he can make the trip home.

Posted by Blackfive on November 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

The Daily Kos Bridge in Fallujah

Why would I call it that?

Background is here.

Grim has the answer (scroll down to the post - "A Postscript Explained") and deserves the credit for the bridge's new moniker.

P.S.  I think the Marine's message was for Kos, too.

Posted by Blackfive on November 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 20, 2004

The Green Side

Marine LtCol Dave Bellon emails his father about Fallujah.  He discusses tactics as well as some acts of heroism that you won't hear about in the Main Stream Media.  It's a MUST READ.

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

If I Could Talk To The President Tomorrow...

...I'd tell him that Fallujah's reconstruction needs to be perfect - THE example - and that we need to get it right.

We've got an opportunity to hire a ton of Iraqis and spend the $90,000,000 set aside for reconstruction on job creation as well (and not just construction jobs, either).  This needs to be the focus - not spending it on contractors to rebuild a city that we'll have to destroy all over again because the populace is angry about the "occupation".

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Mosque Shooting - More Comments

Here's a few important points made by LtCol (ret.) Ollie North:

War Crimes?

...For American broadcasts, the actual shot is "blacked out." But when the tape airs on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Lebanon TV and other Arab media outlets, nothing is left to the imagination. Unfortunately, neither version is accurate -- though both are very troubling. Like so much of what's on television today, only the goriest, most sensational portion of the tape has aired. As a consequence, "the rest of the story" -- as my friend Paul Harvey puts it -- has been lost in the clamor created by 15 seconds of videotape.

Only a few have seen the footage shot the day before -- providing irrefutable evidence that the mosque was a well-defended arms depot. And fewer still have viewed the very next sequence after "the shooting," which shows two Marines pointing their weapons at another combatant lying motionless. Suddenly, one of the Marines jumps back as the terrorist stretches out his hand, motioning that he is alive. Neither Marine opens fire.

According to the Marines, a Navy medical corpsman was then summoned to treat the two wounded prisoners. In his original written report, Sites, the correspondent who videotaped the shooting, doesn't mention the medical treatment provided to the injured enemy combatants, but he does note that four of the combatants were some of those who had been left behind from the firefight on Friday. If the NBC reporter knew that from being there the day before, why didn't he tell this new group of Marines before they rushed into the room?

None of that is included in the tape, which is now being used to raise Islamic ire at the "American invader." Why? And why did it take more than a day to learn that the Marine seen shooting on the videotape had been wounded in the face the day before if the correspondent knew that when he filed the videotape? Why didn't the original story include the fact that a Marine in the same unit had been killed 24 hours earlier while searching the booby-trapped dead body of a terrorist?

As I wrote before, Sites had a choice to make, and he chose headlines over our Marines.

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

What Do You Think Of When You Hear The Words "Marine Rifle Platoon"?

This is what Michael S. thinks:

Marine_platoon_3

[Original Source Photo - National Geographic]

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Petition for Marine Investigated for Mosque Shooting

RE: Marine Investigation into Mosque Shooting

If for some reason has not signed the petition to Congress asking to send the Marine back to his unit or to give him an honorable discharge, please consider signing it.  Here is the link to the petition.

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Veterans/ETSing Military - Helmets to Hardhats

Just a reminder for you to pass along to vets and military that Helmets to Hardhats is funded by the DoD to help transitioning military AND veterans find careers in the building and construction trades.

Posted by Blackfive on November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2004

Sergeant Bozik - Update 3

Geoffrey reminded me to update you all on Sergeant Bozik.  Here is the latest story from Texas A&M University:

Fiancee says Bozik still improving

By GREG OKUHARA
Eagle Staff Writer


Army Sgt. Joseph Bozik, who lost three limbs to an explosion while serving in Iraq, is out of intensive care and continues to improve, his fiancee said last week.

Jayme Peters, a senior at Texas A&M University, said she and Bozik even got to watch an Aggie football game recently, when the team narrowly lost to Oklahoma.

Although the outcome was disappointing for the couple, Peters said she was happy she was able to give him a kiss each time the Aggies scored. Having that contact with him after he nearly lost his life meant much more than a football game.

“He’s really lucky he made it,” she said from Washington, D.C., where Bozik is hospitalized. “We’re glad he’s doing OK.”

The soldier lost both legs and his right arm when the vehicle he was riding in near Baghdad struck a roadside bomb Oct. 27. He was flown back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on Nov. 1 and has undergone extensive treatment to get him on the path to recovery.

Peters said Bozik is able to talk and spends much of the day communicating with her and his family.

He told Peters he didn’t remember anything about the explosion. She said he remains optimistic about his condition and isn’t going to let his physical limitations place any constraints on how he’ll live his life.

“He’s not acting like this is the end of the world,” she said.

Bozik was taken out of the intensive care unit last week, but doctors were not able to control his pain levels, Peters said. He was placed back in ICU for a short time, but now is being cared for in the hospital’s intermediate care facility.

While Bozik receives his rehabilitation care, Peters and her mother have been looking for apartments in the Washington area so they can help take care of Bozik. His mother, Gail, also plans to move there from North Carolina while Bozik is under the hospital’s care.

The family plans to stay as long as it takes for Bozik to recover.

Additionally, Peters, a kinesiology major, is trying to find an employer for the internship she needs to graduate. She said Texas A&M is working with her to locate one.

The presence of family, Peters said, is helping Bozik as he begins his recuperation process.

“He said he’s at peace now that I’m here,” she said.

I have also heard that he is surgery again and has that Iraqi Bacteria Infection.

[Previous Sergeant Bozik Posts: Original, First Update (with pictures of Sergeant Bozik), and Second Update.]

Posted by Blackfive on November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Showdown - The Battle of Fallujah - Part 14 - "We're Not Going To Die!"

Pat P. sends this Time article about one of the most dangerous ops in Fallujah.  It also includes a paragraph about Captain Sean Sims.  Seriously, the first few paragraphs are awesome...oh, and SSG Bellavia is badder than John freakin' Wayne.

Into the Hot Zone:

After weeks of preparation, the U.S. launches a full-scale assault to take back Fallujah. TIME follows one platoon as it carries out the most dangerous operation since the beginning of the war

By Michael Ware

“We’re not going to die!” yells U.S. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia as his rattled platoon of soldiers takes cover from machine-gun fire in the streets of Fallujah. The platoon has been ordered to hunt down and kill a group of insurgents hiding somewhere in a block of 12 darkened houses. It is 1:45 a.m., and the soldiers have been running from fire fight to fire fight for 48 hours straight with no sleep, fueled only by the modest pickings from their ration packs. As they searched through nine of the houses on the block, the soldiers turned up nothing. When they trudged into the 10th house, though, a trap was sprung: the insurgents had lured them in and then opened fire, forcing Bellavia’s men to scramble out of the house as shards of glass peppered them and bullets ricocheted off the gates of the courtyard. Bellavia yelled for a Bradley armored fighting vehicle to get “up here now!” The Bradley drew along the gate and poured 25-mm-cannon and M-240 machine-gun fire into the house, blasting a shower of concrete chips and luminescent sparks.

Bellavia, a wiry 29-year-old who resembles Sean Penn, is pacing the street, preparing to go back in. Bellavia’s bluster on the battlefield contrasts with his refinement off it. During lulls in the fighting, he could discuss the Renaissance and East European politics. “Get on me now,” he says, ordering his squad to close in. There is little movement. He asks who has more ammunition. Two soldiers stand up and join him in the street. “Here we go, Charlie’s Angels,” Bellavia says. “You don’t move from my goddam wing. You stay on my right shoulder. You stay on my left shoulder. Hooah?” The men nod. “I wanna go in there and go after ’em.”

Reaching the barred window near the front door, Bellavia tells two soldiers to perch by the house corner and watch for insurgents trying to leap out the side window. He looks at Staff Sergeant Scott Lawson and says, “You’re f______ coming. Give suppressive fire at 45 degrees.” Bellavia and Lawson step nervously into the house. From the living room, Bellavia rounds the corner into the hallway. The insurgents are still alive. Their AK-47s fire. Bellavia fires back, killing them both. “Two f_____s down,” he says.

Lawson stays downstairs while Bellavia scours the first floor for more insurgents. A string of rapid-fire single shots ring out. Then silence. Then a low, pained moaning. The two soldiers waiting in the courtyard call out to Bellavia, “Hey, Sergeant Bell,” but get no response. “Sergeant Bell is not answering,” a message is shouted back to the platoon members across the street. “We need more guys.” The platoon’s other staff sergeant, Colin Fitts, 26, steps up. “Let’s go,” he says.

Fitts takes a small team over the road. “Terminators coming in,” he bellows as he goes inside, using the unit’s name in a code to warn that friendly forces are entering. Inside they find Bellavia alive and on on the hunt. Upstairs he scans the bedrooms. An insurgent jumps out of the cupboard. Bellavia falls down and fires, spraying the man with bullets. At some point another insurgent drops out of the ceiling. Yet another runs to a window and makes for the garden. Bellavia hits him in the legs and lower back as he flees. When it’s over, four insurgents are dead; another has escaped badly wounded. To Bellavia, Fitts says, “That’s a good job, dude. You’re a better man than me.” Bellavia shakes his head. “No, no, no,” he mutters.

When it kicked off last week, the battle of Fallujah was billed as a climactic clash between roughly 10,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines and about 2,000 newly minted Iraqi fighting men against the 1,500 to 3,000 armed militants who have turned the city into Iraq’s biggest insurgent haven. But the battle has not involved any single Armageddon-style showdown with massed insurgent forces. Instead, for men like the soldiers of Alpha Company’s 3rd Platoon, part of Task Force 2-2, the fight was far more intense, chaotic and harrowing. The Americans battled armed insurgents not just street to street or even house to house, but also up close and personal with their enemy, fighting him room to room at point-blank range. Measured by the military’s strategic objectives, the assault’s first few days produced success. U.S. forces, led by the members of Task Force 2-2, swept down from the north and punched deep into the city, seizing one of Fallujah’s most important assets, Highway 10. The Army’s assault opened the way for more forces to pour into the center of Fallujah and advance toward the south of the city, with the intent of delivering a blow to an insurgency that has overrun parts of Iraq. Ripping out the heart of the resistance in Fallujah is a necessary step to prevent the insurgents from tearing the country apart.

The U.S. offensive has left much of Fallujah in ruins, as air strikes, artillery barrages and ground fighting destroyed homes and damaged many of the city’s mosques. It’s impossible to count the number of enemy slain across Fallujah, but the attrition of insurgent forces in the city was decisive. In the long run, however, the rebels haven’t been beaten. From the nature of the fight and interviews with insurgents before the attack, it seems clear the nationalist and jihadist leadership had by and large already left the city along with much of their ranks, leaving behind, in classic guerrilla style, a rearguard detail to harass and interdict U.S. forces. The Americans in Fallujah got a taste of what they may confront across Iraq’s restive Sunni triangle as the military command attempts to root out the insurgents from their sanctuaries. They are a tenacious enemy who fight as any guerrilla force might—never head on, always from behind or the sides at moments when it’s least expected, initiating combat at weak points and then pulling back to strongholds, ducking and weaving all the while.

The U.S. invasion of Fallujah exacted a price. Of roughly 400 men and women from Task Force 2-2, four were killed in action. All told, the battle’s first days left at least 24 service members dead and more than 200 wounded. It was a stunning success militarily, but in human terms each loss was deeply felt, etched into the face and being of every soldier. For those who were there, the manner in which this battle was fought and victory claimed will never be forgotten. These are a few of their stories.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on monday night, Alpha Company paved the road into Fallujah. Engineers used a minesweeper to shoot forward 91-m lines of C-4 explosive to destroy or trigger any booby traps in its path. Battle tanks followed a channel marked in chemical lights, taking positions on the railway berm to cover 3rd Platoon’s advance to Objective Lion, a hunk of two- and three-story buildings known to be insurgent strong points. It would be the foothold for the entire Task Force’s advance.

Within the Bradley’s cramped and musty hold, the shock of the minesweeper’s explosion was felt by the infantrymen huddled inside. Among them is Fitts, a lithe, expressive Mississippian and father of three who joined the military eight years ago. He warns his team to “get ready to get out of this big metal bitch.” With the bulk of the Marine-led assault force poised on the northern side of the railway, 3rd Platoon plowed forward, bringing its Bradleys to a halt beneath Fallujah’s first houses. The platoon radio net crackled, “Drop ramp. All 3rd Platoon elements drop ramp, drop ramp.” And with that, the ground battle began.

Despite all the intel showing heavy movement within the buildings, Object Lion was not defended. But in the street behind it, a mammoth propane tank lay on its side; wire ran from it to a nearby house. A squad was detailed, and went in only to come scurrying straight back out. The presence of gas cans and a car battery suggested that the propane tank and probably the house were rigged to blow.

The long-awaited assault on Fallujah was officially dubbed Operation Dawn, to signify the promise of a new beginning. But the name the U.S. military had originally given the operation—Phantom Fury—seems more appropriate for the kind of war U.S. forces are fighting. At times the soldiers and Marines trawling Fallujah’s alleyways feel as though they are chasing ghosts. Insurgents vanish as the armored columns rumble into town, only to reappear somewhere else, firing from minarets and hiding in houses booby-trapped to blow up. U.S. and Iraqi officials say that their forces have killed as many as 1,000 enemy fighters and that most of the ravaged city is under U.S. control. If the goal, as a senior U.S. official says, is to “break up the scorpion’s nest’’ that Fallujah has become, the military is willing to inflict as much punishment as needed to achieve it.

But after a week that witnessed the most brutal up-close combat conducted by the U.S. military since Somalia, victory over the insurgency in Iraq isn’t necessarily any closer. Many fighters and the majority of the rebel leadership—including Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq—apparently slipped out of the city in the weeks leading up to the assault. A Pentagon official says that at most, 10% of the enemy in Iraq has been killed or captured in Fallujah. As the U.S. fights there, violence is rippling across the center and north of Iraq, engulfing the increasingly restive city of Mosul, the third largest in the country. The violence has raised the prospect that the siege of Fallujah could be a prelude to a series of nasty urban street fights—precisely the sort of war the U.S. military had desperately hoped to avoid when the invasion started in the spring of 2003.

U.S. commanders acknowledge that Fallujah is only the beginning. But they hope that the show of force there is the first step toward gradually eroding the insurgents’ ability to coordinate activities around the country. Senior U.S. officials say the coming months will be like playing a deadly game of “whack a mole” across the country: attacking insurgents wherever they rise up and trying to take back enough rebel-held areas to hold credible elections in January. The U.S. does not have enough soldiers in Iraq to crush a growing insurgency in multiple locations at the same time. But officials believe they won’t actually face that challenge. As messy as the Sunni triangle and Mosul now appear, so long as the insurgency doesn’t ignite a nationwide conflagration, the Pentagon believes it can contain the threat. “What we’re trying to do in the short term, through the elections, is make sure that there are no no-go zones,” says a senior Western diplomat in Baghdad. “To the extent possible, we [will] attrit their capability to launch violent attacks.”

Critical to that plan is making sure Fallujah stays secure once the insurgents are routed. Toward that end, the Pentagon says money will start to flow into the city as soon as the military operation is over. The Pentagon says it has some $100 million ready to pour into a variety of civil works in Fallujah, including improvements in water, sewage and electrical systems as well as the construction of schools and health clinics. Army Lieut. General Thomas Metz, U.S. ground-forces commander in Iraq, says it will take “weeks, maybe months, to get the city to a normal operating level.”

Once Fallujah is pacified, the U.S. plans to rely on the newly trained Iraqi police and national guard forces to perform the bulk of security tasks required to begin the delivery of reconstruction aid. That transition won’t be easy. Among ordinary citizens, there is almost no confidence that the Iraqis will be up to the task, and they are almost certain to face fresh attacks. “Let the Americans think they are winning,” a fighter in Fallujah told Time. “We are not going anywhere.”

The whack-a-mole strategy may already be getting its first test in Mosul. The city is home to a heterogenous population of 1 million—Sunni, Kurd and Turkoman—and for months after the invasion was viewed as one of the occupation’s few success stories. But locals warn that the city is slipping out of control. Foreign terrorists streaming across the border from Syria have joined forces with a Baathist resistance stocked with unemployed ex-soldiers. Insurgent attacks have grown significantly in number and lethality in recent months, and at least two or three assassination victims arrive each day at al-Salaam Hospital, the city’s largest, doctors say. After insurgents staged attacks against six police stations in the city last week, a unit involved in the U.S. assault on Fallujah had to peel off and head to Mosul to help put down the unrest there. Local political leaders fear that the violence may make it impossible to organize elections in Mosul by January.

The risk for the U.S. is that, rather than make the Sunni triangle secure for democracy, the assault on Fallujah may instead inflame Sunnis and scatter insurgents across a wider area, which could scuttle hopes of broad Sunni participation in the voting. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party in Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s interim government withdrew last week, saying it could not abide the attack on Fallujah. Meanwhile, the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, has called for a total boycott of the elections. The association’s leader, Harith al-Dhari, told Time he was “very close to calling for jihad” against the Americans and the Allawi government.

Yet even after the violence and inflammatory rhetoric of the past week, not all Iraqis are convinced the Sunnis will sit out the vote. Sunni leaders are acutely aware that the majority Shi‘ites—who make up 60% of Iraq’s population—seem united in their desire for elections. Optimistic U.S. and Iraqi officials believe that as elections draw near, at least some Sunni leaders will recognize their interest in having a say in Iraq’s first elected government. As Sarmad Mohammad, a Sunni fruit vendor in Baghdad, says, “If there are no Sunni leaders in the new government, all the jobs in the government, police and army will go to Shi‘as and Kurds.”

However tumultuous the January elections prove to be, it’s clear that the ultimate outcome in Iraq—whether it moves toward a semblance of stability or civil war—comes down to a test of wills. The U.S. command believes that the supply of suicidal Baathists, Islamic holy warriors and Iraqi nationalists will eventually exhaust itself. Robert Scales, a retired Army major general, says history teaches that violent attacks on insurgencies such as the campaign mounted by the U.S. in Fallujah can work. “You don’t just keep growing insurgents,” Scales says. “By effectively eliminating the hard-core terrorists, the fellow travelers see the handwriting on the wall. While the insurgency doesn’t disappear, it tends to collapse to something down around noise level.” But if Fallujah is a sign of things to come, the volume is likely to get cranked up first.

—By Bill Powell.Reported by Andrew Lee Butters/Mosul, Aparisim Ghosh and Phil Zabriskie/Baghdad, and Mark Thompson/Washington

It was a sign of things to come. Two days later, the platoon took up a position in a three-story house, overlooking the platoon’s new domain. In the side street below, twin bombs erupted. A detonator cord led to the adjoining home, and someone thought he saw movement. The platoon lit up the house with volleys of automatic fire, tripping a battery of hidden devices. The house blew forward, and a young sergeant on a balcony took shrapnel in his groin. At every stop in its advance, the Wolf Pack, as 3rd Platoon is dubbed, found countless bombs, plus doors booby trapped and walls set with explosives. The enemy tactic accounted for the soldiers’ unforgiving approach to entering buildings, traversing streets and tackling even lone snipers: if it looks suspicious or shoots at you, blow it up with a grenade, a cannon or the main gun of a tank. The U.S. didn’t plan on taking any chances.

By dawn the next day, the Wolf Pack had reached Objective Cougar, the Imam al-Shafi Mosque that insurgent leaders used as a meeting point and command center. It sat midway down 3rd Platoon’s southward advance through Fallujah’s Askari district, home to many former Iraqi military officers. It had been long evacuated and been heavily fortified in anticipation of a U.S. invasion, but commanders had received reports that as many as 150 foreign fighters were ensconced in the area; the battle figured to be tough. Footage taken by an aerial drone earlier in the week showed that the area was strewn with buried explosives. When a U.S. warplane dropped a 225-kg bomb on a weapons cache, it set off a daisy chain of roadside bombs for 90 m along either side of the block. Hoping to stymie any U.S. advance and herd troops into canalized killing zones, insurgents positioned dirt-filled barriers and concrete blast walls throughout the streets. The raw materials they were using had been supplied by the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi police and Iraqi National Guard in Fallujah, many of whose ranks have since joined the insurgency.

To breach the mosque and allow Iraqi Intervention Forces to search it, the U.S. employed a Bradley to smash the compound’s walls after 25-mm cannon rounds failed to dent its iron gates. The Wolf Pack searched and secured a three-story building, taking a high spot overlooking the mosque and its minaret. At night it almost felt safe inside, but daylight brought the snipers and insurgent cells out into the streets. The attack started in the east but was soon joined by shooting from the north. From three edges of the roof, the soldiers fired at the insurgents, who wore tracksuit pants and the uniforms of the Iraqi National Guard as they dashed back and forth across roads or popped up in windows. The fight lasted nearly two hours. The young grunts defended themselves with all manner of fire, including AT4 antitank rockets, M-203 40-mm grenade launchers and tow missiles from the Bradleys supporting them. A young sergeant went down, shrapnel or a bullet fragment lodging in his cheek. After checking himself, he went back to returning fire.

The heaviest fighting was still to come. The next day the 3rd Platoon and the rest of Task Force 2-2 reached Phase Line Fran, Fallujah’s central bisecting road. From there they could stare into the city’s notorious industrial area, a hot spot particularly for foreign fighters and the scene of innumerable past battles with the Marines. Sporadic gunfire from the decaying warehouses, cement plants and junkyards provoked U.S. tanks to unleash high-explosive rounds at insurgent positions. The Wolf Pack’s fire-support officer called in mortar fire on buildings and locations where movement was seen. Even in lulls in the gunplay, the Fallujah sound track was alive with detonations and the whomps of tank rounds.

The insurgents had studied the Americans’ methods well. To negate the U.S.’s preference to fight in the dark using night-vision equipment, the insurgents focused their attacks in the dim light of dawn and dusk. As the sun set, a decrepit warehouse suddenly sparkled with at least a dozen muzzle flashes. Bullets flew thick over the unit’s commandeered building. “Look at the industrial complex,” Bellavia yelled at his men. “I want you to shoot, shoot.” The Wolf Pack lashed back with chattering automatic-weapons fire. A sister platoon, bunkered down a few hundred meters to the west, joined in, bringing a deadly cross fire to bear on the insurgents. Streams of red tracers scorched into the building as a soft golden sun emblazoned a graying sky.

“The enemy picture is so murky we just don’t know anything for sure except for what you see with your own eyes,” Alpha Company’s commander, Captain Sean Sims, told his officers. The soldiers pushed south into the industrial zone along the eastern corridor, moving into the thick of the cement plants and metal-strewn yards. The soldiers geared up to drive into the teeth of the resistance—the kind of fight the military had been spoiling for. Jdams rocked the earth and artillery carved a path forward as the sounds of fire fights resonated in all directions.

Winding their armor through the desolate buildings bound for their first target—Objective Bud, identified as a congregating point for foreign fighters—the Wolf Pack started taking fire immediately. A Bradley vehicle piloted by Sergeant First Class James Cantrell shuddered and filled with dust as it ran over a roadside bomb. The blast was so powerful it was at first mistaken for a bomb dropped by one of the many warplanes screeching overhead. “Goddam,” said Fitts, locked down inside the mechanical beast, his shotgun nestled under his chin.

Within minutes, a thumping clunk beat the vehicle’s left side. “Damn, an rpg,” shouted a soldier. When they reached Objective Bud, a figure was seen scurrying through a window. The 3rd Platoon spilled into the compound, cutting off any escape. Cantrell maneuvered his Bradley to face the building. The high-explosive rounds set the bottom floor ablaze. First Lieutenant Joaquin Meno called up for the first story to be torched as well. “Let the f_____ burn,” said a squad leader. When a group of insurgents brandishing RPGS was spotted 365 m south, Meno called in mortar fire from the rear and Abrams tank fire from the front. The insurgents had no chance. “Hey, LT, good call. That’s perfect,” said Bellavia. As if to punctuate the score, a direct hit on the building where the insurgents had taken cover set off repeated secondary explosions.

Late that night, while waiting for the Marines to match the pace of 2-2’s advance, the platoon occupied a tall house on the northern outskirts of an area code-named Queens. It gave the exhausted grunts a rare respite—an hour’s sleep. At 4 a.m. they moved out and took up positions in another building. Within hours they encountered one of their most vicious confrontations yet, as insurgents riddled the rooftop with RPGS and sniper fire. The insurgents weren’t intimidated even by the fury of the tanks, daring to step from behind corners to vainly hit them with RPGS. A soldier’s ankle was shattered when an rpg sent concrete flying. Linking up with 1st Platoon to consolidate its position, the Wolf Pack fended off the attack.

On Saturday the final assault got under way as the Wolf Pack drove farther south, positioned to swing west to complete the sweep of the city. Alpha Company took more casualties, one a key member that was particularly bitter, as the battle’s end was so close. As the soldiers evacuated their wounded, military sources said Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was readying to announce the end of combat in the recaptured city. As the fighting in Fallujah dies down, the Wolf Pack and the rest of Task Force 2-2 are due to return to their usual area of operations in Diyala province north of Baghdad. But with the insurgents showing little sign of giving up, the Americans face more battles ahead. The men of 3rd Platoon just shrug their shoulders at the thought. It’s as though they were bred to fight. Says Fitts: “I don’t know how to do anything else.”

[Showdown (The Battle for Fallujah) Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen]

Posted by Blackfive on November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

German Soldiers Angels Update From Landstuhl

A few weeks ago, you might have met Willie Aufmkolk as Someone You Should Know.  Willie is a wonderful German lady who wanted to help our wounded troops coming to Germany for medical treatment.  Wounded from Iraq are sent first to Landstuhl (Germany) before coming back to the states to Walter Reed, Bethesda, or Balboa (among other facilites).

I am very grateful to all of you who have sent donations and supplies to our wounded troops.  I am also very thankful for amazing people like Willie who take care of our troops overseas.

If you have donated to Soldiers Angels, The Wounded Project or Wounded Warriors and wondered if you are making a difference, well, just read on:

A snap-shot from our trip to Landstuhl during the fightings in Fallujah

Every time I come to the US Hospital in Landstuhl and to the Fisher House and meet our wounded heroes I am impressed by the courage and bravery of men and women who fight the war against the terrorism and for other people freedom.

On the 12th November 2004 Rudi, Patties sister Nita and I we brought the wounded 53 backpacks from the Soldiers Angels to LRMC and make a bedside visit together with Kathy from the Fisher House. There are over 90 % from the patients are current veterans of OEF and OIF, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines! They all are there. Today I read the wounded from the invasion in Fallujah hits to 412! There you have a steady stream of wounded US Soldiers from the Fallujah offensive in Iraqi. So we must see the 53 backpacks were only a trop in the ocean! In the last days the news told us that about 70 US soldiers and more injured daily in Fallujah. This city is 40 miles from Baghdad and the most of them are flown from Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, to the biggest US military hospital here in overseas.

A lot of Angels have donated their time and money to bring the wounded a backpack. Paul and Berta, CA; Cheryl, CA; Karman, MA; Janette, SC; Stephanie, NC; Georgia, Co; Mandy, NC; Dee, CA; Jennifer and Christopfer, GA; Carol, TX, Paul, Susan and Sarah, FL, Megan OH; Patti, CA; SGT Lee B. and a lot of other Angels.

There was no empty bed!  We all could see that the bed capacity at the hospital has been increased since our last visit to handle now the 30 until 50 wounded who are coming in daily. We all went from room to room in five wards of the hospital to visit soldiers being treated for injuries. They are ranging from broken bones and minor injuries to missing legs and severe skull injuries. A lot from the wounded were sitting in wheelchairs or they were in their beds. Often you could see they were full of pain but their spirit was high.

They were happy to receive backpacks from the Soldiers Angels. They have nothing if they arrived from the battle to Landstuhl. Our backpacks was filled with handmade blankets, T-shirt, underpants, socks, items for   personal hygiene,  get well cards, candies and more.

We have seen one young man he was carry with his bed over the ward he has lost both eyes! I have never seen before so much nurses carry wounded with their beds over the floors from the operating room to the sick rooms on the wards.

Not any bed is empty – it is only empty if anyone is on surgery or the nurses change the linen. Nita and I we both had candies and chocolate with us for the staffs. The nurses looked so over worked!  They all work so hard, they were so busy and were coping well with the heavy workload.

Kathy Gregory from the Fisher House had a box of homemade candies with her donate from our Angels Laurie from Berlin. The candies we put in the TV-room on the wards or given out to wounded lying in bed. So that every wounded can take on. For the TV- room we had with us special bags with paper, envelopes, pencils, everything to give the wounded the opportunity to write a letter to their love ones home.  The few toy`s we received by the donation we have given the Fisher House for the kids from their guest families.

One wounded female soldier was sitting on her bad and was full of pain and the Chaplain talk to her, she was not doing fine. One older wounded could only take a breath by himself he needs a machine for doing this. We are always glad if we can bring backpacks directly to the wounded and if we have the opportunity to go for a friend to visit his comrade we are proud to do this.

So a Lt. USMC asked me to go for him to a comrade he was in Fallujah, “one of my Marine just got hit and he will be there in Germany soon, his name is Cpl. O. and there is also a marine there from …..with a lot of shrapnel wounds, I don`t have his name, can you look for him, too.“  Sometimes we have the luck that they are still there. Sometimes they are off for medical treatment to the States to other hospitals, such how are here!

Our Angel Kara, sent me an e-mail, “… a good friend of ours has been injured as is in Germany.  He is with my husband’s unit, his name is Capt. ..  At the moment he is on ward …...  Would you mind visiting him for us?”

We have found him and he is a wonderful guy I must say, he has a wife and three kids are waiting for him! His wife and Kara our Angels has not the opportunity to come to Germany to visit him. So we have given him from both “a big hug” and told him that his wife and the kids are being well taken care of. He was very surprised that someone has visited him. He was in a very good mood and was looking for more medical treatment in a naval hospital in the States...

...A large Naval Hospital is in Camp Pendleton it is a 123 bed facility, overlooking Lake O'Neill and is located approximately 10 miles from the main gate from Camp Pendleton. The Base is located in Southern California approximately 35 miles north of San Diego and 100 miles south of Los Angeles.


Kara wrote later “....have another one for you.  K. D. he is a Marine with the …...  Don’t know too much about his injuries, his wife hasn’t heard much yet, just that he is there. Can you visit him for us?”.


We can imagine us how it is that you know that your love one is injured in the war against the terrorism in Fallujah and you hear nothing about him. So we were glad that we could let a backpack for him in the Fisher House and for bringing it later to the Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern. Here, 30 minutes from Landstuhl, is where soldiers not requiring hospital beds but evacuated to Landstuhl stay there during appointments and medical treatment which they have in LRMC. Here the wounded Soldiers can relax and recharge their batteries as they wait for their wounds to heal. The barracks at the moment are full too, 356 until 410 wounded or injured Soldiers could be accommodated there.


My good friend Kathy X  call me to look for “..just got word that a friends son was hurt today and may be going to Germany. He graduated with my son T. He is a Marine. His name is S. B. You can see if he is there…”. He was hit in the leg. ! One bullet brazed his knee. The other was going behind his femur. He was in Fallujah, too. But we could not find him in the hospital, because we heard later he was still in a field hospital in Baghdad. A good buddy from him was with him lost his toes and was going for heeling to Germany later.

We read in the ABC Action News on the 11/10/04Local soldier spends birthday in hospital after attack in Iraq”, so we say us we have to look for here and bring her a special birthday gift. A female Army Spc. D. a High School graduate has spend her 21st birthday here in Germany in the hospital, recovering from burns she suffered in an attack in Iraq.

Spc. D. was seriously injured when the Humvee in which she was riding was struck by a roadside bomb outside Fallujah.. The 20-year-old M.P. was driving a Humvee from back to base camp in Baghdad when the bomb went off. Her left side is badly burned, but she is alive and expected to recover fast. She joined the Army straight out of high school to earn money for college. She is going further to Texas to another military hospital for more special treatment.


Chaplain Pace from the Chaplains Office in Landstuhl went with me for looking for our wounded SPC D.. We found her on a public phone, to make a phone call at home. We both have wished her a great “Happy Birthday” and have given her a backpack with a handmade “blanket of hope” and a birthday gift “Nürnberger Lebkuchen and 3 roses”. She was very surprised and without words!

We have given out how much backpacks we had, together with the Fisher house we brought the wounded about 80 backpacks – but it was not enough: We have heard thirty-four wounded were flown in this Friday, 102 were brought in on two planes on Thursday and 68 were admitted on Wednesday. So we will look for more backpacks to bring it our Heores. How much we can do!


And it is always the same terrible story.


A 29-year-old soldier in Iraq was shot in the chest and has been transported to Germany for treatment. [He] was shot in the chest by a sniper.


A First Lieutenant National Guard Soldier injured near Baghdad over the weekend during combat near Baghdad.


A Lance Corporal was shot on the battlefield in Fallujah. He is going further for more medical treatment to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in the Washington, D.C. area.


A Navy Corpsman has been wounded in Iraq. He graduated from High School in 2002. Our wounded hero, 31, lost his left foot in the explosion Wednesday and suffered extensive injuries to his left thigh and right ankle.


It was good to see that the Marines wear all a Marine sweater. This we have not seen before by other soldiers! We have seen again we need backpacks for female wounded. This time had 3 with us but this was not enough.


So we will go back on the 20th November with 40 new backpacks.


Wilhelmine Aufmkolk, Germany

Donations to Soldiers' Angels (Pay Pal Link) are Tax Deductible as it is a non-profit organization run by volunteers.  Also, here is a link from Nick S. where you can send donations to the chaplains at Landstuhl.

Posted by Blackfive on November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Ghost Battalion - Part 2

Here's some pictures of the Ghost Battalion (2-7th Cavalry) in action.

Photo Number One :  Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, carry a wounded soldier from Apache Troop to a medevac helicopter during operations in Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 12, 2004. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers)

Photo Number Two :  Staff Sgt. Scott Smith, 26, of the 2nd Battalion 7th Calvary Regiment is awarded the Purple Heart by Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the 1st Cavalry Division Commander, for wounds received at the battle of Najaf. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rebekah-mae Bruns, 39th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

Photo Number ThreeSpc. Michael Haggerty, Comanche Co., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cav. Div., peers out of the rear periscopes of a Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle while his squad was preparing to go on a "gun run" to assess enemy positions in his company's sector of Fallujah, Nov. 11. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Erik LeDrew)

Posted by Blackfive on November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2004

Smash's Rules of Engagement

"Crystal Clear, Sir!"

Posted by Blackfive on November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Showdown Part 13 - The Battle of Fallujah - BBC Reports On Marines

James O. (a former Marine Sergeant) sends this article from a BBC embedded reporter in Fallujah (November 15th).

Eyewitness:  Falluja Battle Scars

American forces say they are still fighting small pockets of insurgents in the city of Falluja.

Our correspondent, Paul Wood, is with American marines in the city. He gave the following interview to BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

<...>

Q: But as you travel with the American soldiers, do you come across civilians?

We saw literally a glimpse of civilians.

We were on the roof of a building - this was the first day of the battle in fact on Wednesday - and saw people waving white flags running away. And the marines stood up to say "Keep going, it's dangerous, don't come in this direction" and as soon as they did that, a volley of gunfire came in, because they'd revealed their position. And that was the only view of civilians that we have had.

One female civilian came to be treated at the medical post here and left before I had a chance to speak to her.

But I've questioned ordinary marines, officers and they say quite truthfully, we literally don't see civilians and that is the position of, I think, most of the US forces here - they do not see civilians...

James points out that it sounded like the Marines were exposing themselves to fire in order to protect civilians. With respect to Marines killing innocent civilians, this story shows that there really weren't any civilians.  There's more in the article so check out the link.

[Showdown (Battle for Fallujah) Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve]

Posted by Blackfive on November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MilBlogger In Iraq Describes Urban Combat

Must read alert.  If on the off-chance that you have missed this:

MilBlogger American Soldier has two posts about combat in Iraq.  Granted, it's an Army perspective rather than Marine, but our two combat forces basically use the same procedures for clearing buildings/rooms/mosques...

Dream/Reality/Story Part 1

Dream/Reality/Story Part 2

And his opinion of the media (strong language alert).

Posted by Blackfive on November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Last Letters Home

I just wrote an email to someone asking about the price of freedom and mentioned an email from a friend that I received a week before he had been killed in a firefight in Afghanistan.

Perhaps one reason that I strongly support following through on freeing Iraq is so that these men and women did not lose their lives for nothing.  The majority believed in what they were doing.  They were there.  I am not.  I'll take their word for it over the Main Stream Media any day of the week.

Retired Marine First Sergeant "Gus" sends this link to an HBO special about the last letters home sent by our troops before losing their lives (thanks, Gus).  It's worth your time.

This one is particularly stirring (tissue alert in effect)...

From the New York Times:

Excerpt of a letter from Army Pfc. Jesse A. Givens, 34, of Springfield, Mo. Private Givens was killed May 1 when his tank fell into the Euphrates River after the bank on which he was parked gave way. This letter was written to be delivered to his family if he died. Melissa is his wife, Dakota his 6-year-old stepson and Bean the name he used for his son, Carson, who was born May 29.

My family,

I never thought that I would be writing a letter like this. I really don't know where to start. I've been getting bad feelings, though and, well, if you are reading this. . . .

The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. I will always have with me the small moments we all shared. The moments when you quit taking life so serious and smiled. The sounds of a beautiful boy's laughter or the simple nudge of a baby unborn. You will never know how complete you have made me. You saved me from loneliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never dreamed existed.

Dakota . . . you taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn't so serious and sometimes you just have to play. You have a big, beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can play. I love you, and hope someday you will understand why I didn't come home. Please be proud of me.

Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I know you will be strong and big-hearted like your mom and brother. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your mom's belly, and the joy I felt when I found out you were on your way. I love you, Bean.

Melissa, I have never been as blessed as the day I met you. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover and best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A lifetime's worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That's how long I will be with you. Please keep my babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. . . . Teach our babies to live life to the fullest, tell yourself to do the same.

I will always be there with you, Melissa. I will always want you, need you and love you, in my heart, my mind and my soul. Do me a favor, after you tuck the children in. Give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside and look at the stars and count them. Don't forget to smile.

Love Always,
Your husband,
Jess

Posted by Blackfive on November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

The Ghost Battalion

Our hearts so stout have brought us fame

For soon ‘tis known from whence we came

Where e’er we go they dread the name

of Garryowen and glory.

- the last verse of Garry Owen

Every unit in the US Army has a history worth remembering.  Most continue their traditions.  Many go through phases of effectiveness - reputations made or lost based on personnel (commanders) and other factors.

Then, you have the units which ALWAYS have maintained their reputation.  One such unit is 2-7 Cavalry (of the 1st Cavalry Division).  The 7th Cavalry is know as Garry Owen.

During the Korean War, the 2-7 Cavalry was one of the first units to fight the North Koreans.  Against impossible odds and huge losses, they continued to fight throughout the war.  The North Koreans, who couldn't understand how a unit could continue with so few personnel, dubbed them "The Ghost Battalion" out of respect and fear.

The Ghost Battalion has been busy in Iraq - from the battle for Najaf against Sadr's murdering muj to Fallujah.

Here's the latest about the Ghost Battalion as they worked with the Marines to take Fallujah:

Ghost Battalion Leads Fight in Fallujah

By Spc. Erik LeDrew, 122nd MPAD

FALLUJAH, Iraq— The Ghost Battalion’s mission: pave the way into Fallujah and secure the last insurgent stronghold in Iraq. On the night of Nov. 8, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division descended in droves and pushed their way into Fallujah securing the city, and spearheading the mission for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

“Our mission was to penetrate the enemy defenses in Fallujah to allow for two Marine [regimental combat teams] to enter the city,” said Maj. Scott Jackson, executive officer, 2-7 Cav.

The famous Ghost Battalion cemented its place in the history of the war in Iraq, and has been central to success in Baghdad and Najaf prior to becoming the main effort in Fallujah. Based on its prior track record, it is apparent the Ghost Battalion was the Marine’s battalion of choice.

“The 1st Marine Division specifically asked for us because of our reputation,” said 1st Sgt. Larry Hudnall, first sergeant for Company C, 2-7 Cav. “And Marines never specifically ask for a unit’s help.”

As the Air Force was busy bombarding the city and weakening the insurgent defenses, 2-7 Cav. started staging their Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, Abrams tanks and armored personnel carriers ready to take the fight to the streets.

The Ghost Battalion began their assault on Fallujah just after 7 p.m.

Under the cover of darkness, three companies from 2-7 Cav. breached insurgent defenses by plowing through a railway station on the outskirts of Fallujah’s Joulwan district.

The Soldiers secured the railway station and pushed into the city, continuing their fight while artillery, mortars and air assets continued pounding other parts of the city.

According to Jackson, after the Ghost troopers completed their initial mission by successfully securing a major thoroughfare into Fallujah, the 2-7 Cav. Soldiers continued to push further into the city, conducting operations to destroy the insurgents.

“We’ve been doing screening missions along [a main thoroughfare], patrolling it in order to allow the battalion access to its objectives in the city,” Hudnall, a Killeen, Texas native, said. “We’ve also been doing mounted combat patrols in our sector, or what we call ‘gun runs,’ which allow us to get assessments of enemy positions in our sector.”

In addition to the damage that was done by the battalion’s Bradleys and tanks, the 2-7 infantry troops had to dismount to search and clear buildings and houses, as well as to engage the enemy on foot.

“Our guys are doing a great job in the fight,” Jackson said. “They’ve certainly handed-out more than they were given.”

By Nov. 12, insurgents were surrendering in droves, waving improvised white flags. Elements of the new Iraqi military were escorted into the city to clear all of the houses and buildings and were also tasked to apprehend the countless insurgent detainees.

“It’s a good thing that we’re getting all of these [insurgents] out of here,” said Spc. Michael Haggerty, Comanche Co., 2-7 Cav., and a Cape May, N.J. native. “This is the last insurgent stronghold in Iraq, so the country will be much better off after this city is secured.”

By the end of the first week of the fight, the majority of the city had been overtaken by either 2-7 Cav. or the Marine regiments that entered Fallujah in the Ghost Battalion’s wake.

Hudnall said it is still too early to determine if the overall operation was a complete success.

"This is the last great battle in Iraq," Hudnall said. “I really think our level of success here in Fallujah will be determined in the future, when they hold their own elections.”

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Wounded Marines Need Help!

Received this message minutes ago:

Not only is BalboaNaval Hospital receiving our injured heroes but the medical facilities at Camp Pendleton are also at near No Vacancy populations. In the latter case it's not money that is needed for our wounded Marines at Pendleton but stuff.

Here's why and what they need: At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, some of the spouses of the deployed Marines put together hundreds of recovery baskets in anticipation of wounded Marines arriving at our military hospitals. The purpose behind these baskets was to provide the wounded with personal items to be used during their hospital stay and to help fill up their days while being confined in the hospitals. However, due to the higher than anticipated numbers of wounded, they are all but out of the supplies to outfit these baskets.

They are in need of the following items: nonperishable food (snacks and candy), DVDs, all sizes of batteries, phone cards, Game Boy games, books and magazines, Domino's Pizza gift certificates (they deliver on base), towels and wash cloths, and hygiene gear (razors and shaving cream).

These items can be sent to MSgt William Bonney, Office of the Division Inspector, 1st Marine Division Rein FMF, Bldg 1413 Room 200, Box 555380, Camp Pendleton, CA 92055-5380.

So send what you can.

Thank you!

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Blackfive's Exit Strategy For Iraq and Afghanistan

Iraqexitstrategy

US News and World Report has the on-line version of their magazine for next week.  Here is a link to a report of the nefarious objectives of Iran - among which Iranian agents are offering a $500 for every killed American Soldier or Marine. (Thanks to Chris M. for sending it.)

[Source: Original Map - courtesy of my old pals at the CIA World Fact Book.]

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Godspeed Lance Corporal Larson

Jeff Brokaw sent me this information about the visitation and funeral service for Marine Lance Corporal Nick Larson from Wheaton, Illinois.  Nick was killed in Fallujah.

Visitation for Larson will be 3 to 9æp.m. Wednesday at Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, 430 E. Roosevelt Road (one block east of Naperville Road), Wheaton.

The visitation and services are open to the public.

Funeral services will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home, and continue with a 10 a.m Mass at. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, on Church Street in Winfield.

Interment will be in St.æMichael Cemetery, 1209 S. Warrenville Road in Wheaton.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the troops in Iraq through www.marinemoms.us.

Jeff has more about Nick Larson here.

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mosque Shooting - Part 2

In reference to alleviate any confusion about the incident, Banagor spells it out clearly.  You might need the graphic that he provides to explain the situation to certain people.

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

More Chicago Boys in Iraq

This is a follow up to this post - Chicago Boys in Iraq - that featured the good reporting of Sun Times reporter Annie Sweeney and photographer John Sall.

Now, one of the Chicagoans in Iraq sent me the link to a photo site for their work in Iraq - Desert Photo Sergeant.

It's really cool, with great music to go along with the viewing experience.  Check it out.  There are many good photos - but this one may be my favorite - Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, has a long reach.

Or this one of Chicagoan  Vince Vaughn in Iraq.

Posted by Blackfive on November 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Last Battle of Vietnam by Russ Vaughn

The Last Battle of Vietnam

It never occurred to me, ever before,
That our Navy would win the Vietnam War.
When they took to their boats in this year of elections,
With the mission of making some major corrections
I shared their belief, John should not be elected,
And their view overdue, truth should be resurrected.
Yet I questioned the course they'd set themselves for,
Knowing how John was loved by the media whore.

Ignored and dismissed by the media queens
Being shrewd, savvy sailors they still found the means
To reach out to the people, to open their eyes
To a phony John Kerry and his war story lies.
With their very first ad, they torpedoed his boat,
A Cambodian Christmas would no longer float.
His heroics unraveled, his stories fell flat,
Especially that one 'bout his magical hat.

John called on his lawyers and media whores,
And threatened the Swiftees with vile legal wars.
But these warriors kept charging back into the fire,
And made the folks wonder, ''Is Kerry a liar?''
Till the question of whether he's telling the truth
Was still in their minds in the election day booth.
So the brave Swiftees gave us what we'd not had before,
They gave us our victory in the Vietnam War.

Those brave, stalwart sailors, falsely labeled as liars,
Stood firm and stood tall, kept directing their fires,
Steadfast, unrelenting, they served once again,
And defeated John Kerry, these honorable men.
All vets can take pride, yes all, not just some,
That we won the last battle of Vietnam.
It took far too long to bring an end to our war
But we did, November Second, Two Thousand Four.

To our Brothers, forever on that long black Wall,
You've been vindicated now, one and all.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

Posted by Blackfive on November 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mosque Shooting

At least, that's the headline most editors decided to go with today.  By now you probably have heard about the Marine that shot an (apparently) unarmed terrorist in a Mosque.

I've received a few emails from some folks who want me to explain why a Marine would do such a thing.  These are from left-wingers, against the war, who don't like my pro-military blog.  Tough.

Okay, whackos, here's my response.

First, Kevin Sites, the embed reporter from NBC (who's video footage of the shooting has been broadcast around the world) is an blatant opportunist who had a responsibility to turn over the video footage to Marine Authorities, but, instead chose to broadcast it, give the entire tape to Al Jazeera, etc.  It should not have been used for publicity, for television ratings, etc.  Sites should have turned it over with the expectation that he would get it back.  The video was broadcast (in full) on Al Jazeera - including the identities of the Marines. 

So now, you have the world aghast at this shooting (especially, the Arab world - although in undeserved moral outrage), you have Marines identified before trial, and you have a reporter continuing to follow a story.  Kevin Sites continues to report and continues to be embedded with the same Marines.

Why?

If I were one of those Marines, I wouldn't want that guy around.  Actually, if I were his producer, I'd get him out of there for his own safety.

Now, here's what I believe:

That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist had been in combat for eight days.  He's tired, hungry, frustrated, angry, and, had been wounded the day before.

That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist had lost his best friend to a booby-trapped (wounded or dead - it's not clear, yet) terrorist.

That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist decided to shoot that one and not the others (who didn't make any moves).

The Marines had cared for the wounded terrorists the day before when they took that Mosque the first time.  The next day, those terrorists opened fire on Marines from the same Mosque. 

Here is what should happen:

This case should be investigated fully, along with the other charges by Kevin Sites that three other "prisoners" were killed. 

This case should be followed by the media. 

What happened is a nasty, dirty part of war.  For anyone to suggest that these kind of incidents haven't been done by US forces in every war is sadly mistaken.  We follow the Geneva Convention.  So we will always investigate charges of violations of the Convention.  We should.  And those guilty of violations should be punished.

Every war that we have fought in the last 60 years has been against a foe that does not subscribe to the Geneva Convention.  There is no doubt that a Marine's treatment at the hands of the terrorists would be worse.  Much worse.  This makes it difficult to follow the Convention because of the tactics used by the enemy.  Tactics like faking wounds to draw US forces closer in order to kill them.

I am not suggesting that we brush these incidents aside as "this is what happens in combat".  But I think that, in the end, you will have a Marine that was justified in using deadly force.

Update:  You can go to MSNBC to the Today Show's footage.  The introduction by Matt Lauer is one sided (guess which?).  The report given by Jim Miklaszewski is balanced.  There is a Marine statement about the investigation, followed by an explanation and camera appearance by Kevin Sites.

Update 2:  After checking out more of Kevin Sites' work, I may have been a bit harsh on him.  A lot of people may agree with that statement. And if you watch the video that I linked above, you can see that Sites gives, at least, an indication that things were confusing.  Fog of War, et. al.

However, this is a big story and I believe that he should have not turned over the tape (no matter what legal rights he obtained and followed) to the media.  It's a huge scoop, a coup for him, and I think that came before the Marines fighting in Fallujah.

I can understand why some of you give Sites credit for reporting the story.  And you should understand that I think that he did not act with any kind of implied journalistic moral authority (which some claim exists) to broadcast it. 

I think it was a self-serving act to not to give the tape to the Marines first to investigate the shooting.  I understand that Sites is not obligated to the military.  That's what makes his act fair in some of your minds.  He had a choice to make.

Sites chose headlines over our Marines. 

Update 3:  MilBlogger American Soldier writes about his recent urban combat experience in Iraq.  Must Read.

Posted by Blackfive on November 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (54) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

Marine Messages In Fallujah

First, at Sondra K.'s Knowledge Is Power blog, you can see some actual grafitti left by Marines on the bridge in Fallujah where four Blackwater contractors were murdered.  The grafitti message contains some rough language...so if you are of a more gentle persuasion, forgive those who wrote it - Rough Men et. al.

Next, I have a report from Seamus and Colonel Don Myers that the Marine Hymn is being played in order to have the terrorists come out of hiding in Fallujah.  Apparently, something about it causes them to come out of their holes to die.  This is from a radio report about the Marines:

'I must tell you that just when the Marines have cleared an area...,  a short time later there may be a fierce fire fight with insurgents that were in hiding.  But an interesting report from a Marine Colonel..., just a few days ago the Marines celebrated another birthday and the Colonel played the Marine Corps Hymn on a loud speaker.  This prompted a fierce gun battle from hiding insurgents.  The Colonel was very pleased that those insurgents were promptly dispatched..., and the Colonel plans on playing the Marine Corps Hymn everyday... and frequently...!'

As for the Main Stream Media, I've also seen a lot of headlines focusing on the killed count for us - highlighting the cost, rather than the benefit of the assault on Fallujah.  The USA Today paper had a headline that was something like "36 dead this week".   I also noticed several AP reports that claimed that we were successful because we learned from our "failed" assault last April.  While I'm sure we did learn from that experience (the military always conducts After Action Reviews in order to draw new lessons learned), the failure was the Civilian Authority's in nature.  The Iraqi and US governments were concerned about civilians getting caught in the crossfire.  Or at least, the APPEARANCE of civilian deaths...

It is true that we have lost Soldiers and Marines in this fight for Fallujah.  Of course, it's difficult to find praise (except on Fox, CSM, and a few other places) for the immense success in terms of (1) enormous amount of ground taken in the harshest environment that benefits the terrorists, (2) the thousands of terrorists that were killed as a result, (3) the thousands of rounds of ammunition, artillery shells, grenades, and IED devices that have been confiscated and (4) the denial of terrorists to use their "torture and execution houses" and claim a base of operations.  There is something to be said for denying their ability to use a geographical reference for their cause.

Posted by Blackfive on November 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Home Depot...

...hired 10,000 veterans last year.  Read about their efforts to support veterans (and their spouses), plus the other Top 25 Most Military Friendly Companies, at Phil Carter's Intel Dump.

Posted by Blackfive on November 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Arkansas Guardsmen Making A Difference

Rachelle J. sends this article about an Arkansas Guard unit on patrol in Iraq.  It's a great story and I am going to post the whole article in case it disappears into the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's archives.


In 13-hour mission, 39 th unit takes gunfire, seizes weapons

BY AMY SCHLESING ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

    RASHIDYAH, Iraq — The humvee was a chaos of noise — popping gravel under the tires, a rumbling gun turret and the voices coming over three different radios competing to be heard.

    One of those radio voices overpowered the rest — it was reciting Psalm 23: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

    As the passage ended, a string of voices came over the airwaves to say "Amen."

    Sgt. 1 st Class Curtis Rohrscheib of West Helena picked up the microphone in his truck and said "Amen" as his humvee rounded a bend to exit Camp Taji. He and his platoon with E Troop in the 151 st Cavalry of Arkansas’ 39 th Infantry Brigade were heading to an area where they knew trouble lurked.     It has found trouble there before.

    It was the beginning of Operation Unforgiven, a massive search of Rashidyah, in the volatile Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad, where E Troop has been ambushed and attacked with roadside bombs more than eight times since arriving in Iraq in April.

    "All right. Keep your head down and your eyes open," Rohrscheib said to Sgt. John Woods of Beebe, the gunner in the humvee turret.

    The line of humvees left Camp Taji and headed east, then north in the cool, dark hours of early Tuesday. As they headed to Patrol Base Thunder, district headquarters for the Iraqi national guard, the radio warned that insurgents were fleeing Fallujah toward Baghdad and were blocking an expressway into the city. A day earlier an expressway north of the city had been blocked with palm-tree trunks and burning tires.

    The battle in Fallujah and the
final week of the Muslim holy month Ramadan combined this week, some believe, to increase insurgent activity in the 39 th’s area.

    Roadside bombings, car bombs, ambushes and mortar attacks have increased dramatically in the past two days.

    "It’s a good thing that our soldiers have gained experience in dealing with a wide variety of attacks because in recent days they’ve been able to show their expertise," Lt. Col. John Edwards, staff judge advocate with the 39 th Brigade, said Thursday. "This has been one of the busiest times I have seen since I’ve been here."     That proved to be true again Thursday when the Brigade’s 3 rd Battalion rolled into Rashidyah the day after Sunni clerics preached for a holy war against U.S. forces. The area has been a known bed of insurgents, with fighters periodically attacking E Troop and using schools to hide weapons.

    One week ago an elementary school boy lost his arm to a land mine he found at a school. The mine had been rigged for use as a roadside bomb and had a blinking red light. The boy threw rocks at it trying to knock out the light, and it exploded.

    "We’ve got differing stories about it," said Capt. Derald Neugebauer of Conway, E Troop commander. "That’s because they don’t want us to know they’re storing weapons in the schools."

    The plan Thursday was to sweep through Rashidyah, searching homes, schools and palm-tree groves for weapons. In the hunt, they found weapons, ammunition and explosives.

    They also found a fight.

    As the battalion organized at Patrol Base Thunder and integrated Iraqi national guard soldiers into the plan, one of the Iraqi soldiers told battalion officials "there are terrorists in the road with rocket-propelled grenades. Every day they’ve waited for you to return."

    With the sun, a morning mist rose from the fields as the soldiers rolled out of Patrol Base Thunder.

    Alpha and Bravo companies swept through town as E Troop trudged through the palm-tree groves.

    While members of E Troop walked, Lt. David Dixon of North Carolina, the 1 st Cavalry officer who heads the troop’s 3 rd Platoon, said, "You’d have to be pretty ballsy to hide a cache in this palm grove because you wouldn’t be hiding it. It would be out in the open."

    They walked across canals, through orchards of trees growing lemons, pomegranates and oranges, and found little. A farmer pointed them to a couple of old artillery rounds believed to have been left at a former training site for the Iraqi army, but the soldiers found nothing else.

    The soldiers began gathering on the road near a former ambush site and preparing to head back to Camp Taji. Soldiers joked and laughed with the Iraqi national guardsmen, sharing a relaxed moment.

    Nearby, soldiers questioned a suspect who had tried to scale a wall to get away while his house was searched. He was deemed to be mentally ill and was freed.

    Suddenly, a rocket-propelled grenade whistled by and sent soldiers running to humvees for cover. Iraqi national guardsmen hid in a nearby ditch.

    Gunfire came from the line of trees, and soldiers returned fire with rifles and humveemounted machine guns.

    "Get that 240 up and lay fire on that tree line," Sgt. Nathan Baker of Charlie Company yelled at his new gunner, whose 240B machine gun had jammed.

    Around the corner, where another part of Charlie Company had a roadblock, three 82 mm mortar rounds fell around the U.S. soldiers.

    As the battle died down, an Iraqi interpreter jumped from a humvee and opened fire at the trees with his AK-47 rifle.

   

"We spent too much time there for nothing, for nothing but a crazy man," the interpreter said of the time spent questioning the mentally ill man.

    When the shooting ended, Alpha and Bravo companies searched the palm-tree grove for insurgents while Charlie Company and E Troop held their positions.

    As they waited, Spc. Jay Malone of Madison tossed shell casings from the hood of his humvee. One had fused to a windshield wiper, where the hot brass of the round melted the rubber like glue. Soldiers had shot back with a vengeance, firing more than 1,000 rounds from 240B machine guns, about 900 rounds from M16 and M4 rifles, and 100 rounds each from the .50-caliber machine gun and the M-249 machine gun.

    Two Iraqi men who had jumped into the canal separating the road from the palm-tree grove when the shooting started were fished out, questioned and tested for explosives residue. One man was determined to be the shooter of the rocket-propelled grenade that started the fight.

    The battalion soldiers searched homes in the heart of town in hopes of finding the men who attacked them.

    As the humvees moved along the road, word came over the radio that Camp Taji was taking mortar fire. Explosions could be heard in the distance.

    The soldiers flooded the town, searching every house. Others searched people going in and out of the town.

    "There’s a lot of [Iraqi national guardsmen] here, much more than the three platoons we started with," said Lt. Marcel Robicheaux of Hot Springs, platoon leader for Charlie Company’s 2 nd Platoon.

    "They’re buzzing like bees through the houses."

    On the road, Staff Sgt. Wallace Rand and Spc. Robert Hoyt, both of Connecticut, found a blasting cap attached to a spool of wire tucked under the dashboard of a station wagon trying to enter town.

    "Look, a [roadside bomb] maker, Mac," Rand said to his gunner, holding up the cap and wire.

    It had been hidden above the gas and brake pedals in the vehicle.

    "It was hidden where nobody was supposed to find it," Rand said. "That’s what does the job, that’s what sets off a [roadside bomb]."

    "I swear on Allah," the man said. "I don’t know how it got in my car."

    He later confessed to buying the cap and wire.

    The seizure was just the beginning of what the battalion found in the village.

    More than 13 hours after it began, Operation Unforgiven ended with six detainees who were found either in possession of weapons caches or were suspected of being involved in the firefight. Also found was a grocery list of weapons.

    "Most of it came from the little town," said Capt. Shawn Gavan, battalion intelligence officer.

    In all, soldiers confiscated 19 AK-47 rifles, 14 82 mm mortars, 25 grenade fuses, 15 mortar fuses, five grenades, various other rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

    Back at Patrol Base Thunder, soldiers crowded around the piles of weapons, taking pictures.     "See what we did?" said Lt. Kevin Irvin, platoon leader for 3 rd Platoon, Bravo Company.

    Neugebauer looked at the weapons and ammunition and said he felt that the mission was a success.

    "Anything’s better than nothing."

Rachelle also sends a note that the author has a blog of her experiences with the 39th in Iraq. Check it out.  She has posts going back 8 months with lots of good stories and photos.

Posted by Blackfive on November 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

Help A Family Reunite

Bill Faith of Small Town Veteran (and guest blogger at The Mudville Gazette) needs some help finding the family of an Army Sergeant who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam (1965 - Ia Drang Valley):  Is Sgt Jack Gell's Family Looking For You?

Here's a part from Bill's post:

...when SGT Gell left for Viet Nam he left a number of younger brothers and sisters in foster homes. I understand he promised his mother that when he returned he'd bring them all together. As a result of his death, some of his brothers and sisters lost contact with each other.

As a result of a post that Bill made, some of the family has been reunited.  There's a lot more to the story.  So go check out Bill's post and the rest of his Sgt Gell index to see if you can help.

Posted by Blackfive on November 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Blog Worth Your Time

2Slick, an Army Helicopter Pilot in Kuwait, writes about the Enemy Within...it's worth your time.  It's a blogspot blog so permalinks don't work so scroll to November 13 for that post.

*I wonder what Licorice thinks about it?*

Thanks to Rachelle for the link.

Posted by Blackfive on November 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 13, 2004

The Case For A British Soldier - Murder or Self-Defense?

John P. sends this article from the Spectator (UK).  It's subscription only so I'll post the whole story.

It's about a British Soldier - Trooper Kevin Williams - who is facing a trial for what seems to be an act of self-defence in Iraq.

The silence of the generals             

Bruce Anderson on the scandalous case of Trooper Williams, who has been charged with murder in Iraq

13 November, 2004



It sometimes seems as if we no longer know how to think about our soldiers, or how to treat them. Last week, three men of the Black Watch fell in battle in Iraq.


A sad event certainly, but it was hardly a reason for national mourning. Yet much of the media became hysterical. Some of the men’s relatives, who could hardly be expected to reason clearly in such circumstances, were interviewed as if their grief had turned them into experts on military deployment and the Middle East. At the same time, a brave soldier was being gravely maltreated, and no one seemed to notice.

Last week, Trooper Kevin Williams of the Royal Tank Regiment stood in the dock at the Old Bailey, accused of murder. On 2 August last year, Trooper Williams was helping to man a checkpoint near Basra. It was a dangerous moment. For some days, there had been a number of ‘contacts’, the Army’s euphemism for exchanges of gunfire. The previous night, the local police station had come under fire.

According to Trooper Williams, he and a comrade stopped a man pushing a handcart, with the intention of searching it. The man ran off. They chased him; in most other armies, he would have been pursued not by soldiers, but by bullets. The British soldiers fired a warning shot. The man ignored it and ran into a house. The soldiers followed, even though he could have been leading them to an ambush. They caught up with him in the house’s courtyard. He tried to grab Trooper Williams’s comrade’s rifle. Trooper Williams shot him.

No one in the British Army is suggesting that soldiers should be allowed to fire their weapons recklessly. Trooper Williams’s actions were thoroughly investigated by two commanding officers, who took advice from the Army’s legal services. Although parts of Trooper Williams’s account were disputed by the dead man’s family, the commanding officers decided that the trooper had no case to answer. It seems to me that this is the only possible judgment.

But the COs’ verdict was not allowed to stand. The Crown Prosecution Service has intervened, to charge the trooper with murder. By all accounts, he is a good soldier. His treatment is a disgrace. What is even more disgraceful is the failure of any senior serving officer to agitate on his behalf.

Compare and contrast the case of Harry Stanley, the man who was shot dead while carrying a table leg. That case ought to arouse disquiet. The streets of London are not a war zone. Local police stations do not come under fire. Men should not be shot for carrying table legs. Unlike Trooper Williams, the police officers involved in the shooting of Mr Stanley were not in life-threatening peril.

Without in any way seeking to victimise the police officers concerned, anyone who cares about law and order in London should want a full investigation and a tightening of procedure. Yet when it was proposed to re-open the inquest on Mr Stanley, a large number of officers licensed to carry firearms virtually threatened to go on strike. Their action was tacitly defended by the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair. The Home Secretary has also weighed in on the policemen’s behalf. The men of the British Army will have noted all this.

Today, Tommy Atkins is a thinking soldier and a reading one, especially on subject matters that touch his own safety. He is prepared to take risks; he is aware that when he joined the colours, he signed up to unlimited liability. But he does expect fair treatment from those in authority over him. No one could claim that Trooper Kevin Williams is receiving fair treatment.

Young officers are still taught that their priority must be kit, men and only then self. When coming off exercise, they must first satisfy themselves that all the men’s kit is in perfect condition, so that it could be re-used at a moment’s notice, as it might have to be in a real battle. The officers must then ensure that the men are in good condition; fed and watered, with any blisters or minor ailments attended to. However exhausted the officer may be, it is only then that he can relax.

That is as it should be. But it will be of no avail if very senior officers’ priorities are seen to be promotion, political correctness and pensions. Some of the old and bold are rallying round Trooper Williams. General Sir Antony Walker, a former colonel commandant of the Tank Regiment, is leading a vigorous campaign on his behalf. When Trooper Williams once asked him dolefully what prison would be like, Tony Walker’s reply was: ‘Don’t even think about going to prison. If you did, I would be in the next cell.’

But where are the generals who are still in post? There are persistent rumours that gagging mechanisms are being employed throughout the MoD, with serving officers forbidden to say anything which might contradict Geoff Hoon’s line. As no one can ever decide what Geoff Hoon’s line is, that edict creates difficulties. Until recently, the head of the Army’s public relations was always a rising brigadier; over the years, the post has been held by many distinguished soldiers. Recently, it has been downgraded, in a deliberate attempt by politicians to prevent the Army from making its case to the press. But why have the current generals acquiesced in all this? No one I have spoken to believes that Bramall, Bagnall, Inge or Guthrie would have allowed themselves to be gagged.

No army can function without loyalty. The British Army teaches its officers that they should never take loyalty for granted. It always has to be earned and re-earned. It will only be there if the men trust their officers, so that even if they do not understand the reason for a particular order, they take it for granted that the officer does. They also take it for granted that within the exigencies of military duty, their officers will be 100 per cent committed to their welfare. All this helps to explain why we have the best army in the world.

That will not change overnight because of Trooper Kevin Williams. But a case like that gnaws away at the bond of loyalty. It sows mistrust among our soldiers. It may even make it harder for them to do their duty. No one wants irresponsibility on the battlefield, but nor do we want soldiers who are afraid that if they protect their comrades they might end up on a murder charge.

The death of three soldiers in the Black Watch was not a national tragedy. The case of Kevin Williams is a national scandal.

Posted by Blackfive on November 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Two Ways to Help The Wounded

I have gotten quite a few emails about this subject in the last week (Thanks to Laurie-Anne for the SFIMF link).

While wounded Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are cared for, their rehabilitation causes hardships for them and their families.  The Army and Navy/Marines have Relief Agencies to help with some of these challenges.  Hardships come in many forms - financial, physical, and emotional.  One way to assist in the recovery of these heroes is to ensure that they have family members close by to tend to them.  Imagine having a son at Walter Reed for a year.  Imagine what it would take to care for him and your family - travel, stay, eat, and still take care of your family, house, debts, job, etc.

Here are two projects (of many out there) to help our wounded from the War on Terror - one project for the Marines and one for the Army.  You should consider helping each of them.  Another suggestion is to put them on a calendar and donate to each of them at different times throughout the year (and they are both non-profits and donations are tax deductible).  The War on Terror will continue.  Our brave men and women will fight on.  And they will need our help.

For the Marines - Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund was started by Karen & Rene. Former commandant Gen Al Gray and LtGen Newbold (USMC ret) are now on the Board of Directors.  A very low key, no red tape, 100% volunteer group.  Check out the link.  There's already a few stories of those who have been helped.

For the Army - The Wounded Warrior Project (affiliated with Soldiers' Angels)- The Project seeks to assist those men and women of our armed forces who have been severely injured during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the world. Many of the injuries are traumatic amputations, gunshot wounds, burns and blast injuries that will retire these brave warriors from military service.

Note: You may wonder why there are two organizations - one for each service.  The Wounded Warrior Project doesn't really make an affiliation with the Army but with all military.  Typically, Soldiers go to Army hospitals and Marines are sent to Navy hospitals.  Of course, sometimes, Marines are sent to Army hospitals (and Soldiers to Navy facilities) for special treatment or depending on location.

Posted by Blackfive on November 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

MilBlogs Anniversary

Actually, yesterday, appropriately enough, was anniversary of the start of MilBlogs. After receiving an email from Greyhawk, I signed on immediately. I was probably the third or fourth member. Things have really happened for this blog since that day. You can click here for a list of links with descriptions to over 100 MilBlogs.

Combat_bible_1

Posted by Blackfive on November 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Veterans Day - Part 6 - Picture of the Week

Veterans Day Ceremony in Iraq

Temp_display_img_2571

Photo taken by Spc. Joe Alger

Soldiers from different battalions of the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, stand in formation during a Veterans Day ceremony at Forward Operating Base Dagger, Tikrit, Iraq on Thursday.

Posted by Blackfive on November 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Veterans Day - Part 5 - Those Left Behind

As many of you who visit here know, I've had to say goodbye to a lot of friends heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The link below could have been written by my wife. 

Instead, Venomous Kate says Godspeed to a friend

Go read it.  Read it, now.

(Thanks, John, for the link)

Update 1:  Here's another from GX magazine (one of my sponsors) written by Trudy Marshall-Bowler - a Army National Guardsman's wife.

“The easiest thing in the world is knowing what is right; the hard part is doing what is right.”

Here's the link to the entire article that is well worth your time today.

Posted by Blackfive on November 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Veterans Day - Part 4

Below is a link to Val's Babalu Blog.  Val writes about an unsung, fallen hero that will hopefully get his day in court:

...On April 19th, 1961 an American pilot disregarded the dire reports from the field, boarded his B-26 bomber on an air base in Nicaragua and drew course for a little unpopulated stretch of beach known as the Bay of Pigs. The eyewitness reports from the incoming pilots, among them Cuban members of the assault Brigade 2506 who had been trained by this pilot, did not deter him. There were no fighter planes to escort the B-26 bombers whose tailguns had been removed so that extra fuel tanks could be added for the long trip.

<...>

Still, this pilot, this American Airman knew that he had to do what he felt was right. And he did. He took on what was essentially a suicide mission and proceeded to bomb the communist troops and weapons installations...

So, check out Val's Post - Justice for A Brave American Veteran -  and be sure to read the links about the Mission and Wings of Valor at the end of his post.

Posted by Blackfive on November 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 10, 2004

Liberal Veterans Day

...well, sort of...Armed Liberal (at Winds of Change) has a great post about his journey from anti to pro military and how one can be progressive and supportive.

Posted by Blackfive on November 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday, Marines!

I want to extend (from this Doggie) a cheerful and thankful "Congratulations!" upon the 229th anniversary of the birth of the United States Marine Corps. Here's the message sent by the Commanding General (and the his wife, Bonnie) of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. [Note the wartime context]

MSGID/GENADMIN/CG II MEF/NOV04//

SUBJ//CG II MEF MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY MESSAGE//RMKS/1.
MARINES AND SAILORS OF II MEF, THE 229TH BIRTHDAY OF OUR BELOVED CORPS IS UPON US. OUR HERITAGE IS WARFIGHTING; WE SHALL NOT BACK AWAY FROM THAT! OVER THE PAST 229 YEARS WE'VE EARNED OUR NATION'S RESPECT AS WE HAVE PAID THE FULL PRICE OF FREEDOM WITH THE CURRENCY OF OUR CORPS' VERY BEST. THAT SACRIFICE CONTINUES THIS DAY. AS YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR CEREMONIES, I ASK YOU TO REMEMBER OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO ARE FORWARD DEPLOYED. THEY WILL BE CELEBRATING IN A DIFFERENT MANNER ALTOGETHER. IN THE TIME IT TAKES YOU TO READ THESE WORDS, MANY OF OUR FELLOW MARINES WILL HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN HIGH INTENSITY COMBAT...SOME MAY WELL HAVE FALLEN. THINK ON THIS AS YOU CELEBRATE THIS YEAR...REMEMBER THEM AND TOAST THEM. TO MY MARINES AND SAILORS ON THE FRONT LINES...KNOW THAT YOU ARE OUR NATION'S TRUE HEROS. YOU ARE THE LIFEBLOOD OF OUR COUNTRY AND SERVE AS ITS FINAL BASTION OF DEFENSE. WERE YOU NOT TO DEFEND HER, THEN WHO WOULD? THESE ARE TOUGH TIMES, BUT YOU ARE REMARKABLE AND MORE THAN A MATCH TO THE CHALLENGE. I PRAY THAT YOUR NOVEMBER 10TH IS MEMORABLE WHEREVER YOU ARE, AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR GREAT SACRIFICE AND FIDELITY. GOD BLESS YOU AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEVIL DOGS.
LTGEN JIM AMOS, CG II MEF SENDS.

Damn straight, General. Happy Birthday, Marines!

Go get 'em, Devil Dogs!!!

Update:  Jay B. sends this NYPost article about a Marine Corps Mom.  It's a must read.

Update 2:  Curt M sends this little item.

News anchor Dan Rather, The Reverend Jesse Jackson, NPR reporter Cokie Roberts, and an American Marine were hiking through the jungle one day when they were captured by cannibals.

They were tied up, led to the village and brought before the chief. The chief said, "I am familiar with your Western custom of granting the condemned a last wish. Before we kill and eat you, do you have any last requests?"

Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan; so I'd like one last bowlful of hot, spicy chili." The chief nodded to an underling, who left and returned with the chili. Rather ate it all and said, "Now I can die content."

Jesse Jackson said, "You know, the thing in this life I am proudest of is my work on behalf of the poor and oppressed. So before I go, I want to sing "We Shall Overcome" one last time." The chief said, "Go right ahead, we're listening." Jackson sang the song, and then said, "Now I can die in peace."

Cokie Roberts said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job til the end." The chief directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder, and Roberts dictated some comments. She then said, "Now I can die happy."

The chief turned and said, "And now, Mr. Marine, what is your final wish?"

"Kick me in the ass," said the Marine.

"What?" said the chief. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," insisted the
Marine.

So the chief shoved him into the open, and kicked him in the ass. The Marine went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9mm pistol from his waistband, and shot the chief dead. In the resulting confusion, he leapt to his knapsack, pulled out his M4 carbine, and sprayed the cannibals with gunfire. In a flash, the cannibals were dead or fleeing for their lives.

As the Marine was untying the others, they asked him, "Why didn't you just shoot them? Why did you ask them to kick you in the ass?"

"What!?" said the Marine, "And have you jerks call ME the aggressor?!"

Posted by Blackfive on November 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 09, 2004

Showdown Part 10 - Soldiers And Marines Take The Fight To The Terrorists

    "Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out - I'm from Alabama." -  Sergeant Anyett to Captain Kirk Mayfield

Fallujah is getting pinched.  The river to the west is blocked and the Army and Marines are moving in, pushing the terrorists into the center of the city.  Time is on our side.  So is the "will to win".  BTW, how did you folks in 'bama like that quote?  Well, there's many more gems in the article below.

Tanker Schreiber sends this article (he always finds the great ones) that captures the military flavor of what's happening in Fallujah. Some call it payback or revenge, others think that it's an important job to do.

I got my kills...I just love my job

Toby Harnden in Fallujah observes American soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division taskforce avenging their fallen comrades as battle begins

After seven months in Iraq's Sunni triangle, for many American soldiers the opportunity to avenge dead friends by taking a life was a moment of sheer exhilaration.

As they approached their "holding position", from where hours later they would advance into the city, they picked off insurgents on the rooftops and in windows.

"I got myself a real juicy target," shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom's Humvees.

"Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons."

Capt Kirk Mayfield, commander of the Phantoms, called for fire from his task force's mortar team. But Sgt Anyett didn't want to wait. "Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out - I'm from Alabama."

Two minutes tick by. "They're moving deep," shouted Sgt Anyett with disappointment. A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given.

"Yeah," he yelled. "Battle Damage Assessment - nothing. Building's gone. I got my kills, I'm coming down. I just love my job."

Phantom Troop had rolled out of Camp Fallujah, the main US military base, shortly before 4am. All morning they took fire from the Al-Askari district in Fallujah's north-east, their target for the invasion proper.

The insurgents, not understanding the capabilities of the LRAS, crept along rooftops and poked their heads out of windows. Even when they were more than a mile away, the soldiers of Phantom Troop had their eyes on them.

Lt Jack Farley, a US Marines officer, sauntered over to compare notes with the Phantoms. "You guys get to do all the fun stuff," he said. "It's like a video game. We've taken small arms fire here all day. It just sounds like popcorn going off."

Another marine stepped forward and began to fire an M4 rifle at the city. "He's a reservist for the San Diego police. He wants a piece of the action, too".

A Phantom Abrams tank moved up the road running along the high ground. Its barrel, stencilled with the words "Ali Baba under 3 Thieves" swivelled towards the city and then fired a 120mm round at a house where two men with AK-47s had been pinpointed. "Ain't nobody moving now," shouted a soldier as the dust cleared. "He rocked that guy's world."

One of Phantom's sniper teams laid down fire into the city with a Barrett .50 calibre rifle and a Remington 700. A suspected truck bomb was riddled with bullets, the crack of the Barrett echoing through the mainly deserted section of the city. The insurgents fired 60mm mortars back, one of them wounding a soldier.

There were 25mm rounds from Phantom's Bradley fighting vehicles, barrages from Paladin howitzers back at Camp Fallujah and bursts of fire from .50 calibre machineguns. One by one, the howitzers used by the insurgents were destroyed.

"Everybody's curious," grinned Sgt Anyett as he waited for a sniper with a Russian-made Dragonov to show his face one last, fatal time. A bullet zinged by.

Dusk fell and 7pm, "A hour", the appointed hour to move into the city, approached. The soldiers of Phantom all reflected.

"Given the choice, I would never have wanted to fire a gun," said Cpl Chris Merrell, 21, manning a machinegun mounted on a Humvee. "But it didn't work out that way. I'd like a thousand boring missions rather than one interesting one."

On his wrist was a black bracelet bearing the name of a sergeant from Phantom Troop. "This is a buddy of mine that died," he said. "Pretty much everyone in the unit has one."

One fear playing on the mind of the task force was that of "friendly fire", also known as "blue on blue".

"Any urban fight is confusing," Lt Col Newell, the force's commander, told his troops before the battle. "The biggest threat out there is not them, but us."

His officers said that the plan to invade Fallujah involved months of detailed planning and elaborate "feints" designed to draw the insurgents out into the open and fool them into thinking the offensive would come from another side of the city.

"They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south.

"I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city."

The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates.

Showdown (Battle for Fallujah) Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Nine

Posted by Blackfive on November 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

What Are the Marines Singing In Fallujah?

This is from actual Army b-roll archives. 

On October 21st, there were two Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary  Force, just inside Fallujah, singing...well...just hit the link and watch/listen (or you can "right click" -> "save as" to download.  It's 7.75 MB).

I don't think that I've heard a more beautiful sound.  If this isn't worksafe for you, then you must work in France.

The Marines are Corporal Mark Sixbey (from Metlakatla, AK) and Sergeant Robert Jones Jr. (from Oceanside, CA).

Posted by Blackfive on November 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

University Recognizes Employee's Military Service

This is cool.  A university - normally the bastion of anti-military sentiments - actually recognized the service of one it's employees who is also a Texas National Guardsman.  Bob J. emailed this nice article about the University of Texas-Pan American supporting one of their own, and he points out  that, while most of the faculty and staff are Democrats, they still understand that we are at war.  They get it.

UTPA Employee Honored For Military Service

More than 100 people gathered Sept. 9 to honor Jesus Galvan, an employee at The University of Texas-Pan American for his current military service in Iraq.

UT Pan American President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas attended Galvan’s celebration at the UTPA Visitors Center and led the crowd in singing “Las Mañanitas” for his birthday.

“There are times in the life of a community that are really special that touch, not just our minds, but touch our hearts,” Cárdenas said. “This is one of those occasions.”

He asked the crowd to think about those who have passed away, particularly his friend U.S. Army National Guardsman Spc. Tomas Garces, a Weslaco native who was recently killed in Iraq.

“I consider myself lucky,” Galvan said. “While I’m here my unit is being attacked.”

Galvan, a member of the National Guard 1836 Transportation Company out of Weslaco, was deployed in December 2003 to Iraq to transport equipment throughout the combat zone.

Director of Human Resources Frank Wagner attended the ceremony representing Vice President for Business Affairs James Langabeer who could not attend. “People like Jesse are essential to the nation,” said Wagner, a retired army officer. “I have not met any soldier who has come back from deployment, who does not stand taller and who is not proud of what they’ve done.”

Galvan received UTPA T-shirts, key chains, a $225 cashiers check, hats and gift baskets from various University departments. His co-workers and supervisor from custodial services also gave him a birthday present. One co-worker presented Galvan with letters students in her Continuing Christian Development (CCD) classes wrote for him to take back to the soldiers.

Lt. Col. Melvin Fechner, a military science professor at UTPA, presented Galvan and his wife with a commander’s coin as a token of appreciation.

“This University is pulling its weight to help the country fight for freedom and doing something that it is known for, which is providing opportunities,” Fechner said. “There are opportunities in Afghanistan and Iraq to be made for education, career and civil rights because of people like Jesse and former graduates who are doing their part to protect the country and sustain opportunities for other people.”

Custodial Service Manager Martha Jauregui, Galvan’s supervisor, kept in contact with him over the last several months. When she heard of his homecoming, she initiated the celebration for him. Jauregui fought back tears as she told him to be safe, be careful and return to his family and the University.

“I want to thank Jessie for defending our country,” Jauregui said. “You’re not only defending your family, but you’re defending a lot of families in the United States, including mine.”  

Galvan said it was good to be home to see his family and friends. When asked what he missed most about UTPA, Galvan replied “the people.”

Again, it had to be Texas.

Posted by Blackfive on November 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2004

Sergeant Joseph Bozik - Update 2

The latest news that I have heard was that Sergeant Bozik went through an 11 hour surgery.  I don't know how well it went.  The doctors were trying to begin fixing his left arm (the bones were shattered).

I don't think that he's conscious, yet, and, therefore, doesn't know what's happened to him.

The doctors at Walter Reed are telling his family and fiance that he will be there at least a year so your donations will go a long way towards helping keep his family close by.

If I get any more news, I'll post it immediately.

Here is more information on Sergeant Bozik's story and how you can help by writing a letter, sending a card or making a donation.

Update 11-09-04:  Bobby Sr. sends this article that has more information about Sergeant Bozik.

Posted by Blackfive on November 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 06, 2004

Developing - Search For Speicher, DNA Testing New Remains

Jim W. sends this article about new found human remains in Iraq being DNA tested to see if it's Scott Speicher.

By Charlene Shirk
First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- First Coast News has learned a body has been found in Iraq and DNA testing is underway.

Multiple sources tell First Coast News Captain Scott Speicher's family has been notified.

They will not disclose the details of why they believe these are his remains only to say they have reason to feel confident these are his remains.

Test results are expected within weeks...

While it is tragic, hopefully, this discovery will give the Speicher family closure.

Posted by Blackfive on November 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 02, 2004

The Sudan Crisis Gets Worse

subtitle: Thanks, U.N.!!!

The Sudanese Army has surrounded two refugee camps and is not allowing humanitarian support...

It doesn't matter who gets elected as this problem can get taken care of by the Bush Administration now.

Posted by Blackfive on November 02, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sergeant Joe Bozik - Someone That You Are Supporting

A few pictures of Sergeant Joseph (Joey) Bozik from his mother. He is now at Walter Reed. According to his brother, he is strong. I don't know if he's conscious yet.

Here is what the American Fighting Man that you are supporting looks like (click on the thumbnails):

Gossensandbozik_1
Iraq_1

Remember, he doesn't know what has happened to him. Your donations are helping to have him surrounded with family and loved ones. And I, for one, am grateful to you for that.

Update 1 11-02-04: Just found out the following.

Sergeant Bozik is going to survive. He's on a ventilator at the moment and unconscious. The limbs that he has left are held together with pins and bandages.

His family is with him, thanks to you.

Right now, prayers and donations would be helpful. When he's conscious, it would be good for him to hear from you. For those wanting to send notes but not knowing what to say, you should just say what you feel - you can include that there are thousands of us behind him.

He's had our back for years as soldier. Now it's our turn.

Cards, Letters, or any thing else someone would like to be sent to Joey, can be sent to the following address until November 26th:

    Sgt. Joseph Bozik
    3708 East 29th Street, PMB # 124
    Bryan, TX 77802-3901

And of course, you can still use the Soldiers' Angels Joseph Bozik PayPal donation form.

Or send a check/money order to:

    First American Bank
    Fund for Sgt. Joseph Bozik
    c/o Sandy Manning
    1111 Briarcrest Dr.
    Bryan, TX 77802

You should be able to make a donation to this account from any First American Bank branch.

Airborne!

Posted by Blackfive on November 02, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 01, 2004

Congrats!!!

Every once in awhile (meaning RARELY), the Army gets something right.
This is a very big deal.

Go here and congratulate our own Sgt Hook on his selection for promotion to Sergeant Major!

This is such a big deal that I'm not even going say a single smart-ass remark about it. But one of my old buddies is an instructor at the Sergeant Major's Academy at Ft. Bliss (the Sergeant's equivalent of the War College)...I'll tell him you'll be dropping by in the Spring.

Congrats, Jim! I hope this means the Army can keep you around for awhile longer...

Posted by Blackfive on November 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 30, 2004

You Can Help

[Please read the entire post as more options are developing to help Sergeant Bozik]

Sergeant Joseph Bozik, an Airborne Soldier with the 118th MP Company (Airborne) from Ft. Bragg, was recently wounded. He has lost both legs and an arm from a landmine, is not not conscious and has many medical complications. On Monday, Sergeant Bozik will be flown into Walter Reed from Landstuhl (Germany).

Unfortunately, the family doesn't have enough money to maintain themselves in a hotel (let alone buy food) for an extended period. The Army paid for airfare for 2 family members and Soldiers' Angels paid for airfare for 2 two more. The Angels can cover hotel expenses for only three days. Fisher House is full so they have to stay at a hotel.

We need your help. You can donate directly to a fund set up to assist the family with caring for Joe. You can send donations to the address or call the phone number below.

SGT Bozik Fund
c/o Centura Bank
ATTN Aiko Raynor
14615 US HWY 17 PO BOX 74
HAMPSTEAD NC 28443

910 772 8930


Update 10-31-04: Kelly the Patriette is connected to this story and has an article link about Sergeant Bozik. Be sure to read the link.

“He felt like he was doing the right thing,” she said. “If that meant risking his life to save millions more, he was going to do it.”

Thanks to bloggers Kelly, Fred and Michelle for linking to this call for help. Also, thanks to Sergeant Stryker (Timmer), Rick Brady, Frank J., and SlagleRock.


Update 2 10-31-04: I've had a lot of requests to donate via Paypal. Until I can find out more (whether the bank will take a credit card donation), I am a little hesitant to put up a Donation Button. If on Monday, Centura Bank will take a credit card/debit card donation, I might put up a Paypal link.

In order to provide transparency, I am thinking of copying Soldiers' Angels on the transactions so there would be a third party involved (donor-me-SA then the bank). Ideas?


Update 3 10-31-04: Patti of Soldiers' Angels set up a link to a paypal donation page - and, since SA is a non-profit, it's tax deductible!

DONATE!

I just sent a donation via the PayPal link. It took about 45 seconds. Please, continue to spread the word about this chance to help a wounded soldier.


Update 4 10-31-04: Wow, just wow! I want to thank the following people that were the FIRST INTO THE BREACH! The first to use the Soldiers' Angels Paypal link. Thank you so much from me and the Angels.

    Paul
    Gregory
    Julia
    Kelli
    Gay and Dave
    Donna
    Mary

You all have made a difference!


Update 11-01-04: Here's an update from Sgt. Bozik's future Brother-In-Law, Brian Peters who includes an address to send cards and letters:

First, thank you all for your concern and getting the word out about Joey. He is a great guy – a soldier and a gentleman. My sister, Jayme, first “met” Joey when a mutual friend suggested that she write Joey while he was serving in Afghanistan. The two of them exchanged many letters, emails, and calls before they ever met. When I first met Joey, I knew they would be great together, and that I would be honored to have him as a brother-in-law should they get married. However, it was not long before duty called again, and Joey was deployed to Iraq.

I last saw Joey a few weeks ago, in September when he was home for a brief period of leave in September. Joe served as an MP and one of his many duties was patrolling the roads to find the home-made explosive devices that insurgents placed in or alongside the roads, and finding the responsible parties, who were frequently waiting nearby to detonate it. He had pictures of some of the devices, buried in or alongside the road. Had he not pointed them out in the picture I never would have seen them. They have a difficult and dangerous job there, and I have nothing but respect for him and the men and women who are still serving there.

I spoke with Jayme this evening. She is in DC with Joe’s family, where they are all currently “living” in a hotel waiting to see Joe. He should be returning to the US on Monday. Soldier’s Angels has been there, helping Jayme and the Bozik family, thanks to the support of your readers. She was unaware of the account at Centura Bank, but understandably there has been a lot going on, so she may not have gotten word yet. She did pass on the following information that I would like to share with your readers.

Cards, Letters, or any thing else someone would like to be sent to Joey, can be sent to the following address until November 26th:

    Sgt. Joseph Bozik
    3708 East 29th Street, PMB # 124
    Bryan, TX 77802-3901

In addition, a fund has been set up at the First American Bank to help with the expenses for Joey Bozik.

Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can send it to:

    First American Bank
    Fund for Sgt. Joseph Bozik
    c/o Sandy Manning
    1111 Briarcrest Dr.
    Bryan, TX 77802

From what I understand you should be able to make a donation to this account from any First American Bank branch. We are also looking into setting up Paypal to one of the above accounts. For the moment, Paypal donations through Soldier’s Angels are providing the most immediate assistance to Joe’s family. However, the months ahead will be difficult for all involved as lives and jobs are put on hold, to care for and support a great guy who has given so much for us. On behalf of Joe’s family and Jayme, I thank you again for your prayers, thoughts, and support!

Bryan Peters

I believe the first fund was set up by the Army/Family Readiness Group in support of Sgt. Bozik's mother.

I'll try to get more information soon.


Update 11-02-04: Pictures and updates information are here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (50) | TrackBack

bNice Going, Houston!

Seamus sends this great story about The Veterans Museum in Texas, along with corporate and civilian support, are sending a BBQ to the Marines in Iraq for the Marine Corps Birthday on the 10th. Very, very cool!

October 27, 2004
As a show of support for the tremendous job our troops are doing in Iraq, The Veterans Museum in Texas and the locally famous Grill Instructors Barbeque Team will prepare a barbeque feast of beef brisquet, chicken, and sausage for the 1200 Houston-based Marines of the H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment currently serving in Alasad, Iraq.

The barbeque will be prepared and cooked at the Marine Corps Reserve Center on Old Spanish Trail, Houston, Texas on November 7th, and taken the next day to Hobby Airport, where it will be loaded on a plane supplied by Federal Express for transport to Iraq in time for the MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY on November 10th, 2004.

The generous sponsors for this project are:

    (1) Hibernia Bank-Mr. Bob New, 3500 lbs. of brisquet (Bob worked to get the help of Marvin Zindler - Houston's local celebrity from ABC affiliate Channel 13, FedEx, Halliburton and others to contribute)
    (2) Buddys Natural Chickens, Gonzales, Texas-Mr. Tom Dowdy, 250 chickens
    (3) V&V Smoked Sausage, Cistern, Texas-Mr. Robert Vinklarek, 150 lbs. of sausage
    (4) Blue Bell Ice Cream, Brenham, Texas-90 Gallons of Ice Cream
    (5) Halliburton Corporation-50/150qrt. Coolers for packing
    (6) Federal Express-Transportation from Hobby Airport to Kuwait City
    (7) United States Marine Corps Airlift Command for transportation of meat from Kuwait City to Alasad, Iraq.

A special thank you to Mr. Marvin Zindler for coordinating and sponsoring the donations from Hibernia Bank and Halliburton.

This project was coordinated by The Veterans Museum in Texas, Mr. Malcolm Browne, Chairman, Mr. Michael Hamby, chief cook of The Grill Instuctors cooking team and Mr. David Dunn, Corporal Scrounge.

For some reason, it doesn't surprise me that Texans are doing this. I know I've said it before, but I keep thinking that I have to get out of Chicago...

Posted by Blackfive on October 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

GQ Magazine Wants Your Photos

Tanker Schreiber sends this article that you OIF and OEF veterans may be interested in:

Men’s magazine to sponsor military photo contest
By Chuck Vinch

To mark the second anniversary of the Iraq war, GQ magazine will publish a photo essay in March made up entirely of pictures taken by U.S. service members.
“We want to show America what the war looks like to the men and women who have fought it, the people who live it,” said Greg Pond, a GQ photo editor.

The magazine is looking for “any and every picture” troops may have relating to the war. “We want pictures of you, your buddies, battles, what you do to entertain yourself when you’re bored, even pictures your families have sent you from home,” Pond said.

GQ prefers troops to not edit their photos. “What may not seem interesting to you could be important for the essay,” Pond said. “This project will reflect the war the way it really is, and we are not averse to blood, dirt or anything else, as long as it really happened.”

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 1. Electronic images should be e-mailed. Prints and discs should be mailed to: Bradley Young/Greg Pond, GQ Magazine Photo Department, 4 Times Square 9th Floor, New York, NY 10006. Prints and/or discs will be returned in a timely fashion.

On either email or regular mail, indicate “Iraq Photo Contest” and include your name, rank, age, e-mail, phone number and when you were in Iraq. “We can’t publish your pictures if we can’t reach you,” Pond said.

GQ will contact those whose pictures are chosen and will pay $200 to $1,000 for each one published, depending on the size they are used in the magazine.

“We will also credit you in the magazine, unless you prefer to be anonymous,” Pond said.

So forward this to the vets you know. They may get published and receive some cash, too.

Posted by Blackfive on October 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sniper Stuff

First, Alexander of Hamilton's Pamphlets has a Marine Corp story about snipers getting to shout "Tango Down!" in Hit, Iraq.

And there are two ways to help our snipers (Marines, Army, and Navy) have the best equipment and maintain high morale:

1. www.adoptasniper.org was created by local, state, and federal law enforcement snipers to help their brothers on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take the time to read a few of the letters from snipers.

2. Kim du Toit has a program where his readers are contributing to buy special scopes and other equipment and Kim shares the results in the form of letters and pictures from his two Army sniper friends Walter and Adam.

Posted by Blackfive on October 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

Red Sox Nation in Iraq

This one's for Chief Steve (Red Sox fanatic)...Click on the thumbnails for larger images. These are from Baghdad.

Temp_display_img_2483
Col. Mark A. Milley, a Winchester, Ma. native and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divison commander, watched game two of the World Series from a conference room in Iraq. Soldiers gather as early as 3 a.m. to root their team on. Photo by Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin
Temp_display_img_2484
Capt. Ryan Leonard, Maj. Rick Smudin and Col. Mark A. Milley, all New England residents, watch game two of the World Series from a conference room in Iraq. Red Sox fans gather as early as 3 a.m. to watch the games and finish sometimes minutes before daily briefings. Photographer: by Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin

Posted by Blackfive on October 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Missing (Parts) In Action Team (Some Assembly Required) Takes on the Army Ten-Miler

Mpiaheadtostart
photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell
True grit keeps amputees on the run in Army Ten-Miler
By Sgt. Lorie Jewell

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2004) – They didn’t take home any top awards in the Army Ten-Miler, but the performances of service members who lost limbs in Afghanistan and Iraq was, to many, nothing short of heroic.

Army Capt. David Rozelle, who lost part of his right leg below the knee in a June 2003 land mine explosion in Hit, Iraq, spearheaded the effort to put together a team of amputees from Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the Oct. 24 race, a kickoff to the annual Association of the United States Army meeting.

Dubbed the “Missing (Parts) In Action team – Some Assembly Required” – the group included Staff Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey, Sgt. Ethan Payton, Marine Cpl. Dan Lasko, Navy Corpsman Jose Ramos and Airman 1st Class Anthony Pizzifred. Also running on the team was Lt. Col. Barbara Springer, chief of physical therapy; Capt. Matt Sherer, a physical therapist; and Spc. Harvey Naranjo, a certified occupational therapist assistant.

“It’s important for people to see amputees recovered and back in action,’’ Rozelle said prior to the race start, adding he had no doubts that each would make it across the finish line. The same steely mettle that helped steer them off the battlefield after suffering horrific injuries will carry them through the 10-mile route, Rozelle said.

“It’s guts, nothing but guts. Some may walk, but that’s okay. What matters is that they will finish,” he said.

Rozelle, who served as team captain, has been relentless in not letting his injury prevent him from being the best Soldier he can be. He commanded a cavalry troop from Fort Carson in Iraq; after a medical board cleared him to remain on active duty earlier this year, he took command of a 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment headquarters troop. He’s been alerted that he’ll be deployed again to Iraq next year.

An expert skier, Rozelle hit the slopes again in December for a Disabled Sports USA ski clinic. In April, he participated in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, put on by the Veterans Administration and Disabled American Veterans. With his prosthetic running leg, he completed a June Hope & Possibility 5-Miler in Central Park with several other Soldiers and service members from Walter Reed. And just a couple weeks ago, he finished a marathon – a one-mile swim, 25 miles on a bike and a six-mile run. He plans on running in the New York City marathon next month.

More than 13,000 runners trekked across the Army Ten-Miler finish line in wet, cold weather. Rozelle predicted a 10-minute mile pace and came in just under that, at one hour, 38 minutes – not far behind McCaffrey and Payton, both of whom ran without their prosthetic arms. McCaffrey finished in 1:34; Payton, 1:35. Ramos, who also left his prosthetic arm behind, came in with a time of 2:04.

“I finished, that’s all I wanted to do,” said Ramos, who lost his left hand to a rocket-propelled grenade while patrolling with Marines near Fallujah a couple of months ago.

The race was even tougher for Lasko and Pizzifred, who picked up their running prosthetics two days before the race. With no time to try them out and get any needed adjustments, they ran cold turkey.

Sherer ran with a backpack carrying the pair’s prosthetic walking legs, backups in case the running legs caused too much pain. He buddied up with Pizzifred, while Naranjo ran with Lasko.

Naranjo came across the finish line carrying Lasko’s prosthetic, yelling encouragement for the last 100 yards or so to Lasko, who pushed himself into a sprint for a 2:18 finish.

Despite some pre-race worries about getting traction on the wet pavement, Lasko said he didn’t experience any major problem along the course.

“I was a little sore,” he admitted, smiling. The longest distance he had run on a prosthetic before the Ten-Miler was five miles, he added. Like Rozelle, Lasko participated in the Hope & Possibility run in Central Park several months ago.

Naranjo had nothing but praise for his run buddy. The new prosthetic rubbed Lasko in the wrong ways quite a bit through the run, Naranjo said.

“Here’s a guy who some months ago was laying in a hospital bed, wondering if he’d ever be able to walk again,” Naranjo said. “And look at what he just did. He’s my hero. These guys are what make me get up in the morning and do what I have to do. I see people everyday overcoming much greater challenges that I have.”

Sherer was equally complimentary about Pizzifred, who started feeling pain from the new prosthetic almost from the start. The pair finished with a time of 2:44.

“It was really impressive to watch them run through the pain,” said Sherer. “I’ll tell you, it’s an honor to be associated with these guys. They’ve given, and they continue to give.”

Sherer and others hope to see the MPIA team continue to revisit the Ten-Miler in the years to come. He just hopes future teams will be filled with alumni and short on newly- injured Soldiers.

Posted by Blackfive on October 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Veterans' Day 2004 - Part One

Here's a news alert for Active Duty and Reserves/Guardsmen about a great offer being made (again) this year from Golden Corral Restaurants. It occurs the day BEFORE Veterans' Day:

Golden Corral's Fourth Annual Military Appreciation Monday

NEWS RELEASE

(10/27/2004) — Free dinner to our nation's military, past and present. To show our thanks, Monday night, November 15, 2004 from 5-9PM. Veterans' Day honors our military personnel, past and present, for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. All 400+ Golden Corral restaurants spanning 39 states join together once again to offer these patriots a Free "Thank-you" Dinner Buffet on Monday Night November 15th from 5-9PM.

Reserves and National Guard are included in this special recognition offer.

Once again the Disabled American Veterans Organization with 2.3 million disabled veterans, their families and survivors, will have members in the restaurants to distribute literature, sign up new members and volunteers, and accept donations in support of the DAV.

An estimated 252,000 veterans attended last year helping this event raise over $241,000 for the DAV.

Also, from what I remember, Smith & Wolensky did a similar Veteran's Day dinner last year.

A big THANK YOU to Golden Corral!

Posted by Blackfive on October 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Photo of the Week - Freedom

We all know that women have suffered under the heel of the Taliban. We know that executions of women in soccer stadiums have stopped with the Taliban gone. We know that girls are being educated for the first time in years.

All because of the United States of America. Click on the image to take a closer look at hope:


Pi102804a1

Girls of a local orphanage gather to express their appreciation for the supplies and support provided by U.S. soldiers in Laghman, Afghanistan on Oct. 14, 2004. Soldiers of the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade conducted humanitarian assistance missions in the area, with support from paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. J. Antonio Francis

Posted by Blackfive on October 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soldier's Mom Worries About A Kerry Presidency

Deb A. has a son who is a medic in the 101st (Air Assault) Division. He served in Iraq and will probably be back in Iraq, again, soon.

I have a lot of questions about John Kerry right to become President of this country, when his past proves that he will turn his back on his country for what ever gain he may get from that action. This frightens me.

Kerry now speaks with some of the same/similar terms that he used during his speech to Congress (ie)"wrong place, wrong war, wrong time". My son is a medic with the 101st. John Kerrys words are most discouraging to him. My son feels that what he did in Iraq, was for the good. He is proud of what he has done. If you listen to John Kerry, a person would be lead to believe that he is ashamed of our troops and thinks they are lacking intelligents. He is not the kind of Commander and Chief that my son deserves.
I have a hundred of these kinds of messages. Many of them are from mothers of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Maybe the media is on to something when they discuss the "security moms"...

Veterans, we need to step up to the plate and come out swinging in order to stop Kerry from demoralizing our current generation of warriors. Swift Boat Vets and SF Vets are just the beginning.

Posted by Blackfive on October 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Save the Scottish Regiments!

Jennifer Martinez has information on how YOU can help save the Scottish Regiments. Even if you aren't of Scottish descent or interested in Scottish history, you should help to save these units that have an amazing history of courage.

I wonder what David Terron is doing about all of this...

Posted by Blackfive on October 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

I Never Thought That It Would Come To This

It's a sad, sad day to see what is happening here in America. You have seen the reports.

The Democrats are using our troops to paint failure. Right now in Pennsylvania, Democrats are printing flyers of a burning vehicle with soldiers looking on - the headline is "Wrong Choices...Less Secure." And returning heroes have been spit upon.

I receive email after email after email from troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can read some of their blogs. They work hard to win the peace with efforts like Chief Wiggles' Operation Give and Sergeant Hook's Operation Shoe Fly. I have many friends fighting overseas. I have lost friends, good friends, too - they all believed in what they were doing. They knew the stakes. The Armed Forces there now know the stakes.

You have read letters that I have posted here from Combat Commanders writing about (1) the media's anti-war and anti-Bush agenda and (2) how a few words from a certain presidential candidate is spurring the enemy to fight on.

In turn, the terrorist bombings fuel the far left's anti-war and anti-Bush fervor. Yesterday, John Kerry said it's a "bigger mess by the day."

I've said it before, "You can't be anti-war and support the troops at the same time." It just doesn't work. The terrorists are encouraged by anti-war rhetoric. And they will keep striking harder as our resolve appears to weaken.

And our courageous men and women just might come home to the same reception that our Vietnam veterans received. I know that almost every single one of you reading this op-ed will do everything that you can in order to prevent that from happening. But it may not be enough...

The cause of this mindset is not the perceived lack of international support. The cause is not the lack of soldiers during the invasion. The cause is not the cowardice and avarice of France and Russia. These might be problems, but they are not going to be the root cause of another downward turn in our nation's morale, our military's effectiveness, and our own security.

The cause, once again, will be John Forbes Kerry.

It's the Mean Season alright, but one candidate is painting failure where success has been found in order to win. Don't get me wrong here. No military campaign is a 100% success and we have had problems. Ask yourself "What has John Kerry done as a Senator in order to ensure victory?"

John Kerry fought in Vietnam for four months, then came home and lied about the courage and valor of our military in order to get elected. And he's doing it all over again in order to win the presidency.

Sure Kerry was in Vietnam. Well, Bennedict Arnold wasn't a coward either.

They both turned against their brothers.

So, renew your committment to supporting our military. Renew your committment to winning the War on Terror. Put one more yellow ribbon on a tree. Find out when and where your local reservists and guardsmen are returning from deployment and be there waving a flag and saying "THANK YOU!". Volunteer at the USO (a wonderful organization that has lifted my spirits more than once). Or donate to causes that support our military men and women AND their families.

While all of those activities are vital to morale, the single most important factor is to ensure that a grateful nation is here when they return.

My Blackfive tagline is "the Paratrooper of Love". Love just might be the only thing that can combat this madness.

Posted by Blackfive on October 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

We'll Be Out of Iraq in Four Months

...if ol' Cut-N-Run wins the election next week.

Kerry Vows Zealous U.S. Terror Hunt, Recalls Vietnam By Patricia Wilson

PUEBLO, Colo. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential nominee and Vietnam War veteran John Kerry tried to burnish his national security credentials on Saturday by vowing to hunt down terrorists with the same energy he used to pursue the Viet Cong...

He spent four months "pursuing" Viet Cong. Of course, based on his own lying testimony, we'll also violate the Geneva Convention by using interdicting fires, blah, blah, blah.

Kerry_salute
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry salutes a fellow Vietnam veteran at a rally in Pueblo, Colorado on October 23, 2004. Kerry tried to burnish his national security credentials by vowing to hunt down terrorists with the same energy he used to pursue the Viet Cong. And the Massachusetts senator kept up his attack on President Bush, accusing his Republican rival of allowing Osama bin Laden, to 'walk out of the back door.' (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

And, hey Kerry people, could one of you teach ol' Cut-N-Run how to salute?! Look at that! My three and half year old son can salute better than that...hell, Gomer Pyle saluted better than that.

Update 10-27-04 7am: Commenter Ozwitch makes a point about the salute being improper. Here's what the guide for US Army Basic Trainees says:

...The way you salute says a lot about you as a soldier. A proud, smart salute shows pride in yourself and your unit and that you are confident in your abilities as a soldier. A sloppy salute might mean that you’re ashamed of your unit, lack confidence, or at the very least, that you haven’t learned how to salute correctly.

...Your fingers are together, straight, and your thumb snug along the hand in line with the fingers. Your hand, wrist, and forearm are straight, forming a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips. Your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) is horizontal to the ground...

Posted by Blackfive on October 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

More Truth about Iraq from the Commander of the 7th Marines

    "The enemy, as we expected, is surging as we approach the U.S. and Iraqi election period..." - US Marine Colonel Craig A. Tucker

Amy K. sends the latest update from Colonel Tucker, Commander of the Marine Regimental Combat Team - 7. Previous letters from Colonel Tucker are here (a memorial service with photos) and here (about the media).

Dated 19 October 2004

Hello again, after a long hiatus. Last 6 weeks or so have been busy as we worked to establish the new battalions in their areas of operations and worked to get the "old' battalions home. 3/7, 2/7, and 1st LAR are all safely home and on their block leave period. 1/7, 1/23, and 3d LAR have assumed their battlespace and continue to perform superbly.

The enemy, as we expected, is surging as we approach the U.S. and Iraqi election period and enter Ramadan. Enemy activity in this AO has picked up, to the enemy's detriment. They are not very smart, and when they decide to come out and fight are easily killed. His patterns remain the same as we saw in April: move 50-150 terrorists into a city or community, use terror and intimidation to assume control, kill and maim local citizens, get his picture taken with is RPG and AK-47, then wait to see himself on the evening news. Interesting side note to ask how often you see pictures of these guys posturing and how often you see pictures of them fighting. Then compare that to how often you see pictures of U.S. servicemen fighting and how often you see pictures of them posturing. Provides a good metric for who is winning this thing: the enemy postures when the cameraman is present, but when it comes to fighting he is the most base of cowards. You don't see many images of these guys fighting because they're too busy hiding or running once the fighting starts. They're much more comfortable beheading innocents. Side note also demonstrates how, with the best of intentions and within the rightful bounds of our constitution, the press becomes unwitting collaborators in the enemy's information operations campaign. This is a fight for the will of the American and the Iraqi people. He targets the Iraqis through murder and intimidation; he targets you through the images.

Anyway...we have fought him well in a number of engagements over the past week or so. TF 1/23, 1/8 and 2d Force Recon Co performed magnificently in an operation in the city of Hit that killed 30 or so terrorists without harming an innocent Iraqi and restored both security and governance to a city taken over by the bastards for a 72 hour period last week. Of greater significance, the 503d Iraqi National Guard Bn fought as the RCT-7 main effort, were the first ones into the city, and remain there today providing security for the community. The enemy chased out of Hit moved into the city of Rawah about 50 miles west, TF 1/8 and an Iraqi Army Unit hunted them down there, killed 10-15 more and restored that community to its citizens.

In other parts of the AO, Iraqi police and National Guard and Border Police have fought off numerous attacks on their own…in my mind the most striking example of the progress we continue to make across the AO. The enemy cannot maintain this surge for long: the Iraqi people are rapidly tiring of him, the Iraqi Security Forces are fighting back, and we are killing them with stunning regularity. He surges in order to influence the American and Iraqi elections; when both proceed as planned, his efforts will begin to crumble.

We now have 2 police academies, 2 ING training academies, and 2 Iraqi Border Police Training academies operational. We continue to see the fruits of these efforts in the increasing professionalism, confidence, and competence of the Iraqi Security Forces. Firefights are dramatic and make the news; but where we are going to win this is through the establishment of viable Iraqi Security Forces. It is a challenging road, fraught with friction, but every day we see progress. Training ISF remains our main effort and will continue to be both our main effort and our ultimate ticket home with victory.

The civil effort continues apace also. Our most significant current effort is the construction of the hospital in Ar Rutbah..a $1M effort that will provide medical services to a community currently 4 hours away from the closest medical care.

Your Marines and Sailors continue to perform with courage and intellect in this most complex and ambiguous of conflicts. We are anxiously awaiting election day in the hopes that the media picture and national dialogue will transition from the subjectivity of politics to the objectivity of national interest. Building a democracy is a dirty business-has been throughout the history of democracy from ancient Greece through the present day. Regard our national effort here through the prism of that reality.

RCT-7 remembers the sacrifices of LCpls A. R. Boyles and R. Mateo, KIA 24 Sep 2004 vic Fallujah; Cpl. I.T. Zook, KIA 12 Oct 2004 vic Husaybah; Cpl W.I. Salazar KIA 15 Oct 2004 vic Husaybah; Sgt Owen, U.S. Army, KIA 15 Oct 2004 vic Husaybah; SPC J. Santos, U.S. Army, KIA 15 Oct 2004 vic Husaybah.

Please remember their families in your prayers.

Share your Courage. And standfast.

C.A. Tucker
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
CO, RCT-7

Posted by Blackfive on October 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Support Hook's Troops at the Hook-A-Thon

The Hook-A-thon is dedicated to supporting the men and women of Bravo Company, 214th Aviation Regiment - also known as the Hillclimbers - and their families. The Hillclimbers are deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Hook-a-Thon hopes to raise funds for the regiment’s Family Readiness Group (FRG) through auctions of donated materials and donations. All funds received will go toward hosting costs of this site and to the FRG.

You can bid on American flags that flew from Chinook helicopters on combat missions on September 11th, 2004. And you'll receive a certificate from Sgt Hook - the First Sergeant of Bravo Company.

There are only four left!

Posted by Blackfive on October 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Want My GI Son To Serve Under Bush

Jamie W. sends this great NY Post Op-Ed by Steve Dunleavy who's son is deploying to Iraq. Here's a bit from it.

...Capt. Peter J. Dunleavy is not one ounce more special than the guys and gals he will go to Iraq with — no more special than the thousands of the brave boys and girls who have gone before him, and those who will certainly go after him.

He is, of course, special to his wife, Debbie, his mother, Gloria, his brother, Sean, Sean's girlfriend, Laura — and his friends in the sports bars who cheer for the Giants.

He is special to me, as are all the thousands of boys and girls who serve this country, because he looks at fear as a headache and duty as the ultimate.

And yet, John Kerry makes it look like those guys and gals are just victims — wrong war, wrong time, wrong place.

How dare he say that to our brave boys and girls? How dare he whisper it — let alone shout it to the whole world?

Now I am somewhere in Oklahoma to see off Capt. Pete, 37, my eldest boy. I ask him what he makes of Kerry's talk...

It's great insight into the bigger issue of character and trust. Read the whole commentary here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Why the Military Doesn't Trust Politicians

Subtitle: That's not good enough, Dick!

Background on HR 4323 is here at a previous post. If you are unfamiliar with the Rapid Acquisition Authority Bill that has been stuck in the Senate Armed Services Committee, please read that first.

Next, in response to my request (on July 1st) for his support on HR 4323, Illinois (D) Senator Dick Durbin finally sent me a reply:

October 26, 2004

Mr. Matthew Currier
1060 W. Addison
Chicago, IL 60613

Dear Mr. Currier:

Thank you for your message about providing the U.S. Department of Defense with "Rapid Acquisition Authority" to expedite the supply of needed equipment to the battlefield in response to combat emergencies.

The experiences of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the inadequacy of current acquisition procedures in providing necessary equipment to units in the field in a timely manner. The Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Authorization Act, which was recently approved by Congress, contains a provision to remedy this problem. It authorizes the Defense Department to waive normal acquisition requirements in situations where combat fatalities have occurred and the combatant commander has issued an urgent request for equipment. In addition, in situations where the needed equipment cannot be provided without a substantial delay, an interim solution is to be implemented using streamlined procedures until the appropriate hardware can be delivered to the battlefield.

I will continue to do all I can to ensure our men and women in uniform possess the resources and hardware necessary to accomplish their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me, and please feel free to stay in touch.


Sincerely,


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

I'll requote the sentence that drew my anger.

    It authorizes the Defense Department to waive normal acquisition requirements in situations where combat fatalities have occurred and the combatant commander has issued an urgent request for equipment.

So we now have to wait for Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen to get killed before we can waive the requirements.

I don't believe that our Senators are doing enough to protect our military.

I know some of you will think that I'm being a bit too critical. Read the language and tell me that you actually expect this to work as planned. HR 4323 gave the Commanders the ability to get items quickly. And it would account for expenditures more accurately (according to the Congressional Budget Office).

HR 4200 - the Defense Authorization Act of 2005 - does not. It streamlines processes already in existence.

Where have you ever seen the Federal Government actually improve a process rapidly?

Posted by Blackfive on October 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

Sexton 47 Down!

    "Be polite. Be professional. But always have a plan to kill everyone in the room." - Grim of Grim's Hall reciting an unofficial Marine motto.

Via Seamus and Col King: This is an absolute must read. LtCol Roy "Ozzie" Osborn, Commander of HMM-263, sends these harrowing accounts of a CH-46 in big trouble after getting hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The CH-46 is a twin rotor medium helicopter that is a workhorse of the Marine Corps. LtCol Osborn was a medevac pilot during the invasion in 2003. This account is from eight weeks ago.

First is the email from "Ozzie" about how things are going in Iraq:

Life is a basket of peaches over here - full of pits.

Actually the day to day living is not to bad, since the temps are now down around a 100. Chow has sucked lately, but that is to be expected. After three months ashore, you have eaten every meal on the menu multiple times. Unlike some of the more posh Army or Air Force bases, we do not have Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, etc... Yes they have those at all the other service bases. Makes you wonder what Marines are doing 300 miles from the nearest salt water.

Flying is at a pace that would make your head spin.

We are pushing triple peace time utilization on all TMS every month. Take your best three months at home and I do that in a month here. Planes are doing great and the Marines are phenomenal. Work 14 to 18 hour days 7 days a week with no breaks. Pilots and crew are running 14 hour crew days. It is not unusual to put eight plus in the saddle four or five days in a row. If you have a high side account, I will send you the stats - amazing stuff.

Morale is the highest I have ever seen in the Corps.

We know what we are doing is the right thing.

We bust our tails to make sure it is done correctly.

We do it 24/7.

Time goes fast and you lose track of the days.

The only way I can tell what day of the week we are on is to look at my watch.

Threat issues are another other story.

...I will shoot you something on an incident we had. It will give you gray hair...

Enough business.

Drink a beer or three for me.

No alcohol in this fight.

It makes you hard and pissed off, so probably not a bad thing.

Drop me a line with the latest goings on.

More later

Ozzie

LtCol Roy A "Ozzie" Osborn
HMM-263(REIN)
"Thunder Chickens"

The incident report of Sexton 47 is included in the Extended Section.

LtCol Roy A "Ozzie" Osborn
HMM-263(REIN)
"Thunder Chickens"

The following summary of action is compiled from eyewitnesses that were involved in the downed aircraft as well as the rescue aircraft.

At approximately 2230 local time on 8 Sept 2004, Sexton 47 and Sexton 50 were tasked with the successful completion of Assault Support Request 066-Alibi. The mission consisted of launching two CH-46Es to transport VIPs from Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq to MEK East runway outside Fallujuah, Iraq. Total flight time, for the leg, was planned to be no more than 45 minutes. After the successful insertion of the VIPs into MEK East the section proceeded on routing to return to Al Taqaddum Air Base.

Approximately four minutes later, enroute to TQ, the section received at least three simultaneous enemy rocket propelled grenade attacks followed by small arms fire from multiple fighting positions. A well coordinated, multiple position enemy RPG and small arms aerial ambush had engaged Sexton 47 and flight. Cpl Lewis and LCpl Deboer, from both aircraft, opened fire on the enemy positions with their left door gun mounted 50-caliber heavy automatic weapons as dash two called for a breaking maneuver to the right. As dash two broke right the pilots and aircrew noticed that Sexton 47 was continuing straight ahead. Sexton 50 observed what was thought to be visible flares being expended by the lead aircraft. After closer examination, the pilots in the second aircraft noticed that the flares were indeed sparks and the left side of leads tail was on fire. During the initial RPG attacks, Sexton 47's aircrew felt and heard the RPG impact as the tail of the aircraft kicked to the right. The pilots saw a large flash, which was assumed to be the RPG impact. The other two RPGs climbed above dash two missing their intended target.

Sexton 47 immediately lost all electrical power to include instrument lights, internal and external communications, automatic flight control systems, as well as losing their number one engine. Both pilots were in a darkened cockpit with no instruments, no ability to talk to each other, with their aircraft on fire and going down over confirmed hostile territory without stabilized flight control inputs. Without verbal communication, Capt Franko and Capt Pawson immediately came on controls together to regain balanced flight. Sexton 47 could not perform the break right command from Sexton 50 because they had inoperable radios. Sexton 47 continued straight ahead attempting to clear the engagement area. With no visibility on engine instruments, Capt Franko heard the rotors "winding down". He immediately pushed the collective down to build rotor speed and prepare for an autorotational profile for landing. With the collective down, both pilots realized the aircraft was single engine and could continue with straight and level flight to clear the engagement area. Fortunately, an autorotational profile with no lights, no communications, and degraded flight controls was not necessary. The pilots remained at 50 feet pressing towards TQ for an emergency landing.

Within seconds, Sgt Weischedel climbed forward to the cockpit and yelled to the pilots that the aircraft needed to be landed immediately. The flames from the RPG impact were building and moving up the cabin towards the cockpit. Sgt Weischedel fought the fire while receiving burns to his face and hands. Capt Pawson, with Capt Franko riding controls, set up for a low light desert emergency landing into the wind south of Fallujah. On short final, both pilots could not see outside the aircraft due to the glare from the fire degrading their night vision goggles as well as the dust and sand obscuring visual cues to the ground. Capt Pawson trimmed up the aircraft with minimal rate of descent, level attitude with slight forward airspeed. Sexton 47 impacted the ground immediately breaking the nose wheel and left main mount. The aircraft rocked to the left causing the rotors to impact the ground. The rotors came apart and stopped quickly. The pilots egressed the aircraft through the cockpit emergency doors and joined up outside the nose of the aircraft.

Both pilots immediately started looking for the two remaining crew chiefs. Without regard to their own safety, Capt Fanko inspected the fiery cabin and saw that it was clear while Capt Pawson reached back in the cockpit to pull the Fire T-Handles to shut down the engines and possibly extinguish the fire. Sgt Weischedel and LCpl Deboer had egressed the aircraft safely from the opposite side. In flight, both crew chiefs had moved their way closer to the cockpit as the heat intensified from the rear. During impact Sgt Weischedel suffered a broken arm, bruised ribs, a collapsed lung and burns. LCpl Deboer was thrown into the cockpit during landing where he impacted the center console face first. He suffered lacerations and burns to the face. LCpl Deboer stayed on his .50 cal returning fire to suppress further enemy action taken against his and the dash two aircraft. He manned and engaged the door gun all the way to landing despite horrific temperatures from the cabin fire.

Once on deck, despite lacerations and burns to his face, LCpl Deboer remained calm and began acting as radio operator for the recovery effort. After the recovery and enroute to TQ, LCpl Deboer disregarded his own injuries and tended to Sgt Weishadel's injuries keeping him calm and comfortable prior to arriving at the medical facility. Capt Franko received serious burns to his hands and face. Capt Pawson received minor burns to his face, as well. After joining up outside the wreckage, the pilots and LCpl Deboer moved Sgt Weischedel farther away from the wreckage as fire engulfed the entire aircraft within minutes. Capt Franko turned on his survival radio and IR strobe to mark their position for pick up by Sexton 50. Sgt Weischedel now lay on the desert floor being treated for serious injuries to his chest and arm. He mustered the strength to walk to the rescue aircraft when it landed. All four aircrew survived and walked away from Sexton 47.

Wow!

Posted by Blackfive on October 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

Message for the Troops

Debra Burlingame wanted me post this message to our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else in the world.

Just want you to know that there’s a bunch of us who love you and pray for you. See www.911familiesforamerica.org. See also my Wall St. Journal piece posted on the site (”Right War, Right Place, Right Time”) and check out the messages in our guestbook standing with us in support of the president and you wonderful men and women of the armed forces. You are there, standing in for my brother, who was a carrier-based fighter pilot and who volunteered to be activated for the Gulf War.

Godspeed.

Debra Burlingame, proud sister of an American patriot, Capt. Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, Pentagon attack 9-11-01, “Never forget”

Posted by Blackfive on October 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 23, 2004

Marine Battalion Commander Speaks Out

Via Seamus and Colonel Myers, a letter from a Marine Corps Battalion Commander re: the loss of one of his Marines. I've been getting quite a few of these kind of emails from commanders, officers, and sergeants on the front lines that are expressing their ire with the media and a certain presidential candidate.

From: Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith

It is with the deepest sadness and most profound grief that I must report to you the loss of Daniel Wyatt, LCpl, Fox Co, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines, USMC. Daniel was killed in the line of duty, while conducting foot patrolling operations in Yusufiyah Iraq. Daniel was killed by a command detonated improvised explosive device. He died instantly, suffered no pain and was immediately recovered by his fellow Marines.

My command security element and I personally recovered Daniel's body and escorted him back to the forward operating base, and then onto the helicopter for the beginning of his final ride home. I cannot even begin to express to you the soul touching sight of combat hardened Marines, encrusted with weeks of sweat and dust, who have daily been engaged in combat, coming to complete and utter solemnity and respect in the handling of the body of one of their own. It puts on display a level of brotherly love you just cannot see anywhere else.

We conducted a memorial service for Daniel in the battle space owned by his fellow Marines, as well as one the following day at the battalion forward operating base. I have spoken with his fiancée and expressed the sorrow and sympathy of the entire Battalion.

If I might for a moment, I hear and see some of the media coverage. I hear the accusations and charges. I hear what could almost be labeled as hysteria over the situation in Iraq. Let me tell you something from ground level. The town of Yusufiyah that Daniel and his fellow Marines seized, had not seen government structure or security forces for over 8 months. FOREIGN FIGHTERS, TERRORIST AND THUGS have had free reign and have routinely murdered people in the market for no reason other than one day they MIGHT support a democratic process and speak for themselves. For nothing more than they MIGHT choose a version of religion even slightly different than the terrorists and foreign fighters. They live in squalor and fear. The Marines of Daniel's unit have not had a shower since seizing the town. They have eaten MREs day in and day out. They live a Spartan existence that few can imagine. And, on all my trips to their position for planning, coordination and command visits, I ask them if they want to be relieved. To a man, they look me in the eye and tell me NO WAY. Why? Well, I am not going to soften it for anyone, the primary reason why is to kill terrorists. Please remember, that is what they are trained and paid to do. But, they also tell me, they want to help the people of Yusufiyah. They want to show all of Iraq that they can stand on their own feet, push back against extremism, and with our help live the life of freedom that all men yearn for. Yes, from the mouths of these young and hardened warriors, this is what they tell me. And then...and then...they ask me how I am doing! Un-freaking believable! They worry about everyone else but themselves.

So believe what you want. That is your right as Americans. But I am telling you, there are no heroes on any football fields, basketball courts or halls of government. There are honorable and decent people all over America. However, the heroes are on the battlefields of Iraq. Suffering, killing and DYING that others might live, and live in FREEDOM. Americans free from terror, Iraqis free from oppression and tyranny.

I am an under-educated gun toter from Indiana who is just lucky there is an organization like the USMC where a half-wit like myself with some rudimentary combat skills can succeed. But I do know heroes! I am surrounded by over a thousand of them. And I am not the least bit ashamed to tell you I have wept like a baby for Daniel Wyatt. Because when one of these heroes falls, it is if an Angel of God himself has fallen from heaven! I will not profess glory of battle or any other such hype. I will profess duty and sacrifice. Daniel showed us all true duty and ultimate sacrifice. I have no doubt that the instant he died, he was whisked to heaven on the wings of Angels and placed before the unapproachable light of Jesus, who himself said: "greater love hath no man, than a man lay down his life for his friends."

GOD BLESS AND KEEP DANIEL WYATT, HIS FAMILY AND FIANCEE AND GOD BLESS AND KEEP ALL THE FAMILIES OF 2/24.

Yours in profound sadness,

Mark A. Smith, LtCol TF 2/24 Cmdr Mahmudiyah, Iraq

Posted by Blackfive on October 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

The Good And Bad Days in Iraq

This one is from a Reservist named James who's in Iraq.

Good Days and Bad Days

Good days and bad days are easy to figure out in Iraq. It's a simple test by which I determine how my day went when I lay down to sleep at night. Good days are when you get any type of mail...snail mail, e-mail, packages, phone calls. Mail is a way by which the soldier keeps in touch with that which he loves and a grip on reality; a way in which he realizes that this place and time will pass and soon enough, he'll be home. A bad day is when you get shot at...by small arms fire, by rockets, by improvised explosive devices (IED), by vehicle borne IEDs (VBIEDs), or by suicide VBIEDs (SVBIEDs) (the military loves its acronyms).

Today (Sunday 17 October 2004) was a good and bad day. It was a good day because I got a wonderful letter from my wife with an enclosed letter from a high school friend. It was a two for one deal when I opened the letter and connected me with her and my friend, Steve. It was a reminder of all I hold dear to my heart, a little piece of America on ink and paper.

It was also a bad day as I received news of a friend and fellow Civil Affairs company commander's death. Rob was a good officer that I had the privilege to meet while at our pre-deployment training this last summer. The quiet professional that you trusted from the first moment you met him; in his civilian life he was an optometrist who felt the call to make a difference. He volunteered out of the Medical Corps to Civil Affairs because he wanted to have a direct impact with people. He, like most of us here, felt compelled to leave our wife and children to follow the call for Duty, Honor, and Country. Rob was on a convoy when his vehicle was hit with an SVBIED.

Some will argue that Rob and our country threw away his life on a war that should have never been fought. I can understand the sediment but from my viewpoint as a soldier on the ground, there are things worth putting your life at risk for. The saying that freedom isn't free is as true today as it was for our forefathers in 1776, in 1812, in 1864, in 1914, and in 1941. The individuals who initiated this current conflict did so long before September 11, 2001, but the bulk of Americans were thrust into the battle on that day. For me, as for so many of my fellow Reserve service members, our world changed that day too.

What strikes me most about Iraq having been here for a while is it is a place of dichotomies. The environment is harsh with the dust (not dirt but fine dust) everywhere contrasted by trees that have thousands of birds in them. Insurgents trying to kill you contrasted by a barber that spends thirty minutes trying to teach you his language when you say hello in Iraqi. Hot, hot days contrasted by clear, starry nights. Little boys mixing and pouring cement under the guidance of Seabees contrasted by the wholesale killing of families.

The one thing that is constant, however, is the Iraqi people's desire to be free and determine their own destiny as a nation. No matter who you talk to, they are a proud people that desire to make their own way. Freedom and the right to choose is something they have not experienced for thousands of years. Just as Afghanistan held its first elections in 5000 years, the elections in Iraq will provide the freedom this nation has not seen for generations.

The insurgents here use fear, just as Saddam did, to try to make the people submit to the insurgents control. They blow up, behead, and execute those that refuse to submit. Fear remains an effective tool pushing the average Iraqi around sapping their will to fight back. However, they are. I have seen and read of so many brave Iraqis fighting and dying for the privileged to vote and the ability to be free. It's when that freedom and self-determination has matured that we, the dog-footed soldier, will go home.

So as you sit, read the newspaper, and drink your cup of coffee this morning, say a word for Rob's family. He'll be coming home before the rest of us. He paid the price to keep freedom free.

Posted by Blackfive on October 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

Email From Afghanistan - What Is At Stake

This one is (via Seamus) from a friend in Afghanistan.

All:

Sorry it has taken so long for me to update you on the situation in Afghanistan. As you can imagine, it has been busy over here! It hasn't slowed down a lot, but we are certainly proud of the accomplishments of the past week or so over here--it has been exciting, to say the least.

The successful elections are certainly the big news. Well, at least the big news for a day or two. Don't worry too much about the alleged "fraud;" while the ink mistake was unfortunate, it was not widespread and probably won't affect the election results at all, from what I hear in the press over here. It's good that the ink and several other charges are being investigated, but even the U.N. says that the election was well done, and I can tell you they'd be one of the first to speak up if there were problems!.

The real story is the desire of the Afghan people to vote. The weather here for election was the worst I've seen since I got here in May--snow in the mountains, rain, a sandstorm in the south, and low clouds. It hardly stopped these people. We worry about rain affecting voter turnout in the States, even though we drive cars to vote--these people didn't let the weather bother them, and most walked to the polling centers!

I heard stories of lines over a mile long, with people waiting patiently to vote. I also heard of people standing in those lines on crutches, with legs amputated because of landmines, and families who pulled their grandparents to vote in oxcarts, because they were too old to walk. I also heard of people standing in lines at 3:00 in the morning, in the snow, so that they could vote. (The polls opened at 7:00AM). There are also a few stories of people angry because the polls closed early, or mad that they couldn't vote a proxy vote for members of their village that couldn't walk to the polling place, but those were actually rare.

The Afghan Army and Police did a great job. We've trained them well, and these patriots took their lives into their hands to guard polling centers, villages, and cities to ensure little or no violence. Sure, we helped them prepare, but they found explosives, suspicious vehicles, rockets, and people who wanted to disrupt things all on their own. No running from a fight for these folks!

Finally, I leave you with a personal experience. We have a group of Afghan men who clean the building where I work. They're here every day and I see them in the hallway seven days a week. They like to practice their English, or at least the English phrases they're learning in books or class: "Good morning, How are you? I am fine, thank you..." You get the idea. They didn't work on election day, because they were voting, and the roads were pretty congested. I asked them the first morning they were back to work if they had voted. They all got smiles a mile wide, had to show me their thumbs with ink on them, and each of them wanted to shake my hand and I got to congratulate each of them on their new country! Now, if that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, then you have ice water in your veins!

As good as this is, we're not done yet. There are still some out there that would like to cut off thumbs, rather than stain them with ink. But that group is up against a dedicated, capable Coalition that will not accept failure. They may have come over here "just doing their job;" but that changes with most as soon as they meet these great people--most in the Coalition are fighting not only for their own countries, but also they fighting for the great people of Afghanistan.

We will continue the fight here. As I've written before, you can be very proud of this young generation--whether soldiers, sailors, Airmen, Marines, or civilians, they are impressive! Someday they'll take over the leadership of America, and from what I see over here, we'll be in great shape!!

Everybody take care--be proud of what's happening here! I just wish you could have seen the pride in the eyes of those Afghans in the hallway; then you'd understand what we've done here!

Cheers

Beak

Posted by Blackfive on October 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Special Forces Speak Out Against Kerry's Claims

This is an email to Bill O'Reilly at FoxNews from a recently retired Special Forces Master Sergeant who spent 15 years on A Teams. It is in reference to Senator Kerry's claims that he will double the size of Special Operations Forces - a topic that's been discussed on this blog before. I'm posting this letter as just one more indicator from our military (retired or otherwise) about their regard for John Forbes Kerry.

1 - Gen Franks recently wrote an editorial in a NY paper concerning Sen Kerry's allegations that Pres Bush let Bin Laden slip away. Gen Franks said in part that "he had SF teams with Afghans, who knew the terrain, caves and routes, better than anyone else,......". Gen Franks, to his credit, did the right thing,...to find a small unit of guerillas,...you send in a small unit of guerillas. American conventional combat arms units, while the best in the world, were not the right choice to send into that region looking for Bin Laden. Conclusion - Sen Kerry spinning the circumstances and lack of results (killing Bib Laden) to his own politcal benefit - no big suprise there.

2. Sen Kerry repeated claims that he will double Special Forces. I assume he means all of the DoD Special Operations Forces (SOF), but I only know about Army SF. The Army SF Groups, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th, all have a hard enough time keeping the operational detachments (called "A" Teams) at any deployable strength. Most teams operate with 7-10 men. The table of organization and equipment (TO&E) requires a 12 man team. Fat chance. There just isn't a big enough pool of men in this country to make SF any bigger without lowering the standards. Lower the standards and you will not have the right men to execute the missions. Raising the pay and instituting more specialty pay will help families at home and raise the morale of the men, but will not create a greater pool of men to apply and to make it through SF training. Money is just not a good enough motivator for living the SF life. You have to want to do it. Conclusion - Sen Kerry is presenting a hollow promise,..or worst, he may keep his word and lower the standards of SF and SOF. Again - a calculated political move for a campagin devoid of solid promises.

I'm voting for Preseident Bush,....I can't say I even know anybody who will vote for Sen Kerry.

regards,

Brad G.

Posted by Blackfive on October 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 20, 2004

How Does The Military Feel About Michael Moore?

If you don't know Marine Staff Sergeant Nick Popaditch, he's Someone You Should Know. This is a message posted on the Free Republic by April Popaditch, wife of the Cee-gar Marine - Staff Sergeant Nick Popaditch, about Michael Moore.

Michael Moore profiting off my husbands blood

My husband's bloody image was used on Fahrenheit 911 on scene 22 on the DVD. Michael Moore took this very personal tragedy and used it without a care about our family having to see this awful image captured on film. I bet he doesn't even know that this Marine survived and still proudly serves his country.This movie is against everything my husband believes in. He has pride in his country and despite his disability, he has no regrets in his service to our Nation. He is truly an inspiration to all who meet him. He will continue to serve just as long as he is allowed to. The footage of my husband is pretty graphic, It's amazing he survived. Ironically it was the body armour that saved his life, the body armor that Kerry voted against. He lost his right eye, hearing in his right ear, loss of sense of smell and is legally blind in his left eye. He says "Our country is still at war and I will not leave the military without a fight." I don't think this is what Michael Moore was expecting to hear from this bloody injured Marine he used for quite the opposite effect. Kerry like Moore also used this same footage of my husband. He used it and implied that he knew the father of this injured serviceman and that the father told him he did not want his son to
>go to war. I can't believe that the two people that we despise the most, happen to be the two people who used the blood of my husband for their own benifit.

April wife of Cee-gar Marine

Posted by Blackfive on October 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Chicago Boys In Iraq

    "If the envelope is thick enough, anything's possible.'' - The Chicago Boys motto

I love this story from the Chicago Sun-Times. Annie Sweeney is writing a series about a Chicago National Guard Unit in Iraq, and Jon Sall took some amazing photos of the Chicagoans in Iraq. I'll post the story in full in case it disappears into the archival abyss (plus there may be a Sun-Times strike soon).

18_1
Photo by Jon Sall
'We're the Chicago Boys'
October 17, 2004
STORIES BY ANNIE SWEENEY AND PHOTOS BY JON SALL

CAMP ANACONDA, IRAQ -- Chicago is a city of porches, corner bars and characters fashioned from the neighborhoods that define us -- from Rogers Park on the North to Hegewisch on the far Southeast.

Go a little bit farther south and a lot farther east, you'll find another neighborhood, this one behind concrete bunkers on a sprawling U.S. military camp where mortars thump in the night and people go to work in the morning to fight a war.

Here, a group of Chicago-based Army National Guard guys -- and two women -- have taken an assignment many figured was coming, leaving behind families and regular jobs to spend a year in Iraq.

They are Black Hawk helicopter pilots who left the city unnoticed in early January, packing up supplies from their hangar at 63rd and Central at Midway Airport, to serve a year in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But they came with a plan. Along with equipment they would need to do their job -- fly missions low and fast over a country under attack by insurgents -- they also packed two refrigerators and lumber from Home Depot.

If they were coming to the desert for a year, Chicago was coming with them.

"We're the Chicago boys,'' said Capt. Daniel C. Lyons, commander of Bravo Company. "If you look at us, you'll notice we have little tabs [on our helmets] that say Chicago Guard. Well, there's no Chicago Guard. It's the Illinois National Guard. But we're known as the Chicago Guys. We're a breed apart. We're from the big city.''

Midway is home to Bravo Company At Camp Anaconda, just outside Bravo Company's headquarters, the Black Hawks line up in the dry heat that radiates off the dark bodies. The helicopters, first used in 1978, are sleek and fast. In Iraq, they fly low enough to watch a farmer tilling his fields, a woman sheathed in black on a lonely road and clothes blowing on a line.

Bravo Company -- a part of the Army Guard's 1st Battalion 106th Aviation Regiment with 42 members -- has been at Midway since 1986. But the airport has been home to some type of guard helicopter combat unit since the late 1960s.

Bravo Company has flown to natural disasters around the region, including the 1990 Plainfield tornado and the 1993 Mississippi and Illinois floods.

Today, Bravo Company is thousands of miles from home fighting a war. Missions range from transporting generals to air assaults.

"The majority of Chicagoans are not aware we have a Black Hawk unit,'' said Dale Glowacki, 44, who grew up in Bridgeport and now lives in Brookfield. "I grew up in Chicago and was not aware there was a helicopter unit in Chicago until I joined it when I was 25 years old.''

'An amazing group of people'
The company arrived in Iraq in March with the rest of the 106th, a battalion of four companies -- two from Decatur, one from Jefferson City, Mo. and Bravo Company -- the Mad Dogs.

They are a paramedic, engineers and attorneys. Hispanics and African Americans. There's also a union carpenter and electrician. A 23-year-old farm boy who has relocated to the city's new South Side, a short cab ride from Rush and Division. An investigator for the IRS. Vietnam vets. A guy from the water reclamation district. And of course, a former bartender.

They embrace mottos such as "Any friend will loan you money, but only a true friend will help you hide the body'' and "if the envelope is thick enough, anything's possible.''

They laugh hard. They're a little cynical. One is nesting, hanging wind chimes and other tchotchkes; another is hunting mice around the hangar. Some crew partners bicker like married couples.

"Everyone is at the extreme of idiosyncratic,'' says Sgt. Tom Pullin, a crew chief. "But it's an amazing group of people.''

The Mad Dogs landed in Iraq on a roughly 12-square-mile base of sand, a sea of white trailers and large anonymous buildings with names like "d-fac'' where food is good enough, but plenty dull.

There are creature comforts -- an Olympic-size swimming pool, a movie theater with first-run films and indoor gyms.

It has the charm of a suburban mall.

But not on the block behind the bunkers at Bravo Company. Here, carpenters and electricians built a neighborhood.

Large, square concrete slabs pave the way between wooden buildings the company built. Wood porches with wind chimes and deck chairs offer respite, if not a superb view. Patio seating is built into the porches.

In the middle of it all is Bill's Place.

A large black and white sign swings above the entrance of the corner pub named for William Chaney, a member of Bravo Company who died from a non-combat-related illness in May. He was 59.

Smoke and near beers
An evening visit finds Staff Sgt. Stephen Corcoran of Lisle behind the bar with a smoke, glasses perched on his head, offering non-alcoholic beer for $1 from the two fridges. There's a couple in civilian clothes smoking and just blending in. A television murmurs above the bar; there's a dart board on a wall. Games and books line the wall by the booth, where the chess boards sit. Cases of pop and near beer gather dust. Teapots and dishes from local markets sit on shelves.

A "liquor license" signed by "Richard J. Daley'' is tacked to a wall. On another is the building permit -- this one signed by "Inspector Gadget" -- recognizing the structure commonly known as a bar to be made of wood and "bits of other materials.''

"This is a neighborhood tavern,'' said Pullin, 37, the former bartender who lives on the Northwest Side. "You've got books, you've got games. You've got fake beer. You've got TV. We don't have a pizza oven, but we've got popcorn. We've got darts. . . . What else makes a bar a bar? It's atmosphere really. What makes a bar is the regulars. Our company is the regulars and then anybody else we drag in here.''

The connecting "Chicago Theater" is wired for surround-sound and has a full-size movie screen and stage. It's painted in dramatic red and black stripes and has handmade sconces and lighting on each of the six risers.

"We're Chicago city guys,'' said Lyons, who has moved from the city to Hawthorn Woods. "We're da Bears and da Cubs. The union guys. Look at it. We build a bar, a neighborhood bar. It's 120 degrees out. Guys are sweating and tired, and they can't see straight. But they go do this kind of stuff.''

It took a village
Bravo Company members say everyone helped build Bill's Place and the theater -- installing doors, putting up walls or acquiring assets from around the base.

Members use the word family again and again when they talk about the group, people from all over the city who have shared each other's homes and families. Most were raised in Chicago, said Javier Jimenez, who grew up in Little Village.

But the work also bonds them, said Jimenez, who works at a security firm and now lives farther south in the city with his wife and two daughters.

"You have to trust each other. In the Black Hawk, you almost have to think about what the other person is thinking,'' Jimenez said. "We trust that the other person is doing what he or she has to do in order for the aircraft, and crew, to be able to function as one."

Stress weighs heavy
When Bravo Company left Chicago last fall, no one seemed to notice. That broke Lyons' heart, given the sacrifices they were about to make.

"What we do here is very demanding and you do it every day,'' Lyons said. "Monday has no meaning. Monday, a Saturday, a Sunday has no meaning. They all blur into one. That kind of stuff wears on guys.''

There are other stresses. Military pay usually doesn't match regular salaries, and some might be passed over for promotions. Long-established family routines were disrupted, and some were hit with unforeseen crises.

When Lyons was about to leave Fort Knox, he got a message that his daughter, nearly 2 at the time, had been diagnosed with kidney cancer that would require immediate surgery. He flew home, and Taylor Anne had surgery the day he arrived. After she responded well to treatment, Lyons returned to Bravo Company. Sitting in Bill's eight months later, Lyons fights tears while talking about the ordeal.

Bravo Company members say when stress from home or from the job weighs on them, they think of what they see when they fly.

Saddam Hussein's large palaces and a country left in ruins. Children waving arms, reaching out for candy the company sometimes scatters from the Black Hawks. It's moments like these that make them feel hopeful they are part of positive change for Iraq.

Yet there are doubts. Is Iraq in any better shape? Will it ever be? Does candy make a difference?

Some don't see it yet. And in the meantime, a Bravo Company member angrily points out, he has missed a birthday, a graduation and a confirmation back home.

He's venting, hanging out on the porch with friends.

Bravo Company flies hostage to freedom
The chatter from the five radios was busy on Sept. 21.

Black Hawk pilots from Bravo Company were bouncing around Baghdad, an hour into an evening mission.

I sat behind the pilots, peering down at the passing countryside through night-vision goggles, wondering who was down there and what was that cluster of buildings that looks like the Robert Taylor Homes.

Suddenly the radio chatter got interesting.

Baghdad Radio was calling "Horserider 50'' -- the call sign that night for Capt. Daniel C. Lyons and his crew -- to tell them to radio their command center for an emergency mission change.

Five hostages at a helicopter pad in Baghdad awaited evacuation. My heart raced. This was the day the second of two American hostages -- Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong -- were reportedly beheaded and the fates of several other hostages was unknown. There we were, circling Baghdad, five souls below waiting to be freed.

The story was partly true. There really was just one woman, who had been held for 16 days.

Canadian Fairuz Yamulky, 38, had been freed a couple of hours before and was coming aboard our helicopter to go home.

There we sat, on a helicopter pad in Baghdad, waiting on a hot night to see if this really would happen.

And then it did.

Car headlights streamed across the pad, and a woman in a white dress got out. She made her way to the helicopter. I was strapped into a front seat; Yamulky was in back. I was told she didn't want to talk.

Wearing body armor and a headset, I had little room to move. I strained my neck to catch a glimpse of her. She looked tired. She smiled sweetly at someone. She chatted.

We circled onto another pad at a camp in Northern Iraq and landed. Yamulky got off. The crew continued the mission after the brief delay, getting to bed eight hours later.

Posted by Blackfive on October 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

3/5 Marines Back In Action - Heroes Return to Iraq

Remember Marine Captain Brian Chontosh? If not, he's someone that you should know.

Heeeee's baaaack...and in command of India Company.

Below is an article that will be in the next issue of Time. Retired Marine First Sergeant John W. sent this one.

Taking the Battle to the Enemy
U.S. and Iraqi forces launch high-risk probes of the insurgency in Fallujah and Ramadi.
A TIME exclusive

By PHIL ZABRISKIE/FALLUJAH
Monday, Oct. 25, 2004

As lightening flashes intermittently in an otherwise clear sky, a group of more than 200 Marines begins to gear up on a dusty plain outside the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Officers bark orders, directing grunts into their vehicles. Tank drivers climb into turrets and crank up heavy-metal tunes. Infantrymen who moments earlier had been asking about baseball scores exhort one another to move forward. "This is what you trained for, Marine!" "You're the hunter! You're the predator!"

As the group prepared to move last Thursday on the city that has most bedeviled the U.S. occupation, the hyperbole seemed appropriate. Fallujah is the presumed base of Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the most potent terrorist in Iraq. And more than 100 suspected insurgents have been arrested in recent weeks in nearby villages. Now the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines along with the Army's Brigade Combat Team 2 and a company from the 2nd Tank Battalion - a combined force exceeding 1,000 troops - were about to launch the biggest move on Fallujah in months. The 3/5 would not enter the city but intended to go right up to the southeastern outskirts. The Army would move to the southwestern edge and the tankers to the northern limits, while F/A-18s continued to pound suspected insurgent hideouts. Yet this was not the big showdown everyone had expected but rather an attempt to see how the insurgents inside the city would respond. A Marine battle-operations officer called it "a dress rehearsal" for the ultimate combat. This was a scouting mission, a risk-filled feint supported by air power, an attempt to get an edge for the eventual showdown.

The latest counterinsurgency effort began in a week that included the start of Ramadan and saw the U.S. military - primarily the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force - move boldly to try to subdue the rebellion raging in Fallujah and Ramadi, the two most restive towns in Anbar, Iraq's most restive province. New forces were brought in, new strategies employed. But despite clear successes, the week's record of strikes and counterstrikes suggests that if, as the young Marine said, the Americans are predators, the prey is dictating the nature of the hunt.

The assault had begun in Ramadi two days earlier, when much of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines joined the elite 36th Battalion of the Iraqi National Guard and their U.S. special- forces advisers to raid seven mosques in the city. As in Fallujah, attempts to prop up a local government in Ramadi have faltered amid violence, kidnappings and assassinations. Military bases in both places are frequently mortared. Unlike in Fallujah, though, in Ramadi the Marines are a regular presence in the streets. And they are hit daily by a mostly invisible enemy, bountifully armed with improvised explosive devices (IEDS), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and automatic weapons. Most attacks occur on Ramadi's main road, dubbed Route Michigan. (When asked if they're in control of the city, a roomful of grunts responds with phrases like "Oh, f___ no!") The mosques offer support and sanctuary to fighters, the Marines say. Calls to attack Americans and the Iraqis working with them go out over the mosques' loudspeakers.

Iraq's 36th Battalion was called in because American troops are forbidden to enter mosques and because the 36th is battle tested, having taken part in earlier sieges in Najaf and Samarra. "God willing, we will go anywhere in Iraq and kill the terrorists," says battalion commander Fadil Jamel. With the 36th out front, the Marines play a supporting role.

The Ramadi operation, launched at 4 a.m., is designed to end before sunrise, before morning prayers. The Marines expect resistance, but as the 36th breaches the gate of Ramadi's main mosque, the city remains quiet. Sergeant Jose L. Carillo of the 2/5's Whiskey Company looks out from a position on a nearby rooftop. "These guys fight when they want to fight, not when we want them to fight," Carillo says of the insurgents, as he peers through night-vision goggles. "They just keep on recruiting. And, I don't mind saying it, we don't have enough people for what we're doing."

With the first search complete, Whiskey Company moves with the 36th to another mosque, while other units pursue other targets. Again, no resistance. The whole day is quiet. "That's not good. That means they're planning," says a Marine who asks not to be identified because he has told his wife he is in Kuwait. Indeed, the response comes at night. Shortly after 9 p.m., another company encounters resistance in the town. The Whiskey platoon, tasked as that night's Quick Reaction Force, gears up, led by company commander Captain Patrick Rapicault. "We'll probably get hit tonight," says his driver, Corporal Marc Ryan, who gazes at a picture of his sweetheart back home before speeding into town.

First stop is the government center, a heavily fortified observation post where two Marines had been wounded by mortar fire earlier that day. The stay is brief. "We're definitely being observed," says Rapicault, but the night seems calm enough, so the units decide to head back. They turn right out of the government center onto Michigan, then right again on Central. Halfway down the street, an IED detonates near the lead humvee. They have driven into an ambush. As Ryan steers through the smoke, red tracers streak through the air and bounce along the ground. RPGs fly from both sides of the road, and AK-47 fire crackles. Rapicault's gunner returns fire with the mounted .50-cal. machine gun; his counterparts in other vehicles do likewise. The convoy U-turns en masse, back to Michigan, then back to sanctuary in the government center. No one is injured. One humvee has a flat tire, and another has been hit with two RPGS, which were deflected by the armor. A Marine says his crew saw an RPG team running down an alley and tried to take it out with an automatic grenade launcher, but the weapon jammed.

In the empty, darkened hallways of the government center, Rapicault huddles with senior officers from both Whiskey and Echo companies, studying a map by flashlight, plotting the next move. Reports arrive that some 25 men are massing south of the ambush site. The Marines debate their options, then head out again to find these insurgents.

Ryan once more turns right on Michigan. As the convoy approaches Central, an IED blows near the lead vehicle. Then two more-- 155-mm mortar shells wired with remote triggers - detonate on either side of Rapicault's humvee, only a few feet from the front tires. The blasts shower the humvee with sparks and dust, spider-webbing the windshield and nearly piercing the reinforced glass in two places. Ryan pushes through the smoke, struggling with steering and visibility, then hits a barrier on the side of the road. The vehicle is alone, no support front or back. More IEDs go off in the distance, and Rapicault shouts to Ryan to turn around. "We can't stop here!" he yells. The windshield is covered with oil, so the gunner shouts out directions, and Ryan feels his way back onto the road.

A few anxiety-ridden minutes later, the men again take cover in the government center. The other humvees lurch in on busted tires. Between Whiskey and Echo, seven vehicles have wheel or windshield damage. A few gunners are dazed. One has had his neck grazed by shrapnel, but again the men have evaded serious injuries thanks to the reinforced armor of their vehicles. For the next few hours they wait for a support team with extra tires. When the vehicles are fixed, the men will head out to swap with another platoon. Rapicault's humvee is disabled - this is the sixth time he has been hit - and efforts to tow it fail when it skids sideways into a concrete barrier, busting the axle.

All told, 13 IEDs have been detonated in Ramadi Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. The explosions and the chase - it's not always clear who is chasing whom - continue into the next day. Two Echo Company Marines have been killed and one wounded by small-arms fire and an RPG attack. By noon Wednesday, things begin to settle. The battalion has detained 15 people and seized a weapons cache. The Americans believe they have killed 30 to 40 insurgents but can't say for sure because the insurgents quickly remove their dead and wounded. Rapicault calls it "a very successful day" and says he hopes the seizure of mortar shells, pipe bombs, AK-47s, machine guns and RPGs means the next few days, at least, will be quiet.

The push on Fallujah comes the following night. The tanks and troop carriers led by the 3/5 pull out of the base around 9 p.m. An AC-130 Spectre gunship - known to the Marines as "Basher"--is already in the air. After an hour, the battalion vehicles set off. The neon-green lights of the Fallujah mosques are visible in the distance. The main target, though, is an old soda factory just south of the city's main thoroughfare; insurgents are thought to be congregating in the area. The nerve center of the jihadist network, the military believes, is just to the west, in an area the Americans dub "Queens."

On their way toward the factory, the vehicles turn off a paved road onto a dusty plain and struggle with the uneven terrain and fine sand. One tank gets stuck for a spell. "So much for rolling right on in," says Captain Brian Chontosh, who heads the infantrymen of India Company. But they are protected. The deep percussion of artillery impacting the target area booms through the night, sending a huge black cloud into the sky. Aerial surveillance spots a pickup truck with a mounted machine gun moving in from the west. From above comes a deep rumbling sound. "Basher took it out," says a radio operator in Chontosh's carrier. Insurgents seen trying to set up a mortar position are killed with a TOW missile fired by another company. Around midnight, as the convoy approaches the factory, the Americans take gunfire from the upper floors and off both flanks. The shooters are immediately silenced by tank shells and heavy machine guns. India Company grunts dismount and move through the factory and surrounding buildings. There are no further exchanges.

Chontosh sets up a command post in the sand and lights a cigarette. "It's time for a defensive mind-set now," he says, settling back to await the insurgents' reaction. On a screen with a live satellite feed, he monitors movement in the surrounding area. There isn't much to see. Word from headquarters is that communications intercepts suggest the insurgents thought this was in fact the big showdown and had congregated in the middle of the city. But other than random bursts of small-arms fire, which is met with heavy fusillades, there is little action at the soda factory. Chontosh meets with the 3/5 commander, Lieut. Colonel Patrick J. Malay. They agree that things are looking good, but Malay says, "Let's not press our luck" by staying too long and "letting someone get lucky with a mortar." Twenty minutes later, they head out.

By the end of last week's mission, Marines and Iraqi soldiers began to relax the checkpoints they had set up around the city. The military gamesmanship in Ramadi and Fallujah gave the U.S. useful information about the insurgents but certainly did not eliminate them. Company commanders know it will be a long struggle and that this is only one piece of it. No single battle can settle everything.

The U.S. believes its Fallujah bombing campaign has killed some top al-Zarqawi operatives, and military officials hope the latest mission will hamper his network's ability to operate. But the insurgency has shown a clear ability to regenerate itself after losses. And the rebels continue to adapt their tactics, adding TNT to their IEDs, for instance, to make them more lethal. In Ramadi they have begun attacking more at night; in Fallujah they have dug into defensive positions. A U.S. military battle-planning officer in Fallujah says the raid left a "big intel wake," information that will be useful later, he says, when the military moves to retake the city. No one can say when that will be. Corpsman Scott Pribble, a Navy medic with the 3/5, had said before last week's operation that he hoped he wouldn't be busy that night. He wasn't. But when asked about the eventual fight for control of Fallujah, he said, "Oh, we'll be busy then."

Posted by Blackfive on October 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

They're Not Just Numbers!

I received this email this morning.

Tonight, when the talking heads give out the number of men and women killed in Iraq, I want you to remember this:

So what's new around the country? Things here in Iraq continue along. We had a great deal of fighting the other day, just lots of gunfire then quiet. Usual stuff.

Some time ago we had a farewell for our Brigade Executive Officer, who left to take command of a battalion in the Fourth Infantry Division. We all did skits lampooning him; some guys could not get their video to play on the video player, so a panic ensued while we transferred digital to video and back trying to get it together. We ended up with a US video player and needed a US video, so we took my buddy Dennis Pintor's home video and recorded the skit on the end of the recording of his daughter Rhea collecting Easter eggs around the house.

When it came time to show the video, we had re-wound it too far, so we had the entire Brigade of officers watching Dennis Pintor's cute little daughter run around looking for Easter eggs and waving at her father far away. It was actually pretty cute, because Dennis narrated the whole time, and because everyone with kids missed theirs too. "There she is, ladies and gentlemen, Rhea Pintor, waving at her daddy," he said.

You would be surprised at how seriously people around here take these farewells. This could have actually been a disaster, but Dennis chiming in with his commentary on his daughter toddling along kept everyone smiling; even I was laughing. The home video had the usual terrible, home video, yellow-green quality, but it was easy to get passed it for the brief moment he transported us all back home to our own loved ones.

Captain Dennis Pintor was killed with his entire vehicle crew a few nights ago, just a kilometer from the base camp at 10:52 PM. You guys will miss him even though you never knew him, because he believed in defending his country, and he knew that a lot of the bad guys he captured here were out to kill Americans wherever they could find them, and he therefore believed in this mission.

As an engineer, Dennis spent a lot of time rebuilding, and in many ways he was very lucky to be able to help the Iraqi people directly, with concrete missions fixing roads (ha ha) and repairing bridges he could look at later to know he had accomplished something. He even went out of his way to help the Palestinians in his sector.

Because of the nature of my job, I always try to remember that the people we kill on the other side are also humans, that they also have families and brothers and sisters and wives and children. Some of them, I have seen, did not even have shoes on when they died. It is an almost forgivable poverty they fight from.

What makes a difference to me is that their goals are to turn this country into one with fewer freedoms than before we came, to enforce an extreme religious government that suppresses liberty and worse, exports their intolerance. It makes a difference to me that when we raided the Kufa and Imam Ali Mosque we found hundreds of bodies that had been tortured and executed. Some had had their eyes drilled out; others - men, women, and children - their genitals mutilated; almost all – men, women, and children - had been sexually assaulted. Holy warriors indeed.

Dennis knew this too. For the life of me I cannot get the memory of his little daughter out of my mind; I can't forget Dennis narrating her laughter and her toddler's speech. He was, of course, a great guy. He and his driver and gunner will be 1067, 1068, and 1069 on a list somewhere. To me three of them were the best of friends, and they were Americans dedicated to defending and sharing freedom.

The men and women doing the fighting and dying know what is at stake, and they know how the media portrays the sacrifices. Don't allow them to become statistics for Peter Jennings or Dan Rather.

Remember what the number means.

Posted by Blackfive on October 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

"Calibrate"? How about Decimate, Mr. Secretary General?

    cal·i·brate 3. To make corrections in; adjust - The American Heritage Dictionary

When I read the article below, I kept thinking, "Yeah, like when you calibrated the Oil For Food Program so that Iraqis didn't starve and Saddam didn't get rich..." I still find it hard to believe that the UN has any credibility left in the world today. Maybe, it just has credibility where it can financially reward government officials.

Annan Says Crackdown in Iraq Must Be 'Calibrated' Tue Oct 19, 2004 11:28 AM ET By Mike Peacock LONDON (Reuters) - A crackdown on insurgents in Iraqi hotspots like Falluja must be carefully conducted to avoid losing a battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday.

"In these kind of situations you have two wars going on," he said. "You have the war for minds and hearts of the people as well as efforts to try and bring down the violence.

"The two have to go together and it has to be calibrated in such a way that you are able to move the people along with you ... I hope that approach is also the one that is being pursued by the government and others," he told a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw...

Well, Mr. Annan, third time's a charm...According to my friends in Iraq, Fallujah is about to be crushed.

Twice before, the US has entered and held ground in Fallujah about 1/4th of the way into the city. With elections coming soon, Fallujah will be taken by American and Iraqi forces. Evacuations of civilians have been arranged for weeks, now. It's just beginning.

Saddam couldn't control Fallujah. We probably can't control Fallujah. But we can eliminate significant numbers of terrorists by engaging and destroying them. We will lose American lives in the coming fight, but it's necessary in order to acheive stability in the region.

I've said before that by not taking Fallujah the last two times that someone else would have to do it and possibly pay a greater price in order to accomplish victory. This time, it looks like it will be Iraqi forces along side of US forces paying the price.

Perhaps that sum will be what is needed to separate the Iraqis from the foreigners among the terrorists.

Posted by Blackfive on October 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Photo Of The Week - IED Trigger

Soldiers from the 39th Brigade Combat Team recently hit the jackpot in Taji, Iraq. After some intense fighting, they nabbed a terrorist leader and cache of weapons and items used for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device).

Ied_trigger
U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Chris Heathscott
One type of trigger device found was a cell phone rigged up to a motorcycle battery which allows the trigger to remain operational for an extended period.

Posted by Blackfive on October 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 18, 2004

Reservists Refuse Mission In Iraq

I watched Al Hunt on CNN say that Reservists were refusing to fight in Iraq. He's wrong. Some Reservists are refusing to transport fuel in Iraq. There's a difference.

Over the weekend, I've received over thirty emails asking for an opinion about the Reservists refusing to transport fuel in Iraq - they called it a "suicide mission".

On October 13th, eighteen (out of 100) soldiers of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, a reserve unit from Rock Hill, S.C., failed to show up Wednesday for the fuel convoy's departure for a 150-mile trip to Taji, north of Baghdad. The 343rd has been in Iraq since February. The soldiers refused to drive the transports due to many reasons (reported by the media):

    (1) lack of armored vehicles - according to preliminary findings, the 343rd did not have up-armored vehicles upon arriving in Iraq and did not receive upgrades while in Iraq.
    (2) lack of vehicles that were not deadlined (meaning safe or able to operate correctly) - for example, a broken fuel injector could keep a vehicle from operating.
    (3) lack of convoy security in the form of MP humvees or helicopter gunship support - this is in dispute right now.
    (4) the fuel they were supposed to transport was alledgely contaminated - this is in dispute right now.
    (5) the trip from Talil to Taji is one of the most dangerous in Iraq.

Other soldiers from the same company completed the mission for the eighteen who refused it. BTW, the route from Talil to Taji IS one of the most dangerous routes in Iraq.

The small unit leadership of the unit (lieutenants and captains) was lacking - that's an understatement - in order for this to occur. I don't mean that some future General Patton is going to kick things into gear, but somebody was supposed to keep the vehicles maintained, the fuel pure, and the unit protected on it's missions. How far would you go to get your vehicles armored? Would you find the steel to ensure your soldiers are taken care of...? Apparently, the unit's soldiers complained about the lack of armor to their chain of command.

The military gives a three part rule to disobey an order: Is the order illegal, immoral, or unethical? This doesn't even come close to passing the rule for disobedience.

To me, it boils down to extremely poor leadership. My opinion is that the leadership's mind set was to accept their situation, and it looks to me like they did nothing to improve it. It seems that the 343rd had a cushy mission for the most part of their tour and didn't continue to focus on a combat mind-set. Most soldiers will tell you that you never stop training. There is no finale, no finish-line. Always keep improving and testing. It's not easy or fun, but any other focus will get you and your men and women killed.

There isn't any indication at this point that the (Officer) leadership of the company tried to do everything in their power to increase the survival of their unit - either by training their soldiers in combat skills or by getting their soldiers the equipment they needed to perform their mission. And sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. Whether that's getting steel for armor on the Iraqi black market or bribing people to get your vehicles armored and protected by escorts or by initiating a Congressional or Inspector General Inquiry, that's what you have to do.

That's what I think as of today. There might be more details forthcoming but don't count on it. This is about the fine line between doing everything to protect your troops and getting every mission accomplished. It's a very delicate matter for all of the troops in Iraq. The command has to send the right signal to the rest of the soldiers who continue to accept their dangerous missions (the missions are dangerous but not "suicidal").

While the disobeyers might get General Discharges, the command structure in Iraq probably won't convene a court-martial. The 343rd will probably get new leadership and the command will retrain them and equip them properly. And they'll probably serve with distinction.

Sometimes to you have to break something in order to fix it properly.

Update 10-19-04: I have received tons of email about this issue. Many want to know why I am not being tougher on the "mutineers". I appreciate all of your opinions and ideas and criticisms. Thank you.

The soldiers refusing to complete any mission should be punished and will be punished...probably with Article 15s and a select few may get worse. That's what I think will happen, not what I would do in that situation.

The main point is that the soldiers may have had some legitimate concerns with their mission, leadership, and equipment. HOWEVER, they used the wrong means to fix the problem. So, the unit needs to get fixed - leadership and equipment - AND the soldiers need to be punished. Those still kept in service will need to be retrained as well. I believe that I was clear about that.

The junior leadership of the unit is still the main problem. This would never have happened with a unit that was led by mediocre officers and sergeants...let alone good ones.

Posted by Blackfive on October 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

Trouble Among Friends - Canadians Find More Than Weapons Cache

Jim W. sends this article from the Toronto Sun about Canadian troops in Afghanistan finding a huge weapons cache - one with some interesting history. Unforunately, our friends to the north are learning about some of our "allies" loyalties. In case the article disappears into archival abyss, I'll post the whole piece.

Weapons cache stuns Canucks
By PETER WORTHINGTON -- For the Toronto Sun
Canadian soldiers attached to the Afghan National Army (ANA) have stirred up a hornet's nest in Kabul by being too efficient.

They've "discovered" a huge Soviet ammunition dump a few kilometres from Camp Julien with the potential of obliterating the camp, as well as most of Kabul.

That may sound like hyperbole, but I was with the Canadians who discovered the cache -- soldiers (mostly Princess Pats and combat engineers) who are training and working with the ANA and consider themselves to have the best job in the army.

In the dusty foothills, 10 minutes drive from Camp Julien (population 2,000), 82 buried bunkers, each 20-metres long, housed thousands of Soviet FROG missiles (one step down from Scud missiles), and every variety of rocket and mortar shells.

Some of the FROG missiles were still in their original cases. Some heaped in the open. Some stacked to the roof in the unlocked, open bunkers. Much of the ordnance had warheads removed to collect the explosive for homemade bombs -- or for blasting at a nearby quarry.

"Unbelievable!" was Maj. Brian Hynes' reaction when he saw them. "We (troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)) have been here some two years, and no one knew this was at our back door. Unbelievable."

In truth, the Soviet bunkers were well-known in an area supposedly under control of the Afghan Militia Force (AMF) -- not to be confused with the ANA. The AMF is paid by various warlords and so their loyalty is to them.

The hero of the discovery was combat engineer Sgt. Mike Mazerolle of New Brunswick, who has run the observation post for eight days with ANA soldiers. They watch the valleys leading to Kabul.

He saw people to his rear so he investigated and found the 82 bunkers "loaded with ordnance, and here I am sleeping next to a FROG!"

He informed his boss, Maj. Hynes and -- eureka -- the cache was discovered.

Many of the rockets, missiles and shells had been pried open for the explosives, which are used peacefully to blast mountain rock into gravel, and by those who want to make bombs that disrupt Kabul.

"These bunkers have been known for two years but no one bothered to check them," said Maj. Hynes.

"To me, that's incompetence."

"To me it's criminal," said Sgt. Power, who works with the major in training the ANA.

I've never seen anything like it. The feeling is that AMF soldiers were selling access to the dump or permitting friends to enter it.

Littered with burned out Soviet military vehicles, the whole area is a junk pile strewn with every sort of live ammunition, fuses, unexploded shells, rockets, etc., all supposedly under the authority of Belgian troops (at the moment), who ignored it.

In the midst of examining the bunkers and taking photos, a Swedish UN guy, a French major and a German colonel arrived to make a fuss and order the Canadians to leave. The French major insisted his government had a deal with the Afghan government for the area, and ISAF had no business being there.

This cut little ice with Maj. Hynes, who is responsible -- not to the commander of Camp Julien, Col. Jim Ellis -- but to the ANA, which has now moved in to secure the site.

The French major was clearly bluffing, hadn't checked the bunkers and got a classic Canadian roasting from Maj. Hynes -- who was supported by a German general who was also appalled at the laxity.

"Now we've stirred up the hornet's nest," grinned Maj. Hynes. "Good. Now we may get some action."

"I feel foolish that for eight days we've been watching our front, when at our back all this was going on and nobody cared," said Sgt. Mazerolle.

Posted by Blackfive on October 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

Sy Hersh Is At It Again

First go here (and don't let it get your blood pressure pumped up). Think about the situation described.

Then go read what Sergeant Mom has to say about it at Stryker's place.

What do you think?

If it's true, Hesch should do something about it. If it's not, then we should do something about Hersh.

Without a Vietnam mess, Hersh has nothing to write about.

If you knew that the US had murdered 36 Iraqis, would you just sit on that information?

You wouldn't.

Posted by Blackfive on October 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Photo Of The Week - New Citizens

Glad to have you as citizens and THANK YOU!

Temp_display_img_2353
October 3,2004 - Al Faw Palace, Camp Victory South Baghdad, Iraq - Deployed men and women from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines take the Oath of Allegiance during a overseas naturalization ceremony to recieve their U.S. citizenship something never done before October 1, 2004.
Photo by Spc. J. Tashun Joyce

Here's the related story:

Soldiers Take Oath of Citizenship in Iraq
By Spc. Leah R. Burton / 28th Public Affairs Detachment LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq, Oct. 13, 2004 — Forty-eight non-U.S. citizen service members raised their right hands, took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America and became naturalized U.S. citizens at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Oct. 3.

Prior to Oct. 1, legislation stated that an applicant for U.S. citizenship had to take the exam and oath on U.S. soil. Effective Oct. 1, Congress granted the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the authority to allow applicants to take the exam, interview and oath at certain overseas locations...

“The United States recognizes the contributions non-citizen service members make in ensuring we remain a free nation, and as a sign of appreciation, the United States has expedited the naturalization process for non-U.S. citizens who serve on active duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Capt. Marc Defreyn, chief of client services, LSA Anaconda Consolidated Legal Center.

About 7,000 non-citizen service members have cases pending. About 2,000 soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are non-U.S. citizens.

Spc. Jote Aga, a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a truck driver with the 630th Transportation Company here, immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1997.

He applied for citizenship in 2003, but due to this deployment was unable to attend his naturalization appointment, where he would have taken the exam and completed his interview. After passing the exam and interview in Baghdad, Aga was able to join the other applicants who took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

“I wasn't planning to get sworn in over here,” Aga said. “The U.S. gave me the opportunity to pursue my goals.”

The USCIS's goal is to process military members' applications within four months. It normally takes six months or longer.

“I have seen an increase in the number of service members taking advantage of this expedited process, especially our fellow guard and reserve service members,” Defreyn said.

In addition to the expedited process, USCIS has also waived the filing fee for applicants serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“The decision to become a U.S. citizen is an important decision in a service member's life. They are demonstrating a commitment to the United States and while they will enjoy all of the benefits of being a U.S. citizen, they also bear all of the responsibilities,” said Defreyn. “I hope the first official act they do as a United States citizen is to vote in the soonest election to ensure their voice is heard.”

“I can't imagine what would be more memorable for a service member than to become a U.S. citizen while serving during (OIF),” Defreyn said.

“This means a lot to me. I'm so happy I'm serving the country. It's nice to become a citizen,” Aga said. wasn't planning to get sworn in over here,” Aga said. “The U.S. gave me the opportunity to pursue my goals.”

Posted by Blackfive on October 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Showdown Part 9 - Marines Hit Fallujah

    ''It is going to be a long night." 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force

The Marines are getting set to hit Fallujah, again. JarheadDad sends the following story:

U.S. Marines launch air and ground attacks after Fallujah delegation suspends peace talks By Nadia Abou El-Magd, Associated Press, 10/14/2004 23:55

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) U.S. Marines launched air and ground attacks Thursday on the insurgent bastion Fallujah after city representatives suspended peace talks with the government over Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's demand to hand over terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Late Thursday, residents of the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad, reported shuddering American bombardments using planes and armored vehicles in what they said was the most intensive shelling since U.S. forces began weeks of ''precision strikes'' aimed at al-Zarqawi's network.

In Washington, however, a senior military official, speaking on operational matters on condition of anonymity, described the latest fighting as strikes against specific targets and of the same scope as previous attacks into Fallujah.

Warplanes and artillery pounded the city as two U.S. Marine battalions attacked rebel positions to ''restore security and stability,'' 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told CNN.

''It is going to be a long night,'' he said.

Maj. Francis Piccoli, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told The Associated Press that two Marine battalions were engaged in the fight backed up by aircraft.

He would not say the attack was the start of a major campaign to recapture the city, saying he did not want to jeopardize any future operations.

Piccoli said the goal of the operation was to ''disrupt the capabilities of the anti-Iraqi forces.''

''Ultimately, the intent is to help the Iraqi government bring in democracy,'' he added. ''As you bring in sustained security and stability, the Iraqi government can build on as they go into elections'' in January....

U.S. officials believe al-Zarqawi's terrorist group, Tawhid and Jihad, is headquartered in Fallujah. The group purportedly claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings inside the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad on Thursday, according to a statement posted on a Web site known for its Islamic content. The unprecedented attack killed six people, including three Americans and a fourth who was missing and presumed dead.

The U.S. military said its targets were linked to al-Zarqawi's terrorist network, including a building being used to store weapons, two safehouses used to plan attacks, several illegal checkpoints and a weapons cache.

At least five people were killed and 16 wounded, according to Fallujah General Hospital.

Fallujah residents said the Americans were attacking several areas with rockets, artillery and tanks. One resident said U.S. forces were using loudspeakers in the west of the city to urge Fallujah fighters to lay down their arms ''because we are going to push into Fallujah.''

Residents reached by telephone from Baghdad also said there were sharp clashes in the northern part of the city, which was a major battlefield during last April's Marine siege of Fallujah.

Allawi warned Wednesday that Fallujah must surrender al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters or face military attack.

Abu Asaad, spokesman for the religious council of Fallujah, said that ''handing over al-Zarqawi'' was an ''impossible condition'' since even the Americans were unable to catch him.

''Since we exhausted all peaceful solutions, the city is now ready to bear arms and defend its religion and honor and it's not afraid of Allawi's statements,'' Asaad said in a live interview with Al-Jazeera television.

However, he used the Arabic word for ''suspend,'' implying that the talks could resume later.

''We are not afraid of Ayad Allawi's statements or the American troops,'' Asaad said. ''The government now is an (American) agent that is working to make this city easy for American troops to enter and do what they want.''

Negotiations had been aimed at restoring government control to Fallujah, which fell under the domination of clerics and their armed mujahedeen followers after the end of the three-week Marine siege last April.

''Military operations didn't even stop when the negotiating delegation was in Baghdad,'' Asaad said. ''Dozens are killed every day. Entire families have been eliminated.''

The government made no comment about the breakdown of the Fallujah talks. However, national security adviser Qassem Dawoud said military operations against Fallujah ''will continue'' until the city ''has been cleansed'' of ''terrorists.''

Dawoud said he is hopeful the delegation will succeed in ridding the city of insurgents.

''I hope they can succeed and can take them away from Fallujah as soon as possible, or otherwise, we're preparing ourselves to smash them ... by military means,'' he said.

Go get 'em, boys! Our prayers are with you.

Showdown (Marines in Fallujah) Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight

Posted by Blackfive on October 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 14, 2004

Honor Counts - The Military Vote - Part 2

Tanker Schreiber sent me a link to this Jed Babbin piece at NRO that nails why Kerry won't get the military vote.

...The reaction to the Military Times survey is, so far, a fascinating case of denial; typical is the column in Tuesday's Washington Post by Peter Feaver. Feaver says, accurately, that the military is tough to poll, and that our men and women in uniform — remembering everything the Dems have stood for from Vietnam to Clinton to Kerry — still don't trust Democrats. Feaver doesn't recount the real reasons for the military's distrust of the 2004 Dems: John Kerry's refusal to apologize for his accusations of war crimes in his 1971 Senate testimony, and his consistent opposition to American action abroad, including his vote against the 1991 military action that threw Saddam out of Kuwait. Soldiers know about Kerry's 20 years of opposition to military pay increases and to purchasing the tools of war our soldiers now rely on...
You should read the entire column which also discusses the impact of the military voting block and how to ensure that your absentee vote counts...

Amy sends this related article from Townhall about the Military Times survey.

Part 1 is here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

Required Reading

My pal Harvey, over at Bad Example, has a post with a message from Peter, a Vietnam Vet, that has a post that everyone should read...forward it to your friends, family, newspapers, tv stations, radio, etc.

Posted by Blackfive on October 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What the %$@& is the NFL thinking?!

Scott M. sends this article from MSNBC about Jake Plummer's attempts to keep Pat Tillman's Number 40 on the back of his helmet. Plummer followed the NFL's request to remove the number for two games, but then Plummer had a bothered conscience...follow the link to read the rest of the story.

Posted by Blackfive on October 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Miss Dolly

Sondra K. has the details on how one "star" has been honored by the military...

Posted by Blackfive on October 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When the Command Sergeant Major Speaks, You Had Better Listen...

...especially, if you are headed downrange.

Below is an email that I've received from several people (John J., "In Media Res", JTR, and Phenom). It's from an MP Sergeant Major who survived an IED that hit his vehicle. If you are heading to Iraq or know someone that is heading to Iraq, send 'em this message. It's got some good pointers. For those wondering about Operational Security (OPSEC), the usefulness of this email obviously outweighs the opsec risk. "BDE" means Brigade.

From: Butler A Jeffrey Command Sergeant Major MNC-I 16 MP BDE
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:52 PM
To: Soldiers,

First I want to say that I am glad to be here today. As you know my M1114 UAH vehicle was struck by an IED on 8 Sep 04, while traveling on MSR Sword south of CP45 in Baghdad. The blast damaged the left rear quarter panel and tire, started the vehicle on fire, and caused the vehicle to > swerve out of control. We then rolled over three times before coming to a rest back on all four wheels. Thanks to the heroic actions of numerous soldiers, to include those from the Bde JAG and CLD, Bde PSD, 21st MP Company MSR Patrol, and 1st Cav QRF, my driver and gunner were stabilized and medevaced from the scene, the scene was controlled, all possible sensitive items and personal equipment were recovered, and security was maintained so the convoy elements could return to base and reconsolidate. The final outcome was that all vehicle occupants received relatively minor injuries and the vehicle was the key major loss as it continued to burn to a shell. As I have reflected over this for the past few days I am thankful for some of the safety measures that were in place that greatly contributed to our surviving this incident. We repeatedly put out safety messages and guidance and hope that all soldiers understand the importance of them. When nothing happens to you while out on your mission these safety requirements
may seem unnecessary but I am here to testify to their effectiveness when it counts.

I want to list and discuss some of these safety factors and TTPs.

    Route Position- Vehicle should travel in the middle of the lane as much as possible. We were traveling straddling the line between the left and center lanes. We adopted this technique so the rear vehicle blocks traffic from passing on the left side. The blast came from the median and this location created some distance between us and the device.

    Ideally we would have been in the center lane so I am looking at adjusting my PSD blocking technique. Movement Techniques- Maintain proper distance while traveling based on conditions. As our three vehicle convoy was moving down open highway we had approx. 75-100 meters between vehicles. This made the ability to attack more than one vehicle impossible.

    Gunner Position- Gunner was at nametag defilade. Bde and Corps have repetitively put this out as the standard. You must survive the IED or first attack to be able to fight back. I still see gunners throughout Iraq standing, creating a large profile for the enemy to strike. In our case the gunner was then blown by the concussion back into the vehicle where he remained as we rolled. Any other position would have killed him.

    Gunner Position #2- Front and rear gunners must position themselves at the 3 or 9 o'clock position. Our attacks are coming primarily by an IED initiation from the shoulder or median. A gunner turned to the 12 or 6 o'clock position exposes his sides to the threat. A gunner at the 3 or 9 has the gunners shield towards one side and the hatch toward the other. My gunner had his back to the blast. The hatch took shrapnel and a hole that punched through on the upper portion of the hatch which would have struck a standing gunner.

    AT4 Location- Bde has put out that the AT4 will not be placed on the hatch atop the vehicle and will be maintained in the passenger compartment. Ours was in the vehicle as required and able to be recovered after the incident. Soldiers think that it looks cool on the hatch but realistically cannot be fired any quicker than if kept in the compartment. What the hatch storing does do is create another hazard for the crew when attacked. An explosive next to the gunners head is not smart and the hatch stored AT4 is routinely lost or damaged during an IED attack.

    Seatbelts- All seated occupants must wear seatbelts. I and the passenger in the right rear seat were belted in. This was critical as we were secured as we rolled over. I know I would have been seriously injured and likely killed if I were not. Unfortunately my driver was not wearing his seatbelt. He routinely does and I did not ensure that he did so this time as we moved out on the mission. Supervisors must be critical of their crew and protect them. The driver did manage to stabilize himself by holding the steering wheel throughout the roll over.

    Goggles/Glasses- All occupants need to wear protective eyewear. Flying debris, shrapnel, and later exploding ammunition all were hazards that threatened our eyesight. Each soldier in my crew was wearing their Wiley Xs or gunners goggles.

    Sensitive Item List/Load Plan- Strict accountability of crew's sensitive items must be submitted and tracked prior to departing base camp. Maintain this list back at base not in the vehicle itself. This made accountability and reporting of damaged and destroyed sensitive items a smooth process. My vehicle burned and recovery of radios and other items was not possible.

Comments- We did not do everything possible correct and we were not perfect.

    -In hindsight I would recommend all doors be battle locked for all travel. My driver's door as well as the left rear door was opened by the blast or the rolling.

    -We needed to know were the driver kept the keys to the radios. Prior to the cab being overwhelmed by flames we possibly, although at great risk, could have gotten the radios out. The driver was unconscious and could not tell us. Develop an SOP so all occupants know that they are in the front left pocket of the driver for example.

    -Vehicle compartment load should be secured and strapped as much as possible. Ammo cans and other items can hurt when they become projectiles.

Final Message- All 16th MP Bde units will cover these safety requirements and use me as the example or reason...I and my crew are very fortunate to be here and hopefully others can learn from our example.

If any unit would like for me to come and discuss this with your units I would welcome the invitation. Thanks to everyone for your concern and caring. Continue the great job that all of you are doing and Stay Safe!

Feel free to pass this one to anyone that you think can benefit from it.

CSM Jeff Butler
16th MP BDE (ABN)
Protector 7
Victory Camp, Iraq

Sounds like great advice...pass it on to those heading downrange.

Posted by Blackfive on October 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Why Won't Kerry Release His Military Records?

But there are nagging doubts as to what happened when he took his three purple hearts and left for the Reserves. For starters, why won't Senator John Forbes Kerry sign a release for all of his military records? And why isn't the Main Stream Media (MSM) all over that like they were with the President?

Scott A., a former SF Soldier, sends this article about Monsieur Kerry's records:

Mystery Surrounds Kerry's Navy Discharge BY THOMAS LIPSCOMB - Special to the Sun October 13, 2004

An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" opens a door on a well kept secret about his military service.

The document is a form cover letter in the name of the Carter administration's secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor. It describes Mr. Kerry's discharge as being subsequent to the review of "a board of
officers." This in it self is unusual. There is nothing about an ordinary honorable discharge action in the Navy that requires a review by a board of officers.

According to the secretary of the Navy's document, the "authority of reference" this board was using in considering Mr. Kerry's record was "Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1162 and 1163. "This section refers to the grounds for involuntary separation from the service. What was being reviewed, then, was Mr. Kerry's involuntary separation from the service. And it couldn't have been an honorable discharge, or there would have been no point in any review at all. The review was likely held to improve Mr. Kerry's status of
discharge from a less than honorable discharge to an honorable discharge.

A Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, was asked whether Mr. Kerry had ever been a victim of an attempt to deny him an honorable discharge. There has been no response to that inquiry.

The document is dated February 16, 1978. But Mr. Kerry's military commitment began with his six-year enlistment contract with the Navy on February 18, 1966. His commitment should have terminated in 1972. It is highly unlikely that either the man who at that time was a Vietnam Veterans Against the War
leader, John Kerry, requested or the Navy accepted an additional six year reserve commitment. And the Claytor document indicates proceedings to reverse a less than honorable discharge that took place sometime prior to February 1978.

The most routine time for Mr. Kerry's discharge would have been at the end of his six-year obligation, in 1972. But how was it most likely to have come about?...

Read the rest of the article here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Honor Counts - The Military Vote

First, Timmer is concerned about getting the military engaged in the election and motivated to vote.

Next, Susan sends the WSJ article below...I've seen polls in the past that pegs the military at about 60% Republican. However, recent polls have the military supporting the Bush Campaign. I guess the reason the military supports George Bush is not as apparent as I thought.

Whose Military Vote? By Peter D. Feaver Tuesday, October 12, 2004; Page A23
Pundits have long speculated that the Democrats were making strong inroads with a constituency hitherto notoriously resistant to their appeal: the military. Since Gen. Wesley Clark threw his hat in the presidential ring, reporters have chased the "military vote" story, each new media report sprinkled with anecdotes about troops who questioned the Iraq war or who drew trenchant comparisons between the Vietnam combat valor of John Kerry and President Bush. Surely Bush is in trouble, and, in a close election, perhaps the military vote might swing the outcome as it did in Florida 2000, only this time for the Democrats. Even Kerry joined the bandwagon in the first presidential debate, citing individual military supporters he met on the campaign trail (the only voters Kerry mentioned that night).

We now have fairly compelling evidence, in the form of a Military Times survey of its readership (primarily career military officers and enlisted personnel), that reports of the demise of Bush's popularity were premature. By an astonishing 72 to 17 percent margin, the active-duty military personnel who took the survey favored Bush over Kerry (Guard and Reserve respondents favored Bush, 73 to 18 percent). Frankly, the margin greatly exceeds anything that I or any other analyst had expected.

To be sure, the survey method is tilted in Bush's favor, because it underrepresented the short-termers and junior enlisted personnel who would presumably be more Democratic (and thus more pro-Kerry). But the poll cannot be dismissed on technical grounds. The military is not captured in sufficient numbers by regular polls to say anything meaningful, and it is very difficult to reach the military in a targeted political survey. The Military Times readership is more reflective of career military people who at least entertain the idea of serving the 20 years needed to earn full retirement benefits, and previous surveys have established that this group tends to be more Republican. However, survey methods cannot account for a spread of 55 points. If the groundswell for Kerry claimed in earlier news reports was happening, it would have shown up here.

Despite an extraordinary effort to woo the military, then, the Democrats still have not overcome their traditional tone-deafness when it comes to civil-military relations. Kerry's scorched-earth critique of the Iraq war may excite the base, but it alarms the military. The point is not that members of the military are blinded to mistakes or difficulties in Iraq. Rather, the point is that Kerry has unwittingly revived two specters that haunt the military

The first is the ghost of Vietnam, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means "fighting a war that domestic critics have made unpopular to the American public." Kerry is long on critique and short on what he would do differently from, or even better than, Bush. What the troops probably hear most loudly is red-meat rhetoric like "grand diversion," "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," and other statements likely to undermine public resolve to see the war through to a successful conclusion.
The second ghost is President Bill Clinton as commander in chief, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means an indecisive leader who wavers in response to shifting political winds. Kerry may believe that he has never changed his position on the Iraq war, but it is doubtful the military buys that spin.

Of course, the military vote is not large enough to decide the election except in the most extraordinary of circumstances, and then every other subgroup is decisive, too. Both campaigns, however, have been wooing the military not because the fighting forces matter on Election Day but for the symbolic value of their support for the campaigns as a whole. Put another way, the preelection news stories about growing military support for Kerry are far more valuable than the actual votes themselves.

Indeed, this is precisely why we should lament either side dragging the military into the middle of a partisan food fight, and why even conducting or commenting on such a poll is problematic. As mad as Bush supporters would be on Nov. 3 if Kerry wins, for most of them it will not be a life-or-death issue. Military people are professionals and will keep their pledge to be willing to risk their lives, even if they think the American people have made a huge mistake in the election.

So I worry about poll findings that show such a large tilt in favor of one candidate because they risk politicizing the military further, especially when it rebuts so decisively a central theme in one candidate's marketing campaign. I worry also because of the reaction I have gotten from Democrats when informed of the poll results -- there's an abrupt shift midstream from crowing about how the military would turn on Bush this year to decrying the partisan Republican tilt of the military. The Democrats have wooed the military more ardently (though perhaps not more wisely) than ever before. Does the fury of a spurned suitor prepare someone to be a good commander in chief in wartime?

The writer is a professor of political science at Duke University and author of "Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations".

Okay, Earth to professor, the military doesn't like Kerry because he's a betrayer.

Honor doesn't count for much in a lot of professions or companies, but it counts for just about everything in the military. The military sees John Kerry as an opportunist and there is not much worse in the eyes of the military than an opportunist. Opportunists get people killed - whether they are Officers, Sergeants or Presidents.

For example, look at the comments surrounding the posts here about Marine LtCol Khan who may very well be facing a dead end career because he won't fight his removal from command...he won't fight BECAUSE IT WOULD COST THE MARINE CORPS TOO MUCH. LtCol Khan doesn't want to cause a stir while Marines are fighting overseas. LtCol Khan might just fade away instead of taking his leadership on...

Keeping your eye on the big picture - on what's really important to everyone. This is what real leaders do.

Is that what John Kerry would do?

Whether or not he is elected, the professor and I agree one more thing - the warriors will still serve. The idea of America - that all men are free - is too precious to abandon.

Posted by Blackfive on October 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Hatemail

For some reason, I've been getting a lot of hatemail lately. I don't think that I've really changed anything or done something different that would garner that attention.

Maybe it's because these losers don't have a hangout anymore.

Anyway, my favorite ones always ask if my site is a parody or something like that. *Chanelling Glenn* HEH!!! Here's an example from Patrisha:

Is your website serious, or is this all a big joke? I admit that I'm a democrat, and with that I think it's safe to say that I'm also not a retard. Please do a little more research before you blindly post bullshit about John Kerry. You look like an ignorant fool. Even though you being a republican would have proven that point already.

For more facts about both candidates, please refer to www.pickyourpresident.com.

Don't be a douchebag.

Or I get the people with too much time on their hands where they want to debate endlessly about John Kerry. Here's one from yesterday from David:

If you are a real man, you would answer me about why you would vote for an oil whore like bush. Or list ten reasons why you would vote for the cartel.

If you don't answer, youll just prove my point.

I used to enjoy responding to emails like that by actually trying to convince someone with logic, but most of these people have only imaginary friends and just want to keep the debate going. So I don't respond anymore.

I've gotten about 50% more hatemail in the last week. I've tried to check my referrer logs to see if I can find an uber-liberal site that's posting my email address, but haven't had any luck.

Ideas?

Posted by Blackfive on October 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Blackfive T-Shirts: Status Report

Been getting many questions about the Blackfive t-shirts. I appreciate the questions. Here's a status report:

1. Found a t-shirt manufacturer willing to cut a good deal for the benefit of our wounded soldiers.
2. Found a great graphic designer who is helping me design a logo, finding the right (ie. military-style) fonts, etc. for the benefit of our wounded soldiers.
3. I have a few other ideas for products that may or may not work out. I'm keeping it simple and I'm looking for ways to lower margins in order to pass along more $ to our heroes.
4. Once I have the designs completed (near future), I will need to decide if I want to handle distribution or pay someone else to do it. If I do it myself, I figure I can save about (at least) $3 per t-shirt and pass that savings along as well.

Again, 100% of the net profit will be donated to Soldiers' Angels Wounded Projects which support the Combat Support Hospitals in Iraq (like the 11th CSH) along with Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical and Balboa Marine Hospital. Soldiers' Angels are also helping the Ficsher Houses, and, when there is a need, giving a 250.00 cash gift to wounded soldiers families.

I figure about another four or five weeks and I'll be up and running with this project. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments and I'll try to answer them sometime today.

Posted by Blackfive on October 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

Bob Dylan Might Have Been A Colonel

Tanker Schreiber sends this interesting site that notes that Bob Dylan was pretty conservative and had an affectation for the military...

Posted by Blackfive on October 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will Increasing Active Duty Forces Reduce Dependence on the Reserves and Guard?

In response to Kerry's Backdoor Draft nonsense (Did you take an oath or what?), I decided to look at what the new appropriations bill will do for our military. Remember that John Kerry wants to increase the Active Duty Army by 40,000.

First, take a look at what our current strength levels. From the 2005 Defense Authorization Act, as of August 31, 2004, America's military personnel includes (approximately):

    1.. . 375,000 Active Duty Sailors
    2.. . 82,000 U.S. Navy Reserve
    3.. . 176,000 Marines
    4.. . 40,000 Marine Corps Reservists
    5.. . 379,000 Air Force Personnel
    6.. . 75,000 Air Force Reservist
    7.. . 107,000 Air National Guard
    8.. . 497,500 Army Soldiers
    9.. . 207,000 Army Reservists
    10.. . 342,000 Army National Guard

The House Armed Services Committee approved the 2005 Defense Authorization Act (Adobe Acrobat pdf file). The bill will increase benefits across the board (imminent danger pay, separation from family pay, 3.5% increase in basic pay), but it's not as much as I wanted to see. It will soon be in front of the House and Senate for votes. Essentially, the troop increases are as follows (paraphrased from the House Authorization Act):

    Increase in Active Army Troop Levels
    To address the Army's manpower shortages and to promote efforts to increase the numbers of modularized brigades, the conference recommended an increase of 20,000 in fiscal year 2005, and a total increase of 30,000 active personnel over five years. In sum, the committee would increase active Army end strengths from the present authorization of 482,400 (currently at 497,500) to 502,400 in 2005, and authorize further increases to 512,400 by 2009. Does any of you see a problem here?

    Increase in Activy Marine Corps Troop Levels
    The committee also believes that an increase in manpower is essential to the Marine Corps' ability to provide and sustain the force levels required of it by our national security strategy. Accordingly, the conference recommended an increase of 3,000 active Marine Corps personnel in fiscal year 2005, and authorized a total increase of 9,000 over five years. In sum, the conference would authorize a Marine Corps increase from the present level of 175,000 to 178,000 in 2005 and to 184,000 by 2009.

Now, looking at the percentages of Active Army to Reserves and Guard, increasing the Active Component will result in the following changes in 2005:

    502,400 Active Soldiers
    208,700 Army Reservists
    342,000 Army National Guard

Overall an increase to 502,400 is only 4% up from the authorization of 482,400, HOWEVER, our current level is 497,500 so the actual increase is only 4,900 troops or a measely ONE PERCENT INCREASE.

Gee, thanks a ton, Congress. You really solved THAT problem...

Therefore, if you are looking to see if the troop increases are going to ease the responsibilities of the Reserves and Guard, you are greatly mistaken.

The only thing that will improve the lot of our Reserves and Guard is to win the peace quickly. I believe that we can do this by spending billions after the election in November to rebuild the infrastructure, create jobs, and win hearts and minds in Iraq. Only then will we be able to reduce dependence on our Citizen-Soldiers and improve the quality of life for our Active Duty components.

Posted by Blackfive on October 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Dying Hero - SSG James Alford - Update 3

    "My son would actually be better off financially with retirement, but this is not about money. He should be allowed to die a soldier." - Army Sergeant Major (ret.) John Alford, father of Staff Sergeant James Alford

For background information (posts go back 10 months), please read this and this first. SSG Alford has been dying of a non-curable disease that he contracted while serving in the Special Forces in Oman. By all accounts, he has served heroically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Army has mistreated him severally times. Once, by trying to throw him out for bad behavior (that was actually caused by the disease), and again, by trying to retire him from Active Duty. SSG Alford's family has him going through a new experimental treatment for two reasons - to keep their loved one alive in search of a treatment and to try to help others find a cure.

Jay B. sends this update from the Dallas News (Saturday, October 8, 2004). It's registration required so I'll post the whole article for you.

Family is fighting to let sergeant die a soldier
Army rules require discharge of Green Beret with brain disease
By NANCY BARR CANSON / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

KARNACK, Texas – Staff Sgt. James Alford is still alive and, so far at least, is still on active duty.

Sent home from Iraq with a terminal brain disease in mid- 2003, Sgt. Alford, 25, was expected to die before Christmas of last year.

But monthly injections in his brain of an experimental drug are keeping him alive, without improving his condition.

The decorated Green Beret soldier is in a vegetative state because of the ravages of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, a degenerative brain disorder similar to mad cow disease.

But now that he has outlived his prognosis, his wife and parents are battling the latest of several bureaucratic disputes with the Army, which wants to retire him.

"He is entitled to die as a soldier," said John Alford, the soldier's father. "Why can't they leave the boy alone and let him have his dignity?"

Army officials say it is simply a matter of regulation – Sgt. Alford is not medically capable of returning to active duty, and regulations say he should be granted a medical discharge.

"We already fought for this back in December," Mr. Alford said. "They agreed to keep him on active duty status because his death was imminent. Now they've reneged on their promise."

The Army says it hasn't reneged. The family was told in December that disability processing would be "reinitiated" if Sgt. Alford's condition improved or he appeared to have a longer life expectancy, according to a medical board memo.

Mr. Alford said this is not a financial dispute. "My son would actually be better off financially with retirement," he said. "But this is not about money. He should be allowed to die a soldier."

Army spokeswoman Nelia Schrum at the Brooke Army Medical Center said she is sympathetic, "but with the global war on terror, we've had more than 3,000 soldiers [medically retired] this year. Could we grant each of them an exception?"

To that, Mr. Alford, himself a retired command sergeant major who served 30 years in the Army, said, "The Army has discretion when a soldier is dying. Every soldier whose death is imminent should get an exception."

At issue now is whether his son's death is "imminent."

"It's like he's not dying fast enough to suit them," said the Alfords' attorney, Mike C. Miller of Marshall.

No one knows how long injections of pentosan polysulphate, a common paint thickener with medicinal uses, will keep the soldier alive. Only a few other CJD patients in the world are known to have undergone the radical treatment – one young patient has outlived his life expectancy by 22 months and is still alive. The drug seems to slow the disease but is not a cure.

Sgt. Alford's physician, Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew P. Wicklund, has written a letter to the review board saying Sgt. Alford's condition "continues to worsen. Although I can't predict precisely his outcome, I would be surprised if he survived through the winter."

U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, has intervened.

"This [medical discharge] never should have been reinitiated," said Bill Brannon, a spokesman in Mr. Sandlin's office. "We're doing everything we can to fight it."

Sgt. Alford is dying of "classical, sporadic CJD," which can occur spontaneously, without any cause, and is distinct from "new variant CJD," known as human mad cow disease, which is said to be caused by eating contaminated beef.

The Alfords believe their son's illness was caused by eating sheep's brains while he was serving in Oman. Medical experts say they don't know the cause.

Sgt. Alford was initially demoted by the Army when early symptoms of his then-undiagnosed disease were mistaken for misconduct.

The Alford family fought to restore his rank, and the Army corrected its mistake.

"The Army has discretion," said the attorney, Mr. Miller. "There's no reason why they couldn't just put this file on the bottom of the stack."

Nancy Barr Canson is a free-lance writer based in East Texas.

One thing that you can do, is fill out a form with your thoughts to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, and let him know that this is unacceptable. Strongly request that Staff Sergeant James Alford be kept on Active Duty.

Posted by Blackfive on October 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 09, 2004

A Paratrooper Responds to Sheepdogs

Fellow paratrooper Russ Vaughn responds to the article On Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves by LTC (ret) Dave Grossman. You've read a lot of Russ Vaughn's poetry here before.

The Sheepdogs

Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
Their lives serene upon Life’s farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need.

To the flock, sheepdog’s are mysteries,
Roaming watchful round the peripheries.
These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
With the fetid reek of the carnivore,
Too like the wolf of legends told,
To be amongst our docile fold.
Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?
They have no use, not in this day.
Lock them away, out of our sight
We have no need of their fierce might.

But sudden in their midst a beast
Has come to kill, has come to feast
The wolves attack; they give no warning
Upon that calm September morning
They slash and kill with frenzied glee
Their passive helpless enemy
Who had no clue the wolves were there
Far roaming from their Eastern lair.
Then from the carnage, from the rout,
Comes the cry, “Turn the sheepdogs out!”

Thus is our nature but too our plight
To keep our dogs on leashes tight
And live a life of illusive bliss
Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.
Until he has us by the throat,
We pay no heed; we take no note.
Not until he strikes us at our core
Will we unleash the Dogs of War
Only having felt the wolf pack’s wrath
Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.

And the wolves will learn what we’ve shown before;
We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

Well said, Russ, well said...

Posted by Blackfive on October 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 08, 2004

I Only Hang With Sheepdogs

The following essay was written by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret.) Director, Killology Research Group (www.killology.com). Colonel Grossman is a somewhat controversial figure - he authored the book - "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" - a very interesting topic that our politically correct society would rarely discuss. (Thanks to Tom and Mark for sending the article)

On Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves
By Dave Grossman

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there that will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."...

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, which is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up! Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- From sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

"Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

"There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men." - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize; especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust, or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear, helplessness, and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in "Fear Less," his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling."

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... "Baa."

This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically, at your moment of truth.

Update 10-09-04: Russ Vaugh - paratrooper, Texan, and poet - responds here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Photo of the Week - Recruiting Iraq Policemen

Temp_display_img_2245_1
U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Bill Putnam, 122nd Mobile PA Det.

1st Lt. Jerry Koltz, a platoon leader with the 545th Military Police Company, and an Iraqi policeman confer about an Iraqi police candidates tattoos at an IP recruiting drive Sept. 29. Some kinds of tattoos, like those applied in prison or in certain segments of the Hussein regimes military, can disqualify a candidate from attending two-month-long police academies in Baghdad or Jordan. The 1st Cavalry Divisions 5th Brigade Combat Team recruited 704 candidates, six of whom were women, for the police academies in Baghdad and Jordan.

Posted by Blackfive on October 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

The Case for LtCol Khan - Part 2

I'm still trying to track down some information on what is going on with Marine LtCol Asad "Genghis" Khan. I've gotten word from Marines that served with him that he was one bad@$$ Commander who they would follow to hell and back. Some didn't like him and his tough leadership, but would still follow him anywhere. I heard from one Corporal who said that LtCol Khan "lost it" in the 'stan.

The Marine Corps Times had him on the cover with the headline "Fired!". See below:

Marinecover

Here's a story about a Marine coming home who served under the command of LtCol Khan:

Against the norm: Bromfield grad chooses Marines over college, faces Taliban in Afghanistan By Don Eriksson <...> "It's all about your buddies," Blinn said. "The Marine Corps is all about brotherhood. We are big on the core values of honor, courage and commitment. It's not always 24/7 but if you hang around long enough, you'll see it."

The 1st Battalion, 6th Marines was stationed in central Afghanistan near Oruguzon, having moved north from Kandahar. The Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Asad Khan, had been interviewed by newsman Geraldo Rivera earlier this year and reported his unit had "fixed" close to 200 Taliban.

"He's a great commander," Blinn said. "He pushes well and won't order anyone to do anything he won't do."

The terrain ranges from green valleys fed by underground streams, in which enemy weapons can be hidden, to rugged, rocky mountains often so high that re-supply is difficult. Helicopters cannot crest some of them because of the high altitude and thin air. One mountain peak rises 9,000 feet above the battalion's already high altitude. Blinn and his fellow Marines climbed up and down the steep inclines each day carrying new supplies on their backs.

The Marines do physical training similar to boot camp every day and often do "Colonel's runs," five mile runs in 110 degree heat with Khan in the lead...

Part One of the Case for LtCol Khan is here.

I'll place one of the articles (the entire articles) from the Marine Corps Times in the Extended Section (subscription only).

Issue Date: October 11, 2004

Sacked
His junior Marines thought Lt. Col. Asad 'Genghis' Khan was their best
battalion commander ever. His boss disagreed.

By C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writer

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - It seemed as if the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's deployment to Afghanistan was a resounding success.

First came the deepest inland push on record for a MEU, almost 500 miles from the sea to the remote region of Tarin Kowt. A rugged, austere area 80 miles north of Kandahar, the region is known as a haven for drug and arms traffickers and as the homeland of the ousted Taliban regime.

Then, more than 60,000 Afghan citizens were registered to vote in the Oct. 9 elections. A dozen operations, including a handful of major engagements, resulted in more than 100 dead Taliban fighters.

Wells were dug, and roads were paved. The unit returned to the waiting arms of friends and family Sept. 15, triumphant after seven months overseas.

If anyone suspected that one of the unit's top officers would be fired nine days later, no one showed it.

But Sept. 24, less than two weeks after the homecoming, Lt. Col. Asad "Genghis" Khan, 44, the popular commander of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, was relieved of command during an administrative session with Col. Kenneth Frank McKenzie Jr., the 22nd MEU's commander.

Now, the deployment considered a shining success by many is shrouded in secrets, as troops still on post-deployment leave struggle to understand what happened to their beloved commander.

Camp Lejeune officials offered few details about the firing, generally a killing blow in the Corps likely to end Khan's rise through the ranks.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lieutenant Colonel Khan," McKenzie said Oct. 1. "But I lost confidence in his ability to lead."

Sources said the firing was the result of a strict command climate, where a demanding Khan would berate his officers and senior enlisted Marines for not living up to his exacting standards. Some said Khan is taking the fall for an embarrassed command accused of war-mongering and prisoner abuse in the
foreign press.

Reached at home Sept. 30, Khan said the move was not the result of any moral or legal issues, but simply an administrative action caused by a "combination of events over time."

The move came just three weeks before the various elements of BLT 1/6 were scheduled to leave operational control of the 22nd MEU on Oct. 15. Khan would have returned with his infantry battalion to 6th Marine Regiment, while artillery and other reinforcements would have returned to their parent
commands.

The battalion's return to regimental control will occur as planned, but Khan will not regain command, Marine officials said.

Khan declined to offer specifics on the events that led to the firing, offering only that McKenzie "lost confidence" in him. Marine officials said the action stemmed from the deployment, not anything that happened after the return to Camp Lejeune.

Khan said he would not have made the same decision as McKenzie if their roles were reversed, but that he had no regrets.

"I'm not embarrassed by it," Khan said. "Could it have ended in other circumstances, with a change of command? Certainly. But this was the MEU commander's prerogative, and he's entitled to it."

Troubled deployment

When the roughly 2,000 Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU left Camp Lejeune on Feb. 18, most expected to see combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Even before they shipped out, the unit had problems.

A supply captain was relieved for poor performance, and a reconnaissance sergeant was reassigned because of undisclosed conduct issues.

A gunnery sergeant with MEU Service Support Group 22 was reassigned to other duties, Marine officials said, but specifics on the move were not released.

And the major in charge of the Maritime Special Purpose Force platoon was hospitalized with an undisclosed medical condition and could not make the deployment, members of the MEU said.

Once deployed, the MEU was dispatched in mid-March to a remote region of Afghanistan. Unlike many of their comrades in Iraq, the troops had no hot food or showers and little access to the Internet.

Satellite telephones were available for the Marines to make 15-minute phone calls home, but the wait was often two or three days. Morale rose and sank, many Marines said during their homecoming celebration.

A low point came with the loss of a fellow Marine. Cpl. Ronald R. Payne, one of Khan's men, was killed May 7 during a clash with Taliban fighters. The unit's only fatality, Payne was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with combat "V" device during a memorial ceremony after the unit returned home.

In June, just weeks after Payne's death, allegations surfaced of Khan's verbal and physical abuse of officers and senior enlisted Marines. A preliminary inquiry was conducted, a senior Marine official said, and Khan was counseled to stop his behavior.

The official said Khan was not relieved at the time because of his successes in battle.

"A lot of Marines lived because of him," that senior Marine official said. Of the 1,197 Marines who deployed under Khan's command, 1,196 returned alive.

Then, one of Khan's captains, an unnamed artillery battery commander, was relieved after a news report aired Aug. 11 by the Australian news program SBS Dateline showed footage of the captain cursing at junior enlisted Marines and bumping the chest of one.

An SBS Dateline transcript of the captain's speech - so riddled with vulgarities that it cannot be reprinted - suggests that his motivation was to keep the Marines vigilant as the end of the Afghanistan deployment
neared. The MEU was expected to spend 90 days in country, but an extension kept it in the fight through July.

One Marine from the MEU said many believed the captain's firing came as a response to peer pressure from commanders back home who were embarrassed by the images.

Few thought the captain's relief was warranted, the Marine said.

The Marine said Khan was loved by his troops but treated with various degrees of apprehension by his officers and senior enlisted men. The commander was known for losing his temper with them if their performance slacked, at times yelling at them in the field, according to the Marine and others who know Khan.

Khan is also quoted in the SBS Dateline transcript, though his comments are of a more thoughtful nature, discussing the successes Marines were seeing in getting the local villagers to share useful information and intelligence.

However, the broadcast made other damaging accusations. After leaving the Marines, the reporter conducted candid discussions with local residents.

They recounted stories of abuse at the hands of Marines, of beatings and inappropriate touching of the genitals, according to the transcript.

The allegations, which came just weeks before the 22nd MEU was set to depart for home, were investigated but unsubstantiated, Marines from the MEU said. The accusations of prisoners being stripped naked and fondled stemmed from medical checkups, they said.

Officials familiar with the claims said the MEU established a detention facility to search, question and hold detainees. One detainee made claims of abuse, but a team from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that traveled to Afghanistan was unable to substantiate the accusations.

A second investigation

After the show aired, McKenzie ordered a more serious Judge Advocate General Manual investigation into Khan's behavior. This investigation was completed as the unit crossed the Atlantic on the ride home and helped form the basis for his decision to relieve Khan.

The JAG Manual investigation was forwarded to Lt. Gen. James Amos, the II Marine Expeditionary Force commander, where it is awaiting final disposition, Marine officials said. The results have not been released.

"I think we had a very successful deployment. I'm proud of BLT 1/6," McKenzie said. "But success in combat doesn't come at any cost."

Khan's senior enlisted Marines and officers again were asked about his conduct, while the junior Marines were excluded from the investigation into the "command climate."

"The whole thing is bogus, what happened to him," said one corporal with BLT 1/6. "He never put a hand on anyone."

The corporal said he and other junior Marines are hurt by the firing and feel like the "whining" of some officers and senior enlisted Marines got their beloved commander fired.

"He's gonna let you know if you're messed up," the corporal said. "But he'll do it right away."

The corporal said many at the lower levels feel betrayed because they were not asked for input.

"The only reason they did it to him was because the BLT took most of the credit," the corporal said. "In the lower enlisted, everybody thinks Colonel McKenzie did it because he wants to pick up general and he was embarrassed.

"Lt. Col. Khan was the best battalion commander we've ever had."

A rising star

By most accounts, Khan was one of the Corps' up-and-coming officers.

Born in Pakistan, Khan and his family immigrated to Connecticut in 1972, moving through Afghanistan. Khan, a Muslim, served in Pakistan and Afghanistan during earlier phases of Operation Enduring Freedom as a Foreign Area Officer.

While there, Khan worked for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, helping orchestrate the United States' efforts in the region. Khan was nominated for a Bronze Star with combat "V" for his work, though the award was never approved.

His tour as a battalion commander seemed destined for success as well. Commanding troops in combat carries a lot of weight within the Corps, especially among boards vetting Marines for promotion or command.

Likewise, relief of command can be devastating.

"It's a career ender, sure," said Khan, who has been moved to a position on the 2nd Marine Division staff. "You just move on."

Khan said he still considers the mission to Afghanistan a success.

"I could not be prouder of the Marines and sailors of BLT 1/6," he said in an e-mailed statement. "In Afghanistan, they fought bravely and acquitted themselves with great honor - their results speak for themselves.

"Most of my Marines did not shower for three months and very rarely did they eat hot meals. They traveled over 3,000 miles in finding, fixing and finishing the enemy. In the words of Lieutenant General [David] Barno, the senior commander in Afghanistan, our Marines and sailors achieved more success than any other unit since the war began. We fought the enemy in the most inhospitable terrain, and the enemy will remember BLT 1/6 for a long time to come."

Marine officials said there is no formal appeals process for the administrative decision, although Khan could request mast to Amos in the hope that the general will intervene.

Some observers hope Khan doesn't go down without a fight, saying that the whole issue stems from the embarrassment the command suffered and a conflict of personalities at the top. Rather than giving Khan a negative fitness report or pushing for a change of command, they say McKenzie fired him while he had the chance.

"There has been a grave injustice done here in his relief," said a retired Marine colonel familiar with the situation. "I have heard what the allegations were about command climate and his alleged handling of
subordinates. I can tell you, if you have ever been in combat, there is a time and place to be gruff.

"If Asad was gruff with his subordinates, it was to keep them alive and accomplish the mission."

McKenzie said he appreciates the situation the junior Marines find themselves in.

"There is almost certainly a perception that they don't know what happened," McKenzie said. "And they don't know what happened."

However, the corporal was unmoved by McKenzie's comments.

"The Marine NCOs want to be heard, but during this investigation we have not been heard at all," he said. "So give us a voice, and let us run the battalion as we should. He [Khan] gave us the skills and opportunity."

He said Khan is the kind of officer every Marine wants, the kind who leads the charge up the hill - which he did in a number of missions overseas.

"He's a man of action," the corporal said. "He just doesn't freakin' sit there on his hands. Maybe that's the problem."

BLT 1/6 is under the command of Maj. Edward T. DeWald, a 1990 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and Khan's former battalion executive officer.

Khan said he has no plans to request mast or put in retirement papers and hopes his skills will be of use to the Marine Corps.

"I trust that our senior leadership will resolve this matter in a manner that allows me to continue using my unique background and skills in serving our country in fighting against those that seek to do us harm."

C. Mark Brinkley is the Jacksonville, N.C., bureau chief for Marine Corps
Times. He can be reached at (910) 455-8354 or via e-mail at cmark@atpco.com.

Thanks to Alex for the article.

Posted by Blackfive on October 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (44) | TrackBack

October 06, 2004

Canadian Conversations

So I'm in Vancouver and have been spending a lot of time with my Canadian pals. From the Lion's Pub to the Cambie, from Bridges to Vistas, I've been talking with all types about a lot of things, but most of them want to talk about our election. I want to talk skiing at Whistler and the subject moves to Iraq. I want to find a good Tandoori restaurant and I get asked "why did Bush lie?". I want to talk about hockey and...well...right now, you just DON'T want to talk hockey with Canadians. Trust me.

You would think that, from the American news media spin, all Canadians hate George Bush. Of course, that's not true. But here in the Berkely of Canada, it mostly is true...mostly, I think it comes down to some core issues of which Iraq is only one. Quite frankly, everyone is really nice and I've been treated really well. I love Vancouver. Great city and country. Great people. But they just can't understand why anyone would vote for George Bush.

My favorite conversation was with a national park guide (at the Capilano suspension bridge) who was bragging about collecting various citizenships - including EU. That's something I don't understand, either. "Do you have more than one wife?", I asked. Apologies to those with dual-citizenships. Maybe I'm just too simple of a man to understand that concept. I can't imagine looking at another flag and feeling the same way about it as I feel about Ol' Glory.

Those with American citizenship here were very concerned about a military draft materializing. Even after the draft bill was brutally killed in the House, people still think it's going to happen under a Bush Administration because that's what they've been hearing in the MSM and from Senator John Forbes Kerry.

Anyway, a lot of you have asked how my trip to Vacouver was so far...it's absolutely great (rain, left-wingers, and all). Can't wait to schedule another trip here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Outsourced the Campaign in Tora Bora?

Jim Geraghty at the Kerry Spot (NRO) refutes the charge by John Kerry that we had OBL within our grasp but outsourced his capture to the Afghan warlords...

First, what in the hell does Kerry think he's doing by saying things like that...oh yeah, he's pandering. Sorry. Thought I was talking about a jen-u-wine war hero there for a minute.

Nope. That's no war hero. That's a politician who'll use whatever he can to get elected. He's for the war. He's against the war. He'll do whatever it takes to win...and it's working.

I've talked to many people about why we haven't captured Bin Laden, yet. Almost to a person, they believe it's because we invaded Iraq and focused our resources there. I usually only have to point out that we were after OBL for eighteen months before we invaded Iraq in 2003 to get the topic moved in a more strategic direction.

Check out the Kerry spot and read what a SF Commander has to say about the Tora Bora comments of the junior Senator from Massachusets.

[Thanks to Jim W. for the link]

Posted by Blackfive on October 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 05, 2004

Major Mark Banks - Strength, Honor and Faith

I'm in Vancouver, Canada, and just received a note from Jeff Brokaw that Major Mark Banks (please read this link) was taken from us this week. A great American hero has fallen...

When I was in ROTC with Mark, I was amazed that he could commit to all the things necessary to graduate and receive a commission while raising a family. Words can't express my sorrow and my admiration for a man who faced down death with strength and honor and faith. He used his last days on earth to show us how we should live. He is a testament to the great officers in the Army National Guard and the Chicago Police Department.

Here is the wake and funeral information for those in the Chicago area.

Visitation services are being held Wed., 10/6 (3-9pm) and Thurs. 10/7 (1-9pm) on the far southeast side of Chicago.

    Elmwood Chapel 11200 S. Ewing Ave. Chicago, IL 60617 (773) 731-2749

The funeral will be on Friday at the Chapel at 10am. I don't have flower or in-memoriam donation information, yet.

If you want to send flowers, the East Side Florist (friends of Mark's family) will take care of your order - 773-978-4375.

[Val M. - I'll call you Thursday if I can get in. I'm going to try to reschedule my return so I can attend the funeral. Call me if you can.]

Posted by Blackfive on October 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Novermber 3rd

Hopefully, on November 3rd, we will know who the President will be for the next four years.

Hopefully, on November 3rd, John Kerry's equation of opening Fire Houses in Iraq as opposed to opening them in the states will cease.

As Mr. Bremmer is talking about today, we could have used more troops and could use a bit more today. But more troops isn't the solution to rebuilding a former despotic country into a thriving democracy.

Hopefully, we will spend more billions on Iraq. Because, as I've mentioned before, when Mr. Habib is too tired from working all day to pick up a rifle or IED at night, and when Mrs. Habib doesn't want her gravy train to get killed, the Iraqis will bow out of the insurgency. More jobs, reliable infrastructure, and public services will get the job done.

Then, we can focus on the real problem in Iraq...Syria and Iran. Once we can get the majority of Iraqi insurgents out of the fight, then we can focus on the terrorists who have crossed into Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis. We can reduce the 3,000 insurgents to 300 Palestinians, Chechens, Iranians and Syrians. And we can hunt them down and kill them.

None of this can happen until after the election. Once accusing President Bush of fighting the war on the cheap, Senator Kerry now wants to reduce spending in Iraq (I keep hearing him talk about 200 Billion and the media report that spending prediction like a fact). So, until the election is decided, no one will risk spending more to win the fight...

You can thank Senator John Forbes Kerry for that.

Posted by Blackfive on October 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Swift Boat Vet Petition

The Swift Boat Vets have a petition on line that you should take a look at and sign (if you are so inclined...):

...As you now seek to become Commander in Chief of our armed forces, we believe it is incumbent upon you to better explain to the American public your conduct in this matter. Specifically, we ask you to:
    Acknowledge to the American public that you did not personally witness any such atrocities or, in the alternative, cite such examples and then provide an explanation of what actions you took relative to these alleged war crimes.

    Explain to the American public the nature and extent of war crimes in which you participated.

    Explain to the American public your justification for contacting and working in conjunction with a foreign government then at war with the United States.

    Provide an acknowledgment and apology to the American veterans for your all encompassing accusations, and more specifically to our POWs for any extensions of their internment caused by your actions.

    Personally respond factually to the challenges made against your service in Vietnam by some 275 men who served with you.



Senator Kerry, the vast majority of the men who served with you, and the entire chain of command, has refuted your representations of your conduct in Vietnam. To date, you have repeatedly refused to respond to these statements, electing instead to have professional political operatives flood the media with efforts to discredit these former comrades. We want to hear from you.

We the undersigned consider your response on these five points to be critical to this nation's decision to entrust our military forces to you. If you betrayed us once, we need to be assured that you will not do it again.

It is time for you to set the record straight.

Follow this link to the petition where you can read the short Swift Boat Veterans statement and sign the petition. (thanks to Russ for the link)

On a related note, Mamamontezz has written the Kerry Song - "I'm A Swift Boat Commander". For some reason, while I was reading the lyrics, I had a Dennis Leary song in my head...

And Dean Esmay has an exclusive interview with Van Odell, the Sailor who spent more time with John Kerry than anyone else in the Swift Boats.

Last but not least, Greyhawk has some poll numbers that show who the GIs are going to vote for...and he also has French polls in comparison.

Posted by Blackfive on October 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

There IS a Hero Inside All of Us

Be a hero.

A lot of you, and I mean A LOT, have emailed me for information about sending care packages to the troops. Some of you may not have really considered "taking care" of an unknown military person before so here's your chance to help.

soldiersangels

Soldiers' Angels is a wonderful non-for-profit run by some of the best Americans around - military moms! There, you can adopt soldiers or whole platoons of soldiers, send care packages, emails. You name it. You can even help the wounded soldiers as they come back from overseas.

Soldiers' Angels and Spirit of America are not the only organizations out there that help our military.

Look into donating money to these two charities:

    A. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation

    The SOWF provides scholarships for the children of Special Operations soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have lost their lives (in training or combat). A few dollars would go a long way in providing for the children of those who have died defending America.

    B. United Warrior Survivor Foundation

    UWSF offers scholarship grants to surviving spouses, along with educational counseling, financial guidance, investment planning, and other programs.

Think about donating your unused frequent flyer miles for a soldier to visit his or her family. Check out Operation Hero Miles.

Operation Gratitude - another site where you can help send care packages to troops in Iraq.

Books For Soldiers - it's one more way to show troops that you care.

Operation AC - Commenter Retread reminds me to include this charity which sends 110v single phase air conditioners to our troops in Iraq. They also send medical supplies to the Combat Support Hospitals for both injured American Soldiers and for the staff, as well as care packages to our troops overseas.

Keystone Soldiers also takes care of soldiers by adoption, matching pen pals, or sending care packages.

And Adopt a Platoon - another source for adopting soldiers who don't have someone on the homefront.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, and their eligible family members and survivors, when in need. To do this, counseling, loans, grants, various services, and referral to other community resources are available. There are no fees for such help. The Society, operating in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, administers nearly 250 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases around the world.


Whatever steps that you take to take care of our troops - no matter how large or small - will resonate beyond just one American soldier.

Someone that was referred by this site to Soldiers Angels also was responsible for donating their extra frequent flyer miles to bring a family to see their wounded soldier at Walter Reed. Just some simple actions made all the difference in the world.

So please think about supporting our troops. You can show that you care about their lives while they defend yours.

Update: Received a few emails in response to this post. The first one below is about sending our troops some Holiday Cheer.

Our troops need a holiday surprise. Our troops will be gone for another year lets send them some Holiday cheer. We are starting our Stockings for Troops Campaign.

We would like for all of the men and women in the military to know that they are not forgotten this holiday season. Please help by donating a stocking and an AT&T phone card so all our military members may call home and share the holidays with their families.


We have enlisted the help of a VFW to pack all of these stockings and mail them to our troops so whether you donate items or money please contact us for information.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4927
31 Horseblock Road
Centereach, Long Island, NY 11720
Post #4927
Telephone #: (631) 585-7390
http://www.vfwpost4927.com


Please send all other correspondence to:
John Adams Jr
73 Dare Road
Selden, NY 11784
E-Mail: jadam35@msn.com

And I have been remiss in neglecting to tell you all about AnySoldier - a great organization that provides soldier contacts where you can read through the names and select the ones you wish to support. They list what they need and want, we even have a search capability so you can easily identify what units need.

Posted by Blackfive on October 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

"Beer For Soldiers" Shut Down

Jay sends this notice from the Stars & Stripes about Beer for Soldiers being ordered to shut down...

Original Beer for Soldiers post is here.

Posted by Blackfive on October 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thundering Third - Part 7

Things are tough in Iraq, right now. The terrorists are exploiting every opportunity before the November Presidential elections in hopes of affecting the outcome. While times are tough for our military in Iraq, they fight on.

Below is the latest letter from LtCol Willy Buhl, Commander of the Thundering Third, in Iraq. Please read the whole post as LtCol Buhl describes the heroism of his Marines and Sailors AND the Iraqis fighting alongside our forces. It's worth your time.

Dear Families and Friends of the Thundering Third,

Greetings again from Camp Abu Ghurayb. This is my fifth letter to you as we prepare to begin the month of October, and the fourth month of our deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

I am pleased to report that our great Battalion has continued to perform its duties in Iraq with a high degree of combat efficiency in accordance with the legacy of valor and professionalism we inherited from our Veteran forebears of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, and Somalia.

"Your" Battalion is maintaining the initiative, aggressively patrolling 24-hours a day across our assigned area of operations. We continue to experience success in all assigned missions and have experienced a number of firsts on the small unit tactical level since I last reported to you. Of note, we have recently caught three different IED emplacing teams, killing one terrorist when he attempted to forcibly recover a pistol taken from him by India Company Marines. This was the last move he ever made, as a well trained Marine used one round to eliminate the threat to his buddy's safety. Another man, who was also caught on scene, wisely decided to desist and was detained safely, according to our standard operating procedures. The India Marines, in the midst of a mounted combat patrol, astutely recognized suspicious roadside activity at night and caught these men in the act of burying the IEDs. India's men also interrupted the late night work of a team of six IED planters who were observed placing artillery rounds in the ground along the roadside in an area commonly targeted by IEDs. The Marines engaged immediately, killing two men. The others abandoned their shovels and ran into complex terrain beyond the road. Exploiting the site, the Marines found two buried artillery shells with wires and remote detonating systems.

A similar success occurred a couple of weeks ago when a Headquarters Company ambush patrol caught two men in the early morning hours with suspicious bags in their hands walking along the roadside. The concealed patrol uncovered and yelled in Arabic, telling the suspects to halt. They carefully approached and subsequent search revealed rolls of wire and activation devices used to detonate IEDs. We detained these men and learned through later questioning where the explosives were located that they were going to wire for detonation. Indeed, the information provided by these men led us to several buried 155mm artillery shells, which were safely destroyed by our motivated combat engineers. There have been many other tactical successes like the ones I just described, in missions ranging from but not limited to ambushes, counter IED and indirect fire patrols, locating terrorist arms and ordnance caches, renovating schools in time for the new school term, and training Iraqi Security Forces...whether in contact with the enemy or with friendly people seeking a better life, your Marines and Sailors are doing great things out here every day.

As you may have heard from your loved ones out here, daily temperatures have thankfully begun to drop. Although we continue to experience days with temperatures above 100F, it has been noticeably cooler, particularly at night and in the early mornings. After working hard all day on the move and then settling into an ambush site at night with a damp skivvy top, it can actually get a bit chilly for our Devil Dogs. No one is complaining...as we put the often brutally hot weather of the past few months behind us, I don't think that any member of the Thundering Third will ever forget his "balmy" summer of 2004 in Iraq.

The time for rotation of forces who began their deployment in February is upon us. Accordingly, the Thundering Third recently said farewell to the finest Regimental Commander most Marines and Sailors will ever have the privilege of serving under, Colonel John Toolan, USMC. In an emotional farewell, the Battalion presented our outgoing CO with a couple of hand crafted plaques made by his Marines. Colonel Toolan, or "Inchon Six" as he is affectionately referred to in 3/1, often referred to our Battalion as "the sharpest knife in his drawer". Appropriately, we presented him a plaque with a captured SKS bayonet affixed and an Arabic quote that stated, "the knife can still cut, even when sheathed". Col Toolan Sir, we will not forget your inspiring leadership, tactical proficiency, words of wisdom and patience, great humor, caring spirit, and deep love for your Marines and Sailors. We all wish Colonel Toolan, his Lady Helen, and the rest of the Toolan Clan continued success in their next assignment, where Colonel Toolan will continue to teach, coach, and mentor LtCols and Majors from around the world as Director of Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia. Colonel Toolan passed the Regimental Colors to Colonel Larry Nicholson, who was hurt on his first day of command and had to relinquish command to Colonel Mike Shupp, who was originally slated to command our regiment but had to delay due to a family illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with Colonel Nicholson and his family for a speedy return to full duty and the command opportunity he so richly deserves. We are proud to welcome Colonel Shupp, the new "Inchon Six", his Lady, Sherrye, and their family aboard our Regimental Family.

A number of our attachments have also recently said farewell to their Brothers in the Thundering Third. Our Combat Engineer Platoon, led by 1stLt Korey Mullins, and GySgt Shawn Hannah have successfully completed a seven month tour in Iraq. Their support of 3/1 and 1/5 has been superb. SgtMajor Sax and I had the privilege of walking patrol with these incredible Marines and Sailors and you will not find any finer in our great Marine Corps.

We also said farewell to a superb Truck Platoon, led by 1stLt Mike Ligouri and GySgt Richard Hathaway, from our cannon cocker brethren in the 11th Marines. We will also miss these great Marines and Sailors - men who did everything asked of them and more for Country and Corps, logging thousands of safe road miles throughout Kuwait and Iraq over their deployment.

We also wished a fond farewell to our Civil Affairs (CA) Team, led by Major Larry Kaifesh and GySgt Mark Kline. Our CA Team has proven to be the Battalion's number one fire support asset as we continue our work to rebuild Iraq, and bring water, power, sanitation and other essentials to the people living in our area of operations. Many of these people have never had any of the aforementioned services before in their lives. The people of the City of Nasser Wa Salaam (NWS) have been particularly appreciative. These people are predominantly Shia in their Muslim preference. They were ignored by the Saddam regime and brought in from southern Iraq to work in local steel and cement factories as laborers. The Thundering Third, through the hard work of our Civil Affairs team and the Marines and Sailors of Lima Company have made great changes in NWS. The great work done by Major Kaifesh and GySgt Kline and their men, and the friendships they made here will be remembered for a long time to come (some of you may have seen the well written article on our CA Team published on the USMC Official Website and the Camp Pendleton Scout's 9 Sept issue). Congratulations to these superb Marines who performed magnificently day in and day out to make Iraq a better place, and to bring freedom to the Iraqi People. May I also offer a note of thanks on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps and our Battalion to the families of these men, who sacrificed at home over the past seven months to enable their loved ones to serve our Nation overseas in a time of war - our men couldn't accomplish the things that they have without you behind them.

With all the recent farewells came corresponding "welcome aboard" greetings. Our new Combat Engineers are led by Capt Mike Goldstein and GySgt Dewayne Walters. Our Combat Truck Platoon is led by Major George Hanlon and GySgt Mike Wittrock. All of our new Marines and Sailors hail from the fighting 14th Marines, based in the great State of Texas. Well aware of the incredible reputation held by our Brothers in the 4th Marine Division, we are honored and privileged to serve with them here in Iraq.

After a solid turn-over with their predecessors, these new members of the Thundering Third have hit the ground running and rolling, and are performing at the "3/1 Standard" in combat. Our new CA Team is led by CWO Gerald "Godfather" Reese, and SSgts Dan Mercado and Jason Mapel. These men lead a fresh, motivated crew of Marines and a Navy Corpsman, who have continued the great work of Major Kaifesh and his "Rough Riders" without missing a beat.

As promised in my last letter, I want to highlight some key points about the new Iraqi Army and the Specialized Special Forces that have been attached to us and are doing a tremendous job alongside our Marines and Sailors. Our success with the Iraqi National Guard (ING) has been mixed.

In the City of Al Karmah, a satellite city of Fallujah, pressure from terrorists and insurgents has been great on the local population. This pressure has translated into a significantly reduced level of effectiveness in our ING Company there. At the forefront of our efforts in Al Karmah, Lt Don Toscano and SSgt Nick Fox and their Combined Action Platoon (CAP) Marines from Weapons/George Company have performed above and beyond the call of duty and are making progress. These men have become part of an experiment created during the Vietnam War, where the CAP concept was initially formed (some might argue, however, that Marines have been performing missions like this since the days when Lt Chesty Puller and GySgt "Iron Man" Lee were marching as provisional Nicaraguan National Guard Officers through the steaming Nicaraguan jungle, chasing a terrorist bandit named Sandino and his cronies back in the early part of our last Century).

While the Al Karmah ING continues to develop, we have achieved marked success with India Company of the ING to the east in Nasser Wa Salaam. In fact, India Company is easily among the most successful ING Company in the Al Anbar Province. Cooperative efforts between our Combined Action Platoon (CAP), led by 1stLt Zach Iscol and his Weapons/George Marines (with support from Lima Company) have facilitated the creation of a very capable Iraqi ING Company led by very patriotic and dedicated Iraqi Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. This unit has had a number of successes to date, including killing and capturing insurgents, locating caches and IEDs, etc.

A testament to the success achieved by our Marines and Sailors at India Base is the many dignitaries have visited over the past two months to see what they are all about. These dignitaries have included our Commandant and Assistant Commandant, and a former Commandant, who is currently the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. These distinguished gentlemen, and many other senior officers, have continuously demonstrated support of our efforts to create a viable Iraqi Security Force, which will assume the mission of security in Iraq upon our departure. I was on the range with them today and marveled at the level of proficiency they demonstrated in dry fire and movement training. Working side by side with Marines who live with them and know all of their Iraqi names and can give them basic commands and encouragement in Arabic, these men moved with aggressive enthusiasm and all stated that they are ready to go to Fallujah if called upon. This particularly special type of duty has matured our young Marines beyond their pay grades... looking across at the men who surrounded me for a few remarks, I couldn't help but think that I was looking at a group of NCOs instead of PFCs and LCpls with just a couple of Cpls in a crowd of over 20 men.

Your Marines are doing great things out here for Country, Corps, and the people of Iraq. We are also working with the Iraqi Specialized Special Forces (ISSF), led by an incredible officer, BGen Khalis. General Khalis is the former commander of the Iraqi Special Forces, where he commanded at every level up to Brigade and was director of the Special Forces Academy and Command and Staff College. This charismatic and exceptionally patriotic officer has formed two battalions from the old Iraqi Army. He has done this by carefully vetting and selecting his leaders for the challenges at hand. BGen Khalis has selected some superlative officers and soldiers, and the ISSF we are working with in the Thundering Third are superb Soldiers. These men share every hardship with us, are out patrolling everywhere we are, and have already shed their blood at our sides. They are particularly valuable at recognizing situations and especially people that are out of the ordinary (reminiscent of the old British expression, "absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal"). Unlike their ING counterparts, the ISSF are mainly composed of career special forces soldiers who received specialized training and were part of a small, elite group during the Saddam period. These men are from over 50 separate tribes across Iraq and have no political stance other than to support the Interim Iraqi Government. I would respectfully disagree with Ms. Ozernoy in her article below regarding the term "militia" as these men are career professionals who have returned to Army service in defense of their nation.

What is perhaps most laudable about all of the Iraqi Security Forces personnel, is the fact that every one of these men faces grave and imminent danger to their families as they carry out their duties. Indeed, BGen Khalis' family was abducted some weeks back by terrorists, who set fire and placed explosives at his home after taking his family away. Efforts to recover them are ongoing and they remain in our thoughts and prayers every day. Major Awda, our India Base ING Company Commander was also attacked by terrorists with automatic weapons on his way to his command post at India Base. Major Awda keeps his son with him at all times to ensure his safety when he is not at home. The terrorists here are ruthless, savage, and do not play by any rules. It takes an extraordinary level of sacrifice, determination, and heroism that most Americans cannot imagine to serve in the Iraqi Security Forces and government. Men like BGen Khalis and Major Awda, and many others, are serving in these conditions every day to bring freedom to their fellow Iraqis (please see the attached news article below about our brothers in the Iraqi Special Forces).

As stated at the beginning of my letter, all of our companies are doing great work here. Sgt Major Ed Sax and I want to take a moment to recognize a few standouts from each:

    Kilo Company, the "Spartans", celebrated the combat meritorious promotions of Cpl's James A. Flattery and Jose F. Sanchez. Sergeant John M. Doyle also earned his Sergeant's stripes meritoriously in combat. SSgt Select Travis M. Fields, was selected on the most recent promotion board at Headquarters Marine Corps. Sergeant Jonathon C. Scarfe has been selected to attend university and earn his 2d Lieutenant's bars at OCS. The men of Kilo are proven adept at all tactical tasks assigned and have maintained an aggressive and persistent focus despite a high operational tempo. Among the many caches and IEDs they've discovered, they recently detained several high value targeted individuals working against Iraqi and Coalition Forces in targeted raids.

    India Company the "Raiders" have combat meritorious Cpl Sammie D. Jackson, and LCpl's Cody M. Kyle and Alejandro Rodriguez. LCpl Justin M. Thompson was selected as the Bn's Marine of the Quarter. We also had two outstanding Sgts, Lawrence T. Love and Michael A. Vaz, selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. India Company, continues to set a standard for sturdy Marines and Sailors focused on mission accomplishment. As described in the opening lines of this letter, they have identified IEDs, discovered weapons and explosives caches, and have captured a number of dangerous terrorists with incriminating materials, in addition to the many other combat tasks associated with the duties of a rifle company in Iraq.

    Lima Company combat meritorious promotions include Cpl William J. Higgins, LCpl Mathew S. Sandy, and Private First Class Ryan O. Easton. Recently they conducted operations in our southern area of operations is support of US Special Forces, which resulted in numerous enemy killed, weapons captured and a bomb making factory destroyed. The "Warriors" of Lima Company continue to execute all assigned missions with esprit and professionalism.

    Wpns/George combat promotions include Sgt John P. Monahan, Cpl Steven C. Gillespie, and LCpl's Jay G. Phillips and Cameran J. Urias. Cpl Mathew C. Bassett was selected as the Battalion NCO of the quarter. Sgt Christopher P Lopez was selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. He has also done incredible work as a Combined Anti-Armor Section Leader in Combat. Our Weapons/George Marines continue to train Iraqi Security Forces, patrol the roads of our sector, fire mortars, heavy machine guns, TOW and Javelin missiles in support of combat operations, and a host of other mission profiles related to our duties here. Also, Corporal Dylan R. Collins, of Cap Delta / 81's Plt, has been selected to attend university and earn his 2d Lieutenant's bars at OCS.

    Headquarters Company continues to superbly support the entire Battalion and is involved in every operation we conduct in some regard. Some of the Company standouts over the past month have been Chief Richard Tomlinson, who pinned on his new Anchors in a classy promotion ceremony, HM1's (FMF) Brian Dike and Rick Good who earned their Fleet Marine Force Warfare Pins, Cpl's Curtus Hartsell, from our Communications Plt and Cpl Anthony R. Roberts from our Supply Section earned combat meritorious promotions to Corporal, LCpl's Amado H. Sosa from our Combat Administration Section, and Marshall C. Lewis from our Communications Plt earned a combat meritorious promotions to Lance Corporal, Sgt Nathan Osowski who earned the opportunity to attend university and earn a commission as a 2d Lt in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning and Education Program, and Sgt Cayleu Wojcik, who was selected for Staff Sergeant. Meanwhile, Headquarters Company continues to do all the things required to keep our rifle and weapons companies in the attack, as well as our attachments.

The men described above are standouts in a reinforced infantry battalion full of standouts. It is one of my great privileges and pleasures in life to see these men earn combat promotions, NCO and Marine of the Quarter honors, and earn additional qualifications while participating in combat operations. I can well imagine the pride felt by the families of the above listed superlative Marines, who are serving their country most honorably in a time of war.

Morale and Welfare Recreation Center Update - thanks to continued generous donations from great Americans back home, GySgt Howard Payne, and his great Headquarters Company Marines have continued work on our battalion recreation center known as the "Bull Pen". Our Marines and Sailors are relaxing inside the cool movie lounge, watching satellite TV or movies on a plasma screen, with computer games and an ever increasing library, loaded with books and magazines and board games.

Large quantities of mail and packages continue to arrive and are greatly appreciated. Cpl Dick Rogge, a US Marine WWII Veteran and career G-Man, has sent us enough cans of Virginia Diner Peanuts to supply the entire Regimental Combat Team! Cpl Rogge recently fractured his leg back in Westlake Village, and the men of the Thundering Third wish him a speedy return to full duty. Col Clark Henry (a Thundering Third Veteran of Chosin Reservoir) and his Lady recently sent multiple boxes of Gatorade packs, which have been well received by our men across the Battalion's battle space. Captain Seamus Garrahy out in historic Gettysburg continues to keep the Thundering Third stocked with his "Gung Ho" Sauce - thank you Sir! Sgt and Mrs. Dan Frydrychowski, have sent half of San Clemente's Ralph's Supermarket shelves to us out here - they have a care package operation in their garage that is the envy of the Marine Corps Logistics Depot at Barstow. Indeed, we've received all kinds of great packages full of food, books, and hygiene items that all go to good use. SgtMajor Ed Sax has flash backs to his company gunnery sergeant days and never gets tired of distributing these items for delivery to our Marines, and sometimes to Iraqi children. I want to repeat that I cannot tell you how good it feels to know how many people are behind us back home. These packages and the inspiring messages contained within really make a great difference to our Marines and Sailors... all are deeply, deeply appreciated.

Like their forebears in the Thundering Third from WWII (15 Feb 42) to present, our Marines and Sailors have continued to serve with fortitude in the face of adversity. As you must know, we continue to sustain casualties here in Iraq. Due to great combat leadership and training, a high percentage of our wounded are returning to duty. Unfortunately, as noted in previous letters home and the comments above, we have had a few men hurt enough to be medevaced back to the USA. On this note, our Marines and Sailors continue to be blessed with visits by a number of the Battalion's Distinguished Veterans. These visits mean the world to our men and their families, and mean the world to the rest of us in Iraq, knowing that our lads are being well cared for in the rear. If any of our Battalion Families or Friends would like to visit wounded men in the Camp Pendleton area or on the east coast at Bethesda, please contact Gunnery Sergeant (Select) Ray Ortiz, at the 3/1 Rear Command…It is also my sad duty to report to you that we have lost three of our brother Marines killed in action here in Iraq that were close to many men in the Thundering Third. LtCol Kevin Shea, our Regimental Communications Officer, Corporal Steven A. Rintimaki, a TOW Gunner from Weapons/George Company, and Lance Michael J. Allred from Fox Company 2/1, who was a former Thundering Third Battalion Color Sergeant and 3/1 Veteran of OIF I. All of these men gave their lives for their brother Marines and Sailors here, and for all Americans in defense of the freedoms we are all privileged to enjoy. America owes these Marines and their families an endless debt of gratitude. They are greatly missed by their brothers here and by their families back home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their Families. We continue the mission we began here together, as they would have wanted. I also want to recognize the loss Mr. Hajji Kameel, our Battalion's senior interpreter. Hajji Kameel, was a very compassionate and distinguished senior gentleman, who learned English working with British managers at the Iraqi National Oil Company in the years immediately following WWII. Our brother member of the Thundering Third was killed in Baghdad during his off duty time. We held an emotional memorial service with all available interpreters and many members of the Battalion to remember him. One of our young Corporals described how Hajji Kameel would never wear body armor or a helmet when out on the often dangerous roads of Iraq. On the road early every day with the Civil Affairs Team, the Corporal said that he used to enjoy watching Kameel "stare out the window, sniffing the cool morning dawn of freedom". This service was filmed and a copy was delivered to Kameel's family in Baghdad with condolences from the Thundering Third. Hajji Kameel is greatly missed by all of us, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers. The Koran reads, "From God we are delivered to the earth, and to God we return".

I will conclude this letter with all of our best wishes to you at home, especially to the great Ladies who continue to do great things in our Thundering Third Key Volunteer Network. A number of family related events have occurred over the past several months back in the USA, and our Key Volunteers have been there for our Battalion Families in EVERY circumstance. I do not have the words to express how important the compassionate work our Ladies are doing is for all of our Marines and Sailors and their families. Ladies, THANK YOU from all of us forward deployed for the continued superlative support - we all cannot wait to be home with you again soon.

As time permits, I will write again. I hope that this update has provided you with an insight into the Battalion's recent accomplishments and progress. In addition to your support for your Marines and Sailors over here, I also respectfully ask that you keep the families of our lost and wounded Marines and Sailors in your thoughts and prayers. The 3d Bn, 1st Marines honors the sacrifice of Corporal Stephen Rintamaki, Lance Corporal Michael Allred, and LtCol Kevin Shea, our RCT-1 Communications Officer, and Mr. Hajji Kameel, who are gone but never forgotten. John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
LtCol Willy Buhl

Here is the link to the US News and World Report article that LtCol Buhl refers to in his letter.

Other Thundering Third posts can be found Part 1 (June 24th), Part 2 (July 3rd), Part 3 (July 21st), Part 4 (August 5th), Part 5 (August 6th), and Part 6 (Augusgt 31st).

Posted by Blackfive on October 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 02, 2004

The Debate

I was a charity golf tournament yesterday with Mr. Green. Great cause. And Mr. Green won a St. Louis Cardinals hat which he set on fire (he was at the Cubs game Thursday). We didn't get a chance to talk much about the debate.

Anyway, two things that really set my teeth on edge with regards to John Forbes Kerry:

1. "Pass the global test"?! WTF?

2. My MilBlog Pal Smash does such a good job describing John Kerry's manipulation of how combat operations are conducted that you should just go read this post. I couldn't do it any better. Kerry will be like Clinton-Lite (if you can even imagine that).

Posted by Blackfive on October 02, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 30, 2004

Vet Gets Shot Then Opens Can Of Whoop-Ass

Hamilton's Pamphlets has the details...the vet happens to be a former MP who was getting a coffee with his sixteen year old brother when some really stupid people tried to kill him more than once.

Posted by Blackfive on September 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Latest Swift Boat Commercial

POW wives speak out against John Forbes Kerry in the latest Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercial.

Posted by Blackfive on September 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Vietnam Files

David Prendergast - a lawyer, a Vietnam Veteran and an advocate for Vietnam Veterans for over thirty years - recently launched a web site which contains the entire document archive for the U.S. Marine Corps for all units deployed to Vietnam from 1960-1975. It's a subscription based site and you have to pay a monthly fee for access, but the site has an index of links that are useful and the preview is cool (Battle of Chu Lai info).

The Vietnam Files

This archive contains the monthly command chronologies, after action reports, operational reports, and much more. David uses this material to validate veteran stressors and to document events for narratives submitted with V.A. disability applications.

This information is an amazing compilation of the heritage and valor of Marine Vietnam Veterans.

Thanks to Seamus and Gunny Jim Gregory for the link.

Posted by Blackfive on September 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thank You, NRO

Because of the link from NRO a few days ago, one of my brothers discovered the blog and quickly figured out who was behind it.

He thought I sounded familiar and then saw the pajamas picture. That did it.

The first thing he said was "I'm telling MOM!"

Just kidding...actually what he wrote was:

Hey brother, Got linked to your site today from National Review Online. Got curious about the person behind what I was reading, a lo and behold, there are some interesting similarities to my brother. Great site, I didn't realize you were famous. PS. I really liked the picture of you, your wife and the dog!
The NRO - bringing brothers together...

Posted by Blackfive on September 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Draft

I am sick of this Draft Meme BS.

First, the Democrats want you to believe that we will have a draft just as soon as a bill can get passed through congress. I just got an email from Phil and Amit with the Draft legislation attached. It must be making the rounds through the email circuits again.

Why would they want that?

Isolationists and anti-military people would like to see the draft as a way to discourage voters from voting for Bush come election time. Have you noticed how many times Senator Edwards yells out that there will be no draft in a Kerry Administration? That's fear-mongering, plain and simple.

I absolutely mean no offense to all who served - millions of drafted Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen (and probably the Merchant Marine were drafted too) were heroes - however, no one in the military wants a draft.

Think about it.

If you volunteered to fight for your country, would you want to be sitting in a fightin position next to someone who didn't want to serve in the first place? Hell, no, you wouldn't. You'd want a lean, mean bad a$$ next to you ready to fight.

Our volunteer military works well. We don't need a draft unless World War breaks out, but then we will probably have Russia, China, and India on our side...

What do you think?

Update: Iowa Geek and PowerLine have a lot more information.

Posted by Blackfive on September 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (35) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

Kerry's "Friendly" Fire

One thing that you'll hear a lot of the military men and women say is that, "after eight long years of disrespect and embarrasment, we finally have a Commander In Chief worthy of the military."

Does that mean that we all think that George Bush is the best President of all time?

No.

But it does mean one thing, we know where he stands. We know where we stand with him. It's really that simple.

That's why if you ask us to name a Democrat that we'd vote for, we respond with names like Lieberman, Miller, or even Gephardt. They get it. You'd think a self-proclaimed war hero would get it, too. But no, he doesn't have a clue while he is nuancing his latest position. His words are becoming more and more harmful to the military - whether it's about leaving Iraq (and inspiring terrorists to fight harder) or a poorly trained military (I'm sure all the commanders are saying, "thanks, pal") or the nonsense about a back-door draft (and playing on everyone's fear of another Vietnam).

Here's what I've said that would make me think about voting for someone:

    You want my vote, fellas? How about a huge pay increase so our Sergeants don't have to use food stamps to take care of their families? How about funding a massive increase in troops to support a rotation overseas that will minimize time away from families and reduce dependence on the Guard and Reserve? How about funding better weapons, better armor, and better training? How about ACTUALLY SHOWING UP TO VOTE FOR ONCE!

    How about supporting HR 4323 and getting it through the Senate? That bill would provide money for emergency purchases of body armor and materials to up-armor vehicles. That bill could actually save lives.

    THAT would impress me, Senators.

    Instead, we military mostly think that you feel the same way about us that Bill Clinton did. You loath us. That doesn't mean we will quit if you are elected. That means that we'll drive on. We thrive when the leadership is good and we suffer when it's bad but we still serve.

    But how about the pay increase, hhmmm?

Now, my pal Greyhawk is In-Country and he's one of the best writers out there. If you want a flavor for what it feels like to be there, read it. And be sure to note how he feels about John Kerry and his anti-military posse trying to pretend like they know WTF they are doing...

Posted by Blackfive on September 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Letter from the CO of 1/7 Marines

Amy K. sends this update from the Commander of 1/7 Marines.

Update 17 Sept 04

The First Team has been on the ground in our area of operations in western Al Anbar province for 3 weeks now. On 11 Sept we formally took control of the mission here and said goodbye to 3d Bn 7th Marines as they begin their trip home. We are grateful for their help in taking over the mission, and we wish them all a safe journey home and a happy reunion with their families.

While I cannot pass on specifics, the general locations of the battalion have not changed since my last update. Baker Company and their attachments are still at Camp Gannon in Husaybah, and the rest of the battalion task force is at Al Qaim working and operating in the towns of Karabilah, Sadah, and Ubaydi. While it is a fact that the areas we operate in are hostile and very hazardous, the Marines and sailors of the battalion are already highly proficient in identifying the dangers, protecting themselves and innocent Iraqis, and eliminating the threats. The courage, discipline, and skill of these young men reduces the risks and never ceases to impress me every day.

By now I'm sure you have all learned of the battalion's losses. On 3 Sept Capt Rowe, Lt Winchester, and LCpl Wilt were killed in action, and GySgt Trujillo and LCpl Laymanleary were wounded. On 15 Sept, LCpl Drew Uhles was also killed in action by an IED in Husaybah. In that same incident, LCpl Graham Walker was wounded, but thankfully he has already returned to the battalion and is expected to recover quickly. Our thoughts are always with our fallen heroes and our prayers go out to their families to grant them peace in their time of suffering. The loss of these men is painful for us all, but know that we will always carry on because that is what our comrades would want us to do. It is to honor them that we continue our mission.

Please understand that when events like this occur your Marine or sailor may not be able to contact you by phone or e-mail. We must restrict communications until after the next of kin have been properly notified. I know that nothing is more comforting for you as hearing your loved one's voice, so rest assured that I will not cut off communications unless it is absolutely necessary.

As always, you are all in our thoughts and your prayers sustain us. Every one of us looks forward to the day we return and are reunited with our families. Until then, thank you for your continuing support.

God bless you and
Semper Fidelis
LtCol Chris Woodbridge

Posted by Blackfive on September 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Case for LtCol Khan

This is in reference to Marine LtCol Asad "Genghis" Khan.

First, please read this post. Then, read these articles here and here.

Then, go here.


LtCol Khan was relieved for cause. It could be for any number of things. I have to say that I'm a bit shocked as I have received many letters and emails about LtCol Khan's successful campaign in Afghanistan. The Marines that I know (and I know quite a few) regard both LtCol Khan and his XO (who is temporarily in command), Major Edward Dewald, as some of the finest warriors around.

Right now, I've got some friends trying to find out why this happened. As soon as I know something, I'll let you know.

Part Two of the Case for LtCol Khan is here.

Posted by Blackfive on September 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (75) | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

Sergeant First Class (ret.) Tim Frisby - Someone You Should Know

This is pretty interesting. Tanker Schreiber sends this inspirational story about a retired paratrooper chasing his dream of playing collegiate football.

Now Playing: The Old Man and the Football Team
By RAY GLIER

The strip of tape bearing his new nickname appeared over Tim Frisby's locker one afternoon during summer drills. Frisby left it there and allowed himself to be the object of ribbing during two-a-day football practices.

The nickname is Pops.

Frisby is a 39-year-old father of six, and he is back playing a young man's game. The N.C.A.A. announced this week that Frisby, a 20-year Army veteran who had served with the 82nd Airborne Division, was eligible to play football for South Carolina. He will be part of the Gamecocks' 105-man squad dressing for tonight's home game against Troy.

"It's a dream come true," Frisby said in a telephone interview. "I've wanted to do this for so long."

Frisby is a 6-foot-1, 188-pound wide receiver who is exempt from N.C.A.A. age rules because of his military service. The N.C.A.A. said it did not keep the type of data that would have allowed it to determine if Frisby was the oldest player to participate in Division I football.

He may not be the oldest player, but he may as well forget his given name. Pops has stuck. Lou Holtz, South Carolina's 67-year-old coach, said he wanted to keep Frisby on the team as a walk-on because Frisby's family, which has children 6 months old to 16, could boost attendance at home games.

At first, Frisby's teammates refused to believe he was 39. Trim and fit, he looks younger than his age, and for several weeks he made his way around the locker room and practice field without question.

But the Gamecocks started hearing from members of the news media that Frisby was almost 40, so several players surrounded him one day at his locker. He pulled out his driver's license to prove his age.

"They still didn't believe me," Frisby said. "They kept saying, 'That can't be right.' "

Frisby has become the marvel of the program. When Holtz told the team during its prepractice stretch on Thursday that the N.C.A.A. had cleared Frisby to play, his teammates broke into applause. A university spokesman said interview requests, including one from a movie studio, had flooded the sports media relations office since the N.C.A.A. announcement late Thursday afternoon.

Frisby is aware that he is a curiosity, but that is not what he wants out of football. Mascots are for the sidelines, and he is not sweating in practice to be a symbol of fortitude for the South Carolina program.

"I'm competing for playing time out there," Frisby said. "The last thing I want to be is a novelty. I want to contribute."

Frisby's talent as a wide receiver is routine, not spectacular. Most of South Carolina's younger receivers - the oldest is 21 - run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds to his 4.6, so he understands that he will have to build a reputation as a possession receiver if he wants to play.

That means he will have to run into the middle of the field to catch 6-yard passes and throw his body around as a blocker - not that daunting for a man who has dropped out of aircraft into desolate forests as part of his survival training as a Ranger.

Frisby played wide receiver as a junior at Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic before transferring to a different high school for his senior season to play basketball. He was recruited in basketball by Tennessee State, but he decided to enter the Army.

Frisby, who played football overseas for military teams, rose to the rank of sergeant first class before his retirement. He has four years of athletic eligibility, although he is a junior academically with a major in broadcast journalism. He carries a 3.8 grade point average.

"I understand people might think I'm an inspiration to the younger players, but I don't preach to them," Frisby said. "I'll give advice if I can and I'll help where I can, but I just wanted to play football and fulfill a dream."

Holtz, known for his motivational techniques, insists that Frisby will not be the equivalent of a hood ornament for his team.

"He will play this season because he deserves it," he said.

You can read about other people that you should know here.

Posted by Blackfive on September 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Kerry's Words Affecting The Fight

I second every word that Grim writes here (scroll down to "A Celebration Is In Order"). This is not the first (by a long shot) that I've heard. His awful anti-military activities aside, is it any wonder that the military does not care for Kerry?

And, JarheadDad, if Da Grunt comes through Chicago, please let me know.

Posted by Blackfive on September 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I Need Your Help

Greyhawk has discovered that Websense, an HTML filtering company, is blocking Blackfive, Sgt Hook, Chief Wiggles (of ALL the people to block!) and other MilBloggers. Normally, I wouldn't be too worried about it, but the USAF uses Websense to block *ahem* adult sites and others that might be harmful (like hate groups, violence, etc.).

So, military men and women (even in the morale areas) cannot view many blogs (like Instapundit or Roger Simon?!).

Greyhawk suggests that you go here and ask Websense to unblock Blackfive.net and other weblogs.

Posted by Blackfive on September 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

Scumbags From The Left

Glenn Reynolds has some information here about the Kerry Campaign's disgraceful behavior.

And Junkyard Blog has a lot more about what I described here about Michael Moore's use of our troops. Thanks to Jim for sending the link to JunkyardBlog.

Posted by Blackfive on September 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"That's my president, hooah!"

Jim sends this from the Washington Post. It's a registration-required-article so I'll post the whole thing here:

Bush Surprises Departing Troops With Gift -- Himself
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2004; Page A02
Bushwithtroops

BANGOR, Maine, Sept. 23 -- It had been a pretty glum day for Spec. Brian Parker, who along with the other members of his National Guard unit said goodbye to their families and departed on a charter flight for a long-term stint in Iraq. But then, on a refueling stop here, a familiar figure boarded the plane.

"We were down when we left our families," Parker said, giving a thumbs down. "But then we heard Air Force One was here. It's a good morale boost."

President Bush, after a campaign appearance in Bangor, held his plane on the tarmac when he heard an MD-11 carrying 292 Army reservists and National Guard members was about to refuel here. For the troops, grimly heading toward an 18-to-24-month assignment in Iraq, it was a welcome lift. For Bush, who has been accusing his Democratic presidential opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, of demoralizing the troops in Iraq by criticizing the war effort, it was a chance to demonstrate his devotion to the troops.

"May God bless you all," the commander in chief said over the plane's public address system. "May God keep you safe." As he worked his way up and down the plane's aisles, posing for photographs, signing autographs and shaking hands, the happily surprised troops called out to him.

"That's my president, hooah!" shouted Sgt. Wanda Dabbs, 22, a member of the 230th Area Support Group, a Guard unit from Tennessee. Others seconded her cheer.

Bush's impromptu visit with the departing soldiers came with some risk. It could remind the American public that more and more reservists and Guard members are being removed from their workplaces and sent on dangerous assignments in an increasingly bloody Iraq.

But the president's aides saw an opportunity to underscore the point Bush had made at his campaign rally here, in front of an airport hangar and an enormous American flag suspended by two cranes.

"You cannot lead the war on terror if you wilt when times are tough," Bush said of Kerry. "What kind of message does it send our troops, who are risking their lives and who see firsthand the mission is hard but know the mission is critical to our success?"

Bush, in his campaign speech, also hailed Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, whom Kerry had accused earlier of whitewashing the country's troubles. "He does deserve our praise," Bush said of Allawi.

Whatever their concerns about the dangers ahead, the troops on the plane were joyous when their commander in chief appeared. "I can guarantee you right now this is the best thing that ever happened to me in my lifetime," said Sgt. 1st Class Bill Freeman of the 230th, a Goodyear Tires worker in Tennessee and a Bush supporter.

Soldiers interviewed on the plane were stoic about their mission. Spec. Eddie Latham, a factory worker, called Bush "a great leader" but added: "I'm nervous to go to Iraq."

The charter plane carrying the troops, flown by World Airways, was directed to increase its speed en route to Bangor to catch Bush. "They pushed the gas pedal a little bit," White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said.

Most of the soldiers, dressed in desert camouflage fatigues, had cameras ready to take snapshots of Bush. The president, who donned a tie and suit jacket after his political rally, offered gentle smiles and words such as "I'm proud of you" and "thank you."

The charter plane carrying the soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., was scheduled to stop in Germany and Kuwait before the soldiers made their way into Iraq with their units: the 30th Brigade Combat Team, a Guard unit from North Carolina; the 414th Transportation Battalion, a reserve unit from South Carolina; the 230th, from Tennessee; and a few others.

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Dailey, a FedEx worker normally, was asked if the boisterous reception meant these were all Bush supporters. "We're commander-in-chief supporters," he clarified, and pointed out: "It ain't every day you land somewhere and the president gets on your plane."

As it happens, the troops were given absentee ballots just before they departed, and there were still some undecided voters on board as Bush worked the crowd. "I'm still balancing the issues. I'm not sure," said David Spence of the 230th, a machinist, when asked about the election. "I'd like to hear what he has to say."

But 2nd Lt. Roxana Pagan-Sanchez, of the 30th, pronounced herself solidly with Bush after she got to meet the president. "He told me he's proud of me," said the mother of a 12-year-old she left behind in Raleigh, N.C. "I'm so proud of him."

Moments later, the president departed for Washington, and the troops continued their journey to Iraq.

Posted by Blackfive on September 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Sit-Rep From Iraq

The last of Major D's Sit-Reps is posted. He's departing the AO and finally we get know what he was up to over there...

Posted by Blackfive on September 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

Beer For Soldiers - Now THIS Is a Project We Can All Support

You had better check this out before the chair-warmers hear about it. Tanker Schreiber sends this great idea on how to really support the troops:

2nd BCT soldier's plea to the world: 'Buy us beer' By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Thursday, September 23, 2004

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq — To Sgt. Dale Rogers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, the near beer that soldiers sometimes get in Kuwait and Iraq tastes like something drained through a wet sock.

But that’s the closest the beer-loving Strike Force (2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team) soldier will get to his favorite drink during the next few months of his deployment in Iraq.

The cyber-savvy soldier, though, has plans to make up for the lost consumption during mid-tour leave to Qatar and when he and his mates return to the States next year. And it won’t cost him a cent.

Rogers is the creative force behind www.beerforsoldiers.com, a Web site which allows true patriots to buy soldiers a beer online. The shaved-headed infantryman set up the Web site in February just before he joined 1-503 in South Korea, where the unit was based before deploying to Iraq last month.

“I knew I was going to Korea, and I knew I was going to be thirsty. I didn’t want to drink alone and I didn’t want to pay for it out of my own pocket,” he said.

Plenty of people are willing to buy soldiers a beer, said Rogers, who often receives free drinks from grateful citizens at bars back home in the States. And even more appear willing to pony up because the Internet is involved, he said.

“People will pay for anything on the Internet. A guy dropped his MP3 player and people gave donations to fix it,” he said.

Beerforsoldiers.com allows beer buyers to click on links that charge their credit cards for anything from $2 for a “40-oz. ghetto beer” to $6 for a “tall beer from the bar,” to $7 for a six-pack. Other donation options include $10 for a “pitcher” or $20 for a “keg club.”

The site includes dozens of photographs Rogers takes of soldiers enjoying the free beer.

“I go to a pub where there are 20 to 30 soldiers around the bar. I ring the bell and say: ‘Free beer for everybody.’ The bartenders think I’m crazy. I get to meet new people and new soldiers and I will buy two or three rounds,” he said.

One night Rogers spent more than $800 on free beer for soldiers at Outback Steakhouse and Gecko’s bar in Itaewon, South Korea, he said.

“A lot of times I had to spend out of my own pocket. I’d buy a round and the Web site would buy a round. Now it’s getting to the point where the Web site buys all the beer,” he said.

Extra beer funding is provided from the sale of T-shirts with the message: “Hold my beer while I kiss your girl” and “www.beerforsoldiers.com” stamped on them, he said.

“They sold like hot cakes,” Roger said. A Korean T-shirt shop owner “made a bunch more,” he said, “and he is still selling them now, I’ll bet.”

Soldiers in Iraq crave beer, women and high-speed Internet connections, in that order, Rogers said. And near beer does not compensate for the lack of the real thing.

“People still drink it and imagine it tastes like beer but to me it tastes like [something unmentionable] drained through a wet sock. I am dying for a real beer,” said Rogers, who updates beerforsoldiers.com and another, more serious patriotic Web site — rangerjarhead.com — at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Internet café on Camp Habbaniyah.

Beerforsoldiers.com costs $120 a year to run but pulls in from $200 to $600 per month in beer money, Rogers said. At that rate it should have accumulated almost $5,000 by the end of Strike Force’s Iraq tour, he estimates.

Some of the money will buy beer for soldiers during mid-tour leave in Qatar. The rest will be spent on a homecoming party, he said.

“I’m going to rent a hotel banquet room and have a big beer-for-soldiers bash where the public is invited. Just fly there or show up and drink free beer paid for by the Web site and thank soldiers in person,” said Rogers, who plans to publish details of the event on beerforsoldiers.com.

Now, why in the HELL didn't I think of that one?! Be sure to check out the site - great pictures (making me thirsty) - and who knows how long the good Sergeant will be able to maintain it.

Posted by Blackfive on September 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Books For Soldiers and Michael Moore

After receiving many reports that Books for Soldiers was sending troops Moore's books and movies, I requested information from them. There is also concern that Moore is using BFS to contact troops to get letters about the horrors of Iraq for a book he wants to distribute in a few weeks.

To me, that is disturbing information so I sent a call out to MilBlogs to find out what people knew about this issue. A few emailed back and said that BFS was a great organization and would not be involved with Michael Moore. While many MilBloggers were concerned (and many had received the same emails that I did), none had any definitive proof of Moore using BFS to contact troops or distribute his crap.

Here is my email

    Hi-

    I just received an email stating that (1) you were helping Michael Moore contact soldiers in order for him to publish a book of anti-Bush letters from Iraq and (2) that you were responsible for distributing Fahrenheit 911 and Michael Moore's books to troops overseas.

    Please respond.

    Thanks.

And here is Books for Soldiers response:

Greetings,

Not sure where you are getting your info from, but it is woefully backward.

Michael Moore is donating "Dude, Where's My Country" and "Bowling For Columbine" to BFS to send to troops that ask for them.

Fahrenheit 9-11 is distributed by Lions Gate. They are a film distributor, we are a church.

Please pass this info along to the misinformed.

Staff
BFS

It sounds like they're sick of responding to this question. They didn't respond to my question about Moore using them to contact soldiers.

Any other information on this would be appreciated.

BTW, if I was a soldier, I would ask for MM's books...because you never know when the Quartermaster is going to run out of toilet paper.

Posted by Blackfive on September 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Military Voting Survey

Via Susan H., The Military Times is conducting an on-line election survey and wants to reach as many military people as possible.

Posted by Blackfive on September 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Who Supports the Military?

1. Puddle of Mud - that's who. zamasf sent that link and this one to POM's site.

2. I'll take one from the Hugh Hewitt playbook: If you like CSI and police-type tv shows, I would highly encourage you to watch the premiere of CSI New York, tonight. Gary Sinise is starring in the series and he is a HUGE supporter of the military. All boycotts of CBS News aside, if you like good dramas, give it a try and support Gary.

Posted by Blackfive on September 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Censorship of MilBlogs

I have been getting hundreds of emails regarding the censorship of MilBlogs. I'm going to apologize up front for this mini-rant.

Your concern for Sgt. Hook is well-founded, not for the censorship of his blog (it's not censored and his command structure is supportive), but because all forces in the 'stan are slugging it out with the Taliban and Al Qaeda right now. Sgt Hook is taking the fight to the enemy. And as he often says, "I'm proud of you, soldier."

Winter comes early in the Afghan mountains. We need to capture and kill as many of the enemy before they crawl back into their holes to hibernate. That's what is happening at Sgt. Hook. He's busy...that's all I know.

As for me, I have noticed a big difference in the way that organizations are dealing with the information published here.

The Marines have been great at PR ever since they were almost disbanded by Harry Truman. Luckily for all of us, the Korean War changed all of that. Since the threat of disbanding, they are as formidable at PR/Advertising (on par with firms like BBDO) as they are on the battlefield.

So, what the Dept. of the Navy chain of command does is try to find out who writes these letter to me in order to PUBLISH them in their magazines and journals. The Navy wants to publish that Nurse's description of the good and bad of Iraq in their medical journal. The Marines put LtCol Strobl (Taking Chance) on the news circuit to show how the Marines take care of their own.

The Navy and Marines realize that these are people that we should know and that it is important for the heritage and destiny of those groups to highlight these people.

But the Army? Those chair-warming-SOBs at the Pentagon have been trying to track down the sources here. Abu Ghraib freaked out a lot of people and they are reacting out of fear. I've had to pull a few stories and photos already - not because the Pentagon asked me to do that, but because the soldiers asked me out of fear for their own careers and livliehoods (because they were ordered to pull them).

Now, I have to admit that there have been a few times where I did not generate positive press for the Army during my career. While most of the things that I write about are either humorous or positive, the Army tends not to find things humorous after Abu Ghraib. And it's not like they teach comedic writing at West Point...I publish less than TEN PERCENT of what I receive - either for OPSEC or appropriate content reasons. I was an Intelligence Field Grade Officer for crissakes - I know what items are a violation of policy.

I have a rule that I ask the author before I put a name on a story. If a service requests a name and contact info, I ask the author first or give them the service contact information if they want to out themselves. You can be damn sure that I would rather weather the @#$%storm from the Pentagon than have some Sergeant get his chops busted for sending a great story.

But the Dept. of the Army is beginning to really chap my @#$ about this by going after troops for things that are NOT negative.

Ideas, anyone?

Update 4PM: I've Got A Loaded Blog And I Know How To Use It!

I'm not planning on shutting this blog down. I apologize if that's the conclusion you reached. I received a few emails about it.

And I'm not being harrassed. The reason that I'm so frustrated is that the people telling the great stories about American military men and women are the ones getting squeezed. I'm just the conduit.

Make no mistake, my loyalties lay with the US Army. But I just wish they'd get a freakin' clue. For crissakes, I get email from Marine Generals thanking me and telling others that I'm one of the good guys (hence the majority of Marine material on this site), and then I have Army Generals and Sergeants Major (of some of my *ahem* favorite units) coming down on Specialists, Lieutenants and Sergeants for sending me pictures or letters.

I hope that clears that up....

Posted by Blackfive on September 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

The National D-Day Museum

I snuck out of a meeting to go spend a few hours at the National D-Day Museum. After spending some time (for the Sixtieth Anniversary) reading about D-Day, I was looking forward to seeing what the NDDM had to offer.

The museum does an outstanding job of presenting the view from a strategic, tactical and individual level - and it sets up what the mood and feelings of the times were like. I found the videos of isolationists and the anti-war crowd amazingly similar to their counterparts today.

The museum doesn't just focus on Normandy and attempts (admirably) to cover the hundreds of D-Days that occurred all over the pacific.

All in all, it was three hours well spent and definitely worth the $15. If you are ever in New Orleans, you should plan on touring the museum.

Posted by Blackfive on September 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

The Way It's Supposed To Be...

Via Seamus, below is the email from retired Marine First Sergeant Mark Gordon who's son, Lance Corporal Matt Gordon, just returned from a tour with the 1/6 Marines in Afghanistan. I have written about some of the Marines from 1st Battalion before...a friend of mine says that they are the toughest outfit in the Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Asad Khan is the Commander of 1/6. He is known as "Genghis" to his Marines.

I had the privledge to witness a homecoming for the warriors of 1stBn 6th Marines. I was very impressed by the way our Marines and Sailors are welcomed home after their tour on the forward edge of the empire. Every American should witness this event.

Before I go any further let me give a big BZ to the key volunteers for 1/6. Their efforts were clearly noticed as these gunfighters rolled into the AO.

I would like to thank the leadership of the Battalion. For if it were not for the tenacity, and "Spartan" style training things could have been bad over there. It was obvious as the Marines stepped off their buses they were relieved to be home, and damn proud of what they had accomplished. I walked up and re-introduced myself to LtCol Khan and Maj Dewald. Both of whom I had crossed paths with during my career. Over the next few hours waiting for Matt to arrive (he was on the last bus) I received several updates from the leadership. I was not the only one but it seemed as though every 20 minutes or so, either LtCol Khan or a representative from his battalion was seeking me out and giving me a sitrep. As the day progressed I watched every member of the battalion talk with concerned parents, shake hands and give a warrior hug to Marines.

The next morning I again had the priviledge to witness an awards formation in for the Battalion. 15 Marines were awarded medals for valor on the battlefield. What was very inspiring was that young Marines were in that formation. The ranks spanned from Capt to Private. It was obvious that summaries of actions were written as they happened, and given the proper award. A Sgt received a battlefield meritorious promotion to SSgt. It was the intention of the Battalion to award Marines their medals while their families were able to be a part of it. This was very well done, and again showed why this battalion went to Afghanistan, fought the enemy on his ground, and was successful.

One conversation with LtCol Khan I thanked him and the rest of his team for taking my son, training him and bringing him back. He stated that he had pushed the battalion while in training to limits they didn't think they could go. They did, and they won. "Genghis" talked of Cpl Payne and what a great young Marine he was. He talked on how he felt like he failed because he didnt bring everyone back. I saw the light in his eyes fade a little. Genghis stated that he believes if he would have been with that patrol Cpl Payne would still be here. Maybe he is right, but I told him that he could not be everywhere on the battlefield. And, that he did bring everyone home. We can never accept the loss of a Marine but, sometimes that is what happens. War is hell, and Marines know that better than anyone. But, the leadership of 1/6 can look people in the eyes and state that they trained this battalion to be as ready as any unit before, their training was tough, long and effective. To take well over 1000 Marines into harms way and lose 1 speaks to the quality of the training.

As my son and the rest of his warrior brothers prepare to head back in the coming months, I hope that men like LtCol Khan, Maj Dewald, and their team continue to lead the battalion. Continuity is essential. The longer a team stays together, the more efficient the team becomes.

It is time to end this. I have seen the look in the young Marines eyes, from the Private to the SgtMaj. When they head back to the forward edge of the empire to do this nation's business, our leadership in this country needs to turn em loose.

    THERE IS ONLY ONE TACTICAL PRINCIPLE WHICH IS NOT SUBJECT TO CHANGE. IT IS TO USE THE MEANS AT HAND TO INFLICT THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF WOUND, DEATH, AND DESTRUCTION ONT HE ENEMY IN THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF TIME! - General Patton

Maybe we should heed the words of warriors like that.

Semper fi my brother
Gordon Sends

You got that right, First Sergeant, you got that right.

Posted by Blackfive on September 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

Sad News from Iraq

Sad news, everyone.

To ALCON, I regret to inform the 0602 community of a tragic loss to our ranks.

On 14 Sep 2004, Major Kevin Shea was killed by enemy indirect fire at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The RCT-1 CO and Sgt Maj were also WIA. He was one of the best in the business both as a Communications Officer and as a leader. Kevin was a veteran of Desert Storm where he served with 9th CommBn. He was a Jump and Scuba qualified Force Reconnaissance Company S-6. He completed a tour at JCSE, earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at NPS then taught and mentored at the USNA for 3 years.

Over a year ago, he took over as the S-6 for 1st Marines which became RCT-1in order to conduct combat operations in Iraq. Kevin was selected for LtCol and command screened to be the Commanding Officer of 9th CommBn in June 2005.

He was an innovator, a visionary, an intellect, one tough guy, and a very good friend. He will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife and two children, please keep them in your prayers.

Kevin turned 38 yesterday, 14 Sep.

Semper Fi,
Miller

LtCol Paul A. Miller, USMC
AC/S G-6
1st Marine Division
Ar Ramadi, Iraq

Damn...just damn.

Here's more about Major Shea.

Please keep the Shea family in thoughts and prayers.

Posted by Blackfive on September 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

"Dear America"

Received this from Seamus via Col Myers. JDL is a retire two star who forwarded this letter from Lt. Brown in Iraq. It's another must read.

    This letter was written by Lt. Kevin Brown, USMC, a Marine Cobra pilot and 2001 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He expresses a basic thought that is becoming a common thread in emails sent by those serving in Iraq.

    Those who are serving there are smart enough to detect a basic fallacy in the words of many. Simply stated, one cannot say that one is supporting the troops in Iraq while saying that one does not support what they are doing. In the words of Lieutenant Brown, "you cannot both support the troops and protest their mission".

    What they see coming is another version of Vietnam...eventually the charade will be played to its natural conclusion and neither the troops nor what they are doing will be supported. With the rug pulled out, they will then become a latter day version of the Vietnam Veteran. Those who had the Vietnam experience know exactly what I mean. It is our duty to do our best to make certain that it doesn't happen to our successors. Which, of course, is why this email, one that was provided by a major retired Marine circuit, is forwarded to so many.

    What they are also seeing is that a large segment of the public has forgotten who attacked whom on 9/11 and who suffered more casualties that day than were suffered on 7 December 1941.

    JDL

Dad, you asked me what I would say to America from Iraq on 9/11 if I had a podium and a microphone. I have thought about it, and here is my response.

Your Son,
Kevin

September 11, 2004
Dear America,

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -George Orwell

The Marine Corps is tired. I guess I should not say that, as I have no authority or responsibility to speak for the Marine Corps as a whole, and my opinions are mine alone. I will rephrase: this Marine is tired. I write this piece from the sands of Iraq, west of Baghdad, at three a.m., but I am not tired of the sand. I am neither tired of long days, nor of flying and fighting. I am not tired of the food, though it does not taste quite right. I am not tired of the heat; I am not tried of the mortars that occasionally fall on my base. I am not tired of Marines dying, though all Marines, past and present, mourn the loss of every brother and sister that is killed; death is a part of combat and every warrior knows that going into battle. One dead Marine is too many, but we give more than we take, and unlike our enemies, we fight with honor. I am not tired of the missions or the people; I have only been here a month, after all. I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy and short-sightedness that seems to have gripped so many of my countrymen and the media. I am tired of political rhetoric that misses the point, and mostly I am tired of people "not getting it."

Three years ago I was sitting in a classroom at Quantico, Virginia, while attending the Marine Corps Basic Officer Course, learning about the finer points of land navigation. Our Commanding Officer interrupted the class to inform us that some planes had crashed in New York and Washington D.C., and that he would return when he knew more. Tears welled in the eyes of the Lieutenant on my right while class continued, albeit with an audience that was not very focused; his sister lived in New York and worked at the World Trade Center. We broke for lunch, though instead of going to the chow hall proceeded to a small pizza and sub joint which had a television. Slices of pizza sat cold in front of us as we watched the same vivid images that you watched on September 11, 2001. I look back on that moment now and realize even then I grasped, at some level, that the events of that day would alter both my military career and my country forever. Though I did not know that three years later, to the day, I would be flying combat missions in Iraq as an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, I did understand that a war had just begun, on television for the world to see, and that my classmates and I would fight that war. After lunch we were told to go to our rooms, clean our weapons and pack our gear for possible deployment to the Pentagon to augment perimeter security. The parting words of the order were to make sure we packed gloves, in case we had to handle bodies.

The first Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom was in my company at The Basic School, and was sitting in that land navigation class on September 11. He fought bravely, led from the front, and was killed seizing an oil refinery on the opening day of the war. His heroism made my emergency procedure memorization for the T-34 primary flight school trainer seem quite insignificant. This feeling of frustration was shared by all of the student pilots, but we continued to press on. As one instructor pointed out to us, "You will fight this war, not me. Make sure that you are prepared when you get there." He was right; my classmates from Pensacola are here beside me, flying every day in support of the Marines on the ground. That instructor has since retired, but I believe he has retired knowing that he made a contribution to the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America.

Many of you will read that statement and balk at its apparently presumptuous and arrogant nature, and perhaps be tempted to stop reading right here. I would ask that you keep going, for I did not say that Americans are better than anyone else, for I do not believe that to be the case. I did not say that our country, its leaders, military or intelligence services are perfect or have never made mistakes, because throughout history they have, and will continue to do so, despite their best efforts. The Nation is more than the sum of its citizens and leaders, more than its history, present, or future; a nation has contemporary values which change as its leaders change, but it also has timeless character, ideals forged with the blood and courage of patriots. To quote the Pledge of Allegiance, our nation was founded "under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Americans, we have more freedom than we can handle sometimes.

If you are an atheist you might have a problem with that whole "under God" part; if you are against liberating the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Asia, all of Europe (twice), and the former Soviet bloc, then perhaps the "liberty and justice for all" section might leave you fuming. Our Nation, throughout its history, has watered the seeds of democracy on many continents, with blood, even when the country was in disagreement about those decisions. Disagreement is a wonderful thing. To disagree with your neighbors and your government is at the very heart of freedom. Citizens have disagreed about every important and controversial decision made by their leaders throughout history. Truman had the courage to drop two nuclear weapons in order to end the largest war in history, and then, by his actions, prevented the Soviets from extinguishing the light of democracy in Eastern Europe, Berlin. Lincoln preserved our country through civil war; Reagan knew in his heart
that freedom is a more powerful weapon than oppression. Leaders are paid to make difficult, sometimes controversial decisions. History will judge the success of their actions and the purity of their intent in a way that is impossible at the present moment. In your disagreement and debate about the current conflict, however, be very careful that you do not jeopardize your nation or those who serve. The best time to use your freedom of speech to debate difficult decisions is before they are made, not when the lives of your countrymen are on the line.

Cherish your civil rights; I know that after having been in Iraq for only one month I have a new appreciation for mine. You have the right to say that you "support the troops" but oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have the right to vote for Senator John Kerry because you believe that he has an exit strategy for Iraq, or because you just cannot stand President Bush. You have the right to vote for President George W. Bush if you believe that he has done a good job over the last four years. You might even decide that you do not want to vote at all and would rather avoid the issues as much as possible. That is certainly your option, and doing nothing is the only option for many people in this world.

It is not my place, nor am I allowed by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, to tell you how to vote. But I can explain to you the truth about what is going on around you. We know, and have known from the beginning, that the ultimate success or failure of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the future of those countries, rests solely on the shoulders of the Iraqi and Afghani people. If someone complains that we should not have gone to war with Saddam Hussein, that our intelligence was bad, that President Bush's motives were impure, then take the appropriate action. Exercise your right to vote for Senator Kerry, but please stop complaining about something that happened over a year ago. The decision to deploy our military in Iraq and Afghanistan is in the past, and while I believe that it is important to the democratic process for our nation to analyze the decisions of our leadership in order to avoid repeating mistakes, it is far more important to focus on the future. The question of which candidate will "get us out of Iraq sooner" should not be a consideration in your mind. YOU SHOULD NOT WANT US OUT OF IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN SOONER. There is only one coherent exit strategy that will make our time here worthwhile and validate the sacrifice of so many of our countrymen. There is only one strategy that has a chance of promoting peace and stabilizing the Middle East. It is the exit strategy of both candidates, though voiced with varying volumes and differing degrees of clarity. I will speak of Iraq because that is where I am, though I feel the underlying principle applies to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American military must continue to help train and support the Iraqi Police, National Guard, and Armed Forces. We must continue to give them both responsibility and the authority with which to carry out those responsibilities, so that they eventually can kill or capture the former regime elements and foreign terrorists that are trying to create a radical, oppressive state. We must continue to repair the infrastructure that we damaged during the conflict, and improve the infrastructure that was insufficient when Saddam was in power. We should welcome and encourage partners in the coalition but recognize that many will choose the path of
least resistance and opt out; many of our traditional allies have been doing this for years and it should not surprise us. We must respect the citizens of Iraq and help them to understand the meaning of basic human rights, for those are something the average Iraqi has never experienced. We must be respectful of our cultural and religious differences. We must help the Iraqis develop national pride, and most importantly, we must leave this country better than we found it, at the right time, with a chance of success so that its people will have an opportunity to forge their own destiny. We must do all of these things as quickly and efficiently as possible so that we are not seen as occupiers, but rather liberators and helpers. We must
communicate this to the world as clearly and frequently as possible, both with words and actions.

If we leave before these things are done, then Iraq will fall into anarchy and possibly plunge the Middle East into another war. The ability of the United States to conduct foreign policy will be severely, and perhaps permanently, degraded. Terrorism will increase, both in America and around the world, as America will have demonstrated that it is not interested in building and helping, only destroying. If we run or exit early, we prove to our enemies that terror is more powerful and potent than freedom. Many nations, like Spain, have already affirmed this in the minds of the
terrorists. Our failure, and its consequences, will be squarely on our shoulders as a nation. It will be our fault. If we stay the course and Iraq or Afghanistan falls into civil war on its own, then our hands are clean. As a citizen of the United States and a U.S. Marine, I will be able to sleep at night with nothing on my conscience, for I know that I, and my country, have done as much as we could for these people. If we leave early, I will not be able to live with myself, and neither should you. The blood will be on our hands, the failure on our watch.

The bottom line is this: Republican or Democrat, approve or disapprove of the decision to go to war, you need to support our efforts here. You cannot both support the troops and protest their mission. Every time the parent of a fallen Marine gets on CNN with a photo, accusing President Bush of murdering his son, the enemy wins a strategic victory. I cannot begin to comprehend the grief he feels at the death of his son, but he dishonors the memory of my brave brother who paid the ultimate price. That Marine volunteered to serve, just like the rest of us. No one here was drafted. I am proud of my service and that of my peers. I am ashamed of that parent's actions, and I pray to God that if I am killed my parents will stand with pride before the cameras and reaffirm their belief that my life and sacrifice mattered; they loved me dearly and they firmly support the military and its mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. With that statement, they communicate very clearly to our enemies around the world that America is united, that we cannot be intimidated by kidnappings, decapitations and torture, and that we care enough about the Afghani and Iraqi people to give them a chance at democracy and basic human rights. Do not support those that seek failure for us, or seek to trivialize the sacrifices made here. Do not make the deaths of your countrymen be in vain. Communicate to your
media and elected officials that you are behind us and our mission. Send letters and encouragement to those who are deployed. When you meet a person that serves you, whether in the armed forces, police, or fire department, show them respect. Thank the spouses around you every day, raising children alone, whose loved ones are deployed. Remember not only those that have paid the ultimate price, but the veterans that bear the physical and emotional scars of defending your freedom. At the very least, follow your mother's advice. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Do not give the enemy a foothold in our Nation's public opinion. He rejoices at Fahrenheit 9/11 and applauds every time an American slams our efforts. The military can succeed here so long as American citizens support us wholeheartedly.

Sleep well on this third anniversary of 9/11, America. Rough men are standing ready to do violence on your behalf. Many of your sons and daughters volunteered to stand watch for you. Not just rough men- the infantry, the Marine grunts, the Special Operations Forces- but lots of eighteen and nineteen year old kids, teenagers, who are far away from home, serving as drivers, supply clerks, analysts, and mechanics. They all have stories, families, and dreams. They miss you, love you, and are putting their lives on the line for you. Do not make their time here, their sacrifice, a waste. Support them, and their mission.

As they say in the military, Lt. Brown writes above his grade.

Posted by Blackfive on September 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 17, 2004

Rummy At Fort Campbell

Secretary of Defense, the Rumster, visited Ft. Campbell recently to tell the troops how wonderful they are...and I'm sure most of Special Forces guys were looking at their watches wondering how much time Rummy was cutting out of Happy Hour.

...The secretary got some chuckles from the crowd when he told them he's embarrassed to admit the last time he was at Fort Campbell was 1976. During that visit, he said, he met an Army colonel by the name of Colin Powell who was stationed there.

"Now, of course, he's the secretary of state," Rumsfeld said. "It's always nice to see a young fellow get ahead like that."

Then the secretary joked about himself being back in the same job – another stint as secretary of defense. "I feel like a gerbil," he said. "I get up every morning, run like the dickens, and I stay right where I am."...

Comments, Licorice?

Posted by Blackfive on September 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Kerry's Medals, err, Ribbons...or whatever

Here's what I said about medals and ribbons and Kerry's service a long time ago (well, it's long in terms of the blogosphere and this election cycle).

Now, I find this new video highly amusing, and I think most of you military folks will, too.

Here's the link to the lastest Swiftboat Ad where they make use of the best resources to portray old Cut-n-Run in an accurate light - his own words.

Speaking of uniform accoutrements, John Donovan has an embarrassing uniform gaffe from a USAF Weather Officer (caught on Fox). The follow up imagined phone call is probably art imitating (military) life...definitely could happen.

Posted by Blackfive on September 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

Is the AP Biased?

This is interesting:

Judge Orders U.S. to Find Bush Records
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to find and make public by next week any unreleased files about President Bush's Vietnam-era Air National Guard service to resolve a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. handed down the order late Wednesday in New York. The AP lawsuit already has led to the disclosure of previously unreleased flight logs from Bush's days piloting F-102A fighters and other jets.

Pentagon officials told Baer they plan to have their search complete by Monday. Baer ordered the Pentagon to hand over the records to the AP by Sept. 24 and provide a written statement by Sept. 29 detailing the search for more records.

"We're hopeful the Department of Defense will provide a full accounting of the steps it has taken, as the judge ordered, so the public can have some assurance that there are no documents being withheld," said AP lawyer David Schulz.

White House officials have said Bush ordered the Pentagon earlier this year to conduct a thorough search for the president's records, and officials allowed reporters to review everything that was gathered back in February.

Through a series of requests under the federal open records law and a subsequent suit, the AP uncovered the flight logs, which were not part of the records the White House released earlier this year.

Both Bush's and John Kerry's service records in Vietnam have become a major issue in the presidential race. New records that have surfaced in recent weeks have raised more questions...

Please read the whole thing.

Now, please correct me if I'm wrong, but there was no mention of the AP suing the Pentagon to try to get all of John Kerry's records (which we KNOW have not been fully released). Maybe they did sue and it just didn't make it into the story.

Anyone know about this?

Last, Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has been all over the Kerry records issue (and if you haven't blogrolled Tom, yet, you should now). I wouldn't have known about the misdirection from the Kerry Campaign on this issue if I hadn't been reading his blog.

Posted by Blackfive on September 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

John Forbes Kerry and the National Guard

There were many reports today about Kerry's speech at the National Guard Association convention in Las Vegas today. There's about 3,600 delegates from the National Guard at the convention. Here's just a few stories from various newswires about the response Kerry received:

AP - Kerry: Bush Not Being Straight About Iraq
- AP talked about a lot of things but not the reception that Senator Kerry received.

Bloomberg - Kerry Says Bush `Failed' by Not Telling Truth on Iraq
- While Bush received seven standing ovations during his remarks to the Guard association, Kerry's speech was greeted with polite and scattered applause. His remarks on Bush's handling of the war in Iraq were met with silence.

Newsday - Kerry: Bush misleads on Iraq
- Kerry's 30-minute speech was met with tepid applause and less enthusiasm than Bush's -- Kerry got 11 rounds of applause to Bush's 32 -- and the crowd of several thousand was smaller than the estimated 4,300 who attended Bush's address.

Hmmm...so earlier this evening I get an email from Major Tim, a buddy of mine in the National Guard (he's a full time Guardsman). Here's what Tim says:

...After the intro, you could hear a pin drop. Then, about 150 delegates get up and walk out. There were a few thousand there. Less than ten percent left. No one really clapped. No one really gave a ---- about what he was saying because no believes a word coming out of his pie-hole...
Tim thought the speech was pretty good overall, though.

Here's the text of his speech (John Kerry dot com) and here's where I wondered if he would offer anything of substance and I offered a few suggestions on how to get my vote:

    You want my vote, fellas? How about a huge pay increase so our Sergeants don't have to use food stamps to take care of their families? How about funding a massive increase in troops to support a rotation overseas that will minimize time away from families and reduce dependence on the Guard and Reserve? How about funding better weapons, better armor, and better training? How about ACTUALLY SHOWING UP TO VOTE FOR ONCE!

    How about supporting HR 4323 and getting it through the Senate? That bill would provide money for emergency purchases of body armor and materials to up-armor vehicles. That bill could actually save lives.

    THAT would impress me, Senators.

Posted by Blackfive on September 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A Report From Afghanistan

James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy and Vietnam veteran, wrote this piece for Parade Magazine. I'll publish it in full as it won't be available on-line for another three or four days.

A Message For Corporal Ramirez The fight in Afghanistan is often overlooked. We must not forget those who still serve there on a lonely and dangerous mission. By James Webb

THE FOUR-ENGINE C-130 Hercules descends toward total darkness above Tarin Kowt in the plains of central Afghanistan, 70 miles north of the ancient capital of Kandahar. Its wheels finally bite into an unmarked dirt airstrip. The aircraft brakes hard, then taxis along the strip. Billows of dust engulf us. The rear door yawns open, and we trundle down the tailgate onto an eerie, empty landscape lit only by the brightness of the moon. As I step onto the runway, my boots sink into six inches of powder, so fine and dry that it might be talc.

In the moonscape I can see the silhouettes of Marines moving through a small city of tents, concertina wire and military vehicles. I have arrived at Camp Ripley, the desolate forward operating base of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). From here Alabaman Col. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the 22nd MEU's commander, has been directing 2000 Marines, and recently Army infantry troops as well, in combat operations against Taliban and other forces across an area half the size of North Carolina.

I have come to Afghanistan to observe the 22nd MEU and other Marine Corps units fighting in this often-neglected theater. My son Jim, with me as my photographer, is also carrying a message for Marine Cpl. Jose Ramirez, whom we are determined to locate during our visit.

At Bagram: a lesson in history. Two days earlier, we had left Ramstein Air Base in Germany, a busy hub linking medevacs and cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan. During a seven-hour flight, we sat on canvas jump seats and napped on the metal floor of an Air Force C-17 loaded with fresh cargo and finally landed at the main American base at Bagram.

Built up by the Soviets during their ill-fated occupation of the country, Bagram is a lesson in history and of the contrasts in living styles that attend all wars. Its perimeter is littered with old Soviet weaponry and crisscrossed with still-active minefields.

We slept in an odorous, dusty room that was once part of a Soviet-built hospital. All around us, the American military-plus soldiers from at least a dozen other nations and hundreds of civilian workers-live in a world almost surreal in its contradictions.

Britney Spears, pizza and weapons. Bagram, home to more than 6000 soldiers, offers up the heat and isolation of a war zone and at the same time emits an unreality that might be found in an episode of M*A*S*H. The base has never been attacked other than by occasional rocket fire from distant mountains, but every person in military uniform carries a loaded weapon, even when walking to the base exchange or the day spa or pizza parlor. At the transient quarters, a visiting Army general even straps a shoulder-holstered pistol over his undershirt as he travels from his bedroom to the latrine one floor below.

And yet, throughout the day, hundreds of soldiers in official Army gym clothes jog on Bagram's roads and sidewalks, weaponless and worry-free. Just outside the Internet café, I watch an aerobics class where dozens of solemn-faced soldiers kickup their knees in unison, step-dancing to the rhythm of Britney Spears.

Unarmed, full-bellied civilians with thick Southern accents dish out food in the chow halls, run the laundry and operate supply trucks, compliments of Vice President Cheney's ever-present Halliburton Co., which even announces when you sign onto the Internet that it has provided the connection.

A place of wind and dust. Camp Ripley offers neither the distractions nor the contradictions of Bagram. It is a place of wind and dust, sitting on an arid, empty plateau. The seriousness of the Marines' mission permeates the air. At night the camp is eerily quiet and the darkness is nearly complete, interrupted only by green chem sticks marking pathways through the concertina wire and an occasional blue-lensed flashlight.

Struggling in the thick dust, we carry our gear from the airstrip to the small group of tents that mark Colonel McKenzie's command post. Iron-gray Sgt. Maj. George Mason sits at a small table in the darkness, smoking a cigar as he converses in a near-whisper with another Marine. Rising to greet us, the New Jersey-born Mason hands us thin mats and gestures toward two nearby one-man pup tents, where we will stow our gear and sleep on the ground. There is not one cot in the hundreds of tents that dot Camp Ripley's moonscape. Colonel McKenzie and Sergeant Major Mason are testimony that the Marine Corps leads by example, sleeping on the dust-filled deck inside their own pup tents no differently from the rest of their Marines.

The command operations center is a low-lit tent jammed with sophisticated computers. I learn that a recently arrived Army unit is in contact with guerrillas in the mountains to the east, not far from where the 22nd MEU's Marines recently killed more than 100 enemy, including at least one Chechen. This largely unreported operation, the most extensive in Afghanistan in more than two years, has been overshadowed by events in Iraq and represents the farthest inland penetration by ship-borne amphibious forces in the history of the Marine Corps.

To an outpost in the hills. The next morning, we board a helicopter and fly north over vast reaches of desert, banking through sharp mountain passes. Gunships ride our flanks. A second helicopter follows in our trace. Bare scrapes of road mark the desert floor and the edges of many mountains.

Every now and then, we see a lone vehicle, a herd of goats, even wild camels. Occasionally there are squares of mud walls, denoting an Afghan housing compound. Finally we fly past a half-dozen Marines manning a hilltop outpost, and on the other side we descend toward a streambed at the edge of a village. Green smoke from a grenade curls into the air, marking the landing zone. And in minutes, we are at the command post of "One-Six"-the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

One-Six is now in its 74th consecutive day of offensive combat operations. Led by Pakistani-born Lt. Col. Asad Khan, whose call sign, appropriately, is "Genghis," and a particularly daring sergeant major, Kentuckian Thomas Hall, the three 200-man rifle companies have covered enormous distances along the rough roads and narrow mountain passes. Early on, the Taliban attempted a series of three-point, V-shaped ambushes and learned a costly lesson. Rather than going on the defensive once ambushed, the Marines attacked in classic fashion, stunning the ambushers and chasing them down one by one.

A five-vehicle convoy picks us up, along with several bags of precious mail brought in by the helicopters. It is brutal hot in the Humvees as we drive along craggy mountain roads. Dust pours into the open windows, mixing with the odor of the fuel cans behind us. On the roofs of the Humvees, gunners stand watch, dark goggles on their eyes, their boots fixed into canvas straps that descend into the center of the cab.

The square mud housing compounds seem to blend into the desert as we pass. Young children stare curiously, a few daring to wave. A vehicle breaks down, and we leave it behind with another one for security. It is a risky but daily occurrence, with the Marines stretched out so far and wide.

The tip of the spear. Charlie Company, along with several dozen Afghan soldiers, is set up at the edge of a swiftly flowing river, its vehicles marking the edges of the patrol base. On the far side of the river, a group of villagers has gathered to watch, and a smaller group of nomads has set up its own tents. We have reached the very tip of the spear whose hilt began in Bagram, and these Marines have an edge to them. They are well-disciplined but cocky, the series of recent firefights having cost them few casualties. At the same time, they are weary, knowing they are toward the end of their deployment and soon will be heading home.

That afternoon we wade the chest-deep river, moving quickly through a large portion of the village on the other side as the Marines cordon and search different compounds, looking for Taliban and stashed weapons. It is intricate, exhausting work that will carry over into the next day and the next in other remote villages. Dogs are barking and snarling. Bearded men are protesting. Women with long memories of abuse during the Soviet occupation are hiding with their female children. A few gritty female Marines are attached to the company in order to search the women without insulting local traditions. Afghan interpreters conduct in-depth interrogations under the direction of Marine counterintelligence. Four-man fire teams work with quick precision, tempers occasionally flaring from the tension and the heat, searching room after room, compound after compound, then marking large X's on the mud doorways with their bayonets. Opium and marijuana are omnipresent, drawing frequent jeers from Marines who must deal with stoned-out Afghans but who are not allowed even to drink a beer inside this country for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities.

Then it is over, and we wade back across the river. At night I lay amid the smooth round stones of the riverbank. My clothes are still wet from the patrol. A soft, cooling wind rises off the river, and I pull my flak jacket up to my chin as if it were a blanket. The sky is brittle clear and the stars shine with amazing clarity, As I lay on my back, I see a satellite slowly crossing the sky. And I wonder if it is watching us.
A last distant outpost. Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment is far to the north of Camp Ripley, strung out along a series of remote platoon outposts that look directly at the Pakistani border. We find Kilo's third platoon at a Special Forces camp high above a gorgeous river, looking down at a valley so green that it could be in Vietnam. In this odd war that combines so many aspects of national security, it is no small irony that vast fields of opium sprawl in plain view just on the other side of the river.

The Marines' work up here is different-defensive rather than offensive, with Kilo's platoons under the operational control of the Army's Special Forces. For eight days at a time, combined squads of Marines and Afghans man dangerous outposts on top of nearby mountains that are reachable only by helicopter. Daily squad-sized security patrols trace the hills overlooking the main compound. In the cave-pocked valleys along the border, small Special Operations teams are frequently inserted by helicopter, conducting long-range patrols in search of al-Qaeda and other terrorists' base camps.

To reach this distant outpost, we hitch a ride in an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter whose missions for the day include delivering resupply loads. As we fly, Apache helicopters constantly cover our flanks. The many-houred journey from Bagram is routine for these highly skilled pilots, who on the trip must negotiate a foglike sandstorm through hazardous mountain passes and drop off large loads by hovering at the edge of sharp terrain that leaves no room for error.

Journey's end. And here, in the shadow of the Pakistani border at the far edge of Afghanistan, we finally link up with Corporal Ramirez. Dripping sweat, he breaks from a working party when our helicopter arrives, greeting Jim and me with a handshake and a quick embrace before getting back to work. My son later joins his squad on a combat patrol up into the steep mountains. Then, as night falls, we talk for more than an hour of home and of Afghanistan. The seductive quiet of the mountains, where al-Qaeda's forces watch, listen and hide, can be deceptive. Shortly before our arrival, a three-man patrol repeated an earlier route and was quickly wiped out as it stepped down a ridgeline into a ravine. The platoon is still haunted by the bravery of the patrol's radio operator, a 19-year-old Tennessean who fought the attackers to his death, giving up his radio only when they cracked his forearm on a rock to pry it out of his hand.

The message for Corporal Ramirez, carried so many thousands of miles by my son, is a letter from my daughter, Sarah. I have no need to read it to know the gist of what she said. This is the second time that Corporal Ramirez has deployed to Afghanistan in little more than a year. I have seen her struggle with the pain of these separations-forgoing normal college rituals, forcing herself to learn more about this proud oddity called the Marine Corps and this remote country that has the potential to so drastically alter her life. I have listened on the phone as her calmness descended into sudden tears when asking about news of casualties. Two days before my trip, I watched her celebrate her 21st birthday, an evening of forced gaiety with one glaring, remembered absence.

And yet, saying good-bye to Jose the next morning as a Black Hawk helicopter swoops in to take us back to Bagram, I know something else-that he and I, and so many others, cannot allow ourselves to feel unique in these emotions. Indeed, they are being repeated a hundred thousand times over, every day, among those who have been sent into harm's way. My only wish is that the rest of America might somehow comprehend their depth and their intensity.

PARADE Contributing Editor James Webb, author of six novels, served with the Marines in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross. He was Navy Secretary under President Reagan.

Posted by Blackfive on September 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 15, 2004

Firefight - Army Reserve Firemen

    "Like all soldiers, we’re watching each other’s backs. We’re like firefighters anywhere – most people don’t really think about us until something happens … then we’re there." - Army Staff Sergeant Richard Diephuis, Fire Chief

Tough job - an Army Reserve Fireman on active duty in Iraq - to fight a fire inside a M1A2 Main Battle Tank with a full combat load. Aside from the Explosive tank rounds, the .50 cal and 7.62mm rounds cooking off, you have an intense fire to fight. Then, there's the fact that you are outside the wire in Iraq, a target of opportunity for the terrorists...

Fire Outside the Wire By Master Sgt. Jack Gordon

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, BALAD, Iraq September 7, 2004) -- As the first notes of the fire alert sound from the ERC’s (Emergency Response Center) horn, firefighters react – newspapers and magazines about “life back in the other world” are dropped, conversations stop in mid-sentence, soldiers suit-up into firefighting gear and the engine in the fire truck of the 475 th Engineer Detachment … starts. Within sixty seconds after the alarm has sounded, the truck exits the door.

“While we were in route we were getting information about the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of the EOD (Explosives-Ordnance Detachment) and QRF (Quick Response Force),” said Sgt. Jamel Linzey, 475 th Eng. Det., from Creston , Iowa .
<...>
After learning more about the nature of the emergency – an M1 Abrams Tank had caught fire while being towed outside of Anaconda’s perimeter -- Linzey knew the firefighting team would have to await the additional support required.

As soon as the soldiers towing the unoccupied tank noticed it smoking, they wisely abandoned the tow vehicle. Both tanks contained full combat loads of high explosive rounds, as well as 50 caliber and 7.62 rounds.

“We had to wait on EOD because the rounds were cooking off,” Linzey said, “and we needed the QRF because we were going outside the wire.” The current threat in Iraq dictates any and all activity outside a U.S. or Coalition compound must be supported by an appropriately measured force protection team. The QRF teams respond to potential threats and force protection situations local to their assigned posts.

“We could see the dense black smoke and hear the explosions,” Linzey said. After the QRF arrived, they sandwiched the ERC’s response elements – the fire truck (pumper), the water resupply tanker and the medical support van -- for safer movement to the site about 500 meters outside the north gate. Two Cobra rotary wing gun ships circled overhead, prepared to employ fire support if necessary while also providing aerial reconnaissance.

For today’s Army, the practical theory, intent and mindset of firefighting in a military uniform is no different from fighting a fire back home, so the soldiers’ attitudes don’t vary much from the center.

“The two things we always do are save lives and protect property. We knew that there wasn’t a life safety issue here, so we kicked into the preserve mode,” Linzey said. “We had two tanks – one towing the other, with the towed tank involved (on fire). The point of contact from the 81 st Brigade requested we save the first tank, so that’s what we did.”

“We had to re-size the scene three times,” said Sgt. Dwayne Lizama. “We did an initial knockdown, then a surround and drown. We were able to use the lead tank as cover and protection as the rounds were cooking off in the towed tank. Then … we unhitched them.”

Lizama said the possibility of the rounds cooking off inside the tank posed a significant threat that forced the team to retreat twice during the course of the event, but after EOD confirmed the positioning and direction of the ammunition load, they were able to approach from the front. The impact rounds were all facing out and to the rear.

The unit’s Fire Chief, Staff Sgt. Richard Diephuis, said that he is proud of his soldier-firefighters and how they approach their duties and responsibilities in keeping Anaconda a fire-free zone.

A fire inside Anaconda’s perimeter is challenging enough, given that the soldiers are layered in protective clothing that insulates them from fire, but also raises the body’s core temperature significantly, especially during sustained periods of exertion. Add on physical demands and the stress of fighting a fire strategically and safely with an unseen enemy who may decide to engage you with small arms fire or casually lob in a mortar, and you have a recipe for real danger. But these soldiers don’t blink … they respond...

Posted by Blackfive on September 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Iowa Guardsmen

Here's a photo essay of an Iowa National Guard unit in Belad, Iraq. Cool pictures.

Posted by Blackfive on September 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2004

Presidential Candidates Address National Guard Association

President Bush addresses the National Guard Association today at 12:15pm in Las Vegas at the Annual Convention.

John Forbes Kerry will address the convention on Thursday at noon.

While both candidates will be received well, something *cough* tells me that Kerry won't get the same reaction as President Bush.

In related news, US News & World Report has an article about "What guys want" and it ain't some guy who wants to prosecute a more sensitive war...

...No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white male voters since Jimmy Carter in 1976. That's partly because the party's candidates have come across as vacillating on military issues and lenient on social concerns like crime and federal "giveaways" to the poor. <...> "Bush has his flaws," says Ted Stout, 39, who runs a bus company in Scranton, Pa., where Bush and Kerry made stops after their respective conventions. "But there's no question that when he says he's going to do something, he does it. That's what I like about him." Stout, waiting to bowl on league night at Scranton's Southside Bowl, adds: "He might seem a little dull-witted, but he's an average person. He makes the right decisions when he needs to."

"We can't be girlie men" about the war on terror, says Michael Bidwell, a 38-year-old Republican dining at Scranton's Stadium Club with three male coworkers. "We need to go after terrorism. Terrorism isn't going to go away, and we can't put a blanket over it." Bidwell says he has a son and a daughter serving in the Middle East and adds: "I don't want to see them over there on a mission that's not finished." Steve Pasternak, a retired utility worker standing among "Sportsmen for Bush" signs at a pro-Bush rally in Johnstown, Pa., says he will vote for the president "because he thinks like sportsmen do. He's a hunter going after the people who need to be hunted."

Kerry has made a bid for white males by calling attention to his record as a Vietnam War combat hero. The Democratic nominee has also been emphasizing Bush's poor record on job creation and improving the economy.

But so far, none of this has made much difference. "I'd rather vote for action than inaction," says David Thorn, a 30-year-old communications representative from Overland Park, Kan., who sat in the dark-paneled comfort of O'Dowd's Little Dublin, a bar in Kansas City's upscale Plaza district. "And I'd rather stand for something than nothing. John Kerry doesn't seem to stand for anything."

Ouch.

Kerry has no shot of winning the Kim du Toit voter segment of the Republic ™ (BTW, Kim's back and he's got some really great posts up).

Posted by Blackfive on September 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 13, 2004

Yesterday's Veteran Rally Against John Forbes Kerry

Dislogue was at the Rally and took pictures. Here are some key passages (the whole post is excellent):

...Jim Warner spoke of this experiences as a POW for five years. He mentioned that they had been tortured, but gave no details, as is the norm for these true heros. The anecdote he spoke of was how he was interrogated and presented with a cardboard storyboard on which a magazine article had been posted. It spoke of Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit, and his mother was quoted saying normal concerned mother things. She had not heard from him. She only knew he was a prisoner. As he put it, the North Vietnamese "hadn't gotten around to letting me write a letter." In four years. They showed him another storyboard and this one contained testimony by a Lieutenant JG John Kerry, who said they were all guilty of committing atrocities, they were all war criminals. Warner didn't know what would result. His captors told him with that as evidence they could try him and find him guilty of war crimes. As he put it, communist courts are not American courts. They don't have the same standards.

He pointed out that John Kerry had been through SERE training, that he was trained to know what the POW experience might mean. Yet he endangered his fellow servicemen who were in captivity by telling his lies. Warner also pounded on the theme that after the overwhelming defeat of the communists at Tet, the communists were lost. That is, they would have been except Ho Chi Mihn saw their salvation in the budding anti-war movement. The battlefield moved from Vietnam to America and Paris. All they needed was a holding action in Vietnam; the real fight would be led by others, including John Kerry...

That's about 5% of what is at Dislogue. Go check it out.

Posted by Blackfive on September 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 10, 2004

Veterans Rally Against John Forbes Kerry

Here's a reminder about the rally in DC that is for all vets who oppose John Forbes Kerry - Democrats, Independents and Republicans will gather to protest his candidacy.

A gathering of Vietnam veterans from across America

Where: Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C. It is easy to get to, shady and pretty, with a great view of the Capitol dome in back of the speaker's platform. THIS IS A NEW LOCATION AS OF 7/17/04

When: Sunday, Sept 12, 2004 2:00-4:00 PM (EDT)

Why: To tell the truth about Vietnam veterans.
To counter the lies told about Vietnam veterans by John Kerry

All Vietnam veterans and their families and supporters are asked to attend. Other veterans are invited as honored guests.

NOTE: Bring a blanket or lawn chairs. None will be provided.

PLEASE NOTE: WHILE THIS RALLY IS CONDUCTED IN HONOR OF AND ON BEHALF OF VIETNAM VETERANS, EVERYBODY IS ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND! PLEASE COME AND BRING A FRIEND!

Posted by Blackfive on September 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Meaning of Committment - SGT Chuck Bartles - Someone You Should Know

Pawatwoop sends this article about the first amputee to re-enlist since Vietnam.

M10bartles
Staff photo by Steve Aldridge
Sgt. Chuck Bartles takes the oath to re-enlist after receiving the Bronze Star at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.


Amputee's re-enlistment a rarity
By Justin Willett

The story of Sgt. Chuck Bartles' injury in Iraq begins like many others.

The 26-year-old Army reservist was riding down a highway in a Humvee when a roadside bomb rocked his vehicle, spraying shrapnel everywhere.

One soldier died. Two were injured.

Bartles lost a limb. His right arm was shattered and had to be removed above the elbow.

What happened next, however, has not happened in decades, according to the commander of Bartles' unit, the Belton, Mo.-based 418th Civil Affairs Battalion.

Bartles was allowed to stay in his job and re-enlist in the Army. Civil affairs soldiers are helping rebuild infrastructure and governments in Iraq.

On Thursday, Bartles was presented with a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq and re-enlisted during a ceremony at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville...

I know what you are thinking, "Where do we find such men?"

I don't have an answer other than "Thank the Lord that we do!"

[go here to learn about more people that you should know]

Posted by Blackfive on September 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

Stolen Honor Gets Taken Back Today

Stolen Honor will release the Documentary today about John Kerry's post Vietnam actions and their effects on POWs in Vietnam.

If for some reason links are broken, bandwidth exceeded or the film not ready, check out the POW profiles or the other intriguing samples of the web site.

For some reason I feel that it's important to point out that, while George W. Bush was taking a Military Dental exam in Alabama, John Forbes Kerry was destroying the morale of our POWs. Somebody explain to Terry "No Freakin' Clue" McAulliffe that's a fact. Please.

Posted by Blackfive on September 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

Support the Founder of MilBlogs

Hi All-

Go here and, if you feel so inclined, contribute (I did) to keep Greyhawk going while he is on his way to warmer climes.

And if you don't vote, he's gonna bust your chops.

Posted by Blackfive on September 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Meaning of One Thousand

I'm sure that by now, you've all heard about ONE THOUSAND.

That's all it is...just a number. The media focuses on the number. I think that they couldn't wait for it. They like the sound of it. They like the look of it ("see how it fits above the fold!") They look to it in order to get another sound bite out of John Forbes Kerry.

One thousand killed. It's terrible, horrible, makes me tear up just thinking about it. But the actual number makes no difference to me.

My friends that died in action in this war would still be gone. More will die, too. It's truly sad, but it's a fact of war. The military understands this, and they will still go where we send them.

Another fact to consider is that we should have thousands of dead, not one thousand.

Why?

Because of the protection from Kevlar, Body Armor, and Armored Up Humvees have protected vital organ areas. That's why we have a record number of amputees and other WIAs compared to KIAs. They are losing limbs rather than lives. That too is a terrible price to pay, but one that must be payed. Does the media add this little fact to it's reports?

Of course not. The media is focusing solely on the number rather than the substantive sacrifices. Watch them start with the number and then launch into quotes from both sides of the aisle.

Last night, up with the baby again, I watched news cast after news cast (Night Line too) that had a pre-recorded interview with a Soldier or Marine who has returned and questioned the war in Iraq. And the media focused on the number instead of the Americans who gave their lives, who were passionate about doing what was right, who were ready to die for us. My friends who gave their lives knew what they were doing and supported the decision to go to war. I mourn them every damn day, but I don't pity them. I honor them. I remember them. The number one thousand has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with politics.

Then, I heard John Kerry speak, in reference to one thousand, about bringing the troops home. Doesn't he know that he's fueling the fires instead of supporting the troops? What the hell is he thinking? Why doesn't he promise better armor development and equipment and technology to fight the War on Terror? Why doesn't he say that he'll run every terrorist to ground?

Instead, the media cheapens everything that we stand for by focusing on some number like it was a finish line. My dear friends are part of those four digits. But they are much more than that to me and, I suspect, to you, as well.

One final thought: Jay Levine of CBS (Channel 2) Chicago tried to slant his One Thousand Deaths story against the president and the war but could only find returned Illinois National Guard soldiers who support it even though they lost good friends in Iraq. Mr. Levine, a world class a$$ if ever there was one, just didn't get it...

Update 3pm: Sondra K. wants to hear from military types about this subject.

Posted by Blackfive on September 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Election Day Will Be Veterans Day - Part 2

I've been saying that the Swift Boat vets (back on May 4th) were only the beginning of a giant veteran backlash against Senator John Forbes Kerry. Since then books, commercials, rallies...

This one (via Bill T.) is from the Marine Corps League email:

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
by Barbara Stock
2 September 2004
The unprecedented injustice inflicted on the Vietnam vets has always lain just under the surface, waiting for a chance to be uncovered. The feelings of betrayal had faded, but they were never resolved.

Over thirty years ago they put away their medals and their uniforms. They buried their anger and bitterness and moved on with their lives -- and they waited.

Revisionists are trying to change history, claiming the returning Vietnam veterans didn't suffer all that much when they returned home. All that talk of being labeled animals has been exaggerated over the years. But the veterans know better. They were there.

On the radio last week, one man related that he had unpacked the uniform that he wore home from Vietnam all those years ago. It had not seen the light of day for over thirty years. He showed it to his children and grandchildren and, for the first time, spoke of the day that he returned home from war and was spat on, cursed at, and literally had to run a gauntlet of protesters who threw human waste and rotten fruit on him and his fellow vets. With the words "baby killers" ringing in his ears he was warned by laughing policemen not to retaliate or he would be arrested. So he ran. The able-bodied helped the wounded as they do on any battlefield because those on crutches or in wheelchairs were not spared the profanity and bags full of feces that were thrown at them by the raging anti-war protesters.

This now middle-aged vet went on to tell his family that he had hid in the bathroom at the airport for over two hours, bewildered and afraid. He wondered if he had landed in some foreign land where Americans were hated. Finally, he cleaned up the uniform he was still proud to wear as best he could and made his way to his plane, where he suffered more insults from the passengers. When he got home, he packed up his medals and his dirty uniform, just as it was, and he knew that one day, he would take it out again and he would have his say. That day has come.


One POW stated that he had never put a face to the name until he heard the words "Genghis Khan" pronounced only as John Kerry does and suffered his first flashback to the time he was being tormented by Kerry's words in a North Vietnamese prison camp.

They buried their anger and the bitterness -- and they waited. Most of them didn't know who or what would be the signal to make their move, but they knew they would recognize it when it happened.

On July 29, 2004, it happened. John Forbes Kerry came to the podium at the Democratic Convention and uttered three words that made many Vietnam vets skin crawl: "Reporting for Duty!" At last the time had come for these long-suffering veterans.

The past was staring back at these wrongly disgraced vets from their television sets. The face it bore was that of John Kerry, the man who had shredded their honor without a thought and climbed over the bodies of their fallen friends to launch a political career. Kerry had stripped them of their dignity the day he sat before Congress in his fatigues and portrayed them as "baby killers" and "murderers." Kerry did the unspeakable. He had publicly turned on his fellow vets while they were still in harm's way and American prisoners were still in the hands of the enemy. Kerry accused them of being out-of-control animals, killing, raping, and pillaging Vietnam at
will. The anti-war movement -- the protesters -- had their hero and he was a Vietnam War veteran, an officer, a medal winner, a wounded warrior: John Forbes Kerry.

Many Vietnam vets buried the memories of their less-than-welcome homecoming, and John Kerry moved off the national scene. The feelings of betrayal had faded, but they were never resolved. The unprecedented injustice inflicted on the Vietnam vets has always lain just under the surface, waiting for a chance to be uncovered. The war had stolen their youth and innocence and John Kerry stole their dignity and rightful place of honor in history.

Like an unlanced boil, the anger festered but there was nothing that could ease the pain. These vets didn't ask for "forgiveness" because they had done nothing wrong in serving their country. They never asked to be treated as heroes, just good soldiers. All they have ever wanted was the respect due all the men and women who have worn the uniform of this country. Being allowed to march in a few parades wasn't enough. A long over-due memorial was not enough. The Vietnam Veterans moveable wall only brought back the suffering as they searched for the names of their fallen friends whose memory had been defiled and disgraced by people who considered them rampaging killers instead of men who died with honor for their country.

Now before them stands this man who would be president -- this man who holds his service in Vietnam up as a badge of honor now that it suits his purposes. This man Kerry brags about his medals and his tiny wounds and demands the respect they were denied, yet he offers no apologies for what he did to them. "I will be a great leader!" Kerry proclaims, because of his brief and self-proclaimed valiant service while wearing a uniform – the very same uniform that they wore and were spat upon because of it.

All across America, soiled uniforms and memories of being shamed and humiliated have surfaced and Vietnam vets demand their rightful place in history. John Kerry seems bewildered by the reaction of his "fellow vets." He has become defensive and angry because now his service and honor are being questioned. Kerry seems oblivious to the pain he caused three decades ago then he stole all honor and dignity from those same "fellow vets" for personal gain. Now he wants to use them again, for the same reason.

All across America, Vietnam vets are smiling. At last, perhaps they can bury their demons. These angry vets are demanding that this man who sentenced them to being shunned as criminals, tell the world that he was wrong and that he is sorry for what he did to them. Kerry must admit that he lied about them.

For many, it would still not be enough. Satisfaction and hopefully peace will come when Vietnam vets see and hear John F. Kerry give his concession speech the night of November 2, 2004 with the knowledge that it was their votes that helped defeat him. There are approximately 2.5 million Vietnam veterans in America and they have not forgotten.

Kerry denied them their rightful place as heroes and they will deny him his dream of the presidency. Angry Vietnam veterans, silent for so long, will finally have their say. Payment in full will be delivered to John Kerry on November 2, 2004.

Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.

Update 09-08-04: Andrew Olmstead weighs in on this issue. Here's a taste:

One of the things I love most about military service is that it is one of the few careers I'm aware of where honor still means something. I talked about this a little last year, when Harry Shelton told reporters that Wes Clark had integrity issues. In the military, that really means something. If you don't understand and maintain your honor, you can be successful, but you'll never be respected. Soldiers, regardless or rank, measure their fellow soldiers based on that unwritten code, observing each other's honor and integrity on a daily basis. Failing to pass that test is unthinkable. John Kerry failed that test.
And you should visit Major Olmstead's Reasons Why...

Posted by Blackfive on September 08, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 07, 2004

Sit-Rep In Iraq

Major D., a Marine in Iraq, has another Sit-Rep posted. Among other things, he discusses what it takes to get a Bronze Star for Valor and some of the disparities in the number of awards received by Officers versus Enlisted Men.

Posted by Blackfive on September 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Truth About Iraq - From the Commander of the 7th Marines

This letter came via Seamus and Master Sergeant Agler. It's a must read about what's really been happening in Iraq. Notice the Marines feelings about the Press...

----- Original Message ----- Subject: 7th Marines - Letter from Col Tucker
21 August 2004

The last month has been a busy time of change in the RCT-7 AO; a trend that will continue as the battalions that arrived with us last February are replaced by newcomers. TF 3/4 was replaced in July by TF 1/8 out of Camp Lejeune NC. As I write, the advance parties for the Battalions coming in to replace TF 2/7, 3/7, and 1st LAR are on board. Over the next month we will assimilate our new brothers-in-arms, and continue to march forward with the same lines of operation and successes that have characterized our operations thus far. The AO has been relatively quiet over the last weeks. The enemy still engages in cowardly attacks against the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Marines employing IEDs and indirect fire. But we continue to rock him on his heels with precision raids, tighter control of the border areas, and the professional presence of Marines providing security alongside the ISF for the people in these communities.

Since my last letter, we have seen promising progress in the eastern portion of the AO. A Police Academy and Border Police Academy have been established at Al Asad; a corrupt mayor and corrupt police chief have been forced out of their jobs through pressure applied by the citizens of the communities involved. The Iraqi National Guard continue to grow in competence and professionalism. Local citizens live free of fear from terrorists and criminal overlords. Kids go to school [and play on swing sets provided by Marines], markets are busy and, in a promising development, political parties are beginning to coalesce. This is what victory in counterinsurgency looks like.

In the western portion of the AO we continue to successfully capture and kill terrorists and violent criminals. TF LAR, TF 3/7, and 1st Force Recon have had remarkable success working their way up the terrorist cell structure.

All of these battalions will depart here justifiably proud of their accomplishments.

I am in absolute awe of these young men; the deed of the sons have exceeded the deeds of the father, and these men and these units will march into a proud history unencumbered by the dynamics of political agendas and press profits.

I speak to every Marine of the arriving Bns. Their intelligence, sense of duty, and perspective are remarkable. They ask questions ranging from small tactical issues to large and significant strategic issues. They fully understand the complexities of U.S. policy and their own role in the future of Iraq. We are striving to establish the rule of law in a country where terror, intimidation, and fear once ruled. A daunting task. But day-by-day, we see progress.

How far that progress extends will rightly depend on the will of American people. I was asked by a young Marine yesterday to encapsulate our tasks in a few words. My response: Provide a bulwark against the instruments of terror to allow the rule of law to take root; train the Iraqi Security Forces to do what we are doing now and kill anyone who has a problem with that; accomplish all three of those tasks without harming a single innocent Iraqi and without a single Marine in this RCT losing his moral compass. We continue to march forward on those tasks. Given time that success will be complete.

RCT-7 remembers the sacrifices of Cpl T.J Godwin, 1st Bn 8th Marines, killed in action on July 20, 2004 vic Fallujah, Iraq; GySgt E.P. Fontecchio, 3d Bn 7th Marines, killed in action August 4,2004 vic Husaybah, Iraq; LCpl J.L. Nice, 3d Bn 7th Marines, killed in action August 4, 2004 vic Husaybah Iraq; LCpl K.M. Funke, 2d Bn 7th Marines, killed in action August 13, 2004 vic Hit, Iraq; and Sgt R.M. Lord, 1st Bn 8th Marines killed in action August 18, 2004 vic Haditha, Iraq.

Please remember their family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Share your Courage.

"...these units will march into a proud history unencumbered by the dynamics of political agendas and press profits."

Wow, just wow. I wouldn't want to be certain reporters and run into these guys in a bar...I'd bet that some chop-busting would occur.

Posted by Blackfive on September 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Into The Breach - Another Friend Goes To War

    "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." - Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Number 1 (1776)

I’ve lost three good friends in this War on Terror. I have more than a few friends over in Iraq and Afghanistan now. I wish they were all home. They wish they were all home. But we must all be resolute in our engagement and destruction of the enemy. And now, I have one more good friend heading into the breach.

Chief Steve is a very good friend of mine. He wasn’t always my friend or a Warrant Officer.

More than seven years ago, I was a Company Commander (again). Bar none, it’s the best job in the Army. My previous First Sergeant, Mike Thompson, had been promoted to Sergeant Major and, since he could no longer fill the position, was moved out of the Division. I loved working with First Sergeant Thompson. He made chewing ass an art – he could make you laugh, wince, cry, cower and stand tall all within ten seconds. I enjoyed being around him all of the time. He made me proud to be his commander – but I was more proud to be his partner and friend.

To replace newly promoted Sergeant Major Thompson, Division sent me Steve – a newly promoted First Sergeant. Steve was a Boston Democrat who instantly hated me the moment he saw my Yankees hat on a shelf in my office. I tried to explain that I was more of a Boston fan, but liked the Yankees, too. Of course to a true Red Sox fan, that just made it worse.

Professionally, Steve didn’t care for me too much at first. In his eyes, I worked and talked with the NCOs too much. It’s not like we were all on a first name basis or that I micro-managed them. I wanted them all to get promoted. I wanted all of them to know what a great place the US Army could be for them. While I was involved in their work, they knew that they called the shots and made things happen. They knew that my job was to remove obstacles (sometimes with extreme and violent prejudice) that kept them from doing their jobs and training for war.

Steve thought that I ran a tight ship – maybe too tight. Steve thought that I was a bit crazy. And, after a few weeks, when he discovered that I was a mustang with an SF background, he liked me even less.

It took us a long time to build a working relationship. We rubbed each other the wrong way. It was a learning experience as much for me as it was for him. Eventually, he saw where my intentions lay – with creating the most cohesive group of soldiers in the Army. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t his irritation with Officers that made it tough for us to get along. It was the fact that he was following in the footsteps of an awesome First Sergeant who everyone talked about long after he was gone. And that I had a relationship with the troops that did not have...yet.

We worked like hell, into the night, day after day, through weekends, and we created something great. After seven months, we had one of the best companies in the Division. That was something that not even Mike Thompson and I accomplished in a year...

After my command tenure was over, I took an assignment at another unit, and Steve and I became friends. Good friends. We spent many nights at the VFW, in backyard BBQs, and at ball games. A few years later, after Steve was moved to Missouri and I had left the service, he would fly to Chicago for a weekend two or three times per year. I would meet him in KC for Chiefs’ games and to see his family.

I also strongly encouraged his decision to attend the WOC school.

    Question: What’s a WOC, you ask?

    Answer: It’s swomefing one fows at a wabbit.

Sorry for the old joke. Steve went to the Warrant Officer Course. He’s now a Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) about to be promoted to CW3. He’s heading out for Iraq. Tikrit to be exact. We’ve talked a few times about what Steve needs to do, what he needs to focus on.

So, Saturday, we talked one last time before he was to head down range – mostly about how his kids were going to handle his absence.

Steve said, “Danielle won’t look at me when I tuck her in at night. Right now, she hates me for leaving. And Nicky is really too young to know what’s happening.”

He’s got three kids and one on the way. The baby is due in January. Can you imagine being Sue, Steve’s wife, with a job, three kids, a baby coming, and your husband in Iraq? It’s something our military men and women AND their spouses and families deal with every day.

I tell him, “I’ll fly out and see Sue and the kids during Christmas.”

“Sue would love that.”

Me, “What about the delivery? Do you guys have that covered?”

“Yeah, our neighbors are going to help out. I think we’ll be okay as long as there aren’t any complications.”

“Okay, I’ll call Sue and let her know that I can fly there at anytime and that I have a lot of vacation saved up so it’ll be no problem if I need to stay to help out for awhile.”

“That’d probably help relieve some stress.”

“Consider it done.”

Pause. We’re just dancing around the reason for the call. I knew it was coming and was making small talk to avoid it. We both know where Steve is going. The company he’s replacing had seventeen Bronze Stars and a ton of Purple Hearts.

“Matt, I have to say this…”

Shit! I knew he was going to do this!

“I’m sending you four letters for my kids. If I don’t make it back…”

I interrupt him, “Talking like that might get you killed. You know I’ll take care of your family. No matter what happens. You get your ass over there and forget about us. Focus on the mission. Keep your soldiers alive. We’ll always be here for you.”

Then, I launch into all of the organizations that can help get comfort items to his unit, letters to his troops, etc. I try to rile him up by telling him that I’m sending 400 Yankees hats to his battalion. I tried to change the subject, but he wouldn’t have any of it.

“Just promise me,” long pause, “just promise me that if I don’t make it back, you’ll take care of Sue and the kids.”

I can barely say “Of course I will…You have my word.”

“Thank you.”, two simple words but I can hear how much they mean…

Another pause. He’s relieved. I’m worried about him. We’re emotional. So I say the only thing that I can think of to bring us back to reality…

“Go Yankees!”

“@#$% you, Matt…”

“Hey, just remember what George Patton the Elder said, 'When it's all over and you're home once more, you can thank God that tweny years from now, when you're sitting around the fireside with your grandkids, and they ask you what you did in the war, you won't have to say, "I shoveled shit in Louisiana!" Stay in touch, you big lug.”

“You, too, pal.”

*click*

Chief Steve left for Iraq on September 5th. While he'd rather be home with his wife and kids, he's not shrinking from his service, and he knows the stakes of this war. And he deserves our thanks.

Posted by Blackfive on September 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

September 06, 2004

Phelps Field - Fenway in Iraq

Speaking of Fenway, the Marines have done something very cool in Iraq.

If you've never read Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's account of escorting fallen Marine Chance Phelps to Wyoming - Taking Chance home, you should read it first.

phelpsfield
USMC Photo by Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski
Cannoncockers build miniature version of Fenway Park in Iraq
Story by Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (Aug. 31, 2004) -- Captain Stephen Pritchard has the ultimate offer to the Boston Red Sox CEO, John Henry, and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

"If the Spring Training venue in Sarasota, Fla., ever proves to be untenable, then you are more than welcome to hold Spring Training here in Ar Ramadi, Iraq," said Pritchard, a logistics officer with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

Why such a gracious offer?

Cannoncockers of 3rd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment constructed a miniature version of the Red Sox's Fenway Park at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.

"The Army here on base had their own baseball field, and we had to travel over there whenever we wanted to play," said Pritchard, from Weymouth, Mass. "So we cleared up an area and built one ourselves."

Pritchard provided the inspiration behind modeling the diamond after Boston's famous baseball park.

"I am a big Red Sox fan, and Fenway has the most famous left field fence in the Major Leagues," Pritchard said. "Not just that, but it is the most identifiable feature of any American sporting venue."

The Marines used over 200 panels of recycled wood to construct the outer fence of the field that reaches 290 feet to center field. They used old light poles as foul line poles and over 120 gallons of green paint. The left field has an unmistakable feature like Fenway: the "Green Monster," a 64-foot long and 18-foot high wall.

"It was a two-week project," said Cpl. Jason M. Samuels, 22, and an artillery mechanic with the unit. "Putting up the Green Monster was the hardest part. We built it on the ground and stood it up. We had 30 guys lifting it up and it was shifting and wobbling."

The field was named "Phelps Field" after Pfc. Chance Phelps, who was killed April 9 during combat operations in Iraq. He was the only Marine the battalion lost while in Iraq...

There's nothing like a good ol' American baseball game to ease the pain of missing home...

[Thanks to the many poeple who sent this article!]

Posted by Blackfive on September 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

Iraq - The Things That Were Good And The Things That Were Not Good

Via Seamus, this is the last email from a surgical team doctor (Navy) in Iraq as she prepares her staff to rotate back to the states. It's a must read.

Greetings all from hot, hot, hot Iraq,

We are short indeed...although not quite as short as we had originally thought...our flight home has been posted and is showing up 3 days later than planned. The good news is that we leave in the middle of the night and arrive (all admin complete, including turning our weapons into the armory) ! around dinnertime at Pendleton on the same day we leave (11 hrs time difference). The other good news is it appears we've got commercial contract air carriers taking us home...so we don't have to worry about sleeping on the cold steel deck of an Air Force C-17.

So...we turned over authority of the surgical company last week to our replacements, who had a serious trial by fire here in multiple ways, including multiple traumas, surgeries, increased risk to their personal safety, power outages, water outages, and camel spiders in the hospital...all in their first 4 days. But a few days ago, we heard the helicopters coming and knew they were dealing with multiple traumas, several of which were going to the OR...and we sat in our barracks and waited for them to call us if they needed us. They never did. Last week was the ceremony to mark the official end of our role here. Now we just wait.

As the days move very slowly by, just waiting, I decided that one of the things I should work on for my own closure and therapeutic healing...is a list. The list would be a comparison: "Things That Were Good" about Iraq and being deployed with the Marines as one of the providers in a surgical company, and "Things That Were Not Good." Of course, it's quite obvious that this list will be very lopsided. But I thought I would do it anyway, hoping that somehow the trauma, the fear, the grief, the laughter, the pride and the patriotism that have marked this long seven months for me will begin to make sense, through my writing. Interestingly, it sort of turned into a poem. To be expected, I guess.

Most of all it's just therapy, and by now I should be relatively good at that. Hard to do for yourself, though.

So here goes...in reverse order of importance...

Things That Were Good

Sunset over the desert...almost always orange
Sunrise over the desert...almost always red
The childlike excitement of having fresh fruit at dinner after going weeks without it

Being allowed to be the kind of clinician I know I can be, and want to be, with no limits placed and no doubts expressed

But most of all,
The United States Marines, our patients...
Walking, every day, and having literally every single person who passes by say "Hoorah, Ma'am..."
Having them tell us, one after the other, through blinding pain or morphine-induced euphoria..."When can I get out of here? I just want to get back to my unit..."
Meeting a young Sergeant, who had lost an eye in an explosion...he asked his surgeon if he could open the other one...when he did, he sat up and looked at the young Marines from his fire team who were being treated for superficial shrapnel wounds in the next room...he smiled, laid back down, and said, "I only have one good eye, Doc! , but I can see that my Marines are OK."
And of course, meeting the one who threw himself on a grenade to save the men at his side...who will likely be the first Medal of Honor recipient in over 11 years...

My friends...some of them will be lifelong in a way that is indescribable
My patients...some of them had courage unlike anything I've ever experienced before
My comrades, Alpha Surgical Company...some of the things witnessed will traumatize them forever, but still they provided outstanding care to these Marines, day in and day out, sometimes for days at a time with no break, for 7 endless months

And last, but not least...
Holding the hand of that dying Marine

Things That Were Not Good

Terrifying camel spiders, poisonous scorpions, flapping bats in the darkness, howling, territorial wild dogs, flies that insisted on landing on our faces, giant, looming mosquitoes, invisible sand flies that carry leischmaniasis

132 degrees
Wearing long sl! eeves, full pants and combat boots in 132 degrees
Random and totally predictable power outages that led to sweating throughout the night
Sweating in places I didn't know I could sweat...like wrists, and ears

The roar of helicopters overhead
The resounding thud of exploding artillery in the distance
The popping of gunfire...
Not knowing if any of the above sounds is a good thing, or bad thing
The siren, and the inevitable "big voice" yelling at us to take cover...
Not knowing if that siren was on someone's DVD or if the big voice would soon follow

The cracking sound of giant artillery rounds splitting open against rock and dirt
The rumble of the ground...
The shattering of the windows...
Hiding under flak jackets and kevlar helmets, away from the broken windows, waiting to be told we can come to the hospital...to treat the ones who were not so lucky...

Watching the helicopter with the big red cross on the side landing at our pad
Worse...watching Marine helicopters filled with patients landing at our pad...because we usually did not realize they were coming...

Ushering a sobbing Marine Colonel away from the trauma bay while several of his Marines bled and cried out in pain inside
Meeting that 21-year-old Marine with three Purple Hearts...and listening to him weep because he felt ashamed of being afraid to go back
Telling a room full of stunned Marines in blood-soaked uniforms that their comrade, that they had tried to save, had just died of his wounds
Trying, as if in total futility, to do anything I could, to ease the trauma of group after group...that suffered loss after loss, grief after inconsolable grief...

Washing blood off the boots of one of our young nurses while she told me about the one who bled out in the trauma bay...and then the one who she had to tell, when he pleaded for the truth, that his best friend didn't make it...
Listening to another of our nurses tell of the Marine who came in talking, telling her his name...about how she pleaded with him not to give up, told him that she was there for him...about how she could see his eyes go dull when he couldn't fight any longer...

And last, but not least...
Holding the hand of that dying Marine

Posted by Blackfive on September 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

The Bible, Tolkein and Iraq

What do those three have in common?

Beth W. sends the link to this wonderful site put together by an Army Chaplain, "RJ", in Iraq. He focuses on soldier profiles and what life is like in Iraq. Some of it serious, some of it just funny as hell (can I say that about a chaplain's site?). RJ usually ends his posts with a quote from the Bible and a quote from the Lord of the Rings.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Deep In Mordor - Where the Shadows Lie.

Posted by Blackfive on September 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You Can Help!

The Florida National Guard, having just returned from Iraq and now having to help in the aftermath of two hurricanes, needs to hear words of support from you. Denise O. sent an email pointing out an excellent idea from Jason over at IraqNow Countercolumn:

....But the more we learned about hurricane Francis, the more serious it's clear the storm is going to be.

Sustained winds at the core are hitting 140 mph. Gusts will be higher. Hurricane force winds extend 80 miles to either side. Tropical storm winds extend another 100 miles. The storm's girth is simply massive.

And it's closing on a much more densely populated area than Hurricane Charley hit. And it's going to wallop the state of Florida with a fist 360 miles wide.

As Roy Scheider said to Robert Shaw, "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

And so, after much deliberation, and with heavy hearts, the decision was made to mobilize our college students. And cause them to miss yet another semester of school.

All told, their academic careers will be set back by 2 1/2 years, as a result of their status as part-time soldiers.

The decision to mobilize them was made above my pay grade, but it was the correct decision.

We'll need every soldier...

You can go here to send a message of support to these soldiers who have been kept very busy over the last two years (or more!).

Posted by Blackfive on September 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2004

Thundering Third! - Part 6

The following is the latest letter from LtCol Willy Buhl, Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, in Iraq. Again, LtCol Buhl gives you the straight info on what his Marines are accomplishing every day in Iraq.

Dear Families and Friends of the Thundering Third, Greetings again from Camp Abu Ghurayb. This is my fourth letter to you as we prepare to begin the month of September, and the third month of our deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.

The big news that has already reached many back home, and is included as an attachment to my letter, was our recent tactical deployment to positions south of Fallujah. Responding to emerging threats from Fallujah, the Thundering Third was assigned two traffic control points south of the restive city. Immediately upon occupation of these positions, enemy forces from within Fallujah began to attack us. We responded with heavy firepower ranging from aircraft to artillery, mortars, tank main guns, heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, TOW missiles, AT-4 rockets and our Marines and Sailor's personal weapons. Over a week-long period, the Battalion performed magnificently, defeating every attack the enemy could muster. This was a team effort that included Forward Air Controllers, Artillery and Mortar Forward Observers, Combat Engineers to dig us in, tank platoon attachments, a forward Battalion Aid Station (BAS), logistics sustainment, motor transport, communications, and other capabilities resonant in a reinforced Marine Infantry Battalion. Wherever attacked, your Marines and Sailors delivered precise and devastating fire on the enemy. While Kilo Company is described in the attached news article below, India Company was also in on the action, relieving Kilo after several days of combat there. India Company completed a magnificent battlefield handover with Kilo, while still in contact with the enemy. Throughout the next few days, the Marines of Company I carried on in the proudest traditions of our Battalion, engaging the enemy at every chance. Despite the heat and potential for danger, morale was high - Sergeant Major Sax and I couldn't be more proud of their performance.

Following the events described above, the Thundering Third conducted an operation to locate caches of ordnance, explosives, etc. Over a 48-hour period, the Thundering Third, reinforced with Iraqi Special Forces soldiers from the new Iraqi Army, searched a large area of agricultural land and small towns adjacent to rivers and canals in our zone. The operation was successful in a variety of ways, from locating a number of significant caches, to integration with host nation forces, to cross company coordination, and integration of civil affairs personnel who handed out over 1,000 soccer balls to parents and children. Temperatures during this operation hovered around 120F and the conditions were demanding. Again, your Marines and Sailors performed at the "3/1 Standard" and conducted a safe and successful operation maintaining initiative in our zone. In my next letter, I will highlight some key points about the new Iraqi Army and the Specialized Special Forces that have been attached to us and are doing a tremendous job alongside our Marines and Sailors.

The operations above were supported by the men of Weapons/George Company, who were busy firing in support, patrolling, screening, leading Iraqi National Guard Forces, and a host of other tasks that the Company has been doing here since arrival in Theater. Of note was the work of our CAAT Platoon, who provided very accurate TOW Missile and Heavy Machine Gun fire support south of Fallujah, and our 81mm Mortar Platoon that fired responsive, precise, and lethal indirect fires whenever the Battalion was fired upon by enemy weapons systems. Our Weapons/George Company Marines have continued to punish enemy forces whenever presented with the opportunity. Among a number of successes enjoyed by Weapons/George Company and the entire Battalion was that Sergeant Robert Hankins was meritoriously promoted to the rank of "Sergeant of Marines" after winning the 1st Marine Division Meritorious Sergeant Board. As you can imagine, competition within the Thundering Third alone was extremely keen. This outstanding young NCO's accomplishment as the number one Corporal in the entire Division is even more noteworthy because 3/1 is a relatively new arrival in Iraq. Sergeant Hankins is a native of Port Huron, Michigan and is an OIF I Veteran, having distinguished himself in action on a number of previous occasions. Hearty congratulations go out to Sgt Hankins and the Marines and Sailors of Weapons/George Company.

Our Lima Company Marines and Sailors have conducted multiple operations in their portion of the Battalion's zone. They recently put a stop to an illegal weapons market in a city in their area of responsibility. Security precautions preclude me from elaborating on details of the operation. Suffice it to say that Captain Alex Echeverria, 1st Sgt Wayne Hertz and their men performed a text book cordon and search using speed, surprise, and precision execution. Lima Company has been very successful in their assigned sector and the work they are doing is a model for our efforts in Iraq. Included in their area is India Company of the Iraqi National Guard (ING). India Company is also among the most successful ING Company in the Al Anbar Province. Cooperative efforts between our Combined Action Platoon (CAP), led by 1stLt Zach Iscol and his Weapons/George Marines (with support from Lima Company) have facilitated the creation of a very capable Iraqi ING Company led by very patriotic and dedicated Iraqi Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. This unit has had a number of successes to date, including killing and capturing insurgents, locating caches and IEDs, etc. A testament to the success achieved by our Marines and Sailors at India Base is the many dignitaries have visited over the past two months to see what they are all about. Continued success to Lima Company and CAP India!

Headquarters Company continues to superbly support the entire Battalion and is involved in every operation we conduct in some regard. All of our staff sections are doing great work and all of our support platoons continue to keep the Battalion fed, paid, supplied, communicating, and rolling. Sergeant Major Sax and I were recent guests of our Motor Transport Platoon, where I had the great honor and pleasure of reenlisting Sergeant Jonathon Ferguson, our shop chief, who has stepped up to fill the Maintenance Chief's billet (normally filled by a senior SNCO') in absence of Staff Sergeant Alan Steer, who is unfortunately home on emergency leave. Indeed, another fine sergeant, Sergeant Jack Pierce, is holding the billet of Platoon Sergeant in absence of Staff Sergeant Spink, who is gone but never forgotten. Together, these two outstanding sergeants of Marines are keeping the Thundering Third rolling with a motor pool of nearly 200 tactical vehicles. Our motor transport platoon commander, 1st Lieutenant Ed Malinowski, beams with pride whenever his Marines are mentioned. Invariably, our motor transport Marines are the subject of compliments and appreciation. They have done incredible things since our arrival in Iraq and have a very squared away motor bay where they conduct daily maintenance. Aside from the businesslike arrangement of parts and tools, one unique item of decor inside the motor bay is a plywood table set for 12, surrounded by HMMWV bucket seats. The table is square but one immediately conjures up thoughts about King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. The HMMWV seats became available when we replaced them with Kevlar blankets to protect our Marines.

Our Logistics Marines led by Captain Mike Stehle and his very capable team of Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs have overcome every logistics challenge in fine fashion from generators, to gravel, water, fuel, rations, barriers, and even misters provided by OPERATION MIST. A kind friend of the Thundering Third, Ms. Sue McCormick, founder of "Cool Our Troops", even enlisted the aid of our Assistant Commandant, General William Nyland to deliver 900 misters to our Marines summering in Iraq. Captain Stehle and his team have kept your mail flowing, supported by our Postal NCO, Corporal Alexis Gonzalez and the rest of 1stLt Mike Beames' S-1 Staff. Indeed, we are receiving large quantities of mail and packages and many of our Battalion's Veterans are generously contributing. Among the many sending mail are familiar members of our family to include: Sgt and Mrs.Dan Frydrychowski, Major and Mrs.Tex Welch, Sgt and Mrs.Tom Enos, Major and Mrs.Bob Camarillo, LtCol and Mrs.Dan Quick, Cpl and Mrs.Paolo Demeis, Cpl Dick Rogge, Ms. Peri Mooty, Ms. Catherine Clark, John Wintersteen, Seamus Garrahy, American Legion Posts, VFW Posts, Marine Corps League Detachments, real estate firms, schools, church groups, library groups, and many others. As you might imagine, the many packages of food, books, and hygiene items that have been sent to our men have been most welcome. Sgt Major Ed Sax has established a distribution center out of his quarters at the firm base for all the company 1st Sergeants to pick up and bring items out to the field. We also take items with us wherever we go to deliver to our Marines, and sometimes to Iraqi children. I cannot tell you how good it feels to know how many people are behind us back home. These packages and the inspiring messages contained within really make a great difference to our Marines and Sailors... all are deeply, deeply appreciated. Another great event within the Battalion was the combat promotion of 1stLt Derrick Lane earlier this month. I shared the honor of pinning Derrick's silver bars on with 1stLt Terry Horton, our S-4A, who is a three-deployment Veteran with the Thundering Third, and Capt Mike Stehle's right hand man in the Logistics Section. Congrats again to 1stLt Derrick Lane, our Maintenance Management Officer and Combat Operations Center Watch Officer. A "Mustang" Officer of distinction, 1stLt Lane has been doing 1stLt's work since he joined the Thundering Third.

Folks, this letter would not be complete without an update on Lance Corporal Jonathon Ashley's latest upgrade from the improvised donkey cart he began operations with in June. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Lance Corporal Ashley has moved up in life to a sporty KIA "J2 Bongo." This racy machine has twin sets of 12" wheels in the rear, reminiscent of your lawn tractor back home, and a 14" get up and go set in the front. Two bullet strikes in the windshield add great character to his utility truck, which was impounded when its occupants were discovered to be smuggling a large quantity of 82mm mortar rounds hidden in sacks of grain at one of our vehicle check points. Being the innovative Marine that he is, Lance Corporal Ashley uses an eyewash machine loaded with a solvent solution that he has invented himself using a combination of industrial salt and cleansers, in order to prepare generators for a final wash conducted with a locally purchased pressure washer. His innovations in the use of available transportation and equipment have been Instrumental in keeping the camp's generators running. Among the many things young Ashley carries on his craft are an industrial fire extinguisher (very important!!) known as the "Mother Of All Fire Extinguishers" or "MOAFE", welding tanks, a tool set, and all the items required to keep our generators serviced and perform maintenance projects around our firm base. Lance Corporal Ashley has an indomitable spirit, a keen wit, and plenty of good old American G-2, using all the tools at hand to get the job done. As he described his utility truck to me, he proudly included the fact that he was able to get the stereo working and inserted a tape entitled, "Old Country". Sure enough, C.W. McCall's song, "Convoy" came piping through the loudspeakers. I wish you could have shared Lance Corporal Ashley's ear to ear grin with me.

For those wondering how our injured Iraqi National Guard Soldier Ali is doing, Lieutenant Matt Shepherd and our BAS has superbly supervised his sustainment care. Ali continues to make great improvements and is better every time I see him. On a related note, Mr.Shepherd was recently joined by a welcome addition to the Thundering Third, Lieutenant Robert Sobehart, our Assistant Battalion Surgeon. Mr. Sobehart hitched rides on a variety of government aircraft to reach us here in Iraq in record time upon completion of his hospital residency. Mr.Soberhart is a very welcome addition to the Battalion Staff and has hit the ground running here, making an immediate difference by his leadership presence and technical expertise. Additional great news for the Thundering Third's BAS was HM1 Richard Tomlinson's selection to Chief Petty Officer. Serving as an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC), "Doc" Tomlinson has been a stalwart member of our BAS in the Thundering Third. IDC's are capable of rendering advanced medical skills just short of those of a Battalion Surgeon. Congratulations to Chief "Select" Tomlinson and the motivated and dedicated "Devil Docs" in our BAS - best in the 1st Marine Division. Our BAS and indeed the whole Battalion are also following the progress of HN William Embessi, and HM3 Jose Ramos, who were wounded in action and are recovering at home with their families. They are missed by their brothers out here and our prayers go out to them daily for speedy return to full duty.

Like their forebears in the Thundering Third from WWII to present, our Marines and Sailors have continued to serve with fortitude in the face of adversity. As you must know, we continue to sustain casualties here in Iraq. Due to great combat leadership and training, a high percentage of our wounded are returning to duty. Unfortunately, as noted in previous letters home and the comments above, we have had a few men hurt enough to be medevaced back to the USA. On this note, our Marines and Sailors have been blessed to be visited by a number of the Battalion's Distinguished Veterans. From Weapons/George Company, several of our Chosin Reservoir Veterans, Col Clark Henry, Maj Bob Camarillo, and Cpl Jim Byrne recently visited our men at Balboa and Camp Pendleton Naval Hospitals. We have also had 3-1 Veterans from Vietnam, Col's Dan Quick, Larry Moran, and John Regal, visit and contact our wounded men and their families. These visits mean the world to our men and their families, and mean the world to the rest of us in Iraq, knowing that our lads are being well cared for in the rear. If any of our Battalion Families or Friends would like to visit wounded men in the Camp Pendleton area, please contact Gunnery Sergeant (Select) Ray Ortiz, at the 3/1 Rear Command Post [Blackfive note: email me if you want Gunny Oritz's contact info].

It is also my sad duty to report to you that we have lost three of our brothers killed in action here in Iraq. Corporal Nicanor Alvarez from our Combat Engineer Platoon, and PFCs Geoffrey Perez and Fernando Hannon from India Company, gave their lives for their brother Marines and Sailors here, and for all Americans in defense of the freedoms we are all privileged to enjoy. America owes these Marines and their families an endless debt of gratitude. They are greatly missed by their brothers here and by their families back home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their Families. We continue the mission we began here together, as Corporal Alvarez, and PFCs Perez and Hannon would have wanted.

I will conclude this letter with all of our best wishes to you at home, especially to the great Ladies who continue to do great things in our Thundering Third Key Volunteer Network. A number of family related events have occurred over the past two months back in the USA, and our Key Volunteers have been there for our Battalion Families in EVERY circumstance. I do not have the words to express how important the compassionate work our Ladies are doing is for all of our Marines and Sailors and their families. Ladies, THANK YOU from all of us forward deployed for the continued superlative support - we all cannot wait to be home with you again soon.

As time permits, I will write again. I hope that this update has provided you with an insight into the Battalion's recent accomplishments and progress. In addition to your support for your Marines and Sailors over here, I also respectfully ask that you keep the families of our lost and wounded Marines and Sailors in your thoughts and prayers. The 3d Bn, 1st Marines honors the sacrifice of Corporal Alvarez, and PFCs Hannon and Perez, who are gone but never forgotten. John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."


God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
LtCol Willy Buhl
CO, 3d Bn., 1st Marines

PS. Please check out the USMC Official Website to view a recent article on the Thundering Third's Civil Affairs Detachment. Our Marines and Sailors are working hard every day to make Iraq a better place.

Other Thundering Third posts can be found Part 1 (June 24th), Part 2 (July 3rd), Part 3 (July 21st), Part 4 (August 5th) and Part 5 (August 6th).

Posted by Blackfive on August 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Google Email for the Troops

Since some of the other Gmail for the troops sites don't seem to be working, I'll take a shot at it.

If you are a military member and want a Gmail account, email me from your .mil email address and I'll have someone send you an invite to creat a Gmail account.

I'll update below on how we're doing with this:

Got about 16 110 invites from myself and others right now.

08-31-04: So far, one Air Force Sergeant has recieved a new gmail account.

09-01-04: One Army Staff Sergeant just received a gmail account.

09-03-04: Two more Army Sergeants in Kuwait and one Chief heading to Tikrit received Gmail accounts. (Thanks to Phelps and Paul)

Posted by Blackfive on August 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

True Courage

Courage Under Fire

The link above will take you to Harvey's Bad Example blog where he posts a comment from Peter about real courage in Vietnam. It's a must read.

Posted by Blackfive on August 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Who Supports America?

Toby Keith, that's who...

This is from Amy K. whose Marine husband, Brian, came home from leave recently. I'll let her explain what happened:

Seamus and Matt:
I know you've probably heard Toby Keith is very supportive of the military. I had the opportunity to experience this first hand. I had bought Brian tickets to see Toby Keith for his birthday while he was home on leave. Wanting to make this the best birthday yet, especially since he was on R&R, I contacted Toby's management company to see if there was ANY way that Toby could say "Happy Birthday" to him during the concert. I faxed a letter including a copy of my id card along with a couple of pictures of Brian in Iraq. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from Toby's management company the next day! Amanda at Tokeco informed me that Toby wouldn't be able to say "Happy Birthday" but would backstage passes for a meet and greet be acceptable? Of course my answer was an emphatic YES!!! I am attaching a copy of the photo taken of us with Toby at the concert. Needless to say, Brian thinks this was the best birthday ever. He goes back to Iraq this Saturday. Although I am sad to see him go yet again, I am eager to get the ball rolling again for his quick, PERMANENT return home in sometime next March. Toby is a wonderful supporter of the military and I am so glad to have him on our side. I hope everyone affiliated with the military in any manner is aware of this.

Thanks,
Amy K.
29 Palms, CA

Picture of Toby Keith, Amy, and Brian is in the Extended Section:

toby_keith_concert_010

Amy sent this follow up when I asked her if I could post her message.

Absolutely. It was an incredible experience for both of us. I had gotten seats center floor, 16 rows out. Toby finished his concert with American Soldier followed by Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. I knew I was going to lose it when he sang American Soldier. But, as I've told my three girls these past six months--this song is not a sad one, it's a proud one. It's pride in our husbands, daddies, brothers, and sons who can make a commitment and sacrifice that probably 95% of other Americans cannot or will not.

Watching the protesters in NYC just makes me all the more proud of my husband who now fights for their right to dissent and my father who put 32 years into the US Navy ('57-'89) previously...

It's families like Amy's that are making a difference in the world.

Thank god that people like Toby Keith recognize the sacrifices of our military AND their families

Posted by Blackfive on August 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 30, 2004

Second Letter From Marine Sniper Fighting Sadr's Thugs

The following is the second letter (link to the first letter - Don't Count the Days) from Marine Sergeant Kevin who is in charge of several sniper teams in Iraq. In fact, his teams have been fighting Sadr's thugs around the Najaf cemetary and mosque. Here's his notes (I did remove some personal information about his family) about what it's really like fighting as a Marine Sniper.

Family and Friends,

First, I want to say that My Marines and I are safe! The power of prayer is amazing!

Several days worth of fighting, negotiating, planning, and peace talks came down to three days of intense fighting around the Mosque. Several days prior to the 25th we were ready to go......on standby........tonight's the night........stand down. (you get my point!).

The early morning of the 25th my platoon was attached to Alpha Compnay, ¼ to support the fight in Najaf. 1/4 sniper platoon was supporting Charlie Company with Special Forces. Charlie Company was to advance first and establish a foothold east of the Mosque. Once they had done this, Alpha Company was to advance and establish a foothold northwest of the mosque. With 1/5 and 2/7 surrounding the mosque from the south and north.

At 2300 Charlie company begins their movement with Tracks! At this point we are getting ready at FOB Baker with A Co. by the time we get settled in (we are O/O for movement) we get the call......get your s@#$... the tracks are on their way to pick us up. Charlie Company had little resistance, but Tanks are taking heavy fire (enemy is rolling IED's down the street in barrel's at the Tanks). Within 20 minutes the entire company is loaded up in Tracks ready to go! (Did tell ya that Murphy lives on my shoulder? As we were loading the tracks, we were to load in the last tack, Number 8. Number 8 went down right there in front of me! Damn! I have 16 people, and now I have to spread load my Marines. A very uneasy feeling. I keep the majority in one track and I take myself and a team and we get into another track.

At, this point I will not lie. As we moved toward our objective in the back of the tracks, I thought to myself, "This is it". I prayed for the safety of all the Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors and our families and I even prayed for the ENEMY, for what was coming their way I would not want to be on the receiving end of!

We stopped at our consolidation point and within minutes we took Mortars. They had the placed pegged. While we waited you could hear the fighting going on at the Objective. We got the word, and in we went. Tracks picked up their pace and they menuvered quickly. The entire time I am thinking to myself.....I hope they drop us off at the right spot, but if they don't how can I link up with my teams? Hell, at this point I thought we have a plan go with it and hope for the best. I was the last one on and the first one off.

As the ramp dropped I could hear the weapons being fired all over........I get off and I see that we are on the street (phase line corvette) by the cemetery (the right spot!) We take cover along side the street and you can see the remains of the prep that arty and air had done in the days prior of fighting. It takes several minutes and my platoon is finally together.

The Marines start clearing the bldgs. Once they are done we move in to take up positions. I attached myself and a team with 3rd plt, and 1st team with wpns, 2nd team with 1st plt. All three taking up different bldgs north of the Mosque. As soon as we get into the bldg we start taking fire from the south. Fighting starts at the top of the bldg, we cannot move to the top because it is still not clear. Then we take our first KIA, A marine is shot in the head from a bldg between us and wpns? Finally we get the go ahead and establish two poistions south/north. We literally fight until sunlight. I found a small (what looked like a closet) room for a hide over looking the cemetery. Myself and my spotter were cramped into this spot for two days.

Because once the sun came up.....The enemy snipers had our position dialed on! No kidding, I give these guys respect (and you do when they start shooting through walls at Marines) It is a MOUNT Environment and you try and record the shot, but with the adjacent bldgs the sound gets thrown around and it is hard to tell where he is shooting from (this is good if you are the shooter!) They were not using the tops of the roofs (totally different from Fallujah) they were set up just like us! Inside the bldg shooting through loopholes. However, we had three snipers shooting at us all day and it took several hours to find and record their position. Once we did, we called AIR strikes and leveled the bldg! By the end of the day we did not have sniper fire on our position.


The night came and weapons were being fired all day to the point you tuned it out, unless it was specific to your location. Like an RPG being fired at your location or a mortar round hiting your bldg. The next morning as the sun came up Machgun fire came into our bldg. My little room became my fighting hole and sucking the deck was normal. The entire time I was hoping someone would be stupid and raise there head, it did not happen that day.

Same thing starting off the day two. I get word that one of my teams took heavy fire and they medivaced one of my Marines?? My youngest Marine (19) took a hit in their bldg and knocked him out and broke some ribs. He would be ok but his team leader saved his life by being aware of weapons systems being fired at them. By day three we had one KIA and 14 WIA. We had leveled several bldgs and had the mosque surrounded.

Day three we moved to another bldg and it gave us a better field of view. We could see the outside entrance to the mosque and several people around it. However, they put us in a cease fire??? During this time we saw enemy militia carring mortar tubes and RPG's to a position. We requested to fire, but was told to stand down??? Several minutes later we were all sucking the deck when an RPG (likely the one we saw) and Machine Gun fire ripped through our bldg. Our Machine Gunner was ready and got the guy shooting the RPG.

Night came and silence for the first time. By morning little fire but they called a cease fire and arranged for the militia to move out and turn over the mosque to the people. By noon we were pulled out and south two blocks from the mosque at an intersection watching the people who we had fought for three weeks leave and the Iraqi National Guard rolling in like they did all the work themselves!
I am thankful to be back with my Marines and to have only have minimal casualties for the entire fighting. We will leave the fighting to the Najaf people.

I tried to shed light on the event's that took place but it is hard to do in a short time on a computer. Overall, we did our job well. We surrounded the Mosque, the people got it back and we are now leaving to go back to our base.

Alpha Company Gunny told me, "Your reservist right"? Yeah! "You guys don't act like it. You fought well and you’re better than our sniper platoon!”

The Marines were proud to hear that. He also wanted to put one of my Marines in for an Award. My Doc, took care of the KIA and did a wonderful job (he is a EMT back in Chicago).

The prayers were answered and we are coming home.

To everyone who has responded and give their support......I thank you and the Marines thank you. It's not over yet, so I will leave it at that.

Continue to pray until we hit deck in the states [Blackfive note: Kevin’s snipers are scheduled to arrive in California on October 4th – lock up your daughters and tap the kegs]. Then continue for the ones who are still here!!!!

Love,
Kevin

Posted by Blackfive on August 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

Truth and Gravity

John Kerry has said many, many things which have been "seared" into his memory. And it's natural for us, after thirty odd years of lies, to question just about everything he says.

Most of you military types, gun enthusiasts and physicists will know this fact. If you fire a bullet from a rifle, it will fall just as fast as if you held it in your hand and dropped it.

The bullet, while fleeing in a trajectory, cannot evade the law of gravity.

The truth is like gravity, and lies are like bullets. No matter how fast you "deny, deny, deny" or counter-accuse your detractors, truth, like gravity, will win out. Lies will impact.

Escape velocity won't happen in this case. Too many veterans are pulling down on the lies - creating the gravity of truth. And it's only going to get worse for John Forbes Kerry...

Posted by Blackfive on August 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

Kerry in Battle

Read this detailed analysis of the Bronze Star event by George Turner. Excellent work there.

Posted by Blackfive on August 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

Veterans Rally September 12th - Washington DC

Vietnam Vets for the Truth is holding a rally for Vietnam Veterans (all veterans and their families are welcome to attend).

KERRY LIED . . . while good men died
A gathering of Vietnam veterans from across America

Where: Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C. It is easy to get to, shady and pretty, with a great view of the Capitol dome in back of the speaker's platform. THIS IS A NEW LOCATION AS OF 7/17/04

When: Sunday, Sept 12, 2004 2:00-4:00 PM (EDT)

Why: To tell the truth about Vietnam veterans. To counter the lies told about Vietnam veterans by John Kerry

All Vietnam veterans and their families and supporters are asked to attend. Other veterans are invited as honored guests.

This will be a peaceful event--no shouting or contact with others with different opinions. We fought for their rights then, and we respect their rights now. This is NOT a Republican or a pro-Bush rally. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike are warmly invited. Our gathering is to remember those with whom we served, thereby giving the lie to John Kerry's smear against a generation of fine young men.

B.G. "Jug" Burkett, author of "Stolen Valor," will be one of our speakers. Jug has debunked countless impostors who falsely claimed to be Vietnam veterans or who falsely claimed awards for heroism. Jug recommends that we refrain from dragging fatigues out of mothballs. Dress like America, like you do every day. Dress code: business casual, nice slacks, and shirt and shoes. No uniform remnants, please. Unit hats OK.
<...>
more

Here is the url for the Adobe PDF flyer for the rally. Pass it on. Email it out. Get all the veterans involved in this one.

Cassandra at I love Jet Noise has some detailed information about the rally and why it is important to all of us Americans.

Posted by Blackfive on August 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Don't Count the Days

The following is an email from a Marine Staff Sergeant who has been fighting around Najaf over the last two weeks. Kevin is a Reservist from Nashville and one of the most fearsome combat multipliers on the battlefield - he's a Sniper.

Family and Friends, On August 12th my Lt got a phone call from 1st Marine Division, Gen. Mattis!

Once again he called upon 3/24 Scout Snipers. I get called into the Col.’s Office around 1400 on the 12th. "Pack your s---" he tells me? Where we going sir? An Najaf to fight against Sadr's militia. We are attached to the 11th MEU, BLT 1/4, Scout Sniper Platoon. By 2200 that night my entire platoon was sitting on the runway waiting for our 53 (helo). We flew from TQ to FOB Duke south of TQ. When we landed we had two 46's (helo) waiting for us fueled and ready.(this is not normal VIP unless the big dog is in on it).
We flew out of FOB Duke headed for FOB Hotel (Forward Operating Base: FOB) located in An Najaf. On our way in our birds took RPG attacks from the ground. Thank GOD they are not good at aiming. The .50 cal gunners opened up and everyone got a charge for action. We landed at 0200. Linked up with the watch officer and got settled in???? By noon we were on three vehicles headed into Najaf with 1/4 snipers to attach to 2/7 Cav from the Army!

What a day! I did not have time as you can see to write or call anyone! Ha!

Anyhow, we were attached to 2/7 Cav and teams were being inserted by that night. The fight was on! We were south of the Al-Imam Ali Shrine (Sadr's location, and the second most holy shrine. Mohammed's nephew is buried here). By day two we pushed up north several blocks and set up another position. THis time,being on top of the bldg you could see the Mosque! It is Huge. Gold covered top, with three towers flanking it. Sadr was injured the day we arrived and by the second day he was giving a speech at 2300 from the Mosque. The guy is crazy! Needless to say we were supporting 2/7 Cav and their advancement towards the mosque. Navy SEAL sniper team came in and operated with our teams. Hell, every sniper in the service was called upon.

No Callaterial damage to the mosque! What better way to do that. However, everyone of us had the dope on our guns for the damn place! Ha! 18 +3 holding 1 mil. If I am going to take one over here I am knocking off some gold on that damn dome! Ha!

Anyhow, we faught for 6 days straight. We ran out so fast we only had on our backs the uniform we were wearing. as the days progressed, so did our odor.

I had to tie my socks down at night so they would not walk away! Ha! During the day you sweet, During the evening you sweet, and again in the night. We had some close calls. The 5th day I was sitting manning the radio and a mortar round landed 12ft from me and another Marine on top of our bldg ledge. It blew the window glass out and I got some debris blown on my right hand, I was lucky because one of the Marines had his blouse hanging over my shoulder and it took most of the glass. I was behind a wall so most of the shrapnel hit the wall. One of the Lcpl's was setting the radio and took some glass to his head and face. He had just lowered his head below the wall when it hit so he lucked out with only a few pieces of glass. I lost some hearing for about an hour! I'll take that any day. I looked at the impact later that day and it was amazing how close it was!

We loaded up and moved to another bldg. They had registered our bldg with mortars so we did not want to take any more casualties. While we were waiting they brought in 4 civilian boys who were struck by a mortar! It was terrible.

We moved our loaction to the other bldg and at 0300 I finally got some sleep, just to be awaken by RPG's at 0700! Ha! I gave up on the sleep.

These guys started out on the roof tops and by the time day one was over...........you never saw anyone on top of the roofs again! We dominated the roof tops. That was our mission. Tanks rolling in needed cover from the tops. Apache helo's did HELLFIRE missions right over us. It was amazing. AC 130 did night runs and the light show was awsome. The only thing lit at night was the mosque. By day six they had brought in the army SF and SOCOM Snipers. We were no longer needed for their fight. The boys did well and completed their mission. We had shots out to 1800m on some Forward Observers. I had a Sgt record a shot at 1200m with his M40A1. To you who don't know - this is impressive!

We came back to our FOB Hotel and was looking to get some rest before heading in with the BLT 1/4. Not so, that same night I sent out a team to support fighting in Kufa! Another town adjacent to Najaf full of radicals. Each night now we have supported the BLT and each night they have been engaged heavily. They return dirty and tired but they get some sleep and head right back out the door.

The boys have earned their spot! When we always arrive they look at us like, "Reservist"? They now want our support any chance they get! It feels good.

You can't tell the Marines are Reservist.......you can tell they are Marines!

So, I sit here outside hooked up to a wire sending a message to all so that you know where I am and what we are doing. Peace talks are useless with these groups. They have had peace talks the entire time I have been here, and everyday we have fought? Anyhow, I will be here for about another 2weeks. I will keep intouch the best I can. Pray for the boys of 3/24 snipers and that we make it back to our unit safely.

Brian, I read your email today? I did not know we lost a Marine in India company? I will try and find out what happen. I know I was getting ready for the INDOC, but then this came up. I'm sure Lewzader is standing post at my base! Ha! They were flying in the next day for the INDOC. Cpl McCormick? I would have to find out what platoon he was with. I have been gone from the company for so long I don't remember who is who anymore. It is sad to hear and toward the end of the deployment as well. That's why I won't count the days!

Tell everyone I said hello and to pray. Christa, tell Brianna and Kevin I love them and I will call them when I get the chance. I will see them soon.

I will be home soon.

Love Kevin

Posted by Blackfive on August 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Marine Captain Doug Zembiec - Someone You Should Know At The Tip Of The Spear

Jarhead Dad sent this one and it's great. It's from the LA Times about a Marine Officer in Iraq. Over the last few weeks, I've also posted a few stories about his unit and his leadership. Since it's subscription only, I'll post the whole thing.

This is the kind of warrior you want leading the men at the tip of the spear...

The Unapologetic Warrior In Iraq, a Marine Corps Captain Is Living Out His Heart's Desire

By Tony Perry. Tony Perry is The Times' San Diego bureau chief. He last wrote for the magazine about reporting from Iraq.

August 22, 2004

Anyone who prefers that their military officers follow the media-enforced ideal of being diffident, silent about their feelings, unwilling to talk about their combat experience and troubled by the violence of their chosen profession should skip this story.

Marine Corps Capt. Douglas Zembiec is none of these things.

Zembiec, an All-American wrestler and 1995 graduate of the Naval Academy, is the charismatic commander of Echo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division. During the monthlong battle in Iraq earlier this year for the Sunni Triangle city of Fallouja, no combat unit did more fighting and bleeding than Echo Company, and during it all—from the opening assault to the final retreat ordered by the White House -— Zembiec led from the front. He took on the most dangerous missions himself, was wounded by shrapnel, repeatedly dared the enemy to attack his Marines, then wrote heartfelt letters to the families of those who were killed in combat, and won the respect of his troops and his bosses.

It was the time of his life, he acknowledged later, for by his own definition Zembiec is a warrior, and a joyful one. He is neither bellicose nor apologetic: War means killing, and killing means winning. War and killing are not only necessary on occasion, they're also noble. "From day one, I've told [my troops] that killing is not wrong if it's for a purpose, if it's to keep your nation free or to protect your buddy," he said. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."

For his Marines, Zembiec asks for respect, not sympathy, even as one-third of his 150-man company became casualties. "Marines are violent by nature -- that's what makes us different," he said. "These young Marines didn't enlist to get money to go to college. They joined the Marines to be part of a legacy."

He knows talk like that puts him outside mainstream America and scares the bejabbers out of some people. Modern America is uncomfortable with celebrating those who have gone to war and killed their nation's enemy. Maybe it's because American military hardware is thought to be so superior that any fight with an adversary is a mismatch. Then again, people who feel that way probably have not stared at the business end of a rocket-propelled grenade launched by an insurgent hopped up on hatred for America.

Or maybe, like so many attitudes of the press and public toward the military, the queasiness about unabashed combat veterans is traceable to public opposition to the Vietnam War. A cynic I know says that although Americans remember Sgt. York from World War I and Audie Murphy from World War II, the only heroes most remember from Vietnam are Colin L. Powell and John McCain. One helped fellow soldiers after a helicopter crash, the other was shot down on a mission and survived a horrendous POW experience. Neither is known for killing the enemy.

An essay this spring in Proceedings, a publication of the U.S. Naval Institute, suggested that the ideal of battlefield bravery has been replaced by a culture of victimhood. Navy reservist Roger Lee Crossland wrote that Americans after Vietnam seemed to prefer "safe heroes, heroes whose conduct was largely nonviolent …. "The prisoner of war and the casualty, Crossland lamented, have replaced the battlefield leader as the ultimate hero. Take your own media reality-check. Which is seen more frequently: stories about the potential for post-traumatic stress among U.S. troops or stories about troops who have successfully carried the fight to their enemy?

My association with Zembiec started with his one-word answer to a question of mine. It was April 6, the second day of the siege of Fallouja by two battalions of Marines, the "two-one," and the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, the "one-five." A Marine patrol from two-one had been fired on as it ventured just a few yards into the Jolan neighborhood, and the Marines were quickly assembling a retaliatory assault to be led by Zembiec's Echo Company. Marines were piling into assault vehicles—windowless metal boxes on treads that can, in theory, bring Marines to the edge of the fight quickly and without casualties.

At the "two-one" camp, Marines were running every which way as the assault was forming up for the mile-long drive to the spot where the patrol had been ambushed. I had never met Zembiec, but by his tone and body language, he clearly was in charge. Accommodating embedded media appeared to be on no one's to-do list.

"Do you have room for me?" I shouted as Zembiec rushed past.

"Always," he shouted over his shoulder.

I piled into one of the assault vehicles and sat next to a Marine chewing dreadful-smelling tobacco and another talking sweetly about his sister having a baby. The ride was bumpy beyond belief; bumpy and scary as continuous gunfire from insurgents pelted the sides of our vehicle with an ominous plink-plink-plink sound. The vehicles finally rumbled to a halt in a dusty field just a few hundred yards from a row of houses where the insurgents were barricaded. The insurgents stepped up their fire from AK-47s, punctuated with rocket-propelled grenades. The Marines rushed out the rear hatch, quickly fanned out and began returning fire with M-16s as they ran directly toward the enemy.

Zembiec was in the lead. "Let's go!" he yelled. "Keep it moving, keep it moving!" The battle for Fallouja had begun in earnest, and Zembiec was in the forefront, practicing the profession that's been his heart's desire since childhood.

I saw Zembiec periodically over the next weeks. He was supremely quotable and candid. By nature -- and under orders from the commanding general -- Marine officers try to be helpful to the press. Zembiec went a step further. He took time even when time was short. Even when circumstances were grim -- as when a "short round" from a mortar killed two Marines and injured nine others—he was upbeat. His enthusiasm and confidence were infectious. At 31, he still retains a slight boyishness. Like many Marine officers, he has thought a great deal about his profession, its role in the world, and the nature of men in combat. He leans forward when giving answers and looks directly at his questioner. He has a rock -- solid belief in the efficacy of the American mission in Iraq.

He seemed to genuinely like talking to reporters, telling them of the successes of his Marines, his plans to push the insurgents to the Euphrates River and force them to surrender or die.

It was not to be. After a month in Fallouja, with the prospect of even bloodier combat to come, including civilian casualties, politicians in Baghdad and Washington called for a retreat just as the Marines seemed to be on the verge of success. Political concerns had trumped tactical ones.

After Echo Company—and Fox and Golf companies—had withdrawn from frontline positions, Zembiec reflected on what had occurred. In measured tones, without boasting, he sat under a camouflage net in a dusty spot outside Fallouja and answered all questions, and invited reporters to his parents' home in New Mexico for a barbecue.

As the Iraqi sun began its daily assault, and the temperature soared to 100 degrees, Zembiec drank bottled water and talked about the fight that had just passed, including what turned out to be the finale, a two-hour firefight April 26 in which his Marines and the insurgents had closed to within 30 meters of each other in a deafening, explosive exchange. Zembiec called that fight "the greatest day of my life. I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, so purposeful. There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat. Once you've dealt with life and death like that, it gives you a whole new perspective."

Zembiec joined the Marine Corps to fight. He nearly quit a few years ago in hopes of becoming an FBI agent like his father, because the prospect of seeing combat seemed too remote. But he decided that being a rifle company commander was too good to pass up. Before Fallouja, his only combat experience had been in 1999, when he spent a month as platoon commander of a reconnaissance unit in Kosovo. He had been stationed in Okinawa during last year's assault on Baghdad, an experience that he found enormously frustrating. Marines in Iraq were in combat, and Zembiec was watching the war on television.

A broad-shouldered 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 190 pounds, Zembiec is an imposing physical presence even among Marines known for their tough-muscled physiques. He oozes self-confidence ("confidence is a leadership trait") and at meetings with top officers, he never expressed doubts about success. When called to headquarters with other commanders for an intelligence briefing, he seemed impatient to return to his troops and always positioned himself near the door for a quick getaway once the talk was finished.

"He's everything you want in a leader: He'll listen to you, take care of you and back you up, but when you need it, he'll put a boot" up your behind, said Sgt. Casey Olson. "But even when he's getting at you, he doesn't do it so you feel belittled."

The image of Zembiec leading the April 6 charge had a lasting impact on his troops. Leading by example is a powerful tool. "He gets down there with his men," said Lance Cpl. Jacob Atkinson. "He's not like some of these other officers: He leads from the front, not the rear."

Said Lt. Daniel Rosales: "He doesn't ask anything of you that he doesn't ask of himself."

To his bosses, Zembiec had the aggressiveness and fearlessness they wanted in a commander. He was not reluctant to put himself and his troops at risk to draw out the insurgents. As Maj. Joseph Clearfield, the battalion's operations officer, said: "He goes out every day and creates menacing dilemmas for the enemy."

A quote from Zembiec in a Los Angeles Times story drew a flood of e-mails from stateside military personnel. He had remarked about having a "terrific day" in Fallouja. "We just whacked two [insurgents] running down an alley with AK-47s."

Navy Lt. David Ausiello e-mailed that he met Zembiec at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where "the legend began." Ausiello was a plebe (freshman) and Zembiec a senior. "Doug was not a screamer," Ausiello said. "He was a leader, and every plebe in our company knew it. I like to think of him as a gentle giant." Zembiec set the standard at the academy for fitness and toughness, Ausiello said. He also rebelled mildly, on occasion, by slyly shouting out an oddball word while standing in formation, to the dismay of senior officers reviewing the troops.

Brig. Gen. Richard Kramlich, upon learning that a reporter had met Zembiec, smiled broadly and said, "He's something, isn't he?" Kramlich taught at the academy when Zembiec was a wrestler. "Everybody's out for blood" in wrestling, Zembiec told the Albuquerque Journal, his hometown newspaper, in 1995. "You better be tough."

As Echo Company suffered casualties during the battle for Fallouja, Zembiec counseled his Marines to stay focused. But he never acted as a buddy, never addressed the troops by their first names, and discouraged excessive mourning over the mounting casualty toll. "Pity gets you killed in this profession," he said.

With three dead and more than 50 wounded, Echo Company had the largest number of casualties of any Marine rifle company in Iraq. To civilians, the figure may seem horrific, but Zembiec notes that in past wars, it was common for Marine rifle companies to suffer even greater casualties and continue "taking the fight to the enemy."

Between firefights, he wrote condolence letters to the families of the dead Marines. He also recommended individuals for combat commendations: "I'm completely in awe of their bravery," he said. "The things I have seen them do, walking through firestorms of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades and not moving and providing cover fire for their men so they can be evacuated…. "

He thinks the cliché about troops being enveloped by the "fog of war" is overstated. "It's just the opposite," he said. "You become acutely aware and attuned to your environment. You become like a wild animal. Your vision, your hearing, everything becomes clearer."

He is not given to introspection, not even about the April 26 fight in which he led a mission that turned into an ambush. After two hours of fighting, one Marine was dead and 16 were wounded. "I don't second-guess myself or have doubts or regrets about that day, except that lots of Marines got busted up. Not to be cold, but that's the way with battle. It goes with going into harm's way."

Only reluctantly did he order a pullback. "I would have stayed there and fought all day but I had [Marines with] injuries," including himself. He was hit in the leg with shrapnel.

Born in Hawaii, Zembiec grew up in New York, Texas and New Mexico as his father's career took him to different FBI offices. In Albuquerque -- where his parents make their retirement home —- he loved to hunt deer and bobcat. Military service was a natural career path. His father's friends included men who had served with distinction, among them a Medal of Honor winner. His father, Donald, served in the Army in the 1960s. He is not surprised that his son was in the thick of the action in Iraq. "He's wanted to do this his entire life," he said. "I always thought I saw leadership in him."

My own generation of baby boomers went to college in order to express their individuality. Zembiec was searching for something else at the Naval Academy. "It was a culture of hardness and mental toughness and challenge. You're there to be part of a team. It's not about you."

He quickly decided to join the Marines. Navy life aboard ship seemed too far from the action. "I liked the idea of the Marine Corps being shock troops. They're combat arms; they're men on the ground."

Zembiec's battalion is due back in Camp Pendleton in October. In April, he plans to marry his longtime girlfriend, a sales executive for a pharmaceutical firm, in a ceremony at the Naval Academy chapel. Thoughts of leaving the corps are now gone. His next promotion—to major—might give him greater responsibility, but it would take him away from troops in the field. He jokes about turning it down in order to stay close to the action, sounding nostalgic about the firefights of April. "There was a lot of lead in the air that day," he says of one such fight.

Would you want Douglas Zembiec in charge of U.S. foreign policy? Maybe, maybe not. Would you want him on your side if you -- or your nation -- got involved in a street brawl? Without a doubt.

He is, as his fellow officers say, a military hybrid of modern tactics and ancient attitudes.

"Doug is the prototypical modern infantry officer," Clearfield said. "He's also not that much different than the officers who led the Spartans into combat 4,000 years ago."

Posted by Blackfive on August 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

Hero Speaks Out Against Kerry

Major General (ret.) Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor awardee, wrote a guest Op-Ed for the the Northwest Veterans Newsletter (a veteran's resource on-line since 1996).

Guest Op-Ed by Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady 16 Aug 04

America has no kings or queens but we do have nobility – our nobility is called Veterans. That nobility is responsible for the bounty that is America but tragically their influence has faded in recent years and the values they died for are under attack. But this election year they are back in demand and some have said the veteran vote could decide this election. It may have put Bush in the White House. With this in mind, John Kerry is seldom seen with out his band of brothers and constantly plays the” hero” card as a cornerstone of his bid for president, indeed, as the definition of who he is. Kerry defines patriotism as “keeping faith with those who wear the uniform of this country. He also brags that he “defended this country as a young man”. If Missouri is the show me state, Veterans are the show me voters – we are not much for words, deeds are our stock in trade. Lets look at Kerry’s deeds.

Before Kerry played his “hero” card, he played the atrocity card. When Kerry came back from Vietnam he joined with Jane Fonda and in 1971 denounced “those who wear the uniform” as terrorists-like rapists and assassins who “cut off heads, taped wires … to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, shot at civilians, razed villages, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks” … and said he “committed the same kinds of atrocities as thousands of others”. He made these charges under oath. Kerry says today that he would have framed some of what he said in 1971 differently. But he does not say he lied, which he did, nor does he apologize. How can one properly frame the denunciations of ones comrades in arms as modern day Genghis Khans?

The very day that Kerry was calling Vietnam veterans’ war criminals the family of one of those “war criminals”, Michael Blanchfield, was posthumously receiving the Medal of Honor for Michael who had thrown himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades. How different from Kerry was the way this man kept faith with those who wore the uniform with him. How different from Kerry was the manner Michael defended his country.

He could have attacked the war without attacking the warrior. He could have questioned policy without supporting the communists’ claim that our soldiers were war criminals. He could have kept faith with those who wore the uniform with him. But he did not and he should be held accountable...

The rest is continued in the Extended Section.

By every measure, the Vietnam veteran has been an exceptional citizen; but there is one disturbing statistic -- their suicide rate. In the first 5 years after discharge the rate was 1.7 times higher than non-veterans. After 5 years it was less. This may have been due to the treatment the Vietnam veteran received from the media – and the anti war movement led by Kerry -- in the early years after the war. Living with the scars of war is difficult, for some unbearable, but all veterans suffer. The Vietnam veteran suffered physically as much, perhaps more than any veteran of the past century, but no veteran has suffered the mental agony of that veteran.

What Kerry/Fonda and the media elite did to the Vietnam veteran and his family is deplorable. They opened a gash in his psyche and then rubbed salt in it. Not just the living but also those who died and their families who questioned if a loved one is a war criminal. And the POWs some who believed the Kerry/Fonda cartel extended the war, increased their torture and filled more body bags. Whether Kerry and Fonda have blood on their hands is debatable but there is no doubt they have salt on them.

Kerry’s “hero” card is based on medals he received in Vietnam and is much celebrated, and unchallenged, by the mainstream media. I know many Medal of Honor recipients who have received less publicity for their medal than Kerry has for his. But medals don’t make a hero. It is how one uses medals that make a hero. Every honest soldier knows that medals are a function of circumstance, even happenstance, but most of all the support of ones fellow warriors.

I was awarded the Medal of Honor; but my fellow soldiers who supported me in the actions and took the time to write it up earned it. I wear it for them, they own my medals. And every Medal of Honor recipient and hero I know believes as I do. Medals should be a sign of patriotism, a symbol of sacrifice, support and defense of a great nation. The highest form of patriotism is service to our youth; heroes also wear their medal for them to signal the importance of courage. Heroes do not use their medals for personal political gain. As I said they are not theirs to use.

Senator Kerry threw his medals away (or ribbons, they are symbolically the same), a political act very difficult for any veteran to understand. He must have been proud of them for he wore them even on his fatigues, in violation of all regulations. But they were not his. They belonged to those who he served. By that act he symbolically denounced his fellow veterans -- again. Does one keep faith with those who wear the uniform by throwing away their medals?

But perhaps most telling of his leadership qualities is his use of his Purple hearts to abandon his band of brothers, his command, on a technicality. Kerry may be the only person in history who took advantage of a Navy regulation that allowed him to leave his command after 4 months for 3 purple hearts none of which ever caused him to miss a day of duty. In my experience men fought to stay with their band of brothers, especially commanders. All the commanders I know would get out of a hospital bed to be with their men. Some one had to take his place; someone probably less experienced who would have to learn the ropes. That put his command more at risk than if he stayed. It is not hard to understand why those who stayed in combat for the full year are upset with Kerry.

And veterans today would be upset with Kerry’s support of Flag Burning his non-support of weapons systems and his 12 votes against military pay raises. But his use of veterans and mis use of his medals should bring into serious question his loyalty, integrity and character all of which equal leadership.

He is not fit for command.

(Newsletter link courtesy of Bill T.)

Update: Cassandra at I Love Jet Noise has another hero's words about Kerry (and a Senator, too). Thanks to Greyhawk for the link.

Posted by Blackfive on August 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"This War Is About Des Moines, Not Falluja"

Marine Major Glen Butler has an Op-Ed in the New York Times today. It's subscription only so I will post the entire piece. It's worth your time.

Over Najaf, Fighting for Des Moines
By GLEN G. BUTLER

Najaf, Iraq — I'm an average American who grew up watching "Brady Bunch" reruns, playing dodge ball and listening to Van Halen. I love the Longhorns and the Eagles. I'm you; your neighbor; the kid you used to go sledding with but who took a different career path in college. Now, I'm a Marine helicopter pilot who has spent the last two weeks heavily engaged with enemy forces here. I'm writing this between missions, without much time or care to polish, so please look to the heart of these thoughts and not their structure.

I got in country a little more than a month ago, eager to do my part here for the global war on terror and still get home in one piece. I'm a mid-grade officer, so I probably have a better-than-average understanding of the complexity of the situation, but I make no claims to see the bigger picture or offer any strategic solutions. Two years of my military training were spent in Quantico, Va., classrooms. I've read Sun Tzu several times; I've flipped through Mao's Little Red Book and debated over Thucydides; I've analyzed Henry Kissinger's "Diplomacy" and Clausewitz's "On War"; and I've walked the battlefields of Antietam, Belleau Wood, Majuba and Isandlwana.

I've also studied a little about the culture I'm deep in the middle of, know a bit about the caliph, about the five pillars and about Allah, but know I don't know enough. I am also a believer in our cause - I put that up front just so there isn't any question of my motivation.

We marines are proudly apolitical, yet stereotypically right-wing conservative. I'm both. And I'd be here with my fellow devildogs, fighting just as hard, whether John Kerry or George W. Bush or Ralph Nader were our commander-in-chief, until we're told to go home.

The other day I attended a memorial service for an old acquaintance, Lt. Col. David (Rhino) Greene. He was killed July 28 while flying his AH-1W Cobra over the eastern edge of Ramadi. His squadron was composed of reservists: "old guys" like me who had been around a little while. But unlike me, these guys had gotten out of active duty to pursue other careers and spend more time with their families. Now, they were leading the charge against the Iraqi insurgency.

The night after the service, I sat around in an impromptu gathering of $10 beach chairs in the sand, watching the sunset and smoking some of Rhino's cigars with friends I hadn't seen in almost a decade. I listened in awe as they told me about their Falluja April, about how they had all cheated death, been shot down, again and again. We talked about the war, pretending to know all the answers, and we traded stories about home, bragged about our wives and kids...

More on LtCol Dave Rhino Greene here. The rest of the Op-Ed is below in the Extended Section.

We also talked about the magic bullet that ended Rhino's life. It could have been shot by a sniper who had slipped in over the Iranian border, or maybe it came from the AK-47 of a rebellious Iraqi teenager who viewed shooting at Yankee helicopters the same way mischievous American kids might view throwing rocks at cars. No matter, the single round pierced his neck, and within seconds a good man was dead, leaving his wife a widow and his two children fatherless. I won't soon forget that day, but it was quickly overshadowed by events to come, as I was thrust into the heat of battle in my own little slice of Mesopotamia.

On Aug. 5, after a few days of building intensity, war erupted in Najaf (again). When we had first come to Iraq, we were told our mission would be to conduct so-called SASO, or Security and Stability Operations, and to train the Iraqi military and police to do their jobs so we could go home. Obviously, the security part of SASO is still the emphasis, but our unit's area of operations had been very quiet for months, so most of us weren't expecting a fight so soon.

That changed rapidly when marines responded to requests for assistance from the Iraqi forces in Najaf battling Moktada al-Sadr's militia, who had attacked local police stations. Our helicopters were called on the scene to provide close air support, and soon one of them was shot down. That was when this war became real for me.

Since then my squadron has been providing continuous support for our engaged Marine brothers on the ground, by this point slugging it out hand-to-hand in the city's ancient Muslim cemetery. The Imam Ali shrine in Najaf is the burial place of the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, and is one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. The cemetery to its north is gigantic, filled with New Orleans-style crypts and mausoleums. We had been warned it was an "exclusion zone" when we got here, that the local authorities had asked us to not go in there or fly overhead, even though we knew the bad guys were using this area to hide weapons, make improvised explosive devices, and plan against us. Being the culturally sensitive force we are, we agreed - until Aug. 5. Suddenly, I was conducting support missions over the marines' heads in the graveyard, dodging anti-aircraft artillery and rocket-propelled grenades and preparing to be shot down, too. My perspective broadened rapidly.

At first there were no news media in Najaf; now, I assume, it's getting crowded, although the authorities have restricted access after a group of journalists "embedded" with the Mahdi Militia muddied the problem and jeopardized others' safety. I haven't had time to catch much CNN or Fox News, and although I've seen a few headlines forwarded to me by friends, I don't think the world is seeing the complete picture.

I want to emphasize that our military is using every means possible to minimize damage to historical, religious and civilian structures, and is going out of its way to protect the innocent. I have not shot one round without good cause, whether it be in response to machine gun fire aimed at me or mortars shot at soldiers and marines on the ground.

The battle has been surreal, focused largely in the cemetery, where families continue burying their dead even as I swoop in low overhead to make sure they aren't sneaking in behind our forces' flanks, or pulling a surface-to-air missile out of the coffin. Children continue playing soccer in the dirt fields next door, and locals wave to us as we fly over their rooftops in preparation for gun runs into the enemy's positions.

Sure, some of those people might be waving just to make sure we don't shoot them, but I think the majority are on our side. I've learned that this enemy is not just a mass of angry Iraqis who want us to leave their country, as some would have you believe. The forces we're fighting around Iraq are a conglomeration of renegade Shiites, former Baathists, Iranians, Syrians, terrorists with ties to Ansar al-Islam and Al Qaeda, petty criminals, destitute citizens looking for excitement or money, and yes, even a few frustrated Iraqis who worry about Wal-Mart culture infringing on their neighborhood.

But I see the others who are on our side, appreciate us risking our lives, and know we're in the right. The Iraqi soldiers who are fighting alongside us are motivated to take their country back. I've not been deluded into thinking that we came here to free the Iraqis. That is indeed the icing on the cake, but I came here to prevent the still active "grave and gathering threat" from congealing into something we wouldn't be able to stop.

Weapons of mass destruction or no, I'm glad that we ended the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. My brother and other American jet pilots risked their lives for years patrolling the "no fly zone" (and occasionally making page A-12 in the newspaper if they dropped a bomb on a threatening missile battery). The former dictator's attempt to assassinate George H. W. Bush, use of chemical weapons on his own people, and invasion of a neighboring country are just a few of the other reasons I believe we should have acted sooner. He eventually would have had the means to cause America great harm - no doubt in my mind.

The pre-emptive doctrine of the current administration will continue to be debated long after I'm gone, but one fact stands for itself: America has not been hit with another catastrophic attack since 9/11. I firmly believe that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are major reasons that we've had it so good at home. Building a "fortress America" is not only impractical, it's impossible. Prudent homeland security measures are vital, to be sure, but attacking the source of the threat remains essential.

Now we are on the verge of victory or defeat in Iraq. Success depends not only on battlefield superiority, but also on the trust and confidence of the American people. I've read some articles recently that call for cutting back our military presence in Iraq and moving our troops to the peripheries of most cities. Such advice is well-intentioned but wrong - it would soon lead to a total withdrawal. Our goal needs to be a safe Iraq, free of militias and terrorists; if we simply pull back and run, then the region will pose an even greater threat than it did before the invasion. I also fear if we do not win this battle here and now, my 7-year-old son might find himself here in 10 or 11 years, fighting the same enemies and their sons.

When critics of the war say their advocacy is on behalf of those of us risking our lives here, it's a type of false patriotism. I believe that when Americans say they "support our troops," it should include supporting our mission, not just sending us care packages. They don't have to believe in the cause as I do; but they should not denigrate it. That only aids the enemy in defeating us strategically.

Michael Moore recently asked Bill O'Reilly if he would sacrifice his son for Falluja. A clever rhetorical device, but it's the wrong question: this war is about Des Moines, not Falluja. This country is breeding and attracting militants who are all eager to grab box cutters, dirty bombs, suicide vests or biological weapons, and then come fight us in Chicago, Santa Monica or Long Island. Falluja, in fact, was very close to becoming a city our forces could have controlled, and then given new schools and sewers and hospitals, before we pulled back in the spring. Now, essentially ignored, it has become a Taliban-like state of Islamic extremism, a terrorist safe haven. We must not let the same fate befall Najaf or Ramadi or the rest of Iraq.

No, I would not sacrifice myself, my parents would not sacrifice me, and President Bush would not sacrifice a single marine or soldier simply for Falluja. Rather, that symbolic city is but one step toward a free and democratic Iraq, which is one step closer to a more safe and secure America.

I miss my family, my friends and my country, but right now there is nowhere else I'd rather be. I am a United States Marine.


Glen G. Butler is a major in the Marines.

Posted by Blackfive on August 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

Bob Dole Smacks Kerry

If the requirements for the Office of President were based solely on heroism and military service, Bob Dole should have been President for about eight years now. You know, I wouldn't mind a President that takes Viagra. Better that than one who uses Botox...and wants to wage sensitive warfare.

It'll be difficult to come back against this:

Dole Questions Kerry's Vietnam Wounds
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas - Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole suggested Sunday that John Kerry apologize for past testimony before Congress about alleged atrocities during the Vietnam War and joined critics of the Democratic presidential candidate who say he received an early exit from combat for "superficial wounds."

Dole also called on Kerry to release all the records of his service in Vietnam.
<...>
Dole told CNN's "Late Edition" that he warned Kerry months ago about going "too far" and that the Democrat may have himself to blame for the current situation, in which polls show him losing support among veterans.

"One day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons," Dole said. "The next day he's standing there, `I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran. "Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam," said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm.

Dole added: "And here's, you know, a good guy, a good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out."...

So what do today's warriors think of wounds and heroism? I'm sure that you have it figured out. But just to make sure, Tanker Schreiber sends the following excerpt from Secretary of State, Colin Powell, speaking at a VFW ceremony:

I also went to Walter Reed last week to see some of the troops who have been injured. I went to the orthopedic ward and met a number of these wonderful, wonderful, young men and women who have been injured. And you just can't help but be enormously proud of them. One young man who had lost his leg, the only thing he wanted to talk to me about was not his injury, not how it happened, but what he said to me was, "General, how soon do you think they can get me back up on my new leg so I can get back into the Army and get back into the fight?" That's the kind of kids we have. (Applause.) With that kind of spirit, you can be sure we will prevail.
Then, Tanker sends this excerpt from the Boston Globe:
Kerry had been wounded three times and received three Purple Hearts. Asked about the severity of the wounds, Kerry said that one of them cost him about two days of service, and that the other two did not interrupt his duty. "Walking wounded," as Kerry put it. A shrapnel wound in his left arm gave Kerry pain for years. Kerry declined a request from the Globe to sign a waiver authorizing the release of military documents that are covered under the Privacy Act and that might shed more light on the extent of the treatment Kerry needed as a result of the wounds.

"There were an awful lot of Purple Hearts -- from shrapnel, some of those might have been M-40 grenades," said Elliott, Kerry's commanding officer. "The Purple Hearts were coming down in boxes. Kerry, he had three Purple Hearts. None of them took him off duty. Not to belittle it, that was more the rule than the exception."

But Kerry thought he had seen and done enough. The rules, he said, allowed a thrice-wounded soldier to return to the United States immediately. So Kerry went to talk to Commodore Charles F. Horne, an administrative official and commander of the coastal squadron in which Kerry served. Horne filled out a document on March 17, 1969, that said Kerry "has been thrice wounded in action while on duty incountry Vietnam. Reassignment is requested ... as a personal aide in Boston, New York, or Wash., D.C. area."

Just food for thought tonight...

Posted by Blackfive on August 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 21, 2004

Want to Help a Marine in Najaf?

The father of a Marine in Najaf has sent a request for people to send the Marines letters of encouragement (and comfort items if you are so inclined). If you are interested, send me an email.

Hey Brother,

Got a call from Danny this morning about 06:00. We haven't heard much from him for three weeks, or there 'bouts. It seems that his MEU is taking it to our enemies, in Najaf. His report: "It's been three days of non-stop fighting and killing, Dad." Says he lost three of his Marines to serious wounds; but, thankfully, no fatalities in his unit. He attributes the latter to close air support, Marine armor, outstanding leadership of the NCO's, and the superb marksmanship of individual (and collective efforts of the) US Marine rifleman. I know he's in a very precarious situation when he asks for prayers. John, his voice has changed -- again. His laconic "Send prayers, Dad. Send prayers. We need 'em. Our guys are getting tired. We haven't had any sleep in a week; pray our eyes STAY OPEN (multiple meaning here). Oh, yeah, send razor blades, shave cream, and flea collars," tells me allot. He's concerned, as well he should be, but he's also looking forward to a new day. This is a good thing!

By no means a prodigal, but when our son comes home, I WILL kill the fatted lamb, and he WILL have a new robe, and you're invited to celebrate in our joy. Meanwhile, I ask prayers for all our young warriors, especially 1st LAR Battalion, Company C, 2nd Platoon, of the 1st Marine Division. Forgive me if I seem a little selfish here; for, I freely admit that I am, and make no apology. That said, as you know, I do believe in the power of prayer. I also know that you have access to a rather extensive network. To all our friends and colleagues, we ask that you keep all of our Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen in your prayers -- every day until THIS war is over; which, I fear, will be for quite some time. If you ever get a real spurt of energy, you can send your "regards"...
Update 08-22-04: 80 emails so far requesting the name and address.

Posted by Blackfive on August 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 20, 2004

Swifties and POWs against Kerry

Oh man, is this going to hurt the lefties...and leave a mark.

Go to Mudville right now and check out Greyhawk's post about the new ad against John Kerry featuring his own damning testimony and the effect it had on POWs.

It. Is. A. Must. See.

Oh, and don't compare this to Bush's Air National Guard service. It has nothing to do with it.

1. He left his fellow sailors early - in a combat zone. That's not something a leader does.
2. He accused Viet Nam veterans of being war criminals. That's not something a "brother" does.

Notice that I don't really care about medals. The above two points should be enough for all of you to get a sinking feeling in your stomach just thinking of Kerry as Commander-In-Chief.

Posted by Blackfive on August 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

Recent Iraq Images

Below are some recent Army images of Iraq that you may not see elsewhere (click on thumbnails for larger pictures):

iraq_image_john_shore_img_1468
Spc. John Shore looks through the scope of his sniper rifle during an operation in Tall Afar, Iraq. A native of Australia, Shore gave up his Australian citizenship to join the U.S. Army. He is a member of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team). (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Fred Minnick)


iraq_images_jason_frisbee_img_1341

Racing up to an I-beam serving as a grind bar, command post operator and rookie skateboarder Spc. Joshua Frisbee of Headquarters Company, 5th Brigade Combat Team braces himself before executing a grind. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Al Barrus, 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Posted by Blackfive on August 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 13, 2004

Of Crew Chiefs, First Sergeants, and Chaplains

Sgt. Hook, America's Favorite First Sergeant, reported from Afghanistan that a helicopter went down and it's Marine crew chief was killed - Crew Dog Down.

The CNN report is brief.

Thomas L, a former paratrooper, sent me a letter sent by one of the Army chaplains who helped after this incident:

The Marine Chaplain and I were called out to minister last rights to the one casualty that the Doc.’s worked on but could not save. This crew chief died of internal injuries. Walking into the holding cooler to identify this soldier and be there was an interesting event. The Catholic priest came to anoint him and minister the last rights to this catholic soldier. We all had a holy moment mixed with remorse standing over this soldier. That is the only words I can put to it.

We had an aviation Sgt. come up us and said, “would you please go out to the sight and minister to the other Black Hawk crew that was there to get all these guys out of the chopper?” As one of the other Army Chaplain and I with our asst’s went out to see them, they came flocking towards us. We were able to bring good and bad news. These are theirs guys they work together with day in and day out. Again, the ministry of God went out and each gathered around arm and arm as we prayed. The ministry of the Comforter, Holy Spirit poured out enough grace in that moment. The Chaplain that offered the prayer started out his prayer with, “Lord how tragic, but God is so good.” How appropriate, I thought.

Tonight the ramp ceremony will happen for the fallen soldier as we load him on a C130. The ministry of helping these soldiers process the events will happen tomorrow as we as Chaplains do Critical Incident Debriefs. It will be a time to go back and thank the Medical staff of a job well done. The ministry of Mental Health will be crucial also. What a team effort it is to take care of these soldiers. The mission will go on.

Well what a day of real events of war and tragedy and ministry and the obvious hand of God and His ministering angels. I thank God for the training the Army has given us and the ministry of the Father’s presence, Jesus grace, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit that comes in the moment of need and for all of the prayers of all the Saints around the world that uphold us in such events. You are a part of the team. You never know what yours prayers are doing, do you? Can I say today they kept this from being what should have been a tragic event to being a supernatural intervening set of moments from beginning to end.

Posted by Blackfive on August 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Military Absentee Vote Registration Deadline Approaches

Get the word out!

To be eligible for absentee voting in the 2004 elections, you must be registered to vote.

To register, complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and mail to the state where you vote.

To get the FPCA, contact your unit Voting Assistance Officer or download it from http://www.fvap.gov.

The deadline to mail your FPCA is 15 August 2004.

Should you change your address before the election, you must submit a new FPCA.

The deadline to mail your Absentee Ballot is 11 October 2004.


Posted by Blackfive on August 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A "Cool" Military Effort

Recovery team to tackle China’s austere slopes
By Capt. Geoffrey Kent and Sgt. Erika Gladhill

SNOWHIKE2004-08-11

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii (Army News Service, Aug. 11, 2004) – After three weeks of mountain training in Alaska and triathlon training in Hawaii, U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command recovery team members said they were “ready to execute” their mission in the Himalayas.

The JPAC recovery team departs Aug. 12 to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China, to recover the remains of three Americans lost in a C-46 crash in the Himalayan Mountains during World War II.

The site is located at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet and is only miles from the border of India. It can only be reached after trekking for four days from the nearest village.

The JPAC team trained for this mission with the Northern Warfare Training Center at Fort Greeley, Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley, Alaska, for three weeks.

This 13-member specialized team includes Army mountaineers, an Air Force pararescueman, a Marine Chinese linguist, an orthopedic surgeon, an explosive ordnance disposal expert, a special forces medic and several mortuary affairs specialists...

Read the rest of it here.

Posted by Blackfive on August 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 11, 2004

The Night Before Christmas (Cambodian Version)

The Night Before Christmas (Cambodian Version)

Twas the night before Christmas and we were afloat
Somewhere in Cambodia in our little boat.
While the river was lightened by rockets red glare
No one but the President knew we were there.

The crew was all nestled deep down in their bunks,
While the Spook and I watched the sampans and junks.
Our mission was secret, so secret in fact,
No one else would remember it when we got back.

When out on the water there arose such a clatter
I leaped down from the bridge to see what was the matter.
The incoming friendly was starting to flash
And I knew that the ARVN's were having a bash.

The snap of friendly fire on the warm tropic air
Convinced me for sure no one knew we were there,
On a clandestine mission so secret it's true
That I'm still convinced only Tricky Dick knew.

While I huddled for safety in the tub on the bow,
I thought of a title, "Apocalypse Now."
To give to the films I was I making each day
To show all the voters when I made my big play.

As I sat there sweating in my lucky flight jacket,
Spook said, "Merry Christmas!" and tossed me a packet.
And what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a new lucky cap, which I still have right here.

I keep it tucked here, in this leather brief case,
Just sharing with the press its secretive place
As I regale them again with my senate refrain,
That Christmas in Cambodia is seared into my brain.

Don't bother to quibble with history my friend,
By pointing out Johnson was President then.
Don't listen to Swiftees who try to explain,
For I tell you that night is seared into my brain.

Down Hibbard, down Lonsdale, and you too O'Neill,
So you don't remember? Well it's something I feel.
I don't need all you Swiftvets to support my campaign,
Cause Christmas in Cambodia is seared into my brain,

Into my brain, into my brain, into my brain...

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

Posted by Blackfive on August 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

USS Reagan and the Straits of Magellan

One for the Sailors...

Many of you may have known about the USS Ronald Reagan's history making navigation of the Straits of Magellan on it's recent journey from Norfolk, VA, to it's new home in San Diego, CA. The Aircraft Carrier arrived on July 23rd. For those interested, immediately below is information on the USS Ronald Reagan and some quotes from the crew. In the extended section, is an email and photo from the skipper describing the navigation through the Straits of Magellan.

Presidential Welcome Set For USS Reagan Navy's Newest Carrier Arrives On Friday July 22, 2004

The USS Reagan set sail from Norfolk, Va., with 3,000 crew members on May 27, making its lengthy journey around the tip of South America. The ship was the first carrier to be named for a living president. Naval officials said that with its two nuclear reactors, it can travel faster than 34 mph and operate for 20 years without refueling.
<...>
San Diego often throws a party when the crew of one of the region's three carriers returns home from months overseas, but civic groups have pitched in to create an unprecedented celebration. Interest in the arrival also soared following the June 5 death of the ship's namesake.

"It will be a home-porting unlike any other," said Navy Cmdr. Ed Buclatin, who has spent the past year coordinating plans for the arrival.

Nearly 1,100 feet long and standing 20 stories above the waterline, the USS Ronald Reagan's berth at Naval Air Station North Island will lend it a prominent spot on the San Diego skyline. The Reagan will replace the USS Constellation, which was retired last year after 41 years of service.
<...>
One reason for all the attention is the military's effort to pay tribute to the late president. Capt. Jim Symonds, the captain of the USS Reagan, flew to California for the former president's burial service to present Mrs. Reagan with the American flag that flew over the carrier.

Many in the military hold a special reverence for Reagan, who restored America's military superiority and the nation's confidence in itself.

"He put the pride back in the military," said Lt. Kris Hooper, an Oklahoman who joined the Navy reserves during Reagan's second term in office.

Now, here's an email and photo (forwarded by Seamus) from the skipper of the USS Ronald Reagan, Captain Jim Symonds, about the navigation through the Straits of Magellan...

uss_ronald_reagan
From: CAPT Jim Symonds, USN
CO of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)

Message sent just after transiting the Straits of Magellan last week.

"Good day all. We're in the Pacific Ocean, having transited the Straits of Magellan on Sunday and Monday (Days 25 and 26) beginning at 0500 local (same as EST) on Sunday - we think the first nuclear aircraft carrier to do so. It was an amazing two days capped by absolutely breathtaking scenes yesterday.

This idea began with a nudge from the Chilean Navy. They told one of my officers at a planning conference some months ago we'd be foolish to do other than go through the Straits in the Winter. The storm track moves North and uncovers the Strait for the most part.

My Navigator, CAPT (sel) Terry Rucker, and his team attacked the plan and worked on it for months.

They conducted liaison with a Chilean officer attached to Fleet Forces Command (former Atlantic Fleet) in Norfolk, they communicated with Chilean pilots who guide ships through, and they prepared briefs for me and the Admiral. We brought on board two Chilean Navy pilots in Rio, they got the feel of the ship during the few days transit.

At 0500 Sunday we saw flames atop oil platforms in the Atlantic side approaches. Very eerie, the same as in the Southern Arabian Gulf. We went through two initial narrows, Primera and Segunda Angostura, in low clouds and drizzle. We anchored at Punta Arenas, Chile at 1400. It is a gorgeous city of 150,000 right by the Strait and at the bottom of a gently sloping mountain of about 2000 ft. The Admiral, his Chief of Staff, CAG, and I were invited to dinner at the home of the Admiral in this zone. He had visited the ship earlier in the day. A great meal of beef (of course) and a bit of Chilean wine was served. Very nice home, very nice time.

We weighed anchor at just after 0500 Monday morning. (Oh by the way, the sun didn't come up until 0900 each day, and set promptly at 1630.)

After a two hour transit through fairly open waters, we turned due West at Cape Froward, our southern most latitude of the trip. We logged it (South 53 degrees 54.8 minutes at 0750 local) and turned to NW a few minutes later.

The early twilight backlighted a cross on a small mountain hard by the Straits behind us. Apparently the cross was put there to commemorate the visit of the Pope when he mitigated a dispute over these lands between Chile and Argentina. Chile owns the entire Straits.

The air temperature was 38, just about the same as the water temp. The weather was much better than the first day. Had some low scudding clouds at about 3000 ft, unrestricted visibility. About 15 knots of wind from the North. The water was calm until we broke out into the larger part of the Straits later on. The water is amazingly deep. Not very far from land on both sides, less than half a mile, we would have 500 - 700 feet beneath the keel. More on that below. This was the 21st, Monday, and the 22nd, today, is the Winter Solstice, just about now as a matter of fact - about 0800 local. The sun rose yesterday at about 030 degrees, 30 right of North.

At 1100 we had long shadows across the flight deck. The first of three "Paso's" - passes - is Paso Ingles. It is pretty straight and lined with 2000 to 3000 foot mountains. Through the valleys between them we could see higher mountains, up to 4500 feet, and even a few glaciers. We had seals swimming and leaping near the ship, and XO said he saw penguins on the beach through the "big eyes" - our big binoculars. (Well, that's what he said.)

At the end of Paso Ingles there is a branch to the right in an opening.

Through the opening was the shot of the day. A further mountain was lit in the sun, while the close mountains were still dark. There was a hill aside the branch which displayed brown colors, and had clouds laying on it. A great 16x20 for any wall. There is a shot attached of the ship in front of it. (I'd have sent more, but don't want to clog our bandwidth.) Think this will make a great going away present for folks transferring.

We made a fairly hard turn to port at the end of Paso Ingles and entered Paso Tortuoso (torturous). It was the narrowest part of the transit - about 1500 yards, three times the width of the Thimble Shoals channel going into Norfolk. But this one has 1500 ft mountains on each side. The THOMAS S GATES was four miles ahead throughout. Here she looked very serene in the calm waters. Also she looked much closer than four miles in what looked like the large room we were in. Paso Largo was next. Think largo means deep, if it doesn't it should. The depth here went from over 1000 feet to almost 3000 feet over the course of two hours sailing. All with mountains of about 1500 to 2000 feet right by the 3 to 4 mile wide channel. Saw more glaciers, and an "ice fall" -- waterfall that wasn't moving water, and more great views for the rest of the afternoon. We dropped off the two Chilean Navy pilots, having loaded them down with gifts, at about 1530.

We officially broke out into the Pacific Ocean at 1600 and played "California Dreamin" over the 1MC. The expected high seas didn't hit us until early this morning. Hard to guess now in the dark (at almost 0800), but seems these seas must be about 12 feet. Had rain squalls all night.

And we're headed North.

Not a bad two days. There are a lot of Sailors on board who will have a great story to tell their entire lives.

All the best, Symo

Posted by Blackfive on August 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Hunting Down Sadr

All of the major news agencies are reporting that the US Marines and US Army Cavalry are closing in on Sadr's headquarters and cleaning out the Najaf cemetary.

Sadr will try to negotiate at the last minute by calling for a cease fire, and, thus, shoring up his position as a powerful leader in the new Iraq...I would love to negotiate with him. I'm partially deaf.

    "What? Surrender? You wish for me to surrender? Sorry, no can do, pal. Adios." *boom*

I saw Ralph Peters last night on Fox. I don't always agree with LTC (ret.) Peters, but this is one instance where I do agree - Sadr must be taken out. Hard. Fast. Shock. Awe. End it, now. Uday style. Remember the deaths that are on Sadr's hands - American, Iraqi civilian, and Iraqi insurgents.

Where did America lose their stomach for a fight? This is war. Sadr is not on our side. Therefore, he's the enemy.

Adios, MF.

Posted by Blackfive on August 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

173rd Jump

I wouldn't be much of a Paratrooper of Love if I didn't post this picture...

173rd
Army paratroopers exit from an Air Force C-130 airplane during a mass tactical airborne exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The Soldiers are assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy. Photo by Department of Defense.

Airborne!!!

Posted by Blackfive on August 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

August 09, 2004

Letters for Deploying Troops

SlagleRock, an Active Duty Airman, is looking for letters to boost the morale of a friend deploying to Iraq. So far, it's been quite a turn-out so head on over and help out. You can leave a letter in the comments section or email SlagleRock.

Posted by Blackfive on August 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Things You Can Do To Help

In response to emailed questions about supporting the troops, I am reposting the support information below:

A lot of you, and I mean A LOT, have emailed me for information about sending care packages to the troops. Some of you may not have really considered "taking care" of an unknown military person before so here's your chance to help.

soldiersangels

Soldiers' Angels is a wonderful non-for-profit run by some of the best Americans around - military moms! There, you can adopt soldiers or whole platoons of soldiers, send care packages, emails. You name it. You can even help the wounded soldiers as they come back from overseas.

Hopefully, you know about Spirit of America and all of the great things that they have done over the last few months. Their mission is to expand the abilities of Americans serving abroad to improve the quality of life of people at the grass roots level.

Soldiers' Angels and Spirit of America are not the only organizations out there that help our military.

Look into donating money to these two charities:

    A. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation

    The SOWF provides scholarships for the children of Special Operations soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have lost their lives (in training or combat). A few dollars would go a long way in providing for the children of those who have died defending America.

    B. United Warrior Survivor Foundation

    UWSF offers scholarship grants to surviving spouses, along with educational counseling, financial guidance, investment planning, and other programs.

Sgt. Hook started Operation Shoe Fly to get shoes to kids in Afghanistan. Operation Shoe Fly is the culmination of an idea born by a group of crewdogs flying in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. After landing in numerous LZs across the war torn country and seeing many children with no shoes, they thought to help bring them some footwear. We are asking for donations of children's shoes, for both boys and girls ages 14 and under, new or used so that we can deliver them to the future of Afghanistan.

Think about donating your unused frequent flyer miles for a soldier to visit his or her family. Check out Operation Hero Miles.

Operation Gratitude - another site where you can help send care packages to troops in Iraq.

Books For Soldiers - it's one more way to show troops that you care.

Keystone Soldiers also takes care of soldiers by adoption, matching pen pals, or sending care packages.

And Adopt a Platoon - another source for adopting soldiers who don't have someone on the homefront.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, and their eligible family members and survivors, when in need. To do this, counseling, loans, grants, various services, and referral to other community resources are available. There are no fees for such help. The Society, operating in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, administers nearly 250 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases around the world.

One last note, there is a fellowship that you can help sponsor in the name of my good friend, Major Mat Schram, who was killed on May 26th, 2003. Some of Mat's family and friends got together to create:

The Major Mathew Earl Schram ALMC-LEDC/FT Endowed Fellowship

The fellowship, for Florida Institute of Technology's School of Extended Graduate Studies ' (SEGS) Ft. Lee, Va. center, will support U.S. military officers enrolled in the SEGS Logistics Executive Development Course (LEDC)-Florida Tech (FT) cooperative graduate degree program. The program is at the Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee. Major Mathew Schram graduated from this school in 2001. This is the first fellowship established for a Florida Tech SEGS center.

The endowment will support one or more annual fellowships for military officers. The first fellowship will be awarded for the fall 2004 semester. To make a contribution to the fellowship, call the Florida Tech Office of Development at (321) 674-8962.


Whatever steps that you take to take care of our troops - no matter how large or small - will resonate beyond just one American soldier.

Someone that was referred by this site to Soldiers Angels also was responsible for donating their extra frequent flyer miles to bring a family to see their wounded soldier at Walter Reed. Just some simple actions made all the difference in the world.

So please think about supporting our troops. You can show that you care about their lives while they defend yours.

Posted by Blackfive on August 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 06, 2004

Democrat Party "Kerry Talking Points"

John Cole at Balloon Juice dissects the Democratic response to the Swift Boat Veterans statements about Senator John Kerry.

Cole, a Cavalry Trooper in a past life, also discusses what "I served with" means.

Posted by Blackfive on August 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thundering Third - Part 5 - Attack from the Sky!

Here's another update from LtCol Willy Buhl of the Thundering Third Marines.

August 4, 2004 2:09PM
Dear Family and Friends of the Thundering Third,

Greetings from Camp Abu Ghurayb. This is my third letter to you as we progress into the second month of our deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.

The big news that has already reached many back home was the electrical fire in our Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tent, which burned to the ground some days ago. Our camp is powered by a variety of generators and wiring not vetted in accordance with OSHA or Underwriter's Laboratories that the folks back home are used to. Despite our best fire prevention efforts, fires do occur out here and all hands are on alert for that possibility. In this case, quick action by nearby Marines to get fire extinguishers and alert the Guard Force, limited the fire to one tent. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the only real loss was the contents of our MWR tent, which included TVs, DVD players and DVDs, X-Boxes, games, books, etc. Thanks to the great efforts of our Thundering Third Key Volunteers, we have already been promised replacements by a number of generous donors back home. The largest group of donors are some great Americans from the San Diego Chapter of the national organization, Operation Homefront. The folks at Operation Homefront immediately volunteered to provide us with a variety of items that will be well received by our Marines and Sailors who rotate in from the field to relax and rest for a day, once each week. Of course, there is far more to this story than generosity on behalf of patriotic citizens. The compassion and support of our families and friends back home is of the greatest comfort to all of us here. We are in the process of reconstructing our MWR tent, and it will be even better than it was.

As you might imagine, every day in the life of an infantry battalion is quite full out here in Iraq. Mounted and dismounted security patrols run 24 hours a day over a large area characterized by small cities and towns, major highways, agricultural fields, canals and rivers, palm groves, military camps and stretches of desert. Logistics resupply convoys, civil affairs projects, generator maintenance, post standing, maintenance and repair of weapons, vehicles, and equipment, training Iraqi security forces, orders briefs, searching for buried arms and ordnance caches, sweeping roads clear of IEDs, local city council meetings, chow time, planning future operations, writing patrol reports, upgrading armor on vehicles, detaining and killing terrorists, and the list goes on. It takes a tremendous team effort to harness and focus the energies of over a thousand Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers that make up the 3d Bn., 1st Marines. I am pleased to report that an already well organized and efficient battalion has only improved over our first six weeks in Iraq. This is due in no small measure to the men attached to the Thundering Third from our Combat Engineer Platoon "Pioneer 3", our Truck Platoon "Wild Card", our Artillery Liaison Team, "Cannon Cockers" and other attachments that, for security reasons I am not permitted to describe here. These attachments to our magnificent Battalion represent continuity from our Brother Marines of 1st Bn., 5th Marines, who are now home with their families, enjoying their well deserved post deployment leave after a job very well done.

I am proud to report that the Thundering Third recently executed the first I MEF air-surface raid of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, air landing a cordon on a group of farm houses suspected of harboring terrorist activities. The Marines and Sailors of Tim Jent's Kilo Company descended from the sky at dawn to completely surprise a group of suspected terrorists. They were followed by the hard hitting men of Brett Clark's India Company and our HMMWV mounted heavy machine gunners from Rob Belknap's Weapons/George Company. A cordon and search operation was efficiently conducted with all members of the households searched, secured, segregated, and tagged, while follow-up exploitation teams conducted detailed searches of the property. During the search we identified and detained a known terrorist on our watch list, and discovered a large buried cache of IED materials. The operation was executed precisely on its planned timeline and netted a big find of materials that will not be used against multi-national forces or nnocent Iraqis. I was very pleased with the planning and execution of the raid. I was also proud of our men's great professionalism, and compassion for Iraqi families on the scene, and discipline when handling suspected terrorists. Job extremely well done to H&S, Kilo, India, and Weapons Companies, with special mention to Captain Patrick "PUC" Gallogly, our Battalion Air Officer, Call Sign "Brahma Air". We intend to build on the success we enjoyed in our first air-ground assault, and will continue to leverage the Marine Corps' "Air-Ground Team" with its many unique and lethal capabilities.

The men of Lima Company continue to patrol the most cooperative area in our Battalion's battle space. Their work with the Iraqi National Guard, the Nasser Wa Salaam Police and our brothers in the US Army has been superb and has advanced relations with the host nation. The Commanding Officer of prison continually praises Capt Alex Echeverria, 1stSgt Wayne Hertz and the Marines and Sailors of Lima Company on their professionalism and dedication to duty. Lima's own "mafia connection", Gunnery Sergeant David Wilson, through hard work, intuition, and savvy found a great Army supply depot at the Baghdad International Airport. His charismatic personality and USMC professionalism persuaded the soldiers there to provide some additional support to their brother "soldiers of the sea". What was originally a small morale booster for Lima Company has become a great Battalion asset. Gunny Wilson's diligent efforts have resulted in huge amounts of Gatorade, muffins, cereal, and food supplements for the Thundering Third. Another bright note from Lima Company is Thundering Third's first meritorious promotion in Iraq, PFC Ryan Easton, a rifleman in Lima Company who has consistently performed at a level of maturity and proficiency expected from Marines well senior to him in grade and experience. Congratulations to PFC Ryan Easton, and Lima Company. I am sure that his family back home will be enormously proud to hear the good news about their Marine.

Among the many human interest stories that have already transpired in our first six weeks in Iraq is the story of Ali, an Iraqi National Guard Soldier, from Nasser Wa Salaam, who was severely injured in a truck crash while on patrol shortly after our Battalion arrived in Iraq. Ali was medevaced by the Marines and flown to the hospital in Baghdad, where he was treated by Army Surgeons. Since his discharge, LT Matt Shepherd, our Battalion Surgeon, has been monitoring his progress and coordinating further treatment for Ali. Ali represents the many patriotic Iraqis who are sacrificing all to realize a better future. Be on the look out for a future published story about Matt and Ali.

On the subject of news stories, there are also a number of press releases about the Thundering Third on the Marine Corps official website. There you can find articles on Company K, and Weapons/George Company. Of note is a great piece on our Combined Anti-Armor Platoon, led by Lt Ryan Sparks and GySgt Christian Wade. Our "CAAT" Platoon has the call sign "Carnivore" and has been involved in a number of highly successful actions to date. The "Highway Patrol" of the Battalion, CAAT's intrepid Marines and Sailors drive all over the highways and byways in our area of operations and have proven themselves to be the most lethal unit in the Thundering Third so far. I encourage you to look them up on the USMC official website.

Marines always find innovative ways to accomplish the mission. I recently discovered that LCpl Jonathon Ashley, of our Motor Transport Platoon, has put an Iraqi scrapper's donkey cart into operation in our Battalion Camp Abu Ghurayb. This motivated young NCO placed a water tank and sprayer on an impounded donkey cart, and tows it behind a four wheel drive all terrain vehicle, the "Gator", as he goes around spraying generators to keep them cool during the heat of the day. The donkey cart was impounded when its owners ignored repeated warnings to stay away from our base, which is out in the desert on an old military camp, away from any homes. I wish you all could see the big grin on LCpl Ashley's face as he rides around our camp towing his Iraqi donkey cart with its American water tank.

Although there are many friendly people here in the Al Anbar Province, there are also plenty of bad people who are doing their best to impede progress in Iraq. We are also very active in our zone, and are rooting out enemy that are operating in our area. This has translated into a lot of local enemy activity in recent days. Indeed, our Marines and Sailors have been in contact with the enemy recently to include one attempt by the enemy to attack one of our company firm bases. Kilo Company recently repelled an attack on their firm base, punishing their attackers with a little help from SSgt Mortimer and his nearby CAAT Section. The situation unfolded as Lt John Jacob's 2d Platoon, from Kilo Company, counterattacked and pushed the enemy attackers away from Kilo's base into an area approached unexpectedly by SSgt Mortimer's CAAT Section, which engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding six others, who were all captured. These contacts have not come without friendly cost, however. We have had a number of men wounded, with most fortunately returning to duty. Unfortunately, we have had a few men hurt enough to be medevaced back to the USA. As I stated in my last letter home to you, if any of our Battalion Families or Friends would like to visit wounded men in the Camp Pendleton area, please contact Gunnery Sergeant (Select) Ray Ortiz, at the 3/1 Rear Command Post at (760) 763-0554 (Cell)(760) 212-1847. He can also be reached by email at: OrtizR@1mardiv.usmc.mil.

It is also my sad duty to report to you that we have lost another one of our brothers killed in action here in Iraq. Sergeant Juan Calderone, Jr. was killed by an IED attack some days ago. Sergeant Calderone joined the Thundering Third earlier this year and was considered one of the best squad leaders in our Battalion. A standout Sergeant among a group of outstanding Sergeants in Lima Company, he is greatly missed by his brothers here and by his family back home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his Lady, Ana Maria, and the rest of the Calderone Family. We continue the mission we began here together, as Sergeant Calderone would have wanted.

I will conclude this letter with all of our best wishes to you at home, especially to the great Ladies who are doing great things in our Thundering Third Key Volunteer Network. As time permits, I will write again soon and I hope that this update has provided you with an insight into the Battalion's accomplishments and progress. In addition to your support for your Marines and Sailors over here, I also respectfully ask that you keep the families of our lost and wounded Marines and
Sailors in your thoughts and prayers. The 3d Bn, 1st Marines honors the sacrifice of Sergeant Juan Calderone, Jr., who is gone but never forgotten. John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
LtCol Willy Buhl
CO, 3d Bn, 1st Marines

Other Thundering Third posts can be found here (June 24th), here (July 3rd), here (July 21st), and here (August 5th) .

Posted by Blackfive on August 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

Vet Against Vet About Kerry's Heroism

Update 7:30Pm CST: Usually, I put the updates at the end of the post. I think this one should be at the front. Some folks point out Snopes coverage of this issue as in favor of Kerry. They are wrong. Snopes comes in on the middle on this one and there is no definitive answer. Consider that Snopes' sources are mostly the LA Times. Also, consider that the Kerry campaign sent a letter to the major tv networks to inform them not to play the Swift Boats Veteran ads. So read about what each side is saying below.

CNN Transcript of Two Viet Nam Veterans Recollections of John Kerry:

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
<...>
WOODRUFF: We've been reporting on the debate between Vietnam veterans for and against John Kerry. With me now, two central figures in this debate. Larry Thurlow, he's with me here in Washington. Like John Kerry, he commanded a swift boat in Vietnam. He appears in that anti-Kerry television ad that we showed you a little earlier.

In Eugene, Oregon, is Jim Rassmann. He served under John Kerry's command and he credits Kerry with saving his life. Rassmann, you may remember, spoke at last week's Democratic convention.

Larry Thurlow, I want to -- I want to begin with you. You essentially, as I understand it, you, too, won a Bronze Star, like John Kerry did. The incident in which John Kerry pulled Jim Rassmann out of -- out of the river...

LARRY THURLOW, APPEARS IN ANTI-KERRY AD: Yes? WOODRUFF: ... in Vietnam, Kerry says that this happened under enemy fire, that Rassmann had been knocked in the water, he went back and was the first to get to Rassmann and pulled him out of the water. You essentially said that's not what happened. What are you saying?

THURLOW: My recollection of that day is still pretty vivid after all these years. And what I remember, Judy, is that the incident involving Mr. Rassmann, five boats had come out of the river after running an operation up in the canal earlier that day. Three boats were going through a fishing weir on the left side of the river that had put in place between the time we entered and when we were leaving.

I'm the third boat in that column left. In the column right, there are two boats. The lead boat is John Kerry's.

He's going through a rather small opening on the right bank that (ph) had been left in his boat. The boat leading our column, as it goes through that small opening almost simultaneously, is blasted completely out of the water by a command detonated mine.

WOODRUFF: This is another boat?

THURLOW: This is a 3-boat (ph) -- this is on the opposite side of the river of John Kerry's boat. At this point, John Kerry speeds out of the area, I assume to clear the kill zone. The rest of the boats, however, went to the aid of the 3-boat (ph), which was completely disabled. Two members of that crew are in the water, the rest are badly wounded and basically incapacitated on board that boat.

WOODRUFF: You're basically saying he fled when there was...

(CROSSTALK)

THURLOW: I am saying he fled the area on the explosion under the 3-boat (ph).

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, before -- and let me ask Jim Rassmann about that part of the story before we ask what happened to him.

Jim Rassmann, what -- what do you say happened that day in March, 1969?

JIM RASSMANN, KERRY SUPPORTER: Well, first, I was not part of John Kerry's command. I was a Special Forces officer who happened to be on his boat at that time.

Mr. Thurlow's recollection of what occurred is not accurate. We had the boat hit the mine to our left. And John immediately had his driver, Del Sandusky (ph), turn to the left and head towards it.

And it was at that time that our gunner on the bow got his gun knocked out and he started screaming for another weapon. I ran another weapon up to me, and we hit something or something hit us. There was an explosion, and I was blown off the boat to the right.

WOODRUFF: And you ended up in the water how?

RASSMANN: I was blown into the water, and I had boats coming up behind me. So, I went to the bottom of the river.

WOODRUFF: Now, as I understand it, Larry Thurlow, you have a different version of how Jim Rassmann was in the water.

THURLOW: Yes, I do. My thought is that since no mine was detected on the other side of the river, no blast was seen, no noise heard, there's two things that are inconsistent with my memory.

Our boats immediately put automatic weapons fire on to the left bank just in case there was an ambush in conjunction with the mine. It soon became apparent there was no ambush.

The rescue efforts began on the 3-boat (ph). And at this time, the second boat in line, mine being the third boat on the left bank, began to do this.

Now, two members in this boat, keep in mind, are in the river at that time. They're picked up. The boat that picks them up starts toward Lieutenant Rassmann at this time, that's the 23-boat (ph). But before they get there, John does return and pick him up. But I distinctly remember we were under no fire from either bank.

WOODRUFF: Jim Rassmann, what about that? You hear Mr. Thurlow saying there was no enemy fire at that point.

RASSMANN: Mr. Thurlow is being disingenuous. I don't know what his motivation is, but I was receiving fire in the water every time I came up for air. I don't recall anybody being in the area around us until I came up maybe five or six times for air and Kerry came back to pick me up out of the water.

WOODRUFF: Disingenuous. He says you are being disingenuous in not recalling what happened.

THURLOW: Let me ask Mr. Rassmann this question: I also ended up in the water that day during the rescue efforts on the 3-boat (ph). And my boat, the 51-boat (ph), came up, picked me up, business as usual. I got back on board, went about the business at hand.

I received no fire. But the thing I would like to ask is, we have five boats now, John's returning, and four boats basically dead in the water, working on the 3-boat (ph). If we were receiving fire off the bank, how come not one single boat received one bullet hole, nobody was hit, no sign of any rounds hitting the water while I was in it?

WOODRUFF: What about that, Jim Rassmann, quickly?

RASSMANN: There were definitely rounds hitting the water around me. If Mr. Thurlow feels that what his story is purported to be was the case, he had ample opportunity 35 years ago to deal with it. He never did, nor did anyone else. John Kerry did not tell this story. I told this story when I put him in for a Silver Star for coming back to rescue me. The Navy saw fit to reduce it to a Bronze Star for valor.

That's OK with me. But If Mr. Furlow had a problem with that, he should have dealt with it long, long ago. To bring it up now, I think, is very disingenuous. I think that this is partisan motivation on his part and for the part of his whole organization.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Thurlow, why didn't you bring this up earlier?

THURLOW: For one thing, I did not know that John had been put in for a Bronze Star, a Silver Star or, for that matter, a Purple Heart on that day. I did not see the after-action report, which, in fact, was written by John. And as the years went by, John was not running for the highest office in the free world.

WOODRUFF: What about Mr. Rassmann's point that he thinks you're doing this for partisan purposes?

THURLOW: Well, this is not true because, the fact of the matter is, I have not been active in any political party since I got out of the service. In fact, I basically turned my back on politics because of my experience in the service.

WOODRUFF: But this -- you feel strongly enough about this to be out?

THURLOW: I certainly do. My point is, is that John Kerry, because of the actions he's taken, and then the fantastic stories he made up about this, when many people beside myself know this not to be true, negates him being the leader he claims to be. And I would hate to have him be the commander-in-chief over my grandchildren.

WOODRUFF: Jim Rassmann, you want to respond to that?

RASSMANN: I sure do. I have two wonderful kids. They're very bright, they're compassionate people. I'm here today not just because John Kerry pulled me out of that water. I'm here today because if those two kids of mine were in the military, I would want John Kerry to be the commander-in-chief, not George Bush.

I think that Mr. Thurlow has a very unusual recollection of the events. I think that it's important to note that even today John McCain has come out and called this ad that they have produced dishonest and dishonorable. And I think I would have to agree with him.

WOODRUFF: Well, gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there. Mr. Jim Rassmann, we thank you for joining us from Eugene, Oregon.

Larry Thurlow, we thank you for joining us here in Washington. We know you're from Kansas. We appreciate it.

And I have a sense we're going to continue to hear more about this story in the days and the weeks to come. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

THURLOW: You're welcome...

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

CNN versus Bloggers

CNN has a story about recent action in Iraq and a blogger responds about the article - a blogger who was there and contends that CNN doesn't really capture the essence of what happened.

Read The Men In Black from My War - Fear and Lothing In Iraq.

[sent by Jim K., Scott, Jasmine T., Tim H., Rick V. and Gregory W.]

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ambush! - The Video

Yeff sends this link to a video of an Ambush. I hadn't seen it before. It appears to be contractors in part of a convoy. The video is work safe, the audio is not (what would you say if you were being shot at?).

Ambush

[note: if you can, be nice and right click and "save target as" to save that guy's bandwidth]

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thundering Third - Part 4 - Marines Destroy Ambushers

Another update via email from LtCol Willy Buhl, Commanding Officer of the 3-1 Marines, the Thundering Third!

Gentlemen,
Forward to our 3-1 buddies as you see fit.

We put a whipping on a group yesterday that opened up on one of our mounted patrols from India Company after detonating an IED. The IED was a 155mm round that fortunately hit armor and tires on a 7-ton truck. The Marines in all vehicles immediately returned fire, dismounted and closed with the enemy. We killed three and wounded four and captured a five more after a Sgt threw two frags in a room and they came out with their hands up from another room. All but one of the EPWs appeared to be workers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure enough, however, we found over 300 155mm shells buried on the grounds of this place. In the midst of the action, Kilo Company's QRF arrived to join in the fight. Great cooperation by all and we had a Harrier aloft with 500lb bombs and his cannon itching for the go ahead. I strongly considered it as an example and radioed to the ground commander not to take any undue risks with his men but it all worked out. Our Marines were engaged by at least four different weapons systems from this structure to include two RPKs simultaneously. When we finally cleared it after some minutes, killing and capturing as described, we could not find any weapons or brass. The KIAs, however, all tested positive for gunpowder residue on their hands, as did one of the EPWs. Thorough search couldn't locate any spider holes, secret doors, etc. There were quite a few "Jihad" graffiti notes inside the building though, and some drugs and syringes.

The Kharma Iraqi Police who can never be found when there's a fight showed up immediately after casualties were taken by the enemy. This continues to reinforce to me that they are entirely embedded in the insurgency. The Kharma Ntl Guard troops have a check point just down the hill in view of IED and ran behind cover when the shooting started. We have some good ones in another town that we're training but these troops are dirty and well penetrated by the enemy. We cannot rely on them for anything. Kharma is an evil suburb of Fallujah.

Later in the evening the enemy tried to attack Kilo Company with RPGs and small arms without effect. We returned a heavy volume of fire and cleared the structures where we took fire from to find no one, though we did find brass this time!
122mm rocket landed outside the fence some distance off as I am typing - shook my hootch.

We've begun to receive our first combat replacements, with 14 arriving last night. SgtMajor and I are going to visit our wounded in Baghdad today, see how our Iraqi Ntl Guard troops and CAP Plt is doing in a neighboring town, and then attend the memorial service for Sgt Juan Calderone, Jr., of Lima Company, who was killed in an IED blast a few days ago. We are hitting back hard when the opportunity presents itself and yesterday was a celebration for all hands.

Semper Fi,

Willy

Other Thundering Third posts can be found here (June 24th), here (July 3rd) and here (July 21st).

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Corpsman, Up!"

Another one via Seamus, this time about the Navy Hospital Corpsmen that are the medics the Marines depend on - day in and day out.

Navy corpsmen to the rescue when injured Marines need aid By Rick Rogers UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER July 29, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq – Almost every day, the cry "corpsman up!" rings across a battlefield somewhere in Iraq, sending a crouching figure with a medical bag dashing – often into enemy gunfire – to treat a wounded Marine.

There have been many such adrenaline-pumping sprints since 25,000 Marines and sailors arrived this year, including 19,000 from San Diego County. More than 100 Marines have been killed in action and 1,137 wounded.

But the death toll could have been much higher, as the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment Marines from Camp Pendleton well knows.

While 10 Marines have died in and around Fallujah alone since March, corpsmen – who are Navy sailors – have saved the lives of 30 to 40 troops, according to commanders and the medical staff at Camp Baharia, where the battalion is based for its seven-month tour of duty.

"They have saved a number of my boys," said 31-year-old Albuquerque native Capt. D.A. Zembiec, a company commander whose Marines saw fierce fighting in Fallujah in spring and random fighting since. "The Marines know that if they are wounded, a corpsman will ignore the firefight and just patch them up."

Marines venerate their devoted corpsmen.

"A good corpsman knows how to calm the situation so that the Marine being treated and those around him don't freak out," said Golf Company's Sgt. David Jones, 27, of Washington, D.C. "He knows medicine, but he also knows his Marines and how to keep them from panicking."

Corpsmen are an anomaly on the battlefield. They carry a 9-mm pistol to protect themselves and their patients, but they are considered noncombatants. Yet their status as healers has done little to protect them.

Of the estimated 50 corpsmen in the battalion, seven have been wounded, two of them seriously. (Marines don't disclose numbers, but an average-sized battalion is about 900 troops.)

This month a corpsman riding in a convoy nearly lost his arm to a roadside bomb. His military career might be over, and he might never regain the full use of his limb.

Several have had close calls.

A mortar hit at the feet of one corpsman and failed to explode. Another had a dud hand grenade bounce off his vehicle while he was loading wounded troops. Another was saved when shrapnel from a mortar destroyed his medical bag but spared him.

In another instance, a mortar round landed in the foxhole a corpsman had just left.

"Almost every single line corpsman has a story like that," said Petty Officer 1st Class William Janic, a medical section chief at the aid station at Camp Baharia.

"They've done some awesome things," said Janic, of West Virginia.

Hospitalman Everett Watt, 25, was with Echo Company Marines when they entered Fallujah in April and engaged in street-to-street fighting.

In the city, Watt and other corpsmen routinely braved machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire to attend to wounded Marines.

Despite the extreme dangers, Watt said corpsmen cannot hesitate.

"You hear 'corpsman up!' and all you want to know is where they need help," said Watt, from the Bronx. "It's an instinct thing. When I am running to a Marine, I never think about anything except getting there. You don't think about what you did until later. And then you say, 'What the hell did I just do?' It can get crazy."

"You just hope (the injury) isn't as bad as it always is," Watt added quietly.

He names the Marines he's treated and saved. There is a special place in his soul for the three he couldn't, and when he tries to talk about it, he grows silent in mid-sentence.

"There are at least six Marines who are alive because of him," said Lt. Ben Wagner, 27, an Echo platoon leader who grew up in Chula Vista. "He'll never tell you that."

Fear is something that every corpsman has to master to do his job.

"I am always scared, there is no denying that," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Reginald Demapelis, 31, a senior corpsman for Golf Company who said his corpsmen have saved about seven Marines.

"But to be good a corpsman, you have to overcome your fear and concentrate on your job," said Demapelis, who lives in Chula Vista. He immigrated to the United States from Manila, Philippines, in 1992 and was an Army medic before joining the Navy less than two years ago.

"Always concentrate on the welfare of all the people out there," he said. "It's our job to run out there when the mortars are still dropping and the bullets are still flying. You cannot hesitate."

Corpsmen said the death of a Marine is a crushing blow from which they can never truly recover. But they know they must put it behind them.

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Marines Run Toward Gun Fire, Not Away From It

Via Seamus, this UPI article sums up the American Warrior Spirit and addresses the issues of morale, combat stress and the use of torture.

An American in Sparta By Pamela Hess Pentagon correspondent Published 8/4/2004 11:06 AM

RAMADI, Iraq, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Living on a Marine base on the edge of restive Ramadi is a shock to a civilian's senses. It's endlessly dusty and loud; the latrines smell; it's beastly hot. There is no color other than brown, and everyone is armed.

But mostly you marvel at how they go about their days: run with M-16s flapping against their backs for miles at high noon when it's topping 115 degrees just for the exercise; how they wear long sleeves, pants, suede desert boots, 30 pounds of armor and man a gun on top of a Humvee, faces encrusted with dust; how they work at least 12 hours a day, every day, with no days off, under a constant threat of mortars and rockets.

You wonder where they find the energy to play basketball at midnight (the military police do, reliably, every night, sometimes listening to rap, sometimes heavy metal and once Michael Jackson's greatest hits.) How they detach themselves sufficiently from the danger to teach fellow Marines to salsa after dinner. How in the dark of night they practice martial arts to a hypnotic drum beat, lit only by pale green chemlights broken at their feet.

It probably has something to do with the fact most of them seem to be around 20 years old, and many are in a combat zone for the first time - something they actually relish.

"Marines run toward gun fire, not away from it," a senior commander told me.

And the worse conditions are, the better Marines seem to like it. Marines at a dusty outpost on the Syrian border take great pride they are not serving instead at "Camp Chocolate Cake," as they refer to Al Asad, home of the 7th Regimental Combat Team. Everything here is relative. To an American eye it is downright bleak. But inside row upon row of plywood buildings it is cool. A Marine doesn't care how hot he gets as long as he knows he has a cool place to sleep, I'm told...

An air conditioned place to sleep is one of the things 1st Marine Division Commander Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis requires for his troops.

It's a change from some previous practices in the military. In Afghanistan in the blistering hot summer of 2002, Army soldiers were chided for complaining to me about their rudimentary tents. Once the sun came over the mountains, they heated up quickly and it was impossible to sleep - a bad situation for soldiers mostly carrying out night missions.

Mattis has also introduced the notion of making the regimental command headquarters a psychological safe haven for battle-weary Marines. If they get jittery at the front, they can fall back on the RCT headquarters where they can get cleaned up, a shower, sleep, counseling from other Marines, and medical attention.

"The regiment is safe in his mind. It allows him to catch his breath. When he's ready to go (he returns to his unit) and he regains his manhood, right there with his buddies," Mattis explained, over breakfast at Camp Chocolate Cake, where he has come by helicopter to welcome a new set of Marines to the front.

"We never want to evacuate a combat stress (Marine) behind the regiment," Mattis said.

The approach is paying dividends, according to Mattis' statistics.

"We've only had one guy leave in a division of 20,000 (in the last six months) and that was a preexisting psychiatric disorder," he said proudly.

Last year only three left of the 25,000 in the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, a testament to what Mattis calls a humanistic approach to keeping military personnel healthy in both mind and body.

The 1st Marine Division has had a remarkable record by anther grim measure: suicide. Only two Marines have committed suicide in the entire expeditionary force.

"We just do not understand what happened. He was doing good," Mattis said of one case. He has clearly reviewed the details.

Some of his success in maintaining morale so far may be attributable to Mattis' policy of assigning every Marine a "combat buddy" - someone they trained with at home and with whom they are deployed, so a Marine is never alone in a unit as the new guy.

"People fight better then they know each other," he said. "The more stability we give them, the more anchors they have the better. (At this age) they don't have the emotional shock absorbers that you and I do."

He derides the experience in Vietnam when the newest guy - FNG, in profane military parlance -- - was sent out his first night to stand point to see if he'd get shot.

"You don't do that with human beings. You bring them in and let them be part of a team," he said.

A recent report on military mental health showed an alarming number of combat veterans from Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, something Mattis believes can be mitigated, albeit not wiped out, by hands-on commanders who watch for signs of stress and help troops deal with it.

"I don't have any use for the strong silent type," he said.

Mattis commands a powerful loyalty and respect from his troops.

"He leads from the front," one Marine noted in the cool and noisy morale, welfare and recreation tent at Camp Blue Diamond. It has a pool table, a ping pong table, foosball, Nintendo, a large-screen TV, 20 Internet monitors, a library filled with cast off magazines and paperbacks, and a seemingly perpetual dominos game that somehow the Marines have turned into a full contact sport.

When Mattis' "jump platoon" goes out in a convoy - it is regularly attacked and has been hit by improvised explosive devices at least twice - it is not uncommon for the general to have his head out the turret, assuming the same risk as the gunners, say Marines.

A lieutenant colonel gave a more specific example of leading from the front: when the Iraqi-led Fallujah Brigade was created, Mattis decided it needed a test run to see if the native force could actually keep order in the city after weeks of fighting. He sent a Marine convoy through town to see if it would be shot at. He was in the convoy.

For all his tenderness to his Marines - whom he usually addresses as "gents" - he clearly enjoys a battle.

"The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event," he tells about 200 Marines, sitting on the ground under a metal windbreak against a cliff in Al Asad.

"That said, there are some a--holes in the world that just need to be shot. But you go on and find your next victim or he's gonna kill you or your buddy. It's kill or be killed," he said.

"There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim. ... It's really a hell of a lot of fun. You're gonna have a blast out here!" he said, with marked glee. "I feel sorry for every son of a bitch that doesn't get to serve with you."

He is also icily clear with what he expects of the new Marines in the theater, who are much needed reinforcements and relief for departing troops.

"You must know the commander's intent: (Our motto) is 'no better friend, no worse enemy.' But I have added: 'First do no harm.' No harm to the innocent. No harm to a prisoner, ever. This is the Marine Corps, not the National Guard," he barked, in a mistaken reference to soldiers accused of abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, who were Army reservists, not National Guard members.

"They were undisciplined, sorry-ass excuses for soldiers. We will not cost America one ounce of its moral authority," he said.

"How you treat people is very, very important. We're not gonna become racists. They (the enemy force) want you to hate every Iraqi out here. ...You treat those women and children the way you do your own. You make certain you don't do anything that would smear the Marine Corps.

"It is absolutely essential you know what I won't f--ing tolerate," he said, and related the details of a recent case in which a Marine administered an electric shock to a detainee he had in jail. He was swiftly court-martialed.

"He thought it was funny. It is, if you like five years in Leavenworth (prison)," Mattis said.

"You are free men. No one forced you into the Marine Corps. You are going to prove the enemy wrong out here," he said.

Mattis is as likely to mention a battle in ancient Rome as he is in Vietnam when making a point to his troops. Every conversation with his Marines seems an opportunity for some history and criticism, usually so subtly the Marine doesn't realize he has been corrected. He feels like he is changing his path on his own. Mattis is thoughtful without being calculating, and includes his team - which includes me by sheer proximity from time to time - in on his leadership decisions.

While in Asad after a brief stop on the Syrian border, he learned of a coordinated and deadly mortar attack on his headquarters base at Blue Diamond. It seriously injured five. At least one - a well-loved sergeant -- died from his wounds.

Mattis sat on the information for the duration of a solemn helicopter ride. When we landed he gathered us together and broke the news.

"Now we're going to go in there like nothing is wrong. Cool and calm. Cool and calm," he said, imbuing everyone in the circle with responsibility for maintaining morale.

There are plenty of Marines who have concerns about the original case for the war. They are certainly a minority, and one that no doubt singled me out to discuss their views because of my fairly unusual uniform on base (straw hat, long skirts, braids). But none who question the case for war doubt what will happen if they are pulled out before the job is done: this place will devolve into murderous anarchy, and quickly. There is a mental separation here. The debate about the war is one thing. The commitment to fighting it is quite another. They mourn every loss of a comrade, but they accept it as part of the job. There is an obscene bumper sticker Marines are fond of. It says "U.S. Marine Corps: Because a Natural Death is for P--."

Late one night, a female officer was leaving the command operations center when she said pleasantly to a corporal standing guard: "How are you, Marine?"

The corporal was completely alone in the pitch-black loggia of one of Saddam's former palaces, and would be there for hours more before he was relieved.

"Motivated!" he thundered back, cheerily, from the dark.

Posted by Blackfive on August 05, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 04, 2004

Dumbass

AMERICAN DUMBASS
england
(Reuter's Photo - Sara D. Davis)

The title is in relation to my post about American Badass - SPC Jessica Nicolson. PFC Lynndie England is a complete dumbass. I wonder if the prosecution will pick up on the defenses claims that England was just following orders. I'll explain below. Here's the Reuter's story on the trial of the Abu Ghraib abusers that's just begun.

Abu Ghraib Guard Was Lousy Soldier - Prosecution
By Jim Loney

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) - Pfc. Lynndie England was an undisciplined soldier who disobeyed orders to stop sleeping with a comrade, witnesses said on Wednesday as prosecutors sharpened their attack on the woman who outraged the Arab world when she was pictured holding a naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash.

At the second day of a military hearing to determine if England should stand trial for abusing detainees at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, her supervisor testified England was late for work, left early and disobeyed orders confining her to a life of "work, chow and church."
<...>
Prosecutors spotlighted England's personal behavior and sloppy work record at Abu Ghraib.

Defense attorneys homed in on the actions of Military Intelligence in a bid to bolster England's claim she was only following orders to soften up prisoners for questioning...

I've been part of a few court martials (trials) - as a witness or juror. I became good friends with a prosecutor in Germany. We sat next to each other in a neighborhood pub in Germany more than a few nights.

But some of the prosecutors that I know just don't follow through on the details. I'm talking about seemingly minor details, but ones that may shine light on lies. I was a witness on a case where a soldier was caught by my team doing something wrong while he claimed to be waiting for a bus. He was on the wrong side of the street to catch the bus, but no one figured it out until I mentioned it on the stand. The prosecution owed me a Hellerbach for that.

The same lack of focus seems to be with this Lynndie England case - everyone is focused on her penchant for exhibitionism, sex, foul language, etc. And the defense is claiming that she was following orders from Military Intelligence to soften up the prisoners.

Newsflash: England is a personnel clerk - a 71L. Not. An. MP. Her position is NOT one where an MI type would direct her to soften anything up unless it was personnel records file. No badge, no credentials, not an MP with authority over any prisoners. Keeping records is an important job, but it is not one that would grant her authority to do anything with regards to an interrogation or intelligence gathering.

This was all done on her own (with her boyfriend and a few other friends).

The officers that were supposed to be in charge of Abu Ghraib should burn. But so should England and friends.

The damage done has been great. Whether it's our credibility that's been eroded or that more deaths were caused in retaliation for the abuse, the hemoraging hasn't ebbed yet. I've even recently heard from uber-liberal friends that they believe that there is a Abu Ghraib snuff film that was created by this bunch. That's probably a rumor (99%), but the suspicion and accusations of more suppressed evidence are still out there.

Thanks to a few dumbasses.

Posted by Blackfive on August 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Showdown Part 8 - Uncommon Valor as a Common Virtue

    "Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue" - Admiral Nimitz, March 16, 1945, referring to the Marines victory on Iwo Jima.
    "Everyone said Doc Duty was faster than bullets that day" - Marine Lance Corporal John Flores, July 31, 2004, referring to the heroics of the Corpsman for Echo 2/1
n_duty
NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
    After braving enemy fire four times to evacuate wounded Marines, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason "Doc" Duty received a medal nomination that reads, "As bullets impacted within inches of his head, Duty remained resolute in his mission."

Below is an article about the Marines and Sailors (Corpsmen) in Fallujah. If you read one article today, let it be this one. These men are incredible heroes and deserve more recognition than we can every give. (Note: The boldface type is my emphasis).

Valor defined
Marines confront, overcome the crucible of Fallujah
By Rick Rogers - STAFF WRITER (July 31, 2004)

FALLUJAH, Iraq – The citations for valor read like scenes from a movie, and it's only through cinematic comparisons that Cpl. Howard Lee Hampton Jr. can describe the combat his Camp Pendleton unit saw here in April.

"It was beyond anything in 'Black H