Photo - Operation Toy Drop 2015

151207-F-TE668-569A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces parachute team member descends toward Luzon drop zone during the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop on Camp Mackall, N.C., Dec. 7, 2015. Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest combined airborne operation during which service members help provide children in need with toys for the holidays. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis

Book Review - "Bone Labyrinth" by James Rollins

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780062381644_p0_v5_s192x300Bone Labyrinth, by James Rollins, is a thriller that tugs at the reader’s hearts.  There are two plots, one historical and one scientific.  This novel explores many important current topics including animal experimentation, the relationship between the guerilla and man, as well as the genetic make-up of a human’s brain. 

This 11th Sigma Force novel has Painter Crowe, the director, assigning Commander Gray Pierce, to investigate an attack on a group of scientists exploring a massive cave in the mountains of Croatia. One of the scientists, geneticist Lena Crandall, along with her twin sister, Maria, is attempting to find the origin of human intelligence. Maria’s research centers on her work with a three-year-old male lowland gorilla, Baako, who’s a hybrid of gorilla and Neanderthal genes. After Maria and Baako are kidnapped, the action-packed story begins. 

The story is told in alternating chapters involving two sets of protagonists. The first group is comprised of one of a pair of twins, an American scientist studying the evolution of human intelligence, a Catholic priest and some Sigma Force members assigned to rescue them after things go bad in a cave in Croatia. This piece is more of a historical quest. The other group, who wind up in a vast, underground science facility in China, is comprised of the second twin scientist, some other Sigma Force members, and Baako, the young gorilla who is the subject of the twins' research. Many readers will be drawn more to Baako and his story, turning every page as they wonder what will be his ultimate outcome. This sub-plot involves more of the science and genetics piece of the story as the Chinese scientists attempt to harvest some of the DNA of the animals to engineer a stronger solider. 

There is a powerful scene in the book where Sigma operatives Monk Kokhalis and Kimberly May are embedded in a Chinese zoo.  Rollins commented to, “I spent a week in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.  I joked with my editor after I finished the book I will never be allowed back in China.  This scene is taken from my reaction.  I was appalled, some of which, could not even put in the book.   For example, I found out that fifteen years ago, at the zoo restaurant, they would serve animal body parts.  I was shocked how the patrons of the zoo treated the animals, banging on their cages, throwing things at them, and as I describe in the book pouring a coke on top of a Mongolian bear.”

Rollins noted he did extensive research from watching clips of the Lion, Christian, who was released into a reserve after having been a pet for years.  When his human handler finds Christian in the wild the lion charges, hugs, and plays with him.  He also read about a pet gorilla that was also released into the wild, was found, and brought the family over to meet the human handler.

The reason Rollins chose to write about a gorilla instead of a chimp is explained in the book: from a genetic viewpoint 98% of the Chimpanzees are like us whereas gorillas are 97%.  Yet, from an intelligent and thinking standpoint gorillas are closer to humans than Chimps. The author’s description of how Baako looks at the world seems very plausible, having a sharper sense with a very emotional understanding of the past, present, and future.  The best scenes are between Baako and Maria, which mirror a mother/child bond.

The Bone Labyrinth blends intense action with thrilling plots that are sprinkled with interesting historical and/or scientific facts. A fabulous adventure that is heart wrenching and action packed.

Rollins also wants those who live in the Southern California area to know he will be doing a book signing at Camp Pendleton and he would love you to come bye and say hi!

Photo - Supply Signal


U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Fabiochi signals the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman for more cargo during a replenishment at sea with USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 7, 2015. Fabiochi is a boatswain’s mate. The Carney is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support U.S. national security interests in Europe. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

Book Review - "The Hunting Trip: A Novel of Love and War" by William E. Butterworth (W.E.B. Griffin)

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

9780399176234_p0_v1_s192x300The Hunting Trip by William E. Butterworth III, aka W.E.B. Griffin, is a humorous novel, in the same style as his previously written MASH books. People who need an escape from today’s dark times might want to read this novel.  He pokes fun at the future CIA, the OSS, military graduates, and Southern small towns. 

Butterworth III told, “I started out writing a serious story of a hunting trip that had sexual implications.  But it was not working so I decided on a funny book like when I wrote the MASH books.  I thought it was funny and hope readers get a couple of laughs from it. They can take their minds off of Obama, Kerry, and Hillary for a few hours.”

The novel begins in 1975 with an attempt by a bunch of wives of prominent citizens, living in Muddiebay Mississippi, to convince their spouse to go on a hunting trip in Scotland, while they go on a shopping spree in London. It then flashes back to Philip W. Williams III who is expelled from boarding school for committing a prank, and on the train home naturally wonders about his future. It never enters his mind that he will become a world-class marksman and a special agent of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in postwar Germany, play a key role in the defection of a Soviet officer, and then court danger as a courier for the CIA. He marries a beautiful Austrian ballet dancer, becomes a renowned bestselling novelist, and meets his lover on a hunting trip to Scotland.

Readers might question how this book parallels Butterworth’s life. People may recognize that he was actually writing about the small town in Alabama where he now resides part time.  Yet, those who think that Phil Williams’ Austrian wife is based on Butterworth’s first wife would be wrong.  He noted, “Yes, my ex-wife was an Austrian ballet dancer, but she was a good woman and I would never write anything nasty about her.  My son Bill would never let me get away with it.  Although she did have a red Mercedes convertible who did believe the car had two speeds, on and off.” The other similarity is that he went on a hunting trip to Scotland, as shown by the picture on the back cover. He further commented, “I wanted to zing my friends who were former OSS and those graduates of West Point who are a little stuffy.”

Another interesting point about the book is that for cuss words he substitutes “expletive deleted.” When asked why, he stated, “I didn’t think the dirty words were appropriate.  It is much more crude when you read them than when you hear them.  I wanted to let people’s imagination go to work.  I don’t think they will have a hard time understanding what I meant.”

Readers will enjoy the lighthearted spirit of The Hunting Trip.  This story will allow them to take their minds off of their problems and this country’s problems.  Fans of Butterworth III will enjoy a raucous series of adventures across Europe and the United States that will have them immersed in laughter.

Book Review - Tom Clancy's "Commander in Chief" by Mark Greaney

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780399176760_p0_v1_s192x300Commander In Chief, a Jack Ryan novel, written by Mark Greaney has all the ingredients of a Tom Clancy story.  There is action, technology, a lot of world politics, and characters that many wish actually existed.  This book can be seen as a follow-up to Command Authority, the last book actually written with Tom Clancy.

Greaney noted to, “When I wrote Command Authority with Tom Clancy Putin had attacked the Ukraine and was in a position of strength.  We decided to have Volodin as a literary Putin figure, never trying to mask it. Now because of the repercussions of sanctions he is in a weak position, which is why I put in the quote about Russia not having a better military, economy, geography, or ideas than the West. I decided to bring back the Putin-like villain, Valeri Volodin, who uses the threat of force in a move of desperation.  He is playing poker with a bad hand, but is a very good bluffer. Russia still sees the Baltic States as their territory.”

The plot includes two themes: a geographical political war between NATO and Russia, which is where President Jack Ryan has a major role. The other features Jack Ryan Jr. who attempts to find out what the Russian leadership is up to by following the finances involving money-laundering schemes.   The plot has Russian President Valeri Volodin planning to expand his power and territory by covertly taking over Lithuania.  US President Jack Ryan recognizes this action but needs proof to get the European nations on board.  With the help from the Campus, a clandestine small operations unit, President Ryan must move swiftly to stop Volodin’s grand plan of global conquest that could change the balance of power.

Readers realize that this relates to today’s events.  The story is almost the direct opposite of what is happening.  The US President, Ryan, actually want to win wars and takes aggressive action.  He is attempting to get the passive European nations to help in the fight.  Compare that to today where the French President is asking for US support.

Greaney also commented about his status in writing future Clancy books. Currently he is not contracted to write another Ryan novel.  It would be a shame for those who are fans of Jack Ryan, because Greaney writes such action packed plots, while maintaining the flavor of a Clancy story. When asked about it he stated, “I had a conversation with my editor about a grand idea I have for another plot.  I just want to make sure I have enough pieces of the plot to make it interesting.  I want to make the stories realistic to the contemporary world while being honest to the characters.”

Currently the author has his own book coming out in February.  His “Gray Man” series has a former CIA, para-military type chased by the CIA. Having worked as a contract killer around the globe he will come back home to confront the CIA leadership.  With the next book going forward, he will be moving in a new direction.

Whether writing his own series or the Jack Ryan series, Greaney combines enthralling characters with realistic plots.  He seems to be able to foreshadow events in the real world.  Commander In Chief is a riveting book that readers will not want to put down. 

Opening Combat To Females

Let me start by saying I don't care about wrappers, or who does what to whom how or when (so long as there is consent).  By wrapper, I mean the outward manifestation that is the amazing human body.  What matters to me is if a person can and does do the job, be it serving in the military or any other occupation, and if they are what I consider a good person.  Yes, that order is deliberate, as I know some people that are great at what they do, but frankly are assholes outside of that.  So long as they don't move beyond being "Do-Che's" as Uncle Jimbo has called it, I would use them for their proven abilities and expertise at need. 

Being able to do the job is what counts.  Right now, our all-volunteer force is -- in my opinion -- the finest fighting force ever to exist.  It is such because of a combination of training, professionalism, and high standards for any number of specialties, from combat to nuclear engineering/technical operations. 

That said, there are a lot of people of progressive bent that would like to see that force be eliminated, or otherwise degraded.  

Those points being given, the Secretary of Defense has ordered -- over some valid objections -- all military occupation specialties to females.  

So, I have one basic question for SecDef Carter:  

How does this improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. Armed Forces?

After all, that is the bottom line, is it not?  That one question does raise a host of sub-questions for me. 

While the order states open to those who meet the current standards, how long before the standards are changed to ensure diversity?  After all, many of those current standards are difficult for females (and a large number of males) to meet.  They were set high for a number of reasons, the majority of which come from experience in what is required to physically and mentally meet the demands of that specialty.  If they are to be changed, what will be the driver for that change, reality or social engineering?  

The order also appears to come with a dearth of planning for how to implement this effectively, which often means a number of preventable problems.  My question here is if that is considered a bug or a feature?  Will the problems be used to create real solutions designed to improve the situation, and the effectiveness and efficiency of our forces to do their job of bringing death and destruction to our enemies, or will it be used to enact further changes to appease the Social Justice Warrior crowd?  

While I agree with Jonn that many years of study were ignored or wasted, was any review or consideration given to examining the operations of countries that have already allowed females to serve in a variety of combat specialties?  While Israel is not alone in this, most have not allowed females into ALL specialties for a variety of reasons.  If these were not examined or considered in deciding to open to all, why not? 

To reiterate for the regular trolls and other idiots:  I don't care about the wrapper.  I care about competence.  

I would love to have detailed answers from the SecDef to my questions, but estimate the chances of that are on par with my winning both the PowerBall and MegaMillion lotteries this week. 

Now, what are your thoughts on this? 

San Bernardino: Did We Dodge A Bullet?

Edited:  More added below, as promised.

In examining the data coming out on the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, some quick thoughts and an invitation for discussion (by other than the regular trolls).  

First, as to the claim that the wife 'radicalized' her husband.  Bullshit.  I strongly suspect he was radicalized before, and that the marriage was an effort to strengthen that.  I hope that competent people are looking into who helped facilitate that, and how.  If memory serves, this would not be the first time a wife was chosen to help facilitate terrorist acts.  

Second, it would appear that they did have a plan, and had primary, secondary, and possibly even tertiary targets planned.  They were loaded for bear, and headed somewhere else to do more mayhem when intercepted. 

Third, as Moe Lane points out (hat tip Instapundit), it seems clear to me that the holiday party was not the primary target, but rather a target of opportunity.  No, I am not convinced he left angry and that caused this (too many people there, including one who was sitting with him, said he wasn't angry when he left).  Why they went to snap count, however, is not that important, but rather that they moved before plan, off plan -- and I think we dodged a huge bullet by them doing so.  Think about it:  the number killed by weapons was not nearly as high as it could have been, and the IEDs, which could have put this on par with the Paris attacks didn't work.  Did they move ahead of testing/rehearsing stage?  It also would appear to suggest that any control working with them was not local.  And, yes, right now I do think they had a control. 

Fourth, who financed this?  He made $50k a year in one of the most expensive places to live in the US.  On that salary, there is no way he/they could have afforded all the weapons and gear they had.  It would seem that they had to have help, on finances if nothing else.  

Fifth, people did see things before, but were scared to say anything.  My own thought is that a lot of effort has been given to vilifying/intimidating people who see something and say something.  Gee, think there might be a reason for that?  Thank goodness someone did say something after, which led to police intercepting them on the way to a secondary target.  

There is more, but that's all the time I have right now.  Please do sound off in the comments.  BTW, Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll on this one, hope to have time to post some links (or that he does so) later this weekend.  

Edit 1:  Nicki at The Liberty Zone had similar thoughts (great minds think alike).  If you are not regularly reading The Liberty Zone, you should be.  

Edit 2:  The President will address the nation tonight.  Anyone want to start a pool that 1 percent will be about the terrorist incident, and that he will not be able to bring himself to call it Islamist/Islamic/other-term-of-your-choice; and, that 99 percent will be about disarming Citizens via executive order?  

Edit 3:  Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll, appearing on O'Reilly three days in a row!  Working to add good links for all three days.  Some good food for thought in the following: 

Day 3