Someone You Should Know

"No Survivors" - The Twenty-Second Anniversary of Eagle Flight

"They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq.

Today, is the 22nd anniversary of a dark day in our military history...while the inquiry results were weak, this was one incident in which many lessons were learned that later saved American and allied lives (true IFF came from this), and continued the long trek to freedom for one of the most deserving groups of human beings on this planet.

Let's start at what isn't quite the beginning but as good as any place to start this story...

In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort.  On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees.  Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states.

From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine):

...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction."

The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-­20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference.

The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multi­national relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Way­stations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute...

As the video below shows, it was really about saving the families and the children:
 

The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds.

Providecomfortblackhawkvillage

A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17).

To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone.

Iraq_no_fly_zones Photo from CIA Factbook

The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS).

General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the hard work of the Provide Comfort Soldiers and Airmen:

For over 1,000 days, the pilots and crews assigned to Operation Provide Comfort flew mission after mission, totalling over 50,000 hours...

The mission continued for 3 years until the first Commander was due to reliquish command...

On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.

The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.

At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.

At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.

At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.

At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.

At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.

At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".

At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.

Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.

At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."

HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.

AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".

Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.

Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."

Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."

At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.

The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."

Of the 26 team members of Eagle Flight, there were no survivors...

In memoriam:

US Military:
SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO)
SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner)
SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief)
SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner)
CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot)
CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command)
SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist)
CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command)
WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot)
COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander)
1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer)
SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief)
SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic)
Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor)
COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)

British Military:
MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer)
LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)

French Military:
LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)

Turkish Army:
COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)

Kurdish Partisans:
Abdulsatur Arab
Ghandi Hussein
Bader Mikho
Ahmad Mohammed
Salid Said (Linguist)

787px-1994BlackHawkShootdownWreckage

USAF Photo: U.S. Military personnel inspect the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter (Eagle 2) in the Northern Iraq No Fly Zone during Operation Provide Comfort, April 16, 1994.

 

800px-BlackHawkIncidentCasualtyArrival

DoD photo MSGT MICHAEL J. HAGGERTY: The remains of 26 people were flown in for transportation to the U.S. Army Mortuary Center, Frankfurt, Germany. The 26 were killed in an accidental downing of two U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopters by U.S. AIr Force F-15C fighters in the northern Iraq "no fly zone". Standing in review was the Rhein-Main-Air Base color guard, they displayed the flags of the countries that mourn the loss of their citizens, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey.

 

Thompson

I took this photo while visiting the Colonel (his story is an interesting one).  He's near Mary Todd Lincoln's tomb on a slight rise over looking a beautiful part of Arlington...You can visit him and Barclay, Hodge and Bass at Arlington.

Continue reading ""No Survivors" - The Twenty-Second Anniversary of Eagle Flight" »


Ian Malone - Irish Guard in Life, Uniter in Death

Sandstorms settled in the south
of that sour place,
and terror-men opened wide a mouth
etched in a hate-filled face.

The rifle-spit struck down Malone
and he in a moment gave
a life well-lived, alone,
to set men free of the grave.

In later days men drew down
statues from on high;
they struck Iraqi ground
so dust and cheer could fly.

What, one Irish fighting man
to free millions from cold chains?
Not noble words, not gracious plan
could make real such gains.

Or--Is our time so coy,
so wild and free a thing?
Not Harvey nor Kelly, boy
of Killarn, not the Brian King

Freedom bought at such a cost,
where glory's priced so steep:
Where the name of each good man lost
Can memory's Herald keep.
-Poem by Grim, April 10th, 2003, in honor of Ian Malone

LancecplianmaloneThis is an annual Someone You Should Know (St. Patrick's Day Edition) post to celebrate an Irish soldier's sacrifice.  Below is the story of Ian Malone - a young Irishman who bridged the divide between Ireland and England in life and death.

Ian died during the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003 doing what he wanted to do - Soldiering for his country.  Below is his story, told expertly by Philip Watson of the Telegraph:

Ian's death brought people together
By Philip Watson

Lance Corporal Ian Malone died in an ambush on the streets of Basra in April last year. Throughout a long, hot Sunday, he and his armoured brigade had been pushing through the southern suburbs of Iraq's second city, flushing out enemy soldiers. While most of the regular Iraqi Army had fled, the streets and houses contained pockets of determined Fedayeen fighters, paramilitaries who remained loyal to Saddam Hussein.

Having reached the edge of the old city and achieved their objective of securing a university campus, Ian Malone and his colleagues had left their Warrior armoured personnel carrier, and were regrouping. They had scoured the area and, in the dusty shade of dusk, all seemed safe.

In an instant, however, two Fedayeen in civilian clothes broke cover and sprayed the crew with automatic fire. Four soldiers were hit. Ian Malone took two bullets - one through the neck, the other in the head - and died instantly, becoming one of 55 British soldiers killed in Iraq in the past year.

What made the 28-year-old Lance Corporal remarkable, though, apart from the peerless qualities that all who knew him instantly recognised - he was a thinker and philosopher; courteous and religious; a talented chess player and musician; an exceptional soldier; and, as his school chaplain said at his funeral, not macho but manly - was that Ian Malone was an Irishman fighting for the British Army.

Many have found in Ian Malone's life and death something profoundly symbolic: the notion that he represents the continuing spirit of progress and reconciliation between Britain and Ireland...

Continue reading "Ian Malone - Irish Guard in Life, Uniter in Death" »


A Time for Thanksgiving

[This is an annual repost from 2005.  It's still appropriate...Javier Alvarez is Someone You Should Know]

Randy sends this email, a must read if ever there was one, that he received from Captain James Eadie today:

A Time for Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I eagerly anticipate the plates of turkey and stuffing, the moments of camaraderie around the TV watching football and the sharing of stories amongst friends, but it is the soldiers’ stories of bravery and courage that should be shared on this day of Thanksgiving.

I had the rare chance to talk in depth with one of my CCATT patients on our last flight, a young 24 year old Marine from Camp Pendleton, California. It is Javier’s story hangs with me this day. Javier gave me permission to share his story with you, a true story of heroism, and sacrifice that deserves to be told on Thanksgiving.

On the morning of 16 November 2005, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were taking part in operations along the Iraq-Syrian board to clear the towns of insurgents.   

Javier [Alvarez], a strong and sturdy looking square jawed Marine Corporal was on his third deployment to Iraq. He had seen heavy combat in his previous two deployments, and had been injured once before earning him a Purple Heart. On this day he was in command of a Squad of fourteen men. I knew just by talking to him that his men were fortunate to have him leading them into battle. He spoke with clarity and confidence of a man twice his age. In the truest essence, he was a Marine.

On this morning Javier’s Squad was providing tank security (I still don’t fully understand how infantry provides security to tanks, but that’s why I am in medicine).

The morning of the 16th started like many – early. The operation was going well. The Marines were taking some fire, but were successfully clearing the town they had been assigned. Urban warfare is extremely dangerous. Each house must be searched before it can be “cleared.” US and Iraqi Security Forces have taken heavy losses in past urban offenses such as Fallujah. Javier had no intention of letting that happen to his men today. 

As the tanks were rolling down the street they began taking heavier fire. The Squad broke into a brisk jog to keep up with the tanks as they pushed forward into the fire fight. Ahead was a house that seemed to be the focus of the fight. Lying in the doorway to the house was a downed Marine. He laid motionless spread across the sill. Further in there lay another Marine.

The Platoon Sergeant grabbed Javier and told him to send his half of his Squad to the house to pull out the downed Marines. Normally, the Squad leader would stay back to coordinate the assault, but Javier told me ‘I could not send my men into harms way without me.”

Taking point, Javier led his five man team towards the house. Shots rang out around them as they advanced. They could see the downed Marines ahead. A young Lieutenant lay face down outside the house. Javier did not know if he was still alive. They would have to act quickly if they were to save him and the others.

As they approached the house the enemy fire intensified and Javier felt a sudden sting and burning in his right leg. He looked down at his leg. Damn, he thought, “I’ve been shot.” He indeed had taken two bullets to his thigh, but he pushed on.

Undeterred, Javier continued to lead his men towards the house. With increasing fire, they took up a defensive posture against the house wall. Slightly protected there, he began tending his wounds with direct pressure as the others returned fire. He could see several downed Marines only arm lengths away, but they could not be reached safely.  Gun fire continued to rain down on them. Another member of the squad was hit. They were in a bad position.

What happened next was recalled to me by the Medic that they called Doc. During the barrage of fire, with their backs literally up against a wall an enemy grenade was thrown out of a window landing in the middle of the five men. Doc told me “It was amazing. I was applying pressure to one of the injured soldiers when someone yelled out GRENADE. Javier just dove at the grenade.  I have never seen anything like it.” 

Javier grabbed the grenade with his right hand. He told me “I knew I only had three to five seconds before it would go off.” With his body shielding his men from the grenade, he made a valiant effort to heave the grenade away. As the grenade left his hand it exploded.

Javier’s right hand was immediately amputated at the wrist. Shrapnel from the grenade penetrated his left thigh. Others in his group took shrapnel to their arms and legs, but no one lost their life.

Doc told me on the plane that he was convinced that they all would have died if it were not for Javier’s heroic actions.

The fighting continued. As more Marines approached the house to provide covering fire, Javier now with two gun shot wounds to his right leg, shrapnel to his left leg and an amputated right hand worked to get his injured men clear. With the aid of his Platoon Sergeant, Javier and his men walked out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point away from the fighting.

Doc stayed in the fight for a while despite being hit with shrapnel from the grenade. He tended to the downed Marines and at one point crawled into the house to pull out the Marine who lay inside. Unfortunately, most of the Marines they came to help had been fatally injured. There was little that could be done. Doc continued to care for the downed soldiers until others noted his wounds. Doc was finally escorted out of the fight to attend to his injuries.

In all told, Javier’s Squad took heavy injuries. We air lifted out 6 members who had sustained shrapnel injuries and one who lost his leg. Javier clearly took the brunt of the injuries, but miraculously no one lost their life. Javier’s selfless action had saved the lives of many men.

I spoke at length with Javier on the flight to Germany. Perhaps it was the awe that I felt talking with him that kept me coming back, or maybe the fact that his men admired him so much. In the end, I think I was drawn in by him because he was just like you and me. He was real. A soldier who had done everything asked of him by his country. He fought with honor and dignity, and led his men with courage. Above all, he put his men’s life above his and protected them from harm.

He didn’t ask for honors or special treatment. His biggest concern when we were loading him onto the plane was his fellow soldiers. He would not lie down until he had visualized and spoken with all of his troops on the plane.

When I arrived home from the mission, I opened the paper. There before me in simple bullet format read the names of the most recent US deaths in Iraq. I generally do not look at these lists. They are just names with no personal connection. But this day, halfway down there were five Marines listed including a young Second Lieutenant all from the 2 nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Pendleton, California who had died on 16 November, 2005. These were the men that Javier and his Squad gave everything to try to save.

I stared at the paper for many minutes, recalling the story Javier and his men had told me. I marveled at the sacrifices they made and felt a tremendous sense of loss for these men whose names now stood out from the paper as not mere records, but as living, breathing men who gave everything their country asked of them.

As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Iraq, I have so much to be thankful for. My wife is amazing, we have been blessed with a child on the way, and I feel like I have the greatest family and friends that one could ever wish for, but there is more. I see around me everyday soldiers giving everything they have with the full belief that their actions do make a difference. That their sacrifices are for freedom and will one day improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

When I sit down on Thursday to my thanksgiving meal, I will be holding these soldiers and their families close. We as a country have so much to be thankful for.

For me, on this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for Javier. He has given the gift of life to his men and their families. I often ask myself if I was in his position, what would I have done?  I don’t know, but I certainly hope that I could be like Javier.

My warmest wishes to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving, we truly have a great deal to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

James S Eadie, Capt USAF MC

332 Expeditionary Air Evacuation Squadron

Balad, Iraq

Critical Care Air Transport Physician

The men who died that day were Lance Corporal Roger Deeds, Lance Corporal John Lucente, Corporal Jeffrey Rogers, Corporal Joshua Ware, and 2nd Lieutenant Donald McGlothin - all from the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 13th MEU, 1st Marine Division.


Someone You Should Know - Captain Gavin John Hamilton, MC

SAS-main-larger

At the request of Tiny who served with this fallen hero, today we pay tribute to a brave leader of the SAS...Captain Gavin John Hamilton who is someone that you should know.

Hamilton

The Captain entered service an infantry officer in Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment).    He served in CyprusBelize and South Armagh in Northern Ireland before passing selection and assignment to the SAS in 1981.  After 5 months in the SAS, in recognition for his professionalism, he was given command of 19 (Mountain) Troop, D Squadron, 22 Special Air Service (SAS).  They soon headed to the Falklands to defend/take back the islands from the invading Argentinians.

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In the Spring of 1982, Captain Hamilton led his troop into the raid on Pebble Island which resulted in the destruction of eleven grounded FMA IA 58 Pucará and T-34 Mentor enemy aircraft.

Having survived two helicopter crashes in appalling weather conditions on the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia during Operation Paraquet, two days later Captain Hamilton led the advance elements of the forces which captured the main Argentine positions in Grytviken. This action resulted in the total surrender of all enemy forces in South Georgia.

FalklandswarfortunaglacierHelo crash on Fortuna Glacier.  Source:  http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/southamerica/falklands/falklandswarfortunaglacier.htm

On June 5th, 1982, five Four man SAS patrols were inserted onto West Falkland to observe and report the movements of the two large Argentine garrisons on West Falkland. Because he had proved himself to be a excellent SAS officer during Operation Paraquat and the raid on Pebble Island, Captain Hamilton commanded one of these patrols behind enemy lines.

On the 10th of June, Hamilton and his four man patrol were using a well established OP near Port Howard when they were surrounded and out numbered by Argentine forces from the 1st Section 601 Combat Aviation Battalion. Two SAS men managed to get away but Hamilton and his signaler, Sergeant Fosenka, were pinned down. Hamilton was hit in the back by enemy fire and told Fosenka to get out while he covered him. "You carry on, I'll cover your back."

Moments later Hamilton was killed.  He was 29 years old.

Sergeant Fosenka was later captured when he ran out of ammunition. Fosenka was not badly treated by the Argentines and Hamilton was buried with full military honors by the Argentines. The senior Argentine officer praised the heroism of the SAS officer.

Hamilton was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Some think he should have been given a VC. But because no British Officer was present during this action (apart from Hamilton himself ) no VC was awarded...

The Military Cross citation reads:

Captain Gavin John Hamilton, The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 

Between 19th April and 10th June, when he was killed in action, Captain Hamilton and his SAS Troop were responsible for some of the most successful SAS operations carried out in the campaign in the South Atlantic. 

Having survived two helicopter crashes in appalling weather conditions on the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia, two days later Captain Hamilton let the advance elements of the forces which captured the main enemy positions in Grytviken. This action resulted in the total surrender of all enemy forces in South Georgia. 

Ten days later, Captain Hamilton led his Troop on the successful and brilliantly executed raid on Pebble Island in the Falklands Islands when eleven enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Acting quickly and decisively and with great courage and coolness, he personally supervised the destruction of seven of the aircraft. 

Later, even though his Troop had lost half of its strength in a helicopter crash the previous day, Captain Hamilton led the remainder of his men on a highly successful diversionary raid on Darwin in order to cover the main amphibious landings on East Falkland. That he was able to do this after such losses is an immense testimony to his resilience and leadership qualities. 

Next, Captain Hamilton deployed with his Squadron to a position 40 miles behind the enemy lines overlooking the main enemy defensive positions in Port Stanley. Again, his leadership and courage proved to be instrumental over the next seven days of continuous operations in seizing this vital ground from which the attack on Port Stanley was ultimately launched. On 27th May he identified an enemy probe into the Squadron position and in the ensuing battle captured a prisoner of war. The next night, he and his Troop successfully held off another enemy attack and by doing so enabled 42 Commando to fly in as planned to re-inforce the position - an important step in the repossession of the Falklands. On the following day he ambushed another enemy patrol wounding three and capturing all five members of the patrol. 

On 5th June, he was deployed in command of a four man observation patrol into a hazardous position again behind enemy lines on West Falkland to carry out observation of enemy activities in Port Howard. He managed to establish himself in a position only 2500m from the enemy, from where he sent detailed and accurate reports on the enemy. 

Shortly after dawn on 10th June he realised that he and his radio operator had been surrounded in a forward position. Although heavily outnumbered, and with no reinforcements available, he gave the order to engage the enemy, telling his signaller that they should both attempt to fight their way out of the encirclement. Since the withdrawal route was completely exposed to enemy observation and fire, he initiated the fire fight in order to allow his signaller to move first. After the resulting exchange of fire he was wounded in the back, and it became clear to his signaller that Captain Hamilton was only able to move with difficulty. Nevertheless, he told his signaller that he would continue to hold off the enemy whilst the signaller made good his escape, and then he proceeded to give further covering fire. Shortly after that he was killed. Captain Hamilton displayed outstanding determination and an extraordinary will to continue the fight in spite of being confronted by hopeless odds and being wounded. He furthermore showed supreme courage and sense of duty by his conscious decision to sacrifice himself on behalf of his signaller. 

His final, brave and unselfish act will be an inspiration to all who follow in the SAS.

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One last piece, in 2009, three soldiers from the Green Howards took this plaque and placed it on Packes Ridge where Hamilton died.  They wanted to honor Captain Hamilton before the 2 Yorks headed off to Afghanistan.

Falklands2


Casey Sheehan - A SYSK for Palm Sunday

This is an annual repost honoring Casey Sheehan who gave his life in a fight to save his brothers...

Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home.  He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.

When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.

He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old.  He decided to be a mechanic.  He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training.  He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.

Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.

Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.

On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million).  They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight.  Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy.  And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics.  His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.

American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.

On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash.  Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city.  They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.

A battle raged across Sadr City.  Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets.  Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying.  While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help.  A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.

Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers.  Sheehan had just returned from Mass.  After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission.  According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."

The QRF was launched.  Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles.  The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.

Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.

Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.

A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first.  Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.

Seven men died with Casey Sheehan on Sunday, April 4th, 2004. 

They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.

It was Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph.  Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.

In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".

Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.

Palm fronds for the most honored.

[Click here for the Someone You Should Know index.]


Go Read "Ryan Pitts, Man of Honor"

"...against that onslaught, one American held the line ... just 22 years old, nearly surrounded, bloodied but unbowed..." - President Barack Obama, about SSG Ryan Pitts

Ryan Pitts

Over at the Burn Pit, TSO has a great piece about SSG Ryan Pitts, someone we've written about for a long time:

...Wounded in both legs and with shrapnel in his arm, Pitts crawled onto the sandbags and fired a machine gun at the approaching insurgents. Alone and bleeding, the perimeter of his position breached, his predicament was grave. He could hear enemy voices as they closed in. He made a prediction about his fate: “I was going to die and made my peace with it.”

Pitts would not go down without a fight, though. He began throwing grenades, but because his attackers were so close and the grenades had a five-second fuse, he would “cook them off” for three seconds before hurling them. After exhausting his supply of hand grenades, he picked up a grenade launcher and began firing almost directly straight up to hit targets surrounding his position...

Go read the whole piece and the full article at the Legion.


Someone You Should Know- MG John Stark

We are visiting Manchester, New Hampshire and spent a bit of time catching up with Someone You Should Know from the Revolutionary War. MG John Stark is an All-American bad ass both as a warrior and a wordsmith. He is best know for the New Hampshire state motto "Live Free or Die", which was the close to a letter he sent when he couldn't attend a reunion of his comrades. The full quote is "Live Free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils". Even Bettah!

He fought with Rogers Rangers in the French & Indian Wars and was a great leader during our War for Independence. He has another quote used to inspire his men at the Battle of Bennington that will have you ready to follow him through Hell carrying buckets of gasoline. Check him out!


Medal of Honor Recipient SSG Ryan Pitts Inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon

Nine comrades were lost the day SSG Pitts actions helped turn the tide at the Battle of Wanat...

– Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Aiea, Hawaii
– Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, California
– Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Georgia
– Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle, Washington
– Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tennessee
– Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Georgia
– Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, North Carolina
– Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Missouri
– Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Kentucky

"My son Lucas exists because of them ... I promise that my son will grow up appreciating the sacrifices of men he never knew."

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(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle)


SSG Ryan Pitts M.O.H. Award Ceremony Today

You can watch the ceremony live - click here for information. (not sure if the link will be through the Army.mil or the Whitehouse.gov site(s))

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(Left to right) Sgt. Matthew Gobble, Sgt. Ryan Pitts, then-Sgt. Adam Delaney, Sgt. Dylan Meyer, Sgt. Brian Hissong, Sgt. Mike Santiago and Sgt. Israel Garcia, with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, pause for a photo before going out on patrol, at Forward Operating Base Blessing, Nangalam, Afghanistan, spring/summer 2007.

Stars and Stripes Report on the battle: Normal Humans Wouldn't Do That

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Photo Credit: Courtesy photo. Sgt. Ryan Pitts (left) and Sgt. Israel Garcia patrol the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Garcia was among the nine Soldiers killed in the battle in Wanat, July 13, 2008.

During the Battle of Wanat, nine Americans were killed in action:

– Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Aiea, Hawaii
– Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, California
– Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Georgia
– Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle, Washington
– Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tennessee
– Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Georgia
– Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, North Carolina
– Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Missouri
– Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Kentucky

More about Wanat and the Chosen's fight at Army.mil here.

Evan pertile

I believe that Evan Pertile will be in attendance at the ceremony (pictured above from The Burn Pit).  SSG Ryan Pitts visited Evan while he was at St. Jude's recovering.  In case you are not familiar with Evan, here is the link to the many stories about Evan who is just one of the many that Ryan Pitts has helped.

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Photo Credit: Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWS. In his New Hampshire home, May 3, 2014, Ryan Pitts holds the KIA bracelet he was wearing the time of the attack in Wanat, Afghanistan. The bracelet honors Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, platoon sergeant of 2nd platoon who was died Jan. 26, 2008, after being shot by an Afghan guard in Waygul, Afghanistan. The bracelet is taped over another bracelet (not visible) the commemorates the fallen of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, who were killed Nov. 9, 2007, in an ambush.  Commemorated on the second bracelet are: Capt. Matthew Ferrara, Spc. Joseph Lancour, Cpl. Lester Roque, Cpl. Sean Langevin and Sgt. Jeffrey Mersman. This bracelet prevented shrapnel from penetrating Pitts' wrist.

Last, Pitts was on the inaugural Soldiers' Angels Heroes & Horses group where our pal Mothax got to really know him.

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While all of the M.O.H. awardees are amazing men, Ryan Pitts is one of the best men that we know. Today is good day!


"No Survivors" - The Twentieth Anniversary of Eagle Flight

"They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq.

Today is the 20th anniversary of a dark day in our military history...while the inquiry results were weak, this was one incident in which many lessons were learned that later saved American and allied lives (true IFF came from this), and continued the long trek to freedom for one of the most deserving groups of human beings on this planet.

Let's start at what isn't quite the beginning but as good as any place to start this story...

In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort.  On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees.  Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states.

From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine):

...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction."

The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-­20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference.

The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multi­national relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Way­stations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute...

As the video below shows, it was really about saving the families and the children:
 

The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds.

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A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17).

To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone.

Iraq_no_fly_zones Photo from CIA Factbook

The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS).

General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the hard work of the Provide Comfort Soldiers and Airmen:

For over 1,000 days, the pilots and crews assigned to Operation Provide Comfort flew mission after mission, totalling over 50,000 hours...

The mission continued for 3 years until the first Commander was due to reliquish command...

On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.

The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.

At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.

At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.

At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.

At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.

At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.

At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".

At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.

Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.

At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."

HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.

AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".

Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.

Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."

Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."

At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.

The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."

Of the 26 team members of Eagle Flight, there were no survivors...

In memoriam:

US Military:
SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO)
SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner)
SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief)
SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner)
CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot)
CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command)
SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist)
CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command)
WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot)
COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander)
1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer)
SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief)
SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic)
Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor)
COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)

British Military:
MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer)
LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)

French Military:
LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)

Turkish Army:
COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)

Kurdish Partisans:
Abdulsatur Arab
Ghandi Hussein
Bader Mikho
Ahmad Mohammed
Salid Said (Linguist)

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USAF Photo: U.S. Military personnel inspect the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter (Eagle 2) in the Northern Iraq No Fly Zone during Operation Provide Comfort, April 16, 1994.

 

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DoD photo MSGT MICHAEL J. HAGGERTY: The remains of 26 people were flown in for transportation to the U.S. Army Mortuary Center, Frankfurt, Germany. The 26 were killed in an accidental downing of two U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopters by U.S. AIr Force F-15C fighters in the northern Iraq "no fly zone". Standing in review was the Rhein-Main-Air Base color guard, they displayed the flags of the countries that mourn the loss of their citizens, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey.

 

Thompson

I took this photo while visiting the Colonel (his story is an interesting one).  He's near Mary Todd Lincoln's tomb on a slight rise over looking a beautiful part of Arlington...You can visit him and Barclay, Hodge and Bass at Arlington like I am today.

Please take a minute to pray for their families today and remember that their hard work and sacrifices led to a flourishing Kurdish enclave - a place they would be very, very proud of today.  I don't think in our wildest dreams we ever thought that would have been possible.

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