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March 2009

Uncle J heading to the Stan

Ok those of you who know me are well aware of my ex-wife collection and the effect that has had on my traveling ability. Well I got some excellent news yesterday and a trip I have been trying to do for a while is going to happen. I have wanted to get back out in the field and eat some dust and sleep on the ground for a while. You all know I love that.

I will be going to Afghanistan along with my buddy Kev and my old unit. It just got approved by DoD and since their mission changed from Iraq to Afghanistan we had to wait until that could be announced as well. It will be a three month embed and we will be working on a combination of infantry COIN and some UAV ops. Kev has been training on a new UAV system that is the first weaponized platform deployed at the Brigade level and we will be producing  a lot of content about this. It took a tremendous amount of work to get this approved and it should be pretty amazing. I think you will all enjoy it.

Continue reading "Uncle J heading to the Stan" »

"The guys that died there were my friends."

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U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa, speaks with Spc. Jeffrey Scantlin after presenting him with the Silver Star during a March 20, 2009, ceremony in Vicenza, Italy. Also pictured from left: Sgt. 1st Class Erich Phillips and Sgt. John Hayes, who also earned their Silver Stars. First Lt. Aaron Thurman, right, recieved the Bronze Star Medal for valor.   U.S. Army photo by Barbara Romano

So, hopefully you watched Jimbo's video from Georgia and read McQ's report about the event for 2/503rd.  There is also a lot more over at From Cow Pastures to Kosovo.

In Italy, a similar ceremony was being held for Chosen Company paratroopers...

Vicenza Soldiers honored for bravery in Afghanistan
By By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

VICENZA, Italy - In the early morning hours of July 13, 2008, Soldiers from Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment were not thinking about medals as they fought off roughly 200 insurgents attacking their vehicle patrol base in Afghanistan.

No Soldier in combat does.

The Army, however, takes pause afterward to honor those who distinguish themselves in battle and recognizes them before their peers.

Six Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company received medals of valor for combat actions that morning in Wanat, a village in northeast Afghanistan. Nine of their comrades lost their lives during the fight.

Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa, presented medals to the Soldiers during a March 20 ceremony held at Caserma Ederle.

Receiving the Silver Star was bittersweet, said Spc. Jeffrey Scantlin, 24, of Anchorage, Alaska.

"It's a big deal. But brings back a lot of memories of people who should be here, but aren't," Scantlin said. "For me the medal is more of a group achievement, something I wear to remind me of those who didn't come back."

The Silver Star Medal was also presented to Sgt. 1st Class Erich Phillips and Sgt. John Hayes. Bronze Star Medals with "V" device for valor were awarded to 1st Lt. Aaron Thurman, Sgt. Hector Chavez and Spc. Tyler Hanson.

As the ceremony began, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stood silent to remember those who died. Then, Garrett spoke about the bravery Soldiers displayed during the battle.

"Their courage under fire, valor, and loyalty to each other was absolutely astounding," Garrett said.

The platoon was near the end of a long deployment to Afghanistan, enduring many firefights along the way. Yet, when faced with enemy fire near Wanat, outnumbered and in some cases wounded, these paratroopers fought desperately for each other, overcoming fear and willingly risking their lives to save others.

"Incredible acts of courage and valor were commonplace on the battlefield that day," Garrett said. "Today, we recognize these six Soldiers for their courage - and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve with such men."

Garrett stepped forward and orders were read detailing each of their actions. The six paratroopers paused for photos, the bright ribbons and shining stars standing out against their gray digital fatigues.

In that quiet moment, each Soldier felt mixed emotions. Rows of paratroopers in maroon berets stood before them -many who have their own combat experiences from Afghanistan.

Scantlin, like most of those awarded, knew they had been put in for a medal. Some knew that same day. But it meant little to them at the time, still reeling from the combat they had endured.

"We just lost nine guys - everyone was still in shock, it was surreal. It still is," Scantlin said. "The guys that died there were my friends."

CPL Ayers Silver Star & Memorial Celebration

Along with McQ, who did a great write up of the event, I attended the celebration in Snellville GA to award the Silver Star to the family of CPL Jon Ayers. The weekend began when COL Ostlund, the former BN. Cdr of 2nd of the 503rd held a party at his house on Ft. Benning. About 40 or 50 current and former 173 ABN paratroopers were there and it was great to see them all re-connect. When we pulled into the high school in Snellville the next day the parking lot was lined with Patriot Guard Riders holding flags. The gymnasium was packed and as McQ mentioned the parents has asked for a celebration, not a wake and they got it. Here is some video from the event and some pictures below the fold. Also got to meet commenter Jarhead Dad and his Jarhead, good to see you.

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Honoring Cpl Jonathan Ayers

Yesterday I had the distinct honor and privilege of attending the ceremony honoring the valor of Cpl Jonathan Ayers and the presentation of the posthumous award of the Silver Star to his family.

I expected a somber event. But it was instead, by direction of Cpl Ayers mother Suzanne, a celebration of his life.  Cpl Ayers served with Chosen Company, 2nd Bn, (Airborne) 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd ABCT in Afghanistan.

That company compiled an impressive combat record there, but at a cost.  Over 60 of the Chosen were awarded Purple Hearts, 16 of them posthumously.  Cpl Jonathan Ayers was killed in action in the battle of Wanat, where 9 Sky Soldiers lost their lives.  According to those who witnessed Cpl Ayers heroics, he epitomized the nickname by which the regiment is known: The Rock.

At another spot on the observation post, Spc. Jonathan Ayers laid down continuous fire from an M-240 machine gun, despite drawing huge volumes of small-arms and RPG fire from the enemy.

At least 5 or 6 RPGs exploded all around him and he never even flinched.  Those that saw what he did said, "He just kept rocking on that 240." 
The survivors said it was the most heroic thing they'd ever seen. Like a movie. They feel he saved their lives.He kept the enemy from getting anywhere near COP.

That's from an excerpt from the audio version of a Someone You Should Know segment we did on that battle. 

One of the things I was most impressed with during yesterday's ceremony was the level of support from the community.

Snellville is a suburban Atlanta town, and, as we all know, life sometimes seems too busy for things like this. But that wasn't the case yesterday. The auditorium at Shiloh High School, where Jon graduated, was packed. The Patriot Guard lined the walls with flags. There were dignitaries from state government (who announced the State Legislature had unanimously voted to name an intersection in Snellville  the "Cpl Jonathan Ayers Intersection"), the Mayor of Snellville (who declared yesterday "Cpl Jonathan Ayers Day" in Snellville) and, of course, the military community. 

Members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association were there. And the entire Shiloh High JROTC detachment was there acting as escorts and ushers. 

The Major in charge of the ceremony said he'd contacted the 173rd ABCT to see if they would like to send a letter from the commander or some pictures for the ceremony. Instead, they sent Cpl Ayer's entire platoon. Additionally his former battalion commander was on hand to read the Silver Star citation and his former company commander there to honor his memory. 

During the presentation of the award, the entire platoon was on stage with the family. You could really feel the closeness of the bonds between those who had survived Wanat and the family of Cpl Ayers. It was heartwarming to say the least. 

Probably the most gratifying moment for me, besides the award, took place as everyone was leaving. The family had been escorted off the stage, and other members of the family in the audience were allowed to leave before anyone else left. Then Cpl Ayer's platoon mates stood and began to file out from the front of the auditorium. The entire crowd, unbidden, stood and gave them a standing ovation as they left, many patting them on the back and shoulders as they passed by. I saw a few glistening eyes in both the crowd and among the platoon members. 

Cpl Jon Ayers would have been very proud of both his comrades and his hometown.

Face of America Ride Needs Urgent Help

One of the reasons I like the Face of America bicycle ride is that pretty much anyone who wants to participate can do so.  The funds raised go to getting bikes and providing transportation for the wounded.  When people promise to cover transportation, it means that more can go into adaptive bikes, into improving the quality of food provided, and doing more of the nice things for the riders at this and other rides supported by World TEAM Sports. 

This year, we have a problem.  Short version (go read full post here), American Airlines has backed out on providing the transportation they promised.  We need to come up with roughly $7,500.00 to cover the costs of transportation already promised to participants based on AA's (non) commitment. 

If you know a company or someone willing to help, let me know and I will get you in touch with the right people.  You can also donate here (note that it is for airfare if you like) or you can donate the funds via Team Chuck Z

If you are an airline who wants to score some tax deductible brownie points at the expense of American, contact me and we will make it happen.  I will even sweeten the deal and donate up to 20 hours of my consulting time to help you milk it for all it is worth. 


A Lesson in Information Operations

When you engage someone openly with "white" information operations, i.e. IO where your identity is clear and explicit, you imply that they are roughly your equal.  By speaking to or of them directly, you point up that they are important enough to demand your attention and your reply. 

The President doesn't do IO precisely -- as a civilian and the chief executive, he is not bound by the limits of the law dividing IO from PAO work -- but the lesson is nevertheless explicit here.

President Obama and the Democrats should wave the white flag in their strawman war on Rush Limbaugh. The Media Research Center delivered the grim casualty figures for the Democrats. Since January, the top talk show gabber's ratings have soared off the charts. Radio affiliates that carry Limbaugh's syndicated show call the ratings boost he's gotten from the Democrat's orchestrated attack on him a "dramatic surge." This writer predicted as much when President Obama cracked to Congressional Republicans in late January that they should knock off listening to Limbaugh if they expected to get anything done in Congress and with his administration.

I don't mention this to take sides in the immediate dispute -- I haven't spent enough time in the USA lately to know just what they were arguing about, and the last time I can recall having heard any part of an episode of Rush Limbaugh's show was 1996. 

As a lesson for IO practitioners in the audience, though, it's a good one.  The increased focus on IO in the military is healthy and something I am glad to see.  It is also good that the IO field is becoming considered less a collateral duty and more of a professional fighting field in its own right. 

Just as with other forms of strategic effects, however -- as with artillery, say -- you have to remember that there are potential negative effects to employing the weapon.  We are very good at making sure that we don't drop shells that will negatively impact our position on the battlefield and improve our foe's.  IO can have the same effect, and just as with artillery, there are times when it is better left unused.

Infantrymen, something about this question struck a chord in me. Perhaps you know someone like this. Perhaps you were this guy when you were 20. I know I was:

DEAR ABBY: I am a 20-year-old male living what appears to be "the dream." I have completed my bachelor's degree, and I'm starting what will more than likely be a prosperous career. Still, something important is missing. All my life I have always felt very isolated. Although I have been able to develop "friendships," the more I progress in life the more these friendships slip away.

I have been unsuccessful in finding a mate, and I am embarrassed to still be a virgin. Is there something horribly wrong with me that drives people away? -- LONELY GUY, MONTREAL, CANADA

Your advice for LONELY GUY in the comments below, please. Also, it's time for a new round of questions from the Blackfive and/or military community, so please email them to me at enlistedswine at the G.


Uber Pig