« January 2014 | Main | March 2014 »

February 2014

Book Review: Code Name: Johnny Walker

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

9780062267559_p0_v3_s260x420Code Name: Johnny Walker is an informative personal journey of an Iraqi translator who worked with the Navy SEALs.  Co-authored by Jim DeFelice it reads more like a fictional thriller than a memoir.  Walker’s story is amazing and gives a unique perspective on the Iraqi War. 

Johnny Walker, a Mosul born, pro-American Muslim’s story is an invaluable insider’s perspective of Iraq.  The book traces how Mosul transformed from a ‘melting pot’ of religious tolerance to a refuge for extremists and terrorists.  Although the military describes his job as an interpreter his duties can be best described as an investigator.  He explained to blackfive.net, “my country, my rules…What to one culture seems a sign of strength, to another may be a billboard of weakness.  And that was often true in Iraq. My tricks of the trade included asking children for an ID, examining papers, looking at the house culture, and allowing the enemy to let their guard down. I had to be careful to determine who were the innocents and who were the bad guys.  For example, one time this militia guy we were looking for gave me a Sunni name.  After talking to the children and searching his house I found he was a Shia.”

Although he first took the job for the money and to feed his family the book traces how he came to consider himself part of the SEAL team and his teammates as family.  He worked side by side with them to bring the bad guys to justice even though his family lived in constant jeopardy.  He stated, “The SEALs toughness and their loyalty to one another made them accept each other, and they had adopted me as one of them.  They were honorable while the extremists were not.  The insurgents never battled you face to face and would kill innocent people to send a message as they had on 9/11.  They killed people because of their beliefs. It became more than a job.  They are part of my family. I would do anything to find the bad guys and save my team’s life.”

The book also goes into great detail on how the SEALs never deserted their “terp” and how they helped him to come to America, where he is currently in the process of becoming an American citizen.  He feels he found the American dream and no longer has to worry about his and his family’s safety.  He still works with the SEALs as a cultural advisor.

This book as in American Sniper explores why the insurgency took hold in Iraq.  He agrees with the comment by the late Chris Kyle, “Iraq is like an early 1776 America.  We helped to set them up now they have to get it right.”  Johnny regards Iraq as a child that is trying to see their place in the world.  He is hoping, “Over a period of time Iraq will be healthy.  There is a saying that G-d will never change you until you start changing yourself.  Iraqis need to speak out and insist on change.  We need to take charge of our own destiny.”

Code Name: Johnny Walker is an insightful book filled with details on SEAL operations and the price ordinary Iraqis had to pay.  Throughout the book the author gives a vivid sense of his perspective and desires.  This amazing story is very riveting and illuminating. 

Photo: Black Hawk over Bagram

Hires_140203-A-XD704-012cU.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Dvorsky crews a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb 3, 2014. The Black Hawk was conducting a battle field circulation mission. Dvorsky is the command sergeant major of the 101st Airborne Division's Task Force Thunder, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph Green

The Netherlands Remembers: Il Silenzio

Amidst the chaos that is the world, we need to take a moment to reflect on the good and the profound.  We need, I need, to call out some of the good even as I call out that which is not.

In the Netherlands, on "Liberation Day" there are memorial services across the country for the Allied troops who died in that liberation.  Families still adopt graves of those troops, and maintain them in honor.  At these memorial services, since 1965, the service concludes with the playing of "Il Silenzio".  Beverly Perlson shared with me this amazing, no, astounding performance by a then 13-year-old Melissa Venema backed by the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands.  As someone who played trumpet in high school, I tell you that what you are about to hear is the voice of an angel rendered through brass.  Dust Alert. 


A small bit of beauty and good to share with you today.


Photo: Search Squad

Hires_140201-N-VO234-206aU.S. Marines board a rigid-hull inflatable boat from the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea, Feb. 1, 2014. The Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Conor Minto

Book Review: The Counterfeit Agent

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

Alex Berenson’s latest book, The Counterfeit Agent, explores the political implications of Iran developing a nuclear bomb. He places his well-known characters into a dangerous scenario of threats against the US and its ally Israel, including the possibility of Iran luring the US into war. 

Because the world is a different place after September 11th it is wishful thinking to want heroes like Berenson’s John Wells to save the day and fight against evil regimes.  A quote in the book reminds Americans, “September 11th had faded in his memory, along with everyone else’s.” It is with this backdrop that the plot begins, with Wells traveling around the world to chase down leads.  From Guatemala to Thailand to Hong Kong to Istanbul, Wells tries to find those responsible for conducting a complex Iranian campaign against the US and its allies.

Berenson stated to blackfive.net, “There are three scenarios.  First, are the Iranians serious with their intentions to drop the plan for getting a bomb because it is not worth the sanctions?  Second, is this just a delaying tactic to buy some immediate relief? Third, is it a complete head fake?  I wanted to show in my book all the risks, realizing that the Iranians are not friends of the US, and are a very dangerous, strategic enemy.  They killed hundreds of our soldiers in Iraq.  They used roadside bombs that were devastating to our soldiers.”

Unfortunately, readers will have to wait until next year to find out the plot’s resolution. Although many issues were solved, the ending to this book is a cliffhanger.  Berenson explained, “As I was outlining The Counterfeit Agent I realized that I had too much story for a single 400 page novel. I think 400 or so pages is a natural comfortable length for books and I also wanted the challenge of writing a novel that would feel complete on its own; yet, offer a springboard for the next novel.  This is the first time I wrote a cliffhanger.  Having to wait a year is no different than a TV show.” 

The next book brings back the mysterious woman, Salome, who procured bomb grade uranium in Johannesburg and is heading the deception project.  Readers will be able to find out more about this character, seeing that a lot of her personality is similar to Wells: willing to give up a personal life for her duty.  This will lead to some tension between her and Wells that could end up in a relationship.

Just as in the current situation where no one knows the outcome of Iran’s gestures Berenson fans must also wait for his plot solution.  For now readers should be satisfied with The Counterfeit Agent since it is a geo-political thriller that is action packed, mimics the real world, and is full of surprises.

Obama Administration to Allow Terrorists to Immigrate to the U.S.

Stars & Stripes (AP) reports that:

The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department now say that people considered to have provided "limited material support" to terrorists or terrorist groups are no longer automatically barred from the United States.

Excuse me, but WHAT THE F#@K?!

Oh calm down.  This is not a problem.  There's more:

The Homeland Security Department said in a statement that the rule change, which was announced last week and not made in concert with Congress, gives the government more discretion, but won't open the country to terrorists or their sympathizers. People seeking refugee status, asylum and visas, including those already in the United States, still will be checked to make sure they don't pose a threat to national security or public safety, the department said.

Sorry, but we are supposed to trust the judgement of this group?  Don't we have waiting lists of LOTS of people that don't want to kill us?

Just wait.  The only people that will be scrutinized and stalled will be foreign members of the Tea Party.

Rosie O'Donnell's Son to Go to the Citadel

Real Clear Politics has an interesting piece on Rosie's son, Parker.  They mistakenly claim that he joined the military.  Well, technically, not yet as the Citiadel is a military college, not an enlistment.  But good for the young man to make choices based on what he believes...

O'Donnell: Parker is 18. There he is in his military uniform. He's been accepted to the Citadel. He's very into the military because, you know, how do you annoy your left-wing liberal pacifist mother? You become a big military man. He's the number one cadet at his school, Valley Forge Military Academy. He's very interested. When he was really, you know, I said to him, "Why, honey? Why do you want to do --' He said, only in America, mom, could somebody like you who came from a horrible childhood, grow up and adopt kids like me who needed a family and I owe something to this country." And I said, "No, my son. You owe something to me."

Awesome.  Looks like Parker has his own goals and aspirations (and morals) despite his mother...

TSO at This Ain't Hell went there and turned out okay.


Palate Cleanser - Gunny Bryan Wallgren's John Glenn Speech

The initial assault on Marjah, Afghanistan, was about to commence in February 2010. 1/6 was going in to a Taliban stronghold laden with IEDs, snipers, and insurgents.  Around 8,000 ground forces and 7,000 support troops were involved including American, British, French, Canadian, Estonian and Danish forces under ISAF Command.  After speeches to the Marines by the officers, Gunnery Sergeant Bryan Wallgren, A/1/6, decided to really motivate his Marines...his words were the last they heard before boarding the helos...

He received a Commendation Medal with V for Marjah. And some of you might have been one of his students at the JWTC 14 years ago...

Mission: VALOR

I haven't posted here in a while, and today I share one of the reasons.  Those following me via Facebook and Twitter know that I've been working on a "secret" project.  Today, the curtain goes up on that "secret" and we begin the reveal of Mission: VALOR

Just as the name is not your typical acronym, Mission: VALOR is not your typical approach to veteran employment.  The focus is intensely practical, and designed to integrate with efforts by others so that some critical gaps are filled.  It is new, so new we don't have the website up and running yet.  We do have our domains and other critical things done, but our focus is on getting the practical and critical done -- which means the website and more will wait. 

I also want to thank the United War Veterans Council, Army Week Association, Hope for the Warriors, and Carl Churchill of Lock-N-Load Java for their support, help, and encouragement.  I particularly want to thank and commend the members of the Executive Leadership Committee for their time and invaluable contributions as we investigated if this project was needed, viable, and how best to move forward when that decision was made.  To the newer members of that group, my thanks for your patience when I forget to explain some of what went into various decisions because I forget that you weren't there all along...

Also, expect to see more about activities of the United War Veterans Council (so much more than the parade!) and Army Week here in the days ahead.  I have the honor of working with both groups, and will be sharing more about them at my site and some here.  The Army Birthday is coming soon, and I am heavily involved with those activities -- especially the Birthday Gala. 

And, of course, there will be more about Mission: VALOR as we move ahead.  Screw the official goals, I think we can do an order of magnitude more this year with a small pinch of luck and the right support. 

Let's Rock!