« June 2014 | Main | August 2014 »

July 2014

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."


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

Book Review - "Glorious" by Jeff Guinn

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 in the right side bar.

9780399165412_p0_v2_s260x420Glorious, the first book in a trilogy of novels by Jeff Guinn, is a must read for fans who miss westerns.  There is an element of “Gunsmoke” with the moralistic sheriff, the ranch element of “The Virginian” and the family element of “The Big Valley.”  Readers should not expect a gun blazing story but rather a realistic understanding of what the West was like during that period with intricate character development.

The plot is focused on the life of Cash McLendon, the main character.  After being left on the streets of Saint Louis in 1872 he must survive with an instinct for self-preservation, being able to capitalize on opportunities presented.  Choosing the path of financial security over happiness he betrays Gabrielle, the woman he loves, and becomes the heir apparent to industrial mogul Rupert Douglas. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and he is forced to flee to Glorious, Arizona.  He is so self absorbed he does not realize that he is out of place in the western frontier where he cannot shoot, fight, and ride a horse. This town’s occupants also include Gabrielle and her dad who left Saint Louis to stop the despicable gossip.  Besides trying to win back Gabrielle’s love Cash becomes committed to the townspeople’s aspirations and desires. As with most western plots Cash and the townspeople must battle the rich powerful rancher, Colin MacPherson, who wants to become the sole owner of all the shops and businesses.

Guinn stated to blackfive.net, “Conditions in that region were very extreme and hard.  Anyone who survived out there in one way or another was a hero, both men and women.  What was written in this book reflects what was going on all over the frontier. That is why I included the quote, ‘The simplest conveniences in civilized places were complicated in Glorious.’ Saint Louis was the line of de-embarkation with civilization to the East of it and the primitive frontier to the West. The individual townspeople have to battle the rich and powerful whether back East or in the West. Shady business practices, and powerful businesses try to crush the small businessman. Someone tries to gain the upper hand by making all the money at the expense of the individual who is trying to achieve the American dream.  Cash tries to escape it in Saint Louis only to find it happening again in Glorious.”

The compelling characters greatly enhance the plot.  The honest sheriff, Joe Saint, who is also in love with Gabrielle, creates a love triangle central to the narrative.  There is also the endearing bar owner/madam who offers both liquor and whores to the gang of prospectors who have descended on the town in hopes of striking silver; as well as the hotel owner, a blacksmith, brutish cowboys in the employ of the powerful rancher, and Bob Pugh, owner of the lone livery stable, expecting to make his fortune renting mules to silver prospectors.

He also wanted to make sure frontier characters were depicted accurately, “Cash is the antithesis of Matt Dillon.  He is not the perfect hero who can out shoot, out fight, and is honest to a fault.  He is flawed in the beginning of the book: selfish, impulsive, and uncaring.  Hopefully throughout the book he grows and becomes a better person.  I wrote Gabrielle as an independent woman, brave, smart, tough with a lot of common sense.  What happens in the relationship with Cash will be her decision. In fact, Cash comes to Glorious thinking she will take him back, not realizing that she has made a life of her own. I did not want to write a woman protagonist who is one dimensional, frightened, and has to be rescued.  That is definitely not what a frontier woman was like because in many ways they were tougher than men.”

What makes the story even more believable is the description of the prejudices of the town.  Through the character’s eyes the reader understands what happened to the Chinese since racial prejudice was prevalent in the frontier.  They had to sit in the back of any meetings and social gatherings if they were allowed to attend at all. They were always observers, but never participants. A main character, Sydney Chau, an American born Chinese woman becomes a natural healer, and serves as the town doctor.  Her family came to work on the railroad and when it was finished ended up growing vegetables and doing laundry for the town residents, necessary services no one else wanted to provide. A powerful quote, “A white man danced with a Chinese woman and the world didn’t come to an end.  It will help everyone realize that the Chinese are human beings too.”

Glorious is a must read for those longing for the return of the western.  It is a riveting and realistic tale of what frontier life was like in the early 1870s.  The story has all the elements of life, love, hope and ambition in the American West.

Photo - Warthog Over Afghanistan

Hires_140710-F-UL677-042cAn A-10 Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over eastern Afghanistan, July 10, 2014. The A-10 is assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and the KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron on Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Its maneuverability at slow speeds and low altitude has made the Thunderbolt II an aircraft choice for close air support throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch

Six Whose Actions Also Merit MOH

COL David Maxwell posted this and I think you'll find it interesting:

6 modern U.S. troops whose extreme heroism didn't get the Medal of Honor

By Dan Lamothe July 22 at 8:44 AM  

Then-Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, a machine gunner with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, stands at parade rest on March 27, 2009, after receiving the Navy Cross for heroism in Afghanistan on July 21, 2008. His former battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, says he regrets that he did not submit Gustafson's actions for consideration for the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for combat valor. Gustafson received the Navy Cross instead. (Photo by Pfc. Michael T. Gams/Marine Corps)

Marine Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson was manning a gun turret in an armored vehicle in Afghanistan when chaos struck. His squad was ambushed from multiple positions by enemy insurgents wielding rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, including an RPG that burst through the hull of his vehicle and delivered a devastating injury to his right leg.

Gustafson refused to back down, however. Bleeding profusely, he engaged numerous enemy fighters while a Navy corpsman inside the vehicle cranked a tourniquet onto Gustfason's leg. The hundreds of rounds of gunfire he delivered allowed Marines to evacuate another vehicle after it had burst into flames. The RPG blast knocked the Marine driving Gustafson's vehicle unconscious, but Gustafson shouted at him until he woke up to push the burning Marine vehicle behind them out of the kill zone.

With the U.S. war in Iraq over and combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, Gustafson is now part of a select group of U.S. troops who didn't receive the Medal of Honor, but who have advocates who say they should. In Gustafson's case, that includes his former battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, who says he regrets not nominating him for the higher award. Gustafson was put in for the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for combat valor, and ultimately received the Navy Cross. He left the service as a corporal in 2009.

As my story in The Washington Post on Sunday noted, President George W. Bush awarded just five Medals of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, all posthumously. Three were the most obvious of cases, in which a nominee smothered a grenade to protect fellow service members from harm. Those recipients are Army Spc. Ross McGinnis, Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael Monsoor and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

President Obama - and more specifically, the Defense Department under his watch - has awarded 11 Medals of Honor. Nine of them have gone to living recipients, a change since the Bush era that is roundly cheered in the military.

Still, there are numerous cases of valor in Iraq and Afghanistan that have not resulted in the award, and they have caused frustrations for years. Consider the following:

2. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe  Drenched in fuel, Cashe scrambled into a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle that had hit an improvised explosive device in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005. He pulled six soldiers from the burning wreckage, suffering devastating burns in the process. He died a few weeks later on Nov. 8

Family and friends have been pushing to get Medal of Honor consideration for Cashe for years, as this Army Times story points out. His former battalion commander, Col. Gary Britto, put Cashe in for the Silver Star, and that's what he got. He has said since that he did not know the full extent of Cashe's heroism at the time, and wants to submit him for an upgrade.

Then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz presents the Air Force Cross to Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Oct. 27, 2011. Gutierrez was awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration, for displaying extraordinary heroism in combat while deployed to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sharida Jackson)

3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez  Gutierrez was on the ground in a Special Operations mission in Herat province, Afghanistan, when he was shot by an armor-piercing round in the left shoulder. The airman thought he was going to die, he later said, but he refused to remove his body armor because he was the only joint terminal attack controller, a position that coordinates air support with pilots overhead, on the mission.

Gutierrez stayed calm and worked with an A-10 attack jet pilot overhead to coordinate fires, and did not learn of the full extent of his injuries until arriving in a medical evacuation zone, Air Force officials said. The gunshot wound is said to have damaged his shoulder, triceps muscle and chest, and left a softball-sized hole in his back. The strafing runs that the A-10 ran were so close, they ruptured his ear drums.

Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor in the Air Force, on Oct. 27, 2011. At least one columnist has said he deserves consideration for the higher award.

4. Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta
Peralta is perhaps the most famous example of a service member who didn't get a Medal of Honor. He was submitted for the award after dying in house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 15, 2004. His fellow Marines say he pulled a grenade under him that day shortly after being hit with a ricocheting rifle round, but his case languished for years due to uncertainty about whether or not he had the cognitive ability to do so despite sustaining a gunshot wound to the head.

Two Marines told The Washington Post in February that Peralta's fellow service members concocted a story on the spot to honor Peralta in part because they feared he had been killed by friendly fire. Other Marines there that day have continued to insist that Peralta covered the grenade, citing forensic evidence and their own lack of injuries from the blast.

The Navy Department awarded the Navy Cross to Peralta, saying in his award citation that he pulled the grenade under his body "without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety." His family has refused to accept the award, saying he deserves the Medal of Honor.

5. Marine Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal
Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Maj. Bradley A. Kasal talks about leadership to hundreds of Marines on Camp Pendleton May 4. Before and after the presentation, Kasal signed copies of his book, ?My Men are My Heroes.? (Photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis)
Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Maj. Bradley A. Kasal talks about leadership to hundreds of Marines on Camp Pendleton May 4. Before and after the presentation, Kasal signed copies of his book, "My Men are My Heroes." (Photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis)

Kasal was a first sergeant in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 13, 2004, when he learned that Marines in his unit were pinned down under fire in a house. He pushed into the building with a squad of Marines, killed one insurgent, and then spotted a wounded Marine in the next room.

While moving toward the injured Marine, Kasal and another service member both came under heavy rifle fire and were wounded in the legs. Insurgents then threw grenades at them, and Kasal responded by rolling on top of the other Marine, sustaining shrapnel wounds. A photograph of himbeing carried from the house, bloody but still alert, is one of the most iconic images of the Iraq War.

Kasal received the Navy Cross for his heroism, and is now a sergeant major in the Marine Corps. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.) has called for service members who shielded a grenade blast from fellow service members to receive the Medal of Honor, citing both Peralta and Kasal as examples. He was widely believed to be a candidate for the Medal of Honor after his actions first surfaced.

6. Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Adlesperger  Adlesperger was nominated for the Medal of Honor by his battalion commander for heroism in house-to-house fighting in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, according to several media reports, citing the battalion commander who put him up for the award.

A private first class at the time, he came under heavy gunfire with his squad after pushing into a house. The point man in his unit was killed instantly, and another Marine and the Navy Corpsman with them was injured. Marine officials said he braved intense machine gun fire and grenades, killing an insurgent while sustaining shrapnel wounds. Nevertheless, he singlehandedly pushed forward, clearing a staircase and a rooftop of enemy fighters so that his fellow Marines could receive medical attention.

Adlesperger exited the building, but then demanded to take point on another assault on a machine gun position, re-entering the building after an armored vehicle breached the wall. He was killed about a month later in another firefight, and later received the Navy Cross posthumously.

Photo - Kin Blue Beach

Hires_140716-M-FX659-019cU.S. Marines and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers run as they emerge from the water while practicing small-unit techniques as part of the Japan Observer Exchange Program at Kin Blue Beach, Okinawa, Japan, July 16, 2014. The Marines are assigned to Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The program enhances the interoperability of the two forces and the region's security. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry Anteno

Israel says Kerry not invited to cease fire talks

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said that John Kerry was not invited to ceasefire talks led by Egypt in a major rebuke to the US,.

"Oren cited the Obama administration’s strained relations with Egypt, and the “tension” in ties between the US and Israel. To Israel’s chagrin, he said, America has consequently not been able to play a more constructive role in this crisis, whereas previous administrations had been able to do so in past crises."

This is a direct result of the Obama administration’s antagonistic approach to relations with Israel. We have lost the trust of our only true ally in the region by taking what has essentially been a pro-Palestinian position on the major issues like borders, settlements and even leaking sensitive information about Israeli plans to hit Iranian nuclear facilities. Kerry himself was caught on a hot mic this weekend mocking Prime Minister Netanyahu's characterization of the Gaza operation as pinpoint.  The Palestinians are even using Kerry's remark against the Israelis to obscure the fact that their own human shield policies are purposely getting their own civilians killed to generate media attention and sympathy.

The left has always had a soft spot for the cause of the Palestinians that transcends logic or reality and the Obama team is infected with it. Their quixotic belief that they could sweep in with hope and change the facts on the ground have proven to be unfounded. They emboldened the Palestinians with unrealistic expectations and set back the cause of peace. That may not be the direct cause of the current fighting, but it has certainly been a major contributing factor.

Now we are reliant on the Egyptian regime and their dislike of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Hamas to serve as the interlocutor. The region and our good friend Israel deserve better than they have gotten from us. How low the once mighty have fallen under a President who believes America is not fit to lead. I think he projects his own flaws onto the country. We, and the world, will be many years recovering from the damage he has done to our strength and standing.

Book Review - "Shots Fired" by C.J. Box

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 right side bar.

9780399158582_p0_v2_s260x420Author C. J. Box has written formidable novels, fourteen in all.  With his latest book, Shots Fired, he has exceptionally ventured into the short story realm. The plot lines vary from adventure to crime procedural to historical. There are ten stories, three of them never published, and four include Box’s main character Joe Pickett, although in the story “The Master Falconer” he makes only a cameo appearance.

The book opens with “One-Car Bridge” where Joe Pickett must deliver bad news to the manager of the Crazy Z Bar Ranch, that the Game and Fish Commission will not allow the landowner, Lamar Dietrich, to convert his ranch into an exotic game hunting operation.  Anyone who likes the Dallas TV series will thoroughly enjoy this story since Lamar could be a member of the Ewing family.

A favorite of Box fans will be “The Master Falconer” starring Nate Romanowski, a former Army Special Forces soldier.  This story can best be described as John Wayne, Nate, meets an Arab terrorist, a Saudi plutocrat.  A quote from the book that describes the Saudi, “If you’re looking for one of the main guys establishing a violent religion that exists to wipe us out…” Knowing what he is up against, Nate gives the Saudis a true taste of western spirit as he overcomes the trap set. If for no other reason this must be read for the spectacular ending alone. 

Box stated to blackfive.net, “It was written years ago as a limited edition publication.  There were only 250 copies released so very few people had a chance to read it.  As a heads up, in the book out in March, Nate will be in it.  He starts out in Federal prison and is released on certain conditions.”

Although the other nine plots relate to aspects of western culture, two in particular are very interesting.  “Pronghorns of the Third Reich” was created from a 1936 photograph, which can be seen at the stories end.  The plot is based on a true story regarding Hitler’s desire to bring parts of the Western United States to Berlin. The other one, “Le Sauvage Noble (The Noble Savage)” has a French woman, Sophie, attracted to an American Indian, Jimmy.  With a powerful storyline Box gives an insightful look into how French women regard American male Indians.  Having as part of the setting Disneyland, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the author shows who the true “savages” are in this riveting tale.

Box noted to blackfive.net, “It has western elements where the West is brought to Paris. I was there as part of a contingent of state tourism representatives who were in France to gather clients.  At a reception at the American embassy there were some American Indians.  I found myself standing next to two fully dressed in their native attire.  I found out they were from Oklahoma and asked why they were there.  They told me with a wink that French women liked the idea of having sex with Native Americans.  The next night we attended the Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris and understood what the Indians told me was true.”

A must read, a really short story, “Blood Knot,” only about 1000 words, is very heart warming. This generational tale captures the unbreakable bond between a grandfather and his granddaughter. 

Shots Fired is a collection of ten wonderful short stories.  Blending humor, adventure, suspense, and sometimes showing the cruelness of man this book is a great summer read.  Each independent story had enough twists and turns to have the reader want to turn the page to the next storyline, wondering what Box will come up with next. Although most people are not exposed to short stories, readers’ only regret with this compilation of tales is that they are over all too soon.

Contest Winner To Be Killed, Runner-Up Maimed

Yes, it is true.  The winner of the Mission: VALOR art contest will die three times, and the runner-up will be maimed.  Thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt, Tom Kratman, Michael Z. Williamson, Le Creuset, MilitaryLuggage.com, Battlemug.com, and Doctrine Man for the initial prizes to go to the respective estates.  Oh, and not only is Nick Searcy a judge for the contest, he's now on the National Advisory Board for Mission: VALOR.  Thanks also to judges John Sheppard, Greg Browning, and Erin Ingram, who stand ready to join with Nick and give the death penalty multiple times.  


Photo - Landing on the USS George H.W. Bush [Arabian Gulf]


An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf, July 16, 2014. The carrier is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The Hornet is assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 31. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Margaret Keith

Texas Governor Perry wimps out

Tx guard flagThey've just announced that the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is going to be ordering 1,000 troops to the border to help 'secure' it.

Like hell.

According to reports just in after a news conference, ''Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said his troops would simply be "referring and deterring" immigrants and not detaining people -- though Nichols said the National Guard could if asked.

"We think they'll come to us and say, `Please take us to a Border Patrol station," Nichols said."

THIS is securing the border?  The TSA is doing more than this, and they aren't even checking ID's on illegal immigrants anymore. Governor_Perry_Hannity2

This is a sham.  12 mil a month to post Guardsmen there, and all they'll be doing is tour guides?  My suggestion is that they hand them a map to California and send them there.  I think that's a fair deal- California sends companies and millionaires to Texas, and they send them immigrants.

Gov Perry is running a huge risk, with zero payoff, hoping he'll look 'leader-y'.  Granted, he's looking far far more Presidential than the current office, but that's not difficult to do.  It may be that should he do anything more than that, he runs the risk of the WH federalizing the guard troops, a-la Little Rock 9, and losing any semblance of control.  But what are the chances of THAT?

Gov Perry, you are doing zero to address the problem of our borders, or of the illegal immigrants.  Time to start over.