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Our Troops in Action
Topic: Our Troops in Action (Read 73312 times)
Our Troops in Action
November 03, 2006, 02:45:09 PM »
With the words of Senator Kerry lingering in the air, we kick this thread off with the following:
Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier
by Tim Kane and James Carafano
November 29, 2005 |
[back to web version]
They all volunteered. The U.S. soldiers pitching in with hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast and those fighting and dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere decided, on their own, to serve their nation.
Or was the decision made so freely? Could it be that unscrupulous Pentagon recruiters duped them, taking advantage of their poverty, their lack of education and the bleak futures they share as members of the USA's urban underclass?
That's the view of some critics, such as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who writes that "very few" of the soldiers fighting in Iraq "are coming from the privileged economic classes," and that there would likely be no war if rich kids had to fight. According to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., social equality demands reinstatement of the draft, which he justifies by asserting that "the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent." Herbert concludes that there is "something very, very wrong with this picture."
What's "very, very wrong" with the Rangel-Herbert picture is that it has no factual basis.
According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
Yes, rural areas and the South produced more soldiers than their percentage of the population would suggest in 2003. Indeed, four rural states - Montana, Alaska, Wyoming and Maine - rank 1-2-3-4 in proportion of their 18-24 populations enlisted in the military. But this isn't news.
Enlistees have always come from rural areas. Yet a new study, reported in The Washington Post earlier this month, suggests that higher enlistment rates in rural counties are new, implying a poorer military. They err by drawing conclusions from a non-random sample of a few counties, a statistically cloaked anecdote. The only accurate way to assess military demographics is to consider all recruits.
If, for example, we consider the education of every recruit, 98% joined with high-school diplomas or better. By comparison, 75% of the general population meets that standard. Among all three-digit ZIP code areas in the USA in 2003 (one can study larger areas by isolating just the first three digits of ZIP codes), not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among its recruits.
In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.
Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data.
Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.
Maintaining the strength and size of our all-volunteer military isn't always easy. But Americans step up when their country needs them. To suggest the system is failing or exploiting citizens is wrong. And to make claims about the nature of U.S. troops to discredit their mission ought to be politically out of bounds.
Tim Kane is an Air Force veteran, and James Carafano is an Army veteran. Both are research fellows at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in USA Today
Last Edit: November 03, 2006, 05:18:41 PM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #1 on:
November 03, 2006, 10:52:02 PM »
Soldiers' Angels needs you to adopt a soldier.....(or airman, Marine, etc)!
Every year after the holidays we have a shortage of angels and an abundance of soldiers. Here is proof of what your help does for our service members:
To All That Have Supported Us,
My name is SGT A. and I am currently deployed to Kuwait and have been receiving packages and letters from many of your volunteers. I want to take this time to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Your support is unparalleled and means so much to us soldiers in our toughest times. You have been there through it all with us. You are in our thoughts and prayers as well as our loved ones. Your group is what keeps us going through rain, cold nights, hot days and everything in between. You have been a shining light to help guide many a soldier. Once again I would like to say Thank you for your unwavering support. Sincerely, SGT A
What angels do:
1) Send two packages a month. These do not have to be expensive. The key to sending support is that they will know someone cares and they get their name called at mail call, or come home to mail on their bunk. If you can send some toiletries and some snacks each month, that's great. Once you sign up, you will get a mentor who can walk you through customs forms and flat rate packages. It's addictive, actually! You'll find you won't be able to go into a store without remembering Dave, who likes Old Spice aftershave, etcetera!
2) Send two letters a week. This seems like a lot but if you sit down to write a quick note to say hi, how are you, and talk a little about things at home, you would be amazed how quickly a letter gets written. Another thing you can do is buy postcards wherever you visit and send one of those each week. Again, it's about getting the names called and letting them know that while they are "over there," those of us "back home" are thinking of them.
If you can do this, please go to soldiersangels.org and click on "Adopt a Soldier." You will receive a soldier's name and address within a couple of days, as well as an orientation letter.
IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE!
We hope everyone who reads this can adopt one soldier!!
COMMON NAME, UNCOMMON VALOR
Written by Ralph Bennett
Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla. the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt 1st Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fullfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harms way- in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his 1st Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
"We're in a world of hurt" he was heard to say.
That world was a dusty triangular, walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers or "sappers" had broken through the southren wall of the compound with a military bulldozer and begun turning the area into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.
While they were working, guards spotted a large Iraqi force approaching their position. The guards called for Sgt. Smith to take a look and as he arrived all hell broke loose. They came under heavy fire from machine gunners and RPG's.
The lightly armed work detail needed fire support. Sgt. Smith called for a Bradley fighting vehicle. The Bradley was on site in short order and attacked the enemy force with it's 25mm Bushmaster cannon. Sgt. Smith and his men took up positions around the Bradley as he called for a nearby M-133 personnel carrier for additional fire power from it's .50 caliber machinegun.
As the two vehicles engaged the Iraqis both were hit by motor rounds and RPG's. Sgt Smith lost his fire power to hold back the enemy troops.
Sgt. Smith could have withdrawn but he was the only thing standing between the enemy and a aid station with combat casualties and medical teams a short distance away.
Under fire Sgt Smith and his men extracted three wounded from the APC. Then Sgt Smith positioned the APC where he could cover most of the compound then he manned the machinegun while one of his men fed the belted ammo. His other men made an assault on a guard tower while Sgt Smith layed down fire on the main forces coming at them now from three different positions. His men reached the tower and took it over but Sgt Smith was shot by one of the Iraqis there in the tower just as the other Iraqi troops started turning back because of the accurate fire of Sgt. Smith. 50 dead Iraqi soldiers lay in the area of the compound. Sgt. Smith's vest had 13 bullet holes in it but he had continued to fire while being hit. The shot from the tower hit him in the neck killing him.
When the Army told his mother her son had died in battle she said "Our name is so common, maybe it's a mistake"
On April 4th, 2005, exactly two years after his selfless action, his wife and their children stood in the White House and was presented with Sgt. Smith's Medal of Honor.
Last Edit: November 03, 2006, 10:54:08 PM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #2 on:
November 03, 2006, 10:56:32 PM »
A Camp Divided
As U.S. tries to give Iraqi troops more responsibility,
clash of two American colonels shows tough road ahead.
By GREG JAFFE
June 16, 2006 11:24 p.m.; Page A1
Camp Taji, Iraq
This sprawling military base is divided down the middle by massive concrete barriers, a snaking fence and rifle-toting guards. On one side, about 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers live in air-conditioned trailers. There's a movie theater, a swimming pool, a Taco Bell, and a post exchange the size of a Wal-Mart, stocked with everything from deodorant to DVD players.
On the other side are a similar number of Iraqi soldiers whose success will determine when U.S. troops can go home. The Iraqi troops live in fetid barracks built by the British in the 1920s, ration the fuel they use to run their lights and sometimes eat spoiled food that makes them sick.
The only soldiers who pass regularly between the two worlds are about 130 U.S. Army advisers, who live, train and work with the Iraqis.
For many of these advisers, the past six months have been a disorienting experience, putting them at odds with their fellow U.S. soldiers and eroding their confidence in the U.S. government's ability to build an Iraqi force that can stabilize this increasingly violent country.
Army commanders back in the U.S. "told us this was going to be the most thankless and frustrating job we have ever held, and boy, were they right," says Lt. Col. Charles Payne, who until last month oversaw about 50 Army advisers.
He and fellow advisers say U.S. troops on the American side of the base saddle Iraqis with the least-desirable missions and often fail to provide them with the basics they need to protect themselves against insurgent attacks. "They treat the Iraqis with utter scorn and contempt," Col. Payne says. "The Iraqis may not be sophisticated, but they aren't stupid. They see it."
Col. James Pasquarette, who commands most of the soldiers on the U.S. side of Camp Taji, calls those claims "totally ridiculous." He says he's proud of what the Iraqi units have achieved in the region and has made supporting them his top priority, after ensuring his own troops have the protection they need. But he worries that if the Iraqis are given too much latitude to execute challenging missions too quickly, they will alienate Iraqi civilians with heavy-handed tactics.
He says Col. Payne and his fellow advisers have "gone native."
Though the divide here at Camp Taji is extreme, it reflects a growing friction throughout this war-torn country. No one on either side of the divide expects the Iraqi troops to be trained, equipped or housed to U.S. standards. But if U.S. troops are going to go home, U.S. commanders must allow Iraqis to take a far greater role in planning operations and taking the fight to the enemy, senior military officers say.
Right now, Iraqi commanders and some of their U.S. advisers say that isn't happening enough. Part of the reason, U.S. officials say, is that widespread Iraqi corruption has made it hard for the fledgling Iraqi government to supply their troops with basics like good food, batteries and fuel. But Iraqi soldiers and their U.S. advisers say the problem extends beyond basic supply issues. They complain that U.S. troops, bunkered down on large, fortified bases, treat Iraqi forces more like a problem than a partner. U.S. forces "don't talk to us," says Col. Saad, a senior Iraqi commander on Camp Taji. The Iraqi colonel, whose family has been threatened by insurgents, asked that his full name not be used.
U.S. commanders counter that there are huge risks to giving the Iraqi army too big a role right now. They worry some Iraqis will leak word of impending operations to the enemy or use military force to settle sectarian scores. Many U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces aren't as disciplined as U.S. troops and are too prone to abuse civilians and detainees.
The debate raises difficult questions for U.S. commanders, as they plot the way forward in Iraq: Should Iraqi units be held to the same standards as U.S. units? What happens when the Iraqis' solution is at odds with the American commander's strategy?
Earlier this spring, the tension between the two sides at Camp Taji reached the breaking point when the Iraqi army brigade that Col. Payne was advising leveled two dozen roadside kiosks. The Iraqi soldiers said insurgent snipers, who had killed and wounded Iraqi troops, used the kiosks for cover.
Col. Pasquarette thought destroying the kiosks would only enrage locals and drive them to support the insurgents. "This was a great day for the terrorists," he recalls telling Col. Payne on the day that the Iraqi army flattened the fruit and vegetable stands.
Col. Payne says the Iraqi army bulldozed the kiosks -- consisting mostly of palm fronds suspended by bamboo poles -- to protect Iraqi soldiers. "When I first heard what they had done, my initial response was, 'I am all for it,' " Col. Payne says. "This is not a law and order situation. This is a war."
Late last month, Col. Pasquarette asked that Col. Payne be dismissed from his position, just four months after the two men started working together. Col. Payne was then assigned to a desk job in Baghdad.
The unit Col. Payne headed is at the leading edge of a major shift in U.S. strategy. Until last summer, the U.S. military saw its primary mission as fighting insurgents. With pressure mounting to bring the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq home, President Bush decided the military's main effort should instead focus on training Iraqis to take its place.
To speed development of Iraqi army forces, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers were placed with Iraqi units throughout the country. The teams live and work with Iraqi soldiers in places such as Camp Taji.
In November 2005, Col. Payne came back from retirement to lead his team. The colonel had served 28 years in the Army, fought in the Grenada invasion and taught history at West Point. He retired in July 2001. A few weeks later, terrorists struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Col. Payne called the Army and volunteered to return. "There was a chuckle on the end of the phone," he says. The Army told him he wasn't needed.
Four years later, with the Army stretched thin by the war, the 50-year-old soldier, who was teaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, called again. This time, the Army was eager to send him to Iraq. In November, he was told he had 23 days to report to Fort Carson, Colo., and link up with his unit. His wife was "very unhappy," he says. Col. Payne says he was determined to go. "The nation is at war and all real soldiers want to be where the action is."
Col. Pasquarette, a former college basketball player, took command of his 6,000-soldier brigade in June 2005. Before that, the 45-year-old had attended Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and served as an aide-de-camp to a four-star general.
The two men's troops arrived in Iraq in December 2005 and settled on opposite sides of Camp Taji, a sprawling former Iraqi army base, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Col. Payne's group consisted of 50 U.S. soldiers, assigned to advise the Iraqi military. His team was one of the few at Camp Taji that didn't report to Col. Pasquarette.
The 2,500-soldier Iraqi brigade that Col. Payne was advising had formed 11 months earlier and had been fighting nonstop. The Iraqis had scrounged all of their tanks and armored personnel carriers -- most of which were at least 30 years old -- from a massive junkyard on the Iraqi side of Camp Taji. When something broke, Iraqi soldiers retreated to the scrapyard where they would pillage rusting hulks for spare parts. Of the $260 billion spent on the Iraq war since 2003, about $10 billion has gone to build Iraqi army and police forces.
The U.S. officers bonded quickly with their Iraqi counterparts. In January, Maj. Michael Jason, who leads one of the advisory teams, was on patrol with a 42-year-old Iraqi colonel when a terrified farmer told them he had found bodies in a field. He then led them to the corpses of 11 Iraqi army soldiers who had been headed home on leave. Each had been beaten, blindfolded and shot in the head. Their Iraqi army identification cards had been taken from their wallets and pinned to their shirts by insurgents who regularly target Iraqi forces.
Maj. Jason, a Roman Catholic, and his Iraqi counterpart, Col. Khalid, a Muslim, kneeled next to the bodies and prayed. The U.S. Army asked that Col. Khalid's full name be withheld for his safety. That night, Maj. Jason, a 33-year-old West Point grad, wrote an email home describing his Iraqi colleague's bravery and sacrifice.
"Col. Khalid's children have to move constantly for fear of their lives. When he goes home on leave, he cannot tell anyone for security reasons. He just disappears. He drives 90 mph with a pistol tucked in the small of his back and his ID hidden. I love these guys, no s-t," he wrote. A month later, Col. Khalid's brother, also an army officer, was kidnapped. Insurgents killed him and dumped his body on his parents' doorstep. Col. Khalid couldn't go to the funeral for fear that he would be assassinated. So Maj. Jason and soldiers in the unit mourned with him at Camp Taji.
In March, Col. Khalid left the battalion for a safer assignment, which doesn't require him to leave the base.
As the U.S. advisers grew closer to the Iraqis, they also grew more frustrated with U.S. soldiers on the other side of the base.
Shortly after Col. Pasquarette arrived at Camp Taji, he beefed up the number of guards and armored vehicles at the gates separating the U.S. and Iraqi sides of the base. "Securing my [base] is my No. 1 mission. I am risk averse here," he says. The U.S. advisers to the Iraqis thought the additional guards and guns were unnecessary and only served to make U.S. soldiers more suspicious of the Iraqis.
When the advisers asked if they could bring an Iraqi colleague to eat with them on the American side of the base, they say they were shocked at the response. They were told that the presence of an Iraqi officer in the dining hall might upset the U.S. soldiers.
"These kids go outside the gate and deal with a very hostile environment. They need a place where they can relax and let their guard down," says Lt. Col. Kevin Dixon, Col. Pasquarette's deputy commander. He says the policy was driven by the bombing of a dining facility in Mosul in 2004 by an Iraqi who had sneaked in.
The advisers felt differently. "We really believe there is a systemic contempt for Iraqi soldiers," says Master Sgt. John McFarlane, a senior enlisted adviser to the Iraqis at Camp Taji. The policy has since been amended to allow advisers to eat with Iraqi officers on the U.S. side if they file a letter in advance with the base's security office.
One of the Iraqi army's primary jobs in the Taji area is to guard water-purification substations that provide most of Baghdad's drinking water. Last summer, insurgents blew up one of the substations, cutting off water for two weeks. To ensure that didn't happen again, Iraqi army units were dispatched by the U.S. to guard the sites. Iraqi soldiers began to take regular sniper fire there.
In January, the U.S. advisers asked Col. Pasquarette for help installing barriers around one of the substations, to shield the Iraqis from snipers. Col. Pasquarette asked one of his units to help. Weeks passed, but help never came. American engineering units were too busy fortifying the U.S. side of Camp Taji and bases around it, says Maj. Martin Herem, who handled the request.
On Feb. 28, a sniper shot in the back one of the Iraqi soldiers at the water station. The soldier bled to death. Three weeks later, a sniper killed a second Iraqi soldier who was on patrol near the water station. Iraqi troops said that both times snipers used the small fruit and vegetable stands lining a nearby road for cover. The Iraqi army couldn't return fire without killing shopkeepers and customers.
When the Iraqi soldiers ran over to ask people who had been shooting at them, locals said they hadn't seen anything. It's dangerous for locals to be seen helping the U.S. Army or the Iraqi army.
The day after the second killing, Col. Saad, an Iraqi colonel in the unit Col. Payne was advising, ordered his men to tell the shopkeepers to empty the vegetable stands. The Iraqi soldiers then bulldozed the stands. Col. Saad says he destroyed the kiosks to protect his soldiers.
When Col. Pasquarette learned about the incident, he was furious. The Iraqis' actions ran completely counter to his strategy. He had told his soldiers to focus less on killing insurgents and more on reconstruction programs designed to win support of the people.
"When you go lethal or destroy property there may be a short-term gain, but there is a long-term loss," he says. He saw the move as a throwback to the Saddam Hussein era when the army was used to quell unrest and inflict mass punishment.
Photoillustration by Stuart Bradford; photos, left: U.S. Department of Defense; photos, right: Getty Images
Because the Iraqi troops operate in his sector, Col. Pasquarette oversees them. He called Col. Payne into his office and demanded that he tell Col. Saad to have his soldiers apologize and pay reparations to the shop owners.
Col. Payne passed along the orders. But Col. Saad says he refused to follow them. "Here in Iraq if someone makes a mistake, you punish them," he says, referring to the shop owners' failure to give Iraqis information about the snipers. "If you give him money, he will repeat the mistake. And he will consider the person who gave him the gift an idiot."
The next day, Col. Pasquarette met with Col. Saad's Iraqi superior and told him about the dispute. The Iraqi general fired Col. Saad. Later that day, three low-ranking Iraqi soldiers, accompanied by about a dozen Americans, passed out the reimbursement forms.
The Iraqi officers in Col. Saad's brigade felt betrayed. On March 21, just before midnight, four senior officers stopped by Col. Payne's office and threatened to resign. "They were furious," says Col. Payne. Two days later, Col. Saad was quietly re-hired.
Col. Payne says he is still angry that neither Col. Pasquarette nor his subordinate commanders talked to Col. Saad to hear his side of the story. "This is a respect issue. These guys don't respect the Iraqis," Col. Payne says.
"Personally I don't think there was anything to discuss," Col. Pasquarette says.
In the days that followed, the relationship between Col. Payne and Col. Pasquarette grew more tense. In mid-March -- about the time the Iraqis flattened the vegetable stands -- insurgents attacked an Iraqi army patrol base in Tarmiyah, a city of about 50,000, a short drive from Camp Taji. One Iraqi soldier from Col. Saad's brigade was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade and another was shot in the head by a sniper. The next day, four of Col. Saad's soldiers died when their armored personnel carrier hit a roadside bomb. The blast threw the turret of the vehicle about 30 yards and lopped off the head of one of the Iraqi soldiers inside, U.S. and Iraqi officers say.
Senior Iraqi officials in the Ministry of Defense were convinced Tarmiyah was a hotbed of insurgent activity. Col. Pasquarette says he was told by his commander in Baghdad to clear the city of insurgents.
Col. Pasquarette and his team spent several days building a plan before he invited Col. Payne, Col. Saad and Col. Saad's commander to the U.S. side to explain it.
The two Iraqi officers were led through a 208-slide PowerPoint briefing, in which all the slides were written in English. The six areas the Iraqi troops were supposed to occupy were named for New England cities, such as Cranston, Bangor and Concord. The Iraqi officers, who spoke only Arabic, were dumbfounded. "I could see from their body language that both of them were not following what was going on," says Maj. Bill Taylor, Col. Payne's deputy.
A camp divided- part two
Reply #3 on:
November 03, 2006, 10:58:31 PM »
Once the plan was explained to them through an interpreter, the Iraqis strongly disagreed with it. Col. Pasquarette planned to surround the city with razor wire and set up checkpoints to search all cars moving in and out of the city. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers would then begin regular foot patrols through the city to gain intelligence on insurgents. The centerpiece of the plan was $5 million in reconstruction projects.
Col. Pasquarette argued that the projects would help the U.S. win support of the city's powerful mayor, Sheik Sayid Jassem, who had been detained by U.S. forces in the early days of the occupation for supporting the insurgency. He also thought the projects would turn the people to the side of the new Iraqi government.
The Iraqis favored a harder-nosed approach. They wanted to conduct house-to-house searches and find a way to put pressure on the mayor, who they insisted was still supporting insurgents. They suggested shutting Tarmiyah's business district down for a week. Once the mayor had been cowed with the stick, they favored dangling the $5 million in reconstruction funds.
Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqi approach would have alienated the people in Tarmiyah. He rejected it and stuck to his plan. Although the operation hasn't netted any insurgents, he says people are out shopping and businesses that had been closed are bustling as a result of the checkpoints and foot patrols. The U.S. military is bankrolling a pipeline that will bring potable water into the city, building medical clinics and repairing the main road.
Attacks in the city are down substantially since March, though they have begun to climb of late, Col. Pasquarette says. Still, he says the operation was a success because residents feel safer. He doubts the city was ever really a major insurgent hotbed. "We were all wrong about Tarmiyah," he says.
Col. Saad and Col. Payne say the insurgents have simply moved outside the city's gates.
Gen. George Casey, the top military officer in Iraq, acknowledges it has often been hard for U.S. commanders to let Iraqis take over the fight. "We are so mission-oriented and so focused, we tend to want to do everything ourselves," he says. "It is a constant battle ? . I would hope that when the Iraqis have ideas we try to help them execute them."
Iraqi troops "have never betrayed their U.S. advisory teams," adds Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is overseeing the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.
In their four months together, Col. Payne and Col. Saad became close. Col. Payne teased him about a poster on his office wall of two fluffy white kittens, nuzzling next to a dozen roses. "What in the world is the deal with the cat and the flowers?" Col. Payne asked.
"It reminds me of softness and women," Col. Saad replied. He often referred to Col. Payne as "my brother."
Col. Saad confided his worries about his country and his army to Col. Payne. His unit was constantly short of supplies. His soldiers often didn't have enough fuel for their armored vehicles and generators. They also lacked AA batteries to run the night-vision goggles the Americans had given them. He blamed corruption in the Iraqi system for supply shortages. "If you don't have the basics to survive, you cannot be great. You cannot win," he said one evening. Col. Payne threw his arm around the Iraqi colonel's shoulder. "No, but you can survive," he said.
The U.S. says it is helping the Iraqis fix problems that have led to shortages of equipment. The Iraqi government recently replaced the contractor responsible for serving troops spoiled food. Supplying the army is the responsibility of the Iraqi government and "there have been a few cases of poor performance" among Iraqi contractors, says Lt. Col. Michael Negard, a senior spokesman in Iraq. "While the problems aren't huge, the issue's certainly of the highest priority," he says.
Col. Saad has also grown frustrated with the Americans on the other side of Camp Taji. Last month, Col. Pasquarette asked the Iraqis to provide a couple of dozen soldiers to man some checkpoints with U.S. soldiers. The U.S. soldiers showed up at the checkpoints for about a week. Then, without warning, they left the Iraqis to run them on their own, Col. Saad says. The Iraqis, who questioned the value of the checkpoints in the first place, were angry they had suddenly been abandoned.
"Why did they leave? Aren't they supposed to be helping us?" Col. Saad asked Col. Payne.
"I don't know what the hell they are doing," Col. Payne replied.
Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqis should have been informed that the U.S. soldiers were pulling out of those checkpoints.
In late May, Col. Payne began to push the Iraqi soldiers to get out on the offensive. "I am sick of sitting around and waiting to get attacked," Col. Payne told Col. Saad. He asked Col. Saad to cut loose 10 or 15 soldiers that he could pair up with three or four U.S. soldiers to venture out at night in search of the enemy. Col. Saad agreed.
On May 19, soldiers from Col. Payne's and Col. Saad's units set out on their second night patrol. After they stopped a car that was out in violation of curfew, the enemy opened fire on them from a surrounding palm grove. The soldiers fired back, killing three insurgents and dispersing the rest. When the shooting ended, a man stumbled out of a small shack deep in the palm grove. His hands were tied and a blindfold hung around his neck. "Come mister. I am problem," he sobbed in broken English.
The man said he worked as a legal adviser for Iraq's Ministry of Defense and had been kidnapped by men who told him they would slaughter him "like a sheep." The kidnappers were setting up a camera to film his execution, he said, when they heard the soldiers and left him. "God sent you to save me," the man said, as tears streamed down his face. (Read more about the mission.2)
Col. Payne was elated. "The Iraqi army saved a life. It also demonstrated that it will go into the field to find and destroy the enemy," he said.
His victory, however, quickly gave way to crushing defeat. The next day, he was summoned to meet with his immediate supervisor. Col. Payne was relieved of his command and told to move to a headquarters position in Baghdad.
He says he was told that he removed because he was "ineffective" and "lacked the skills necessary to lead [his] team in this challenging environment." An Army spokesman in Baghdad said Col. Payne wasn't relieved for any single incident. He declined to comment further.
A few days before Col. Payne was fired, Col. Pasquarette said in an interview that he thought Col. Payne and his men had grown too close to the Iraqis they were advising and his decisions were too often guided by emotion. "From my perspective, the move was warranted," Col. Pasquarette wrote in an email after Col. Payne was dismissed.
The morning after he was fired, Col. Payne spent the day saying goodbye to Col. Saad and the U.S. soldiers on his team. That evening, he boarded a helicopter for Camp Victory, a massive U.S. base on the outskirts of Baghdad.
"I'm now here in Victory -- an alien environment to me and one I never wanted to be a part of," he wrote in an email. He was able to hold his emotions in check until his helicopter lifted off from Camp Taji. Then, he says, he began to sob. "I simply cannot tell you how much I will miss my team."
Write to Greg Jaffe at
Bronze Star for handling of IEDs
Reply #4 on:
November 03, 2006, 10:59:20 PM »
Navy officer awarded Bronze Star for deft handling of deadly IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)
By JACK DORSEY The Virginian-Pilot August 30, 2006
NORFOLK, Va. -- For the entire year he was in Baghdad analyzing more than 1,000 roadside bomb detonators, Benito Baylosis never took a day off.
No one did. And no one complained about it, he said, as they explored the electronic circuits of defused improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
"What we did was that important. You get time off when you go home, or on R & R," he said. Baylosis, 41, a Navy lieutenant commander, came back to his hometown of Norfolk to receive the Bronze Star on Tuesday.
The award cited him for personally handling more than 1,000 IEDs, providing "critical countermeasures" and saving "countless coalition forces' lives."
"He developed and monitored over 136 bombmaker profiles," said the Army's citation, which added that "no one in the U.S. armed forces knows more about enemy IED initiators utilized in the Iraqi theater of operations."
Baylosis, who graduated from OldDominionUniversity with an undergraduate electrical engineering degree, will return soon to his regular duty station in Naples, Italy, where his family resides.
In Iraq, he headed a team of American, British and Australian military specialists, mainly engineers. He also worked with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, gathering forensic evidence for possible future court cases related to terrorism. The team, operating from CampVictory near the international airport in Baghdad, examined IEDs, traced their origins and turned over information to help find the manufacturer.
"They are some of the most basic forms, from mechanical to electrical, to remote," he said in an interview. Because of the sensitivity of the work, he could not detail what his team found. Published reports say many devices use garage-door openers or cell phones to activate the explosives.
According to Michael White, who compiles casualty figures of Operation Iraqi Freedom on the Web site icasualties.org, and Defense Department figures, 904 of the 2,087 American service members killed in action in Iraq have died of injuries from IEDs.
Baylosis said he normally specializes in shipbuilding and program management in his job in Naples, but his electronics skills seemed a good match for what he was asked to do. "We felt that the job we were doing did save lives and will continue to save lives as long as we get to do it," said the father of three.
"I think we are making a difference. Obviously, we want to get ahead of the IED maker. We want to be a step ahead of them and with increased security, I think it will eventually get solved. I just don't know the time line."
SEALs receive Navy Cross
Reply #5 on:
November 03, 2006, 11:00:26 PM »
SEALs Receive Navy Cross
Pair Died Fighting Taliban in AfghanistanBy Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006; A12
Wounded and locked in a harrowing gunfight deep in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains, Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson laid down covering fire so a teammate could escape -- an act of heroism for which Axelson was yesterday posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the service's second-highest medal.
Fighting nearby, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz was also mortally wounded but stood his ground in a barrage of fire from 30 to 40 Taliban militiamen who surrounded his four-man SEAL reconnaissance team on June 28, 2005. For his "undaunted courage," as described by the military, Dietz, 25, of Littleton, Colo., also posthumously received the Navy Cross yesterday in a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial.
Families and comrades gathered to honor them on a chilly, gray evening, with flags on ships' masts waving in the breeze. One SEAL, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, recalled his close friend Axelson as laid back, a golfer and a quiet leader. His voice cracked as he described the inscription Axelson wrote on the back of a photograph of the two men that Axelson's wife gave him after Axelson died.
"But within the willingness to die for family and home, something inside us longs for someone to die beside. Someone to lock step with, another man with a heart like our own," the inscription read.
"I can't tell you how much I wish I could have been there for him," his friend told the gathering.
Patsy Dietz, 25, Dietz's widow, said her husband died during his final mission, only about two weeks before he was to return home. Describing him as a generous man who loved his dogs and who would hand out $20 bills to strangers, she said Dietz had volunteered for the deployment because he believed in the cause. She said he knew the risks that he faced. "Danny and his brothers went towards evil and ran forward and gave their last breath," she said in an interview.
The actions of Axelson and Dietz allowed a lone teammate to escape and survive, and he has also been awarded the Navy Cross, but the military has withheld his name for security reasons because he is still on active duty.
The perilous firefight erupted at 10,000 feet in some of the world's most rugged terrain along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, when the SEAL team probed deep into enemy territory on a clandestine mission to kill or capture a Taliban militia leader. By nightfall that day, three of the SEALs lay dead, along with eight other SEALs and eight Army Special Operations aviators whose MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed during a daring rescue attempt.
It was the worst death toll in a single day since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and the biggest single loss of life for the Naval Special Warfare forces since the invasion of Normandy in World War II, the Navy reported.
The fatal mission -- Operation Red Wing -- began June 27, when Axelson, Dietz, Lt. Michael P. Murphy and the fourth unnamed SEAL, bearded and camouflaged, were inserted into heavily forested terrain east of the Afghan town of Asadabad to track down militia leader Ahman Shah.
The next day, however, the SEAL team was spotted and pointed out by local residents who were sympathetic to the Taliban. A Taliban force launched a "well-organized, three-sided attack," taking advantage of the high ground to assault the SEAL position using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, according to an official military account.
"Three of the four SEALs were wounded. The fight relentlessly continued as the overwhelming militia forced them deeper into a ravine," it said.
About 45 minutes into the firefight, Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., made radio contact with Bagram Air Base outside the capital, Kabul, asking for air support and reinforcements. Soon afterward, the Chinook lifted off with 16 special operations troops aboard on a mission to extract the surrounded SEALs.
The Chinook was escorted by Army attack helicopters, whose job was to suppress enemy ground forces to make it safe for the lightly armored troop carrier to land. But the heavier attack helicopters lagged behind at the high altitude and were outpaced by the Chinook, whose pilots then faced a life-or-death decision: Try to land unprotected in hazardous terrain in a battle zone, or wait while their wounded comrades on the ground risked being overrun.
They chose to land, but as the Chinook rushed into the fight, it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed, killing all 16 men aboard.
Meanwhile, Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif., "ignoring his injuries and demonstrating exceptional composure" urged his teammate to escape, according to the medal citation. "With total disregard for his own life and thinking only of his teammate's survival, he continued to attack the enemy, eliminating additional militia fighters, until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire," it said. His body was recovered July 10 after a massive military search effort in Afghanistan's Kunar Province.
Dietz was lauded for "undaunted courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and absolute devotion to his teammates" as he remained behind to fight to defend his partners after he, too, was wounded.
? 2006 The Washington Post Company
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #6 on:
November 03, 2006, 11:02:12 PM »
Beach SEAL honored for his sacrifice in Afghanistan
By DALE EISMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
? September 14, 2006
Last updated: 1:29 AM
WASHINGTON - Danny Dietz was a quiet guy, devoted to his family, his dogs and his shipmates in the Navy's SEAL Team 2, a special-warfare unit based in Virginia Beach. The sort who never hesitated to take on extra responsibilities, extra burdens, one of his buddies remembered Wednesday, and who never thought there was anything remarkable about doing it.
Matt Axelson - "Cool Hand Luke" to his friends - was a Californian who loved golf, joking that he planned to hone his game for a career on the Senior PGA Tour once he got out of the Navy.
"No matter how hard I worked at something, he was always better," said friend Dave Albritton, a petty officer first class - but Axelson never boasted .
Under leaden skies and amid the bustle of rush hour on a memorial plaza in downtown Washington, more than 200 of the two men's friends, relatives and shipmates bit their lips and brushed away tears Wednesday evening as they expressed the nation's gratitude for the courage and sacrifice Axelson and Dietz exhibited on an Afghan mountainside last year.
The men were among 19 SEALS and U.S. Army NightStalkers killed June 28, 2005. It remains the bloodiest single day of Operation Enduring Freedom, the war in Afghanistan. Six of the SEALS killed were based in Virginia Beach.
"Heroes are ordinary people who make extraordinary decisions every day of their lives," sai d Lt. Brad Geary, a Dietz friend who spoke at the ceremony.
Their actions in the midst of a firefight with Taliban militiamen allowed another SEAL - the only survivor of the engagement - to escape and earned Axelson and Dietz the Navy Cross, the branch 's second-highest honor. The pair are part of Navy history because of the way they died, Geary said, but "these men are heroes because of the way they lived."
The citations presented Wednesday to their widows, Cindy Axelson and Maria Dietz, recounted how the men and two other SEALS tracking a Taliban leader in rugged northeastern Afghanistan were attacked on three sides by a force of perhaps 40 .
Dietz, 25, a gunner's mate second class, was wounded "in a hailstorm of enemy fire," his citation reads, but he continued returning fire and covering his teammates "until he was mortally wounded." Axelson, 29, a sonar technician second class, also kept fighting despite multiple wounds. "With total disregard for his own life," his citation reads, he laid down covering fire so the one surviving member could slip away.
That SEAL, who has never been identified publicly, was rescued several days later by other U.S. forces and received a Navy Cross earlier this year in a private ceremony at the White House, a Navy spokesman said. The service is still processing the record of the fourth man on the ground team, Lt. Michael Murphy, the spokesman added.
Eight other SEALS and the eight Army NightStalkers killed in the engagement died as they tried to come to the rescue of the four men on the ground. Their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed as it approached the battlefield.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #7 on:
November 06, 2006, 09:48:30 AM »
Godawful music, but the facts inspire
And yes, we have checked it on snopes.com:?
And here's this:? Marine Corps News
Rochester, N.Y. Marine, receives Navy Cross
May 6, 2004; Submitted on: 04/21/2005 01:33:28 PM ; Story ID#: 200456162723
By Cpl. Jeremy Vought, MCB Camp Pendleton
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (May 6, 2004) -- Marine Capt. Brian R. Chontosh received the Navy Cross Medal from the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, during an awards ceremony Thursday at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Three other Marines received medals for valor at the same ceremony.
Chontosh, 29, from Rochester, N.Y. , received the naval service's second highest award for extraordinary heroism while serving as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 25, 2003. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award.
While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.
He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.
He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.
When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.
When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.
"They are the reflection of the Marine Corps type who's service to the Marine Corps and country is held above their own safety and lives," said Gen. Hagee, commenting on the four Marines who received medals during the ceremony. "I'm proud to be here awarding the second highest and third highest awards for bravery to these great Marines."
"These four Marines are a reflection of every Marine and sailor in this great battalion," said Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada.
"I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective," said Chontosh.
In effect since April 1917, and established by an Act of Congress on Feb. 4, 1919, the Navy Cross may be awarded to any person who, while serving with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguishes himself/herself in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor.
The action must take place under one of three circumstances: while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or, while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
To earn a Navy Cross the act to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility.
More than 6,000 Navy Crosses have been awarded since World War I.
Last Edit: November 06, 2006, 09:52:47 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #8 on:
November 07, 2006, 12:42:15 PM »
Why Iraq war seems almost devoid of heroes
By E.A. Torriero, a Tribune reporter who has covered conflicts in the
Americas, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq
November 5, 2006
War breeds heroes. Etched in the history books are tales from the combat
trenches of a special kind of valor--gritty and gutsy deeds that have
inspired a nation since its earliest days and its first wars.
In our current war, such heroism seems elusive. That style of hero--one
that Americans have long come to expect--seems to be missing.
The reasons are varied: The military is often slow to publicize valor and
award medals. The national media rarely write about it. As the political
debate over the war rages, the term hero has taken on assorted meanings.
The fighting in this war is different from that in any other American
conflict. There is no traditional battlefield on which to make a hero's
mark. The enemy is not a nation's army but insurgents who often do not
show their faces and who strike with bombs and snipers' bullets.
"The enemy has a lot to do with how this war is being fought and the
perception it has," said Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. "That
makes it difficult to produce a Custer's Last Stand style of hero."
Although the Pentagon says heroic acts occur almost daily, they are
usually known only to the military and to families.
When a GI is killed in Iraq, the military bureaucracy usually says little
about the circumstances, citing family privacy, classified intelligence or
a need for operational secrecy. The military's medal process is methodical
and often takes so many years that the heroism becomes a distant memory by the
time it is publicly known.
The U.S. military is stringent in its definition of a hero, drawing sharp
distinctions in awarding medals and bestowing the Medal of Honor -- its
highest award--only to a GI who "distinguishes himself conspicuously by
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty."
When such calm deliberation is abandoned, the result can backfire. Several
highly publicized attempts to quickly advertise incidents worked out badly
for the Pentagon.
The alleged heroism of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch at the start of the Iraq
war proved hollow. The valor of former football star Pat Tillman in
Afghanistan was undermined by military lies and the eventual disclosure that he was
killed by friendly fire.
Guarded about recognition
Since then, the military has been guarded when it comes to hero stories.
"Heroes are being overlooked," said Roger Lee Crossland, a Navy reserve
captain and attorney from Connecticut who served in Afghanistan.
In the U.S. Naval Institute's magazine Proceedings, Crossland wrote an
article titled "Why Are Victims Our Only War Heroes?" that is widely
circulated on the Internet. He argued that acts of American bravery are
being masked by media coverage of troops under attack and military
personnel being blown up by street bombs.
"There needs to be another story told, that of bravery in battle,"
Crossland said in an interview. "Those are heroes, the ones we need to hear about."
In the Iraq war, stories of heroic actions in battle get little exposure
in the media. Even when they do, as in the case of the late Sgt. 1st Class
Paul Ray Smith, the stories have a remarkably short staying power.
Smith is the only Iraq war soldier to win the country's highest award for
military valor, the Medal of Honor. His valor came in 2003, in the early
days of the war, when the battles were fought in more traditional combat.
According to the military, Smith's unit was building a jail holding pen at
the Baghdad airport when it came under attack from an Iraqi Republican
Guard unit. After a mortar struck one of the American armored vehicles, leaving
three of Smith's men injured, the unit was pinned down. Smith jumped to
the gunnery and grabbed a machine gun from his injured comrades.
Before being killed by enemy fire, Smith shot 20 to 50 Iraqi soldiers and
saved as many as 100 of his comrades, according to the Pentagon.
It took the Pentagon two years to honor Smith. In 2005, he became the
first GI since the Somalia conflict in 1993 to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Honoring victims instead
Maybe the media fear glorifying violence, Crossland said.
"We have substituted being a victim for being a hero," he said. "That's
far from the meaning of a war hero."
From early mythology, war has produced heroes, soldiers who sacrificed
themselves in extraordinary ways to save others.
In recent years, though, the public definition of a hero has become much
broader and, some argue, overused. On a wider cultural level, Americans
refer to all sorts of people as heroes, no matter the depth of their
"The whole hero phrase has been cheapened," said John Mueller, a political
science professor at Ohio State University who has studied war and the
The Vietnam War signaled a major transformation in the nation's perception
of heroism, according to several experts on American military history.
In an unpopular war, Hollywood painted the bleak picture of combat
soldiers returning from Vietnam not as heroes but as outcasts. POWs, however, found
a hero's welcome for sacrificing years of their lives as captives and
surviving mental and physical torture.
"It's not for what they did on the battlefield," Mueller said of the POWs.
"It's for what they endured."
In the Iraq war, families and those honoring American dead often cast them
in a heroic light no matter how they died--even if it was sitting in a
Humvee that was felled by a roadside bomb.
"Of course they are heroes," said Tony Cutrano, leader of a Chicago-area
group of motorcyclists who have erected a memorial wall in central
Illinois naming the U.S. dead in Iraq. "They went over there and gave their lives
for our freedom. What can be more heroic?"
`This is a brave generation'
Hundreds of other personnel also have performed brave acts, according to
the military. "There are a ton of heroes out there," said Marine spokesman
Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead, who returned recently from a second tour of duty in
Iraq. "They make my eyes water. This is a brave generation."
While military spokesmen offered contradictory views of how well the
Pentagon is publicizing its heroes, they agreed that many Americans would
rather ignore the war--even the hero stories.
"Americans don't believe we are at war," Milstead said. "Given that
mind-set, it's difficult to give fidelity to heroes."
Among support-the-troops groups, a following has developed in cyberspace
for American military exploits.
Chicagoan and former military intelligence officer Matthew Currier Burden
started such a Web site and also has compiled stories from military
personnel in a book titled "The Blog of War." In it, frontline dispatches
provide unfiltered details of bravery, he said.
Burden also does a weekly talk show on a Boston radio station with a
segment called "Someone You Should Know" that tells stories of war.
"I could tell a story a night and never run out of material," Burden said.
"Unfortunately, many of these don't turn out with happy endings, and I
think that can be a turnoff for the American public. It doesn't make
them any less inspiring though."
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #9 on:
November 07, 2006, 04:48:44 PM »
SACRIFICE Troop cradled grenade to save others
Los Angeles Times
12-7-2004 | TONY PERRY and RICHARD MORRIS
SAN DIEGO ? Sgt. Rafael Peralta is dead, but the story of his sacrifice to save fellow Marines will live long in Marine Corps lore.
In the fierce battle for the Iraqi town of Fallujah, Peralta, with gunshot wounds to his head and body, reached out and grabbed a grenade hurled by an insurgent, cradling it to his body to save others from the blast.
The explosion in the back room of a house injured one Marine, but four others managed to scramble to safety.
Peralta, 25, an immigrant from Mexico who enlisted the day he got his green-card work permit, was declared dead en route to a field hospital.
?If he hadn?t done what he did, a lot of us wouldn?t be seeing our families again,? said Lance Cpl. Travis J. Kaemmerer, who witnessed the blast.
Garry Morrison, the father of Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, had trouble keeping his voice from breaking when he spoke of Peralta.
?He saved the life of my son and every Marine in that room,? Morrison said in a phone call from Seattle. ?I just know one thing: God has a special place in heaven for Sgt. Peralta.?
Similar gratitude was expressed by family members of other Marines in Peralta?s unit who were close to the blast. The unit was Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
In a modest home in a blue-collar neighborhood here, the Peralta family feels pride but also grief, anger and confusion.
Rafael Peralta was the oldest son: strong, a weightlifter and athlete, head of the family since his father died in a workplace accident three years ago. He loved the Marine Corps.
He joined in 2000 and recently had re-enlisted. While in the Marines, he became a U.S. citizen. The only decorations on his bedroom walls are a copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and a picture of his boot camp graduation.
As Peralta waited last month to begin the assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, he wrote a letter to his 14-year-old brother, Ricardo.
The letter arrived the day after several Marines and a Navy chaplain came to the Peralta home to notify the family of his death.
?We are going to destroy insurgents,? Peralta wrote. ?Watch the news. . . . Be proud of me, bro. I?m going to do something I always wanted to do.
?You should be proud of being an American. Our father came to this country and became a citizen because it was the right place for our family to be. If anything happens to me, just remember I?ve already lived my life to the fullest.?
Peralta had left his mother, Rosa, with similar words. She said he told her, ?I want you to be strong and take care of my brother and sisters because I don?t know if I?ll return.? His mother added, ?I?m proud of him, but my heart is sad.?
Rafael Peralta had not been assigned to the Nov. 15 attack on Fallujah. Still, he volunteered.
As a scout, assigned to perimeter security, he could have stayed on the periphery. Instead, he took the lead as his platoon stormed a house in search of heavily armed insurgents known to be hiding in the neighborhood.
The house appeared empty. Then Peralta opened a door to a back room, and three insurgents fired their AK-47s. Marines fired back at near point-blank range with M-16 rifles and automatic weapons.
Hit several times in the chest and once in the head, Peralta went down and appeared dead. Insurgents tossed a ?yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped? grenade toward the Marines.
To the amazement of the other Marines, Peralta, apparently with his last bit of strength, ?reached out and pulled the grenade into his body,? said Kaemmerer, a combat correspondent from the 1st Force Service Support Group assigned to the battalion. Peralta?s body absorbed most of the deadly fragments from the blast.
?Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade,? Kaemmerer said. ?Every one of us is grateful and will never forget the second chance at life Sgt. Peralta gave us.?
After the grenade blast, the house caught fire, and Marines repositioned in the street for a second assault. Within minutes, the three insurgents had been killed by Marines and Peralta?s body was recovered.
In the hours after the battle, Marines spoke quietly of Peralta?s heroism.
?You?re still here, don?t forget that,? Lance Cpl. Richard A. Mason told Kaemmerer. ?Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and other Marines today.?
Even in their pain, Peralta?s family members are not surprised that he decided to lead from the front.
?My brother was very courageous,? Ricardo Peralta said. ?He wasn?t scared of anyone or anything.?
Reply #10 on:
November 08, 2006, 01:23:00 PM »
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #11 on:
November 09, 2006, 02:31:24 PM »
Fellowship of Fighters With Tales of Sacrifice
Bill Crandall for The New York Times
Marine Museum A new center near Quantico, Va., devoted to the Marine Corps opens on Friday.
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: November 9, 2006
TRIANGLE, Va., Nov. 6 ? I may not be alone in my reaction to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, which is opening on Friday adjacent to the Marine base in Quantico, outside Washington. In making my way through its 118,000 square feet of exhibitions, timelines, sound-and-light shows, historical videos, battle accounts and fighting machines, I felt a little like an alien visitor getting to know another culture. I am not among those for whom these packaged experiences (executed with great skill in the current museum mode) evoke reminiscences and platoon allegiances. I know this world only from news reports, movies and histories.
But many who will visit this impressive complex ? which will grow by another 80,000 square feet of exhibition, classroom and theater space in coming years ? will be intimately familiar with its account of Marine culture, beginning with basic training so intense it is intended to strip the recruit of any hint of the individualism so deeply cherished on the outside.
That experience is evoked here by a model of a bus bearing hopeful young men to a Marine training camp. ?Get off my bus,? the voice of a drill instructor would roar. ?Stand on the yellow footprints on the pavement. Now!?
Those footprints are here, at the bus?s side. Nearby are two soundproof booths into which the museumgoer ? having just begun this engaging, serpentine journey through recent Marine Corps history ? seals himself to hear the disorienting shouts of the drill sergeant.
Some visitors, who have memories of such shouts, may have flown, during World War II, an F4U Corsair much like the airplane suspended from the ceiling in the Leatherneck Gallery here. They may know that marines are called leathernecks because of a strap that protected their necks from sword slashes in the 18th century. They may gaze upward, toward the angled sweep of that gallery?s ceiling, which encloses a space that is at once atrium, lobby and arena for display of the land, sea and air equipment used in crucial battles, and recognize allusions to ship?s decks and portholes and even to the sea itself, from which the marines have traditionally emerged, their weapons raised.
While many such visitors would not know immediately that the thrusting bayonetlike rod that extends out of the skewed glass roof is part of an abstract representation of the famed flag-raising at Iwo Jima, the iconography, once identified, will have more associations for them than just the new Clint Eastwood movie. A reproduction of the sculpture of that scene is at the entrance of the nearby Marine base, and the two American flags raised that day are on display here. Amid the quotations praising marines inscribed in stone in this circular gallery is one that also has the potency of legend and the poignancy of truth, as if addressing those whose profession it is to fight our wars. It was cried out by First Sergeant Dan Daly as he led his men against German positions during the late days of World War I: ?Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever??
One of the doctrines of this elite fighting fellowship, and one of the themes of this museum, is that the Marine affiliation does not break with the end of active service, let alone death: a sense of identification extends over centuries. Symbols ? like the Marine insignia of the eagle, globe and anchor ? take on a persistent significance, since every living marine who fought during wartime is also a surviving marine who has seen others fall. In that way too this museum, with all its symbols, is a place of pride and remembrance, a spirit emphasized in the atrium?s central space. (The building is designed by Fentress Bradburn Architects.)
It is also an attempt to remind others of the role marines have played. The museum evolved out of a partnership of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which raised $57 million in private money for construction, and the corps itself, which raised $30 million for the exhibitions, many designed by Christopher Chadbourne & Associates, a firm also involved in designing the new George Washington exhibitions at nearby Mount Vernon. (One gallery, devoted to combat art, is sponsored by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the chairman emeritus of the New York Times Company.) The museum is part of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which features a memorial park and is eventually to include parade grounds, a chapel, a conference center and a hotel.
That project will require additional fund-raising. The museum itself, according to its director, Lin Ezell, plans to begin its Phase 2 in 2008. Now this historical survey of the corps, which was founded on Nov. 10, 1775 (the opening on Friday, which is reservation only, is a birthday celebration), is necessarily incomplete. The 18th- and 19th-century galleries have yet to be built. Recent history is represented by a single gallery of photographs from Iraq and Afghanistan that will eventually be replaced by a full-scale history of the Marines since the Vietnam War.
But what is being unveiled now is the heart of the story, at least for contemporary sensibilities: detailed accounts of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. These wars ? still in the realm of living memory ? are not only chronicled with photographs and wall panels, but also re-enacted in tableaus with life-size figures molded from the features of 75 active-duty marines. These figures are frozen in motion in tanks or jeeps, or appear in the midst of battles atmospherically evoked in what the museum is calling immersion galleries. The floors? molded sand and mud bear the footprints of the era?s boots, the lights and sounds imitate weather and weaponry, and history is turned into theater.
Such immersion of course is aimed less at veterans than at visitors who have not lived through the trauma, onlookers for whom the chill air of the gallery devoted to the battle at Toktong Pass during the Korean War or the humid haze of a siege on Hill 881 South in Vietnam (into which visitors descend from the thumping ramp of a real CH-46 helicopter fuselage) is a curious experience.
But there is so much information in the midst of the sensation that the result becomes thoroughly absorbing. I walked through these winding galleries ? where scenes, equipment and wall panels intermingle, and video screens can even appear on the undersides of planes ? feeling like an innocent abroad, astonished at the historical panorama.
For the most part these exhibitions do not give a whitewashed account. The display about boot camp even mentions the 1956 tragedy in which an overzealous drill instructor took his platoon on an unauthorized march through a swamp one night, leading to the deaths of six recruits. There is much defeat here; the heroism at the Toktong battle, for example, is the valor that leads to survival in the midst of retreat. The early Pacific battles of World War II in Guam and the Philippines were pageants of blood.
But the account of World War II, which focuses extensively on the Pacific because of the centrality of the Marines? involvement, is also a story of strategic lessons learned, in which air, land and water forces became tautly coordinated in fighting difficult battles against entrenched Japanese soldiers. The lessons are less clear in the accounts of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Here the marines occasionally chafe at the role given them or celebrate their relationships with South Vietnamese villages, but an effort to make sense of the whole, with all its scars, is missing.
Given the unsatisfactory, painful winding down of both wars, there are hints of discontent here, signs of the ancient tension between the political and military authorities. Attention is drawn, for example, to the government?s disinclination to take risks after initial triumphs in Korea or to its confusion about strategy and ambition in Vietnam. An unstated lesson is that lack of clarity, determination and flexibility in either the political or the military realm can lead to calamity.
But here is the museum?s persistent point: The same sacrifice is demanded whatever mistakes are made. Whether in crucial battles ? in 36 days of fighting, 6,000 marines were killed at Iwo Jima ? or in more controversial extended wars, that sacrifice is subject to no second guesses. It presumes an allegiance that transcends individual judgment.
This is humbling for a civilian who has been drilled in just the opposite perspective. Yet in the best of such cases, it is through the sacrifices made by the military that we have the luxury of maintaining our proud individualism. The museum makes it possible to understand just what is demanded of those we have asked to fight for us, and how much more is so often given.
Reply #12 on:
November 10, 2006, 12:33:01 PM »
Just in case your Main Stream Media sources didn't mention it, you may wish to know that today is Veteran's Day.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #13 on:
November 29, 2006, 01:37:23 AM »
BY JAMES TARANTO
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 3:24 p.m. EST
Responding to Rangel
"The National Commander of The American Legion called on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to apologize for suggesting that American troops would not choose to fight in Iraq if they had other employment options," says a press release from the legion:
"Our military is the most skilled, best-trained all-volunteer force on the planet," said National Commander Paul A. Morin. "Like that recently espoused by Sen. John Kerry, Congressman Rangel's view of our troops couldn't be further from the truth and is possibly skewed by his political opposition to the war in Iraq." . . .
"These brave men and women lay it on the line every day for each and every one of us, for which I am very grateful," Morin said. "Their selfless commitment for the betterment of our world from radical extremists is beyond commendable. It's time for members of Congress to stop insulting our troops. . . ."
Some of our readers, responding to our item yesterday, took Rangel's disparagement personally. Here is Brian Bartlett:
I have a message for Mr. Rangel; I will not use the term Honorable with him. At age 17, I had already had seven years of college and university education for which I had received 3 1/2 years' credit due to the vagaries of our educational system and I was teaching at the university for those 3 1/2 years as well as working as a professional consultant starting at $40 per hour, a rather princely sum in 1974.
Following family tradition--my mother, father, grandfathers and beyond had all served--I entered the United States Navy nine days after my 17th birthday. There followed an education second to none in various fields of engineering including nuclear. The training was intense, essentially cramming years of engineering into six months, and not very many were left at the end of the school even in my section, the best and brightest. The civilian world has no equivalent; graduate school is a joke by comparison, and I should know, having been through both.
Despite my disabilities that resulted in my discharge after over 13 years of service, I am subject to recall to this day, and should they call, I will answer willingly. Unlike, apparently, Mr. Rangel, I know what is happening on the ground over there, as I have kin there to this day. I have been to the Middle East several times, and my sister served in Saudi Arabia and Iraq for the First Gulf War. In my family we serve, peace or war, because that is what we are and what we do. It's not for money, it's not for the educational benefits after the service, which in my case were laughable. He can go peddle his contempt elsewhere.
Patti Sayer adds:
I am the mother of a fine young man, an American soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, who risked his life in Iraq for 14 of the longest months of his and my life . By the way, he just re-enlisted for another eight years. I also happen to be the Air Force brat daughter of a Vietnam vet. I grew up in Europe while my father defended that ungrateful continent from attack by the Soviet Union.
My father's brother served on the USS Louisville in World War II, and his turret was struck by a kamikaze during the Battle of Surigao Strait. He was grievously wounded. Another uncle spent a miserable year of service in Korea in 1951. I guess you could say that my family has sacrificed a lot for this nation. So when I hear Rep. Rangel imply, in essence, that my son, father and uncles served only because they had no other economic choices or were too stupid to know what they were doing, I get angry.
As for the issue of the Iraq war, how dare Mr. Rangel denigrate my son and his fellow soldiers as nothing but a bunch of uneducated, patsy, losers, being manipulated by an evil George Bush? He makes their sacrifice appear to be that born of ignorance and poor upbringing, and I am deeply resentful of his attitude. My son is not stupid, and there are plenty of economic opportunities where we live. It is apparent that Mr. Rangel perceives himself as smarter than my poor dumb son, who voluntarily joined the military and who is honored to serve our nation in spite of Mr. Rangel's contempt.
And here is Ben Kohlmann:
I think the comments attributed to Rep. Rangel reveal not only the mindset of liberal policy makers in relation to the military, but also their view of what I like to call "duty to the self." Those that achieve the greatest academic achievement usually tend to be the most self-centered, imagining their indispensability to the world as a whole. Why should someone give up four years (or more!) of comfort and high earning potential to be subjected to months away from family, cramped living conditions, and the legally binding orders of others? In our modern, liberated, self-centered mind, such a thought is inconceivable.
Much of this is fostered in the academic environment they are indoctrinated into. This view, in and of itself, is at odds with the underlying selflessness that must be present for an effective member of the armed forces. So I don't so much take it as insulting as revealing a gross negligence in comprehending the true nature of sacrifice.
I am a young naval officer, and for the record, I graduated with both Latin and departmental honors from a top 10 university. I was named "Greek Man of the Year" and held numerous leadership positions throughout campus. One of my good friends, who happens to be a Marine just back from Iraq, won the freshman writing award at the same institution, and also graduated with honors. My peers in our squadron's ready room have masters degrees from MIT and Ivies. My best friend earned a graduate degree from Stanford before his current service in Afghanistan. My roommate's wife, a Marine signals-intelligence officer, recently finished up work at Cambridge in chemistry stemming from a Gates scholarship.
We are all under 26, and had we so chosen, certainly could have had the "option of having a decent career" apart from the military. I cite these things not to egotistically promote our individual accomplishments, but only to show that I personally know the representative is wrong.
He scoffed at our true willingness to fight. Ironically, as an aside, since the beginning of the Iraq war, my only desire has been to get over there and fight, but to no avail, as my current military obligations have me training elsewhere. Anyway, we fight because we recognize that the best years of our lives are better spent serving something bigger than ourselves than serving selfish ends. We fight knowing that for all the hardship and tears shed over being away from loved ones, the defense of our Republic, and even the giving of our lives, is far more worthy than going through life focused on wealth and pleasure.
It is undoubtedly true that to the last, we all would like nothing better than to settle down, have a family, and raise them in peace, being there for every birthday and anniversary. We, too, would like to pursue jobs that pay tens of thousands more per year than we currently receive. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at my friends in law school and other prestigious professions in envy at the "opportunities" they have while I "endure" months of boredom.
But it is also true that there are men and ideologies in the world that would like nothing better than to rip those things away from many in our population who enjoy such blessings. We will not stand idly by and allow that to happen. Our educational and academic accomplishments make us more duty bound to serve the country that enabled us, better than any other, to realize our full potential. These past few years of service have encompassed the greatest struggles and most trying times of my entire life, but ultimately, that is the cost of defending an ideology of freedom. Indeed, it is that cost itself that brings true value to freedom.
The San Francisco Chronicle profiles someone with a similar attitude:
If Dr. Martin Holland had his way, he'd be in Iraq right now. In Fallujah or Ramadi or Baghdad. Up to his elbows in blood and brain matter, operating on Marines and soldiers with severe head injuries.
As it happens, it's unlikely the doctor will find himself hovering over a battlefield operating table. But he has a strong desire to serve -- to do something for the troops suffering severe combat injuries. Instead of teaching residents and interns how to stop intracranial bleeding in San Francisco, Holland is wearing Navy whites and operating on sailors and Marines in San Diego.
Holland is not an 18-year-old who joins the Marines fresh out of high school. He's 44, and he quit a prestigious job as director of neurotrauma at UC San Francisco. But there are similarities: Both put aside personal lives to enlist in the military.
They also serve who stand and operate.
"When I was a kid, I loved stories about knights in shining armor," he said. "There was something very appealing about the ideals of honor, courage and all that kind of stuff.
"The only thing I saw in the modern world that was even close to that code of chivalry was, one, the military, and two, was medicine with the Hippocratic oath."
It's noteworthy that few if any of Rangel's fellow Democrats have stepped forward to defend his bigoted statements. Further, when John Kerry* said something similar last month, he didn't even have the courage to stand by it and instead claimed to have been talking about something else entirely.
On the other hand, we haven't noticed many Democratic politicians or liberal commentators repudiating what Rangel said--in sharp contrast to the way Republicans and conservatives responded to Trent Lott's infamous comments about Strom Thurmond four years ago.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #14 on:
December 07, 2006, 01:10:46 AM »
By Kevin Cullen
THE BOSTON GLOBE December 5, 2006
It was a routine patrol, in the third week of June – if, in fact, there is such a thing as a routine patrol in Fallujah, in Iraq's Anbar province.
MICHELE McDONALD / The Boston Globe
Navy medic Greg Cinelli held Baby Mariam last month at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the Iraqi girl had successful surgery.
Chris Walsh, a Navy medic assigned to a Marines weapons company, was riding in a Humvee with three Marines, when a hidden bomb exploded in the dirt road just in front of them.
Even before the thick dust had settled, the Marines, and Walsh, were out of the vehicle, looking for the insurgents who had planted the remote-control device. The triggerman, as several who joined the pursuit vividly recall, was spotted first on a rooftop, then on the ground making his escape through the maze of ramshackle houses that line the road.
When Walsh and the Marines came to one doorway, M-4 rifles up and ready, a woman emerged from a room, holding an infant and saying, over and over again, “Baby. Baby sick.”
Walsh put his gun down and the woman put the baby down.
Walsh had seen bad things – as an EMT back home in St. Louis, and at war. But he told his comrades he had never seen anything like this: The child, just a few months old, looked as though her insides had been turned inside out.
Her name was Mariam, and she looked up at Walsh with dead eyes.
Suddenly, finding the bad guys became secondary. Walsh, the Marines recall, examined the child, pulled out a digital camera and took pictures to show the doctors back at base camp. As soon as Capt. Sean Donovan, a doctor assigned to the First Battalion 25th Marine Regiment out of Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., saw them, he knew the baby had a rare condition in which the bladder develops outside the body. Donovan said she wouldn't live long without surgery of a kind she couldn't get in Iraq.
“Then,” Donovan recalls Walsh saying, “we've got to get her out of here, sir.”
The Boston Globe
Marine Lance Cpl. Corey Robbins (left) and Navy medics John Garran (center) and Greg Cinelli were reunited with Baby Mariam at Massachusetts General Hospital. A Marines weapons company found the ailing Iraqi girl in Fallujah.
It seemed a noble sentiment, if, in the middle of a war, a bit naive. But Walsh meant it. Saving Baby Mariam became his mission. At chow one night, he stood up and explained to the Marines in his platoon what he wanted to do. He said he'd need help. And one by one, the Marines put up their hands.
Mike Henderson, a Marine major from Maine, told Walsh and Donovan that his nephew was born with the same condition, called a bladder exstrophy, and that the boy had successful surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. Donovan began using his computer, trying to find the appropriate medical care and a shortcut through the maddening military bureaucracy, a way to get the child out. The Rev. Marc Bishop, a Chelmsford, Mass., priest who is battalion chaplain, started e-mailing friends back home, looking for money and help.
Meanwhile, each week, under the cover of darkness, wearing night-vision goggles, Walsh and a dozen Marines made their way to the shanty where Mariam lived. They parked their Humvees a mile away and walked a different, circuitous route each time.
Staff Sgt. Edward Ewing, the platoon leader who devised and led the covert nocturnal visits, said Walsh's team followed a routine: Lance Cpl. Eric Valdepenas, a 21-year-old from Seekonk, Mass., and Cody Hill, a 23-year-old lance corporal from Oklahoma, hid outside Mariam's house, providing cover, along with some others; Cpl. Jared Shoemaker, 29, a police officer from Tulsa, accompanied Donovan and Walsh inside the house, where they tended to Mariam as best they could, trying to ward off an infection that could kill her.
“We're going to get her the help she needs,” Walsh would say, to a family that didn't speak English but somehow understood that the Americans, loathed as an occupying force by many in Fallujah, represented Mariam's only chance.
Over the summer, they made great strides. Bishop had struck gold with an e-mail to Christopher Anderson, one of his parishioners at St. Mary's Church in Chelmsford. Anderson, who is president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, lined up 16 companies to pay to get the baby to Boston.
Donovan, meanwhile, had found Dr. Rafael Pieretti, a Venezuelan surgeon at Massachusetts General who is one of the few doctors in the United States who specialize in the condition. Pieretti and Massachusetts General offered their services free of charge.
But there it all stalled. There were some 5,000 Iraqi civilians seeking to leave the country for medical care, and Mariam, it seemed, would have to wait her turn.
On Labor Day, Sept. 4, Walsh and his team were on another routine patrol in another section of Fallujah, about a mile from Mariam's house. Ewing was in the lead vehicle and noticed some kids playing soccer off the side of the road. Then came the blast, which lifted the rear of Ewing's 5-ton Humvee off the road. But it was Walsh's Humvee just behind that took what the Marines call a belly shot: The bomb exploded directly under the vehicle.
The Boston Globe
Maureen Walsh (right), the mother of slain medic Chris Walsh, and nurse Katie Dinare visited Baby Mariam last month at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ewing and some Marines rushed to the smoking wreckage. Medic Greg Cinelli tried to keep them away. They pushed their way past him, and Cinelli turned his attention to Hill, who had severe burns over more than half of his body. Hill was in shock but kept asking about the others.
“You made it out!” Cinelli told Hill. “They can, too!”
But Cinelli was just trying to give Hill the will to live. There was nothing he or anybody else could do for the others: Valdepenas, the youngest of eight children, who left the University of Massachusetts at Amherst when his unit got called to active duty, Shoemaker, with a wife back in Oklahoma, and Walsh, the author of the mission for Mariam, were dead.
With their seven-month rotation about to end, and 11 members of their battalion dead and 83 wounded, the Marines decided there was only one way to honor their dead brothers and that was to make sure the baby was saved.
E-mails from Fallujah shot all around the United States, detailing the risks that Walsh and the Marines had taken, the effort expended and the blood spilled. Suddenly, the red tape loosened, and in early October Mariam was flown to Boston. The surgery was successful, and she is doing well.
More than a month after Maureen Walsh buried her son, she stood in her living room in Kansas, reading a handwritten letter from Donovan.
“You need to know this about your son,” Donovan wrote.
She had not known about Mariam, had not known that her son spent months, surrounded by the chaos of war, trying to save her. And it was then, as she stood there, tears falling onto Donovan's letter, that Maureen Walsh knew she had to see the child, and hold her in her arms.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #15 on:
December 28, 2006, 07:03:02 AM »
This article on the death of President Ford caught my attention:
How Lieutenant Ford Saved His Ship
By ROBERT DRURY and TOM CLAVIN
Published: December 28, 2006
East Hampton, N.Y.
FOR Americans under a certain age, Gerald Ford is best remembered for his contribution to Bartlett’s — “Our long national nightmare is over” — or, more likely, for the comedian Chevy Chase’s stumbling, bumbling impersonations of him on “Saturday Night Live.” But there’s a different label we can attach to this former president, one that has been overlooked for 62 years: war hero.
In 1944, Lt. j.g. Jerry Ford — a lawyer from Grand Rapids, Mich., blond and broad-shouldered, with the lantern jaw of a young Johnny Weissmuller — was a 31-year-old gunnery officer on the aircraft carrier Monterey. The Monterey was a member of Adm. William Halsey’s Third Fleet, and in mid-December, Lieutenant Ford was sailing off the Philippines as Admiral Halsey’s ships provided air cover for the second phase of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “I shall return” Philippine invasions.
The Monterey had earned more than half a dozen battle stars for actions in World War II; during the battle of Leyte Gulf, Lieutenant Ford, in charge of a 40-millimeter antiaircraft gun crew on the fantail deck, had watched as a torpedo narrowly missed the Monterey and tore out the hull of the nearby Australian cruiser Canberra. Two months later, in the early morning hours of Dec. 18, the Japanese were the least of the Monterey’s worries, as it found itself trapped in a vicious Pacific cyclone later designated Typhoon Cobra.
Lieutenant Ford had served as the Monterey’s officer of the deck on the ship’s midnight-to-4-a.m. watch, and had witnessed the lashing rains and 60-knot winds whip the ocean into waves that resembled liquid mountain ranges. The waves reeled in from starboard, gigantic sets of dark water that appeared to defy gravity, cresting at 40 to 70 feet. In his 18 months at sea, Lieutenant Ford had never seen waves so big. As breakers crashed over the carrier’s wheelhouse, he could just barely make out the distress whistles sounding about him — the deep beeps of the battleships, the shrill whoops of the destroyers.
After his watch Lieutenant Ford had strapped himself into his bunk below decks, and it seemed that his head had barely hit the pillow when the Monterey’s skipper, Capt. Stuart H. Ingersoll, sounded general quarters, calling all hands to their stations. Lieutenant Ford bolted upright in his dark sea cabin. He thought he smelled smoke amidships. Racing through a rolling companionway dimly lighted by red battle lights, he reached the outside skipper’s ladder leading to the pilothouse and began to climb. At that precise moment a 70-foot wave broke over the Monterey. The carrier pitched 25 degrees to port, and Lieutenant Ford was knocked flat on his back. He began skimming the flight deck as if he were on a toboggan.
Just as he was about to be hurled overboard, Lieutenant Ford managed to slow his slide, twist like an acrobat, and fling himself onto the catwalk. He got to his knees, made his way below deck, and started back up again.
By the time he reached the Monterey’s pilothouse, the fighter planes in its hangar deck had begun slamming into one another as well as the bulkheads — “like pinballs,” Mr. Ford recalled 60 years later — and the collisions had ignited their gas tanks. The hangar deck of the Monterey had become a cauldron of aircraft fuel, and because of a quirk in its construction, the flames from the burning aircraft were sucked into the air intakes of the lower decks. As fires broke out below, Lieutenant Ford remembered the smoke he smelled when he’d bolted from his bunk.
Admiral Halsey had ordered Captain Ingersoll to abandon ship, and the Monterey was ablaze from stem to stern as Lieutenant Ford stood near the helm, awaiting his orders. “We can fix this,” Captain Ingersoll said, and with a nod from his skipper, Lieutenant Ford donned a gas mask and led a fire brigade below.
Aircraft-gas tanks exploded as hose handlers slid across the burning decks. Into this furnace Lieutenant Ford led his men, his first order of business to carry out the dead and injured. Hours later he and his team emerged burned and exhausted, but they had put out the fire.
Three destroyers were eventually capsized by Typhoon Cobra, a dozen more ships were seriously damaged, more than 150 planes were destroyed, and 793 men lost their lives. It was the Navy’s worst “defeat” of World War II. But the Monterey and nearly all of its men survived to take part in the battle of Okinawa, and the future president ended his Navy stint in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant commander.
Like his fellow World War II veterans, Mr. Ford returned home and resumed his life, rarely speaking publicly of his heroism. But in contrast to the public’s image of him as a clumsy nonentity, Mr. Ford was a man whose grace under pressure saved his ship and hundreds of men on it.
Robert Drury and Tom Clavin are the authors of the forthcoming “Halsey’s Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm and an Untold Rescue.”
Rescued Behind Enemy Lines
Reply #16 on:
March 19, 2007, 04:48:03 PM »
ELITE TEAM RESCUES TROOPS BEHIND ENEMY LINES: As a member of the U.S. Air Force's elite Combat Search and Rescue team, "Dan," a pararescueman, or PJ, is used to saving the lives of fellow U.S. and coalition troops in battlefield situations. But last month, he was the one in need of rescue. During a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, he was critically injured in a Chinook helicopter crash that killed eight service members, including U.S. Army Rangers and a fellow pararescueman. Before losing consciousness, Dan managed to give a medical assessment to a rescue team in another location.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #17 on:
March 20, 2007, 08:03:59 AM »
I admit to feeling considerable anger with President Bush over his failure to up the size of the military several years ago. In political terms he easily could have done so during the 2004 Presidential campaign when Sen. Kerry was calling for an increase of 40,000 IIRC. Now, three years later, the increase he finally is asking for will be much harder to achieve and the hardship on the troops has been considerable.
The following is from the today's NY Times, always a suspect source, but the gist of the piece does not contradict my impressions from elsewhere.
FORT POLK, La., March 14 — For decades, the Army has kept a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on round-the-clock alert, poised to respond to a crisis anywhere in 18 to 72 hours.
Deployments, Brigade By Brigade Today, the so-called ready brigade is no longer so ready. Its soldiers are not fully trained, much of its equipment is elsewhere, and for the past two weeks the unit has been far from the cargo aircraft it would need in an emergency.
Instead of waiting on standby, the First Brigade of the 82nd Airborne is deep in the swampy backwoods of this vast Army training installation, preparing to go to Iraq. Army officials concede that the unit is not capable of getting at least an initial force of several hundred to a war zone within 18 hours, a standard once considered inviolate.
The declining readiness of the brigade is just one measure of the toll that four years in Iraq — and more than five years in Afghanistan — have taken on the United States military. Since President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq and Afghanistan in January, roughly half of the Army’s 43 active-duty combat brigades are now deployed overseas, Army officials said. A brigade has about 3,500 soldiers.
Pentagon officials worry that among the just over 20 Army brigades left in the United States or at Army bases in Europe and Asia, none has enough equipment and manpower to be sent quickly into combat, except for an armored unit stationed permanently in South Korea, several senior Army officers said.
“We are fully committed right now,” said Col. Charles Hardy of the Forces Command, which oversees Army training and equipping of troops to be sent overseas. “If we had a fully trained-up brigade, hell, it’d be the next one to deploy.”
The 82nd recently canceled its annual Memorial Day parade because most of its 17,000 soldiers are overseas. When the First Brigade, which got the rotating assignment as the ready brigade in December, leaves for Iraq over the summer, the 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky., will take over responsibility for the ready brigade. But its soldiers are preparing to go to Iraq this year as well.
[Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, told Congress in testimony on March 15 that with the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army does not have the time or the resources to prepare for most of the other missions it could potentially face.]
Military officials say that the United States, which has more than two million personnel in active and reserve armed forces, has a combat-tested force that could still emerge victorious if another major conflict arose. But the response would be slower, with more casualties, and would have to rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force, they said.
Despite tensions with Iran and North Korea, another crisis requiring troops does not appear imminent.
If ground forces were needed urgently, Army commanders said they could draw units quickly from Iraq and send them wherever they might be needed, rather than relying solely on the ready brigade to provide a fast reaction force.
The Pentagon can also draw on 28 combat brigades in the reserves, several of which the military is making plans to mobilize later this year or early next to relieve some of the strain. But those units face even deeper problems than the active duty brigades because of equipment and training shortfalls.
Altogether, Army officials said 23 brigades, including one National Guard brigade, are now deployed overseas. Once the reinforcements called for by the White House are in place, 17 Army combat brigades will be in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, Army officials said, along with four more deployed in various locations, including as peacekeepers in the Sinai desert.
In effect, the Army has become a “just in time” organization: every combat brigade that finishes training is sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan almost immediately. Equipment vital for protecting troops, like armored vehicles, roadside bomb jammers and night vision goggles, is rushed to Iraq as quickly as it is made, officials say.
The 2007 Pentagon budget includes $17.1 billion to reset Army equipment, with a separate fund of $13.9 billion in emergency funds to replace or repair gear damaged in combat. Even so, units at home preparing to deploy are facing equipment shortages and have all but given up preparing for anything other than their next tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Page 2 of 2)
[“We do have shortages in the nondeployed forces,” General Cody conceded in his unusually candid testimony to Congress. There were not enough vehicles, radios and night vision gear, and there are “spot shortages” in weapons, he said, noting that those units constituted the nation’s strategic reserve.]
Deployments, Brigade By Brigade Later this year, the Army will probably be forced to send its first brigades back to Iraq with less than a year at home resting and training, senior Pentagon officials said. Another alternative, they said, would be to lengthen the tours in Iraq to 18 months from a year.
Army officials said no soldiers were sent overseas without adequate training and equipment. And they point to continued strong recruiting and retention numbers as proof that morale remains high.
But after insisting for years that one year at home is a minimum amount of time necessary to prepare a unit to conduct counterinsurgency operations, commanders now say that, by speeding up equipment overhauls and compressing training, they can do the job in 10 months or less.
Over time, the shortened training schedules will inevitably begin to affect the performance of troops in the field, some officers said.
Senior Pentagon officials worry about those deepening strains. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a secret report to Congress last month that upgraded from “moderate” to “significant” the risk of failing in its mission that the military faces this year in carrying out tasks in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other hot spots that might emerge.
[“We have the best counterinsurgency army in the world, but they’re not trained for full-spectrum operations,” General Cody said in his testimony.]
The Marines, which are also heavily engaged in Iraq, are facing similar strains.
Fort Polk is one of the last stops many combat units make before deploying to Iraq. During the cold war, the installation trained soldiers to fight the Soviets in Europe. The 82nd, based in Fort Bragg, N. C., used to parachute into Louisiana to keep its airborne skills sharp, but that tradition has been abandoned.
Now, even though the terrain bears little resemblance to Iraq’s desertlike conditions, the emphasis is solely on preparing infantry units to handle the chaotic sectarian conflict and random violence they are likely to encounter there.
Within the 82nd’s current First Brigade, about 4 soldiers in 10 have done previous tours in Iraq, making preparations to go back easier, said Col. Charles Flynn, the brigade commander. Last week, the brigade was spread out throughout the wooded training area at Fort Polk, in an exercise that featured simulations of the kind of Iraqi villages and roadside bomb attacks that many soldiers had actually experienced in previous deployments.
But almost all are in new jobs. Lt. Col. Michael Iacobucci, now a battalion commander, had served as a battalion executive officer in the 82nd when it was in Iraq in 2003. After coming home, Colonel Iacobucci, who is from Albany, had moved with his family to Australia as part of a three-year military exchange program.
He rejoined the 82nd in August, eager to go back to Iraq, he said while driving in a Humvee through the mock Iraqi villages. Before units were actually preparing to go into combat, their performance at Fort Polk would be graded only when the two-week exercise was over, said Lt. Col. Arthur Kandarian, a trainer. Now, the lessons are frequently spelled out as they happen, to get soldiers ready faster.
“It was treated as more of a test, and it was a closed-book test,” he explained. “Now it’s a coaching situation because we’re in a war.”
Training is being compressed at almost every stage, Army officers said. Soldiers who before 2003 spent months in specialized courses and on firing ranges now take compressed classes taught by so-called mobile training teams and hone their weapons proficiency on simulators, Army officers said.
“The biggest problem I’m seeing is unfamiliarity with equipment,” said Capt. Christian Durham, an instructor at Fort Polk, who sees all the units that rotate through before heading to Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Army is struggling just to keep up with current troop demands. The five additional combat brigades ordered by President Bush in January will raise the total American force level in Iraq to 160,000 troops, including combat and support troops, by June. That has forced the Army to take steps to supply troops faster to maintain the higher force levels.
Two Army brigades, one at Fort Riley, Kan., and another at Ft. Hood, Tex., that were not scheduled to return to the combat rotation until 2008 were ordered in December to speed up preparations so they will be ready to deploy by October, said Lt. Col. Christian Kubik, a spokesman for the First Infantry Division.
The Pentagon also informed the 172nd Stryker Brigade, which returned in December from a 16-month tour in Iraq, that it had to be ready for possible deployment between October and December, according to Maj. Michael Blankartz, a brigade spokesman.
Normally, a brigade is given half a year to overhaul its equipment, but the Alaska brigade, now part of the 25th Infantry Division, has only four months, he said. The timetable for preparing its troops is even more accelerated.
Roughly two-thirds of the brigade’s 3,300 soldiers are rotating to other units around the Army, as is customary after a deployment, Major Blankartz said. Their replacements are not scheduled to arrive until July and August, he said, leaving only one or two months before the Army wants the brigade prepared.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #18 on:
May 14, 2007, 04:45:11 PM »
Iraq: The Intense Search for Three Missing U.S. Soldiers
Thousands of U.S. troops backed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and spy satellites searched the "Triangle of Death" just south of Baghdad, Iraq, on May 14 for three U.S. soldiers missing in action since insurgents attacked their patrol in the area May 12. The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization of jihadist insurgent groups, claimed responsibility for the attack on a jihadist Web site May 13, and said it has the soldiers in custody, though it provided no proof.
Although the capture of soldiers is a risk in any war -- indeed, Iraq's insurgents have captured U.S. soldiers in the past -- the U.S. strategy of deploying troops in smaller units increases the odds that enemy combatants will seize American soldiers.
The U.S. patrol, comprising two vehicles with a total of seven soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter, came under attack before dawn some 12 miles west of the town of Mahmudiyah, in the Triangle of Death. The patrol, from the 3rd Infantry Division, likely was out in the predawn hours to clear the road of any improvised explosive devices before the day's traffic began. U.S. troops responding to the attack found the bodies of five members of the unit, including the interpreter, at the scene.
In this case, the initial response to the attack would have come from similar patrols in the area, which would have rushed to the scene to provide reinforcements. At that time, the call would have gone out for the deployment of a quick reaction force, a unit of 10 to 15 soldiers, usually military police or cavalry, held in reserve at a forward operating base (FOB) for the purpose of responding to units in the field that come under attack. Once it is determined that soldiers are indeed missing, the report is sent from the field to the higher levels of command. In this case, the initial notification would have gone at least as high as the divisional command level.
The search for the missing soldiers is the current highest tactical priority for U.S. forces in Iraq -- and all available assets are being used to locate them. Some 4,000 U.S. soldiers have surged into the area where the patrol was ambushed, searching houses and vehicles and detaining suspicious individuals. In addition, UAVs are scouring the area, using video, infrared and other sensors to locate any signs of the soldiers or their captors. Coalition spokesman Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell also said "national means" are being used in the search, meaning the government is using spy satellites capable of collecting all kinds of image, signal and multispectral intelligence. Because they are in a polar orbit and move quickly over the Earth's surface, the satellites can only scan the area for a brief time. The information they collect can be used to narrow the search area for the UAVs, which can loiter over the area longer and provide real-time information. Furthermore, Iraqi interpreters in U.S. employ, as well as local Iraqi sources, have begun collecting intelligence about the soldiers from relatives in the insurgency.
The risk of capture is high in any combat situation in which small units come into direct contact with one another. In recent months, however, the U.S. military has begun deploying troops to neighborhoods in smaller units, rather than sending them out in large convoys from FOBs. This further increases the odds that more U.S. troops will be captured.
In Iraq, U.S. solders are told to resist capture at all costs, and to attempt escape immediately. This is because they can expect no quarter from the enemy or any protection under the Geneva Conventions if captured. If the attackers captured the missing U.S. troops alive, the soldiers likely were wounded during the ambush or while attempting to fight off the attackers.
Although the United States will remain committed to finding the soldiers, the longer the search continues the more intensity it will lose. Should this effort drag on, other events in Iraq will require that units tasked with the hunt be redeployed to other areas. For the time being, however, the search is top priority.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #19 on:
May 16, 2007, 01:04:54 AM »
The Best Ambassadors
How American troops are making some unlikely friends.
by Jeff Emanuel
05/15/2007 12:00:00 AM
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM saw the advent of a practice that has revolutionized modern war reporting: the embedding of journalists with frontline combat units. This practice gave the media, the American public, and the world, unprecedented access to the soldiers on the front lines, as well as to the war itself. "We were offered an irresistible opportunity: free transportation to the front line of the war, dramatic pictures, dramatic sounds, great quotes," said Tom Gjelten of NPR. "Who can pass that up?"
While the military also benefited from having an eager outlet for its stories and successes, the biggest result of the embedding process was the shift it caused in the relationship between the military and the media--a shift that laid the groundwork for a fundamental change in the dynamics of war reporting. As Major General Buford Blount of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division explained, "A level of trust developed between the soldier and the media that offered nearly unlimited access."
Despite the obvious benefits of embedded reportage, though, the practice has met with its share of criticism from members of the Fourth Estate. Beginning even before OIF kicked off, media spokespersons and others, such as University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, expressed concern that "embedded reporters would inevitably become too sympathetic to the troops with whom they were traveling." Theories were put forth that this was a "primary motivation on the part of military planners in designing the embedded system in the first place," and that the U.S. government was simply taking the approach of, "feed the media beast enough stories that cast U.S. troops in the best possible light and the job of managing the media message is all but taken care of."
The latter is, of course, an absurdly simplistic notion. Rather than simply sitting back and receiving dispatches and releases carefully crafted to "cast U.S. troops in the best possible light," embedded reporters, by the very nature of their task, see the troops with whom they are living and working at all times--the good, the bad, the heroic, the angry, the emotional, and everything else. The former claim though, that reporters will be overly sympathetic to the troops, does ring true to a degree; the debate on that count, then, is whether that is actually a bad thing.
While I was at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in Baghdad, a pair of Spanish journalists--a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist--walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living with them and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures. Their impressions of these soldiers were quickly made clear.
"Absolutely amazing," David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing--our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men--and they seem so young!--are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there--one to a sniper and two to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things that they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing their comrades killed, the soldiers' resolve, morale, and dedication to the mission remained unshaken.
It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers, that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war and those prosecuting it.
"I love those guys," Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is CPIC. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you--you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."
Such a radical transformation, and such a strong bond of affection, forged in so little time. "It is those common experiences," Beriain explained, "where you are all in danger, and you go through it together. It builds a relationship instantly."
It doesn't matter how skeptical of the war a journalist might be, according to an Army public affairs officer (PAO) who spoke with me on condition of anonymity. "So often, they come out of that experience and--even if their opinion of the war hasn't changed--they're completely won over by the troops."
"I was one of those," admitted Beriain, speaking broken English and blinking away tears. "No matter what you think of the war, or what has happened here, you cannot be around the soldiers and not be completely affected. They are amazing people, and they represent themselves and
the Army better than anyone could ever imagine." A retired Army officer concurred, telling me that these "young troops are some of the best good will ambassadors we've ever produced. It would never occur to one to not tell you what he's really thinking, and they are so earnest" that it is almost impossible not to be won over by them after a short while.
The PAO spoke of a Greek reporter who had been embedded with an American cavalry unit in Iraq. The unit became entrenched in a 45-minute firefight with insurgents. Yanked out of the line of fire by a soldier who put the journalist's life above his own, he waited under cover and in fear of his life for the duration of the battle and with the best possible view of American soldiers in action against an armed and murderous enemy. He believed he had lived to tell the tale only because of the bravery of those young troops. "He had tears in his eyes as he talked about it," the PAO said. "He just kept saying, 'they saved my life, they saved my life these are great men; they are heroes.'"
While it may be decried by some for causing "objective" journalists to lose their cold detachment--to see the soldiers they live alongside as real people--it is that very fact that makes the practice of embedding reporters with military units so beneficial to both parties. Rather than observing events from a safe distance, and thus being able to remove the human element from the equation, embedded reporters are forced to face up to the humanity of their subjects, and to share common experiences--often of the life-and-death variety--with those who they are covering. Human nature being what it is, such proximity has a profound effect. It is a testament both to the soldiers themselves, and to the journalists who volunteer to live and work alongside them, that that effect has, in so many cases, been so positive.
Only days after the conversations recounted above, I left to embed with the 1-4 Cav (the unit of which Beriain and his companion, Sergio Caro, had spoken so highly) and began my own experience living and working with the same troops who had won over these foreign journalists so completely. Having stood alongside them in the trenches, I have to say that they impressed me every bit as much as they did my predecessors--as soldiers, as men, and as Americans.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #20 on:
June 01, 2007, 04:20:38 PM »
Dog Brothers Inc. is proud to support Michael Yon in his mission to report the truth from the frontlines.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #21 on:
June 05, 2007, 10:00:38 AM »
MY covers the Brits in action. As awalys from MY, great stuff.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #22 on:
June 19, 2007, 12:20:35 AM »
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #23 on:
June 22, 2007, 12:44:29 AM »
USN SEAL training
Not very deep, it is CNN after all, but good to see that the re-enlistment bonuses are starting to go up.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #24 on:
July 03, 2007, 08:48:41 AM »
Deadly Double Standards
By DAVID G. BOLGIANO
July 3, 2007; Page A16
Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt is a U.S. Marine who served in combat in Haditha, Iraq, and whose actions on the battlefield have made him the focus of an investigation. He is charged with committing three counts of unpremeditated murder on Nov. 19, 2005. Recently, I had the distinct honor of testifying for him at an Article 32 Hearing at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
I will not comment on the specifics of his case. But I will offer a few observations about how this country is judging its young warriors for decisions they make in the heat of battle and the effect that judgment may have on our ability to wage war. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling recently gained a lot of media attention for writing that "a private who loses a rifle suffers more consequence than a general who loses a war." Nowhere is that more true than in the administration of justice for decisions made on the battlefield.
The Defense Department's "rules of engagement" allow commanders to make decisions on how to conduct combat operations. They are given wide latitude up front to decide what level of force a specific mission calls for -- whether to conduct a very limited engagement, whether to call in an air strike or conduct other actions that may result in civilian casualties. Their decisions are often informed by whether they are dealing with known enemy combatants or high-value targets. Depending on the number of potential civilian casualties and the type of weapons systems employed, they can order a target to be bombed without fear of legal consequence (assistance payments, called solatia, made when civilians are injured or killed or property is damaged, are not admissions of legal liability or fault). These commanders often have minutes, hours and sometimes days to make decisions. And they're not under hostile fire.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the middle of a deadly firefight, however, often have only a split second to make similar decisions against a determined, civilian-dressed enemy. And the immediate consequence of making the wrong decision can mean getting yourself or someone in your unit killed. It therefore is unconscionable to apply higher standards and expectations to a younger, less-experienced Marine than to a commander in an operations center far from the battlefield. This isn't to say commanders should face tighter legal standards, but rather a call for the same deference for a rifleman who learns only in hindsight that he may have killed civilians.
In civilian law-enforcement settings, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that cops who exercise the use of deadly force in the line of duty can't be sued, still less prosecuted, for their actions so long as they acted reasonably under the circumstances. Bad results do not mean bad decisions. Police officers, unlike soldiers, are not forced to raise an affirmative defense of self-defense; rather, the government has the initial burden of proving that the police officer's actions were unreasonable. We should provide at least the same level of deference to our warriors making decisions in a combat zone that we do to cops patrolling the streets of America.
We should also protect our warriors from the caterwauling of those such as the Washington Post reporters who "broke" the Haditha story and from those in the military who are more concerned about maintaining an "appearance of propriety" than in killing our determined enemies. Neither the law nor decency allows for the willful killing of innocent civilians. There need to be, however, allowances for unintended and unfortunate consequences.
When it comes to applying the correct legal standard, those judging the actions of warriors in combat should recognize the tactical realities of an engagement. It may be legally and morally appropriate under certain circumstances to kill "unarmed" individuals, such as those actively acting as lookouts for the emplacement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or participating in the network of conspirators building such devices. In a recent Time magazine article a jihadist named Abdallah is quoted saying: "They are not going to defeat me with technology. If they want to get rid of IEDs, they have to kill me and everyone like me." Our young Marines are able and willing to make that happen, if only our leaders will display the moral courage to allow them to do so without fear of prosecution.
We have become our own worst enemy. Sadly, it is not the law that creates these restrictions, but rather an overly-restrictive interpretation of it by some commanders and their lawyers. Hopefully, the military will adopt a self-defense deadly-force policy akin to the FBI's, which reads in part that individual agents will not "be judged in the clear vision of 20-20 hindsight," but rather, based on how a reasonable person would act under situations that are "tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving." I can think of no circumstance more tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving than that faced by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the current counterinsurgency fight in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Bolgiano is the author of "Combat Self Defense: Saving America's Warriors from Risk-Averse Commanders and Their Lawyers" (Little White Wolf Books, 2007). His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #25 on:
July 06, 2007, 05:39:36 AM »
Pilot rides helicopter out of Iraqi firefight
WASHINGTON — Giving up his seat to a wounded soldier, an Army officer strapped himself to the side of an Apache helicopter gunship that airlifted them out of a furious firefight in Iraq, the military said Monday.
The Army called it an "unusual casualty evacuation," but Chief Warrant Officer Allen Crist's selfless act goes way beyond heroism.
Realizing that Spc. Jeffrey Jamaleldine needed medical attention fast, Crist put the critically wounded man in his own spot on the Apache on Saturday.
Crist then rigged a harness to strap himself to the fuselage and crouched on the stubby left gun wing of the aircraft.
With Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Purtee, of Houston, at the controls and Crist hanging on for dear life, the Apache flew out of the battle zone. It kept low, about 200 feet, until it reached a field hospital, the military said.
Jamaleldine, 31, of Fort Smith, Ark., was later reported in stable condition.
Army officials could not immediately recall an Apache ever being used before for a medical evacuation — and certainly not with the co-pilot riding outside.
Crist and Purtee, from Company B, 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, were part of a four-Apache team that came to help U.S. troops pinned down under heavy fire in Ramadi.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #26 on:
July 11, 2007, 04:55:19 PM »
Will Murtha Apologize?
"An investigating officer has recommended dismissing murder charges against a Marine accused in the slayings of three Iraqi men in a squad action that killed 24 civilians in Haditha, according to a report released Tuesday," the Associated Press reports:
The government's theory that Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt had executed the three men was "incredible" and relied on contradictory statements by Iraqis, Lt. Col. Paul Ware said in the report, released by Sharratt's defense attorneys.
"To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq," Ware wrote.
This was the incident in which Rep. John Murtha accused the Marines of killing Iraqis "in cold blood"--a charge, as we noted in May 2006, that was self-contradictory. In November ScrippsNews reported that Cpl. Sharratt's parents were "enraged" with Murtha, who is their congressman. Perhaps it's time for him to apologize.
Political Journal, WSJ
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #27 on:
July 28, 2007, 10:31:09 AM »
Citizen Marine Awarded Silver Star
Military.com | By Beth Zimmerman Still | July 20, 2007
Crouched and flattened against a waist-high wall, Marine Sgt. Jeff Hunter could see the muzzle flashes of the enemy AK-47 as it took out chunks of the wall by his head. In the middle of a shoot-out with a fortified insurgent in western Iraq, Hunter never could have known he'd later be hailed a hero.
But two years after that May 2005 firefight - and a year after he finished his Reserve contract - Hunter, 28, received the Silver Star on June 18 at City Hall in Albuquerque, N.M., for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" in Iraq during the summer of 2005 - including two fire fights in which he pulled a fellow Marine out of enemy fire.
Originally an administrative clerk at Albuquerque-based Delta Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Hunter deployed to Iraq as an infantry fire team leader with Columbus, Ohio-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, in March 2005.
In the early hours of May 25, then-Cpl. Hunter set out on foot with Lima Company toward Haditha's market district in the opening days of Operation New Market.
According to Hunter, the company planned to arrive at the market by sunrise in order to catch insurgents by surprise. He said the trip seemed like any other, until a Marine shot a stray dog that had charged him. About ten seconds later, "all hell broke loose," Hunter said.
The award citation released by the Corps and interviews with Hunter and his fellow Marines reveal the platoon was ambushed by small arms fire that seriously wounded an officer on the patrol. Sgt. David Wimberg, Hunter's squad leader, ordered the squad to take a house to their left, where they were receiving fire.
Wimberg hopped the fence and opened the gate for Hunter's fire team, then kicked in the door and ran inside with Hunter on his heels.
"Sgt. Wimberg barely took a second step into the room before a muzzle to an AK-47 was presented [at his chest] and fired several times," Hunter said in a recap of the events he wrote after the firefight.
When Wimberg fell to the ground, "I instinctively reached down and grabbed him, pulling him back out of the house," Hunter wrote. "I dragged him to the right of the door under a window and lay on top of him while I heard him wheeze for us to frag the room."
Hunter called for two of his squad mates to take Wimberg to their corpsman while he pushed forward with the attack on the house.
"In the back of my mind, I knew that I was now in charge of the squad and I had to get control of the situation," he wrote.
"Acting as squad leader, [Hunter] reorganized his Marines and led them into the insurgent position…ultimately securing the house with close-range small arms fire and hand grenades," according to the Corps release. Wimberg later died as a result of his wounds, but Hunter's actions during the firefight "enabled his company to regain its momentum," the release said.
Two months later, Hunter's platoon was tasked with sweeping a couple small towns west of Baghdad the morning of July 28. According to Hunter, the patrol had been uneventful until Cpl. Andre Williams started to knock on the door of a house in Cykla.
"Right as he went to knock, a heavy-machine gun shot him through the door," Hunter said. That kicked off a four-hour firefight between nine insurgents bottled inside the house and Hunter's platoon.
When some of the insurgents fled to another nearby house, Hunter maneuvered his squad closer, using their own cover fire to move to a rooftop overlooking the second house.
A couple hours into the firefight, the other two squads were still engaged in the at the first house, but rounds were no longer coming from the second house. When Hunter's squad cleared the house, they found an empty rocket-propelled grenade launcher, but no shooter.
They moved to the back yard where livestock were frantically running around following the hours of shooting going on around them. In the midst of the chaos, two of Hunter's Marines broke off to search two small cinder block buildings for enemy fighters.
As Lance Cpl. Christopher Lyons - Hunter's closest friend in the platoon - crossed the threshold of one of the buildings, he was shot by an insurgent fortified inside.
Hunter and his Marines took cover in a room of the building, which was still under construction. The wall was about three feet high, with huge portions missing for windows, Hunter said.
Crouched against his portion of the wall, about 15 feet from the insurgent's position, "I could see the muzzle flashes from the doorway [from] the guy shooting…while the AK-47 was just taking chunks out of the wall," Hunter said.
"It got pretty scary there for a minute."
During that fight, Hunter "shot two enemies and made two unsuccessful attempts in the face of enemy fire to retrieve a wounded Marine," the Corps release said.
Hunter "then ran across a fire-swept street to link up with a M1A1 tank, guided it's fire and directed it to breach the building," the release added. "This action neutralized one insurgent and allowed the extraction" of Lyons, who had been mortally wounded.
According to Shawn Bryan, who deployed as a sergeant with Lima Company in 2005, Hunter promised Lyons he'd take care of his family if anything happened to Lyons. After Lyons' death, Hunter established an email friendship with Bethany, Lyons' widow - a relationship that eventually blossomed into a romantic one.
"Because [Hunter] knew Christopher and loved him…I think that's what brought us together in the beginning," said Bethany. "We've both helped each other in that grieving process we both went through."
They were married last May, and Hunter, who has a year left in the Individual Ready Reserve, is in the process of adopting Lyons' daughter. The two also had a son in February.
"He's my hero…not just for what he did there, but what he did when he came home," said Bryan.
Meanwhile, Hunter said he has "mixed feelings" about his Silver Star.
"I honestly don't believe I did anything all that heroic," Hunter said. "I feel like I was just doing my job," he said. He'd "gladly trade" the medal if it would bring back Wimberg or Lyons.
"I know he says he didn't do anything too heroic…but in our eyes - the Wimbergs and mine - it was," Bethany countered.
Hunter currently has six classes left at the University of New Mexico, and he's working for Bryan in Albuquerque. A soft-spoken Marine who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, Hunter said his classmates have no idea he received the medal.
"He got the Silver Star for what he did," said Bryan. "But he did what he did because that's who he is."
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Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #28 on:
August 24, 2007, 10:31:14 AM »
'To Old Times'
A toast to American troops, then and now.
Friday, August 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Once I went hot-air ballooning in Normandy. It was the summer of 1991. It was exciting to float over the beautiful French hills and the farms with crisp crops in the fields. It was dusk, and we amused ourselves calling out "Bonsoir!" to cows and people in little cars. We had been up for an hour or so when we had a problem and had to land. We looked for an open field, aimed toward it, and came down a little hard. The gondola dragged, tipped and spilled us out. A half dozen of us emerged scrambling and laughing with relief.
Suddenly before us stood an old man with a cracked and weathered face. He was about 80, in rough work clothes. He was like a Life magazine photo from 1938: "French farmer hoes his field." He'd seen us coming from his farmhouse and stood before us with a look of astonishment as the huge bright balloon deflated and tumbled about.
One of us spoke French and explained our situation. The farmer said, or asked, "You are American." We nodded, and he made a gesture--I'll be back!--and ran to the house. He came back with an ancient bottle of Calvados, the local brandy. It was literally covered in dust and dry dirt, as if someone had saved it a long time.
He told us--this will seem unlikely, and it amazed us--that he had not seen an American in many, many years, and we asked when. "The invasion," he said. The Normandy invasion.
Then he poured the Calvados and made a toast. I wish I had notes on what he said. Our French speaker translated it into something like, "To old times." And we raised our glasses knowing we were having a moment of unearned tenderness. Lucky Yanks, that a wind had blown us to it.
That was 16 years ago, and I haven't seen some of the people with me since that day, but I know every one of us remembers it and keeps it in his good-memory horde.
He didn't welcome us because he knew us. He didn't treat us like royalty because we had done anything for him. He honored us because we were related to, were the sons and daughters of, the men of the Normandy Invasion. The men who had fought their way through France hedgerow by hedgerow, who'd jumped from planes in the dark and climbed the cliffs and given France back to the French. He thought we were of their sort. And he knew they were good. He'd seen them, when he was young.
I've been thinking of the old man because of Iraq and the coming debate on our future there. Whatever we do or should do, there is one fact that is going to be left on the ground there when we're gone. That is the impression made by, and the future memories left by, American troops in their dealings with the Iraqi people.
I don't mean the impression left by the power and strength of our military. I mean the impression left by the character of our troops-- by their nature and generosity, by their kindness. By their tradition of these things.
The American troops in Iraq, our men and women, are inspiring, and we all know it. But whenever you say it, you sound like a greasy pol: "I support our valiant troops, though I oppose the war," or "If you oppose the war, you are ignoring the safety and imperiling the sacrifice of our gallant troops."
I suspect that in their sophistication--and they are sophisticated--our troops are grimly amused by this. Soldiers are used to being used. They just do their job.
We know of the broad humanitarian aspects of the occupation--the hospitals being built, the schools restored, the services administered, the kids treated by armed forces doctors. But then there are all the stories that don't quite make it to the top of the heap, and that in a way tell you more. The lieutenant in the First Cavalry who was concerned about Iraqi kids in the countryside who didn't have shoes, so he wrote home, started a drive, and got 3,000 pairs sent over. The lieutenant colonel from California who spent his off-hours emailing hospitals back home to get a wheelchair for a girl with cerebral palsy.
The Internet is littered with these stories. So is Iraq. I always notice the pictures from the wire services, pictures that have nothing to do with government propaganda. The Marine on patrol laughing with the local street kids; the nurse treating the sick mother.
A funny thing. We're so used to thinking of American troops as good guys that we forget: They're good guys! They have American class.
And it is not possible that the good people of Iraq are not noticing, and that in some way down the road the sum of these acts will not come to have some special meaning, some special weight of its own. The actor Gary Sinise helps run Operation Iraqi Children, which delivers school supplies with the help of U.S. forces. When he visits Baghdad grade schools, the kids yell, "Lieutenant Dan!"--his role in "Forrest Gump," the story of another good man.
Some say we're the Roman Empire, but I don't think the soldiers of Rome were known for their kindness, nor the people of Rome for their decency. Some speak of Abu Ghraib, but the humiliation of prisoners there was news because it was American troops acting in a way that was out of the order of things, and apart from tradition. It was weird. And they were busted by other American troops.
You could say soldiers of every country do some good in war beyond fighting, and that is true enough. But this makes me think of the statue I saw once in Vienna, a heroic casting of a Red Army soldier. Quite stirring. The man who showed it to me pleasantly said it had a local nickname, "The Unknown Rapist." There are similar memorials in Estonia and Berlin; they all have the same nickname. My point is not to insult Russian soldiers, who had been born into a world of communism, atheism, and Stalin's institutionalization of brutish ways of being. I only mean to note the stellar reputation of American troops in the same war at the same time. They were good guys.
They're still good.
We should ponder, some day when this is over, what it is we do to grow such men, and women, what exactly goes into the making of them.
Whatever is decided in Washington I hope our soldiers know what we really think of them, and what millions in Iraq must, also. I hope some day they get some earned tenderness, and wind up over the hills of Iraq, and land, and an old guy comes out and says, "Are you an American?" And they say yes and he says, "A toast, to old times."
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #29 on:
August 26, 2007, 07:08:18 PM »
My cousin Frankie
How a childhood hero killed in Vietnam was a lifelong inspiration
BY MARIO DE LUCIA
It was the summer of 1965. The ferry was making its run from the dock in Patchogue across the bay to Davis Park. Kids were splashing around at Corey Beach, the Sandspit and Canaan Lake. And Billy Joe Royal was singing "Down in the Boondocks." Patchogue High School graduates were out and about, enjoying the sun, the waves and the sounds of the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Four Seasons.
Frank Clark Fisher was one of those kids from Patchogue High School, where he had been a goalie on the varsity soccer team. He lived with his dad and mom on Wilmarth Street. He worked as a lifeguard with Brookhaven Town, and this summer was the last summer before he shipped off to Parris Island and the Marines.
I grew up just up the hill from Frank. He was my cousin, and although I was blessed with two brothers and two sisters, Frank, who was 11 years older, was that big brother I didn't have. I looked for him each day as I played in my front yard or in the woods near my home. And when I'd see him walking with his buddies, I'd run over to him and he'd put his arm around me and let me walk with him. I loved Frankie; everyone did. I'd help him take care of his pigeons, and we'd take his dog,Tar, for walks in the woods. Frank always found the time for me. He'd tell me about his pending adventure in the Marine Corps, and I listened in awe as he told me how hard it would be. We come from a long line of soldiers, Marines and sailors in our family, and Frankie was about to join the ranks.
Frank shipped out in October 1965 and was a member of Platoon 1010 on Parris Island in South Carolina. I wrote to him several times during those couple of months, and Frank wrote back. He graduated from boot camp that December, went on to infantry school and came out as a rifleman. He was soon off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he served for six months with the security forces.
It was the summer of 1966 when Frank sailed from California, across the Pacific to Southeast Asia. I remember watching the news each night on our black and white television set. "American servicemen killed in action in Vietnam" was the subject of many of these broadcasts. I watched as my mother and father talked about their concern for our boys serving over there. We had several from our neighborhood who were there and, of course, Frank. But Frankie was surely not going to be one of those casualties spoken about on the news. He had to come home. I was taking care of his pigeons while he was away. I was keeping my aunt Topsey company and hanging around in Frankie's room while her only child was fighting in the war.
During that year, I kept in touch with my cousin via letters, drawings I would send and pictures we'd send back and forth to one another. I spent a lot of time down the road at my aunt's house. She was one of those fun aunts who always had something special to give or was always making something special to eat.
It was a hot afternoon in August 1967, during the "Summer of Love." The Young Rascals were "Groovin'," Strawberry Alarm Clock sang of "Incense and Peppermints," while the Box Tops ranted about "The Letter." I entered the house, and another of my aunts was there. My mother was crying, and the smell of skunk cabbage on my muddy PF Flyers soon became less of a concern as I put my arm around my mother's neck and asked her what was wrong.
I recall her looking up at me as she sat in the kitchen chair. "Your cousin Frankie was killed in Vietnam." I just went numb. I didn't know how else to react.
I recall jumping the fence in the side yard and running into the woods across the street ... that same woods where I used to play while I was waiting for Frankie to walk by with his buddies and shout out to me to walk with them, me feeling like a big shot. And I cried and cried and cried.
Why? Why did my cousin have to die? But even then, I knew what being a Marine meant. I'd known that he could die, that he might die. I went on to serve in the U.S. Army and did so in honor of my cousin.
I also went on to become a New York City police officer and detective. I once asked my aunt what goals Frankie had set for himself, and she said to me, "He wanted to be much like you are today ... married, with children, and he wanted to be a policeman." I was happy to have accomplished those same goals and in doing so, sort of fulfill Frankie's goals as well.
I have five children and all of them know their cousin Frankie. They know him through my eyes and from the stories I tell and the pictures I show and the letters I read. My oldest son became a Marine after graduating from high school. He did so in honor of his cousin, Cpl. Frank C. Fisher. And when he went to infantry school after graduating from boot camp on Parris Island, I thought of my cousin. When my son served with the security forces at Guantanamo Bay, I thought of my cousin. And when my son shipped off to Iraq, I thought of my cousin ... and I prayed that he would look after my son, the same way he looked after me, when I was a kid: ever protective, ever vigilant, always faithful!
In the final letters Frankie and his mother exchanged, he asked for a Brownie camera and some film and told of his plans to try to save $1,000 by the time he came home. She wrote back about the family cat having kittens. "You've been gone such a long time," she wrote. "It seems like a lifetime. Write me if you get the chance. It's a little easier when there's a letter from you."
Frankie never got to use his Brownie to take the pictures he so much wanted to reflect on in future years. He never saw Rebel's kittens. Instead, he came home in a flag-draped casket amid the fragrance of cut flowers, a Marine Corps honor guard and many spilled tears from those of us who loved him so.
To his mom, the time between letters seemed like a lifetime. If she only knew how ironic those words would become.
Since the time after Frankie's funeral, we never really spoke of the circumstances of his death. We knew what the telegram read but not much more than that. My aunt never really found closure in the loss of her son. For years, I would visit her, down the road from my home. The red and white banner with the gold star adorned her window. Frankie's high school graduation picture and Marine Corps picture hung proudly in her living room. His room remained the way he'd left it: comic books on his dresser, his varsity jacket on the back of the chair, all of his clothes folded neatly in his dresser or hanging in his closet.
I recall how one day she called and asked if I could come over. I walked past the pictures of Frank and glanced into his room, as I often did. I always picture him jumping out from behind his door and tackling me on the living room couch, giving me a "noogie" on the top of my head. This day, my aunt had a cardboard box for me, and as I looked at it, I saw Frankie's black lifeguard bathing suit and yellow lifeguard T-shirt. There were some things from high school there as well and some mementos from the Marine Corps.
My uncle and aunt have since passed away. The gold star banner hung in her house until she died, and I remember saying to myself, "That can finally come down now, as mother and son are reunited."
With the inception of home computers and the Web, I began to hunt around for some information about Frankie. I placed my e-mail address on various Marine Corps Web sites and Vietnam blogs, asking for anyone with information to contact me.
Friends of Frank
I became active with the alumni association of my high school in Patchogue, and over the years have been introduced to many of Frank's former classmates, teachers and friends. Many of them remember him fondly and all have a story about him that they long to tell. I think of those stories every time I visit that school and see the gray plaque and the eternal flame in the lobby with Frankie's name and the dozen or so names of other graduates of Patchogue High School who lost their lives in Vietnam.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania, I finally retired from the New York City Police Department. My wife and I relocated our family to the mountains of east Tennessee several years ago. While unpacking, I took a break to check my e-mail. There was one unread message from an unknown person. After opening it, I stared at the stark message, which stated simply: "I was there when he was killed. E-mail me back for more info." It was signed "Sgt. Doyle Clark."
I sent an immediate reply to Clark with my telephone number attached. Then I sat by and waited for the phone to ring. My 10-year-old daughter answered the phone quickly, as most kids do. "Dad, it's Sgt. Clark," she said. The voice on the other end seemed frail, uncertain and somewhat uneasy.
"Hello, sir. This is Sgt. Clark. I've waited almost 38 years to talk about Frank ... "
With the respectful tone that one gets with time served in the military, and a distinct Oklahoma accent, Clark went on to tell me about the day my cousin Frankie was killed.
Frank and the other men from his unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, were assigned to a base camp on Go Noi Island, south of Da Nang, otherwise known as "the Island." Go Noi wasn't really an island -- it was a peninsula that, during the rainy season, would flood and give the appearance of an island. In addition to the Marine base, there was an ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) base camp there.
That morning, Aug. 27, there was a chaplain's service at the base. Some of the men attended before going on the patrol. Frankie was the squad leader on this particular patrol. There were a dozen or so men with him. Clark was a machine gunner who was along because of the shortage of machine gunners assigned to the unit. He was cross-training some of the riflemen with the machine gun.
As Frank led the patrol into the jungle and through several rice paddies, they came upon a wrecked house. They noticed several carambola trees in front of the house loaded with star fruit. Since it was just about noon, the patrol took a break, and the Marines sat and ate the fruit. The two Marines talked about their common interest in Japan as they sat in front of that house. After the men on the patrol ate several star fruit each, they resumed their duty. Frank led the patrol farther into the jungle toward the ARVN camp on what was called a "search and destroy" mission in the 1st Marines Operations Journal for that day.
At one point the path split, with one part leading around the camp and the other leading more directly toward it. Frank took the most direct path. As the unit approached the perimeter of its allies' base, Frank unknowingly wandered into an ARVN minefield. He tripped a mine commonly called a "Bouncing Betty," which is designed to pop up to crotch level and blow the legs out from under the enemy. Clark recalled being the fourth one in line in the patrol. He remembered seeing the explosion from the mine and the Marines going down as they were hit with the flying shrapnel. The only way he was able to describe why the three men in front of him and several behind him were hit, while he was left without a scratch, was that "God must have been with" him.
Clark explained that he pulled back one or two of the wounded men and ordered the other men to stay put because of the minefield and the possibility of other unexploded mines. He could see Frank ahead and for almost 38 years, he said, he has been haunted by his cries: "Mama! Mama!"
With his left hand gone, and severe head wounds, Frank continued to call out to his mother. With the minefield still very much a threat, the Marines on the patrol were helpless and could do nothing more than call for assistance. Frank's cries lasted for five or 10 minutes before he died. Another soldier had also been killed, a kid from Baltimore, a lance corporal named Bill Mignini, and several of the Marines were wounded.
When the reactionary force arrived, it was led by a young 2nd lieutenant, just married, named Cliff Robertson, a California native just shy of his 23rd birthday. Clark recalled how Robertson's young bride would send care packages to the men of the squad. Despite warnings, Robertson and his men went into the minefield to assess the situation and evacuate the wounded.
There was a pause in Clark's telling of the account. Choked up and trying to hold back tears, he apologized and asked me to forgive him, explaining again that he hadn't spoken of this incident in almost 38 years.
After he composed himself, he said the lieutenant's advance into the minefield detonated several other mines. Robertson was killed along with two Marines from his force -- Cpl. Ray Fort, from Carlisle, Ariz., and Cpl. John Jensen, from Espanola, Wash.
Clark recalled that it was at this time that the hospital corpsman along on the original patrol, a young sailor named Doc Drake, began running to the wounded Marines, pulling them away from the minefield and rendering first aid. This caused several more mines to detonate, wounding Drake. Thinking out loud, Clark wondered if Doc Drake had ever received the medal he recommended for him.
Clark paused. After several seconds, I asked, "Is everything OK?" I was prepared to give the Marine as much time as he needed to tell his account.
"You know what was so ironic that day?" he asked. "While all of these mines were going off, and all of these Marines were being killed and wounded, I remember laying in the berm of a rice paddy and looking up at a nearby hill, watching as several ARVN soldiers rolled around pointing and laughing while our men tripped the mines. They were pointing and laughing! And they are who we were in Vietnam to help! It took everything I had to not kill those guys where they stood.
"I tried to think of ways to get in touch with Frank's family for years," Clark explained, almost apologetically. "I just couldn't get it out of my head how he kept calling out for his mama."
I was horrified at the way my cousin was killed. And to know that he survived long enough to experience the immense pain he must have felt was even more disturbing. But despite all of that, knowing that his mother was the last thing he thought of, and that his last words were the cries "Mama," was somewhat bittersweet because Frank and his mother were exceptionally close. My aunt loved her only child with an adoration and pride that was envied among anyone who knew them. And Frankie would do anything for his mother.
Clark ended our telephone conversation by thanking me for allowing him to get these memories out into the open. He seemed relieved, and I was thankful for the closure he was able to give to me. I promised to keep in touch with this man who last spoke with my cousin as they both sat under a tree and sucked on star fruit. I'll forever love and admire my big cousin, Frankie Fisher ... well, just because he was my big cousin and also because he was my best friend.
It's because of this man, Doyle Clark from Oklahoma, that I also will never forget the other men who lost their lives that day. Lance Cpl. William D. Mignini of Baltimore, 2nd Lt. Clifton B. Robertson of Los Angeles, Cpl. Raymond Fort of Arizona and Cpl. John A. Jensen of Washington State.
I'd like to thank Doc Drake, wherever he may be, the hospital corpsman who tried valiantly to save the lives of the wounded Marines that day. May he somehow know the gratitude that those like Clark and I feel toward him.
Today, 40 years after my cousin was killed in that far-off land, I sit back and reflect on his life. The Buckinghams, Tommy James and the Shondells and the Rolling Stones on my iPod take me back to that hot summer day, and I can hear the faint sounds of helicopter rotors as they seem to get closer and louder. There's the sporadic explosion of mortar fire in the distance and the sound of boots hitting the dirt. I hear the rack of a machine gun bolt and the crack and pop of small-arms fire.
No, I'm not imagining these things. I'm actually listening to them as I, myself, grab for my M-4 rifle and flak vest. You see, I'm currently serving as a civilian advisor in western Iraq with a team of Marines from the 3rd Marine Division from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. And just like I did while serving in Bosnia in the 1990s, I carry my cousin's photograph with me, as a reminder of who I am, and why I'm here.
Godspeed to all the brave men of Bravo 1/1 who fought in the name of liberty and freedom on that hot August day in 1967. And Godspeed to all of the American fighting men and women who serve our great country today! Semper Fi!
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #30 on:
September 07, 2007, 11:18:27 AM »
Profiles of valor: Tennessee Army National Guard
Tennessee Army National Guard 1st Lt. David Tiedeman and Sgt. Robert Betterton saved lives in the midst of a fierce battle in April 2005. Their 12-soldier team, accompanied by two Iraqi companies, was conducting a search for stolen weapons when insurgents ambushed the Americans and Iraqis with mortars, machine guns, RPGs and small-arms fire. Tiedeman led his team to an area from which they could mount a counter attack. After two soldiers were hit by enemy fire, Tiedeman risked his life to administer aid, stopping to return fire twice. Betterton, who had been shot eight times in the hand, stomach and leg, took out an RPG gunner and a sniper targeting Tiedeman. Tiedeman once again exposed himself to enemy fire to run to the aid of Betterton, and, after killing several jihadis with a grenade, carried him to safety. In all, 17 terrorists met their end that day, essentially eliminating a training camp that had plagued central Iraq. For their heroism, Tiedeman was awarded the Silver Star, while Betterton received the Bronze Star with Valor.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #31 on:
September 14, 2007, 11:15:24 AM »
Profiles of valor: Marine Corps Res. Sgt. Hunter
Marine Corps Reserve Sergeant Jeff Hunter has twice faced death to save injured comrades. In May 2005, insurgents ambushed then-Corporal Hunter’s platoon as it embarked on a dawn assault in Haditha. When Hunter’s squad leader entered a nearby house to stop the insurgents who were attacking from within, he was shot in the chest. Seeing his fallen leader, Hunter rushed into the house under shield of his own M16, reached his squad leader, and, positioning his own body between the injured Marine and the enemy, carried his comrade out of the house. Hunter then led his troops in successfully clearing the house of insurgents, killing one and capturing three.
Two months later, in a long and intense battle, insurgents shot one of Hunter’s Marines. After shooting the two insurgents from the shelter of a low wall, Hunter attempted to rescue the fallen Marine. Heavy gunfire, however, stopped his two attempts. Hunter then sprinted directly through the line of fire to an M1A1 tank located across the street. He used the tank to fire upon and neutralize the enemy’s position, and his platoon was able to reach and recover the mortally wounded Marine.
For his valor, Sgt. Hunter was awarded the Silver Star. Although Hunter claims of his actions, “I honestly don’t believe I did anything all that heroic,” America believes differently.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #32 on:
September 23, 2007, 06:04:10 AM »
Dear Members of the NavySEALs.com Community,
This week, our nation marked the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Each of us, in some way, was affected by the events of that day. Perhaps your work-up schedule was accelerated to deploy to the Afghani theatre. Maybe the fireman at the end of your street was a first responder at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, or in the field in Pennsylvania.
Too many of us knew people who lost loved ones in the attack. A few of us even lost friends and family members of our own.
September 11, 2001 was a day of great sacrifice for Americans. No group has better understood that, nor has acted in such a manner as to make that sacrifice a more meaningful page in our nation’s history, than the United States Navy SEALs.
The SEALs have taken the fight to the enemy with extraordinary result. But their success has not been without cost. More SEALs have made the ultimate sacrifice in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom than in any other conflict since Vietnam.
Please join me in honoring the memories of Naval Special Warfare’s fallen heroes in the Global War on Terror.
Neil C. Roberts
5 March 2002
Matthew J. Bourgeois
27 March 2002
Thomas E. Retzer
26 June 2003
David M. Tapper
20 August 2003
Brian J. Oullette
29 May 2004
Matthew G. Axelson
28 June 2005
Danny P. Dietz
28 June 2005
Michael P. Murphy
28 June 2005
Jacques J. Fontan
28 June 2005
Daniel R. Healy
28 June 2005
Erik S. Kristensen
28 June 2005
Jeffrey A. Lucas
28 June 2005
Michael M. McGreevy, Jr.
28 June 2005
Shane E. Patton
28 June 2005
28 June 2005
Jeffrey S. Taylor
28 June 2005
Marc A. Lee
2 August 2006
Michael A. Monsoor
29 September 2006
Joseph C. Schwedler
6 April 2007
Keep their families in your thoughts. And let their examples of selflessness and sacrifice be an inspiration in your own lives.
Founder and CEO
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #33 on:
September 24, 2007, 11:33:18 AM »
Do or die: Saving a soldier pierced by an RPG
For medics and a helicopter crew, there was only one choice
By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 24, 2007 7:43:02 EDT
Spc. Channing Moss should be dead by all accounts. And those who saved his life did so knowing they might have died with him.
March 16, 2006. Southeastern Afghanistan. A fierce ambush and bloody firefight. It was over in a flash and Moss was left on the verge of death.
He was impaled through the abdomen with a rocket-propelled grenade, and an aluminum rod with one tail fin protruded from the left side of his torso.
His fellow soldiers worried: Could he blow up and take them with him? For all anyone knew, the answer was yes.
Still, over the course of the next couple of hours, his buddies, a helicopter crew and a medical team would risk their own lives to save his.
“Moss is an African-American and he’s gone to white. He’s in total shock from the loss of blood. But at the time, I really didn’t think about it. I knew [the RPG] was there but I thought, if we didn’t do it, if we didn’t get him out of there, he was going to die,” said flight medic Sgt. John Collier, 29, then a specialist.
“It was an extremely unusual set of events. He should have died three times that day,” said Maj. John Oh, 759th Forward Surgical Team general surgeon.
The 36-year-old’s surgical skill and command of his own nerves would be put to the ultimate test as, wearing helmet and body armor, he would operate to extract the ordnance from Moss’s booby-trapped body. One wrong move risked the lives of the patient, his own and those of the other members of the medical team.
He said the payoff was worth the gamble.
“For a soldier to be struck by an RPG and be flown and have surgery and survive… it’s unheard of,” said Oh. “It was a pretty remarkable experience.”
Infantryman to ‘Rocket Man’
Three months after the attack, Moss attended the birth of his second daughter, Ariana.
He expects to be discharged from the Army on medical disability by October. In the meantime, the soft-spoken Georgia native attends formation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on weekday mornings and meets with his case worker to schedule whatever medical appointments remain, including at least one more abdominal surgery.
He and his wife, Lorena, live near the hospital with their daughters, baby Ariana and her 3-year-old sister, Yulianna.
Moss is missing about two-thirds of his intestines, part of his pelvic bone and needs more repair to his left hip. A member of the staff at Walter Reed calls him “Rocket Man.”
But the infantryman, who joined the Army to help give his family a better life, said he knows he’s alive because of his fellow soldiers.
“I don’t think there has been a day in the last year and a half that I haven’t thought about them, that I haven’t prayed for them. They saved my life,” said Moss, 24, whose slender 135-pound frame belies the hearty young man who went to war 55 pounds heavier.
“I knew it was love of country and brothers in arms. I hope God watches over them if they get deployed.”
Ambush from the ridgeline
The day Moss was struck down, his unit, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, had been in country barely a month.
The Alpha Company platoon set out from Forward Operating Base Tillman around 8 a.m. for a meeting with tribal leaders in the village of Srah Kandah in Paktika province near the Pakistan border.
It was the platoon’s first patrol in country.
Moss, then a private first class, was manning a Mark 19 machine gun in the turret of his up-armored Humvee, the last in a patrol of five U.S. vehicles and one pickup carrying about nine Afghans.
One Afghan would die in the ambush that wounded Moss, his squad leader and another Afghan soldier who lost a hand.
The ambush came after a quiet hour of patrol in remote terrain.
“All of a sudden, I hear this explosion. Then I hear this ‘ping, ping, ping’ hitting the humvee,” Moss recalled.
Attackers unleashed “a large volume of RPG fire and small-arms fire,” said the platoon leader, Capt. Billy Mariani, who was a first lieutenant then.
“the attack came from a ridgeline to our right,” Mariani, 27, said. The shooters, he estimated, were only about 700 meters from the Pakistan border.
Mariani’s machine gunner laid suppressing fire on the ridgeline while his mortar section shelled the fighters’ positions. A hail of bullets and RPGs ripped toward them from behind hills and crags to the right. All the vehicles took rounds; the Afghan pickup was destroyed.
Moss was turning his machine gun turret to return fire when the first of three RPG rounds to strike his vehicle exploded on the truck commander’s door.
The second and third rounds struck the front of the vehicle; one smashed through the windshield, slicing the truck commander across the face before burrowing into Moss as he sat in the gunner’s sling.
“I turned to the driver and yelled at him to get out of the kill zone,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Wynn, 31, the truck commander. “That’s when we got hit again.”
The RPG might have exploded and killed them all, he said, had it not lodged in Moss’s body.
‘Hold on, hold on’
The projectile bored into Moss’s left hip at a downward angle, tearing through his lower abdomen and pulling with it some of the fabric from his uniform and his black web belt. The tip of the device stopped just short of breaking through the skin on Moss’s upper right thigh.
Wynn, with the tip of his nose sheared off and his torn upper lip hanging loosely, radioed his lieutenant and told him through a bloody gurgle of words that Moss had a tail fin sticking out of his body.
Platoon medic Sgt. Jared Angell, Moss’s best friend, pulled his buddy behind the passenger seat and used every piece of gauze and bandage he had.
“Luckily, his belt was there because it kept the RPG from going all the way through,” said Angell, 24, who was a specialist at the time.
While Spc. Andrew Vernon took Moss’s place on the gunner’s sling and driver Spc. Matthew Savoie maneuvered the vehicle into a safe position, Angell wrapped the gauze around the RPG’s tail to stabilize the protruding device and control Moss’ bleeding.
With gunfire still within earshot and barely five months out of basic training, Moss lay bleeding on the dusty ground far from home, waiting for the crew of the 159th Medical Company that would save his life for the second time that day.
“I didn’t really know what was in me. I could just hear my sergeant saying, ‘Hold on, hold on,’” Moss recalled. “I didn’t think that bird was ever going to come.”
What Angell remembers from that wait on the landing zone was Moss’s pleas for help.
“The screaming, his screams,” Angell said, his voice trailing off.
“I tried to keep him calm and needed to stabilize him so [the RPG round] wouldn’t move any further. He was very combative — you can imagine how uncomfortable he was. I told him, ‘If you fight with me, I’ll fight with you,’” Angell said. “I knew that with the things I did, I was going to buy him enough time to get to surgery.”
Help from above
As the medical team lifted off in its Black Hawk helicopter from Forward Operating Base Salerno for the 10-minute flight to the battle scene, all they knew was that there were urgent casualties and that the area was hot.
“I told my crew to lock and load because we didn’t know what was going on,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jorge Correa, 33, then a chief warrant officer 2.
As the bird neared the evacuation site, the crew saw heavy smoke and a burning truck, and soldiers were “running back and forth.”
One pair of soldiers was getting ready to fire a mortar and stopped when they saw the helicopter, Correa said.
Correa and his co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Smith, 30, a warrant officer 1 at the time, landed the Black Hawk on a roadway a few meters away from a chugging plume of purple smoke that marked the landing zone. On touchdown, Collier jumped out and sped toward the wounded.
“When Collier came back to the aircraft, he told me immediately” about the RPG, said Correa, who delivered the news of Moss’s condition to his crew and asked if they were comfortable with the mission.
“They said, ‘yeah, we gotta get this guy to the hospital.’ At the moment, everyone was focused on the mission,” Correa said. “I know we risked our lives to save Pfc. Moss, but there was no hesitation.”
Wounded and dangerous
Moss was on a litter on the helicopter’s floor; other wounded soldiers were positioned on the floor and in seats. Correa and Smith pushed the helicopter’s speed to its limits.
Correa had previously flown medical evacuation missions in Iraq with the 30th Medical Brigade. For Smith, a former Bradley vehicle mechanic who went warrant, it was his first combat zone mission as a helicopter pilot.
“I didn’t really think about it until a couple of days later,” he said. “It was like, ‘wow, we had live ordnance on the helicopter.’”
Staff Sgt. Christian Roberts, the crew chief and veteran of medical evacuation flights in Iraq, said concerns for personal safety took a back seat to saving Moss.
“At the time, we weren’t thinking, ‘This helicopter could blow up,’” said Roberts, 33. “We were thinking, ‘This young soldier’s going to die and we need to get him some help.’”
“I never saw anybody with live ordnance in them,” he said. “I’ve seen decapitations, amputations, gunshot wounds to the head … I never thought I’d be flying along with a patient who had something in him that could blow up in your face.”
‘Everybody get out!’
Moss was nearly dead as the Black Hawk landed at the battalion aid station at Orgun-E, about 20 miles from the site of the ambush.
Collier signaled wildly over the roar of the helicopter’s engines to alert the aid-station staff that this was no ordinary patient.
Oh recalled that it wasn’t apparent just how delicate the situation was until they began cutting away Moss’s combat uniform and unraveling all the gauze bandages.
When he saw the tail fin of the RPG round, he yelled, “everybody get out!”
“I had never even seen an RPG before, but I figured anything with a rod and fins on it had to be a rocket of some kind.”
Oh asked for volunteers to stay in the operating room and help him save Moss’s life. Several soldiers raised their hands.
Oh and his volunteers strapped on body armor and helmets. They called in a two-man team from the 759th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal).
Protocol, as far as Oh knew, dictated that someone in Moss’s condition be placed in a sandbagged bunker and listed as “expectant,” which means he would be expected to die because nothing could be done for him.
But Oh believed something could be done for the wounded soldier before him.
He “was still talking to me,” Oh recalled. He choked back tears as he explained: “When he comes in like that, there’s no way you can give up at that point.”
After the EOD team arrived, Oh warned the volunteers one last time that the surgery could cost everyone their lives.
The operating room crew prepped Moss for surgery.
Still conscious, Moss assumed the worst.
“I didn’t know they had put anesthesia in my IV. I was blacking out and I thought I was dying. I thought they were just going to leave me,” Moss said.
X-rays revealed that while the detonator was still attached to the device, the warhead and fuse, the parts that would have created the largest explosion, were not there.
Still, EOD technician Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Brown and his partner, Spc. Emmanual Christian, warned the medical team that the detonator was sensitive to electric current and could explode, causing its own brand of damage.
“Once I found out we didn’t have the warhead, I wasn’t worried about blowing up the aid station or about people getting fragged. But it would have taken the surgeons’ fingers off and ruined their careers,” said Brown.
As an EOD technician, he had worked in places like Bosnia salvaging cadavers in mass graves, some with live ordnance still in their bodies. But Moss presented “a very rare situation,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Holy s---’ — these are the kinds of stories you hear about from old wars,” he said. “Most human beings we deal with are dead already.”
The team decided the device would have to be removed by pulling it through in the direction it had traveled. Moss would be opened up so the extent of damage to his abdomen — and the path of the projectile — could be assessed.
The damage was extensive. Moss’s intestines had been shredded, his pelvic bone crushed and he had lost a lot of blood. However, no major organs had been disturbed.
The medical team members contemplated the options and decided that first they would have to eliminate the tail fin.
Brown began sawing off the tail fin, which protruded just above Moss’s left hip. Brown said he needed to remain calm and steady, but there were moments when the situation was frightening, when everyone in the room was “wide-eyed, staring at each other.”
Using his scalpel for the most delicate incision of his life, Oh took the next step and cut the skin on Moss’s right thigh where the tip of the device came to rest. Then, as if delivering a ticking baby time bomb, Brown gently and steadily eased the blood-covered metal tube from Moss’s body.
“OK, there’s the belt buckle. It’s coming. Keep feeding it — you feed it and I’ll hold it,” Brown told the surgeons who coaxed the cylinder from Moss’s open abdominal cavity as Brown, crouched down to the level of the gurney, slowly pulled it out toward his own chest.
Moss’s belt clung to the tube as the rocket fully and finally came free.
Brown cradled the ordnance and rushed outside and then into a sandbag bunker.
Inside, breathing sighs of relief, the medical team patched up what remained of Moss’s lower abdomen so he could be airlifted.
Moss had been saved by his fellow soldiers for the third time that day.
After disposing of the RPG round, the intensity of what he had just done left Brown weak.
“I sat down. I lost control of my legs for a minute and I just lost it. Just talking about it right now ...,” Brown said during an interview after returning to the U.S.
Oh, who is currently in Baghdad working with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, said the event changed his life. He credits the bravery, training and skill of his team members for getting them all through the ordeal. But he knows how quickly things could have gone south that day.
“In the end,” Oh said, “it’s better to be lucky than good.”
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #34 on:
September 29, 2007, 01:13:43 AM »
On 8 August 2006, in Ebrahimkhel, Afghanistan, just north of Kandahar, Air Force Senior Airman Phillip King was leading a convoy to help the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA) when a rocket-propelled grenade landed within five yards of his Humvee. A full-scale insurgent attack came right on its tail.
Returning fire, King positioned his Humvee to shield the convoy against the incoming barrage. When a second RPG blast gave him a concussion, King persisted, exposing himself to intense enemy fire to direct defensive fire by Afghan soldiers. This allowed an ANA soldier to neutralize the enemy site using a hand grenade.
As King led his team out of danger amid continued sniper fire, he discovered a second ambush site where Taliban forces had entrapped five Afghan soldiers with gunfire. King maneuvered his vehicle, freed the soldiers, then led the ANP and ANA troops to establish a perimeter.
Still taking heavy fire from machine guns, small arms, and RPGs, King’s team called in air support. Just before it arrived, King again exposed himself to intense fire to mark the targets for the bombers, which effectively took out the Taliban position. Airman King’s actions saved the lives of more than a dozen Afghans and helped eliminate 20-25 Taliban militants. His team suffered no casualties.
King, who volunteered for the 365-day Afghanistan deployment, called it “another day on the job.” The U.S. military called it heroism in ground combat. For his actions, Airman King was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” for Valor.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #35 on:
October 05, 2007, 08:48:02 AM »
SHABAK VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy.
Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results.
Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unit’s combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.
“We’re looking at this from a human perspective, from a social scientist’s perspective,” he said. “We’re not focused on the enemy. We’re focused on bringing governance down to the people.”
In September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates authorized a $40 million expansion of the program, which will assign teams of anthropologists and social scientists to each of the 26 American combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since early September, five new teams have been deployed in the Baghdad area, bringing the total to six.
(This being from the NY Times, one is not surprised by the presence of the next few paragraphs)
Yet criticism is emerging in academia. Citing the past misuse of social sciences in counterinsurgency campaigns, including in Vietnam and Latin America, some denounce the program as “mercenary anthropology” that exploits social science for political gain. Opponents fear that, whatever their intention, the scholars who work with the military could inadvertently cause all anthropologists to be viewed as intelligence gatherers for the American military.
Hugh Gusterson, an anthropology professor at George Mason University, and 10 other anthropologists are circulating an online pledge calling for anthropologists to boycott the teams, particularly in Iraq.
“While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world,” the pledge says, “at base, it contributes instead to a brutal war of occupation which has entailed massive casualties.”
In Afghanistan, the anthropologists arrived along with 6,000 troops, which doubled the American military’s strength in the area it patrols, the country’s east.
A smaller version of the Bush administration’s troop increase in Iraq, the buildup in Afghanistan has allowed American units to carry out the counterinsurgency strategy here, where American forces generally face less resistance and are better able to take risks.
A New Mantra
Since Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the overall American commander in Iraq, oversaw the drafting of the Army’s new counterinsurgency manual last year, the strategy has become the new mantra of the military. A recent American military operation here offered a window into how efforts to apply the new approach are playing out on the ground in counterintuitive ways.
In interviews, American officers lavishly praised the anthropology program, saying that the scientists’ advice has proved to be “brilliant,” helping them see the situation from an Afghan perspective and allowing them to cut back on combat operations.
The aim, they say, is to improve the performance of local government officials, persuade tribesmen to join the police, ease poverty and protect villagers from the Taliban and criminals.
Afghans and Western civilian officials, too, praised the anthropologists and the new American military approach but were cautious about predicting long-term success. Many of the economic and political problems fueling instability can be solved only by large numbers of Afghan and American civilian experts.
“My feeling is that the military are going through an enormous change right now where they recognize they won’t succeed militarily,” said Tom Gregg, the chief United Nations official in southeastern Afghanistan. “But they don’t yet have the skill sets to implement” a coherent nonmilitary strategy, he added.
Deploying small groups of soldiers into remote areas, Colonel Schweitzer’s paratroopers organized jirgas, or local councils, to resolve tribal disputes that have simmered for decades. Officers shrugged off questions about whether the military was comfortable with what David Kilcullen, an Australian anthropologist and an architect of the new strategy, calls “armed social work.”
“Who else is going to do it?“ asked Lt. Col. David Woods, commander of the Fourth Squadron, 73rd Cavalry. “You have to evolve. Otherwise you’re useless.”
The anthropology team here also played a major role in what the military called Operation Khyber. That was a 15-day drive late this summer in which 500 Afghan and 500 American soldiers tried to clear an estimated 200 to 250 Taliban insurgents out of much of Paktia Province, secure southeastern Afghanistan’s most important road and halt a string of suicide attacks on American troops and local governors.
In one of the first districts the team entered, Tracy identified an unusually high concentration of widows in one village, Colonel Woods said. Their lack of income created financial pressure on their sons to provide for their families, she determined, a burden that could drive the young men to join well-paid insurgents. Citing Tracy’s advice, American officers developed a job training program for the widows.
In another district, the anthropologist interpreted the beheading of a local tribal elder as more than a random act of intimidation: the Taliban’s goal, she said, was to divide and weaken the Zadran, one of southeastern Afghanistan’s most powerful tribes. If Afghan and American officials could unite the Zadran, she said, the tribe could block the Taliban from operating in the area.
“Call it what you want, it works,” said Colonel Woods, a native of Denbo, Pa. “It works in helping you define the problems, not just the symptoms.”
The process that led to the creation of the teams began in late 2003, when American officers in Iraq complained that they had little to no information about the local population. Pentagon officials contacted Montgomery McFate, a Yale-educated cultural anthropologist working for the Navy who advocated using social science to improve military operations and strategy.
Ms. McFate helped develop a database in 2005 that provided officers with detailed information on the local population. The next year, Steve Fondacaro, a retired Special Operations colonel, joined the program and advocated embedding social scientists with American combat units.
Ms. McFate, the program’s senior social science adviser and an author of the new counterinsurgency manual, dismissed criticism of scholars working with the military. “I’m frequently accused of militarizing anthropology,” she said. “But we’re really anthropologizing the military.”
Roberto J. González, an anthropology professor at San Jose State University, called participants in the program naïve and unethical. He said that the military and the Central Intelligence Agency had consistently misused anthropology in counterinsurgency and propaganda campaigns and that military contractors were now hiring anthropologists for their local expertise as well.
“Those serving the short-term interests of military and intelligence agencies and contractors,” he wrote in the June issue of Anthropology Today, an academic journal, “will end up harming the entire discipline in the long run.”
Arguing that her critics misunderstand the program and the military, Ms. McFate said other anthropologists were joining the teams. She said their goal was to help the military decrease conflict instead of provoking it, and she vehemently denied that the anthropologists collected intelligence for the military.
In eastern Afghanistan, Tracy said wanted to reduce the use of heavy-handed military operations focused solely on killing insurgents, which she said alienated the population and created more insurgents. “I can go back and enhance the military’s understanding,” she said, “so that we don’t make the same mistakes we did in Iraq.”
Along with offering advice to commanders, she said, the five-member team creates a database of local leaders and tribes, as well as social problems, economic issues and political disputes.
Clinics and Mediation
During the recent operation, as soldiers watched for suicide bombers, Tracy and Army medics held a free medical clinic. They said they hoped that providing medical care would show villagers that the Afghan government was improving their lives.
Civil affairs soldiers then tried to mediate between factions of the Zadran tribe about where to build a school. The Americans said they hoped that the school, which would serve children from both groups, might end a 70-year dispute between the groups over control of a mountain covered with lucrative timber.
Though they praised the new program, Afghan and Western officials said it remained to be seen whether the weak Afghan government could maintain the gains. “That’s going to be the challenge, to fill the vacuum,” said Mr. Gregg, the United Nations official. “There’s a question mark over whether the government has the ability to take advantage of the gains.”
Others also question whether the overstretched American military and its NATO allies can keep up the pace of operations.
American officers expressed optimism. Many of those who had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq said they had more hope for Afghanistan. One officer said that the Iraqis had the tools to stabilize their country, like a potentially strong economy, but that they lacked the will. He said Afghans had the will, but lacked the tools.
After six years of American promises, Afghans, too, appear to be waiting to see whether the Americans or the Taliban will win a protracted test of wills here. They said this summer was just one chapter in a potentially lengthy struggle.
At a “super jirga” set up by Afghan and American commanders here, a member of the Afghan Parliament, Nader Khan Katawazai, laid out the challenge ahead to dozens of tribal elders.
“Operation Khyber was just for a few days,” he said. “The Taliban will emerge again.”
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #36 on:
October 06, 2007, 06:28:32 PM »
Nice to see the dog get away too , , ,
Mark Daily, RIP, Part I
Reply #37 on:
October 11, 2007, 09:09:47 PM »
A Death in the Family
Having volunteered for Iraq, Mark Daily was killed in January by an I.E.D. Dismayed to learn that his pro-war articles helped persuade Daily to enlist, the author measures his words against a family's grief and a young man's sacrifice.
by Christopher Hitchens November 2007
I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed "Seen This?" The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described the death, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth of July, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:
"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … "
I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem "Man and the Echo":
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?
Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily's MySpace site, where his statement "Why I Joined" was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior's Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.
I writhed around in my chair for a bit and decided that I ought to call Ms. Watanabe, who could not have been nicer. She anticipated the question I was too tongue-tied to ask: Would the Daily family—those whose "house lay wrecked"—be contactable? "They'd actually like to hear from you." She kindly gave me the e-mail address and the home number.
I don't intend to make a parade of my own feelings here, but I expect you will believe me when I tell you that I e-mailed first. For one thing, I didn't want to choose a bad time to ring. For another, and as I wrote to his parents, I was quite prepared for them to resent me. So let me introduce you to one of the most generous and decent families in the United States, and allow me to tell you something of their experience.
In the midst of their own grief, to begin with, they took the trouble to try to make me feel better. I wasn't to worry about any "guilt or responsibility": their son had signed up with his eyes wide open and had "assured us that if he knew the possible outcome might be this, he would still go rather than have the option of living to age 50 and never having served his country. Trust us when we tell you that he was quite convincing and persuasive on this point, so that by the end of the conversation we were practically packing his bags and waving him off." This made me relax fractionally, but then they went on to write: "Prior to his deployment he told us he was going to try to contact you from Iraq. He had the idea of being a correspondent from the front-lines through you, and wanted to get your opinion about his journalistic potential. He told us that he had tried to contact you from either Kuwait or Iraq. He thought maybe his e-mail had not reached you … " That was a gash in my hide all right: I think of all the junk e-mail I read every day, and then reflect that his precious one never got to me.
Lieutenant Daily crossed from Kuwait to Iraq in November 2006, where he would be deployed with the "C," or "Comanche," Company of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment—General Custer's old outfit—in Mosul. On the 15th of January last, he was on patrol and noticed that the Humvee in front of him was not properly "up-armored" against I.E.D.'s. He insisted on changing places and taking a lead position in his own Humvee, and was shortly afterward hit by an enormous buried mine that packed a charge of some 1,500 pounds of high explosive. Yes, that's right. He, and the three other American soldiers and Iraqi interpreter who perished with him, went to war with the army we had. It's some consolation to John and Linda Daily, and to Mark's brother and two sisters, and to his widow (who had been married to him for just 18 months) to know that he couldn't have felt anything.
Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it's clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet. He seems to have passed every test of young manhood, and to have been admired and loved and respected by old and young, male and female, family and friends. He could have had any career path he liked (and won a George C. Marshall Award that led to an offer to teach at West Point). Why are we robbed of his contribution? As we got to know one another better, I sent the Daily family a moving statement made by the mother of Michael Kelly, my good friend and the editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly, who was killed near the Baghdad airport while embedded during the invasion of 2003. Marguerite Kelly was highly stoic about her son's death, but I now think I committed an error of taste in showing this to the Dailys, who very gently responded that Michael had lived long enough to write books, have a career, become a father, and in general make his mark, while their son didn't live long enough to enjoy any of these opportunities. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now …
In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn't straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba'thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?
These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn't stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here's an excerpt from his "Why I Joined" statement:
Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.
And here's something from one of his last letters home:
I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.
Mark Daily, RIP, Part II
Reply #38 on:
October 11, 2007, 09:10:24 PM »
In his other e-mails and letters home, which the Daily family very kindly showed me, he asked for extra "care packages" to share with local Iraqis, and said, "I'm not sure if Irvine has a sister-city, but I am going to personally contact the mayor and ask him to extend his hand to Dahok, which has been more than hospitable to this native-son." (I was wrenched yet again to discover that he had got this touching idea from an old article of mine, which had made a proposal for city-twinning that went nowhere.) In the last analysis, it was quite clear, Mark had made up his mind that the United States was a force for good in the world, and that it had a duty to the freedom of others. A video clip of which he was very proud has him being "crowned" by a circle of smiling Iraqi officers. I have a photograph of him, standing bareheaded and contentedly smoking a cigar, on a rooftop in Mosul. He doesn't look like an occupier at all. He looks like a staunch friend and defender. On the photograph is written "We carry a new world in our hearts."
In his last handwritten letter home, posted on the last day of 2006, Mark modestly told his father that he'd been chosen to lead a combat platoon after a grenade attack had killed one of its soldiers and left its leader too shaken to carry on. He had apparently sounded steady enough on the radio on earlier missions for him to be given a leadership position after only a short time "in country." As he put it: "I am now happily doing what I was trained to do, and am fulfilling an obligation that has swelled inside me for years. I am deep in my element … and I am euphoric." He had no doubts at all about the value of his mission, and was the sort of natural soldier who makes the difference in any war.
At the first chance I got, I invited his family for lunch in California. We ended up spending the entire day together. As soon as they arrived, I knew I had been wrong to be so nervous. They looked too good to be true: like a poster for the American way. John Daily is an aerospace project manager, and his wife, Linda, is an audiologist. Their older daughter, Christine, eagerly awaiting her wedding, is a high-school biology teacher, and the younger sister, Nicole, is in high school. Their son Eric is a bright junior at Berkeley with a very winning and ironic grin. And there was Mark's widow, an agonizingly beautiful girl named Snejana ("Janet") Hristova, the daughter of political refugees from Bulgaria. Her first name can mean "snowflake," and this was his name for her in the letters of fierce tenderness that he sent her from Iraq. These, with your permission, I will not share, except this:
One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …
My desire to "save the world" is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.
If that is all she has left, I hope you will agree that it isn't nothing.
I had already guessed that this was no gung-ho Orange County Republican clan. It was pretty clear that they could have done without the war, and would have been happier if their son had not gone anywhere near Iraq. (Mr. Daily told me that as a young man he had wondered about going to Canada if the Vietnam draft ever caught up with him.) But they had been amazed by the warmth of their neighbors' response, and by the solidarity of his former brothers-in-arms—1,600 people had turned out for Mark's memorial service in Irvine. A sergeant's wife had written a letter to Linda and posted it on Janet's MySpace site on Mother's Day, to tell her that her husband had been in the vehicle with which Mark had insisted on changing places. She had seven children who would have lost their father if it had gone the other way, and she felt both awfully guilty and humbly grateful that her husband had been spared by Mark's heroism. Imagine yourself in that position, if you can, and you will perhaps get a hint of the world in which the Dailys now live: a world that alternates very sharply and steeply between grief and pride.
On a drive to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and again shortly before shipping out from Fort Bliss, Texas, Mark had told his father that he had three wishes in the event of his death. He wanted bagpipes played at the service, and an Irish wake to follow it. And he wanted to be cremated, with the ashes strewn on the beach at Neskowin, Oregon, the setting for his happiest memories of boyhood vacations. The first two of these conditions had already been fulfilled. The Dailys rather overwhelmed me by asking if I would join them for the third one. So it was that in August I found myself on the dunes by an especially lovely and remote stretch of the Oregon coastline. The extended family was there, including both sets of grandparents, plus some college friends of Mark's and his best comrade from the army, an impressive South Dakotan named Matt Gross. As the sun began to sink on a day that had been devoted to reminiscence and moderate drinking, we took up the tattered Stars and Stripes that had flown outside the family home since Mark's deployment and walked to his favorite spot to plant it. Everyone was supposed to say something, but when John Daily took the first scoop from the urn and spread the ashes on the breeze, there was something so unutterably final in the gesture that tears seemed as natural as breathing and I wasn't at all sure that I could go through with it. My idea had been to quote from the last scene of Macbeth, which is the only passage I know that can hope to rise to such an occasion. The tyrant and usurper has been killed, but Ross has to tell old Siward that his boy has perished in the struggle:
Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
This being Shakespeare, the truly emotional and understated moment follows a beat or two later, when Ross adds:
Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.
I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."
I mention Orwell for a reason, because Mark Daily wasn't yet finished with sending me messages from beyond the grave. He took a pile of books with him to Iraq, which included Thomas Paine's The Crisis; War and Peace; Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (well, nobody's perfect); Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time; John McCain's Why Courage Matters; and George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984. And a family friend of the Dailys', noticing my own book on Orwell on their shelf, had told them that his own father, Harry David Milton, was "the American" mentioned in Homage to Catalonia, who had rushed to Orwell's side after he had been shot in the throat by a Fascist sniper. This seemed to verge on the eerie. Orwell thought that the Spanish Civil War was a just war, but he also came to understand that it was a dirty war, where a decent cause was hijacked by goons and thugs, and where betrayal and squalor negated the courage and sacrifice of those who fought on principle. As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark's letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:
For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.
However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:
But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.
May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.
Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.
SEAL receives CMH
Reply #39 on:
October 17, 2007, 07:02:31 PM »
First Navy MoH since Vietnam to go to SEAL
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Oct 15, 2007 18:03:21 EDT
SAN DIEGO — Two years after his death in a harrowing firefight on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a SEAL from Patchogue, N.Y., will receive the nation’s highest combat honor, Navy officials said.
A Navy spokeswoman confirmed Oct. 11 the decision by President Bush approving the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor, the first for the Navy for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Murphy, 29, was leading a four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team during Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan’s rugged Hindu Kush mountains June 28, 2005, when the team was spotted by Taliban fighters. During the intense battle that followed, Murphy and two of his men — Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson — were killed. A fourth man, then-Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, was seriously wounded and knocked unconscious, but managed to escape. Luttrell was rescued days later.
Murphy was killed while phoning in for reinforcements. The tragedy continued when enemy fighters shot down one of the transport helicopters carrying the rescue force, killing eight more SEALs and eight Special Forces operators. The 11 SEALs killed marked the largest single-day loss of life for the tight-knit community.
Bush will present the Medal of Honor to Murphy’s parents, Daniel and Maureen, and his brother, John, on Oct. 22 at a 2:30 p.m. ceremony in the White House.
“We’re thrilled with the president’s announcement, and more importantly that there’s now a public recognition of what Mike’s family and friends have known about him from the very beginning,” Daniel Murphy said Oct. 11 by telephone from New York.
In addition to the Oval Office ceremony, the fallen SEAL will be honored at two other Washington events: the inclusion of his name on a wall at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes at 11 a.m. Oct. 23, and the presentation of the Medal of Honor flag at the Navy Memorial at 6 p.m. Oct. 23. Additional ceremonies are planned next month at Calverton National Cemetery in eastern Long Island, where Murphy is buried, and on his birthday next year at the Patchogue post office that bears his name, his family said.
When he deployed overseas, Murphy carried a patch from New York Fire Department’s Engine Company 53 and Ladder Company 43, in Manhattan’s El Barrio neighborhood, “as a symbol of why he was there and what he was doing,” Daniel Murphy said.
“Michael felt that he was doing something important ... to root out, capture and kill those who were responsible for 9/11,” he added. “Michael understood the importance of his work.”
In mourning their son, the Murphy family has also celebrated his life. “What a man he grew up to be,” said Maureen Murphy, who called him “an American hero.”
To the Murphy family, the announcement of the Medal of Honor isn’t just a personal recognition. “It’s more than just about Michael,” his father said. “It’s about Michael and his team. Michael, first and foremost, was a team player.”
“Eleven SEALs who fought, died and sacrificed for one another,” he added. “There’s no higher calling.”
Life and death on Murphy’s ridge
The team was taking heavy fire in the close-quarters battle as Taliban fighters continued to close in, firing weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. At one point, Murphy took his mobile phone and “walked to open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ,” according to Luttrell, the surviving SEAL, who wrote a book called “Lone Survivor.”
“I could hear him talking,” Luttrell wrote. “My men are taking heavy fire ... we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here ... we need help.
“And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.”
Then, Luttrell heard Murphy say, “Roger that, sir. Thank you.” The lieutenant continued to train fire on the enemy fighters.
“Only I knew what Mikey had done. He’d understood we had only one realistic chance, and that was to call in help,” Luttrell wrote. “Knowing the risk, understanding the danger, in the full knowledge the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiancé of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.
“His objective was clear: to make one last valiant attempt to save his two teammates.”
Not long after the call, Murphy was shot again, screaming for Luttrell to help him, but Luttrell, also hit and wounded, couldn’t reach him. “There was nothing I could do except die with him,” he wrote.
Murphy’s actions didn’t surprise those who knew him.
That, despite his wounds, he made that call “and at the end of the call to say, ‘Thank you,’ and hang up, and continue the fight ... really exemplifies the type of person that he was,” said Sean, a lieutenant commander who was the naval special warfare task unit leader with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1, a Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-based unit. Naval Special Warfare Command asked to withhold his full name.
“Murph,” as others called him, was “a warrior and [was devoted] to his men,” Sean said. The Medal of Honor “draws attention to the true heroism and selfless sacrifice of all the guys that day,” he added. “It’s a testament to all 19 who gave their lives that day.”
A well-kept secret
In the two years since, the events on that Afghan mountain have stirred much speculation on how the team members would be recognized. “They knew what they were dying for, they believed in what they were doing and they gave their last full measure,” then-Rear Adm. Joe Maguire said during a June 28, 2006, ceremony dedicating a memorial tree and plaque outside Naval Special Warfare Command headquarters in Coronado, Calif.
The other three SEALs in Murphy’s team have received the Navy Cross.
On Aug. 27, the Murphy family received a call from the White House chief of military affairs telling them that President Bush approved the award. “They asked us if we could please keep the information confidential” until the Navy’s announcement, Daniel Murphy said.
Talk about pressure. “Obviously, you want to get on top of a building and scream out,” he said.
But the Murphys agreed, and they kept it secret.
“You wanted to tell everybody, but you really couldn’t,” said Maureen Murphy.
“I was thrilled, and I was like, oh my God. It’s like a rollercoaster ride,” she said. “You are so happy that the nation recognizes what you already know about your son — handsome and the brave actions and everything — then there’s the other part. ... I wish he could walk up there and receive that. It’s bittersweet.”
Family and colleagues describe Murphy as a likeable leader, witty, sincere, caring, honest humble, selfless. He didn’t live for the spotlight, they say, and he’d probably prefer to deflect the attention over his combat actions.
“He was a great little boy. He was a very wonderful teenager. He always rolled up his sleeves to help people,” his mother said. “In every picture we have,” she noted, “he was always in the background.”
SEALs honor their own
This will mark the first time a Navy person has received the Medal of Honor in 35 years, and the fourth time a SEAL has received the award. It also marks the third awarding of the Medal of Honor for combat heroism in Iraq or Afghanistan — the other two were awarded posthumously to Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.
Top Navy SEALs paid tribute to the president’s decision.
“I am grateful Lt. Murphy will receive the Medal of Honor in recognition and tribute for his heroism and sacrifices,” Adm. Eric Olson, who commands U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said in a statement. “His selfless actions exemplify the characteristics and values of special operations forces.”
Murphy “was a valued teammate, professional warrior and fearless leader. We are humbled by his courageous and selfless actions, and this award is a testament to the man he was,” said Rear Adm. Joe Kernan, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, in a statement. “Mike believed deeply in his country, and he honorably lived the ethos that he shared with his fellow SEALs.
“The Medal of Honor will ensure that his sacrifice — for freedom, for his teammates and for his fellow Americans — will never be forgotten,” Kernan added. “He will inspire our Naval Special Warfare community for years to come.”
Sean, the task unit leader, recalled that Murphy “is one of those few leaders who was truly able to command the respect of his men, while at the same time knowing them at a personal level. They trusted him, and they felt confident in his abilities.
“It just exemplified the type of people that we have in the community. The events of that day were extraordinary,” he said.
Murphy’s actions that day — “exposing himself the way he did, way into a lengthy gunfight and already severely wounded” — didn’t surprise the officer.
Murphy, he added, “would just say he was doing his job.”
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #40 on:
October 23, 2007, 11:17:12 AM »
A Medal of Honor
October 23, 2007; Page A18
Yesterday President Bush presented the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor for valor in combat, to the family of Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. It is the third Medal of Honor bestowed in the war on terror, and all have been awarded posthumously.
Lt. Murphy, of Patchogue on Long Island in New York, was the 29-year-old officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL reconnaissance team tasked with capturing or killing a high-ranking Taliban leader in the Hindu Kush mountains, east of Asadabad behind enemy lines. A group of goat herders betrayed their position to the Taliban, and the team came under a heavy coordinated assault by dozens of insurgents, perhaps as many as 100.
The SEALs were at a tactical disadvantage and became pinned down in a ravine. Lt. Murphy, already wounded, moved out from behind cover, seeking open air for a radio signal to place a rescue call. He was shot several more times in the back. He dropped the transmitter, picked it back up and completed the call, and then rejoined the fight.
The battle, the last stage of Operation Redwing, was the worst single day of casualties for Naval Special Warfare since World War II. Only one man from the SEAL team would survive. A Chinook helicopter, carrying 16 soldiers for the rescue mission, was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is almost spoiled for choice when it comes to such instances of heroism and sacrifice. It is regrettable that these volunteers are too often rewarded with indifference by the U.S. political culture, where "supporting the troops" becomes nothing more than a slogan when there is a score to settle. The representative men in this war are soldiers like Lt. Murphy.
Reply #41 on:
October 27, 2007, 12:43:21 AM »
On Monday Lt. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Meet the man who told his story.
BY MARK LASSWELL
Saturday, October 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
ARLINGTON, Va.--At the White House on Monday, the parents of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy received the Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to their son. One of his former SEAL teammates, Marcus Luttrell, was on hand in the East Room but not entirely there. As a military aide read the citation extolling Lt. Murphy for his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life" during a ferocious firefight in Afghanistan in 2005, Mr. Luttrell's mind was firmly back in the mountains of the Hindu Kush on the day that Lt. Murphy died.
"Somebody had to tap me on the shoulder to bring me back. I kind of zoned out," Mr. Luttrell recalled in an interview two days after the ceremony. As he spoke, his thoughts seemed to drift back to the battle again. "I remember how loud it was. And I remember our lungs being on fire"--but here he paused, then added: "I was thinking that nobody can have any idea what the hell happened up on that mountain that day."
The bare outlines are harrowing enough. A four-man contingent of Navy SEALs were inserted by helicopter at night on June 28, 2005, in the desolate mountain region near the border with Pakistan. The men were: Mr. Luttrell, a hospital corpsman second class at the time; Gunner's Mate Second Class Danny Dietz; Sonar Technician Second Class Matthew Axelson; and Lt. Michael Murphy, the officer in charge and one of Mr. Luttrell's closest friends. They were on a reconnaissance mission, trying to locate a guerrilla commander who was aligned with the Taliban.
The SEALs scrambled across the unforgiving terrain toward their target, but after daylight broke the mission started to go awry. Three goat herders--and their goats--happened upon the SEALs. The Americans recognized that they had a potentially lethal problem: The herders glowering at them were likely Taliban sympathizers who would report the Americans' presence.
With deep misgivings, the SEALs resolved to let the herders go--a decision they quickly regretted. Radio communications problems prevented the SEALs from calling headquarters for assistance; moving across the mountainsides with little cover in daylight would almost certainly attract enemy attention. All they could do was hunker down. And then the shooting started. Dozens of Taliban fighters had taken up a position above the SEALs and were pouring lead down on them.
Over the next two hours, a terrible dance unfolded. Swarming Taliban fighters would try to slide down the mountain slopes on either side of the SEALs, who furiously picked them off until the Americans were nearly overwhelmed by force of numbers; then the SEALs would fling themselves blindly down the mountain, hoping to alight still alive, with a little cover, so they could take up the fight again.
After a series of these desperate plunges, the SEALs were in a grim state: shot up, hit by the shrapnel of rocket-propelled grenades, running out of ammunition. Danny Dietz died first--he had been badly wounded, but then was shot fatally as Mr. Luttrell tried to help him to safety.
As Mr. Luttrell recounts in "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10," his book about the episode, the remaining three SEALs' final plunge down the mountain landed them in a ravine. Matthew Axelson was grievously wounded and would die that day. Lt. Murphy, bleeding from a stomach wound, "groped in his pocket for his mobile phone, the one we had dared not use because it would betray our position," Mr. Luttrell writes. "And then Lieutenant Murphy walked out into the open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ."
Any act of heroic battlefield self-sacrifice is almost incomprehensible to those whom soldiers fight to protect, but the fact that Lt. Murphy was performing such a familiar task--moving out into an open space seeking a cell-phone signal--under such murderous circumstances lends his actions an almost unbearable poignancy. While he was on the phone, calling for help, Lt. Murphy was shot in the back, the bullet exiting through his chest, yet he continued to talk--even, astonishingly, finishing the conversation: "Roger that, sir. Thank you."
But it was too late. SEALs Murphy and Axelson were killed, and then the day's disaster was compounded when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying a quick-response force was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade during a rescue effort, killing 16.
It was the worst single day of American fatalities of the war in Afghanistan, and the worst loss of life in SEAL history. But Mr. Luttrell miraculously survived the fight in the mountains. Just as the SEALs were making their last stand, with Taliban fighters closing in, he was blown from the ravine to relative safety by a grenade explosion.
With three broken vertebrae, badly wounded and barely able to walk, he eluded the enemy for the better part of four days, three of them under the care of villagers who took him in and were then obliged by custom to protect their guest against all threats--even against the Taliban fighters who discovered Mr. Luttrell's whereabouts. The Taliban menaced the village, but, loath to create enemies in a region where they rely on local assistance, never attacked. Mr. Luttrell was rescued by U.S. forces on July 2.
War veterans returning to civilian life commonly find themselves in jobs that are, in light of their recent battlefield experience, decidedly incongruous. For Mr. Luttrell, coming home after his discharge in June has meant an incongruity of a kind he would never have imagined. The former SEAL--a man with special-operations training in marksmanship and underwater demolition, a recipient of the Navy Cross for combat heroism, a warrior who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan--has been working for the past five months as a publicist. It is strictly a volunteer position and reluctantly undertaken, to be sure, and Mr. Luttrell has only one client: the memory of that terrible day in Afghanistan. He wants the world to know about the sacrifices of Lt. Murphy, of his two other dead SEAL teammates, and of the eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers killed in the failed helicopter rescue. It is a timely effort, coming during a period in this country when the heroism of American soldiers is not reliably noted, much less honored, in every corner.
"It's not about me, it's about my guys," he says of his publicity labors since leaving the service. "It's like the job I was doing before I got out. There were probably plenty of missions that I didn't want to go on because I was tired or whatever, but I still did it. Because it's not about me."
Mr. Luttrell was born in Houston in 1975 but grew up in rural Texas on the horse farms his family owned, much of the time in the piney-woods country in the eastern part of the state. He would clearly rather do just about anything than talk to the media. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and well over 200 pounds, with long, cowboyish sideburns, he is Texas taciturn to begin with, and the secrecy of SEAL missions tends to make frogmen--as the naval Sea, Air, Land team-members call themselves--a less-than-loquacious bunch.
In the months following the mountain fight, queries from family and friends about the gun battle and debriefings following inaccurate news reports on the incident became such a distraction, Mr. Luttrell says, that it was difficult to concentrate on his SEAL duties.
"Normally I wouldn't talk about any of our operations. This one wouldn't leave me alone," he says. "It kept banging on my door and I had to do something about it." The solution, he thought, would be to set the facts down in print so that they would be on the public record. Then maybe he could move on.
With clearance from his superiors, Mr. Luttrell began looking into writing a book and was eventually put in touch with British writer Patrick Robinson, whose military thrillers often involve the U.S. Navy. Their collaboration, "Lone Survivor," was published in June; it quickly became a nonfiction best seller.
"All I wanted to do was stop talking" about what happened in Afghanistan, Mr. Luttrell says, "and now I'm neck-deep in it." Another frustration is the inadequacy of words to convey the experience. "I can sit here and tell you that I got into a gunfight," Mr. Luttrell says, "but you can't put it into words. Your heartbeat doesn't raise, the hair on the back of your neck doesn't stand up when I tell you that. When you're out there--the stuff we get into--people get sick. You get so scared, you urinate on yourself. That's fear."
Hollywood, he says, has no idea what war is like. That's why he's wary of negotiations currently under way to film "Lone Survivor." If it happens, he says with the trace of a grimace, he'll probably "go out there and help," otherwise it might turn into "a love story" or a special-effects extravaganza with "people spinning from wires, which it wasn't. It was about death and people dying."
It should be noted that Mr. Luttrell is giving away his income from "Lone Survivor," reportedly putting it in a trust to aid military charities and the families of the dead soldiers, although now he says simply: "I'm in control of it so it goes to the right places."
For now, Mr. Luttrell is heading back to East Texas. Not far from his parents' place, he and his twin brother, Morgan--who followed him into the SEALs--own a ranch. The two men each have a large tattoo on their backs, one half of the trident badge awarded to newly minted SEALs. "When we come together, and it makes the whole thing, you're like, 'Oh, I know what that is.' It was just something we did to honor all the guys who went before us and are here today. And it signifies that without him I'm only half a frogman."
The ranch is devoted to rehabilitating sick and injured horses--about a dozen of them at any one time. The place is likely to be restorative for Mr. Luttrell, as well. "Out there it's pretty peaceful and I work all the time," he says. But he hasn't been able to stay at home for more than a few days at a time since being plunged into "Lone Survivor" concerns.
"Being a civilian hasn't set in just yet. Except when I try to get on a military base and I can't because I don't have an ID anymore." When he feels especially troubled by thoughts about the firefight in the mountains, his instinct--as it is when dealing with his injuries, from which he is still recovering--is simply to "suck it up." But sometimes he calls his old SEAL buddies. It's not always easy to reach them. "I forgot how busy it is being a team guy."
I talked to Mr. Luttrell at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel on Wednesday morning, not far from the Pentagon. In the lobby before the interview, it was the uniformed military personnel who caught the eye as they headed out the front door, most likely on their way to doing business at the Pentagon. The few civilian guests in evidence attracted less attention. A family was at the front desk checking out. And then there was the tall young man in blue jeans who was saying goodbye to a pleasant-looking older couple near the entrance. The woman in the couple was much shorter than the young man, who had to lean over--a little awkwardly, as if he had a tricky back--when he hugged her. Not a remarkable farewell scene in most hotels, but in this one it was unutterably moving.
Marcus Luttrell was saying goodbye to Dan and Maureen Murphy, Lt. Murphy's parents. The parting wasn't tearful; it was a cordial exchange between people who have a deep bond and who seem to know that they'll be speaking again soon. Probably on Sunday, in fact. That's the day, each week, when Mr. Luttrell calls the families--the other survivors.
Mr. Lasswell is The Wall Street Journal's deputy books editor.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #42 on:
October 29, 2007, 07:08:11 PM »
Soldier stabbed in the brain in East Baghdad
Troops unite to save soldier knifed in head
By Patrick Winn - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Oct 24, 2007 14:01:27 EDT
Courtesy of Lt. Col. (Dr.) Richard Teff / Army An X-ray revealed that the knife entered just below Army Sgt. Dan Powers' helmet, above his cheekbone. It also penetrated his cavernous sinus, where a bundle of veins supplied blood to his brain's right side.
It felt like a nasty sucker punch. Yet when he strained his eyes to the hard right, there was something that didn’t belong: the pewter-colored contour of a knife handle jutting from his skull.
Sgt. Dan Powers, stabbed in the head by an insurgent on the streets of East Baghdad, triggered a modern miracle of military medicine, logistics, technology and air power.
See video taken shortly after the attack, and watch interviews with Powers and a doctor who helped save his life
His survival relied on the Army’s top vascular neurosurgeon guiding Iraq-based U.S. military physicians via laptop, the Air Force’s third nonstop medical evacuation from Central Command to America, and the best physicians Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Maryland could offer.
It required extraordinary hustle from a string of ground medics, air medics, C-17 pilots, jet refuel technicians and more. Not an hour after the attack, Powers, a squad leader with the Army’s 118th Military Police Company, was draped in sheets on a medical gurney bound for Balad Air Force Base, about 30 minutes away by helicopter.
Someone pressed a phone to his left ear so he could promise his wife, in a panic worlds away, that everything would be fine. He would soon drench a surgeon’s hands in blood, narrowly surviving as a medical team opened his skull to extract 4 inches of blade from his brain.
These are the staggering measures that allowed Powers to keep his promise and his life.
East Baghdad is a crumbling maze. Narrow lanes form stucco canyons that block out sunlight. A grimy film seems to blacken every surface: the facades, cobbled footpaths and street urchins’ faces. Lines of sight end at each bend in the street, and the windows overhead look down like hundreds of eyes.
“It’s just very slummy, with all these twisty alleyways,” said Powers, now 39. “It’s a nightmare to patrol.”
A 12-year Army vet on his second deployment to East Baghdad, Powers spent his days training local police and trying to keep peace in a fortified cityscape. Soldiers in his 13-man squad would cruise the city’s oldest quarter with Iraqi officers conducting street-level investigations and responding to gunfire or explosions.
Nothing was different July 3 — at least not at first.
Powers was dispatched from Forward Operating Base Shield to a stretch of bomb-charred road. Explosive ordnance disposal personnel were already huddled over a blast site near Beirut Square on one of the district’s wider thoroughfares. The explosion seemed minor — no flaming vehicles, at least — so Powers and a team leader, Sgt. Michael Riley, were mostly concerned with warding off pedestrians.
Powers was walking away from the cordoned area when it hit him — a near-knockout blow that felt like a “clothesline tackle,” he said. But Powers stayed on his feet, spun around and slammed his raven-haired assailant to the asphalt, prodding the skinny Iraqi man’s face with his M4 barrel. Riley, his squad mate, pounced and detained the assailant.
“I remember being pretty pissed off,” Powers recalled to Air Force Times. Adrenaline throbbed in his veins and blood soaked his shoulder. A medic, Spc. Ryan Webb with the 118th Military Police, was tugging at his arm, demanding that he “sit down, calm down and leave the knife in.”
The knife? What knife?
“They said, ‘You’re stabbed’ and ... I remember seeing the handle,” Powers said. “There was no pain because the brain has no pain sensory nerves. It was all surface, like someone punched me in the head.”
Powers stayed conscious as soldiers carried him to a Humvee, sped to Forward Operating Base Shield and, after medics bandaged his head in clumps of cottony gauze, shuttled the sergeant to Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Stabbings of American military personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan are extremely rare, outnumbered by drownings, strokes, cancer, drug overdoses and electrocutions. According to Defense Department casualty reports, Powers is only the second service member stabbed while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
They spoke through the roaring chukka-chukka of rotating chopper blades.
Moments before medics slid Powers into a helicopter en route to Balad, his wife, Trudy, was patched through on a cell phone. A soldier held it to Powers’ face as his gurney rolled across the Green Zone helipad.
“I was adamant they put him on the phone to prove he was alive,” Trudy Powers said. “He sounded like his regular old self. ‘I’ll be all right, hon. I’ll be all right.’”
Powers soon arrived at the Balad hospital, a cutting-edge facility rivaling many American treatment centers. One of Iraq’s few military neurosurgeons, Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Richard Teff, remembers Powers lying supine on a gurney, wide awake and speaking. Medical personnel crowded his stretcher, asking questions and filming his answers.
“His head was wrapped up with big, bulky bandages,” Teff said, “like the people transporting him were afraid the knife would get bumped or dislodge.”
It was less than two hours since the attack.
Balad’s head and neck team was accustomed to gory head wounds, skulls split by bullets and IED-borne shrapnel. But Powers’ injury “had to be the most amazing thing anyone in the room had ever seen,” Teff said. An X-ray revealed that the knife entered just below Powers’ helmet, above his cheekbone, “skating right along the base of the cavity we call the temporal fossa, where the temporal lobe of your brain lives,” Teff said. It also penetrated his cavernous sinus, where a bundle of veins supply blood to the brain’s right side.
After Powers was shaved and anesthetized, Teff and fellow neurosurgeon Army Maj. (Dr.) John Martin peeled back Powers’ scalp, skull and meninges — a pinkish layer coating the brain’s surface. Steel barbs resembling fish hooks held back walls of tissue the color of raw pork.
Teff and Martin hit a crossroads. They could riskily retract the brain to isolate and clamp the artery in his cavernous sinus. Or Teff could cross his fingers and pull.
“Any time you have a penetrating stab to the head,” he said, “the biggest concern is what’s going to happen when you pull [the knife] out.”
“He started bleeding like crazy, enough to make everyone in the room worry he might die,” Teff said.
The doctors scrambled to find the nicked carotid artery. Plastic air hoses sucked out pint after pint of hot blood. Finally, they clamped the artery and relief washed over the medical team as the bleeding stopped. Though Powers had lost about 2 liters of blood — roughly two-fifths of his body’s total volume — the most dangerous part of the operation was over.
Through personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Teff relayed details and photos of Powers’ surgery to Lt. Col. Rocco Armonda, one the Army’s most skilled vascular neurosurgeons. There was no precedent for Powers’ condition in Iraq, and the head and neck team needed guidance.
Contacted in his vehicle, Armonda pulled over in Washington traffic, reviewed the images on his laptop and shot back a response: Close the guy up and get him to Bethesda. Now.
Capt. Corbett Bufton, an aircraft commander with the Charleston-based “Red 7” aircrew, was incredulous at first. Awaiting takeoff from Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, his airmen had expected to carry two Stryker anti-tank missile carriers to another airfield within Central Command — a job typical of their intratheater transportation role.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #43 on:
October 29, 2007, 07:18:13 PM »
But the operations center was telling him to change planes, directing him
toward a different C-17 Globemaster, one with a plus-sized fuel tank. Red 7,
the center said, would be picking up a severely injured soldier from Balad
to fly him nonstop to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., just outside Washington.
"Our initial reaction was, 'I don't believe you,'" Bufton said. "Nobody goes
to Andrews Air Force Base from Balad."
Once the disbelief faded, Bufton sent a few guys to the barracks to scoop up
"It looked like we'd be gone for a couple days," he said.
After landing at Balad, the loadmaster, Staff Sgt. Matthew Nemeth, began
readying the aircraft for a medical evacuation. They briefed him on the
details: one guy with a knife in his head, another soldier with a gunshot
wound to the neck added at the last minute. A seven-person medical crew
expected to board soon. Keep down the turbulence and restrict the cabin
pressure to 4,000 feet.
"I've never seen it that low before," Bufton said. "That restricted our
flight ops to about 26,000 feet, which unfortunately keeps us down in the
weather." At the time, thunderstorms blanketed the skies of eastern Europe
along the flight path.
Bufton, with augmenting air refueling pilot Lt. Col. Jesse Strickland and
pilots Capt. Justin Herbst and Capt. Scot Frechette, kept the C-17's engine
idling as the Air Force medical crew rolled Powers, the other wounded
soldier and 7,000 pounds of lifesaving equipment up the ramp.
On the ground, a diplomatic clearance shop was frantically clearing their
flight through roughly a dozen countries: Iraq, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania,
Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, England and others.
Once airborne, Red 7's pilots steered the hulking C-17 around turbulent rain
clouds as medical personnel tended to Powers in the naked, metallic cabin.
Tubes and wiring snaked the floor. Near the British Isles, a KC-135
Stratotanker leaving RAF Mildenhall joined Red 7's jet for a mid-Atlantic
Over the Atlantic, it was Independence Day.
And as the C-17 rushed westward ahead of the rising sun, Nemeth helped the
medical crew tack American flags on the walls and catwalk.
The C-17 touched down lightly at Andrews after a 13-hour flight. Powers and
the other soldier were hurried to Bethesda. And members of Red 7, suffering
in Iraq's convection oven heat when they began their shift, stepped off the
C-17 into D.C.'s balmy summer. The next morning, they flew into Dover Air
Force Base, Del., picked up 17 pallets of cargo and headed back to Qatar.
"I've probably done two or three dozen medevacs in my career," Nemeth said.
"This one is probably the most significant, the most profound."
At Bethesda, a neurosurgical team guided by Armonda coiled Powers' carotid
artery and performed a cranioplasty on his dented skull. Trudy Powers met
frequently with the surgeons, insisting each time on the raw truth.
"Don't think I can't handle it," she told them.
Initially, they feared Powers, still in critical condition, could wake up
with severe paralysis, brain damage and lost eyesight. But when the soldier
surfaced after four comatose days, a battery of tests proved the stabbing
had not robbed his intelligence or memory. Only his balance was badly
"It was like a dream because of all the stuff they had me on," Powers said.
"A face came in and said, 'Do you know where you are?' I said, 'Are you
kidding me?' It was the best place I could possibly be. The president goes
there, all the chiefs and Congress."
Powers was released from Bethesda just a month later and allowed to return
to his house roughly 30 miles from Fort Bragg, N.C. After months of physical
therapy, physicians now believe his coordination is largely restored.
Pending the success of a follow-up skull repair in January, Powers hopes to
rejoin his unit as a squad leader before May.
"Certainly there have been bigger injuries, uglier, more devastating
injuries," Teff said. "What makes this unique is how huge the knife was, how
well neurologically he's doing and the drama involved in getting him back."
Back at Fort Bragg
The package's return address read "BALAD AIR BASE, IRAQ." Trudy Powers,
standing with her husband in their home, was tearful, trembling and
mortified by the contents she expected to find inside.
Out plopped a hunk of stainless steel resembling a flea market dagger.
"I didn't need to see that," she said.
Army judge advocate general prosecutors later asked if they could have it.
Powers didn't mind. Iraqi prosecutors wanted to present the 9-inch blade as
evidence during his attacker's trial in Baghdad, which admitted Powers'
testimony via teleconference. He's unsure of the man's fate, though he was
told the Iraqis planned to "lengthen his neck a little bit."
Powers acknowledges that his survival tale, circulating within the Air Force's
Air Mobility Command, is "the stuff they make movies out of." But the
soldier in him bristles at the notoriety - or the suggestion that he's some
kind of hero.
In his version of the story, the Army, Navy and Air Force moved the world to
save one man's life.
And he's just some guy who got stabbed in the brain.
Not from the NY or LA Times
Reply #44 on:
November 02, 2007, 11:51:46 PM »
Complex snatch/ambush on a 4 man US sniper team on a rooftop using interlocking suppressive SMG fire from nearby roofs with a sapper team coming up the rooftop stairwell. Enemy were Ethiopian AQI/ISI. Use of movement, cover, and pickup of Hadji weapons allowed US to prevail. Failure of M4 gas system during fight.
THE DAY OF AUGUST 26, 2007, began like any other for the soldiers of Charlie Company, 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment (from the 82nd Airborne Division) -- with a mission in the city. Over a year into its deployment to Samarra, Iraq, and now working on the three-month extension announced by Secretary of Defense Gates in the spring, the company knew the city like the back of its collective hands and had its operational routine down to a science, whatever the mission it might be tasked with.
On this morning, that mission was to establish a defensive perimeter around a block in central Samarra, so that Charlie Company's 3rd ("Blue") Platoon, led by Lieutenant Scott Young, could search a shop where it had information that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were being manufactured.
Due to the insurgents' penchant for placing IEDs along the routes used by Charlie Company's vehicles in order to ambush them on their way back, two separate rooftop observation points (OPs) would be established, one to the north and one to the south of the shop, to watch for enemy activity on the roads that were serving as Blue Platoon's infiltration and exfiltration routes. The southern OP, led by Staff Sergeant Jason Wheeler, was manned with paratroopers from Charlie Company's 1st ("Red") Platoon. "Reaper Two," one of the sniper teams from 2nd Battalion's scout platoon, would man the second OP, almost a kilometer to the north. Reaper would be overwatching the area from the roof of a large four-story apartment building, which was laid out with the long axis facing north-south, and which was bordered -- across the surrounding streets and alleys -- by several other buildings.
The three-man Reaper team, known as the best in the unit, was led by Sergeant Josh Morley, a 22-year-old paratrooper from North Carolina. Morley was regarded within Charlie Company as a consummate professional, and the men in the unit knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they could always count on him and his team to come through whenever they were needed. Morley was affected even more than most of his fellow soldiers by the additional three months that had been added on to his unit's combat tour, for he was a new father and was counting the days until the end of the deployment, when he would finally get to see his infant daughter for the first time -- something he had already been waiting months to do.
The rest of Morley's team was made up of Specialist Tracy Willis, a 21-year-old from Texas, and Specialist Chris Corriveau, a 23-year-old from Maine. Willis was well known within Charlie Company as a friendly, laid back, permanently smiling young man who was always good for a laugh and for conversation, regardless of the person and the situation. Corriveau was quieter, but had earned the immense respect of his peers at Patrol Base Olson not only for his talent as a sniper but also for his abilities as a natural leader. The team had been together in Iraq for well over a year, and the three young men were as close as soldiers could be. They knew everything about each other, from their backgrounds, to information about their families, to the punchlines of Willis's tiredest jokes. Further, they had worked together so closely, and for so long, that they could read each other's body language and tone of voice, and were able to function as an extraordinarily effective unit.
For this mission, the three-man Reaper Two sniper team was rounded out by a fourth man (and a second Texan), 23-year-old Specialist Eric Moser. The company armorer, Moser was not a member of the Battalion Scout Platoon like Morley, Willis, and Corriveau, but was a competition-caliber shooter, and had gone along on several OPs with Reaper in the past, serving as a "designated marksman." His skill with firearms would end up being critical that day.
EARLY IN THE MORNING, after dropping off SSG Wheeler's team, Red Platoon's four Humvees rolled up to the predetermined dismount point for the second OP and came to a stop, allowing Morley, Willis, Corriveau, and Moser to get out. Upon departing the area, the trucks would make their way to Patrol Base Uvanni, an Iraqi National Police outpost in the center of the city (about 1.5 kilometers southwest of Reaper's OP), where they would wait until it was time to pick up the overwatch teams, while also serving as a Quick Reaction Force in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong at either of the overwatch sites.
The four-man sniper team hustled to the northern gate of the apartment building, cut the lock, and quietly moved into the courtyard. Morley instructed Moser and Corriveau to remain behind to close the gate and remove other signs of the team's presence, while he and Willis made their way into the building and up the stairs. Moser pulled security while Corriveau quietly closed the gate and replaced the lock, and then the two followed the others inside, clearing the stairwell as they ascended, but not going into the hallways of the apartment building, as they didn't want to alert the inhabitants of their presence.
The four-man team emerged onto the northern half of the roof and surveyed their surroundings. The building was set up with two staircases, one on the north side and one on the south side, both of which opened up onto the top of the building facing west. Dividing the north and south halves of the roof was a four-foot high, east-west running wall. The entire perimeter of the building's top was lined with a wall of the same height.
Once the area had been secured and the OP established, there was little to do but watch the street around the building. The team took turns keeping watch and sleeping; they had done hundreds of these before, and, while things could get hairy at times, their job involved far more boredom than excitement -- especially if they were careful, as they always were, to keep their heads down and not let anybody below know that they were there.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the four men of Reaper Two, one of the building's occupants had seen them enter and had passed the information along.
JUST BEFORE 11 A.M., reaper received word that Blue Platoon had finished its search of the shop (which had yielded no evidence of illegal activity) and was heading back to Patrol Base Olson, three kilometers to the west. With this, the men dispersed across the top of the building, with two -- Moser and Corriveau -- watching the road from corners of the roof, and the other two -- Morley and Willis -- taking up a position by the northern stairwell, where the team's radio had been deposited. Assigned to the southeast corner, Corriveau picked up an M4 rifle to complement his sniper weapon and vaulted the dividing wall, moving onto the southern half of the building and taking up his position, watching the base of the buildings across the road but careful to remain below the roof's perimeter wall and out of sight from the street below. Taking a quick peek over the wall, he saw a white sedan nearing his corner of the building but due to the obstructed view that came along with his rooftop concealment, Corriveau never had a chance to see the situation developing on the street directly below.
On the northwest corner of the apartment complex, Moser was watching the road in front of the building through a cut in the roof wall. As he looked down, he saw a white car speed up to the corner of the building. Four men holding AK-47 assault rifles (at least two of whom had long beards -- a distinctly non-Iraqi trait) emerged from the vehicle and sprinted toward the building's entrance. Seeing this, Moser immediately yelled to the others that enemy fighters were below. Morley, who along with Willis had been positioned next to the stairwell, raced to Moser's corner of the building to assess the situation and if possible to engage, but could not move quickly enough to prevent the men on the ground from making it into the building.
Suddenly, machine gun fire erupted from both of the stairwells behind them.
AT PATROL BASE UVANNI, a kilometer and a half away, the four armored Humvees that made up Charlie Company's internal Quick Reaction Force (QRF) were sitting just inside the gate, its soldiers in their vehicles and ready to move at a moment's notice, when the sound of gunfire echoed through the city streets. The sound of automatic weapons fire is as common in Samarra as traffic noise is in the United States. To Lieutenant Steve Smith, however, Red's Platoon Leader, these shots seemed different for some reason -- like they were coming from the north, instead of from the usual east-west direction. He immediately ordered radio checks to be attempted with both OPs to make sure that they were okay.
The first call went to the southern observation point, where SSG Wheeler's team was positioned. "Do you hear gunfire?" he was asked. He replied, "It sounds like the gunfire is coming from north of me. It sounds like Reaper."
Sergeant First Class Rodolfo Cisneros, Red's Platoon Sergeant (ranking noncommissioned officer), ordered an immediate radio check with Reaper. He had a bad feeling about the gunfire and explosions that sounded like they were coming from the exact direction of the northern OP. The radio call received no answer -- enough reason for Cisneros to call for the QRF to move immediately, as the unit's standard procedure regarding overwatch operations was that, in the event of a lack of communication with an OP, the QRF should assume it had been compromised and move to its location immediately.
Lieutenant Smith ordered another check -- again, nothing. Upon the second failed radio call, he ordered the four-Humvee Quick Reaction Force to roll out of Uvanni and make for Reaper's location as fast as possible. As the Humvees sped out of the Iraqi Patrol Base, Smith continued trying to raise the sniper team on the radio. He did not know that their radio had been destroyed by a grenade, and could only hope that the sounds echoing down the alleyways from the north -- which sounded like a full-blown battle at this point, complete with automatic and single-shot gunfire, as well as frequent explosions -- were not coming from Reaper's location.
ON THE ROOF OF THE APARTMENT BUILDING, Morley and Moser were taking AK-47 and PKC (a 7.62mm Russian-made machine gun) fire from both stairwells. As they spun around to return fire, they saw several small, dark objects flying onto the roof from the stairwell -- hand grenades. Morley recognized that the situation was rapidly deteriorating and knew that, though his team currently occupied the high ground in the emerging battle, they could not hold out for very long due to their vast disadvantage in numbers. Seeing that Willis, who was next to the team's radio, was busy firing into the stairwell through a window on the enclave's north side, and not knowing that one of the first hand grenades tossed onto the roof had disabled it, Morley made a dash across the roof to call for the QRF.
He never made it there.
As Moser fired into the door from his corner in an attempt to suppress the enemy assault, he saw Morley appear to stumble and go down, his weapon skidding across the rooftop toward the stairwell door. His first thought was that the team leader had tripped and fallen; a moment later, his brain registered the truth: Morley had been shot. A burst of gunfire from the southern stairwell across the dividing wall had scored a direct hit, with one round striking Morley directly in the forehead. He was dead before hitting the ground.
Moser didn't have time to dwell on Morley's death. Knowing that what had just become a three-man team could not long withstand the concerted effort by what was clearly a large enemy force to move up the stairs to his location, he took the same chance that Morley had, and crossed the roof to the radio while Willis continued to fire his .240 machine gun into the stairwell, killing at least two enemy fighters with well-placed bursts as grenades continued to be tossed up the stairs and out onto the roof. As he moved to the radio (which he found to have been disabled by a grenade), Moser was able to get a look down into the northern stairwell. Inside, he saw a number of armed men, both black and Arab rushing up the steps toward the roof -- none of whom were the individuals he had seen get out of the car moments before on the street. Apparently there had been fighters stationed in the building before the white car's arrival.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOF'S DIVIDING WALL, Corriveau had been watching the area to the southwest when the gunfire began at his back. Spinning around at the edge of the roof, he saw a man with a PKC machine gun emerging from the southern stairwell, and immediately moved toward him, raising his M24 sniper rifle, only to find that it wasn't loaded. Continuing to advance on the man at the top of the stairs, who was firing across the roof, Corriveau quickly loaded a five-round magazine into his rifle and fired a perfectly aimed shot into the assailant's head.
Reply #45 on:
November 02, 2007, 11:53:39 PM »
Continuing to close on the man, who was now on the ground, Corriveau fired again and again, re-charging the firing handle each time, until he had emptied his remaining rounds into the body. Following up with a swift kick to the fighter's head to make sure that he was dead, he then tossed his empty sniper rifle aside, picked up the man's PKC, and stepped into the stairwell, looking down over the railing. Seeing at least one more armed man charging up from the landing below, Corriveau held the PKC over the ledge and, firing blind, let go with a burst. A scream from below let him know that at least one of his rounds had hit home. He repeated this action three or four more times until he was unable to see any more movement in the stairwell.
Having neutralized the threat at his back (at least temporarily), Corriveau took his newly acquired PKC and sprinted back to the western edge of the roof to check the road again. As he peered over the edge, he saw several men running toward the entrance to the building from the south. Just to Corriveau's right, over the dividing wall, Willis, who had left the northern stairwell to Moser, was looking at the same scene. Looking to his left and catching Corriveau's eye, Willis, who had stepped up and taken charge after Morley had gone down, pointed at the men, pulled a grenade from his vest, and yelled, "We're going to frag them!" Corriveau retrieved a grenade of his own, pulled the firing pin, and let it fly, hitting the last man in the group running toward the building. Seconds behind him Willis pulled the pin from his own grenade, and prepared to throw it down into the street as well.
Suddenly, the morning exploded into gunfire, and bullets began flying at the rooftop from seemingly every direction. Enemy fighters had established supporting machine gun positions in the buildings on three sides (north, east, and west) of the apartment complex, and had begun firing relentlessly at the building top that had become a battleground, sending debris flying up all over the place from the walls and roof. Over the loud chatter of the supporting fire, Corriveau, who was still facing the street, heard a loud burst from his five o'clock. Looking to his right, he saw Willis disappear behind the dividing wall, the prepped grenade still in his hand.
AT THE NORTHERN STAIRWELL, Moser was holding the high ground, doing his best to lock down the access route to his half of the rooftop -- and to stay alive -- by alternately firing his M4 rifle around the northwest corner of the stairwell and taking cover behind the structure's northern wall. AK-47 and PKC fire, as well, now, as 9-millimeter pistol fire, was being steadily spewed from the doorway, and grenades were still bouncing out onto the roof and exploding around Moser at an alarming rate. Pivoting around the corner to fire another burst with his M4, he was able to see at least eight people in the stairwell, all attempting to make it up to the roof. He did his best to suppress the charge.
As he took cover behind the wall yet again, Moser saw a single enemy fighter reach out of the stairwell and grab the M4 that Morley had dropped when he had been hit. Though he immediately leaped up and began firing into the building again, Moser was too late to prevent the weapon from being taken. He had larger problems to worry about than the rifle, though. The charge up the stairs by close to a dozen men (both black and Arab) was continuing, and grenades were rolling out of the doorway one and two at a time and exploding with thunderous bangs. Shortly after the weapon had been taken, the person at the top of the staircase made a lunge for another prize on the roof -- Morley's body.
Spurred into renewed action, Moser flew around the corner of the stairwell and let loose with a relentless series of bursts at the advancing enemy. He was still in shock at Morley's sudden death, and there was no way that he was going to allow these animals to take his team leader's -- and friend's -- body. Risking his own life to remain within reach of the stairwell -- and thus to be able to impose himself and his M4 as a barrier between the attackers and Morley's body -- Moser fired again and again into the doorway, hitting insurgents inside while miraculously avoiding injury himself. The number of targets never seemed to diminish. As soon as he shot one person attempting to fight his way out of the stairwell to seize Morley's body, another would appear.
As Moser was exchanging fire with the topmost fighters in the northern stairwell, and attempting to remain behind sufficient cover to avoid the repeated grenade detonations on the roof, he heard from across the building top Willis's call to Corriveau to prepare their grenades. Just then, the enemy support-by-fire positions surrounding the building opened fire on the rooftop, sending Moser scrambling for cover again. As he retreated behind the northern wall of the stairwell (crouched down to avoid the withering fire coming from the north, east, and west), he looked out toward Willis just in time to see a PKC burst from the northern stairwell catch him in the back.
Almost in slow motion, Moser saw Willis's body contort, saw him collapse onto the roof, and saw him land on his own grenade, which he had prepped for use but hadn't yet been able to throw.
A split second later Willis's body was rocked by the explosion, and Moser knew instantly that he was dead. The battle had only been raging for five minutes, but it already seemed like a lifetime to Moser -- and it had cost the lives of at least two of his fellow paratroopers. With the machine gun fire pouring in from three sides, the concerted efforts on the part of the fighters in the stairwell to reach the rooftop and Morley's body (and do who knew what from there), and the grenades exploding around him, Moser could do nothing but hold what little ground he had, and keep trying to suppress the fighters in the stairwell. From his position by the stairs, the situation seemed utterly hopeless. He could see Morley and Willis lying on the roof, unmoving, knowing that they would never move again. Further, as he couldn't see or hear a thing from the south side of the building top, due to the dividing wall and the withering gunfire coming from all sides, he had no choice but to assume that Corriveau was gone as well.
He had never felt more alone.
ON THE SOUTHERN HALF OF THE ROOFTOP, across the dividing wall, Corriveau was still very much alive. He absolutely knew this to be the case because, as he sprinted back to the southern stairwell to prevent any more enemy fighters from making it to the rooftop, he was beside himself with emotions the likes of which he had never felt before. If he were dead, there was no way that he would feel the hurt, the loss, the sheer rage that was bottled up within him now, that drove him as he fired his PKC over and over into the stairwell, cutting down armed insurgent after armed insurgent as they ran up the stairs toward him. He had seen Willis go down from the gunfire, had heard the explosion of his friend's own grenade, and knew there was no way that he could have survived such a blast. Further, he had not seen Morley or Moser since the initial shooting had begun over five minutes (that seemed like hours) before and knew -- though his mind could not accept it -- that they, the last of his team, the last of his support, the last of those who were closer to them than his own family, must be dead as well.
Fighting like a man who had nothing to lose, Corriveau moved to the southern end of the roof, staying low to avoid the continuous fire from the surrounding buildings, and, keeping an eye on his own stairwell, began to fire bursts from his PKC across the dividing wall into the northern doorway as he bounded back and forth across the end of the roof, ducking for cover between bursts. As he popped out to fire again and again, he saw one insurgent after another in the northern stairwell, trying to make it out onto the roof, many of whom, it appeared from their long beards and the color of their skin, had come all this way from some foreign land just to kill him, and to kill his friends. His insides contorted with emotion, Corriveau did the only thing that he could do in that situation: keep moving, keep taking cover, and keep fighting off his assailants as long as he had the strength and the ammunition to do so. As the last man standing, there was nobody else to turn to for help -- either he would fight, or he would die, with the two not being mutually exclusive.
But, if he was going to die, he was going to go down fighting -- and he was going to take as many of these animals with him as he could.
AROUND THE FAR SIDE of the northern stairwell, Moser was engaged in a battle with a hand holding a 9mm pistol. Grenades were still being tossed up the stairs onto the roof, and every few seconds a black hand would reach around the wall of the structure and squeeze off a few rounds in his direction. Ducking behind cover when it appeared, then swinging his weapon around the wall and firing a burst when it went back inside, Moser could see no progress being made in his battle to keep his assailants from taking the rooftop -- and no escape in the event that they finally did. Due to the dividing wall and the fact that, entirely by chance, he and Corriveau were both suppressing the same stairwell, from opposite sides of the roof, in an exactly alternating pattern, Moser never saw that he was not alone, that there was another member of his team alive on the rooftop (and neither, on the other side, did Corriveau). However, despite his creeping sense of hopelessness, Moser continued to do all that he was able -- which, at this point, was to protect Morley's body the best that he could, and to keep exchanging rounds with the insurgents behind the door.
And then his weapon jammed.
As if more adversity were needed in a situation that was already an against-all-odds struggle to protect the body of a fallen comrade while also trying to stay alive, against the combined opposition of an assault from foreign fighters in the stairwell and a constant stream of grenades being tossed onto the roof near him -- which prevented his crossing the mere feet separating him from Morley's load carrying vest, which was in the northwestern corner and held a walkie-talkie ("ICOM"), the last undamaged piece of communications equipment on the roof -- as well as nonstop machine gun fire from the buildings on every side, now Moser's M4 was threatening to fail him. In this time of greatest need, Moser's training and experience kicked in. He remained calm, cleared his weapon, and, undeterred by the fact that now, due to a malfunction in his most precious piece of equipment, he had to charge the rifle's firing handle after every single shot, resumed the battle.
For nearly five minutes, he traded shots with the faceless pistolier on the other side of the stairwell door, all the while knowing that, in the end, he would not have enough time or ammunition to hold the rooftop himself. As the minutes crept by like hours, a renewed sense of hopelessness began to take hold. "Please God, help me," he pled time and again, as he alternated firing into the stairwell, ducking for cover from the returning fire, and searching frantically for some way out of what appeared to be a certain-death situation. Looking to the west, he saw the unmistakable form of the 52-meter tall Spiral Minaret, which stood in the northwestern corner of the city, a scant thousand meters from Patrol Base Olson -- and safety. Measuring its distance from the rooftop, Moser wondered for the briefest of moments if he could survive a jump off the building intact enough to be able to run the three kilometers back to Olson.
The situation was desperate, and Moser needed a miracle.
THOUGH HE WAS IN A SIMILARLY desperate situation on the south side of the roof, the idea of leaping off a four-story building never occurred to Corriveau. Instead, as he bounded back and forth across the building's edge, alternately firing into the northern stairwell door and taking cover from whatever return fire came his way, his mass of conflicting emotions was overridden by only one thought: Get to the radio on the other side of the roof.
Finally, running low on ammunition and facing only sporadic harassing fire from the southern stairwell, Corriveau decided it was time to make a break for it. He fired a final suppressive burst into his own doorway, as well as into the one to the north, and made a run for it, dashing across the open rooftop, vaulting the dividing wall, and racing for the semi-protected far side of the northern stairwell.
ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE ROOF, Moser's situation was looking bleaker by the second. He had gone through five 30-round magazines with his M4 and was still defending the roof from an attempted assault up his own stairwell, while frantically searching -- and hoping -- for a miraculous escape from his present situation.
Suddenly, that miracle arrived.
Reply #46 on:
November 02, 2007, 11:54:48 PM »
Suddenly, that miracle arrived.
Through a hail of bullets from the surrounding buildings, Corriveau bounded over the dividing wall and came sprinting across the north side of the roof and around the stairwell, almost knocking Moser over as he flew around the corner. Upon seeing each other alive, an unspeakable joy flooded the manic Corriveau, and an equal amount of relief flowed through Moser at the suddenly gained knowledge that each was not the only man left alive on this godforsaken rooftop in Samarra.
After the joyous yet indescribably brief reunion, the two Americans resumed the fight together. As Moser suppressed the enemy activity in the stairwell, Corriveau reached down and picked up the team's radio to call for the QRF. But like Moser before him, he found that it had been destroyed by one of the first grenades thrown onto the rooftop. Flinging the useless object across the roof out of frustration, Corriveau next set his sights on the survivors' last hope of a means to call for help: the ICOM on Morley's vest.
As Moser locked down the stairwell with his M4, Corriveau crossed the open rooftop to the northwest corner, where Morley's vest lay, and retrieved the small hand-held radio. Picking it up, he made calls on channel after channel, desperate to get hold of anybody that he could. Finally, as he turned the knob to Channel 13, he made contact with SSG Wheeler on the southern OP.
"Reaper Two is in contact!" Corriveau yelled into the radio. "We have two casualties, need immediate QRF and air support!"
Having made his transmission, Corriveau threw the ICOM aside and moved back to the northeastern corner of the roof, where he and Moser took turns firing at the enemy machine gun position to the east and suppressing the northern stairwell, continuing to protect Morley's body. Sporadic harassing fire was still coming from the southern doorway, but it was not enough to be a concern.
As they held down their quadrant of the apartment building's rooftop, one final grenade came rolling out of the stairwell, exploding harmlessly several feet away from them. Then, the fire from the doorway began to die down. For some unknown reason, the terrorists inside the building, who had been pushing so determinedly up the stairs during the ten-minute gun battle, had abandoned their pursuit, and were quickly evacuating their dead as they left the building. The rooftop battle zone had become much calmer.
RACING NORTH UP THE STREET toward the apartment building, Red Platoon's four Humvees were heading into the unknown, but were preparing for the worst-case scenario. Wheeler had relayed Corriveau's ICOM message to them, stating that there were friendly casualties and that the OP was in contact. As the column neared the building, Lieutenant Smith could see thick, black smoke rising from the rooftop, while SFC Cisneros saw fire being directed at the OP from several buildings around them.
The streets were completely deserted as the QRF pulled up to the apartment complex, passing on the southwest corner the body of a black fighter holding an AK-47. The four Humvees pulled up to the east, north, west, and southwest sides of the building to establish a security cordon; as his vehicle reached the front, Lieutenant Smith jumped out of his Humvee and sprinted into the building alone, leaving his remaining dismounted soldiers racing to catch up. All he knew was that the young men he had dropped off here only hours ago were in danger, and had already taken casualties. SFC Cisneros, who leaped from his truck the moment he saw Smith take off, caught up to his Platoon Leader at the base of the stairwell, pulling him back so that he could assume the risk of mounting the staircase into the unknown first.
As the dismounted paratroopers -- Smith and Cisneros, as well as Sergeant Tim Curry, Private First Class Tim Durfee, and Specialist Brady Thayer, the platoon's medic -- raced up the stairs, weapons at the ready and hollering "Friendlies coming up!" at the top of their lungs, the sound of gunfire from below came echoing up the stairs. One of Red Platoon's turret gunners had positively identified a gunman in an alley to the southeast, and was engaging him.
The stairwell itself was covered in blood, from top to bottom. Looking around as he climbed toward the roof, Cisneros saw marks in the slick coating that indicated that several bodies had been dragged down from above. Finally, as he reached the last flight of stairs, he encountered a dead body, oriented as though it had been moving up the stairs when it had been killed.
Finally reaching daylight at the top of the staircase, Cisneros made an immediate turn to the right, around the northern wall, and almost ran into Corriveau. Wanting to avoid being shot by the shell-shocked paratrooper, Cisneros grabbed Corriveau by the upper arms and yelled to him, "Hey! It's us! It's us!" Punch-drunk and mentally exhausted, Corriveau went limp for the briefest of moments in Cisneros's arms; behind him, Moser simply stared, wide-eyed.
Staying low to avoid the machine gun fire from the surrounding buildings, and wary of the prospect of walking into another ambush, Cisneros turned and surveyed the scene on the rooftop. What he saw was sickening. The entire roof of the building was covered with well over a dozen blast marks from grenades, with some patches still burning, and shell casings from expended rounds seemed to cover every remaining inch of ground. From the northeastern corner, he could clearly see Willis's body diagonally across the roof, lying on its side directly over a large blast marking; he could also see Morley, lying face down near the stairwell door that he had just charged out of.
Lieutenant Smith, who had followed Cisneros out the door and onto the rooftop, moved to Morley's body to check for a pulse, though knowing it was a futile exercise. He called down to the medic, SPC Thayer, to take his time coming up, as the two casualties were clearly dead. As he knelt over the sniper team leader, he wondered over and over again how in the world this could have happened when he and his men had been so close to the OP the entire time. Lost in thought, he didn't realize that Thayer had come up behind him until Thayer placed a gentle but firm hand on his shoulder and said, "I've got it."
Machine gun fire picked up again from the building to the east, but this time Moser and Corriveau were not alone in facing it. SFC Cisneros and Sgt. Curry joined in returning fire, and the .50 caliber turret guns on the Humvees below engaged the shooters, as well.
Smith, Thayer, and Durfee carried Willis down the stairs to the waiting Humvees, where they gently placed him in a body bag and sat him in the back seat of one of the trucks. A second bag was carried back up to the roof, where Morley was gently wrapped, his head cushioned by Cisneros, and was brought back down to the vehicles, where Moser and Corriveau, alive and physically unharmed but mentally exhausted and emotionally drained, climbed in and sat down. There was no room in the cabs of Red's trucks, so Morley was laid out in the trunk of the rear Humvee, with a gear bag arranged so that it propped up his head like a pillow. Morley and Willis's fellow paratroopers wanted their friends to be comfortable on their last ride back to Patrol Base Olson.
BY THIS TIME, Charlie Company's 2nd ("White") and 3rd Platoons had arrived from Patrol Base Olson, with Captain Buddy Ferris, the Company Commander, riding along. There was work still to be done at the site, from checking the roof for sensitive items to pursuing those involved in the assault, and Blue and White Platoons would spend the next several hours doing just those things. In the ensuing gun battles, several al Qaeda -- both Iraqi and foreign -- would be killed or captured, among them the informant who had initially alerted the foreign fighters to Reaper's presence on the roof of his apartment building. Following a large number of the fighters from the apartment building and the surrounding machine gun positions using surveillance aircraft, Captain Ferris was able to identify the house to which over 20 of the surviving terrorists went after leaving the building. Minutes later, a GPS-guided bomb was dropped on the house.
Within the next hours and days, more information would come to light, both through the interrogation of captured insurgents and through the development of more human intelligence on the situation. According to the available evidence, nearly 40 al Qaeda were directly involved in the assault on Reaper's position (they believed the team on the roof comprised nearly a dozen American soldiers). During the firefight, which lasted less than ten total minutes, Corriveau and Moser had killed at least ten enemy fighters -- possibly as many as fifteen -- and had not only kept themselves alive, but, against all odds, had prevented al Qaeda from succeeding in their real goal: to kidnap the soldiers on the rooftop, and to make a public spectacle of their imprisonment and murder, just two weeks before General Petraeus's internationally viewed testimony on Iraq before the U.S. Congress. The suspicion that kidnapping was the fighters' intent was confirmed by a final piece of intelligence that Charlie Company received just after the incident: an announcement, crafted by the Islamic State of Iraq (al Qaeda's Iraqi front), stating that nine U.S. soldiers had been kidnapped in Samarra, and had been beheaded and had their bodies thrown into Thar-Thar lake (to the southwest of the city).
Thanks to the strength, courage, discipline, and unwillingness to give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds of Chris Corriveau and Eric Moser, the ISI had spoken too soon. There would be no trophy, no public relations victory to thrust in the face of those in America and around the world whose attention would in the next few weeks be focused again on Iraq. Instead, there would only be death or capture, as the ISI members responsible were hunted down, one by one, by Captain Ferris and his company of very motivated, and exceptionally lethal, paratroopers who, as Corriveau and Moser had demonstrated during the fight of their lives on the rooftop that fateful morning, would never, ever give up, whatever the odds.
American KIA 1774-1991
Reply #47 on:
November 03, 2007, 11:47:44 AM »
Interesting piece of comparative data regarding American military deaths over the past 200+ years can be found here:
ETA: Whups, scrolled down further and found plenty of interesting data through 2007.
Last Edit: November 03, 2007, 11:53:46 AM by buzwardo
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #48 on:
January 25, 2008, 11:05:20 AM »
Profiles of valor: USAF Staff Sgt. Kimberling
In August 2006, Staff Sgt. Jason Kimberling was one of three members of a security force assisting a convoy of 35 Afghan personnel from the National Police (ANP) and the Afghan National Army (ANA). The convoy was sent to aid at a highway checkpoint in Qalat Province that had come under attack. More than 100 Taliban fighters suddenly attacked Kimberling’s convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The driver of the security force’s Humvee positioned the vehicle to provide cover. Kimberling returned fire from outside the vehicle until nearly being hit by an RPG. He quickly recovered from the blast to kill two Taliban fighters headed his way, which further enabled his Afghan allies to kill other jihadis. After more fighting, the convoy was able to move to higher ground, where, still under fire, Kimberling used a satellite phone to call in air support to end the battle. An estimated 20 jihadis were killed in the firefight, while not a single casualty occurred among the good guys. Kimberling was awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor and the Army Commendation Medal for his actions.
Re: Our Troops in Action
Reply #49 on:
February 08, 2008, 10:46:02 AM »
Profiles of valor: USMC Corporal Stokes
Sometimes the media do get it right. On Wednesday, both NBC and CBS paid tribute to only the third Marine private ever to be awarded the Silver Star, Corporal Sean Stokes, who was honored posthumously for his heroism in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. Stokes was an athlete who volunteered to serve with the Marines after 9/11, rather than go to college. On 17 November 2004, Stokes took part in Operation Phantom Fury, which aimed to clear Fallujah of jihadis. Serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, then-Private Stokes was point man for his platoon, meaning he kicked in the doors and entered the houses first. “At each house I said a prayer,” Stokes said. “Please God get me out of this one. When I come out of the house, I’d thank him, light up a cigarette and move on to the next one.” Patrick O’Donnell, an author embedded with Stokes’ unit, said, “He was clearly one of the most courageous Marines in 1st platoon. He killed nine guys single-handedly. He was combat wounded two or three times and he hid his wounds so he wouldn’t be evacuated... so he could stay and fight with his brothers.” Stokes was killed in July 2007, during his third tour in Iraq, when he was once again walking “point” and an IED detonated underneath him. CBS reported that “on what would have been his 25th birthday, Sean was awarded the coveted Silver Star for courage in battle.” His father accepted the medal on his behalf.
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