Hard Work pays off

My buddy Nick over at Ranger Up spells it out in clear and concise language. If you want to succeed in this world, you have to work hard and never stop. It sucks, I know but it is what it is. There are millions busting their butt to make ends meet or live a comfortable life. There are are small (less than 1) percentage of that who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth or have had one shoved in there.

His message is geared towards those getting out of the military but it is meant for all. I have seen pure civilians who practically kill themselves working in crappy jobs, but they do that in order to put food on the table and roofs over their kids heads. My close friend LL does that every day, along with many other people I know to include close family.

None of us are entitled to a DAMN thing, especially military (or ex-military). We (they) raised our hand and volunteered to serve in the military and defend this country. Nobody does that for a free entree once a year or empty thanks from strangers, so there is no reason to think anyone owes us a damn thing.

Being appreciated is nice, expecting it is just wrong. With all of that said, take 5 minutes and listen to these great words from Nick.

A great series of pics

It is worth your time to head over to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/drawing-the-drawdown/ and check out Richard Johnson’s latest set of drawings from this fourth trip to Afghanistan.

They are amazing pieces of work capturing some of the glimpses of life in Afghanistan as things draw down and people pull out. Along with his drawings themselves are great little descriptions and observations he made while seeing the thing or event which caused him to sketch it.

A new film with a personal connection

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Well I recently stumbled across this trailer for the documentary coming out this summer called The Kill Team. I am curious as to how this documentary will play out to see if there is an agenda in it, or if it is truly just presenting facts.

I have talked about the connection with this film and the incident several times on this blog. One of the main individuals involved in this incident and who was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison was Jeremy Morlock. I knew Jeremy when he was a little boy, long before he joined the Army. I knew his parents very well as I had served with his father for several years. Jeremy has many brothers and sisters and I knew the whole family. I was very proud of him when he joined the Army and had talked to him several times online about his late Father and how much he looked like him and my memories of his Dad.

It broke my heart when all of this happened and Jeremy took these actions that took innocent lives. It broke my heart because I knew him as a innocent little boy and I know it broke his mom’s heart to see the world look at her son as such an inhumane animal capable of doing such things. Even though I look at what he did with disgust, in a weird way only possibly understood by those that have served in combat, I can sort of understand how they did this.

Anyway, here is the trailer and I look forward to seeing a screening of this when it becomes available so I can judge how they are going to present this unit and their actions to the world. Learn more at http://killteammovie.com

 

D-Day, 70 years later

Deployed service members reflect on  D-Day

It is hard to imagine for me that it has been 70 years since D-Day, so I cannot imagine what it is like for the veterans of that day who are still alive to look back as I am sure it feels like yesterday for them. I am glad some of the news media are covering this today and how important it is. Unless the importance of this day are still taught in school and young people really study it, then I am sure the importance is lost on most.

One statistic I heard was that if you took all the combat deaths in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan and combined that number, it would almost equal how many soldiers we lost on the day of the landing.

 

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So I hope it is crystal clear why this day is so important in our nation’s history and why we should pause to remember. These men and boys willingly walking into the gates of hell knowing that the path to winning the war and righting the wrong by the Nazis was going to be paved with their dead bodies….

 

 

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Gen Eisenhower talking to the paratroopers who would be jumping from airplanes in behind enemy lines.

…may God bless their souls and I pray they still rest in peace.

 

Guest Blogger, Rusty Bradley- Bergdahl has led to Pandora’s Box

I was a tactical operations center chief when Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked off his firebase. The entire room held its breath as we read the message, an American soldier was missing. Phones were abuzz and video conferences under way as preparation for contingency operations to support the search were already underway. There would be no limit in the effort to determine the best way to support the search for the missing American.

It seemed like nearly everything came to an abrupt halt. If he was a lost American soldier, we needed to find him. Almost every available asset was diverted in an effort to find Bergdahl, to include the vast plethora of strategic assets, national ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) aircraft, Tier One SOF units and massive operations by the regular Army were shifted from the war fighting effort to assist in the search. We went thru all the available information to see how we could assist in the search. Even though he was missing in the East, we would do what we could from the South to help. It was not twenty four hours later that the circumstances surrounding his disappearance would be reported. It left everyone in the room shaking their head.

Now that he is safe, I am relieved and happy for him and his family. I can’t imagine being held by anyone, much less the Taliban, for five years. The only person I am aware of who can sympathize with this experience is Sen. John McCain. But, amid this short term happiness in securing Bergdahl’s freedom is the long term apprehension as a result. The Obama administration has opened Pandora’s Box by doing what we have sworn never to do, negotiate with terrorists. By making a unilateral decision to negotiate with terrorists, Obama has broken national policy and agreed to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders previously held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What is the ultimate cost of making this unilateral decision to obtain Bergdahl’s release? It does not matter what side of the isle you fall on politically, this question is being asked amongst the inner circles. This is in no way like the decision to kill Bin Laden. Any grandmother in America would have said “Get him” and know that even if they missed, it could be said that at least he tried. I submit that this decision will have two impacts, one short term and one long term.

The first and short term consequence leaves me shaking my head, yet again. In regard to the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, I have seen the results of these terrorists returning to the battlefield. There is no such thing as rehabilitation. They will return to their acts of terror and inhumanity until they themselves are finally killed. Almost 30 percent of the detainees released from Guantánamo Bay returned to fight, according to research by Thomas Joslin, an analyst for the Foundation for Defense for Democracies. I had to scoff when I read this. I do not have statistics to back up my opinion, only eight deployments to Afghanistan, but I will stand by the statement that I have never known of a detainee who does not return to the battlefield. Terrorists do not decide to go from making bombs to selling cars. It is not an occupational change.

Arizona Sen. John McCain told USA Today Saturday that Guantanamo detainees “are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands”. “I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners.” McCain said. I can answer this question for you Sen. McCain, nothing…Nothing at all.

There is no doubt that the five detainees that were released from Guantánamo will kill again. We are leaving a fragile Afghan government and military in Afghanistan to continue the fight, but we’ve now given the enemy five of their commanders, who will no doubt reignite the Taliban’s ideology, methodology, and ultimately, motivation. Their release signals that America will submit.

How much more American blood will be shed under attacks led by these terrorists or worse in trying to apprehend or kill these commanders in future combat operations? What will be the cost in future American lives when these terrorists returned to the battlefield and what future forces will face now knowing that America will negotiate with terrorists? Special operations forces continue to operate in Afghanistan and in over one hundred countries and are now a bigger target because terrorists now know the value of one American military hostage.

“While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground,” Obama said Saturday.

This comment makes one wonder whether he or his administration can actually digest the “challenges” that will arise from this decision. The ramifications of this decision are far reaching. But the long term and greatest danger will be the administration’s willingness to make a deal. It is no longer the perception of negotiation with America, but the actuality.

This is not going to be just about the military. As in Iraq, Terrorist networks will migrate towards capturing easier targets like civilians to accomplish their goals. What happens when terrorist sleeper cell take over a school, movie theater or church in the US? It has happened in Russia already. We are fighting an enemy that has no problem strapping bombs to their chests and detonating them in a market full of women and children. They readily pack cars and trucks full of explosives and convince their young men to drive these bombs into military and civilian targets.

What happens when Americans are captured in order to free terrorists held by our coalition partners? This list of horrific questions gets worse and worse. What will we do now that the president has opened Pandora’s box?

The results of President Barak Hussein Obama’s decision will likely haunt this country and be chiseled into tombstones long after we are gone.

MAJ Rusty Bradley (Ret.) deployed to Afghanistan eight times, most recently in 2012. After 21 years in the U.S. Army, he was medically retired in 2014. Bradley is also the author of the book “Lions of Kandahar.” www.lionsofkandahar.com

A number of new stories about Bergdahl

Since the Blog post, “Guest Blogger, Raven-Wolf: Bergdahl, How pride and arrogance kept us from getting him back” went up yesterday this blog has received record-setting traffic, breaking the one day number of hits on this blog three times over. In addition the traffic here, there are stories up all over the place on the internet that is revealing a lot of unknown or lesser-known details about the Bergdahl case. I wanted to list a few of them here.

1. Rolling Stone (Pay attention to #7 as it relates directly to Raven-Wolf’s guest blog post).
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/13-things-you-need-to-know-about-bowe-bergdahl-20140602

2. NY Post
http://nypost.com/2014/05/31/the-bizarre-tale-of-americas-last-known-pow/

3. Telegraph UK
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10868673/Bowe-Bergdahl-a-darker-story-behind-the-release-of-Americas-last-prisoner-of-war.html

4. Wikileaks Report from the incident
http://wikileaks.org/afg/event/2009/06/AFG20090630n1790.html

5. The Daily Beast (written by a unit member of Bergdahl’s)
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/02/we-lost-soldiers-in-the-hunt-for-bergdahl-a-guy-who-walked-off-in-the-dead-of-night.html

Guest Blogger, Raven-Wolf: Bergdahl, How pride and arrogance kept us from getting him back

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Bouhammer Note- I have known of this complete story for five years. However I could not come public with it or ask my sources to even allow me to take it public. One of my sources who goes by the nickname Raven-Wolf, who was and is very connected and was on the ground at the time Bergdahl went missing shared this information with me in great detail in the last 24 hours. Now that Bergdahl is safely in US possession, Raven-Wolf felt it was time to let people know the truth. What you read in this post is completely first-hand and factual.
I am glad for his family that Bergdahl is home, however I am disappointed in the actions of his father recently (I will write about this more later). I am sure they love their son very much and am glad to have him back safe. However this young man made very bad decisions, and must be held accountable for them, in my opinion.
There is a lot on the internet right now from many other first-hand accounts by people that were in his unit. Now you can read a little behind the scenes about how we could have gotten him back within days, if not weeks, had it not been for arrogance and pride.
For a complete listing of postings on this blog about Bergdahl, check out http://www.bouhammer.com//?s=bergdahl

It was June 2009. I was working off the grid in and around South-Eastern Afghanistan. I had built a very effective Afghan network: local elders, merchants, NDS commanders, Afghan Army CI, etc. Word came down that a soldier from the 501st INF had gone AWOL. The name of the soldier was quickly known: Bowe Bergdahl.

Within hours of the reported “DUSTWUN” (Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown) the RC-East Commander initiated a total gag order, preventing any Army unit or Embedded Training Team (ETT) / Police Mentor Team (PMT) team from sharing intelligence with the Afghans. His order was based on his command’s stated belief that the Afghans were complicit in the taking of Bergdahl. The actual motivations came out later in private meetings behind closed doors: he wanted to protect his chances for promotion to O-7 (One Star General).

The Commander’s order didn’t affect me, and I frankly had little care for being involved in the search for someone as obviously stupid as this kid. My feelings, bluntly, were that Darwin’s laws should be let to play out and the Taliban’s desires to turn young boys into sex puppets was this kids earned destiny.

Almost immediately the rumor mill was in full swing. I returned to my Area of Operations (AO) and stayed to my own business. Nothing was flying or moving unless it was part of the search. So I took some days to read, catch up on emails and listen to the chatter in the mess hall as I sucked down my cups of bad coffee and powdered creamer. Mid-way through the second week I ran into one of the PMT mentors. He was furious about having to deal with the gag order; rightfully describing how the lack of sharing was undermining his teams relationship and trust with the Afghan Police units they were mentoring. His frustration got to me; it pissed me off to be more to the point. I knew this kid Bergdahl could be found. Not through the might of every US military asset in Eastern Afghanistan, but through tribal connections and traditional ways of doing business in Afghanistan…something Regular Army commanders never understood. I left the encounter with the PMT mentor, returned to my AO and walked into my Colonel’s office.

“I will make you a bet I can locate this kid in a week.” He looked at me and said nothing. He knew how I worked and I walked out.

I began by walking into the office of an Afghan Intelligence Officer I knew. He greeted me as always; welcomed me in and offered me Chai. We had not seen each other for well over a month. We shared stories, we discussed insurgent tactics, new TTPs, his family, my travels. Then I asked him the question I had come for, “Colonel…where’s our boy?” He looked at me and just stared back. Then he said, “You don’t want to know.”

I was taken aback and frankly irritated. I had had enough of the games over this kid’s search. “What do you mean I don’t want to know! We are friends; we have been friends a long time. Your answer is not good enough.” The Colonel then went on to explain to me how he had offered his support to find Bergdahl. However, the American Army mentors told him they weren’t interested; that they had everything under control.

I reminded him I wasn’t them and that I could frankly give a shit what his Army mentors were or were not interested in. “Help me find him. You and I both know this cannot be done without Afghan intelligence. You and I know that regardless of how stupid this kid is, he needs to be brought home.”

He sat down at his desk and made a call as he scribbled a few notes on a piece of white paper. He then got up from his desk, walked across the room and sat down in front of a dusty computer at the back. A few keystrokes later, he added a few more notes to the paper, walked over towards me and handed me what he had written.

“These are the names of the villages and GPS coordinates where your boy was the past three nights.”

I thanked him and took the information back to my Colonel. I told him what was on the paper. He took it with a bit of suspicion, but stated that he would be sending it up to the Special Operations Task Force 373. Later that night he called me into his office.

“I don’t know where you are getting your information but keep in coming. They like what you have.”

Over the next few days I expanded my information gathering to include NDS, Afghan CI, and locals. The Afghans continued to provide details on location, how Bergdahl was traveling, what he was wearing, and his state of mind. The picture continued to grow and the picture was one of a kid that had willingly left his post, deserted his brothers and his commitment to the US Army and our country. Bergdahl was described as dressed in local dress. He was riding around on the back of motorcycles hugging his Afghan captors. He was not in chains or in handcuffs, but willingly moving about to avoid detection. He needed to be retrieved…not to save him, but to punish him for his betrayal.

The details around Bergdahl’s decision to walk off of his FOB (Forward Operating Base) to explore the wilds of Afghanistan were locked down almost immediately. Even journalists were restricted from access; being denied interviews, field movement or access to anyone with any knowledge of Bergdahl or of his unit. Keeping the lid on the story was the number one command objective. But I dug and I found details. Though I still have this part of the story listed as “unconfirmed” this is what I put together:

Bergdahl was unstable the minute he arrived in country. He was unhappy, disconnected from the unit, and dissatisfied with the way his unit had dealt with several incidents. He had illusions of grandeur, talking about getting back to nature. He also had a romanticized ideal of himself as some sort of one man Rambo as well as a love affair with the Afghan indigenous fighter (aka Taliban). Rumors of what happened ranged from his unit running over a child to Bergdahl slowly coming unglued. He had all of the signs of being high risk. There was never any one story that was consistently told about the cause and effect. Both his unit and his command were protective and defensive… obvious signs of hiding something. What was more than clear is that Bergdahl, his unit and his command were a train wreck. As for Bergdahl specifically, his background should have been an early warning that something, anything, could easily set him off. Raised by a Northwest family that would be best described as off the grid, liberal tofu eaters, Bergdahl was homeschooled and raised to be a kind and sensitive child. He learned ballet, and enjoyed long walks in nature. He was almost a modern day young Emerson. When he turned of age he apparently felt he needed some adventure so he talked to a recruiter and fell in love with the “be all you can be” dream and joined the Army. Airborne was now his new meditation mantra and walks in the woods were replaced with forced marches and an 80-pound rucksack. To what should not have been a surprise to anyone, he did not work in well with his unit. Maybe it was the ballet, maybe it was his sensitive nature now imprisoned by his sworn duty to kill the bastards who celebrated the deaths of over 3000 Americans killed on 9-11. Whatever his reasons, when the moment arrived that he decided he was no longer interested in his obligation, his “free spirit”spoke as he grabbed his sketchbook and some water and walked off of the FOB. He was AWOL. Nothing more to it than that.

At the end of my seventh day or so of working this problem, I returned to the office of the Afghan Intelligence Colonel. Over another round of Chai and information exchange, I pressed him to leverage his network to set up a meet with the tribe that was holding Bergdahl. By this time the profile of Bergdahl’s captors was becoming clear. Where Bergdahl played out a version of a spoiled brat’s “walk about”, his captors saw opportunity. They had grievances with the local Governor. They wanted to use Bergdahl to get what they thought they deserved. This was the Afghan way.

During this time the rumors and reports from the US side were that Berdahl had been taken by Haqqani. That was not the case. His captors had sent out word to the Haqqani network asking for a reward, however the initial interest from Haqqani was cool to tepid at best. Their concern was that Bergdahl was mentally unstable; and even though Bergdahl had voluntarily converted to Islam, the Haqqani network was not willing to bring a mentally unstable Muslim convert over the border into Pakistan. We should have paid attention to Haqqani.

I sat with the Afghan Colonel and we went over the tape that had been released of Bergdahl. We watched it a half dozen times. Other Afghan intelligence types entered the room. They dissected the images…the weave on the bread that was shown in the video was only available in one particular village; the sound of the generators demonstrated a level of wealth; the pattern on the rugs provided insight into the owner and their taste; the food and the way it was served provided understanding of tribal habits and behaviors; the interviewer, his English intonation and his camera skills could only be of a select few people; and Bergdahl himself provided a wealth of clues from his dress, to his mannerisms, to his compliant attitude. The Colonel made some notes. The Afghan cadre discussed what they had seen. He felt sure he knew what village Bergdhal was in.

“I want to meet with the tribal leader who is holding him. Just me and my interpreter. I will travel in my own vehicle. No military. No guns. You can join me if you wish,” I told him.

The Colonel called a friend in Parliament. The discussion was brief. He hung up the phone and we waited. A few minutes later the phone rang; it was his Parliament friend again. The tribal leader had agreed to the meet. The location would be set the next day. The Afghan Colonel and I agreed to travel together. We parted, each of us setting about preparing our kit for the next morning.

The media blast that followed the Bergdahl video was what the RC-East Commander had hoped to avoid. The story was now out. Bergdahl who had been effectively a blip on the radar up to that point became an international star overnight. The elevation of status made him more valuable and Haqqani understood this. The following morning as I walked to the vehicle to meet up with the Afghan Colonel, he greeted me, still wearing his military dress. I knew something was off. He informed me that the meeting had been cancelled. Overnight Haqqani had dispatched a team with an undisclosed amount of cash and had taken control of Bergdahl. From that point forward the chances of getting him back were all but lost.

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Over the next few years I made the occasional probes through my Afghan contacts about Bergdahl. The responses were always the same…he was with Haqqani. Some reports had him living happily in Haqqani’s large compound in Pakistan. Other reports told of him missing his family and regretting his decision to go AWOL. He was regularly reported being seen in the markets near the Haqqani compound, usually shopping on his own without restraints or guards.

Within many circles Bergdahl became more like an urban legend. Under GEN McChrystal a group was stood up called the Counter-insurgency Assessment Advisement Team, or CAAT for short. Early on there was one notable idiot by the name of Sean. A former 7th Special Forces Group guy, he and his tag-along buddy Tim promised to retrieve Bergdahl and bring fame and recognition to the CAAT. Naturally their grand plan never materialized. Bergdahl remained safely in the arms of Haqqani.

Near the end of GEN Petraeus’time I came across the Personnel Recovery group working to find Bergdahl. Outside of several highly covert units still tasked with finding the kid, this private contracted team was all that was left. We shared information, I reviewed their plans, and what was clear is that there wasn’t a plan. Bergdahl was Haqqani’s property until Haqqani decided otherwise. For me the issue was simple, Bergdahl wasn’t worth it.

This last year I sent out another query on Bergdahl. The response this time was similar, but a few things had changed. Unlike past queries, the information that came back was that the Haqqani group was tiring of Bergdahl. They were becoming concerned that they would be left holding him and not accomplish their goals of retrieving their brothers from US holding. The word was they were willing to negotiate. In true Pashtun fashion, however, they added a threat of killing Bergdahl if their demands weren’t met. My Afghan contacts told me they could make the meet happen. I passed. The risk to get this kid wasn’t worth it and by this time the United States government was well on its way to giving in to Haqqani to save face and win a few political points with the liberal mass of military haters back home.

The latest news of 5 GITMO detainee transfers for this kid’s life left me nauseated. From everything I was receiving, Haqqani never expected to get any of the prisoners, let alone 5 of some of the most highly valued targets we had in holding. The US negotiators had fallen for the bluff…the threat of killing the kid. No one ever asked the question of why Haqqani would kill Bergdahl suddenly now after keeping him alive for so many years. A typical political knee jerk reaction to a problem rooted in thousands of years of traditions and ways of doing deals. We got screwed and I suspect Haqqani is laughing his ass off at us from his compound in Pakistan.

The deal that has been made is a slap in the face to every American soldier alive and dead that has served this country with honor. Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor. He willingly left his post and his fellow soldiers to go on a spiritual stroll in Afghanistan, convert to Islam and ultimately join up with the Taliban…and in so doing cost us the lives of great soldiers who were tasked with finding him…just run the body count of how many died searching for him in 2009. Bergdahl wasn’t captured as the Army and media spin-doctors would want you to believe. He betrayed his country and should pay the price of incarceration at the least and death by hanging at the best.

May he burn in Hell.

Reported by RW

Who knew?

Wow I had no idea that if I didn’t like Army regulations I could just whine and complain about it until people put PC pressure on the Department of Army…

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The military is reviewing its new regulations involving soldiers’ appearance after criticism by some black military women and lawmakers who argue that changes in the hair requirement are racially biased.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will make whatever adjustments to the policy are appropriate after a completing a review requested by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I want to assure you that, while none of the Army’s revised grooming and appearance policies were designed or intended to discriminate or disparage against any service members, I take your concerns very seriously,” Hagel wrote in a response letter obtained by the Military Times.

I had no idea it was so easy. I wonder if tens of thousands of tattooed Army members should start crying and bitching about how they feel single out and discriminated against because of their tattoos so the newly implemented policy banning many of the tattoos to include not allowing in new members with tattoos in certain areas.

Who knew it could have been so easy all of this time. Dang I could have gotten all my fellow soldiers to complain that those of us who are not morning people were discriminated against and made to get up early every morning to do PT.

Read this entire disgusting story at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/30/military-to-review-hair-rules-after-complaints/

Sometimes the Demons win, DAMN THEM!

A close friend of mine who has cared for more severely wounded warriors than most of us could count posted a link to this story. She took care of this brave warrior, but unfortunately he lost the battle, the battle against the demons that haunt so many of us. With tears in my eyes after reading it, I knew I had to share it.

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him.

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the time he died this year at age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

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Farrell Gilliam on the right

Read the whole story at http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

Rusty Bradley- Special Forces’ terminal diagnosis


BOUHAMMER NOTE- I am pleased to welcome my good friend, Major Rusty Bradley (ret) as a new Guest Blogger here on Bouhammer.com. A Career Special Forces soldier with multiple deployments and an accomplished author, Rusty is a great addition to the list of guest bloggers here on this site.

 

As policy makers look to trim the Defense budget, they should start by cutting the dead weight around the Special Forces community and stop spending millions to train soldiers that would fail to meet the old standards.

  • Special Forces live by five simple truths.
  • Humans are more important than Hardware.
  • Quality is better than Quantity.
  • Special Operations Forces cannot be mass-produced.
  • Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
  • Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance

These “truths” act as our compass through the labyrinth of unconventional warfare. But for more than a decade, the Army special operations community has ignored the second, third and fourth truth creating a Special Forces regiment rife with soldiers who would not make the cut before Sept. 11, 2001.

Historically, the Special Forces – designated the Green Berets by John Kennedy – only accepted the most highly qualified and capable soldiers. The standards were never compromised for any reason because the extreme situations and environments where Special Forces soldiers operate require the best our country can produce.

But the demand for Special Forces teams after Sept. 11, 2001 far exceeded the supply. To meet the demand, standards were lowered, corners were cut and training pipeline started graduating substandard soldiers. Look at it from this perspective, imagine the surgeon operating on your child graduated medical school because he could maintain a “D” average or just did not quit. Would you want that him doing surgery on the person you love most in this world?

Green Berets are supposed to be the most diverse and adaptive soldiers on the battlefield. Trained to think and operate like guerillas/insurgents, they are capable of operating far behind enemy lines working with and training rebel forces. They can also train government troops in counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense. Green Berets on horseback led the Northern Alliance to victory against the Taliban during the first years of the war in Afghanistan. Special Forces built and trained both the Afghan and Iraqi armies. On the African continent, Special Forces teams are helping Congolese troops fight the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony and in Colombia Special Forces teams trained soldiers to battle the FARC. Special Forces soldiers must be of the highest quality and caliber because that is exactly what your enemies will put against you.

In the summer of 2005, my Special Forces team was on patrol in northern Kandahar province. We were about to head into a valley where we were frequently ambushed by the Taliban. My team sergeant wanted to test fire the machine guns on our vehicles since we’d had to hastily leave for the patrol. We found a large vertical rock and used that as the target. My gunner was told to fire a short burst. I was in the lead truck and my gunner was a new sergeant who had just graduated from the Special Forces qualification course.

I gave the order to fire and stuck my fingers in my ears to muffle the thunderous boom of the .50 caliber machine gun. Click. Nothing happened. The new sergeant left a piece of the weapon back at the base camp. The gun was useless. The maintenance of weapons is a basic soldier skill, and the new sergeant failed. I found out later, he was part of a number of soldiers who had been allowed to enter the organization as long as they did not “quit.”

That was my first experience with the “new” Special Forces soldier. When I returned to Fort Bragg, I was horrified to learn that the standards had been dropped and would not be raised again because of the expansion of Special Forces. Every group was getting a fourth battalion and commanders needed bodies.

These less than qualified soldiers account for ninety percent of the problems in the command. I can think of at least half dozen cases where soldiers that would not have been selected are now getting charged with crimes ranging from drunk driving to theft. This kind of misconduct is an issue Army wide.

The Associated Press reported in February “enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007, as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.” The general officer corp has its own share of scandals from Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward’s unauthorized spending, sexual misconduct charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, and other episodes of gambling and drinking, according to the Associated Press. The Special Forces community is not immune to “big Army” problems. The issues are just more acute in our smaller community unless standards are upheld.

The problem won’t correct itself, but any objections to the lowering standards are considered non-compliance and is used as cause to deny promotion or schools for professional development to those blowing the whistle. Commanders and policy makers have forgotten how to object or say the word “no” anymore, even if it is detrimental to the force and ultimately the soldiers doing the job.

I’m saying no.

Our country deserves better than what we are giving and what they are getting. We must turn this trend around and get it back on a path to success or there will be fewer and fewer victories at the cost of more and more American lives. As a leader, I didn’t expect my soldiers to do things I would not do myself. You cannot hope for change, you must make it happen. Commanders need to establish higher standards for every candidate – man or woman – and purge the ranks of soldiers that no longer exemplify what it means to be a Green Beret. Cutting the dead weight will be painful at first as there are fewer soldiers to do more work, but it will leave the ranks filled with the best soldiers. If more soldiers, veterans and commanders do not begin to stand their ground and force this great country back on course, we face losing what we all hold most dear.

MAJ Rusty Bradley (Ret.) deployed to Afghanistan eight times, most recently in 2012. After 21 years in the U.S. Army, he was medically retired in 2014. Bradley is also the author of the book “Lions of Kandahar.” www.lionsofkandahar.com
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