UPDATED- Guest Blogger, Scott Kesterson- What Just Happened? Looking at Bergdahl from the lens of political spin

Scott Kesterson back in Afghanistan

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[Author’s note: Politics and power are a game of strategy and board position. Master’s of the game maneuver like a military tactician in war, making use of information and events as their weapon of choice. The ambush is a tactic used by the best of the game masters, leveraging surprise, intensity, and timing to overwhelm an adversary and create opportunity. It is an event that forces the unsuspecting to be consumed within the moment as focus shifts to the immediate threat and survival instincts take over to preserve personal and emotional cohesion. The more intense the ambush, the greater the potential to create an effective distraction from the larger strategic objectives. Bergdahl’s release can be viewed in this manner. What follows is a perspective of the Bergdahl release from Taliban control through a lens of information strategies and influence. The views are the authors alone.]

The emotion around the release of Bergdahl from Taliban control has created a maelstrom of public reaction. This is a divisive issue that has pitted a war-tired Americana that is ready to put the past thirteen years to bed against an America looking for purpose and meaning for the personal and financial costs that have been paid post 9-11. As issues go, there are few that can cause such an up-swell of open hostility as those that drive a … Continue reading

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.

 

Who Raven-Wolf isn’t

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I am getting emails from people assuming I am Raven-Wolf. I wish I could take the credit. However, as much as I appreciate the praise, it is misplaced. I have been in Afghanistan a couple of times but I was not even in country when Bergdahl went missing. The story Raven-Wolf expressed is from a contact I have known for years (and vetted by other contacts I have had for just as long).

There are also emails, comments on this blog, and many other blogs and websites assuming or stating that Raven-Wolf is a soldier, was in Bergdahl’s unit (1/501st Airborne Battalion) and other assumptions. All of that is conjecture and unless stated by Raven-Wolf on what his role was in country, then there should not be any guesses and just know he was there as part of the entire ISAF coalition presence in country.

He has taken great person risk to do what needed to be done even when it was against the accepted conventions of the day. I think it is clear to all of my readers that we need more like him.

 

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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. … Continue reading

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/

Our Brothers in Arms are done

Well it appears that our Brothers in Arms, the cousins from the North….Canada are now finished with their mission in Afghanistan.

Canada ended military operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday, ending a 12-year mission as the international community winds down its role in the country ahead of an end-of-year deadline for foreign combat operations to end.

The Canadians formally ended their combat role in southern Afghanistan in July 2011 but maintained a small training operation in Kabul.

“Canada played a critical role in securing Kandahar Province and had a strategic impact across the country with their contribution to the NATO training mission,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said during a flag-lowering ceremony at the headquarters for international forces in Kabul.

The Canadian Army has performed superbly and was one of our best coalition partners in Afghanistan. They found shoulder to shoulder with many American Forces, including ETTs, Special Forces, Conventional Army forces, and my Guest Blogger, Rusty Bradley. They were concentrated in the south, commonly referred to as 205th Corps Sector. Canada also gave up it’s sons and daughters for the people of Afghanistan.

According to the Canadian government, 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors were killed in Afghanistan.

I guess this is just another sign that our mission is definitely coming to an end. I am curious if the USA will be the last ones left and have to turn out the lights on the way out.

Read the whole story at http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140312/NEWS08/303120036

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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