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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Thank God for good First Sergeants

This video is making the rounds on the internet right now, and I wanted to share it here with some commentary. It shows a combat outpost in Paktika province (my old stomping ground) getting “accidentally hit by one of our own aircraft’s 500lb bombs.

 

There are several key things about this video I wanted to point out. The first is for those that think women “deserve” or “belong” in the infantry. I am not sure if this is an Infantry or Cavalry unit, but it does not matter. You can tell from this video and from movies like Restrepo this is no place for a female. Not now, NOT EVER.

Second is this is what it means to be living at the tip of the spear. There is no Green Bean’s Coffee house, Flour or KBR cooks, or PX. This is an outpost built with sandbags, hescos, 2x4s and plywood. This is the home for these guys. Not everyone lives like this, and in fact I would say 98% of those overseas don’t live like this for their entire tour. Sometimes soldiers go in and out of this type of place every few weeks or months. I mean they have to get a decent shower sometime don’t they?

Lastly I would like to point out that the First Sergeant (1SG) is credited with saving lives in the story accompanying this video. If you read it at http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140218/NEWS/302180020/Video-500-pound-friendly-bomb-dropped-too-close-soldiers-Afghanistan you will see they state the 1SG knew this airstrike was going to happen and made everyone get into what we call “stand to”, which means everyone at the ready, in their fighting positions with all their protective gear on. I am sure some guys bitched and cried as they were forced to get out of bed and go get in their fighting positions, but I bet they were glad they have the 1SG they do afterwards. This is a prime example of “hard right” vs. the “easy wrong”.

 

This should not take an “Act of Congress”

Holding someone accountable and punishing them for doing a bad job or not doing their job is a facet of working in our society and should be natural. It should not take an act of congress to fire people who are not doing their job properly or doing it bad.

Two Florida Republicans want to make it easier to fire senior Veterans Affairs Department employees for serious mistakes,but VA officials say what the plan will really do is scare away top talent.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio introduced legislation in their respective chambers this week that would give the secretary of Veterans Affairs “complete authority” over senior executive service officials in the department, including the ability to demote or fire them.

The move would affect only about 450 of VA’s 300,000-plus employees, but both lawmakers argue it’s a critical change to promote accountability throughout the agency.

That’s been a theme in recent months among Republican lawmakers who have criticized VA leadership for failing to punish mid-level workers and senior executives for the disability claims backlog, poor care at medical centers, and a host of other headaches.

In particular, Miller and Rubio have focused on 31 preventable deaths of veterans in at least five different VA medical centers as a failure of leadership. No administrators have been fired in connection with the incidents, although several have retired.

I was amazed when I read this that it takes two elected representatives time and energy to make this happen. Especially in a Government organization (which is there to serve the citizens of this country) and one that is charged with taking care of those who have stepped forward to serve this country. If there is any organization which should be held accountable for failing to do its job and failing the citizens of this country, it is the VA without question.

What is worse is the person that is accountable for this, is to blame himself. Mr. “Black Beret” himself.

But VA officials, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, have pushed back against the idea of firing employees to improve department performance, saying they’re working to solve problems without vilifying VA staff.

How can any level of management in the VA hold anyone accountable when there is a hypocrite at the helm?

If the President cares about Veterans the way he and the First Lady claim they do, he should fire Shineski ASAP to set the example and put someone in charge that can start cleaning house. They need people that want to be there to serve the public, and more importantly, the Veterans and not someone who just care about reaching 20 years of civil service and a retirement check.

Read the whole story at http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140214/BENEFITS04/302140012/New-bill-would-make-easier-fire-senior-VA-employees

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Time for a Change

Guardian readers views on US foreign policy

Well I have decided that it is time for a change here at Bouhammer.com.

The war in Afghanistan is winding down and before we know it there may be little to know troops left there. There are also troops still deployed all over the world and we are continuing to push them into different countries for a variety of reasons from saving innocent people to wanting to train local security forces to protect their own country.

In addition, our Country and its Foreign Policy or lack thereof continue to shape and mold how our citizens and our leaders view our place in the world and when or where our forces should go.

This blog focusing on the Afghanistan region almost exclusively has come to and end. I feel it is time for me to expand the scope to Military in general, Foreign Policy and even a little politics every once in a while. Afghanistan, my time there, and the legacy it will leave in our history will still be part of this blog, however it won’t be what I focus on all the time.

When I came back from Afghanistan, it was a decision point to decide if I would keep this blog going, then after 3-4 months of blogging about my reunification I had another decision point. Then about 6 months ago I started wondering again if I should keep it up and keep blogging. So here we are again, and again I have decided to keep it up but blog about more things than just the Ak-Pak region.

So with all of that, welcome to the new and re-focused Bouhammer’s Blog.

People need to be fired, NOW!

This is beyond sad, this is despicable. How are we supposed put trust into the leaders that the Administration have put in charge of the efforts in Afghanistan if they are not capable of answer simple questions to Congress that they, of anyone, should know.

How many American troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year?

None of the witnesses at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan had an answer.

How much is the U.S. spending in Afghanistan? Mr. Rohrabacher asked.

No one could say.

“We’re supposed to believe that you fellas have a plan that’s going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan?” Mr. Rohrabacher asked. “Holy cow!”

Mr. Rohrabacher’s incredulous questioning came during a two-hour hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan that revealed increasing congressional frustration with U.S. policy as the administration tries to rescue its plan to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan through the end of this decade, if not beyond.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.) called the witnesses’ inability to rattle off the facts “a stunning development.”

“How can you come to a congressional oversight hearing on this subject and not know” the answers? He asked. “Like that wouldn’t be a question the tip of one’s tongue.”

If they were leaders of a company, they would be fired.

If they were leaders of a military unit, they would be relieved of command.

If they were elected representatives, they would probably be voted out of office.

The administration needs to quit helping out its cronies or anyone it can find to fill positions, and start putting in qualified personnel into key positions. It is almost like they are on a co-ed D-league softball team and they look to the stands to find anyone they can to fill an outfield position.

The idea that U.S. officials didn’t have basic facts about the war in Afghanistan on the tips of their tongues seemed apt for a conflict that has fallen off the radar in Washington, where battles over the budget, President Barack Obama’s health care program and talks with Iran have eclipsed interest in America’s longest war as it winds to a close.

bigstock-Afghanistan-Passport-And-Dolla-50857586Photo courtesy of www.Bigstockphoto.com
 

Read the whole story at http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/12/11/simple-question-on-afghanistan-leaves-officials-stumped/

Latest Afghanistan rotation units announced!

DOD Identifies Units for Upcoming Afghanistan Rotation
The Department of Defense today identified five units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan.
The scheduled rotation involves elements of one infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) with roughly 3,200 personnel (1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division); elements of one cavalry regiment (CR) with roughly 2,050 personnel (3rd Cavalry Regiment); elements of two combat aviation brigades – one with roughly 1,700 personnel and the other with roughly 1,000 personnel (16th Combat Aviation Brigade and 12th Combat Aviation Brigade); a division headquarters element with roughly 350 personnel (1st Cavalry Division Headquarters) to rotate in spring 2014 in support of the combatant commander’s mission requirements. The deploying units include:
Brigade Combat Teams/Combat Aviation Brigades:
1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.
16th Combat Aviation Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Ansbach, Germany.
Division Headquarters:
1st Cavalry Division Headquarters, Fort Hood, Texas.
DoD will continue to announce major deployments as they are approved. For information on the respective deployments, contact the following: 1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., contact the 82nd Abn. Div. public affairs office at 910- 432-0661; 3rd CR, contact the III Corps public affairs office at 254-286-5139; 16th CAB, contact the 7th Inf. Div. public affairs office at 253-477-5746; 12th CAB, contact the U.S. Army Europe public affairs office at 011-49-611-705-3074; and the 1st Cav. Div. HQ, contact the III Corps public affairs office at 254-286-5139.

What a story of courage and unselfishness

During a time of year and a culture of  “I got mine” and “Its all about me” it is very refreshing to read a awe-inspiring story of a pair of soldiers who were completely unselfish and tried to save each other’s lives, all while being willing to give up their own.

These men are true heroes and I am glad to see they were recognized as such.

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Two members of the Golden Knights parachute team were tangled together, plummeting to Earth at 65 mph with little chance of survival.

One of them, Sgt. David Echeverry, was being strangled by a parachute cord. He knew that he and his teammate, Staff Sgt. Christopher Clark, couldn’t survive if they remained entwined. So in his last moments of consciousness, he pulled his release cord, hoping to give his partner a chance.

His last thoughts, he said, were of his wife, Rachel, and his two children – 3-year-old Jacob and 16-month-old Elijah.

A few seconds later, when Echeverry thought he should have been dead, he came to – and found himself dangling from Clark, who held onto Echeverry’s lines with all of his strength.

Read the whole story at http://www.stripes.com/news/us/with-parachutes-tangled-golden-knights-make-split-second-decision-to-save-life-1.257156

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Bouhammer.com

I know I have been gone or a while and I am very sorry about that. My last post was on September 11th, and it has been way to long. Part of it was because of my extremely busy work schedule and part was technical. Up until two days ago I could not even get to this website from my home network. Thanks to several calls with G0Daddy and Verizon we got it fixed and I now have access back to bouhammer.com.

Anyway, I have missed blogging and I am so glad to be back on here. This is truly therapeutic and is something I need to do.

So for my first blog after the longest period ever of being silent, I would like to wish whomever is still reading this blog, a very Happy Thanksgiving. As you gather around the table with your family and friends this Thanksgiving please take a moment and give thanks for all of those who have stood watch over the defense of our Country and continue to do so as we enjoy the holiday and our freedoms. There are tens of thousands of men and women who won’t be with their families this Thanksgiving, but hopefully will by next Thanksgiving. Pray for them as they sacrifice away from their families and for their families who I am sure are holding an empty seat for them this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!!