Special Forces

The more things change, the more they stay the same 1

Adm. Bill McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations, is mapping out a potential Afghanistan war plan that would replace thousands of U.S. troops with small special operations teams paired with Afghans to help an inexperienced Afghan force withstand a Taliban onslaught as U.S. troops withdraw.

While the overall campaign would still be led by conventional military, the handfuls of special operators would become the leading force to help Afghans secure the large tracts of territory won in more than a decade of U.S. combat. They would give the Afghans practical advice on how to repel attacks, intelligence to help spot the enemy and communications to help call for U.S. air support if overwhelmed by a superior force.

If approved by the administration, the pared-down structure could become the enduring force that Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak indicated Tuesday at the Pentagon that his country needs, possibly long after the U.S. drawdown date of 2014.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/12/potential-afghan-war-plan-that-would-replace-thousands-us-troops-with-special/?test=latestnews#ixzz1rpqYw8rA

Wow this seems like such a cutting-edge and new idea….NOT. This was the model we had in Afghanistan from 2002-2007. During that time we had only one active duty brigade combat team in Afghanistan to conduct kinetic operations. There was also this little group called Task Force Phoenix which was filled with National Guard members whom were charged with “pairing with Afghans to help train an inexperienced Afghan Force”. They were called ETT members which stands for Embedded Training Team. It is also what US Army Special Forces have had as a main mission for years, but there will be more on that later.

The difference being back then they were truly inexperienced as compared to now where the Afghans have been working with, fighting with, receiving medical support from, receiving logistics support from and receiving close air support from American and Coalition forces for 10 years.

This “high-speed” special operations war plan is what the National Guard soldiers of TF Phoenix did for years and did with much success, until TF Phoenix was dissolved in 2009. We always said when I was there that we performed a Special Forces mission without Special Forces resources. This is what the mission is, a Special Forces mission. It is not a Special Ops mission, or Navy Seal Mission or anything like that. It is called FID, or Foreign Internal Defense. This has been the classic SF mission since SF was established. It calls for partnering with local national defense forces, training them, mentoring them and providing assistance during combat operations when needed.

So there is nothing “new” or “shiny” or “cutting-edge” about this new war plan, it is a war plan that we have had and executed very well for years.

Book Review: The Lions of Kandahar 3

Thanks to the many hours of personal time spent blogging, I have been lucky enough to have publishers and authors send me books to read and review. I have a stack of them next to my bed and I usually spend at least a few minutes every day reading. Some are good and some are just awesome. When I say “awesome” I mean can’t put it down awesome.

One of the books I just finished qualifies as “can’t put it down AWESOME”. It is called the Lions of Kandahar and is written by Special Forces Major Rusty Bradley and Kevin Maurer.


I have received a few books that talk about some awesome battle that nobody has heard about or what a tide-turner in the war on terror. Usually when they say that, my eyebrow raises with skepticism. The subtitle on this book does not say that, it just states “The Story of a Fight Against all Odds”. However once you get into the book reading about this one significant battle then it comes clear that the battle of Sperwan Ghar in Kandahar Province Afghanistan was truly a battle that shaped the war there not only that year but for years to come.

I am a big fan of James F. Christ’s books about huge but unknown battles in Afghanistan in his series that he has written about Embedded Training Teams (ETT). I am a fan, not only because I was an ETT, but several of them are written about battles that happened when I was there and many include people I know. Rusty’s book stuck with me for some of the same reasons. Even though he has multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq this book is written about one specific battle that happened in 2006, the same time I was there. In fact this battle was part of a larger operation called Operation Medusa. At the same time that Medusa was happening I was involved with Operation Mountain Fury which was a shaping operation for Meduda. So this book did strike a chord with me for that reason also.  (more…)

Get to know ODA 574 1

First let me thank blackfive.net for putting these videos up so I knew about them. Second I want to point you to the videos below. They are a series of 4 videos which basically make a documentary about the men and actions of ODA 574. This Special Forces team is the focus of Eric Blehm’s book, The Only Thing Worth Dying For. I wrote a pretty extensive review of this book on this blog in the posting at:


Thanks to Eric’s book and things like this series of videos from the NRA can America even know the story about the brave team of ODA 574 and what they did and sacrificed to help topple the last of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. Please take time to watch these videos, but do yourself a favor and also read the book. It has a lot of more detail and will be a hard book to put down as I talked about in my review.



I wrote about these guys again after visiting Gabriel Field myself. That blog posting is at:



Please bookmark this posting, share with your friends, put on your Facebook wall, tweet it, whatever. Taking the time to watch these four videos is the least you can do as Americans to at least become a little smarter into the sacrifices that just a few of our bravest warriors have went through.

Remembering Robbie Miller 4

Bouhammer Note- The following blog post was written by a friend of mine (MT) who knew Medal of Honor Recipient Robbie Miller well. Tomorrow on October 6th, Robbie’s parents will be presented with his Medal of Honor by President Obama. In light of that fact, MT wanted to write this guest post highlighting how he remembers his friend. A man that the world will now know as a true hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers and his country. 


When I first met Rob Miller he was just a young kid from Cocoa Beach FL who left home to join the Army and become a Green Beret. I first met him in the Q-Course during Robin Sage.

We were not on the same team or anything but we had met in passing and that was enough to leave an impression. After Robin Sage we were assigned to Language School and we both wound up in the same French class. We spent the next four months together trying to learn French. I remember he was a lot better than I was and he seemed to pick it up really fast, something he always attributed that to his mother.

He always got along with everyone and he would regularly bring in surfing videos for everyone to watch. I would ask him what he did this weekend and his regular answer would be, “went to the outer banks and slept on the beach and surfed”.

After language school we seemed to go our separate ways for awhile but we would soon run into each other in the same battalion and same company. He was only a couple doors down from me for about the next two years. We both attended a driving course together and he was fitting right in with his team and learning the ropes before our first deployment.

My team was asked to conduct some drown proofing for Rob’s team and I relished the chance to mess with Rob a little bit. So at the pool I ran some of the guys through a few water drills while continually sharking (dragging him underwater) Rob. He was a great sport and took the harassment in stride; it also helped that he was an exceptional swimmer, with his surfing and all.

That evening we all went to the river to do some boat work. After we did various drills in the boats we started showing all the guys how to catch catfish. I remember Rob was running his own boat and was having a blast catching catfish. He would come find me every hour or so and dump off a couple of catfish that he had caught so I could put them in the live well. We camped out on the river that night and had a great time.

Shortly after that we deployed for the first time with our teams. When we all got back from that deployment Rob went to Ranger school. The biggest thing that I remember is that when he got back I asked him how it was and he said that it was the biggest waste of time that he had ever been a part of. It wasn’t that he was putting the school down, he just didn’t learn anything new. He went to Ranger school in the six month break we had between deployments. Being equally busy, that was the last time I ever saw him before he was killed. I still remember the day that I found out that he had been killed, where I was, what I was doing, and what we did after.

Rob was a great man who loved his brothers and would lay down his life for them. The only solace that I had in his death is that he died with his gun in his hand giving the enemy a good fight. I only hope that when the time comes for me to join him that I can do it with as much courage and selflessness as he did. RIP Rob, we miss you brother; I will carry your memory always.

Official Citation

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, U.S. Army, heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the U.S. while serving as the Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force–33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Naray, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 25, 2008, ODA 3312 conducted a combat reconnaissance patrol to Gowardesh, Afghanistan, to confirm or deny enemy activity and/or insurgents presence in the vicinity of Chen Khar in order to clear the valley of insurgent safe havens. This area was known to have several high- and medium-value targets massing and operating freely in the valley and three surrounding villages. The area of operations was also symbolically and strategically important because it was a Russian-era chokepoint, provided the enemy a tactical advantage due to its high ground and deep valley summits, and was a well-known insurgent stronghold.

Insurgents had prepared reinforced rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fighting positions with fortified overhead cover throughout the valley. They also amassed weapons caches comprised of RPGs, PKM medium machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition, and food stores in the event of a protracted engagement.

The enemy’s confidence and morale was at a two-year high following a series of tactical successes against Afghan National Security Forces. The experience garnered from these battles, continued refinement of sophisticated tactics, techniques and procedures (including ambushes) and the expansion of insurgent forces in the region threatened the Coalition’s ability to operate freely in this key terrain. Insurgents were confident in their ability to win any battle against Coalition Forces on their own terrain.

As the combined ODA and ANA convoy neared its objective, ODA 3312 was forced to halt twice to dismount and explode insurgent-emplaced boulders along its route. Staff Sgt. Miller and other members of ODA 3312 recognized this tactict as a potential precursor to an insurgent ambush and immediately heightened security. Recognizing the historical enemy tactic used to canalize and ambush Coalition forces, the detachment dismounted an overwatch element.

Staff Sgt. Miller led the overwatch elements as the threat of imminent danger increased. The rocky, snow-packed terrain, freezing temperatures and a fierce wind chill further exacerbated the ODA’s movement to the objective. The ODA’s only Pashto speaker, Staff Sgt. Miller took charge of the dismounted element and assembled partnered ANA forces to ensure they could move under cover.

Once ODA 3312 arrived at the target compound, Staff Sgt. Miller led the ANA and established security around the ODA’s ground mobility vehicles. After security was established, the team confirmed through the employment of an unmanned aerial vehicle that 15 to 20 insurgents were congregating and occupying prepared fighting positions in the targeted compound.

Maintaining his situational awareness, Staff Sgt. Miller immediately jumped into his vehicle’s turret and engaged the enemy with its mounted MK19 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

From his vantage point in the turret of his vehicle, Staff Sgt. Miller expertly described the engagement area to the joint tactical air controller and identified insurgent positions by engaging them with his MK19.

As a result of his superior tactical skills, he positively marked the enemy while simultaneously describing the area to the JTAC. Without his expert marksmanship and accurate description of the area, the JTAC would not have been able to provide accurate grid locations for close air support.

As noted by the team’s JTAC, Staff Sgt. Miller’s involvement in the employment of CAS was largely responsible for the accuracy of four 30mm strafe runs and the emplacement of three precision-guided GBU38 munitions on the objective. As a result of his efforts, two A-10 Warthogs and two F-15 Strike Eagles dealt lethal effects onto numerous enemy positions and disrupted their ability to maneuver.

As Staff Sgt. Miller continued to neutralize numerous insurgent positions, his MK19 sustained a catastrophic malfunction, which eliminated it for the duration of the battle. Without hesitation, Staff Sgt. Miller quickly transitioned from the MK19 to an M240B machine gun mounted on the rear of his vehicle and continued to effectively engage the enemy.

Understanding the peril of the battle and the composition of his force, Staff Sgt. Miller moved from his firing position and began emplacing ANA soldiers in positions to provide overwatch, detect movement from the high ground, observe the rear of the patrol and provide security to the flank of the ground assault. His actions provided security for his team and enabled them to maintain their focus on enemy targets. Once ample security was established, Staff Sgt. Miller re-engaged the enemy.

During a lull in fire, Staff Sgt. Miller dismounted his GMV a second time to repair a malfunctioning Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle.

Upon completion of the initial contact and CAS, the ODA commander directed a dismounted patrol to conduct battle damage assessment and a post-CAS strike assessment of the destroyed insurgent positions. Sensing the need to provide the ANA additional assistance, the ODA commander charged Staff Sgt. Miller with the responsibility to lead the partnered ANA force in an advisory role.

With the proficiency of an already-proven combat leader, Staff Sgt. Miller briefed the ANA platoon leadership on the scheme of maneuver onto the objective in their native Pashto language. Staff Sgt. Miller established rapport and instilled confidence in the ANA platoon leadership and its soldiers despite being partnered with the ANA platoon only 30 minutes prior to the mission.

Again, because of his tactical prowess, leadership and command of the Pashto language, Staff Sgt. Miller was selected as the point man for the dismounted patrol comprised of an Alpha and Bravo team from ODA 3312 and 15 ANA soldiers. He led the patrol with his M249 squad automatic weapon across the Gowardesh Bridge toward the target area.

During the movement, Staff Sgt. Miller continually reinforced proper patrolling techniques as well as repeatedly adjusted and corrected the ANA rate of speed. Realizing that the engagement area was located in the mouth of a small, extremely steep and narrow valley that created a natural choke point, Staff Sgt. Miller directed the ANA to disperse from a file into a modified wedge.

As Staff Sgt. Miller and the lead element of the patrol entered the mouth of the narrow valley, they confronted an insurgent hiding behind a large boulder. Refusing to surrender, the insurgent leaped from the boulder yelled, “Allah Akbar!” and began firing on the lead element from approximately five meters. Staff Sgt. Miller stepped forward to return fire and killed the insurgent instantly.

This contact initiated a near-ambush from a company-sized group of insurgents. The insurgent forces fired on Staff Sgt. Miller’s patrol with multiple PKM machine guns, RPGs, and AK-47 assault rifles from distances of less than 25 meters.

The patrol was completely vulnerable, in the kill zone and without cover in a complex ambush with insurgent fighting positions located to the front (East), the left (North), and the right (South).

It soon became evident that numerous insurgents occupied prepared, elevated and hardened fighting positions in the mountain rock with overhead cover along the North and South valley ridgeline. Insurgents on the valley floor to Staff Sgt. Miller’s direct front, left, and right were fighting in defilade and possessed ample cover and concealment necessary for the employment of overwhelming fires on the totally exposed patrol.

As enemy fire erupted from the high ground, Staff Sgt. Miller called out the contact report to his team members and his detachment commander located behind him. He simultaneously engaged multiple insurgent positions from a distance of approximately 15 to 20 meters.

In the face of devastating insurgent fire, the ANA located directly behind Staff Sgt. Miller broke formation and bound away downhill and out of the kill zone, leaving Staff Sgt. Miller alone and with no support in the open terrain.

To the front of Staff Sgt. Miller’s position one PKM machine gun and five AK47s were inflicting devastating hostile fire on the retreating ANA members and the remaining ODA patrol. Understanding the potential for catastrophe, Staff Sgt. Miller boldly charged the enemy and accurately engaged the entire force with his squad automatic weapon, thus eliminating the threat.

With heavy fire from insurgent forces from all sides of his position engulfing him, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage at least four other insurgent positions, killing or wounding at least 10 insurgents.

The darkness of the night and limited visibility made Staff Sgt. Miller’s weapon, also the most casualty producing, the greatest threat to the insurgent ambush. The highlighted muzzle flash and the distinct sound from his SAW instantly marked Staff Sgt. Miller as an easily identifiable target.

Cognizant that his vulnerability increased with every burst from his SAW, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage the enemy courageously drawing fire away from his team and onto his position. Within seconds, Staff Sgt. Miller began receiving a majority of the insurgents’ heavy volume of fire.

Realizing that his team was pinned down and unable to actively engage the enemy, Staff Sgt. Miller, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, continued to charge forward through the open area engaging multiple elevated insurgent positions and purposely drawing fire away from his trapped ODA members.

Staff Sgt. Miller’s cover fire was so accurate that it not only provided the necessary cover to save his team, it also suppressed the enemy to the right flank of the patrol, to the point where they could not reposition from that direction against the ODA for the duration of the engagement.

His actions single-handedly provided the needed cover fire that allowed his fellow ODA members to maneuver to covered positions as the ANA broke formation and ran away from the kill zone.

During his final charge forward, Staff Sgt. Miller threw two hand grenades into fighting positions, destroying the positions and killing or wounding an additional four insurgents. Only when Staff Sgt. Miller realized his fellow team members were out of immediate danger, and in positions to support him, did he attempt to move for cover.

As he directed his fire to engage enemy positions above him, an insurgent shot him through the right side of his upper torso under his right arm; the area not protected by his body armor. Staff Sgt. Miller immediately turned toward the enemy and shot and killed the insurgent who had wounded him. During this time, Staff Sgt. Miller’s detachment commander also sustained gunshot wounds to his upper chest and shoulder.

The perilous situation forced the detachment commander to order the ODA to fall back to cover. Staff Sgt. Miller realized his commander was seriously wounded and that, as the point man with ODA’s only SAW, he had the highest potential to inflict the most casualties on the enemy. Again, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Staff Sgt. Miller remained alone at the front of the patrol, so his team could bound back.

Ignoring the severity of his critical wound and still completely exposed to intense, direct enemy fire, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to low crawl through the snow, incessantly fighting uphill into the valley to engage insurgent positions to the East and South in order to draw fire away from his wounded commander and identify insurgent positions to his fellow ODA members.

Without his heroic efforts, his wounded commander would not have been moved safely out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point.

Throughout the engagement, the insurgent fire around Staff Sgt. Miller was so intense that his fellow team members could not see him due to the dust, debris, and RPG and small arms fire impacting around him. During the ensuing 25-minute battle, Staff Sgt. Miller was mortally wounded by a second gunshot to his upper torso under his left arm. Despite suffering a second and fatal wound, Staff Sgt. Miller remained steadfast and continued his selfless acts of heroism. He provided essential disposition and location reports of insurgent actions and he relentlessly fired his SAW until he expended all of his ammunition and threw his final hand grenade.

At the first opportunity, members of Staff Sgt. Miller’s team bound up to his position to render aid and recover him. Enemy reinforcements overwhelmed the recovery team with direct fire causing the team to seek cover. During the recovery attempt, the enemy’s precision was clearly evident as team members sustained multiple hits from small arms fire to their body armor and equipment.

Approximately an hour and 45 minutes later, a quick reaction force arrived, which allowed the ODA to lead a patrol back into the valley to recover Staff Sgt. Miller. As a testament of the enemy’s tenacity, the quick reaction force sent to assist with recovery operations sustained additional casualties from intense direct RPG and small arms fire. Because of the enemy’s dominance of the terrain and potential for loss of additional lives, the patrol was forced to use its second CCP and two MEDVACs.

The entire battle lasted nearly seven hours.

Post-battle intelligence reports indicate that in excess of 140 insurgents participated in the ambush, more than 40 were killed and over 60 were wounded. Staff Sgt. Miller is credited with killing more than 16 and wounding over 30 insurgents. His valor under fire from a numerically superior force, complete selflessness and disregard for his own life, combined with his unmatched ability to accurately identify and engage insurgent positions, allowed his patrol to move to the safety of covered positions.

Staff Sgt. Miller chose to remain in the fight and provide vital suppressive fires to his teammates in order to save their lives, while disregarding his own mortality.

Staff Sgt. Miller’s selfless acts saved the lives of his seven of his ODA members and 15 Afghan soldiers. As a result of Staff Sgt. Miller’s heroic actions, the Gowardesh Insurgency was dealt a crippling blow, decimating insurgent forces involved in the battle, and shattering their morale and confidence. Staff Sgt. Miller’s actions exemplify the honored tradition of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Special Operations Task Force–33, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the U.S. Army.

Remote Special Forces Team needs your Help 3

As many who have been reading this blog for a while know, my very good friend Scott Kesterson has been multiple times and still is in Afghanistan. He is currently with a small team that as a ODA Special Forces team, is at the tip of the spear. But like most at the tip of the spear, they are at the end of the line.

Scott has contacted me to let me know this team is in need of some help and assistance. What they are looking for is:


  • Coffee
  • Coffee mugs
  • Hygiene products
  • Baby wipes
  • Ping pong paddles and ping pong balls
  • Dart Board and darts
  • PS3 Games (BioSock2, UFC, others)
  • XBox Games
  • In addition, if you have been a regular supporter of troops overseas and think there may be something else that a team who is living in a mud-walled compound within a village could use, feel free to send that too. Some of the things I can think of are:

    • water-bottle drink mixes
    • small food items like packs of tuna-fish, flavored crackers, etc.
    • instant-coffee bags
    • socks, foot powder, gold bond powder, etc.

    If you are interested in helping these guys out, please drop me a message at admin@bouhammer.com and I will send you the mailing address.

    Bouhammer eating Crow 2

    Many times on this blog I have been unkind to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. I have called him many names and berated decision he has made and things he has said. My friend over at the blog War on Terror News and I have argued about Karzai and what kind of person he is. I think WOTN had some inside information and was probably close to Karzai early in the war. I figured that was the only reason he was quick to defend him.

    I must now say that after reading the newly released book “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” by acclaimed author Eric Blehm. I have a review being written up this weekend on the book as I just finished it last night. I was very moved and impressed by the book. Not only was I impressed by the American Special Operators that the book is about, but also President Karzai himself. This book does a phenomenal job of explaining the tireless effort Karzai was putting into convincing the world how important Afghanistan was prior to 9/11 and the character of the man in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    I have a new found respect for Hamid Karzai as a result of this book, so I will be the first to admit I have may have been wrong in some of my opinions of him. It doesn’t mean he is still that way, but he is a politician now. People change with time and experiences and sometimes the change is not for the best. He does say things every once in a while that I think is ungrateful and disrespectful of the assistance our country has given him, especially in the blood we have shed and the lives lost. But, I have to admit even if he does or says things now that I personally don’t like, I do like the way he was in the beginning.

    There are many leaders in our own country whom start off honorable but let politics and Washington corrupt their character, so it must just be a human nature thing. I can’t expect Hamid Karzai to be better or more perfect than our own American elected leaders.

    So as I said, I will freely admit that I may have been wrong about him and I will weigh my words much more carefully in the future as to not appear as one of those back-seat experts.

    A great story out of a bad time

    Last week 10 out of 11 Green Berets were on hand in Ft. Bragg NC to receive Silver Stars. The Silver Star is a very high award to recognize valor and unlike the Bronze Star which can now be given for service, the Silver Star is only presented when valorous actions happen in combat. To have 11 surviving members of a 12 man A-team receive it is quite extraordinary and I think the significance of that fact is lost on the American public. To have one or two receive the Silver Star out of a team is more common becuase usually one or two may step up and perform heroically while the others are doing things like treating wounded, calling in air support, etc.

    Lord knows the the Green Beret community largely goes unrecognized for their deeds and heroic efforts, so for this to also happen with a Green Beret unit is a big deal also. They are unsung heroes who do their jobs and move on. The battle itself was quite remarkable in one aspect, and in another it was a situation that I had not seen a hundred times over. Our soldiers (in Afghanistan) are placed in these few numbers all the time and always have the risk of facing a huge and determined enemy. The only difference is if the enemy is ready to attack that day.

    These 11 men are true warriors and exemplify what sets us apart from any other country. These are normal everyday Americans, who are Fathers, Brothers, Uncles, Sons, best friends, etc. and they are guys who have volunteered at least 3 times in their lives. For the Army, for the Airborne, and for the Special Forces. They love their families and friends, but love their country and brothers in arms in a way that nobody can break.

    The original battle was documented here, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23997709/ and as you can see from the date of the article, this was filed soon after the battle happened. The Story of the Silver Stars being presented is at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,466404,00.html

    The video from the NBC report below (to include the description from one soldier on how he secured his severed leg to himself so he could extract himself from the kill zone:

    60 Minutes video about famous SF battle

    This video is another 60 minutes clip and talks about one of the few famous battles that Special Forces soldiers fought in. I remember when this battle happened as I was in country at the time and in fact read one of the internal classified after action reports of this battle. The terp that they show in this clip became famous and an example I have mentioned quite a few times in public speaking engagements that I have given. He not only stood by his two wounded US soldiers, he also picked up their weapons and fought back, gave first aid to the US soldiers, but also kept the ANA soldiers there to keep fighting and threatened to kill them if they tried to flee in cowardice. It was this terp’s actions that prompted me to start pushing more weapons, radio and first aid training not only to my team’s terps but also our ANA soldiers.

    I am astounded that O’Connor and Hernandez were not given the Medal of Honor for their actions in this battle. Please take another 13 minutes and watch this video.

    Watch CBS Videos Online