Today’s recommended reading material. Delta Force in Fallujah, 5APR04. The Activity is a comic book about Special Operations, one that mother Army wishes I would stop promoting…
The professional assassin is a different animal than the professional soldier. For one thing, the assassin is almost always working outside of the law while the soldier works within it…mostly anyhow. The professional assassin isn’t some amateur going off half assed like some kind of gangland thug. He is a meticulous planner who games specific situations and specific targets, coming up with a specialized operation which applies to that target’s routines and patterns of life. Take for instance, Teddy Medina an NPA assassin in the Philippines. He trained for about ten minutes a day, every day, on drawing his .45 caliber handgun from concealment and executing his target. To that end, he became very adept at planning his hits. On the other hand you have professional soldiers, let’s take one from the same era: Jerry “Mad Dog” Shriver who served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam. Jerry was a soldier and like other SOG troops, would train with a variety of weapons, not just a .45. These guys had to know how to use CAR-15′s, M79 grenade launchers, hand grenades, pistols, and even technical induction based eavesdropping equipment. The skill sets they had to master were more general because of the number of threats and situations they faced in the jungles of South East Asia. Still, there is something that has always held the popular imagination about the assassin, including the realm of fiction. Let’s take a minute to look at a couple of my favorite fictional and semi-fictional assassins.
A Bomb Built in Hell is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Aside from the relevant social commentary, Andrew Vachss’ first novel pulls no punches, a style he became well known for years later. Wesley is a small time con who gets recruited by a mobster in prison who begins to teach him assassin trade craft so that he can kill the man who betrayed him once Wesley gets out of prison, as the mafioso is in for life. The techniques Wesley learns are chilling but effective as you see when he gets out of the joint and starts plying his trade. Well ahead of its time, A Bomb Built in Hell was way too hardcore for polite society, forcing Vachss to shelve it for years. It was only recently that it finally made it to print.
Court Gentry is another mysterious assassin who is right up there with Wesley. Court also started off as a criminal until he got recruited into a CIA initiative to conduct covert operations. After 9/11 shit got real, maybe a little too real and Court got burned by the Agency. Now he works as a freelance singleton operator. The first in the series, The Gray Man, is one of the best action-adventure books out there these days. Court pisses off some very powerful people who put out a high end contract on him, a contract that the world’s intelligence services and Special Operations forces respond too. Maybe the most interesting of Court’s opposition is an equally mysterious operative from South Korea, another singleton operator who does missions in North Korea. This is must read book.
I have mixed feelings about The Clinic as portrayed in The Feathermen, later made into a “okay” film called Killer Elite. The Clinic is actually a bunch of low life sociopathic assassins who square off with another non-official group called The Feathermen. The Feathermen act like guardian angels for British SAS soldiers, protecting them from the likes of the IRA and others. I’ve been told that such groups really exist, for both the SAS and SBS. The Clinic consists of a former US Marine as team leader with two others, including a technician who knows how to sabotage cars and helicopters. The Clinic specializes in making their assassinations look like accidents, or at least something other than what they are. The book is about a tribal leader in Oman who hires the Clinic to go and kill the SAS men who were behind killing his family members year prior. But The Feathermen is also problematic, the author wrote the book with the byline “fact or fiction?” and openly concedes that he blended fact and fiction, that the groups and people in it are real but that much of the book was fictionalized, leaving the reader to determine which is which. I would say that the reader is best off regarding the entire book as a work of clever fiction and nothing more.
Because people keep asking for it, one of my projects this summer (after I turn in my three term papers) is going to be getting Deckard merchandise made for fans of the books. I’m thinking of doing four different t-shirts which will feature artwork from my cover artist, Marc Lee and one velcro patch featuring the Samruk International logo found on the back cover of the books. Does anyone have any other ideas or special requests I should know about?
I hate to do this, but it has become necessary. Time is a non-renewable resource of which I have less and less of each day. I am a full time college student, have a family, and a job. I simply cannot answer every single question from people who are interested in joining the military. It is great to see so many enthusiastic young people wanting to sign up and become a part of the Special Operations community but the problem is that I end up answering the same questions over and over again which cuts into my other obligations. I make a serious effort to respond to every comment and e-mail individually but in order to keep doing that I have to cut down on the redundancy.
I can only answer so many questions about the Option 40 contract or explain the differences between SEALs and Rangers. Others ask questions I can’t begin to answer like, “I’m torn about whether I should become a Ranger or become a Law Enforcement Officer, which should I choose?” That’s on you. From now on I have to simply refer these types of questions to SOFREP.com where I and many other former SOF members write everyday. Reading the articles in our archive and listening to the podcasts (free of charge) will answer 95% of your questions. If that doesn’t help, you need to shell out the $9.99 a month and become a member of the Team Room where we have an “Ask an Operator” section. There you will be able to ask former SEALs, Recon Marines, Rangers, and Special Forces soldiers any specific questions you have. You can also browse archived questions. The Team Room has other features as well which you might enjoy.
Again, I hate to turn away people who are seeking knowledge, but at the same time, I cannot accommodate everyone individually so I’m directing you to where you can find the information you seek. Thanks for understanding!
The public has always been fascinated by the training that US Special Operations Forces receive. What goes in to making an elite warrior? What skill sets are cultivated and polished in these young men?
It is called Live Tissue Training (LTT), or more often known as the “Goat Lab.” Rumors have persisted in the public sphere about the goat lab for decades. Journalists like Jon Ronson heard bits of information about it, but had no idea what live tissue training was actually about. This led him to come up with some completely absurd conclusions about why Special Forces medics maintain a stock of live goats on Ft. Bragg.
The reality is that these goats are used by the SOCM (Special Operations Combat Medic) course to help train our Special Operations medics to work on casualties under the most realistic conditions possible in a simulated environment; training them as we fight. SOCM does not just train Special Forces medics, but also Navy SEAL and Ranger medics as well. These are the very best combat medics in the world. I’ve seen them in action myself, and have 100% confidence in the product that comes out of the SOCM course at Ft. Bragg.
The hunt continues for the remaining suspect involved in the Boston marathon bombing, their trail of destruction leaving almost 200 wounded and four dead. The brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are the alleged perpetrators behind the bombing and their motives are still being debated.
Something we’ve been thinking of since they released the background information on the two brothers was re-iterated perfectly by Peter Bergen – if they were radicalized Chechen extremists, then they should be out blowing up people in Moscow, not in the United States. Russia is the number one enemy of Chechnya, not the “far Satan” AKA the United States in al-Qaeda lingo.
It seems likely that the brothers will turn out to have personalities that are inconsistent with our preconceptions about radical Islam. Like the 9/11 hijackers who drank alcohol and hung out at strip clubs, the Chechen brothers listened to secular non-Islamic music and even smoked marijuana. Human beings are terribly inconsistent when it comes to ideology so this shouldn’t surprise us in the least.
While on the run last night, the brothers car jacked a vehicle and apparently forced the driver to take them around town and make ATM withdrawals in order to build up a war chest for their escape. The circumstances are unclear but at some point in the night they made contact with law enforcement and a firefight broke out, killing Officer Sean Collier.
Get the run down here.
When I heard about Linda Robinson’s Council on Foreign Relations sponsored white paper I was expecting another abstract academic work which was frighteningly detached from anything resembling reality but was pleasantly surprised at Robinson’s down to earth recommendations. Her outline of SOF and policy recommendations are impressively on target, especially for someone on the outside looking in, without getting into classified aspects of the Special Operations community. You can read Robinson’s paper, The Future of US Special Operations Forces on the CFR website.
As someone who was an insider, I felt that I had a bit of an opportunity to expand on a few of her points from a soldier’s perspective. I should note up front that what you will read here are my personal opinions and in no way represent official statements from SOCOM or for that matter the unofficial opinion of the Special Operations community as a whole.
Direct vs. Indirect Approaches
Much have been made over the last ten years about Special Operations Forces, in particular Special Forces, getting fixated on Direct Action operations. While units such as SEALs and Rangers are designed for Direct Action, Special Forces is designed for Unconventional Warfare. Unconventional Warfare emphasizes a long term approach to influencing the battle space by developing host nation military forces (Foreign Internal Defense) and engaging with the local community on various civil projects among other activities. The accusation has been made that SOF has gotten obsessed with conducting Direct Action High Value Target raids at the expense of keeping an eye on the long game.
Read the rest on SOFREP!