Category Archives: Afghanistan

No Easy Op, SOFREP Exclusive E-book About “No Easy Day”

Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and I (former Ranger and Special Forces guy that I am) teamed up to write a e-book that covers the ins and outs of the controversy surrounding former SEAL Team Six member Matt Bissonnette and his decision to write a first hand account about the Bin Laden raid.  SEAL Team Six operators, a Recon Marine, a fellow Ranger, and many others were consulted in the writing on this e-book.  We examined why former Special Operations members decide to write books, give some behind the scenes insight, talk about the controversy surrounding Matt’s book “No Easy Day”, dissect the interaction between SOF and the media, and provide insight into the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.  Also revealed is key information about how and why the White House decided to initiate high level leaks of military secrets to the media.

As I wrote in the book, the intersection where Special Operations meets with Facebook, Twitter, television, and publishing is a labyrinth of lies and deceit.   We hope this e-book helps the reader cut through the BS and begin to discern what is really going on.

Buy it on Amazon!

PS: The publisher of “No Easy Day” is plenty pissed at us for writing this book!


Filed under Action Adventure, Afghanistan, News, Reviews, Writing

A Female CST and Special Forces Enabler Speaks Out

I’ve been very open about the fact that I do not support having women in Infantry and Special Operations roles but that hasn’t stopped people to projecting and assuming various things after reading this interview I recently conducted with a female Special Forces enabler.  Actually, I might be giving them to much credit by saying they read it.  I think they are just looking at the pictures and than ranting based on their preconceived belief system rather than reading what is actually said in the interview.  I knew this was going to be a hot topic, but had no idea that I would have to put out some fires in some strange quarters over it.  I could have written 100 pieces about combat reform and they wouldn’t get a fraction of the interest that any article about women in combat gets!

What type of patrols did you go out on and what was your duty position and responsibilities?

We went out on both mounted and dismounted patrols. We conducted clearings some of which were conducted in the local villages. During missions, I was part of the security element and when engaged, fought side-by-side with the team.

After proving myself to be a capable soldier, I was viewed as such, which meant I was not seen as a female that needed to be protected (I was not a distraction on the battlefield). Additionally, as a CST, my partner and I conducted female engagements.


What is it like going out on patrol as a female soldier with Infantry and Special Forces soldiers who are exclusively male? Does it make a difference or is it just a part of the job?

Going out on patrols with the guys was awesome! I would rather work with a bunch of “Type-A” males then a bunch of females any day! It’s pretty easy to get along with these types of guys, you just have to know how to roll with shit and make sure you’ve got thick skin, very thick skin. Now I’m not saying it’s all puppies and sunshine, to the contrary, you better bring it and if you suck at life, you’re screwed, I’ve seen it!
Read the rest of the interview at SOFREP!

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Filed under Afghanistan, News, Pictures, Special Forces

Invading Afghanistan with ODA 555: Part I

ODA 555 in Afghanistan

I’m proud to present to SOFREP readers this special interview with Scott Zastrow about his experiences with ODA 555 during the initial invasion of Afghanistan.  Scott was an 18D (Special Forces Medic) on his Special Forces team and was among the first boots on the ground in country on October 19th, 2001.  This will be the first of a two-part interview, and maybe I can twist Scott’s arm into having him come back again to tell us more of this incredible history of Green Beret’s waging Unconventional Warfare during the opening salvo of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Tell us about what prompted you to join the Army in the first place, and Special Forces in particular?

I was raised in the Midwest where there is a lot of Patriotism and American pride. My father and brother had both been in the Army, so it was an easy choice for me to make.

I went to Germany as a medic right out of Basic/AIT, and luckily landed in a unit with a handful of guys I trained with. Like most young soldiers, we took to drinking, fighting and trying to find love in the local pubs. We had this asshole PLT SGT who was your standard E-6 with 24 years in, three ex-wives and a couple DUIs. He lived in the barracks with us and made our lives hell daily, but it turns out that’s exactly what we needed. I owe that crew a lot to the man I am now. The first month I was there, I was supposed to cover a road march for one of the Scout Platoons and was told to link up with the PSG the day before. I asked him what they were carrying and where to meet and he said they were running 65lb rucks and were starting at 0500 at the motor pool. So the next morning I showed up with my 65lb ruck at the motor pool and jumped in with the PLT. Halfway through the ruck, the PLT LDR came up to me and asked me where my weapon was, and I told him I didn’t have one, that no one told me to get it. Well, he flipped, he started screaming at me for being such a dumbass, and I felt like one. Who doesn’t bring a weapon on a road march? I knew he was going to tell my PSG and I was going to get killed, great way to start my Army career. The PSG came over to help him scuff me up and he noticed who I was. “Sir, that’s our medic,” while I’m in the front leaning rest; under-ruck. “Oh, sorry, Doc. Get up. Thought you were one of our guys. Normally the medic follows behind us in the ambulance, good for you for walking. Catch back up with the boys.” As I ran back up to the PLT, all I could think about was why no one told me I could be driving behind them instead of walking with this ridiculous weight on my back for 12 miles. Then the word got out there was this new high-speed medic in the unit and anytime someone went out dismounted, they requested me by name, not knowing I was just stupid, not hard. We had an old 18D as our PA in that unit and after hearing his stories and watching him do his job, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. He held us to a higher standard and that became our minimum standard, which was a great thing to learn at that young age.


Filed under Afghanistan, News, Special Forces

Polish Commandos getting it done in Afghanistan

Here at Kit Up! we have been covering the Polish Special Forces units quite a bit and I’m happy to do it.  I’ve written in the past about Poland’s 1st Special Forces Regiment and David Reeder just had a cool article the other day about Polish SF training with the Indian military.  One of my sources recently came through with some information that has been vetted for OPSEC by those familiar with these operations, and as you can see, Polish SF is embracing the FID mission in Afghanistan.


Filed under Afghanistan, Pictures, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics

Attack Helicopter Piggyback

What the hell is going on here?  Read my article about it at Kit Up!

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Filed under Afghanistan, Pictures

ST6: Best of the best or just a lucky role of the dice?

With the amount of self aggrandizing we hear from the Navy and the press who are falling over themselves to be the first to praise SEAL Team Six, now known as DevGroup (even though everyone still calls them by their old designation), an uncomfortable question has been raised in some quarters of the Special Operation community. Was SEAL Team Six selected for the Bin Laden raid because they were the best men for the job or were they simply at the right place at the right time?

Read the rest of my article at Kit Up!

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Filed under Afghanistan, News

Book Review: The Maverick Experiment


This novel details what is essentially a pilot program run by select members of the CIA. The first Maverick Team is composed of former Special Forces operatives led by a intelligence contractor, Derek, who worked tactical intelligence for Tier-One Special Operations units, giving him the boots on the ground experience needed to lead such a team.


Derek’s team is under the radar and off the books, funded by the black budget and outfitted to be completely deniable. The author’s background in intelligence gathering brings a large degree of authenticity to this work. Having served eight years in Army Special Operations myself I didn’t find any goof ups or gaffes that lesser writers often fall into.


That said, I would question the tactical validity of some of the actions taken by the Maverick Team. For instance, why infiltrate via HALO into Pakistan’s lawless tribal area when the team’s primary Area of Operations is in Afghanistan? There are plenty of drop zones in Afghanistan, and one would need to be established near by for resupply anyhow.


I suppose this is where I have some mixed feelings about The Maverick Experiment. As a novel, I give it five-stars, no questions asked. As a non-fiction field guide I would disagree with much of it. I only mention this because we live in an era where our political leaders quote Jason Borne and Jack Bauer as if they are real people. There is no indication that the author has a similar disconnect between fiction and reality, but I would hate to see people read this book and think that this sort of thing is actually a good idea.


While off-the-books covert action teams are needed, and I completely agree with the author’s assessment that risk aversion is destroying our defense capability, the Maverick Team has an absolute license to kill and maim anyone in their way, to including innocent civilians. As a soldier I was often upset with political correctness, however, I never saw the rules against murder to be prohibitive to us accomplishing our job. There is a lot of middle ground between say, the Rules of Engagement levied on Europeans fighting in Afghanistan, and the kind of “weapons hot” attitude of the Maverick Team.


But as stated above, as a work of fiction, The Maverick Experiment stands out in this genre. The action is authentic and original, including assassinations and a pretty cool jail break from an Afghani prison. The characters could have been a little more fleshed out, but I think that this book is intended to be the first in a series, so perhaps we will learn more about them in the sequel.


If you are looking for a Special Operations or espionage thriller that is a cut above the rest. I’d recommend this work to people who are looking for something with a harder edge. The Maverick Experiment is gritty, hardcore, and brutal. Not for the feeble or weak hearted as they say.


Filed under Action Adventure, Afghanistan, Reviews

Movie Review: 9 Rota (9th Company)

I just recently became aware of a Russian film about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and found it streaming on Netflix.  Although the movie begins with an ominous “From The Ministry of Culture and Art” this film was apparently fairly controversial in Russia and wasn’t merely a state-sponsored propaganda movie.  In fact, it didn’t at all shy away from the horrors of Russia’s war in Afghanistan.

“9 Rota” or “9th Company” in English has also warranted comparisons to “Full Metal Jacket”, about America’s Cold War quagmire in Vietnam.  Like Kubrick’s film, 9 Rota begins with the intake of young Russian conscripts and proceeds to follow them through their training is Uzbekistan before the recruits are shipped off to Afghanistan.  Like Arleigh Ermy’s character in Full Metal Jacket, the Drill Sergeant in 9 Rota puts the recruits through hell, taking them through one torture session after the next.  There are some funny moments as well, the recruits engaging in the usual hijinx that you would expect from young soldiers.

I’m sure that some people will feel that the makers of 9 Rota directly lifted the format from Full Metal Jacket, but I think its important to acknowledge to commonalities that soldiers share, often crossing over and between different nations and cultures.  Although this movie is about Russian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan in 1988, I experienced much of the same as an American soldier fighting in Afghanistan in 2004.  The first arrival in Bagram Airfield was especially familiar as I recall my first glimpse of the mountains as the aircraft’s ramp lowered, much like in this film.

Hand to hand combat “training”.

Although I really liked this movie, I felt that it got a little melodramatic at times.  The plight of the Russian people is deeply embedded in the psyche of Russians to this day (take a look at Russian literature) but it felt like they laid it on a little thick in some parts.  In one scene, the Drill Sergeant has his request to return to the front lines denied, causing him to have a breakdown.  I respect what the director is trying to portray, the fact that soldiers have a very difficult time reintegrating after returning from war, but this took it a little far:

Big Drill crying his eyes out in a poppy field because Sov High Command won’t let him go back into the shit.

Arriving in Afghanistan, the soldiers are tasked to man a remote outpost in Khowst Province (also where I was stationed in ’04) to protect vital Russian supply routes.  This portion of the movie is based on a true story.  I’m going to have to do some more research on this topic to find out what really went down, but in the film the Russian outpost is overrun by the Mujahedin leaving a single soldier as the lone survivor.

Shit gets pretty real when the Muj mass their forces and over run a Russian forward base.

The combat scenes were very well done in my opinion and give the viewer a decent idea of what the Russians were facing in Afghanistan.  CGI nonsense is kept to a minimum if used at all, that’s right, you get real explosions in this movie not cartoon like computer graphics like in most American movies these days.  The war fighting is intense and brutal as the Muj attacks in wave after wave towards the end of the film.

There are some other scenes that are funny and point out the absurd nature of war.  The Russian soldiers are very familiar with the Afghan who comes to attack their outpost every so often with his tribal buddies.  They shout insults at each other from one mountain outcropping to the other before exchanging automatic gunfire.  There was also one fairly bizarre scene where the young recruits are running a train on the nurse’s daughter at their training base.  This scene seems to stretch on for 15 minutes and ends with the Russian soldiers worshiping this barracks whore as their “Venus” and prostrating themselves in front of her.  I guess this was some kind of metaphor for the death of innocence before the young men were shipped off to war.  Whatever…

Despite some of the melodrama mentioned above this was a pretty good movie and completely unique from other war films I’ve seen.  I’m glad that someone finally took the time to make a flick about this very unpopular conflict.


Filed under Action Adventure, Afghanistan

US Special Forces Weapons Report Card

Click the picture to buy on

My non-fiction article about Special Operations weapons and employment is now live for the Amazon Kindle.

For years a highly dubious “Weapons Report Card” allegedly written by an American soldier serving overseas has been making the rounds on the internet. Unfortunately, this report card is highly inaccurate and full of misconceptions. In this 3,700 word article written by a former Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, the weapons used by American Special Operations forces are examined and reported upon. Rather than an all inclusive, comprehensive report, this article gives a good thumb nail sketch of the wide variety of weapons currently used by US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a special focus on exotic weapons and cutting edge systems in the process of being integrated into service. Contains seven photographs from the author’s collection, including the bizarre “Chimera Gun” that an Iraqi soldier built in his home from spare parts!

An invaluable resource for researchers, enthusiasts, and those with an interest in the military.


M4: The M4 rifle is a shortened M16 carbine and is by far the most common weapon found in the hands of US forces today.  Special Forces troops carry the M4 and utilize the new SOPMOD 2 package which includes the EO Tech 553 holographic reflex site, LA-5 infrared laser, foregrip, the M3X visible bright light (tactical light) and associated accessories.  Also included is the Elcan Spector telescopic sight which is adjustable from 1 power to 5 power via a throw lever on the side of the optic.  While this is an interesting idea, nearly all Special Forces troops leave these sights in their card board boxes to collect dust and simply use to EO Tech 553.  We felt that the Elcan was a little bit too much and perhaps over engineered.  Now, if we had been facing long range engagements in Afghanistan, rather than precision raids in Iraq, maybe we would have felt differently.  Along with the EO Tech, the LA-5 is much smaller than the PEQ-2 and together these are the most valued items in the SOPMOD kit.

M9: The M9 Beretta pistol is essentially the military version of the civilian 92F.  I never cared for the pistol due to the double action trigger and poor placement of the decocking lever.  Another failing of this weapon is that it is chambered for the 9mm round.  Most of us would have preferred a .45 caliber hand gun.  The manner in which this pistol is carried may be unfamiliar to some so I will explain here.  To load the pistol, the slide is locked to the rear, a loaded magazine is inserted, and the slide is released to chamber the first round.  The decocking lever is then depressed to safely drop the hammer.  Next, the decocking lever is switched back up into the fire position.  Special Forces do not consider the decocking lever to be a safety and do not use it as such.  The weapon is considered to be safe while on fire with a round in the chamber due to the fact that it has a double action trigger.  At this point, the pistol is safely holstered.

As I mentioned above, I never cared for the double action trigger, it makes sight alignment difficult with such a long squeeze needed before the hammer drops.  Rumor has it that some Special Forces soldiers have taken apart the trigger mechanism and cut the springs to make for a shorter trigger pull.  I never did this myself, but one hears things.  Of course, it is highly illegal under military law for an operator to go inside and make modifications to his weapon in this way.


Filed under Action Adventure, Afghanistan, Gear, Iraq, Special Forces

In a State of Political Theater: The Bin Laden Raid and Government disinformation

The latest and greatest:

Al Qaeda Playbook Revealed

“U.S. intelligence is now in possession of a veritable “playbook” of al Qaeda operations — from potential terror attack targets to information on international safe houses and top commanders — thanks to the Navy SEAL raid that took down Osama bin Laden Sunday, officials told ABC News today.”

The US military/intelligence community has been on the hunt for the “Al Qaeda Playbook” for years and years, letting sources milk untold amounts of money out of the US Defense establishment in pursuit of a myth, a fabrication, something that never existed.  I’ve seen this up close and its absolutely disgusting.  Even low level intelligence analysts were telling me that the AQ playbook is total BS.

Think about it, why would a decentralized organization that consists of a loose nit group of autonomous terror cells make a playbook?  And if they did, what use could it possibly have?

Today, it was also splashed all over the headlines that Al Qaeda confirms that Bin Laden is dead and vows revenge.  This message comes to us via SITE, an organization led by Rita Katz, whose father was executed by the Saddam regime for being an alleged Israeli spy.  SITE claims to be a terrorist watchdog that monitors internet chatter.  They have also been the origin of many other dubious AQ and UBL messages.

Needless to say, I would be highly skeptical of much of the information propaganda being put out at the moment.


Filed under Afghanistan, News