Category Archives: Special Forces

Don’t Kill Yourself Briefs, Why the Army Fails at Suicide Prevention

Army Wrong.

The Army is big on mandatory briefings. Generals want briefings of everything under the sun, demanding more information than he and his entire staff can even process. Some briefs are somewhat useful for new soldiers such as annual briefings on the Geneva Convention and Laws of Land Warfare. Others such as the Equal Opportunity brief are worthy of an eye roll but relatively painless.

With the Army developing AKO and pushing it out Army wide on the internet in the early 2000′s, these briefings have not been replaced with, but rather supplemented with, dozens of redundant safety certification forms and surveys.

There is the information awareness certification, the motor vehicle safety certification, various safety surveys, anti-terrorism awareness certification, sexual harassment certificates, and many others.  I was even recently told about an online SERE re-qualification course in which students roam around a virtual forest looking for sticks to rub together in order to start a virtual fire with computer pixels.  The internet is a great tool but also allows busybody staff officers up and down the entire Army chain of command to reach all the way through the command structure and burden soldiers with their “great” ideas.

It gets even more ridicules when you realize that it is all about making quotas. Each unit has to get a certain percentage of their soldiers “qualified” through this type of online training. Each survey is considered to be critical mandatory training until you get to 70% of the company through it, then you won’t hear about it again for a couple months when it becomes time to re-qualify.

Even the best Sergeant Majors run around the company harassing their boys to get them to complete the surveys. Whether they are great leaders or not, the metric used to judge whether Senior NCO’s have been successful is not how combat effective their unit is, but whether or not they met their quotas on spread sheets and internet safety surveys. No one cares how many High Value Targets you captured and killed if MEDPROS is out of date.

Combined with Risk Mitigation worksheets and other risk adverse safety measures, these briefings and online workshops represent the Army’s pathetic attempt to replace real leadership with a bureaucratic Cover Your Ass technique that ensures that Officers don’t lose their jobs even as their units fall apart under the weight of suicides, drug abuse, vehicle accidents, and even losses in combat.

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Must Hear Interview with Keith Nell of the Rhodesian SAS!

My interview with Rhodesian SAS veteran, Keith Nell. Want to know how to kill terrorists effectively? Have you ever heard of Rhodesia’s 9/11? Want to hear about stealing ammunition from your own forces in order to wage an under the radar mission to track down the killers of 107 innocent people? It sounds like fiction but Keith hits us with the real deal.

http://chairbornecommandos.com/blog/2012/08/viscount-down-keith-nell-sas/

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A critique of The Command by Ambinder and Grady

At SOFREP we make a concerted effort to get the best and most accurate information about the Special Operations community to our readers. Careful considerations are given to Operational Security as we have no interest in compromising operations or endangering soldier’s lives, so balancing these two can be tricky at times. We also engage in some watchdog operations when we see the media just blatantly getting it wrong.

Recently we called out the Durango Herald for a laughably bad piece about an alleged Delta Force Soldier who could have been outed with just a little fact checking. In the case of The Command there isn’t a need to call anyone out. Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady make a serious effort to dig through the layers of classification that deliberately obscure the highly sensitive activities of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is the umbrella under which Delta Force and SEAL Team Six exist.

In doing this they turn up some amazing information on previously undisclosed operations and activities, however, they also slip up more than once. This critique is intended as professional, rather than personal criticism but it is needed criticism. Because of OPSEC, not every incorrect statement made in The Command can be corrected. This may sound like a cop out and maybe it is. It is also certain that the following is not a full critique as the author is not aware of every program and mission mentioned in Ambinder and Grady’s work and can’t comment on it one way or the other.

Some of the mistakes in The Command could be corrected with a careful reading of open source materials such as Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo. Take for instance the statement that Delta Force was “…in Panama where it allegedly pursued Pablo Escobar.” Pablo Escobar was allegedly pursued by Delta Force in Pablo’s home country of Colombia. However, Delta Force did participate in the 1989 invasion of Panama.

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Eric Haney Redux

From an e-mail I recently received from a reader, -Jack

Jack,

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of your Deckard works – the Promis novellas have been great for short-haul business flights – and went on your website last night to see if you had released the Lebanon one yet.  I noticed the discussion about Eric Haney and Inside Delta Force and thought I might weigh in.
In 2007 I had the opportunity to bring Eric Haney to speak at my undergraduate campus.  I was incredibly excited to bring him to campus as The Unit was one of my favorite shows, I had thoroughly enjoyed his book (although elements of it were quite disturbing) and I have always had an interest in special operations.  I had the opportunity to spend several hours one-on-one with him both before and after his speaking event.  If I had to describe him in one word, it would be smug.  At the time I wrote to a friend saying that the Command Sergeant Major “has an ax to grind with conservatives and the US government” and “he is unapologetically left wing, believes the Iraq War absolutely heinous, and that Islam is not the problem.”  Based on my, albeit limited, experiences with him, I think he is despised/discredited within the special operations community because he is viewed as a sell-out – not for trying to profit from his service through book sales, but for embracing whatever values necessary in order to be accepted at Hollywood cocktail parties.
Thanks for your service and keep up the great work with your blog and the Deckard novels.  I’m looking forward to your next one!

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The Curious Case of Eric Haney and “Inside Delta Force”

Let me take a stab at Inside Delta Force, or rather the USASOC reaction to it.  I think I read this book right before I joined the Army in 2002 and like a lot of people was pretty shocked by it.  Years go by, I’m in Afghanistan with Ranger battalion.  We crossed paths with an OGA dude out there (never mind exactly where) in the hinterlands.  He was someone who served in the same unit as Haney during the same time period.  His opinion was that the book was accurate aside from some of the stuff Haney wrote about Central America.  I don’t know which parts in particular I’m afraid.

A few more years go by, I think it starts around 2006 or 2007 when I start hearing the rumor that Eric Haney was a total shitbag.  By now four or five years have passed, a lot of people in the SOF community had read the book or at least heard of it.  I started to hear this rumor more and more while I was in Special Forces.  Eric Haney was a shitbag.

 

“Says who?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“From who?”

“That is what everyone is saying.”

“What was it that made him a shitbag?”

“I don’t know, but everyone is saying he is a shitbag.”

 

Later I would hear just slightly more in regards to this RUMINT.

 

“Everyone who worked with Haney hated him.”

“Like who?”

“Everyone.”

“Says who?”

“That’s what people are saying”

 

Delta is a unit that fires people like it is going out of style so how the hell Haney could exist and be promoted through the ranks of this unit if everyone hated him is beyond me.  Why would they promote him and select him for extremely sensitive missions if he was a shitbag and everyone hated him?  I’ve since heard this rumor again and again in the SOF community, and even from guys in the regular Infantry and Marines.  The narrative is always like what I paraphrase above.  No details, no serious information what-so-ever.

I’ve verified much of what Haney said in his book, as much as I could cross reference and research at least, including what he wrote about in Central America.  Why in the world would Haney lie about killing a Green Beret in Honduras that he had attended Delta selection with?  The basic story checks out as near as I can tell.

Buy it at Amazon.com

I think the rumor that Haney was a shitbag got put out by Delta or JSOC or both in order to discourage anyone from taking Haney’s book seriously and also to discourage others from writing their memoirs.  Inside Delta Force reflects extremely poorly on the United States Government up to and including what would be the ultimate betrayal, abandoning American POW’s in South East Asia.  I’ve also double checked this through other sources and there was a massive training exercise in the Pacific to mobilize assets under official cover for this operation before it got aborted.  This story questions the moral authority of the government and will make any soldier who thinks it over seriously question his service at a minimum.  While Haney speaks highly of the Army and of Delta, I think there is an assumption that there may be guilt by association with the CIA and that this information still reflects badly on Delta and SOF in general.  I think this is why certain RUMINT was distributed amongst the ranks about Haney and his books.

I have never seen any serious rebuttal of anything Haney wrote.  If one exists I would love to read it, please direct me towards this type of information.  I have also not seen or heard any serious or credible information regarding Haney’s alleged weak character.  If anyone has actual specific details I would like to hear them.  If anyone has just the five W’s on this information I will begin to take it much more seriously.

My opinion is that Haney didn’t get thrown under the bus because he made things up, lied, or exaggerated but that he was ostracized from the Special Operations community because he told way to much of the truth than some people are comfortable with.

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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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George Washington Bacon III: MACV-SOG Operator, CIA Para-Military Officer, Mercenary, and Eccentric Genius (Part 1)

When I first heard the name George Washington Bacon mentioned there was very little information about him available until I started to make some inquiries.  Eventually, some interesting people began to get in touch with me.  George Washington Bacon was the real deal and it’s high time that people learn about who he really was.  Spending most of his life in the shadows, I found references to George by name or by his callsign in over a half dozen books but without the help of several sources who wish to remain anonymous this background about George and his life would not have been possible.  Presented in four parts, I hope that this article does justice to George, both the man and the Soldier. -Jack

George Washington Bacon shook his head.

Crammed into the back of a door-less gray Land Rover, the mercenaries accelerated, sliding across the muddy road as it twisted through the Angolan jungle. As a veteran of MACV-SOG recon missions into Cambodia and having worked as a CIA Para-Military Officer in Laos, George would have known that something was wrong. Fellow mercenary, Gary Acker, had voiced his uncertainty as they raced to link up with another FNLA patrol. George clutched a 9mm Uzi submachine gun while Acker manned a German MG42 machine gun. The Portuguese driver was about to lose control of the vehicle until Douglas “Canada” Newby ordered him to slow the hell down.

“Canada bought most of us another minute of life,” wrote Gary Acker.

In 1976 the Cuban and Soviet sponsored FAPLA was engaged in a vicious war of attrition against the CIA sponsored FNLA. It was a proxy war fought by the world’s two superpowers in which little quarter was shown by either side. The CIA was never actually in it to win it, rather they were simply trying to deny the Soviets an easy victory. If the Russians wanted Angola, they were going to bleed for it.

George would have understood the precarious situation they were in. FAPLA was once again on the offensive and he had just finished prepping a bridge with TNT explosives for demolition in order to delay the enemy advance.

FNLA recruiting drives in England and the United States had signed up a number of adventurers to fight in Angola. Some were qualified for the work having had military experience in the US Marines, British Paras, or SAS. George Washington Bacon was in a category all his own writes British safe-cracker and mercenary David Tompkins, “Another recruit was George Bacon, a political science major and holder of the CIA’s second-highest award, the Intelligence Star. He was considerably overqualified for the work; he should have been a CIA station chief in Kinshasa, not a grunt in Angola.”

But there was more to George Bacon. Much more.

Rounding a bend in the road, with the vehicle barely under control, the Land Rover ran right into the back end of a stake bed truck, the Land Rover’s hood actually going under the bed of the truck before they came to a halt. Acker spotted a Soviet BRDM armored vehicle, suddenly realizing that they had just crashed into the rear end of a Cuban FAPLA convoy.

In seconds, the Land Rover was being turned into a sieve by enemy gunfire.

Read more: http://sofrep.com/7201/george-washington-bacon-iii-macv-sog-operator-cia-para-military-officer-mercenary-and-eccentric-genius-part-1/#ixzz1voYhZTGC

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NEWS: SOFREP, Directed Energy Weapons, and more

I recently gave a presentation on Directed Energy Weapons for a class I took at Columbia University:

You can view more, including some additional commentary by reading the full article on SOFREP.com

This week I also wrote an article on women’s self defense that I hope clears up some of the disingenuous information that is out there on this topic.

My friend Iassen, a fellow Ranger Regiment veteran, wrote a very interesting article about the three Special Operations soldiers who were killed in Mali this week.

I wrote some commentary recently about mission creep in regards to the deployment of UAV’s on American soil.

With some help, I put together an update on what is going on in the Philippines and in the Pacific Rim with China attempting to throw it’s weight around.  Today it’s the Scarborough Shoal, tomorrow it may be the entire South China Sea.

Special Forces soldiers caught up in a scandal with Colombian hookers?!?!  Oh, nooooeeesss!  Say it ain’t so!

In case you missed it, Brandon and I were recently interviewed by ABC News!

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Book Review: Covert Loves by William Bowles

When I first heard of this book I asked another old hand in the SF community to tell me a little bit about Billy Bowles. “He was known for going into the fray often and doing it well,” was what I was told. I highly suspect that Covert Loves is a work of fact rather than fiction, the names and some of the specifics changed to fictionalize Bowles’ life story in order to protect some of the people and professional reputations involved.

The protagonist of the book is named Ken Fisher, a kid who grew up in the cotton fields of Alabama and joined the Army as he came of age at the conclusion of the Second World War. The first half of the book details Ken’s early experiences in the Army as a Signals specialist where he sees the horrible aftermath of war up close and personal, including the horrendous toll suffered by the European people. I can also tell you that young Ken Fisher drinks enough beer and fornicates with enough German women to make any para-trooper proud.

Covert Loves really comes into its own in it’s descriptions of Army culture and how it changed over the years. Take for instance First Sergeant “Iron Jaws” who tells Ken to man up and stop feeling sorry for himself over a glass of whiskey. That’s the kind of old school leadership that that Army needs but all to often finds itself lacking.


My favorite parts of the book was when Bowles describes the early years of Special Forces as his protagonist joins up, begins training, and ships off on a secret training mission to Laos in the late 1950’s. I learned a lot about SF history that I didn’t know before hand and really came to understand why those early Green Berets were such a tight brotherhood of soldiers.

Ken Fisher proceeds to Vietnam by way of Okinawa, his ODA is the first of two sent into the country. Its chilling when you know where all of this is going, having the benefit of hindsight. The stories about Vietnam are particularly important, the lessons learned about unconventional warfare were hard learned, and continue to inform Special Forces missions to this day. The mid-night ambushes, the SFOB nearly getting over run, and what it is like for a 12-man ODA to plow into the jungle with nothing, stand up an encampment and begin training indigenous soldiers is something that everyone interested in Special Operations Forces should read.

The book does have a happy ending for Ken Fisher, despite several heartbreaking moments, even if it is sober in its tone. It couldn’t end any other way, the time frame taking the reader from Post-WWII to Post-Vietnam. Still, when Ken retires from the service, a happily married man, he picks up the phone to hear from an old friend. A friend that is offering him a new job.

The author writes with a wink and a nod, telling the reader a story in his own matter-of-fact manner. I think William Bowles has a few more stories to tell.

Buy it on Amazon!

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What’s happening in Special Operations this week:

Check out the hostage rescue track record for the British SAS and SBS.

Read about the history of Special Forces, as written by Jim Morris, to help understand the present.

Check out my article on SOFREP to read about the ultra-secret branch of the SAS called E-Squadron that conducts covert operations with MI6.

Take a look at part 1 of my 2-part series on the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course.

A veteran of the Rhodesian Bush War hooked me up with some great pictures and information about the Mini-Claymore mine.

Read up on the Selous Scouts, this uniquely Rhodesian counter-insurgency unit.

Part two of my experiences in Special Forces Weapons Sergeant course.

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