Category Archives: Writing

Five Stars for PROMIS: Vietnam

I found this really nice review of PROMIS: Vietnam today on Amazon, thanks Thomas!

The PROMIS series is an on-going issuance of short stories written by Jack Murphy, a United States Army Ranger and Special Forces veteran. It is the background of the author that gives the books their authenticity and feeling of immediacy and intensity.

Sean Deckard is a Studies and Observation Group (SOG) Team Leader, the one-zero of Reconnaissance Team Key West. The book starts (as do most Murphy books) right in the thick of things with a hot extraction of a downed pilot. The mission is going from bad to worse, and several casualties are suffered before success is achieved. This is a hallmark of the PROMIS series, quick hits of action that flow from one to another to build the story. Murphy has a way with violence that reaches closer and closer to Stephen Pressfield and similar masters of the genre.

This is not like Reflexive Fire, which spends pages developing background characters, describing things in detail, outlining the deep plans of other actors. The book focuses entirely on Deckard, and you can feel him running ragged around the edges as he hops from mission to mission, doing his best to win the war single handedly. When he eventually participates in striking a decisive blow, he is sorely disappointed by the reaction, and things close with a bang.

The book is best described as “special operations without cool toys,” in that the soldiers are all superb warriors, but do not yet have access to the technology that we so associate with top tier SOF units. It is a quick read, and well worth it. I own a Kindle and could have loaned it out for free, but the product that Jack Murphy produces is well worth paying for.

.99 cents on Amazon!

Sergeant Sean Deckard has been running recon with America’s ultra secret Studies and Observations Group for over a year, taking part in cross border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Coming off a mission that nearly decimates his entire team, Sean is given yet another suicidal task. It is a mission that could end the Vietnam War, a mission that powerful forces will do anything to prevent from happening.

Issue One in an exciting new military fiction series.

Short Story / Approx. 45 pages.

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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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FPS Nation Interview

How did you develop Deckard’s personality and character?

Deckard is a combination of personality traits that are not commonly found into the Special Operations community but are also consistent with the type of eccentric person that you only find in Special Operations units. He is the type of person who could never exist in “civilized” world. That said, he also carries many of the characteristics that are often found in professional soldiers, he has a strong sense of right and wrong and a sense of honor about him. The missions he accomplishes are so impossible that I figure that the man running the show must be a little strange to begin with so that is how I approach the character. He isn’t the stereotypical Captain of the football team type that is common in the genre of military thrillers.

Read the rest over at FPS Nation!

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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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A sneak peak at my new novel, “Target Deck”

A concept draft of the cover for my new novel, “Target Deck”

Deckard woke up underwater.

Bubbles escaped around the SCUBA regulator clenched in his mouth as he checked the glowing hands on his wrist watch. Time sometimes seemed to stand still while submerged. Maintaining neutral buoyancy he floated, his wet suit insulating him against the cold that threatened to creep in even while in warm waters.

Pulling the rubber sleeve of the wetsuit back over his watch, he breathed evenly, if a little to fast, recognizing the first signs of pre-combat jitters. He was burning through oxygen faster than normal.

In the darkness, the mercenary could feel, rather than see the presence of his team. They floated alongside him in silence, waiting.

* * *

Samantha Diaz struggled against the handcuffs, rubbing her wrists raw.

“How about we play a little game.”

Jose Ortega stood in front of her, his arms folded across his chest. The ratty black mustache on his upper lip wiggled as he suppressed a laugh.

“Yeah, let’s turn off the lights and play a game of whose in my mouth?”

Ortega’s crew broke out laughing, anticipation in their eyes. They lounged around the master bedroom, wearing flamboyantly bright t-shirts with different stenciled designs, all from designer labels. Their hair was all identically slicked back with the same product, jeans with the same prefabricated tears and wear marks that came pre-worn from the store.

“Try not to cry like a little bitch,” the cartel leader demanded. “We already suffered enough of that from your father.”

Samantha lunged, the handcuffs digging deeper into her wrists.

Ortega bent down and grabbed her by the hair.

“You were stupid to come back,” he said with rotten breath. “Now you pay the price.”

Reaching into his pocket, he flicked open a switchblade. Running the blade under the inside of her shirt, he began slicing through the fabric to the cheers of his lieutenants.

“Everyone will know that the Diaz family produces nothing but whores.”

Several of Ortega’s men got to their feet, their hands moving towards pants zippers.

The explosion was deafening.

Two walls immediately collapsed followed by smoke and what sounded like thunder strikes that were sent skipping through the bedroom.

Gunfire erupted from the multiple breach points created through the cinder block walls, screams cut off by short controlled bursts of gunfire. New voices filled the room, speaking some strange language that Samantha was unfamiliar with.

When the smoke began to clear, she saw Ortega laying on his back with splotches of crimson staining his over-priced shirt. Attempting to speak, a strained gurgling sound was the best the cartel don could manage.

The heel of a combat boot came down on his throat.

Grinding his boot into Ortega’s neck, a large black clad man snarled, his lips curled back, bearing teeth like fangs.

“Get security up,” the man ordered in English. “Nikita, get those bolt cutters over here.”

A brown skinned man with Asian eyes moved forward, slinging his rifle over one shoulder, gripping the cutters in his hands. As he maneuvered the chain links of her handcuffs between the shears, she noticed that he was wearing a wetsuit, dripping wet despite the fact that they were no where near the ocean.

With the grunt, the commando severed the links with a loud snap, freeing her from the bed post she had been chained to.

Muffled shouts sounded from outside. One of the soldiers cracked open the bed room door, peering outside before pulling the pin from a fragmentation grenade. Rolling it outside, the grenade exploded, the voices suddenly going silent. Taking another glance outside, the grenadier turned to the large gringo with his foot still on Ortega’s throat and said something in what sounded like Russian.

Looking up from Ortega’s lifeless eyes, he replied in a similar rapid fire manner in the same language.

The man who had cut her free dropped the bolt cutters and took a knee next to one of the gaping holes created by the breaching charges, his rifle at the ready, waiting for targets to present themselves.

The gringo undid a waterproof bag that had been riding over his shoulder, producing a stack of papers before moving towards her.

“Ms. Diaz, I need you to-”

“Need me to what?” she asked pressing a .357 magnum into Deckard’s cheek.

“Uh,” the mercenary paused. “Where did you get that?”

“Ortega kept it in his waistband under his shirt.”

“I didn’t see you reaching for it.”

“You should be more careful or are you another dumb son of a punta?”

“Ma’am, I just need you to sign the-”

“Don’t tell me what to do jackass. I-”

Her words were interrupted by Nikita cutting loose with a staccato burst of gunfire, the wall he was taking cover behind chipping away under enemy return fire.

“I don’t think we have time for this.”

“Don’t have-”

The ground shook as an explosion rattled somewhere in the drug lord’s compound.

“What the hell was that?”

“My boys blowing the front gate,” Deckard informed her.

“Your boys?”

“You know, my outfit. Your father contracted us but with him being killed seventeen hours ago, I’m afraid we are now here illegally, which is why I need, I would like, for you to sign the-”

“Sign?”

“The contract, extending it’s duration until we can finish the job we were originally hired for.”

Nikita lobbed a grenade through the breach and resumed firing.

“What job?” she yelled over the noise.

“To take care of your drug cartel problem.”

Outside it sounded like the fourth of July back stateside where she had attended university.

“What the fuck is going on out there?”

“My platoons just drove their assault trucks into the compound. They are in the process mopping up the rest of Ortega’s men.”

“I can’t sign a contract with mercenaries, I’m a deputized police chief, not the provincial governor.”

“Actually, he was killed twelve hours ago.”

“The provincial judge?”

“He was with the governor,” Deckard said looking out of the corner of his eyes towards the door, with the massive revolver still stuck in his face. “The chief prosecutor too.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, so if you could just sign here,” he said handing her a ball point pen.

“And you work for me?”

“That’s the idea.”

“And we clean these motherfuckers out?”

“Precisely what I had in mind.”

Samantha snatched the pen out of Deckard’s hand and signed on the dotted line.

“Initial there.”

Another explosion sounded.

“Okay,” Deckard said flipping through the stack of papers. “Initial here.”

Samantha grimaced, sketching her name all over the papers.

“Right, and one more time right here.”

“Anything else.”

“That should do it,” Deckard said sliding the papers back into his bag. “But do you mind getting the cannon out of my face?”

Samantha looked at him long and hard before lowering her newly acquired pistol.

The mercenary posted next to the door leaned out, sending a barrage of gunfire down the hall.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” Deckard said, taking her by the hand and helping her to her feet. “We’ve got work to do.”

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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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Comic Book Review: The Activity

When I first read about The Activity in a USA Today article I thought, “holy s**t, those guys have a comic book?!” Intelligence Support Activity is SOCOM’s more secretive, and compartmentalized unit. To tell you the truth, even those of us in SOF knew very little about them or what kind of operations they had going on.

So what do those guys actually do? From what I’ve read they mostly gather intelligence for JSOC’s Tier One elements, SEAL Team Six and Delta Force.

Remember that scene in Black Hawk Down where “Hoot” is chilling in the Bakaara market in Mogadishu while posing as a photographer? The movie has to simplify things for time considerations, but this is the type of work that ISA does.

The Activity focuses on Team Omaha, a fictional direct action team within ISA consisting of five operators who conduct snatch and grabs, surreptitious entries, surveillance device installations, figuring out how to help Delta Force achieve their objectives, and generally cleaning up the CIA’s messes. The five-man (and woman) team is Danny “Weatherman” Locke who fought in Operation Anaconda as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment before getting hung out to dry for political reasons, Francis “Speakeasy” Doyle, Luke “Switch Foot” Styles, a Delta operator who made the transition to ISA, Zoe “Bookstore” Dallas, and the newest member who came to the team from Civil Affairs, Leslie “Fiddler” Ryan.

Each issue in the new trade paperback edition of The Activity serves as a good starting point for new readers to the series. In issue #1, Team Omaha comes off a mission to kidnap a Mexican cartel leader and goes right into a second operations to sanitize an apartment in Europe where an informant hastily abandoned some sensitive intelligence information. This is also Leslie’s first job with the team as their newest member.

Issue #2 takes the team back to Europe, where they have to deal with the fallout of one of their own turning to the other side. In issue #3 the team is almost torn apart by second guessing and accusations when a joint mission with Delta Force goes wrong in Afghanistan. Issue #4 is my favorite so far, where Team Omaha has to find away to help Delta Force figure out a way to capture a Colombian drug boss by disabling his helicopter and allowing a Delta assault team to move in for the capture. This is where Leslie gets into a sketchy situation trying to infiltrate the cartel’s motorcade. Issue #5 gives a flashback to how Speakeasy joined ISA while Team Omaha allows themselves to be arrested as a part of their mission in Thailand.

The plots of the comic are realistic, but not too realistic, if you know what I mean. They kind of get you in the ballpark of real operations without compromising TTP’s or providing the enemy with a how-to-book about avoiding American Special Operations troops. I’ve become acquainted with the writer, Nathan Edmondson, and know he is committed to getting it right, for the sake of realism and simply out of respect for the Special Operations community.

The art is well done and suits the material well. The small details, the weapons and equipment that soldiers use, is very accurate with a few minor exceptions. I’m very particular about comic book art. If an artist doesn’t draw Batman the right way than I won’t read it no matter how well written the comic is! In this case I’m glad that Nathan and the artist, Mitch Gerads, compliment each other well.

I’m excited about the directions that The Activity is going in, there really isn’t anything else like it out there in military fiction. Issue #6, which has hit comic shops and newsstands, is about Leslie’s back story in Civil Affairs during a mission to the Congo, again reflecting reality, and I’m told that future missions will bring the team to Uzbekistan and the Horn of Africa. While the first five issues are almost independent of one another, Nathan plans on bringing many of the plot elements together in future issues and the comic will have some larger story arcs.

If you’re a comic fan, or just looking for a military thriller that is really well done, I highly recommend picking up The Activity.

Oh, yeah…I’m doing a little technical advising on this comic as well!

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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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Reflexive Fire on Indie Spotlight Today!

Reflexive Fire Military Thriller

Tell us about your book:

After spending eight years in Army Special Operations units, I wrote a book about the kind of mission I had always hoped I would be a part of.  In this regard, Reflexive Fire is written to answer the question, what would be the ultimate Special Forces mission?  The plot of the book is a modern take on a real life coup attempt that almost took place on American soil before it was exposed by the heroic General Smedley Butler.  In my novel, I speculate on what such a coup would look like today.  The Wall Street gang tried to get General Butler (a two time Metal of Honor awardee) to lead their coup but if it took place today, what kind of person would they approach?  What would happen if, like General Butler, that man decided to turn the tables on his employers?

Read the rest at Indie Spotlight!

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