5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.


It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.

1. It was an easy target.

Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
IEDs collected by Coalition forces in Baghdad. (DoD photo)

Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”

2. The road was a bumpy ride.

All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.

3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.

“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
A Rhino after an ambush along Route Irish (Labock Technologies)

In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.

4. The road required constant patrols.

Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
While on patrol Soldiers of the 1st Patrol Team, Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division help push a stalled car off Route Irish. (Photo by Sgt. Dan Purcell)

At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.

5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.

Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
A Humvee in Sadiyah. The other side of the wall is Route Irish. (Photo by Matthew Vea)

Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.

Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.

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NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Turkey is looking into joining a Chinese- and Russian-led alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Sunday at the end of his official tour of Pakistan and Uzbekistan.


Erdogan said he met with SCO leaders over the weekend and expressed his interest in joining the Eurasian political, economic, and military alliance as an alternative to joining the European Union, which has not been receptive to Turkey’s repeated bids for membership that began in 1963.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

France, Germany, and Belgium — home to Brussels, where the EU is headquartered — have long opposed Turkey’s accession into the EU. Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Creative Commons photo

Thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — have been purged or arrested on suspicion that they were associated with a failed coup in July of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Dozens of journalists, primarily those working for opposition newspapers, have also been arrested since the attempted coup, while several opposition outlets have been shut down altogether.

Erdogan insisted in a recent interview with “60 Minutes” that “these measures are being taken by prosecutors and judges in full accordance with the rule of law.” But the crackdown has led the European Commission to warn Turkey that it is “backsliding” in human rights and democracy — an accusation Erdogan appeared to scoff at.

“From time to time, we see insults directed at myself, claims that there was no freedom of expression in Turkey,” Erdogan said on Sunday. “Meanwhile, terrorists prance around in French, German, and Belgian streets. This is what they understand of freedom.”

A rejection, or a bluff?

Increasing disenchantment with the EU and the perception that he is being lectured to by the US — which supports anti-ISIS Syrian Kurds viewed by Turkey as terrorists — has apparently spurred Erdogan to look east, where his domestic policies have not been heavily scrutinized or condemned.

“Erdogan feels much more comfortable and at home among the authoritarian regimes of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization rather than facing the scrutiny and criticism of the European family of nations,” Aykan Erdemir, an expert on Turkey and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider on Monday.

Joining or even threatening to join the Shanghai bloc — which is heavily influenced by Russia and China — would rattle the West and, as Erdogan said on Sunday, would “considerably broaden” Turkey’s “room for maneuver.”

“If Turkey were to actually join the SCO, it would, of course, drastically alter relations with the US and NATO,” Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst and policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider on Monday.

“It would be viewed as a rejection of the Western alliance and make it incredibly difficult to include Turkey in any type of high-level strategic dialogue, given concerns about Russian expansionism,” he said, adding that Turkey, unlike other NATO members, is already a partner country to SCO dialogue.

Still, many analysts are skeptical that Erdogan is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. He has been flirting heavily and publicly with Russia since the summer, but it is unclear whether a closer alliance with Russia and China would benefit Turkey politically or economically.

“Erdogan’s weather vane foreign policy characterized by frequent U-turns is based neither on values nor principles,” said Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament. He noted that Erdogan made the same announcement about possible SCO membership during a November 2013 meeting with Putin, yet never acted on it.

Michael Kofman, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs and fellow at the Wilson Center, said the SCO is “not a cohesive economic or political bloc” and would offer little to Turkey in practice other than to “instill the perception that the West is somehow ‘losing Turkey’ and should chase Erdogan to get it back.”

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Creative Commons photo

‘A rogue and dysfunctional’ ally

Complicating the Western temptation to write off Erdogan’s comments as empty threats, however, is Turkey’s recent deal with the EU to help stem the flow of refugees trying to enter Europe from Syria.

“Erdogan knows that the EU views Turkey as critical to staunching the flow of refugees into Europe,” Koplow said. “He has a long history of making these types of threats in order to pressure Europe into concessions of various sorts. It’s a gambit that will probably be successful if recent history is any guide.”

Over the summer, the EU agreed to pay Turkey €3 billion ($3.2 billion) — and German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to speed up Turkey’s EU bid — if Turkey pledged to harbor the vast number of refugees and migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

Turkey’s entry into the SCO would also complicate its relationship with NATO.

“In theory, SCO membership would not require Turkey’s exit from NATO,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Tuesday. “In practice, however, it would severely strain Ankara’s ties with other NATO members.”

Ultimately, however, Bremmer believes Erdogan is just looking for leverage.

“Erdogan wants the US to rely less on the Syrian Kurds and to extradite [Fethullah] Gulen rather than a signal of a historic and strategic shift away from the West,” he said, noting that many existing SCO members don’t necessarily want Turkey to join.

“Erdogan himself said yesterday relations with the US and NATO are on track, so I think there’s lots of smoke, no fire here,” he added.

Erdogan told CBS over the weekend that Turkey is “moving in the same direction with NATO that we have always done.” But July’s failed coup appears to have made him only more determined to stomp out dissent, whether from his own citizens or the international community.

Erdemir, meanwhile, predicted that Turkey’s “gradual drift from NATO” would continue.

“Putin will make sure that this is a slow and painful process for Turkey and the transatlantic alliance,” he said. “He knows that as a rogue and dysfunctional NATO ally, Turkey is of greater use to Moscow than as a defector to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

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‘American Sniper’ Had A Monster Weekend

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq


Clint Eastwood’s Oscar darling “American Sniper” opened wide this weekend with a record-smashing $90.2 million haul.

“American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. The film has been exceeding expectations since it opened in limited release in just 4 theaters on Christmas Day, taking in an impressive $850,000 with a per-theater-average of $152,500, which ranks the 11th best p.t.a of all time.

On Thursday, the film nabbed six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for star Bradley Cooper, so the timing of its wide-release this weekend could not have been better.

“American Sniper” is now the highest grossing January debut of all time, more than doubling last January’s “Ride Along,” which took in just $41.5 million. More notably, the film had the second highest debut ever for an R-rated film, a record held by “The Matrix Reloaded” that took the spot all the way back in 2003 with $91.7 million. When final numbers are released tomorrow morning, “Sniper” might actually overtake it.

It is also the biggest debut for Clint Eastwood, a record previously set by 2008’s “Gran Torino” at just $29.5 million. “American Sniper” bested that on Friday alone with $30.5 million. Not only that — the film now holds the title for the biggest debut weekend for a Best Picture Oscar nominee ever.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 ships sunk at Pearl Harbor fought in World War II

While “salvage operations” aren’t usually stories of perseverance and ingenuity, the actions of brave sailors and officers after the Pearl Harbor attacks formed a miracle that is legitimately surprising. While the battleships Utah, Arizona, and Oklahoma were permanently lost after the Pearl Harbor attacks, seven combat ships that were sunk in the raid went on to fight Japanese and German forces around the world, and at least three non-combat ships saw further service in the war.


In all, 21 ships were labeled damaged or sunk after the attack. Nine of them were still afloat and were either quickly repaired for frontline duty or sent to the U.S. West Coast for repairs and new equipment. But another 12 were sunk, and some of those were even declared lost. Before the war closed, seven of the sunken ships would see combat, and another three served in peacetime roles.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS West Virginia burns on December 7 thanks to Japanese attacks. It would go on to punish the Japanese forces across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS West Virginia was declared lost three years before entering Tokyo Bay

The USS West Virginia was one of the worst hit in the raid. The “Weevie,” as it was called, had been hit by up to seven torpedoes, but no one could be certain exactly how many torpedoes hit it, really, because the damage was so severe. At least two torpedoes flowed through holes in the hull and exploded inside against the lower decks.

Salvage crews were forced to create large patches that were held in place with underwater concrete. As seawater was pumped out, it was expected that the ship’s electric drive would be unusable or would need extensive repairs but, surprisingly, it turned out that seawater hadn’t reached the main propulsion plant. The alternators and motors were repaired, and the ship headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.

The ship received much better anti-aircraft armament and defensive armor and headed back into the fight in the Pacific. At the Battle of the Surigao Strait, Weevie fired ninety-three rounds into the Japanese fleet. It later hit Japanese forces ashore on Leyte, served at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and was the first of the older battleships to sail into Tokyo Bay to witness Japan’s surrender in 1945.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS Shaw explodes at Pearl Harbor on December 7. It later fought across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Shaw attacked Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Philippines

The destroyer USS Shaw was only 6-years old when the Pearl Harbor attack began, but the modern warship was in overhaul on Dec. 7, 1941, and had all of its ammo stored below decks. So it was unable to protect itself as dive bombers struck it, shredding the deck near gun number 1, severing the bow, and rupturing the fuel oil tanks. All this damage led to a massive fire in the forward magazines which then blew up.

The Shaw was declared a total loss, but the Navy found that much of its machinery was still good. Damaged sections were cut off, a false bow was fitted, and the ship steamed to Mare Island in California for permanent repairs just two months after the attack.

The overhauled USS Shaw fired on Japanese forces at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. It served out the war before being decommissioned in October 1945.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS Nevada fires its guns at the Normandy shore during D-Day in June 1944, about 30 months after the ship sunk at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Nevada shelled Normandy

The USS Nevada was one of the few ships in the harbor that was ready to fight on December 7, and its official reports indicated that the crew first opened fire at 8:02, about 60 seconds after the attack started. It was able to down between two and five enemy planes, but still took one torpedo and six bomb hits that doomed the ship. An admiral ordered the ship to beach itself to protect the channel and the ship from further damage.

While Adm. Chester E. Nimitz was pessimistic as to the Nevada’s chances, salvage leaders were quite hopeful. Most of the holes were small enough to patch with wood instead of steel. It took extensive work to get the ship capable of sailing to the West Coast. When it arrived at Puget, it received new anti-aircraft guns and a full overhaul.

The Nevada took part in the Aleutian Islands Campaign just one year after Pearl Harbor before going on to fight at Normandy on D-Day. It headed back to the Pacific and fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The battleship USS California sits in drydock in 1942 as crews prepare to begin major repair operations.

(U.S. Navy)

USS California slammed a Japanese Fuso-class battleship with shells

The California crew was able to get into fighting position as Japanese bombers closed in, but that just left officers in perfect position to watch the track of the torpedo that hit the ship in the opening minutes. As damage control got underway, a second torpedo hit the ship followed by a single bomb. All this was made worse when the crew had to abandon ship as the fires from the USS Arizona floated around the California.

But the crew came back and kept the ship afloat for three days before it finally sank into the mud. Salvage operators had to build cofferdams to begin repairs so that crews could access previously flooded areas. As the ship emerged from the water, caustic solutions were used to remove corrosion and seawater. It sailed for the West Coast in October 1942.

By the time the California left the Puget Sound Navy Yard in late 1943, it had nearly all new parts, from the engine to many weapons. It used these to fight at the Marianas, bombard Saipan and Guam, and then slam a Fuso-class battleship at Surigao Strait with over 90,000 pounds of munitions.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS Downes on left and USS Cassin, capsized on right, sit on the partially flooded floor of Drydock No. 1 on Dec. 7, 1941, after suffering multiple bomb hits and internal explosions.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Cassin

The destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes were in drydock on December 7. So they were essentially impossible to damage with torpedoes, but were highly susceptible to bombs. Guess what Japan hit them with? Bombs passed entirely through the Cassin and exploded on the drydock floor, and both ships were set on fire and struck by tons of fragments. Cassin even toppled off its blocks and struck the drydock floor.

The USS Cassin’s keel and hull were warped by the damage, and the hull was filled with holes. The shell plating was wrinkled. Crews disassembled the ship and sent most everything but the hull to Mare Island where they were installed in a new shell. Despite the entirely new hull, the Navy considered the resulting ship to still be the USS Cassin.

The Cassin was sent against Marcus Island, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Palau, and the Philippine Islands. Yeah, it had a pretty busy war for a ship “lost” on December 7.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS Downes sails away from Mare Island to serve against Japan in World War II on Dec. 8, 1943, almost exactly a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Downes

The Downes arguably suffered worst than the Cassin in drydock as the fires caused sympathetic detonations in the Downes‘ torpedoes and other weapons. It was also twisted by damage, and it had massive holes from the explosions. Downes had aluminum plating on its deckhouse that was completely destroyed.

Like the Cassin, the Downes had its hull scrapped and most of its innards installed in another hull in the shipyard on Mare Island.

This new and improved USS Downes fought at Saipan, Marcus Island, and Luzon. Like the Cassin, it had been declared lost after the Pearl Harbor damage.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The USS Oglala is visible in the foreground, mostly submerged on its side as other ships burned in the background on December 7 at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Oglala

The minelayer Oglala technically didn’t suffer a hit on December 7, but a torpedo passed under it and hit the USS Helena. The blast from that crippled the old Oglala which had been built as a civilian vessel in 1906. The crewmembers took their guns to the Navy Yard Dock and set them up to provide more defenses. They also set up a first aid station that saved the lives of West Virginia crewmembers.

The ship suffered horribly, eventually capsizing and sinking until just a few feet of the ship’s starboard side remained above water. It was declared lost, and the Navy even considered blowing it up with dynamite to clear the dock it had sunk next to. But the decision was made that it could destroy the dock, so the Navy had to refloat it. At that point, it made sense to drydock and repair it.

After repair and refit at Mare Island Navy Yard, the Oglala was re-launched as a repair ship and served across the west Pacific. It actually joined the Maritime Reserve Fleet after the war and wasn’t scrapped until 1965, almost 60 years after its construction as a civilian passenger liner.

(Author’s note: Most of the information for this article came from The Navy Department Library’s online copy of Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin. It can be found online here.)

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This World War II hero was shot multiple times and still managed to destroy three machine gun nests

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
United States Army First Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II.


Senator Daniel Inouye served in WWII and was seriously injured while attacking a German position along a ridge in Tuscany.  He stood to throw a grenade into a machine gun nest, when one of the gunners shot him in the stomach.  Inouye ignored the wound and killed the machine gunners with his Thompson SMG.

Instead of getting out of combat, Inouye continued the attack and destroyed a second machine gun nest before collapsing from blood loss.  After collapsing, Inouye crawled toward a third machine gun nest to continue the assault.  As he prepared to throw another grenade, a German RPG severed his right arm.  He used his left hand to remove the live grenade from his dead right arm and tossed it into the machine gun nest.

After destroying three German positions, being shot in the stomach, having an arm severed by an RPG, and nearly being blown up with his own grenade, Inouye got up and ran around the ridge, shooting at the remaining Germans with his left hand.  He continued to do so until he was shot in the leg, fell off the cliff, and was knocked unconscious at the bottom.

When he awoke in a hospital, his friends told him what he had done.  He replied, “No.  That’s impossible.  Only a crazy person would do that.”

Read more from Josh Stein here.

NOW: The most important battlefield innovations is not a weapon

MIGHTY HISTORY

This shotgun-wielding legend is the only woman to earn the Medal of Honor

After the war, President Andrew Johnson presented her with the Medal of Honor to recognize her dedication and loyalty to the US.

Walker became known for her “radical” views on women’s rights and was regarded as a living legend.

Her medal was rescinded in the early 20th century because of changes in the award’s regulations, but she refused to give it up and wore it until she died in 1919.


5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Dr. Mary Walker wearing her Medal of Honor, circa 1866.

(U.S. Army Mathew Brady Collection)

Mary Walker was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York.

Her parents were abolitionists, and they encouraged her to flaunt the rules of women’s fashion. She soon began wearing pants, a habit that continued into her adult life.

In 1855, Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College and became a doctor.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Walker was barred from being an Army surgeon because she was a woman. She volunteered instead, working without pay at hospitals in Washington, DC, and Virginia.

Walker spent four months as a Confederate prisoner of war in Richmond, Virginia.

Despite her service tending to Union Army wounded and her imprisonment, Walker received a smaller pension than that given to war widows.

President Andrew Johnson presented her with the Medal of Honor in November 1865 to thank her for her contributions and her loyalty.

Also read: Why ancient German women yelled at men during combat

In 1917, due to changes in the medal’s regulations, her award was rescinded because she did not engage in direct combat with the enemy.

Walker refused to return her medal and continued to wear it.

According to one legend, when federal marshals attempted to retrieve it in 1917, she opened the door holding a shotgun — and wearing her medal.

She died in 1919 — one year before women were finally allowed to vote.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Dr. Mary E. Walker, circa 1911.

(Library of Congress)

Walker also attracted public scrutiny for her views on women’s rights, which were seen as radical. She reportedly voted as early as 1871 — a half-century before women were legally allowed to do so in the US.

President Jimmy Carter reinstated her medal in 1977 to honor her sacrifice and acknowledge the sexism she fought.

In 2012, the town Oswego dedicated of a statue in her honor, drawing people from around the country remember her, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York.

“I have got to die before people will know who I am and what I have done. It is a shame that people who lead reforms in this world are not appreciated until after they are dead; then the world pays its tributes,” Walker once said. That quote is inscribed on part of the statue.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The 4 biggest stories around the military right now (July 6 edition)

Okay, the long weekend is over. You hooted with the owls, but now it’s time to soar with the eagles. Here’s the stuff you need to know about to hit the ground running:


  • Military vet Senator Tom Cotton is doing his part to keep Iranian strike plans at the top of the pile. Check out your chances for that Air Medal (with Combat V) here.
  • Florida boosts state funding for schools that serve military kids. (Heads up, P’cola, Jax, Tampa, and Eglin.) Read the full report from the panhandle here.
  • Meanwhile — although nothing says freedom like a lawsuit — law prevents some family members from suing the military. Our good friend Patricia Kime has the story here.
  • Outlaw motorcycle gangs want you! Check out your chances of getting one of those badass leather vests and breaking the speed limit on a Harley here.

Now read this: 7 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal Of Honor — but didn’t 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strange days in the Green Berets: of pipes and dogs

The 1st Special Forces Group was a great place to be when they activated in 1984 in Ft. Lewis, Washington state. I made a mad dash to get out of Ft. Bragg and into the First. We were the only Green Beret unit on the post so it was like being “away from the flag pole” as we used to say, or away from the stressful prying eyes of the higher headquarters. That coupled with the novelty of new digs in a new hood just made it a pleasant place to be.

We weren’t even on the main post: We were in a little gouge of a satellite cantonment area across the freeway from the main post. It was very low-visibility and even, shall I say it, cozy there in our outskirt haven.


There the boys were being boys in their own Green Beret fashion and pipes suddenly became vogue on the premises. It seemed that you just might not be cool… unless you were smoking a pipe.

It wasn’t a “stoner-esque” sort of pipe smoking; it was like your grandpa sort of pipe smoking — ol’ geezer pipes that should have been the last thing that made you look cool, and yet somehow they did. It was kinda nice taking a break outside the team room in the middle of the day to go outside and… do a bowl. Except we weren’t doing bowls, we were… smoking pipes. Just, smoking pipes. Then a few taps of the pipe against the concrete steps and back to work.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

(left) My own pipe from back in my Green Berets days as it sits on my desk today. One of my favorite pipes carried by a teammate was this Zeus head pipe. (SOFREP/George E. Hand IV)

Conversations took on a vastly different character and demeanor when were were smoking pipes. We could be talking quantum physics while descending the stairs to the porch, but once those pipes were torched:

“Big of a scorcher out today, eh?”

“Oh, yaaah…”

“Looks to be a bit of weather coming in from the nor-east tho…”

“Yeeeeah, seems…”

“Might be in for a coolin’ off — that’d be nice for a spell…”

“Oh, yaaah…”

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

The way we felt we looked smoking our pipes notwithstanding, this is rather more in keeping with the way people actually saw us.

Three of my team brothers and I had made a rare excursion to the main post for some harassment and all-around hateful time. Our Company Commander admonished us to “just stay the hell away from that place unless absolutely necessary,” knowing Green Berets over there would always draw attention and scrutiny.

We grabbed lunch at main Post Exchange (PX) and sat outside on a patio.

After lunch we instinctively pulled out the burners for some pleasing pipe puffing and discussion about the weather. It didn’t take long for a grumpy Master Sergeant to interrupt us: “Excuse me… you men are out of uniform,” meaning smoking pipes. That was most certainly not the case but he was grumpy and decided to call our bluff knowing that Green Berets were not heavy into drill and ceremony, pomp and circumstance. My Team Sergeant, a Master Sergeant himself replied:

“We’re not out of uniform, Sarge, we’re just smoking pipes!”

“And that’s out of uniform!” he huffed.

“Horse shit, Sarge… you know there’s nothing in AR670-5 that prohibits smoking a pipe while in uniform.”

Just knowing the title of the manual that governed the wear of the military uniform was enough of a counter-bluff and the grumpy Sergeant snorted off.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

AR (Army Regulation) 670-5 governs the configuration and wear of the military uniform.

Another shenanigan the seemed to catch on with the A-Teams was bringing dogs to work. All types of dogs. Huntin’ dogs, coon dawgs, guard dogs. Take a break, smoke your pipe, pet yer dawg — Basic Dude Stuff! That concept, the dogs, never had a chance of getting off the ground. It was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs: just too much there to go wrong.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Douglas J. Turner was an affidavit-sworn baddass. West Point had voice recordings of him from Vietnam calling in an artillery barrage on his own position because he was being overrun by Viet Cong. His voice was as calm as if he were reading from the day’s weather report. I had been assigned to his Battalion before he left the 7th Special Forces Group in Ft. Bragg. We bought him a really nice pistol as a going-away gift when he left. And now we were both in the same unit again.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Herstal Belgium Fabrique Nationale’s (FN), Browning Hi-Power, 9 x 19mm

CSM Turner stepped squarely into a pile of dog crap outside our team room building one day as he headed up to our room. He walked just inside the door of our room and — SPLOOSH — stepped into a puddle of fresh dog p00. He cocked his head down to observe the puddle of crap that he had just stepped in. Raising his head he spied a dog curled up next to one of the men’s desks.

Slowly trending over he reached down to pet the dog, which suddenly snapped its jaw up and bit the CSM on the hand. Douglas J. Turner stood back up, looked at his bleeding hand, and glared at the dog. The room of men became a petrified forest. D. J. Turner sucked the bite wound on his hand as he stepped out the door.

“Wha… what will become of us now?” Pondered one of the men, and we were all sorely afraid.

The next morning we gathered for our usual morning Physical Training (PT) formation. Outside our building the same dog that bit the CSM the day prior was leashed off to the stair rail. The CSM came by and, pointing to an exercise apparatus at the edge of the formation field, directed a man to “Chain that dog to the pull-up bars!” The man did so.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Forming up and not really taking note of the dog fasted at the bars, we were brought to attention as CSM Turner received the morning report. He then addressed the entire battalion:

“YOU MEN HAVE BEEN BRINGING YOUR DOGS TO WORK LATELY. I HAVE BEEN SEEING DOG SHIT AROUND MY COMPOUND AND EVEN STEPPED IN SOME DOG SHIT. YESTERDAY ONE OF THEM EVEN BIT ME!”

“FROM NOW ON THE NEXT TIME I SEE ANOTHER DOG IN MY BATTALION AREA, IT WILL BE SHOT!”

A measured chuckle emanated from the formation. D. J. walked over and stood by the dog. Another chuckle arose. With that CSM Douglas J. Turner reached to his lumbar and pulled out the pistol we got him when he left 7th Special Forces Group. He snatched back the slide, pointed the gun at the dog’s head and fired. The dog froze momentarily in a sort of seizure, then flopped over dead.

The distraught dog’s owner cried out and broke formation sprinting toward the CSM. Several men grabbed and restrained the man, carrying him up to their team room where they placed a guard on him to prevent him from getting out. The CSM returned to his office where he sat and quietly waited for the Military Police to arrive and take him away; which they did. Some say that it was just CSM Turner’s way of telling the world that he had had enough and was ready to retire from it all.

That is the extent of what happened to him. He was retired from the U.S. Army.

Later that day we broke from the team room to head downstairs for a peace pipe ceremony:

“Shame about Ingram’s dog there.”

“Oh, yaaah…”

“Shouldn’t oughtta be bringin’ a bitin’ dog to work that’s not potty trained tho.”

“Seems…”

“Course, don’t make much sense a-shootin’ a dog over any of it neither.”

“Oh, naaah…”

“Yep, nuther scorcher out today.”

By Almighty God and with honor,
geo sends

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s the typical Friday schedule: Memes, then shamming, then safety/Libo brief. Just don’t let anyone task you for weekend duty.


1. “Don’t say hanging out in the barracks, don’t say hanging out in the barracks …”

(via Air Force Memes and Humor.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

2. For the Air Force, just finding the gym is worth 50 PFT points (via Air Force Nation).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Using the equipment properly is a senior NCO skill.

3. D-mnit, Schmuckatelli. You’re not really supposed to answer that (via Team Non-Rec).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Now there is so much more paperwork.

4. The Army was trying to help you …

(via Team Non-Rec.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
… but you just had to ask for tattoos and black PT socks.

5. When you absolutely, positively need chief to know you’re out of uniform:

(via Sh-t my LPO says).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
The only way he could stand out more is with a strobe light.

6. Not everyone can be a high-speed, low-drag, turbojet-driven airframe (via Air Force Nation).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Besides, the little guy can takeoff from dirt roads like they’re international airports.

7. “You can’t dismiss my Scottish heritage like this, staff sergeant.”

(via F’N Boot.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
He might’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for the white socks.

8. Never go full Hooah! in a job interview (via Grunt Style).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

9. The Navy calls this “The Coast Guard cuddle.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
The Coast Guard: Sort of like a military branch, sort of like a lost puppy.

10. “Never leave a Marine behind …!”

(via Marine Corps Memes.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

11. He’s just trying to keep his boots clean for inspection, chief (via Sh-t my LPO says).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
If you want to be haze grey and underway, just leave him to his painting.

12. Camouflage + PT Belts = Victory

(via Team Non-Rec.)

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
DARPA is working on a vehicular PT belt that could revolutionize mechanized warfare.

13. You will never be first because the warrant officers start leaving before the Libo brief starts (via Team Non-Rec).

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
But keep trying.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US urges Taiwan to prepare for Chinese invasion

A Pentagon official is urging Taiwan to boost its defense spending and “modernize its military” in the face of Beijing’s growing military prowess.

David Helvey, the US principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs said at a conference in Anapolis, Maryland, that the island “must have resources to modernize its military and provide the critical material, manning and training needed to deter, or if necessary defeat, a cross-strait invasion,” the South China Morning Post reported.


The official also took a shot at China for what they said was an attempt to “erode Taiwan’s diplomatic space in the international arena while increasing the frequency and scale of [The People’s Liberation Army] activity.”

“Taiwan’s current efforts will falter,” he warned, unless Taipei increases its military spending and improves its readiness for direct confrontation.

Helvey’s comments will be seen by many as a direct response to China’s President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping who told the command which oversees the tense South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe also warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded on Oct. 31, 2018, to enhanced exchanges between the US and Taiwan.

“China is firmly opposed to any forms of official exchanges and military contacts between the US and Taiwan,” he said, calling on the US to “stop its official exchanges and military contacts with Taiwan, and stop selling arms to Taiwan.”

Beijing has taken a strong stance against official US contact and arms sales to Taiwan. While the US has no formal ties with Taiwan it remains Taipei’s strongest ally and sole foreign arms supplier, including the approval of a 0 million arms sale in September 2018.

Ryan Pickrell contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea might build a US burger franchise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to US officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” one intelligence official told NBC News.


Recently, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated examples of Kim wanting to modernize his economy through international investment, such as a McDonald’s and a Trump Tower. The report said the north could open a burger joint as a show of goodwill to Trump.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States,” Professor Moon Chung-in said during a CNN International interview.

“They want American investment coming to North Korea,” he said. “They welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”

The CIA analysis, which was circulated in early May 2018, comes amid President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The meeting, if it happens, would mark the first time a sitting US president meets with a North Korean leader.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F9%2F8682%2F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com&s=73&h=4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52&size=980x&c=2349758428 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”President Donald Trump” photo_credit_src=”https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8682/30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F9%252F8682%252F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fc1.staticflickr.com%26s%3D73%26h%3D4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2349758428%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=”(Photo by Gage Skidmore)”]

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A growing consensus of foreign-policy experts have echoed the CIA’s assessment that Pyongyang is not planning on relinquishing its nuclear arms — a talking point the White House has stressed to North Korea as a precondition to easing its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Despite doubts of a denuclearized North Korea, Trump expressed optimism during the ongoing negotiations ahead of the summit.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a tweet. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Republicans urge POTUS for a defense budget increase

Members of Congress are urging President Trump to begin rebuilding the U.S. military, starting with a 2018 defense budget of at least $640 billion, most of which would go to buying more aircraft, ships, and other hardware.


That ambitious number would be about $50 billion above the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which enacted the process called sequestration to enforce the limits.

But House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry and Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain are ready to lead fights to eliminate the BCA caps so they can pay for the hardware, the additional personnel and the maintenance needed to restore a defense they say has been badly weakened by six years of reduced spending.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Thornberry and McCain’s plan calls for $640 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2018, a $54 billion increase.

At a media briefing Feb. 6, 2017, to preview the upcoming congressional session, Thornberry (R-Texas) first urged Congress to pass an appropriations bill to cover the six remaining months of the 2017 fiscal year “as soon as possible.”

The federal government currently is being funded under a continuing resolution that runs until April 28 and limits most spending to the prior year levels.

“There’s no reason in the world to wait until April,” Thornberry said.

The HASC chairman then urged Trump to send the supplemental funding bill he has promised to increase defense spending this year. “The sooner the better,” he said.

When asked what the supplemental should cover, Thornberry said it should start with “the things that were in the House-passed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that were not in the final bill. I think they should be at the top of the list.”

The NDAA cut $18 billion that the House wanted to add, which would have gone mainly to increased weapons.

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
The U.S. Air Force F/A-18F has an estimated flyaway cost of $98.3 million. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

The deleted add-ons included 14 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, another Littoral Combat Ship, and an extra LPD-17 amphibious warship for the Navy, plus 11 more F-35s split among the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. It also would have bought the Army additional AH-64 attack helicopters and UH-60 utility choppers.

The deleted funds also would have allowed the services to hire even more troops than the 16,000 Army soldiers and the 3,000 additional Marines allowed by the final bill.

Funding the current fiscal year would clear the way for Congress to work on a fiscal 2018 budget, which should include an even bigger increase in defense spending, Thornberry said.

Asked what amount he wanted, Thornberry said, “Our view is about a $640 billion base budget to meet the increased end strength, the increased number of ships, to turn the readiness around, and deal with a lot of those problems.”

McCain (R-Arizona) used that same number in his opening statement at a Jan. 24 hearing of his committee.

“We have to invest in the modern capabilities necessary for the new realities of deterring conflict,” he said.

“We also have to regain capacity for our military. It does not have enough ships, aircraft, vehicles, munitions, equipment, and personnel to perform its current missions at acceptable levels of risk.”

“It will not be cheap,” McCain added. “In my estimate, our military requires a base defense budget for fiscal year 2018, excluding current war costs, of $640 billion.”

Both of the chairmen insisted the BCA caps must be removed, but only for defense, not for the domestic programs that also are limited.

Articles

These 6 wounded troops became war heroes after losing limbs

Typically, losing a limb is a career ender for troops. After all, they’ve already given enough and surely they won’t be able to withstand the rigors of combat without all four limbs.


Except, yes, they can. These 6 warriors lost limbs in battle, laughed in the face of death, and came back to fight another day:

1. Gen. Frederick M. Franks, the architect of Desert Storm

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Photo: US Army

Gen. Frederick M. Franks was the commander behind the “Left Hook” of the American invasion of Iraq in Desert Storm. Franks’ armored formations surged north into Iraq and toppled over a dozen Republican Guard divisions. And he led the whole operation with one leg.

Franks began his career in 1959 and received awards for valor in Vietnam before heading to Cambodia. He was injured by a grenade there in 1970 and doctors were forced to amputate much of his left leg. He asked the Army for permission to continue to serve and eventually made it to four-star rank.

He and Gen. Eric Shinseki, who survived a partial amputation of his foot in Vietnam, used to show their prosthetics to new amputees in Walter Reed. The tours were designed to remind the younger soldiers that they could still achieve great things after an amputation.

2. Alexei Maresyev, a Hero of the Soviet Union

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Photo: Public Domain

Alexei Maresyev had just graduated flight training when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union and he was called on to fly against the technologically advanced Luftwaffe. In Jun. 1942, the young pilot was shot down over German-occupied territory and had to crawl for 18 days back to Russian lines. The frostbite and the injuries from the wreck resulted in both his legs being amputated.

But Maresyev fought his way back to active duty, partially because he was already respected for four aerial kills before he was shot down. In 1943 he again took to the air against the Nazis and shot down another seven enemy aircraft before the war ended, earning him the title “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

3. Douglas Bader, legendary pilot in the Battle of Britain

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

Like Maresyev, Bader was a respected pilot who lost his legs in a crash. Bader’s injuries resulted from an air show crash in 1931. The Royal Air Force retired him but said he might be able to return if war broke out. He spent the next eight years perfecting flight with prosthetics.

In 1939, he was admitted back into the RAF and learned to fly Spitfires. His first aerial kill came while he covered the evacuation at Dunkirk but he rose to legendary status in the Battle of Britain and had 23 kills before being shot down and captured on Aug. 9, 1941.

4. Capt. Jean Danjou, the Legionnaire who fought “France’s Alamo”

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Painting: Public Domain

Jean Danjou graduated the French military school at Saint-Cyr and joined the army as an officer. After fighting Algerian nationalists in the 1840s, he volunteered to serve in the French Foreign Legion. At the Battle of Sevastopol, Danjou lost his left hand.

In 1863, Danjou led a 66-man element which came under attack by approximately 2,000 Mexican soldiers. He led a fighting withdrawal to a nearby estate at Camerone and rallied his men for an 11-hour battle. The unit was nearly wiped out but inflicted hundreds of Mexican casualties. Danjou died in the fighting. His prosthetic hand is now paraded in France every year at commemorations of the battle. The battle is sometimes described as “France’s Alamo.”

SEE ALSO: This stunning defeat is a point of pride for the French Foreign Legion

5. Horatio Nelson, the man who shut down Napoleon

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Nelson’s death at Trafalgar. Painting: Public Domain

Then-Rear Adm. Horatio Nelson was already a British hero when he lost his arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797. For most, this would signal time to quietly retire, especially since Nelson had already given up an eye for his country.

Instead, Nelson went into super-admiral mode and just started waging even more intense battles against the French. His 1798 victory at the Battle of the Nile stopped Napoleon’s plans to conquer Egypt and threaten British-controlled India. And it was Nelson who defeated Napoleon’s attempts to cross the English Channel and conquer Britain in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar.

6. John B. Hood, the general who tried to save the Confederacy

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lt. Gen. John B. Hood had already suffered a severe arm injury when he lost a leg at the Battle of Chickamagua in Georgia in 1863. With the Confederacy fighting for its life, Hood took a short convalescence and quickly returned to command.

He repeatedly attacked Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s troops in an attempt to stop the march to the sea and relieve the pressure on Atlanta in 1864. After fighting there, Hood led troops in the defense of Tennessee in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. With the Union Army marching south, he attempted to rally troops in Texas in 1865 but was eventually captured.

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