The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.

However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.

On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.

On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
The mountainous terrain was difficult to navigate and fight through (U.S. Army)

The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Green Berets during Operation Viking Hammer (U.S. Army)

As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.

Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.

In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.

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These 4 fearless fighting females wrecked every enemy who stood in their way

“If you men will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”


These were the words of Yaa Asantewaa, an Asante woman in what is modern Ghana calling on the men and women of Asante to fight British colonial forces at the turn of the 20th Century.

History is full of stories of such great women in combat — more than most people think.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Even in this old photo, you can tell Yaa Asantewaa was sick of your shit.

Also read: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the army’ 

Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.

1. Margarita Neri – Mexico

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.

She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.

After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.

After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.

2. Marie Marvingt – France

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.

When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.

In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.

During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.

3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.

As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.

Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.

She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.

4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history.

Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.

In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”

By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.

She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as  “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”

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That time Rick from ‘Pawn Stars’ purchased a nuclear weapon on the show

Things you expect in pawn shops: jewelry, electronics, and nuclear bomb parts.


Wait, that last one isn’t right. No one expects to find nuclear bomb parts in a pawn shop. But in this scene from Pawn Stars, Rick calls in an expert to assess whether the cover for a B-57 nuclear bomb is authentic.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
(Photo: YouTube/History)

The B-57 is a thermonuclear weapon that uses the W-44 Tsetse, a 300-ton to 10-kiloton warhead, as a primary charge that triggers a 5 to 20-kiloton secondary explosion. The weapon was tested and deployed as everything from an airburst weapon to a nuclear depth charge.

It was even deployed, but not used, on the USS America during Operation Desert Storm.

On its own, the cover for a B-57 is no more capable of being used as a weapon than a pen cap is of writing, so it’s perfectly safe to buy and sell. Of course, it’s also hard to find a use for nuclear bomb parts without any nuclear bombs.

See Pawn Star Rick negotiate the purchase in this clip:

Source: History/YouTube
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This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

The United States Special Operations Command just tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, marking the first time such a weapon has been deployed aboard a rotary-wing aircraft.


According to a press release from defense company Raytheon, the test was a complete success, “providing solid experimental evidence for the feasibility of high resolution, multi-band targeting sensor performance and beam propagation supportive of High Energy Laser capability for the rotary-wing attack mission.”

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Matthew Ketner, branch chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia, shows the effects of laser hits on materials during Lab Day in the Pentagon, May 18, 2017. (Photo Credit: Mr. David Vergun (Army News Service))

“This data collection shows we’re on the right track. By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later,” the release quoted Raytheon vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Art Morrish as saying.

The Apache used a HEL mated with a version of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which combined electro-optical and infrared sensors, against a number of targets. The data from this test will be used to future HEL systems to address unique challenges that stem from their installation on rotary-wing aircraft, including the effects of vibration, downwash, and dust.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
(DOD photo)

The Apache has had laser systems since it entered service in 1984, but the lasers were low-power systems that are used to guide AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. A HEL will have the ability to destroy targets.

An Army release noted that the service has also tested lasers on the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in April 2016 and the Stryker this past February and March. In both cases, the lasers downed a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy has a laser on board USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, formerly LPD 15), which is currently operating in the Persian Gulf.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

Lasers offer a number of advantages over artillery and missiles. Notably, they are invisible, and the power of the weapon can be adjusted to handle a specific material, like steel plating or Kevlar. HELs can even be set for non-lethal effects on people.

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Here’s how to beat fatigue in your next PT test

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Private First Class Shawndel Hunter, Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, does a pushup at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Viglione


When taking a physical fitness test (PFT), you may recall giving all you have to max out the pushups, only to stop half-way up, shaking violently. No matter how hard you try in the next few seconds of the test, you are not going to get another pushup. That is muscle fatigue.

Also read: A retired Navy SEAL commander breaks down his morning fitness routine that starts at 4:30

Here is a question about how to avoid muscle fatigue during fitness tests.

Stew – it does not matter on what exercise I am on, I can never keep going until the entire two minutes of the PFT is complete. On a good day, I might manage 1:30 of pushups or situps. I usually just shake and drop to my knees uncontrollably. Don’t even ask how my bad days look. I would really like to score better on the PT test. I am a runner so the 1.5 mile run in 7 min mile pace is no problem. Jake

Jake – There are a few things that could be contributing to your fatigue or lack of muscle endurance (aka stamina) during the pushups and sit-up test.

1. Lack of Training

You need to up your training volume. I highly recommend doing pushups, sit-ups, pullups, and other core exercise (planks, etc.) three days a week. For example, if you have never done 100 pushups or sit-ups in an entire workout, you will never get 100 reps in two minutes. Try to build up over time to 2-3 times your goal maximum score during a workout. For instance, if your goal pushups max is 50 in 2 minutes, shoot for 100-150 during a normal workout. (See workout ideas for every OTHER day: PT Pyramid, PT SuperSet, Max Rep Sets). Also, stretch out your sets to 1-2 minutes in length on Max Rep Set Days.

2. Pace Yourself

Too many times people start out way too fast on these exercises only to burn out in the first minute. Pacing your running makes sense to you, right? You do not start the run in a sprint of your first lap (1/4 mile) — you have a set pace. The same holds true for exercises like sit-ups. Too many people start off in the first 30 seconds getting 30-35 sit-ups and fail to match that in the next 1:30. If you are stuck at 60 due to this, you can increase your score near overnight by dropping your pace to 20 reps in the first 30 seconds and push closer to 80 reps in 2 minutes. For pushups — that is a different animal, as you have gravity slowly eating away at your reps the slower you go. I recommend you let gravity take you down and exert fast on the up movement. Don’t waste energy going down when gravity will do that for free. Keep working your pace in the workouts and you will find that you have the stamina to go the full 2 minutes after a few weeks.

3. Fuel and Fatigue

Half of fatigue is in your mind, as your brain will tell you that you are finished before you really are. The other half of fatigue is in your fuel. Did you eat well the day before or the morning of the fitness test? Are you hydrated? Having your body well fueled will help you with PT tests — that means nutritious foods. However, when you start to shake at the end of your pushup timed set, you are going to waste a lot of energy fast, as that is a central nervous system breakdown (or the beginning of it). It is actually best to call it quits and not try to get that last pushup in, versus staying there and shaking for 10-15 seconds. You have to remember that you still have to do the 1.5 mile run next, and you will need that energy your body just dumped failing at pushups.

Practice taking the fitness test once every week or two just so you can also mentally say to yourself, “this is just another workout.” Getting rid of some of the PFT Anxiety might help you perform a little better as well. Eat well and workout regularly, so that 1-2 minute sets become easy instead of an impossibility. Check out the PFT Bible if you are interested in a program that is specifically designed for the most common PFT in the world.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles onMilitary.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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11 fighter pilot rules that can be applied to everyday life

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Artist’s conception of an F-35 taking it to the Russians.


Fighter pilots have a lot of cool sayings like, “Don’t ask somebody if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him?” and “Faster fighters, older whiskey, younger women,” but not all of these can be applied to real life.

Fortunately, they also have a few saying that can be applied to real life. Here are 11 of them:

1. Train like you fight

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

This saying was made popular by “Duke” Cunningham, Navy Vietnam-era ace who served a stint in federal prison for misdeeds committed while serving as a congressman from California. It seems obvious, but think of how many processes your organization has that don’t really matter when it comes to executing the mission.

2. Don’t be both out of airspeed and ideas

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

That’s a bad combo. As Dean Wormer said in the movie “Animal House,” “Fat, dumb, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

3. Keep your knots up

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Speed is life. It gives you options. In business “speed” can be resources, revenue, people. Having X+1 is a good idea.

4. Keep your scan going

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

If you’re only focused on one thing, something else is about to jump up and bite you. While you’re staring at the bandit in the heads-up display, you’re missing the fact you’re about to run out of gas or get shot by the other bandit who just rolled in behind you.

5. Lost sight, lost fight

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Regardless of Gucci technology or whatever, you can’t kill what you can’t see.

6. You can only tie the record for low flight

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

So don’t fly into the ground.

7. There’s no kill like a guns kill

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

This is as pure as it gets for a fighter pilot. Feels. So. Good. And, remember, stealth doesn’t work against bullets.

8. Don’t turn back into a fight you’ve already won

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Know when to bug out and then do it. Live to fight another day.

9. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
F-14 assigned to VF-1 shooting an AIM-54 Phoenix missile in the early days.

You also miss 100 percent of the shots you take out of the missile’s operating envelope . . . which gets back to No. 1: Train like you fight.

10. A letter of reprimand is better than no mail at all

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

As John Paul Jones once said, “He who will not risk, cannot win.” Nobody ever made history or changed the world by only worrying about his or her career.

11. If you know you’re about to die, make your last transmission a good one

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

No whining. Just key the radio and say, “Have a beer on me, boys.”

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The real ‘Batmen’ served during World War II

In 1942 the California State Guard was trying to protect the state from Japanese invasion and organized a unit of “bat-men” paratroopers.


The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Photo: California Military History Facebook

The idea started in an Aug. 1941 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, a now-defunct magazine that ran until 2001. Former Army Maj. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson wrote an article about all the elements of “Yankee ingenuity” that would allow America to emerge victorious from World War II.

Nicholson correctly identified two of the biggest problems paratroopers face in an assault. First, troops are vulnerable during their descent from hundreds of feet. Second, the soldiers are spread out over a large area by the nature of the drop.

The former cavalry officer suggested that “Bat-Men,” paratroopers fitted with special wingsuits that had become popular at airshows, could safely open their parachutes at lower altitudes, making it harder for ground troops to kill the attacking forces. These Bat-Men would also be able to steer themselves in the air, allowing them to land closer together and form up for their assault more quickly.

While Big Army doesn’t seem to have ever embraced the idea, the California State Guard created a test unit to try out the suits in 1942. They were led by Mickey Morgan, an air show performer who was famous in the 1940s.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion before a jump. Photo: US Army

But if the unit ever saw any action, it seems to have been lost to history. While California suffered a few Japanese attacks during World War II, mostly firebombings by balloons and submarine-based aircraft, the fires were either put out by local firefighters or the smokejumpers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. No “Bat-Men” appear to have flown outside of training.

Oddly enough, Nicholson has a tenuous connection to the famous DC Comics character Batman. After Nicholson resigned his Army commission due to a series of high-profile squabbles with military leadership, he started National Allied Publications.

NAP became Detective Comics at the end of 1936 and Detective Comics released the first issue with the Batman character in 1939. But Nicholson had no part in creating the Dark Knight. He had left the company in 1937.

(h/t California Military History and i09)

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This company will build new skin for soldiers burned by IEDs

A New Zealand-based startup that works on regenerating human tissue has signed a development agreement with the U.S. Army to help treat troops who’ve sustained severe burns.


The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between Upside Technologies and the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command includes the company’s engineered skin product to treat wounds from IEDs and explosions.

“This U.S. Army input will be hugely valuable to Upside and will fully assist us in successfully progressing our product to the benefit of all burn sufferers, including U.S. warriors,” said Upside Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Feldman.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
A graphic showing the new lab-made skin next to true human skin. (Photo from Upside Technologies)

Upside’s technology enables a small sample of unburnt patient skin to be grown in the laboratory into large areas of full-thickness skin. The lab-grown skin can be used as skin grafts in patients.

The Upside skin is said to be produced faster than that of any competitive product and has handling characteristics preferred by surgeons.

The Army “is pleased to provide guidance to Upside Biotechnologies as it navigates the U.S. FDA approval process for a novel skin replacement product,” said Susan Taylor, product manager for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.

Burn wounds from explosions and IEDs continue to plague troops in war zones and account for a large portion of America’s casualties, statistics show.

“This product may provide a critical solution in the treatment of service members who have sustained severe burns,” Taylor added. “Our goal is to help Upside move this product as quickly and as safely as possible through the regulatory process, so it is available to our wounded service members.”

 

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This U.S. Marine went to Somalia and became a warlord

Hussein Farrah Aidid left the United States Marine Corps and attempted to be a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who is a central figure in the story of Black Hawk Down.


Mohamed Aidid was the leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who vied for power in the wake of the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s Somali regime. Aidid not only diverted food aid and relief supplies, his fighters ambushed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. The United Nations offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and he was targeted by Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger’s hunt for Aidid led to the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu that resulted in the death of 18 American troops.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Aidid had four wives. His first wife, Asli Dhubad, gave birth to five children. Hussein Farrah Aidid was the first of those five. He was born in a remote area of Somalia in 1962. At the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States at a time when Somalia was ruled by the dictator Barre whose authoritarian government was enjoying a brief thaw in relations with the U.S. Hussein graduated from high school in Covina, California two years later before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Aidid was an artilleryman, assigned to Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, California. He deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope, the U.S.-led task force in Somalia whose aim was to disrupt the personal army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The elder Aidid controlled the strongest faction in the ongoing power struggle in the country.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Three US Marines, from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, examine a Somali tank, a US made M47, that was captured in the raid of Somali Warlord General Aideed’s weapons cantonment area. This mission is in direct support of Operation Restore Hope. (U.S. Navy photo by PHCM Terry Mitchell)

The UN mandate was to “establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.” Essentially, Restore Hope aimed to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, keeping it from falling into the hands of Aidid’s personal army. The Marines deployed the younger Aidid because he was the only one in the ranks who could speak Somali.

He returned to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, Aidid told his command he would miss drill for a while because he was traveling outside the U.S. He returned to Somalia and began preparing for his role in the Habr Gidr militia.

The elder Mohamed Farrah Aidid continued his struggle for power, even declaring himself President of Somalia in 1995, a declaration no country recognized. He was shot in a battle against former allied warlords in July 1996 and died of a heart attack during surgery.

Hussein was declared his father’s successor at age 33. The man who left the Marines as a corporal was suddenly a general.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

The younger Aidid vacillated between being more conciliatory than his father to being as warlike as his father. Initially he vowed to crush and kill his enemies at home and overseas. He continued his father’s policies, especially the pacification of the countryside, which most saw as an authoritarian power grab. Forces loyal to Aidid were known to rob and kill civilians in their controlled territories. Other allied factions left the young leader’s camp because they did not see dedication to the peace process.

The younger Aidid eventually softened, renouncing his claim to the presidency and agreeing to UN-brokered peace agreements in 1997. An ardent anti-Islamist, he assisted the Bush Administration in tracking down the flow of arms and money through Mogadishu, gave up the sale and use of landmines, and helped Somali government forces capture the capital from the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He was hired and fired as deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Public Works. He defected to Eritrea in 2007.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Hussein Farrah Aidid as Deputy Prime Minister of the Somali Transitional Government

”I always wanted to be a Marine,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’m proud of my background and military discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

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How I applied the Corps motto of Semper Fidelis to my Iraqi ally

Back in 2014, ISIS assaulted into Iraq and gained ground so fast that to this infantry officer, it made the German blitzkrieg look like amateur hour. Within a matter of months, the terrorist group took control of several key cities and began a series of massacres that even Al Qaeda deemed, “too extreme.”


As the Iraqi Army and Police fell back towards Baghdad, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.

I was on my way to class when I got a call from a man I knew as “Captain.”  I could hear gunshots in the background and he was asking me, “Brother, can you help?”

Now, I’m a former Marine officer and served three combat tours in Iraq from 2006-2009. In 2014 I had moved on with life and was well on my way to growing the nasty beard and long hair of a graduate student.

But I couldn’t forget the Marine Corps motto that lived inside me: Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. And now I had a good reason.

The Iraqi soldier we’ll call “Captain” to conceal his identity, saved my life in 2006.

I’ll never forget that as a boot platoon commander on my first deployment when the Captain shielded me from an incoming shot by pushing me down and charging a sniper. So when I got that call from Captain in 2014, I knew he was in some serious trouble, and I had to help.

That’s when I began a frantic effort to call my former commanders and write congressional leaders to do something…anything. But before Captain could get the massive airstrike that he needed to quell the ISIS assault, he received an ultimatum from the ISIS commander on the other side of the battlefield.

“We know who you are, and we’ll kill your kids if you don’t leave,” the ISIS commander told Captain.

With a credible threat against his life, the Captain and his family quickly fled to Turkey where they hoped to eventually resettle in the United States as refugees. With Captain out of Iraq and on a path to the U.S., I thought all was well.

But the Captain’s case got stuck in the backlog of millions fleeing the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He  was quickly told that his case wouldn’t be processed for years which, when you are on the run from ISIS, might as well be a death sentence.

Let me put it this way, this was a dude that had fought with us for years and now there were people who never served telling me that they couldn’t process his paperwork. I thought WTF?

So, I did the one thing Marines always do. I took action and went to Turkey myself, filming the trip along the way. My journey to help the Captain eventually was released by National Geographic as a short documentary called “The Captain’s Story.”

Nearly three years later, I continue to advocate for other refugees like the Captain as a member of Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan “group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.”

Though the work is far from over, we’re starting to make a difference in doing right by our wartime allies and bring them the protection and safety they deserve.

Chase Millsap joined the WATM team earlier this year as Director of Impact Strategy which allows him to keep fighting for veterans and our allies. We’re glad he’s on our team… just don’t piss him off.
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The US Army’s ‘Tiger Force’ took terror tactics to the Viet Cong

By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.


So yeah, they were invested.

But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

The Americans were fighting a limited war, trying to keep North Vietnam from infiltrating or taking over the South. They were also using a data-driven (but flawed) campaign of bombing and other operations based on pursuing and exploiting the fears and beliefs of the North Vietnamese.

Enter then-Maj. David Hackworth.

Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.

“We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live,” then-Sgt. William Doyle told the Telegraph. “The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead.”

In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.

The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.

“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”

The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.

Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”

The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.

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The 7 funniest Yelp reviews for military bases

Yelp is a great resource for finding a great restaurant or tourist destination, but it also features reviews from the military community of bases — and some of them are pretty hilarious.


Not every base is on Yelp and not every review is funny, but we looked at some that were and rounded up the ones that made us smile. Here they are (lightly edited for clarity):

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Edwards Air Force Base, Edwards, Calif.

“Do you like dirt? If so, then this is the place for you! Have trouble finding your house already? Well make 20x harder because everything looks exactly alike! Enjoy loud noises and constant rumbling? Then Edwards is the place for you!” —Blake H.

Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas

“Fort Hood is a weird parallel universe where discipline, fitness, esprit de corps and pride of service do not exist. All of the worst things associated with ‘big army’ are in full force here. Be prepared to do some epically stupid things here ‘because that’s the way it’s always been done here’ hurr durr derp derp.

If your idea of military service is living in the world’s largest halfway house for violent offenders that happen to wear the same clothes, come on down. Come to the ‘great place’. Derp derp.” —Peter B.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Calif.

“Welcome to the early 1960s mindset. The landscape resembles California from 100-200 years ago. Pendleton refuses to fully staff the entrance gates. Officers don’t work but just watch as traffic backs up hundreds of feet. Bored kid traffic cops cruise up and down Vandergrift stopping people on bogus invented charges. They don’t like the way your car looks, they stop you. Traffic laws are different than in the civilian United States.  The list of illogical and arbitrary rules is endless.

It’s a small town and high school mentality. They escape to Oceanside where they can be free of their leaders and drink to forget. And look at women. The height of culture at Pendleton is Mcdonalds. Stores are staffed by rude incompetent workers. Both civilians and military gets treated like garbage.” —Buster H.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Fort Irwin National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

“When a Soldier joins the Army, he is given a canteen of Hooah. Throughout his career he splashes little bits of Hooah out, to get him through deployments and rough times. When he gets to Irwin, he dumps that canteen upside down and pours it out, and shakes out the last drops.” —Johnny S.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Minot Air Force Base, Minot, N.D.

“It’s pretty dull and as it is said, ‘Where all good leaders come to die.'” —Drew O.

Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, N.C.

“There are magical forests filled with trails into nothingness.  There are inaccessible lakes that cater to no aspiring outdoorswoman/man. Everything lacks effort. The only feasible recreational area is Smith Lake…and it’s not even on Main Post.” —Christine A.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘it could always be worse?’

29 Palms is the only exception.

Do you enjoy…

– waking up in a full body sweat

– being close to nothing

– an endless supply of sketchy people out and about during the night

– a brown, sandy, dusty scenery that lasts year round

If you are a military family, this place will…

– steal your souls

– destroy your family

– make your kids wish they could go back to where the came from, and eventually resent their parents

– make you resent yourself and the Marine corps for putting your family through such a horrible duty station

This place is about as horrible as it gets. ” —Nate. C (there’s even more)

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This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a night time raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.

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