This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi - We Are The Mighty
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This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

A new book by a former SEAL dives into the gritty detail one of the most vicious fights of the 10-year Iraq War and helps fill in the blanks of the story about the legendary sniper who’s heroism propelled his memory into a blockbuster film.


Kevin “Dauber” Lacz is a former Navy SEAL whose career saw time in some of the most violent and contentious battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the 2006 Battle of Ramadi. Lacz’ SEAL Team Three included names that are now familiar (and famous) in American popular culture, including “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, Mike Monsoor, Ryan Job and Mark Lee.

These are but a few of the players in Lacz’ new book, “The Last Punisher: a SEAL Team Three Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi,” now available for pre-order and in stores July 12.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Lacz in Ramadi.

While Lacz was deployed to Ramadi with SEAL Team Three, he kept track of the accomplishments of his unit — not just the Chris Kyles of the war, but the Marines and Soldiers who fought alongside him and the officers who lead them. The book does a lot more than highlight the stories of SEAL door-kickers, but instead describes how the entire U.S. military team battled the enemy in the darkest days of the Iraq insurgency.

“We started doing some cool stuff I wanted to remember,” Lacz says. “There were a ton of heroes from the SEAL teams to the support manual to help us. I felt it was necessary to go into detail because a lot of people don’t hear about the supporting cast. That was the pulse of this narrative.”

Lacz is part of a new “2 percent” – that part of the population that Army Ranger and psychologist retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman wrote about in his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.”

Grossman proposes that 2 percent of the male population is able to participate in combat without psychological consequences – that this 2 percent can kill without the psychological trauma usually associated with taking a life. That theory made sense to Lacz, an admitted 2-percenter.

“People talk about Chris [Kyle] and Mike [Monsoor],” says Lacz, “but to talk about a gentleman who came back after being in the reserves, in his late forties, and acting like a 26-year-old lethal badass when the platoon needed him most? It’s stuff like that that makes storytelling unique.”

Chris Kyle asked Lacz to help with his book “American Sniper,” and Lacz was also involved in the film — helping write the screenplay and portraying himself on screen.

One of the things that struck Lacz most was the portrayal of post-traumatic stress in the Clint Eastwood film.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Lacz with Director Clint Eastwood

“When I saw the PTSD cues that it had, I felt it was necessary to write about the 2 percent of people that go to war, fight in combat and come back normal,” Lacz remarks. “I wanted to try and get away from the perception that everybody who goes to war and sees combat has PTSD.”

That’s one of the driving themes of “The Last Punisher.” Lacz gives detailed accounts of sniper overwatch missions all over Ramadi. He doesn’t skip the grimy, bloody details, either. He tells the story of how one SEAL teammate had to move a dead enemy, tactically, toward a hospital while wearing his full kit. Lacz describes in detail how pulling the trigger on his Mk 11 – how the shots crumple the enemy’s body after creating the telltale “pink mist” of a good kill.

None of the violence is gratuitous. The consequences of an illegal kill are grave. Lacz talks about the confirmation necessary for a sniper to take a shot, the rules of engagement to kill an insurgent.

“As a professional warrior – a steward of the American flag – you operate under a strict set of guidelines. My rules of engagement were clear. Hostile action or hostile intent were the behaviors for which I could kill an insurgent. The presentation of the artillery round left no doubt. I felt the switch as my breathing deepened and my heart slowed even more. I felt every muscle in my body relax as I tightened the slack in the match-grade trigger of my Mk 11. The muj [mujahideen, or enemy combatant] stood, looking up in my direction and, from behind a pair of binoculars, Chris [Kyle] said, ‘Dump him.'”

“I wanted to give a visceral feeling of war,” Lacz says. “I wanted them to get an intense feeling of what camaraderie is. It’s a simple story, but it’s a powerful story and it shows why the teams were important to me. I want to tell stories like that.”

His stories are powerful and Lacz does not paint himself to be a superhuman operator. He writes about his first run as a new guy SEAL, clearing an entire house in Iraq without a magazine in his weapon.

He gives the same treatment to his teammates. Ralphie misses a shot. The Legend can’t pick a lock. Dauber (Lacz) leaves for a mission without hydrating.

This is war. This is special operations. This is reality.

And while it would be difficult to put ourselves in the mindset of a recruit going through BUD/S (the SEALs’ basic underwater demolition course) we can all relate to being the FNG — no matter the unit.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Lacz with Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

“I think people are enthralled with Navy SEALs, from their training down to their operations,” says Lacz. “You don’t know what qualities guarantee you’ll make it through training. I wanted to pull all that together and say the best I can, ‘These are the type of people I worked with and these are the qualities, this is why they made it.’ ”

“People want to hear that,” he adds. “We always look towards SEALs in one way or another, and I think giving them a better background and writing it more like a non-fiction novel helped do that.”

Don’t be put off by the human side of Naval Special Warfare portrayed in Lacz’ book. He includes many of the anecdotes loved by veterans and military history buffs. He describes his own anger and desire for revenge against the enemy every time he loses anyone in uniform — whether SEALs or Marines. He (and other SEALs) feel a deep, intense rage seeing Americans in uniform make the ultimate sacrifice.

The muj opened up on the patrol with what sounded like an insane amount of fire. I heard AKs, PKCs, and RPGs going off like Armageddon a few blocks to the southeast.

“Jesus Christ,” Tony said. “Anybody got a line of sight on that contact?” Nobody did. We couldn’t engage.

“Well, sh*t,” Chris said. “What do we do now?”

“I’ve got a flag in my body armor,” I said.

“Well, sh*t yes, let’s run it up. Draw some attention away from that patrol.” Chris got off his gun and crawled over to my position. I took the flag out of my body armor while Chris found a big aluminum pole. He grabbed the flag and tied it to the pole.

“Let’s f*cking hoist it,” he said.

Marc pulled out his little video camera and started filming the historic event while Jeremy joined Chris and me as we hoisted the flag up, flying it high on the rooftop in the middle of Muj country. We all crouched there, beaming at what had to be one of the most America-f*ck-yeah moves in the entire war.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

Lacz wrote “The Last Punisher” with the help of his wife Lindsay and journalist and Marine Corps veteran Ethan Rocke. Lacz acknowledges the 10-year gap between the book and his deployments, saying he delayed writing the book to make sure it was as accurate as possible. If he couldn’t remember the details, he didn’t include it in the book.

“Each chapter has a specific theme,” Lacz says. “I think it’s more of a literary work than just a memoir of some guy putting a tape recorder down and just spewing everything he can remember about deployment. That’s what I want people to take away.”

Lacz believes doing this project with his wife was integral to the quality of the work. He believes all warriors should write about their experiences, from SEALs to Rangers to Marines.

“I wanted all veterans to write their stories, especially for their spouses,” he says. “It answers questions for them. The spouse will never know 100% of what they did or what they’ve gone through, but I think it’s important for more people to tell their stories. Lindsay didn’t pry, she just needed to find the details out. She has a better pulse about who I am.”

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

 

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The ‘Papasha’ is the daddy of Soviet submachine guns

In the bloody battlegrounds of WWII, Russian officials had to call upon any and every available man to fight against the massive force of German troops as they advanced. The men that were recruited weren’t too well-educated, so training the incoming troops on sophisticated weapon systems was considered too time consuming.


A durable and inexpensive weapon that any troop could effectively operate was in order and Soviet gun manufacturers answered the call.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
They answered a lot of calls, whether they wanted to or not.

What they came up with this time around was the “pistolet-pulemyot shpagina,” lovingly called “pa-pa-sha” by Red Army troops.  That’s how the “papasha” — Russian for “daddy” — of Soviet small arms was born.

Related: How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

Designed by Georgy Shpagin in the early 1940s, the PPSh-41 weighs eight pounds (3.63 kg), fires a 7.62 x 25mm bullet, and is capable of firing 900 rounds per minute.

Due to its weight and medium recoil, this short range submachine gun allows the operator to have tight groupings when fired.

The PPSh-41 in action. (Image via Giphy)This weapon proved to be just what the Soviets needed as the PPSh-41’s stamping style of manufacturing increased the weapon’s strength, allowing it to be fired in weather conditions as low as 60 degrees below zero and while it was extremely filthy.
“Because it’s stamped out, the tolerances in this machine gun are very loose,” Dr. William Atwater explains. “You can abuse this — and Russian troops did.”

Also Read: The 4 best surrender decisions in military history

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video below to see PPSh-41 impressive characteristics for yourself.

YouTube, LightningWar1941

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Go behind the scenes with the military side of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi


“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong — much to the chagrin of the military community.

But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon’s approval process.

“Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project,” producer Ian Bryce said. “The military does quite well to make these movies great.”

Bryce approached the Department of Defense’s director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he’d worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.

“But we talked it through,” Bryce said.

Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.

The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn’t the U.S. Air Force’s primary duty.

“We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility,” Bryce said. “They are doing much more serious stuff.”

Watch:

The digital HD version of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” has just been released  and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.

Check out more about “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” here and here.

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Air Force Identifies special operators Killed in U-28 Crash

The U.S. Air Force on Thursday identified three special operations airmen who died when their U-28 single-engine turboprop aircraft crashed during a training flight in New Mexico.


Capt. Andrew Becker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and 1st Lieutenant Frederick Dellecker were all assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron, according to a news release.

The squadron is an operational flying squadron and part the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Also read: The United States is sending B-52s and Lightnings to Korea

Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.

Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.

Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
The 318th Special Operations Squadron welcomed the arrival of a U-28A aircraft Aug. 30, 2013 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Xavier Lockley

The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.

The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.

The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.

The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.

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This is who would win a dogfight between Russia and Israel

Russia recently summoned Israel’s ambassador to deliver a message: The days of launching air strikes in Syria are over.


According to a Reuters report, the Russians were hopping mad over a recent Israeli air strike in Syria they said was targeting an illegal arms shipment to Hezbollah. The Russians say the strike aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Russian Su-35 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Israeli strike was also notable in that an Arrow missile shot down a Russian-built SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile. But what would happen if the Russians decided to challenge the Israeli Air Force?

At present, Russia has a limited number of aircraft in the region, centered around the Su-24 Fencer strike plane and versions of the Flanker (including the Su-30, Su-34, and Su-35).

The Russians may be small in numbers, but it backs up the Syrian Air Force, which has a substantial number of MiGs – mostly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers, along with about 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums of varying models. Likewise. Russia has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but many of the air defenses on the ground are Syrian, and older model missiles.

In essence, the Russian deployment was corseting the Syrians.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli Air Force is primarily centered on the F-16 Fighting Falcon – FlightGlobal.com reports that Israel has 77 F-16C and 48 F-16D Fighting Falcons on inventory, plus about 100 F-16I Sufa fighters.

Israel also has about 80 F-15A/B/C/D/I fighters as well, according to the Institute for National Security Studies. Many of these planes have been customized with Israeli electronics – and the engineers of Tel Aviv are masters of electronic warfare.

So, what would happen if Russia tried to stop an Israeli raid to take out some new weapons for Hezbollah? Keep in mind that the Russian deployment to Syria included a craptastic carrier and at least two splash landings.

And that’s just the follies they couldn’t keep from the press.

On the other hand, the Israelis, while they have made their mistakes in the past, are probably the best military force in the region. They also have a huge quantitative edge in modern fighters.

In essence, the early rounds would likely go the Israelis’ way. The big question would be how much Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to risk after the initial dogfight.

If Putin goes all-in, the Israelis could be in a world of hurt.

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The only time European pikemen squared off against Japanese samurai

Bizarre, seemingly impossible anachronistic historical matchups aren’t just for wargaming or Sid Meier’s Civilization. There’s at least one instance in recorded history where European regular infantrymen were called on to take down some of Japan’s elite samurai warriors: the Battle of Cagayan.

In 1573, Japanese pirates, known as wokou, sailed into Cagayan, a city on the Philippine island of Luzon. The pirates were made up of ronin (samurai without a feudal master), soldiers of fortune and sailors from Japan and China. When their flat-bottom boats entered Caguyan, they demanded the locals submit to their will.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Samurai pirates? 12-year-old me is stoked (Wikimedia Commons)

At the time, Cagayan was an important gold and silver trading area between the Japanese and Spanish, who controlled the Philippines. The pirates were looking to take control of the precious metal trade – and they were reasonably successful. 

The Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines, Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa, wrote to King Phillip back in Spain that the pirates were becoming a nuisance, carrying not just the traditional weapons of the ronin, but also gunpowder weapons like arquebusiers and artillery, weapons he believed were built by the rival Portuguese.

King Phillip dispatched Juan Pablo de Carrión of the Spanish Navy to deal with the problem. Almost immediately, Carrión sank a wokou ship while sailing the South China Sea. That got the pirates’ attention. They responded by sending a fleet of ships to Cagayan, 18 flat-bottomed sampans, led by a junk. 

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
A junk is a ship, if you’re stuck on the last paragraph (Wikimedia Commons)

When Carrión learned of the incoming attack, he assembled the best force he could manage; 40 soldiers on a total of seven ships, with a Spanish galleon at its head. The only advantage they had was that they were much better with firearms than their oncoming enemy. The Spanish had been proficient with them for decades, and made much better weapons and gunpowder than the Japanese carried. 

Carrión and his ships arrived at Cagayan in time to catch the pirates abusing the natives of the town from a sampan. He and his men headed straight for it, and boarded the ship with rodeleros, shield-carrying swordsmen. Once on board, the rodeleros went into combat against sword-carrying Japanese sailors. 

The Spaniards lost the first act of the fight, being forced back to their ships but came back twice as hard. The decks of the ships were a mess of men, bodies and sharp weapons. But the Spanish turned the tide with gunpowder weapons, forcing the Japanese pirates to abandon ship and swim for safety.

With the first sampan effectively out of the fighting, the flotilla of Spaniards sailed up the Cagayan River. It wasn’t long before they found the pirate fleet near a newly-constructed fortress. The turn of events didn’t deter them; they quickly opened up on the wokou ships with their ships’ artillery. 

After blasting their way through the enemy ships, they managed to land on shore and bring that artillery to bear on the pirates from hastily-dug trenches. The pirates called for a cease-fire and asked to be compensated for the gold they would lose by leaving. Carrión refused and the pirates determined they would hit the Spanish with an overwhelming force. 

They assembled a pirate army of 600 men to attack the Spanish trenches and hit them in successive waves. The first and second were easily repelled by superior firepower, but by the third wave, the Spanish were running low on powder.  The samurai ran at them with full force, katanas glinting in the sunlight and almost forced the Spaniards out of their defensive positions. 

But the pirates never managed to dislodge their Spanish enemy. The third wave was devastating for the attackers, so the Spanish left the trenches and finished the pirates off with long pikes. Those Japanese soldiers who could run away did, leaving their weapons and booty behind. 

The victorious Spanish troops kept the strange Japanese weapons and armor they found scattered on the battlefield as war trophies.

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Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Everyone who has attended a military function or visited a base has heard the “Taps” melody fill the air.


Traditionally performed live on a bugle or trumpet, “Taps” is one of the more popular songs, and one that tends to quiet spectators as they solemnly bow their heads.

But few people know the history behind the song or the patriotic meaning behind the lyrics.

Related: This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Chief Musician Guy L. Gregg, plays taps during a Memorial Day service at Brookwood American Cemetery.
(Photo by MC2 Jennifer L. Jaqua/Released)



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According to the VA, present-day “Taps” is believed to be a rendition of the French bugle signal, “Tap Toe” which stems from a Dutch word that means to shut or “tap” a keg. The most noted revision we know today was created by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the American Civil War to alert soldiers to discontinue their drinking and remind them to return to garrison.

In July of 1862, Butterfield thought the original French version “L’Extinction des feux” was too formal and began to hum an adaption to his aide, who then transcribed the music to paper and assigned Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, to play the notes written.

It wasn’t until 12 years later when Butterfield’s musical creation was made the Army’s officially bugle call. By 1891, the Army infantry regulated that “Taps” be played at all military funeral ceremonies moving forward.

Today, the historic song is played during flag ceremonies, military funerals, and at dusk as the sun lowers into the horizon during “lights out.”

Lyrics

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

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The Navy’s ruling just came down on the USS Fitzgerald’s top leaders — and it isn’t good

The commander of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the executive officer have been permanently detached from the ship and face non-judicial punishment over the deadly collision in June with a container ship, the Navy announced August 17.


Cmdr. Bryce Benson, commander of the Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer, are “being detached for cause,” meaning that the Navy “has lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said during a press conference.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, has also decided that the top enlisted sailor aboard the Fitzgerald and several other sailors on the watch crew at the time of the collision on June 17 will also face non-judicial punishment, Moran said.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 17, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart

Aucoin ruled that “serious mistakes were made by the crew,” Moran said.

The Fitzgerald was hit nearly broadside by the ACX Crystal cargo ship in the early morning hours of June 17 in Japanese waters. Seven sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Fitzgerald were killed.

The service members, whose bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments, on August 17 were posthumously promoted.

The top enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald was later identified as Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. He, Benson, and Babbitt were all in their berths when the collision occurred.

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Honoring the seven Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision at sea. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III

However, Aucoin found that all three bore chief responsibility for the watch crew on the bridge losing “situational awareness” as the destroyer was proceeding at about 20 knots on a clear moonlit night in relatively calm seas, Moran said.

When asked if the non-judicial punishment against Benson, Babbitt, and Baldwin would be career-ending, Moran said: “Look at what happened here — it’s going to be pretty hard to recover from this.” Moran said investigations were continuing but he declined to speculate on whether courts martial might be pursued against any of the Fitzgerald’s crew.

Since the accident occurred, naval experts have pondered how a fast and agile destroyer carrying some of the world’s most advanced radars and proceeding on a clear moonlit night in calm seas could have been hit nearly broadside by a slow and plodding cargo ship.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock after sustaining significant damage in the June 17 collision. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams.

The speculation has centered on whether the bridge watch crew was either poorly trained or simply not alert. Moran said only that collisions should not happen in the US Navy — “We got it wrong.”

A “line of duty” investigation released by the Navy earlier August 17 on actions following the collision gave evidence of the enormous damage inflicted on the Fitzgerald and the heroic actions of the crew in saving the ship and their fellow sailors.

Berthing Area 2, two decks below the main deck where 35 sailors were sleeping in three-decker buns, was exposed to the open sea, the investigation said. The bulbous nose of the ACX Crystal had ripped a 13×17 foot hole into the side of the Fitzgerald.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Repairs to a hole punctured into the side of the USS Fitzgerald after colliding with a merchant vessel on June 17, 2017. Navy photo by Daniel A. Taylor.

“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly,” the investigation said. The seven sailors killed in the collision were all in Berthing 2. They were “directly in the path of the onrushing water,” the investigation said.

The force of the collision knocked the Fitzgerald into a 14-degree list to port before the ship rocked back violently into a seven-degree list to starboard. “One sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water,” the investigation said.

“Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up,” the investigation said.

The sailors were in water up to their necks as they scrambled to reach a ladder to safety. The last rescued sailor had been in the bathroom at the time of the crash. Other sailors “pulled him from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported he was taking his final breath before being saved,” the investigation said.

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6 ridiculous things POGs do at the range

Yes, #notallPOGs and all that. But seriously Persons Other than Grunts, the range rules aren’t that crazy. First, learn to safely handle your weapon. Second, learn to fire your weapon. And third, get off the range without embarrassing yourself.


Unfortunately, these 6 things manage to pop up every time POGs go to the range en masse:

1. Targets that look like they were hit with birdshot

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Photo: U.S Army W.T.F! moments Facebook

“Are you changing your sight picture?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Shut up. Yes, you are.”

2. Truly baffling weapons malfunctions

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When your soldier declares a weapons malfunction but his magazine is just empty.

The Army’s acronym for fixing weapon problems, O-SPORTS, is only effective against actual weapons malfunctions. It does little for operators who load their magazines upside down or don’t realize they can run out of ammunition.

3. So. many. safety. violations.

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GIF: YouTube/Gigan2004

See how this guy lowers his weapon when some schoolchildren move in front of him? And he doesn’t have to be told to not point his weapon at something he doesn’t want to shoot? Yeah, it’s not very complicated, POGs. All weapons should be pointed up and downrange when they’re not being aimed at targets. Stop flagging each other on the range.

4. MRE Alternatives

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

When infantry goes to the field, they bring MREs and possibly even sleeping systems and tents to stay out there for a few days. Some POGs will at least bring MREs while others … others make arrangements with a gut truck or ice cream van.

5. “Easter basket” helmets and other uniform violations

 

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Yeah, you better buckle that chin strap, John Wayne. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

Helmet chin straps dangling like the soldier is in a John Wayne movie, troops carrying helmets by the chin strap like it’s an Easter Basket, mirrored sunglasses, armor lacking rank insignia or name tapes, the potentially catastrophic uniform violations are everywhere. It’s all a sergeant major’s nightmare.

6. “Clean” weapons that will never be accepted by an armorer

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Photo: US Army Pfc. Nathaniel Smith

POGs will always declare their weapon clean after 30 minutes and then be surprised when the armorer turns them away to re-clean before they can turn in. Have you cleaned the star chamber with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until you went mildly crazy? Then it’s not clean yet.

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Mattis: US faces ‘a determined enemy’ in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said May 9 that American forces in Afghanistan face “a determined enemy” but are dealing significant blows to the enemy.


Speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen alongside his Danish counterpart, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Mattis said both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the government, under President Ashraf Ghani, “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of the people.

“In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength and this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the emir of IS Khorasan — this is the IS group in Nangarhar…” Mattis said. “In our anti-IS campaign, we’re dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.”

U.S. and Afghan officials announced recently that Abdul Hasib, the head of so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, had been killed in a military raid. He was believed to have been behind an attack that killed 50 people in a Kabul military hospital earlier this year.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Danish Minister of Defense Claus Hjort Frederiksen host a press brief at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 9, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

Mattis said the United States will continue integrating its military and non-military efforts in Afghanistan and do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“We have to remember that the battlefield that we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live right now, sometimes forced to stay on a battlefield by IS,” he said.

The comments from Mattis come as U.S. media report the Trump administration may significantly increase the number of U.S. troops and intensity of the fight in Afghanistan.

According to reports, Trump is weighing whether to send as many as 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops stationed in the country.

Also read: NATO requests more troops for Afghanistan

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump has asked military advisers “to relook at the entire strategy” in Afghanistan.

News accounts say the prospective plan would give the Pentagon, not the White House, the final say on the number of troops in Afghanistan, while the U.S. military would have greater range in using airstrikes to target Taliban fighters and remove Obama-era policies limiting the movements of military advisers in the country.

Trump will reportedly make a decision on the Afghanistan policy prior to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

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These roving robots are helping to improve hostage rescue training

Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.


One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.

But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:

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The creator of General Tso’s chicken wanted to impress a US Navy admiral

General Tso is dead – long dead actually. But the man who invented his chicken dish just died in November 2016.


Taiwan News reported the death of Chef Peng Chang-kuei, creator of the famous spicy chicken, at the ripe old age of 98. And in an interesting international twist, it turns out one of Peng’s most famous dishes was hurriedly named during a visit to China by a U.S. Navy admiral in the ’50s.

Before Chairman Mao Zedong’s Communists overran mainland China, Peng was in charge of the Nationalist government banquets. When Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his government fled the mainland for Taiwan in 1949, Peng came along.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi
Mr. Peng Changgui and Ms. Peng Zhanli were married in Taiwan. (wikimedia commons)

Once in Taiwan, Chef Peng founded the Hunan restaurant chain Peng Garden. Shortly after that Peng created the legendary dish, now served at more than 50,000 restaurants worldwide.

There’s even a full documentary about the history of it.

 

Peng told the China Times that it was during a visit from the U.S. Navy’s Admiral Arthur W. Radford in 1952 that General Tso’s Chicken was born. He served the admiral and other guests almost everything he knew how to make. So in an effort to keep it all fresh, Peng fried up some chicken and added a unique mix of sauces and seasonings.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

The admiral was impressed with the dish and asked its name. Thinking quickly, Peng named it after a 19th-century Hunan Chinese general who squashed a series of rebellions during the Qing Dynasty.

The real General Tso would not know what his namesake chicken tastes like.

When Peng opened a restaurant near the United Nations building in New York, the dish followed him. Like other New York establishments’ signature dishes – the Waldorf Salad and Eggs Benedict to name a few– Peng’s chicken dish spread across America.

This Navy SEAL wrote for everyone who fought the Battle of Ramadi

The General Tso’s Chicken with which most of us are familiar is actually a slight variation on Peng’s original recipe. If you want to taste the original, just make a quick visit to Peng’s in Taipei.

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