After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being as tough as nails sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its third week and fantasy football fans continue to debate advanced metrics, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.

This week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”

A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?


This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.

Here are this week’s picks

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Tight End Vance McDonald – Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Vance McDonald deployed a mean stiff arm and completes a Touchdown.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Paul Richardson – Washington Redskins

WR Paul Richardson executes a perfect combat roll into the end zone

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Quarterback Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills

Rookie QB Josh Allen halo jumps for a Touchdown

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Albert Wilson – Miami Dolphins

WR Albert Wilson blitzkriegs through the Oakland Raiders defense for a 74 yard Touchdown.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(NFL YouTube)

Defensive End JJ Watt – Houston Texans

DE JJ Watt breaches the Giants O-Line for a sack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The winter traffic collision this paramedic won’t forget

It was a cold December morning, and Taylor Olson and his fire department crew had just finished their start-of-shift checks on their gear. They wanted to get a hot breakfast before the winter storm set in, so they headed off while they had the chance. Olson had a paramedic student with him that day, one who hadn’t experienced any critical patients yet. Their fire station crews worked in 24-hour shift rotations, starting at 0700. As they loaded into their fire engine, a winter ice storm began to roll in. A mix of sleet and freezing rain was coming in heavy. 

Olson and his crew had to deviate from their breakfast plans twice because of separate 911 calls for minor car accidents related to ice on the roadways. The saying “where there is one, there are more” usually refers to critters and pests but also applies to winter storms and accidents in a paramedic’s world. 

The crew were eventually able to slam down breakfast. On their way back to the station, another call came in: lights-and-sirens response needed for a semitruck-versus-car accident on a two-lane interstate. To a paramedic, the combination of a semitruck, interstate speeds, and ice carries an ominous feeling — add a standard car to the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
Light reflects off snow and sleet, impacting visibility while driving. Adobe Stock image.

Olson and his crew took off toward the call in the ambulance with its lights bouncing off the falling sleet. Icy roadways required the paramedics to navigate as quickly and efficiently as possible while being mindful of the conditions. There is a “golden hour” standard that establishes a 60-minute window after a traumatic injury during which a patient needs to receive definitive care at a hospital before risk of death and disability greatly increase.

As the crew crested the last hill on the interstate that was blocking their view, they started to get eyes on scene. A car appeared to have hit black ice, started to turn sideways, and then slammed under a tractor-trailer at highway speeds. Olson said it almost looked like the semi’s rear dual tires had run over the front end of the car and then back off.  

The emergency medical services crew had to piece together the puzzle of the accident from what they could see — there were no eyewitnesses coming forward. Because Olson and his crew handle both fire and EMS calls, they understand the different paths cars will take in various weather conditions and were well equipped to survey the scene.

Once an injury like this is identified, the “golden hour” is more like a couple of minutes — the patient is already in critical condition.

Olson and his ambulance crew approached the wreck as the engine crew dismounted and did the same. A woman stood next to the smashed car, trying to talk to the man inside. They found out he was her husband, and she had been in the car but was able to get herself out. Olson directed her to go with the engine crew since she was considered to be in stable condition. They needed to focus on the man trapped in the smashed car. 

“When I looked in the window, he kind of looked at me but had that thousand-mile stare look going on,” Olson said. “But you kind of know when it doesn’t look good.” Experienced paramedics know this look is a strong indicator of shock. Since there was sharp metal and glass everywhere, Olson and his partner ran back to the ambulance to put on their fire-department turnout gear. 

Olson crawled into the car through the passenger door, where the man’s wife had exited. He climbed into the back seat to better evaluate the trapped man. The driver’s side door was crushed into the patient, and the steering wheel had pinned down his legs. Olson did a double take.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
A view of the damage to the patient’s vehicle. Paramedic Taylor Olson didn’t have much space to maneuver after the accident, giving CPR to the driver from the back seat. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

“I looked down and his — basically his left leg was smashed completely up underneath the right leg. His pelvis was pretty much crushed,” Olson said, although he was surprised to find only minor scrapes and cuts outside of the man’s main injury.  

The internal bleeding caused by a crushed pelvis is fast and severe. Once an injury like this is identified, the “golden hour” is more like a couple of minutes — the patient is already in critical condition. Olson’s chief went to work with a ram bar in an attempt to slam the steering wheel away and free the man. Meanwhile, Olson placed an IV and started running fluids to assist with the man’s dropping blood pressure. The patient was no longer responding.

“He was awake, but I think nobody was home upstairs,” Olson said, identifying a hallmark of shock progressing to dangerous levels. 

The chief was experiencing difficulty moving the steering wheel over. Then the man slumped backward in his seat. Olson checked for a pulse but was unable to detect one, nor was his patient breathing. The man had suffered a traumatic cardiac arrest, which is common with severe trauma. Olson began to perform CPR, but with limited room, he had to work with one arm from the back seat while leaning over the center console. 

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
A closer look at the space the paramedic and fire crew were dealing with after the accident. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

Performing CPR is an exhausting measure even in a wide-open setting, but Olson put forth his best effort to maximize the modified form. He kept on administering chest compressions while the other crew members attempted to cut the car open. As the car was being dismantled, Olson covered the patient with his arms to protect him from getting sprayed with glass. “The cutter was right over my left arm,” Olson said, “like, probably a couple inches away.” 

Paramedic students are expected to familiarize themselves with an ambulance and all the gear they’ll use on the job. Olson’s student was on her first advanced life support (ALS) ride with them, so he wasn’t sure she would bring the right gear when he told her that the patient was in cardiac arrest. However, the student came running up with everything he needed. 

Traffic on the interstate had been halted by police and firefighters, and an extensive line of cars had grown behind them. People were pouring out of their cars, phones in hand to record the event, which increased the stress of an already difficult situation for the first responders. 

“Everything from the waist down was pretty smashed. I mean, there wasn’t much — I don’t think there was anything solid down there.”

Olson attempted to intubate the man — to place a tube into his trachea — from the only position available in the limited space. He wasn’t able to perform a normal intubation and resorted to a last-ditch effort he had never done before: a technique called digital intubation. The paramedic places a hand in the patient’s mouth and uses fingers to guide the breathing tube into the trachea. 

“I got it!” Olson exclaimed after placing it on his first try. A burst of laughter escaped both him and his chief — in chaotic and morbid situations, humor can often help clear the mind to focus on the upcoming tasks. 

Olson continued CPR while another crew member attempted to breathe for the patient via the tube and a bag valve mask, or BVM. The chief and Olson continually knocked helmets in the cramped space while performing their separate tasks. Their patient’s heart had stopped, and to keep his odds of survival as high as possible, they had to keep working on the patient nonstop — and they also had to get him out of the car or the treatments would be in vain. 

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week
Taylor Olson on the scene of a fire. Photo courtesy of Taylor Olson.

Unable to get the ram bar to move the steering wheel, the chief switched over to a tool called a spreader. At last he was able to push away the wheel, and the crew outside pried the driver’s door open. The man was quickly extracted, moved onto a stretcher, and into the ambulance. They hit the road immediately. 

The hospital was close, but en route Olson and his paramedic student placed an IO — an intraosseous line, sort of like an IV into the bone marrow — for additional fluids and medications to be administered. Now that the patient was out of the car, the destruction he had endured from the wreck was obvious. “Everything from the waist down was pretty smashed. I mean, there wasn’t much — I don’t think there was anything solid down there,” Olson recalled.

The crew entered the emergency room with the patient on the stretcher, performing CPR and breathing for him the whole time. While the hospital staff took over, Olson gave them his report. With this transition of care, the role of EMS in the call was concluded. From the point of contact on scene to transferring care to the hospital, approximately 20 minutes had elapsed. The men and women of EMS work efficiently and fast. 

Olson and his crew, exhausted, walked back to the ambulance. They needed to clean up and prep for the next call that would inevitably come in. There was still the rest of their 24-hour shift to endure — just another day in the office.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New website gives military exclusive travel discounts

Military personnel, retirees and their family members now have access to an exclusive discount travel website managed by Priceline.

American Forces Travel is a full-service travel booking site, offering hotel, flight, car rental and cruise deals as well as bundled or package deals that Priceline spokesman Devon Nagle said can save travelers an average of $240 per person.

The site, which is available to active-duty military, National Guard members, Reservists, retirees and family members, as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and civilian Defense Department employees, officially went live Jan. 22, 2019, after having been beta-tested on several military bases.


According to Nagle, the site offers discounts that have been negotiated specifically for military personnel, including hotel deals up to 60 percent off and cruise deals up to 80 percent off. Roughly 1.2 million hotels can be booked through the site, as well as the most popular flight and car rental brands, he said.

Brett Keller, Priceline chief executive officer, said that the company was thrilled to be selected by the DoD to “bring the site to life.”

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(Flickr photo by LoadedAaron)

“American Forces Travel was developed for a simple reason. The people who support the United States of America through military service have earned access to the world’s most exclusive travel deals,” Keller said.

A recent review of the site by Military.com found hotel deals in San Diego ranging from to off prices found on non-military travel websites, and car rental discounts ranging from to off per day for a minivan, SUV or convertible.

A non-stop round trip airline fare from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego for a weekend in February 2019 was available for 3 on Alaska Airlines, while the same flight was advertised as 4 other travel websites. Still, non-stop flights for the same weekend on United could be purchased for significantly less on another website — between 0 to 0 less.

Advantages to booking air travel through American Forces Travel include reduced fees for reservation changes and all flights being cancellable within 24 hours, according to the site. For cars, benefits include free cancellation on post-paid cars and larger discounts for prepaid rates.

Each AmericanForcesTravel.com transaction also will generate a commission that will go to the military services’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation and quality-of-life programs.

Nagle described the new site as a “labor of love for Priceline.”

“Members of the military are a unique community and deserve the opportunity to access great deals when they take vacations. With American Forces Travel, they can search for deals 24 hours a day,” he said.

Users can access the site by inputting their last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number when prompted. The DoD then verifies the information, and future travelers are ready to shop.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

(Flickr photo by m01229)

Nagle said Priceline does not capture or retain any of the verification data that is provided.

In addition to Defense Department service members, National Guard and Reserve and civilian employees, Coast Guard men and women and their families also can use the site.

Military members have had access to travel deals through base ticket and tour offices, as well as lodging through the Armed Forces Vacation Club, a no-fee membership group that offers week-long stays at resorts, apartments, condominiums and homes — usually timeshare destinations — in more than 100 countries on a space-available basis for about 0 a week.

Armed Forces Vacation Club is managed by Wyndham Worldwide.

According to Nagle, Priceline was chosen to run AmericanForcesTravel.com by a competitive bidding process. Company executives said they — and the Defense Department — see their website as a way to thank the military community.

“Until now, leisure travel was typically handled by travel agents on military bases. The DoD chose to create a new online platform that was modern, fast and widely accessible and to populate the site with the broadest and deepest collection of travel deals,” the Priceline release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a marksmanship secret more troops now need to know

The Army’s decision to change its marksmanship training and make the test more realistic has a lot going for it. If signed into policy, it will hopefully make soldiers more lethal. But there’s a basic piece of physics that a lot of soldiers, especially support soldiers who often fire at paper, don’t think about when firing, that will become more important if the Army really does get rid of “paper” qualifications: gravity and bullet rise/drop.


And this isn’t a purely academic problem. Not understanding the role of gravity on rifle marksmanship will make it more likely that shooters fire over the tops of targets in the middle of the range while qualifying. We’re going to start below with the quick guidance troops can use at the range. After that, we’ll go into the theory behind it:

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Rifle ranges are fun! If you know what you’re doing.

(U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Bradley)

The general guidance

Hello shooters! If you’re a perfect shooter, who has no issue hitting targets, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t read this. In fact, a shooter perfectly applying the four fundamentals of marksmanship, meaning their point of aim is always center mass at the time they fire, will never miss a basic rifle marksmanship target regardless of whether or not they understand bullet drop. So, feel free to go watch cat videos. Congrats!

If you are missing, especially missing when firing at the mid-range targets, then start aiming at the targets’ “belly buttons” when they’re between 100 and 250 meters away. Only do this at ranges from 100 to 250 meters. Do not, repeat, do not aim low at 300-meter targets.

I originally got this advice from an artillery observer turned military journalist at Fort Bragg who qualified expert all the time, and it really does help a lot of shooters. If you want to know why it works, keep on reading.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

An Army table from FM 3-22.9 illustrating the rise and then drop of M885 ball ammunition fired from M4s and M16s.

(U.S. Army)

The theory behind it

Right now, soldiers can take one of two tests when qualifying on their rifles. They can fire at pop-up targets on a large range or at a paper target with small silhouettes just 25 meters away. The paper target ranges are much easier for commanders and staff to organize, but are nowhere near as realistic.

For shooters firing at paper targets 25 meters away, their point of aim and point of impact should be exactly the same. Point of aim is the exact spot that the shooter has lined up their sights. Point of impact is where the round actually impacts.

An M4 perfectly zeroed for 300 meters, as is standard, should have a perfect match between point of aim and point of impact at both 300 meters and 25 meters. So, when a shooter is firing at a paper target 25 meters away, the rounds should hit where the shooter is aiming. But bullets don’t fly flat, and shooters used to paper who get sent to a pop-up range under the new marksmanship program will have to learn to deal with bullet drop.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Properly zeroing your rifle is super important.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Arcadia Jackson)

First, a quick primer on the ballistics of an M4 and M16. The rounds are small but are fired at extremely high speeds, over 3,000 fps. But they aren’t actually fired exactly level with the weapon sights, because the barrel isn’t exactly level with the sights. Instead, the barrel is tilted ever so slightly upward, meaning the bullet is fired slightly up into the sky when a shooter is aiming at something directly in front of them.

This is by design, because gravity begins affecting a bullet the moment it leaves the barrel (up until that point, it is supported by the barrel or magazine.) Basically, the designers wanted to help riflemen shoot quickly and accurately in combat, so they tilted the barrel to compensate for gravity. The barrel points up because gravity pulls down.

And the designers set the weapon up so these effects would largely cancel each other out at the ranges that soldiers operate at most often. This worked out to about 300 meters, the same ranges the Army currently tests soldiers on their ability to shoot.

Basically, the barrel’s tilt causes the round to “rise” for the first 175 to 200 meters of flight when it runs out of upward momentum. Then, gravity overcomes the momentum, and it starts to fall.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

An E-type silhouette is 40 inches tall. If a shooter aimed at the exact center of the target, that would be the red dot. An M4’s rate of bullet climb with M885 ball ammunition would create a point of impact at the blue dot, 6 inches above point of aim. M16s have an even more pronounced bullet rise.

(Francis Filch original, CC BY-SA 4.0, Red dots by Logan Nye)

So, when an M4 is properly zeroed to 300 meters, then the point of aim and point of impact should be exactly level at 300 meters. But remember, it’s an arc. And the opposite side of the arc, and the bullet is falling to level with the sights at 300 meters. The opposite side of the arc, the spot where the bullet has climbed to the point of aim, is at 25 meters.

So, when firing on an Alt C target at 25 meters, a shooter would never notice the problem because the point of aim and point of impact would match.

But when firing on a pop-up range with targets between 50 and 300 meters, some people will accidentally shoot over the target’s shoulders or even the target’s head. That’s because an M4 round has climbed as much as 6 inches at 200 meters and is only just beginning to fall. (An M16 round climbs even higher, about 9 inches, but those weapons are less common now.) That can put the round’s point of impact at the neck of the target, a much thinner bit of flesh to hit.

So if a shooter has a tendency to aim just a little high when under the time pressure of the range, that high point of aim combines with the climb of the point of impact to result in a shot over the head. If the shooter aims just a little left or right, they’ll miss the neck and hit air.

The easy way to compensate for this is to imagine a belly button on the targets between 100 and 250 meters. That way, the 4-6 inches that the point of impact is above the point of aim will result in rounds hitting center of the chest. If the shooter aims a little high, they are still hitting chest or neck. Left and right is just more abdominal or chest area.

Obviously, if the shooter is aiming in the dirt, they could still hit abdominal but might even bury the round if they’re really low.

But, remember, this only applies to targets between 100 and 250 meters where the rise of the round from the tilted barrel has significantly changed the point of impact. Shooters should just aim center mass at the 50 and 300-meter targets.

And, if all of this is too complicated, don’t worry too much about it. Perfectly shot rounds, with all four fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly applied, will always hit the target anyway. That’s because the Army uses E-type silhouettes at all the distances where this matters, and E-type silhouettes are 40 inches tall. If the point of aim is center mass, then the round’s climb of 6 inches will still put the point of impact in the black.

MIGHTY CULTURE

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

March is Women’s History Month


The I Am Not Invisible (IANI) campaign began in February 2017 in Portland, Oregon. The vision was to bring awareness to the barriers and challenges that women Veterans face in obtaining health care and other services. The program, started by then-Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator and Army Veteran Elizabeth Estabrooks, also helped recognize Women Veterans.

With support from the Center for Women Veterans this project has crossed 50 States, 75 cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 27 Indian Tribes and Nations to capture more than 3,053 women Veteran images.

This initiative means different things to different women Veterans. Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran. In recognizing this, and to change cultural mindset, the Center has changed how we ask the question, “Did you serve?” To further change the culture, Center for Women Veterans is sharing the message with as many women Veterans as possible. This includes I Am Not Invisible to #BringWomenVeteransHome2VA, so that all women Veterans can receive the benefits and services they have earned.

In December 2020, photographer Gene Russell took the last IANI photograph in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It is one thing to honor Women Veterans, something completely different and inspiring to show them in the light they so richly deserve,” Russell said. EUGENIA WOODWARD UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN 1943 - 1946 ARIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - WWII VETERAN  ROMAY DAVIS UNITED STATES ARMY WWII VETERAN 1943 - 1945 6888th CENTRAL POSTAL DIRECTORY BATTALION  IKUMI HIRASHIMA UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN 2009 - 2014 NURSE

“How very fortunate am I?”

IANI 2.0

With the completion of the photography, it is not the end of IANI. The I Am Not Invisible Campaign 2.0 kicked off in December 2020. The overarching goal is to change the culture of gender-based harassment by strategically placing them in VA medical facilities. This will help ensure women Veterans feel welcome in their own spaces.  IANI 2.0 supports the center’s ongoing mission of recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect, and helping to advocate for positive cultural transformation.

Photos will be in facilities VA-wide soon. Veterans can take a picture and tag @VAWomenVets on FB and Twitter. Also, the library of IANI pictures is available here.

The Veterans Canteen Service supported the effort and the center’s outreach initiatives.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From military might to misery: The failing fortunes around an abandoned Russian base

A decade ago, Russia’s Defense Ministry closed down a military base in Pskov Oblast, leaving hundreds of people unemployed. Without income or investment in infrastructure, the town began to collapse around its residents. (Current Time)


MIGHTY CULTURE

Delta weapons fire day; Daddy-Mac’ll make you jump

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Our assault team leader, Daddy-Mac, who would also accept Mac-Daddy as his call sign, had come to frown over the team’s overall performance during our pre-alert cycle weapons shake-out at Ft. Bragg’s Range 44, the most all-encompassing free-firing-est range on post.

We just didn’t take the shake out for what it was really worth. There was an opportunity there to train up and improve on skill sets… not just spray bullets down range to check the function of the gun. Really, that IS what the shake-out was about, but D-Mac saw it as an opportunity wasted; he was correct of course.

Shake-out meant we brought everything we had in our team room weapons vault and rocked the bejesus out of the Casbah for a day and night free-fire episode to make sure every aspect of our weapons were on point. Soldiers headed home for the evening would pull over and line the road shoulders to gaze at the spectacle; one they had never witnessed.


We focused our attention on crew-served machine guns, AT-4 anti-tank rockets, and the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle (also an anti-tank weapon). Since our team weapons were already loaded for alert, we grabbed extra machine guns from the Unit arms room.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

M-240 7.62 x 51mm (short barrel) crew-served machine gun.

We the men of Daddy-Mac’s assault team drove to the range to set up and wait for Mac-Daddy to arrive with the ammunition he brought from the Unit’s magazine. A potential easy day of zero coordination at the Unit ranges turned into one of modest coordination due to us not being allowed to fire automatic weapons on our Ranges.

On our compound our ranges were always open, so we never had to call up Range Control to request permission to open fire; we just coordinated for space internally and started shooting. To shoot machine guns and rockets meant we had to schedule a time and place to train from Range Control, then report when we started and stopped our training.

That restriction never actually stopped us from grabbing a few Ak-47s on an occasional day off from the usual grind to just blindly pump full-auto magazine after magazine of hate into a dirt berm. This was typically coupled with a thunderous “GET SOME” to compliment the cloud of erupting dirt plumes.

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

7.62 x 39mm AK-47, AK: Автома́т Кала́шникова, Avtomát Kaláshnikova — (“Kaláshnikov’s Automatic Rifle) 47 is the year that Kaláshnikov invented it.

There were times when we pumped a little too much hate into the berms, and Range Control would literally hear the automatic fire, or some loser would hear it and rat on us to Control. That typically lead to a report of admonition to filter down to team level whereby Daddy-Mac would quiz with an arched brow:

“Were any of you potato-head pipe-hitters rock-n-rollin’ on the ranges last week?”

“Gosh, Mac-Daddy… no Sir; none of us were doing that. That’s just awful; why, there ought to be an investigation and men severely punished!”

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

AT4 Anti-tank rocket.

“Lose the bullcrap. If you find out or you think you know who did it tell them to nix the Tom-Foolery.” Sure, message delivered in his Dad-Mac style; message gratefully received by us all. The fact was, Mac-Daddy always had our six, and by Lucifer we all had his too.

Daddy Mac pulled up in a cargo truck, and we started to pull and stack crates of ordnance. As shirts came off, we the almighty men of Mac-Daddy’s assault team became painfully aware that there was far, far more ammunition than we could ever expend ourselves:

“Lord Jesus, Daddy-Mac… just what time are you expecting the Chinese hoards to attack? Aha…”

Mac-Daddy returned regard with just a heavenward arch of brow: “Right now, so let’s get started!”

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Author (left) and Daddy-Mac joking as they prep for range fire.

In all, there were 17,000 rounds of 7.62 x 51mm for the machine gun, 25 AT-4 Anti-Tank rockets, and 50 rounds for the recoilless rifle. Every single report of either of those rockets was a guaranteed bell ring for the gunner. My head hurt just looking at it all.

“Daddy-Mac… we can’t shoot all these rockets, not by regulation we can’t; we’ll tear our pericardiums with all that concussion… we won’t be fit for duty with shredded heart sacks,” I whined.

“Guys, today is a good day to get good,” he began with a sinister grin that was developing across his face, “and that’s what we are going to do; we’re going to get good on all these weapons. Lock and load; I’ll open the range,” and Mac-D fenced with Range Control to open his range.

One of the bros grabbed an AT-4 and plopped in a firing pit behind cover and started to administratively prepare it for fire.

“Nope, nope, nope… not like that.” Mac-Daddy interrupted, “That is no longer how we employ AT. Sling that rocket and stand back 50 meters from the pit. At my signal you’ll, sprint to the pit and take cover. Once you start your sprint, I’ll call out your target. You need to have your distance figured out during the sprint. Once under cover, prep your rocket then pop up and fire. If you take longer than five seconds on your pop up… you fail whether you get a hit or not.”

Now I was pumped. This was realistic training, yes it was!

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.

I did field a reservation about this training scenario: range conduct was very rigid and confining. Weapons were only to be loaded strictly on the firing line under strictly-controlled guidelines. Sprinting with loaded ordnance from a distance behind the firing line was absolutely out of bounds!

“Daddy-Mac, Range Control would crap a cinder block if they saw this,” warned a pipe-hitter.”

“Well Range Control ain’t here are they, so there’ll be no masonry crapping… now on your mark, get set, GO!”

So it went, and the competition was red-hot with second after second being shaved off of best times. Expended AT-4 tubes were strewn about making the firing line look the blast side of Mt. St. Helen. The machine gun rattled away thousands of rounds of jacketed lead further heating the already blazing-hot North Cackalacky summer day.

“Good Christ… you could glaze ceramics out here…” lamented a gunner.

Mac-Daddy: “What you meant to say was, RELOAD!” The gun spat and the rockets belched on.

A Range Control truck hockey-slid at our firing line and a cantankerous man scowled from his window:

After Action Report #3: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Firing the 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.

“Cease fire, cease fire!! …you’re destroying my range!”

The machine gun had been digging deeper and deeper V-shaped ruts into the known-distance berms, and some of the armor target subjects were just… simply… gone.

Mac Daddy closed the distance to the truck’s window and:

“How about you get off my range, tough guy! You can’t put me on check fire; I own this range! What you need to do is, first of all, get the f*ck off MY range, and second, you need to get some more armor out here and fill in those ruts in the berms before I come out here next. Fire at will, boys!!” And the machine gun rumbled, and the rockets red glared.

“You probably should send this one to depot,” I suggested as I turned in the machine gun to the armorer that night, “she’s seen better days.”

The moral of the story is: when Daddy-Mac tells you to jump, you request how high and crouch, because Mac-Daddy is going to make you jump.

As for what we took away from Mac-Daddy’s lesson, there was palpable embarrassment how we pissed away a live-fire opportunity on an admin shake-out, and we never treated it the same way. Every belt of machine gunfire, every rocket salvo was preceded by a physically taxing event that mimicked an engagement under the stress of combat. How could we have been so obtuse? We didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to happen again.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What all the letters and numbers in Navy ship designations mean

Even to the other branches of service, the Navy can be a deep dark mystery of rates and rankings, Captains that have a lot of authority and wearing name tapes on your pants. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the biggest questions posed by vets of other branches and civilians alike is just what the heck do all those letters on these ships mean anyway?


It means you’re in for a history lesson.

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Hmmm… maybe not that far back.

In 1920, the Navy was producing so many new kinds of ships, they needed a better way to keep track of them all. So, acting Navy Secretary Robert Coontz decided to standardize a numbering system that included a two-letter code that would identify the ship and its status as well as its number in the series, type, and sub-type. If the ship didn’t have a sub-type, the first letter would just be repeated

So the Battleship USS Missouri, being a battleship with no sub-type and the 63rd ship in that series was designated USS Missouri BB-63.

Easy, right? Well, Mostly.

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Welcome to the military, where nothing is really that easy.

That was the early 20th Century. World War I had only just introduced a number of new technological innovations to the battlefield, and there were a lot more to come. Training ships, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and so, so much more were still to come to the U.S. Navy, and they would need even more designation letters, ones that would describe their purpose and even their power source.

So where do aircraft carriers get the designation CVN, as in the USS Gerald Ford CVN-78? The C is for carrier, and the N means it’s a nuclear-powered ship. The V, well, that’s not that simple. According to the publication “United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations,” the V means it carries heavier-than-air aircraft (as opposed to, say, blimps), but no one really knows for sure why the letter V was chosen, though many believe it was to represent the French vol plané, the word for “glide.”

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Meanwhile Russia’s carrier just smokes and slowly retains more water, like your mom.

But there is now more than a century’s worth of Naval Ship Designations for you to peruse, far too many for me to list in their entirety. There are even four-letter designations now, like the SSGN (Attack Submarine, Guided Missile, Nuclear Powered).

Luckily for the curious, there’s always Wikipedia, where someone took the time to list them all, including all the historical designations, like monitors and coastal defenses. Be sure to leave a tip.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.

“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”

Morgan Lerette, author of Welcome to Blackwater

We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.

WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare? 

I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission. 

They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously. 

There was no check and balance in place. 

No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time. 

Lerette aims a firearm over a humvee

WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?

It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle. 

The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable. 

As a contractor it’s really just you.

Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go. 

WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?

It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for. 

This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war. 

Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’

Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to. 

WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?

Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security. 

Gate guard, tower guard.

Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available. 

Lerette with kids in Iraq
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WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?

Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that. 

So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.

They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.

It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic. 

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community? 

There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published. 

Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater. 

A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented. 

So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help. 

‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon. 

About Onward Press

Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit.  www.usvaa.org

Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.

We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.

All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio.  We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions.  Please see Submission Guidelines.

Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Scientists found evidence of a major undeclared nuclear accident in Russia

A group of scientists called the “Ring of Five” has been scouring Europe’s atmosphere for elevated levels of radiation since the mid ’80s.

In July 2019, the group released a study detailing evidence of an undisclosed nuclear accident that may have taken place less than two years prior. The likely culprit, the scientists said, was the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia, which was once the center of the Soviet nuclear-weapons program.

At the time of the alleged accident in 2017, Russian officials said the facility wasn’t the source of the release, even though the nation showed elevated levels of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium-106. Instead, officials in Russia attributed the radiation to an artificial satellite that burned up in the atmosphere.


But the latest Ring of Five study contradicts that account. Their research traced the source to an area of Russia known as the Southern Urals. The scientists also figured out that the release came from a nuclear reprocessing facility, which separates plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear fuel.

Georg Steinhauser, a professor at the University of Hanover in Germany and one of the study’s lead authors, said Mayak is the most likely place of origin because it’s the largest nuclear reprocessing facility in the area. The facility was the site of the 1957 Kyshtym explosion, the world’s third-worst nuclear accident behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.

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The city of Ozyorsk was built around the Mayak plant, where a nuclear disaster took place in 1957.

Scientists ‘were stunned’ to find evidence of a nuclear accident in Russia

After the Chernobyl disaster sent plumes of radioactive material spiraling across Europe in 1986 , the scientists in the Ring of Five — who hailed from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, and Denmark — enlisted the help of other nations to expand their efforts. The group now includes researchers from 22 countries.

The team first detected what they called “an unprecedented release” of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere in Europe and Asia in 2017. The discovery marked the first time that ruthenium-106 had been found in the atmosphere since Chernobyl. Even the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima didn’t release detectable levels of that isotope.

“We were stunned,” Steinhauser told Business Insider. “We are measuring the air 24/7, 365 days a year, and suddenly we came up with something unusual and unexpected.”

For almost two years, the scientists traced the pathway of the radioactive isotope back to its original source by modeling atmospheric conditions such as altitude, wind direction, and the shape of the plumes.

Ultimately, they determined that all evidence pointed to the Mayak facility. Russia hasn’t issued a response to the finding.

Nadezhda Kutepova | Life in Russia’s secret nuclear city | Talk to Al Jazeera

www.youtube.com

The ‘single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing’ ever

The scientists don’t consider the levels of radiation they detected to be an immediate threat to people’s health, but the long-term consequences are unknown. Last year, France’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety determined that the levels of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere do not pose danger to human health or the environment.

The nuclear release was “nothing compared to Chernobyl,” Steinhauser said. But he noted that it was still the “single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing that has ever happened.”

One unanswered question, he said, is whether the population near the Mayak facility ingested any radiation in their lungs. Steinhauser also said there could be reason to monitor food safety if radiation leaked into the soil and water.

“I’m not blaming Russia, because certain types of accidents are difficult to spot,” he said. “For me, it is about the lessons to be learned.”

After Fukushima, he said, Japanese officials shared information about the accident that helped improve the world’s safety regulations for nuclear power. In the wake of that disaster, the European Union began to require “stress tests” to evaluate the stability of nuclear reactors.

Steinhauser said the Ring of Five was “hopeful that Russia would have come forward” in 2017 in the same way Japan did in 2011. By revealing the mistakes that lead to the accident, he said, Russia could help make nuclear power safer than it was before.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sylvester Stallone just posted the coolest recap of the ‘Rambo’ series

The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.


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You know the one.

The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.

By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.

If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.

From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.

The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.

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You know the one.

If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what an unarmed chaplain brings to the battlefield

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.

This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.


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It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.

(U.S. Army)

Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.

This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.

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“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.

It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.

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Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.

(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)

A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.

Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.

He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.

Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.

For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Tales of high-risk espionage in a time of war

This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.

Some call it locked in a house in a time of plague – I say magnificent time to try out a new book! Books offer us an escape from the tedium of quarantine life, and nothing is more escapist than stories of derring-do and bravery in the face of long odds. To transport you to a different time and place, we have two new offerings from Kensington Books which I am sure will fit the bill.


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The first book is Ungentlemanly Warfare by Howard Linskey. Howard is a British writer who has written several popular crime and mystery novels and has since branched out to write meticulously researched historical thrillers set during World War II. Ungentlemanly Warfare is not part of a series – though given the events it could easily turn into one – but nevertheless tells an interesting self-contained tale.

This book is set in the middle days of World War II and the Nazis are seeking to perfect their newest Jet fighter, the Me163 Komet. The weapon promises to extract a heavy toll upon the Allies if the enemy can perfect the craft. To stop the Nazis from improving upon this lethal machine, they need to assassinate the lead scientist on the project. Enter Special Operations Executive agents Harry Walsh and Emma Stirling. They are tasked to team up with a Jedburgh team of American and Free French operatives and kill the target before he can submit his improved design.

Though the book starts off with an action sequence, it is more of a slow burn as the team prepares for its mission and then builds rapport on the ground with the French contingent. This approach lends a sense of verisimilitude to the story – these operatives are behind enemy lines in the most precarious of circumstances and they would be not trying to draw attention to themselves. It is far from boring though as the book is rife with danger, close-calls, and even a bit of romantic tension. Linskey creates a good sense of uncertainty that the mission can be completed which makes the book all the more riveting.

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The second book is Sandblast: A Task Force Epsilon Thriller by newcomer, Al Pessin. Pessin is a veteran foreign and Washington DC correspondent who puts his knowledge and insights to good use in crafting his debut ‘day after tomorrow’ novel. Frankly, it was one of the most engaging espionage thrillers I have read in years because of its unconventional and unique leads.

The story happens in the aftermath of a successful attack on the Secretary of Defense by international Jihadists residing in Afghanistan and a daring covert action to even the score. The story is essentially two tales – the first is about a DIA agent handler named Bridge Davenport who channeling Jessica Chastain’s character from Zero Dark Thirty comes up with an unorthodox mission to target the terrorists in Afghanistan. Her story follows the national politics of espionage and response at the highest levels as she navigates personal and professional challenges.

But the more interesting of the two tales surrounds her operative – an Afghan American service member who goes under deep cover to join the Taliban to get close to the leaders of the terrorist cell. Pessin wisely devotes the majority of the book to Faraz Abadallah’s struggle with maintaining his own identity and objectivity as he is forced to make increasingly difficult moral decisions. The story goes deep into Faraz’s psychological well being as he is indoctrinated into the Taliban and the story is heavy with Koranic verse and complex currents which make the story all the more compelling.

Ultimately, Pessin’s book serves as an introductory book to a new series centered on Task Force Epsilon with several unresolved plot threads which set the stage for future adventures involving Davenport and hopefully Abdallah.

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