Many troops enlist with hopes of finding something bigger than themselves. After their contract is up, it’s not uncommon for the battle-hardened grunt to feel lost in a world now unfamiliar. All the while, they’re told that there’s nothing out there for them but flipping burgers or greeting customers at some supermarket.
Then, there’s the world of law enforcement. The police force is, and always will be, trying to scoop up as many of these former-military badasses as possible. In terms of transitions, going from the armed forces into law enforcement isn’t that much of a stretch: you’ll face similar hours, do similar tasks, and be surrounded by similar camaraderie all in attempts to promote greater good.
With the utmost respect to law enforcement officers, however, many infantrymen aren’t interested in waiting at the local doughnut shop until it’s time to write parking tickets and toss the same village drunk into the lockup — again. They want something bigger, something badass, something that rewards their ability to kick in doors. This is where the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team comes in.
For many, the only real change between the infantry and SWAT is the uniform. Here’s why:
You’ll even do the exact same training. Being an infantryman just gets you ready for the same ol’ ride.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The job description is nearly identical
Heavy ballistic armor? Check. Assigned weapon? Check. Breaking down doors to catch bad guys? Oh, yeah — check.
The SWAT team’s objective is to keep the peace at a level higher than is expected of the average cop. While every police officer should be trained and ready to fight at a moment’s notice should the situation arise, the SWAT team provides that extra oomph needed in intense situations, like bank robberies, hostage negotiations, and high-level drug cartel activities.
Instead of infiltrating a compound in Kandahar to catch an HVT bomb maker, SWAT officers are infiltrate compounds back home to catch drug kingpins.
Did I mention that you’ll spend a lot of time training at the range?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The requirements are basically the same
Potential applicants must be physically fit, hard working, excellent shots, mentally and emotionally strong, decisive under stress, and able to communicate under hazardous conditions.
The help-wanted ad reads almost exactly like a description of a post-deployment infantryman.
The only thing holding an infantryman back from immediately joining the SWAT team is that, typically, membership requires three years of prior experience in law enforcement. I can’t speak for every police department, but that requirement can be lessened for exceptionally badass applicants.
You really will be training… a lot. Which shouldn’t be too far off from infantry life.
(Photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt)
The structure almost mirrors the military
Between SWAT teams and military life, the chain of command is identical and the organizational structure is the same.
Being selected for SWAT isn’t easy. Potential recruits go through a grueling process and only the best of the best can make it through to the end. But if you do, you’re basically in the military again.
You’ve still got a battle buddy (you’ll call them “partner” instead), you still work in four-man teams (squads) and there’ll be, on average, 15 teams per district. Since high-stakes situations aren’t happening every day, you’re going to be training and continually honing your skills with your team.
Officers got each other’s back, literally and figuratively.
(Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)
The brotherhood is just as tight
If there’s one thing that damn-near every veteran misses about the military, it’s the camaraderie. Knowing that the people to your left and right would die for you without a second thought is hard to come by at some desk job.
SWAT is not a place to go if you’re looking to make a name for yourself at the expense of others. Real SWAT teams live as a unit, work as a team, and train until everyone becomes as close as family.
This level of trust in another human can only be formed in groups like the military and SWAT.
Military service is very common among law enforcement officers — especially in SWAT. You’ll fit right in.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower)
The good you do is in your community
As a SWAT officer, you’re not deploying for 12 months at a time and leaving your family behind. You’re still going to come home and sleep in your own bed most nights.
Now, don’t get that twisted: There will be bad nights. There will be moments that go horribly wrong. There will be missions that require you to be gone for extended periods of time. SWAT officers, like infantrymen, are over-worked and under-appreciated.
But doing the difficult thing to promote the greater good is exactly what you’re signing up for — again.
I reacquainted myself on Facebook with one of the leaders of the Iraqi citizens group whom we joined with as they fought Al-Qaeda. In the neighborhood of Ameriya, two Christians were kidnapped which sparked the local uprising. Within two months our neighborhood of Ameriya was largely clear of Al-Qaeda and our patrols largely consisted of smiling and waving like pageant queens. You cannot make this stuff up, and that is what separates those who live in safety and those who take risks. Survive- you get some really great stories and make some really interesting friendships.
I went from regretting going to Iraq, then learned these tidbits of information over the years that turned my borderline cynicism turned into thankfulness. I’m thankful for the experiences I had and the new appreciation for life today. Someone who was once an enemy and probably tried to kill me or another American soldier is now my friend and my brother.
Seven years later after Iraq I have concluded: God used the war in Iraq. Iraq is the second most mentioned country in the Bible and the United States drastically changed the environment there. Coincidence? Highly doubt it. So what is going on?
I think the answer can be found by looking in the Old Testament which mentions some of the places we are currently reading about in the news. Isaiah Ch. 17 talks about the destruction of Damascus- well it’s still there. When this destruction happens I think Syria’s ties to Russia and Iran set up events described in Ezekiel Ch. 38 and 39. For all of the regional places mentioned in these two chapters there is no mention of Damascus.
In my four part series titled “The Middle East: A Shia Caliphate?” I looked at these chapters of scripture through military, political, cultural and logistical points of view and described what these scriptures might look like without scriptural references. Many hard questions were asked to avoid making assumptions. After completing this research, I sent it to contacts who had worked for the CIA, NSA, and a former intelligence officer who worked for Saddam Hussein for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised when these different contacts within the intelligence community gave a thumbs up on the analysis. Keep your eyes open, read these chapters for yourself and do some homework- don’t take my word for it.
Today, Iraq is helping me learn about grace- even on our worst day God loves you and me. The defensiveness I once returned from Iraq with has gradually faded because grace protects better than my body armor. In return, I have to give others grace even when my defensiveness wants rear its ugly head. Defensiveness prevents the vulnerability which relationships require. When I trust grace to protect me my defensive walls are not required anymore. How many of us harm our relationships by this defensiveness? Grace takes on the enemy within us.
The challenges of returning some days are still overwhelming. I discovered four years ago God loves me on my worst day. It takes the focus off of the immediate challenge ahead and refocuses my attention on that God loves me. Because I am loved, I am capable of loving others and myself even my worst day. Once a soldier always a soldier, and a soldier who is living is one who is loving others. I hope you have people in your life whom you can love and learn about grace.
Because of experiencing Iraq, my goal is to make someone’s world a better place today.
The Confederate Army had better things to do than decide how it would award medals to its fighting men. In that era, Americans weren’t really into medals and ribbons, as it was considered a very European military tradition. The Civil War changed all that. The brutality of the war, combined with the feats of heroics performed by those who fought it inspired the need for such awards.
That being said, the Confederacy had its heroes as well, but aside from a Confederate Congressional “Roll of Honor,” nothing much was ever done in terms of awards and decorations – until the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.
Sabine Pass is a small outlet from Lake Sabine that pours into the Gulf of Mexico, bordering both Texas and Louisiana. During the Civil War, it was a lightly defended Western outpost, far from the central fighting of the war. As a result, the shoddy earthwork fortifications at the pass had mostly old smoothbore cannon to defend it, eight guns in total. But then the French installed a pro-French Emperor in Mexico, opening the possibility for Confederate supplies to reach Mexico by rail, then onto Europe under French-flagged ships, completely circumventing the Union blockade and providing the South with crucial money, arms, and supplies.
The Union sent 5,000 troops, 18 transports, and four armed gunboats to capture the pass and cut the South off from French Mexico. Defending the fort were the Jeff Davis Guards, named for the Confederate President, 47 Irish immigrants from bigger cities in Texas, and well-trained and drilled artillerymen. This was the largest amphibious assault ever taken by the United States until this point so you’d think the Union would have come prepared. You’d be wrong. So wrong.
Only the lightest of the Union ships could enter the river, due to the shallow nature of the entryway. Four steamers and 150 Union sharpshooters were to cross the sandbars then take out the fort and its guns so the rest of the Union force could take the town and then move on to Houston. That never happened. Instead, accurate cannon fire from the fort hit one of the steamers in her boiler, disabling another and grounding the USS Arizona. The two ships surrendered, and the rest of the invasion force ended up running back to New Orleans.
In all, the battle last 45 minutes. The Davis Guards fired 137 rounds from their eight guns, dwarfing the Union’s rate of fire and ensuring those guns couldn’t be used for weeks after the battle. The handful of Confederates then went to capture the Union troops on the disabled ships, taking 315 Union troops prisoner. The Union forces suffered a further 19 killed and nine wounded at the cost of zero casualties to the Confederates. It was the most lopsided victory of the war.
Richard Dowling, commander of the Davis Guards, wearing his medal.
Grateful Texans decided to reward the men for not only staying at their posts in the face of overwhelming odds, but for actually winning. They cast medals from Mexican silver coins, engraving “DG” on one side with a Malta Cross and the date of the battle on the other. It was hung on the uniform by a green ribbon, representing the Irish heritage of the fort’s defenders. In all, 47 were awarded to the men, with two more awarded to their officers, and one struck just for their namesake, Jefferson Davis. Davis ensured the Confederate Congress authorized the medal for wear, the only medal so authorized.
The President had his on him when he was captured after the war’s end.
Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.
Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.
Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.
When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”
Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.
A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)
Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:
Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
Purpose begins with passion
Out of many, one
We are fueled by gratitude
Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo
Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.
Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.
But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:
1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq
Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.
The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.
Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.
Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.
If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.
Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.
With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.
Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.
“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)
Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.
One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.
Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.
A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.
The Department of Defense identified a sailor killed in action on Nov. 24 during Operation Inherent Resolve as Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton.
The 42-year-old from Woodbridge, Virginia, died when an improvised explosive device detonated in northern Syria, near Ayn Issa, according to a release from the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve, which is coordinating the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Dayton was killed north of Raqqa, a key battleground pitting Syrian government forces, rebel units and militants aligned with ISIS against one another.
Dayton was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two, based out of the Norfolk area. According to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command website, explosive ordnance disposal personnel specialize in rendering explosive hazards safe, and have done anything from dismantling IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan to helping secure the Olympics to supporting a local police department.
Navy bomb technicians like Dayton often are assigned to special operations teams like SEAL Team 6, which is known to be operating with rebel units deep inside war torn Syria.
EOD is one field that can be very busy, even in peacetime, often due to unexploded ordnance from past wars. In recent years, BALTOPS exercises have come across live mines left over from World War II, and some Civil War souvenirs have caused major kerfluffles in the United States.
“I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave service members has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL. It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in a statement released by the Defense Department.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, said, “The entire counter-ISIL Coalition sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates.”
Over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, members of the anti-ISIS coalition launched a total of 90 strikes, 19 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Those nineteen strikes destroyed or damaged a number of targets, including fifteen mortar systems, eight vehicles, four vehicle-borne IEDs, 22 supply routes, five caches and two heavy machine guns.
Six strikes took place near Ayn Issa, engaging four ISIS “tactical units” and destroying a vehicle storage facility, a vehicle-borne IED, a vehicle-borne IED facility and damaged fighting position.
Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.
In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.
In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.
When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.
He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.
Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?
The German scarface.
British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)
Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.
Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.
Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.
On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”
In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.
Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.
During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”
Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.
Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.
The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)
Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.
Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)
Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.
The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.
On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.
Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria Wiener–Neustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.
Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.
What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.
On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.
That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”
Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.
In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.
There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.
The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.
However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.
The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.
General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.
The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.
To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.
He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.
A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.
Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.
Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.
All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.
The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.
The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.
(Institute for the Study of War)
It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.
Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.
The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.
A lot. A whole lot.
ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.
There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes included because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. Some of the confessions can be funny, but others give insight into real struggles veterans face when they feel alone and have no one to turn to and the struggles their families face trying to help their loved ones reintegrate after war.
U.S. Marines have been engaging in combat against the Taliban since 2001. While the scenery has changed a bit as Marines have moved to different areas of operation, the fight has remained the same. From small arms to rocket-propelled grenades, the Taliban has continued to attack U.S. forces, and they have responded, often with intense and overwhelming fire.
This video from Funker 530 gives a good look at what it’s like for Marines engaging against the Taliban. With a compilation of regular camera and GoPro footage, this gives a look at what happens in a firefight.
As retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said, “there is nothing better than getting shot at and missed.” We definitely agree.
Cyber personnel from the private and public sectors are America’s frontline of defense because critical infrastructure sectors, including water, healthcare, and elections, rely on a resilient cyber infrastructure, explained Rob Karas, associate director for Cyber Defense Education and Training from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“America’s cybersecurity workforce is a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” he said.
However, there is not enough talent in the field, both in the U.S. and around the world.
“Estimates place the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at approximately three million people worldwide, with roughly 500,000 job openings in the United States,” Karas said. “This global shortage means American organizations, whether in the private sector or in the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments, compete with employers all over the world as well as with each other to find cybersecurity talent. … CISA sees the cybersecurity workforce shortage as a national security issue.”
Army Lt. Col. Julianna M. Rodriguez is a cyber warfare officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She is the offensive cyberspace operations division chief in the Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Section.
Though she did not take a direct path to her current position, her preparation and adaptability enabled her to take advantage of opportunities for the evolving cyber field.
In high school, Rodriguez took advanced classes, focusing on math and science up to AP Calculus BC and AP Physics. After graduating, she attended the United States Military Academy, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Systems Architecture.
In addition to earning a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through Columbia Engineering, she earned two technical certifications: Mirantis OpenStack Certification Professional Level and SaltStack Certified Engineer, and is preparing for the Army Cyber Developer Exam.
For Rodriguez, changing career fields was a process of discovering where she could best serve.
“I started in Air Defense Artillery because [in 2003] it was one of the few combat arms branches in which women officers could lead,” she said.
Rodriguez served in ADA units as a battalion intelligence officer and headquarters battery commander, eventually attending the MI Officer Advanced Course. She also deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan and taught at the USMA before transferring into the cyber branch.
When advising others interested in cyber, Rodriguez gives feedback based on her experience.
“Our citizens can best serve when they use their innate skills and interests for our national good [and] improve daily in learning and practicing related skills. For those who have an interest in computing, information technology, and network communications, committing to engage that interest in service to our nation can meaningfully impact our nation’s security,” she said.
However, she cautioned how the field is not a good fit for those who like routine and clearly defined work. She also described the Army’s cyber branch as highly competitive, so if an individual wants to join, she recommends:
Obtain technical certifications like OSCP, OSCE, CISA, and CCNP
Do networking or security projects
Stay current on technology advances and policy impacts
Rodriguez adds specific backgrounds make a good fit for the field, including those with strong computer and IT skills.
“Soldiers from a variety of other branches and MOSes, including signal, aviation, and field artillery,” she said.
Because of the critical need for cyber talent, the Army created the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program. It is actively recruiting “software engineers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, hardware and radio frequency engineers, vulnerability researchers, and other computer-based professionals,” Rodriguez said. “I encourage anyone who has a deep interest in technology, a penchant for learning and change, and a commitment to our nation’s security to pursue a career in cyber with our military.”
For those interested in CISA cybersecurity education programs, check out:
CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service: DHS/CISA scholarship for bachelors, masters, and graduate cybersecurity degree programs in return for service in federal, state, local or tribal governments upon graduation
Several shootings involving police have occurred this year, bringing on an outpouring of civil unrest in the form of widespread protests or riots, and cries for reform to reduce police brutality and institutional racism.
“Defund the police” has become a common refrain throughout the US and has grown in popularity in several cities. New York City shifted approximately $1 billion away from the New York Police Department. The Seattle City Council approved a 14% decrease in the Seattle Police Department’s budget.
A main focus of the discussions surrounding police reform has been to call standards in law enforcement training into question. Both sides of the debate have proposed suggestions — from banning chokeholds to preventing police from carrying firearms.
Coffee or Die spoke with Mark Mireles, a veteran of both the US Marine Corps and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), about what he believes would help law enforcement in situations that lead to the use of lethal force.
Mark Mireles by his squad car during the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA, to the rear of the Foothill police station, the epicenter of the Rodney King beating. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles served as a Marine for four years in the 1980s. He worked as an LAPD police officer for 28 years before retiring and entering the private security industry.
His nearly three-decade-long career in the LAPD unfolded across Los Angeles’ most violent years. Mireles has engaged criminals in all varieties of hand fighting, less lethal deployment, and lethal deployment. Three times he earned the Medal of Valor, which is the highest award for personal bravery bestowed to LAPD’s officers.
Mireles trained under the legendary Jean Jacques Machado and is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ). Mireles also holds a black belt in judo, which is the parent art of BJJ. He won the World No-Gi Championship in the masters black belt ultra-heavy division in 2019. He is also a four-time Gold Medalist in the World Police and Fire Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and earned All American honors in the Olympic-style Greco-Roman wrestling.
There is a movement gaining momentum for law enforcement officers to be trained in Brazilian jiujitsu. This form of martial arts has been around for centuries and has been used by a wide variety of professions, from your average security officer in a mall to the most highly trained US military special operations soldier.
BJJ is defined by GracieMag as “a martial art of Japanese origin in which one essentially uses levers, torsions and pressure in order to take one’s opponent to the ground and dominate them. Literally, jū in Japanese means ‘gentleness,’ and jutsu means ‘art,’ ‘technique.’ Hence the literal translation by which it’s also known, the ‘gentle art.'”
Mireles explained why he believes law enforcement officers should receive the best training possible in “handcuffing, arrest and control, defensive tactics, and I’m talking about outside of less lethal” because “officers — and this is nationally — put their hands on people every single day, but they get the least amount of training for that.”
He highlighted two recent examples that drew international attention: the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting of Jacob Blake and the Atlanta shooting of Rayshard Brooks. One major factor he pointed out in both situations is that the police officers involved failed to fully control the suspect with their first physical contact.
In BJJ, there are multiple levels of proficiency deemed by the color of belts. Beginners are white belts, followed by blue, purple, brown, and black. Black belts are considered masters of BJJ.
“If the officers were trained in tactics to a blue belt level, they would have been successful, I believe,” Mireles said about the Atlanta and Kenosha incidents. “To thwart the problem by being able to take the suspect and control them and take them down to the ground rather than getting into these extended tussles.”
Mark Mireles won a silver medal in judo during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles believes the primary mission of law enforcement is to “save and preserve human life, and to do everything that you can to do that.” BJJ is a practical approach to add as an additional step in the escalation of force before an officer has to resort to their pistol in a use-of-force event. Mireles specified there are obvious circumstances where an officer goes straight to their pistol or police rifle during active shooter or hostage scenarios.
In Mireles’ view, the officers involved in the Rayshard Brooks shooting did an “above and beyond job on verbalization” in their attempts to keep Brooks calm during the encounter. He added that there is a lot of speculation as to whether the officer should or should not have returned fire after Brooks shot the Taser at police, but he wants to focus on the point where the Atlanta officers could have stopped the situation from reaching the deployment of lethal force.
He believes that hand fighting — anything involving physical contact from the forearms to the hands — is critical for officers to know. Handcuffing a suspect is performed by law enforcement daily, and it’s at that point when suspects fight and/or try to run away, according to Mireles. In his opinion, BJJ teaches you how to manipulate the hand to control a person’s body, and this hand manipulation is crucial during the process of handcuffing a suspect or during other physical contact. This is when the Atlanta officers could have stopped the escalation from going further.
The Kenosha Police Department shooting of Jacob Blake is a similar situation in which the officers on scene lost control during an arrest attempt. Over his 28-year career, Mireles has implemented his experience in martial arts and has been involved in events just like those leading to the Kenosha and Atlanta shootings.
Las Vegas POLICE Officer Uses JIU-JITSU to Control Larger Suspect (Gracie Breakdown)
“I would offer, and I could be wrong, but these officers in Atlanta and Kenosha — in that time where they’re trying to hold on to the suspect — that they don’t have, they could have much better training in hand fighting to better control their suspects,” said Mireles.
He said his experience helped him gain control of suspects he was pursuing, preventing a further escalation of force. Mireles believes BJJ would possibly have helped these officers from having to resort to lethal force. He added that from what he could see and according to the state laws in Wisconsin and Georgia, these officers were justified in their use of lethal force.
Mireles combined his law enforcement, military, and martial arts experience to start a BJJ academy, where 70% of his attendees are either police officers or firefighters. He has received positive feedback from his trainees on how directly applicable the training is and how it has helped them in their careers. To Mireles’ knowledge, very few police academies actually train their cadets in hand fighting or BJJ.
Something that Mireles teaches at his academy is what he feels is the only way to approach a suspect who is resisting arrest. He said, “You’re trying to get a noncompliant person to become compliant through verbalization, but when it comes time to use force, that force has to be decisive and explosive.”
Mireles taking on his Russian competitor during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.
Mireles described a blue belt in BJJ as “life insurance” for officers. “It’s going to go a long way on the street, and if it’s not your thing, do it anyway, because it’s life insurance,” he said. “If you love your wife, your significant other, your kids, you have to do everything you can to make sure that you go home safe at the end of watch, and hand-to-hand combat skills are very important to do that.”
“Going home safe” doesn’t just mean being physically safe; it also means protecting your job and reputation when it comes to policing. Mireles believes the use of BJJ to prevent an escalation to less lethal or lethal force with a suspect resisting arrest is a way to ensure that.
Setting up a national, standardized level of hand-fighting training for the entirety of law enforcement would be a difficult and time-consuming task. Mireles recommends that law enforcement officers join their local BJJ gyms and start learning on their own personal time while waiting for their department to implement training procedures for hand fighting.
“If you’re a true professional, you’re going to do everything to push yourself to the highest level of proficiency, and that’s only going to occur through training,” said Mireles. “Invest in your survival rate, both literally and through civil liability, by training in hand fighting.”