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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Female Vietnam Vet, Journalist, Reflects on Battlefield Experience

Sunday, November 26th, 2023

By Shannon Collins, Army News Service

WASHINGTON – Growing up in a newspaper and military family, Karen King-Johnson wanted to serve her country.

In 1965, as the Vietnam War escalated, she attended Officer Candidate School and commissioned into the Army as a public affairs officer.

She said she was inspired to join the Army by her father, a World War II infantry officer who fought with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army before being killed by a mortar blast Nov. 11, 1944.

While in Vietnam, King-Johnson served as the command information officer for the U.S. Army Vietnam in Long Binh and circulation manager for the Stars and Stripes newspaper, publishing 100,000 copies each day. She led a team of 43 enlisted photographers and combat correspondents.

She led a team that distributed the publication in five shops in Vietnam. King-Johnson and her staff also produced another publication, “The Army Reporter.” If a pallet didn’t get delivered, she and her team personally delivered it via a helicopter.

“We were in the field every day, taking pictures and riding with the units,” she said. “Two of my guys are on the Vietnam Wall [Memorial].”

King-Johnson and her staff often embedded with U.S. troops in the field and worked with civilian media. They escorted dozens of media, including legendary American reporter Walter Cronkite.

“We flew almost everywhere we went, and I had a jeep with a [.50-caliber] machine gun,” she said. “There were 754 correspondents in Vietnam. Our job was to escort them safely in and out. We were out in the field, delivering papers. If troops were moving, we were moving.”

They also dealt with logistical challenges in the field. King-Johnson and her staff wore 75-pound wet cell pack radios on their backs that weighed 75 pounds to sustain battery life.

“The radio had to have a 10-foot antenna on it,” she said. “I had a clip on the back of my helmet so it wouldn’t hit me in the head. The young guys would climb the trees and get the antennas up higher so we could communicate with the Air Force. We didn’t want [enemy forces] dropping bombs on us.”

She said they had to “shoot, scoot and communicate.”

“Our job was to make sure everybody back home knew what the guys were doing over there and tell their stories, to make sure no one was forgotten,” she said.

She served in Vietnam with back-to-back tours from 1970 to 1972.

“The VC [Viet Cong] would try to come over the wires at night. They’d turn our ammo around against us, the mortars we had on the outer fence. If we ran out, then they blow back on us. We had to get smart about that,” she said. “They attacked at night.”

Her cousin was a medical evacuation helicopter pilot who flew night and day. He was shot down in 1968. The POW/MIA team is still looking for his remains.

From medical evacuation pilots to nurses to infantrymen, everyone loved the newspapers. If people didn’t get the paper, she heard about it from the three-star general down.

“Everybody loved us,” she said. “We were their favorite thing. They liked us better than food trucks with hot meals. We always gave them extra film. We were using 35-milimeter. My guys would take pictures, and they’d send the extra photos home to their parents. They thought we were great.”

When she returned from Vietnam, she served at Army Recruiting Command and then at Army Training and Doctrine Command, writing field manuals like her father. While there, she met her husband, who served in the Air Force as a Titan II missile commander but retired from the Army and became a federal judge.

King-Johnson, who retired as a major, said she highly recommends serving in the military to the next generation. She said the military provides unique professional training experiences.

“Name a commercial pilot that didn’t get their training in the military,” she said. “You can get so much on-the-job training for free. There are so many different career fields. They’re doing sub training; you’re not going to do that anywhere else in the world. I’m amazed that the American people don’t know what their military does. The military is decades ahead in planning. They knew they were going into the Middle East back when I was in Vietnam.”

“You Have Arrived”: 1st Special Operations Command and the Birth of Modern ARSOF

Friday, November 10th, 2023

1st SOCOM distinctive unit insignia (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

On August 7, 1984, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Lutz stood beside his wife Joyce in the shadow of the Special Forces Soldier statue, known to most as “Bronze Bruce,” and fought back tears while the 24th Infantry Division band played “Auld Lang Syne.” Fifteen minutes earlier, Lutz had passed the colors of the U.S. Army 1st Special Operations Command (1st SOCOM), which he had commanded since its founding two years earlier, to Maj. Gen. Leroy N. Suddath, Jr.

1st SOCOM shoulder sleeve insignia (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

Opposite the incoming and outgoing commanders stood a formation representing the Army Special Forces (SF), Rangers, Psychological Operations (PSYOP), and Civil Affairs (CA) units that came under the command of 1st SOCOM upon its provisional establishment on October 1, 1982, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (known as Fort Liberty since 2023). Prior to that, no single command and control headquarters existed for all Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) units. Since then, the Army has not lacked one, with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) filling that role since December 1989.

“A Rocky Road”

General Robert W. Sennewald presided over the change of command ceremony, as the commander of 1st SOCOM’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Forces Command. In his remarks, he noted the rocky road that 1st SOCOM had travelled to get to where it was in August 1984. Without elaborating on the specific obstacles overcome by 1st SOCOM, Sennewald’s comments likely resonated with the Vietnam-era ARSOF leaders in attendance, including Lutz. After great sacrifice and exceptional valor in Vietnam, many ARSOF units endured force reductions and resourcing shortages in the aftermath of that war. By the late 1970s, ARSOF was reeling from years of neglect.

After leaving 1st SOCOM in August 1984, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Lutz served as Chief of the Joint United States Military Aid Group to Greece. Here his pictured (second from right) briefing U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz (far right) at Hellenikon Air Base, Greece. (Photo Credit: NARA)

From his position as the Commander, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance, Lutz had played a significant role in revitalizing ARSOF, and Army Special Forces, in particular. Under his leadership, the Center produced an Army-directed Special Operations Forces Mission Area Analysis that prescribed some of the most impactful changes to ARSOF in the 1980s, including the establishment of 1st SOCOM. Sennewald testified to Lutz’s impact, saying, “Our national leadership made a commitment to develop your capabilities, and General Lutz has been instrumental in bringing this commitment to reality.”

With a mission to prepare, provide, and sustain active-duty Army SF, PSYOP, CA, and Ranger units, 1st SOCOM was the first headquarters to exercise both administrative and operational control of the full spectrum of ARSOF. On Lutz’s watch, the command had fought a brief war on the Caribbean Island of Grenada (Operation URGENT FURY) and deployed mobile training teams to sixty-five countries, including such hotspots as El Salvador, Honduras, and Lebanon.

Maj. Gen. Leroy N. Suddath, Jr. (left) and Col. John N. Dailey (right) are pictured here at the October 1986 activation ceremony for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group at Fort Campbell Kentucky (Image Credit: U.S. Army). (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

Under the leadership of Lutz and his successor, Maj. Gen. Suddath, 1st SOCOM continued to revitalize and expand ARSOF, reversing some of the post-Vietnam cuts and adding new capabilities. In 1984 alone, the command oversaw the reactivation of 1st Special Forces Group (SFG) and the addition of a Ranger Regimental headquarters and the 3rd Ranger Battalion. Early the following year, the Army transferred Task Force-160, a dedicated ARSOF Aviation unit, from the 101st Airborne Division to 1st SOCOM. This unit was reorganized into the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (SOAG) in October 1986. 1st SOCOM also added two dedicated ARSOF Support units that year.

By 1987, when 1st SOCOM became the Army component of the newly established U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), its major subordinate units were the 75th Ranger Regiment; the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 10th Special Forces Groups; the 4th PSYOP Group; the 96th CA Battalion; the 528th Support Battalion; the 112th Signal Battalion; and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group.

Toward a MACOM

In 1988, Suddath passed command to Maj. Gen. James A. Guest, an SF veteran of the Vietnam War who had previously commanded the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and 5th SFG. Under Guest’s leadership, 1st SOCOM successfully advocated for the establishment of a Major Command (MACOM) for ARSOF. On December 1, 1989, the Army activated USASOC, under the command of Lt. Gen. Gary E. Luck, as the Army’s sixteenth MACOM.

Concurrently, 1st SOCOM became a major subordinate command of USASOC, responsible for all active-duty ARSOF, alongside the short-lived U.S. Army Reserve Special Operations Command taking command of all U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) and Army National Guard (ARNG) SOF units. Guest continued serving as 1st SOCOM commander through this transition period, during which the command rapidly deployed large contingents in support of Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama and Operation DESERT SHIELD in Saudi Arabia.

On November 27, 1990, 1st SOCOM was redesignated as the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) and assigned the mission of equipping, training, and validating all Army Special Forces, including two ARNG and two USAR SF Groups. This arrangement persisted until 2014, when USASFC merged with active-duty PSYOP, CA, and ARSOF Support units to form the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), a division-level ARSOF headquarters under USASOC that commands and controls five active-duty and two ARNG SF groups, two PSYOP groups, a CA brigade, and a Sustainment brigade.

“You have arrived.”

It is difficult to see how organizations such as USASOC and 1st Special Forces Command would exist, had it not been for forward-thinking leaders like Joseph Lutz, Leroy Suddath, and James Guest. These three were the only commanders of 1st SOCOM, the first modern ARSOF headquarters.

Despite the long and sometimes rocky road back from the post-Vietnam doldrums, General Sennewald saw only positives in August 1984. “Today,” he said, “I am firmly convinced that road is part of history. If the words ‘you have arrived’ have meaning to anyone, they should have special meaning to the soldiers of 1st SOCOM.”

In the intervening four decades, ARSOF has continued to prove its value to the nation in myriad ways and innumerable places, in conflicts big and small, always striving to live up to the motto first adopted by 1st SOCOM in 1982: Sine Pari, meaning “Without Equal.” In his parting comments, Lutz expressed a sentiment shared by ARSOF leaders ever since when he said, “I want to thank General Sennewald and our Army for allowing me the privilege to command the greatest soldiers in the world.”

By Christopher E. Howard

Blast from the Past – Who Remembers The Eagle Industries Chest Pouch SF30 AK

Saturday, November 4th, 2023

I ran across one of these on Instagram earlier this week and did a web search looking for a new one. Sure enough, I ran across an article I had written in 2017 about this chest rig.

The SF30AK from Eagle Industries was the second chest rig I owned. While stationed in Germany in the late ’80s I had purchased a Arktis 42 Pattern Chest Rig. It was very lightweight and served me well but I was always checking out new kit.

Later, while stationed at Ft Bragg, I purchased the SF30AK chest rig, via mail order from Eagle Industries. I chose the OD version because that’s what gear was made from at the time and wouldn’t stick out quite as much as another color. I used it a bit during training but its only operational use was for a time during Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti. When we first went in, we wore RBA, making it a good choice to wear over the armor vest, but later in the deployment, I just wore a JS Industries Predator Vest with a Camelbak in the back slot or an issue ETLBV. Vests you could just slip on while outside the compound, were easier to don and doff than a chest rig.

Mine is long gone, but even years later, I still like the design for its innovation and carrying capacity. The pockets would accept up to 12 magazines and the GP pockets would take canteens or other gear. What’s more the ammo pouches featured Eagle’s silent closure which required a downward pull on the webbing tab to release or attach the flap.

At the rear, there were two male portions of 1″ side release buckles which would allow the attachment of the assault pack from the field pack, large internal frame. However, most everyone cut them off because they would dig in if you wore a pack. The Vest in the photos is later production and has Coyote buckles. Back in the day, they were Black.

-Four magazine pouches that carry three M4/ M16 or two AK47 magazines each.
-Two large side utility pouches with slotted webbing for “ALICE” clips to hang extra gear.
-Two extra pockets behind the utility pouches.
-One full length inside pocket.
-The back of CP-SF-30AK is padded and uses CoolMax mesh for ventilation and comfort.
-Drop loops will attach to the Eagle Duty Belt or military web belt.
-All closures and fasteners use Mil. Spec. hardware.
-Made in the USA

Unfortunately, they are no longer available.

Did anyone else use this chest rig?

40th Anniversary of Operation Urgent Fury

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023

On the morning of October 25th, 1983, America awoke to reports that US forced had invaded the small Caribbean nation of Grenada, in order to liberate American medical students from danger posed by political instability. Joined by Regional Security System troops from a variety of Caribbean partner nations, they swiftly overwhelmed the Grenadian and Cuban troops.

While Operation Urgent Fury was in name a joint force operation, and included the use of Special Operations Forces, it highlighted many interoperability challenges, such as use of joint operational overlays and communications issues.


Several stove pipe problems suffered by the pre-Goldwater-Nichols military were identified during this operation. Additionally, Urgent Fury was conducted with many systems dating from the Vietnam war.

Just six years later, during the invasion of Panama, saw the first employment of several new weapons developed during the Reagan buildup such as the F-117 stealth fighter and the Marine Corps LAV-25. Grenada was a great learning experience for the US military as it highlighted issues with joint service operations, particularly in the communications arena as well as interoperability between Special Operations and General Purpose forces. For example, SOF also took a much more prominent role in operation Blue Spoon during the Panama invasion. We’ve come even further in the past three decades.

Finally, as with any conflict, lives were lost. Let us not forget the 19 Americans killed in action and the 116 who were wounded. Unfortunately, there were also 24 Grenadian civilians killed in the conflict.

Inglorious Amateurs – Jawbreaker Memorial Pre-Sale

Monday, October 16th, 2023

November 25, 2023 marks the 22 year anniversary of the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi and the date of the first American killed in what became Operation Enduring Freedom. Johnny Micheal Spann was not only the first American killed in the conflict, but also the first CIA officer killed since 9/11. Since that time the Agency has added a staggering total of 52 stars to the Memorial Wall.

The helicopter featured in this campaign is an artist rendition of Mi-17 helicopter used by the CIA’s Northern Alliance Liaison Team (NALT) just after 9/11, that now anchors one corner of the green lot at CIA HQS.

Items include T-shirts, Skate Decks, Slaps and Prints. Additionally, they are donating proceeds from the collection to the CIA Officer Memorial Foundation and Third Option Foundation.

The pre-sale ends on the 18th, with shipping in early November.


30th Anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023

Today marks the 30th anniversary of 1993’s Battle of Mogadishu, a watershed event in the history of special operations.

The battle pitted elements of a joint SOF element named “Task Force Ranger” against the Aideed militia, with many in the city of Mogadishu joining in the battle.

Members of the unit had conducted an operation on that city’s Olympic Hotel in order to capture key leaders of the Aidid Militia. Unfortunately, during the exfil portion of the raid, a battle ensued which claimed the lives of 18 Americans and wounded another 73. Additionally, CW3 Michael Durant was captured by the militia. Fortunately, Durant was later repatriated and went on to retire from the 160th.

Of the men killed that day, two would be awarded the Medal of Honor, Delta Operators Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for their selfless efforts to protect Durant after his aircraft, callsign Super 64 was shot down.

For those of you unfamiliar, one of the best accounts of the battle is contained in the book, “Blackhawk Down” by author Mark Bowden. Much of the information was serialized prior to the book’s publication in the Philadelphia Enquirer. Later this was made into a movie bearing the same name.

For an insider account, watch SOF Veteran MSG Paul Howe (USA, Ret) discuss “The Battle Of The Black Sea” on Makeready.TV.

Please take a moment to remember these men and their sacrifice.

High Proof Media Company Launches IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign for Groundbreaking Documentary Series: ‘The War Dog’s Story: Giving a Voice to the Voiceless’

Monday, October 2nd, 2023

October 2, 2023 – Many war stories have been told over the years, but rarely are those stories about man’s best friend, the military working dog. After speaking with many retired dog handlers, it became clear to us that the story of the working dog needed to be told. We started production on The War Dog’s Story back in July of 2022, and after 60 hours of filming, 39 interviews, 5 states around the country, and the potential for a 20-episode series, we need your help to cross the finish line.

For many months, we have worked on trying to get a major network to pick up the War Dog’s Story documentary. From the feedback that we received, the feelings were the same – there was no interest in war stories or the dogs in them. We decided to move forward on our own in order to get the War Dog’s Story completed and so we are now excited to announce our official crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to honor these stories, and the dogs and people in them.

With the funds that we are able to secure, we will be completing the last of the interviews needed. How many episodes will go into the series ultimately depends on how much we’re able to raise with the crowdfunding campaign. Once the edit is complete, we’ll be submitting the documentary series to a distributor we have worked with previously. Other shows that we have produced have streamed on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and many other services in the past so we’re quite confident that The War Dog’s Story will end up on numerous streaming platforms as well.

Please help us spread the word to everyone you know about our crowdfunding campaign, which launches on October 2nd. Every like, share and contribution will help us cross the finish line. People can donate to the project via the IndieGoGo page or directly on the War Dog’s Story web site with our PayPal and credit card options. From the start, these stories that are being told are what matter the most to us and we could really use your help in letting everyone know about the campaign, the film and of course, the war dogs. 

Thank you,

Bri Coelho

Executive Producer, The War Dogs Story

High Proof Media Company

Where people can donate:

• IndieGoGo Site: igg.me/at/thewardogsstory

• War Dog’s Story Site: www.wardogseries.com

• PayPal: www.paypal.com/paypalme/highproofmedia

Social Media Platforms:

• Facebook: www.facebook.com/highproofmediacompany

•Instagram: www.instagram.com/highproofmediacompany

• Twitter:  twitter.com/@highproof_media

• YouTube: www.youtube.com/@HighProofMedia

• IMDB: www.imdb.com/title/tt29168674

The History of Iron Mike

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

Paratroopers everywhere will immediately recognize Iron Mike. Fayetteville’s Airborne and Special Operations Museum recently shared the history of this iconic figure.

In the spring of 1960, 18th Airborne Corps Commander Lieutenant General Robert Sink appointed Mrs. Leah Hiebert, a military spouse and sculptress, to design and fabricate a statue to encapsulate the spirit of the Airborne trooper. The original idea was inspired by the cover of Ross Carter’s Book, “Those Devils in Baggy Pants”.

Mrs. Hiebert, whose husband, Samuel L. Hiebert, served as an Army chaplain during World War II, created the statue in an old parachute packing facility. Sergeant MajorJames Runyon was selected as the model for the statue, and posed for over four hours a day, twenty minutes at a time while wearing his own WWII uniform. The photograph below was taken of Runyon to aide in the construction of the statue as it was being developed.

By November of 1960, the team fabricated the steel frame. The statue stands with his left foot in a raised position on a pile of rocks, and his upper body leans forward bearing weight on his elbow, which rests on his raised left knee. While the statue is officially named “The Airborne Trooper,” it is colloquially known as “Iron Mike”. The inscription on the base of the statue reads: “Iron Mike, In honor of Airborne Troopers whose courage, dedication, and traditions make them the world’s finest fighting soldiers”.

As the project neared completion, planners began looking for a suitable location to serve as its resting place. It was finally decided that the intersection of Knox Street and Bragg Blvd would house the 15 foot tall, 3,235 pound statue. On September 23, 1961, the statue was revealed. It quickly gained notoriety at Fort Bragg, but due to acts of vandalism, Iron Mike was later moved to the traffic circle between the Fort Bragg Club and the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg headquarters building in 1979. In 2005, the statue was replaced with a bronze version and the original, which had been deteriorating, was restored and refurbished and was placed at the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum in 2010. In 2021, Iron Mike was refurbished again. He still stands watch and welcomes all visitors at the ASOM.