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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Infantry Journal – February 1944

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Experimental camouflage.

The AFSOC Air-Ground team in action: How Precision Strike turned the tide of battle against ‘ISIS-K Pentagon’

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

The aircrew of Spooky 41, an AC-130U “Spooky” gunship from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, was awarded medals for their role in a nine-hour mission over Nangarhar, Afghanistan. These medals included two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 12 Air Medals.

Maj. Wright, an Air Force Special Tactics officer, led a seven-man Special Tactics Team (STT) in support of the Army Special Forces company conducting the operation on the ground.

The following is his account of the mission from his perspective on the ground.

Vignette by Maj Jeffrey Wright, 24th Special Operations Wing (Air Force Special Tactics)

I served as the lead joint terminal attack controller and fire support coordinator for a major assault against a notorious Islamic State – Khorisan (ISIS-K) stronghold in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. This operation took place from 1 April through 6 April 2019, and the events below took place on the night of 3-4 April.

It would be inaccurate to describe this target as a village. Rather, this was a military installation literally dug into the side of the mountains, with a single path through which friendly forces could assault. The enemy consolidated their forces here in a warren of interconnected command and control nodes, operations centers, staging areas, and ‘on-base housing’ for ISIS-K leaders. This was no low-level commander and his men: this place was ‘ISIS-K’s Pentagon.’

I am aware of at least three previous assaults against this position that were quickly defeated by virtue of the enemy’s elaborate defense, high degree of training and commitment, and skillful application of firepower against friendly forces.

In my 20-plus years of training and experience in the art of attacking and defending ground objectives, I have seen few more formidable defensive positions – or ones more daunting to attack. I would have to reach for examples like Normandy, Iwo Jima or Hamburger Hill to appropriately convey the degree to which the enemy were prepared and ready for our assault.

The enemy stayed hidden until the assault force drew close. The result was an intense firefight where the lead elements found themselves under fire from not only all sides, but also three dimensions. The enemy had prepared apertures in floors and ceilings, and used barricaded shooters to devastating effect. By using networks of subterranean passageways, the enemy would re-appear behind our forces even after they’d cleared buildings.

Despite our numerical superiority, the situation was dire. From my support-by-fire position, I could do little to help. The safe evacuation of the growing numbers of wounded was up to my Special Tactics teammates in close-range gun battles with the enemy – literally fighting room-to-room. During the fight, the combat controller with the lead element of the assault force reached out for help, and got Spooky41 on the radio.

In short order, I heard the bark of the AC-130U’s guns. I distinctly remember wondering whether they were shooting at the right target, given the speed of their reaction – in 10 years as a JTAC, I’d never seen any kind of fire support as responsive. Sure enough, the first rounds were right on target – a good thing, because the enemy was so close to the assault force.

The enemy now had a problem on their hands. They had probably figured that their proximity to friendlies would mitigate our ability to bring fires to bear on them. Now, they were being heavily attacked by the AC-130U’s weapons.

The precise application of fires allowed friendly forces to establish a defensive perimeter and turn to the task of evacuating the wounded. The terrain prohibited the helicopter from landing, so they performed hoist lifts of the most critical patients. This entailed coming to a hover within machine gun range of dozens, if not hundreds, of enemy fighters keen to press home their advantage.

I watched this unfold with a sense that ‘this is how it happens…this is how aircraft get shot down.’ Yet, the enemy wasn’t able to get a single shot off as the patients were extracted, one by one. The reason there will be no memorials for three separate medical evacuation aircrews is because Spooky 41’s fires were so responsive and so precise that the enemy was effectively neutralized.

At least three members of my team were relaying information on two different nets in an effort to coordinate air and ground movement. Looking back, I am amazed that Spooky41 managed to track everyone so effectively. Even with my high degree of situational awareness as the man on the ground and with my degree of experience, I had a hard time keeping it all straight. At several points they were engaging different targets simultaneously and on different nets. I had one net in each ear – I watched and listened as they delivered salvo after salvo of fires with zero error.

A co-located teammate directed a few F-16 strikes during this time and I worked with Spooky41 to integrate the fires. It felt almost like a weapons school exercise, in that the degree of difficulty was so high and the number of assets so numerous that it far exceeded normal training scenarios.

I don’t know exactly how many of the wounded would have died without immediate medical evacuation, but I can say with certainty that the medical evacuation aircrew would have been among the casualties if it weren’t for the fires provided by Spooky 41.

I personally took fire the following day and the enemy’s expert gunnery put the bullets within arm’s reach. Had they been allowed to get a shot off at the MEDEVAC helicopters, we’d have lost aircraft. But again – after the initial gunshots and IED blast injuries, no further harm befell Americans or our Afghan allies that night.

Spooky 41’s legendary airmanship is the reason why – period.

I resolved that the first thing I would do upon getting back to Bagram was to seek each of them out and thank them for what they did for us that night. I’ve been to far too many memorials and seen far too many folded flags. I didn’t have to do that on this trip because instead of Americans giving their lives for their country that night, Spooky41 made the enemy die for theirs – on time, on target, and in the most complex environment I’ve ever seen – training, or combat.

1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Joseph P. Leveille

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Iran – Iraq War USSOCOM History

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Iraq attacked Iran in September 1980, launching a war that would last eight years. By 1982, more than 100,000 people had died. The war was costing each side about $1 billion a month and devastated both countries’ oil industries. In the so-called “tanker war,” both countries launched attacks on neutral merchant vessels transiting the Gulf (mostly Kuwaiti flagged ships). In December of 1986, the Kuwaiti government asked then-President Reagan to help protect their oil tankers from mine placed by the Iranian. Reagan sent the U.S. Navy, and the newly formed USSOCOM sent the SEALs, Special Boat Units (now Special Boat Teams), and the 160th Special Operation Aviation Regiment (SOAR). This was the first time in SOCOM history (its short history at the time) that these three groups would be deployed together. 

The Task Unit was deployed on two barges, Hercules and Wimbrown, that the Pentagon promptly converted into Mobile Sea Bases (MSBs)complete with their own extensive self-defense weapons. Naval Special Warfare Task Units (NSWTU) was run by a SEAL commander and answered to the regional Naval Special Warfare Task Group. Their mission was to stop Iranian forces from mining the Persian Gulf or otherwise attacking shipping. Each MSB had two detachments of Mark III patrol boats, a SEAL platoon, an EOD detachment, Marines to provide security, army MH-6, and AH-6 Little Bird helicopter gunships and Black Hawk rescue birds, and an air force combat controllers. MSB Hercules was manned by East Coast NSW, SEAL Team Two, and SBU 20 and 24. MSB Wimbrown 7 was manned by West Coast SEAL Team One and SBU 12 and 13. They also had other boats and helos available to them, like the SeaFox.

On September 21, a trio of Little Bird choppers flying off the frigate Jarrett was assigned to shadow the Iranian tank landing ship Iran Ajr,s suspected to have been converted for minelaying. An MH-6 helicopter equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and night-vision goggles led the way, escorted by two AH-6 gunships loaded with 7.62-millimeter miniguns and 2.75” rocket pods. The helicopter crews recorded the Iran Ajr’s crew deploying mines next to the Middle Shoals navigational buoy used by tankers. The Little Birds were ordered to open fire, and they opened up on the Iranians with their miniguns, the crew to take cover and did not return fire. The Iranian sailors resumed deploying the mines a half-hour later. This time the 160th pilots unleashed a sustained barrage, including rockets, killing three crew—and causing the remaining twenty-six to abandon ship. The following morning, SEALs on Mark III Patrol Boats rescued all but two of the Iranian sailors and boarded Iran Ajr. They found nine mines onboard and seized a logbook recording past minelaying activity, including maps showing the locations of those mines. Then the Navy towed Iran Ajr’s too deep water and blew her up.

A trio of minigun-armed MH-6 helicopters tangled again with four Iranian ships approaching MSB Hercules on October 8, including a corvette, a Swedish-built Boghammar, and two Boston whaler type boats. The Boghammar’s crew fired Stinger missiles at the scout helicopters before being sunk by return fire. Eight Iranian crew were killed, and six more rescued from the water. One of the Boghammar’s was later brought back and used by SBU-12/13 for the Coronado July 4 demonstrations and as an aggressor boat for exercises in the San Diego area.

When an Iranian missile struck the U.S.-flagged Sea Island City on October 16, injuring eighteen crew, Washington authorized a counterattack three days later called Operation Nimble Archer, resulting in the destruction of two Iranian oil platforms used to host IRGCN boats. 

But Iranian minelaying continued. On April 14, 1988, the crew of the frigate Samuel B. Roberts spotted three Iranian mines and realized she had unwittingly cruised into a minefield. While attempting to back out of danger, Roberts struck a mine that nearly split her in two and injured ten sailors. A heroic damage control effort saved the ship and her crew. Navy divers later identified additional mines in the area—with serial numbers identical to those on the Iran Ajr’s. Four days later, the U.S. launched a second retaliatory strike targeting two more Iranian oil platforms called Operation Praying Mantis. This time frigates and gunboats of the regular Iranian Navy counter attacked, resulting in the U.S. Navy’s largest naval battle since World War II, in which half of Iran’s surface combatants were sunk or crippled.

The Iran-Iraq war ended four months later—but not before one final tragic incident. On July 3, the U.S. Aegis missile cruiser Vincennes was skirmishing with Iranian fast boats, having unknowingly entered Iranian territorial waters, when her radar reported an Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter was approaching her. The cruiser fired two radar-guided SM-2 missiles at the contact—bringing down Iranian A300 airliner Flight 655, killing all 290 civilians aboard. 

Operation Earnest Will concluded September 26 when the USS Vandergrift escorted a final tanker into the Persian Gulf. The operatives involved in Prime Chance remained active, however, until June 1990.

This Is The Blackhorse

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

This 1985 film was produced by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, known as the Blackhorse Regiment, to showcase their work patrolling the Inter-German Border during the height of the Cold War.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Carlson’s Raiders

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

It’s not hard to say that anyone who wanted to be in the military Special Forces when they were a kid, has watched the movie Gung Ho! So, in honor of Evan F Carlson’s Birthday on the 26th, here is the movie Gung HO! About Carlson’s Raiders. He really was one of the best leaders in the history of the military and help build the foundation that is todays Special Forces. He spends over two years in China with the guerrilla learning special tactics that he would bring to the US to help fight the Japanese in WW2. We need more leads like this in the world. Here is an article about him if you have not heard of him or just want to brush up.

The McRae Industries Story – Part 4, Made In America

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Navigating the changing currents of government contracting

>McRae Footwear learned quickly how to deliver goods to the world’s largest customer: the U.S. federal government.

In 1969, Victor Karam, a self-described “Yankee who loves the south,” transplanted from his native New England to join McRae Industries in an executive role. A cultured Bostonian of Lebanese descent, Victor had a master’s degree in journalism but ended up in an entirely different field: women’s shoes.

An enduring leader at McRae Industries:  Victor Karam in the ‘70s and today

An enduring leader at McRae Industries:
Victor Karam in the ‘70s and today

During the Vietnam War, Victor was drafted into the Army and stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. He met his future wife during that time, and they decided they wanted to live near her folks. A head hunter connected Victor with Branson McRae, founder and CEO of McRae Industries in Mount Gilead. Branson offered Victor a position as a vice president. “Branson always said he liked to hire Yankees because none of the southerners understood production,” Victor laughs.

“Salary negotiations were interesting. Branson asked me my annual salary target. I told him I expected to match my current salary, which at that time was $15,000. ‘That won’t work,’ Branson said. ‘It’ll never be approved by the board, because I only make $12,000.’”

Despite the dip in pay, Victor was intrigued by Branson’s company and accepted the job. He thought he would move on after a year or two, but ended up staying for more than 45 years, eventually becoming president of McRae Footwear. He continues to serve on the board of directors.

Becoming a preferred contractor

Along with its knowledge of the government’s preferred mode of boot construction – vulcanized, direct molded sole — McRae had two other distinct advantages as a contractor. With fewer than 500 employees, the company qualified as a small business. And it qualified also as having a manufacturing plant in a “labor surplus,” or high unemployment, area. The Department of Defense “set aside” contracts for small businesses, and being labor surplus gave the company a price advantage over large businesses.

Home grown: By law, in making purchases, the federal government gives preference to domestically produced and  manufactured products.

Home grown: By law, in making purchases, the federal government gives preference to domestically produced and manufactured products.

To supplement its U.S. government contracts, McRae made combat boots for other nations. For 25 years, the company has been a supplier of military footwear for the government of Israel. Over the years, McRae has also provided boots for military forces in Canada, Brunei, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia.

“The federal government has consistently praised us for our high-quality products.”
– Victor Karam, director, McRae Industries

Following government specs

“At the time, the design of McRae’s military boots was dictated by the government,” Victor says. “We didn’t have a lot of input. We didn’t have a shoe manufacturers association. The government gave us the patterns and told us how to make the boots. Requirements were so rigid that a slight defect could cause the military to reject an entire production lot of boots.”

Talking though the specs: Being a government contractor required frequent trips to the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.

Talking though the specs: Being a government contractor required frequent trips to the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.

“Branson made it clear that every government specification was to be met. ‘The longer you work here with me, whether you agree or disagree with the specs, you follow them,’ he said. ‘If you see something that needs to be changed, go through the proper channels to get it changed. If you can’t, don’t change it.’’

Specifications were – and still are – exacting and relentless, from cure time for rubber to the boot’s ability to withstand pressure. Government protocols are strictly enforced with McRae workers. Government inspectors frequently walked the floors of the McRae factory. “I don’t know that any of the inspectors that came through had shoe knowledge,” Victor says. “We had to teach them.”

If Branson felt a spec were wrong, however, he was not afraid to question it – through established government protocols. That involved meeting with federal representatives in Philadelphia to clarify requirements or, in one instance, challenge a boot recall.

Victor tells the story of an inspector sent in from Charlotte, NC. “This inspector tested and rejected a production lot of boots where a wrinkle was detected. But the regulations specified boots should be rejected if a horizontal wrinkle were found when tested between both thumbs. The wrinkle detected in this lot was vertical. We showed the quality controller in Philadelphia, and we won our case.”

Looking to the future

Today, about 90 percent of McRae’s military boot business is tied to government contracts. The company also makes commercial versions of its boots.

“Staying flexible and expecting the unexpected is all part of succeeding as a government contractor,” Victor says. “Demand may fluctuate, but our purpose never waivers: To help our troops fulfill their missions though durable and reliable footwear.”

Adding on: As boot orders from the U.S. government accelerated, McRae over time added on a second 100,000-square-foot facility in Troy, NC. This facility houses the company’s direct-attach injection-mold equipment for manufacturing current-spec military boots, along with lasting, finishing, warehousing, and shipping functions.

Adding on: As boot orders from the U.S. government accelerated, McRae over time added on a second 100,000-square-foot facility in Troy, NC. This facility houses the company’s direct-attach injection-mold equipment for manufacturing current-spec military boots, along with lasting, finishing, warehousing, and shipping functions.

U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Museum Becomes Army Special Operations Forces Museum

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — With the arrival of a new year, part of a new command vision will soon take place in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) footprint.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command initiated a plan to reinvigorate the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum. As a result, the museum is temporarily closed to the public while a complete historical inventory is conducted to identify and catalogue items. This will ensure a better understanding of the state of artifacts available to students and Soldiers, and to identify gaps in the history of Special Forces (SF), Civil Affairs (CA) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP).

Upon reopening, tentatively at the end of February, the former U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum will be renamed as the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) Museum. It will still provide support to the Special Warfare Center and Schools as well as all of the subordinate commands and units under the USASOC umbrella.

“The former SWCS Museum, now the ARSOF Museum, has been reorganized under USASOC to fully represent all of USASOC’s equities,” said Dr. Michael Krivdo, U.S. Special Army Operations Command Historian.

The idea of the reorganization is to take ownership of ARSOF’s proud history and to get artifacts into the hands of Soldiers by intellectually engaging students and Soldiers in areas where they congregate. It is intended to keep artifacts on display engaging, relevant, and fresh.

“Where the ‘old’ museum construct focused only on artifacts and displays at one fixed location, and only featured SF, CA, and PSYOP, the ‘new’ reorganized museum provides museum support for all the subordinate units which fall within the whole ARSOF enterprise,” Krivdo added.

“The ARSOF Museum will expand to include artifacts and exhibits of the Ranger Regiment and the Army Special Operations Aviation Command, which were previously not included in the current museum as it was tied to the regiments that are assessed, trained and educated at SWCS; these are the Green Berets, PSYOP and CA Soldiers,” said Janice Burton, a spokesperson for the Special Warfare Center and School.

Staff Sgt. Keren Solano, a spokesperson for the Special Warfare Center and School said, “It also serves to illustrate the unique and specialized part played by all aspects of the Army Special Operations community both in conflict and during crucial roles in peacetime. The museum has also proven itself to be a valuable recruiting catalyst.”

The updated look and feel of the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Museum will leverage technology by making displays hands-on and ideally, three dimensional. Active duty students and Soldiers are the ‘center of the bullseye’ as the target audience. The content will focus on informing and educating them about the dynamic history of Army Special Operations.

“This would not only include students, Soldiers assigned to operational units, and support units, but their families and retirees as well,” she added.

With the museum set to have a new name and broader scope of information, U.S. Army Special Operations Command is setting the stage for the implementation of a vision of immersing Soldiers and students in the organizational heritage and history.

By SGT Larry Barnhill, USASOC Public Affairs Office

SCUBAPRO Sunday Lionel “Buster” Crabbe

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

I have showed this before, but January 26th is Busters birthday, so I thought I would show it again. Buster is the father of combat diving in the UK. Happy Birthday Buster. The below link is his story and the one below that is the movie The Silent Enemy.