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Archive for the ‘Memorial’ Category

In Memoriam – LtCol Joseph Edward Murphy Jr (USAF, Ret)

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

I just found out about the loss in February of an old friend and mentor. Many knew him as “Two Dogs,” a nickname picked up in his younger days from a bawdy joke. I call him the father of Special Tactics Intelligence. All of the rest of us who served in that community worked in his shadow.

Lieutenant Colonel Murphy was my first boss in the Air Force as a Lieutenant right out of Goodfellow. By that time he was long retired and was DAF Civilian at the 720th Special Tactics Group at Hurlburt Field where he served as Director of Intelligence. I was the second officer he hired for ST and for me, the process started while I was still an NCO in the Army. As soon as I found out I had been selected for USAF Officer Training School I started calling around to units looking for possible assignments as an Intel Officer. Joe and I hit it off and he worked behind he scenes over the next year to steer me towards the 720th while I completed my training. It worked out and I ended up being assigned as Joe’s assistant for intelligence programs, although I spent most of my time on the road going to schools and supporting units. I did a short stint down at the 23rd STS, mostly deployed to Operation Desert Thunder, before Joe had me reassigned to Pope as the Chief of Intelligence for the 21st STS. He steered the careers of quite a few of us, officers and NCOs alike, building the ST Intel community from scratch.

Special Tactics owes a lot to that guy. So do I. He always had the wildest stories of his active duty time and pushed me to produce quality intelligence products. He taught me a great deal and was the most supportive boss I ever had. I will miss him.

My heart goes out to Sally and his kids.

Here is Two Dogs’ obituary…

LtCol Joseph Edward Murphy Jr.

1941 – 2021

Fort Walton Beach – Lt. Col. Joseph Edward “Two Dogs” Murphy, Jr. passed away on February 4, 2021 in Fort Walton Beach, FL. Joe was born September 14, 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri to Joseph Edward Murphy and Evangeline Marie Kelly Murphy both of whom predeceased him. Joe grew up in St. Louis, attended St. Louis University High School and St. Louis University where he was a member of AFROTC and was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force on August 23, 1963. He married his high school sweetheart, Sandra Jean Mason, in St. Louis in May, 1964. Together they embarked on an Air Force career that spanned 3 continents, 10 assignments and 28 years. They welcomed a daughter, Kathi, while stationed at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, and a son, Jay, at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Traveling to and living in countries all over the world was a tremendous thrill for the family. Together, they worked to absorb as much international experience as possible through travel and engagement with local communities.

Joe began his Air Force career as a cartographer, then spent 8 years as a targeting officer followed by more than 15 years as an intelligence officer. Joe Murphy loved his work in the Air Force, especially working with US and allied Special Operations Forces. He was an enthusiastic mentor to many, including young “troops” who were as sharp-minded and as committed to the U.S. and the Air Force as he was. Joe developed a strong affinity for and connection with Special Operations activities and was privileged to work closely with USN SEALs, USAF Special Tactics, USA Special Forces and similar units from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. Over the years, he was given the nickname “Two Dogs” because of an off-color joke he frequently told. His combination of Intel skills and Special Operations interest led to the practice of intelligence-trained operators being inserted into the teams on the ground. This initiative of providing relevant information to operators in the field has undoubtedly saved lives and improved the effectiveness of countless missions. As such and rightfully so, many consider “Two Dogs” to be the “Grandfather of Special Operations Intelligence”. His major awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, the AF Commendation Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, the AF Achievement Medal, The AF Outstanding Unit Award with Valor Device and Four Oak Leaf Clusters, The Vietnam Service Medal with Three Stars and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.

Shortly after completing his 28 year active duty service in 1991, Joe returned to Hurlburt Field, where he continued his service to our country for another 23 years as a civilian intelligence expert for a number of AF Special Operations organizations. A patriot and true servant, Joe finally retired from civil service in 2016, after giving a total of 51 years of service to the U.S. Air Force, a record few have ever achieved.

In 1990, Joe was remarried to Maria (Sally) Balaoro from the Philippines who survives him and lives in Mary Esther, Florida. Their son, Joey, provided Two Dogs with many years of enjoyment as a soccer dad and #1 fan of Joey and his friends. Joey lives locally and continues to be involved in soccer.

In addition to Sally and Joey, Lt. Col. Murphy is survived by his daughter, Kathi Heapy and husband, Gary of Shalimar FL, and son, Jay and wife, Terri, of Keystone Heights Florida. He is also survived by sister, Mary K. and husband Mick McGuire of Somerset OH, and sisters-in-law Marisa Lopez and husband Jaime of Ft. Walton Beach, Nimfa and Ramon Bilasano, and Nancy and Gener Baylon of the Philippines. His grandchildren are Nicholas Heapy (Allie), Mary Flores (Daniel), Renee Murphy, and Erin Heapy, and one great- grandson, William Edward Heapy. Joe has several adored nieces and nephews in Ft. Walton Beach, Ohio, and the Philippines. Joe will be missed by all, but most certainly by his very special friends, Sally and Ted Quarles, Chief and Linda Jennings, Sheila and Dennis Quirao, his AF Intel ‘partner in crime’ Jay Clanton, and the worldwide AF SOF and Stray Goose International communities.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park on March 17, 2021 at 2:00pm. This will be an outdoor event which will offer the safest way that we can gather to honor him during this time. Interment of Lt. Col. Joseph Murphy will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at a future date.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.

S.O.Tech Reaches a 300,000 Mask Milestone While Incurring a Sad Loss

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

It was with great pride that this week the S.O.Tech team delivered our 300,000th cloth facecover, but that news turned somber when we learned that a dear friend to the company, Deputy Tim Tellez, died battling COVID-19. So we dedicate our accomplishment to Tim’s memory, and we will continue the effort for Tim and other fallen first responders.

If you’ve seen a picture of police gear on SOTECH’s website, it was probably strapped onto Tim, we just cut his face out and blurred his name badge. He took gear design to heart and was always there to give thoughts and feedback on patrol officer gear because he cared about his fellow LEOs.  He was a 20 year veteran of LASD. We will be making a donation in his honor.

Not only was S.O.Tech able to deliver the 300,000 masks, but we have been able to fill major military, aerospace and law enforcement contracts in the face of a pandemic strained supply line.  We are proud of the teamwork exhibited by our staff.

In Memoriam – Mike DeBenedetto

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Silent Warrior Foundation founding board member Mike DeBenedetto due to complications arising from COVID-19.

The veteran’s organization he helped found has a great tribute to his memory.

May He Rest In Peace.

December 7th, 1941, A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Monday, December 7th, 2020

With those words, President Franklin Roosevelt told America, and the world, that we had entered the war.

Today is the anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbor. Sadly, we no longer even hold ceremonies commemorating that day.

We have raised generation after generation who take what we have for granted and vilify the sacrifices of our forebearers. They make us out to be the bad guys.

Every year there are fewer and fewer of out greatest generation among us. Let us always honor their sacrifices to keep America, and the world, free.

I’d also like to take a moment of silence for the 2402 Americans who were lost on that day, along with the hundreds more, who were wounded during the attack. We are forever in your debt.

Female Military Working Dog Handlers Honored at Military Women’s Memorial

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

WASHINGTON –- It was a hot and muggy evening at Fort Clayton, Panama, as then-Pfc. Renae Johnson scanned the jungle tree line in an attempt to stop thieves from gaining entry into the installation.

It was 1992, and Johnson was a member of the Missouri National Guard’s 205th Military Police Battalion. Determined to protect and serve, she enlisted just a year prior at age 17, which landed her a short deployment to support local law enforcement efforts with the 534th MP Company.

A career with the Missouri Guard felt like the right path at the time, or at least that was what Johnson thought until that evening, she said.

“That is when I met my first military working dog (MWD) handler coming out of the jungle,” as she crossed paths with then-Staff Sgt. John McKinney and his narcotics detection dog “Solo 503P” out on patrol, she explained.

McKinney was an imposing figure, standing over 6-feet tall with stacked airborne and air assault badges on his uniform, Johnson said. Solo stood idly beside him and appeared just as large and threatening as his handler.

He stuck around to answer all of Johnson’s questions and even suggested she move to active-duty to pursue a career as a MWD handler, she said.

Six months later, she finalized her transition paperwork and moved to active-duty. Johnson would then go on to spend the next seven years, to include multiple deployments and assignments, working toward her goal, she said.

“I just knew it was something I was meant to do,” she said. “Being an MWD handler is an intense and high-impact job — a way of life.”

On Oct. 17, the Military Women’s Memorial unveiled its first monument on the eve of its 23rd anniversary. The memorial honors and tells the stories of women, past and present, who have served the nation.

The monument, titled “The Pledge,” captures a moment of mutual respect and love between a female handler and her Belgian Malinois, said Susan Bahary, its artist.

The monument depicts a dog reaching up to her handler as she kneels beside the dog. It captures a feeling of commitment and support, as both reach out to each other with a desire to accomplish their mission, Bahary added.

Johnson proudly served as a handler before retiring in 2012 as a sergeant first class with a military occupational specialty code of 31BZ6, or a MP officer with a working dog additional skill identifier, she said. The Army transitioned to the new 31K MWD handler career field just two years later.

“The job was physically and mentally draining, but none of that mattered if I had my dog beside me,” she said.

As a career handler, Johnson attended the unveiling ceremony with other military handlers. Together, they showed their combined support for their career field and paid respect to the female handlers who helped paved the way, she said.

“It is a beautiful monument that will one day change the trajectory of some little girl’s life,” Johnson said, much like the way her life changed when she first met Solo and McKinney.

MWD impact

Military working dogs are a force multiplier, often used to provide patrol, narcotics, and explosive detection capabilities in garrison or on the battlefield, said Sgt. Maj. Viridiana Lavalle, the Army’s most senior ranking 31K MWD handler.

These dogs can do “a plethora of things that no piece of equipment or Soldier can emulate … with their sense of hearing, smell and ability to detect,” said Lavalle, who is the provost sergeant major for the directorate of emergency services at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Handlers often operate as individual augmentees and can deploy at home or abroad with any unit or agency to provide immediate animal support, she said.

“Dog handlers must be extremely self-sufficient and independent, regardless if they are an 18- or 19-year-old private first class or a seasoned staff sergeant,” Lavalle added.

These Soldiers need to display a high level of maturity and professionalism to find success, she said. Handlers are considered subject-matter experts the moment they arrive and must be able to articulate the limitations and capabilities of the MWD to their chain of command.

Like Johnson’s experience in Panama, Lavalle’s passion for dogs led her to join the military police corps in 2001 and later transition to a MWD handler in 2003.

“I think we have evolved when it comes to women serving in the MWD MOS,” Lavalle said, adding that more women should choose to serve as a 31K.

The Army currently has close to 650 Soldiers in the MWD field, with nearly 20% of them female, she said.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress, but we are still facing various obstacles,” Lavalle said. “I have faith we will continue to overcome them and exceed the standards.”

Overall, the MWD career field is one of the best jobs the Army has to offer, she said.

“I can’t even explain how rewarding it is,” Lavalle said. “When you first get your MWD assigned to you and you start to build that bond — then you start to see that team concept.”

Developing trust

Building trust with a K-9 counterpart is a critical aspect of the career field, Johnson said, as she recalled one incident with her explosives detection dog named Fido that warned Soldiers of a possible danger.

While deployed to Iraq, Johnson and another MWD handler joined a quick reaction force to track down an escaped prisoner in a vast junkyard filled with decommissioned Iraqi military equipment and vehicles.

The junkyard spanned across several acres with multiple entry points, Johnson said. Leaders decided to split the handlers into smaller squads and enter the scrapyard on opposing sides to cover more ground.

“I am telling my dog, ‘Find the bad guy,’ as he almost pulls my arm out of the socket,” Johnson said. “We are moving through the junkyard when he starts going crazy and immediately sits down.”

Thinking Fido was just confused by her command, Johnson encouraged him to get back up and continue the search. He pressed forward a little further before deciding to sit once again.

That was when it dawned on her that she recognized her dog’s signal for unexploded ordinances in the area.

Military working dogs are trained to receive praise or reward after completing a task, Johnson explained. An MWD never stops working. In this instance, Fido made the right choice to signal instead of blindly searching the area for the escaped individual.

“I turned around to the squad leader and said, ‘Shut off all your radios, let my dog in front of you and only step where we step.’”

Johnson led the team out of the junkyard and ran around to extract the other squad. The second handler was paired with a narcotics detection dog and was not trained to detect explosives in the area.

“Establishing a bond and rapport is everything to that handler,” Lavalle said. “Without it, that team will not be effective” or could become a liability.

“That is something that we establish from day one when a Soldier goes through dog handling school,” she added. “Understanding the need for a common mutual respect between the dog and handler, and building the rapport and fundamentals during training” is critical to the mission.

The Pledge

Planning for the monument started just under two years ago after the U.S. War Dogs Association commissioned a memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of female MWD handlers, Bahary said.

“With ‘The Pledge,’ we felt it had to represent all women in the military,” Bahary said. “When you can move people emotionally through a work of art, it can open their hearts and make them more apt to learn.”

As Bahary started designing the monument, she was determined to convey a strong message of duty, capability, commitment and compassion in both figures. She began by looking at many photos of MWD handlers to draw inspiration for her design.

At one point in the design process, Bahary physically kneeled as if to pose herself in front of a dog sitting with an outstretched paw. Doing so helped ensure a level of authenticity in her final design, she said.

Bahary then went on to start the female figure using a metal armature as a base and covering it with layers upon layers of clay, she said. She then began the sculpting of the military working dog and later added the intricate details of the uniform and equipment.

The model was then cast to create a series of molds, she said. From these molds a multi-step process known as a lost-wax was used to produce a bronze casting of the final figure. The metal process can take two to three months to complete.

The final piece was welded together, the metal was finished, sprayed, and brushed with different chemicals and heated to create color variations. It was then mounted onto a granite base for display at the memorial.

Bahary created the country’s first official war dog memorial, “Always Faithful,” in 1994 to honor all military working dogs killed during service. It was unveiled at the Pentagon and dedicated at the Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery in Guam. It depicts the well-known Marine Corps Doberman named Kurt that fought during the Second Battle of Guam during World War II.

She is also working on the National Service Animals Monument. This monument will be dedicated to the deeds and sacrifices of all animals employed by the military, police, and search and rescue groups, along with the animals providing assistance and companion services or emotional support.

“As an artist, this is an incredible honor,” Bahary said. “It feels so gratifying to know that the women in the military are finally getting this kind of well-deserved recognition in our nation’s capital.”

The Pledge monument is genuinely humbling, Lavalle said, adding that Bahary did a phenomenal job representing all female handlers.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to be the first female handler to achieve the rank of sergeant major, and to be a part of this era where women handlers are starting to be formally recognized and honored for their sacrifices and commitment to the military working dog program,” Lavalle said.

“As a 31K dog handler, it is my duty and the duty of other women handlers to continue to pave the way,” she added. “This is my passion, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I was born to be a dog handler and trainer.”

By Devon Suits, Army News Service

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Gothic Serpent

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Yesterday and today October 3rd and 4th is the Day of the Rangers, Battle of Mogadishu or better known as Blackhawk Down. Task Force Ranger was tasked with conducting a raid to capture two lieutenants of a Somali warlord. Task Force Ranger was made of members of C squadron of the 1st Special Forces Group Detachment Delta and B company of 3rd Ranger Battalion, Task Force 160 Special Operation Aviation Regiment, SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. They were transported to the target by ground and helicopters. The mission should have only taken about an hour. They inserted around 1350 local time, from the start they found themselves under heavy fire. When two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down (the first being around 1620 local) it quickly went from a snatch and grab to a rescue and recovery. A long ground battle to place and the U.S. forces were heavily outnumbered. By the time the last Troops made it to safety at a UN base it was around 0640 local on the 4th.

While leaving the last crash site, a group of Rangers and Delta operators led by SSG John R. Dycus realized that there wasn’t enough room in the vehicles for them and they were forced to move out on foot to a rendezvous point on National Street but they ended up going all the way back to the UN Base. This is known as the Mogadishu Mile. They think it was anywhere from 3.5 to 4 miles.

Casualties included 19 dead American soldiers and 73 wounded, with Malaysian forces suffering one death and seven wounded, and Pakistani forces suffering one death and two injuries. There were between 315 and 2,000 Somali casualties. Two Medals of Honor were posthumously awarded to MSG Gary Gordan and SFC Randy Shughart for their actions on the ground to protect one of the pilots (Mike Durant) and the crash site.

1st SFOD-D 

MSG Gary Gordon Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SFC Randy Shughart Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SSG Daniel Busch Crashed on Super Six-One, died from wounds received defending the downed crew Silver Star

SFC Earl Fillmore Killed moving to the first crash site Silver Star

SFC Matt Rierson Killed on October 6, 1993 by a mortar which landed just outside the hangar Silver Star

MSG Tim “Griz” Martin Died from wounds received on the Lost Convoy Silver Star and Purple Heart

3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

CPL Jamie Smith Died of wounds with the pinned-down force around crash site one Bronze Star with Valor Device and Oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart

SPC James Cavaco Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Casey Joyce Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

PFC Richard “Alphabet” Kowalewski Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Dominick Pilla Killed on Struecker’s convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Lorenzo Ruiz Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

160th SOAR (Nightstalkers)

SSG William Cleveland Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

SSG Thomas Field Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW4 Raymond Frank Copilot of Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW3 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott Pilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW2 Donovan “Bull” Briley Copilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division

SGT Cornell Houston Killed on the rescue convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, de Fleury Medal

PFC James Martin Killed on the rescue convoy Purple Heart

The Anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Everyday marks an anniversary of a significant event in American military history, but today stands out among them.

On this date in 1993, US service members were engaged in what is now known as the Battle of Mogadishu. A joint organization was formed named ” TF Ranger” to deploy to Mogadishu, Somalia in support of a UN-led humanitarian mission. Already having conducted operations for some time, on 3 October they raided the 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 Aideed 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.

If you are unfamiliar with the events, 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.

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

Additionally, the 75th Ranger Regiment was created on this day in 1984, with the stand up of its 3rd Battalion. Thirty-five years later, the Ranger Regiment boasts boasts five battalions of some of the most elite warriors on the face of our planet.

Wreaths Across America to Dedicate the Colonel Roger Donlon Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room at its History & Hospitality House in Maine

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Col. Donlon, United States Army Special Forces (Retired), was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine – Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 – On Saturday, Oct. 3, Wreaths Across America (WAA) will dedicate the Colonel Roger Donlon Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room at its newly renovated History & Hospitably House located next door to the nonprofit’s national headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine.

Colonel Donlon became the first American soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 July 1964. Col. Donlon and his wife Norma have dedicated their lives to service of this country and the communities in which their family has been stationed throughout Roger’s 30-year military career.

“Norma and I are honored and proud to participate in the dedication of this special room.  As a Vietnam era Gold Star Wife, Norma is grateful to WAA for providing a place where families can gather when visiting to participate in the Remembrance Tree Program,” said Col. Donlon. “As Blue Star parents of three sons who have served our country, we encourage others to visit WAA and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Worcester Family and all those involved with the mission to Remember… Honor… Teach.”

The Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room is the latest of the WAA History & Hospitality House room projects to be completed by WAA since starting this endeavor nearly three years ago, and is the largest room in the house, chosen because of the space it offers for local Vietnam Veterans to gather and share stories with each other and the community.

“Several years ago, a land purchase was made to secure a right-of-way and access to the Wreaths Across America headquarters – a building donated to the organization by the community. This historic home built in 1820 was part of that purchase,” said Karen Worcester, executive director WAA. “We decided that it would make a great house for the many Gold and Blue Star families, and veterans that visit throughout the year. In keeping with our mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach, each room is being renovated and decorated to represent a period in United States history associated with a military conflict.”

As ambassadors for Wreaths Across America, and active participants in the program in their hometown of Leavenworth, KS, the Donlon’s have become very involved in the mission over the last several years. They first traveled to Maine in 2017 to help with the opening of the similarly named Vietnam ‘Welcome Home’ Exhibit at the National Wreaths Across America Museum. That same year, the couple also served as honorary co-grand marshals for the annual escort to Arlington National Cemetery. Most recently in 2018, they participated in the dedication of the Medal of Honor Remembrance Park, which is an 8-acre park located on the tip land where balsam is harvested to make veterans’ wreaths each year for placement on National Wreaths Across America Day.

“Not only is Roger an American hero, but he and Norma, are dear friends who have become part of the Wreaths Across America family,” added Worcester. “To have them be here together for this event, and give others the opportunity to learn from them as we have had the honor to do, is truly humbling.”

To view a short video on why the mission matters to the Donlon’s click here.

To learn more about Col. Roger Donlon’s service and the actions that lead to his receiving the Medal of Honor, please click here.