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More On The Son Tay Raid 50th Anniversary Event from Erik Lawrence

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

My friend Erik Lawrence has released three additional videos on the Son Tay Raid 50th Anniversary Event last month in Phoenix to accompany his earlier videos.

Festivities

Interview with Author Terry Buckler

Behind The Scenes

M

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Just Cause

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

President George H. W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama on December 16, 1989. Its primary aim was to depose and capture Manuel Noriega, the country’s military dictator, charged in the United States on drug trafficking charges, dubbed “Operation Just Cause.”

Bush cited four reasons for the invasion: safeguarding the lives of Panama’s approximately 35,000 U.S. citizens; defending democracy and human rights; fighting drug trafficking in a country that had become a base for drug money laundering and a point of transit to the U.S. and Europe for drug trafficking and maintaining the dignity of the treaties signed by President Jimmy Carter.

27,684 U.S. troops and over 300 aircraft were involved in the campaign. It started with an attack on strategic assets, including the Panama City commercial airport and a garrison and airfield of the Panamanian Defense Force at Rio Hato, where Noriega maintained a home.

SEAL Team Four and Two sank Noriega’s private boat and destroyed his Panamanian gunboat.

Punta Paitilla Airfield was one of the worst days in SEAL team history. Team Four were tasked with destroying Noriega’s aircraft at the airfield. When first assigned, the SEALs to stand off and just shot up the plane so it couldn’t be used; as the day of planning went on, it got more and more complicated; it started with destroying the aircraft, to just shot out the engine, to shoot the tires to cut the tires. With three platoons of 48 operators total, this was more of a job for the Rangers; at 0030 hours on the 20th, the SEALs under the command of LtCdr Patrick Toohey inserted just south of the airfield from Zodiacs CRRC.

They were in place by 0105 hours, but safety elements announced that the Panamanian V300 Cadillac Gage armored cars were approaching the airfield quickly. Toohey sent a squad to set up a blocking position, but the Panamanians opened fire on the airfield as soon as they started to move, killing one SEAL and injuring five others. The other SEALs reinforced the troops under fire and suffered two more casualties and four more injuries in the ensuing firefight. They damaged Noriega’s aircraft with an AT-4 missile.

They rolled an aircraft into the middle of the runway during the night to prevent the airfield from being used. The injured were taken to Howard Air Force Base by MEDEVAC. The SEALs guarded the airfield until mid-morning when a company from the 75th Ranger Regiment relieved them. Team Four was also tasked with sending a recon team to watch one of the central prisons, as it was believed that when the invasion took place, Noriega would order all the prisoners to be released to help fight the Americans and add to the chaos. The Four Team guys that died were.  LT John Connors, ENC Don McFaul, Torpedoman’s Mate 2nd Class Issac Rodriguez and Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Chris Tilghman.

Don McFaul purposely laid himself across a brother during the gunfight to shield him and was honored by the posthumous award of the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart. The USS McFaul (DDG-74) was named in honor of CPO Don McFaul.

SEAL Team TWO was tasked with sinking Noriega’s boat. Four SEALs were inserted from Zodiac that had departed from NSW Unit 8. The swim pairs planted explosives on Presidente Porras’s pier. They then swam and plated explosives on Noriega’s boat and were then fired at by Panamanian guards who threw grenades into the sea. The SEALs swam to the pier and could see the gunboat destroyed by the explosions, hiding beneath it. They later swam back out into the canal, where the CRRCs picked them up.

Operation Acid Gambit. The rescue of Kurt Muse’s. Muse was an American who grew up in Panama, got married, and moved back after his military service had ended. His wife was a schoolteacher from the DOD. In May 1989, he was arrested and placed in Modelo Prison for operating a clandestine anti-Noriega radio station. Muse was an (a ledged) CIA operative, one Panamanian newspaper reported.

President Bush determined that after getting a letter smuggled out of jail, but a U.S. military doctor allowed to treat him, Muse’s rescue was the course of action. 1st Special Force Delta (CAG) was tasked with his rescue

Delta began rehearsing the prison raid in a mockup they designed at Eglin AFB, Florida. They had used notes supplied by the doctor. Undetected, they fled to Panama and began tentative preparations to raid the jail. 23 Delta operators boarded four MH-6 “Little Bird” helicopters shortly after midnight on the 20th and landed on the prison roof.

The operators got to the most defensible position and prepared for Muse’s defense. Around 15 minutes later, an IR-strobe light signaled a passing chopper. They relayed their location by radio, and a 5th Infantry Division armored vehicle arrived shortly afterward, picked up everyone, and took them to safety. In the field and the Comandancia (Noriega’s Headquarters) across the street, Delta Snipers quickly removed sentries. To get attention away from Modelo Prison, two Air Force C-130 Spectre Gunships started shelling the Comandancia at that moment.

As soon as a rescue attempt began, one operator climbed down the building’s side to a window outside Muse’s cell to remove the guard tasked with killing him is a rescue was attempted.

The breaching team blew the door to the roof, and the extraction teams began two floors down the stairs to Muse’s cell. The Delta operators eliminated two guards, and another who was not armed and did not fight was bound. Muse saw their flashlight beams and saw their smoke. It was only then that he heard an American voice asking him to cover up. Delta operator Pat Savidge attempted to shoot the lock off, but with bolt cutters supplied by Delta’s Kelly Venden, it stood up and had to be cut off. Savidge said “Merry Christmas” to Muse, giving him body armor, goggles, and a Kevlar helmet. They climbed up to the roof again.

The now overloaded Little Bird started nose-diving for the street, 60 feet below, once onboard the MH-6 that was called back for extraction. Just a few feet from the road, the pilot regained control, and they flew down the highway, placing the gap between themselves and the prison just a few feet from the ground. The pilot was going to try to take off again after putting himself down in a courtyard. During the chaos, Savidge and Venden refused to cave in.

The severe ground fire took place as the chopper lifted off. Venden was struck in the chest and dropped 20-30 feet from the helicopter to the ground. To save his mate, Savidge grabbed his gear to hold onto him and was also pulled out. The Little Bird was peppered with fire on the right side of it and crashed. The skid pinched the ankle of Delta operator James Sudderth. The four operators were all injured, but Muse and the pilots were all right.

Now on the ground, the guys found the most defensible position and prepared for a counterattack. About 15 minutes later, an IR-strobe light signaled a passing chopper. They relayed their location by radio, and a 5th Infantry Division armored vehicle arrived shortly afterward, picked up everyone, and took them to safety.

Seize Rio Hato Rangers, Tocumen Airports: The 2nd and 3rd Ranger Battalions were charged with seizing the Rio Hato airfield, destroying the base’s PDF garrison [the largest in the military], and seizing the plush beach house of Noriega.

Two F-117A stealth fighter-bombers delivered two 2,000-lb at H-hour. This was done to shock and confuse the PDF garrison of the two of the most heavily armed infantry companies defending the airfield, and precision bombs were missing. The precision munitions only managed to wake the defenders.

The Rangers lowered thirteen C-130s flying from the U.S. into a vortex of fire from just 500 feet. Despite the incoming fire, two Rangers’ companies rushed and assembled to take the airfield, cut the Pan-American Highway running through it and capture a nearby ammunition dump.

Another company targeted a nearby NCO academy complex, and another hit the two PDF companies deployed to protect the airfield. The PDF defending the airfield was said to be Noriega’s best, and the firefight was furious. Two Rangers were killed and four injured when targeted in a friendly fire incident by a helicopter gunship. But within five hours, it was safe for the entire complex to include Noriega’s beach house.

The 1st Ranger Battalion jumped in to capture it and protect it for follow-up forces outside of Panama City, Torrijos [Tocumen] Airport, the national commercial airport location. The Rangers suffered just two deaths, with only five killed and 21 captured, while Panama’s losses were minor. Around an hour after the Rangers had secured the airfield, the 82nd Airborne Division arrived and started to jump in.

Special Forces Capture Pacora River Bridge Stop Bn 2000: A Co. 3rd Bn 7th Special Forces Group men stationed in Panama were assigned to oversee Fort Cimarron, home of Bn 2000, Noriega’s only armored unit. Under Major Kevin Higgins’ order, A-3-7 was informed that ten vehicles were leaving Cimarron. He and 24 Green Berets were heading to the Pacora River Bridge to stop the convoy from reaching Panama.

River Pacora Bridge

On the way, the Blackhawk helicopters flying to the bridge got lost, but they soared quickly, reaching the bridge over the armored column. Just as the Panamanians came to the eastern side, the S.F. troops got to the bridge’s western side. The slope to get up to the bridge was steep, and when the headlights of the Panamanian vehicles were illuminated, the heavily laden S.F. troops were getting to the bridge. Among the first men on the bridge were SFC ‘Tico’ Roman and SFC Dana Bowman, and they blasted the lead vehicle with AT-4s. That made the convoy stop in its tracks. But the Green Berets were mainly armed with M-16s, M-249s, and M-203s. Higgins had no hesitation. He called in close in air support from an AC-130 Spectre gunship, dangerously close to his men, and gunships decimated the column. By crawling under the bridge, the Panamanians attempted to get away from Spectre. But with machine-gun fire and buckshot rounds with M-203s, the S.F. forces raked the girders. Much of the night, the running firefight lasted with the Panamanians attempting to flank the S.F. forces, who were reinforced by A Co. 1st Bn, 7th SFG elements from Ft. During the night, Bragg. After their Sheridan armored reconnaissance vehicles moved from the airport, they eventually joined up with representatives of the 82nd Airborne later the next day.

Noriega remained at large for several days. Realizing he had few options in the face of a massive fugitive hunt and a $1 million reward for his capture, he sought refuge in the Vatican diplomatic mission in Panama City. However, the U.S. military’s psychological pressure on him and diplomatic pressure on the Vatican mission proved relentless — as was the nonstop playing of loud rock and roll music in the densely populated area.

Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990. He was immediately put on an MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft and flown to the United States. He was tried, sentenced, and sent to federal prison for 17 years.

Twenty-three U.S. soldiers were killed, and 325 were wounded during the conflict.

Operation Just Cause was not like the operation conducted today, and they’re still were some of the same problems that the U.S. had during the invasion of Grenada. The communications were still failing, and several units were unable to communicate with each other. At times, communication between Special Operations and conventional units was shaky and at others non-existent. Despite this in later conflicts, various elements of our Special Operations Forces laid the groundwork for engaging with each other. I did not talk about all of the missions that conducted by US Special Operation Forces; Development Group was also involved as well as other Special Mission units. I just tried to get a good portion of the story out there and show the different operations conducted during the invasion.  

I checked into SEAL Team Four a couple of years after Panama; my first Leading Petty Officer was one of the people wounded on the airfield. I would never take anything away from the guys that were on the ground. There were many lessons learned, not just by Team Four, but by everyone on the ground. Not one unit didn’t have some problems. I will always call Team Four my home, and I am very proud of gowning as a SEAL and working in the “J” (that’s the jungle for you, none Team Cuatro folks). Lastly, please take a moment to remember all who have gone before us and their families celebrating another holiday without one of their loved ones.

Capt Larry Thorn – Soldier of Three Wars

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

Larry Thorne enlisted in the Army as a private in 1954, but he wasn’t your everyday new trainee – he had already spent a majority of his adult life fighting against the Soviets in brutal winter conditions.

Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, rising to the rank of Captain and leading ski troops who literally skied into battle against enemy forces.

In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.

After Finland signed a cease-fire in 1944, he joined the German Army so that he could continue fighting. After Germany’s defeat, Törni returned to Finland and later moved to the United States where he enlisted under the name Larry Thorne.

He was able to enlist because of the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years.

More than 200 eastern Europeans joined the Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, including Larry Thorne. Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain.

In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, before being killed in a helicopter crash in 1965.

Thorne Plaza is directly in front of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Headquarters here on Fort Carson and is a common site for promotions, retirements, and other ceremonies.

Source – 10th SFG(A)

SOFWERX – Tech Tuesday

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

SOFWERX Tech Tuesday is searching for groundbreaking and transformational capabilities.

Submit yours today at www.sofwerx.org/techtuesday.

New Cap Badge for UK Special Forces Communicators

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

According to the latest issue of the Royal Signals magazine, “The Wire” the new SFC cap badge was endorsed on 18 Aug 20 and was marked by a small ceremony in the church on Stirling Lines by the Unit Padre, with the Master of Signals Lieutenant General Nick Pope KCB CBE and HQ 1 (UK) Signal Brigade Commander Brigadier John Collyer in attendance.

Male members of all the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and the Royal Air Force are eligible to become Special Forces Communicators. They, along with Royal Signals soldiers in trade, are assigned to Hereford based 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment and provide close support to the SAS, the SBS and the SRR.

The Regiments consists of:

• SBS Signal Squadron

• 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron

• 267 (SRR) Signal Squadron

• 268 (UKSF) Signal Squadron

• 63 (UKSF) Signal Squadron

18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment fulfils several roles:

•Provides highly secure communications for UKSF operations

•Provides electronic warfare and signals intelligence for special forces operations

•Intercepts and monitors enemy communications at short range in difficult circumstances for strategic purposes

Assessment, Selection and Training is quite comprehensive. Candidates must successfully complete a five day Briefing Course. Next, is an optional SFC Preparation Course.

The Special Forces Communicator Course itself consists of six phases:

• Technical Trade Assessment (one week)

• General Support Comms (six weeks)

• Physical Aptitude (five weeks)

• Close Support Comms (five weeks)

• Conduct After Capture (two weeks)

• Military Training (three weeks)

• SF Parachute Training (three weeks)

Candidates must also complete SERE training.

Once qualified, SFCs are eligible for specialty pays.

Video Highlights of the Son Tay Raid 50th Anniversary from Erik Lawrence

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

I was fortunate to participate in the recent 50th Anniversary of the Son Tay Raid commemoration held in Phoenix, Arizona by the Silent Warrior Foundation. The operation to rescue American POWs from deep inside North Vietnam is examined in great deal by Raider Terry Buckler in his new book, “Who Will Go.” I highly recommend it.

I had a great time during the event, meeting some legends, enjoying the camaraderie of old comrades in arms, and making new ones.

My friend Erik Lawrence captured quite a bit of video during the event and has turned it into two episodes for his video series.

Episode One

Episode Two

Galvion Helmet System Chosen as Next-Generation Protection for German Specialised Forces

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Galvion, a world leader in innovative head protection systems and power management solutions, is pleased to announce that a customized Baltskin® Viper helmet solution has been chosen as the next Specialised Forces Helmet (Helm SpezKr schwer; Specialised Forces are Ranger-type units of the German Army). The program was awarded to Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics GmbH, who will act as the in-country contracting entity for the Galvion helmet, following a full and open competition. The contract encompasses the delivery of up to 20,000 helmets, with an initial order for 5000 helmet systems and helmet refurbishment plan to be executed in-country by Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics, as well as the option for a 2-year contract extension following contract framework completion in 2025.

The bespoke helmet system, developed to the German MoD’s rigorous performance and technical standards, underwent thorough testing and an extensive user evaluation prior to being selected.  The Viper helmet solution will come in a custom German Green colour, and features Galvion’s Modular Suspension System which has been configured to meet a variety of impact standards and mission requirements.  The helmet is lighter, offers better protection and improved integration with Communication Devices and NVGs than the current fielded helmet, and end-user feedback rated the helmet comfortable and high-performing.  Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics will begin delivering the Galvion helmet to the German Specialised Forces in Q2 2021.

“After years of development, we are honoured to have our Viper helmet system chosen by the German Specialised Forces,” commented Alex Hooper, Galvion’s V.P. of Global Business Development. “Our experienced team of engineers and designers worked with the MoD to build a user-centric system that balances protection, integration, durability and optimized fit.  Germany’s exacting technical requirements and broad testing process ensures that their soldiers will be outfitted with a high-performing system that has been tailored to meet their unique mission needs.  Having RSE acting as our contracting entity ensures that the German Bundeswehr will have a premium product with reliable in-country support throughout the life of the program. “

Hooper added: “Galvion has developed a reputation as the leader in NATO next-generation helmet systems, and the awarding of this contract speaks of our commitment to provide bespoke solutions for the modern soldier.”

As well as this latest award, Galvion enjoys an impressive track record of large-scale global sales for protective head systems and soldier power management systems. Other key customers include defence forces from the US, Canada, UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, in addition to many NATO SF unit around the world.

www.galvion.com

Combat Divers Submerge Inside Cheyenne Mountain

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. —

A Special Forces Operations Detachment – Alpha (SFOD-A) with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) put their combat dive skills to use November 5, 2020 where one would least expect: in the heart of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. 

Inside the complex are three reservoirs that hold water for a variety of uses, including cooling the mountain’s generators and expelled exhaust. Because the mountain is designed to function independently, the water systems are vital to the success of the mountain’s operations. Assessing the Structural integrity of the reservoirs and ensuring the water is flowing freely through the cave systems that connect them keeps things running smoothly. 

“They originally contracted with a civilian company to get this done,” says the Officer in Charge of the Dive LIfe Support Maintenance Facility at 10th SFG (A). “My brother, an Air Force Logistical Officer tasked to the Space Force, recommended they get in contact with (us) to do it for free.”

The facility manager of the complex and the DLSMF and a chosen combat dive SFOD-A set out to accomplish the mission.

“Dive operations don’t happen very often in special forces,” says the OIC. “This was a good chance for us to go out and showcase our capabilities as a legitimate maritime force within (Special Operations Command) to actually do a real world mission. It’s not infiltrating into enemy country or territory, but it was a chance for us to show everyone that we do have this capability and it’s important to keep the capability within the Special Forces community.”

10th SFG (A) to establish and develop relationships outside of the Army and Special Operations Command. It started a relationship with the Cheyenne Mountain complex to provide future opportunities for real world missions, training and equipment testing. These relationships are essential to interoperability within different branches of the military enhancing our overall capabilities as one united force. 

By Sgt Angela Walter, 10th Special Forces Public Affairs