Category Archives: SF History and Lore

No, SF is NOT preparing for civil war. Sheesh…. (long)

jh_logo This is the look of panic:

CIVIL WAR PREP: Pentagon To Conduct “Realistic Military Training” For War On American Soil Against “Insurgents”

The Pentagon looks like they’re gearing up for a civil war by releasing information about ‘realistic military training’

This is where we usually say, “Read The Whole Thing™” but that pretty much is the whole thing But if you’re disbelieving still, go thither yourself: CIVIL WAR PREP: Pentagon To Conduct “Realistic Military Training” For War On American Soil Against “Insurgents” | Doug Giles | #ClashDaily.

Here come the MC-130Js full of Rangers. Oh noes!

Here come the MC-130Js full of Rangers. Oh noes! “I said, ‘Don’t look, Ethel.’ But it was too late. She looked.”

There are other, even more partisan and more conspiratorial, sites that are even more wound up over this than Doug Giles is.

Which is really saying something. Because he’s wound up to the point where he renamed the briefing slides from their anodyne Army verbiage to: Jade-Helm-Martial-Law-WW3-Prep-Document. 

He’s aghast that The Iron Curtain of Fascism is Descending on America. (Harumph optional). That “Martial Law” title as much as anything shows that some guys have gone to 11 on the rheostat of outrage without understanding the thing that they’re so upset about. No, it’s not a preparation for Martial Law, although it may be a prep for WW3 — in somebody else’s country.

The evidence before us is a set of unclassified briefing slides for an SF and SOF unconventional warfare exercise — basically, guerilla and underground role-playing — that will take place across the southwestern United States. Jade Helm is a series of SOF and SOF-heavy exercises (in which conventional forces exercising their capabilities are also used as SOF training aids) that has been running for a while. For any veteran of Special Forces the slides will strongly recall other UW exercises, notably the culmination exercise of SF training, which has been coded Robin Sage for a very long time. (Previously it had other names, like Gobblers Woods).


Jade Helm differs from FTX Robin Sage in several ways:

  • It is not an initial training evolution, the main objective of which is to educate, train and evaluate individuals on the cusp of Special Forces qualification. Instead, it is a collective training exercise designed to improve, enhance and evaluate fully-qualified special operations units.
  • It is not contained in a small area where these exercises have been going on for years, such as the areas of Bavaria and the Palatinate where Exercise Schwarzes Pferd (Black Horse) took place during the Cold War, or the rural region of North Carolina where Robin Sage historically takes place.
  • It is not restricted to the participation of SF ODAs, the 12-man Operational Detachment Alpha that is the fundamental organic element of SF. (For SEALs, the equivalent is the platoon). ODAs are designed to split into two elements of roughly equal capability, to task-organize into even smaller elements with specialized capabilities where needed, and to assemble into larger units and efforts freely. They also can form the backbone of a large element of foreign irregular or regular forces, as leaders, advisors or trainers. Along with the ODAs, this exercise will shake down several ODBs (a task-organized element based on the HQ of an SF company supported by one or more ODAs and non-SF support personnel), and a Special Forces Operations Base (SFOB) based on a reinforced Group or Battalion headquarters.
  •  Jade Helm is not an SF exercise exclusively, but one that will also employ other ARSOF, joint SOF, including at least one MARSOC CSOT. The Marines were screwed in 2007 when they trained for Direct Action missions and were delivered into a theater that was expecting a UW-trained and culturally-preadapted element. We’re betting they will do much better in 2015, given the chance to prepare and train for the UW mission, and the record MARSOC has achieved in the interim.

Far from teaching SOF troops to operate the mechanism of a police state, exercises like Jade Helm give SOF troops critically needed experience operating against and inside the territory of a police state. Normally the “police” and “secret police” role players are selected from soldiers and real police. The “guerillas” can be conventional Army or Guard soldiers, or even ROTC cadets, friendly foreign troops, and in one case I’m aware of, were civilian volunteers. (The SJA put the kibosh on ever doing that again. Unfortunately).

These briefing slides were freely provided to local officials, in order to secure their cooperation in an exercise that will play out across their territory. In specific, these slides were for certain Texas authorities. Some genius at the command thought that that the slides were self-explanatory. As the current “martial law!!!1!!” hullaballoo shows, they’re not, unless you’re well steeped in Unconventional Warfare doctrine and fluent in its acronyms. As a public service, we’ll provide the slides here as a free download and explain what’s going on.

JADE HELM 15 Request to Conduct RMT.pdf

There are 12 slides. We will tell you for each slide what it means, OK? But in order to keep the stretch of this long post on the front page of the blog to a minimum, we’ll tell you after the jump.

Continue reading

“New” Mission for Army SOF

Charles T ClevelandThe Fayetteville Observer has an interesting story on a public briefing at UNC-Chapel Hill on new missions for ARSOF. But they’re really not “new” so much as they’re “newly recognized;” under this new doctrine the military will be doing things it did during the Indian wars, the Philippine occupation and in many counter-insurgency operations and advisory deployments for the best part of a century.

The difference, perhaps, is that while in those wars remotely stationed officers were left to fly by the seat of their pants and improvise outside the framework of military doctrine, new unconventional warfare doctrine is going to give them something solid upon which their great-grandsons’ can base future improvisations.

[USACOM Commander LTG Charles T. Cleveland] said that for the first time in its 60-year history, Army special operations forces have written their own doctrine, better spelling out to other Army leaders how their unconventional warfare fits into the Army’s core competencies.
That could lead to better efforts in what Cleveland called the “messy middle” between conventional and special operations forces – counterinsurgency.

Iraq started with conventional forces during “Shock and Awe.” Afghanistan started with small teams of Special Forces soldiers working with the Northern Alliance.

But both wars “ended in the middle,” Cleveland said.

As we’ve always said, “We were winning when we left.”

“We’ve got to figure out these transitions. We weren’t able to capitalize on tactical success,” he said, emphasizing that the military can’t repeat past mistakes where they fought wars “one year at a time.”

New_USASOC__DUIThis may be one of the first shots in what will be a barrage of “who-lost-Iraq” finger-pointing by various vainglorious Beltway bloviators and policy panjandrums. But unlike most of those talking mouths (heads? Those just hold up a hairstyle), Cleveland actually fought these wars as a Special Forces and special operations commander.

It’s interesting to see that his focus is on the military, itself, internally. While there may well be political problems with the conduct of these wars (may be?), he sees plenty of things right within his own command that can be fixed or improved.

He goes on to suggest an idea that almost deserves its own capitals, as The Third Mission:

Historically, the Army had two missions, Cleveland said. The first, to fight and win the nation’s wars. The second, to respond to contingencies, including humanitarian disasters.

“There is what I would submit to you is a third mission,” he told students. “We have a requirement to build, maintain and then deploy a global network of land power capabilities.Not only ours but those of our allies, friendly nations and surrogate forces.”

That third mission is needed, he said, because the world is changing.

“We’re not fighting the way we did back then,” he said of earlier wars. “Waiting for large scale combat?  We can’t afford to wait that long.”

It’s a remarkable, sophisticated view of military operations that encompasses systematic force-, and, especially relationship-building with foreign allies.

Because “There’s nothing new under the sun,” a phrase that was probably old when first chiseled into a clay tablet, it turns out that the main message is a new take on an old one. What is Cleveland’s “human domain” but the latest restatement of Napoleon’s “In war, the moral is to the physical as three parts out of four?”  But he takes it in directions where the great general (and begetter of aphorisms) never did go.

Special operations forces are more than a different model of hammer, he said. They’re a different tool entirely.

“My strategy was change the fundamentals about how we talk about our form of warfare,” Cleveland said. “I think that what has emerged is a human domain.”

That human domain – in which Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers work – is no different from the “air domain” that was discovered amid the World Wars.

Please do Read The Whole Thing™. And you tell us if what emerges in the paragraphs after the last one quoted is not, without explicitly stating the case, a very near justification for an independent Special Operations Force, just as we established in 1947 an independent Air Force.

He never does make the call, and he probably would not. An independent SOF force may not be a good idea, and the route to an independent AF has sometimes been rocky and has seen the Air Force focus, at times, on internal, almost irrational mythologies at the expense of joint operations. Anybody aware of the relative efficiency of battlefield transport in the chaos of Vietnam compared to the bureaucratic quagmire that Air Force central Soviet-style management has made of the problem of moving men and matériel around Afghanistan or Iraq knows the answer is not one more staff, one more HQ, and one more bureaucracy stacked on a rickety stack of top-heavy bureaucracies.

What SOF does in wartime, it does in well-established symbiosis with conventional forces, to the benefit of both sorts of forces and the overall mission. But what it does in peacetime can extend those benefits, ideally preventing the need for combat employment of conventional forces, and if that is not possible, helping to lay the groundwork for their success.

Because that groundwork can be laid, years or even decades in advance, in the human terrain.

Napoleon I would approve.

Can Your Suppressed Pistol Beat This? 78 dB.

That’s the measured performance of this little beauty:


.32 ACP Welrod, from the collection of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

Vintage 1941 or so, developed by the SOE. The ASOM notes another detail, which explains the strange magazine-is-the-grip design of the Welrod (bold is ours):

A limited range, close-qurters head shot weapon, the Welrod’s main value was its level of discreetness when used. This weapon could be fired with the magazine/grip removed, in which case it did not look like a weapon at all. Using the weapon in this manner allowed operators a level of stealth necessary for operations behind enemy lines.

Internally, Welrod’s suppressor design features are typical of silencers of the time. It has a ported barrel which vents into an expansion chamber partly restricted by screen discs. Modern suppressor designers abjure these design features as archaic and backward: the ported barrel saps velocity, and the screen discs are thought to be much less effective than shaped K-baffles or other baffles.

Really? Show us the quiet, guys. Show us a centerfire single-shot suppressed pistol that can beat 78 dB. We’re not asking much in the way of accuracy — the original Welrod was intended for contact ranges, but was good for minute-of-Nazi-skull out to 20 yards or so — but let’s see more muzzle energy for less noise than the Welrod.

We’re guessing that, without going to a captive cartridge like the Tunnel Rat experimental revolver or certain Russian silent-pistol designs, you can’t get materially better than those 20th Century Britons did with the Welrod. (For all their efforts, we’ve had a hard time confirming behind-the-lines use of this system, even with so many formerly secret archives opening up lately. Anybody know different?).

True, Jesse James the motorcycle loudmouth is claiming something similar for his rifle suppressor, but when he delivers that you’ll be able to hang it up next to your jet pack in the garage where you park your flying car. He’s the Baghdad Bob of gun credibility with that one.

But you would think we would be able to excel something made before computers, finite element analysis, and 70 years of progress in understanding sound theory and in production and metallurgical technology. That we are not, generally, far beyond the status quo of 1941 speaks volumes for the ingenuity and application of those wartime engineers.

The Spirit of De Oppresso Liber

The young buck on the left is not showing his most distinctive feature — then-lieutenant Jack Singlaub’s prominent ears are contained inside his English para helmet, as he prepares to jump into France — behind enemy lines as part of the Jedburgh program.

He didn’t end his service to the USA there; he retired, not voluntarily, in 1978 as a Major General. We’ll get to that in a moment, but in the interim, he was one of the founders of the CIA before returning to the Army where he held important positions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars (including Chief, MAC-V SOG).

He was a Major General and Chief of Staff of US Forces in South Korea when the Carter Administration planned to abandon the country, withdrawing US troops and support, leaving the South Koreans to the tender mercies of North Korea’s de facto king, Kim Il-Sung, and taking a good Billy-Beer-fueled whiz on the sacrifice of the roughly 200,000 US and Allied dead and missing from the Korean War. (Carter’s beef was with South Korea’s authoritarian leader at the time, Singlaub criticized Carter’s half-assed policy in an interview. Per a CGSC Paper on the controversy:

Singlaub granted John Saar of the Washington Post an interview on May 19, 1977, just days before the administration envoys were to arrive. Singlaub commented bluntly that the withdrawal plan was ill-advised, opposed by many of “the senior military people” and would lead to war with North Korea. He expressed his deep concern that policymakers might have been working with outdated intelligence, citing a recent intelligence estimate that demonstrated that North Korea was much stronger than had been previously thought.

Despite his outspoken opposition to the policy decision. Singlaub also took the position “If the decision is made we will execute it with enthusiasm and a high level of professional skill”. The interview also included reference to the misgivings of Gen. John W. Vessey, then Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations and U.S. forces in Korea and his deputy. Lt. Gen John J. Burns.

Unidentified sources were quoted as saying that Vessey had expressed his concerns directly to Carter and Defense Secretary Harold Brown.  Both the Washington Post and the New York Times featured articles on the interview. The administration’s response was not long in coming. Several hours after the publication of the interview, the White House announced that Maj. Gen. Singlaub had been told to report personally to the President at the White House.

Where Carter fired him, put him in a nothing job, and when he heard that Singlaub also disagreed with Carter’s neutron-bomb unilateral disarmament, cast him into a punitive early retirement, directing the denial of the gimpy old paratrooper’s disability claim.

Previously, old political general (and no fan of SF) GEN Bernard W. “Bathrobe Bernie” Rogers had told Singlaub that the decision was already a done deal, and that Carter had rejected military advice on the subject. Rogers, the Courtney Massengale of his era, would never stick his neck out on the subject, but he’d certainly prime Singlaub to stick his neck out.

It’s true that the incident gets muddier the more closely you look at it. Singlaub’s own post-incident statements have left his intentions unclear, and the Washington Post reporter seems to have been — no surprise there — a man of pretzel ethics, simply looking for a scalp for his paper. (Why any general officer would talk to a Post or Times reporter is a mystery for the ages. Let them make up their stories without words of yours to twist). But the picture emerges of an officer who, despite being quite small in stature, was enough of a giant to face certain death behind Nazi lines, and certain career death in the Oval Office.

One of the most remarkable things about General Singlaub is that he is still alive. And he will be attending an event on Friday that will offer any of you who are in, or can get, to Fayetteville, NC, with a chance to see and possibly meet him in person. (We won’t be there, but we’ve met him several times, and we’re nobody to him anyway).

Joan Singlaub,  COL (Ret) Andy Anderson, and the ASOM [Airborne and Special Operations Museum] Foundation invite you to meet one of the original Special Operations Soldiers of the United States Military.

The program starts in the Main Theater of the ASOM then moves out front to unveil the Singlaub pavers.

This was received by email but maybe the link to The Whole Thing™ will work. (If not we found it here, too). For the record, the ASOM is the museum in downtown Fayetteville, and open to the public, not the more intimate regimental museum that is on Ft Bragg proper, and requires some hassle to get through the gate to.

Time is 1330R Friday 20 Mar 15 (this Friday!) so be there or be square. Uniform is casual but tasteful, please: be respectful of the presence of many old heroes in the flesh and in the spirit.

Quick quiz: how did Carter having his signature policy upended work out? For the South Koreans, a lot better than being integrated in the Juche state would be, eh? And maybe that’s the best measure of the achievement of John K. Singlaub: freedom for millions. Now that’s the spirit of De Opresso Liber.

(There’s a good program on 28 March as well, with author Maurice Renaud, whose parents were residents of St. Mêre-Église, the first town liberated by American paratroopers on D-Day; check out the Museum web site).

On Sharpening Knives

When we were young pups in Group, sharpening knives seemed like a mystical thing. They were gone she could do it, do it unbelievably well, and enjoy doing it. And then there were guys who seem to make their edges worse by their efforts. Can you guess what category your humble blog post fell into?

It turns out the difference between the ace sharpeners and the a@@ sharpeners is a matter not of skill so much as knowledge. The website Knife Planet asked 55 knife experts for their number one sharpening tip, and distilled it into an info graphic. The experts included custom bladesmiths, professional sharpeners (like those guys on our team back then?), and makers of premium chef’s knives. While the info graphic, posted here, is awesome in its own right, we strongly recommend you go Read The Whole Thing™ because the individual tips are pure gold.


Some of the tips in the graphic are a bit cryptic. They’re clearer if you see the individual tweets at the original source page (yes, they collected this info on Twitter. It is good for something! Who knew?).

We would be remiss if we did not note we saw this initially at John Richardson’s Only Guns and Money blog, so many of you may be experiencing déjà vu. But we thought it worth a repeat fire mission.


Guest Commentary: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in SF

SF poster join a minority groupDave Shell is the President of Special Forces Association Chapter XVI, The following was Dave’s comment in a recent chapter newsletter, about a tragedy three years ago where he knew the principals, including the perpetrator, a former SF weapons man and medic who had distinguished himself in post-military life.

Personally, we do not believe any medical condition alone can cause, justify or explain what the SF soldier in this story did. But that will be our only editorial comment. Dave’s column deserves wider dissemination in the community, in our humble opinion, and after this sentence, the words are all his.

President’s Message by Dave Shell

This month I will comment on a matter that is likely to evoke a mixed response from Chapter XVI members, however it has been on my mind for a couple of years and I feel that now is the time to address it. In the summer of 2012, former Special Forces Medic Tim Jorden gunned down his estranged girlfriend, Jacqueline Wisniewski, in the basement of the hospital they both worked at, and then ended his own life in a ravine near his home. For the record, this was a cold and calculated murder of a beautiful woman and mother whose only fault was choosing not to act decisively after finding herself in an abusive relationship with Tim. The fact that Tim, one of the best a soldiers I ever met and a highly regarded and very talented trauma surgeon, had reached a point where his despair was so deep that he ended the life of an innocent woman and then took his own is disturbing to me and to those who new him best.

Personally, I knew of Tim long before actually meeting him. SF was relatively small in the early 1980s compared to what it is now and it was not unusual to be on an A‐team with someone who had previously been on an A‐team with Tim. That guy was Eric Heid, the current Chapter XVI VP. Eric liked to tell stories, most of them true, about his exploits in 7th Group, and Tim’s name would often come up.

The first time I met him in person was when we were both assigned to the Special Warfare Center. Tim was a Company TAC in 1st Battalion working the administrative piece for SFQC students who were waiting to attend Phase I. Part of his responsibility was to ensure that they were physically fit before reporting to Camp Mackall, which is where he would hand them off to me. When they arrived I always marveled at how relieved they were to be out from under Tim’s thumb.

Tim was legendary when it came to physical conditioning, and would often cause even the strongest trainee to pause in self‐doubt. The students referred to him as “Herr Jorden” in a not so veiled reference to the Nazi program of eugenically engineering super‐human beings. His physical prowess wasn’t the only thing that made him standout. He was unusually smart and intensely focused even by Special Forces standards. He started out as an SF Light Weapons SGT and was selected to attend the SF Medic course at a time when SF was over strength in 11Bs/12Bs and under strength in 91Bs/05Bs.

As I recall, most SF weapons guys were happy being weapons guys, but big army gave them a choice to either reclass to commo or medic, or run the risk of being reassigned to a conventional airborne unit (read 82nd Abn. Div.). Most hated the idea of reclassing to commo, because every time you headed into the bush the metric most often used to gauge the overall success of the mission was the number of radio contacts made. Any failures on the part of the other MOSs were easy to keep inside the team room, but all knew the communications percentages. In spite of that, the SF Communications Course was not especially difficult to get through, so many chose that route. The SF Medic Crs., on the other hand, was notorious for its low graduation rate; making failure was a real possibility. There was never any doubt in Tim’s mind though that he was going to be an SF Medic. It had always been his goal, along with his ambition to ultimately become a surgeon. As SF Medics go, Tim was one of the best.

The next time I saw Tim was at Ft. Lewis, WA in 1998. He was completing his residency program at Madigan Army Medical Center after having attended medical school in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. Oddly enough, he had just finished a major surgery on Eric Heid and was reviewing his charts when I stopped in to see how Eric was doing. I was incredulous! Where else in the army could you have a former teammate cut you open like a pig and rearrange your body parts, and then be standing there talking about good times in grubby places when you come out from under the anesthesia. Tim, Eric, and I had a nice long chat and a few laughs before Tim moved on to other patients, and ultimately on to new horizons and opportunities in the Army.

Eventually, Tim transitioned from the Army to civilian life and moved back to Buffalo where he became a pillar of the community and in the process he received many honors from various local organizations and civic groups in Buffalo and New York State.

When the news broke on June 14th 2012, like many around the country I was glued to the TV and Internet. Authorities knew that Tim had gunned down Jacqueline, but had no idea where he was, and I could sense the fear and apprehension within the law enforcement community. The prospect that a person of Tim’s caliber was on the run after committng a murder of this kind, and knowing that he had spent much of his life in the SF community was enough to worry even the most seasoned local and federal policemen.

The only desirable outcome would be surrender and I think everyone involved knew that was not likely to happen, meaning that there would be additional deaths before this crisis abated, and there was, it was Tim. He walked into a ravine next to his house and killed himself with a single shot to the head like a lost and worthless soul. From the bottom of my heart, Tim and Jacqueline both deserved better than what they got.

I remember when the news first broke, a flurry of emails started flying around various SF veterans organizations to include the SFA. The concern was that any association with Tim might somehow tarnish them, as if he was another emergent crazed Green Beret who would bring discredit upon the Regiment. I was especially disgusted with the sighs of relief when it was learned that Tim was not a member. For the record, Tim was not a crazed Green Beret, and is not in the same category as those with very loose connections to SF who have made the news over the years for heinous crimes. He was an esteemed member of the Regiment who served honorably every day of the 18‐years that he was in the Army. Tim was also a brother of mine, and though I feel the pain of his demons and his deeds, I am not about to abandon him at his lowest, dead and unable to speak for himself.

I did not comment immediately after the tragedy, choosing to wait for the right time, so that my thoughts were not blurred by shock or bias.

Just recently something in the news struck a chord and got me thinking again about Tim. Tony Dorsett, the NFL hall of famer, announced that he is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to his many years on the gridiron. Some of the symptoms described sounded eerily familiar to what people close to Tim observed in his behavior the last year of his life i.e. depression, uncontrolled anger, domestic violence, and confusion. Keeping in mind that at 60 years old Tony Dorsett is in the middle stages of CTE, it is possible that Tim, at 49 years old when he died, could have been suffering from the onset of CTE.

Recently, USSOCOM CSM Chris Faris spotlighted his concern that SOF veterans are suffering from traumatic brain injuries at higher rates than previously realized as a result of exposure to combat, overpressure from explosive charges and weapons systems, and a sundry of other high impact activities such as airborne operations and combatives. As noted above, Tim spent a good part of his army career doing just those kinds of things and I know for certain that he took his share of knocks.

In the end, no one knows if CTE was the cause of his destruction, but it’s something to consider. The Tim I knew, and the Tim that folks in his hometown knew, is not the Tim who wasted two lives on 14 June 2012. Currently, there is growing concern within the SF community that after a decade and a half of war we are only seeing the tip of the TBI iceberg.

De Oppresso Liber


Ballad of the Baseball Cap — a blast from SF history

BarrySadler4Is there any song in history more translated, converted, twisted and parodied that Barry Sadler’s1 The Ballad of the Green Berets? We’re probably too close to the issue to have an opinion, but it sure seems like that to us. In SF, particularly, the song is more likely to be lampooned than taken seriously.

In any event, here’s something that we had lying around. It dates from 1971, when SF “left Vietnam” — at least, when 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) cased its colors, to fly them again back home at Fort Bragg, NC. This created a problem for the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MAC-V) Studies & Observations Group (formerly, Special Operations Group) — the clandestine joint element whose key Ground Studies Group ran, among other things, SF-led reconnaissance teams into denied areas. SOG’s Army elements had always been “covered” for status with an assignment to 5th SF, which was no longer possible.


Army baseball hat. This was never a well-loved piece of headgear, and the Rangers stuck with the 1951 patrol cap, the design of which was used for the BDU hat.

The compromise was the creation of new cover units: for each Vietnamese Corps or equivalent task force, there’s be a TF “Advisory Element,” technically subordinate to US Army Vietnam (USARV). Advisory, my eye; they just kept running recon with combined American/Indigenous teams. But because the new cover unit was not SF, the men couldn’t wear their hard-won green berets in camp any more. Instead, they had to don the issue baseball cap, with rank (and, optionally, parachute badge). If you were a Marine, you might say that they had to wear a cover cover.

Sounds like a cue for a Ballad of the Green Berets parody, if ever there was one:

Fighting Soldiers from the sky,
Fearless men who cheat and lie,
All they do is eat and nap
The brave men of the Baseball Cap.

Faced with hardships their spirits sag,
Cause they’re assigned to USARV TAG
Why not take their pay away?
They don’t jump no more, no way.

Put Baseball Caps upon their heads
Make them wish that they were dead.
Throw your Rolex watch away,
You have to look like legs today.

USARV’s the patch they wear,
Why not grow long flowing hair?
Go downtown and buy some grass,
You’ll soon forget you’ve got the ass.

Take their Wings right off their chest.
Take away their special crest.
One hundred men will test to day,
Don’t let them wear the Green Beret.

Put Silver Wings on my son’s chest.
Make him one of America’s Best.
He’ll want to be just like his Pap.
So issue him a Baseball Cap

This command directive wasn’t always followed in all things, and it’s very unlikely the reflagging fooled anybody: certainly not the intelligence organizations of the PAVN and its international sponsors.

If you must have one, Bay State Militaria has this one in stock. We'll get by without it.

If you must have one, Bay State Militaria has this one in stock (and some others, including ones with embroidered jump wings, illegal by Army regs but popular in-country). We haven’t owned a baseball cap since getting our first beret and throwing ours away.

Fortunately, theres a happy ending for men of the baseball cap: after the war they have always been recognized as an SF unit, even if they had to fib about it at the time. Even the few recon-runners that were not SF qualified at the time were awarded the tab and qualification administratively after the war; they’d proven that they earned it.

Incidentally, the departure of SF from Vietnam was at the insistence of MAC-V commander General Creighton Abrams, who loathed SF (and all paratroops, and all football backs, all of whom he thought of as  glory hounds). This personality tic of Abrams rubbed off on some of his protégés, like Bernard Rogers, and led to decades of ill will between Big Green and SF. (Abrams did play on the West Point football team, then one of college football’s finest, as a youth. Naturally, he was a lineman). Abrams wanted SF gone, but he didn’t want to give up his daily intel dope-fix of SOG reports!


1. The song is actually credited to Barry Sadler and Robin Moore. The two were friends and drinking buddies, and Robin told us that his contribution was that he wrote the words to the last verse: the one that begins, “Back at home, a young wife waits.” In Sadler’s original, the mother of the dead young soldier’s son was a Saigon bar girl! Robin also said he was instrumental in getting Sadler a recording contract, and Sadler repaid the favor by posing for the cover of the paperback of Moore’s The Green Berets. 

Rob Marsh, top Country Doctor: ex-SF Medic and Delta Doc

Rob Marsh’s father was Secretary of the Army John O. “Jack” Marsh. Most of Rob’s colleagues, when he was an enlisted SF medic or when, after he followed the path of many SF medics to medical school and wound up as the special operations unit called Delta’s command surgeon, didn’t know that detail about him.

They just knew he was a good mofo. Like a lot of folks, he got wounded in October, 1993, and like a lot of them, it was the end of a military career — but not of a career of service. Marsh was recently named Country Doctor of the Year, due to his practice which combines the best of modern medicine with the values of a Norman Rockwell family doctor. Here’s a small excerpt from a profile at Western Shooting Journal:

The following day, what Marsh says was simply a lucky shot for some unskilled Somali mortar crew landed in the midst of a group of soldiers with whom he’d been standing, killing one elite U.S. fighter and inflicting devastating wounds on Marsh’s lower body and legs.

Quick thinking by his comrades in arms prevented him from bleeding out on the spot, he says, but Marsh would never again deploy with Delta and retired in 1996 as a lieutenant colonel.

“I never regained the physical skills I needed to stay on jump status,” he says. “I probably could have stayed in Army medicine, but I just didn’t feel that calling, I felt another calling, that I wanted to come do family medicine practice back in Virginia, where I grew up.”

Home in the valley

Marsh, a devout Christian, said he felt he was following God’s direction for his life when he returned to Virginia for good in 1996, but he still had some doubts. He opened a clinic in remote Middlebrook — near his newly purchased farm and just five miles from the place his grandmother was born — and began taking patients.

“I was a little worried how that transition was going to be,” he said. “You know — doctor of the high speed army unit coming back here.”

But the transition felt natural, he said, because once he settled in, the amount of responsibility that immediately fell on his shoulders was huge. Today he has 3,500 active patients. Not only is the number far higher than the typical primary care doctor’s 2,300 patients, his range of services for his patients is wider than normal.

“I think being in a rural area, one, your patients want you to do as much for them as you can,” he said. “By that I mean, they don’t like to be referred” to other, distant doctors.

As a result, Marsh was handling more complex cases than do most primary care physicians in an age of hyperspecialization. And it felt kind of like the Army.

“Instead of gunshot wounds,” he said with a chuckle, “chainsaw injuries.”

One of the advantages of civilian life back in 1996 was going to be more time with his wife and four children, now high-school and college age, he says. But his practice in Middlebrook—which grew enough that he in recent years opened a new office next to a giant truck stop on the interstate in Raphine—has become as absorbing as his Army work ever was.

His wife, Barbara, a registered nurse who works in the Middlebrook office, grew up in the suburbs of Newport News, Virginia, and said the practices of country medicine took came as a surprise.

via Former Delta Force Doctor is Top Rural Physician in America.

Rob Marsh is a good guy, and he’ll be slightly embarrassed by this honor, and otherwise, completely unchanged. We’re a little biased because he did some repair work on a friend in the interstitial period between the big fight and his own near-death experience, and we never would have gotten to meet the guy without Rob and the unit medics.

Simple Sabotage Field Manual

simple_sabotage_field_manual_coverWe thought for sure we had featured this already, but if so, we can’t find it on the site. This is a sabotage manual  dating to 17 January 44 . It was classified SECRET but was declassified long ago — 14 June 76, to be precise.

It is only 32 pages long, typeset but with no illustrations. It’s rather typical of OSS training materials in that it seems to use a sort of Socratic method, where the book, film or other training method is not aimed to teach people simple rote skills, but to spur deeper discussions and thought.

Despite its limits, there is a lot to be had here, including from the introduction by BG William Donovan to the closing suggestions, “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creat­ing Confusion.” (And yes, it does seem like that last part of the manual has been in use by everyone in DC for quite a few years).

Some of the suggestions border on the whimsical:

Saturate a sponge with a thick starch or sugar solution. Squeeze it tightly into a ball, wrap it with string, and dry. Remove the string when fully dried. The sponge will be in the form of a tight hard ball. Flush down a W. C. or otherwise introduce into a sewer line. The sponge will gradually expand to its normal size and plug the sewage system.

Here is the book in .pdf:


Or, if you want it in .mobi for Kindles and Kindle-reader apps, or, in .epub for iBooks, or several other file formts, you can find it at



Afghan M4 Makeover, Step 2: Knight’s RIS

We’ve unboxed it, and dressed it up (down?) with the actual buttstock from our 2002-03 tour of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and “other places,” a stock retired from military service to an ignominious end in a dumpster (kind of like what the VA does to us, now that we think about it).

Now it’s time and past for the next phase in our Makeover. We’ve taken care of the proximal end of our combat appendage, now we need to move closer to the distal end and add a 2000-era SOPMOD I style rails system. The 6920 came with the latest version of CAR-15 inspired handguards. Again we weighed it; the scale has given us 6.5 and 6.6 pounds (Sunday, it gave us 6.60 pounds and 6 pounds 8 ounces. Wait, what?) We suspect the variations are environmental. We haven’t recorded temperature, but it’s in a basement held steady at about 40% humidity by dehumidifier.


You can see a hint of the rails to come at the bottom of that image! At this point, we’ll insert a jump to keep the blog’s front-page manageable, because this post is ~2400 words and lots of big pictures which embiggen substantially. (We apologize for the quality of the pics, which are cellphone specials. We really need to get a DSLR again).

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