Category Archives: SF History and Lore

CQB: Attitude Beats TTPs

There’s nobody quite as good at CQB/CQC/good-ole-doorkickin’ as the unit known as Delta. Not anybody, not worldwide. The SF teams that are best at CQB are the ones that train to be an interim stopgap, available to theater combatant commanders if Delta’s too far out or too overcommitted for a given tasking.

Delta’s skills came from its origin as a Hostage Rescue / Personnel Recovery unit, and it now has nearly four decades of institutional memory (some of which cycles back around as contract advisors so that old TTPs don’t get lost) to bring skills back up when real-world missions sometimes take off a little bit of the CQB edge.

In a wide-ranging post at the paywalled site SOFREP, fortunately reposted at the unwalled site The Arms Guide, former Delta operator George E. Hand IV discusses how the most important building block of CQB is, absolutely, the guts to actually do it.

Close Quarters Combat (CQC) is to the effect about 75% (maybe higher) testicles, and then 25% technique. I don’t like to over complicate things, especially CQB…. It is the very nature of the degree of difficulty inherent in ‘the act’ of CQB that bids its techniques to remain very simple, lest the mind become incapable of holding the process at all.

… if you can find a person that will take an AR and run into a small room of completely unknown contents, expected deadly threat, then you already have ~75% of what you need to create a successful CQB operator. All that remains, is to teach and train your operator the very few principles, and the very simple techniques, for room combat.

….

You are ~75% ‘there’ once you have that individual who will storm blindly into a deadly room. Now, it can’t be a person who just says they will do it. It has to be a person that in fact WILL do it, and WILL do it over and over.

See, no matter how high-speed low-drag you are, the enemy gets the proverbial vote, too.

There is a constant that exists, though you may disagree ferociously, it remains nonetheless: “no amount of high-speed training and bravado will ever trump the thug behind the door, pointing his AR at the door, and with finger on trigger.” ….

That’s right, the Chuck Yeager of CQB has a bullet waiting for him; all he has to do is wait long enough, however long that is. I have known a team of Delta men who lost their junior and senior team mates to the same goat-poker in the same small room in Iraq.

Both were head wounds from the same rag-head firing blindly over the top of a covered position. For the senior brother, that room was supposed to be the last room, of the last attack, of the last day, of the last overseas deployment he was ever supposed to make. The wait was over.

via Nobody goes into a room like Delta Force: A CQB attitude primer | The Arms Guide.

That “senior brother” is MSG Bob Horrigan, whose picture (courtesy Hand) graces this post. The new guy was MSG Mike McNulty, whose image is also at the link.

Hand’s entire post is worth reading, studying, and even contemplating. Do you go in, when going in could well get you shot by some “rag-head goat-poker”? (For police, substitute “brain-dead gangbanger” or “booze-drenched wife beater”). Real life for guys in these jobs is a daily reenactment of Kipling’s Arithmetic on the Frontier.

No proposition Euclid wrote
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow.
Strike hard who cares – shoot straight who can
The odds are on the cheaper man.

(Background on the poem. Of all the things I read before going to Afghanistan, Kipling was the best preparation. The Yusufzais he mentions are today still a Pathan (Pushtun) tribal group, frequently in opposition; the Afridis are still dominant in the Khyber Pass area, and some of them still affect green turbans. Only the weapons have improved).

If you have the attitude, and are willing to go into the Valley of the Shadow because you’re not going to be in there with them, instead those poor throgs are going to be in there with you, what are the simple tactics he has in mind?

(Caveat. Your Humble Blogger has never served in Delta. He had a short CQB/HR course called SOT many years ago, the short course which ultimately evolved, in two paths, into SFAUC and SFARTAETC).

Preparation

You need to have the basics first:

  1. Physical fitness. If you’re not ready to sprint up five flights of stairs you’re definitely not ready to train on this. Bear in mind that actual combat is much more physically exhausting and draining than any quantity of combat training. That may because fear dumps stress hormones that either induce or simulate fatigue. Perhaps there’s some other reason; it’s enough to know that the phenomenon is real.
  2. Marksmanship. This comprises hits on target but also shoot/no-shoot decision-making, malf clearing and primary-secondary transition. In our limited experience, almost no civilian shooters apart from practical-shooting competitors are ready to train on this stuff.
  3. Teamwork. It’s best to train a team that’s already tight. If not, no prob, the training process will tighten you.
  4. Decision Making under Stress. This is vital, because the one thing that you can plan on is your plan going to that which is brown and stinketh.

Process

The military stresses doing complex events (“eating the elephant”) by breaking them down into components (“bite-sized chunks.”) The process we use is lots of rehearsals in which risk and speed are gradually increased. One level is absolutely mastered before reaching for the risk or speed dial. (There are guys who go to SFAUC and are still carrying a blue-barrel Simunitions weapon in the live-fire phase. They’re still learning, but they’re not picking it up at the speed of the other guys. They’ll have to catch up and live fire to graduate).

Numerous rehearsals and practices are done in buildings of previously unknown configurations. A culmination exercise is full-speed, live-fire, breaching doors into an unknown situation. It can be done with dummies playing the hostiles and some hostages, and live people playing some no-shoot targets. (George has a story about this at the link. Not unusual to have a Unit commander or luminary like the late Dick Meadows in the hostage chair on a live-fire; at least once before Desert One, they put a very nervous Secretary of the Army in the chair).

The term the Army uses for this phased training process is widely adaptable to learning or teaching anything:

  1. Crawl
  2. Walk
  3. Run

Most civilian students, trainers and schools go from zero-to-sixty way too fast. To learn effectively, don’t crawl until the training schedule says walk, crawl until you’re ready.

Training should be 10% platform instruction and 90% hands-on. This is a craft, and you’re apprenticing, you’re not studying for an exam.

Tactics on Target

The most important thing you get from all these drills is an instinctive understanding of where the other guys are and where you are at all times, and where you’re personally responsible for the enemy.

Divide the sectors by the clock (degrees are too precise) and have one man responsible for a sector. Don’t shoot outside your sector unless the guy covering that sector is down. Staying on your sector is vital for safety! You should not only own the sector between your left and right limits, but also the vertical aspect of that sector, from beneath you, at your feet, through the horizontal plane to overhead.

Shoot/No-Shoot is vital and the only right way to do it is look at the hands and general gestalt of the individual to assess a threat. Weapon in hand? Nail ’em. Empty hands? Wait and keep assessing. (In this day of suicide vests, any attempt to close with you should probably be treated as a suicide bomb attempt).

If you have the personnel, the shooters do not deal with neutrals or friendlies on the X. There’s a following team that handles them, for several reasons including the shooters being keyed up to a fare-thee-well at the moment of entry.

You can’t learn CQB from a book, or a lecture, or some assclown on YouTube who never suited up and took a door. You have to physically practice, and practice, and practice. Ideally, under the beady eye of someone with a lot of doors in his past, and a skill at setting targets that borders on malicious mischief. (MSG Paul Poole, rest in peace, you old goat).

But first, absolutely first, you need guys with the guts to try. George is absolutely right about that. There is much other good stuff in his post, including a funny history of the term “operator” in the Army. (If you didn’t attend the Operators’ Training Course, it’s not you. Sorry ’bout that). You know what we’re going to say now, right? Damn straight. Read The Whole Thing™.

A Nice Story about a Non-Crazed Vet

Lieutenant Denny Drewry, “garrison” uniform, Vietnam 1968

Denzil “Denny” Drewry is an old friend and former head of our Special Forces Association chapter (Chapter LIV), who by blindest happenstance lives a few streets over from where Your Humble Blogger was raised.

Like many SF vets, his SF service was just one period in a long life of selfless service.

To our surprise, he was profiled in the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette with the sort of respect that newspapers these days seem to find only for dead vets in their obituaries… so we’re grateful to George Barnes of the Telegram & Gazette for doing such a warm and detailed profile of a deserving SF soldier. (It’s apparently part of a series on local vets that Barnes has been working on. Don’t tell the Pulitzer judges we praised his writing, they’ll retaliate).

Mr. Drewry enlisted in the Army in 1966, about a year after the Tonkin Gulf Resolution allowed President Lyndon Johnson to wage war in Vietnam. He joined with two things in mind: to serve in the Green Berets and to fight in Vietnam.

“Every paper I signed, I put “Green Berets – Vietnam, Green Berets – Vietnam, Green Berets – Vietnam,” he said.

Denny, field uniform, Camp A-102, 1968

At the University of Arkansas he was in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, but still had nearly two years of extensive training before he was qualified to serve in the Green Berets. He attended basic training, advanced infantry training, airborne school and six months of officer-candidate school, graduating as a newly minted second lieutenant. The final step was Special Forces Qualifying School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Vietnam, by the time he got there in August 1968, was at its height. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had launched the Tet Offensive in January of that year, which proved to be the largest military campaign of the war. Promoted to lieutenant, he worked first in intelligence and then was assigned to a Special Forces A team at Camp A-102 in the Tien Phouoc in Quang Tin province. The camp was one of a series of Special Forces camps set up to interfere with infiltration of enemy troops and weapons from the north. Located near the Laos and North Vietnam borders, the camp was in direct conflict with the North Vietnamese Army.

When he went to war, Mr. Drewry said, he was brimming with confidence, but admitted being frightened the first time he was shot at. He soon got over that as he gained experience. It was never easy at A-102. During one attack, close air support from Navy and Marine pilots saved the day, stopping the North Vietnamese in their tracks.

“We almost got overrun,” Mr. Drewry said. “It was bad weather and we couldn’t get choppers in to reinforce us. We can thank the Navy and Marine Corps pilots for saving us.”

Mr. Drewry’s luck ran out in March 1969, when he was wounded in the leg during an attack. He and a medic he was working with were evacuated to a hospital. Seven months after he arrived in Vietnam, he was headed home. When he recovered, Mr. Drewry continued to serve with the Green Berets for a total of 12 years. He said he would have stayed in longer, but the pain in his injured leg during parachute jumps convinced him it was time to retire.

via Those Who Serve: Green Beret from Westboro says service helped shape a full life.

Denny today. Worcester Telegram photo

He went on, as Barnes records, to some distinction in civilian life, too. He held important jobs in private and in public life. And he remains engaged at an age when most Americans are long since retired.

Denny is the kind of a guy you want for a neighbor, whether it’s on his quiet street in Westboro, Massachusetts, or in a noisy gunfight with altogether too many NVA. (Although he’s probably glad the gunfights are over).

Like his military service, what Denny has done as a civilian is not the sort of thing that gets statues of a guy erected. It’s just the sort of Norman Rockwell stuff, like being a town selectman, that holds the country together.

That’s all. But that’s enough, isn’t it?

Anti-Military Congressmen Undermine Medical Training

Then-PV2 Ron Westervelt, 12th SFG(A), in team live tissue training, March 1967.

The Washington word for “galactically stupid idea” is bipartisan, and before us we have a bipartisan bill to undermine military medical training. This is because these two partisans who are apparently bi (NTTAWWT… oh, who are we kidding, everything is wrong with that, it’s just not any of our business) … anyway, these two bi partisans value the opinions of their friends in PETA (the overt wing of the ALF terrorist group) more than they value the lives of soldiers. Which is not surprising, because they’re Congressmen, not a caste one normally associates with concern for les races oprimées. Such as, say, grunts.

Live Tissue Training, with which we have firsthand experience, is irreplaceable and necessary — as long as DC bums like these two soldier-haters keep sending our people into harm’s way. Want an example? Special Forces medics last year drew on skills learned in LTT in a heroic effort to save two SF troopers gravely wounded by a Jordanian Air Force gate guard. Despite what autopsy determined later to be the irrecoverably mortal nature of the wounds, they kept one man alive for the hours it took to fixed-wing evacuate him to King Hussein hospital, where he unfortunately expired. Elsewhere, that skill saves real, precious lives. We’ve seen it, live in full five-sense surround. (The smells stay with you).

Back to our “let-em-OJT-that-med-$#!+” Congressmen:

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require the military to use only “human-based methods” to train service members to treat injuries sustained on the battlefield and end the use of “live tissue training,” in which troops stab or shoot pigs and goats to simulate the treatment of combat trauma, by Oct. 1, 2020.

Representative Hank Johnson’s military service was… uh, he doesn’t appear to have had any. He’s a lawyer, and a second (at least) generation payroll patriot; his father was a high-ranking bureaucrat and he grew up in DC. Representative Tom Marino? Another lawyer with no military service. He was in the chronological sweet spot for the Vietnam Era draft (H.S. grad, 1970), but somehow didn’t manage to wriggle into a uniform — he wriggled out of service, instead.

Johnson told the Washington Examiner he intends to raise the issue during debate on the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and hopes to use the must-pass bill as a vehicle to ban live-tissue training. He said simulators offer better combat training than live animals, are more humane and are ultimately more cost-effective.

“It may cost more for a simulator than for a live animal in terms of initial outlay, but you can only use that animal once, you can use the simulator repeatedly. So over the course of time, it’s better,” he said.

Before you give too much credence to what Johnson says, bear in mind he’s the brain-dead moron who didn’t want to add any more Marines in Guam, because too many Leathernecks might make the island capsize and sink. (And yeah, he’s a lawyer. We bet you’re glad this dimbulb isn’t your lawyer. Or maybe he was, and that’s why your ex got sole custody of the kids and dog, or you’re reading this in the Halfway House library after completing all your hard time).

The military already has transitioned many of its medical training courses to use human-based simulators, which advocates say are realistic and better prepare troops to handle combat injuries since the simulators have the same anatomy as a human.

“Advocates” — nameless “advocates,” like nameless “experts,” are a technique used by a dishonest journalist to inject his or her opinion into the story. The only “advocates” who say that are the tofu-burning weirdos and cat hoarders of PETA, and the snake-oil salesmen who sell these simulators.

You can write this down: if you ever have to do a cutdown on a bleeder for real, or even just treat for tension pneumothorax, you’d rather it wasn’t your first time doing it except on a computer screen.

But for some training, the military continues to use live goats and pigs that are anesthetized, injured, treated and then euthanized.

The Defense Department is not onboard with completely ending its use of animals in combat trauma medical training – at least not yet. Lt. Col. Roger Cabiness, a department spokesman, said the military is “actively working to refine, reduce, and, when appropriate, replace the use of live animals in medical education and training.”

This reporter, Jacqueline Klimas, like Johnson and Marino, literally values the animals expended in LTT — 8,500 pigs and goats per annum — more than a similar number of human souls. At least when the souls are those of soldiers.

What a despicable, dysfunctional, amoral human being!

Perhaps she could find some way to mortally wound herself, so that her local EMS can practice on her, and spare the live of one endangered caprine.

Or maybe we can replace goat lab with something that doesn’t take a precious life, like, say, journalist lab.

After all, if it saves just one goat, it’s worth it, right?

via The military kills 8,500 pigs and goats every year for medical training. A new bill would end that | Washington Examiner.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Radix Press

Steve Sherman’s Radix Press is a narrow publisher indeed: most of what it publishes is lists and databases, but they all relate to Special Forces in Vietnam (where Steve himself served). Along with many Who’s Who books (for instance, Who’s Who in MAC-V SOG, known to SF vets and wannabe busters as “the yellow book”), he also publishes data on CDs, a set of reprints of Special Forces Vietnam’s in-house magazine, The Green Beret, which was published and printed on Okinawa and flown to Vietnam from 1966-1970, and a website full of SF Vietnam information.

Discussions in the comments recently brought this site up to mind; we may even have used it as a W4 before, but if so, it’s about due again.

The name of the website is memorable enough: SpecialForcesBooks.com. Along with the listing-type stuff, which is admittedly most interesting to other SF vets and specialized historians, there are books of after-action reports. Many of these documents can’t be found online or in libraries.

Steve’s lists of who’s who in each camp are largely on the site in the Work in Progress pages. Even the Army doesn’t have these listings; when SOCOM historians want to talk to the guys at a particular A-Camp, they check with Steve. His data is not 100% accurate, but it is based on copies of orders that he has seen with his own eyes, so it’s as good as data gets.

The website has some downsides. It’s hard to navigate, and looks like something from the 1990s, because it is from the 1990s (and even includes some time-capsule early HTML faux pas, such as scrolling text).

But one thing you can do very easily: search for Vietnam SF soldiers by name. You can find some of their specific assignments (because these are based on official orders, and SF guys had better than average luck and skill at getting orders changed, or getting more congenial orders issued, there’s a few percent error rate). Here we search for the late Sergeant Major Reg Manning:

And we see his Vietnam rank, specialty, and assignments. Easy! (And if you follow the links, you may see his assignment dates).

 

Special Forces Losses in Southeast Asia This Week, 6-12 Mar, 1957-75

Here’s another installment of our list of SF casualties, on the way to assisting the USA to the Silver Medal in the Southeast Asian War Games. The next couple of paragraphs, before the table, are the boilerplate that goes with this series of posts.

The list was a life’s work for retired Special Forces Command Sergeant Major Reginald Manning. Reg was beloved for his sharp mind and sense of humor; among other tours he survived one at what was probably the most-bombarded SF A-Camp in the Republic of Vietnam, Katum. (“Ka-BOOM” to its inmates). As a medic, some of Reg’s duties in the camp were not a joking matter, and that’s all we’re going to say about that.

There is a key to some of the mysterious abbreviations and codes, after the list.

May God have mercy on their souls, and long may America honor their sacrifices and hold their names high in memory.

Here is the key to the status codes for the Causes of Death or Missing in Action, and also a decoder for some of the common abbreviations:

Year

Mo.

Day

Rank

First

Last

Unit

Code

Nation, Location, Circumstances

1967

03

6

E-5 SGT

Howard B.

Carpenter

05B4S

KIA, BNR

Laos; B-50, FOB2, YD180036, Operation DAWES, 21k WNW of A Luoi

1967

03

6

E-4 SP4

Burt C.

Small, Jr

11B4S

MIA-PFD, died in captivity

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp

1967

03

6

E-6 SSG

Michael F.

Stearns

12B4S

KIA

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp, w/ Sanchez looking for SP4 Small

1967

03

6

E-8 MSG

Thomas J.

Sanchez

11F5S

KIA, DSC

SVN; A-108, Minh Long, Quang Ngai Prov., BS533587 8k north of camp, w/ Stearns looking for SP4 Small

1968

03

6

O-5 LTC

Robert

Lopez

31542

KIA, BNR (recovered 10/07/94)

SVN; CCN, FOB1, Phu Bai, YC456958, in CH-46 shootdown 4 km NE of Ta Bat, FOB C.O.

1969

03

6

O-3 CPT

John T.

McDonnell

31542

MIA-PFD, BNR, helicopter crash

SVN; w/ 77th Arty (ARA)/101st in AH1G #67-15845; ZC177968: had 2 prev tours w/ SF; one w/ A-321

1970

03

6

E-5 SGT

Walter B.

Foote

05B4S

KIA

SVN; A-413, Binh Thanh Thon, Kien Tuong Prov., w/ MSG W. D. Stephens

1970

03

6

E-8 MSG

Willie D.

Stephens

11F5S

KIA

SVN; A-413, Binh Thanh Thon, Kien Tuong Prov., w/ SGT Foote

1970

03

6

W-4 CW4

George E.

Railey

631A7

DNH, vehicle crash

SVN; C-2, ??where??, Pleiku Prov., jeep accident??

1970

03

6

E-7 SFC

James W.

Finzel

11B4S

DNH, drowned

SVN; CCN, RT Moccasin, drowned while at the beach at CCN

1968

03

7

E-5 SP5

Little J.

Jackson

91B4S

KIA, DOW

SVN; B-52, 5th Ranger Co. Advisor, YD558043 19k NE of A Luoi, Thua Thien Prov., Opn Samurai IV

1968

03

8

E-4 SP4

John M.

Tomkins

91B4S

KIA, DOW (WIA on 2/25/68)

SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., convoy returning from Da Nang, w/ Beals

1969

03

8

E-6 SSG

James E.

Janka

11B4S

KIA

SVN; 1 MSFC, B-16, 11th MSF Co, Nung Company XO, at A-102, Tien Phuoc, Quang Tin Prov.

1969

03

8

O-4 MAJ

Peter L.

Gorvad

31542

KIA

SVN; w/ 1st Cav, Bn Cdr at LZ Grant northeast of Saigon

1966

03

9

E-7 SFC

Raymond

Allen

11C4S

KIA, DWM

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1966

03

9

E-6 SSG

Billie A.

Hall

91B4S

KIA, DSC

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., inside the perimeter

1966

03

9

E-5 SP5

Phillip T.

Stahl

91B2S

KIA, DWM, DSC

SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1967

03

9

E-8 MSG

Frank C.

Huff

11B4S

KIA, war accident

SVN; 2 MSFC, A-219, on BlackJack 23; 1st Platoon Leader; BR552875; bomb from friendly aircraft

1968

03

9

E-7 SFC

Dale R.

Karpenske

97D4P

DNH, accidental self destruction

SVN; 441MI, 1st SFG, OP-35, Bien Hoa Prov.

1969

03

9

E-6 SSG

Tim L.

Walters

11F4S

KIA, DWM (recovered 02/16/99)

Laos; CCN, Ops-32, XD524658, shotdown aboard O-2A 67-21425 40k NW west of A-101 (old) Lang Vei

1971

03

9

E-7 SFC

Merle E.

Loobey

11F40

KIA

SVN; Advisors, Kien Giang Prov

1966

03

10

E-5 SGT

James L.

Taylor

11B4S

KIA, DWM, BNR

SVN; 5 MSFC, A-503, at A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov., YC485845, WIA in camp and died during E&E

1966

03

10

E-5 SGT

Owen F.

McCann

05B4S

KIA, DWM

SVN; A-102, A Shau, Thua Thien Prov.

1968

03

10

E-5 SGT

Warren C.

Lane

11B4S

KIA

SVN; w/ 11th LIB, Quang Ngai Prov.

1969

03

10

E-5 SGT

Allan D.

Mortensen

91B4S

KIA

SVN; 3 MSFC, B-36, Long Khanh Prov., CENTURIAN VI??

1970

03

10

E-4 SP4

Stephen A.

Spiers

91B4S

KIA, DOW

SVN; B-52, Recondo Plt, Phuoc Long Prov., Opn Sabre & Spurs, YT318768 13k SSE of A-344, Bunard

1968

03

12

E-7 SFC

Estel D.

Spakes

05B4S

KIA

SVN; A-109, Thoung Duc, Quang Nam Prov., his CIDG patrol was overrun


SVN SF KIA Status Codes:

BNR – Body Not Recovered. (Known to be dead, but his body was left behind).
DOW – Died of Wounds. (At some time subsequent to the wounding, days/weeks/months).
DNH – Died Non-Hostile. (Accident, disease. There’s a couple suicides among them).
DWM – Died While Missing. (Usually implies body recovered at a different time during the war).
KIA – Killed In Action.
MIA – Missing In Action.
PFD – Presumptive Finding of Death. (This was an administrative close-out of all remaining MIAs during the Carter Administration).

Common Abbreviations

A-XXX (digits). SF A-team and its associated A-camp and area.
AATTV – Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. Their soldiers integrated with SF in VN.
BSM, SS, DSC, MOH: Awards (Bronze Star, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor).
CCC, CCN, CCS. Command and Control (Center, North and South). Covernames for the three command and support elements of the Special Operations Group cross-border war.
MGF – Mobile Guerrilla Force, indigenous personnel led directly by US.
MSFC – Mobile Strike Force Command, indigenous personnel led directly by US. Aka Mike Force.

We’ll cheerfully answer most other questions to the best of our ability in the comments. Note that (1) it’s Reg’s list, and we can’t ask him any more, and (2) it was Reg’s war, not ours, and all our information about SF in the Vietnam war is second hand from old leaders and teammates, or completely out of secondary sources.

An SF Brother Comes Home

Here is a video of one of the enoute Dignified Transfers of the remains of Special Forces Warrant Officer Shawn Thomas of 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. WO1 Thomas fell not in combat with an armed enemy, but in a motor vehicle accident in Niger, Africa, during a routine joint combined training/exercise deployment. That doesn’t make him any less dead, nor does it alter the grief of his wife, his friends and teammates, and, even, the crew and passengers of the plane that transported his remains.

We in the SF community are grateful to the aircrew, airline, and especially the passengers who showed such great respect, despite being inconvenienced.

Freedom isn’t free. In our eight or nine years of peacetime active duty, our Special Forces group lost men to electrocution, parachute mishaps, a Fulton STAR mishap, a skiing mishap, and even to entanglement in brush while crossing a stream swollen with snowmelt runoff. And, yes, motor vehicle accidents.  After going into the Reserves and Guard, we we less connected to the other battalions and companies in our Group, but we’d get word of fatal and serious accidents from time to time.

You can’t train for combat without some risky activities. And you can’t conduct risky activity indefinitely without rolling snake eyes some time.

In cases like this, where fallen service members are transported on commercial aircraft, it’s customary for the cockpit crew to hold the doors on the aircraft (with the exception of allowing an escort to debark) to allow the casket to be transferred with suitable dignity. As you can see in the video, the pallbearers — often from the decedent’s unit, and sometimes volunteers — and the mortuary personnel have a procedure for this and execute it with the maximum dignity to the memory of the fallen man, and the minimum inconvenience to other travelers.

Very occasionally, someone gets mouthy or disrespectful on the plane. You can’t eliminate a certain percentage of humanity being jerks. But it doesn’t happen much, because, after all, they’re already segregated — most of Hollywood and Congress flies by private jet.

Wednesday Thursday Weapons Website of the Week: Burr Smith

This is not Burr Smith’s (full name, Robert Burr Smith) Facebook Page — he didn’t live to see Facebook, or personal computers for that matter — but it is a tribute page to Smith, an Army Airborne, Special Forces and unconventional warfare legend, set up by his son. Hey, how many guns can you ID from this grainy picture? (Four are easy, we’ll list ’em after the jump).

Smith was a member of the famous E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, jumping into Normandy on the night of 5/6 June 1944, and that’s not even where he became legendary.

Sorry for the day late and brevity, but… well, sorry not sorry. Go to the page. Learn about this guy. There are a few books about the secret war in Laos that will help you understand a guy who began there with White Star and was there on and off for about as long as an American was welcome.

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Special Forces Losses in Southeast Asia This Week, 1957-75

We’re going to try to return to our former practice of posting this list once a week. The list was a life’s work for retired Special Forces Command Sergeant Major Reginald Manning. Reg was beloved for his sharp mind and sense of humor; among other tours he survived one at what was probably the most-bombarded SF A-Camp in the Republic of Vietnam, Katum. (“Ka-BOOM” to its inmates). As a medic, some of Reg’s duties in the camp were not a joking matter, and that’s all we’re going to say about that.

There is a key to some of the mysterious abbreviations and codes, after the list.

May God have mercy on their souls, and long may America honor their sacrifices and hold their names high in memory.

Year

Mo.

Day

Rank

First

Last

Unit

Code

Nation, Location, Circumstances

1967

02

20

WO-2

Max P.

Hanley

AATTV

KIA

SVN; A-113, Mobile Guerilla Force, 5 Km SE of A-104, Ha Thanh, at OP66, Quang Ngai Prov.

1967

02

20

E-6 SSG

John E.

McCarthy

11C4S

KIA, DSC

SVN; A-302, Mike Force, Phuoc Long Prov., near A-341, Bu Dop

1969

02

20

E-5 SP5

Alan C.

Burtness

11B4S

KIA

SVN; 4 MSFC, Can Tho, Phong Dinh Prov., by a mine

1967

02

21

E-7 SFC

Domingo R. S.

Borja

11C4S

KIA, BNR, DSC

Laos; CCN, w/ RT??, YD188011, 20k west of A Luoi

1967

02

21

E-7 SFC

Billy E.

Carrow

12B4S

DNH, accident w/ weapon

Thailand; 46th SF Co, A-4634, Trang (Camp Carrow near Trang named for him.)

1968

02

21

E-7 SFC

Robert N.

Baker

11C4S

KIA

SVN; CCN, FOB1, Quang Nam Prov.

1968

02

21

E-6 SSG

Paul M.

Douglas

11B4S

KIA

SVN; CCN, FOB3, RT Hawaii, Quang Tri Prov., killed by mortar round at Khe Sanh

1965

02

22

E-5 SP5

Gerald B.

Rose

12B2S

KIA

SVN; A5/214, Soui Doi, Pleiku Prov., at Mang Yang Pass

1967

02

22

E-7 SFC

George W.

Ovsak

11C4S

KIA

SVN; A-302, Mike Force, at A-301 Trang Sup, XT177554, unloading boobytrapped truck

1969

02

24

E-7 SFC

Charles E.

Carpenter

11C4S

KIA

SVN; 2 MSFC, B-20, 261 MSF Co, just outside A-244, Ben Het, Kontum Prov.

1968

02

25

E-7 SFC

Lawrence F.

Beals

11F4S

KIA

SVN; 1 MSFC, A-111, Quang Nam Prov., convoy between Da Nang and A-109, w/ Tomkins

1969

02

25

E-7 SFC

James K.

Sutton

11B4S

KIA, DOW

SVN; C Co, 5th SFG, w/ ??, radio relay site w/ USMC at FSB Neville near DMZ, Quang Tri Prov.

1970

02

25

E-7 SFC

Bobbie R.

Baxter

12B4S

DNH, vehicle crash

SVN; B-53, Bien Hoa Prov., S-4 NCOIC

Here is the key to the status codes for the Causes of Death or Missing in Action, and also a decoder for some of the common abbreviations:

SVN SF KIA Status Codes:

BNR – Body Not Recovered. (Known to be dead, but his body was left behind).
DOW – Died of Wounds. (At some time subsequent to the wounding, days/weeks/months).
DNH – Died Non-Hostile. (Accident, disease. There’s a couple suicides among them).
DWM – Died While Missing. (Usually implies body recovered at a different time during the war).
KIA – Killed In Action.
MIA – Missing In Action.
PFD – Presumptive Finding of Death. (This was an administrative close-out of all remaining MIAs during the Carter Administration).

Common Abbreviations

A-XXX (digits). SF A-team and its associated A-camp and area.
AATTV – Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. Their soldiers integrated with SF in VN.
BSM, SS, DSC, MOH: Awards (Bronze Star, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor).
CCC, CCN, CCS. Command and Control (Center, North and South). Covernames for the three command and support elements of the Special Operations Group cross-border war.
MGF – Mobile Guerrilla Force, indigenous personnel led directly by US.
MSFC – Mobile Strike Force Command, indigenous personnel led directly by US. Aka Mike Force.

We’ll cheerfully answer most other questions to the best of our ability in the comments. Note that (1) it’s Reg’s list, and we can’t ask him any more, and (2) it was Reg’s war, not ours, and all our information about SF in the Vietnam war is second hand from old leaders and teammates, or completely out of secondary sources.

Some of the Best Fail Selection

Interesting thing about the selection programs for SF and other Special Operations Forces: most of the guys who could probably pass don’t even try.

And most of the guys who do try and don’t quit probably could make it. You see, there’s four ways out of SFAS (or any of these deals).

  • You can pass, the outcome everyone wants and hopes for, but not everyone gets;
  • You can quit, in SF vernacular “VW” (voluntary withdrawal), in which case you get the dreaded “NTR letter” (Never To Return). The “Never” can be a little rubbery for a soldier that subsequently displays considerable character growth, though.
  • You can fail for good, making it all the way to the end but not selecting, and receiving an NTR letter. (This is often the case when the many cadre observing proceedings take a view you’re not giving 100% or not a team player. Being a Spotlight Ranger is a great way to collect an NTR).
  • You can fail for now, making it all the way to the end, not selecting, but being invited to try again. (Sometimes after a fixed interval of months or years). This is usually reserved for people who may nonselect for youth or inexperience, or who struggled with some aspect(s) of the assessment and selection process, but who favorably impressed the cadre with their character and persistence.

After many years of running these courses, the cadre are surprisingly skilled at selecting the youth who lacks maturity now and his peer who’s never going to be teammate material.

One reason Big Green kind of hates SF is because good conventional troopers and officers who go to SFAS and get NTR’d often sour on the Army. They either turn to dirtbags (the index case being Timothy McVeigh) or just get demoralized and get out.

An NTR does’t mean you’re worthless. It just means that this, and you, don’t fit together. A lesson a guy can’t learn unless, or until, he tries.

At Breach Bang Clear, there’s a remarkable and thoughtful appreciation of the SFAS experience from Eric Hack, a soldier who attended and failed to select — and yet, found it a positive, growth-catalyzing experience. Hack was a full-length non-select, but wasn’t NTR’d, and he hopes to return some day. We think that he is displaying the kind of maturity that his future ODA will welcome. (And believe it or not, whatever MOS you come from, wherever you have served, the time will come when your experience is pure gold to your teammates). Here’s a taste:

The rest of the day was a blur. I threw that set of ACUs away, took a baby wipe shower, brushed my teeth, and I think I took the psych test and IQ tests next (but those days all seemed to roll into one). I remember a safety brief on the “Star” land-nav course and the cadre talking about all the scary venomous snakes around, trying to get some of the less committed to quit right there. I grew up on a Missouri farm and knew how to handle snakes. I was more concerned about wandering onto some backwoods moonshine distillery and dealing with Ol’ Bubba.

The Star Course excited me. I was pretty skilled in map tracking and land navigation, and the Star Course marked the exact middle of the 14-day selection course. In 2008, the JFK Special Warfare Center and School experimented with shortening Special Forces Applicant Selection (SFAS) from 21 to 14 days in an attempt to get more soldiers in the Q-Course and more SF troops on the battlefield. The experiment was roundly rejected by the cadre. They warned us on Day 0 they were going to be extra critical because they wanted the experiment to fail. In this they were successful. Only ten percent of our 401 candidates completed the course. ….

I carried my rubber duck replica M-16A2, old LC-2 suspenders, a web belt, two one-quart canteens, an eighty-pound ruck with e-tool and two two-quart canteens on the sides, an additional three-liter CamelBak on top, and all the rain and sweat my equipment could soak up.

I was cold, hungry, tired, and sick. I would routinely look at the stock of my rubber rifle to read the words a previous candidate carved: “KEEP GOING.”

Amen to that.

…even though I was miserable and the 18D was jacking with me, I was having the time of my life. Some might see that guy as an asshole, but I got the message: he wanted me to succeed, but the only way he would help me was by pissing me off. He wasn’t there to encourage or coddle me. He was there to challenge me and let me prove I had what it took to earn the right to go to the Q-course.

But while that excerpt is all fine and good, you really ought to Read The Whole Thing™. We can assure you that Eric suffered considerably to be in a position to write it. And he’s got the guts to want to go suffer again. (A lot of guys pass selection on a second pass, and some take more than that). Pure pigheaded stubbornness is a Regimental value, in the Special Forces Regiment.

Fighter / SF Soldier Tim Kennedy Retires

From the ring, that is. He’s still in as a part-time soldier, and there’s a story in that. Tim was on active duty in Special Forces when he first began to fight in mixed martial arts competitions. The command took no notice.

Then, he began to win. A lot. The command discovered that one of their warriors was actually one of the world’s top fighters. They should have celebrated their good fortune and wrung a PR and recruiting windfall out of it. (What Would The SEALs Do?) But no, that’s not what they did.

They ordered him to quit. 

Instead, he quit active duty, continuing to serve in the National Guard, and kept fighting. A recent deployment and the associated pre- and post-deployment activities kept him out of the ring for a couple of years, and when he went back in the ring, he lost… and he knew that this was it. 

Every athlete knows that there will be a time to hang up the gloves (or whatever). Some receive that signal when it comes in, embracing a graceful end to a young person’s career. Some don’t, and become that guy, hanging around trying to capture the feeling of ever-more-distant glory. Tim wasn’t going to be that guy.

Sitting in the ER at Saint Michael’s hospital in Toronto, Canada after my fight, I looked up at my buddy Nick Palmisciano who had ridden in the ambulance with me. He is a friend I didn’t deserve and guy that stood with me from the beginning. Fighting is a lonely thing. You train with your team. You bleed with them. You trust your coaches but ultimately you are in the cage alone. This wasn’t our first time in this situation and thankful I had someone by my side. We had been here a few times in our past decade together. Sometimes for wins and sometimes for losses. The end result always looked the same: Nick carrying five bags that should have been split among three corners and me and my face are bleeding and swollen.

“That’s it man,” I said. “We’re all done.”

We had talked about it a lot over the past few years. I’d spoken to Nick, to my wife Ginger, and to Greg Jackson and Brandon Gibson ad nauseam about the coming end. No matter how hard I trained, I knew this ride wouldn’t last forever. But saying it out loud definitely brought me both sadness that this chapter was complete and overwhelming relief that it’s a decision I could make without worrying about taking care of my family.

I had just lost to Kelvin Gastelum, a really respectful and hard-working young fighter who went out and did all the things I consider myself good at, but did them better. He actually reminded me of me when I was younger, except I was kind of a jerk back then. As losses go, I was kind of happy I lost to a guy like him.

A lot of my coaches, friends and fans immediately tried to build me up again. “Kelvin has the right skillset to beat you and it was your first fight back.” “You had ring rust.” “You’re still a top 10 middleweight.” I appreciated their comments and I don’t think they are wrong. I know I am still a good fighter. I know I was away a while. But they didn’t feel what I felt, and that’s being 37. I felt like I was in slow motion the entire match. I felt tired for the first time ever in a fight.

I’m the guy that once graduated Ranger School – a place that starves you and denies you sleep for over two months – and took a fight six days later in the IFL and won. I’m the guy that is always in shape. And I was for this fight. I worked harder than I ever have before for this fight. But I wasn’t me anymore. My brain knew what to do but my body did not respond. I’ve watched other fighters arrive here. I’ve watched other fighters pretend they weren’t here. I will not be one of them.

Do Read The Whole Thing™ at Tim Kennedy’s Facebook page. He is, it turns out, a gifted writer, and the whole thing is worth reading.

We at WeaponsMan.com wish Tim Kennedy all the best in his future endeavors. He leaves like he entered, and like he fought: with heart, class and sportsmanship.

He may never step into the ring again, but his name lives for evermore.

That colonel that demanded that he quit UFC, what was his name? Dunno. We forgot.