Category Archives: SF History and Lore

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Stormbringer

Stormbringer is the callsign of a former Special Forces NCO, who goes by the pseudonym Sean Linnane. (It’s a good choice of pseudonym; it suggests he’s of Irish ancestry, and you can’t throw a rock in a team house without hitting a couple such, so it doesn’t give much away). It’s also the name of his occasionally-updated, very high quality blog.

Linnane was a rough contemporary of ours, but stayed on active duty when we discovered the Reserve and Guard SF, and learned that it made far more sense as a hobby than it did as a living. Here’s what he says about himself:

Sean Linnane is the pseudonym of a retired Special Forces career NCO (1st SFG, 3d SFG, 10th SFG). I served with honor on five continents; I continue to serve in other capacities.

via Sean Linnane.

What we like about his blog is the same sort of reflective and even sentimental tales of SF lore and legend that we’ve been known to get up to ourselves. Linnane, of course, is intelligent and a clear writer — the first is mandatory, the second almost-so for an SF sergeant. (A few outstanding guys with abominable English skills have always been carried by the teams’ literati on grounds of their other contributions. In the very early days of SF, these non-English-speakers were often from SF areas of interest, like Hungary or the Sudetenland; today, they’re often from SF AOIs still, it’s just that the areas and languages are different. Plus, Hispanics have flocked to SF in throw-a-rock-you’ll-hit-one numbers, too).

His posts are interesting here, whether they’re on the curious history of Rolex POW watches (didn’t know there was a such thing before), or his own take on the warrior ethos:

Looking back, something drew me to it like a magnet, almost as if it was Fate. I was fortunate to make my way to America as an immigrant and to find my way into the greatest Army that ever marched across a battlefield. A series of good decisions and a lot of hard work got me into Special Forces where you don’t earn the Green Beret after graduation – you earn it every day, by deed and thought.

Now I’m no altruist – I’m not Mother Theresa and I’m no Boy Scout – and I know I was fortunate to fall into a profession that in many ways is a cause; I fight Evil. I got here almost by chance because growing up everybody I knew – to include my family – was against me joining the military. They made fun of my dreams and ambition to be a soldier, told me I was misguided and out of my mind.

It’s probably not for everybody, but then, neither is SF. Linnane, like many of us, was born just a little bit “off,” and when he finally “joined a minority group,” (an old SF recruiting slogan that is also a play on our fundamental theater-level organization, the Special Forces Group, about 1800 men that can overthrow a country in a month or less), he felt like he was finally at home.

We can relate.

Afghan SOPMOD I Update

Originally, when we got M4A1s and SOPMOD gear, the only documents that made it to us after Group HQ coonfingered the gear were these little 11x17 posters. All the manuals (and some of the gear) were gone.

Originally, when we got M4A1s and SOPMOD gear, the only documents that made it to us after Group HQ coonfingered the gear were these little 11×17 posters. All the manuals (and some of the gear) were gone. [Bear with us on the photos. It will take a while to get them into this post! It should be good now].

When we last left our attempted clone of our Afghanistan 2002-03 rifle, we had taken it to the range and zeroed it with M193 (our indoor range doesn’t permit M855 due to the steel penetrators), but only using the iron sights. We had made already the first small changes to tweak the rifle to ape its wartime predecessor, including:

  • A Colt 14.5″ M6920LE Short Barreled Rifle.
  • Replacing Colt’s factory Rogers Super-Stoc with the actual Colt stock from our wartime gun (the unit dumpstered them when SOPMOD stocks came in — and a friend still on duty dumpster-dove for us).
  • Replacing the front handguards with the correct vintage Knight’s rail system and VFG. Yes, we know VFGs are out of style in 2015, but they were still the cat’s ass in 2002, and that’s what we’re building. We’re going to do a few other things wrong before we’re done, to keep our SBR vintage correct.
Status quo ante. This is the carbine at the end of last effort, in December 2014.

Status quo ante. This is the carbine at the end of last effort, in December 2014.

Three things that we were still looking for were less common: a Knight’s Armament Company flash suppressor/mount for the Knight’s suppressor;IMG_1765 a vintage-correct ACOG TA01NSN;IMG_1764 and an AN/PEQ-2 laser target indicator/illuminator. IMG_1766Each of these posed certain problems; the KAC mounts were intermittent in availability at retail (although the company includes two with each suppressor); the ACOG has since been improved, upgraded, and (in military service) bowdlerized by a militant atheist driving Satan’s own horsemen, military lawyers, before him; and the PEQ-2 is subject to ownership and ITAR limitations; its infrared laser can be hazardous to human vision on some settings.

There is also a plague of counterfeit optics on the market.

Moreover, some significant percentage of the mil-spec ACOGs and the PEQs on the market are stolen government property. More than one buyer has found that stolen property was soon followed by a CID, NCIS or FBI agent who is looking to retrieve it as evidence in a criminal investigation; others have discovered that their purchases were stolen only when they sent the item for service, and discovered that it wasn’t coming back, but instead going back to its last legitimate owner.

IMG_1763

It is possible, fortunately, to check by serial number, with a simple phone call. For example, Trijicon customer service will look up an ACOG for you if you simply dial them up at (800) 338-0563.

KAC suppressor mount/flash hider

(We received the mounts, but not the suppressors, before the deployment; it turns out that some of our remote company’s SOPMOD gear was diverted by Alabama boys better connected to Group HQ). The mount didn’t go on right away in 2001 when we got the guns, and it’s not going to go on this one right away, either. We thought we’d include it in this rundown but we’re out of space and time. So we’ll do that along with an overview of how to change out AR muzzle devices right, which is trickier than you think. There are two separate ways to time an A2-type flash suppressor: using shims or using a crush washer. The Knight’s unit uses shims, which is more fiddly for the armorer, but more predictable in outcome. The shims make up for the fact that different muzzles may be machined slightly differently with reference to where the threads start around the clock. Since it’s important that the two blank “slot” areas of the flash suppressor be underneath (there are some tricks with this we’ll mention when we do the install story) then there’s a trick to aligning and torquing the muzzle device.

The one we have was generously sent to us by frequent commenter Miles.

ACOG TA01NSN, 2003 vintage SN 0427xx

One thing we wanted was a correct (or close) vintage ACOG with the ACOG4X32JN8:12 marking on it. It is a reference to the Christian Bible, which in the King James Version says:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

The inscription that threw the press into a tizzy. ACOG TA01NSN

The inscription that threw the press into a tizzy. ACOG TA01NSN

Fairly on point for an illuminated optic intended to save lives. Of course, an over-ten-year-old optic that depends on tritium for illumination is going to be dead, dead, dead. Fortunately we’re not planning on starting a war any time soon, and as it turns out, it’s possible (if expensive) to have the ACOG thoroughly overhauled at the factory. Before we’d do that, we’d want to know if JN8:12 could stay.

When this inscription was discovered, the media, atheists, and anti-Christian groups exploded into outrage. The company, which had put Bible verse references on every product since its founding by a Christian, Glyn Bindon, backed down. In the military, the inscriptions were removed pursuant to threats by a former military lawyer named Mikey Weinstein, a militant atheist of Jewish extraction and totalitarian inclinations, who is vocal in his hatred for Christians, and who seeks to impose atheism as the Established State Religion of the United States.

We called Trijicon to determine when the scope was made. Trijicon customer service heard the serial number and the pleasant lady said, “That doesn’t sound that old… wow, it is.” It was made in 2003, and we confirmed that it was not ever a military-owned optic.

Trijicon can make the scope new again, for $570, which provides, “a thorough overhaul, restored tritium illumination, and a new warranty.” And no, they won’t grind the inscription off, like the bible-haters make them do to military scopes. You can set it up right through the web site (although it’s a very good idea to ring them with the serial number first. If it’s stolen government property, they not only won’t overhaul it, you won’t get it back). The overhaul seems like a good deal, but apart from the dead illum, this scope is in nice shape and just flat doesn’t need it.

Mounting the scope is child’s play — the factory mount isn’t exactly QD, but is easy to set up and quite repeatable in terms of zero. If you’re grieved by the effort involved in spinning two thumbscrews, maybe SF is not for you.

Numbers on the rails can be used to replicate or repeat a scope-positioning situation.

Numbers on the rails can be used to replicate or repeat a scope-positioning situation.

Back in 2001-02, we sometimes had to put the ACOGs in suboptimal position to allow the carbines to rack in the modified M12 racks our unit had at the time. When we went downrange, we lost that garrison problem, and now that we lock guns in big, roomy safes, we don’t need to play scope-position games.

We initially positioned it here, based on memory. Checking eye relief, we discovered our memory was wrong.

We initially positioned it here, based on memory. Checking eye relief, we discovered our memory was wrong.

The ACOG finally wound up here, flush with the front of the receiver. This is the position it's in in period photos. Background: psyops posters we handed out to Afghans, explaining 9/11.

The ACOG finally wound up here, flush with the front of the receiver. This is the position it’s in in period photos. Background: a framed pair of the psyops posters we handed out to Afghans, explaining 9/11.

All that’s left is to zero it.

AN/PEQ-2

This was actually the first item we acquired, and the most expensive. (If someone offers you a cheap one, see comments above about stolen government property).

It actually comes with the bracket you need (called the ) attached to the PEQ itself. There are also other adapters available; we used to run these on pre-M4A1 guns with an adapter that attached right to the barrel.

It actually comes with the bracket you need (called the Rail Grabber) attached to the PEQ itself. There are also other adapters available; we used to run these on pre-M4A1 guns with an adapter that attached right to the barrel. By the mid-oughts, a lot of guys had replaced these factory mounts.

Since 2002 we’ve changed how we use this and similar devices and tend to deploy it on the top rail, but because we’re repopping the 2002 setup, on the right rail it goes.

As it turns out, according to the book, the right side where we ran it was not doctrinal -- top or left was. Lacking these books, then, we didn't know that.

As it turns out, according to the book, the right side where we ran it was not doctrinal — top or left was. Lacking these books, then, we didn’t know that. Picture on the left shows the pre-rail-era adapter.

What the AN/PEQ-2 is, is an infrared (only) laser pointer, aiming point, and floodlight. It does have to be zeroed which is done under NODs. You can start with a boresight.

WRONG. To install the PEQ, you have to remove one of the rail covers by pressing down on its center point. A screwdriver scratches the metal gratuitously....

WRONG. To install the PEQ, you have to remove one of the rail covers by pressing down on its center point. A screwdriver scratches the metal gratuitously….

A small block of wood, or any other non-marring tool, doesn't. With the center of the spring depressed, the rail cover slides off.

A small block of wood, or any other non-marring tool, doesn’t. With the center of the spring depressed, the rail cover slides off.

This was an extremely useful unit downrange, ub a variety of ways. And it will be useful if we ever contract over there again. It doesn’t really add much practical to this rifle, but it’s essential to its gestalt. 

The rail grabber snaps into place and then is tightened with the thumbscrew....

The rail grabber snaps into place and then is tightened with the thumbscrew….

Then the PEQ fits on. A single screw holds it in place; the mating angles of the Rail Grabber and the PEQ-2's molded case supposedly ensure alignment.

Then the PEQ fits on. A single screw holds it in place; the mating angles of the Rail Grabber and the PEQ-2’s molded case supposedly ensure alignment.

Because of the power of this illuminator, it’s extremely important to leave the blue training plug in place. It’s eye-safe with that in place; with it removed, it’s quite hazardous, and we only took those out downrange. Mission first, safety always.

Summing up

Apart from a general lack of damage, abuse and dust, the Colt 6921 now closely resembles its wartime granddaddy. If we knew where the Taliban cells around here were, we could start getting the damage, abuse and dust up to a more-authentic level.

There are still a couple more details to be done. The vane switch needs to be rigged and installed, batteries need to be put in the AN/PEQ-2 (kind of pointless if we’re not going to be using it in night combat! But we have been weighing everything) and the aforementioned flash suppressor/suppressor-mount be installed.

If we were actually running this gun today, we’d make it a little less Old Guy Gear™ by doing the following:

  1. Moving the PEQ to the top rail or replacing it with a dual-purpose visible/IR illuminator;
  2. Adding a sling. We were still all 80s Ragnar Skool, “slings are for the weak” in 2001. We’re less ‘tarded now.
  3. Replacing the vertical fore-grip with an angled fore-grip.

We’d probably stick with the TA01NSN, even after using the Elcan Spectre DR from the SOPMOD II kit.

The Colt M4A1 — one of the ones we got to replace older fixed-handle M16 Carbines and proto-M4s — was one of only two long guns we personally took out of the box new (a lot of sniper rifles came in but those guys kept the unboxing ritual to themselves).  And that’s in a 30-year career. And then we carried it, downrange, on strikes beyond enemy positions (it’s hard to call them “lines.”) We actually took these guns, our little bunch of guys, and we lived the slogan on our distinctive unit insignia, De Oppresso Liber. We did indeed liberate the oppressed.

For all these reasons and more, reproducing this firearm justified all the expense and time that went into it. We’ll probably be dragging it around the house and terrorizing Kid and Small Dog, mumbling phrases in Dari for weeks now.

Defoor Strikes Again

Needed: riser mount for an Aimpoint.
On hand: Aimpoint, no riser mount, odds and ends.
Input: A now old-guy’s memory of “how we did it back when this stuff was shiny and new”
Result: Aimpoint on a section of Yankee Hill Machine 5/8″ rail. Mission accomplished.

Defoor improv riser mount

If you’ve been around a while, you probably have junk like that in your junk box — sights and mounts and rails for stuff you’re never going to mount again, ’cause it’s as obsolete as a crank handle for a Model T. Also, before we move on, note that Mr Old School who cooked this up is not using a 90s-vintage Aimpoint, but a modern Micro T1. Optics are one of the fastest-moving areas of sooting technology, and if you stand still here you get left behind. Still, as the if-it’s-stupid-and-it-works-it-ain’t-stupid riser shows, the knowledge and cunning you developed 20 years ago (for some of us, 40 years ago?) can still be applied.

This Old Man was Kyle Defoor, who was around back when all this stuff was new and putting it together was hard. (Heck, 20 years before him, guys were doing it with electrical tape — green 100-mile-an-hour tape was still too hard to pry out of Supply — and/or radiator-hose clamps. Look at some of the Son Tay mounts for the Single Point red-dot, or some of the Armson OEG carrying handle mounts we used after that. They were stupid, but they worked. Sort of). Here it is in his own words:

In the mid 90’s when I was first issued an Aimpoint there were no mounts commercially available. ARMS and Wilcox were still a few months out. It was common practice to go to the armory and acquire one Badger Ordnance 30mm scope ring and a 5/8″ riser to use to attach the red dot to the then new flat top rail. The BO scope ring was of course from the snipes and the 5/8″ riser was a holdover from the MP5 days when using a gas mask and needing more height.

Here you see my modern version using the stock AP Micro mount and a Yankee Hill 5/8″ rail piece….not because I want to revisit my past but because it’s all I had available where I was at…..totally freaked some new guys out….and they lost money

And because it’s Defoor, there’s a few prime sarky hash tags:

#experiencecounts
#20plusyears
#thegenerationthatinventedthisshit
#nevermakeabetifyoucantpaythedebt
#fuckinnewguys

And the primest of all:

#whydoeshekeepcallingmemeat?

It’s our observation that bagging on New Guys is a self-perpetuating tradition; when a former New Guy becomes an Old Guy he has a lot of pent-up hostility to vent on today’s innocent New Guys. It seems to us that this is more an aspect of SEAL than SF culture, from all the SEALs we’ve known over the years. In SF a New Guy is expected to be learning, sure, but so is an Old Guy, because the mission, situation, and technology is constantly changing. If a New Guy wasn’t a productive member of an ODA on arrival — even though he’s maybe six to ten years from his peak — we’re doing the SFQC wrong. (Especially true for officers, who don’t have six years on an ODA to improve. They’re good right out of the gate, or it’s going to be an unhappy, ineffective team).

To orient yourself in SOF gun history, Kyle’s talking about a time about five years after the MP5’s Waterloo in Grenada, when we had all learned to love the 5.56mm carbine (and had reached a modus vivendi with 14.5″ because it ran so much better than the old 10-11.5″ barrels). But the guns we had came from Colt in several models: M16A1 Carbine, M16A2 Carbine, then XM4. Sometime around 1993 or 4 we started getting guns with removable carrying handles and picatinny-rail flat-tops, to which, at first, we had nothing to attach but the carrying handle. How you got from A (flat top) to B (mounted optic) was on you, for a while. (By the way, at different times we received both “M16A2 Carbines” and “XM4 Carbines” with both flat tops and A2-style permanent carrying handles, direct from the factory. Only some of the M16A2 Carbines had the lousy three-round burst. All these oddball transitional guns were later turned in for standard SOCOM M4A1s).

In retrospect, getting the flattops months and years before optics was probably just the incompetence of the supply system, as it appeared to us at the time to be. But it could have been sheer brilliance: “Let’s put these out here and see what the SF, SEALs and direct action guys do with them, and when they’ve worked out the best way, we’ll adopt it.” Because that’s pretty much what happened. (True, some of the private-purchase mounts like Wilcox and, later, Larue, were a lot better than the issued ones, but the issued ones are OK).

Finally, if you’re interested in technique you ought to be paying some attention to Defoor. We have not personally attended his training but we believe Our Traveling Reporter has; he was, in fact, the one that turned us on to the guy.

Time to Stop Making fun of the SEALs’ “Warrior Princess”

 Our position on the current “transgendered” publicity campaign hasn’t changed: if you decide you’re Jesus, they put you in the room with Neoprene wallpaper, but if you decide you’re Janet,  they try to alter the world to comport to your delusion. Both of these reactions can’t be right, and it’s our opinion that this is just a phase the press and Hollywood are going through on the way to where they really want to be — call it the “full-NAMBLA.”

So we’ve been a bit dismissive and sarcastic towards the retired SEAL who’s going around selling himself (we hope, not literally, but there’s some weird stuff on backpages.com) as a “Warrior Princess.”

Well, we apologize abjectly to all our frogman brethren for ragging on their Warrior Princess, because we now have an outed 18 series Rent Boy. We do always say, “It takes all kinds to make a world” — but who knew it was happening in our own Regiment, and even, in two of the three Groups we served in?

A former Green Beret led a secret life as a gay prostitute named “Swedish Steele’’ who married his wife just to get a green card, his jilted ex says in new court papers. Roe Garrido, 48, of Manhattan was sued by her Army ex earlier this year for allegedly stalking him.

Now, she’s swinging back, claiming in court papers that her former husband, Iraq War vet Jacob Ivancev, told her he worked construction — when he was really peddling his body on the Web site Rentboy.com and working at city strip clubs such as Splash and Gaiety.

We saw what they did there — “swinging” back. Nyuk nyuk nyuck.

“I was stringing her along lying to her, and I never loved her,” Ivancev, a native of Sweden, even admitted in an e-mail, according to the documents. “The truth is I was married to somebody just for the green card.”

This is pretty common, and, it’s one more facet of immigration law that the immigration cops are under pressure not to enforce or investigate. We live in interesting times. No too long ago, an admission like that might have gotten a guy bounced from the USA. (Our personal opinion is that, whether his initial green card was fraudulent or not, and no matter where he chooses to, uh, dance, the guy’s served at least one combat tour for the USA, so he’s earned his green card now).

Garrido’s $7 million suit against Ivancev comes seven months after her former husband accused her of being a violent stalker in his own $4 million lawsuit.

The couple met in 1999 at Yorkville’s Pumping Iron Gym and got married in 2003. They divorced in 2011.

In case you’re wondering why chicks like to have gay friends, here’s one reason: the gay friend can drop a dime on their husbands if hubby’s living a double life:

A mutual friend told Garrido about her husband’s bad-boy behavior before the pair split, her suit says.

The pal told The Post that while Ivancev was a hunk who shook his booty in construction boots at the strip clubs and had “the largest endowment I have ever seen,’’ he also “had no rhythm and was technically a terrible dancer.”

via Former Green Beret hid secret past as gay prostitute: ex | New York Post.

Now, of course, this is where the Equality police will tell us, Ivancev’s marital troubles and dancing difficulties aside — he and his ex both sound like a couple of drama queens to us — he’s living proof that gay guys make great soldiers.

Except that the former team sergeant who flagged me to this article and remembers Ivancev well doesn’t remember a gay guy or a great soldier. Ivancev’s personal life didn’t interfere with his soldiering, but his personal character did. He left active duty’s 10th Special Forces Group under a reputational cloud, having been bounced off of multiple ODAs for multiple reasons. Indeed, at one time they were considering revoking his SF qualification and Tab (a very, very serious and once-rare thing, although more widely used in recent years, especially for CM/FM law violations). His company sergeant major, who had run out of ODAs that would take Ivancev, did stick up for him enough that he was able to ETS (End Term of Service, i.e. leave with an honorable discharge when your time is up) with Tab intact.

That’s when he came to the Guard SF. Another company sergeant major picked Ivancev up off the waiver wire, even after hearing his old senior NCOs drop a dime on him. (More like a whole change drawer). He was bounced off his first ODA there, too, although the deck was probably stacked against him because the team sergeant did what team sergeants do when an unknown quantity New Guy shows up: shake the trees and see what his reputation is. So from the first day in the Guard, Ivancev started with a bad reputation.

“Was it because he was gay?”

“Nobody knew he was gay, that wasn’t his problem. He was incompetent. That was his problem.” The team sergeant was able to get rid of him after he demonstrated that incompetence — even the hard-headed sergeant major accepted it.

Here’s a thought for you: most SF teams are a little shorthanded most of the time. There’s often room for one or two more guys. And here’s a guy that at least four teams who tried him decided they would rather run shorthanded than take along.

One Downside of a Much Younger, Latina Wife

michael_j_brownThe upsides are many and glorious. The downsides? You can get whacked. Michael J. “Brownie” Brown was one of those guys — you know, the guy who spent a lot of time in Hondo or El Sal and kind of went native. He had married a much younger Salvadoran woman, and that was what brought about his end.

On 16 Feb 13, Brown and his wife Nuri (or Nuy) Aquino Brown were ambushed in San Isidro, El Sal:

On Saturday night, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in El Salvador. Michael James Brown, aged 53 or 55 [53 was apparently correct –Ed.], was driving a rental car along with his Salvadoran wife on a coffee farm in San Isidro. San Isidro is located in the municipality of Izalco, Sonsonate.

They were attacked by a group of 8 to 10 men. According to authorities, Brown died after being shot at least five times in the head and shoulder. His wife, who was injured but was able to escape, is now being held as a witness.

As of today, Salvadoran authorities do not appear to have a motive for the crime. The attackers apparently hid among the coffee trees until their targets approached. They were waiting specifically for Brown and his wife. The couple frequently travel between the U.S and El Salvador. $1,500 remained behind at the scene of the crime which leads the police to believe that robbery was not a motive.

The instigator turned out to be, not an ex-boyfriend of Aquino’s as the Salvadoran cops first suspected, nor the irritated organized-crime group behind a strip club from which Brown was reputed to help rescue enslaved girls. (They were irritated, but probably not homicidal; they have to get new girls all the time anyway as the old ones wear out). Those groups might have wanted Brown dead, too, but it was Aquino herself (whose full name appears to be Nuri Liseth Aquino-Torres) that had him whacked. By the time the detectives had enough evidence, she was living comfortably in Utah.

In San Salvador, they applied to Interpol for a Red Notice.

On 15 August 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), particularly the unsung agents of ERO, Enforcement and Removal Operations, put the habeas grabbus on Aquino, 28, and gave her the only charter jet flight she’ll get in this life.

utah-woman-deported-el-salvador-face-charges1

The story now comes to an end. On 11 July 15, a Salvadoran court, having found her guilty, sentenced her to 50 years in prison. See you in a half century, lady. If you can’t do 50 years… just do the best you can.

One thing that produced suspicion was an ambush that left Brownie with many mortal head and upper-body wounds, and Aquino without any serious injury. Suspicion leads to investigation, investigation leads to adjudication, adjudication leads to incarceration. Q.E.D.

Moral of story, don’t go organizing murder for hire, it can interfere with your life plans, and if revenge you must have, isn’t living well a better revenge?

Brownie was a member of the SF community who served in Active, Reserve and Guard SF groups, and one of his former team leaders was there to see justice done.

El Salvador is still a troubled, violent land (although less so than Honduras), but the warring factions of the 80s have evolved into political parties contesting elections, and something like the rule of law is emerging. Unfortunately a lot of the little G and counter-G bands have also evolved into whackers-for-hire and itinerant highwaymen. All of the nations of Latin America are much more violent than the US is, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the coups and civil wars are causes or consequences of crime and violence.

Update

This post has been corrected. We originally wrote “Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,” but the correct name for one of America’s most frustrated bands of criminal investigators is, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” We regret the error, and (unlike, perhaps, some of their overhead) appreciate their service. – Ed.

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Objects

question mark“Objects?” Yes, that’s what the story says: the victim was beaten to death “with an object.” (Whether it was a direct or an indirect object was unclear). Then he was thrown into a pit, buried under stones, and a new patio was poured over him.

Like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, he has risen, in a way, from this grave to point a bony finger of condemnation at his murderers. The Boston Herald, about a month ago (yes, this has long sat in the queue):

A Rhode Island couple was ordered held without bail Monday in the killing of a Massachusetts man whose body was found under newly poured concrete at the couple’s home nearly a month after he went missing.

Steven Pietrowicz, 39, and Michelle Morin, 40, were arraigned on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of a police officer. A bail hearing was scheduled for June 15.

Morin (l.) and Pietrowicz (r.) Not very photogenic, these two.

Morin (l.) and Pietrowicz (r.) Not very photogenic, these two.

Morin was arrested late Saturday in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she and Pietrowicz previously lived. She waived extradition Monday and agreed to be returned to Rhode Island to face charges.

Pietrowicz was already in custody on charges of domestic assault.

The body of 60-year-old Domingo Ortiz, of Worcester, was found Friday beneath a newly constructed deck adjacent to the home Pietrowicz and Morin were renting. The body was located in a four-to-five-foot hole covered by large rocks and a layer of concrete, police said.

Ortiz. Notice that there always seems to be a mug shot of the victim, too. How can that be?

Ortiz. Note that there always seems to be a mug shot of the victim, too. How can that be? It almost makes you think that murders are not randomly distributed.

Ortiz had been beaten with an object and his legs may have been tied up, police said. An autopsy had not been completed Monday

via Rhode Island couple charged in death of man under concrete | Fox News.

The victim was allegedly a friend of his murderers. This is a hell of a way to learn the lesson everybody’s mama was supposed to teach him, to wit, “Select your friends with care.”

Apparently their lifestyle involved chemical enhancers, and the murder happened under the influence of the oldest drug of all, good old Judgment Juice. A few details are buried in this story from WPRI-TV, Providence, Rhode Island:

“It is a brutal crime. Where someone was beaten repeatedly and then the body disposed of under a cement slab — I think that shows an indication of the animosity, if you will, or the heinousness of this crime,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Police believe the violence stemmed from an altercation during a night of drinking on May 5. Lynch said Ortiz had been last seen that day, getting into a car with the suspects in Worcester.

Investigators executed their first search warrant at the Douglas Pike home May 21, during which they found evidence of a fight, including broken furniture, blood evidence, and evidence of cleaning with a strong bleach product. Police could not discuss possible motives at this point in the investigation.

Pietrowicz and Morin confirmed the altercation, but told police Ortiz left the property on his own May 6, according to Lynch. Police believe Ortiz perished early that morning.

During that interview, the pair indicated that another couple was staying at the home while Ortiz was there, saying the man served time with Pietrowicz at a Pennsylvania prison. Investigators traveled to Pennsylvania last week to interview the couple, and obtained information which allowed them to secure a second search warrant of the Douglas Pike home.

Col. Lynch said the Pennsylvania couple are currently being treated as witnesses in the case. Additional charges in the case will be reviewed by a grand jury.

Morin also told police that she was beaten by Pietrowicz and showed them bruises. Police arrested him in Worcester May 27 on domestic violence charges, and he was held as a bail violator stemming from another domestic violence case involving a different victim.

Note the few details teased out there:

  • Pietrowicz at least is an ex-con in PA;
  • He’s also a multi-time loser on domestic violence charges;
  • He was out on bail at the time he murdered Ortiz;
  • Ergo, he’s a “prohibited person” three times over, which means he can’t buy guns the way you do or we do;
  • And yet… he managed to kill somebody with some everyday “object.”

Exercises for the reader:

  1. If every firearm in circulation was magically made to disappear the night before this crime, how would it have availed Ortiz? Would that have prevented Ortiz’s murder?
  2. If Pietrowicz, as a many-times-over violent offender, had been denied bail on his previous arrest, and thrown back in a cell to await proceedings, might that have prevented Ortiz’s murder?

The Garden of Eden (Bad Tölz) Remembers its Outcasts

SFCrestGreenFrom 1953 to 1968, 10th Special Forces Group was headquartered and stationed at Flint Kaserne in Bad Tölz, Germany, a lovely resort town on the Jsar River (as the locals spell “Isar”) in the Bavarian Alps. The Kaserne was a former SS Junkerschule or officers’ school; it had been the West Point-equivalent for the black-suited officers who became known, some as leaders of elite combat units — and many more as rebarbative war criminals.

From 1968 to 1991, one battalion of the Group remained here (1/10th) and the other two and most Group support elements were located in Fort Devens, Massachusetts. We fully expected that the old SS school (which had housed, along with Group, the legendarily chickenshit 7th Army NCO Academy) would be ground into dust, and something new built.

It would have been a shame, as it was a well-built and historic building, and those of us who’d walked its halls thought that, just perhaps, we had redeemed its honor.

The Germans apparently thought so too, and retained and rebuilt the building, adding a car park and other modern conveniences. Reportedly, it’s offices now, where peaceful people go about the business of business. The old family housing across the street has been less lucky, and it’s reportedly welfare housing for foreign asylum-seekers. But it’s still there, unlike a lot of landmarks from our Army days.

This week there was a ceremony, dedicating a statue:

Kind of amazing to think that the whole US Army in Bavaria falls under a colonel now. On the other hand, the Germans are probably glad to be free of the wives in Chryslers.

Hat tip, Don Bennett, via SF Association channels.

Assclown of the Ides: Nicholas George

Wow, this guy sounds like a story from right out of the movies:

With his chest full of ribbons, his arms full of stripes and the iconic green beret atop his head, it was hard not to notice Nicholas George at the Memorial Day observances in Oxford and Addison. [Mississippi — Ed.]

Pride. Respect. Loss. Pain.

The 54-year-old Oxford resident’s facial expressions showed the range and depth of his feelings as he watched the ceremonies with a certain reverence that can only come from a soldier who’s felt the sting of battle and fully understands the sacrifices that have been made.

“I’m here. My brothers aren’t,” said George, a sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank, who retired from the U.S. Army last year following 28 years of service.

via A Green Beret in our midst.

Right out of the movies, of course, because some extremely large percentage of it is bullshit. Bullshit worthy of its own Penn & Teller episode. But Mssrs. Gillette and Teller are not SF guys, so we’ll have to pick up their slack on this one, which is a pity, because they could probably take this guy down with much higher entertainment value. We lack their talent, but that’s OK, because a lot of this guy’s shtick is, to an SF vet or any vet, self-refuting.

Let’s start with his uniform.

Several claims staked by the uniform are obviously bogus. The first, two stars on a CIB: that means he’d have to be a WWII, Korea and Vietnam vet. He’d be 90 freakin’ years old. He’s 55. The Army has no record of him being awarded even one CIB, let alone three, and they’re quite certain he was not in WWII, which wrapped up about 15 years before he was born. Zug.

Then, there’s the beret. Green beret with a generic US Army flash? Thanks for playing, but this just might not be your game, kid. Zug.

Then, what’s an SF guy doing with an Infantry blue cord? Zug.

Finally, enlisted men always remember what side to put the branch brass on our collars with this handy acronym: USSR. “US” on side, right. He’s got it on his left side collar. Zug.

Sometimes reporters are so invested in their stories that they defend these guys. That didn’t happen in this case. The reporter, CJ Carnacchio, contacted by the SF Poser Patrol (which is apparently a real thing, and not a moment too soon), made an extensive effort, resulting in a new story featuring a bunch of new reporting, none of which seems to indicate George’s claims are true.

Special Forces Poser Patrol has a contact at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Special Forces training and education occurs there.

“They checked records and there’s no record of him having graduated the Q Course in 1996 as he claims,” said Ole Senn, a former Special Forces soldier.

For example, George said he earned two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and six Purple Hearts. If that’s true, all those medals will be listed on his DD-214.

This reporter contacted George on Monday about Special Forces Poser Patrol being unable to find his SFQC records.

“I’m battling this again,” he said.

According to George, “this isn’t the first time” someone’s been unable to locate his military records. He said he “ran into the same problem” dealing with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs before his records were located.

“No one’s able to track down my records for some reason,” George said. “It’s aggravating the hell out of me.”

This reporter requested to view a copy of his DD-214.

“I don’t have one on me today. It’s all packed up (with) my stuff,” George said.

Aww. But fortunately, his graduation certificate… packed up, too. (He told the American Legion a different sob story). Then, there’s the badges and awards:

The National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia has housed an exhibit since 2012 featuring a list of all the soldiers who have been awarded three CIBs. A plaque with the exhibit states, “The CIB Third Award is the most prestigious combat badge in the U.S. Army and one that is among the least presented.”

According to museum spokesperson Cyndy Cerbin, the list contained 325 names until last month, when it was updated and three more were added.

“Nicholas George is not among them, nor is he among the original 325,” she said. “We’re very confident our list is complete and official.”

Given George said he’s going to turn 55 next month, Cerbin said it’s “not likely” he could have earned a triple CIB.

“To have a triple CIB, you have to have served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam,” she said. “The only triple CIBs that are recognized in the museum are from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.”

With regard to George’s claim to have earned two Silver Stars, his name does not appear on an on-line list of all Silver Star recipients since Sept. 11, 2001. The site is maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense.

When asked when he earned the two silver stars he claims, George replied, “I can’t remember.”

We’re not making this up. He got two Silver Stars. For what? Beats him with a stick.

Oh, yeah, that sounds genuine. Like an $8 Rolex.

Guys, you do not want to lie to a reporter who knows how to do basic shoe leather reporting and telephone research. The guy will hand you your head, as happened in this case. So he’s a sergeant major? The Army has a school for that. It’s a lot bigger than SF school, having turned 120,000 police-call-area experts and reflective-belt inspectors loose on the Army over the years. And it has a record of every single one. And it has a public-affairs staff that answers the phone. Guess who hasn’t been to their school?

But that’s because he wasn’t doing the nonresident version of the course: records prove he didn’t do that, either.

And then, for the coup de grâce, the reporter asked George’s mother. Says Mom:

He’s lying. One hundred percent.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know about Nicholas George, SF legend — in his own mind. (Well, one more thing: his family remembers him spending a year or two in the Army but leaving with less than an honorable discharge).

Read The Whole Thing™, because Carnacchio tracked down not just George’s mother, but his brother and his estranged son, and each of them says in some colorful way that Nicholas George is as full of $#!+ as a septic service truck. In fact, read all three of CJ’s stories to see (1) how easy it is for a bullshit artist with a slick story to con a newspaperman, and (2) how a righteous reporter reacts when he finds out he’s been conned.

The Magic Rucksack

In Special Forces from 1960 to the mid-1980s, there was a capability called, among other things, “the Magic Rucksack.” (This weapon, and its mission, were prolific producers of slang and nicknames, most of which were as compartmented as the mission itself; it’s unlikely anyone knows them all). It was the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, SADM, a small nuclear fission weapon with a W54 selectable-yield warhead, detonated by timers. It was the smallest of a series of ADMs that specialist Army engineer units trained with.

This is the Medium ADM, "field-stripped." Components of the SADM were similar, but smaller.

This is the Medium ADM, “field-stripped.” Components of the SADM were similar, but smaller.

It fit a very, very narrow target niche. While the engineers’ wartime mission was to use their ADMs to channelize advancing forces into artillery and air “kill boxes” (any Ivans they actually nuked were not the main objective, but what a fisherman might call “bycatch”), to justify an SF SADM emplacement the target had to meet certain criteria. If you think about it, you can probably come close to what they actually were.

  1. Payoff. It had to justify being targeted with a <1-1kt nuke;
  2. Deep. Deeper behind enemy lines than artillery could reach; and,
  3. Not a good target for an air raid.
  4. Target placement achievable by SF ODA.

There were two ways to carry it, in its own container, which felt like it was designed by some pointy-headed nuclear physicist who’d never carried anything on his back in his life, or wrapped in a sleeping bag or poncho liner inside an ALICE or mountain rucksack (depending on period).  There was also a transit case for administrative transit; there’s no scale in this picture, but it was too bulky for field use by far.

Transit Case.

Transit Case.

This video is sometimes presented as SEALs or Marines, but it was a joint Army/Navy exercise. The men preparing the SADM for aerial delivery are wearing 1950s-60s Army uniforms and were probably engineer officers and NCOs from Sandia Labs.

SADMAs you might imagine, security around the weapon was heavy with even its existence being classified. Teams selected for SADM duty were given additional security clearances and briefings, and underwent considerable classroom training, including usage and employment information as well as hands on assembly/disassembly of mock-ups and simulators. There was never a full-mission-profile test with an actual warhead. Indeed, most SADM team members never saw an actual SADM, only simulators.

The M46 simulator matched the weight, bulk, awkwardness and shape of the actual weapon, and contained timers that worked about like the ones in the real weapon, except for the world-shattering Kaboom! at the end.

kaboomEven the simulator was a classified device. A classified manual described the usage, effects, tactical employment, and technical features of the weapon, and provided real timer drills; a companion, unclassified manual provided practice with the math and timers of a slightly different, notional ADM.

The security was breached by CBS News in the 1980s, and they aired a short film clip of a 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group SADM team in training in 1986. By that time, though, the writing was on the wall for the Magic Rucksack.

The SADM was probably a more fitting component of the battlefield mix in 1960 than it was by 1985. Precision-guided munitions such as cruise missiles were capable of hitting a lot of targets more exactly, and with less risk of interception, than a team of men crunching through the woods.

Moreover, by the mid-1980s, environmental problems had forced the shutdown of several  US nuclear-weapons facilities, some temporarily, some permanently. With scarcity arriving the same time that tactical and strategic nuclear modernization called for new warheads, the recycling of the fissionable material from the SADM’s W54 warheads was inevitable.

There are constant rumors that the SADMs were stored. That might actually be the case with some components of them, but it’s more likely the components were destroyed. (The same fate befell the engineers’ three sizes of ADMs). The fissionable material, the heart of any nuclear weapon, was needed elsewhere, and that more than anything wrote finis to the 25-plus-year saga of the Special Atomic Demolition Munition.

Four SF Videos for your Viewing Pleasure

We saved the best for last, so if you can only watch one, watch that one.

First, day combat equipment freefall jumps from 7th Group. Supposedly there are some Chilean NAVSOF in the mix, too.  It’s five and a half minutes long, just shot from in the airplane.

They’re basically going through the drill here, with a short drop (maybe a four-count), what a skydiver might call a hop-n-pop. One thing that’s striking to an old static line guy is the much lower level of Sturm und Drang, or just plain drama, compared to a static-line jump. It’s a lot more relaxed a way to go leaping from an aircraft in flight.

Well, that’s Army propaganda, but it’s relatively straightforward propaganda. It’s just the facts: just some pictures of a relatively routine training day in the life of a few HALO teams. (Of course, you do a lot of your jumps at night, but that makes for crummy film).

The next two examples are blatant Army propaganda, because they’re made by the Recruiting Command to entice young people to join up. (After them, we have a more serious film, so skip them if you want). They’re from a series of short films called Starting Strong, where they take a youngster who has an idea of what he or she might want to do in the Army, and give the kid (and vicariously, the viewers) a touch of training for that Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). (Aside: you gotta love the Army; they take a simple, three-letter word like “job,” and bloat it into a three-word, 29-letter buzzphrase that is useless until you cut it down to an acronym — of three handy letters, the same size as the jeezly plain Anglo-Saxon term it means. Lord love a duck).

In this one, an athletic youngster from Rockville, Maryland, Jeremy Stuart, goes to Fort Bragg to experience a little bit of the training life of a Special Forces Medical Sergeant, 18D. (We don’t remember a gym like that, but hell, we’re old and retired). He learns a little bit about trauma treatment and is tested on his skills. Then he meets a former 18D and sees what use he’s put his SF skills to in civilian life. The question is, will the kid join the Army? (We thought that it was a foregone conclusion, it’s a recruiting video for crying out loud. But it turns out these kids can and do make their own decisions, and not all of them decide to join up). There’s a secondary question, too: does he have what it takes to be an 18D?  25 minutes.

In this one, another kid, Conrad Carr, a pro surfer and a Mormon from Malibu (who knew that uniquely American combination was out there?) has to decide if he wants to go 18X or not. (That is, to enlist for the SF pipeline, with assignment based on “the needs of the Army” — usually to the 82nd Airborne — if not successful in SF).  Similar story arc as the previous, including the meeting with an ex-SF entrepreneur. 25 minutes.

And the best saved for last. A very recent, extremely good video on a single ODA in Afghanistan. Not Army propaganda at all. Guys from 3rd Group, quiet professionals all. Some combat scenes, some training, well-shot, -paced and -edited. Some good insights to Afghanistan’s SF and Ranger equivalents, the ANSF and Commandos. 45 or so minutes.

It is good to see Afghan units with lethality and initiative. Afghans are perhaps the most warlike race on Earth, so it has been an indictment of the world’s two greatest powers that both of them managed to recruit and train elements that would not and could not fight. That stage of the Afghan National Army seems to be past.

Of course, there was probably a time in the 1980s when our Soviet counterparts thought the same exact thing; we could probably tell each other some of the same stories, set 20 years apart in the same terrain.