Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I did not write this, but it sums it up just about right. I don't know this hero's name but a teammate reports an article in a WW II mag ID'd him as a 17th Airborne Division guy just prior to Operation Varsity, the jump across the Rhine in March 1945 . . . S.L.

Paratroopers have a pride and arrogance that most Americans don’t understand and don’t like. Even soldiers who aren’t Paratroopers don’t understand. The pride doesn’t exist because we have a job that’s physically impressive. It certainly doesn’t exist because it takes a higher level of intelligence to perform our duties. It’s sad and I hate to admit it, but any college student or high school grad can physically do what we do. It’s not THAT demanding and doesn’t take a physical anomaly. Nobody will ever be able to compare us to professional athletes or fitness models. And it doesn’t take a very high IQ to read off serial numbers, pack bags according to a packing list, or know that incoming bullets have the right of way.

The pride of the Paratrooper comes not from knowing that he’s doing a job that others can’t, but that he’s doing a job that others simply won’t. Some Paratroopers haven’t seen a lot of combat. While that may sound ideal to the civilian or non-paratrooper soldier, it pains the Paratrooper. We signed up to spit in the face of danger. To walk the line between life and death and live to do it again – or not. To come to terms with our own mortality and let others try to take our life instead of yours. We have raised our hands and said, “Take me, America. I am willing to kill for you. I am willing to sacrifice my limbs for you. I will come back to America scarred and disfigured for you. I will be the first to die for you.”

That’s why the Paratrooper carries himself with pride and arrogance. He’s aware that America has lost respect for him. To many he’s a bloodthirsty animal. To others he’s too uneducated and stupid to get a regular job or go to college. Only he knows the truth. While there are few in America who claim to have respect for him, the Paratrooper returns from war with less fanfare than a first down in a high school football game. Yes, people hang up their “Support Our Troops” ribbons and on occasion thank us for our service. But in their eyes the Paratrooper can detect pity and shame; not respect. Consider this: How excited would you be to meet the average Paratrooper? Now compare that with how excited you’d be to meet a famous actor or professional sports player and you will find that you, too, are guilty of placing the wrong people on a pedestal. You wouldn’t be able to tell me how many Paratroopers died in the war last month, but you’d damn sure be able to tell me if one of the actors from Twilight died.

Yet the Paratrooper doesn’t complain about that. He continues to do his job; to volunteer his life for you, all while being paid less in four years than Tom Brady makes in one game.

It’s a job most Americans don’t understand, don’t envy, and don’t respect. That is why we have pride as Paratroopers.

When I was a kid I read two books about U.S. paratroopers in Normandy and later in Bastogne. I wasn't even an American yet, but I knew that somehow, I would one day be an American paratrooper; of this there was no doubt. I had to make my way to America first, and there were a few hurdles along the way, but I made it and to this day my proudest achievement is to be able to claim that I was a United States soldier, and I spent 25 years on jump status. Airborne!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Getting back to basics here . . . S.L.

The will to survive is defined as the desire to live despite seemingly insurmountable mental and(or) physical obstacles. The tools for survival are furnished by the military, the individual, and the environment. The training for survival comes from survival training publications, instruction, and the individuals own efforts. But tools and training are not enough without a will to survive. In fact, the records prove that "will" alone has been the deciding factor in many survival cases. While these accounts are not classic examples of "how to survive," they illustrate that a single-minded survivor with a powerful will to survive can overcome most hardships. There are cases where people have eaten their belts for nourishment, boiled water in their boots to drink as broth, or have eaten human flesh - though this certainly wasn't their cultural instinct.

One incident where the will to survive was the deciding factor between life and death involved a man stranded in the Arizona desert for 8 days without food and water. He traveled more than 150 miles during searing daytime temperatures, losing 25 percent of his body weight due to the lack of water (usually 10 percent loss causes death). His blood became so thick that the lacerations he received could not bleed until he had been rescued and received large quantities of water. When he started on that journey, something must have clicked in his mind telling him to live, regardless of any obstacles which might confront him. And live he did - on guts and will alone!

Let's flip a coin and check the other side of "will." Our location is the Canadian wilderness. A pilot ran into engine trouble and chose to deadstick his plane onto a frozen lake rather than punch out. He did a beautiful job and slid to a stop in the middle of the lake. he left the aircraft and examined if for damage. After surveying the area, he noticed a wooded shoreline only 200 yards away where food and shelter could be provided - he decided to go there. Approximately halfway there, he changed his mind and returned to the cockpit of his aircraft where he smoked a cigar, took out his pistol, and blew his brains out. less than 24 hours later a rescue team found him. Why did he give up? Why was he unable to survive? Why did he take his own life? On the other hand, why do people eat their belts or drink broth from their boots? No one really knows, but it’s all related to the will to survive.

from Air Force Regulation 64-4 Search & Rescue SURVIVAL TRAINING Vol 1


Thursday, September 17, 2015


I started this blog with a post about basic skills: Fieldcraft 101: Tie Twelve Knots . . . My latest contract requires me to refresh the basics so here's an excerpt from Army Field Manual 3-05.70 SURVIVAL (which I helped write in its former edition FM 21-26) - S.L.

Field-Expedient Direction (Army FM 3-05.70, pages 18-1 – 18-9).

Finding (oneself) in a survival situation, you will be extremely fortunate if you happen to have a map and compass. If you do have these two pieces of equipment, you will most likely be able to move toward help. If you are not proficient in using a map and compass, you must take the steps to gain this skill.
There are several methods by which you can determine direction by using the sun and the stars. These methods, however, will give you only a general direction. You can come up with a more nearly true direction if you know the terrain of the territory or country.

You must learn all you can about the terrain of the country or territory to which you or your unit may be sent, especially any prominent features or landmarks. This knowledge of the terrain together with using the methods explained below will let you come up with fairly true directions to help you navigate.


18.1 The earth’s relationship to the sun can help you to determine direction on earth. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, but not exactly due east or due west. There is also some seasonal variation. Shadows will move in the opposite direction of the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, they will move from west to east, and will point north at noon. In the Southern Hemisphere, shadows will indicate south at noon. With practice, you can use shadows to determine both direction and time of day. The shadow methods used for direction finding are the shadow-tip and watch methods.


18-2. In the first shadow-tip method, find a straight stick 1 meter (3 feet) long, and a level spot free of brush on which the stick will cast a definite shadow. This method is simple and accurate and consists of four steps:

• Step 1. Place the stick or branch into the ground at a level spot where it will cast a distinctive shadow. Mark the shadow’s tip with a stone, twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always west—everywhere on earth.

• Step 2. Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few centimeters. Mark the shadow tip’s new position in the same way as the first. This mark will represent East.

• Step 3. Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate east-west line.

• Step 4. Stand with the first mark (west) to your left and the second mark to your right—you are now facing north. This fact is true everywhere on earth.

18-3. An alternate method is more accurate but requires more time. Set up your shadow stick and mark the first shadow in the morning. Use a piece of string to draw a clean arc through this mark and around the stick. At midday, the shadow will shrink and disappear. In the afternoon, it will lengthen again and at the point where it touches the arc, make a second mark. Draw a line through the two marks to get an accurate east-west line (Figure 18-1, page 18-3).

Figure 18-1. Shadow-Tip Method


18-4. You can also determine direction using a common or analog watch—one that has hands. The direction will be accurate if you are using true local time, without any changes for daylight savings time. Remember, the further you are from the equator, the more accurate this method will be. If you only have a digital watch, draw a clock face on a circle of paper with the correct time on it and use it to determine your direction at that time. You may also choose to draw a clock face on the ground or lay your watch on the ground for a more accurate reading.

Figure 18-2. Watch Method

18-7. Another method is called the 24-hour clock method. Take the local military time and divide it by two. Imagine this result to now represent the hour hand. In the Northern Hemisphere, point this resulting hour hand at the sun, and the 12 will point north. For example, it is 1400 hours. Divide 1400 by two and the answer is 700, which will represent the hour. Holding the watch horizontal, point the 7 at the sun and 12 will point north. In the Southern Hemisphere, point the 12 at the sun, and the resulting “hour” from the division will point south.


18-8. Because the moon has no light of its own, we can only see it when it reflects the sun’s light. As it orbits the earth on its 28-day circuit, the shape of the reflected light varies according to its position. We say there is a new moon or no moon when it is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. Then, as it moves away from the earth’s shadow, it begins to reflect light from its right side and waxes to become a full moon before waning, or losing shape, to appear as a sliver on the left side. You can use this information to identify direction.
18-9. If the moon rises before the sun has set, the illuminated side will be the west. If the moon rises after midnight, the illuminated side will be the east. This obvious discovery provides us with a rough east-west reference during the night.


18-10. Your location in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere determines which constellation you use to determine your north or south direction. Each sky is explained below.


18-11. The main constellations to learn are the Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper or the Plow, and Cassiopeia, also known as the Lazy W (Figure 18-3, page 18-6). Use them to locate Polaris, also known as the polestar or the North Star. Polaris is considered to remain stationary, as it rotates only 1.08 degrees around the northern celestial pole. The North Star is the last star of the Little Dipper’s handle and can be confused with the Big Dipper. However, the Little Dipper is made up of seven rather dim stars and is not easily seen unless you are far away from any town or city lights. Prevent confusion by attempting to use both the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia together. The Big Dipper and Cassiopeia are generally opposite each other and rotate counterclockwise around Polaris, with Polaris in the center. The Big Dipper is a seven-star constellation in the shape of a dipper. The two stars forming the outer lip of this dipper are the “pointer stars” because they point to the North Star. Mentally draw a line from the outer bottom star to the outer top star of the Big Dipper’s bucket. Extend this line about five times the distance between the pointer stars. You will find the North Star along this line. You may also note that the North Star can always be found at the same approximate vertical angle above the horizon as the northern line of latitude you are located on. For example, if you are at 35 degrees north latitude, Polaris will be easier to find if you scan the sky at 35 degrees off the horizon. This will help to lessen the area of the sky in which to locate the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and the North Star.

18-12. Cassiopeia or the Lazy W has five stars that form a shape like a “W.” One side of the “W” appears flattened or “lazy.” The North Star can be found by bisecting the angle formed on the lazy side. Extend this line about five times the distance between the bottom of the “W” and the top. The North Star is located between Cassiopeia and the Ursa Major (Big Dipper).

18-13. After locating the North Star, locate the North Pole or true north by drawing an imaginary line directly to the earth.

Figure 18-3. The Big Dipper and Cassiopeia


18-14. Because there is no single star bright enough to be easily recognized near the south celestial pole, you can use a constellation known as the Southern Cross. You can use it as a signpost to the South (Figure 18-4). The Southern Cross or Crux has five stars. Its four brightest stars form a cross. The two stars that make up the Cross’s long axis are used as a guideline. To determine south, imagine a distance four-and-one-half to five times the distance between these stars and the horizon. The pointer stars to the left of the Southern Cross serve two purposes. First, they provide an additional cue toward south by imagining a line from the stars toward the ground. Second, the pointer stars help accurately identify the true Southern Cross from the False Cross. The intersection of the Southern Cross and the two pointer stars is very dark and devoid of stars. This area is called the coal sac. Look down to the horizon from this imaginary point and select a landmark to steer by. In a static survival situation, you can fix this location in daylight if you drive stakes in the ground at night to point the way.

Figure 18-4. Southern Cross


18-15. You can construct improvised compasses using a piece of ferrous metal that can be needleshaped or a flat double-edged razor blade and a piece of thread or long hair from which to suspend it. You can magnetize or polarize the metal by slowly stroking it in one direction on a piece of silk or carefully through your hair using deliberate strokes. You can also polarize metal by stroking it repeatedly at one end with a magnet. Always stroke in one direction only. If you have a battery and some electric wire, you can polarize the metal electrically. The wire should be insulated. If it is not insulated, wrap the metal object in a single, thin strip of paper or a leaf to prevent contact. The battery must be a minimum of 2 volts. Form a coil with the electric wire and touch its ends to the battery’s terminals. Repeatedly insert one end of the metal object in and out of the coil. The needle will become an electromagnet. When suspended from a piece of nonmetallic string, or floated on a small piece of wood, cork or a leaf in water, it will align itself with a north-south line.

18-16. You can construct a more elaborate improvised compass using a sewing needle or thin metallic object, a nonmetallic container (for example, the cut-off bottom of a plastic container or soft drink bottle), and the silver tip from a pen. To construct this compass, take an ordinary sewing needle and break in half. One half will form your direction pointer and the other will act as the pivot point. Push the portion used as the pivot point through the bottom center of your container; this portion should be flush on the bottom and not interfere with the lid. Attach the center of the other portion (the pointer) of the needle on the pen’s silver tip using glue, tree sap, or melted plastic. Magnetize one end of the pointer and rest it on the pivot point.


18-17. The old saying about using moss on a tree to indicate north is not considered accurate because moss grows completely around some trees. Actually, growth is more lush on the side of the tree facing the south in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. If there are several felled trees around for comparison, look at the stumps. Growth is more vigorous on the side toward the equator and the tree growth rings will be more widely spaced. On the other hand, the tree growth rings will be closer together on the side toward the poles.

18-18. Wind direction may be helpful in some instances where there are prevailing directions and you know what they are.

18-19. Recognizing the differences between vegetation and moisture patterns on north- and south-facing slopes can aid in determining direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, north-facing slopes receive less sun than south-facing slopes and are therefore cooler and damper. In the summer, north-facing slopes retain patches of snow. In the winter, trees and open areas on southfacing slopes and the southern side of boulders and large rocks are the first to lose their snow. The ground snowpack is also shallower due to the warming effects of the sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, all of these effects will be the opposite.

Always remember the letter "L" in Keyword S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L. stands for "Learn Basic Skills" . . . and practice them often. A pdf copy of FM 3-05.70 SURVIVAL can be downloaded HERE


Friday, September 11, 2015


No one who was alive that day will ever forget where they were. I was in Springfield, Virginia - not far from DC - I believe I have written about it before. Oddly, I am on my way to Springfield today. Work, and a writing project that is nearing completion, has kept me very busy this past six months but this date cannot slip by without a mark of acknowledgement, and respect.

Our reaction was terrible, extremely violent and swift - the way it should be, in proportion to as horrible was the casus belli. But even from the start, the ten thousand pound gorilla in the room was the knowledge that we should not let ourselves get tied down into a conflict that involved taking and holding real estate - this is not a conventional war, And yet, we did just that. The concept of a series of pin point raids to kill people and break things - "Do unto others then split" - was too primitive for Western sentiments, despite the effectiveness of these kind of counter-guerrilla tactics. Western ethos demanded that we go in and put a bandaid on the people we had just steamrollered. And so we got what CNN in the second week of the war prematurely called 'quagmire'. And since 2012, when our national leadership decided to take our bat and ball and go home, an insidious evil decided to fill the vacuum left behind.

Unconventional war is difficult to visualize, especially for the untrained - military and civilian alike. A historical example would be if, after three long years of struggle in the Korean War - and 50,000+ casualties - having fought the enemy to a standstill at the 38th Parallel, we packed up and left the South Koreans to themselves.

As in nature, geopolitics hates a vacuum. In such a scenario, the North Koreans and their Chinese sponsors would have gleefully spilled over the DMZ and in a matter of weeks undone all the hard work of the United States, RoK and UN allies; certainly less than the three years it took us to sort out their initial invasion. As it was, during the sixty-two years since the armistice, the North Korean Communists have continued to commit extremely lethal acts of terrorism and outright acts of war. And yet nobody denies that the US presence in South Korea has ensured the kind of security required for the Korean economic miracle to unfold.

We left such a vacuum behind in Iraq, and a determined enemy emerged to fill it. The sea change came when we changed the name from the Global War on Terror to "Overseas Contingency Operations". Sadly, we let our eye slip off the ball . . .

The Islamic State now has a safe haven and resources of which al Qaeda in 2001 could only have dreamed. Every day we lazily, arrogantly provoke them without finishing the job. No one should be surprised by the consequences, which are as predictable as they are terrible.
- Aaron MacLean, Manipulated Intel and the Kabuki War against the Islamic State

This is why we must never forget. We must also never forget that the stated objective of the Evil we are up against is to kill us all, and to make slaves of our children and women of child-bearing age.