Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flag Day and Special Forces

Written by Colonel (Retired) John T.

In 1969, three C-130s landed at the Nha Trang Air Force Base, four very dirty Americans, and two hundred and fifty Montangnard tribesmen had returned from IV Corps, 512 Company and 1st CRP were home, and headed to the B-55 Compound.

As the Americans attempted to get men and equipment on the trucks, a USAF SGT stopped his fork lift, got off faced toward HQ and saluted, we looked at him, and he said “they are playing our song.” We strained and realized that today as every other day, at 1800 they were playing the Star Spangled Banner, we all joined him and saluted, as I glanced to my right and left I realized that my eyes were not the only ones moist, guess we were looking into the sun.

As all the A Camps were technically under command of the VNSF, the RVN flag flew over them, but you could not be in one more than a minute or two, and not see “Old Glory” peeking out of some hooch or corner.

How many of us carried flags all over the world, in my case a small US flag, and NC flag went everywhere I went, for those two small piece of cloth, not mattered how wrinkled or faded, represented not only what we fought for, but what we loved.

As kids we would go to Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day parades, back then the entire small town of Hatfield closed for both, and we would see the men march by, some in ill-fitting uniforms (at our age we are much more understanding of this phenomenon), some in wheelchairs, some with the limp of old injuries, but all ramrod straight, and the crowd would quietly applaud. In front of each contingent, no matter how small, there would be the Stars and Stripes, for they knew that one day, rather than marching behind that flag, they would be under it on the way to the “Last Formation.”

While the flag is important to all in uniform, I believe that the men of Special Forces have a special relationship, for so many times we are deployed that flags can only be flown in our minds.

On June 14th our flag’s birthday is celebrated, and on June 19th Special Forces celebrates another year of survival, not only from foreign enemies, but from folks at home who don’t understand our unique headgear is a hat, but that hat is worn by a special group of warriors, who spurn their conventional boxes, and strive only to complete their missions.

May each celebrate many more of these anniversaries.

De Oppresso Liber



Originally posted on American Military News as The Tarpaper Shacks of Camp Mackall. If you were there, you'll remember it fondly. If you weren't, you'll probably never believe the US military has a place like this . . . where they make people like me . . . S.L.

October 1987 I entered the Special Forces Qualification Course – SFQC, or simply “the ‘Q’ Course”. They shipped us out to this little piece of Hell known as Camp Mackall where the training cadre met us with grenade simulators, a “smoke session” that involved at least ten thousand pushups right there on the side of the road and a two mile bag drag into the cantonment area.

I remember being tired, hungry and scared shitless. A fellow paratrooper I entered the Q-course with just turned 21 and spent all his money downtown the night before. He didn’t survive Day One.

Back then Camp Mackall only had three buildings; classroom, supply shed and head shed. Everything else was tarpaper shacks or GP medium tents. No heat in the winter, no a/c in the summer, it was a primitive existence. Showering was standing naked outside when it was raining.

I didn’t even have a bunk at first. First time I walked into a tarpaper shack there were only a few folded cots piled on the floor. I grabbed a folded cot, the last one left. It was all torn up and useless. I was so bone-weary, tired on a primal level, I just threw my gear on the floor and slept there.

I remember thinking right before I went to sleep at the end of my first full day out there that this was harder than any day at the ranch where I worked the year before I joined the Army.

Sleep? Let me rephrase that. I was always awake at some level, waiting for the cadre to boot in the door to the hut and roust us out for another day of punishment. I think the only real sleep I got was during Survival Week, when they left us alone to starve in the woods.

There was a method to their madness; the first ten days were basically a ‘gut check’ - to see who really wanted to be there - and to put some miles on our feet, toughen us up for the land navigation and patrolling training to come.

Land Navigation was a Rite of Passage; a twenty-four hour Easter egg hunt over thirty miles of woods and swamp. If you didn’t find all your points, you were out of there. A medic offered me a map with all the land nav points marked on it. I was sorely tempted to take it but had no clue how to conceal it from the cadre. First thing they did when we made it to the cantonment area was go through all our stuff. I’m really glad I didn’t take him up on the offer.

I got infected blisters on the balls of both feet from all that marching. The medic told me he was going to inject Tincture of Benzoin beneath the skin of both feet, to adhere the skin to the raw flesh. I asked if it would hurt? “Like your first night in prison,” he grinned.

I hope to never feel pain like that ever again.

Everybody dreaded early morning wake-up call – a grenade simulator out in the quad – then PT, LOTS and LOTS of PT. It stands for Physical Training but we called it Physical Torture. It didn’t matter rain or shine, we were out there doing it, followed by either a run or a speed march with fifty pound rucks through the ankle-sucking sands of the Carolina Sandhills. My calves scream just thinking about it. I remember doing PT in the rain, then changing uniforms, hanging my wet uniform up to dry. When I returned my uniform was not dry, it was frozen on the line. It remained that way until I left.

Every morning after PT there was a long line of people lining up to quit. They’d play “Another One Bites the Dust” over the loud speakers as folks quit. My best memory was volunteering for garbage detail after we had a hot meal. I got to eat all the scraps others threw away while taking out the trash.

Then there were the Airfield runs, if we eff’d up as a group. Mackall Airfield is a giant equilateral triangle, two miles long on each side.

Running that airfield is PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE – you can see the end of the leg you’re on and it seems like you’ll never get there. Then you turn a corner and do it all over again. You never want to do the airfield twice.

To get rid of the stragglers on rucksack marches and airfield runs they’d close the gates to the cantonment area and anyone dragging ass was bounced out of there, the Bag Drag of Shame. They had this trick were they’d run us through the gate, then straight through the compound and out the BACK gate and down the road - dozens would fall out and quit right then and there. God knows how I managed to hang in there even though I was dying. Smoked hamstrings for breakfast, I remember them well...

I remember all of this like it was yesterday. Bone chilling cold, searing heat, heavy rucksacks and long ruck marches with the straps cutting into our shoulders. Too tired to sleep it seemed, pain and hunger were our constant companions. Hunger, hunger, hunger - how the hell can anyone forget hungry? - and laughing through the pain with the best bunch of crazy guys on Earth.

Looking back I’d do it all over again, if that’s the price to pay to get into the most exclusive fraternity in the world.


Monday, June 12, 2017


Quote from a WWII Veteran:

"The hell you can't, because we did it. These Muslims are no different than the Imperial Japanese. The Japs had their suicide bombers too. And we stopped them. What it takes is the resolve and will to use a level of brutality and violence that your generations can't stomach. And until you can, this shit won't stop.

It took us on the beaches with bullets, clearing out caves with flamethrowers, and men like Curtis LeMay burning down their cities, killing people by the hundreds of thousands. And then it took two atom bombs on top of it! Plus, we had to bomb the shit out of German cities to get them to quit fighting. But, if that was what it took to win, we were willing to do it.

Until you are willing to do the same . . . well I hope you enjoy this shit, because it ain't going to stop! Back then, we had leadership, resolve, resources and determination. Today we're afraid to hurt people's feelings . . . and worry about which bathroom to piss in!"


Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Author unknown, posted by my good friend & Airborne/SF buddy Bill Strasburg . . . S.L.

73 Years ago, those words were finally yelled over the roar of aircraft, artillery, gunfire, nausea, fear, courage, self doubt, prayers and brotherhood.

The moment was coming; the one that they had trained for, some died for, this is the last chance for that prayer, good luck wink, thumbs up, tucking away of love letters and good luck charms.

This is it . . . get up, numb legs, weak knees that empty stomach feeling of the adrenaline rush, look over gear. Help a buddy get up with his equipment, un-tangle and twisting of straps and slings, shifting the weight of the gear around and reaching for the static line.

Intense focus, lack of fine motor skills, standing in a bouncing, dark airplane at night makes opening the static line and snapping it to the anchor line cable difficult, tug on it to make sure it is seated insert the pin and bend. Hold the static line perfectly and make sure the one in front of you is as ready as you are.

It only needs it to work for four seconds but these are the most important four seconds of a lifetime, check it, again. Check the one in front of you, that lifetime needs it double checked, just as it is understood that the one behind you is checking your one to their front.

If death doesn’t come before striking the ground; everything the those to the front and those to the rear are counting on making it to the ground, this equipment is just as important to one as it is to all of them. It is all there; everything to make striking the ground survivable and what is needed to live for the second, minute, hour, day, week beyond that.

“All okay” they have everything strapped down that they are supposed to. Most importantly, they have the years of training, experience and confidence in each other to use this equipment with extreme proficiency.

Only time now, no matter how loud the outside world is; it’s all over now, no time for any more preparations, further training, there is no more second guessing or trying to remember a small detail of what is to come. Shortly those brothers will be jumping out of the plane and they are all going together, not a single one would leave any of them to do it on their own. There is only silence, they do not hear the roar of the aircraft, artillery and gun fire, explosions around them that could take them out of this fight at any second. Silence.

Suddenly the silence is broken the rush is coming back now it is time to get out of this plane and they only hear silence. They look at the dim red light and those around them. Nobody knows what to expect, all are feeling fear, no matter what is waiting for them at home they all know one thing… In a short amount of time they will only have each other.

The dim red light suddenly snaps bright Green, their heart rates jump, The men in front begin disappearing into the night as they get closer and closer to the door, suddenly you are in the door taking that forceful leap into the night and anything that is waiting. You have brought one thing with you; brotherhood, anything seeking to destroy that brotherhood will meet death and extreme violence.

They got there by many means; whether in a boat, climbing over their friends as they were being shot to death and storming a beach looking straight at machine guns and artillery explosions, jumping from an aircraft at night. Or had been there for months living and moving underground, assassinating and sabotaging. They all felt fear and used the brotherhood and patriotism that makes America great. They volunteered for the most dangerous jobs knowing what was coming. Fueled by brotherhood and knowing how precious freedom is, they risked and gave everything for us. Those men are the only ones that can truly say they saved the world. Thank you.

In 2004 I jumpmastered a C-130 full of 1-10th SF and international paratroopers (to include 2 German fallschirmjaeger) onto Iron Mike Drop Zone - the 505th's original D-Day drop zone vic Ste Mere Eglise - for observances of the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings. To be allowed to perform this duty was possibly the greatest honor bestowed upon me during my entire military career.


Sunday, June 4, 2017


Last night it was London. Before that it was Manchester. Before that it was Paris, Nice, Brussels, San Bernadino, Orlando, Fort Hood - these random attacks are becoming regular events, it could be anywhere next . . . the authorities are powerless to stop them and shamefully ineffective at defending us . . . S.L.

Last night's terror attacks in London happened right where I used to work, used to walk through that area twice a day and enjoyed visiting all the pubs. Last night it took the London cops - best police force in the world - eight minutes to respond, by which time 3 Jihadis had killed 6 - several of them had their throats cut - and injured 48, using just a white van and kitchen knives. There is no 2d Amendment in the UK but here in the States we are guaranteed the God-given right (that every law-abiding taxpayer on the planet should have) to arm ourselves in self-defense. I carry a 1911 locked & cocked everywhere I go with 2 extra mags - that's 24 rounds of .45 cal hollow point - because its better to run out of Tangos than to run out of ammo . . .

Arm yourself in accordance with your local laws & seek training. Do not own or carry a firearm unless you are trained in its use and safe handling. Know the condition of your weapon at all times, know what your target is, what is in front of it and behind it, and never point your weapon at anything that you are not willing to destroy.