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Thread: Shadow on the Sun

  1. #1
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Shadow on the Sun

    I'm finally ready to begin telling my story.

    SHADOW ON THE SUN

    CHAPTER ONE- Fort Bragg

    "Is everybody happy?" cried the Sergeant looking up, Our Hero feebly answered "Yes," and then they stood him up; He jumped into the icy blast, his static line unhooked, And he ain't gonna jump no more. - Blood on the Risers

    “Green light, Go”

    January 2006. The brisk southeastern wind zipped into the unpressured cabin of the C-130 as the Air Force Loadmaster turned control over to the Jumpmaster, “Army- your door.” Through the eerie green candescent light, I watched First Sergeant (1Sgt) Royce Manis begin the intricate task of inspecting the door for any imperfections or obstacles that could impede the jumpers exit. During his fifteen years in the elite Army Ranger Regiment, Royce perfected this task through endless repetition, and his body swept the door gracefully in calm, fluid precision as delicate and accurate as the San Francisco symphony conducting Beethoven’s Fifth. Later, in my darkest hour, Royce would assist me in fighting through Dante’s seventh level of hell with the quiet professionalism that embodies the best mantra of the non-commissioned officer corps.

    Next, Royce thrust his upper body into the night to inspect the outside of the aircraft ensuring that nothing protruded to obstruct our descent and confirming the pilot's navigation by identifying terrain features marking the distance from the drop zone (DZ). Satisfied that the right door was kosher, he pulled himself back into the bird, spun 180 degrees clockwise, extended a thumbs up, and waited for Sergeant First Class (SFC) John Coomer to finish checking the left door.

    John is another mild mannered quiet professional: a father, brother, husband, and leader. John is a guy you want to follow in any situation. His calm demeanor would later prevail in the worst of circumstances. Ten seconds later, Coomer and Manis gave a silent nod, turned towards the jumpers, extending their arms parallel with index and middle fingers pointing forward, arched an imaginary ‘M’, and sounded off in unison,

    “Stand-by.”

    With all inspections complete, the Air Force pilots navigated towards the DZ slowing to 130 knots preparing to unload 64 paratroopers into the darkness of this calm North Carolina night.

    As the plane approached the DZ, 1Sgt Andrew Coy walked towards me. For this JFEX (Joint Forcible Entry exercise), Andy served as a safety. He would not jump. Working in conjunction with the Air Force loadmaster, his tasks were to inspect the safety of the aircraft prior to take-off, accept all static lines as jumpers exit the door, and retrieve the discarded static lines and parachute straps back into the aircraft. Then, he returned with the crew to the corresponding airfield. It is an important job, but outside of about three minutes of high adventure, it is rather boring and mundane.

    Andy was one of the few multiple tour Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in my new unit. He and I quickly hit things off when I transferred to Fort Bragg in June 2006. We transcended past the “Old” 1990’s Army of parades, inspections, cutting grass that didn’t grow, and superficial training exercises against a Russian Army dismantled sixteen years prior. We focused on real combat learned through years of blunt trauma, brothers lost, and costly mistakes. We did not have any answers, but we clearly understood that business as usual was not working

    "One minute!!!!"

    Andy continued to walk towards me in the bird. Tonight was my first mission as a company commander. Conversely, this jump was his last as a first sergeant. The irony of the situation was not lost on us. He had a son in college and a daughter entering her senior year in high school His duty was at home. Before he walked away, he wanted to impart one last piece of wisdom to his young friend.

    “Mike, this is your first mission. I know you are nervous and scared. Let it go and have fun. Command goes by way too fast. Just enjoy it. I know you will do well. Now, go take care of your boys.”

    I nodded a knowing nod. I glanced back at my troops. I observed the wide-eyes of Jason Nunez and Jason Swiger preparing for the jump. Nunez, my driver, nuclear/biological/chemcal specialist, and radioman, was a product of Puerto Rico. Swiger, a scout, was the product of New Hampshire. I smiled considering that he was only waiting to land so that he could have a cigarette. I loved both of them to no end. Neither one would return from the valley.

    Royce Manis and John Coomer sounded off with a thunderous boom,

    “30 SECONDS!!!”

    Andy walked back towards the door. Jumpers shook their static lines. It was time. The exit light flashed from red to green.

    “GO!!!”

    The jumpers rushed out the door. As the momentum of the line sped up, Andy smiled at me, and I began my march towards the exit. I handed my static line to Andy, turned 90 degrees, planted my left foot, and surged my right leg forward. My body followed. I was officially an airborne reconnaissance commander on his first mission.
    ************************************************** ********

    Fort Bragg-Oct 2005

    Maybe there is no such thing as time. Striving for a beginning and middle and end to this story, it seems only appropriate to begin at Fort Bragg. In his grand theory of relativity, Albert Einstein proposed that time and matter are a relative function on a graph with gravity serving as the axis lines that hold it all together, an ever flowing wave in the grand ocean of the universe. Einstein went to his grave never truly solving that riddle. Maybe some things are meant to be accepted through faith alone and escape man's grasps. Maybe not. It often seems but a dream within a dream, maybe it was just our time. In that moment, in this beginning, past 9/11, past the invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, all roads led to Bragg.

    "Good night moon, Good night stars, Good night sun,"

    I finished the book. My daughter Taylor was falling quickly towards sleep. "Good night moon," she whispered. Together, we said the Lord's Prayer and prayed for all the soldiers in Iraq and our friends and family. She drifted away ending another day. As her eyes closed, I stared awestruck by her angelic glow- that peaceful shining of every father's daughter. I seemed to recognize her face when I looked in the mirror. Taylor Elizabeth remains a spitting image of me. As I bid her goodnight, I promised her that I would do everything in my power to ensure that she had a safe world to grow up in, and I said my own prayer to God asking him to give me the strength to be a good father. Given the crumbling situation overseas, I had no idea if I would ever see her graduate college, get married, and live life. I guess in some ways, I just assumed that she would have to grow up without me. In that moment, as Taylor rested and I gazed, time stood still. It was the closest to heaven that I have ever felt.

    I closed her door and quietly walked down the steps of that old house. Nested deep within the recesses of Haymount, the historical part of Fayetteville, the house eclipsed time. The protuding porch, the oak tree encompassing the front yard, and the vast depth of the house reminded me of southern tradition and history long forgotten.

    I walked past my wife watching Desperate Housewives, American Idol, or Grey's Anatomy. To this day, in fleeing desperation, I could never understand. She chose entertainment over relationship. She chose Oprah over the faith of our fathers. She left me long ago. I still prayed for her even as our marraige crumbled. As I walk around the streets and observe, I suppose her plight is similar to many of my generation- those that choose comfort over concern, pleasure over duty, and the pursuit of happiness over joy of nation. Too many of us simply believe in nothing. I still feel distraught over the prospect.

    I continued to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee. It was a late night. There was much work to be done. LTC Poppas demanded that I shape the nature of our squadron and pick my team. The squadron just returned from New Orleans assisting in the relief from Hurricane Katrina. Time was of the essence as we prepared for Iraq. A fight brewed in the east.

    That's all that I have to share right now....
    Last edited by MikeF; 09-13-2009 at 03:57 AM.

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Bravo

    Mike,

    Glad to know you can assemble the memories and commit them to paper. Maybe it's therapy as 'shrinks" often say write it down. Long journey back upwards well on it's way IMHO - very humble.

    davidbfpo

  3. #3
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Fantastic Read

    Mike,
    Thanks for sharing !

    There's no other military in the world with NCOs like ours

    Awaiting chapter two !
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  4. #4
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Thanks

    Yes, I'm back. I will probably post all of Chapter One in this thread. After that, I'm going to attempt to write a book and see if I can get it published. I was attempting to write a technical paper on how my company cleared the DRV during the Surge, but I kept getting stuck. There are just to many stories to tell. Small Wars deal with people so I decided the only way to actually describe what we did was to tell the story through my vantage point.

    More to Follow.

    v/r

    Mike

  5. #5
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Part Two

    Within the command group, I received the nickname of "The Professor" because I constantly read books about small wars or forwarded emails about Iraq to my fellow commanders and battalion leadership. In truth, I was simply trying to understand this war and prepare my boys for the upcoming fight. Prior to command, I conducted three deployments to the Middle East in various capacities: two to Kuwait and Iraq as a tank platoon leader and one to Iraq as a liason officer to Special Forces. With each deployment, I gathered a better appreciation of the rich culture and history, and I started to understand the competing and various tribal, ethnic, and religious factions.

    During the initial invasion into Iraq, I learned to fight. Leading one battalion with the 3rd Infantry Division, we stormed from Kuwait to Baghdad quickly dismantling Saddam's military. As an advanced guard platoon, we received engineers, scouts, and infantrymen to compliment our tanks. I learned how to maneuver both mounted and dismounted forces, coordinate both artillery fire and close air support, and close with and destroy the enemy; however, after the Thunder Runs, I watched as we struggled to transition to security and stablization operations. Somehow, we had not planned for this phase of war. On the ground, we assumed that someone else would follow on past us with the answers. In our minds, we had completed our mission.

    During my second deployment to Iraq in the spring of 2005, I learned to think critically. I served as a liason officer to Special Forces. This tour was probably the most influential for me. Iraq was deteriorating after the January elections. The Sunnis refused to vote, and Abu Musad Al-Zarqawi escalated his campaign of terror trying to incite a full-out civil war. On the coalition side, American popular support was wanning, or maybe it was just disinterest as the stock market and home values soared.

    My official title was the Multi-National Corps Iraq (MNC-I) liason officer to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Pennisula (CJSOTF-AP). My unique access to the highest command stretched about as far as my title. As a young captain, I got to "peek behind the curtain," as my boss put it, and see what was going on. When General Casey, LTG Vines, or other generals would meet with the SF command, I would sit in the back and listen to the conversation trying to comprehend the meaning. From the coalition perspective, we were trying to transition the effort towards the Iraqi Security Forces in order to divorce ourselves from this conflict. Special Forces took a different approach.

    Working within the Special Forces (SF) community, I received an education into the realm of small wars. Sergeant Major Howie Massengale took me under his wing. A seasoned SF non-commisioned officer (NCO), Howie spent a lifetime as a snake eater. He was nearing retirement near Colorado Springs, and his son was in his junior year of University ROTC dreaming of becoming a paratrooper. Howie introduced me to the hardened community of Officers, Warrant Officers, and NCO's. I learned about the indirect approach.

    As I assisted in my free time as a planner in their operations and intelligence staffs, they imparted their knowledge on irregular and unconventional warfare. I learned strange and new terms such as Foreign Internal Defense (FID), denied areas, and shadow governments. I was taught how to successfully conduct reconnaissance in a denied area. I spent my nights absorbing the manuals. Most importantly, I learned how to develop a tactical construct to destroy the enemy threat using Find, Fix, Finish, and Exploit. These lessons would pay dividends as I redeployed to Bragg.

    ************************************************** ********

    Back at Bragg, I was part of the squadron's brain trust. In organizational design, Henry Mintzberg explains that one must focus on establishing the right construct and structure and finding the proper fit for personnel in order to maximize the probabilities of an organization's success. I prefer to view organizational design as analogous to the human anatomy. Everyone selected into the organization must serve a function, a decisive role in the overall system. The designer is served well by complimenting comparative advantages. In our squadron, we had four brains in the think tank: Major Brett Slyvia, 1SG Mike Clemmons, CPT Jonathan Grassbaugh, and myself.

    Brett Sylvia, the squadron's operations officer and USMA graduate, is just wicked smart. His thinking resembles that of an Intel processer working in a Microsoft-based platform. An engineer by trade, Brett streamlined tasks, coordinated lines of operations, developed intricate campaign plans, and monitored execution from a command post or a blackhawk. A devout Catholic and father of four, Brett's morals and values directly correlate with his sense of duty and self-less sacrifice. Brett was selected for LTC, and I have no doubt that he will continue to command on higher levels.

    Michael Clemmons, a career airborne qualified scout, could easily command a company and could probably just as easily command a batallion or brigade. Instead, he chose to remain in the enlisted ranks. A walking encyclopedia of scout doctrine, regulations, and history, Mike's presence demands respect. I pitied the soldier or young officer that attempted to cross his path. During this tour, LTC Poppas placed Mike as the 1SGT of Bravo Troop. Mike is currently the command sergeant major of an airborne reconnaissance squadron in Afghanistan.

    Jonathan Grassbaugh, a New Hampshire native and graduate of John Hopkins, served as the Squadron's S4, or Supply officer. His job was to ensure the acquisition, procurement, and distribution of every need and want for the squadron. Jon captured the best of us- boy scout, humble, All-American. In civilian life, he would have been a successful lawyer, accountant, or businessman. John did not make it out of the valley.

    As for me, I was the Apple version of Sylvia's Microsoft software akin to the right brain interacting with the left. I looked at problem sets from a different perspective to offer new ideas and creative prospects. All in all, this brain trust served the squadron well. As ideas clashed, thoughts merged, contraints overwhelmed goals, we molded together well. As a whole, we functioned seamlessly.

    Next, the squadron had to define the muscle, the strengh and power behind the brain. Major Townley Hedrick, Captain Phillip Kiniery, Captain Stephen Dobbins, and Captain Johnny Carson served this function.

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    Default Wow!

    Mike--

    Thanks.

    JohnT

  7. #7
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Part Three

    Next, the squadron had to define the muscle, the strengh and power behind the brain. Major Townley Hedrick, Captain Phillip Kiniery, Captain Stephen Dobbins, and Captain Johnny Carson served this function.

    Townley Hedrick remains a one-man force multiplier. A ROTC product of the 101st Air Assualt Division, Townley set a a work ethic unmatched in our squadron. Awkward in his role as a major, he needed to command. A former college wrestler and candidate for the Army's most elite Delta Force, Townley focused on the basics. As a commited father and husband, Townley dreams of retiring to coach high school wrestling. He brought his love of the game into our squadron focusing on combatives, room clearing, and basic infantry skills. As our squadron executive officer, he taught me much about life. Along with Major Sylvia, he was picked up below-the-zone to lieutenant colonel. He will be leading troops soon.

    Phil Kiniery grew up as an army brat. As I understand it, his father was command sergeant major of the universe or at least the eighty-deuce. Phil pursued a degree at the Citadel and served his platoon time in the Strykers at Lewis before heading home to Bragg. He married Elizabeth, a high school sweetheart, and assumed command of our Headquarters company after serving a two years as a line company commander. Stocky and short, Phil stormed across the squadron enforcing standards and mentoring us new company commanders. When the squadron was spread thin, Phil served as a conduit to the Brigade Commander as our boss was forward with the troops. Phil taught me how to command troops.

    Stephen Dobbins is South Carolina born and bred. Another product of the Citadel, he would assume command of Bravo Troop. The only son in his family, Stephen and I would aggresively disagree in any tactical situation. If I went right, then he would go left, but we would end up in the same place. He has a heart of gold or maybe better stated as platinum. Later, he would be awarded the Silver Star for his valor under contact. He left the squadron to command in the Ranger Regiment. When the #### hit the fan, nothing could seperate us. We remain brothers today.

    Johnny Carson is a product of Texas. That should be explaination enough within itself, but Johnny is one of those guys that you just want to know and share a beer. Johnny assumed command of Charlie troop. His wife, Annie, and him continue to bring joy to my days. Johnny would command our detachment or LRS-D infantrymen (long-range reconnaissance and surveillance detachment).

    As with the healthy egoes, there was a healthy competition within every man that I've mentioned. Each would perform dutifully. Each would receive promotion and awards for valor under fire. I hope to serve with them again, and one could only pray to have them as a battalion or brigade commander.

    The next vital element of the organizational structure lies with the backbone. In the beginning, in traditional fashion, it is filled by the non-commissioned officer corps. Outside those already mentioned, we had our faults on the senior level. One was simply crazy. The other two were reformed "Born Again" Christians that would preach relentlessly despite their own faults and hypocracies. We had a bad back that would plague us throughout the tour.

    After defining the brain, muscle, and backbone, one must define the legs and feet. In military terms, these roles are defined by one's support company. CPT Jake St. Laurent and Delta Company filled this gap.

    Finally, one must determine the role of the heart. In ancient Greek mythology, the heart served as the center or the body. A towering figure, LTC Andrew Poppas fit the role. A USMA grad from Wisconson, Poppas commanded in epic proportions. True to his Greek heritage, Poppas defined our squadron in Spartan mantra based on those that filled the gap in Thermoplyae.

    The design was complete as constucted by COL Bryan Owens and MG William Caldwell. Now, we needed to determine our core compentencies.

  8. #8
    Council Member Dr. C's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Hi Mike: I just had a chance to read through your story, and I would encourage you to keep writing it and try to publish it.

    You might do a search for your local area to find a writer's group on MeetUp.com. Getting feedback from civilians would be helpful. Even though I'm a civilian, when I wrote my dissertation on S3-XO Net, just spelling out the acronyms once wasn't really enough for my readers. I'd been working on S3-XO Net for about three years, and didn't realize it may be more difficult for those outside of an Army audience to read the acronyms, understand the hierarchy, ranks, setting, etc.

    I found a writer's group on MeetUp.com in the Kansas City area. I just started going last week. We meet twice a month in the same small group of six people, for about two hours. We share our writing with the small group on a restricted Google site, prior to meeting and discussing. When we meet at a coffee shop, we provide each other with constructive feedback. Just knowing that there is a deadline for when I need to have something written and submitted to the group provides me with some structure and accountability. You can do a search on MeetUp.com for your zip code to find a writer's group.

    Maybe you already do a lot of reading, but I would also encourage you to read books from the same genre to get an idea of how they're written, without compromising your own writing style. You can probably even contact the authors yourself and ask them about their publication process.
    Michele Costanza, Ph.D., CKM/CKEE (Contractor)

  9. #9
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Thanks for the advice Michelle. Currently, my writing is raw and unedited so I'm looking for different avenues to get help with as I progress.

    Mike

  10. #10
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    I'll probably withold any other post until CH One is complete, reviewed, and edited...

    "Breakdown"

    May 31, 2009, Santa Cruz, CA.

    Sitting along the western shore watching the waves crash and retreat in perpetual flow, I look up and down the beach. Moments just combusting as I attempt to crawl my way back towards the present, families descend onto the sand in picnic and celebration. Kites dance against the wind competing with the seagulls advancing up and down in concert with prevailing winds. Children run up and down the beach playing games wrestling in constant confrontation of when their parents will allow them to venture to the amusement park and roller coasters and boardwalk. Their youthful enthusiasm is never exhausted. The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers permeates the senses. Even though I'm standing there, it seems so far away from me.

    I glance down and pick up a seashell. For a moment, I'm engaged in the beauty of the weary lines drawn from its beginning. My feet, carrying my Rainbow flip-flops, are covered in sand. Flooded in contradiction from the tides, this shell once sheltered an oyster securing a new life. Now, it sits along the sand in a broader moment.

    I stand perplexed knowing today is supposed to be a day of remembrance of those that sacrificed all for the nation. As I gaze, in some ways, I stand confused and confounded by the lack of sacrifice asked and demanded from my countrymen. In other ways, I'm glad that they will never experience the horror that I witnessed. Even as I stand absorbing the beauty of this moment, I'm drawn contemplating my boys still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sense of peace and closure that I spent fighting for seem so far away. Sometimes, I walk back there.

    In another moment, many moons ago, I was that child running up and down the coast with no care or worry. During our summer trips to Wrightsville Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Ocean Isle, nothing seemed to matter. Growing up in Charlotte and Raleigh, I was protected from the realities of the world nestled deep within the comforts of the success towards modernity of the Research Triangle Park. Capital injected into the southern piedmont, traditional farms collided with technology, the small hamlets of Cary and Apex expanded overnight into tremendous suburbs of the burgeoning the new economy. My father served as one of the armed social-cultural reformers. Armed with capital and political clout, my dad reshaped the landscaped of Cary helping to expand the area.

    I didn't know it, but change had come to the piedmont. In that day and time, the world was simple to me. At the half-time of the Sanderson football game, we were down by twenty. I was so mad at myself for a missed past in the first quarter. Coach Mike asked us to step up. In the second half, I caught two touchdown passes from Clay Stoneman followed by the game winner from Sean Ray. We won the game. Looking back, I suppose that role of the underdog defined my early beginnings.

    Time shifted, sweet tea intersected with IBM and SAS, and the landscape of North Carolina changed as Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffett jam in evervescant southern rhyme. I grew up surrounded in this predesecer to globalization. Ascending to the top of my class, excelling in sports, success seemed but a step away. For Haloween, I could still venture to the farm to grab my pumpkin from my second-grade teacher. Life seemed a simple equation until the war started.

    I'm no longer the innocent god-fearing prodigy from North Carolina. Many moons ago, I left home for West Point. My childhood and expectations ended when the planes hit the World Trade Towers on 9/11. Everything changed or so we thought. Everyone has their share of battle scars in life. Everyone deals with their wars differently. Today, I accept that I am alive. Today, that's good enough for me.

    My thoughts overwhelm. I can't fight the tears that ain't coming, and I can't control the tears that flow. I grab my long board and jog towards the water preparing to breach the icy depths of the northern pacific ocean. The world didn't end that day. I'm still here. The realities are just a bit different than what we assumed. Time to venture back to reality.

    Slliding into the gloss, I plunged into the icy cold waters paddling through the surf. The tide is strong, and I'm swept off my board several times. Tumbling down, water fills my eardrum, and I'm unnerved in an imbalance of equilibrium. Fighting through the ringing in my ears, trolling to gather my breath, i'm forced to face the reality of the here and now. Emerging through the plane of water and air, I gasped filling my lungs with oxygen. I pull the cord of my tethered board and continue to breach. This is here. This is now. Everything is different. I'm forced to confront time.

    Evil, good, and self-determination are an after thought as I paddle. Survival reigns prevelant. I sort through my thoughts as I recover my board and paddle. My wife left me. I paddle harder. Taylor loves me. I paddle even harder. The bifurcation of the past and present collide. Everything intersects in this world. I paddle. Eventually, I work my way past the break. For a moment, everything is calm. For a moment, I am in the present.

    This calm is only my perception as I observe from above. Below the surface, another world exists. Within each wake, below me, chaos assumes into three levels. On the bottom, sea creatures and plants live in a mostly calm world. In the middle, they cope with continual friction and chaos derived from perpetual chaos of ascending waves. Those that learn to learn to survive in this arena learn to adapt. On the highest level, those that survive learn to accept the chaos. This orderly conduct stemmed well before man.

    As I sit on my board, I accept that I'm just a grain of sand along the beach. For whatever reason, I survived the war. As I sit waiting for the next set of waves, I'm drawn back towards Bragg and my life as a paratrooper. I don't even know where to begin...

  11. #11
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi Mike, great stuff man....don't worry about all the editing and stuff, just tell the story. Just Let It Be by the Beatles.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDlCcGBtGd0

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    Default Ditto Slap

    Mike, just keep on writing.

    JohnT

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Chapter Two: DRV Initial Entry (Sept-Oct 2006)

    Just a start...

    Halloween 2006. The rumors started to spread like wildfire amoungst the local Iraqi populace. We were demons; we were ghosts. We were everywhere. My paratroopers were omnipotent and omnipresent. My boys were immortal. Even the darkest Al-Qaeda martyr thought twice before facing us. The plan worked better than I ever dreamed.
    ************************************************** ******
    Barney led point. Working our way through the worn, ancient farmer's trails, our five-man team navigated through the grape vineyards and palm groves traversing back and forth through the maze towards our observation point. The full-moon waned a terminal glow as it entered into final descent preparing to give way to a new morning's light. After sixty days of gathering intel, night after night of sneaking in and out of these farmlands, patiently watching to develop the situation, recording every enemy action, playing football on a rugby pitch, we were all dressed up in full kit for this trick-or-treat adventure waiting to give the enemy an American surprise. It was time to take charge.

    The last team tapped out on us in frustration, overwhelmed with their additional responsibilities of controlling the suburbs of Baqubah. At the time, we were all overwhelmed. Higher command sent nine battalions to tame Anbar Province, and we were stuck trying to manage Diyala Plus with a brigade of three battalions. As a supporting effort to a supporting effort, our operations were deemed expendable. I sought this losing venture as an opportunity to come from behind. We were far removed from LTC Poppas and the rest of the squadron. We would not fail our mission.

    I was tired of losing. Ever since we assumed control of the Abarra Nahiya, eventually dubbed the Diyala River Valley (DRV), we were losing the battle. The loss was a slow fade that began a few months after LT Nate Ficks's Recon platoon and the Marines assumed control of the Diyala Province following the Thunder Runs that toppled Baghdad back in 2003. American units cycled in and out, and we refused to occupy in the hopes of giving way to a utopian transformation of democracy, something so far outside the bounds of what the people were prepared to receive. As we neglected to occupy, sectarian, tribal, and religious divides exploded towards a full-blown civil war of competing interests struggling for absolute power.

    Chaos consumed the area. The Shia factions, ranging from the neighborhood policemen of JAM to the Iranian-backed BADR movement, consolidated efforts and gained control assuming the the government after a no-fault election, and they absorbed the reconstruction money pouring in from the Americans. The Sunnis, ranging from the Ba'athist to Al-Qaeda, armed from the past regime, merged to defend themselves from the coalition. Everything was a mess.

    We were losing fast. I needed a game changer. Zaganiyah was the final stronghold in my small part of the bigger fight. It was time to go to work. The only advantage that I had was that both sides were conditioned to American units conducting daily drive-by meaningless patrols on the main roads. They had no idea that the Airborne Recon had arrived. They had no idea who we were. I knew my boys were stronger than this problem. I just had to determine how to effectively deploy them.

    Most certainly, this fight was not a game, or maybe, it was the most important of games. In the most simplest terms, my boys just needed to take a walk around and see what's going on. We acted as cops trying to resolve a domestic dispute- the husband holding a gun, the wife a rambling, the children in shock, and all the crazy sisters rambling about who's right and wrong. We sought to regain the peace.

    I exploited my enemy's weakness. After I accepted this reality, I was quick to understand that we were headed into the fourth quarter facing a huge deficit. It was time to shake it up a bit in order to change the game towards our favor. We would start by regaining control of the night using our core competencies of recon- walking through the woods not driving to watch our prey when they weren't expecting. It was time to put some points on the board and level the playing field. I was tired of allowing the enemy to control the game through sporadic IED attacks and ambushes. Our reconnaisance efforts would pay off; it was time to attack the enemy and regain control of our own destiny. Simply put, it was time to kill. Operation Shaku-Maku (arabaic for "what's up" was in full effect).

    In the past two weeks, shots rang out, thirteen insurgents were killed, and four of my boys were wounded prior to this effort. We entered determined to settle this conflict through force assuming the role of the arbitrator and negotiator between the factions. As the government evaporated, we aimed to assume and administer some calm to the chaos.

    As we continued to march to our objective, branches scraped across my arms as we moved quickly and stealthily through the night. The moon's remaining glimmer sparkled enough reflected light from the sun, and my night vision goggles to project a clear picture; however, as we walked, my Revision ballistic googles, the protective eyewear designed to shelter my eyes from any attack, began to fog consumed by the reaction of my body heat to the ambient temperature. Despite all the protection, I could not see so I removed my glasses. The command sergeant major would be appaled in my lack of discipline, but I determined the need to see far outweighed any obligation for uniform standard.

    We continued our maneuver working along the Diyala River. Finally, Bernie stopped the column.

    "Sir, we're here. Take a look. Where do you want us?"

    It was my time to take charge. I selected this Omega team from the best of my company. Barney, SGT Barnes, was a ranger school graduate. Paddy, SGT. Justin Patterson, was my school trained sniper. Bernie, SGT Joshua Bernthall, was a shining junior leader with excellent marksmenship skills. Timmy, SGT Timothy Tolliver, was my head medic. He followed me everywhere. Timmy considered his primary job to care for the commander
    (your's truly). On any patrol, we often competed with carrying the most loads as he would hump an emergency room on his back while I attempted to step with every radio known to man for communications.

    I took a peek, and I emplaced my sniper team. Typically, this role would be served by one of my lead scouts. One of the hardest decisions a commander must face in combat is to determine where to be. In this case, my lead scouts felt that I did not trust them because I took their position. In actuality, it was exactly where I needed to best see the fight and control my indirect fires, rotary wing aviation, predator UAV's, and my ground troops.

    MTF

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 10-03-2009 at 09:52 AM.

  14. #14
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    Default Yay Mike!!!!

    Hooah!!! Keep it coming.

    JohnT

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    That last part needs a lot of work, but I started to write it to answer Slap's questions about the Marines in the Frontline A'stan video. There are other ways to do business.

    Slap asked:

    "Don't know if this can be answered but has anyone ever tried surrounding the village and watching it for several days before they go patrolling through it?"

    "Where is the Afghan Political Cadre that would follow the village elders everywhere they go 24/7? I say forget all this doctrine stuff......fight like a Guerrilla. Where is the Afghan Revolution? Where is the PSYOP Radio stations that should be broadcasting White Propaganda through the radios you handed out. Where is the Afghan Puff Daddy and The Real Slim Shady? You goota have some MoJo going on or ain't nobody gonna follow you anywhere"

    The story I'm going to tell is an unheard of tale of decentralized operations during the Surge- Little Groups of Paratroopers using our Mojo to breakthrough.

    Mike

  16. #16
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    That last part needs a lot of work, but I started to write it to answer Slap's questions about the Marines in the Frontline A'stan video. There are other ways to do business.

    Slap asked:

    "Don't know if this can be answered but has anyone ever tried surrounding the village and watching it for several days before they go patrolling through it?"

    "Where is the Afghan Political Cadre that would follow the village elders everywhere they go 24/7? I say forget all this doctrine stuff......fight like a Guerrilla. Where is the Afghan Revolution? Where is the PSYOP Radio stations that should be broadcasting White Propaganda through the radios you handed out. Where is the Afghan Puff Daddy and The Real Slim Shady? You goota have some MoJo going on or ain't nobody gonna follow you anywhere"

    The story I'm going to tell is an unheard of tale of decentralized operations during the Surge- Little Groups of Paratroopers using our Mojo to breakthrough.

    Mike
    You go Boy!!! I waiting to read it.

  17. #17
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Patrol Base Otis- my first

    Patrol Base OTIS

    Sometimes I just take a look around...When you are all alone, that's just sometimes what you have to fight. Sometimes, one maybe, two years spent alone....I'm stuck inside my mind....Don't tell me who to love; Don't tell me who to hate.

    She wishes it was different. She prays to God almost everynight....My prayers fall on deaf ears.

    I'll go in this way and find my own way out. The way we used to play...



    I was a warrior stepping down the last steps from the TF 1-68 AR TOC with the inherent confidence of any airborne recon commander Everything my troop touched was golden. When this mechanized unit needed to capture a VBIED maker defended deep within the confindes of the Diyala River Valley (DRV), my troop bypassed the main roads and conducted river crossings using indigenous boats for infiltration. When Al Qaeda hid amoungst the palm groves, my boys regained the night flushing out any sense of safety to the enemy. When they zigged, we zagged testing different to tactics to find an advantage to breakthrough the perceived mess. We wanted to win. We were everywhere all at once.

    We changed the civil-war game; we refused to drive down the road waiting to get attacked by the enemy. Our recon and maneuver forced the enemy to play the game by our rules. We were Shadow Troop, and everyone in the DRV knew the game had changed. We were that good. Simply put, we were the answer to any question. I trained my boys well. I was proud.

    Finishing up the evening briefs and final checks with LTC Fischer briefing him on my plan to establish our first patrol base, I stepped into the warm autumn Iraq night. No moonlight shined as I worked my way towards the truck. SGT Santapaulo (Paulo) and SGT Britton waited paitently for my return. I worked my way through the dusty night thinking about the first patrol base. Tonight, my 1SGT and a platoon held the ground; Tomorrow, I would occupy hoping that our presence would simmer the internal dispute between the Sunnis and Shias of Abu Sayda and Mukisa. There was always hope in tomorrow.

    My stomach rumbled. I skipped dinner in anticipation of my final breakfast the following morning. I was going to devour the italian omelet, hashbrowns, and biscuit and gravy. One final meal before I left FOB Warhorse to establish my patrol base in the demilitarized zone between Al Qaeda and JAM, the civil war brewing under the current of the accepted reality. I wasn't planning on returning for a month.

    "Boys, I'm back." I summoned to awaken them from a soldier's nap as I opened the door. Eminem echoed from the speakers of my truck. They sprung to life ready to execute.

    "What's the situation with 1SGT at Abu Sayda?" I asked as they tried to act awake.

    "Sir, we haven't heard from them," Paulo answered sheepishly.

    "What the ####? Britton, get me back to the command post." I muttered as I worked my way into the HMMWV.

    It was eight o'clock, twenty hundred hours in our world. The sun had long past, and we worked our way back through the intricate maze of housing units to the Shadow Command Post (CP). I stormed out of the truck bursting through my front door pausing only to drop my body armor and weapon. I demanded that the sergeant of the guard (SOG) to answer,

    "What's the status of Patrol Base Otis?"

    "Sir, we lost comms (communications) with them an hour ago.," he answered sheepishly.

    "What the ####?" I threw my helmet against the wall as I rushed to my comms set.

    "Patrol Base Otis, this is Shadow Six, over."

    No response.

    "Patrol Base Otis, this is Shadow Six, over."

    No response. In my anger, I slammed my handmike down on the table breaking it.

    "Get them on the ####ing net." I screamed walking to scan the map.

    My instructions were simple. Occupy the house for one night. One simple night. The next morning, I would arrive with a platoon, a headquarters section, and engineers to fortify. I just needed my 1SGT to hold one night. Before they left, I briefed them on the dangers as they left for one of the worst places in Iraq- Al Qaeda training camps to the south and JAM/BADR strongholds to the north.

    One ####ing night. That's all I asked. The worse possibiliities crossed my mind.

    As I stared at the map, the SOG scrambled in between attempting to call the patrol base and explain to me the situation.

    "Sir, the last I heard from them was 1800 hours (6pm). They called to confirm that they had occupied the house." he pleaded.

    In the backgrounded, he continued to call,

    "Patrol Base Otis, this is Shadow TOC, over."

    No response. I began to pray asking the Lord to forgive all my sins and keep my boys safe. I assumed the worst. For three hours, we, attempted to establish communications. No dice. I accepted that the patrol base was overrun.

    At 2300 hours (11 pm), I made my decision.

    "Move Red Platoon to REDCON One. We're headed to Patrol Base Otis."

    Thirty minutes later, the boys assembled, and we embarked on the hour and half drive north pleading every five minutes for someone to answer the radio.

    We worked our way along the highway, maneuvered through the quiet of the the city of Abu Sayda finally venturing towards our house.

    I looked down at my watch. It was 0100 (1 am). I had not slept in two days stuck in planning for this occupation. The night was smelt like the unusual calm that usually follows any attack. I called Mike Anderson.

    "Red One, this is Shadow Six. Clear the compound. I'll follow behind."

    Mike dismounted five men and breached the front gate expecting the worst.

    Clearing the compound, we found twenty men asleep with one shocked private manning a radio on the wrong frequency.

    Everyone was okay.

    I told Mike to take his men back to the trucks.

    I walked into the room where my 1SGT, platoon leader, and platoon sergeant slept soundly.

    I fired off a round into the ceiling and kicked my 1SGT in the ribs to awaken them.

    For only the second time in my command, I yelled as the startled out of their sleep. For thirty minutes, I spoke my mind. After I was certain that they were alert and awake, I walked back into my truck. Tonight was a false call for the dangers to come.

    "Red One, this is Shadow Six. Take us home."

    Tonight we messed up bad. Thankfully, the enemy didn't realize that we slipped. There was always tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, Red platoon and I would assume Patrol Base Otis.

    Just another day in a long tour.
    Last edited by MikeF; 10-09-2009 at 08:00 AM.

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    Liking it, taking us back to the reality we all know.

  19. #19
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Laguna Seca

    10 October 2009, Monterey, CA


    I live by this simple rule. You can take all my money. You can take all my gold. You can take my heart, but you can't take my soul. My God be with me. Life is crazy; I see things hazy. Life is amazing.

    Strange sometimes how it happens to me these days. Days when I'm walking my way back to normal; days when I'm almost there. Days when the alcohol cannot own you, you've done conquered that fool. Days after you learned in those books all you need to know. Today was one of those days. My dad and his wife visited me on my last days in Monterey before I finally head home to see my daughter, but it still happens to me no matter how much I deny.

    Days that cannot compare. What is today? Time transcends, persist, and lapses. Maybe there is no such thing as time. It just is.

    The fall sets on the Monteray Bay drawing in the fog and eractic temperatures in a tempest that confuses the best of the weathermen. As a drunken fool playing throwing all his money down on an off-suit 2-3 in Texas Hold' Em, the morning creeps in cold as a blistering winter. Waking up, I shiver under my covers. By late morning, the sun shines inviting the heat to arise.

    We eat breakfast in Moss Landing at the Haute Enchildada, the best mexican restaurant along the bay tucked into the wayside off the beaten path. I enjoy a scramble of an omelette including artichoke hearts, bell peppers, mushrooms, and feta cheese combined with a perfect mixture of black bean soup. I am fed. Breakfast is topped off and finished with the best of expressos.

    I almost feel normal.

    We walk along the street gazing along the rows of fishermen and maritime science experimental boats enjoying the view of the marina. As we walk, I breathe in the perfect mixture of captured fish and rusted boats that drift along in any marina reminding me of my youth. The sea lions bark while blistening on the docks trying to capture the sun's rays.

    I feel at peace. We decide to travel southeast to watch the final leg of the American Leman's racing tour at Laguna Seca- the best of Porsche, Lamborgini, Acura, and Mazda's cars racing and twisting through the backside of the former hills of the Army's long forgotten post of Fort Ord. We work our way towards the race winding along reservation road. As we ventured along Reservation Road, we watched farmers farm, and my heart dropped as we passed the Young Life Pumpkin Patch. I told my dad how I used to take my daughter through the corn maze eventually working our way through to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. I had to tell my dad how my ex-wife was miserable and stressed throughout the entire trip. My heart sunk in recollection.

    Every enclave of Monterey holds a memory for me.

    Finding the official entrance for Laguna Seca, we work our way up the road stopping briefly to purchase tickets. We arrived just in time for the final race of the season.

    We drove around the perimeter, parked the car, and made our way into the crowd and the race. Beautiful people and beautiful cars passed by my gaze as we walked past the grid, over the footpath, pausing at the "Fuel Stop" to buy a Corona, and finally sitting along the bleachers overlooking the track. As the crowd fills the bleachers, the announcer thanks everyone and their mother for joining us today. He preceeds to interview the drivers.

    I sip on my Corona watching the cars pass warming up their tires on the track. A valley girl makes her way up the stairs- platinum blond, perfect posture, perfect body. For a moment, I see Lela, my best friend, my twin. I sip my beer as the crowd filters in outside my internal distraction. The announcer's voice echoes throughout the racetrack finally demanding that everyone stand for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

    I stand to attention with my hand over my heart. The song begins. I remember too much, and I'm caught crying as I hear,

    "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
    O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

    I always choke up over those notes thinking back to where I'd been. It passed, and I waited for the race to start. My day of rest was to be undone. A fighter unit flew over the racetrack, forcing a fake diving run onto the crowd, and I spiraled back into the times when I called in those birds. I lost control of my reality. I went back there again. It just flowed.

    Day became night, dark moved to light, and I was in a different place.


    Turki Village, Iraq

    "Shadow Six, this is Ghost Rider Six. Acquired targets and inbound. Understand twenty armed men in canal. Understand your are 370 degrees and 500 meters from target. Waiting for final confirmation and tally. You must confirm that you are danger close."

    "Ghost Rider Six, this is Shadow Six. Understand all. My initials are Juliet Mike Foxtrot."

    The planes rushed in dropping their bombs, firing their guns, and wasting the enemy. I can't remember how many times that I've repeated that call. I forget how many that I have killed.

    It is what it is. Stories that must be told so that I can move on.
    Last edited by MikeF; 10-11-2009 at 06:26 AM.

  20. #20
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default

    Good series mike. You actually shot in the ceiling to wake your 1SG and PL up? Quite a wakeup call! Any ramifications for their lapse?

    Niel
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

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