My Uncle Joe Kriss

My favorite uncle, Joseph Kriss, passed away three years ago on May 16, 2011. He was my grandfather’s older brother, he was 94. He was a quiet, caring man who I loved and respected, this is why:

Joe Kriss, was a Pittsburgh boy who left for war right after college in 1942 and flew over 30 missions as a decorated B-17 Navigator and Pilot in Europe during World War II.

World War II

Uncle Joe was another of that generation of men who grew up tough during the Depression, shipped off to war, did their duty and came home to quietly work and raise a family.  Like so many World War II veterans, he rarely mentioned his days of combat.

Joe was born June 1, 1916, in Pittsburgh, PA, where he was raised and educated. After attending Carnegie Tech, Joe worked as an engineer at KQV radio station in Pittsburgh.

In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army Air Force. He was stationed in Big Springs and Midland, Texas, where he trained bombardiers. In April 1944, he went overseas with the 8th Air Force at Deopham Green, England. As a B-17 bombardier, with the famed 452nd Bomb Group, he flew 30 missions over Germany; 15 missions as lead bombardier. He would serve for the remainder of the war.

During the invasion of Normandy he flew missions hitting airfields. He was in the last bomb group over Normandy and flying the mission as the lead bombardier.

The Bomb Group hit V-weapon sites, bridges, and other objectives in France; struck coastal defenses on D-Day, 6 June 1944. His unit bombed enemy positions in support of Patton’s breakthrough at St Lo in July and the offensive against Brest in August and September.

Later in September, 1944, the 452nd assisted in the airborne attack on Holland. They hit enemy communications in and near the combat zone during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945. They bombed an airfield in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945 leading into the final push on Germany.

For their outstanding accomplishments in combat during that period the 452nd was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), originally called the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions on 7 April 1945. Despite vigorous fighter attacks and heavy flak, the 452nd accurately bombed a jet-fighter base at Kaltenkirchen.

The PUC is the same as that which would warrant award of the individual award of the Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross or Navy Cross. It is the highest award given to a unit that has displayed and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions. The award is given to set an individual unit that sets itself apart and above other units participating in the same campaign.

The 452nd flew the last combat mission of in the European Theater of Operation on 21 April 1945 striking marshalling yards at Ingolstadt. The famed bombardiers returned to the U.S. in August 1945. The unit inactivated on 28 Aug 1945.

Joe was proud to be associated with such a great unit. It wouldn’t be until later I realized what a big deal his wartime service had been.

Later in life I asked him some questions after I had been to Iraq and Afghanistan and he told a few stories, but he didn’t really say much. Only throughout 1944 and 1945, he flew over France and Germany in a B-17. Later he would begin to open up.

He once returned from a mission and noticed his friends pointing to his plane. He wasn’t sure what they were looking at until he saw a large hole in the canopy just behind his seat, inches from his head -a souvenir from anti-aircraft flak.

The episode that led to his Distinguished Flying Cross is more established. He earned the medal, given for heroism or extraordinary achievement in the air, after a mission in 1945, during which he led his squadron on a bombing attack on an air base near Nuremberg.

The assault destroyed many enemy planes on the ground and damaged others in the waning days of the war. The citation that accompanied his award described the mission over Nuremberg and praised him for exceptional airmanship and outstanding courage “in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army Air Forces.”

The Family Man

After WWII he returned to his job at KQV. Like most veterans he got married and had a family. In July 1946, he went to work in Washington, DC, for WRC television. In those early days of television, he worked several different jobs from cameraman to video engineer for the acclaimed show, “Meet the Press.”

He told me stories of meeting every President from Truman to Carter. He said, “Truman had the strongest handshake and was the most down to earth of all the Presidents. Nixon I didn’t care for when I met him in 1972, there just seemed to be something dishonest about him.  Carter was very soft-spoken and humble, great traits for a farmer, but not for a President.”

I first talked to him after my grandfather died in 2002. I called to tell him his only brother had passed and would call three days later to tell him my grandmother had also passed.

Throughout this time he constantly asked if I or mom needed anything. During this time I grew to like him more and more.  I would visit him and my beloved Aunt Lainey a handful of times over the next couple of years.

Despite a vast age difference we always got along well and over time he went from being a distant relative to becoming a great friend. He would tell me stories of my grandfather as a boy and I would tell him about being in the modern army.

Over time we would both talk about our war time experiences. Before I left for Iraq he gave me his original Captain Rank and Aviator Wings from the War. He told me how they had brought him luck throughout his life. I would carry them with me throughout my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both were in my pocket the day my friend Bruno was killed. They are in my pocket now as I write this as he is will always be in my heart.

After I returned from Afghanistan in 2008 I called more often and many times our conversations would drift to life and what makes it worth living.

From those conversations I think he secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. But rather, it’s a tapestry of events that culminate in a wonderful, awe-inspiring plan. He was said, “After the war things were clearer for me.  I knew what it meant to live and what it meant to die. All time after that was a bonus,” he noted.

The story of Uncle Joe is a small one. Everyone who knew him always has a story to tell about him, a yarn about witnessing his heart of gold peeping out from his gentle and quiet exterior.

He was one for the good guys. I loved him and I know I was loved back. There was nothing I neglected to tell him and nothing he neglected to tell me.  He taught me that life is about serenity and that people live and then they die, as long as they do both things properly, as he did, there’s nothing much to regret. He will be missed fiercely because he was loved so greatly.

Joe Da Man.pptx

The Impact of Desert Storm

The Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars.

Up to this point many Europeans believed that Napoleon may have been unstoppable. Twenty-seven British ships defeated thirty-three French and Spanish under the French. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. It was one of the greatest one-sided victories in the history of warfare.

Desert Storm was like the Battle of Trafalgar with the Allied Coalition easily defeating a much larger and more experienced Iraqi Army.


Joint Operations in Desert Storm

During Desert Storm, the air and the ground forces essentially fought in tandem, not as a seamless whole. It is a good example on how to properly phase a campaign. The planners ‘phase’ operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield had a dynamic effect on the planning processes used by the United States in the Global War on Terrorism.


The first major combat test for School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) graduates was Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989. The school built its reputation for producing excellent planners. However, it wasn’t until Operation Desert Storm that SAMS graduates earned the moniker of “Jedi Knight”, due partly to their efforts in planning the invasion.

Since then, SAMS graduates have participated in nearly every U.S. military operation as well as military operations other than war, such as relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Today, the school produces “leaders with the flexibility of mind to solve complex operational and strategic problems in peace, conflict, and war, ” (Army).

Shortly after General Norman Schwarzkopf arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1990, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Carl Vuono offered him the use of some SAMS graduates. Schwarzkopf accepted. These SAMS planners became known as “Schwarzkopf’s famous ‘Jedi Knights.’ This small Jedi Knight team dramatically shaped the outlines of Operation Desert Storm. But the efforts of SAMS graduates were not limited to the initial planning effort until after the war was concluded.

Eighty-two graduates were participating in a wide array of command and planning tasks, in the theater by February 1991. These efforts established SAMS in the minds of the leadership of the Army as a place to turn to for superb planners.

The Leaders of Desert Storm

General Schwarzkopf is best known for his leadership in the Gulf War. Like Eisenhower, he knew how to keep tensions down and allies working together, as he did with the situation with Israel. One thing above all else that would have blown the coalition apart would have been Israel attacking Iraq in retaliation for the Scuds that fell on Israeli territory. Although much of the efforts to keep Israel out of the action were handled direct from Washington, Schwarzkopf’s handling of the Saudi’s in particular, on the ground as it were masterful especially for a General trying to prepare for war. Where he really shined was in phasing the air war to set the conditions for the ground campaign.

 General Norman Schwarzkopf
General Norman Schwarzkopf

General Chuck Horner, who became Commander in Chief, Central Command (Forward) CINCCENTFWD noted in his book, written with Tom Clancy,  that everywhere he initially went, the staffs’ “efforts lacked order and focus…missing essential details such as basing logistics and sortie rates.” Horner’s essential task was to understand the intent of General Schwarzkopf and the National Command Authority, and to focus the effort of the CENTCOM team to deploy and employ forces in a logical way that would accomplish the national strategic goals, something that would be hard to do in any environment much less one where you are at war.

DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM air power was used throughout the campaign from bridge busting, and artillery and tank killing, to SCUD chasing and sustaining sortie rates to cover attacking ground forces. The integration of joint planning with tactical air control parties with flanking units is discussed was key in the campaign. Although it is very difficult to measure the effectiveness of operations as they are happening the air campaign was also aimed at psychologically disabling the enemy by bombing them back to the Stone Age.

Desert Storm
Desert Storm Map

General Horner’s bottom line is that “the impact of airpower on the enemy was underestimated, and the ability of airpower to destroy a deployed enemy was overestimated,” (Clancy & Horner, 1999).

Some critics were harsh on Scwarzkopf handling of the Gulf War by saying instead of penning in Iraqi forces at the time and destroying them, Schwarzkopf’s war plan pushed them out like a cork popped from a bottle. Later, of course, some of these Republican Guard units lived to fight another day in the next Iraq war, starting in 2003.

From Desert Storm, we get a clear idea of the Powell Doctrine—the idea that force should only be used when linked to political objectives. By embracing the so called “Powell Doctrine” Schwarzkopf had designed a military strategy for a liberated Kuwait that had clear objectives and avoided what he thought would drag us into an unneeded quagmire. All of this was accomplished using his Joint Staff.

The Impact of Desert Storm

This was a task familiar to each of them—a structured problem—and they communicated their intent and began to build orders by using Joint Operations as the key to make the most of the small force that went into Iraq. An emphasis on “precision firepower, special forces, psychological operations, and jointness”―as opposed to the purported traditional dependence on overwhelming force, mass, and concentration―and the resultant qualities of “speed, maneuver, flexibility, and surprise” characterize this so-called new approach (Boot, 2003)

In the eyes of the world the status of America’s power and influence may have begun to wane due to a restraining economy and two long and costly wars but our security responsibilities have continued to grow. The complexity of these missions from Bosnia, Kosovo, to Iraq and Afghanistan has only blurred more and more of these operational lines. This is most complex in stability operations.

In his book “Waging Modern” by General Wesley Clark he says in war there is another idea that a military leader should have clear military objectives for the way that Joint Force should be employed with overwhelming force and with clear objectives.

General Clark writes talks about the tensions and competing demands of senior military leaders trying to bridge the divide between politics and military operations. He also clearly explains the linkages between our national security strategy (NSS) and national military strategy (NMS).

The integrated approach to warfighting is necessary to achieve true unity of effort in a comprehensive approach to stability operations is attained through close, continuous coordination and cooperation among the actors involved. This is necessary to overcome internal discord, inadequate structures and procedures, incompatible or underdeveloped communications infrastructure, cultural differences, and bureaucratic and personnel limitations.

Desert Storm Painting


Army, U. S. (n.d.). Command and General Staff College Circular 350-1. Leavenworth, KS : United States Army Combined Arms Center and School.

Boot, M. (July/August 2003). The New American Way of War. Foreign Affairs Vol. 82, No. 4,, 41-58.

Clancy, T., & Horner, C. (1999). Every Man A Tiger. New York : G. P. Putman’s Sons.

Clark, W. K. (2001). Waging Modern War, . New York: Public Affairs.

Schwarzkopf, N. (1992). It Doesn’t Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. New York: Bantam Doubleday Press.


The Idealogy of Osama Bin Liden

Osama Bin Laden inspired the attacks that brought to us to the Middle East.  To understand something you have to get into the mindset of the group that carries out such violent acts and their ideology and their theological arguments that justify mass murder of innocent men, women and children. Al Qaeda is notorious for its lack of Islamic scholarship in justifying mass murder.

Bin Laden the Man


For many Americans the face of Islamic terror is personified by Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden loved to show the world he was the image of the modern Spartan warrior. In one of his most famous videotapes, he chose gray rocks for a backdrop, a camo jacket for a costume and a rifle for a prop.

To the frustrated Islamic world he portrayed a hard, pure alternative to the decadent west that had corrupted the holy lands of Islam with puppet princes who lived lavish lifestyles while he desired nothing but a gun and a prayer rug to carry out his meaning. His message of hate was clear: the zealot travels light, his thoughts made pure by his love of Allah that even stones are as soft as cushions for his untroubled sleep.

After his death we would find out that Bin Laden was not the stoic soldier that he played onscreen. The exiled son of a Saudi billionaire was living in a million-dollar home in a wealthy home nestled among the green hills in Pakistan when he was killed.

Osama House
Osama’s House in Abbottabad.

He slept in a king-sized bed with a much younger wife and watched satellite TV. In a final sense of irony, some of his favorite TV shows were situational comedies from the United States that depicted the very way of life he always talked about hating.

No matter how many times he spoke nostalgically about the 12th century and the glory of the Islamic caliphate, Bin Laden was a master of the 21st century image machine (Wright 2006). He understood the power of the underdog against a superpower.  Bin Laden had learned this image judo as a “mujahid”- holy warrior, fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and he perfected it in his personal war in the U.S.

In 1996 he laid down the challenge against the U.S., declaring war on the world’s remaining superpower- an audacious act of a twisted imagination right out of the mind of a James Bond super villain.

No Hollywood filmmaker could have staged a more terrifying spectacle than 9/11, which Bin Laden and his followers made come true with a few box cutters and nineteen misguided martyrs.  But again, the questions arise- Why would anyone want to do this? What drives such hate? To answer those questions we must start at the beginning.
The Soviet- Afghan War

In 1979 the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would change the life of many followers of Islam (Tanner 2002).  For Bin Laden it was a call to destiny. Over the 9 years of the conflict he would launch an ambitious plan to confront the Soviets with a small group of Arab fighters under his command.

That group of Arabs would later provide the nucleus of al-Qaeda, founded in 1988. The purpose of al-Qaeda was to take jihad globally. As the Soviet War was ending, Bin Laden had assembled a force of fighters, many of whom had been trained by experts, and hardened in combat against a modern army.

Bin Laden fighting in Afghanistan in 1984.

Two other events Americans rarely connect what happened that would give even more credence to al-Qaeda: Russia’s retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, followed in 1990 by Western troops pouring into the holy lands of Saudi Arabia after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (McDermott 2005).

The mujahedeen victory in Afghanistan electrified Islamic warriors who hated Christianity as much as communism; a new “infidel” army in the form of the immoral and godless West to fight proved an irresistible challenge (Wright 2006).
The key to understanding this vision and of all Bin Laden’s actions was his utter conviction that he was an instrument of God’s will. He was a religious fanatic who was convinced the mujahedeen victory of the godless Soviets was a reward for the faith of the true believer.

The zealotry of Bin Laden revealed itself as a teenager.  He prayed seven times a day (two more than the mandated by Islamic convention) and fasted twice a week in imitation of the Prophet Mohammad. For entertainment, a young Bin Laden would assemble a group of friends at his house to chant songs about the liberation of Palestine (Bergen 2006).

Bin Laden was driven not only by a desire to apply what he saw as God’s will but also by a fear of divine punishment if he failed to do so.  So not defending Islam against the decadent west, represented by America, would be disobeying God, something he would never do (Bergen 2006).

Not hard to conceive when you consider that a group of hard scrabble farmers (Afghans) armed with antique rifles defeated one of the world’s most powerful armies (Soviets) with their faith and a little help from their friends -read: the same Westerners they later claimed to hate.

The Call to Jihad

But what explanation is there that moves seemingly normal men to undertake monstrous acts of violence? Most of the terrorists responsible for unspeakable acts of mass murder remain shadowy figures. To understand their motives we must understand their lives and personalities and examine their beliefs (Wright 2006).

If we can illustrate just who these people are and why they do what they do, we can begin to understand the context of their beliefs. It provides a chilling implication of how all of our lives were changed in one of the most prolific acts of violence in modern history on 9/11.
The following is a sweeping list of why the Jihadists feel the call to battle is mandatory for all “True Muslims” (McDermott 2005):

To keep the “infidels” from dominating the world- To justify this broad motive most of the leaders of Islamic Jihad quote an infamous passage from the Koran that orders Muslims to fight until all “fitna” has ceased. Jihadists translate fitna as “disbelief,” although it can be defined as “internal conflict among Muslims.”
Because Allah wants you to- Armed with what is called “The Sword Verses” of the Koran these passages speak of more an internal and spiritual struggle than a specific provocation by the “infidels.” Jihadists use several different variations on this theme, including fear of hell, desire of heaven (via martyrdom) and their favorite fallback line- following the example of the Prophet and his companions in the battle for Mecca.

The gathering of holy warriors to fight- The global Muslim community, known as the “Ummah” is lacking in capable of fighters who are committed to the “true calling” of Islam (Fury 2008).  To show your allegiance to true Islam you need to fight and be prepared to die for the glory of being a martyr.

An interesting side note is that most young men who commit acts of terror are not even proficient in the recitation of the Koran in Arabic and cannot understand the language the holy book is written. Most of them are illiterate and know only what they were taught by their Islamic teachers. The teachers and leaders never seem to be willing to risk their own lives in this foolish effort to glory.

Protecting the Ummah- This extended to protecting the “dignity” of Muslims around the world and protecting the Muslim resources and houses of worship. This message was important to Bin Laden’s appeal; its importance was most significant when Coalition Soldiers arrived on the holy lands of Saudi Arabia in the 1990 Gulf War (Bergen 2006).

Bin Laden saw this as the ultimate affront to the “dignity” of Islam. Bin Laden’s family had made its fortune as the lead contractor renovating the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.  As a young man he had direct connection to these places in his early 20’s working in the family business and spending years in the most revered sites of Islam (Bergen 2006).

As seen with all these rationales, the call to jihad is to a large extent self-justifying. Once drawn in by an arguably legitimate defensive need, the most world’s most influential Jihadist called for fighting for a more obscure reason: Establishing a base for Islam.

Bin Laden expounded on this idea in 1988 and at first called his new organization for global jihad “The Solid Base.”  The use of the word “base” is highly significant and would later be shortened to the Arabic word for “the base”- al-Qaeda.

According to Bin Laden the Muslim community must wage jihad from an “area of land.” The base would be like a small spark which would ignite a large keg of explosives, for the Islamic revolution brings about an eruption of the hidden capabilities of the “Ummah.” His 1996 and 1998 “fatwas” or declarations of war against America were examples of this philosophy.

The Base or Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan

Bin Laden thought his blow that bloodied the nose of America on 9/11 would stun his enemy and that his rag-tag band of Jihadists could stand against the most powerful nation on earth. The opposite happened (Fury 2008).

Al-Qaeda lost the best base it had ever had: Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.  Shrewd members of Bin Laden’s inner circle warned him before 9/11 that antagonizing the U.S. would prove fatal. In a final act of hubris Bin Laden thought his beliefs and God would allow him to defeat America as it had the Soviets. The exact opposite happened.  The attacks on 9/11 set in motion events that would end Bin Laden, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

With the killing of Bin Laden flashed across the world a message: a smart, wise, and supremely competent U.S. will stick with an unpopular goal year after frustrating year as it did in defeating al-Qaeda. America gained the world’s respect and fear, if not affection.


Bergen, Peter. The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Fury, Dalton. Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man. New York City: Saint Martin’s Press, 2008.

Maurer, Keven, and Rusty Bradley. Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds. New York: Bantam, 2011.

Tanner, Stephen. Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban . Philidelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2002.

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Twoer; Al Qaeda and the road to 9/11. New York : Random House, 2006.


The National Guard in Afghanistan

I am super proud to be a member of the National Guard. Its contribution and importance in the Global War on Terrorism has often been overlooked. This is my take on that history.


On the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:30am four airplanes were hijacked over the skies of the American east coast. Within the next hour and half two of the airplanes had slammed into the World Trade Center. Another one had hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into an empty Pennsylvania field after the brave passengers fought with the hijackers for the controls of the airplanes. Within hours of the attacks the cause and inspiration would be known to the world. Al Qaeda, based in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, had decided to wage war on America. At the end of the day on 9/11 the America death toll would be over 3,200 Americans dead.

The American invasion of Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. The Americans went to Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Within six short weeks, by early December, American Special Forces Teams allied with Afghan North Alliance fighters had taken Kabul and defeated the Taliban. By then the leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda had slipped across the border to Pakistan. Over the next decade Americans would stay in Afghanistan attempting to build a strong and democratic nation. The basis for the security and stability would fall on the Afghan National Army (ANA) (West 2011).

Afghan-Pakistan Border

The next year would be an important one in both Afghanistan and America. By December 2001 the U.S. was astonished with the fast speed that the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) allied with local Afghan had defeated the Taliban. After the Soviet experience of a decade long war slugging it out with Mujahedeen tribesman, many of who would become key leaders in the Taliban a few years later, no one in the American leadership thought victory would be that easy.

The Taliban had been defeated with a combination of precision air power and SOF working with indigenous bands of Afghan (some of whom were veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War) who provided local knowledge of the terrain and enemy.  The bulk of the Taliban forces simply melted away and went back across the border. America had faced two failures in the last twenty years in Beirut, Lebanon and Mogadishu, Somalia and did want a heavy concentration of combat forces ambiguous missions. SOF was the answer and would later inspire the same idea of a light footprint for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

American political leaders had started to switch their focus to Iraq.  In March 2002 planning for the biggest offensive of the war was being conducted to destroy Al Qaeda in their mountain fortress in a place called the Shahikot Valley.  Military planners were told that were only allowed to use forces in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to conduct the mission that would be code named Operation Anaconda (Naylor 2005).  The reason for the force cap was that Pentagon had already started looking at preparing for a coming war in Iraq.

The forces cobbled together for the mission was the small forward headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division, one battalion (600 men) from the 10th Mountain Division, two battalions from 101st Airborne Division and a single company of eight Apache helicopters. There were several Special Forces A-Teams with Delta Force Commandos and Navy SEAL Team Six operators all working with several hundred allied Afghan Forces were supposed to be the main effort to trap and kill Al Qaeda fighters.

The biggest indicator of the priority of the mission was the lack of any artillery support.  Artillery is the biggest destroyer on the battlefield and belongs directly to the battlefield commander on the ground who controls fires.  Artillery can fire in any environment and continuously only stopping when they run out of ammunition, targets or equipment failure (Naylor 2005).

By relying on air support for indirect fire the commander directing the battle had to ‘request assistance’ from the Air Force and the ability to support the mission was weather dependent. The U.S. forces going into the Shaikot Vally was the first U.S. Army infantry brigade was going against prepared enemy defenses without the benefit of supported artillery since the invasion of against Japanese Forces on Papua, New Guinea in World War II. Based on the American success in Afghanistan American political leadership considered the war won and had started looking at when and how it could invade an old enemy, Iraq. This would continue to be a trend in America’s ‘forgotten war.’


On December 1, 2002, President Hamid Karzai, issued an announcement establishing the creation of the Afghan National Army (ANA) (Christ 2009). In the beginning great effort was made to make sure the ANA was comprised of Soldiers from all over Afghanistan’s vast ethnic group and was balanced according to the country’s national averages.  Task Force (TF) Phoenix was stood up in April 2003 to mentor and train the ANA.  The first unit tasked with TF Phoenix was the 10th Mountain Division based out of Fort Drum, NY. This was the same forces that had fought in Operation Anaconda. They now had to switch from an offensive operation to an advisory role.

The 10th Mountain was a light infantry division designed to close with and destroy the enemies of the United States. The term ‘light’ was a misnomer because a light infantry Soldier carries everything he needs in a heavy rucksack. A single infantryman can be weighed down with over 80 pounds of gear designed to keep him alive and to kill the enemies of his country. The division was not designed or prepared for the advisory mission to the ANA. Once the 10th Mountain Division time was up in Afghanistan and they rotated home the mission to train and mentor the ANA was taken over by units of the National Guard and other members of allied coalition of Afghanistan.

ANA Guard

The American Army Special Forces (SF) has a primary mission to act as instructors to provide other foreign governments military expertise for their own internal development.  This mission is called Foreign Internal Defense (FID). SF FID is focused on training an indigenous force to work with American forces in a by, with, and through construct.  With the major American forces being directed towards an upcoming invasion of Iraq the SF mission of building the volunteer Afghans into the ANA went to the National Guard.

The National Guard

The United States Army National Guard has a unique mission and plays a exceptional role in the security and defense of the United States. Traditionally, the Guard’s role has been both as a state-level security force and a ready reserve component of the U.S. combat power for overseas commitments (Christ 2009). With the Global War on Terrorism that role changed.

In 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union its old empire disintegrated almost overnight.  U.S. government officials looked for ways to reach out to the new democratic nations in the former Soviet Bloc without seeming like they were threatening either Russia or the former Soviet republics that had militaries based on the Soviet model. The government of Latvia made a request to develop a military based on the American National Guard.

General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army General John Shalikashvili, the Commander of the NATO European Command embraced the concept of building a partnership with the small country. Other countries in the Baltic regions including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania asked for similar assistance. The National Guard was chosen to play the lead role in the military liaison teams.  It was seen that using active duty Soldiers could cause offense to the Russians. The Guard took the lead and by 2002 the National Guard had a decade of liaisoning with foreign countries and their militaries.

The National Guard’s working with foreign militaries is important work. Its primary intent is to help the legitimate host government address internal threats and their underlying causes and to help improve security. The role of assist to a Host Nation (HN) is appropriate with the U.S. policy goals. By focusing of all US FID efforts is to support an HN’s internal defense and development program. The difference with conventional forces (not Special Forces) doing FID, is that conventional forces, like the National Guard, concentrate on training indigenous forces to do a mission in lieu of US forces.  This would be the role of the National Guard Embedded Training Teams (ETTs) in Afghanistan.

ANA Guard 1

Initially TF Phoenix was involved in training just the ANA but in 2007 that mission spread to include the Afghan National Police (ANP). The basis for the training is the Embedded Training Team.  The ETT is a 10 to 17 man Soldier team that lives and trains with a ANA Kandak (Dari for battalion) of up to 600 Afghan Soldiers. The primary mission of the ETT is to advise and assist the ANA in different areas.  The advisory team will have senior army leaders who are subject matter experts (SMEs) in the areas of infantry tactics, logistics, fire support and intelligence. The ETT is also gives the ANA access to combat assistance in the form of indirect fires, close air support, medical evacuation and a quick reaction forces of American Soldiers. The aim of the ETT mission is make the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) competent enough to conduct independent missions that include complex operations such counterinsurgency and direct missions. This is a tall order especially when you consider less than 20% of Afghans are even literate (West 2011).

Advisory Teams were nothing new in the history of the United States. The Marines had been the force of choice for advisory missions for almost the first two hundred years of our history.  The Marine Corps had a longer tradition in these kinds of conflicts; its Small Wars Manual, published back in 1940, had noted that they “represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps,” which, from 1800 to 1934, had landed 187 times in 37 countries “to suppress lawlessness or insurrection,” mainly in Latin America but also as far away as the shores of Tripoli, as the “Marines’ Hymn” put it (Kaplan 2013).  Marine legend General Charles Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller fought as advisor battling guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua.  It would be here he would earn two of his five Navy Crosses.

Chesty Puller in Nicaragua 1931


Boot, Max. “The New American Way of War.” Foreign Affairs, July 4, 2003: 41-58.

Christ, James F. The Bone Yard: Book One of the ETT Series. Ogden, UT: Mountainland Publishing , 2009.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Naylor, Sean. Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Afghanistan’s Operation Anaconda. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

West, Bing. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011.



The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

When most people think of Vietnam they hardly every think of the National Guard. Military advisors to the South Vietnamese Army had been operating for several years in Vietnam when President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. By then 16,000 advisors were throughout the country.

In early August 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority, “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force,” to defend South Vietnam (Doubler 2001).

In 1965 the U.S. committed 20,000 Army and Marine combat troops to South Vietnam. The President felt that calling out the National Guard and Reserves might send out the wrong message and prompt the Chinese and the Soviets to enter the war. The decision was made not to disrupt American society with a major mobilization like had been done in World War II.

The decision was made to conduct the majority of the war with expanded active duty forces and draftees. Throughout 1966 and 1967 repeated Department of Defense pressed for a call up of reserve forces. The White House remained fixed on the policy of “a limited war” in Vietnam (Doubler 2001). Finally by early 1968 a limited call up was passed.

The war in Vietnam continued to escalate and so did resistance to the war at home. Several states began using the guard to control demonstrations, especially on college campuses. The future for Company D took an ominous turn with the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo and North Vietnam’s “Tet” incursion into many cities and villages of South Vietnam (Snook 2001).

The Call Up of the Indiana Rangers


On May 13, 1968, 12,234 Army National Guardsmen in 20 units from 17 states were mobilized for service during the Vietnam War. Eight units deployed to Vietnam and over 7,000 Army Guardsmen served in the war zone.

The only Army National Guard (ARNG) ground maneuver sent to Vietnam was Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard. It was a special unit with almost every member both parachute and jungle qualified (Doubler 2001).

The Rangers arrived in Vietnam in December 1968. As part of the II Field Force, the Indiana Rangers were assigned reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions. Operating deep in enemy territory from a base they called “Camp Atterbury East,” Ranger patrols engaged enemy units while conducting raids, ambushes and surveillance missions.

In just its first six months in Vietnam, D/151 fielded 573 patrols. The Indiana Rangers reported 134 separate enemy observations and participated in 94 combat engagements with 76 NVA/VC killed by direct fire. Many other enemy patrols were engaged and killed by helicopters, Air Force tactical aircraft and artillery, all from information gathered by the Indiana Rangers.

Several patrols reported a massing of enemy troops during Tet of 1969. Most patrols were made up of five or six man teams but many 12 man teams were conducted when previous information suggested that contact was likely.

Four members of Company D made the supreme sacrifice on Ranger missions, with two additional deaths resulting from a helicopter crash. The Indiana Rangers were decorated 538 times in Vietnam. 19 Silver Stars, 1 Soldiers Medal, 123 Bronze Stars (88 with “V” device for valor), 101 Purple Hearts, 111 Air Medals and 183 Army Commendation Medals (29 with “V” device for valor) were awarded for valor and achievement. No other single Army Infantry company was as decorated during a one-year period of time as the Indiana Rangers.


“Delta Company” achieved an impressive combat record during its tour in Vietnam. The gallant record of Company D, 151st Infantry symbolized the Army National Guard’s performance in Vietnam.

The Impact of Vietnam on the National Guard

On December 12, 1969 the last mobilized Guardsmen returned home. All together more than 9,000 Guardsmen served in Vietnam, either in units or as individual volunteers and replacements. The smooth transition of mobilized ARNG to overseas service in Vietnam vindicated the role of the ARNG in a time of national emergency as a both a strategic and operational reserve.

The ARNG’s Vietnam veterans would perform another heroic service. From their experience developed a group of seasoned officers and non-commissioned officers who, as leaders, would serve at the State and national level over the next two decades (Doubler 2001). When America found itself at war again the ARNG was ready to be called on, again, due to their continued service they had made the Guard a ready service.




Doubler, Michael D. I Am The Guard: A History of the National Guard, 1636-2000. Washington D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office , 2001.

Snook, David L. History of the Iowa National Guard. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

State University of New York, Albany. HIstory of the Army National Guard . Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, Albany , 2006.



Winston Churchill and the Nanny Who Saved Western Civilization

I always loved this story about Winston Churchill, one of my heroes.  It shows you the influence one person can have on another.   A great quote by the famous baseball player Jackie Robinson reads, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”  I think that quote is applicable here.

Winston Churchill


The man some called the “Greatest Man of the Age,” lay dying in 1965 at the age of ninety, there was only one picture that stood at his bedside. It was the picture of his beloved nanny, gone to be with her Lord seventy years before. She had understood him, she had prayed him to his best, and she had fueled the faith that fed the destiny of nations (Manchester 2012).  The nanny’s name was Elizabeth Anne Everest and the boy she had loved was named Winston Churchill.

Mrs. Everest was one of thousands of nannies who spent her days caring for the children of the aristocrats in Victorian England.  In February 1875 when she became the nanny of a rosy checked baby boy named Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.  There was little hint of the greatness that he would one day command.  Churchill (as Prime Minister) would lead his tiny island nation to stand alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany in World War II (Manchester 2012).

Winston & Mrs. Everest

Few pedigrees read as impressively as Winston’s: descendant of John Churchill, “the Duke of Marlborough,” according to some historians the greatest military leader Britain has ever produced.  Son of Randolph Churchill, a man of such political ability he was made England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons simultaneously at the unheard of age of only 37. His mother was Jeanette Jerome Churchill, a beautiful American heiress whose favor was sought throughout Victorian high society.

Despite his impressive oratory ability and personal charisma Winston’s father was your standard issue upper-class curmudgeon.  His ambition and pride drove him to make disastrous decisions leading to the destruction of his career with alcohol and drugs and ultimately his death by syphilis in 1892 at the age of 48.

His mother was a young woman of great beauty but questionable morals. She was a notorious adulteress whose renowned promiscuity saw her married three times and forever scandal-ridden. The marriage of Winston’s parents was a hushed and hurried affair as Jeanette had gotten pregnant prior to it, presumably by Lord Randolph but no one could be quite sure.  Of his mother, Winston later wrote, “I loved her, but at a distance,” (Churchill 1930).

Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill ignored their two son’s – Winston the first, John the second (believed sired by someone other than Sir Randolph) – devoting their time to far more important matters of high society and career advancement. What time they did spend with young Winston was hurried and fraught with contempt at their “little monster.” His father thought Winston was retarded, rarely talked to him, and regularly vented his mounting rage on the child.

They sent off their child, a sickly redhead with a tendency to throw temper tantrums, to the new nanny’s care as they lived the 19th Century equivalent of ‘la vita loca’. As the years passed, Winston’s father became publicly prominent and a well known politician. His mother spent her time throwing parties and seducing other men. She hired a wetnurse, who fed the child and when he was a month old, she hired Elizabeth Everest to care for him.


It was in Elizabeth Everest – whom he called “Woom”, it was the closest thing he could to say to ‘woman’- became not only his nanny, but his dearest companion. He would share with her an understanding of his widening world as he grew older.

She was the stereotypical British nanny; plump, simple, cheery, ever optimistic, and always compassionate. The boy grew to love her completely. Of their special relationship, Violet Asquith later wrote, in Winston’s “solitary childhood and unhappy school days, Mrs. Everest was his comforter, his strength and stay, his one source of unfailing human understanding. She was the fireside at which he dried his tears and warmed his heart. She was the night light by his bed. She was security,” (Asquith Bonham-Carter 1966 ).

Mrs. Everest


“Woom” changed his diapers, offered him her arms for comfort, and wiped his tears. She gave him all the love and parenting that his own parents should have given, but did not. She was his love, his caretaker, and shaped him in the ways of life in ways that his foolish, frivolous mother and cruelly insane father could not hope to do so.  Her encouragement would deeply shape the man he would become.

When the boy was seven, he was exiled to a series of boarding schools where he was abused and beaten; when he came home for holidays, he often found his parents gone –without warning – and spent his holidays alone with his nanny and the other servants of the house.

Mrs. Everest provided a steady regimen of love, understanding, faith, firm principles, gentle guidance, and Christian instruction. When the tests of life had prepared him and his day of destiny arrived, Winston Churchill was ready to lead the world with a trumpet call of the solid faith he had learned from his godly nanny.

In an age of mounting skepticism at the dawn of World War II, Churchill proclaimed the cause of “Christian civilization.” It was threatened, he believed, by “that barbarous paganism called Nazism.” This was critical he felt, for “once the downward steps are taken, once one’s moral intellectual feet slipped upon the slope of plausible indulgence, there would be found no halting-place short of a general Paganism and Hedonism,” (Manchester 2012).

Churchill defined the challenges of western civilization in the stark terms that moved his countrymen to greatness to stand against the Nazis until America joined the war. It was from his kind nanny that he learned all evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.  Behind the arsenal of his words, behind the scope of his vision, was the simple teaching of a devoted nanny who served her God by investing in the destiny of a troubled little boy through love and patience.

Winston had a lifetime of achievements. He displayed physical courage as a Cavalry Officer on the battlefield serving in India, Afghanistan, Africa and France during World War I.  He wrote vivid articles for British newspapers that were well received and advanced both his literary and political career. His oratory and bulldog determined leadership was instrumental in his country’s defeat of Nazi Germany.  He was knighted and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his six volume history of World War II.  Time magazine named him “Man of the Year” in 1940 and in 1949.  He attributed many of his greatest accomplishments to his devoted nanny’s support and understanding.


When Winston learned that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her bedside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave. “She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived.”  “I shall never know such a friend again,” (Churchill 1930).


Asquith Bonham-Carter, Violet. Winston Churchill As I Knew Him. London , 1966 .

Churchill, Winston. My Early Life: A Roving Commission . London : Thronton Butterworth, 1930.

Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.


The Leadership of General Joshua Chamberlain

General Joshua Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg

Josh 1
Chamberlain as a General

This past July marked the 151st anniversary of the action at Gettysburg which gave him the Medal of Honor.

Chamberlain the Man

Chamberlain did not come from a military background. He was a Professor of Modern Languages at Bowdoin College. He was not the only college professor in the Union Army but he was the only one fluent in nine languages other than English (Eishen 2004).

In August 1862, Chamberlain, a 32 year old college professor, joined the Union Army. He was offered the command of the 20th Maine Regiment but he declined it feeling his lack of military experience did not make him fit for command (Hastings 2006).

Both rival armies had citizen volunteers in its ranks. Later the Union Army would have conscripts. Most of the higher commands of both armies had professional Soldiers who were graduates of West Point or the Virginia Military Institute. More than two thousand alumni of those institutions provided the leadership on both sides of the war.

A small portion of those leaders were talented commanders and none more than the professor from Maine who at the end of the war would be a brevet major general (Hastings 2006). Most of his promotions would come as a result of heroism on the battlefield.

The 20th Maine was assigned to the Army of the Potomac and would fight in some of the biggest battles of the Civil War to include Antietam, Fredericksburg and throughout the Wilderness Campaign. It would be in the Battle of Gettysburg the boys from Maine under Chamberlain’s command would become heroes (Eishen 2004).

July, 1863- Gettysburg

July 2, 1863 found Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were to the extreme left of the Union line of the on an important hilltop overlooking the battlefield of Gettysburg. Their position on the hill was key. If the 20th was pushed off the hill the Union line could have been flanked and the Union would have most likely lost the battle.

By this point in the war Chamberlain had been a Soldier barely nine months but his grasp of the tactical situation was significant. He saw his flank was exposed and under fire he ordered his men to curl among the boulders along the south-east face of the hill.  Realizing he was outnumbered and outgunned and how important holding the hilltop was he doubled the 20th Maine’s front ranks.

The volunteers from Maine came under heavy attack from the Confederate 15th Alabama Regiment. Throughout the battle Chamberlain walked among his men, supervising the gathering of the dead and wounded, closing ranks and offering the reassurance of the his calm presence (Eishen 2004). He was he hit twice by shell fragments but never let his men know how much pain he was in.

After an hour and half of continuous fighting the 20th was running low on ammunition.  Realizing things were getting desperate Chamberlain gave the order to fix bayonets.  He led the charge downhill which surprised and scattered the Confederates and ended their attack on the hill.

Josh on Round Top

Chamberlain’s decisive actions on that historic day have been credited with helping to turn the tide of the war (Eishen 2004). For his bravery and decisive action he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the movie “Gettysburg” Chamberlain is portrayed by the actor Jeff Daniels.

Jeff as Josh

June, 1864- Petersburg

Chamberlain was badly injured on June 18, 1864, nearly a year after Gettysburg, in the battle of Petersburg. A bullet passed through his right hip and groin and exited his left hip.  Despite being badly wounded he withdrew his sword and stuck in the ground in order to balance himself and continued to give orders until he passed out from loss of blood. Chamberlain was taken off the battlefield, his wound was pronounced fatal.

General Ulysses S. Grant gave Chamberlain a battlefield promotion to the rank of brigadier general after hearing the brave Soldier was at death’s door. Chamberlain not only recovered but five months later he was back in command. In early 1865 he took command of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the 5th Corps. The wound would bother him for the rest of his life.

April, 1865- Confederate Surrender at Appomattox

Chamberlain’s actions on Little Round Top could have been the crowning achievement of any professional Soldier’s career. His defense of that hilltop is remembered for in the film, “Gettysburg” and literature, in Michael Shaarha’s Book “The Killer Angels.” All of this was a promise of things to come. In the last twelve days of the war his leadership was even more notable.

In the last few battles of the Wilderness Campaign he performed brilliantly. In the battle of Quaker Road Chamberlain was wounded again. He kept a bible and framed picture of his wife in his left chest pocket. A Confederate bullet went through his horse’s neck, hit the picture frame, passed off a rib and exited his back. During the assault he continued to press the Union assault. Recovering from his wound, in the battle of White Oak Road, Chamberlain led attacks that drove a wedge into the Confederate line at Petersburg (Hastings 2006).

For his brave performance Grant selected Chamberlain out of dozens of other generals who outranked him for the honor of commanding the infantry division of the Union Army to receive the Army of Northern Virginia’s formal surrender on April 12, 1865. As the Confederate Army passed before him, “…down-hearted and dejected in appearance,” (Chamberlain 1992).

Chamberlain gave a brief order, a bugle call rang out and the Union Soldiers shifted their rifles from “order arms” to “carry arms”- the salute of honor. Startled the Confederate Commander, John B. Gordon, looked up suddenly and turned smartly to Chamberlain and his men and gave the order to “carry arms” to his men in return of the salute.

It was a token of mutual respect and although it was a controversial act won Chamberlain the acclaim of the American people after a long and bloody war. His generosity during the Union’s hour of triumph in how he treated the defeated Confederates during the Union’s hour of triumph, earned him as much praise for his compassion as his heroic deeds on the battlefield (Hastings 2006).

Chamberlain was received a brevet promotion to major-general in recognition for his outstanding service and assumed command of the 1st Division. On May 23, 1865 Chamberlain would receive a final tribute when he headed the 5th Corps in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington D.C. It was one of the most emotional moments of his life.

In all, Chamberlain served in 20 battles and numerous skirmishes, was cited for bravery four times, had six horses shot from under him, and was wounded six times.

The conflict ended before Chamberlain was tested in higher commands, but he had already shown himself one of the Union’s finest officers, a model of courage, intelligence and inspirational leadership. When to these qualities were added charity, humanity and generosity of spirit, a knight emerges who might be deemed worthy of a place at an Arthurian Round Table (Hastings 2006).  “General, you have the soul of the lion and the heart of a woman,” said General Sickel to General Chamberlain in 1865 (Eishen 2004).

After the Civil War

After the war Chamberlain would be elected to four-one year terms as the Governor of Maine and serve as the President of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain emerged from the War as a human and intelligent man who always displayed a romantic enthusiasm for the nobility of the conflict despite having seen some of the worst fighting of the war.

He was active in veterans groups and regularly returned to Gettysburg to give speeches at Soldiers’ reunions. In 1898 at the age of 70 he volunteered for duty in the Spanish-American War and later said not being called to serve was one of the major disappoints of his life.

In 1914 he died at 85, from complications of the wounds of he had received at Petersburg in 1864. He was the last Civil War veteran to die as a result of wounds received from the war.

Josh Old


Chamberlain, Joshua L. The Passing of the Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac, Based upon Personal Reminiscences of the Fifth Army Corps. New York: Bantam, 1992.

Eishen, Thomas. Courage on Little Round Top. Skyward Publishing, 2004.

Hastings, Max. Warriors: Portraits from the Battle Field . New York : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group., 2006.




General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. on D-Day

General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. on D-Day

Ted_Cane_FranceOn June 6, 1944, the invasion of Normandy to bring Allied troops into France. This day, also known as D-Day, marked the beginning of the Allied counterattack in Europe.

This was an epic undertaking for Allied Forces involving hundreds of thousands of men and women. One British and two U.S. airborne divisions (the 82nd and 101st) dropped behind the beaches the night before the invasion.

The assault went well on British beaches, where one Canadian and two British divisions landed, and also at UTAH, westernmost of the U.S. beaches, where the 4th Division came ashore (Matloff 1968 ). The story was different at OMAHA Beach. Eventually the courage of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were able to make their way slowly inland. At the end of the first day some 50,000 U.S. troops made their way ashore.

Casualties were lighter than expected: 6,500 American and 4,000 for British and Canadian. Some heroic stories came from that bravery. Nineteen boys from Bedford, Virginia- a town with the population of just 3,000 in 1944- died in the first few minutes of D-Day (Matloff 1968 ). They were part of Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division. They were in the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches. Later in the campaign, three more boys from this small Virginia town died of gunshot wounds. Twenty-two sons of Bedford were lost in less than a week.

When asked what the bravest act he had ever seen was, General Omar Bradley responded with, “Ted Roosevelt on UTAH Beach.”  Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the oldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Bradley said, “He braved death with indifference that destroyed it terror for thousands of thousands of younger men.  I have never known a braver man nor a more devoted soldier,” (Bradley 1951).

Roosevelt before WW II

Roosevelt first served his country in World War I. He was recognized as the best battalion commander in his division. He was gassed and wounded at Soissons in the summer of 1918. For his actions he received the Distinguished Service Cross (our nation’s second award for valor). He finished the war as a thirty one year old Regimental Commander.

After the war Roosevelt returned to civilian life but stayed in the Army Reserves. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33).  He served as a founder of the soldiers’ organization that developed into the American Legion.

With World War II looming, late in 1941, Roosevelt was mobilized for Active Duty and promoted to brigadier general. He was given command of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division when war was declared.  The same unit he fought with in World War I.

Roosevelt was popular with Soldiers. Despite being in his fifties, suffering from arthritis, and heart issues, Roosevelt went on marches with his men. Despite his rank, Roosevelt wore a full field pack and marched alongside his men joking with them all the way. Perhaps no other senior officer in the war realized how heavy a burden the enlisted man shouldered.

After service in Africa and Sicily in February 1944 Roosevelt was assigned to England to help lead the Normandy invasion. He went to the staff of the 4th Infantry Division. It would be here he would make his greatest contribution to the war.

Teddy 1


General Roosevelt was the only general to land on D-Day in the first wave. He rode aboard on one of twenty Higgins boats in the first wave. His boat was the first to land.  At fifty-six years old, Roosevelt was the oldest soldier in the invasion. Roosevelt’s son Quentin landed at Omaha beach on the same day. The only father-son team in American Army uniforms to set foot on the soil of France on D-Day.

Roosevelt splashed ashore using his cane and sporting an old stocking cap instead of a helmet. He realized that the landmarks were in the wrong location. The first wave had landed a mile south of their intended destination. He made the decision to eliminate the shore defenses and march inland. He knew it was critical that his men get off the beach as soon as possible to link up with the airborne units that had landed the night before.

Briefing a group of officers Roosevelt said, “We’ll start the war from right here,” a phrase that was later made famous in the movie D-Day: The Longest Day.

He made a reconnaissance of the area to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways that were going to be used for the advance inland. He returned to the point of landing and contacted the commanders of two battalions, and coordinated the attack on the enemy positions opposing them.

His plan worked. With artillery landing close by, each follow-on regiment was welcomed on the beach by a calm and collected Roosevelt. Using humor and reciting poetry and telling anecdotes of his father he steadied the nerves of the men under fire. Roosevelt pointed each regiment to its changed objective. He worked as a traffic cop guiding trucks and tanks all struggling to get inland and off the beach.

Throughout World War II, Roosevelt suffered from health problems. He had arthritis, mostly from old World War I injuries, and needed a cane. He also had heart trouble.

On July 12, 1944, one month after the landing at Utah Beach, he died suddenly of a heart attack in his sleep in his tent near Normandy. On the day of his death he had been selected by General Omar Bradley for promotion to major general and orders had been cut placing him in command of the 90th Infantry Division.

Roosevelt was buried at the American cemetery in Normandy. He now lays next to his younger brother, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt (his son’s namesake) a pilot, who had been killed in France during World War I. Quentin was exhumed in 1955 from Fère-en-Tardenois, France and moved to the Normandy cemetery to be re-interred next to his brother Ted.

Teddy 3

Originally Roosevelt was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on D-Day. The award was upgraded at higher headquarters to the Medal of Honor which Roosevelt was posthumously awarded on 28 September 1944.

President Teddy Roosevelt and General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are one of two sets of fathers and sons to have received the Medal of Honor. President Roosevelt was given the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his charge up San Juan Hill in 1898. The other set is Arthur and Douglas MacArthur.

Roosevelt’s actions on D-Day are portrayed in The Longest Day, a 1962 film in which he was played by actor Henry Fonda. The movie is based on the book of the same name, published in 1959 by Cornelius Ryan.

Teddy 2


Bradley, Omar N. Omar N. Bradley. A Soldier’s Story . New York : Henry Holt and Company , 1951.

Kershaw, Alex. The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-day Sacrifice. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003.

Matloff, Maurice- General Editor. Americanm Military History 1607- 1967. Washington D.C. : Office of the Chief of Military History , 1968 .

Ryan, Cornelius. The Longest Day. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959.

Marching the Bataan Memorial Death March for a Fallen Hero


I finally made it to New Mexico to do the Bataan Memorial Death March. This year is a little different.

I often think my greatest gift is making and keeping extraordinary people as my friends as evidenced by this e-mail. I have lived an amazing and blessed life. I am trying to pay back some of the kindness I have received in my life by doing something for a fallen hero.

Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Neil Roberts

In support of Operation Anaconda, the opening salvo in America’s new war on terror, deep in the mountains of Afghanistan PO1 Neil Roberts was a member of a special operations element that was to be inserted on a reconnaissance and scouting mission (Couch, 2004).

As the big CH-47 Chinook helicopter flared for landing, it came under heavy machine gun and rocket fire. 3 RPG Rockets ripped through the helicopter without exploding. There was confusion in the troop compartment as the deck become slick with fluid from ruptured hydraulic lines.

An air crewman slipped from the exit ramp and dangled from a nylon tether. Neil immediately went to his aid and hauled him back into the aircraft as the pilot struggled to gain control of the dying aircraft.

Neil fell from the helicopter just as the pilot regained control and veered away from the enemy fire. The pilot crashed landed his helicopter a few miles away from the insertion site. All aboard were safe-all except Neil.

He activated his tracking beacon to let his teammates know he was alive, and crawled away from the insertion site. There were more than 60 well-armed al-Qaeda fighters around him.

He should have gone to ground and waited for help. The machine gun emplacement that had so badly shoot up the Chinook was still active. Neil knew his teammates would come back for him. He knew they would face another around of deadly fire. Neil was a SEAL to his core and did what he was trained to do, what he was born to do- he attacked!

He maneuvered 200 yards to a position above and behind the al-Qaeda gunners. With his grenades, he destroyed the machine gun and killed the gun crew. Then the remaining al-Qaeda fighters came for him.

Outnumbered, outgunned and wounded several times, he fought until he exhausted all his ammunition. Finally after almost two hours of bloody fighting he was cut down and al-Qaeda dragged his body away. But SEALs never abandon their own.

Less than an hour later Navy SEALs, assisted by British and American special operations personnel were on the ground to help Neil. After 8 hours of fierce, close-quarter combat, Neil’s body was recovered by his teammates. More than 300 al-Qaeda died at the hands of the American and British special operators. 6 other Americans died in the battle; 2 Navy SEALs were seriously wounded. A stiff price, but thanks to the sacrifice of his brothers, Neil would be able to go home to his family (Couch, 2004).

Neil was one of 12 children, including a twin brother. He left behind a widow and an 18 month old son. Before Neil deployed to Afghanistan, he left a letter with his wife and instructions that it be opened only if he were killed. Patty Roberts made the letter public, wanting everyone to know of her husband’s devotion to his nation and brother warriors. In part the letter read:

“I consider myself blessed with the best things a man could ever hope for. My childhood is something I’ll always treasure. My family is the reason I’m the person I am today. They supported and cared for me in the best way possible.

The Navy, although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave. My time in the Teams was special. For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast. The bad was balanced equally with the good.

All the times spent in the company of my teammates was when I felt the closest to the men I had the privilege to work with. I loved being a SEAL. If I died doing something for the Teams, then I died doing what made me happy. Very few people have the luxury of that.”

The dramatic circumstances of Neil’s death – the lone man, hopelessly outgunned, going down fighting – makes him a legend among the Special Operations Community. The Davy-Crockett-in-the-Alamo aspect captured hearts and imaginations outside the military as well. The Battle of

Roberts Ridge, as Roberts’ last stand and the subsequent rescue attempt came to be known, would go on to be the subject of two books, a Time magazine cover story and a two-hour NBC news special. Neil’s Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, hangs on the wall at the headquarters of Navy SEAL Team Six as a reminder of his courage (Owen, 2012).

Doing Bataan for Neil’s Family

I am sponsoring the son and wife of Neil Roberts by doing the Bataan Memorial Death March. Any money I raise will be used to send his family to summer camp. The mission is being undertaken by my buddy Kent Solheim, a highly decorated Special Forces Officer who lost his leg in the battle of Karbala, Iraq.

His mission in that Gold Star Families (folks that have lost Service Members in the line-of-duty) Teen Adventures provides unique summer adventure opportunities for Gold Star Youth. The purpose of the programs is to provide healing, mentorship, development, and opportunity to the children of special operations Service Members who lost their lives in the line of duty.

This is a strictly a “mom and pop” operation with his amazing wife Trina building and designing the website and Kent spending his nights on the phone arranging support for this heroic endeavor. Here is the link:

The Camp is one of the four camps offered by Gold Star Teen Adventures, a non-profit organization that excels to serve the surviving children of special operations service members killed in the line of duty by providing healing, mentorship, and character development opportunities for these families.

Adventure SCUBA advanced Alumni Bonaire 2014 offers Gold Star families the opportunity to earn their advanced open water certification in the scuba diving Mecca of Bonaire in the Caribbean. The cost of this camp is $3000 per family member.

I will match any donation dollar for dollar. Anything given from just a $1 to something more would be appreciated. I thought this was an awesome opportunity to give something back to a family that had given so much. Neil’s son is now almost 14 years old and Kent said he looks a lot like his dad. Here is the link:

I will keep you guys updated on how my training is going. This will be the 6th time I am doing the Bataan Death March and I think it will be my best year yet. Know you are all missed and thought of often.




Couch, D. (2004). The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident. New York City: Crown Publishing Group.

Owen, M. (2012). No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission

That Killed Osama Bin Laden. New York: Bantam Publishing.