Published: Friday, 16 December 2011 20:23
16 December 2011
This powerful statement comes from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. I like it.
Statement from the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos
The series of McClatchy news articles have cast doubt on the decision to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sergeant Dakota Meyer. I stand firmly behind the process and the decision to award the Medal of Honor to Sgt Meyer.
The Medal of Honor is our nation's highest award for bravery. Fittingly, it involves the most demanding of investigations and multiple levels of review. This process, followed scrupulously in this and other cases, is designed to confirm with as much certainty as possible that the level of bravery and self sacrifice displayed is worthy of this singular honor. Selflessness of this caliber cannot be measured under ordinary circumstances, because the ordinary does not evoke the extraordinary. Rather, the Medal of Honor requires that a display of heroism take place under the most difficult circumstances our service members can face. With life and death hanging in the balance, brave warriors, like Sgt Meyer and those who have gone before him, override their natural, instinctive impulses of self preservation and risk their lives to save others. Our highest honors are reserved for those who perform such deeds in combat while facing the enemy and braving his fire.
Read more: Powerful Statement from the Marines
Published: Friday, 16 December 2011 19:46
16 December 2011
I’ve made it back to America after being away about one year. I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to be on US soil. This morning, in Tucson, two A-10 Warthogs flew overhead. The last time I saw A-10s was in Afghanistan. They were shooting just about every day.
Now for some sad news. Today there are more stories about Dakota Meyer. Dakota was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during his incredible and honorable service in the Marines. These stories are saddening because the more you read, the more you realize that Dakota is being tarred and feathered. This clearly is about politics and business.
And so this morning I emailed to someone I know to be close to Dakota, offering moral support. This American remains beside you.
A trusted source also sent this dissection of recent comments that are designed to cut down Dakota:
Jonathan Landay has alleged that the Marine Corps deliberately inflated the heroism of Sergeant Dakota Meyer. This allegation has tarnished the reputations of the Marine Corps and of Sergeant Meyer. Landay quoted not one individual. Instead, he used statements made two years ago by those on the battlefield.
Read more: Don’t Tar and Feather our Warriors
Published: Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:29
13 December 2011
Many people remember Command Sergeant Major Robb Prosser. Robb is the man who shot the man who shot Erik Kurilla. This firefight is described in Gates of Fire.
I spent about five months with his unit in Iraq, and so Robb later invited me with his unit in Afghanistan. We were roommates in Kandahar. Robb was the Command Sergeant Major of the 5th Stryker Brigade.
Unfortunately, the upper leadership (above the brigade) had the brigade so spread out over a huge area of southern Afghanistan that it was near about impossible for Stryker leadership to keep tabs on everyone, much less make progress.
The Brigade Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, was later villainized by other officers and by the media, partly due to the fact that a small number of Soldiers committed murder. The vast majority of the brigade consisted of normal combat troops, meaning they were highly disciplined. But we know how this goes. If a few bad apples fall off a tree, we often chop down the whole tree or even the entire orchard.
Read more: Note from Ranger Prosser
Published: Sunday, 11 December 2011 15:18
11 December 2011
This weekend I spoke for several hours with a retired Special Forces Soldier. Much of the numerous conversations revolved around the terrible Army policy of sending unarmed Dustoff helicopters into combat. These helicopters are emblazoned with Red Crosses. The Red Crosses are intended to alert the enemy that the helicopters are unarmed. The Taliban and other enemies in Afghanistan do not abide by the Geneva Conventions and they shoot at the unarmed helicopters.
Some members of the Army, Air Force and Marines are very happy that I have taken on the cause of arming the Dustoff helicopters. However, some top brass in the Army is extremely angry to be called out for supporting the dangerous policy of sending unarmed Soldiers into combat.
The retired Green Beret friend, whom I sometimes call for advice, has warned me about this one. He wants the crosses off, and recognizes that this is a fight with people in big places. My friend warns, “If they can argue with facts, they will fight you with the facts. The facts are not on their side. You won that argument. When the facts are not on their side, they will argue the law. There is no law to argue here. The facts are against them and the law won’t help, and so they will shoot the messenger. Watch your back on this one.”
Read more: Michael Yon Alert
Published: Friday, 09 December 2011 21:17
09 December 2011
Since I’ve started writing about the Dustoff problems, the Army has practically put a bounty on my head. A theater wide alert has gone out that I am to be denied access to ISAF bases in Afghanistan, and that my movements are to be reported. This went out through classified channels.
These dispatches are embarrassing for the Army. They have been allowing troops to die on battlefields in Afghanistan for politics. I don’t care about Army embeds, but I do care about my friends in uniform.
Recently, a combat unit invited me to go with them in about January. I kept it confidential for some time, but decided to mention it publicly on Facebook to check for Army reaction. The Army overreacted as predicted and put out the classified alert to report any sightings of me.
Read more: Embarrassed Army
Published: Thursday, 08 December 2011 13:36
8 December 2011
4-4 Cav on Mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
The Soldiers were on a mission. One day had become the next and they had moved into an Afghan family compound until the morning. The moon crept along, shadows tracing arcs, the shine so strong it caused one to wonder if photosynthesis might still be occurring. Tonight, in Florida, the mockingbirds would sing beautifully through the night, perched on the branches, searching for mates, as they do under such moons.
This was enemy territory. Soldiers stood under a tree. A dim headlamp splashed blood red under the leaves, creating a fleeting, accidental art.
Read more: The AfterWar
Published: Wednesday, 07 December 2011 12:16
7 December 2011
If you ask ten service members “What is the difference between CASEVAC and MEDEVAC,” you might get six answers. Five might answer, “I don’t know.” The other five will surely give five different answers.
I’ve asked dozens and never gotten the same answer twice. The people I’ve asked include Army Dustoff pilots, Air Force Pedro pilots and crew, and one Marine officer. I’ve also asked plenty of Generals, Colonels, and senior-ranking enlisted folks.
Bottom line up front: if someone advertises that they know the definition, they don’t. A single, widely accepted definition does not exist. Definitions are easy to find in books here and there, but if you poke around enough, you will find that the definitions conflict.
Read more: Slippery Stuff: CASEVAC vs. MEDEVAC
Published: Monday, 05 December 2011 14:57
They Watch our Backs
05 December 2011
The US Army is today in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan. This was first pointed out to me by a very smart, highly experienced senior military person. Though he has never steered me wrong, this seemed a bit much. And so over the past month I looked into it.
He was right. We are in violation of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan. The explanation is straightforward.
Read more: Dustoff Helicopters: Violating Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan
Published: Sunday, 04 December 2011 16:09
04 December 2011
The call sign for British medical evacuation helicopters is “Tricky.” Tricky is constantly involved with medical evacuations in Afghanistan. Their methods vary significantly from ours. For that matter, US Army, Air Force and Marine methods vary dramatically from one another.
The underlying American philosophy for conventional troops is to scoop up casualties and get them back to the hospital, ideally while highly trained medics go to work.
US Special Operations Forces often bring their own surgeons. Likewise, the British use Chinook helicopters with surgical crews who can push blood and start doctor-level work right there in the bird.
Read more: Tricky Business: British Forces at War
Published: Saturday, 03 December 2011 15:24
03 December 2011
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
From World War II, we’ve heard reports that the enemy shot at Red Crosses emblazoned on medical vehicles, tents, and helmets. The Japanese were said to specifically target Red Crosses. The Germans were reported to do it from time to time. American troops in Europe and the Pacific sometimes covered the Red Crosses to avoid being hit.
World War II should have been enough to teach us a lesson. But the Army seemed dumb. There was a repeat in Korea. A retired military man forwarded a link to this Korean War video.
Notice at the 4min57sec mark, our troops are hiding a Red Cross. How many of our people were shot to pieces in WWII and Korea before they started covering the symbols?
Then our people fought in Vietnam. Our Dustoff helicopters sported Red Crosses and were shot down.
Dumb learns from pain. Insane just keeps bashing its head against the wall and expecting different results.
Read more: The Army ain’t Dumb (It’s Crazy)
Published: Friday, 02 December 2011 16:10
Mission in Afghanistan with 4-4 Cav
02 December 2011
A groundswell continues within the Dustoff community to have Red Crosses removed from MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan. There is much behind the scenes work on this. We’ve also set up a private forum to exchange information and ideas. Numerous encouraging messages have come from loved ones of troops who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was honored when the mother of Chazray Clark contacted me. I nearly missed it but someone saw her message posted. Chazray’s loss inspired me to do something about the Dustoff.
I had seen Chazray’s Mom and wife on television while in the tent in Afghanistan. It was the same tent Chazray had just moved into before the mission. Chazray was gone now, and I watched on the computer his Mom and wife back in America. Their courage was inspiring to Chazray’s buddies and to me.
Read more: Afghanistan & Mexico
Published: Thursday, 01 December 2011 15:19
01 December 2011
ComputerWorld recently interviewed me about smartphone security. My work happens in dangerous places where a working knowledge of phone security is essential.
The reality is that if you have a cell phone, many people can track you.
November 30, 2011 - 11:36 A.M.
Smartphone pocket spy tracking by drug cartels at Mexican border war zone?
Security Is Sexy
Michael Yon travels with U.S. combat troops overseas and has learned much about smartphones as pocket spies with actionable intelligence that is trackable and could mean life or death. While continuing to discuss smartphones as pocket spies with actionable intelligence that can be tracked, Yon pointed out that:
Smartphones are computers. Software is hacked every day. The speaker and camera can be turned on without a warning. This also is possible with normal landlines. The phone speaker can remotely activated without the phone ringing.
Chinese hackers were said to be turning on webcams and secretly transmitting. Information flows into and out of smartphones like water flows in rainforests. Information practically evaporates. Spyware can be installed. Wifi and Bluetooth are open doors.
Another layer can be achieved with special gear that intelligence agencies, various militaries, and others use.
During a mission in Iraq, a signal to a "hot" cell phone was picked up. The phone was in a mosque but there were loads of men in the mosque. Many had phones that were not hot. Our people moved in closer, parked outside and started chatting with people. When the hot cell phone happened to pass by, our guys could see the target. They quietly took the one guy around the corner and loaded him up. It's possible that other Iraqis did not realize he had been snagged.
Read more: Watching You
Published: Wednesday, 30 November 2011 14:52
30 November 2011
Recently I published a small piece about smartphone security called Pocket Spies. A security writer at ComputerWorld read Pocket Spies and contacted me for an interview.
This is not my field, but that I have built awareness due to the dangers of my profession. Anyone who uses a phone of any sort should be aware of the dangers. Some of these pitfalls can cost you money, or worse.
November 29, 2011 - 10:14 A.M.
Pocket Spies: Smartphone actionable intelligence
Security Is Sexy
Photographer and writer Michael Yon, a former Green Beret, has been with our combat troops and reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. Yon recently published an extremely interesting article titled Pocket Spies which deals with how our smartphones act like a pocket spy which we willingly carry, yet many people don't consider the hidden dangers. Yon has seen a perilous side of it that many of us never will, when carrying a phone can potentially cost the lives of U.S. troops.
Since GPS tracking is a huge issue that SCOTUS is deciding right now, I interviewed Yon about pocket spies and actionable intelligence. He's seen some U.S. combat units that are careful and aware of the hidden dangers from smartphone pocket spies and some that are not. Here's the first of a two part series:
Read more: Death by Smartphone
Published: Tuesday, 29 November 2011 15:11
The Canon Mark III 1ds is one of the finest cameras in the world. Mine has seen combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and has been used around the world from Nepal, to the Philippines and elsewhere. The photos from this Mark III 1ds have appeared in my two most recent books, and countless other places.
These bodies still go for about $7,000 brand new. Though this body has seen much combat, the camera is in perfect operating condition. This fantastic machine is rugged. It has photographed al Qaeda, Taliban and US and British forces in two wars, and come back ready for more. It has photographed some of the thought-shapers of this generation, such as General Petraeus, and also Sherpas near Mt. Everest, and former guerrillas in the Philippines.
It is with heavy heart that I want to sell this camera to buy two more cameras. In 2012, Canon will introduce a newer model with fewer megapixels, but it should work better in low light. If I decide to cover the Mexico issue, low light shooting will be of great value. The total price of the two new cameras, along with GPS and an IR modification to one, will be about $15,000.
I am in hopes that a buyer will see the potential historical value of this camera, and the great value in bringing two new workhorses in the stable. And so with that in mind, I am starting the bidding at $10,000.
Thank you for your consideration.
Click here to see auction.
Published: Monday, 28 November 2011 13:36
Soldiers react seconds after IED strike
28 November 2011
Every day in Afghanistan there are casualties requiring helicopter evacuation. There is a high probability that as you read this, someone is bleeding and in the process of extraction from the battlefield.
US Army MEDEVAC helicopters fly unarmed into combat emblazoned with Red Crosses on white backgrounds. This signals to the enemy that our people are unarmed. The enemy tries to shoot them down.
The Air Force, Marines and British do not burden their helicopters with Red Crosses and they are armed with machine guns. This facilitates faster, safer evacuations. Army helicopters frequently must orbit landing zones because there is too much ground fire. This happened again less than a week ago. A trooper suffered a double amputation during an ambush. The Army Dustoff had to orbit for about 45 minutes due to ground fire.
Read more: RED AIR: A Private Forum
Published: Thursday, 24 November 2011 14:36
24 November 2011
Happy Thanksgiving weekend in America! This is a good time to share something lighter than the constant war.
I’ve travelled to more than sixty countries, often spending years on end abroad. Those journeys have revealed many fascinating sides of life.
Today I am in Laos, a small country thick with jungles in Southeast Asia. Laos used to be called “The Land of a Million Elephants.” There still are many elephants, but not like those older times. One day in Italy, I was in Venice upstairs in a museum and saw a very old map of Laos. It was a mysterious place illustrated by elephants and nestled between Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and China. Many names have changed since that old parchment was drawn.
Read more: How to Catch a Bird without a Gun
Published: Wednesday, 23 November 2011 12:57
Afghanistan: Army Medic helps to bag up an Afghan Soldier who was just blown up. Our medics do not wear Red Crosses. They carry rifles.
23 November 2011
Army Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopter crews have been performing stellar work in Afghanistan. When troops are wounded, the Dustoffs go into hostile territory often while taking ground fire. Most interesting: they go in unarmed.
The helicopters are emblazoned with the Red Cross, and so according to the Geneva Conventions they are not allowed to carry offensive weapons. Just what constitutes an offensive weapon is another line of discussion, but the bottom line is that Dustoffs do not carry machine guns.
More interesting is that the Red Cross is one of the symbols used in the Crusades. After years of throwing around the COIN acronym while pretending we have learned something about Counterinsurgency, we still fly around Afghanistan in CrusaderCopters.
Read more: CrusaderCopters
Published: Tuesday, 22 November 2011 12:25
22 November 2011
US Army MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan are marked with Red Crosses. Helicopters sporting a Red Cross are not allowed to be armed. The enemy knows this. The enemy tries to shoot down these unarmed helicopters with the added advantage that our people cannot shoot back. And so, we push people into combat while advertising to the enemy that our people are unarmed. The best that can be said for this policy is that it’s wrong. The worst that can be said might be that it borders on criminal.
We like to think that after a decade of counterinsurgency, we have learned something. Have we? What does a cross on a helicopter mean? For some Afghans, it’s a mark of the beast. The poster above was hanging on a wall in eastern Afghanistan.
Read more: Mark of the Beast: Evil Symbols in Afghanistan
Published: Thursday, 17 November 2011 13:54
Image created with iPhone4s
17 November 2011
We know the Internet has dangers. Everything we put onto the information superhighway should be considered chiseled into marble. Meanwhile, those smartphones that so many of us carry are tantamount to carrying hostile spies in our pockets. If the battery is charged and in the phone, the phone is a homing beacon whether it’s on or off. Now add services such as Facebook, and those excellent phone cameras with geotagging, and there is a combination for disaster.
This has relevancy for our troops in Afghanistan. During certain missions, I would not even take my smartphones. On or off, I did not want to take the chance. Probably made no difference, but it’s better safe than to get our people hurt. It is important that troops make sure that journalists and Interpreters do not take smartphones during certain sorts of missions. Also, if you get blown up, that smartphone might go sailing through the air and be found by the enemy. If they crack into it, they might have a treasure chest. The last unit that I had the honor to cover was 4-4 Cav. They were good about reminding about the smartphones but some other units don’t pay attention.
Read more: Pocket Spies
Published: Wednesday, 16 November 2011 13:31
17 November 2011
The United States faces greater threats at home than we face in Afghanistan. The Mexican border, for instance, is being described as a war zone. People have been warning about it for years. Over time, I have seriously considered changing focus to the more proximate and bigger threats.
I am ready and willing to change primary focus to the home front. This will require setting up shop and living in a place like Texas or Arizona. Probably Texas.
I am testing the winds. If the funding is there, it will happen. I will move home to America and get to work. If you are willing to support coverage on the home front, this is a situation where money talks. If you vote “Yes, I will support it,” please annotate your vote with a note.
The bottom line question: Will you financially support this coverage? The quality will be high. So will the price.