Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

West Point Leadership- Profiles of Courage


16 July 2013



Yesterday a tremendous book arrived via courier.  I normally do not review books but this one includes some of my writing and photographs and so this was mandatory.  I spent hours flipping through the pages.  The quality is amazing.

My initial impression is that the authors have created an important historical compilation of incredible careers and accomplishments.  Profiles of Courage can be used as a biographical and historical reference yet also contains gripping stories from many wars.

Profiles of Courage is not the sort of book that I will read in one push, but will keep on my desk to take piece by piece.  I personally know some of the folks whose careers are described, and so naturally went to their biographies and enjoyed every word and picture, some of which I made.  It is a great honor to have work included in these historical pages.  This is high quality work.

Read more: West Point Leadership- Profiles of Courage

Decline of Dustoff: A Symptom


27 June 2013

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More people are waking up to smell the bitter tea.  Our Army helicopter medical evacuation system, called “Dustoff,” is broken. People are dying because of it.  I have written about this many times.

And now retired Dustoff pilot Brigadier General Patrick Brady has weighed in with his article “Decline of Dustoff: Medal of Honor Huey pilot bemoans today’s medical air-evacuation process.”

Among other Dustoff policy failures, the idea that Dustoff should remain unarmed while flying with red crosses is ridiculous. During the last sizable wars we have fought -- Vietnam, Iraq, Iraq again, Afghanistan -- we have always enjoyed air superiority and we had hospitals close to the action.

Read more: Decline of Dustoff: A Symptom

Sunset Over Denver


22 June 2013


Ginger Robinson made this image and sent it to me, saying: “You would think Krakatoa was erupting: Sunset over Denver last night. Smoke from Lime Gulch Fire.

Quick Notes and Updates


19 June 2013

Due to time constraints, I must write this as an unedited stream of consciousness.  My apologies for the roughness.

Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles.  The single car accident happened at about 0425.  He crashed into a tree and was burned beyond recognition.  He was 33. 

Mr. Hastings was the war correspondent whose Rolling Stone article led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the top General in Afghanistan.

Although Hastings was widely read, no serious war correspondents took him seriously, or at least not the ones I know.  He did, however, accurately portray my words and context in his book “The Operators.” Hastings was like an undisciplined hitman with a pen and license to kill.  One of his gonzo articles damaged the career and reputation of Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, for no cause.  My sense was that he picked fights with key people mostly to draw attention.  Though Hastings was not respected among war correspondents, it is sad to see a man die so young so horribly.  Just why he crashed into a tree at 0425 remains unknown.  No doubt the conspiracies will begin to fly.

Read more: Quick Notes and Updates

Fraud Surrounding MIA Green Beret John Hartley Robertson


06 May 2013

Many people contacted me in regard to a documentary movie about an American Green Beret, missing some 44 years.  They wanted to know if this story is true.

Unfortunately, this is another fraud, shamelessly pulling on the heartstrings of the many good people who want it to be true.

Conspiracy theorists of course will blame this on the government.  Our government deserves blame for many things, but frankly, it strains even my imagination that any recent US administration would attempt to cover up this case.  President Clinton would have had every reason to run it up the flag pole, as would have Bush and now Obama.

Read more: Fraud Surrounding MIA Green Beret John Hartley Robertson

Come to Jamaica - Mon!


09 April 2013

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A good friend—who is a young former Marine Captain and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan—was taking a break from grad school when he headed to Jamaica. I emailed asking how his vacation went.  His answer…is a trip.  My friend's letter has been edited so that it would make sense and provide context for a general readership.

(Side note: it is possible that a major war will soon break out on the Korean Peninsula. If major combat begins, I will head over.  Seoul is a five-hour direct flight from Chiang Mai.  I am checking my gear today.  If it stays to a low rumble, I will watch from the bleachers in Chiang Mai.)

We begin:


Jamaica was something.  I have lived overseas in challenging countries for over 20 years.  I am American, but was raised overseas, including in such exotic locations as Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

When I became a Marine officer, they sent me to Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, and elsewhere, where I served up to rank of Captain before heading to graduate school.  Before and between all this, I have backpacked or traveled to dozens of countries and locations such as Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, northern Laos, eastern Costa Rica, Borneo, and Penang, trying to soak it all in.

I have seen good scams, including in Sri Lanka, such as having random people walk up to you and try to coax you into an impromptu tour, immediately joined by random taxis and whatnot at just the right time.

Some of the other scams include bribes, various bar scams, overcharging, or innocuous ones such as taxis refusing to use their meters.

Read more: Come to Jamaica - Mon!

Stalking Soldier Arrested, Disarmed by Texas Police: Some facts, opinion, and analysis


28 March 2013

img001US Army Master Sergeant CJ Grisham: This Soldier has a Top Secret clearance.

Over the past couple of years, I repeatedly warned the US Army that Master Sergeant Christopher “CJ” Grisham is a lethal threat.  These warnings were ignored.

Grisham has harassed a long list of people, and has stalked me.  Ignoring him did not work.  Grisham contacted units with which I was embedded, and he impeded my wartime work.  I continued to warn the Army that if they did not get this Soldier under control, there would be consequences.  After some time, the inevitable occurred.

I never met Grisham.  Never saw him in person.  Never spoke with him.  Initially, his motivations for stalking me were mysterious, apparently stemming from my failure to answer an email during a period when I was receiving thousands.  Despite my efforts, nearly 8,000 emails remain unopened, though I continue to work through the backlog.  Grisham seemed to be upset that I did not reply.  I do not recall his message.

Read more: Stalking Soldier Arrested, Disarmed by Texas Police: Some facts, opinion, and analysis

Tragedy in Thailand


27 March 2013


Burma neighbors Thailand on the west.  For 65 years, a war against and between ethnic groups in Burma has been on.  The conflicts created many internally displaced refugees, while others have crossed into Thailand.  Thailand has allowed this incursion for humanitarian reasons.

One of the ethnic groups are called Karenni.  I visited some of the Karen (not Karenni but closely related) villages in Burma and Thailand.  The Karen I have met have all been Christian, and their churches are little more than bamboo huts similar to those on Gilligan’s Island.  Some people sleep on mats on the bamboo floors, while others use hammocks.

Their homes are made from bamboo, planks, and thatch.

Read more: Tragedy in Thailand

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts



04 February 2013

News of Chris Kyle’s shooting has reached around the world.  Many people are asking for my thoughts, and so this morning I write these words in response.

Chris was credited with killing about 160 enemy combatants in Iraq. He is called the most deadly sniper in US history.  Obviously this will not sit well with many people, while others will see it differently.

It is unseemly to politicize this today, and I will drop it there.

Chris was known for helping folks suffering from PTSD.  I have enjoyed hearing Chris talk at times (not to me personally but interviews) and I am sure that he would frown on people blaming such acts on PTSD.

Reckless speculation hurts our veterans.

Read more: Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts

Air Force Crashing


25 January 2013

Team AFMC,

The budgetary uncertainties currently facing the Department of Defense combined with a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in Air Force funding for overseas contingency operations, require us to take prudent steps to mitigate budget execution risks.

Based on guidance received last week from Headquarters Air Force, my intent is for Air Force Materiel Command to take immediate actions to reduce spending across all appropriations, Working Capital Funds and other reimbursable programs within AFMC's governance authority.  In line with the Air Force direction, our actions will -- to the maximum extent possible -- be reversible or recoverable and minimize impacts to core readiness programs.

These actions are necessary in order to support our DOD and our nation. However, we still have a requirement to continue the critical missions that we execute on behalf of the Air Force.  Therefore, mission critical exceptions to these actions can be approved with discretion.

Read more: Air Force Crashing

Last to Die


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17 January 2013
[Authored by a Marine Field Grade Officer]

Over the weekend, I received an order from Higher Headquarters to ask for volunteers for 2013 and 2014 deployments to Afghanistan.  Their mission: train and fight with Afghan National Security Forces during the same time that America is leaving Afghanistan.

This is not the first time we have asked for volunteers to deploy.  In the reserve community, we have done this since at least 1995 when I volunteered to deploy during humanitarian operations to deal with the Haitian and Cuban refugee crisis.  During the Global War on Terrorism, we routinely asked reservists to volunteer for deployment.  When I returned to the reserve community after active duty in 2006, I witnessed this practice first hand, this time for combat deployments.

When directed, our job is to augment the active duty force.   But many of our servicemen and women are not actually deploying because they have been recalled to active duty; they have elected to stay at a unit and have volunteered to deploy.  These Marines are usually called “non-obs” or “non obligated” and can, at their convenience, drop to the inactive ready reserve or transfer to another unit.  Once a unit is slated for deployment, there is usually a decision point for these individuals; they must leave the unit or deploy.

Read more: Last to Die

Rob Bowman Passed Away


image001-1000LTC Erik Kurilla (L) and SFC Rob Bowman after terrible car bomb in Mosul, Iraq (April 2005)

15 January 2013

The United States has lost a great Soldier and fine man to cancer.  Rob struggled with the disease for about 20 months before passing yesterday.  It is with great sorrow that I write these words.

In combat, Rob was courageous and tactically expert.  I got to know him in the Deuce Four battalion in Iraq, where Rob was recon platoon sergeant.

Few battalions in Iraq or Afghanistan saw as much combat as the Deuce Four.   Recon platoon was the leading edge.  I was lucky enough to do many missions with recon, and we were close neighbors for five months during some of the heaviest fighting of the war.  Later I came back and had dinner with Rob and his wife Coleen at Fort Lewis and we kept in touch.

Read more: Rob Bowman Passed Away

Note from a Wise Man


07 January 2013

A note appeared on a private message board.  This private group includes many current and former generals, and just about anyone you see on television or in books as a national security specialist, ranging from CIA to all the top war correspondents, special operations types galore, and high-level policy makers.  There is significant education value in just reading their traffic.

A few days back, retired Marine and 3-star General Mick Trainor left this note.  I asked LTG (ret.) Trainor for permission to publish on my website, and he agreed.

Now for the show:

Read more: Note from a Wise Man

Amber of War



06 January 2013

A defense expert commenting on my dispatch “Stuck in the Mud” recommended the book Mud:  A Military History

I completed reading the book.  The recommendation was solid.

The subject became more interesting in Iraq.  Goo would sometimes rain from the skies.  Later in Afghanistan, where mud also rains, my interest was sealed.

I saw mud effects on the war in Nepal, in terrain where Americans could hardly fight under our current paradigms, other than by airstrikes and distant fires.  US ground forces with our heavy gear would be hopeless in Nepalese-type terrain.

Filipino commanders on Mindanao told me in detail about the great adversity that mud causes the troops we support.  In Thailand, I visit jungles that our gear could not navigate after light rain, or even in the dry season.

A stark reality of my observations in more than 65 countries is that there is more terrain where our current gear will not work than terrain where it will, and this is true even in flat Florida (other than that we have great roads in the Sunshine State).

Roads provide the illusion of greater mobility than we possess.

Read more: Amber of War

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