Michael's Dispatches

Note from Ranger Prosser


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.

I have a different view of Colonel Tunnell.  I like him immensely.   He’s also the highest ranking officer who comes right out and supports this Dustoff fight. That’s part of why I respect him.  He knows that supporting this Dustoff fight hurts him professionally, but he knows it’s the right thing for our troops.

Colonel Tunnell got shot in Iraq and came back for seconds in Afghanistan.  Incidentally, Colonel Tunnell also gives high praise to the courage and professionalism of Dustoff crews who he credits with saving his leg in Iraq, and many of his troops in Afghanistan.

Colonel Tunnell’s problem is that he is his own man.  He’s a very smart man and he speaks his mind.  Speaking your mind in the military with an opinion that does not carry the line is nearly guaranteed to leave you shipwrecked.  That’s what happened.  Bottom line: I respect Colonel Tunnell, and Robb Prosser is a close friend of mine.   Robb was Command Sergeant Major for Colonel Tunnell.

Robb sends this note:

Mike, we go way back and have been through much together both in IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN. These GO [General Officer] Leaders are completely disconnected and seem hell bent on proving their points regardless of the consequences and making unsound directives regardless of the loss of life. Mike, as you know I was a BDE [Brigade] CSM during my last deployment and I have always stood up for what is right--This time it only got me into trouble.

I have much more to say but will stick to the point. My BDE Commander [COL Tunnell] wrote the Sec of Army direct on the problems leaders were facing when it came to the NATO Forces and how US service members were being placed in questionable positions and conditions which had dire consequences on the battlefield.  Thank God some of those leaders were relieved!

[Colonel Tunnell] in his address to Sec of ARMY also commented on how units are showing up not trained for missions and that some leaders are selected for the wrong positions based on little experience and knowledge, but regardless are still being placed in these positions.

Commander wrote a memorandum of concern directly to the G8 about the survivability of the Stryker and was classified a difficult leader to work with by folks at the Pentagon.

Our nation’s sons were dying and being injured and he was doing his duty to report a vehicle that was not equipped for the environment it was employed to fight in.  That message and the loss of over 22 Soldiers cost the ARMY 3.1 Billion dollars for a new fleet of Strykers we should have had from the beginning.  The amount of waste/fraud/abuse that is going on over there would make the taxpayer sick!

But yet all this sits on the sideline and the AFGHANISTAN PEOPLE are priority # 1.  Generals were putting out units need to love the Afghan People.  I was called “difficult to work with” because I hated the enemy that hurt and killed my teammates more than I liked the Afghan people.  I loved my Soldiers more than anything.

When I went to Walter Reed to visit my wounded Soldiers not one mother/father/sister/brother asked me about how the Afghan people are doing. These Americans asked about our service members and how they are doing—maybe we need to start focusing on them instead of the Afghan people.

Maybe having a writer who reports about the tough uphill fights units have each and every day in Afghanistan [will help].  A writer who addresses some of the issues above with hard facts could be doing the war the best thing that could possibly happen—writing about the truth. . . .

Mike, keep up the fight brother!!!

Robert Prosser

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    sailor51 · 8 years ago
    Mike why is the Army embarrassed about being exposed about the dustoffs don't they want to save lives, are they trying to hide something. that's what is sounds like to me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A&E · 8 years ago
    Of course he is 100 percent right. What he says to be the truth is obvious...especially to those of us who have lost someone we love over there. Irate does not cover our feelings for this goes all the way to the top where politics run the show....and a show is what it is. It makes one wonder whose side our politicians are on...definitely not on the side of our great military men. Thank God for men like prosser who are not afraid to speak the truth and to fight wrong wherever they see it. May we civilians have the intestinal fortitude to fight as hard here at home as our men do under rediculous conditions, and lack of leadership in high places.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron · 8 years ago
    Mike, Its amazing how history repeats itself. I was a member of the Electronic Proving Ground in the middle 70's specializing in Crypto equipment. This was the same time as the Bradley inadequacies came to light in addition to our recommendations being ignored on testing programs for new comms equipment. We had a certain project that at best gave a 60% ineligibility but the Pentagon bought this piece of crap anyway. All I could think of was the poor FO calling in coordinates that were only 60% understandable.

    As an Army brat all my life into high school, I was sure I would too become a lifer but as I took my work seriously, I could not go on with my name and reputation attached to substandard equipment our guys count on to keep them and those they work with as safe as possible in a combat environment.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Schoettli Juerg · 8 years ago
    Dear Mike,
    I'm one of your ferwant suporter and very happy to see that in our "perfect & loving" world some one has the guts to tell how it is. There are a lot of serviceman & women around the world that are proud of you and what you do! Don't give up and continue to go for it, sincerly
    LTC Schöttli Jürg
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Smith · 8 years ago
    Having served in two wars (Vietnam and Desert Storm) as a helicopter pilot and DUSTOFF pilot in Fort Irwin, CA during my last assignment in the U.S. Army; I can tell you that the problem is not crewmembers. Helicopter crews are some of the most courageous soldier in the world. As most of you know the problem is not courage but equipment and number of crewmembers in theater.

    Good luck in your future endeavors, my prayer is that you will continue to be allowed on the front lines to continue telling the truth.

    P.S. With as much oil that is in the Middle East, I believe they should have paid for both wars.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Dettmer · 8 years ago
    This reminds me of Colonel Jim Burton's classic book, "Pentagon Wars," about his interminable battle with a senseless and nonsensical Army Pentagon bureaucracy over the development and deployment of a fatally-flawed (but fixed, because of Burton's selfless efforts) Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the mid-1980s. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tchirpbird · 8 years ago
    Courageous People Stand up no Matter What!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James F. McClellan · 8 years ago
    Thanks again Mike. There's nothing new under the Army sun. It's a huge machine and the "top" parts are more concerned with maintaining their position and track than with making the machine more efficient.
    The taxpayer/citizens need you to keep us informed of what's happening in "OUR" military.
    Stay Safe
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stan Reck · 8 years ago
    "There is no stopping a man who knows he's in the right and keeps on a comin'." -Lee McNelly, Texas Ranger
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 8 years ago
    Now THAT is setting an example in moral courage.

    It sure would be nice if more of the Army's leadership did not cower in fear, afraid to risk their careers, afraid to speak their minds.

    I have never encountered more cowards than in uniform, and this is ironic. We are talking about men who will often risk everything for one another under fire, but they will not gainsay a stupid order, or oppose an idiotic commander, or challenge an absurd policy, like this one.

    Honor dictates that you speak. We do not serve in the Russian Army. This is the American Army. When you see something wrong, you address it, regardless of potential adverse career impact.

    When I was a young man, I was taught to always tell the truth. It is possible to lie by omission. Silence can be tantamount to lying.

    Speak up! What are you afraid of!

    RLTW and DOL,

    Heywood Jablomi
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci Wilberger · 8 years ago
    dittos to "Deja-vu, all over again"! I was thinking the same thing! I just got done reading Col. David Hackworth's book "About Face" chronicling his time of service from the end of WWII-Vietnam. Controversial guy politically but what mattered most to him was the men he led. As a warrior he was head and shoulders above most. Fought the same type of poor decisions being made by the GO's, wasted money, poor equipment....CSM Prosser you remind me of him! God Bless You Col. Tunnell and CSM Prosser, you are my hero's and give me hope!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bryan Andrew · 8 years ago
    I consider that a ray of hope in getting this travesty resolved quickly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shane · 8 years ago
    I was in this Brigade during this time and any assessment that COL Tunnell was a great leader needs to be fact-checked. Believe me there were more people keeping their mouths shut in this unit to protect their careers than any other unit I have ever seen. If you went against COL Tunnell you were either relieved or sent away because you were not allowed to question his judgment. Do us all a favor and find a link to BG Twitty’s report of the events that happened there and let us be the judge.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kerri Hammer · 8 years ago
    Wow. This kind of thing takes real guts. Thank you, Mr. Yon and Mr. Prosser for standing up for what's right no matter the consequences. May God bless and protect both of you. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci W. · 8 years ago
    @Shane......interesting.... So how do you explain him putting his next promotion in jeopardy for speaking out like CSM Prosser spoke of? Seems courageous to me. Just wondering.....
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Shane · 8 years ago
      Traci, please read other publications (Army Times). COL Tunnell was nearly relieved twice during his command, once before the deployment and once during. BG Twitty's report stated that he should have been relieved. EVERYONE down to the Private knew the problems with the Strykers, no surprises anywhere. As far as the other stuff, COL Tunnell did not embrace COIN. If you Google FM 3-24 and read the FORWARD you will see "Conducting a successful counterinsurgency campaign requires a flexible, adaptive force led by agile, well-informed, culturally astute leaders." Co-authored by a great leader, GEN Petraeus. COL Tunnell thought he knew better than GEN Petreaus, lol. COL Tunnell's leaders were allowing women to be searched by men at NTC. We were told that if we did not change our cultural views we would cause an international incident, we did that. We were called "very lethal". This was not a compliment. COL Tunnell pushed a BSM-V for a Soldier under investigation for detainee abuse.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 8 years ago
    I think it is very deplorable that so many of these high ranking officers/officials fear that the right decisions will cost them their careers. Even more so that whatever is cheapest/puts the most money in their pockets is the answers they go with. I am proud to have served this nation, but am disgusted by the "leadership". If these people were not so bent on filling their own pockets, our nation would be so much better off than it is.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dane · 8 years ago
    I support this. I worked with COL Tunnell and CSM Prosser in AFG. Great leaders through everything. Because of there leadership I choose to come back early and fight the fight. Thanks for posting Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Selley · 8 years ago
    When you watch the dustoff launch you know that someone needs it. Then you wonder if that someone is someone you know. For all of those that have stood up and tried to fix the dustoff issue, even at risk to their careers, I want to give you my personal and heartfelt thanks for your help and support. Some of those guys the dustoff has launched for have been been guys I knew.

    Thank you from the heart of Zhari District. Thank you so much from the botom of my heart.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Philpot · 8 years ago
    Mr. Yon, to have the friendship of a war horse like CSM Prosser has to be a blessing for all who have earned it. I only know of CSM Prosser what I have read in your articles, and thank God that there are men like him who are willing and able to mentor and lead the youngsters assigned to their care. I may not know alot of things, but I know that my ratio of 2 ears and 1 mouth would apply anytime men like CSM Prosser were speaking...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci · 8 years ago
    Shane- Thanks for the advice but it seems to me BG Twitty's opinion is just that, his opinion as is yours. I have read opinions by others who have served with Col Tunnell and they have a completely different perspective. I guess we all see things through our own point of view or prejudice. These things are not what impress me about these men it is that they put the welfare of their above all else regardless of the consequences. Sure everyone might know about the Stryker problem but the Col was in a position to effect change by speaking out. His message to the G8 I found very courageous. His speaking out on the Dustoff problem also courageous. Perhaps he defended that soldier for a reason. When you are in a position of leadership everyone won't agree with your decisions in fact you can count on disagreements. Being threatened with command relief? He wasn't. I respect your opinion but it is just that. Thankyou for your service by the way. I really mean no disrespect.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Shane · 8 years ago
      Traci, I don't take you disagreeing with me as disrespect. I was there and dealt with him directly, so our perspectives are definitely different. I know what the opinion of the majority was and what Soldiers were too scared to say about him out loud. We will have to agree to disagree.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci · 8 years ago
    **welfare of their men.....sorry :oops:

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