Thursday, February 28, 2008

Post from BlackFive

This was brought to my attention and it's time out from story time to help out some of our guys...

Not too long ago, Blackfive readers, joined by thousands of readers from other blogs, sent over 30,000 emails of support to Marines in Iraq. The Marines had to shut down the email address because you all were causing bandwidth issues with the support we were sending.

Now, as if the Taliban and Al Qaeda, bad weather, and lack of support here at home weren't bad enough, the New York Times has published a one-sided view of the paratroopers tour in Afghanistan.

And so now we have cause to band together again and send massive support down range. Here's why:

Even though spring hasn’t officially arrived the snow line is beginning to move up the mountains in Kunar and surrounding provinces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have already begun attacking the KOP, Firebases and Observation Points where elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team from Bamberg and Schweinfurt, Germany, and Vicenza, Italy, are deployed. Almost 4,000 Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne), 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) and 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry were deployed to Kunar and surrounding provinces in Afghanistan in May 2007 for a 15 month rotation. This region of eastern Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountains bordering Pakistan has been designated the most dangerous place on earth for military personnel.

A Paratrooper from 2nd Platoon, Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), navigates a steep incline during a patrol to Omar in Kunar province in Afghanistan Jan. 11. Date Taken: January 11th, 2008. Location: Kunar province, AF. Photographer: Sgt. Brandon Aird, Joint Combat Camera Center

This winter has been particularly harsh. Many of the Soldiers are living in mud huts and tents with little or no heat, no running water, intermittent use of generators, supply drops via air to drop zones that require a hike of up to 40 minutes each way in order to retrieve the supplies, 30+ days out on missions at the firebases without showers or daily hot meals before rotating back to the KOP or Camp Blessing for hot showers, hot meals and the ability to communicate with their families and friends.

Photo courtesy of a Sky Soldier
The Sky Soldiers have trudged through up to seven feet of snow on patrols day in and day out often at altitudes of 7,000 feet and higher. Each Soldier carries between 60 and 100 pounds of gear on these patrols. They Soldier-On each day despite the loss of many friends and comrades and substantially high numbers of wounded. Untold numbers of great Americans have provided amazing amounts of support to these Soldiers during this deployment. Public, private and civic organizations have provided direct support or indirect support.

A recent article by Elizabeth Rubin in the New York Times painted one Platoon of this Brigade in a less than favorable light. The article sensationalized the facts in a negative way, which served only to cause undue stress on the Soldiers and family members. The author failed to mention successes within the Brigade such as substantial humanitarian aid (tons of food and clothes) delivered to local villages, medical care for local children and adults, road projects, clean water projects, training of Afghan National Army personnel, distribution of school supplies, etc. [Don't worry, friends, Deebow is preparing a more detailed take down of Elizabeth Rubin. Stay tuned for that.]

Historically, spring is a time of heavy fighting in this region as the terrorists and insurgents emerge from their caves after the harsh winter temperatures and snows. Let’s show these Soldiers how much support they have from home to help them through the spring and the remainder of this long and dangerous deployment.

Right now, American Paratroopers are in the fight of their lives and they need to hear that America loves them.

Please send an email of support to

Or you can mail cards to:

Leta Carruth
P O Box 100
Cordova, TN 38088

Due to security reasons in Afghanistan please do not put addresses or phone numbers on any correspondence. All emails will be printed out here in the US and mailed to Afghanistan as they do not have the resources to receive a large number of emails. All letters and emails will be vetted to make sure there are no negative comments. These are letters of support, so please keep them positive and uplifting.

A Huge THANK YOU to the proponents of (and the leaders of) this effort - Tanker Babe, Chromed Curses, and Mrs. Diva!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Iwo Jima 1995

Back in 1995, I was involved in the “Okinawa Plus Fifty Committee” with my close friend Jim Adams. Basically we were the guys who were trying to help set up the return of the WWII veterans to Okinawa, and let them face their enemy who are now our allies after all these years. Because of the press for this and my love of history, the Squadron Commanding Officer asked if I would lead a battle study of another battle…the fight for Iwo Jima. When he asked if I could take this on, my first reaction was “Does a bear piss in the woods? You betcha, Sir!”

I had spent the better part of six months digging up old Japanese caves with a couple other Marines (another story, another time) finding bones of dead soldiers and turning them into the local authorities. To find all these hidden caves, I poured over old maps of the battlefields and would take off at four am to make my way down south of Naha Okinawa, to the ridge lines where the Marines and Japs fought. This type of battlefield study discipline allowed me to put together an all day event on the island of Iwo Jima. I had a close bond with the island when I was commissioned a 2nd Lt and a retired Marine Corps Colonel from our church, James A. Michener, showed up with a big box. “Taco, now that you are a Marine, I guess I need to pass some of this from one Marine to another.” He opened up the box and out came his Mameluke Marine Officer Sword, his name down the side and authentic aged ivory handles that were yellowed from time, his uniform from the battle of Iwo Jima, and his Colt .45 that he carried there (he kept that though for home protection). He was with the fifth division when they hit the beach, and he told me about the battle. About the shells, the absolute chaos, and the screams of the wounded as he advanced, and the men he killed.

His eyes watered as he told me this story and I was a twenty-two year old at a complete loss. I had known Mr. Michener all my life, and never knew that he was a Marine much less that he had fought on Iwo. He was the scary, retired school teacher that growled at us kids for running in the building as children, and now he was entrusting me with his uniform and sword. The history of it all, his .45 took many a Japanese life during the senseless Bonsai attacks those first couple of days on the island and carried with it,some ghosts for him I think. LtCol. Michener escaped major damage during WWII and went from a 2nd Lt to Major in two years, only to be medically retired after the Korean War from injuries sustained in combat there. For the chance to visit his island for him since he was in a nursing home at the time, I was willing to spend many a night reading all the books of the battle that I could find, and memorizing all the facts that I could.

The visit to the island was a success that fall, and we promoted thirty enlisted Marines from the Squadron on top of Mt. Suribachi. That was truly a powerful moment in my life. I have to say that the next was being allowed to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the actual battle of Iwo Jima "as a good deal trip" since it was my last flight in VMGR 152 in the KC-130F while stationed on Okinawa.

We took off a week prior to the event, and loaded a ton of stuff in the back of the plane for the ceremonies that were to take place that day. I took advantage of my free time there, and set out on foot, going through many of the caves on the island. I was fully equipped with a miner’s helmet and light, water and camera. The difference of this battlefield and all others is the fact that most of the island is just as it was in 1945. The Japs aren’t big on exploring, and there hasn’t been much of an American presence there all these years. I found all sorts of stuff while on the island, of course we left it where we found it to honor the dead, but it was still amazing. The caves were wide enough for two men to walk shoulder to shoulder in and the temperature was well over a hundred degrees because of the geo thermal activity on the island. It was hard to imagine what the Japanese Soldiers endured as we bombed the living hell out of the island. They had carved out sleeping beds in the walls for the Soldiers to crawl into or to put the wounded. It was incredible to walk for what seemed like miles through these caves. While we were there, they had discovered a medical cave by accident with thirty mummified Japanese Soldiers who all wrote letters home to their families knowing that they wouldn’t live since the entrance was caved in. I wondered if this was the basis of Clint Eastwood’s movie “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

When the vets of Iwo arrived, they flew in old Continental Micronesia airlines 727’s to the Island. All the Marines on the Island formed a Congo reception in front of the hangers as the vets formed a single line and shook all of our hands. One of them said “yep, fifty years and we still have to wait around in a line, nothing changes much in the Corps.” I ended up with a bruise on my right hand after being crushed by 700 vets still firm grips. The reactions were varied, many cried, lots of somber faces, and lots of guys that were happy to see old friends. They all had to turn in their passports to the Japanese officials in the hanger to get a stamp which got a lot of old emotions stirring, not a good thing after all these years, and after that it was off to the races. We loaded the vets in trucks and took them down to the invasion beach for a big ceremony. All of them carried jars to collect some volcanic sand, and took a million pictures. That happened to also be the day that General Krulack took office as the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps, and what a mess that caused. They closed off Mt. Suribachi for this event for two hours, and that made some of the old timers ready to storm the mountain again.

I guess the most touching thing that happened to me was while driving back to the airstrip. I took the long way around the North part of the island to see the concrete ships that were still beached along the shoreline. We found this eighty-plus-year-old man walking by himself along the road (a big no-no for them in case they died and we couldn't find them). We pulled up in our jeep and I said, “Sir, are you OK? You are a long way from the beaten trail and it’s pretty hot out here.” He looked over at me and replied, “Skipper, I was stuck in a foxhole very near here for two days with my best friend, surrounded by Japs. We couldn’t get out. I’m just trying to find it again and leave this for my friend. He died that first night, and I fought to make sure that I got his body out, and buried proper like.” He had a little cross with his friends name in it. I agreed to drive him, and help him find the hole if he would come with us and drink some water. He described the tree trunk that was on the south end of the fox hole that was actually a bomb crater hole. You know, it’s been fifty years, and I didn’t think he would find it again. At least the chances were very slim, but by God, he told us to stop the jeep at a certain point. We started walking out in this one area and about two hundred yards off the road we found his pit with the tree trunk still showing signs of massive bullet barrages. He placed the cross in the hole next to the tree and wept. We had to help him back to the jeep after that, most of his energy sapped as we drove him back to the hangers on the airfield.

Charles Lindberg and his wife'95
Before the trip out to the Island, I went to the Intel weenies and asked for the largest chart of Iwo Jima that they had, and then had it laminated. That evening, all the vets were in the hanger for the speeches and dinner. The Japs about caused the second invasion of Iwo when we found out that all the passports were just dumped into several boxes, not sorted by plane or anything. So they had to line all the vets around this very large hanger, get to the head table and call out a name. “Bob Smith” followed by thirty Marines scouring a table with passports looking for this individual. The blunder by the Japs, turned into my advantage as I approached each vet with poster in hand and said “Sir, I’d be honored if you would sign my poster.” They all wanted to put their name where they were wounded, but I talked them into signing right down from top to bottom.

I had the honor of meeting Charles W Lindberg, the last of the original flag raisers from that fateful day Feb 23rd 1943, who recently passed away. He and his wife were there, and the nicest folks you ever had the chance to meet. He handed me his card and said, “Captain Bell, if you ever make it to St. Paul MN, please look me up.” I never thought I’d see him again but as it turns out, I flew up there all the time for the Marines while on recruiting duty in Kansas City MO, and took him flying one cold day. I was even able to visit them while on layovers during my time up there with my airline since they lived about ten minutes from the airport. His house was full of paintings and pictures of the battle, and he’d show them all to you. It was always humbling, and an honor to be in his presence along with all those men I met that day in 1995 on Iwo Jima. I have to say that there won’t be a day that goes by that my children won’t pay honor to these men as I have that poster hanging in my office, and one day it will go to the Marine Museum in Quantico.

So on this day, during the heat of the battle so many years ago, let us all take a minute to pay tribute to the greatest generation of Americans to ever live. For with everyday that passes we lose another vet to age who now guard the gates of heaven.
Semper Fi to you all!!
LtCol Bell

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What is worth Fighting for? Joe Foss knew

Why we fight…Over there; anywhere. These are questions that went through my mind as I read Joe Foss’s book, A Proud American, to get a feel for my new job as a speaker for the Joe Foss Institute. It’s a great job, for you are paid $5,000.00 per day plus expenses (just kidding, it’s all volunteer) to go into schools and talk about the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

It’s a program set up by General Foss’s family to help students hear from Military Veterans about why we live in such a great country. Think about it, most people depending on the depth of their school’s curriculum, have never read or studied these great words that make up the fabric of our freedom. I had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution when I was in Fifth Grade and still know it by heart. Actually, I have a secret to share; I sang it from the old “School House Rock” song that I watched on Saturday morning cartoons back in the early seventies. Of course, at Blue Ridge School, the boarding school where I went to high school in the mountains of Virginia, we had to study Government, and that included all aspects of this monumental document. Well, I’m saddened to say that most people tend to forget the purpose of our country, and what it stands for.

I started out my class (talked for six periods) with a brief introduction about General Foss; then jumped into the actual heart of the subject--the Constitution. As with every member of our Armed Forces, we took an oath that says we will “Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Nowhere in that oath do we say we will only support the President or Congress. We support the actual document itself.

I began to tell them of things I had seen around the world and how they related to our rights. First of all, can you imagine what would happen to you if you protested the Government of China in public? Of Course, they weren’t even born when the Tiananmen Square protest happened back in 1989. I explained that the Chinese Government sent tanks to run over the folks who protested. We are given the right to free speech and to peaceably assemble if we please. They could stand on the street corner on a soapbox and read from the Bible or badmouth the policies of our Government, if they so choose. These are rights provided to us in the First Amendment, but, of course, if you stand up to your mom and dad and try to mouth off and claim your rights under the first Amendment, you might get the back of their hand since you still live under their house.

Then I told them of my cousin in Australia, and how he has a problem with the local Kookaburra birds in his back yard. I asked why he didn’t go down to the store, buy a pellet gun and take care of the pests? He told me that once, a long time ago, folks were armed in Australia, but one day they told everyone they had to register their weapons. Not to be against the new policy, everyone did as they were told. Then they returned later and collected everyone’s guns. Now only the bad guys have guns in Australia and most every other country in the world that has taken weapons away from their citizens. Our Second Amendment gives us the right to have a well-regulated Militia and the right of the people to keep and bear arms. I am a firm believer in this right and carry a weapon every time I leave my house. Better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it I always say when the friendly guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot is trying to carjack me.

I skipped over the third Amendment, for that was more aimed at British Soldiers taking over colonist homes, but the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments, man you’d think I was letting them in on a big secret when I told them they didn’t have to talk to the police at all if brought in for questioning and could ask for a lawyer. Oh by the way, if you are tried, you can expect a somewhat speedy trial and one by your peers. If you live in, oh say, Saudi Arabia or about 95% of any other strict Islamic country and a young girl has premarital sex, well they would haul her out in the street and stone her to death. I guess you could say that was a speedy trial in one sense. How about the Turkish Private, who stole a case of Budweiser beer from the Marines back in ‘92. His commander hauled him out and chopped off his hand in front of everyone as an example. See, they poop down a hole and wipe with their hand. No paper. Actually, come to think of it, they do this in most 3rd world countries like the Middle East, so if you are a thief and get caught, I’d say you have a 50/50 chance of reforming your ways or wiping and eating will get real tough. When I used examples like this, I think they started to see that how good we have it in America.

Think about it, we have a black man running for President of the United States. Not only that, but a woman. These things wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have the Thirteenth and the Nineteenth Amendments in there as well.

After giving them a short history on our Constitution, I then told them why I came back into the Marine Corps. September 11th, losing my friend Mike Horrocks the co-pilot on United 175, taking all the young Marines and Soldiers home from the war on my jet, and all of my Marine buddies mobilized to fight over in the middle east. I believe in this war, because right, wrong or indifferent to the situation out there; we are fighting because we believe in our rights that our founding fathers wrote down almost 232 years ago. The rest of the world hates us for what we stand for. I’m sure they laugh at the Code Pink idiots too but guess what; they have the privilege to be idiots because we ensure those rights as a member of the military and that makes me VERY proud.

Maybe that is why I have decided to go back for a second tour, this time in Afghanistan, because I believe in our rights as a citizen of the United States. If you feel the way I do and you are a veteran, then I encourage you to visit the Joss Foss Institute website and sign up to be a speaker, so that young kids will be enlighten as to how great this country truly is and who makes it that way!!
Semper Fi,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Post from Major Pain

Things have been going great here in Iraq. Internet is bad but tonight a huge sand storm has hit and BOOOOYA, internet is up and everyone is emailing away. A little action in our area but all has been great. Life is getting better a day ata time. Mail.......well is ok, once or twice maybe a week. The guys got your packages and think you all are angels. We smell. I will send Marty a post update at www. after this for those not on the OMV hitlist. A few smart guys figured out who I am and now see how the AS web site is soo good for morale.Letters seem to sneak through and Ive given them to warriors without mail. VTines day was grreat as I played mail man for these guys. It made their day. We worked with a German Shepard Military Working Dog today.....he bit a Marine. We told the Marine, dont play or bother Satan..........nice doggy, nice pooch munch, bark ,bite, munch, drool.....the Marine didnt listen. I think I saw Satan smile. Ive never seen a dog move that fast. It was a blur of fur and blood and Marine trying to get away from Satan. I really didnt know if I should laugh or cut his arm off for him. Ya, good idea, get the furocious animal mad at ya....your on your own buddy and you look like a steak!!!! Meanwhile I'm staying perfectly still.

I cant see across thee street as I'm sure the hords of locus are comming next as the sand storm rolls in.......for the past couple days. Is it bad when you breath in and you have dirt on your teeth? If the girls could see us now! epeto the mouse in my room has escaped! Be on the look out for a four legged mouse with my knife! I thought I caught him and began the interrigation process about his regieme and overall plan to continue to invade my mattress and I go get a bottle of water and Booya, he is gone. I knew I should have used handcuffs. Until next sand storm when I can get on the all mighty internet, stay safe and dont pet starnge dogs!


Years of U.S. intel work are paying off, as more and more senior terrorist leaders are being identified, and found. This has caused most of the al Qaeda leader ships to flee the country, taking their cash with them. The U.S. is putting additional pressure on Syria to give up terrorists who flee in that direction. The Iraqi Sunni Arab terrorists groups, who comprise over 90 percent of the people fighting the government, and making attacks on U.S. troops, are also in big trouble. The leaders of these groups are hoping for some kind of amnesty before they get caught. Capture can be delayed for a while by bribing the local police and army units. Meanwhile, the terrorists are suffering a severe cash flow problem. The al Qaeda contributions are gone, and most of the money coming from foreigners has dried up. The Iraqi “resistance” is seen as broken, and no one wants to support a lost cause. Being on the run has made it difficult to organize the roadside bomb teams. The use of these weapons has declined so much (over 90 percent in some areas) that U.S. commanders fear their troops are starting to get sloppy, after being on the streets for weeks without encountering a single IED.

Meanwhile, the parliament is fighting it out over how much amnesty to give the Sunni Arab terrorists. The U.S. is pushing for more, many radical Shia groups demand a mass roundup of suspected Sunni Arab terrorists and Saddam era enforcers. While the Iraqi politicians may be corrupt, they do have to listen to their constituents, and most of these voters want Sunni Arab blood. The parliament finally passed laws meant to bring the Sunni Arabs back into the family. But the bad feelings will last generations, and will explode into murders and lurid stories (of past atrocities) in the next few years.

The corruption that is so characteristic of Iraq, works against the terrorists as well. Iraqi media is full of stories of former terrorists complaining of betrayal and cheating by their fellow killers. It’s always been about money, and the police and army have been able to disrupt a lot of the criminal activity (theft, extortion, kidnapping) that the terror groups used to fund the terrorism. It was often difficult to determine if some guys were gangsters moonlighting as Islamic terrorists, or the other way around. The reputation for being an Islamic terrorist was useful, as it tagged you as a real badass. But in the last year, it too often tagged you as one of the usual suspects for the increasingly efficient police and army commands. Most holy warriors have decided that terrorism is too dangerous. Those that could, just became full time crooks, other went straight, and some joined over a million other Sunni Arabs and fled the country. The remaining terrorists have concentrated their attacks on Sunni Arab leaders, especially those who recently supported terrorism. Thus the suicide bombs are still killing civilians, but wealthier and more powerful ones.

Speaking of corruption, Russia has forgiven $12 billion in debt, for weapons and military equipment bought by Saddam, in return for the government recognizing oil field development contracts signed by Saddam in the months before he was overthrown. This gives Russian companies entry to the lucrative Persian Gulf oil business. The Russians have no qualms about bribery and paying off government officials. That makes them popular in Iraq. The corruption if often quite macabre. For example, the investigation of a recent suicide bombing, using two mentally ill girls as unknowing bombers, led to a mental hospital. The director of the hospital took bribes to allow the terrorists to go through patient records, to find women who could be used for suicide bombing attacks (women are less likely to be searched, or even suspected.)
There are still thousands of Sunni Arab terrorists in action, and nearly as many Shia Arab bad guys waiting for their chance to resume killing Sunni Arabs. The U.S. wants to round up as many of these guys, especially the leaders and technical experts, as possible, while the entire terrorism infrastructure is in disarray.