Archive for the ‘Army’ Category


I am reviewing this book late at night in the last few hours on Memorial Day. Back in the Fight The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up

Joseph Kapacziewski.  Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up.  New York, NY: St. Martin Press, May 7th, 2013. 304 pp.

This is quite the autobiography of the only Army Ranger serving in direct combat operations with a prosthetic limb.  The Army Rangers are a part of the United States Special Operation Forces which makes it no easy task for someone recovering from massive combat injuries and missing a leg.  Sergeant First Class Kapacziewski tells this story because in his own words he wants to reach and encourage other wounded soldiers to continue forward and not give up.  I think his story is worth reading even for those who were not injured—and even those that didn’t serve.

The first thing that struck me reading this book is the fact that this guy is my age.  We both graduated the same year.  We both joined the military around the same time.  Both of us found early in our military career to be the point which we can point to and see we have grown up and became a man.  But that’s probably where any similarities end since Kapacziewski is a much tougher man than I’ll ever be.  I appreciated reading his story because here is a story about my military generation.  The one who woke up one morning and saw 9/11 on TV and knew we have to do something about it.  Kapacziewski represent the young Americans that goes against the grain of what people often associate with Millennials as being self-centered and self-absorbed: He has had more than his fair share of combat with ten combat deployments under his belt of which five deployments was after he has loss his leg from an enemy grenade.  The guy was probably not even thirty years old when he started writing this book.

I appreciated the book having his wife share her side of the story as well.  Especially the part after Kapacziewski was wounded in which she as an Army wife took care of him in the hospital.  This was probably the hardest portion of the book—she’s a hero in my book in a day and age where talks of marriage commitment is cheap and the many no-fault divorces that proves it.  It takes a special woman to be a wife of a service member—who live by the creed of “in sickness and in health.”

I learned a few things about the Army Rangers as well.  I’ll be honest, I’m an ignorant Marine.  Before this book I thought Ranger School was the same thing as the Ranger Indoc Program.  I didn’t know that there were so few Rangers even though I knew beforehand that there are only three Battalions of them.  I didn’t know the Rangers deploy typically for three months and it makes sense their shorter deployments with all the dangers they face in their late night raids of high value targets.  I’ve appreciated Rangers before and now I appreciate them so much more after the book.

I’m glad that there are warriors like Kapacziewski who stand against those who are evil and radical terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For Kapacziewski it is not about himself and his injuries but about being with something higher than himself and specifically the Rangers.  I think the fact speaks for itself in that the author spent over half of the book discussing about the Rangers and his fellow soldiers before ever getting to the terrible combat injury that made him lost his foot.  He spend more time talking about his pre-injury deployment in the book than he did his painful road of recovery.

What’s in it for the Christian?

As I am reviewing this book for a Christian blog one might ask what in it for the Christian to read this book.  First off, this book will remind you that there are really such thing as evil men who wants to murder innocent people.  Christians must never sugarcoat our view of reality and be reminded that wickedness is real.  Secondly, Romans 13 talks about honoring those who are in Government.  This is one way you can have a greater appreciation for some of the sacrifices elite Special Operators will endure to serve the country.  Thirdly, there are passages in the New Testament that call Christians to serve God faithfully like soldiers.  A book like this will give a glimpse of what that kind of radical commitment of soldiering looks like.

I recommend the book for all adults.

Purchase: Amazon

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The Gamble General David Petraeus

Purchase: Amazon

Thomas Ricks has written another wonderful book on the military and the importance of having the right generals during war.  In this book he looks at the Surge of the Iraq war and the military leadership involved with the great “gamble” of achieving some kind of nominal success in winding down the war.  Most Americans have little understanding about the Surge and those who are better informed often know about the Surge in the context of the heated partisan debate in 2006-07 between Republicans and Democrats sitting on Capitol Hill.  Indeed few understood the strategy and operational perspective of the leaders “on the ground” and I think that include many politicians.  It does not help that very little has been written about the military leadership that led the actual Surge since few journalists in my opinion are capable of understanding or appreciating the operational side of the military.  I think Ricks is an exception to the rule and his writing as a journalist over the years has matured and display a great understanding and appreciation of military strategy and the importance of the right personnel at the level of General officers.  For some he is a must read as a great introduction for military intellectuals.

In order to appreciate the surge one must first understand the military’s involvement in Iraq prior to the surge.  Ricks in the book is blunt in his discussion of the early years of the Iraq war with its bad leadership, blunders and shortsightedness among those in the officer corps.  He argues that bad leadership will result in ugly outcomes like that of Haditha and similar episodes.  I know the incident in Haditha is rather contentious but he does make a point that how the Battalion commander and upper echelon commanders handled the incident show a lack of understanding of the basic premise of counter-insurgency is to win the people rather than further alienate them from the military’s objective.  Ricks sees Haditha as a sort of turning point.  The early years of Iraq was a difficult time as many Battalion, Regimental, Brigade and even Division Commanders didn’t understand just what kind of war they were waging.  Ricks pointed out that the ones that did understood were actually the outsiders such as General Petraeus.  General Petraeus was different than most of his peers in many ways: unlike most of the Army’s leadership in the early years of Iraq his career was spent mostly among light infantry rather than the heavy infantry (think Mechanized infantry).  There is an unspoken code that officers are to separate themselves from political connection but Petraeus was comfortable with courting political support and in fact desired that.  Petraeus was also highly educated and open to discussion among civilians for their expertise.  This play a crucial role in his formulation of his doctrines on Counter-insurgency as General Petraeus is the one who led the re-writing of the modern Army’s Counter-insurgency manual.  I have heard in the past that Petraeus wrote the manual with the legendary Marine Corps General Mattis but what I didn’t know before and learned in the book is how many people and how diverse was the make up of the group that help consulted and wrote the Counter-Insurgency manual.  Petraeus had all kinds of experts ranging from the expected military officers to human rights lawyers and civilian historians of the military.  What I appreciated in the book is how the author pointed out that for General Petraeus, the metric for measuring success in his strategy is not merely winning territory but winning the people instead.  He saw the people not as “collaterals” in the way of a military objective but instead the people was the objective and the prize.

The war being conducted badly was what eventually drove politicians to re-evaulate how the war was being conducted—and it was also what led George Bush to finally be open for new and fresh military leadership.  I appreciate the author describing the relationship of the old leadership versus the new leadership that was going to lead the surge.  In particular I was delighted to read about the relationship between General Petraeus and Odierno who were both very different in temperament and approach but both worked together well.  Previously I had thought of Odierno as the General who merely was famous for helping the US pack up after major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and I had no idea how much of a role Odierno  played in the surge.  I’m glad I read this book!  Odierno was the one who was the “hammer” while Petraeus was the soft spoken leader so to speak.  Together they worked out a balance in approaching the insurgency.

There are far too many things I learned from the book and one should get a copy for oneself!  At the time that I read this book towards the end of 2014, I realize that this book was published in 2009 and the book was limited in its coverage of Iraq between 2006-2008.  Obviously one can’t help but to think of the future of Iraq.  The author was realistic in my opinion and was no mere cheerleader for the Surge—he also caution that the objective of the Surge might fail if politicians don’t allow troops’ presence to continue longer and the author also saw that Iraqi politicians has the ball in their court to build partnership that stretches beyond partisanship in particular with the Sunni-Shiite-Kurds divide.  How true that is in hindsight as 2014 has turned out to be the year of ISIS’ expansion.  I think we must not forget that Iraq has now been more or less divided into three powers, the very thing that America wanted to avoid with Iraq’s future.  I read this book with much nostalgia thinking about my own time in the military and deployment in Iraq.  Like the author, I have many mix feelings, saw the Surge as a success but one with many limitation as to how far it will go if its not followed up on the political end both in Iraq and the United States.  One thing that the author didn’t see coming that I can’t help thinking about as I read the book was how much of a role the current conflict in Iraq with ISIS owe its ability and strength from the “Sons of the Awakening” that the US military employed back in 2006 and onwards.  Many of these were Sunni militants who switched sides who sought employment with the US as militias against Al Qaeda.  Since the Iraqi government with its Shiite majority would have never supported this make shift army and didn’t want to incorporate them into the regular Army, what would have happened to these military aged men who were trained, armed and unemployed?  It doesn’t require rocket science to connect the thought that these men would obviously be a source for ISIS to tap into once the Americans’ departure left a vacuum.  I have come to a stronger opinion that the United States should really think long and hard before we train any militant groups as we can never predict what it will mean for us and the region five, ten and twenty years down the line.  If history tells us anything, we often train and equipped our future enemies.

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Note: For the next few weeks on Sunday we will feature a review of books outside of theology, philosophy and apologetics.  Each review of a non-Christian book will also have a section titled, “What’s in it for the Christian?” The Generals American Military Command from World War II to TodayPurchase: Amazon

This book is a wonderful study on generalship in the United States Army from World War two to the present with Iraq and Afghanistan.  The author has written in the past about the military before, most notably about the Marine Corps boot camp.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much the author Thomas Ricks has grown in his understanding of the military since his first book on the military in 1997.

The thesis that the author argues for in the book is that the Marshall concept of Generalship worked in World War Two.  To be more specific, the concept is on how the Army manages General, and how under the old Marshall system it was expected that generals would be relieved and fire in order for the system to work and battles to be won.  Under the Marshall system, relief from command wasn’t necessarily the end of one’s military career like how it is understood today; generals were moved to other command since sometimes those who were not effective in combat command but were better leaders in other area of the Army (logistics, training, etc).  The Marshall’s way of managing generals was very effective but since World War two the book argues that the US Army has deviated from this concept.  Today generals are never relieved by the military itself (though there are political removals such as the infamous case of Douglas MacArthur by President Truman).  The book argues that as a result of the neglect of the Marshall system this has led to a crop of many poor generals who negatively affected the outcome of operations, battles and entire wars, not to mention the waste of lives and money.  What’s worst is that there are often no repercussions for generals who failed; in the modern military a private who lost his rifle will face more punishment than a general who lost a war.

Students of military history would love the author’s discussion about how General Eisenhower balanced the various charismatic generals during World War two such as General Patton, British General Montgomery and General Bradley.  The book also surveyed the Generals in the Korean War as the first war that failed to implement the Marshall system and how various Generals blundered but were not relieved.  This would continue on into the Vietnam War where it was even more pronounced with General Westmoreland and other lesser known generals.  The book also surveyed the more recent Iraq War and I agree with the author that the beginning of Iraq the military had some pretty bad generals (personally, General Sanchez comes to mind).  The book even covered the Iraq War right up to the surge (the author focuses on the surge in two other books after this volume) with General David Petraeus and notes how long it took before the right generals were in place leading the war effort was also the same duration that the US military took to win World War two in the Marshall system.

While it was not the main focus of the book, I did appreciate the author’s contrast between the Army’s handling of general officers versus that of the Navy and the Marines.  The Navy holds their officers to higher accountability and how they regularly relieve officers for ships that hit ground and get stuck.  Unfortunately, the author said that the sample size for the Marine Corps was too small, but Ricks does note how the Marine generals led their Division out of Chosin Reservoir as a combat effective unit while an adjacent Army unit with poor leadership ended up being hammered.  Ricks also talked about how during the Iraq War the Marine General Mattis who commanded the first Marine Division relieved a regimental commander of the first Marines for going to slow during the invasion and that this became international news.  However, during world war two such an event was frequent occurrence and not even worthy of being international news since it was assume the goal of victory was more important than allowing commanders to save face.

This is an excellent book for civilians and military like.  I think those in military should read this book, whether officers or enlisted so one can get the bigger picture.  In summary, the book presents a strong case to modify the maxim that “Amateurs study strategies, professionals study logistics;” we may add, “The Army leadership must study management of personnel.”

What’s in it for the Christian: A big theme in the book is accountability.  Christians have stressed the importance of accountability, given our fallen nature.  Accountability is something that is needed even outside of the military—and especially in the ministry, which is concerned with matters of eternity.  The author notes how different officers have different abilities, and just because one might not be able to lead in combat command that does not mean they are not useful for the military elsewhere.  Christians who are familiar with the Bible’s teaching of spiritual gifts—that we all have different gifts though it is different from each person to person.  As a Christian, this book was also insightful concerning human nature and the art of balancing different personalities in a group or a church that one leads—it has challenged me to appreciate how being a team player is a virtue.

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Taking a break this Veteran’s Day friday evening from our regularly scheduled apologetics and theology blogging to remember those who served.  This is a 1951 movie that I recently found online and I was surprised that a movie like this was made in the early 50s and that it was made that close after the war.  If you don’t know anything about the Japanese American infantry unit known as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, you ought to do a little online reading this weekend which would be more than appropriate for Veteran’s Day.  They are still today the most decorated Army unit on the record, with the highest casualty rate sustained by any unit.  And they were serving in a time when Japanese American loyalty were being questioned and their family held in internment camps back in the States which makes the amount of sacrifice shown by these brave men even more phenomenal.  I kind of wish a 21st century movie of this unit would have been made today of the quality of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.  I think it would sell.

I was struck with how the movie capture so much reality rather than being another sugar coat war propaganda movie: they did a good job showing the reality of racism, conveying GI culture, referencing specific things that’s Japanese American and made honest allusion to the reality of the internment camp experience.  That was probably the more surprising part of the movie, to see that being acknowledged back in the 50s!  The US government would acknowledge this sad chapter in American history in the 1980s (but that’s another subject, another post and another time!).  On the lighter side of things, I found it funny the movie’s reference to one of the guys being a graduate of USC (I’m a UCLA Bruin) and the small size of Asian infantryman.  As an American Marine of Asian descent, the last part struck a chord with me.  More than one time throughout the movie I was surprised at how it did not caricature Japanese American compared to other movies showing Asian during this time period.  I highly commend this movie in able to capture of slice of reality, conveying bravery and folly, sadness and humor, irony and patriotism with even a consciousness of civilians caught in the mix of war.  Well done film for it’s time.

Enjoy!  I just hope I didn’t hype it too much.

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I first heard the news of the Fort Hood shooting during Thursday Night Bible study, when a lady informed me that there was a horrific shooting by a Major who didn’t wanted to go to Afghanistan.

At first it sound like someone who really lost their mind with no other sinister motive other than that of a wicked man who has “snapped”

Then it turned out Nidal Malik Hasan was muslim.  My first thought was, “Let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt. Most muslims I know are just normal Americans who are trying to make it in life, just like any American.” Then you hear the typical Public Media Campaign of Islamic propaganda group like C.A.I.R crying that they fear Muslim backlash.  Which reasoning struck me as odd, because last I check it was Nidal Malik Hasan who was a muslim who did the shooting, and it was non-muslim who did the dying. If anything, it should have been more of a campaign to assure non-Muslims their safety, that true Muslims will not go ballistic.

The campaign to explain whitewash Nidal Malik Hasan has begun.  Some bring up the explanation that those who are muslim in the U.S. military often suffer from harassment for their faith, and Nidal Malik Hasan must have snapped because of it.  No actual statistics or studies have been cited to document this alleged Post 9-11 growing phenomenon. On the contrary,  a Muslim-American Veteran Groups even have said that there is no report of Islam solidiers harassed for their faith.

Then there is the ridiculous suggestion that Hasan went ballistic because he didn’t wanted to go in a dangerous war zone, because he heard how dangerous it was from traumatized soldiers.  For the uninitiated, it sounds plausible but those in the Military knows that this guy is a medical physician not an infantryman who will be “seeing things”.  Plus, it’s ridiculous to see the rationale that the guy doesn’t want to risk dying, and tries to get out of it by risking his own life when he shot up 12 soldiers dead, and 31 injured.  That’s really leveling the playing field for his chance of not getting hurt, does it not?

Or perhaps Hasan’s faith had nothing to do with it because he was not a practicing Muslim. The morning before the shooting, he was giving out Koran, even a copy of the Ali’s translation to his neighbor:

Fort Hood Shootings

Then that same morning he went in his muslim attire to 7-11:

Of course, some might say that the above is rather superficial: How are you going to tie Hasan’s religious motivation as his motive on the basis of him giving out a Koran and dressing Arabic? Isn’t that a slippery slope? Good point, I agree, I bring up the above to make readers to come to the conclusion themselves that it’s really what the CONTENT of his religion and not just the superficial religious observances that manner.  What are the exact content of his Islamic teaching?

We get an insight from NPR of the teachings of Hasan faith, when Hasan took an opportunity to lay down what he believe to other soldiers:

But he seemed almost belligerent about being Muslim, and he gave a lecture one day that really freaked a lot of doctors out.

They have grand rounds, right? They, you know, dozens of medical staff come into an auditorium, and somebody stands at the podium at the front and gives a lecture about some academic issue, you know, what drugs to prescribe for what condition. But instead of that, he – Hasan apparently gave a long lecture on the Koran and talked about how if you don’t believe, you are condemned to hell. Your head is cut off. You’re set on fire. Burning oil is burned down your throat.

And I said to the psychiatrist, but this cold be a very interesting informational session, right? Where he’s educating everybody about the Koran. He said but what disturbed everybody was that Hasan seemed to believe these things. And actually, a Muslim in the audience, a psychiatrist, raised his hand and said, excuse me. But I’m a Muslim and I do not believe these things in the Koran, and then I don’t believe what you say the Koran says. And then Hasan didn’t say, well, I’m just giving you one point of view. He basically just stared the guy down.

If these are beliefs that he openly shares to those in the military, what kind of beliefs does this guy keep to himself???

Hasan has even attended radical Islamic Mosque, the same one that two of the 9/11 hijackers attended:

Hasan, the sole suspect in the massacre of 13 fellow US soldiers in Texas, attended the controversial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 at the same time as two of the September 11 terrorists, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. His mother’s funeral was held there in May that year.

The preacher at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar who was banned from addressing a meeting in London by video link in August because he is accused of supporting attacks on British troops and backing terrorist organisations.

Other military officers were concerned about Hasan’s view of suicide bombers:

Another student had warned military officials that Hasan was a “ticking time bomb” after he reportedly gave a presentation defending suicide bombers.

Even another soldier who was a recent convert to Islam sadly believe Hasan was perhaps guided by his religious conviction:

Using the name Richard, the recent convert to Islam described how he frequently prayed with Hasan at the town mosque after Hasan was deployed to Fort Hood in July. They last worshipped together at predawn prayers on the day of the massacre when Hasan “appeared relaxed and not in any way troubled or nervous”. But Richard had previously argued with Hasan when he said that he felt the “war on terror” was really a war against Islam, expressed anti-Jewish sentiments and defended suicide bombings.

“I asked Richard whether he believed that Hasan was motivated by religious radicalism in his murderous actions,” Mr Pasha said.

“Richard, with great sadness, said that he believed this was true.

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Those of us here at Veritas Domain are former military and have an ear still to the military’s current misson

For those of you who are not aware, the battle of Wanat was the incident which 9 Americans were killed in a small outpost

Special Washington Post entry page: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/battle-of-wanat/

Of most particular interest: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/battle-of-wanat/correspondence/documents/2-Army-Historians-Report.pdf

It was very similar to the incident where 8 Soldiers died on October 4th

This ought to be a wake up call concerning Afghanistan, things are getting more violent

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The French soldier is writing about the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan

While the guys here at Veritas Domain are heavily manned by Marines, it’s good to see a tribute of the Army also

At the least it gives you some perspective of what operating alongside with US forces is like through the French soldier’s eyes

Translation from here

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while – they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army – one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent – from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine – they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them – we are wimps, even the strongest of us – and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland – everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors ! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark – only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered – everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all – always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch  from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the ennemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later – which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is – from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

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