Tag Archives: Army Rangers

Syria fight to get some U.S. ground help


I have great respect and admiration for U.S. Sen. John McCain.

The Arizona Republican, though, needs to stop insisting that it’s time to put more American “boots on the ground” in places where they don’t belong.

President Obama has ordered 250 U.S. Special Forces to Syria to “assist and advise” frontline troops who are battling the Islamic State.


McCain’s reaction was quite predictable. He called the deployment a “welcome” development but then said it is “insufficient” and is doomed to fail.

I happen to disagree with the failure prediction.

Having said that, I am troubled by the way the president has described the troops’ assignment. He said they aren’t going to be “combat” troops. I am forced to say, merely, “Huh?”

The troops will comprise mostly Army Special Forces … Green Berets and Rangers. These folks are trained to the hilt to, um, fight.

I strongly suspect that if, in the process of advising and assisting the Syrians, that these special operations troops find themselves engaging ISIL terrorists that they’ll know what to do.

The soldiers who are joining the fight against ISIL are going to deliver maximum damage to the terror organization.

On one hand, Sen. McCain should reel back his desire to send thousands more ground forces back into battle.

On the other hand, the president of the United States ought to quit soft-pedaling the threat of combat that awaits these forces.


Do women belong in combat?

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 20, 2015. Soldiers attend Ranger school to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat simulated environment. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dacotah Lane/Released Pending Review)

At the risk of being labeled an unreconstructed male chauvinist — and you can add “pig” to it if you wish — I want to offer a view or two about a story that’s been giving me heartburn when I first heard about it.

Two women, both West Point graduates, have completed the U.S. Army’s highly intense Ranger training. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver went through precisely the same training regimen as their male colleagues.

They deserve high praise and congratulations for completing the course and for earning the admiration of their fellow soldiers, some of whom said the two women rendered critical assistance on the training field.

One of the women is a military police officer; the other flies Apache helicopters. They know the risks associated with the hazardous military duty.

But I keep wondering about this question: Is the percentage of dropout rates among women greater or fewer than it is for men because they cannot meet the strenuous physical requirements of becoming a Ranger?

I am thrilled that these two fine soldiers completed the Ranger training successfully. They now are certified as being among the Army’s elite fighters. But they aren’t going to be assigned front-line combat duty — at least not until the Pentagon decides to deploy women to serve in infantry, armor or artillery units.

There’s been plenty of praise for these two women, who demonstrated that they are as physically capable as their male colleagues to serve as Rangers. I join in praising Capt. Griest and Lt. Haver.

Do they represent the norm among all female soldiers who might want to become Rangers, or Green Berets, or Navy SEALs, Marine commandos, or Air Force special forces?

I keep thinking they’re the exception rather than the rule.

That is what makes me hesitate to endorse the idea of sending women into ground combat.

Heck, women already have engaged in combat operations — flying high-performance aircraft or serving in civil affairs units in hostile territory.

Am I out of step? Maybe. I’ll live with it.



Army experiment off to rough start

My friends, acquaintances and even readers of this blog understand my liberal political leaning.

I consider myself a progressive on most issues.

We all have our limits. Mine involves the military and whether it’s wise to seek to integrate women completely into all the combat arms.

Word out of Fort Benning, Ga., suggests the Army’s experiment with qualifying women to serve as Rangers is falling, shall we say, flat on its face.

I’m not surprised.


Eight women have failed to advance beyond the first phase of Ranger training. They have a chance to try again, as do the male soldiers who also fell short in the first phase. The eight women, though, comprise the entire complement of females who signed up for the elite fighting force. They all fell short.

I should ask: Is this really what the Army wants? Does it really intend to ask women to strap on heavy ruck sacks, load them down with ammo, ask them carry a weapon — often a heavy one — into battle right along with their male counterparts?

Forgive the appearance of chauvinism, but last time I checked the average woman wasn’t as strong as the average man.

To its credit, the Army has insisted all along it wouldn’t lessen the rigorous physical standards to suit the women who are seeking to participate in the combat arms — infantry, artillery and armor.

I fully accept the combat roles that women are performing already in the military. They ride truck convoys through hostile territory; they fly combat aircraft — fixed- and rotary-wing alike — into blistering enemy fire; they serve in civil affairs units working behind enemy lines with civilian populations in what we used to call in Vietnam “pacification” efforts.

Armed forces’ female personnel perform valiantly, heroically and have sacrificed much in defense of the nation.

The effort, though, to create a “gender-integrated” fighting force that includes women fighting in elite combat forces might be a step too far.

I want like the dickens to be proven wrong. I want the women to succeed. I want to see them stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts in elite forces, such as the Rangers.

Hearing the news about the failure of the eight women from the Ranger training course makes me dubious that this effort is going to work.


VA chief 'inaccurately' states military service

When will this all stop? The fibbing, the “incorrect” statements about one’s personal history, the embarrassments.

Welcome to the Pantheon of Prevaricators, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.

The new VA boss — hired to fix the problems that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care network — has been caught saying he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces when, in fact, he didn’t.


McDonald was caught on camera telling a homeless veteran that he served in the elite fighting force. The vet told the secretary he had served in Special Forces. “Me, too,” McDonald answered, telling the fellow he also was a Special Forces soldier.

To be fair, McDonald is a West Point graduate and did become an Army Ranger, which happens to be an elite fighting force as well. Why embellish those credentials?

NBC News anchor Brian Williams has recently admitted to “misremembering” an incident in which he said  a helicopter he was riding in was shot down by enemy fire in Iraq; it didn’t happen and he’s been suspended without pay for six months. Then came questions about Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly’s experience covering the Falklands War in 1982; he has said he came under fire covering that conflict but others have challenged his assertions, saying he didn’t set foot on the battlefield, as his reporting at the time and the years since have implied. O’Reilly and Fox are battling the accusations.

McDonald has apologized for the incident, which was recorded by a CBS News crew. “I asked the man where he had served in the military,” McDonald said, according to ABC News. “He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.”

Inaccurate? Yeah, it was at least that. I’d call it a “lie,” which is the kind of thing that got the VA into trouble in the first place, with hospital staffers falsifying wait times that veterans were having to endure while seeking medical care.

Get back to work, Mr. Secretary — and limit your public remarks to the job you’ve been assigned to do.


'Stolen Valor' goes viral

Nothing is theft-proof. Not even valor, the kind one demonstrates on the battlefield.

People “steal” valor all the time, or so it appears. They deserve the shame that others heap on them.

A video has gone viral that shows an actual Army combat infantry veteran confronting a faux veteran at a Philadelphia shopping mall. The alleged imposter is taking advantage of the veteran discounts that many retailers offer customer.

I guess all you have to do is show up in a uniform and you get the discount.

Ryan Beck caught this guy in the act of faking his own military service.


Perhaps the most hilarious part of the video — which is included in the link attached to this post — is that the apparent imposter tells the real veteran, Beck, that he is an Army Ranger. Umm, take a look at the individual and you can tell right up front that he is not a member of the elite Army fighting unit.

The guy can’t explain why he’s wearing an improper Combat Infantryman Badge, or why the U.S. flag on his right sleeve is in the wrong location.

The Stolen Valor Act is meant to criminalize the act of impersonating a veteran. Indeed, it should be a crime, particularly when the imposters use their fake status to take money from businesses offering discounts in good faith to men and women who actually are serving in the military.

The manner in which Beck confronts this guy is classic. He isn’t rude. He isn’t bullying the guy. He’s asking legitimate questions that came to his mind the moment he saw this fellow at the mall in Philly.

Someone ought to give Beck another medal for “outing” this individual.


'An act of pure evil'

Islamic State terrorists have beheaded another American. The victim this time is an aid worker, Peter Kessig.

President Obama’s response? He called it an “act of pure evil.”


What now?

Let’s wait for the critics of the U.S.-led aerial bombardment campaign to demand “troops on the ground” to fight ISIL face to face, hand to hand.

My own take is that the air strikes need to continue — only with more ferocity.

The president issued the correct statement aboard Air Force One en route from the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia. ISIL must be destroyed. It must be bombed into oblivion.

The ironic aspect of this murder is that Kessig had converted to Islam after leaving the Army, where he served as a Ranger. Therefore, ISIL killed one of its own. How does one make sense of any of this, at any level?

Although I do not want to return to the battlefield in Iraq or join the fight — on the ground — in Syria, I clearly understand the odds against an all-airborne campaign accomplishing the mission of destroying a sophisticated, well-funded and well-armed terrorist organization.

I also know that the United States and our allies have immense firepower available to them.

They should use it … with extreme prejudice.