I need to get back in the saddle and start producing some posts. July has been hectic to say the least with a hard trail run (sure to make its way here seeing as how it almost killed me), a vacation crossing the entire state of Arkansas, traveling to a final training run for a race at the end of the month and then a mad scramble to get our entries to the local annual photography competition. Makes me tired just typing that. Still no excuse to let my readers down. So without delay, I bring you a recollection from a recent read – Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command by Lynn Vincent and Captain Roger Hill. It is no secret that the military has always been a favored read – check the recollections listing and you will see that most of those are related to our loyal men and women who protect our great nation and its values around the world. Part of this is a deep desire to understand what it takes to put yourself in harm’s way – leads one to wonder how they would fare in similar situations. The other part is my father was in the Korean War (yeah, I said war and not conflict, I have no time for semantic games). I can’t even imagine what that was like for him, but each read provides a bit more clarity.
Today’s featured book described the completely ridiculous rules of engagement that were placed on our fighters in Afghanistan and assume applies in all our military theaters around the world. The story focused on Dog Company from the Airborne 101st. They had taken some serious injuries since being deployed (1/3 of the author’s men had been wounded in action) including some who ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice. It is in the aftermath of that tragedy they discovered there were traitors within the wire – Afghan’s that had been hired to provide services (including their interpreter) were giving information to the enemy. Thanks to the 96-Hour engagement rule they were required to prove guilt within 96 hours our they had to be released… and by released, that means returned to wherever they were captured regardless of how hostile that environment might be. Needless to say, if they could keep quiet for that duration… they knew they had to be set free. Can I assume the Taliban had a similar rule? – rhetorical of course. The release scenario had played out numerous times already (in fact, EVERY TIME) for this unit. Out of frustration Captain Hill and some of his leaders took it upon themselves to accelerate the admission of guilt process through some direct physical aggression and a staged scene that included separating a group of traitors from the others and discharging a weapon to simulate an execution. Too far, possibly, but I am not about to sit in the comfort of my den surrounded by peace and quiet and try to judge a situation against an enemy sworn to kill everyone that doesn’t believe in their self serving interpretation of a “religion”. This event resulted in investigators being dispatched to gather evidence of guilt, the participants were relieved of command and removed from the fight. What transpired from there should make every citizen who believes in our military (especially those in the line of fire) absolutely sick. The authors were essentially put in a position of having to prove their innocence – a stark contrast on how our legal system is supposed to work. Traitors were trusted over soldiers and years of outstanding service ignored in favor of bureaucracy. Details provided in the takeaways below, but in short, plea deals were involved that left little room for alternative paths.
When it comes to specific decisions, one must look ahead to truly understand the quality of that decision. A fact that has been abused by so many especially in politics who rely on those they represent (the American Citizen) to forget the event and limit future judgement. Think Benghazi, crates full of hard currency sent to Iran, artificial red lines and treasonous email practices … and endless other recent examples. In this particular situation, the quality of the decision can be assessed easily – the 96 Hour rule was rescinded in 2010. The enemy has not changed, the threat has not changed and our military might has remained as vigilant as before the rule was removed – what did change was the rule getting press (you wouldn’t believe which “news” outlet – now fallen to level of comical) which forced the removal. Just to add a couple points of commentary on the structure of the book before leaving you. First, this body of work had to be submitted for review by the Department of Defense. There were numerous redacts that the authors did not agree with and opted to leave the redacts (black bars) in the context of the book and let you decide if you felt that gap was justified or not (you can tell the context from the words that were left). Secondly, the book weaves in the actual dialog from the military trail. With the details in the story, you can see how the questioning was played out and understand the answers in context to that story – this provided an interesting insight to how those courts operate. The authors stated it directly, but the dialog leaves no doubt – guilty until proven innocent. Lastly, I thought the recounts of the enemy encounters were chilling to say the least. Want to understand PTSD better, try inserting yourself into their situation and ask yourself how you come out the other side (if you even do) without being impacted emotionally. If you think dishonoring our men and women in uniform by kneeling in protest because you don’t like the view from your million dollar mansion is appropriate behavior, then consider yourself and your industry dead to me.
Hit the jump to read some of the details of my takeaways.
- About Dog Company, a unit of the 101st Airborne
- Submitted manuscript for review by DoD’s Office of Security Review (OSR) – came back riddled with redacts they opted to leave blackened in the book. Believe 90% of redacted material was already made public previously by the government – their repeal was rejected in its entirety.
- Hill commanded a heavy weapons unit of ~90 men
- In six months of being there, 1/3rd of Hill’s men had been wounded in action
- Actually provided the words to Taps which I have never seen
- 96-Hour rule – every prisoner captured had to be transferred either to Afghan custody or to next higher level of US detention with 96 hours or they had to be set free. Doesn’t take a genius to know you just keep your mouth shut and wait it out and you’re good to go. Every time Dog Company sent a prisoner to next higher level – they let them go
- Became aware of insider threats from “the spooks” who engaged in a very structured way to ferret out the threats at the base among the locals that were there supposedly to assist the unit. This threat cost the lives of two of his men. In all, they uncovered 12 traitors in their midst including their main interpreter.
- Always imagine soldiers as stoic emotionless killing machines that are there to uphold god and country at all costs. Chilling to realize that is not the case and many of them broke down during the ceremony for their fallen brethren – seemed like the cold soul approach would be the only means to survive such a horrific environment. Anyone that would disrespect this country’s flag and the soldiers who face death and tragedy on a daily basis to defend those colors disgust me – still shocked when people do not understand why I’ve completely stopped watching one of my (previous) favorite professional sports. They can try to excuse it away as much as they want, my Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays were amazingly more productive last season and will be from this point forward.
- Recounted how the locals would sell amputated fingers of captured/mutilated American soldiers as souvenirs at the market. Ask yourself if our former Rules of Engagement (now rescinded in 2010 by General Petraeus thanks to reporting by CNN that brought this subject up – wow, the word “reporting” used in the same sentence with CNN… guess that is the difference between 2010 and now). Feel free to try and align this rule with the enemy’s play book
- The main event in this book is the retelling of what put Captain Roger Hill and his in front of a military court – the audacity to try and scare confessions out of the insurgents found in their camp by mock execution (fired in opposite direction) while others were detained outside of few. I hear the arguments against waterboarding and other simulated tortures, but I usually get distracted by my inner conscious reminding me the debate comes from people who live out of the combat theater.
- The authors recounted an event in Iraq where the US trained Iraqi army unit (800 strong) was told they were heading into combat for the first time – 600 hundred didn’t show up the next day taking their American supplied arms home with them.
- Noted Sergeant First Class Tim Moriarty believed in God and didn’t want any soldier fighting next to him who didn’t believe in someone greater than himself otherwise he likely wouldn’t be willing to give his live for his fellow soldier. He also admitted that he would always feel separated from society because he had killed – something you never get cleaned from
- Interesting point was WWI and WWII soldiers had ability to decompress through long boat rides home, but today, they can be making routine decisions in a store the day after being in a horrific battle – reminded of that powerful grocery aisle scene in the Hurt Locker.
- Dog Company was continually fighting ammunition, mine and vehicle shortages – one area had 13 soldiers holding off full Taliban forces. They would even make cardboard cutouts with scrap pipes to fool their enemies at night.
- Our government brought in a specially trained forensic team to gather evidence against Roger and Scott for their actions against the traitors in their midst
- In a military court, the convening authority picks not only the investigating officer, but the jury as well – in a military court-martial, you walk in with the presumption of guilt. Think about that with how restrictive our rules of engagement were.
- Hill was offered an Article 15 if he would plead guilty to lesser charges of failure to control treatment of detainees, willfully discharging firearm to frighten detainees and encouraging his soldiers to assault detainees. He would then resign in a lesser non-honorable manner from the Army. Tommy Scott would avoid general court-martial and instead be disciplined by a summary court-martial (removes dismissal element) – at first they flat out refused this option knowing they were right in their position. Implications and options were eventually weight appropriately and they accepted the deals. Scott resulted in one charge carrying a downgrade as punishment