If you’re a grunt and seeing an A-10 Warthog flying over your head its a pretty awesome feeling. When a grunt is in trouble, then it is a bless full sight.
In this sighting its a nice day in whatever Star Wars desert town basically in the middle of nowhere that these grunts had to patrol. This day no guns blazing, no bombs going off and this day things were chill.
If that wasn’t enough, these grunts got treated to not one, but two Sic A-10 flybys. One went right up to them, banking very low over their position. The other was from further in the distance but did a nice dip before pulling out. Would have been nice to see some chaff flares deploying as the Warthogs do their pull out. Ok, we’ll settle for the bad ass show!
Sources: A Kaiser Youtube, Front Line Video Facebook
Photo by Kevin Merriweather
The intense USAF qualification course ensures only the most qualified Security Forces Airmen become Ravens.
When fully trained, Ravens are air marshals on the ground who deploy with aircrew members on missions designated by the AMC Threat Working Group. Raven teams protect aircraft and their crews and cargo from criminal and terrorist threats while traveling through airfields where security is either unknown or inadequate.
The Air Force has fewer than 150 active Ravens executing AMC’s force protection of strategic airlift around the world. The intense qualification course ensures the select few who become Ravens are of an exceptional caliber.
Inside the training facility, everyone who has gone through will cringe at the thought of the “house of pain” and its not about pancakes. This is where all trainees do the majority of physical training. Physical training consists of calisthenics and fighting the Redman. The trainees are taught basic hand to hand skills for fighting unarmed and with a baton.
One of the biggest challenges in the “house of pain” for the cadres is to teach the trainee how to fight within the three week course. Having intestinal fortitude can go a long way, but without the tools its hard to gain confidence. The cadres help with the missing tools, but the biggest thing that you’ll learn is to go beyond your physical limitations. It’s when you can’t do any more push-ups (over 1,000 per day) or flutter kicks and now you have to pit against a fresh Redman. Doesn’t sound fair, but in reality it teaches the trainee to think so they can overcome real-world decisions while down-range.
You’re not here to watch a fight, this ain’t UFC, you’re in here to motivate each-other and keep each-other going. HOOAH. The only time I want to hear a ‘Hooah’ is if one of your classmates deliver the proper strike. Until then, you’re gonna tell them what they’re doing wrong. Squared away, candidates?
“These last nine days of training have…”
Can we do a proper push up?
Just because I walk away doesn’t mean you get on your freaking knees, you.
“I can’t even think of a word to describe it.”
Take a seat and you can go home today.
“Not only overwhelming, but…”
Hey, straighten your legs, let’s go!
“Stressful. Very stressful.”
We’ll be here all freakin’ day, Ravens, sound off.”
“The biggest thing I look for in each trainee is heart. We can build muscle, we can make them stronger, we can make them faster. But at the end of the day, if a Raven comes here without any heart, then they’re useless to the program and our community as a whole.”
“US Air Marshals are the ones that protect that aircraft in the air. We’re the ones that protect the aircraft on the ground. We go to a lot of hostile environments all over the world. So we put students through a course that is high intensity, to better prepare them for situations they might encounter downrange.”
“So we try to build tat austere, adverse environment in our training, with the PT, the discipline that we bring into the course.”
“If you even get caught blinking in class, not paying attention for a second, they’re on you. They know, they’re always watching. That’s what will prepare us for downrange. You let your guard down for a minute down there, and it could cost you lives.”
For some of these guys and gals, this will be the first time ever getting hit in the head, or getting touched, period. Make sure you try to make it as realistic as possible, but at the same rate- this isn’t a bar fight.[Sounding off]
“It was beyond what I thought it was gonna be. They had a red man in each corner, they brought us in with a big circle and pads, and they come at you hard. There was mouthpieces flying, headgear coming off, black eyes, bloody noses, they came at us hard. Reason being is, when we’re downrange and we’re fighting, nobody is gonna take it easy. It’s either him or me, and that’s how it’s gonna be. And if he gets me, that’s not gonna stop him from getting what I’m supposed to protect, which is other personnel and the aircraft. It started off bad for me. My initial fight, I wasn’t doing some of the techniques correctly, so it came down to basically my last fight, either do it right or go home.”
I hate to say this, this is probably the worst part of my job, but you all did not pass your RedMan. So go home, go back to your units…
“To see an individual dig deep, and you see them push through it, you hear them scream, you see the sweat, you see the tears, it feels good to see people push through those hardships, and then to see them walk across the stage knowing they earned their Raven number.”
“I feel like the turning point when we became a team was after that RedMan fight. Everyone came together and we realized that we can’t get through this alone.”
“I look back and it was one of the defining moments of my life. One of the biggest accomplishments ever. Absolutely surreal.
Sources: Airman Magazine Online, Ft Dix, Video by Jimmy D Shea
From the mind of Logan D Coffey, Tactical Tailor was founded in 2008. The legacy continues to live on through his brother Justin, after his tragic death in a car accident. Here’s a brief history of Logan and his company.
In late 1991, Logan went straight from highschool to the US Army Infantry. Even in the first week of training, he could see that the army-issued gear was uncomfortable and impractical, and found that the gear issued was virtually the same as it had been back in the Vietnam War. He made it his personal mission to modify and improve that gear.
Within a few years, Logan had a veritable collection of industrial sewing machine parts and fabrics, and he had become the guy to go to for fixing up or modifying military gear.
At the end of his second enlistment, he decided it was time to leave and make his modification business his full-time job. In 1998, Tactical Tailor began in a two-bedroom house and a few-thousand-dollar loan. He was able to repay it in only six months.
In time the work grew out of its two-bedroom grass roots, but didn’t quite make enough for him to afford both a warehouse and a home, so he built a room to sleep in within his warehouse.
He hired ex-military and retired military and military spouses to sew as his business grew, and he expanded again in 2002, then once more in 2005.
Now his work is known to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he’s even been invited to the Pentagon several times.
The company motto is simple. “Do what’s right because it’s right.” That includes being made in the USA, for those who defend the USA, making quality gear and providing quality jobs.
Posted with permission from Tactical Tailor.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States spent 12 years looking for a successor to the M1 Garand rifle. The new standard infantry arm was expected to be select-fire, lightweight, accurate, controllable, and fire a heavy .30-caliber projectile. It would replace not just the M1, but also the BAR and perhaps the M1 Carbine as well – a true universal weapon. Of course, these requirements were complete fantasy, unachievable in the real world – but that did not prevent Remington, Springfield Arsenal, and Winchester from trying to meet them.
Winchester produced a proto M14 with select fire weapon complete with a removable bipod. It was extremely light and made from an ordinary Winchester M1 Garand Rifle with many modifications.
This rifle is a Winchester prototype, which has been substantially lightened from the M1 it began life as. A pistol grip has been added, along with a fire selector lever and a box magazine system. A detachable lightweight bipod allows it to be used for supporting fire.
It is chambered for the T65 or 7.62 NATO cartridge, which dates it as definitely post-WWII.
The mighty M14 rifle is a battle rifle that refuses to be shelved. It has been dusted off and implemented in the war against terror in current times.
Hey guys, thanks for tuning in, another video on forgottenweapons.com, I’m Ian, I’m here today at the Cody Firearms Museum, part of the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West, and I am taking a look at a very interesting prototype Winchester Select-fire Magazine-fed version of an M1-Garrand. Now, this was obviously part of the development program process for the M14 rifle, where exactly it fits in that process, I really don’t know. There doesn’t appear to be much documentation on this. Unfortunately, while there are good references out there on the Springfield and the Remington corporate versions of the different rifles that ended up as part of the M14 project, there doesn’t seem to be much reference material out there on the Winchester guns, and this is one of those. The Cody museum has the Winchester firearms collection, which includes a lot of prototypes; some which we have looked at, some which we’ll look at in the future, and some like this one.
So, I can’t really tell you the where and the when and how this did under trials, but we will take a close look at it, and I can point out a whole bunch of very interesting features of this particular prototype example. Now the first thing I want to mention is that this gun is really light. You look at this and you expect it to weigh something like twelve or fourteen pounds, right? Because it’s got the big ‘ol bipod on the front, presumably it’s maybe heavy barrel, it has a selector switch -which you can’t see because it’s on this side of the gun-, magazine fed– in reality, this thing is at least two pounds lighter than an M1. I bet this is between seven and eight pounds; I don’t have a scale to weigh it on, but, what’s actually going on here, there’s a lot cut away on the inside that you’ll see. The bulk of this flash-hider bipod assembly is made of aluminum, the butt-plate is made of aluminum, there might be some magnesium parts in there somewhere, they’ve cut every ounce possible out of this gun. And it’s really an impressive gun to handle as the result! Now, let’s just go ahead and take a closer look at it, let me take the stock off and I’ll show you some of the internals.
Alright, so the first– the most obvious difference, is that a pistol grip has been added. This didn’t involve any actual modification to the trigger group, this is actually kind of like the Baretta BM59 Garand modifications where they’ve added a pistol grip to the stock. So, pretty simple there, we’ll take it apart in a moment. A magazine has been added, they put a magazine catch at the front, which is not a bad idea, this keeps it out of the way of all the trigger assembly stuff that’s already in there. This is a custom proprietary magazine, it’s designed for 308, this is a 308 NATO gun, which suggests that it was definitely post-WW2. Now what’s interesting here is they have actually used an M1 receiver. So this is a Winchester M1, it’s a 1.6,000,000 serial number gun, but you can see when I open it, there’s a block here in the back of the receiver, because it’s a 306-length receiver with a 308-length magazine.
That was an easy way to not have to re-do a whole bunch of tooling to make 308-caliber receivers for experimental guns. No, instead we just use a 306 receiver. The extra space actually kind of helps, The bolt has a little bit farther that it can travel, and during that time, the magazine has more time to feed a cartridge up into position.
The handguard here has been beefed up a little bit, we’ll take a look at that from the inside, but first let’s take a look at the bipod.
Alright, so the main body here is this big aluminum flash-hider conical deal, the legs are spring-loaded, so I can pull the leg down, snap it into place up here like that. This does– this rotates, but it has a limited arc of rotation. Now, to take this off, all I have to do is flip this latch down like that. This whole assembly is actually locked onto the bayonet lug, very much like one of the world-war-two grenade launchers. So with that undone, this whole assembly comes off. There you can see the inside of the flash-hider, just a big cone. It locks onto the back, there’s our locking tab, pretty simple. There we go. Bipod assembley, removes quickly and easily. Now I think I mentioned, this is -I think- thin hollow-tube steel and aluminum, this whole assembley is quite lightweight by itself.
Start by taking out the magazine, set that aside, then just like a regular M1, the trigger guard opens up, the trigger assembley comes out; because of magazine conversion this has the floor plate, magazine catch, the mag catch is built right into this, it’s pretty simple, just a spring and a catch. That catch locks in this notch in the front of the magazine.
Now, we can pull the stock off just like a typical M1 again. You can see the opening in the heavier wood down here on the front handguard. Obviously, it’s been cut away a bit for the detachable magazine, that’s about it. This is also a very light piece of wood. I’ve also mentioned the Aluminum buttplate, checkered back here, so it will stick to your shoulder a bit.
Now inside here is where we’ve got a lot of interesting stuff going on. So, first off, you’ll notice, the OP-rod is completely straight, it doesn’t have a dogleg in it. That’s one of the potential weakpoints on a standard M1, that OP-rod can bend at that dogleg end, and it was a somewhat complex manufacturing step, to get the tooling set up to bend just the right dogleg into those OP-rods. Well, they got rid of that on this winchester prototype, so it runs straight backwards. The recoil spring here has been reprofiled a bit to match.
Now, this is our selector lever, and it moves this guy just a little bit up and down. It does that through this pin, which obviously has a cam surface inside here. So, that’s going to engage or disengage an auto-sear in the fire-control group. What I’m more interested in, is there’s very little ‘stuff’ back here. The front arms that you would normally have on a standard clip-fed M1 are gone, we’ve taken a look at another magazine-fed M1 that had a box added to it here to support the magazine, that’s not there. Pretty dramatic change, the bottom of the barrel has been milled flat, that gives room for this straight OP-rod, and that cuts a significant amount of weight out of the gun. Presumably they found that that didn’t have a deleterious effect on the gun being able to withstand firing, but obviously by using a box magazine, they’ve been able to get rid of all of the mechanism in here that Garrond designed for the clip-feeding and ejecting process, that’s all gone. In fact, the cutout for the clip-release is also gone, there is no clip-release on the gun.
The upper hand-guard was widened to match the lower. Over here you can see it’s a very thin piece, you can see a bit of it’s cracked off, that’s probably too thin right there, but it is a prototype rifle, so.
The action, however, is still basic all-M1 Garrond.
Well thanks for watching, guys. I hope you enjoyed the video, I wish I knew more about exactly the backstory to this rifle and how it actually performed –I don’t, unfortunately– but who knows? Maybe with some video out there, someone will be able to find some of the records, and even if they don’t, it’s a really interesting look at some of the things that could be done and -were- done to the M1 Garrond in the attempt to make it into a light machine gun. Thanks for watching, I’d like to thank the Cody Firearms Museum for letting me take a look at this, and of course, tune in again to ForgottenWeapons.com.
Sources: Forgotten Weapons Youtube, Eric Nestor, Cody Firearms Museum, Wikipedia
Need a last minute gift idea that is sure to drop jaws and turn heads? GovPlanet is auctioning off over 300 Military Humvees tomorrow! Visit GovPlanet.com to view their guaranteed inspection reports and bid on your own piece of Military history!
March 31st, 1943, British India.
Headed to Pyinmana, Burma, to destroy a bridge, the American B-24 bombers were intercepted by Japanese fighter pilots.
With the plane going down and Japanese fighter pilots attacking the parachuting airmen, Owen J. Bagget did what no man had done before or since.
It must take some sharp shooting and nerves of unbending steel to keep straight aim in the face of certain death, but he managed to shoot and kill the enemy fighter pilot with none other than a .45 caliber M1911 pistol. Whether a testament to sharp shooting under pressure or the efficacy of the gun, I can’t say.
Owen fell to the earth, wounded but alive, and was captured as a POW, later freed at the end of the war. He lived to 85 years old, having reached the rank of Colonel and continued as a defense contractor, and died in 2006. His tombstone tells of his being a POW, a hero, and a father– But sadly, it doesn’t cover his badass airborne feat: being the only person to down a Japanese fighter plane with a pistol.
Whether it was true or not, its still a great story for our M1911 legacy.
by Sam Morstan
Source: Owen J Baggett Wikipedia, Controversial Times
When you think about what goes on in a theater of war, you’ll think of things like the number of troops deployed, the location of friendly bases nearby, and even things like the rations that the soldiers will receive. What isn’t so common to think about is the weather and how it affects the battleground.
Normally, this isn’t an issue for the United States government. How most countries work is that they report on their weather on the ground which is then relayed to countries all over the world for the purpose of getting an idea as to how the conditions are.
The only problem with this setup is that it involves trusting governments to reliably put this information out there. But when the Taliban swept in in 2001 and took control of Afghanistan, weather reports stopped altogether.
The reason for this stoppage is the fact that the Taliban operates under a very strict interpretation of the Koran. This meant that all women would be required to wear a burka. All men must be bearded at all times. Television and movies were outlawed. And lastly, weather reporting was banned.
The reason for this confusing ban is that weather reporting is considered by the Taliban to be a form of sorcery. They doubled down on this belief, in fact, by shelling meteorological centers and forcibly removing weather people from their positions.
The United States has weathermen of its own.
In order to better wage war in Afghanistan and understand the data so that troops could be best protected, the government sent a number of weathermen to the theater of war.
These weathermen are also known as special operations weather technicians or SOWTs. In fact, these are the only commando forecasters that the Department of Defense has in its employment.
These operatives are tasked with visiting the most hostile and dangerous places in the world and then recovering important meteorological data that ground forces can then act upon once they’re brought into duty.
Video: Being a SOWT
Video: Weather & Warfare
These weathermen are not technically combat-oriented soldiers. Instead, they move into these hostile locations and gather their data. This sounds easy, but it’s anything but. If it goes wrong, not only can the operative be captured or killed, but that highly valuable data will be lost forever, compromising any future operations.
These operatives go along with the absolute best in the field. They often team up with Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Delta Force.
Before a major operation is going to be conducted, before any boots touch the ground or even get laced up, a SOWT will have to move into the location and give the okay. These truly are the unsung heroes of war, as they’re literally responsible for whether or not an operation will happen.
In one instance, the use of satellite data pointed toward there being totally clear skies in an area of operation. The only thing is that there was no ground data along with that and ground data is just as imperative as is satellite data.
Not only were the former meteorologists fired, not only were all of the meteorological sites turned to rubble but the decades of weather reports there were destroyed as well. Never before or since has there been such a blackout on incredibly simple and useful information. While this has made it more difficult for United States troops to conduct ground operations, this wasn’t the primary reason for everything.
On one occasion, a SOWT was brought to a location that was hazy and indistinct as the result of a substantial sand storm. This weather man risked his life by leaving the helicopter along with a small team of commandos.
While under the cover of night, they scaled a mountain and then dug into a nearby ledge. It was here that the SOWT got to work at obtaining meteorological data. He used a device to study how high in the sky clouds were, sent out weather balloons at night, and used a small device he had with him for all other tasks.
What this special operations weather technician essentially did was create a forecast that operated in real time. He then checked his data with the forecasts that were already made and tweaked the data until it seemed to line up properly. From there, commando teams were able to be dropped into locations with safe weather conditions all thanks to this brave SOWT.
As a matter of fact, it was as a result of this initial operation that the ground invasion of Afghanistan began. As such, the data had to be absolutely precise in order to be considered actionable. These fair consditions that the SOWT were enough for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to move ahead with their operation.
While it is possible to obtain satellite forecasts without ever having to use a real person, these special operations weather technicians humorously liken this process to an eager child on Christmas shaking a box to guess what’s inside. You might come relatively close sometimes, but not enough for the data to be actionable.
Every member of the United States’ military has an important job to do, a reaon strong enough for them to leave their freidns and family for months at a time. What many don’t realize is that there’s quite possibly even more dangerous position in the military that rarely gets spoken about or even acknowledged.
This position is that of a special operations weather technician. Before any boots can touch the dirt, one of these professionals must go in and single-handedly get a hold on the weather fluctuations in the area. Without these brave souls, there would be no boots on the ground and the mission would be lossed before it even started.
by J Hines
Source: Wikipedia, Military.com, USAF Public Affairs, Videos and Intro Excerpt from Nbcnews.com/pages/weathermen
THE FOLLOWING IS A MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE STARS AND STRIPES
The military branch USAF is unique when it comes to job specialty (MOS), force protection back in the old days of guarding an aircraft was different. The Air Police would just issue a rifle to an airman to guard the aircraft or resources. Fast forward to modern day, the ‘Air Police’ name progressed to Security Police and finally ‘Security Forces’. With recent conflicts USAF Security Forces have had to adjust and expand its role in the terrorist war. One of them is the Fly-Away Security Team, also known as ‘FAST’. These hand picked elite USAF Security Forces members are also part of the USAF Phoenix Ravens unit, you can see one of our past stories on the USAF Ravens here.
USAF Fly-Away Security Teams (FAST) are staged out of many undisclosed places in the European and Far West Asian theaters. The FAST team provides security for the aircraft while at a hot (high threat) location. And while in-flight responsible for deterring and neutralizing any threats on board the aircraft. The least known responsibility is to collect intelligences of the air strip and surrounding areas from local resources. The skills required to perform as a FAST operative is wide in range from marksmanships, Foreign Clearance Guide Advisor, SERE to diplomatic relations with host nations.
Now to our featured story:
The two craned their necks and swiveled their heads, checking the fast-approaching ground below through the bank of cockpit windows. Soon joining them in this ritual was Staff Sgt. Thomas Tyrone, 26, a member of the late September mission’s Fly-Away Security Team, or FAST.
In teams of two to four, the “air marshals of Afghanistan,” as one member calls them, guard the flight deck from potential hijackers on certain flights and provide added perimeter security around the aircraft while parked at high-risk airfields like Shorab.
On the ground, the team is responsible for keeping asylum-seekers at bay and fending off attackers long enough for the pilots to get the turboprop-powered Super Hercules airborne, even if that means the team stays behind.
Their added combat training and firepower — M-4 rifles, compared with the aircrew’s 9 mm handguns — are a comfort “when you’re someplace sketchy,” said Capt. Michael Morrison, Svendsen’s co-pilot. See original story below.
by Chad Garland
Source: Stars and Stripes
STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGENFor those who’ve attended or read about the SHOT Show for the past 15 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the American military has had an increasing positive effect on the shooting sports, especially hunting. This welcome development is nothing short of phenomenal, and it becomes more evident with each passing year.
I make my living as a hunter, TV host, writer and speaker, so it’s been intriguing and inspiring to watch the inﬂuence of our country’s armed forces transition into every facet of the world I love so much. Take equipment, for example. Many hunters took their ﬁrst deer with a government-issued .30-caliber riﬂe, one that may have been their dad’s or granddad’s. Today, the hunting riﬂe and optics world is dominated by military representation, and Trijicon scopes are a testimony to this.
It’s been more than 10 years since Trijicon entered the hunting world, and a television show I hosted was the ﬁrst one they sponsored. I later went on to host and produce Trijicon’s The Hunt, which currently airs on Amazon Prime and in more than 40 countries. Even though Trijicon has become well known to hunters, not everyone is aware that the company had made quality riﬂescopes and sights for military and law enforcement use for more than 15 years.
Guns are another example. Some old school hunters didn’t like it when ARs entered the hunting world, but as people became more educated on what ARs were, the literal translation of what an AR platform riﬂe is and how they worked, they quickly gained traction. First, predator, varmint and hog hunters used them, now they’re popular with many deer hunters.
Accessories that go with guns and hunting have also evolved, having been deeply rooted in America’s military history. Knives, ﬂashlights, survival kits, boots, packs, navigation devices, even clothes, have stemmed from our military. Not long ago I was in Alaska’s Arctic with my son. For lunch one day we broke out some MREs, and although any current or former member of the military would know these as a ﬁeld ration or “Meal, Ready to Eat,” it was something he’d never had. He’s 14 years old and loved it, and was intrigued when I shared stories of how this is what many military men and women survived on. MREs have come a long way, or so I’m told, but it’s just one more example of our military having an inﬂuence on hunting and the outdoors.
The very ﬁrst riﬂe sling I had was one given to me from my grandfather, from when he served our country. It was an old leather sling with multiple holes for length adjustment. The sling was an inch wide and tough as nails, and it is still one of my favorites.
Not only has military-designed gear had a visible impact on hunting, but on shooting form as well. For decades hunters went aﬁeld with their riﬂes, maybe a pack, but that was it. When it came time to take a shot, it was usually done standing, off-hand. If a tree was close, the hunter might try to lean on it to get steady. Or, if the grass wasn’t too high, the hunter might lay down in order to attain a stable shot.
Then bipods, shooting sticks and shooting bags made their way into the hunting world, thanks again to our military. Attaching a bipod to a riﬂe was something I’d never heard of or seen while growing up hunting in the 1960s and ’70s. Like all things “new,” they came
into the hunting world, but many hunters from previous generations wouldn’t use these shooting aids, which is unfortunate.
Last fall I was in deer camp in Wyoming. It was public ground and the sagebrush-studded hills were full of hunters. What amazed me was not the number of shots I heard during the ﬁrst two days of the season, but how many people I talked to headed back to camp, transporting deer that had been shot in the leg, face, guts and everywhere bullets shouldn’t hit. None of them had used shooting aids.
One hunter in our camp, an older, retired man, missed nine shots at three different bucks. When I asked him why he doesn’t use a bipod or shooting stick, he replied, “Never have, don’t need one.” “No, obviously you do!” I insisted. I took him aside, showed him how to work my Bog Pod tripod shooting stick, and told him to take it. He killed a buck with his next shot.
Many of our armed forces pride themselves on shooting accuracy, and more and more hunters are starting to do the same. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow hunters and the animals we pursue to deliver quick, clean shots.
For people like me who make a living hunting, we can’t afford misses. Every miss costs time and money for everyone involved on the hunt, from myself to camera crews, outﬁtters, producers, editors and even networks. There’s pressure to hit the mark, which is why, for the past several years, all of my shots have come off a shooting stick, a bipod mounted to my gun, or shooting bags.
A couple seasons ago I took my ﬁrst buck with a longrange riﬂe, what my dad and his friends, in their late 70s and 80s, refer to as a “sniper riﬂe.” Now, the gun wasn’t really a sniper riﬂe, but the $4,000 scope I had atop it was designed for snipers, and the sturdy bipod and shooting bags I relied on were used primarily by tactical shooters. I devoted many hours of practice to shooting that riﬂe from a prone position, learning about everything related to long-range shooting. I was able to connect on a nice buck at 960 yards while ﬁlming for a TV show.
Today, we see more hunters shooting from prone positions using shooting aids on television, in magazines, and on the Internet. Why? Because it’s more accurate, that’s why. Think about it. We wait all year for hunting season, then spend days, even weeks aﬁeld, and yet our success or failure often comes down to a single shot. It only makes sense to make that one shot as accurate as possible.
Many hunters who spend time in the dense deer woods, stalking with shotguns and open-sight riﬂes are now carrying their guns differently, thanks to the inﬂuence of the military and armed forces. Gone are the days when hunters trudged through thick brush, gun slung over their shoulder, and then quickly forcing it into a shaky shooting position when a buck pops up.
These days, guns are more frequently carried in a semi-shooting position, butt held above the shoulder, one hand on the stock, the other on the forestock. This allows a shot to be taken in a fraction of the time of the other hold, something that’s not only applicable in some deer hunting situations but when tracking dangerous game or wounded animals anywhere in the world.
Last but not least, the discipline and hard work that our special forces are built on has entered the hunting world. Physical training and dedicated shooting practice has never been so prevalent, and our military is largely to thank.
I’ve never served in the military, but have many relatives and friends who have. My great uncle was a paratrooper who jumped on the beaches at Normandy and served on the front lines. I couldn’t get enough of his stories while growing up.
To the men and women who’ve served our country over the years, and continue to serve, I thank you. You help keep America free, and great. Your efforts and dedication
have prevailed in upholding our Constitution and Second Amendment rights, and for that, all hunters in the United States should thank you. Keep up the great work, and may God bless you and your families. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen has been a full-time writer for 15 years. To see instructional videos on shooting, hunting and more, visit his new website, OutdoorsNow.com.
Editor’s note: Part I in this series last issue covered the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.The United States Air Force is a unique service for a multitude of reasons. It was the ﬁrst branch of the service to allow women into combat roles (security police) and has an entire career ﬁeld dedicated to protecting air bases, aircraft, Air Force personnel and nuclear weapons. All of the other services require individual units to provide security for themselves, i.e. an Army aviation unit’s members, including her mechanics, are armed and trained as riﬂemen. In the Air Force, only one group is trained in the art of Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD).
Chuck Norris started his martial arts training when he was an air policeman in Korea. Besides Norris, the “Sky Cops” have a storied past full of unsung heroes, hard-fought battles and the distinction that not a single air base was ever overrun during the Vietnam War – and not for lack of trying on the North Vietnamese’s part either. It has taken nearly 70 years for this career ﬁeld to gain its true identity. Here is that story.
POST WORLD WAR II
In 1947 when the Air Force was officially separated from the Army, the need to protect not only the aircraft but now a cache of nuclear weapons became paramount. The old-time bomber pilot and commander Curtis LeMay saw the need for a unit to function like the infantry, but on Air Force bases. These airmen needed to be versed in the use of small arms, crew-served weapons, and squad- (ﬁre team in the Air Force), platoon- (called a ﬂight) and company- (called a squadron) level tactics. These units needed to be highly specialized in the deterrence and detection of unauthorized people or groups attempting to access a base (especially ones with nuclear missions) or missile ﬁeld. The Strategic Air Command led the way in developing their APs into highly trained soldier airmen, known unofficially as “SAC Trained Killers.”
During the Korean War, very few air bases came under attack. The APs were basically law enforcement on the base and guarded aircraft. No tactical plans had been implemented, let alone training for a base attack. The Air Force was lucky, but their luck would be tested mightily in the next go-around. The SAC model wasn’t followed by units in Korea, as the nuclear weapons were kept stateside.
As the Vietnam War ramped up in the 1960s, so did the need for the Air Force’s presence in and around America’s ally in Southeast Asia. The U.S. focused most of its air bases in South Vietnam and Thailand, with others further away in places like Guam and the Philippines. Those bases located on the mainland endured the greatest risk of attack, as they sat close to enemy forces. Amazingly enough, few of the Air Force bases came under attack in the beginning years of the war. The tactics and mindset were still very Korean War-oriented. Many APs arrived at bases in Southeast Asia to ﬁnd no weapons had been sent for them to use. Other bases had WWII leftovers – Browning Automatic Riﬂes (BARs), .30-caliber Browning machineguns, grease guns, Colt .45 ACP 1911s and M1 Carbines.
I spoke with Senior Master Sergeant Pete Piazza (retired) at length about what the Sky Cops (as they were lovingly dubbed) endured from 1966-72. Piazza served three tours of duty in Vietnam as an AP and then as a SP. He witnessed ﬁrsthand the Air Force go from no real idea of how to defend a base to being awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Bien Hoa Air Base on Jan. 31, 1968, during the Tet Offensive.
Piazza took charge of his bunker when his leader, Capt. Maisey, was killed by a rocket. A staff sergeant at the time, he spent the next eight hours running through heavy machinegun ﬁre, rockets and sniper ﬁre to keep his men fully supplied with much-needed ammunition and water. Piazza was quick to educate me on a couple of little known facts.
“Ninety percent of the SPs that were at Air Force bases when Tet started had never seen combat,” he told me.
He also said something that intrigued me: “The Air Force was the only branch of the service that didn’t have one of their bases overrun by the enemy.”
Why was that? Men just like Piazza. But ask him and he’ll say, “I was just doing what everybody else was doing.” While humility is the true sign of a hero, I will have to disagree with Pete on this one. Silver Stars aren’t just handed out, especially to enlisted USAF airmen.
Undoubtedly, there were others who performed as bravely as Piazza did on that January day so long ago. I can’t possibly ﬁnd and speak to them all; some, including his direct supervisor, Capt. Maisey, were killed on that day and in the days to come as Tet raged on. Piazza certainly wasn’t part of any “chair force.” He was every bit an infantryman that day as Audie Murphy and Chesty Puller.
Ask any soldier and he or she will tell you: Whoever owns the night has the advantage. The SPs were some of the ﬁrst units in the Vietnam War to receive ANTVS-2 scopes, nicknamed “Starlight” because of their use of ambient star and moon light. These scopes were some of the ﬁrst real attempts at night vision and changed the face of war forever. The riﬂemounted scope gave the user night vision out to 400 meters, while a crew-served weapons version, the ANPVS-4, worked out to 1,000, and an off-weapon version, the ANPVS-5, allowed sight out to 1,500 meters. For those airmen who had them, night shifts became a little less nerve racking.
One asset was in great supply, and gave the SPs another advantage at night – military working dogs, MWDs or K9s. The Sky Cops would walk the perimeter at night with their dogs. The SPs couldn’t see any better just because they had a dog, but the dogs could sense the presence of intruders, and on more than one occasion they stopped enemy sappers before they had the chance to breach the perimeter fence. For whatever reason, the Viet Cong also had a healthy fear of these K9s and kept their distance as word spread of their presence on the air bases. At the height of the K9 program, in January 1967, there were 476 dogs deployed. The dog handlers carried a special version of the M16, called the GAU-5/A. It was shorter and allowed the handler to control the dog and ﬁre the riﬂe one-handed if needed.
It wasn’t until after Tet that the Air Force wrote its ﬁrst deﬁnitive, battle-tested, air-base ground defense manual to be used in the years ahead – especially during the Cold War.
THE MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT
On May 12, 1975, Cambodian naval ships captured the S.S. Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant marine ship, in international waters. Negotiations broke down and a rescue mission was planned. The closest unit with combat experience was the 56th Security Police Squadron stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. After the CH-53 Knife helicopters plus some HH-53 choppers left the base, Knife 13 disappeared from radar 40 miles out. It is widely thought that mechanical issues caused the crash. All 18 security policemen and four crew members and a linguist died.
Moments before take-off, a picture of the ill-fated Sky Cops in Knife 13 was taken. Thirty minutes later all 23 passengers were dead. The image leaves a haunting legacy of sacriﬁce and how short life can be in a combat zone.
As the Cold War heated up, America’s nuclear arsenal followed suit. Most nuclear assets came under the purview of the USAF, and more speciﬁcally SAC. SAC was the brain child of LeMay and was arguably the best run major command in the Air Force. SAC operated bases for bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, as well as bases that
supported missile ﬁeld operations. These wings were subject to remarkably stringent inspections, the failure of which would result in the ﬁring of the senior staff of the wing.
The SPs were responsible for several missions on SAC bases: the protection of the weapons storage areas, where the nukes were stored; and the physical guarding of the B-52s and KC-135s, air refuelers, that were on “alert.” Being on alert required the aircrews to live in a special facility next to the aircraft. At the sound of the klaxon, the crews rushed to their aircraft and were ready for take-off to top secret destinations. The SPs guarded all of these locations, day and night, 24/7/365. At places like Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, guard duty tested one’s desire to be a cop.
Missile ﬁelds also demanded the attention of the SPs. These ﬁelds were vast and remote. Cops worked seven days straight, often living out of campers attached to the back of pick-up trucks. The missile ﬁelds weren’t located in tropical locales either. They were spread across states like Montana, Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota. Working conditions for the cops were less than ideal; in fact, at times the conditions resembled the Arctic Circle more than the continental United States. But defend these locations the SPs did, and to this day, still do. In 1997 security police career ﬁelds of law enforcement and security specialist were merged into one ﬁeld and renamed Security Forces. This change gave the cops more ﬂexibility in manning assignments, as well as providing cross training.
MODERN-DAY WAR ON TERROR
The USAF’s modern-day Security Forces function even more like infantry units than the cops in the past. They have all the weapons of the infantry – the M240, M249B, M4, M9, M203, 81mm mortars and M24 sniper systems. They are the ﬁrst service to deploy female snipers and have now trained multiple women in this role.
The Air Force’s cops continue to become a “high speed, low drag” group. They have a squadron that is airborne qualiﬁed, stationed in Georgia. This group of cops even made a combat jump with the Army into Iraq. Air Mobility Command has also developed a group called the Ravens. In this group of Security Forces, airmen accompany aircraft into dangerous regions of the world where there is no on ground security for the aircraft. These men and women travel the world providing security for these USAF assets and serve as Force Protection advisors to aircrew members. Other major commands have similar.
The Air Force continues to change with the times. It just so happens that the “Sky Cops” are leading the way when it comes to installation, asset, nuclear and personnel security. The lessons learned in the Jungles of Vietnam and Thailand, as well as the lessons of the Cold War in Europe and the frozen missile ﬁelds and bomber facilities of America are the foundation under which the new generation of Sky Cops continue to grow and evolve. ASJ
My name is Rachel Trexler and I grew up in the rural backcountry of Mims, Fla., I am a Marine Corps veteran and a mother of two adorable hell-raising tiny humans: my son, four-year-old Rylan, and his nine-month-old sister Raven. As I kiss their faces, my warrior heart echoes the reminder that there is no limit to the fierceness with which I will protect my family, which is why now, as a stay-at-home mom, I still choose to carry a gun in my day-to-day life.
I WASN’T RAISED AROUND FIREARMS. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that I fired my first gun. I can recall being anxious – it was a revolver – and I was qualifying my horse to receive a law enforcement certification. It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law-enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
Years later, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology and an Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology. However, it was when I answered the call to join the ranks in the military that cemented the magnitude of our country’s freedoms, and the sacrifices others have made defending them. I can unequivocally say being in the military made a huge difference in becoming the woman I am today. It is not to say a woman has to be trained by the military to appreciate and/or own and shoot guns, but I still have fond memories of the M-16A2 service rifle with old iron sights. There is nothing compared to learning to shoot day in and day out – and it was all about you and your rifle. I memorized its statistics and range, I field stripped it, cleaned it and put it back together a million times over – I literally slept with it pretty soundly too, if you ask me.
I HAVE SINCE HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the Marine Corps, but have not stopped improving my shooting skills, and I now practice the art of tactical accessorizing. Much like the awesome feeling of getting a new pair of heels, I felt like a newly crowned beauty queen when I was gifted an Eotech Holographic sight for my AR-15 – was it Christmas Day? Being fashion conscious, I can’t leave the house without my Emerson Karambit knife. For Valentine’s Day, I was the girl who got a Tiffany’s dog tag with my children’s and fiancée’s initials inscribed, as well as a Gerber Ghostrike blade to take down the mountain with me as I shred on my snowboard. Outstandingly, women are now influencing the firearms market, which at one point exclusively targeted male consumers. I’m proud to be one of these women. Not all people choose to carry a weapon. Some choose to carry nothing at all, and that’s OK in my eyes. This is one of the rights protected by the United States Constitution. Anyone can choose.
FOR ABOUT EIGHT YEARS, I was head of security for a restaurant/bar in the historic downtown district of Melbourne, Fla. Closing in the dark and very early hours of the morning, I was grateful for my Second Amendment rights, as I retrieved my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield from the safe and headed for home. While the current debate on the legal right to carry intensifies, the number of women who are choosing to bear arms is increasing exponentially. My Shield is a prime example of this; gun manufacturers continue to increase products geared towards the ladies. After all, it’s a .40-caliber that can be worn on the waistband of my yoga pants and offers the luxury of a low recoil. The fact that two perfect worlds – gun carry and yoga pants– collide with my 5.11 range/yoga pants solidifies that women have made their presence known and manufacturers are listening.
IN BETWEEN HAVING my son and daughter, I chose to attend the police academy, ultimately achieving my law-enforcement certificate. It was during one of these academy days that I found myself competing against a fellow veteran – former 1st Battalion Army Ranger Nicholas Worthy (see American Shooting Journal’s Behind The Badge feature Heart Of Bronze in the July 2015 Issue) – in the tactical shooting challenge. Even though I took second in that competition, it was that decorated ranger who took first. He is now a field training officer with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and my handsome fiancée. Our beliefs run parallel – whether you are purple, minion blue, male or female, everyone is equal.
The Second Amendment, by varying degrees depending on the state, has recently led to a controversial topic – open carry. In Florida, legislators are introducing bills that would allow citizens to carry weapons openly. In my own rationale, any person who carries a gun also bears the very heavy yet necessary burden to carry responsibly. This responsibility extends to whether I carry openly or concealed. However, if Florida does pass open-carry laws, I just might be able to accessorize a few new holsters that would match my daily wardrobe.
As my wardrobe collection expanded, I found a convenient place for my Heckler & Koch P2000 SK .40, which is now secured under my steering wheel. It’s kind of the same to me as Burberry in the fashion world, and I love them both. There are plenty of other mothers like me, such as my children’s godmother, Deputy Michelle Sweet. She works for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. One day, she put on a pair of combat boots, pulled up her hair and enrolled alongside me in the academy. Deputy Sweet’s importance to the law-enforcement field is magnified because she is a woman and her leadership cannot be overstated.
Because of women in strong roles and their resilience in a historically male-dominated career, other women confidently set their sights on similar positions, and are getting the opportunity to serve alongside male counterparts in all areas of formerly male-only jobs, including military combat roles, SWAT teams and other special operations units. This is proof that we as a society are evolving when it comes to understanding the capabilities women possess.
IN 1788, RICHARD HENRY LEE proclaimed, “To preserve liberty, it is essential the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them … ” It is pertinent that those of us who carry and train with weapons aid in the next generation’s safety, so mothers like us will practice, as well as teach our children the importance of gun safety and awareness. What is the best part of being friends with other mothers who carry? I don’t need to discuss why I just locked my purse up in her safe and opened that bottle of wine for a girl’s night in. The responsibility to maintain our guns in a safe manner falls directly on our shoulders. Practicing safety is paramount; there is no room for error.
When it comes to shooting, my family-owned Armalight AR-10 will always leave me smiling like I’m back cheering on the football field. My Burris 8-32×44 scope is excellent at spotting the rounds I’m sending down range. After all, it’s a long, long walk to that target. That unmistakable sound of a .308 or 7.62×51 will turn heads like a woman in a red dress.
What’s so exciting about our present day is there is no longer a norm for how things should be. Our rights protected under the Constitution are applied equally to everyone, as they should be.
MY NEXT MISSION IS LAW SCHOOL, although now that military infantry divisions are open to women, a girl could be tempted.
Going forward, I’ll be keeping a close watch on the evolution of new gun laws that may allow firearms to be carried on school campuses. Human beings have an inherent right to protect ourselves, our families and our properties. Our founding fathers placed such importance on this, it is second only to my freedom of speech.
Our first president, George Washington, declared, “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself … They are the American people’s liberty … ” The Bill of Rights is just as ingrained within my veins as my blood type. The Second Amendment, withstanding all opposition thus far, still remains to ensure that individuals who wish to bear arms can do so. And with that, the numbers of women who choose to legally own, carry and shoot guns will continue to multiply.
THE REASONS A WOMAN CHOOSES to carry are often as diverse as women themselves. But for me, I carry because I choose to be a wife and mother who will always be at the ready; to fiercely guard and protect those I love. I’m the woman who chooses to accessorize with an extended mag in my everyday carry, because the cop I’m marrying just simply wouldn’t fit in my purse. ASJ
Having been raised as a hunter, I am guilty of forgetting how important that simple pleasure is to my life. What defines my personality is the ability to take up a weapon and go to the woods to enjoy the sport with never a thought of what it would mean to lose that privilege, or what it would take to regain that part of me if, God forbid, I was so challenged.
Hunting has always been an integral part of my life; it is my connection to God, the land and to those who over the years have meant the most to me. It is a concept that many men far more articulate than I have tried to define over the years. I can only offer my belief that it is the hunt itself and not the kill that adds character to our lives, but the kill necessarily punctuates the act with the finality that completes the experience. When this activity is something you do well, imagine the struggle it would take to regain your soul if it was lost.
There are folks out there who have never been exposed to hunting, never considered taking it up or participated. What I have enjoyed over the years is watching when an introduction to the sport is done correctly and in the company of people with similar backgrounds and values – we gain another good soul to our ranks. Now, when you take men who already have focus and intelligence, such as our special operations personnel, and put them into this scenario, you see a transformation that is smooth and seamless from warrior to hunter; after all, these are just two different words for the same thing.
Bobby Dove was a Green Beret medic who lost his right arm and leg in Afghanistan in 2012; his road to recovery revolved around adapting to his situation so he could get back into the woods. Hunting was that one thing that would define being normal again. Three months after his medevac he was on Buck Mountain in Virginia with us, and I watched him focus on the task at hand with repeated failures as he worked to regain what he thought he had lost. When he was eventually successful in completing his hunt by fair chase and on his own, you could see the transformation. He is a part of my family so I was there to see it, and it was the pinnacle of my hunting career.
Not long after that hunt, Dove was selected to participate in an event put together by an organization called Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWW) for their flagship event called Takin’ Bacon 2014. This is where wounded special operations personnel are teamed up with some of the finest dog men in the South just to hunt feral hogs.
When Dove and I initially arrived at the event, I was happily surprised to see Chris, an Army Special Forces wounded veteran who I had met in Dove’s hospital room when he first returned from overseas. Chris, a double amputee, was attending the event as one of the hunters. Chris had never hunted before this event, but ended up taking the most hogs – four all together – as well as the largest: 285 pounds. If you are one of those folks who likes to keep score, here is the breakdown of that weekend: eight special operations Purple Heart recipients took 24 hogs in three days. Oh, did I forget to mention that there were no guns allowed on this hunt – it was conducted solely with knives.
This was not meant as a stunt. The knife was one of the first human weapons, and is often the weapon of last resort. It is a symbol of the level of commitment that each special ops person makes to ensure the job gets done – simply put, to never quit. A specialized knife was designed for this event by Mil-Tac Knives and Tools, and each of the hunters were presented with one of their own. It is a serious tool for men who understand the importance and value.
If you look at many special ops logos – Green Berets, Rangers, Navy SEALs, even the center of the Purple Heart – you will find the bladed weapon.
The hunt was purposely made to be difficult. It was imperative that these intensely committed individuals were challenged. If you were to take this group to a canned-hunt area and sit them in a box blind over a bait pile so they could pull a trigger on a released pig, they would laugh in your face. To be worthy, a thing must be earned.
I have attended several charity events over the years. The most remarkable impression I have from this experience was SOWW’s approach with these hunters; they were not going to be able to blend into the surroundings. Each was given a blaze-orange cap and told the only requirement of the weekend was that they wear them, so the focus of all other participants and visitors would be on them. Once the hunt began, they would be turned over to the dog-handler guides. The rest was easy; they were here to enjoy themselves. I also found that the warm family atmosphere represented by the presence of some very respectful kids made it feel as if I was attending a family reunion more than a charity function.
If you are going to do something, you should do it right. It was no coincidence that SOWW masterfully orchestrated this event by pairing the hunters with dedicated dog men who know what they are doing. The low-country swamp is no place for amateurs, be they man or dog, and to watch the performance of both at the top of their game was a rare privilege for me. These dogs are not pets; they are just as dedicated and professional as the operators who followed them into the impenetrable brush and waist-deep muck. The demonstration of their singularity of purpose was, in a word, magnificent. Doing what their kind has done for man for thousands of years, these animals made the connection of swamp, man and dog to represent the very essence of hunting. For a moment this changed the focus of a wounded man from what he thought he couldn’t do to what he can.
The swamp does not care how many legs you have or who you are; you must earn your place here and when you have done this, in the company of men and dogs that must prove themselves every single time they face these obstacles, you become accepted into their circle, and the accomplishment makes an indelible mark on your soul.
For me the purpose of the entire event was captured in this example: One of the hunters, a veteran of Mogadishu – yes, that Mogadishu – who was reluctant to participate in the event at all and initially held back, eventually hit the swamp behind the dogs in the dark of night. He emerged from that experience wet to the waist, briar-cut and bruised, his hands stained with the blood of his quarry, and started immediately texting one of his wounded teammates to tell him how he should come to the swamp with him for next year’s event.
Each step in the process of a wounded soldier’s recovery has its place and meaning. No one thinks that a single hunt is a cure-all, but there are wounded operators out there who sustain both the physical and mental effects of war, and who we must reach. We have to let them know what could be the most important message of their lives – you are not alone.
Having had this opportunity to meet and come to know these exceptional individuals has made an impression on me that is hard to articulate. I can only say that my pride in my country and love for our way of life has been reinforced. For those of you looking for what being an American truly means, I know some men who can show you. You can bet that I will be back amongst them next year.
With the camaraderie of other wounded operators on that hunt, Dove was so impressed that he became a SOWW board member. Please help support this organization, their events and the fine work they do. ASJ
* Bobby Dove and his Green Beret teammate Cliff Beard operate Hooligan Charters out of Destin, Fla., and provide inshore fishing adventures.
* Clint McDaniel, one of the dog handlers who volunteered his time and effort to the SOWW charity hunt, is a top-shelf taxidermist with Candler’s Taxidermy Studio in Pelzer, S.C.
* Mil-Tac Knife and Tool created the knives that were presented to each of the hunters. Visit them at mil-tac.com.
Editor’s note: At the request of the author and SOWW, the names and exact location of this event has not been shared.
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: 501(c)3, Bobby Dove, Candler's Taxidermy, Charity, Cliff Beard, Clint McDaniel, Feral Hog hunt, fishing, Hogs, Hooligan Charters, Hunting, Hunting with knives, Mil-tac Knife and Tool, Military, SOWW, Special Forces, Special operations Wounded Warriors, Walt Hampton
There are endless great causes out there and many dedicated to our veterans. Some are focused on our wounded, others solely to Special Forces and yet others might only address a specific demographic or mission. There is yet another group that many have forgotten, but they are never far from the hearts and memories of their brothers in arms and families. Battlefield Recovery is solely dedicated to locating, recovering and returning the remains of 83,112 servicemen and -women still listed as missing in action (MIA). These are veterans who expand past the barriers of specific groups – they belong to all of us.
Meet Frank Lauria, a retired Navy SEAL (over 20 years), former Director of Advanced Training for Navy SEALs with over 35 years in special operations and contract security work on six continents, who has multiple agency high-level clearances and has lead paramilitary operations with up to 2,000 multinational personnel. This only touches on a small portion of Lauria’s background and expertise, but he is now dedicated to the mission of finding our lost and forgotten, and has created a charity organization called Battlefield Recovery to do just that. Lauria’s goal is summed up by their motto: “Let’s bring them home.”
American Shooting Journal What is Battlefield Recovery?
Frank Lauria We are a nonprofit 501(c)3 service-disabled veteran organization solely dedicated to locating, recovering and returning with the honor they earned the remains of the most forgotten and neglected of all veterans – those missing in action. Every service member knows the code: no one left behind!
What many do not realize is that tens of thousands of soldiers still remain listed as MIA:
Unfortunately, for many who made the ultimate sacrifice to their nation, that promise has yet to be honored. Battlefield Recovery is an organization of men and women dedicated to fulfilling that promise. We decided someone has to do something.
ASJ This seems like quite a daunting task. Who are the people on your team?
FL At our core, the team consists of a highly decorated senior NCO from the Army’s Special Forces and survival expert, a former Marine sergeant, a dedicated law enforcement professional, the families who lost one of their own, and me. A few of us met while working together in Iraq, and through our own experiences in high-threat situations, we know the value of being absolutely certain someone would care enough to come and go to the ends of the earth to bring us home. No one deserves to die alone and forgotten. Battlefield Recovery wants to be there until every story ends.
ASJ When do you expect to go on your first mission?
FL We are planning two missions starting in the fall of 2016. One to Papua New Guinea, north of Australia, and the other to Guadalcanal in the southwest Pacific. Logistics will determine which mission starts first, and we plan to leverage the latest technology and expertise of dedicated researchers, archeologists and field workers. No stone will be left unturned. No jungle left unsearched, and no location is too remote.
ASJ What if a family member wants your help to find a veteran who is MIA. Can they reach out to you for help?
FL Yes! We are already building our mission schedule, and have not even scratched the surface of knowing each and every story. We want to hear from these families, what they know of the final incident and what the impact has been to their families. We want to know their story.
ASJ How can people help bring our brothers in arms home?
FL There are a few ways to help. Many people have immeasurable expertise to include first-hand knowledge of areas, the backstory and historical data. We will be looking for more people to help with every individual mission. Each one is unique. People can also assist by making a tax-deductible donation so that the equipment, research vessels, dive and expedition gear can be readily accessed so no mission is ever without support. Help us return those who have been waiting for so long.
ASJ Thank you, Frank
FL My pleasure, thank you. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you want to help Battlefield Recovery or have a story of your own, visit them at BattlefieldRecovery.com.
Growing up in Compton, Calif., wouldn’t be easy for anyone. This is a part of our country where gang violence and drugs are prevalent and tough to steer clear from. However, for Jose Martinez, living near these negative distractions was a way of life where he did his best to survive and make smart decisions.
In an effort to better himself, Martinez enlisted in the US Army to serve our country in Afghanistan. He was in the infantry division and stationed near Kandahar where his unit saw regular action. “There was rarely a mission that we didn’t have a few casualties, or at least get shot at,” says Specialist Martinez a three-year Army infantryman. His plans were to make a career of the military because, among many aspects, he enjoyed the camaraderie, stability and brotherhood it provided.
As a kid, Martinez struggled with his weight and self-esteem, finding it hard to think highly of himself. When he got older and lost weight, he learned to appreciate who he was as a person and stood a little bit taller. Prior to departing for Afghanistan he met a met a very nice lady through friends and they hit it off. After he deployed, he would make a point to contact her after missions, send her flowers on Valentine’s Day and keep in touch regularly. Little did he know that one day she would be his rock, eventually becoming his wife and life partner.
On a routine mission Martinez encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) that rendered him unconscious and disfigured his body. The injuries he sustained would change his life forever in so many ways. “When I woke up I was disgusted with myself and my body, just as I had been during my childhood.” The explosion cost him both of his legs and an arm. The doctors had informed him that he would be permanently attached to a wheelchair and would be lucky if he would ever be able to stand for five minutes, let alone walk.
Martinez was determined to prove the doctors wrong and now spends the majority of his time on his prosthetics, regardless of the pain they cause him by constantly breaking skin around his waistline. “This is just a small price I pay to feel somewhat normal,” says Martinez. Learning to love his body has once again become a constant struggle. He is missing limbs and is badly scarred.
During the first stages of recovery Martinez was consumed by prescription pills. Often times, he felt using pills would help him sleep and forget that he had lost his arm and both legs. In fact, there were several instances when he tried consuming so many pills in hopes of not waking up. The pills were helping him run away from the reality that was ugly and disgusting. That being said, we are reminded that 22 veterans a day commit suicide, and that most narcotics just numb the pain until the cliff of depression consumes them. Martinez is proud to say he has not taken a pill in well over two years and regularly reminds others that pills are not always the best answer. “If I were still on pills, I’d be in the corner scared to leave my house, and that’s not me,” explains Jose.
Martinez is thankful to several people who he has encountered during recovery, and helped him defy all odds by learning to walk – he can now truly stand proud. “I have learned to love every part of me all over again,” says Martinez. Venturing out into public for the first few times was difficult, both physically and mentally. When people stared, it was tough for him to ignore the looks. His wife always reminded him that it really didn’t matter what people thought since he wouldn’t be seeing them again anyway. “Having her by my side throughout this entire process has given me a realistic hope in humanity. She has shown me how proud she is and I love standing tall next to her,” explains Martinez.
Never forgetting his roots and how tough life was and can be, Martinez now regularly engages in motivational speaking for school kids, veterans and other groups. “I get nervous, my heart races and palms sweat, but before I know it I’m done talking and time has flown by,” says Martinez. He enjoys telling folks that nothing is impossible and that if you put your mind to it, you will be successful! Motivating people brings a huge smile to his face, as he is able to show others that success with anything comes from the inside.
Growing up, Martinez idolized Michael Jordan and owned several pairs of his sneakers, some of which he still wears today. Just as Jordan never gave up, nor has Martinez, and he uses that same outlook to persevere under any circumstances. He understands that there will be setbacks and failures on the journey of life, but remains very determined to defy the odds. “I want kids to grow up and truly believe that they can be what they desire, spark their imagination and inspire them to dream,” says Martinez. Through all of this he remains humble, and says that he is just doing his job by helping others.
Prior to joining the military he had never hunted or fished, let alone fired a rifle. Growing up he always wanted to learn, and appreciated that people could independently feed themselves in these ways. “Hunting and being able to provide for my family seems very American to me,” he says. “I never imagined I’d be capable of, or even have the opportunity to hunt, especially after my injuries.”
In August 2013 Martinez was on a diving trip off the Caribbean island of Bonaire when he met a guy named Hugh. Hugh had promised him that he would get him shooting again, so the two exchanged numbers. A couple months later Hugh called and invited Martinez on a pheasant hunt in Sioux Falls, S.D. “Hugh helped me learn how to shoot all over again, and I haven’t stopped hunting ever since. I cannot thank that man enough,” says Jose. Since then he has embarked on several adventures hunting hogs, elk and other critters with assistance from Lonestar Warriors Outdoors and the Veterans Sportsman Alliance, an organization dedicated to wounded veterans and whose motto is, “Benefiting the most worthy among us.” Actually, the VSA has become Martinez’s second family.
Hunting has provided Jose with the motivation to become better at walking so that he will eventually be able to hunt different types of terrain. Being outdoors makes him feel human again. He feels as if he has no wounds, and is part of the natural world without judgement. Martinez is able to push his body to the limit, and challenge himself to walk on his prosthetics, which in turn makes him feel invigorated and free.
Jose wants today’s children to understand that hard work does pay off. “If kids just had the opportunities to explore sports like football, basketball, archery, skiing or shooting without worrying about money, that would be amazing,” says Jose. He would love to help organizations that reward kids for making good grades with these sorts of activities. In addition, through motivational speaking he hopes to encourage veterans to be outdoors, enjoy nature and heal emotionally. I asked him if he could say one thing to veterans returning from combat. He replied, “No matter what, you aren’t alone, there are people who truly care for you and will help.”
Jose Martinez is a Purple Heart recipient and modern-day hero. That is truly an inspiration for anyone. He is living proof that the American dream is possible, regardless of one’s disabilities or humble beginnings. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information on the Veterans Sportsman Alliance and what they do for our veterans, or how you can help, visit them at veteransportmanalliance.org. The American Shooting Journal featured jose Martinez on the cover of their November 2015 veteran’s issue.
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