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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. Woman With A Gun, the latest by New York Times Bestselling author Phillip Margolin is a very unique crime novel. What inspired this riveting thriller is the photograph seen on the cover of the book, which works as the focal point for this mystery. This book is really a story within a story as Margolin takes his personal experience and transfers it to Stacey Kim. She wants to become a writer and sees this Pulitzer Prize winning photograph at an art museum that inspires her to find the history behind it. Deciding to travel to Oregon, the setting for the photo, she discovers there was a Cold Case murder associated with it. The other piece of the plot has readers trying to unravel the killing of Raymond Cahill that occurred the night of his wedding. That evening, amateur photographer Kathy Moran took a stunning photograph of newlywed Megan Cahill standing on the beach, facing the sea, in her wedding gown, holding a western six-shooter. Moments later, Kathy discovered the body of Raymond Cahill, Megan’s millionaire husband, in their beach house. Margolin commented to blackfive.net, “In Georgia. I was keynoting a writing conference. In a restaurant restroom over the toilet was the photograph seen on the cover of the book. I was blown away with the many possible scenarios that were running through my mind. Has the woman killed her husband on their wedding night? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? I knew then I had the name of the book and the cover. The real story behind the photograph is not romantic and is actually bland. I asked the photographer, Leslie Jeter, because I was really curious. She was a commercial photographer at this wedding rehearsal. Everyone there were gun enthusiasts and had her take pictures, each one holding a different type of gun.” The two main characters are very compelling, complex, and well developed. Kathy Moran was a defense attorney that went up against a young prosecutor, on the fast track to success. After her drug dealer client was found not guilty, she appeared to have everything at her fingertips. That is until she was disbarred for possessing drugs. She quits law and finds peace in Palisades Heights, a town on the Oregon Coast, while pursuing her dream career as a photographer. Margolin is able to have this character that uses sex as a way to get ahead, appear at times sympathetic, and alternately between being good and bad. The male lead is Jack Booth who was demoted after being humiliated by losing to Moran and is now a special prosecutor. He is a womanizer, and someone who drinks and smokes way too much. He also is obsessed with Kathy Moran and allows this ten-year-long infatuation to influence how he handles his job. Margolin thinks that readers will appreciate “that the tone of the book became decidedly noir. I realized I was writing a story that could have been filmed in black and white in the 1940s starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as Jack and Kathy respectively.” Woman With A Gun is fueled by a very intriguing picture and well developed characters. Margolin has a straightforward and natural style with his many twists and turns throughout the plot. Readers are kept off balance, suspecting many different characters as the killer, as they engage in this page-turner story. Continue reading
Posted 16 hours ago at BLACKFIVE
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. Harry Bosch is back with Michael Connelly’s novel, The Burning Room. Readers will not be disappointed in this thrilling story that has Bosch at the twilight of his LAPD career mentoring a “mod squad” cop, full of ambition, vim, and vigor. As with his previous novels Connelly has Bosch being the victim’s advocate and always thinking “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” This book differs a bit in that Connelly has Bosch attempting to solve not one, but two cold cases as he works in the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit. Because the murder rate is significantly down in Los Angeles there is more manpower devoted to solving crimes that are decades old. The first case is highly charged and politically sensitive that involves a former Mayor who is now a possible Gubernatorial candidate. He used the case of Orlando Merced to promote his career. Merced, shot by a sniper, survived in a wheelchair with a bullet lodged in his spine. He died ten years later from complications, and Harry knows that the bullet can be the key to finding the shooter. Making matters more complex is the possible connection between this case, an arson blaze, and two robberies. Bosch’s new partner, Lucia (Lucy) Soto is investigating on her own time the deaths of a number of children killed in a fire. Although she was one of the lucky ones that survived, her life changed forever. After finding out Soto’s involvement in the Bonnie Brae killings Harry is willing to go along with her, bending some rules in order to have the cases intertwined. The book takes the reader on a journey as Soto and Bosch search for clues to finding the culprits. Connelly noted to blackfive.net, “The Los Angeles murder rate is way down. Their detective bureaus and staffing was built on the larger number of killings. They shifted to working on unsolved murders that are benefitted by all this new technology. When I started writing about Harry and the Cold Case squad I think there were six or eight detectives which was very realistic because I had access to it. Now its way bigger, like 24 to 28. I understood that in solving cold cases sometimes it could be very unsatisfying since both the victim and the perpetrator are already dead. Murders are cleared but tons of people do not necessarily go to jail. What is important is that family members get closure. This pretty much motivates Harry and the real homicide detectives.” Bosch is paired with a new partner, Lucy Soto, who can best be described as a female Harry Bosch. Although having no previous homicide experience, she is seen as a young and shining star in the LAPD. She matches Harry’s dedication; coming to work early, leaving late, and following the evidence no matter where it leads. They are both willing to be less than candid with their superiors and are not beyond upsetting high-profile people. Harry is willing to mentor her because he sees a lot of himself in Soto while Lucy is very willing to learn and listen to his words of knowledge. Connelly see similarities, “What I liked about this book is how Harry picks up that Lucy, his new partner, has a sense of mission like he has. It has been rare that he has come across anybody, any partner, that has the same sense and has been formed by a past drama that can rival Harrys. When he picks up on that he wants to pass his mission on and to share his knowledge with her. People do that with those who are like minds. Lucy can continue on as a cop and Harry can be in the background as a mentor. Especially since it is very clear from the last few books his time is up with the badge, but not as a literary character. I planted a number of seeds in the last three or four books that can show his continuation in some way. It does not necessarily have to be Harry Bosch up front.” Fans of Harry Bosch will be able to get multiple doses. Besides The Burning Room, there is a new series being produced by Amazon that will premiere in February of next year. It can be a binger’s delight as they see Harry “live” starting with the ninth story in the Bosch series, City of Bones. Also, the next Connelly book will include Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, and Lucy Soto. The Burning Room is a fast-moving and engrossing police procedural. The interplay between Bosch and Soto is very dramatic. Readers will be riveted to the storyline, but also learn about forensics, Los Angeles history, investigative techniques, and when to say good-bye to a job. Anyone who wants an exciting novel with a fascinating ending should read this book. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at BLACKFIVE
The latest from the guys at Ranger Up (Timmay!) - with a special guest, Mat Best of Article 15 Clothing. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at BLACKFIVE
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"...against that onslaught, one American held the line ... just 22 years old, nearly surrounded, bloodied but unbowed..." - President Barack Obama, about SSG Ryan Pitts Over at the Burn Pit, TSO has a great piece about SSG Ryan Pitts, someone we've written about for a long time: ...Wounded in both legs and with shrapnel in his arm, Pitts crawled onto the sandbags and fired a machine gun at the approaching insurgents. Alone and bleeding, the perimeter of his position breached, his predicament was grave. He could hear enemy voices as they closed in. He made a prediction about his fate: “I was going to die and made my peace with it.” Pitts would not go down without a fight, though. He began throwing grenades, but because his attackers were so close and the grenades had a five-second fuse, he would “cook them off” for three seconds before hurling them. After exhausting his supply of hand grenades, he picked up a grenade launcher and began firing almost directly straight up to hit targets surrounding his position... Go read the whole piece and the full article at the Legion. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at BLACKFIVE
TSO at This Ain't Hell has a MUST READ about the Veterans Affairs committee going down the shitter...thanks to the Democrats supporting a completely worthless member. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at BLACKFIVE
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Or Combat Units vs Support...whatever you want to call it... Well, the Marine Corps Times thinks it's a big deal. Is there a problem in the Marine Corps...? This NSFW video via FunkerTactical obviously shows that there is no problem AT ALL. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at BLACKFIVE
From our friends over at the NRA... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
[Annual repost] The Fallen Angel remembers the 173rd Airborne today...on the 8th of November in 1965, one of the toughest Airborne battles was fought in the jungles of Viet Nam. At about 0600 on the morning of 8 November C Company began a move northwest toward Hill 65, while B Company moved northeast toward Hill 78. Shortly before 0800, C Company was engaged by a sizable enemy force well dug in to the southern face of Hill 65. At 0845, B Company was directed to wheel in place and proceed toward Hill 65 with the intention of relieving C Company. B Company reached the foot of Hill 65 at about 0930 and moved up the hill. It became obvious that there was a very large enemy force in place on the hill,C Company was getting hammered, and by chance, B Company was forcing the enemy's right flank. Under pressure from B Company's flanking attack the enemy force—most of a Viet Cong regiment—moved to the northwest, whereupon the B Company commander called in air and artillery fires on the retreating troops. B Company halted in place in an effort to locate and consolidate with C Company's platoons, managing to establish a coherent defensive line running around the hilltop from southeast to northwest, but with little cover on the southern side. Meanwhile, the VC commander realized that his best chance was to close with the US soldiers so that the 173rd's air and artillery fire could not be effectively employed. He attempted to out-flank the US position atop the hill from both the east and the southwest, moving his troops closer to the Americans. The result was shoulder-to-shoulder attacks up the hillside, hand-to-hand fighting, and isolation of parts of B and C Companies but the Americans held against two such attacks. Although the fighting continued after the second massed attack, it reduced in intensity as the VC commander again attempted to disengage and withdraw. By late afternoon it seemed that contact had been broken off, allowing the two companies to prepare a night defensive position while collecting their dead and wounded in the center of the position. Although a few of the most seriously wounded were extracted by USAF helicopters using Stokes litters, the triple-canopy jungle prevented the majority from being evacuated until the morning of 9 November. The result of the battle was heavy losses on both sides—48 Paratroopers dead, many more wounded, and 403 dead VC troops. Here is the link to the tribute video by Big and Rich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozpdBvB0hek If you get a chance, raise a glass to the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd tonight ("Airborne!"). Many of the Viet Nam vets that trained me and my generation of paratroopers wore the 173rd patch on their right shoulder. Thank you. Update: In the Company of Soldiers has more on Lawrence Joel who saved a lot of lives on the 8th of November in 1965 and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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A V-22A Osprey lands on the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu during routine flight operations in the South China Sea, Oct. 31, 2014. The Peleliu is the lead ship in the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Osprey is part of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Hammond Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
From the folks at A&E: DOGS OF WAR spotlights combat veteran Jim Stanek, who returns home struggling with PTSD. He looks into getting a service dog to help him heal, only to discover how expensive they are, and how long the wait to be paired with one is. So he starts his own nonprofit to rescue dogs from kill shelters, train them as service dogs and partner them with struggling veterans at little or no cost. The show premieres Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 10PM ET/PT and then moves to Sundays at 10PM ET/PT beginning Nov. 16. In an era when most reality TV is hypersexualized, about cutthroat competition or designed solely to make us laugh at the culture of its “stars,” it is so refreshing to be associated with a series like this, which spotlights a man who uses the greatest pain in his life to offer the greatest comfort to the lives of others. Dogs of War is really the culmination of the work that Jim and Lindsey Stanek have done with their charity - Paws and Stripes. Jim and Lindsey found the perfect intersection of veterans needing a companion to deal with feeling isolated and shelter dogs (most likely heading to an untimely death) needing a home. In turn, they rescue each other. Catch "Dogs of War" on A&E this Veterans Day. Spread the word! B5, Out. Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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U.S. Navy divers and divers from the Royal Naval Force of Jordan conduct a search dive while participating in International Mine Countermeasures Exercise in the Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan, Oct. 29, 2014. IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The Navy divers are assigned to the Fleet Diving Unit 3, assigned to Task Group 523.3. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Rolston Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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U.S. Marines and U.S. Public Health Service members return during Operation United Assistance at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 31, 2014. The operation is providing command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
Over at Foreign Policy, retired Navy Commander John T. Kuehn writes about "If I could change one thing in the US military personnel system (1): It is time to extend the age of military retirement." Kuehn is the Major General Willam A Stofft chair of historical research at the Command and General Staff College, and, yes, he has a PhD. Here is why Commander (ret) Kuehn believes a change in the retirement system is needed. ...The current system was designed because between the 20 to 30 year stretch was statistically when military personnel had been physically and emotionally "used up." However, these conditions no longer apply. Today, folks are a lot healthier when they retire and could reasonably be expected to serve under the generally harsher circumstance of military service longer than they could in the past. The current system needs to recognize and account for the improvements in healthcare and lifestyle by those Americans who qualify for military service in its promotion and retention policies, and it should do this with meaningful policy change. .. The problem with this argument is that the author seems to be entirely disconnected from the last 13+ years of combat, and what that combat does to young men and women...possibly the disconnect exists because he is a reseracher and a retired Navy Officer, not a 40 year old infantry platoon sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. In backchannel discussions on this piece, Army soldier TCOverride offers up a solution for the retirement situation. I think you'll enjoy it. I call this the risk = return method. Combat tours--real tours, not quatar/doha/buehring tours--earn 2.5x the retirement rate. A one year tour counts for 2.5 years towards retirement (but not pay.) A non combat, but unaccompanied tour counts for 1.5. Tours based on any LSA earn 1.75%, except for individuals listed below. Any tour during which a person receives a PH, or Valor medal, counts for 3x. No multiplier is added for E9, or O6 and above. Especially E9, as they have, as a population (albeit with notable, and damned few exceptions) contributed nothing of measurable value. Unless E9 has PH or Valor awards. BSM without 'V' is pretty, but worth squat. No multiplier is added for people beyond minimum retirement (20 years) unless the recipient has a PH or Valor award (multiplier always counts for these people, regardless of length of service.) PH or valor award multiplier is not limited to tour in which award is earned, once earned, modifier applies to any and all future tours and the tour where award was earned. Additional awards gain a .5 modifier. 2 PH would earn 3.5, 2 PH+BSV earns 4.0, etc. E9 with BSV would earn the 3% modifier. Sailors and other undesirables only get tour multipliers if they participate in actual combat. Being a cook on a carrier is not actual combat. Being on a seal team is. Unaccompanied tours multiplier still counts for sea duty. Having a missile fired at your ship is combat. Docking at a port in a terrorist threat nation (like Yemen) would result in earning the multiplier only while docked/underway in that nation's waters. Marines on embassy duty in nations where Ivan or Mohamed are the given names of over 40% of the male population, or where women dress like ninjas, or where goat buggery is commonplace (with exclusions for Australia, Scotland, New Zealand) would receive a special rate of 1.75%, which would go to 5% if at any time a clinton or kerry is the SECSTATE. Of course, they could also do silly things to reduce the VA claims backlog like analyzing your medical condition(s) annually according to VA standards, and determining the severity/rating as you go, so that when you retire you already have a rating. MOH: automatically qualifies for 20 years' service retirement eligibilty. Service in any TRADOC (or other service equivalent) posting beyond 24 months without at least three requests by the soldier for immediate worldwide reassignment result in no accrual of years' service for retirement. Goes along with this Military Motivator: Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. Capital Offense, by Kathleen Antrim, has just been re-launched for this political season. The author used her vast experiences of being a national correspondent to create a very intriguing premise: how far will a political machine go to achieve ultimate power. This book takes the reader behind the scenes of a political race, touching on journalistic integrity and the power brokers. The author noted in the beginning of the book that she was inspired by the unregulated power of first ladies, with Hillary Clinton the spark that ignited the story. It is more a story of manipulative politicians as seem through the life of Warner Lane, his wife Carolyn, and his political pundits. In attempting to grasp political power they will stop at nothing, even murder, to achieve their goal. They are obsessed with the desire to see him become President, even willing to frame Carolyn for the killings they committed. The story exposes this and how many journalists look the other way, while never questioning relevant facts. That is until one reporter, Jack Rudly, investigates his dad’s death wondering if it was murder instead of an accident. Throughout the novel readers see the inner workings of getting someone elected while avoiding the many barriers in their path. Although people think the main character draws a comparison to Hillary Clinton she is more like Jackie Kennedy and Laura Bush combined. She is intelligent, sympathetic, and altruistic. It is obvious that Carolyn’s marriage to Warner is one of convenience, a business and power agreement. This marriage was not bound together by love but by ambitions. The author skillfully contrasts her with Warner Lane, showing how she is very successful professionally but has demons in her personal life, including an abusive husband. As the story progresses so does the reader’s dislike for Warner who never takes any responsibility, degrades in personality, and erodes into the world of moral bankruptcy. This can be seen in a quote from the book when Warner blames Carolyn who “caused him to lose control, caused him to hit her...” Antrim explained to blackfive.net, “I thought about how certain First Ladies want a voice in the administration. Carolyn had issues dear to her heart and did what she felt was needed to stay in power. She thought she had a good reason for what she was doing. Compare her to Hillary Clinton who has a forward aggressive personality. Even though she was not elected or appointed by the President she had enormous power. She demanded an office in the West Wing, which is very valuable real estate. Every other First Lady, past and present, has an office in the East Wing. Think about it, even national security advisors have some kind of oversight while the First Lady has none.” Readers might question if the plot sustains believability but they should think no further than some political pundits who had controversial deaths. In December 1972 Dorothy Hunt, the wife of convicted “plumber” E. Howard Hunt died in a suspicious plane crash. The Clinton White House counsel, Vince Foster, supposedly committed suicide; yet, there is forensic evidence that his body was dumped in a park. Ron Brown, the Secretary of Commerce in 1996 also died in a plane crash, but Antrim noted, “The autopsy report shows a cylindrical hole in Brown’s head consistent with a bullet wound. People might not believe the killings in this story but let’s remember people have been killed for far less than aspiring to achieve the most powerful position on the planet, the President of the United States.” The story faults many journalists for not wanting to expose the truth, as evidenced with this quote, “If the press doesn’t report the truth, the people don’t get the truth.” Antrim wanted to hammer this point home, that objective journalism is basically dead. She did a great job with it in this story even if some events were a bit exaggerated. She is discouraged with today’s reporting, “When reading the front page of a major newspaper you can see how biased the writer is by the word choice and the angle chosen. Even bloggers need to understand that there are rules unless someone is making a commentary and then they need to find an angle and use reputable sources to support it.” Capital Offense has a very believable plot considering the deceit, revenge, power and murder in this novel, basically, politics as usual. Besides being suspenseful and riveting, every concerned voter should read this book as an eye-opener to what political campaigns are really like. On a side note, Kathleen Antrim will be participating in the Veteran’s Benefit Book Fair on November 8th, because she thinks those who serve are amazing and should be recognized for the sacrifices made day in and day out. She is one of those that does the walk along with the talk considering she is currently the USO Director for International Thriller Writers and has done two tours entertaining the troops in the Middle East since many are readers. Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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Someone sent this cartoon from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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The following article is a special for BlackFive readers written by Elise Cooper (our favorite book reviewer). On November 8th in San Diego, California, the USS Midway will provide a dramatic setting as best selling authors plan on honoring military veterans presented by the Us4Warriors veteran’s support foundation and American Legion. The authors are hoping this will become a yearly tradition because it falls out on the weekend before Veterans Day. Book enthusiasts are invited to attend this unique event, “Veteran Benefit Book Fair” (www.veteransbookfair.org) between 10 am and 5 pm. Because proceeds go to veteran organizations people who want a book signed will have to buy books at the Midway/Fair bookstore. But the added benefit is that for every book sold a free book is sent to those on active duty. For the price of a Midway ticket, people can meet best-selling authors, purchase a book for signature, and take a tour of the Midway, a ship steeped in history. Readers can also have the opportunity to obtain a collector’s item, a personal written note from an author answering a question they always wanted to ask, or win one of many silent auctions of signed books by number one best selling authors including Nelson DeMille. The organizers hope that people will not be fooled by the title since there will be over forty authors, all from various genres from women’s issues to science fiction. Panel discussions with many of the authors will include: Veteran Characters”; “Female Heroines”; “Hot and Cold Wars”; “Terrorists and Politics” and “Guns and Needles.” In addition there will be a Q/A with Hank Steinberg, the executive producer of the television shows “The Last Ship” and “Without A Trace.” Others in attendance include Catherine Coulter, Charles and Caroline Todd, James Rollins, Ted Bell, C. J. Lyons, T. Jefferson Parker, Jan Burke, D. P. Lyle, Iris and Roy Johansen, W.C. Reed, Amy Hatvany, Andrew Kaplan, and Dale Brown. Also attending is U.S. Navy SEAL CDR (Ret) Rorke Denver, star the movie Act of Valor and U.S. Navy SEAL sniper LTCDR (Ret) Shane Reilly, former XO of the Navy SEAL Training Command. The authors want to emphasize that as Americans, we are living in perilous times and without those willing to sacrifice, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, to preserve our freedoms we would be in dire straights. They hope Americans will take the time to attend this patriotic event. Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. Saul’s Game is an original novel of the Homeland series written by best selling author Andrew Kaplan. It is a prequel that takes fans of this series back to 2009 and before. The plot includes the backstory on many of the characters and what influenced their current attitudes. The story has Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison returning to the Middle East, Syria and Iraq in particular. They are trying to find the al Qaeda terrorist Abu Nazir and instead come across different plots that would threaten the American forces and involve Arab tribal differences. Kaplan’s experiences have greatly contributed to the realism of the story. As someone who served in the US and Israeli Army he knows the make-up of the Middle East. In fact, what he wrote could be snatched from the views of former high-ranking CIA officials. These former officials speak about the alienation of the Sunnis, by the former Iraq Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the corruptness created by the Shiites, which all fits into the narrative of the story. Kaplan explained to blackfive.net, “I put into the book a scene that explains why many Americans just do not get what is happening over there. If the Sunnis take over Syria there would be an increase in massacres of the Christians and Kurds. Don’t forget the book was written over a year ago. In the Middle East there are no losers because all losers are killed. What Carrie and Saul are attempting to do is prevent the real enemy, Iran, from having Iraq as its puppet.” Saul’s Game allows readers to find out more of the early life of the main characters but also gives an understanding of the issues facing the Middle East today and why American troops should not have been completely withdrawn. On a side note he will be attending the Veteran’s Benefit Book Fair on November 8th in San Diego on board the USS Midway. He stated, “I am vey pleased to be included in this book fair that includes some wonderful authors. I think doing it on the Midway is a wonderful idea, including matching every book sold to a giveaway to active military personnel.” Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
Over at the Burn Pit, there's a nice write up on the older VSOs like the Legion and VFW and the newer ones. I've been a fan of the Legion's work (especially, recently), as well as work with Team Rubicon (should not surprise anyone here). I still work with Soldiers' Angels (right now, supporting those in and headed to Africa) and fully support TR. Go read the Burn Pit post now. Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. Full Measure, by T. Jefferson Parker, is a departure from the crime novels he has written in the past. This book is about the bond between siblings as well as those connected through military service. It puts a potent face to the names and numbers of those serving as they transition from war to peace, and from serving in the military to becoming a civilian. It is a novel that touches on many issues from PTSD to the plight of an agricultural family. The plot focuses on the experiences of those soldiers returning home. It also has sub-plots of political/controversial issues about governmental overreach and the right to bear arms. Although Parker does present both sides of these issues these sub-plots are a distraction from the body of the story as his main character, Patrick Norris, tries to find a place for himself in the civilian world after finishing his deployment in Afghanistan. Norris is trying to fulfill his dream of starting a small sport fishing business, only to find he is needed to help restore his family’s avocado farm after an arsonist destroyed much of it. He encounters his brother, Ted’s, strange obsessions that have a very dark undercurrent, being drawn into a circle of violent, criminal misfits. The most powerful parts of the story are when Parker describes how Norris and his Marine buddies attempt to overcome the horrors faced while serving in Afghanistan including watching their friends die and become handicapped. He struggles to defeat the demons of PTSD, bringing back the horrid memories of war. A quote in the book, “He saw the flash of light again. It was bright enough to obliterate the world…there was no sound either, as if his memory was being polite in public. The ghosts in his heart rose suddenly, then settled. Patrick lowered his gaze to the tiled floor and closed his eyes and let the voices swim around him.” Another quote in the book shows the disconnect between civilian and military life, “This was what he hated most about civilian life-the incredible slowness; the numbing discussion, the goop-thick assumptions…” Jefferson commented to blackfive.net, “What drove me to write this book is that Americans do not seem to understand the level of sacrifice. I did not get it until after speaking and spending time with those serving. Their level of sacrifice is completely different than for someone going to college. I do think many Americans want to say thank you, buy them a beer, but do not want to hear about what they really did or are going through. I really hope people understand what the vets are going through after coming home. Lets remember only about two percent are connected with someone serving, which means 98% of us do not know these guys and gals. I want to leave the reader with a sense of hope and optimism about the veteran.” Readers might wonder why the title, Full Measure, as Parker describes in the book the “full measure” of death and mutilations. What comes to mind is a line in the Gettysburg Address, “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” Jefferson told blackfive.net, “Patrick wonders what was the purpose of fighting in Afghanistan since it appears it was all for nothing. That is his view and one I share, although I hope we are both wrong. I interviewed a lot of vets for this book and there is anger because they question if their brothers died in vain. I put a variation of the Gettysburg Address line because it is relevant to this war when so many lost their lives, limbs, or part of their soul.” It becomes evident that Parker wished to connect Americans with those soldiers returning home. He captures the bonds of loyalty between brothers, those by birth and those “band of brothers” that served together. This novel brings back the age-old story of brothers: the comradery, competitions, and love. Anyone who wants to understand the mindset of recent veterans and the joys and tribulations they must go through should read Full Measure. On a side note, he will be participating in the Veteran Benefit Book Fair in San Diego on November 8th aboard the USS Midway, since he considers this a worthy cause. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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What is it that allows military types to manage the chaos of combat or disaster zones and succeed? And how can leaders in any organization or business learn from those lessons? To provide full disclosure, I first met Jake Wood via his military blog "Badger Jake" and later got to know him personally through my work to support him and Will McNulty as they headed to Haiti after a devastating earthquake on January 10th, 2010. Together, they formed Team Rubicon which many, many of you have supported. There have been thousands of books about leadership. So what makes Jake's book different? First, Jake Wood takes his experiences as a collegiate athlete, a Marine sniper, an entrepreneur, and as the leader of a disaster relief organization and effectively distills the recipe for, not just managing the chaos, but rising from the worst of circumstances and succeeding... that is truly what we all look to our leaders to do. Jake writes: ...But what I didn't know until after I left the Marines was how valuable the leadership skills I learned there would be off the battlefield... Jake's recipe goes beyond the usual military leadership style book and is appropriate anywhere - business, government, hospitals, non-profits...you name it. Anyone in any situation can apply these simple principles and shape a successful outcome. So what are they? Take Command - the methods/principles - are broken down into 4 parts: Prepare, Analyze, Decide, and Act. Each part is illustrated with high-energy examples and succinct lessons and is capped with a "mission brief" (for non-military types, it's a kind of a review of critical points). For example, in the Prepare Section, there are lessons on preparing your mind and body, building a high impact team, and being transparent and accountable (up and down). Take Command - Lessons in Leadership: How to Be a First Responder in Business is a highly effective guide for any leader or anyone aspiring to become a leader. The lessons are both timely and timeless, effective, energetic and succinct. It is worthy of your hard earned dollars and time. Buy this book! Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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An U.S. seaman signals an MV-22B Osprey aircraft launching from the flight deck aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in the Persian Gulf, Oct. 5, 2014. The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lawrence Davis Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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Discovering who you are is not just for teenagers. Midlife men must also rediscover the world around them while struggling with their own impending mortality and legacy, especially those who change careers and lifestyles. Middle-aged men like me are under siege, beset on all sides by personal ambition, internal expectations, familial pressure, disillusionment, uncertainty, and legacy. It’s a constant battle to balance the needs of the self and the needs of others and a struggle to discover which ones really take priority. Some win this battle and some tragically lose. Curmudgeonism is a state of mind, unwavering, unapologetic, and uninterested in what people think. We are the proverbial old dog that can’t be taught new tricks because we know the old tricks are tried and true. We have firm beliefs that can’t be shaken. Free trade is good. True leaders are rare. Happiness is a luxury. Golf is a waste of time and we don’t have enough years left to be unproductive. We don’t apologize for our views because we’ve spent half a lifetime developing them. Theory and idealism sounds good in school but only until it becomes cost prohibitive and the real world determines ground truth. Curmudgeons are uncaring about what people think and have low expectations on the world because it’s done little more than disappoint us. We’re middle aged and tired of looking, acting, feeling the way people want us to, so we’re breaking out and being who we were meant to be; irascible curs who make the world a better place through brutal honesty. We see this as our duty and take it seriously. Buy the ticket (kindle). Take the ride. This awesome book was written, unflinchingly, by my fellow curmudgeon (local 198!), Kelly Crigger. Crigger looks into the mirror and is now ambivalent with what he sees...at home in his own curmudgeonly skin...ready to band us all together to yell at all the kids on our collective lawns. The book opens with: I heard a guy say, "I didn't go to my best friend's funeral because I couldn't deal with it" to which I replied, "You're a pussy."... And just gets better and better. Inside you can find the 3 stages of curmudgeonism (I only wanted 2, damn you), maxims, quotes, terminology for the curmudgeon - essentially the "how to"...but the best chapter is the Curmudgeon insults which I now use daily. This is the must have for your Dad, best friend, Rabbi, plumber, neighbor, or anyone who is a curmudgeon, wants to be one, or needs to know how to live with them. Buy it now in paperback! Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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U.S. Navy Lt. Jose Garcia inactivates the Ebola virus in each specimen in a process that renders the virus safe for further analysis at a Naval Medical Research Center mobile laboratory on Bushrod Island, Liberia, Oct. 6, 2014. The center sent two mobile testing labs to Liberia to support Operation United Assistance. Each two-person lab is capable of testing up to 80 samples per day. U.S. Army Africa photo by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircrew prepares to conduct a resupply airdrop near Bayji, Iraq, Oct. 11, 2014. The C-130 dropped 14 containers of bundles, including seven bundles of fresh drinking water and seven bundles of meals ready to eat. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules airman checks to make sure the containers of bundles cleared the aircraft during a resupply airdrop mission over the region of Bayji, Iraq, Oct. 11, 2014. The C-130 dropped bundles totaling 3,800 meals ready to eat and 1,400 gallons of fresh drinking water. The airman is a loadmaster. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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If you want to read accounts of American badasses with big hearts and even better senses of humor, then this is the book you should buy. It covers the history of the Rangers in the War on Terror - missions from the assaults into Iraq and Afghanistan, to Jessica Lynch, Rhino, Anaconda, Winter Strike, recovery missions, you name it. These are personal accounts, often humorous, that are all together for the first time, under one cover. Here is a taste of Violence of Action... ...It was the night of November the 28th, and it was beginning to look like we would have a night off. Usually, if we didn’t have a mission by about seven in the evening, chances were we wouldn’t be going out at all that period of darkness. That night was a little different though, as the number one high value target in Iraq at the time came up on our radar. He was the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which was an Al-Qaeda front organization. This was one bad dude, and the intelligence that set this mission in motion was reporting that he and many other HVTs would be having a meeting at a wealthy Iraqi’s house in Al-Qaim, Iraq just outside of the Syrian border. Since this mission came down so late in the evening, a lot more effort had to go into the planning process, especially since the target was a three-hour flight away. The decision was made that our platoon would be flying out in three MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, and since we wouldn’t have time to walk in, we would be landing right on the ‘X’. The target building was rather large, so one squad would land to the front of the building just outside the courtyard walls, one squad (primary assault) would land right on the roof of the building, and the squad I was with would be landing to the rear of the building. This was a pretty big fish, and he reportedly always traveled with a well-armed security detail. The word was put out to expect a gunfight. It was almost December, and as we stood on the flight line in Balad it became very clear to all of us that it would be a chilly ride out there. The birds started to spin up, and before long we were boarding the black special operations helicopters for the long journey west. Generally, the helicopters we ride to work on have the doors removed so that we can get off the bird faster, and also so we can fit more people in by having guys riding with their legs dangling out. In the wintertime it is too cold to fly without doors on though, but unfortunately for us the helicopter crews had not put them back on yet. This made for possibly one of the most miserable flights of my life. We had a three-hour flight ahead of us, and because of my position in the aircraft, I had the cold wind blowing directly into me the whole time. My hands were numb, my face was numb, I couldn’t move my legs, and I had snot frozen all over the right side of my face. I must have looked like a mess! By the time we reached the refueling point that was the last (and only) stop on the way to the target building, I absolutely hated my life. Despite the miserable flight, I was still excited to be on this mission though, excited that we were going after public enemy number one in Iraq. This mission was the Ranger bread and butter – land on a high value targets house in the middle of the night to capture or, if he so chooses, kill him. Nowhere else in the military will you simultaneously love and hate your job as much as you do on any given day in a Ranger battalion. After the brief stop to top off the gas tank, we were back in the air with just a short trip to the target building. I had checked and re-checked everything I was carrying, making sure I was ready for what would inevitably be a shootout when we landed. Before I knew it, the ‘sixty seconds’ call came, and we had the lights of Al-Qaim flashing by below us. My adrenaline began to pump ferociously and I prematurely located and grabbed onto the D-ring on the end of my safety line, which kept me safely inside the helicopter until I was ready to de-plane the aircraft. You don’t want to be frantically trying to un-hook when the bird is landing on the ‘X’ like we were tonight. My right hand on the pistol grip of my rifle and my left on the D-ring, the thirty-second call rang out. Here we go, I thought to myself, teeth beginning to grind together in anticipation. The bird began to flare and descend, and the brown out from the rotor wash that ensued was one of the worst I had ever seen. Suddenly and without warning, the helicopter jerked violently back up in the air just before landing. Fuck, I thought to myself, we must be taking fire! Maybe an RPG was shot at us? We were warned to expect them during the mission briefing. Shit just got real; please Lord, just let us get off this bird so we can fight! Just as soon as we jerked back up in the air, we were coming down again what would be a block further away from the target building. I still had my left hand on the D-ring, and as I felt the helicopter jolt from landing, I pressed the gate of the D-ring open, releasing it from the floor and quickly shoved it in my left pocket while simultaneously jumping off the aircraft. Without missing a beat, we were in a full sprint towards the target building trying to cover the extra block we gained as fast as possible...... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at BLACKFIVE