Friday, September 19, 2014

More to the Story on Eric Frein? Red Flags Amid the Yellow Police Tape

Will alleged cop-killer Eric Frein be taken alive? I hope so. If he did in fact commit the acts he is accused of, he needs to be brought to justice. In addition, though, he needs to be thoroughly debriefed. He has important information to give to police and society. He has - or perhaps, had - answers to crucial questions.

What triggered the seemingly inexplicable rampage wherein state troopers were ambushed, a good man died, and another seriously wounded? What else besides murder was this meant to accomplish? And, most pressing: is anyone else involved, and what happens next?

Over the years, I've reported on a large number of major crimes (and, in my cub reporter days, on basic police stories). I've decoded evidence, seen patterns, and explored the insides of killers' psyches. This experience gives me no answers on the Pennsylvania ambush nor on Frein. But it leads me to sense that this incident is not as straightforward as it might appear. 

I believe that Eric Frein is connected to the shootings, and that he knows - or knew - most if not all of the story. Beyond that, though, I am more focused on the red flags than on the yellow police tape. Here's what I've noticed.

No one has come forward claiming to have seen Frein pull the trigger. Circumstantial evidence is strong that Frein is in fact the perp. But the evidence is circumstantial; and, again: no one saw him pull the trigger.

Frein left no manifesto. In "big message" crimes such as this appears to be, the perp often leaves a manifesto explaining how the killer justifies the crime. So far, no one claims to have received an explanatory message from Frein. Is the manifesto still in transit, or perhaps languishing in a neglected mail room? Is it on his person? His computer? Or never composed? If not, how did he plan to explain himself to the world, now that he has our attention?

Something went wrong with the plan. Frein could have remained a mystery killer, sparking fear and havoc beyond the confines of where the attack occurred, and leaving him free to kill more people. But Frein quickly lost both his wheels and the cover of anonymity.

More thoughts, and a recommendation, after the jump...

In Search of a Killer...

In Pennsylvania. AAR to follow...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When Warrior Hikers Go on Parade: Their very Own Deuce-And-a-Half

I couldn't resist posting this pic of the Warrior Hike parade vehicle and all-purpose cargo truck. The hikers finally got off their feet this past weekend, and rode the 2 1/2- tonner in the Trail's End Festival parade in Millinocket, Maine. Now, there's a float to be proud of!

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Which Our Warrior Hikers Reach the End of the Appalachian Trail

They made it to Maine! Congratulations, Appalachian Trail Warrior Hikers of 2014! It was a long journey, and now you have reached the end of the trail. And it is only the beginning...

More pics, after the squiggles...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On the 200th Anniversary of Our National Anthem: Madison Rising Rocks America

My great friends at Madison Rising tell me that 200 years ago today, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key watched the American flag rise over Ft. McHenry just outside of Baltimore after more than 24 hours of relentless bombardment by the British. What he did next would be celebrated by patriotic Americans for generations to come. He wrote our National Anthem.

What better way to feel the goosebumps than to listen to Madison Rising's gorgeous rendition of this magnificent song.

Hats off, please; hands over hearts; for the version from America.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's Another Fall Saturday for Black Knights Football: Army v. Stanford

Let's reprise the win from last week's great season opener! Go, Black Knights! Kickoff is 1700, Big Land of Open carry time. That's 5 p.m. for you civvies....


A tip of the rotor blade to Boq for sending this along. Is that the cutest thing you've ever seen, or what?

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Which Navig8r Offers Exegesis on Explanation of Cartels' Rise to Power

Navig8r found an article on Mexican Drug Cartels: How It Got to This. He sends the link, plus his wrap-up and analysis. Take it away, Nav...

Sound bite version: the various cartels used to be more or less under one umbrella, but when the Mexican government (partly as a result of a change in administration) started closing in on the guy in charge of the umbrella organization, he divided up his empire. Also, the change of administration disrupted the hierarchy and flow in the bribery networks. Bribers could not be sure of whom to bribe, and how much protection they were getting for their money.

In this environment, the newly independent, smaller cartels got greedy, started fighting it out, and the violence went through the roof. Further, the US and Mexico strategy of going after the kingpins produced additional fragmentation and violence as new up-and-comers competed to fill the vacancies as the old leaders as they were taken down.

Overall, a pretty good article. See comments at the bottom of the article regarding some alleged errors in the details, and alternate sources on the same subject.

Check six, keep five, and keep your powder dry.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cooking With the Troops Heads to Ft. Belvoir, BBQ and Dessert at the Ready!

Cooking With the Troops is heading in... to Ft. Belvoir for our annual 9/11 cookout at the Soldiers and Families Assistance Center. We shall have excellent fare: Barbecue from Concrete Bob; coleslaw and potato salad from Pork Barrell BBQ; cupcakes from Confections; and amazingly delicious gourmet chocs from Canada, thanks to Minicapt. Away we go....!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Management Aboard USS Cowpens: The Non-Existent Curse of the Cow Set to be Broken!

The Mighty Moo soon shall be under new management. Best of luck to the USS Cowpens and her incoming skipper, Capt. Scott Sciretta, previously of the USS Jason Dunham. A tip of the yardarm to Michael for sounding the horn on this one. Here's hoping the non-existent Curse of the Cow finally is broken!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Full Moon Over The Compound

Ready; set; Ow-ooooo.....!

Talking to Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for GX Magazine

One of the best things about being a journalist is that I get to meet fascinating people. I recently sat down across cyberspace for a chat with former SecDef Leon Panetta, on behalf of the National Guard's GX Magazine. Secretary Panetta struck me as keenly intelligent and deeply caring of our military, our youth, and society. He was gracious and easy to talk to, and I'm delighted I had the opportunity to talk to him. You can read the interview in the latest print magazine, or here at GX online. Tell them SKK sent you!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's Always S'mores Season, Here at The Compound

Here at The Compound, we take our s'mores seriously. So, too, does the U.S. Forest Service. A tip of the roasting twig to Minicapt, who sends this important bulletin, blasphemies (fruit in place of marshmallow? I think not) and all.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When a Sniper Became a Mascot: "There I Was" in Vietnam

Speaking of LZ's... here's a revisit from reader Clint Wickett, with his NSTIW tale of being on  the receiving end of a sniper in Vietnam. Take it away, Clint...

I remember a sniper on a knoll just outside the wire at LZ Gator in Nam. Every day at 1600 hrs he would fire five rounds on semi and never hit anything. For weeks there were all kinds of sweeps, patrols, plans and plots, you name it! But no one ever saw a sign of him or her. Afterwards there were all kinds of stories created about that sniper and it sort of became a mascot. Every day around 1600 hrs activity would stop around that portion of the perimeter to wait for the five rounds so we knew that he was alright. Naturally, the joke was that if anything happened to him he might be replaced by someone who could hit something. 

Another part of the story was that because no brass was ever found was that the sniper had to pick it up and turn it in before they would pay him his daily piaster. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brown Water Randy and LZ Woodland: In the Early Days Post-Vietnam

The Locus of LZ Woodland
Continuing the story of Brown Water Randy...

As I wrote yesterday, Randy's vision was different from that of mainstream groups aiming to show that Vietnam vets were well adjusted. Randy wanted to help the vets who were not so well integrated. He wanted to raise awareness of PTSD. He also wanted to offer fellowship and support to others who struggled with trauma-induced problems.

So Randy pitched me to write a newspaper story. He told me about his group while we sat on camp stools behind his fish store, eating a magnificent concoction of abalone and other sea delicacies. 

My questions probably seemed designed to deflate. Did the group meet with a psychologist? No. Did they have a formal structure? No. Charter? Plan? Twelve-step program? No on all counts. But, Randy said, the group helped in one significant way: It allowed the men to talk openly and without shame.

“If nothing else,” he said, “it takes the pressure off.”

The members took solace from knowing they were not alone. They also learned from one another that they could expect certain ups and downs. Although we lived in Davis and Dixon, California, the group met in the nearby town of Woodland.

And so it was that I wound up not only writing about LZ Woodland, but also being a part of it. I had a good reason to go. My closeted veteran boyfriend, who never spoke about his service but who got awfully jumpy in war movies, reminded me in some ways of my dad. I brought him along to LZ Woodland.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Revisiting the Myth of the Whacked-Out Vietnam Veteran: My Old Friend, "Brown Water Randy"

Your typical Vietnam veteran?
In the 1980's, society thought so.
I've been going through my old paper files, and came across some materials from when I wrote about the  Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program  (VVLP) for VFW magazine. The VVLP was a great group.  In 1981, its members began working to counteract the myth of the whacked-out Vietnam vet. They operated at a grassroots level, under a national umbrella. 

But while this key organization reached out broadly to the public, others worked quietly in their own way. One of these "silent angels" was my old friend, "Brown Water Randy." 

I met Randy in the early 1980’s, shortly after PTSD was identified but before American society knew anything about the syndrome. This was in the days when a lot of men still hid their service medals under the bed, and didn’t talk about Vietnam for fear of being branded a “baby killer.”

In the public's eye, every Vietnam vet was Rambo, who had a certain coolness, but also was very deeply disturbed and just a tad bit ridiculous.

Randy owned a shop near my house. He caught and sold his own fish. He was a friendly-gruff, in-your-face Vietnam veteran. 

Unlike many other vets I encountered, Randy was proud of his military service. He displayed his flags and patches on the wall beside his cash register. He also suffered from PTSD, and he didn’t care who knew it. He laughed at the notion that he might  “go Rambo” at a moment’s notice, but he openly talked about personal problems stemming from post-traumatic stress. “It’s something I have,” he said. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

When I met Randy, I was editor of a small town weekly newspaper in Dixon, California. Randy knew I had served briefly in the Women’s Army Corps, and that my then-boyfriend was a closeted Vietnam vet. So Randy thought I might be interested in hearing – and writing – about his newly formed outreach group for vets with PTSD.

Randy wanted to help the vets who were not so well integrated. He wanted to raise awareness of PTSD. He also wanted to offer fellowship and support to others who struggled with trauma-induced problems.

Tomorrow: Brown Water Randy and LZ Woodland

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Of Terror & Infiltration: In Which Navig8r Observes the Bad, the Sorta Good, and the Whacked

Navig8r's genuine actual navig8ional gear
Our keenly observant Navig8r writes in with his commentary on current events, opining on the bad, the sorta good, and the crazy. Take it away, Nav...

The bad news

Comment: Seems a little odd that they would be planning an attack right on the border when they could access an even more target rich environment further inland with little extra trouble. Also, why would they want to draw extra attention to their logistics route?  It might be well to expand the watch area.  

Jay Leno’s crack from 15? 20? years ago that you can get anything you want into the US as long as it can be concealed in a bale of marijuana is just as true now as it was then.  

And more bad news

Comment: It was bound to happen sometime, and could happen again. Thank God no one was hurt. The real solution is that the gubmint should start enforcing the laws and securing the border so the militia types would go home. Meantime, it looks like at least some of the militia types need to re-think their concept of operations. 

The sorta good news  
Has 'La Bestia' been tamed? Mexican crackdown has significantly cut numbers of child migrants on notoriously dangerous train to the US.  “Omar Zamora, a Border Patrol spokesman in the Rio Grande Valley, where most of the unaccompanied children have entered the U.S., said Thursday that the agency was seeing about 30 to 40 of the children in custody each day in recent weeks. That is down from a peak when 300 or more were arrested in a day earlier this summer.”  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Contractors, Beware: United Arab Emirates Mistreats Foreign Workers

This in from Navig8r...Maryland's ARINC is not the only provider getting stiffed for work performed in the UAE. Check out this horror story about the dark side of high art, wherein the Slaves of Happiness Island suffer in order to bring Western culture to Abu Dhabi. Contractors, beware.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Which More War Horses Appear From Points Afar

More hat tippery is in order to Minicapt, for sending along this pic, plus a link to info about Lord Strathcona's Horse regiment in Canada.. Hmmm... Minicapt has been awfully well behaved lately. I wonder what he's up to....


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Judge's Ruling on Toxic Exposure on Military Base: Of Interest to Ft. McClellan Vets

This is encouraging news for those of us who served at Ft. McClellan. It's not about us, but it applies in the sense that perhaps the tide is turning in regard to toxic exposure at military bases.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Further Reading on Mexico's Autodefensas Movement: Suggestions From Navig8r

As per yesterday's post, Navig8r has sent recommendation for further reading on Mexico's Autodefensas movement. Take it away, Navig8r...

Other resources that cover the issue are as follows.

Blog del Narco is a Spanish language page that collects contributions from a variety of sources. It is a window on events. It solicits contributions from anyone willing to contribute with the motto “Informa lo que se Oculta en México,” (literally “inform that which is hidden in Mexico”). Gory photos and videos included. If you need an English translation, the Google online translator will give you the gist of things. 

NarcoNoticias is another Spanish language page similar to Blog del Narco. Gory photos and videos included. It has a link to a machine translator that does a passable job of translating the page into English.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mexico's Citizen Militias Fight the Cartels: Navig8r Explains the Autodefensas Movement

Mexico’s Autodefensas Movement

By Navig8r

In the current environment of what seems to be one or more new outrages every day on border security and immigration, I am attempting to focus my commentary on aspects that are either under-reported or in some way represent some kind of sea change.

For the record, I can no longer claim front line status on border issues. I recently moved to Nebraska because the family needs me here. In my expatriate Arizonan status, I remain a highly interested student of border affairs.

Reader alert. Some of the links provided here go to sources that show the decapitated heads and other assorted gore.

One under-reported aspect of the border situation is the Autodefensas movement in Mexico. Literal translation is “Self defense.” These are grass roots groups that have sprung up relatively recently in response to the impotence of the Mexican Government against the cartels. These are various groups that operate essentially as militias, much to the consternation, sometimes with the grudging cooperation of the Mexican government.

One reason they are a very significant development is because legal firearms ownership in Mexico is difficult to accomplish, moreso if you want anything with military utility. Ergo, many members are desperate enough to get relief from the predations of the cartels that they are willing to take that step outside the law. This makes a good argument for our Second Amendment, which may be one of the reasons the US media is not covering the issue. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In Which Chad Pops In and Shows Off His Way-Cool Patches

Look who dropped in to see me, showing off his way-cool patches. 

Over the past year, my great friend and Cooking With the Troops partner Chad Longell has sent dispatches from his deployment to Afghanistan. His beautiful and inspirational essays are posted here and here. 

During Chad's sojourn, he had many adventures. 

He bartered for bread, was promoted to sergeant, and grew a way-cool beard! He also scared the living daylights out of us when he went off grid for more than a week during a particularly violent time in Afghanistan. His unit had lost its internet connection, and there was much anxiety among his civilian friends until he resurfaced to say, "I'm fine!"

It was great seeing him in uniform and in such wonderful spirits. 

Once again, welcome home, Chad! It's wonderful to have you back from Afghanistan! 

Thank you so much for your service, and here's to a great and productive homecoming!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In the Face of ISIS: May God Bless America and Her Allies

With the sadistic murder of James Foley, RIP, the world has seen but a glimpse of what ISIS is capable of. As per always, my country is the main target of this group that is so unbalanced even Al Qaeda fears it. I am not afraid that our warriors cannot defeat ISIS. They can. But our government has a miserable, inexplicable history, dating to Vietnam, of refusing to genuinely fight our adversaries. Our government has hampered our warfighters with ridiculous rules of engagement, setting them up to reap Purple Hearts but no clear victory. 

I am not a warmonger. I loathe war. But when you decide to conduct war, do it right or not at all. My question now is: Does our government have the fortitude to go up against this potentially globe-altering threat? If I were ISIS, I would launch while we are weak, while President Me-Me-Me is in office. If I were the combined bodies of Congress and DoD, I would trash the ROE's, and fight to win, not for show. 

May God bless America and her allies.

Friday, August 22, 2014

In Which British Horses Invade the Pup Tent

Speaking of soldiers and animals.... the Brits are known for their love of horsies.
Pic swiped from the Queen. Photo by Sergeant Brian Gamble of the British military.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More from the Pup Tent: An Air Force Dog and His Handler - Literally

This is too doggone adorable to let sit in my in-box. A tip of the (dark) chocolate box to Minicapt for finding this and sending it along. Oh, and I love the K-9 reflective belt!

From the Pup Tent: A War Dog AND a Huey? How Cool is That....

Swiped from Marlan Thompson and the United States War Dogs Association:
A dog handler with his K-9 just dropped off by a UH-1D helicopter near Quang Tri, Vietnam October 1968.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Moment of Silence for Journalist James Foley

The Compound sends condolences to the family and friends of journalist James Foley, who was murdered by thugs from ISIS while on assignment. Thank you to all the brave journalists who have gone into harm's way in order to report the news. Far too many of you have been injured or killed in the process.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The National Guard in the Korean War: My Story - and My Dad - in GX Magazine

When I was a young'un in California, I often asked my dad to tell me how he earned his Purple Heart in Korea. I knew scant basics. He served in the infantry, and was trained to use a flamethrower. He'd been hit in the face with shrapnel. He stepped on a punji stick. He got frostbite. Once, through a chance encounter at a restaurant, I learned that he saved a man's life in combat.

Any time I asked my dad directly for information about his experience, though, the most I got out of him was that he served with the National Guard. It wasn't until years after his death that I even learned the name of his unit, the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard.

My dad's silence was typical of men who fought in that war. The veterans didn’t talk about it. But my dad’s service was prototypical in another way, as well. He was among what author Harry G. Summers termed the “lifesavers” to the combat mission in Korea. “Without mobilization of its reserve military forces," Summers has written, "the United States would have lost the Korean War.”

A couple-plus months ago, I wrote about the Guard in Korea for the National Guard's magazine, GX: The Guard Experience. While conducting my research, I spoke to men who served with the 40th ID, including one who remembered my dad. That alone was worth far more than any fee I earned from writing the story. 

The coolest thing of all was that the magazine published my dad's photograph: a picture that was taken on what must have been his "FOB:" a couple of foxholes on the side of a mountain.

You won't find the magazine on newsstands. It is mailed only to members of the Guard. But you can read the story online, in this issue - for which I also wrote the cover story! Yes, I am both a contractor and a cover girl...

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Dark and Stormy Night Aboard the Cowpens: Old Mossback Retells the Destiny Savage Affair

And now for some lighter fare. Old Mossback delves into the latest from the USS Cowpens. Take it away, Mossy...

The readers of the SKK blog have been following the adventures - or better yet, the misadventures - of the USS Cowpens for years. We have discussed principles of leadership, planning, operations, and even woo-woo in our search for an explanation as why the USS Cowpens has had years of bad luck and is never far from the media spotlight. 

The latest Cowpens saga is one for the record books. We have the following: 

1) A ship's CO who must have the most ridiculous command picture portrait in the entire US Navy. 

2) Drop dead good looking female officer.

3) Last but not least, the USS Cowpens herself. 

If we take the facts as presented, we can turn the story around in a more positive light.

[I interject here with a behind the scenes look at the conversation I had about this with SKK]

SKK: Hold on for just one minute there, OMB, there is no way and no how anyone could take the recent hanky panky on the USS Cowpens and spin it around positively. It cannot be done. 

OMB: Give me the ball, please. 

SKK: OK, but something tells me I am going to regret it.

Back to the narrative now.

It was a dark and stormy night somewhere in the South China sea. On the bridge of the USS Cowpens the watch section narrowly missed a collision with a Chinese vessel. The watch sighed in relief, as once again the cool head and judgement of the ship's captain saved the day for all hands. 

Things were not as they appeared, however. The captain had been ill for some time. Only one person aboard the Cowpens knew this. She was the trusted department head, and was sworn not to tell. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing About Trey Prather III: "More Than Coincidence"

I've had quite a response to Thursday's post by Devil Dog Dad, Colin Kimball, about Trey Prather III. In addition to all the page hits, I've had quite a few notes from readers. One came from Trey's old friend, sportswriter Nico Van Thyn, who also has written about Trey.
 Nico wrote to me:

Thank you for posting the piece on Trey Prather. I was very good friends with him; I was the manager/statistician for teams he played on for five years....Trey was a very popular kid, always, bright and funny and friendly, a real star but still pretty down to earth.

Devil Dog Dad, meanwhile, gave me the backstory on how he came to write about Trey. Writes DDD Colin:

I arrived in Shreveport Louisiana at the start of my freshman year in High School in 1972 when my father was assigned to Barksdale AFB.  Terry Bradshaw, a Shreveport native son, was emerging as a powerhouse of the NFL in those days and Shreveport shared a dual loyalty between the nearby Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

My father told me stories of how Terry Bradshaw had an older brother who was better than him but never made it to the NFL because he was killed in Vietnam.  Decades later when the internet made doing research easy, I found that this story was in error and forgot about it. 

Last year while my son was in boot camp, I met a fellow who grew up with the two Duck Dynasty Patriarchs, Phil and Si (Phil was a tremendous High School quarterback as well. When I told him my frustration about the Terry Bradshaw story, he set me straight and told me that my dad was referring to Trey Prather.    

More after the jump...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Old Mossback Catches Up on His Reading: The Petty Officer Page Series, by Michael R. Ellis

This just in from The Old Mossback...

Now that I have retired I have time to catch up on some reading. I discovered a book series the fans of the SKK community may find interesting. 

For many years military themed fiction has been a popular format that I enjoy; but while I found the Tom Clancy style of writing entertaining, I did feel something was lacking. For one thing, all the members of the Tom Clancy community had handles such as "Buzz," "Eagle," and "Hard Case;" while in my world, we had nicknames such as "Stinky" (no explanation needed).

The Petty Officer Page book series by Michael R. Ellis offers something different. The first book, Apollo Rises, introduces the reader to RM3 Page. The premise of the story is believable. The Office of Naval Intelligence has hit a brick wall in regards to an investigation. The investigation needs the ONI to plant one of its people into the communications department of the USS Columbus CG-10. So far it has a been a bust, as the ONI finds out that planting a 35+ year old ONI agent as a junior enlisted is next to impossible. So if the ONI cannot pass off one of its agents as a sailor, why not recruit a sailor instead and train him as a ONI agent?

That is where Petty Officer Page, a radioman school whiz kid, comes into the story. The author, Michael Ellis, is a retired SCPO. Unlike what you find in a Tom Clancy novel, the Petty Officer Page series tells of a Navy that has good people, not so good people and some dirt bags in the wardroom, CPO mess and mess decks. The series is rough, raw and real.

Set during the Cold War, it is a page turner. The one downside of the series for all you book worms is all the paperback editions of the Petty Officer Page series is out of print. In order to get a good copy, you have to pay through the nose via the used book outlets provided by Amazon. The good news is all the books are available at a reasonable price on a Kindle format. I think you all will enjoy reading this series.


SKK here: Dang, Mossy! These look cool. Thank you for the heads-up!