Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Now, That's What I Call a Balance Beam Routine: Rangers Being Rangers

A tip of the s'more-roasting twig to Minicapt, who found the mother lode of such pics to amuse me whilest I am on assignment and also in need of some curative Bushmills...

A competitor takes part in day one of the Army's Best Ranger competition, at Fort Benning, Ga., April 11, 2014. Ranger-qualified Soldiers throughout the Army converged on Fort Benning, April 11-13, to compete in the U.S. Army Best Ranger Competition. The Best Ranger competition is hosted annually by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. Now in its 31st year, it is regarded throughout the military community as one of the toughest, most physically demanding competitions in the world. It has grown from a local contest into an Army-wide competition to find the Army's best Ranger team.  - Photo by Patrick A. Albright

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Ask-a-Pilot" Meets the American Sniper, Chris Kyle: A Picture to Treasure

Our very own Ask-a-Pilot, Mitch "Taco" Bell, spent some time with "American Sniper" Chris Kyle shortly before Kyle was murdered. Rest in peace, brave warrior, and thank you for your service.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snake-Eater Sam Reviews "American Sniper:" Raw Emotions Over Team, Family, & Mission

Snake-Eater Sam jumps into the arts section, with his review of the new Chris Kyle movie. Take it away, Snakes...

American Sniper, directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, was released this past holiday weekend and quickly gained the top spot of tickets sales on pace to possibly surpass $100M as of this writing. Unlike many movies, once American Sniper ended the audience stood quietly and slowly moved out of the theater in silent tribute to this true American hero: Chris Kyle, American sniper. 

The movie, based upon Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's autobiography, was given the blessing of the Kyle family after both Eastwood and lead actor Bradley Cooper visited Chris' father for approval. The film begins with the first kill of Kyle's legendary body count, which ranged from 160 to 255+. Eastwood grips the audience as the camera pulls from Kyle's eyes the target, building tension, and the decision that presented itself that day. 

Throughout the days, months, and years to follow, the tolls mounted in many ways. The obvious toll was on those facing judgement day through the marksmanship skills of Kyle, who came to be known as al-Shaltan, "The Devil," across the insurgency and within Al Qaeda in Iraq. So telling was his effect that a bounty of $180K was placed on his head. 

The toll was not only in Iraq, but also off the battlefield. The more distant toll building throughout the film was upon the wife and growing family who couldn't understand Kyle's almost pathological obsession for deploying into the war zone. It festered the growing emotional wounds that seemed further than the geographic distance. 

At one point Kyle's wife Taya, played by Sienna Miller, says that if he considers deploying again, neither she nor the children would be there upon his return. The next scene: Deployment Four. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Feeling Terrorized? Get Your 2015 Counterterrorism Calendar!

In the Weird-But-True Department: the U.S Government Bookstore wants you to get your 2015 Counterterrorism Calendar, published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence! Here's what your 20 bucks will buy...

The full-color, spiral-bound,160-page daily desk calendar from the National Counterterrorism Center contains many features across the full range of issues pertaining to international terrorism: terrorist groups, wanted individual terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related topics, such as biological and chemical threats. The Calendar also provides dates and brief information of past terrorist attacks and marks key dates that terrorists may use to plan attacks to commemorate particular historic events.
This year’s calendar features a few updates, such as the inclusion of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and two women--a first for this annual Calendar!
The booklet also includes the Islamic Calendar; the spelling of Arabic names and terms; lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations; information about  State Sponsors of Terrorism; Logos used by terrorist and governments; and information on the Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program wherein the U.S. Secretary of State may offer rewards for information that prevents or favorably resolves acts of international terrorism against US persons or property worldwide.
Under "Assassination as a Terror Tactic," readers are advised on how assassination attempts on high-profile people has been used as a terror tactic in the past and told how to protect themselves. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Taking the Day Off to Hurl Myself Sobbing to the Ground in Wake of Kerry's Trip to Paris

James Taylor... singing "You've Got a Friend..." To the French, in Paris. In response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Someone. Please. Tell me this was a story from The Onion.

Friday, January 16, 2015

From the Pup Tent: Meet Baby Military Working Doggie Ggilbert

All together, now: Awwww....

This little feller is GGilbert, a Dutch Shepherd named after USAF Major Troy Gilbert, KIA 27 Nov 2006 in Iraq. What a cutie! Photo by N. Rogers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Followup to Navig8r's Analysis: Mayor Charged in Kidnap of 43 Ayotzinapa School Students

Navig8r presented some very thoughtful analysis on a troubling situation in Mexico the other day. Now, charges have been filed in the Disappearance / Massacre of the 43 Students From Ayotzinapa Normal School. The town's former mayor has been implicated. Good timing on that analysis, Nav. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Meanwhile, at Sea...

A weapon, the sun, and a helicopter... 

U.S. sailors conduct maintenance on an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The sailors are assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15. The carrier is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, which includes strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Newman

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Navig8r Examines Events in Mexico: Chaos Likely to Get Worse Before Turning Nasty

While much of the world understandably has been focused on the horrific events in Paris, our thoughtful Navig8r has been puzzling over an assault involving a different set of of aggressors and targets. This one took place late last year, south of the American border. As per usual, Nav has carefully pursued his line of inquiry. Herewith, then, are his thoughts on the Disappearance / Massacre of the 43 Students From Ayotzinapa Normal School in Mexico.

Take it away, Navig8r...

I spent some time scratching my head trying to figure out why the demise of 43 individuals w
ould gain so much attention when they are so few compared to the tens of thousands of other deaths in the drug war.  Why would it be in the self interest of the Mexican government or of the cartels to go after a whole group of nominal non-combatants? Eventually, background articles appeared that seemed to help connect the dots.  For whatever they’re worth, here are some links and my working hypotheses.  What follows is not necessarily a rigorously sequential timeline of what was known or published when, but it’s the order that things started fitting together for me.

The early short narrative to emerge on the case was that a group of students from a small local two year teachers’ college (referred to as a Normal school in Mexico) had been planning to conduct a protest in town, and also do some fundraising. The local mayor, not wanting anything that could disrupt a speech that his wife was scheduled to give at the same time, told the local police force to take care of it.  The local cops rounded up the students and then turned them over to the local cartel members, who were presumed to have killed them.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ISIS, Paris, and the Multiplicity of Crisis

The ISIS Winter Offensive clearly is off to a robust beginning. As we know from our military studies, the attack is likely to include additional waves. We also know that even though it is crucial for us to stay focused on the main enemy, we can't lose sight of other threats. Here at The Compound, we pay attention to both. A few posts down on this page, we have a lively discussion in the Comments on how to address so-called radical Islam. In weeks to come, we will have more on this threat and its frightening proximity to our daily lives. Tomorrow, our thoughtful contributor Navig8r weighs in with his analysis of yet another close-to-home threat. Stay tuned, Dear Ones; stay tuned...

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Lucrative World of Contracting: A Reality Check From Old Mossback

SKK has finally gotten through to me and convinced me that I should stick to what the SKK blog fans want: overseas contractor, D-Team, and Captain Polly Grief USA (retired) stories, and to leave the hard journalism stories to the professionals. I now offer my view of contracting: Hollywood versus reality.

The attached pictures will give us a contrast between the Hollywood version of the military contractor and what you find in the real world. 

In the forefront of the Three Amigos picture is a fellow contractor who I will refer to as Dave. He and I hooked up when we worked the same gig in Moscow back in '99. The happy years of contracting had just begun, and the whole world at that time was our own private playpen - or at least that is what we thought. 

Years later Dave and I hooked up in Tunisia 2001-2002, and the good times continued as far as contracting went. Maids, cooks, drivers, a multi-storied walled-in villa to live in, and all on someone else's dime. We lived as if we were kings. The readers can see by the gear and clothes, the contract bidding today has reached the cut throat stage. The good times are over, as we fight like cats and dogs with low ball bids for each and every contract. 

Fancy uniforms and boots: GONE Maids, cooks and drivers on the company dime: GONE. Internet and cable on the company dime: GONE Body armor and weapons: Whatever I can get from my old buddy Omar at his deep discounted price to move bargain basement goods. The reader will notice the white winter finish on the AK while Dave is working at a desert site. 

The list goes on, and it goes downhill.

Air fare: Cattle class, and no more payment of excess luggage issued by the employer. When a employee has to carry his issued gear on the flight, he is left with room to carry a tooth brush, and that is about all. When the contract is located at a site where the the average American waist is 5"-6" larger then that of the local population, we have people wearing rags by by the end of their one year contract. 

As for the personal... Of course Hollywood has the lean and mean rock jawed heroes going off to the next adventure. In the real world we see a bunch of grandpas, and this is an asset. The young studs will overextend themselves and get hurt, while the old guys are in no hurry to get hurt, and will take their time and are cautious. 

The money is still good but not great, and we have a storage room full of resumes from good people waiting for a contract. So when in the mess hall when you hear a yarn of a $100,000+ a year contract in Bum Duck, if you want to apply and take your shot, go ahead and take a number and wait for the phone to ring (maybe someday). 

- OMB 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: "The Snake Eaters" Depicts the Balance of Combat, Humanitarian Ops

Herewith a book review by a former snake-eater on Owen West's The Snake Eaters. Take it away, Sam Young...

You stop your lives to come here, and I thank you for that, but fighting is my life. I’ll be fighting when you are playing with your grandchildren, telling them to bring batteries, benzene, and magazines when it’s their turn to come here and fight.

The above quote from one of Owen West’s Iraqi counterparts, Major Mohammed, now seems almost prophetic as U.S. advisors return again to Iraq as the primary U.S. strategy against ISIS. Owen West’s timely book, The Snake Eaters, details the pivotal role he and other U.S. military advisors on “Team Outcast” played while embedded with a New Iraqi Army (NIA) unit during the struggle for the soul of the Iraqi countryside during the early years of the Iraq War. 

Serving as one of the last commanders of Team Outcast, West was able to study team combat logs and conduct personal interviews of Team Outcast and NIA members and leadership, enabling him to track Outcast's challenges, failures, and successes over the course of several years. 

One of the U.S. advisors' greatest challenges in Iraq was attempting to balance U.S. strategy with the realities of combat within the country's most inhospitable region, Anbar Province. This was at a time when Shia and Sunni sectarian violence coupled with an insurgency threatened initial U.S. successes in securing Iraq. 

In order to allow active duty combat units to focus their efforts on defeating a building insurgency fueled by sectarian violence, the Pentagon activated National Guard and Reservists for advisory positions supporting units within the NIA. West brilliantly depicts the difficulties and extreme conditions these unsung, “weekend" warriors faced during year-long deployments with their NIA units. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journalists Killed While Wielding the Pen: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

One thousand, one hundred and six journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 1992. Of that number, 731 were murdered. 

These statistics, compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, was raised by five yesterday in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They died for daring to pursue the ideals of Truth and Perspective. Others also were slaughtered in the same incident.

Today, with France observing a national day of mourning, The Compound has three words: Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite.  


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Captcha Conundrum Continues

Further to yesterday's musings about Captcha... I checked my comment spam folder, and found a few legitimate comments (from Grumpy and others), plus a couple genuine spams. But the spams haven't come in since November. I wouldn't be thinking about this if not for suddenly having to prove to myself that I am not a robot when commenting. I continue to agonize...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Foiled Coup Attempt in The Gambia: Thrills and Gratitude; Snickers and Snorts

A charming sentiment; but not everyone
is enamored of Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh
I suppose I should be both horrified and grateful to learn that the FBI has charged two American citizens with attempting to overthrow the government of The Gambia. After all, if you're not CIA, you can't just run around staging coups willy-nilly from this country (even when based in Texas). And thank goodness the Feds were hot on the trail of the coup-masters. 

On the other hand, I get sort of thrilled in a days-of-empire way to read a nation referred to with "The" as part of its name, as if it's not quite a country and more an untamed remote region. Gosh, I think I just described Gambia and Ukraine.

I also catch my breath a bit when reading the likes of this:

... in December 2014, Cherno Njie and Papa Faal separately traveled from the United States to The Gambia for the purpose of overthrowing the Gambian government....Njie, a U.S. citizen of Gambian descent and a resident of Austin, Texas, is a businessman who served as financier and leader of the conspiracy. Njie and his co-conspirators expected that Njie would have served as the interim leader of The Gambia had the coup attempt succeeded.
And this:

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Bit of Housekeeping: The Creeping Captcha

So... by order of Blogger, even I am now compelled to use Captcha in order to comment. On my own blog. Man, that thing is annoying. I sympathize with all of you who have endured its presence. Thank you for not allowing it to dissuade you from commenting (as much as you have, anyway). I don't like having it on the blog, but I installed it some time ago because I was getting whomped with spam comments. You know; the kind that begins with, What an enlightening post this is! Please see my website... But I am thinking of running a Captcha-free trial. Maybe. I haven't decided yet. Stay tuned. That is all.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wolf Moon in Winter: All Together, Now: Ow-ooo!

The January full moon is known as the Wolf Moon. Okay, pack; are you ready? Tonight's the night! All together, now: Ow-ooo!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Which The Old Mossback Aims to Break Free From the Humor Category

Our trusty retired contractor, the Old Mossback, has sent a communique for the New Year. Apparently he wants to up his writing game. I shall allow him to explain. Take it away, Mossy...

The readers of the SKK blog know that SKK has posted some of my writings in the comic relief section of her blog. I now think it is time for me to move up the food chain and get into real cutting edge writing as I have felt I should be doing. 

Here are some of the texts SKK and I have been exchanging.

OMB: Well I think it is time for me to move up and tackle some of the current issues that going on in the nation today.

SKK: First, there is some housekeeping to be done. I thought I forgot to thank you for all your help with my investigation of the Benghazi incident and then I remembered, you did not do a thing to help me in the first place! 

OMB: That is in the past and I know I am ready for the cutting edge.

SKK: Cutting edge huh? Well write an article and let me see what you can do. 

OMB: Will do. Okay, how's this?

 In December 2014 a Democrat-controlled senate committee released a report detailing alleged abuses and counter productive tactics in its detaining and extracting information from possible terrorists and their supporters by one or even more of our overseas agencies. The report report also stated that according to their study, physical and mental abuse failed to extract information. 

This January, the GOP will control both houses of Congress and I predict we will see the following. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

From the Compound to Your House: A Warm and Merry Christmas to All!

From our hearth to yours. May your day be filled with peace and joy at Christmas and always, and may you be rich in the greatest of gifts, the only one that matters: Love. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Letter From a Soldier Deployed at Christmas

One year ago today, I published a letter from a soldier deployed to Afghanistan at Christmas time. The letter was written by my dear friend, and Cooking With the Troops President, Chad Longell. I am so happy to write that Chad now is safely home in the embrace of family and friends. But his 2013 Christmas Eve letter still resonates.

I am republishing it here, as a Christmas nod to our deployed troops. May God bless them and keep them from harm. 

Take it away, Chad...

My dearest friends and family,

Greetings from Afghanistan!  I want to wish you all a blessed and joy filled Merry Christmas!!!  Tonight we celebrate the night where hope gave birth to faith! 

I will never forget my first Christmas away from home.  It was Baghdad 2009, where the main hall of Saddam's Palace was filled with lighted candles and hundreds of troops gathered celebrating the birth of our Savior with our fellow Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Never had I been so moved or felt the spirit so strong on Christmas than on that day. To see so many people, from so many countries, backgrounds and cultures, together in Baghdad, the cradle of civilization, celebrating Christmas in simple candle light was beyond humbling. 
Now I will be celebrating Christmas in another environment desperate for God's love, justice and peace.  

The holidays are always bitter sweet for us.  We take great joy in the blessing of getting together with the ones we love, but we also remember the ones whom we lost and are no longer with us.  We never forget them, and as is with the Spirit of God, we hold their memories deep in our heart, there to encourage us through the difficult times.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Which Winter Solstice Arrives at The Compound

Why, look! The Winter Solstice has arrived! Finally, daylight now shall increase. This makes me so happy, I just want to ride my horse into the sunrise. 

The sun really is returning. See? There it is, just on the horizon...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Most Heartfelt Holiday Song in Years: "Soldier's Christmas," From Madison Rising

I love this new song from Madison Rising so much, I have to post it again. It gets me all choked up, and I can't get the tune out of my head. 

I am so proud to call these guys my friends.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back From Reporting on Pennsylvania Shooter, Who Never Saw Combat, a Marine Says

This was a difficult story to report, especially during the holidays. My heart goes out to those who know and love the families involved. The story is here, on

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Entry for the Jeepstakes: A Suggestion, Via Dream, From Risty

The ghost of Risty, my Sacred Horse From Childhood, sends this entry for the Jeepstakes. He submitted it via my dreams. Very nice, Risty! I love it. But it's a bit low on horsepower. Great color, though. I definitely love the black. And will keep searching...