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!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Report on Mexican Drug Cartels Using Hand Grenades: Observations From Navig8r

Hand grenades now are a key weapon in Mexican drug cartels' arsenals, Fox News reports

As startling as this report is, it comes as no surprise to Navig8r, who previously has shared with us his insights from the front lines. 

Writes Nav: "The grenades part is old news until they start actually popping them more often on this side of the border, although the article could be correct in suggesting that time is getting near.

"The part that reached out and grabbed me was towards the end of the article."

If you see a nice Ford F-150 with a covered bed on it and heavily-tinted windows and you’re down in Laredo, Texas, and there’s a ‘Z’ on the back window or a Santa Muerte, you don’t pull them over,” he said. “You’re smarter than that, to pull them over. Even if they blatantly violate the law, you let them go because you don’t know who you’re walking up on. And the closer you get to the border, the worse it is.

Navig8r further dissects the article, finding a measure of sensationalism. "If the part about An incident in late 2009 — when a man was arrested after he sold nearly 200 grenades to an undercover agent posing as a drug cartel — was the first time the department realized explosive devices could become a serious threat is the incident I think it is, the “grenades” in question were inert practice grenades, which are actually legal in most jurisdictions in the US.  You find them in surplus stores and novelty shops, often with the complaint department-take a number sign and the number “1” tag hanging from the pin. I think they still managed to convict the guy based on intent, and possibly a technically ignorant jury.

"The parts about hollowed out grenades are probably referring to practice grenades as well.  Since they are so readily and cheaply available, it wouldn’t make much sense for someone to empty out a real one just for a note holder."

If so, the cartels are relying on an old and tried tactic: deception. As per usual, deception brings results.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Promise of the NFL Would Have to Wait; For Trey Prather III, the Marines Came First

Art by Colin Kimball
Our "Devil Dog Dad," Colin Kimball, is back with another report. Take it away, Colin...

Henry Lee "Trey" Prather III – Private First Class United States Marine

By Colin Kimball, Devil Dog Dad in Texas

North Louisiana was a hot bed of football talent in the 1960's. Anyone from Shreveport who attended high school football games in the 1960's will tell legendary tales of the standout quarterbacks from Woodlawn High School. This school, in particular, produced a string of three quarterbacks who played back to back, two of whom would become household names in the NFL. The oldest, and according to those who saw them play, the best one, never made it to the  NFL. He was Henry Lee "Trey" Prather III. His talent throwing the football propelled him to All State Status in 1964 while he mentored a future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. That quarterback, who played as Trey's backup, went on to play college ball at Louisiana Tech and later led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles.

The following is Trey Prather's story.

Trey, a gifted athlete at all sports, was offered a scholarship to LSU, the dream of every high school football player from Louisiana. He started as quarterback for the freshman team in 1966. He took a few varsity snaps as a sophomore in the 1967 season for the famed LSU Tigers.  He was a great passing quarterback; LSU focused on a run style offense in those days.

For reasons known only to God, Trey left LSU at the end of 1967 to serve in the United States Marine Corps. This was not a passing fancy. The war in Vietnam was starting to rage, and Marines were bearing the brunt of heavy ground combat. Like many Marines, perhaps he was answering an inner calling.  We will never know. The promise of the NFL would have to wait. For Trey, the Marines came first.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tributes and Venom for Robin Williams: Some Personal Thoughts

Amid the tributes and sympathy for Robin Williams and his family, there also has been some mean spirited venom. To those who feel compelled to judge him for his depressive act: it doesn't matter what you think or how you frame this man's death. It's not about you.

For many, many years I literally was tormented by people making these same judgments about my dad, until one day I came to the realization that other peoples' opinions pertained only to them, and had no bearing whatsoever on anything. 

The Williams family has a very long road ahead, and I feel for them. I hope they can ignore the venom, and at some point come to focus on the positive. 

For a look at the positive impact Robin Williams had on our military community, here is a lovely tribute crafted by my colleagues at PEOPLE.

As one soldier wrote in response:

He was one of the very few who cared. He showed it with actions, not just words. I had the pleasure of meeting him twice, and I know the way he was he would probably personally shake the hand and talk to at least 10k troops on just one of his visits. I hold no criticism towards this man, only that I wish we could have done more for him. He was truly a giver, he put his money where his mouth is and I am happy to see that others are remembering this as well. His actions never went unnoticed by us anyways and I'm happy others recognize this.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Night, Mr. Williams...

I had the pleasure of knowing the real Adrian Cronauer. He was thrilled with how Robin Williams portrayed him in Good Morning, Vietnam. And now, the man who showed great love and respect for all our troops has sounded retreat. God bless you, sir. Thank you for spreading joy, love and laughter.

Everything You Need to Know About the Latest on Board the USS Cowpens

It all boils down to this:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Concrete Bob, Chadwick, Fishmugger, and Snake-Eater Sam Walk Into a BBQ....

And now for an image of our home-crew at yesterday's event with the VFW. This motley foursome fed some 400 Marines in Richmond. Now that's what I call cooking with the troops!

Back to front: The Snake; Fishmugger; Concrete Bob; Chadwick

Cooking With the Troops Feeds Marines in Richmond!

Bring us your hungry, your ravenous, your Oorah-grunting masses! Cooking With the Troops went to Richmond yesterday to feed some 400 Marines. Concrete Bob, Fishmugger, Chadwick, and Snake-eater Sam pulled yeoman's duty on this sunny Summer day. Hurrah for the VFW for being such great partners for this event. You always are. I love, love, love the folks who populate our VFW posts!
Bob and Chad (in front) with VFW guys.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An August Full Moon Over The Compound - and Elsewhere!

'Tis a full moon, my lovelies! And a Supermoon, at that! All together, now: Ow-ooooooo!

Destiny Savage Sought Goodie Bag From E! Online: "We Deserve it For Serving Our Country!"

Destiny Savage, the Navy Lt. Commander at the center of the latest travails aboard the USS Cowpens, apparently tried to win a "Bachelor Bag" of treats from E! Online entertainment magazineaccording to messages posted last year on Twitter.

A tweet posted 11 January 2013 on an account purporting to belong to Savage reads: "@eonline choose us for #bachelorbag we deserve it for serving our Country and defending freedom!" The tweet contained a link to a yfrog video that no longer loads for viewing.

A tweet posted earlier that day on the same account reads: "@ENews #bachelorbag These Navy girls could sure use a glam bag! XoXO." That tweet also includes a link to a yfrog video that no longer loads for viewing.

No word on whether LDCR Savage and her girlies won the goodie bag; but the quest makes me wonder if that's what she left in her commander's head while at sea.

For those of you just joining the story, the USS Cowpens lost yet another skipper this year when Captain Gregory W. Gombert  was relieved of command for cause. The Navy fired Gombert on June 10, along with Savage and the ship's command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton. The reason cited was poor ship condition. But a recently released Navy report on the incident shows that much more was at play. Among other things, the report says, Gombert abdicated command by vanishing inside his cabin for months at sea, during which time he was personally tended by Savage.

One portion of the report says that Savage kept some of her personal items in the skipper's head. That's "bathroom" to you landlubbers.

Savage's Twitter feed shows no mention of life at sea aboard the Cow.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dear SKK: When Are You Going to Write About Destiny Savage of the USS Cowpens?

Dear E-Querents: On the morrow. Check back here at sunrise in the Big Land of Open Carry. That's 0600 Eastern, for you non-Virginians. ~SKK

P.S. I can't help but think Holly must be feeling a tad relieved at the moment. 

The Destiny Savage Affair..

Literally. All I can say for now is, holy Cow[pens]. I keep going back to the theory of the cursed ship....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Israeli Rep Sets the Record Straight at the United Nations: Truth, Humor, and Education

An ingenious example of speech and politics occurred recently in the United Nations General Assembly - and made the world community smile.

A representative from Israel said: 'Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water, he thought, "What a good opportunity to have a bath!

"Moses removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had stolen them!"

The Palestinian representative at the UN jumped up furiously and shouted: "What are you talking about? The Palestinians weren't there then!"

The Israeli representative smiled and said: "And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hill 950, Vietnam: "Khe Sanh Threw Everything They Had at Us..."

It's not even Earth Day, and I'm recycling... a post, that is. This pic got a lot of hits a while back when I first posted it. The image remains one of my all-time favorite combat photos. I found it when a reader asked me to give a nod to the Marines who fought at Hill 950 in Vietnam. 

The Saga of Hill 950 is laid out here, in the words of some of the men who were there. They included men from Headquarters Company, 26th Marines, Security Platoon; another platoon from 1/26th; and a number of Force Recon Marines who came in as reinforcements.

The story centers on the following.

Overwhelming forces assaulted Hill 950 on the night of June 6th 1967. The battle continued until mid morning the next day.... Marine Green reports the NVA came up opposite side of densely fogged in Hill 950. AK47 rounds tore through his hooch.... 

Marine Green exchanged fire and grenades for at least the next three hours.... 

Marine Buffalo in the communications bunker told Khe Sanh the hill had been overrun and fearing we were all dead to start dropping everything they had on it. Good thing they didn't have the right measurements or I wouldn't be here today. Seemed like Khe Sanh threw everything they had at us but the kitchen sink. Couldn't really tell what they were hitting since the hill was fogged in.

The rest of the tale is well worth the read. I recommend a click-through.

As for the photo... I'm not sure if it's pegged to the 1967 battle, but the image took my breath away. This one just might find a place on the living room wall. I like it so much, it gets an extra-big slice of real estate here on the blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dear SKK: What's a Beaucoup?

This came in following yesterday's post about the Girl Scout Cookies.

Dear SKK: What's a beaucoup? Signed, Wondering.

Dear Wondering: Now that you have the answer via email, I'm curious to see if anyone else can give me the meaning and provenance. Okay, Dear Ones: you're on. What's a beaucoup? Minicapt will be exempt from retaliation on this, for reasons that later will become clear. Yours, ~SKK

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cooking With the Troops Meets the Girl Scouts...

And what a team we make! A very nice group of Girl Scouts - Troop 3189 from Lorton, Virginia - recently asked Cooking With the Troops if we could distribute some cookies to our soldiers. We told the scouts we'd be delighted to deliver treats from small troops to bigger ones.

I met with the scout leader, who gave me beaucoup fresh and neatly packaged Girl Scout Cookies. There must have been 500-600 boxes of Samoas, Trefoils, Savannah Smiles, Do-si-dos, Tagalongs, and yes - Thin Mints! The leader and I made quick work of unloading her vehicle and filling mine. Then I carted the cookies to Ft. Belvoir's Warrior Transition Battalion.  

As soon as I started to set up the cookies inside the Soldiers and Family Assistance Center (SFAC), I heard voices: "Are those Girl Scout Cookies?" "Oh my gosh! Girl Scout Cookies!"

I got rushed. The soldiers wanted to know how much to pay. I told them the price: One smile per box. I collected enough smiles to last me all month! The first batch of cookies disappeared in short order. I shall deliver the second batch on Wednesday. I'll have more smiles than I know what to do with!

A great big HOOAH and many many thanks to the girls of Troop 3189. You rock!  Here are a few more pics, after the jump...

Friday, August 1, 2014

From the Pup Tent: Sharing a Drink With His Marine...

But don't call him a lap dog! Check below the pic for the official rundown on what's going on in this way-cool image by Cpl. Matthew J. Bragg.

A military working dog drinks water from the hand of its U.S. Marine handler during a special forces operations (SOF) integration at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, July 10, 2014. The exercise used the combat skills and capabilities of Marine Special Operations Team 8133, Republic of Korea SEALS and Peru Special Forces to take down and capture a high value target. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

In Which Boq Returns From The Dominican Republic, Bearing Pics of Targets and Old Girls

By Boq
Last week, I was back in The Dominican Republic, on business; not Bidnezz, but business. And as always, I keep my eye out for glimpses that do remind me of my former Bidnezz day. I did see a target (Che's ride, below).

But what did my wandering eye catch a glimpse of one day to work? 
Why, an old girl clinging to a soldier on duty, of course. May the Glorious Dominican Army remain victorious and never defeated in battle!

[See the clingy old girl, after the jump!]

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jesse Ventura Revels in His Distasteful Lawsuit Victory Against Chris Kyle's Widow

Jesse Ventura reportedly says he no longer can attend SEAL reunions. In light of his outrageous lawsuit against the widow of murdered former SEAL Chris Kyle, I'd say that's not the only reunion Ventura should avoid. The military community at large is both disappointed and disgusted. And rightfully so. Bad form, Jesse. Really, really bad form. Obviously, you're not at all ashamed of yourself, so the rest of us will be ashamed for you. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

From the Pup Tent: An IDF Canine, Wounded in Combat

The Compound sends virtual kibble and a good tennis ball to this IDF warrior dog who was wounded in combat in Israel. We hope he is back soon on all fours - and thank you to Minicapt for sending the pic! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Which Courtney Turns 21: Go, Team Leo!

It's time for a Mom moment.... to announce that our Littlest Reprobate, the Baby of the Family, today turns 21.  This little Leo spreads sunshine and happiness to all she meets. Because she is just so darned adorable...

Oh, wait! That was taken when she was even littler! She's bigger now.

One of the coolest things about Courtney is that she always sees things from a unique perspective:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Writing About the Guard's Role in D-Day, for GX Magazine

The National Guard played a huge role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Guardsmen from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. were at the tip of the spear on deadly Omaha Beach. I wrote their story for the current issue of the Guard's GX Magazine. It also is posted here on-line, with the compelling graphics that help make this a way-cool magazine to write for!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I Wear an Uzi Bullet On a Chain Around My Neck

My family and friends all know that I am never without my Uzi bullet necklace (unless I go into Washington, D.C., where I could be arrested for wearing it). 

The necklace comes from Israel. It consists of a single bullet with a tiny pewter tank welded to the front. The bullet is threaded on a dog tag-style chain. And, yes: the bullet is inert. I wouldn't wear a live round anywhere but on my hip and properly tucked inside a chamber or a clip.

Last night, I wore the Uzi necklace as always. The gold bullet stood out against my black t-shirt. Someone asked me what the necklace was for.

I said: I wear this because I stand with Israel. Always. I stand with Israel. Today I pray for peace in that land. May her people stay safe, and prevail in this difficult time.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

One Small Blessing Amid Unspeakable Horror: Surgeon Says MH17 Passengers Unconscious

A trauma surgeon tells the Sydney Morning Herald: "No one was conscious or experienced that fall.’’ A blessing amid unspeakable horror. The rest of us, now, must address the aftermath.

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Which Chad Returns Safely Home From Deployment to Afghanistan

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!"

Now I am delighted to announce that our "Chadwick" is home, safe and secure, on American soil. He called last night from his transit site. I don't who was happier: Chad, to be home in the USA; or me, to know that he is safely back.

There is much rejoicing within Cooking With the Troops and our extended family of friends and colleagues. Please join me in thanking Chad for his service, and in welcoming him home. 

And for all the warriors who remain deployed: Stay safe, and know that you are fully supported by a grateful nation. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Latest on Bowe Bergdahl, on People's "Dot"

I worked on this evolving story with PEOPLE magazine colleague Johnny Dodd. More will continue to emerge in the weeks and months ahead, but here's the latest on the Bowe Bergdahl saga, live on "the Dot"...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In Which Boquisucio Invites Us to Witness a Kaboom... case we haven't seen enough fireworks lately. Says Boq: Herewith a bridge in the Ukraine going slodey-pop:

And the requisite AAR:

Monday, July 14, 2014

With Jon Voight and Our Treasured Wounded Warriors: Old Memories and New Thanks

A couple years ago, when our little Gang of Reprobates frequented the old Walter Reed, we encountered a dedicated troop-supporter: Jon Voight. 

Jon was a regular presence at the Mologne House Super Bowl parties, where he hung out with our recovering wounded warriors and their families. He didn't hold himself aloof to sign autographs from behind a table, either; he went through the chow line with everyone else, and sat with the families to eat.

I was impressed by Jon's sincerity and dedication; and, later, by his outspoken support for Israel. 

Now Jon steps forward once again, to speak the truth about what is happening in our country. Thank you, Jon. You have both courage and class.