Posts tagged ‘Army Rangers’

SHAKO: TWO HEROES, TWO WARS Part I

The Army Ranger.

In recent weeks, the heroics of two men, one a soldier, the other a sailor, have come to our attention at 4GWAR Blog. To give each their due, we’ve decided to tell their stories separately in a two-part posting starting today May 27, 2020.

Korean War Hero Receives Medal of Honor 71 Years Later

President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. for conspicuous gallantry during the Korean War at a White House ceremony, May 21, 2021.

More than 70 years after he led a company-sized Army Ranger unit in an attack and holding action against hundreds of Chinese troops on a frozen Korean hilltop, retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. was awarded the highest U.S. military decoration for bravery at a White House ceremony May 21.

President Joe Biden placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of Colonel Puckett for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty during combat actions at Hill 205 in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea, on November 25th and 26th, 1950.

“Today, we are hosting a true American hero and awarding an honor that is long overdue — more than 70 years overdue,” Biden said. After decades of lobbying by retired military — including soldiers in Puckett’s company — aware of what the young lieutenant did in Korea — the U.S. Army awarded him the Medal of Honor.

“Colonel, I’m humbled to have you here today,” Biden said. Noting — that when Puckett first learned of the award he said “Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me?” — the president said: “Colonel Puckett, after 70 years, rather than mail it to you, I would’ve walked it to you. You know, your lifetime of service to our nation, I think, deserves a little bit of fuss.”

In Korea, Puckett served as an infantryman and company commander with the Eighth Army Ranger Company, which he led during a daylight attack of Hill 205. While his men were pinned down and under enemy mortar, machine-gun and small-arms fire, he ran across an open area — three times — to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing his Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy machine gun, and to seize the hill, according to the Army.

Puckett inspired and motivated his 57-man company, in zero-degree weather at night, to repulse five assaults by a 500-man battalion supported by intense mortar barrages. Puckett called for artillery support, which decimated attacking enemy formations.

Puckett was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on Hill 205 in 1951. He served in Vietnam in 1967, where he received a second Distinguished Service Cross. Throughout his career, he received two Silver Star medals (the nation’s third-highest award for bravery in combat); two Legion of Merit honors; two Bronze Star medals with V device for valor and five Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in action. Then there’s ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal, among other citations and awards.

Then an Army 1st lieutenant, Ralph Puckett Jr. went above and beyond the call of duty as the Eighth Army Ranger Company’s commanding officer during a multi-day operation in North Korea that started on November 25, 1950. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, 71 years later.

During his career, Puckett qualified as a master parachutist and glider trooper. He also earned the coveted U.S. Army Ranger Tab, the Army Combat Infantryman Badge and the Lancero Badge from Colombia.

As a recent graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, then-1st Lt. Puckett had limited infantry training and no combat experience when he was tasked with forming and leading a provisional Ranger company at Camp Drake, Japan, in August 1950. Ranger units were a fixture in American armies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The modern Rangers created as a special operations force during World War II, were disbanded after the war. However, 15 Ranger companies, including Puckett’s, were created during Korea.

Hundreds of soldiers volunteered for the unit, which allowed Puckett to select his men based on their weapons qualification scores, duty performance, athletic ability and personal desire to serve as an Army Ranger.

Puckett included several soldiers of color, just a few years after the long racially-segregated U.S. military began to integrate, according to the Washington Post.

The Eighth Army Ranger Company relocated to then-Pusan, Korea, where they began what was expected to be seven weeks of specialized training at the Eighth Army Ranger Training Center. Soldiers who could not meet the standard were cut from the company and replaced with allied Korean soldiers, known as KATUSAs.

After taking Hill 205, the Rangers came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire as Chinese forces entered the Korean conflict against U.S. and United Nations forces. It would be the first of six battalion-sized attacks against Puckett’s unit.

For details on the battle, click here. Severely wounded, Puckett ordered his Rangers to leave him behind to ensure their safety. Two Rangers ignored that order, fought back against the Chinese force as they crested the hill and dragged Puckett down to safety. Privates First Class Billy G. Walls and David L. Pollock were each awarded the Silver Star medal for their own heroism in saving Puckett, the Post reported.

Tomorrow: TWO WARS, TWO HEROES Part II: The Navy Hospitalcorpsman

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York

May 27, 2021 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Medal of Honor for Ranger (Updated); Al Qaeda Threat in Africa

Army Ranger Awarded Medal of Honor

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne conducting a security patrol while on a mission in northern Afghanistan in 2014. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne — a Ranger in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command — received the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Friday (September 11, 2020) for heroics in 2015 when he and others rescued some 70 hostages facing imminent execution by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

Payne, then a Sergeant 1st Class, was the assistant team leader of a group of operators with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. They joined Kurdish commandos on the October 22, 2015, nighttime raid to free Iraqi hostages from the ISIS prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.

Payne will become the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor, according to Military.com. Army officials have identified Payne as a Ranger, but they have not publicly confirmed his affiliation with the elite and highly secretive Delta Force, the website noted.

Intelligence reported the hostages were being housed in two buildings inside the heavily-fortified compound. Payne’s team would be responsible for clearing one of them. The raiders arrived by CH-47 Chinook helicopter, but a complete brownout ensued as the helicopter rotors stirred up dust. Using their night vision googles, Payne and others navigated to the wall of the compound as enemy gunfire erupted, according to an Army report of the incident.

Patrick’s team met light resistance as they cleared their assigned building. Once inside, they used bold cutters to break thick locks on two rooms with steel prison doors, releasing nearly 40 hostages. There was still an intense firefight going on at the other building. The other team radioed for assistance.

Under heavy machine-gun fire Patrick and others climbed a ladder to the roof of the one-story building, where they engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire. Insurgents below them detonated suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. At the same time, smoke billowed out from the roof and enemy gunfire targeted Patrick’s team.

They moved under heavy fire back to ground level and breached windows and walls to enter the building. Once inside, the fighting was intense and the Kurdish commandos began taking casualties.

In order to release the remaining hostages, Patrick reentered the flaming structure with bolt cutters despite heavy gunfire fire. Flames touched off ammunition from a nearby weapons cache. Amid the smoke and chaos, Patrick twice more entered the burning building and with the Kurds, helped release about 30 more hostages.

Patrick and the others did not learn that one of their team members Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler, had been killed in action, until they returned to base.

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Why Africa Matters.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa says the continent is important in the effort to counter violent extremist organizations.

“Al Qaeda and Islamic State have both stated that they intend to attack and undermine the United States,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, adding that both groups have found a safe haven in Africa. In Africa, Anderson told an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) virtual conference on countering violent extremism, “they can establish themselves, they can develop their means ,and then they can eventually establish — whether it’s a caliphate or their area of control that will give them resources” to undermine the international order and attack the United States and Western allies and partners.

The Sahel Region of Africa. (Wikipedia)

Having lost its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has been West, with the Islamic State Grand Sahara in the Mali region and the Islamic State West Africa, in Northeastern Nigeria. Even more disturbing, Anderson said, “we’re seeing them as they expand down the eastern coast, the Swahili coast of Africa. And so we see them established in Somalia. We see them going down into Mozambique, in Tanzania. And we see that these affiliates continue to expand and leverage each other.”

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has been more patient, avoiding attention while it created two big affiliates — al Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM, al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. 

“This is not a threat that one nation can take care of on its own. It’s not a United States problem. It’s an international problem,” Anderson said.

Special operations troops have long trained their counterparts in Somalia, Kenya, Niger and other countries, while civil affairs units have supported local goodwill projects, in countries like Cameroon, where Nigeria-based Boko Haram encroaches, notes Military Times.

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Silver Stars for Heroism.

Two Green Berets and an Air Force pararescueman were awarded Silver Star medals for their heroism during a nearly eight-hour firefight last year after the Special Forces team stumbled upon an elite Taliban force in a small Afghan village, according to Stars and Stripes.

All three Silver Stars were awarded at a small ceremony in the Rock Garden on the 7th Group compound at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida., in August, along with six Bronze Star Medals with Valor devices, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices and four Purple Hearts earned over the six-month deployment last year of the 7th Group’s 1st Battalion.

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SOCOM Modernizes Small Craft Fleet.

The small surface craft fleet that supports the clandestine operations of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders is undergoing a modernization program, according to Seapower magazine.

The SEALs use special operations craft, to approach shores and insert and extract teams of special warfare operators. These craft are fast, quiet, capable of shallow-water operations, and armed with machine guns for use if their cover is blown. The small craft also can be used for coastal patrol missions and to interdict hostile craft and conduct visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) missions.

Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate the Special Operations Craft Riverine (SOC-R), which is specifically designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces in shallow waterways and open water environments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric)

Navy Special Warfare Command, the parent unit of the SEAL teams, as a component of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), receives much of its equipment not through normal service acquisition channels but through SOCOM. SOCOM is a combatant command but is unusual in that it has its own acquisition budget and programs.

The special warfare community nearing completion of recapitalization of two classes of small boats and well along in a modernization program that will increase the capabilities of its special operations craft. See details here.

September 11, 2020 at 2:11 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 13, 2019)

Wet Silk Training

Wet Silk Training

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Christopher Stevenson)

A soldier emerges through a parachute canopy during wet silk training at Fort Carson, Colorado on September 6, 2019.

Wet silk training? It sounds so … unmilitary. Here at 4GWAR Blog, we have to admit, we had never heard the term before. The Defense Department caption that came with this photo noted wet silk training is designed to prepare Army Special Operations personnel (Green Berets and Rangers) for airborne water jumps.

Here’s the thing, parachuting out of an airplane or high-flying helicopter is daunting enough, but landing in water can be scary — especially when you swim to the surface and come up under your soggy parachute. “When you are swimming under a wet parachute, it sticks to your face and your body, and it is a very uncomfortable feeling,” Sergeant 1st Class Michael Donahue, told the author of an Army Special Operations Command public affairs article in 2014. “It’s very uncomfortable if you have never done it before,” added Donahue, who, at the time, was coaching water survival training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Training is conducted in swimming pools with lots of safety personnel and equipment around, including flotation devices to keep the sodden training parachute afloat, which accounts for the weird swirling colors in today’s FRIFO.

September 13, 2019 at 11:49 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Leadership Changes; New Gunships Defense; SEALS and Women

Votel & Thomas.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Army General Joseph Votel is likely to be the next chief of Central Command (CENTCOM), according to the Washington Post. And to replace Votel at SOCOM, the Post says Army Lieutenant General Raymond Thomas is the most likely candidate.

Votel, an Army Ranger and former head of the 75th Ranger Regiment, took over Tampa, Florida-based SOCOM as its 10th commander in 2014 from Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL.

Word of Votel’s planned transfer to CENTCOM, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Army Gen. and U.S> SOCOM commander Joseph Votel. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Army Gen. and U.S. SOCOM commander Joseph Votel.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

Special Operations Forces include Army Green Berets, Rangers and Special Ops aviators, Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant-craft crews, Air Force Pararescue jumpers and combat air controllers, Marine Corps Corps critical skills operators and special operations combat services specialists.

Thomas, also an Army Ranger, is currently the head of Joint Special Operations Command, the SOCOM unit that oversees terrorist-hunting missions from North Africa to Afghanistan, according to the Post. CENTCOM, based in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for U.S. security interests an area consisting of 20 mostly Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

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Radio Countermeasures.

U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered radio countermeasures equipment for its AC-130J and MC-130J gunship  variants.

Under a $32 million contract with Northrop Grumman, the company’s Land and Avionics C4ISR division will supply radio frequency countermeasures (RFCM) for the planes, according to the C4ISR&Networks web site.

Jeff Palombo, Northrop Grumman division vice president and general manager, said N-G’s solution “is designed to detect and defeat not only current radio frequency threats, but also to have the flexibility to protect our warfighters as the threat evolves.” In a Northrop Grumman press release, Palombio said the solution “is built upon our high confidence aircraft protection systems of today, coupled with an open architecture approach that enables our offering to grow to a multi-spectral, multi-function capability for the future.”

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Mabus VS. SEALS

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is urging the Navy’s admirals to press forward with integrating women into the Special Ops Navy SEAL teams, over the concerns of Navy SEAL leaders.

140121-N-KB563-148 CORONADO, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2014) Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs) students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf Passage is one of many physically demanding evolutions that are a part of the first phase of SEAL training. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/Released)

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs)
students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st
Class Michael Russell/Released)

As Naval Special Warfare hammers out a plan to start admitting women into their very rugged training, Mabus is urging Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson to forge ahead. Mabus rebutted some of the concerns Navy brass raised about roadblocks to integration, the Navy Times reported.

In the plan it submitted, NSW argued that allowing women to join direct ground combat units would not increase readiness, and could even distract from it, according to the memo obtained by Navy Times.

January 12, 2016 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: International Special Ops Exercise in Tampa

Land, Sea and Air

TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.

The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.

The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.

The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

 Click on the photos to enlarge.

 

May 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Special Ops Command Seeks $7.7 billion for 2015

By the Numbers UPDATE

UPDATES with new spending numbers and McRaven testimony

The Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015) seeks $7.7 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, including $1.52 billion for procuring weapons, equipment and supplies.

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

That procurement figure includes $112.2 million for rotary wing upgrades and sustainment, $25.6 million for modifications to CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, $25.5 million for underwater systems, $144.3 million for ordnance, $81 million for communications equipment and electronics, $63 million for tactical ground vehicles and $38 million for “global video surveillance activities.”

The total defense budget request – capped at $496 billion by a congressional budget deal in December – is actually $495.6 billion. But the Pentagon has yet to specify what it will seek for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, for short) to pay for the war in Afghanistan and unforseen costs like disaster relief missions after earthquakes and typhoons.

But the Obama administration is seeking an additional $26.4 billion in defense funding from Congress through what it terms the Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative (OGS). The White House claims there will be mandatory spending cuts and tax loophole closings to offset the additional spending. The administration’s budget documents maintain OGS will be “fully paid-for,” but many critics are skeptical.

With that extra money, the Pentagon has laid out what it would be used for, including: $300 million for an increase at SOCOM in training, readiness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); $100 million for SOCOM recapitalizing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence activities.

Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they were willing to cut other parts of the military – including weapons programs and the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – to protect “key capability areas” like special operations and counter terrorism from the budget ax.

Unlike the rest of the military, Special Operations Command won’t be seeing a reduction in its current force of approximately 66,000 in fiscal 2015. In fact, the Pentagon is seeking to add 3,700 personnel. That’s still below the 72,000 end strength planned just a few years ago, but Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, told the emerging threats panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (March 11) the lower number will mean “we’ll have to prioritize our efforts globally.”

Noting that SOCOM has about 7,000 people deployed in 84 countries now, McRaven said the challenge would be “making sure we can continue to meet priority demands globally,” which he said he could do with 69,700 instead of 72,000.

March 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Feb. 25, 2011)

Like A Bridge Under Troubled Waters

U.S. Army photo by John D. Helms

Believe it or not, this wet and overloaded soldier is using a bridge to cross this Florida swamp – a rope bridge.

It’s all part of training during the third and final phase of the 61-day U.S. Army Ranger School course. Based at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Ranger School tests students’ skills, strength, endurance and adaptability under grueling physical and psychological conditions during 18-to-20-hour days. The average graduation rate is just 40 percent.

Those who do graduate are entitled to wear the black and gold Ranger shoulder tab on their uniform. In addition to officers and non-commissioned offers of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the school also trains a select number of candidates each year from the other U.S. military services, including Reserve components, as well as foreign military services.

The Ranger course is broken down into three phases: the physical assessment and woodland terrain phase at Camp Rogers and Camp Darby at Benning; the mountain phase at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia; and the swamp phase at Camp Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The first phase spends 21 days training students in small unit tactics as well as squad- and platoon-size mission planning. But first they have to pass a rigorous series of physical fitness and infantry capabilities tests including being able to do 49 pushups in two minutes, complete a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less, combat water survival, day/night land navigation and timed, long marchs in full gear.

Another 21 days is spent in the mountain phase at Dahlonega, Georgia learning to lead small units in a mountainous environment.

The final phase takes 17 days to learn rope bridge, small boat and swamp maneuvering under the same grueling conditions in Florida’s swamps and coastal waters.

A fourth, Desert phase at Fort Bliss, Texas, was eliminated in 1995.

To see a Defense Department photo slide show of the Ranger Swamp training click here.

February 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment


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