The Tragedy of Green-on-Blue Casualties of War

 

The term “green-on-blue casualties” has been brought up an unfortunate number of times lately.  If you’ve heard this term but don’t understand what it means, I’d like to use this article to discuss that today.

This term is meant to describe an Afghan policeman or soldier attacking a coalition, largely US, soldier.  In 2012 there were 44 of these attacks, and although the numbers have largely subsided due to increased security precautions and troop drawdown there was even a Major General (Harold Greene) who was killed in a green-on-blue incident in 2014.

And over the weekend seven US military members were wounded in an insider “green-on-blue” attack at Camp Shaheen in Northern Afghanistan.  As a former Green Beret this strikes close to home, as one of the primary missions of Special Forces is to train and assist local forces to give them the ability to take back their own country.

The three Green Berets killed in another green-on-blue attack in Jordan highlights this, as the soldiers from 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) were ambushed as they were entering the base at which they were training Jordanians.  Green Berets account for over 60% of the Special Operations forces killed in action in our current wars, and a large part of that increased percentage is on account of this very mission.

Green Berets were once known for their longer hair and beards than the conventional military, largely because of the train and advise mission.  Green Berets are selected largely for an ability to not only think on their feet and outside of the box, but also for an enhanced natural ability to assimilate to their surroundings and gain the trust of the local groups they are fighting with, which is why Special Forces has long grown beards & long hair to “fit in” with the local cultures.

Rather than living like most conventional forces on the large city-bases which inhabit warzones the US has a presence in, Special Forces live “outside the wire,” giving them the ability to live, eat, train and fight with their local forces rather than only showing when it’s time for work.  We pride ourselves on an ability to create strong rapport due to our gregarious personalities, aptitude and willingness to pick up another language and our cultural sensitivity.  

And of course our enemies know this fact very well.  It is common for the taliban, ISIS or any local rebel groups trying to deliver a blow to our forces to attempt either “turning” one of the troops being trained by Special Forces or to even attempt to get one of their fighters to pose as an Afghan soldier or policeman to give them placement and know our movements.  And even to kill some of us.

When I was on my first Afghanistan deployment we had stringent vetting practices, but that isn’t always possible.  When you have a few handfuls of fighters that you’re responsible for it’s much easier to employ intelligence procedures to weed out any bad elements; but when you begin matching a 12-man Special Forces team with hundreds of soldiers it becomes more difficult.

And sometimes it’s a risk you just have to take in order to accomplish your mission.  We had several soldiers in our first group of commandos in Afghanistan that came completely clean with us, admitting that they used to be Taliban but we (the US) paid better.  It’s amazing what you can do once you find a person’s motivations!

And every time we have a green-on-blue incident like this it sets the mission back substantially.  Special Forces are known as “force multipliers” because you can take a small team of us and train, equip and fight alongside large groups of soldiers over the span of a deployment.  As we liked to say our purpose was to “work ourselves out of a job” by creating a fighting force that could do everything from running intelligence operations to kicking down doors and killing bad guys without our assistance.

But the most important variable for this to happen successfully is trust.  The first few weeks of a training mission are almost exclusively dedicated to establishing rapport, or trust, between the local soldiers and us.  We spend a lot of time drinking chai (tea), sharing stories and yes, even walking around base holding hands with our guys (as a show of respect to the local culture in which that shows friendship).  

Any loss of rapport begins to crumble the foundation upon which our entire mission in Afghanistan is built.  But unfortunately the mission must go on, and we know as soldiers that war is hell and this is a byproduct of it.

To be killed by an enemy combatant in a firefight is something that can be respected, as two warriors are fighting as has been done since time immemorial.  But to be killed by someone who you think you can trust is a travesty and nothing more than cowardly on their part.  

But unfortunately this is a part of war, and seems as if it will continue.  Even long after all conventional troops are out of Afghanistan the Special Forces soldiers will remain, off the grid and away from the protection of our fellow Americans.  

So please say a prayer and keep these soldiers in your hearts.  Even though the media coverage of the war has been winding down for some time and it’s come off the radar of most Americans, there is still a very large number of our troops in harm’s way every day, needing your support now as much as ever.

 

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A) and is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war.” Follow him @RobertPLewis on Twitter or on his RobertPatrickLewisAuthor Facebook page.

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Why are Special Operations dying in Africa?

By Robert Patrick Lewis

 

I fielded this question a lot after my first book (Love Me When I’m Gone) was published, but the death of a Navy SEAL in Somalia on May 4th has stirred that question back up.  Most Americans don’t realize that all major wars have led to Africa, and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) hasn’t been any different (although the reasons for it are).

While many Leftists and progressives today automatically think of America when they hear the word slavery, many forgot that the major European nations (Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Portugal) had been involved in slavery for quite a long time, taking turns colonizing Africa and fighting over the control of her people and resources.  Many of these African colonies were not well-defended (as it was never their intention to be combat positions), and thus became excellent targets of opportunity for the warring nations in World War I.  The European influence was so strong on the continent, in fact, that the Army taught me French before going to Africa as many parts of the continent still speak the language.

The Axis-owned colonies were a bit more robust during WWII, and their choice of the African continent as a battlefield led to many textbook-inspiring battles between German commander Erwin Rommel (known as The Desert Fox) and the inspiration for what I consider the greatest movie of all time, Casablanca.  Of all the gin joints in all the world…

So if Western nations aren’t openly colonizing Africa anymore (but those of us with open eyes and we who have spent time in Africa know that slavery is very much still alive in many parts of the continent), why are there American troops engaged in combat operations within her borders?

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In fact, there has been a 1600% increase in US troops with boots on the ground in Africa between 2005 and 2016.  I’ve been there on orders as a Green Beret, have lost several military friends there and a Navy SEAL died in Somalia this month.  And it all boils down to three things in my mind: open territory, religious zealots and poverty.

Many Americans have a hard time understanding just how different the world is outside of our borders; did you know that if you make over $32,400 as of 2016 you’re in the top 1% of income earners globally?  If those smelly ANTIFA idiots had to chant that after drinking their pre-protest iced mocha frappucino (paid for by their parents credit card, of course) they may not have so many followers.

Aside from our creature comforts, most of America and Americans are “on the grid.”  This means that if you run errands throughout the day, you’ve most likely been caught on camera numerous times by Big Brother.  You’ve probably used your credit or debit card.  And there’s is a high chance you’ve had to show someone your driver’s license or ID (yet it’s racist when needed to vote?).

This means that if Big Brother needed to find you, they could.  If you were to commit a major crime or were suspected of plotting something they could most likely find you and emplace surveillance to see what you were up to and who you were commiserating with.

But not in Africa.

The grid may exist in some of the more advanced areas on the continent, say Johannesburg, Morocco and possibly a few others; but 99.99% of that continent is completely off the grid.  And not only is it off the grid, but as one of the most corrupt regions on the planet (I wouldn’t put Washington D.C. too far behind) any local police or security that needs to be asked to “look the other way” will often do so for a very low price.

This means that if you were someone who needed to hide out, say a terrorist leader or arms dealer, you could probably find a good place to do it there.  And what if you needed to set up a terrorist training camp to teach people how to shoot, make explosives and become deadly in the fight against the infidels?  There’s quite a bit of prime-time off the grid desert property in which you could do that.

Its ease of access to the Middle East makes it a prime location for terrorists, and with the large amounts of money the Saudi’s give to setup Wahhabbi mosques (the most violent and terrorist-grooming sect of Islam) it’s a breeding ground for extremism.  Add in the two final ingredients, heat and poverty, and you have a recipe for terrorism.

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Sure, Boko Haram stealing schoolgirls made Oprah upset & Joseph Kony and his child soldiers are enough of a reason to send my former unit on a hunting mission in the jungles of the Central African Republic, but not enough to warrant a 1600% increase in US military presence.  

If you ever find yourself questioning why the US, State Department and DoD make some of the very strange-seeming decisions that they do to fund nations which call us evil and send troops to the middle of nowhere, it all boils down to one word: stability.  

Stable, rich and prosperous nations don’t allow terrorists to come into their country.  They don’t allow the populace to live “off the grid” so that anyone can hide their evil deeds there.  And they don’t bring Green Berets with our guns & beards to hunt evil within their borders.
Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A) and is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war.” Follow him @RobertPLewis on Twitter or on his RobertPatrickLewisAuthor Facebook page.

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Building a Bridge to the East while Burning One to the West

 

 There are two major geopolitical events going on at the moment that deserve attention: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a vote Sunday to eliminate the role of Prime Minister and give himself powernot seen since the Sultans of the Ottoman empire, and North Korea is back to acting like, well, North Korea.

So why does Turkey matter and why isn’t North Korea a radioactive parking lot yet?  It’s complicated.  

 

A Bridge to the West

Turkey is seen by many as a “bridge to the West” for Islamic countries around the world, and while many westerners couldn’t point Turkey out on a map if given several dozen tries, it is significant for both geopolitical and strategic reasons.  Strategically, Turkish air bases are currently being used to launch airstrikes against ISIS and in Syria.  My grandfather, having been a spy hunter with the Army Security Service was stationed in Turkey for a few years, and our nations work together on key strategic issues like fighting ISIS.

To get supplies to our troops in Iraq via ground it is required to either pass through Turkey or Russia, as it is literally the bridge from Europe to the Middle East (now can you point it out?).

Politically the populace of Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim, but the current government follows a secular structure not often seen in Muslim countries.  They are a member of the UN, with a military that has staged coups any time the rulers have tried moving away from their secular values  (in 1960, 1971 and 1980) as the military are “guardians of the nation’s republican values” set in Turkey’s founding constitution.

 

From President to Sultan

But that may all change very soon.  This vote has established new powers for Erdoğan that, while not going into action for a few years would essentially give him the power to do whatever he wants.  They will eliminate term limits, give him complete control of the military (so it cannot stage another coup if he gets out of line), gives him complete power to appoint judges and he’s reinstating the death penalty.  I’m all for the death penalty, but the EU isn’t, and as their petition for EU membership has been ongoing since 2005 this may kill those efforts.     

And as the bridge between Islam and the West, both geographically and politically, their stepping away from western culture, politics and alliances could lead to what we call in Special Forces a “catastrophic loss of rapport.”

 

North Korea War Games

So now onto the crazy fat kid and his hermit kingdom.  For decades North Korea has been playing a game with the US and western nations and it’s worked for him.  Some may take offense to my calling it a game, but it is quite literally deterrence theory, which is a branch of game theory developed by Thomas Schelling and John von Neumann (von Neumann is the person after whom Stanley Kubrick developed the “Dr. Strangelove” character in his movie of the same name, for which he consulted Schelling).

Shelling won the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (shared with Robert Aumann) for “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis” and it has been used, many believe, to avert more than a few events which could have led to full-scale nuclear war.

North Korea has used it to their advantage, following this basic principle of game theory: without ever actually launching a nuclear weapon, they can hold much of the world hostage by letting it be known they have nukes and making us believe that they are just crazy enough to actually launch them.

 

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

This is crazy because it would result in what we call “mutually assured destruction,” as the movie Dr. Strangelove is based upon.  But it’s not so crazy because it’s worked out pretty well so far.  When they need sanctions relaxed, loans from the West or humanitarian aid, they rattle their sabres and perform a “missile test.”  And every time, so far, the West responds by giving this petulant child exactly what they demand.

Fortunately President Trump has taken an approach many would never have imagined in solving this problem.  Rather than launching an all-out attack against North Korea for their antics, he’s tapped an unlikely ally to tell them he’s not playing games anymore: China.

China prefers money to military power (although many believe it is their strategy to win both in the long run), and so war between the US and North Korea is not in their best interest (it would likely send millions of North Korean refugees into China).  Chinese President Xi Jinping has been acting as an intermediary, telling Trump to hold off any offensive actions and telling North Korea to “chillax.”

 

Hope to See You Next Week

So all in all this is shaping up to be an interesting week.  We have an ally in Turkey which may be moving away from our alliance and a long-time frenemy in China that seems to be getting closer.  Hopefully we have an entirely new set of problems for me to write about next week, rather than one of these blowing over to start WWIII!  

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A) and is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war.” Follow him @RobertPLewis on Twitter or on his RobertPatrickLewisAuthor Facebook page.

 

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A Changing of the Guard

When even NBC and the Wall Street Journal are calling out Hillary Clinton for her lies, you know something in the world is changing. If it were the senseless robots on The View or MSNBC I’d be waiting to see pigs fly, but I’m still surprised.

But I shouldn’t be, and neither should you.

If you have any short-term memory left, perhaps you remember the craziness that was the 2012 doomsday or Mayan calendar countdown-to-extinction madness. While the masses and media were bringing “experts” on their programs and social media was full of millions of theories and explanations of why the world was coming to the end, there was a relatively silent minority who knew that real change was coming and were excited to see it.

And while I am about as conservative as it can get on many issues, I tend to follow what you would call “alternative views” on things such as social consciousness and religion. I’m not going to get into what that means here, but in a nutshell, I go to church and pray several times a day but don’t believe any one religion is correct or any other is wrong.

Except Scientology. Those people are nuts.

Many of those with a voice in the alternative circles I listen to spoke in 2012 of a coming shift in consciousness; an awakening and a shift in the status quo that would begin to fundamentally change the world around us.

It may seem to be a rather large leap to go from yoga & meditation groups to mainstream politics, but I believe we are seeing the proof that they were right. I mean, besides being here on January 1, 2013 and remembering the stories of preachers and doomsday prophets who had given away everything they had in expectation of the apocalypse.

But if I had told you in 2012 while Obama and Romney were locked in battle for the presidency, while Queen Elizabeth II was celebrating her 60th anniversary as Queen of England and Vladimir Putin won the Russian presidential election, that the next US presidential election would be completely focused on outsiders, you would have called me crazy.

But that’s precisely where we find ourselves.

A shift in global consciousness doesn’t always have to be an earth-shattering, immediate event, but it does have serious implications and results. And while it seems to be making some headway into how the general public views the world, it is far from complete.

The Wall Street Journal (and many other publications) also published an article today concerning General Petraeus and how the Obama administration has so vindictively pursued him for an offense that never made it beyond closed doors, yet Hillary Clinton remains completely untouched by the very same administration for an even harsher infraction of the same basic law.

General Petraeus, whose strategy turned the tide on the Iraq war and is obviously a brilliant man and decorated hero, may be stripped of one of his “stars” and military pension because a woman he was having an affair with saw some of his notebooks.

Hillary kept “above top secret” or Special Access Program information on an unsecured and unencrypted email server on her home, in an age where it’s very well known China and Russia are openly hacking everything they can sneak their way into, and she’s running for president with no reprimand.

So it seems that while many of the vestiges of cronyism and outright treasonous friendships (just look into who paid the Clinton Foundation for a lesson in high treason) may allow an American hero to be skewered while a lifelong politician and failed lawyer remains unscathed, it can’t sway the public opinion.

This shift in global consciousness has been an “eye-opener” for lack of a better term, a moment where suddenly cultures around the world have realized that they don’t have to stand idly by and allow the status quo or current system that is in place hold them under the water any longer.

In the Arab Spring, muslims across the Middle East protested and rioted for a change. The Assad Dynasty was attacked in Syria and Mubarak regime toppled in Egypt. And here in America, in an election that terrifyingly has two candidates whose name recognition and many pals in the political elite were thought to make them shoe-ins for the presidency, we are realizing that times have changed.

It remains to be seen what will actually happen. I’ve come to believe that if Clinton is in fact given the presidency, it will be proof that the system is rigged and these decisions are made regardless of what the American people want.

But no matter who wins the election, at least one thing has been made quite clear in this election cycle: the people’s eyes have opened to realize that things can change, and that is what leads to a changing of the guard.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on  iTunes.

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To Refugee or Not to Refugee

There is a massive movement going on in the global population these days, and I don’t mean environmental activism or putting a French flag skin on your Facebook profile. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock and abstaining from social media and any form of news (in which case congratulations, you’re a better person than the rest of us) you probably know that I’m referring to the Syrian (and many other nations not really being discussed) migration under way.

There are a lot of different ways to look at what’s going on, and depending on which side of the political spectrum or what news channel you watch you’d either define this as a crisis, human tragedy or underhanded plot to smuggle foreign fighters onto US soil. Each of these descriptions is being strongly supported by their respective side and bitterly opposed by the other, and depending whom you talk to each has as strong a case as the other to be accurate.

The largest problem with the current debate is the one thing most important to discerning where the actual facts lie is missing: evidence. And no, the pictures randomly shared by people on Facebook who fiercely identify with one side of the other are not evidence.

The pictures which seem to be the most widely circulated and claiming to show Syrian refugees who are built like professional linebackers boarding a ship? They were actually taken in Australia in 2013.

The pictures shown alongside headlines in conservative media claiming “First boatload of 10,000 Syrian Refugees Arrive in New Orleans” were actually photos from Hungary.

And the photos and headlines that all arriving Syrian refugees are military-aged males who left the women behind to deal with ISIS? Nope.

That being said, there is one story making the social media rounds that is partially true: the empty tent city in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government refusing to take a single Syrian refugee.

Kinda true.

The Gulf States (Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain) have refused to resettle Syrians on a refugee status, but they have taken in thousands as visitors or temporary workers.

Very much unlike the policies of Obama, the Gulf States believe people should actually work for a living, and are requiring the Syrians do as much.

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There are two main points that I’d like to make before going forward, which I tend to make from time to time in hopes that somebody is paying attention. Firstly, the media is lying to you. Yes, if it bleeds it leads is the mantra of the failing business model of the 24 hour news cycle, and the levels “journalists” will stoop to for ratings these days has hit ultimately deplorable levels. Secondly, we’re in an election cycle, so the first point is even more disgustingly worse than normal.

That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that I fully support the idea that we have some responsibility to bring all of these Syrian refugees to the United States, as I feel we have other priorities at the moment.

As a soldier who spent a significant amount of time in the Middle East, I was always ashamed of how hard it was to get the people who truly helped us over there a work visa or any type of pass back to the United States.

In five trips to that part of the world (including Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa) I’ve worked with dozens of interpreters personally, as have all of my friends. Of all the interpreters I’ve worked with or had friends work with, I’ve only heard of two from my circles that we repatriated to the United States.

I have seen a much larger number murdered, their nude bodies hung in the middle of towns naked and scarred from days of torture for helping the Americans, as a sign to others not to help us. We’ve had to move interpreters onto our bases after receiving death threats to them and their family, which is a move that happens quite often there.

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These interpreters have done more for the United States than many “citizens” who have given nothing to this country aside from being born here, yet it took an act of God and ten years of service (which usually came with several bullet holes and would-be Purple Hearts if they were American soldiers) to get them here.

Yet it seems Syrian refugees somehow “earned” a VIP ticket to come here via the Fast Pass. Left leaning media and politicians (who obviously have little to no war experience and don’t know or care about our interpreters) are even belittling those who are asking for background checks before letting these refugees in.

Just to put it out there, the background checks are usually the most difficult part of getting our interpreters back here.

Not because of anything shady in their background, but just getting lazy American contractors and government workers to actually do them is next to impossible.

So once again, Obama is showing his true colors and disdain for and allergic reaction to hard workers and people with something to actually give back to this country. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t allow any refugees here, but I feel that it is a discussion we can have when the time is appropriate.

Our priority and allegiance should be to those who have risked their lives and saved countless American lives by gaining intelligence and offering their services when we needed them most. And to stop any objections in advance, our interpreters are also victims of war who live in dangerous war zones, making the Syrian argument completely invalid.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on iTunes.

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The Only Way to Stand with Paris

No, changing your Facebook profile to the colors of the French flag didn’t do anything to curb ISIS.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it won’t bring back any of the young and innocent Parisians murdered by those bloodthirsty savages, either.

Americans have become absurdly quick to adopt temporary and, while meaningful and well intentioned, pointless acts of solidarity.  But while the profile picture skin or hashtag you’re using on social media won’t make any difference, there is something we Americans can stand together to do which can: stand against gun control to ensure this doesn’t happen here.

ISIS claimed responsibility soon after the Paris massacre, adding that Rome and Washington DC would be seeing these same types of events.  They even bolstered their claim by saying they had well trained soldiers in many US states, waiting for the word to carry out their orders of killing innocent civilians.

Did you ever stop to think why it would be Washington DC and not Dallas, Denver or any other state with a much higher population and far fewer high-level security around than DC?  No, you don’t have to, because even our enemies know why you don’t pick a fight with Americans.  Unless, of course, they’re in a gun free zone or state.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was famously quoted as saying  You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass” as a reason Japan never invaded the mainland United States during WWII.  

Terrorists may be bloodthirsty savages, but like Admiral Yamamoto they are smart enough to know their plan wouldn’t get very far if they went up against gun wielding, second amendment loving, red blooded Americans.

The point of terrorist acts is to inflict the maximum amount of casualties in a high traffic, highly publicized area and fashion.  Which is precisely why they will never attempt an attack like this in any region where there is an enormous possibility of at least one person carrying a concealed weapon and ending their rampage immediately.

I can only imagine the fear that must have been going through those young Parisians minds in that concert hall.  Not only because there was a madman shooting, but also because in their European city with extremely liberal gun control laws, they knew they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves and no one was going to arrive in time who would be able to either.

And while the Left does everything they can to use these events and other mass shootings to push their agenda of gun control, those of us who understand guns, their importance and have and have a strong respect for how to use them properly see them as a perfect example of why we need more armed Americans.

How long would the Aurora movie massacre lasted if it were just an hour down the road in Colorado Springs, home of my Army Alma Mater 10th Special Forces Group?  Not long, because there are an awful lot of Green Berets there who openly carry pistols and know how to use them.  

How long would the Sandy Hook school shooting have lasted if there were just a few armed teachers or guards present on the school grounds?  Probably not very long.

For those of you who’ve never been involved in the two-way live fire range (as we like to call an active firefight), there is one very critical piece of experience you gain only from living through a few: it becomes immeasurably harder to shoot while you’re being shot at.

It sounds pretty simple, but it’s something that gun control advocates don’t understand because most of them don’t have any actual experience with shooting (or military/law enforcement experience).  The argument often comes up that just because a responsible citizen is armed doesn’t mean they would be able to stop a shooter attempting one of these mass executions.

But in all reality, it does.  Just effectively firing at a shooter, whether you are striking them or not, will force them to find cover lest their rampage be ended immediately.  And there is an enormous difference between a shooter who can stand in the middle of a crowded rail station in Mumbai, concert hall in Paris or school in Connecticut and shoot with no worries of protecting themselves, and one who has to shoot while on the move or from behind cover.

The right to self defense, to keep and bear arms and to protect your loved ones is an inalienable right that we Americans hold dear and helps to keep us safe.  More police, stricter laws or Facebook profile skins won’t help keep our countrymen and your loved ones safe from these types of madmen.

But responsible Americans with guns will.

 

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on  iTunes.

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A Geopolitical Game of Cat and Mouse

I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog. I rooted for Rudy in his movie. I cheered for the road runner as he sped past Wile E. Coyote. And of course I always held my breath for Jerry in the Tom & Jerry cartoons as a kid.

But there is a much larger geopolitical game of Cat & Mouse going on in the world, and I find myself a bit confused as I can’t figure out who’s playing the underdog, who’s playing the cat, and who’s playing the dog, or coyote, or bully. But we as a nation are playing one of those roles.

It was widely reported recently that the US Navy sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of the Subi Reef, which was one time merely a reef that was submerged during high tide in the Spratly Islands. As part of their fight for dominance over all of the South China Sea, the Chinese military has begun building artificial islands out of just about anything it can, even building a landing strip long enough to land fighter jets on this one in particular.

If the idea of building an island out of a reef sounds like some kind of science fiction reserved for the supervillain in a James Bond movie, it’s really not all that unusual. The tiny island of Singapore has been turning its trash and refuse into biomass and using it to increase the size of its own island for over a decade, so this is hardly anything new.

What is new, however, is the idea of doing this in the middle of waters previously shared for commercial fishing and military movements by the Philippines (a strong US ally), the Republic of Vietnam and Taiwan (another strong US ally).

More of a global game of chess than cat and mouse, China is attempting to extend its influence in a region that the US has been strategically boxing in through military alliances, and trying to find its own breathing room.

And the actions of the US Navy sending a warship dangerously close to these waters China is attempting to claim brings back other instances of military encroachment on another front.

Yes, of course I’m going back to Russia.

It was not very long ago that President Obama was filming a reality TV series in Alaska (seriously, I can understand too much golf, but how does a President have time to film a reality TV episode) when Russian warships did the same exact thing, sailing perilously close to the Alaskan coastline.

And of course we did nothing.

This only came after Russian bombers and fighters encroached US and NATO airspace several hundred times in the previous year, one of those being a Russian bomber equipped with a nuclear payload flying over the English channel.

At the same time world news was reporting the US Naval warship sailing provocatively close to the disputed Chinese island, US news was reporting another Russian encroachment. The Russian spy ship Yantar has been slowly trawling the ocean off the eastern seaboard en route to Cuba, following the route of the underwater fiber optic cables used to relay internet telecom messages.

This created quite a bit of anticipation, as the Yantar is equipped with two self-propelled deeply submersible craft, capable of reaching those cables and cutting or tapping into them. Defense analysts cited that Russian activity has greatly increased along all of the underwater cable routes to levels not seen since the Cold War, and as those cables carry some $10 trillion worth of transactions daily, it has quite a few people on high alert.

So it seems that while we constantly poke one sleeping giant (China) with an extremely provocative military stick, we completely ignore that the other, a very much awake giant (Russia), is poking us with their own.

And it’s the reasoning behind this that has me baffled. Are we admitting an alliance between Russia and China, responding to Russian aggression by acting as the aggressor toward China? Are we admitting that Russia would overpower us if it came down to armed conflict, and choosing instead to pick a fight with China? Or have communications between the highest echelons of our defense strategy completely broken down, in a mom-not-talking-to-dad type of environment?

Whatever the answer may be, it doesn’t look like any of them will lead to a happy ending. In the global game of cat and mouse, in which the general public is only privy to seeing small glimpses of news reported in the open source, we are left to wonder: Who’s playing the cat, who’s playing the mouse, and what is the cheese they’re fighting over?

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award-winning author of The Pactand “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on  iTunes.

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The Combat Veteran’s Paradox

I’ve been a guest on some of the world’s top podcasts, radio and television programs. I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at Fortune 200 company events. I’m a national spokesman for a veteran’s charity. People line up for book signings to ask about my book and to talk about life in Special Forces. Most every person I meet thanks me for my service.

But in the eyes of the state of California, I am a menace to society and undeserving of the same rights as the person next to me in line.

This is what I refer to as the “combat veteran’s paradox,” or the current state of affairs where, on one hand, most of society dons yellow ribbons and shows their undying support for the combat veterans of the past decade, those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, who’ve suffered the tolls of war and lost too many friends in the process.

And on the other hand, the state believes those same skills and bravery that were so handy in combat zones fighting for that same state’s flag become a danger to society, causing them to strive to take away our arms, benefit of the doubt, and, yes, many times even children.

While the 22-a-day statistic is staggering and gaining much-needed attention in social media and the greater landscape of society, there is another military-related statistic that has fallen off the public radar: the military divorce rate and subsequent broken families.

It seems I find stories every day in the media, through conversations with friends or in social media of another veteran having his life torn in two by an angry spouse with full support of the state.

There was once a time when I believed every story had a logical explanation, that there must be some integral key factor that these men were leaving out to paint themselves as the victim in the story.

And then I experienced it firsthand.

I cannot explain to you how maddening it is that every friend or legal authority I tell my story to – whether it be a lawyer, police officer, or court official – responds with the same answer: “they [the court system] can’t just do that.”

In a logical world they would be correct, as I would have been in my assumptions before walking the line myself. But in today’s world, the same government whose flag we soldiers run to pick up, fight for and protect has no issues with throwing us to the wind when we need their help the most, claiming the same skills they needed when it was time for war leave us incapable of being a good father, owning weapons, or receiving the benefit of the doubt.

 

As a man who grew up in the South and spent quite a bit of time in military towns, I can attest to the masses of young girls who just “love a man in uniform.”

And when the nation is in a time of peace, it works out well for both parties.

The soldier is only gone for short-term training assignments, and may come home with some anger or resentment towards his chain of command or the system from time to time, but that is much different than the unwavering wounds of war.

But in a time of war, things are much different. It takes a truly strong woman to love a veteran – more than loving the man in uniform, more than just singing along with empowering songs or watching empowering movies, but a truly strong and amazing woman with steel in her veins.

To love a veteran is to understand that sometimes he just can’t see why your world is collapsing because they didn’t have a shirt in your color. He doesn’t understand your crying because you hurt yourself and a tiny speck of blood is momentarily on your little finger. And your power struggles at work with your arch nemesis in the next cubicle? Not on his radar of things to get worked up over.

A veteran who has walked into certain death time and time again, watched multiple friends die traumatically in their early twenties and toiled in the high desert heat while wearing a full uniform with well over a hundred pounds of gear and rucksack will have a difficult time showing empathy for your first world problems.

And in the days where everyone is a special snowflake, reality tv teaches young girls that if Kim Kardashian can be a star for nothing so can they, and filing for (and getting) a divorce is not only easier than getting married but almost just as common, these strong women quickly change the “till death do us part” portion of the marital contract to “till it gets a little tough.”

And in the eyes of the state, it’s always the veteran’s fault. While the rules state that a restraining order is a serious move (and does quite a bit of damage to one’s reputation, record and any security clearance they may have held), it is quick these days to levy one against a veteran with zero evidence, history of violence, or police record.

There are many documented cases (mine as well), where an angry spouse will perjure herself in court, contradict herself repeatedly and give no clear evidence of need, but the court will rush to file a restraining order and take the children away from a loving veteran father in favor of a proven liar because she’s angry and spiteful.

Why? Because the father is a combat veteran, and as he loves his children more than anything the state allows an angry spouse to use them as weapons against him.

And there seems to be little attempt for the court to curb this disturbing trend. Much like trial lawyers can be disbarred for frivolous lawsuits but rarely are, it seems the court system has turned a blind eye to women abusing the system (and our nation’s veterans).

The onus to write this article was not my own experience (although it was a huge mitigating factor), but several others that were so egregious I felt I had to spread them as far and wide as possible to show the gravity and scope of this epidemic.

In a veteran divorce case in Key West, Florida in 2010 attorney David L. Manz of Marathon, Florida implied that all military veterans were high risks for spousal abuse and domestic violence by virtue of their military training, which aggressively teaches them to kill and destroy.

This was not only kept on record in that case but seems to be echoed time and time again since in divorce courts around the country involving veterans, where the “innocent until proven guilty” attitude required in other court cases is thrown out of the window.

Another case in Pasadena, California involved a soldier who was deployed for a year to a combat zone. While he was deployed, his wife filed for divorce and left with their children. When he returned and petitioned for custody rights, the Pasadena Judge deemed him an unfit parent due to the year he had spent away from his kids.

It didn’t matter that it was an involuntary deployment that would have landed him in jail as a deserter if he refused; again, in the eyes of the State, the combat veteran has no rights.

In another case, a spouse filed for divorce from her disabled veteran husband because caring for him was too much of a nuisance. As a parting gift, the judge awarded her half of his disability income. You read that right – she didn’t want to help with his disability anymore, but more than gladly took the money for it.

Unfortunately, I could fill pages upon pages with examples. Last night I read another message from a fellow former Green Beret on a secret group we belong to speaking of the courts giving him the same treatment, only allowing him to see his kids in supervised visits which their mother has chosen rather frequently not to even bring the kids to.

And her punishment for contempt of court? Zero.

It’s amazing with treatment like this that anyone even wonders why we’re seeing 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

A characteristic that I’ve often written and spoken about is that while we veterans may have a gruff and solid exterior, inside each of us has more love for our families than I’ve ever seen in the civilian sector – so much that we would rush to sacrifice our lives in order to protect that which we hold so dear.

It is said that “nobody loves a warrior until the enemy is at the gate.” Our nation’s veterans have been keeping that enemy at bay for well over a decade now, but when they come home to find the only people in their lives they are supposed to trust, rely and depend on have become the enemy, how can they choose to go on?

And the fact that our nation would support the soldier by wearing a ribbon but also support a court system or angry ex-spouse that would treat our veterans like this?

That, my friends, is the combat veteran’s paradox.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on iTunes.

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Russian Selfies in Syria, Chinese ships in Alaska

             The scary thing about having an innate ability to “read the writing on the wall” and understand what will most likely happen several steps down the road is that sometimes your predictions come true.

If I had the ability to foresee stock market picks or lottery numbers, I’d consider myself blessed. But being able to look at geopolitics, defense strategy and military movements and foresee future military engagements is not exactly a skill that brings one much pleasure.

I wrote my fictional series “The Pact” based on political events, news, and intelligence gained during my time in Special Forces, hoping that I was wearing too much tinfoil on my head and just being a bit paranoid. But lately it seems that each time I look at the news, I see more events pointing towards an eventual World War III.

Proxy wars are nothing new, especially in the cold and post-cold war animosity between the USA and Russia. The most famous examples are Russia’s involvement in Cuba, our involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the Ukraine crisis (which is still ongoing, despite a lack of much-needed media coverage).

 

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But it appears we have proof of a new proxy war building in an area that the Obama administration wishes they could just sweep under the rug. Despite Putin’s denials that there are any Russian combat troops involved in the Syrian conflict, it seems Russian soldiers are just as bad as American when it comes to military operational security [OPSEC] and social media.

Yes, Russian marines have been taking selfies and posting them to Russia’s largest social networking sites, with one even leaving the comment, “Off to Syria”, in his status. Something makes me think there are some potatoes to be peeled in those soldiers’ futures.

And just as the first book in “The Pact” predicted, China is coming on-board and poking the USA with a stick as well. During President Obama’s visit to Alaska (more proof that he’s not seen as anyone to worry about in the eyes of the international community), five Chinese Navy ships entered US territorial waters, coming within 12 miles of the coastline.

At the same time, China hosted an enormous military parade in Beijing to showcase its firepower, including a new “carrier killer” missile, and released an intricate video game-style short movie showcasing the Chinese military attacking a US installation eerily similar to that on Okinawa, Japan.

So it seems that while our President is spending his time appearing on late night television and reality TV – and let’s not forget, golfing – the other superpowers in the world are making some rather intimidating gestures.

 

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And this all brings us back, of course, to that famous burn Obama delivered to Romney in their 2012 debate.

When Romney, being a man I imagine is wise enough to listen to his advisors, claimed that Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe, Obama responded by saying, “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Well, Mr. Obama, while it seems you’re pretty good at delivering catchy one-liners and quick responses, maybe you should spend more time in intelligence briefings and less time on reality shows and late night TV.

 

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award-winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on  iTunes.

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man, masculinity, being a man, father, brother, son, macho, machismo, testosterone,

On Being a Man

 

             The last place I tend to look for examples of what it means to be a man is in movies (or any of today’s pop culture for that matter).  I’m not sure if it’s just me, but when I look around at society I see a culture that does everything it can to fight against masculinity, manhood and testosterone.

On the one hand we see someone like quarterback Tim Tebow, being ridiculed and chastised by much of the mainstream pop culture for expressing his religious beliefs and going to God first, while the same group congratulates Bruce Jenner for completely denying his manhood by labeling him a hero.

I’m not sure if it’s because our generation is the first where divorce is the norm, but having gone through divorce and custody battles myself and seeing firsthand just how unfairly the family court system always sides with the mother, I’d wager that a large part of the shaming of manliness has come as a result of male children growing up without the influence of their fathers (even when the fathers want to be a part of their child’s lives).

So when I went to the movies last night and saw Jurassic World, I was very impressed.  Not so much because of the plot, story or writing (I don’t think it’s too plausible that any insurance company or investors would fund a Jurassic World after the dinos got loose in Jurassic Park (the first one)), but rather because of one character.

The character is named Owen, and he’s played by Chris Pratt.  Now, I know Pratt didn’t write the lines or create the character, but after seeing the YouTube video of him teaching his son the pledge of allegiance and then seeing this movie, I’m definitely in his fan base.

But the essence of his character Owen is one of complete manliness, one that we haven’t seen since John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart a la Casablanca.  And it really got me thinking about the lack of testosterone and true class in our culture today.

The problem with real manliness in our culture is that it seems to be mischaracterized all too often, overlooking that a real man is multi-faceted, classy and agile (feeling just as comfortable in work dungarees as in a well-fitting suit).  I’ve been fortunate to spend my life around some amazing men, and each has taught me something about the art of manliness.

I’m currently working on a book for my son and other fathers searching for advice to help their young sons grow into real men, but felt it would be good to share a few of my thoughts and insights of what makes a man here.

It’s not just being tough

Although being physically and mentally tough are requirements for manliness, they aren’t the only ones.  A real man can spend all day working, fixing or building, in backbreaking labor or sometimes just tinkering, and then come home to be as gentle with the women he loves (whether it be wife, girlfriend or daughter) as snowflakes falling on a fresh field.

It’s always choosing the hard right over the easy wrong

Each of us faces decision throughout our day where it would be much easier to just lie, slack off or take the easy route.  But a real man doesn’t choose the path of least resistance just to have an easy day.  Part of being a man means making the hard decisions for the best outcomes and doing what’s best, not what’s easiest.

It’s understanding that slow and steady wins the race

Speed and impatience has become a huge part of our culture, and is one of the largest factors I see as causing the massive credit debt most Americans now carry.  A real man understands that no matter what the speed, forward progress is still progress.

It’s always putting family first

Whether it’s in your role as father, husband, son or brother, a real man always puts family first, and will go to any lengths to help.  Manliness has become confused in many ways in today’s society, and one that I have personally battled with is the “as the father it’s my job to provide, which means being in the office until late every night.”  Yes, I’m a workaholic, and I want only the best for my family; but a real man understands that if you’re not spending time with them, all the money in the world is worthless.  Time is the most precious commodity to a real man, and he gives the most of it to those he loves.

It’s leaving the world as a better place than you found it

There’s a reason the Boy Scouts teach you to always leave a place in better condition than you found it; it’s because this is an essential part of being a man.  As a father, I know my kids are going to grow up in this world, and so it’s my duty to do everything I can to make it a better place for them.  If you consider (or want to) yourself a man, this should be a constant goal.

While these aren’t the only attributes necessary for a real man, they are some of the most important.  I’ll keep you updated on when my book “Words from a Father” will be out, but until then, let’s do what we can to bring (real) manliness back into our culture.  Our kids are depending on it.

Robert Patrick Lewis was a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” on  iTunes.

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