Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are the Green Berets on the Chopping Block?

When I was in high school in the mid-1960’s, famed author Robin Moore wrote the book “The Green Berets”. This book lit the fire for the legendary force for whom President John F. Kennedy made the beret official. When Kennedy was buried, the Green Berets placed a fresh, new beret on his grave.

The success of the book was followed by the popular song “The Ballad of the Green Berets” (album cover above - I still have a copy) by Sergeant Barry Sadler of the Green Berets.

I had the great opportunity of meeting Robin Moore as a high school reporter. He signed my copy of the book with the note “Keep writing”. He was a helluva reporter and a helluva man who not only wrote the book, but went through their training as well.

That’s why the following article in Soldier of Fortune (referred to by is so disturbing. Major General James Guest echoes the concern of anyone who is part of or knows anything about the Green Berets:

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Demise of the Green Berets?

Soldier of Fortune | Maj. Gen. James Guest, USA | April 16, 2008

For a glimpse into the future of Special Forces, read the Capstone Concept for Special Operations on the USSOCOM web site. Read through it carefully. Can you find the words "Special Forces" anywhere? Or "Special Forces group?" Can you find "ODA" (operational detachment - alpha)? Or "ODB" (operational detachment - bravo)? Or "Special Forces battalion?"

You can't find these words. We can read that as a strong signal that you won't be able to find Special Forces anywhere before very long. Many other signals suggest that the senior leadership in both United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and Department of the Army (DA) are working to do away with the Green Berets. The generals at USSOCOM and in the Pentagon have been blurring the distinctions between Special Forces and special operations forces (SOF) units (Rangers, JSOC, SEALs, Delta, et al.) for some time. We now see references to "Air Force special forces," "Navy special forces," and "Marine special forces" but we rarely see the term "U. S. Army Special Forces." We do see "Army SOF," which only describes a grouping of forces, not a capability. We do see SF ODAs referred to as "special operations detachments," another sad precursor of the future.

The Capstone Concept for Special Operations being developed for USSOCOM includes the concept "global expeditionary forces," and all indications point to the intent to replace the SF groups with this new concept. The organizational charts are changing, too, and the plans are for these global expeditionary forces to work directly for USSOCOM worldwide in a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)-like configuration. Although the security assistance force (SAF) concept is a much more streamlined and effective mechanism for utilizing U. S. Army Special Forces-the SAF is regionally oriented and works directly for the combatant commander-it has been discarded.
Is USA SF Being Eviscerated?

Is this a ploy to be able to take the ODAs and use them operationally without going through the group headquarters (HQ), including the group Special Forces operating bases (SFOB)? Since 1952, conventional force headquarters have attempted to neutralize Special Forces command and control by treating the group and battalion HQ as non-operational administrative units, the purpose of which is to maintain ODAs in order that conventional units, such as JSOC, can cherry-pick them to use as support for their own missions. Reportedly, SF troops are already under the operational control of JSOC. JSOC is using the Green Berets for JSOC's own ends, whether to gather intelligence for JSOC missions or to carry out "special missions" that, if successful, JSOC can take the credit for. You can imagine who will suck up the blame if such a "special mission" goes south.

How can Special Forces be neutralized in this way? If those who want to do away with the Green Berets are successful, they will need the full support of the senior leadership of the U. S. Army. Will they do away with the Special Forces officer branch? The Special Forces warrant officer branch? The Special Forces NCO career management fields (CMF)? To date, we merely have the unusual spectacle of a relatively small unit (USSOCOM)-however joint they may be-taking control of an entire United States Army branch.

The Army transferred control of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center (SWC) and School from Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) in 1990. USASOC has since taken the combat developments capability out of SWC and made it a staff section of USASOC HQ. Bear in mind that this office is the heartbeat (perhaps also the brain) of the force developments and requirements process, and therefore has a major, if not controlling voice in all future concept development, acquisitions, organization, and support doctrine for Special Forces. This, in turn, impacts recruitment, promotions, training, and equipping the force; doctrinal studies and publications; and concept developments to support Special Forces. This also impacts U. S. Army psychological operations and civil affairs concepts and developments. Since this power node was moved from SWC to USASOC, SWC is now a pygmy in the lineup of U.S. Army schools. A harbinger of the future is the recent cut of 13 million dollars from the SWC budget.

Marine Specops Intrude

Another indication that SWC's leadership position in the unconventional warfare (UW) arena is disappearing is that on 27 June 2007, the USMC formally activated the Marine Special Operations School. The stated intent of the USMC senior leadership is that it will become "the premier FID [foreign internal defense] and Unconventional Warfare University in the entire SOF community."

Approval from USSOCOM was required for this duplication of effort, as well as for the above-quoted statement. There can be no true duplication for many years, if ever. The culture of the USMC will be even less amenable to the necessities of working with, through, and by indigenous people than the culture of the conventional Army. The Marines are a world-class service and a superb fighting force, but they are new to FID and new to unconventional warfare. Many a harsh lesson awaits them if they are going to try to replace the Green Berets. U. S. Army Special Forces has been increasing in proficiency and experience in counterinsurgency (COIN), FID, UW, and international security assistance missions for more than a half century.

Are the Marines willing to take the slots out of their own hide and form up more than 300 Special Forces-type operational detachments? Why would USSOCOM leaders be willing for the USMC to start this effort from scratch, when time is of the essence? Is USSOCOM willing to hand over U. S. Army Special Forces personnel authorizations to the USMC so they can become the premier FID and UW warriors of the future? Is somebody selling wolf tickets?

Specops Tactics Turned Upside Down

In the USSOCOM Capstone Concept, the TTP for conducting Special Forces operations are turned on their heads. This developing concept speaks in terms of pulling everything back to the continental United States (CONUS) and of deploying JSOC units in the same way as carrier battle groups (CBG) and Marine expeditionary units (MEU), instead of doing what has worked so well for so long for Special Forces. Look on pages 9 and 10 of the Capstone Concept, under "Global Expeditionary Force." While this concept would work for raids and other direct actions (such as JSOC, Rangers, SEALs, and USAF Special Tactics Teams are trained to conduct), if USSOCOM attempts to steal the mission of Special Forces by using this model, they will merely create a "roving gnome," who will soon be calling for backup. In short, the USSOCOM Capstone Concept totally ignores the demonstrated and historically successful Special Forces operational concept of working by, with, and through those we are helping.

As a result of more than fifty years of fine tuning, each Special Forces group now operates in its assigned region. Group HQ deploy joint combined exchange training (JCET) teams to enhance bilateral relations and interoperability with regional nations through military-to-military contact. These U. S. Special Forces JCET teams establish long-term relationships with indigenous personnel. They work to improve regional unit combat skills and observance of humanitarian requirements. They develop trust between host nations and the USA, with a program tailored to meet specific needs as identified by Green Berets on the ground. This capability will disappear with the Green Berets, and no SOF "shock-and awe" can replace it.

Armchair Specops

Compared to the lean organization of Special Forces, the USSOCOM model creates a bureaucracy with too many supervisors for too few workers, with the supervisors far away from the action. Money that would be better spent on the mission will be used for funding extra layers of chair-borne supervisors. Worse, an unwieldy organization will get in the way of accomplishing the mission. The men on the ground have a much better feel for what they need to do and how best to do it, while the top-down bureaucratic rigidity frustrates more than it facilitates.

Will these newly created bureaucratic slots be filled with Special Forces officers and NCOs? What do you think? The conventional officers who have risen to the highest ranks through their connections with JSOC, Delta, the Rangers, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the SEALs will be in charge. There is only one Special Forces officer (newly promoted) above the rank of major general, so, once again, Special Forces are being decapitated and will be under the ultimate command of those who have never gone through selection and assessment, never attended the SFOC, never served a tour on an ODA, and never served repeated assignments in a SFG(A).

The 2006 version of the USSOCOM Capstone Concept that we can access online does not show the new organizational charts that are presently proposed for the global expeditionary forces in the 2007 Capstone Concept. They are classified, but in the end there may be more than a dozen staff officers and NCOs for every soldier who will be assigned the mission on the ground. Reliable sources state that, even now, there are more than 130 (perhaps as many as 160) U. S. Army E-9s in Army special mission units assigned to JSOC. When that is compared with the 13 to15 E-9s in a Special Forces group, it does tend to raise eyebrows. What are they doing? According to the reports, thirteen of them are packing parachutes.


In April 2007, USSOCOM put out a 20-minute DVD celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Even though Special Forces personnel make up the greatest part of the USSOCOM forces, the U. S. Army Special Forces are never once mentioned in this DVD. Although Special Forces is the oldest force in USSOCOM and has been the USSOCOM workhorse since its inception, not one Green Beret is seen in the montage of photographs.

Colonel Banks is not mentioned in the historical overview, or General Yarborough, or General Healy. There is no reference to Colonel Bull Simons, to Colonel Charlie Beckwith, nor to General Joe Lutz. Yet without these men, the path to the present day in United States "special operations" would be difficult to imagine. Most amazingly, the DVD makes no reference to President John F. Kennedy, who supported the establishment of Special Forces in 1961.

Will Special Forces exist ten or twenty years down the road? What can we do to ensure the continuing existence and contribution of the Green Berets?
It is time to fight again, this time for the preservation of the force. If we do not protest the poor stewardship of the U. S. Army and USSOCOM leaders concerning U. S. Army Special Forces and its unique capability, we will certainly see this capability diminish.

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Pass this on to anyone who cares about keeping one of the greatest forces the American Army has ever placed on the battlefield.

SFC Chuck Grist

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iraqi Militias Must Go

Back in 2004, the Mahdi Army consisted of only a few thousand members, mostly young street hoodlums attracted to Muqtada al Sadr because his father was a well-respected ayatollah who was executed by Saddam Hussein.

Those of us working the perilous streets of Baghdad that year were disheartened when our bosses decided to leave the Mahdi Army untouched because al Sadr indicated he would turn to politics. We didn’t believe he or his militia would ever disarm and he launched two uprisings that year. Many Americans were killed or wounded by his militia thugs.

Now Muqtada’s private army is conservatively estimated to consist of around 60,000 members. That doesn’t include the sympathizers among Iraqi civilians or the family members who help sustain and equip these black-uniformed killers. It also doesn’t include the Iranian advisors who provide arms, ammunition and training to their Iraqi revolutionary brothers – just as they did in 2004.

Al Sadr owes his life and the lives of his fellow Shiites to the American and Coalition forces, but he has refused to deal with the United States. This ungrateful fundamentalist only wants to lead the ultimate Shiite theocracy he sees simmering beneath the surface of the Iraqi political landscape. Any cooperation at all is only because it is in his interests for the moment while he pursues his own agenda.

While al Sadr hides in Iran, the new Iraqi Army has done reasonably well against his militia, even though some of the fundamentalists are surely within the military’s ranks. With Sunnis working with the Coalition for the most part to steadily wipe out the foreign fighters, one of the biggest remaining issues remains the in-fighting among the Shiites. Clearly, many of these Shiites – like al Maliki – have begun to realize that a functioning democracy is the only way to prevent a bloody civil war.

We have been correct to stay the course and we must continue to do so as long as freedom-loving Iraqis work with us. American and Coalition military forces can never impose a democracy on the people of Iraq because democracy is a free-will choice of the people of any nation.

If the average Iraqi citizen wants liberty, then he must be willing to fight for it as well. The Mahdi Army and the other militias must be squashed once and for all, but the Iranian influence in Iraqi society will always remain concealed in the shadows.

SFC Chuck Grist

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Support the Hubbard Act - Contact Your Senators and Congressmen

Today the Associated Press reported the tragic story of a soldier who lost both of his brothers in Iraq and then discovered that his sole-surviving son status had cost him and his family their own military benefits:

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Military Denied Benefits to Surviving Son

Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. (April 17) - Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family's health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.

It wasn't until Hubbard petitioned his local congressman that he was able to restore some of his benefits.

Now that congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes, plans to join three other lawmakers in introducing a bill that would ensure basic benefits to all soldiers who are discharged under an Army policy governing sole surviving siblings and children of soldiers killed in combat. The rule is a holdover from World War II meant to protect the rights of service people who have lost a family member to war.

"I felt as if in some ways I was being punished for leaving even though it was under these difficult circumstances," Hubbard told The Associated Press. "The situation that happened to me is not a one-time thing. It's going to happen to other people, and to have a law in place is going to ease their tragedy in some way."

Hubbard, 33, and his youngest brother, Nathan, enlisted while they were still grieving for their brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, who was 22 when he was killed in a 2004 bomb explosion in Ramadi.

At their request, the pair were assigned to the same unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq the next year.

In August, 21-year-old Cpl. Nathan died when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Kirkuk. Jason was part of the team assigned to remove his comrades' bodies from the wreckage.

Hubbard accompanied his little brother's body on a military aircraft to Kuwait, then on to California. He kept steady during Nathan's burial at Clovis Cemetery, standing in dress uniform between his younger brothers' graves as hundreds sobbed in the heat.

But Hubbard broke his silence when he found his wife, pregnant with their second child, had been cut off from the transitional health care the family needed to ease back to civilian life after he was discharged in October.

"This is a man who asked for nothing and gave a lot," said Nunes, R-Calif., who represents Hubbard's hometown of Clovis, a city of 90,000 next to Fresno. "Jason is one person who obviously has suffered tremendously and has given the ultimate sacrifice. One person is too many to have this happen to."

Hubbard went to Nunes, who began advocating for the former soldier in December, after hearing the Army was demanding that he repay $6,000 from his enlistment bonus and was denying him up to $40,000 in educational benefits under the GI bill.

After speaking with Army Secretary Pete Geren, Nunes got the repayment waived, and a military health policy restored for Hubbard's wife.

But the policy mandated that she be treated at a nearby base, and doctors at the Lemoore Naval Air Station warned that the 45-mile trip could put her and the fetus in danger. Hubbard said doctors offered alternative treatment at a hospital five hours away.

Meantime, Hubbard and his two-year-old son went without any coverage for a few months.

The Hubbard Act, scheduled to be introduced Wednesday, would for the first time detail the rights of sole survivors, and extend to them a number of benefits already offered to other soldiers honorably discharged from military service.

The bill - co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. - would waive payback of their enlistment bonuses, allow them to participate in G.I. educational programs, give them separation pay and access to transitional health care.

Meanwhile, Hubbard, his wife Linnea and his son Elijah, have permanent health coverage now that he is once again working as a Fresno County sheriff's deputy, the job he left in 2004 to serve in Iraq.

The Army will adopt to any changes in policy springing from the legislation, said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks.

"Foremost the Army itself sympathizes with him for the loss of his brothers," Banks said. "We will do everything within our means to rectify this issue. He is still one of ours."

Hubbard's father, Jeff, said that resolving the family's bureaucratic difficulties would provide some comfort, but would not help lessen their pain.

"We're still very much deeply involved in a grieving process. We're pretty whacked," he said. "This doesn't relate back to the loss of our boys, it can't, but we would consider it a positive accomplishment."

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This terrible situation must never happen again. Please contact your Congressional representatives and encourage them to pass the Hubbard Act. Also, please forward this story to others who can assist in obtaining support for this bill.

SFC Chuck Grist

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Mission Continues, etc.

I spent the weekend in the “northland” where this Florida boy endured snow flurries mixed with rain and the cold weather was the kind I really don’t care for. (They don’t even have grits up there…)

Now that I’m back in Central Florida, I’ve come down with a bad cold (the Yankees did it to me, mama…) along with a few other unpleasant symptoms. Debbie will have to put up with me for a day or so (yeah, I’ll get the chicken soup routine) and then it will be back to the Army grind.

We were working once again with a unit that will soon head to war. These guys are used to the cold so they’ll need to do some adjusting no matter which war zone they go to. I traveled with one of our officers, a major who is also a cop.

So while I’m sitting around the house today sick, writing my report on our trip, Debbie’s favorite cat, Trixie, “escapes” from the house through a window (unlike the above cat who didn't get away).

Trixie is an indoor cat who ran into a dog outside and fled fifty feet up a tree. We managed to get a very long ladder up about half way, but she spent about six hours up there. Just when we thought we’d get her down, she fell onto a shed and dislocated her hip.

Sad thing, but she will have surgery tomorrow to repair the damage as best as can be done for a kitty-cat. We have several pets, but this one is almost my wife’s “fifth child”.

It kind of reminds me of an unusual convoy in Iraq back in 2004:

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One very hot and miserable day, we sat in the staging area at Camp Victory waiting for General Davidson to finish his meetings. Lieutenant Cooper came by and said he just received a phone call from one of the unit’s officers. This particular officer was at Baghdad International Airport waiting for a flight to a nearby country for a four-day pass.

Cooper told me we were ordered to go to the airport to pick up a “package”. As we pulled out of Camp Victory’s main gate onto Route Irish and turned right to go to BIAP, I joked with the guys that we were probably going to pick up a new cage for the officer’s cat. This soldier had adopted an Iraqi cat, made sure it was vaccinated and examined by the unit’s veterinarians and arrangements were made to ship it home to the States.

As we drove up to the military terminal at BIAP, this officer and a traveling companion were dressed in their country club casual clothes and they were relaxing in lounge chairs waiting for their flight. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pet cage next to them. They planned to take the cat to Kuwait and ship it home like a stuffed toy.

Unfortunately for them, the British military, upon whose plane they were booked, said there was no way they were going to carry a cat on their plane. It was unbelievable but true. The “package” we were ordered to pick up was this orange and white Iraqi cat. My mighty warriors were now pet-sitters.

My blood pressure began to rise, but Cooper was in a very awkward position. For the cat’s owner to make me bring my guys out of Camp Victory onto the most dangerous road on earth and go to BIAP to pick up a damned personally-owned feline was an unbelievable abuse of authority.

As I stood outside our Humvee and listened to all of this, I began to get really pissed off. In fact, I was so angry I turned around and went and sat in the vehicle. I knew if I didn’t do so I was about to say something that would get me in trouble.

Higginbotham was sitting in the driver’s seat and he was already getting a laugh out of the whole thing. His window was open and he heard the officer say in a thick southern accent, “Ah don’t know if ah want Sahgent Grist to carry mah cat. He’s an asshole.” I didn’t hear the comment, but I heard Chad begin to chuckle.

Poor Cooper. With his eyeballs rolling back into his head in disbelief, he took the pet carrier and put it in the back seat of our Humvee. We drove out of the airport, back out onto Route Irish and returned to Camp Victory where we would wait for several more hours for the general.

Now the challenge really began. This poor cat was existing in a pet carrier in one hundred and twenty degree heat. As time wore on, we began to notice that the cat was looking a little “ragged”. Aaron took it out of the carrier and the foreign feline had gone from being a lively little ball of fur to looking as though it was melting. Its ears hung low, its fur drooped and the corners of its eyes began to dip downward. The poor little bastard had heat exhaustion.

A massive life-saving effort began and we turned the Humvee on so the air conditioner would run, using a great deal of U.S. Army gasoline to try and keep this cat alive. We offered it water, but it wouldn’t drink. We held its little jaws open, forced water into it and slowly, over an hour or so, the little guy began to come around. The water made a big difference, but the cool air was the deciding factor to me.

The general was finally ready to leave, so we drove up to the entrance of the Water Palace to pick him up. The little Arabian cat sat in his carrier in the back seat of our Humvee and the general probably never knew he was there. Cooper was a good guy and, even though what this officer did was improper, he protected the soldier’s reputation with the boss. We ended up giving the cat to one of the unit’s soldiers back in the Green Zone until its owner returned.

I made a short video later about the “cat convoy” as a joke for the animal’s owner. I thought about ending it with the cat’s body being sold as food to the Iraqis, but I figured that would be in bad “taste”.

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See? I really like cats….with a little mustard on whole wheat bread…..just kidding!!!

SFC Chuck Grist

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

North Vietnamese General Giap Admits Near-Defeat

A friend from the great state of Kentucky sent me the following:

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General Giap was a brilliant, highly respected leader of the North Vietnam military. The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi:

"What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it.

But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!"

General Giap has published his memoirs and confirmed what most Americans knew. The Vietnam war was not lost in Vietnam -- it was lost at home. The exact same slippery slope, sponsored by the US media, is currently well underway. It exposes the enormous power of a biased media to cut out the heart and will of the American public.

A truism worthy of note: Do not fear the enemy, for they can take only your life. Fear the media far more, for they will destroy your honor.

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My thanks to my friend for sending me the above article.

For anyone who believed that the Vietnam war was lost militarily, now you know the truth from the enemy's point of view.

SFC Chuck Grist

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Navy SEAL Will Receive Medal of Honor

The following Associated Press story tells about another great American hero, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor:

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SEAL to Get Medal of Honor

April 01, 2008
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO - A Navy SEAL who threw himself on top of a grenade in Iraq to save his comrades in 2006 will be posthumously awarded the nation's highest military tribute, a White House spokeswoman announced March 31.

The Medal of Honor will be awarded to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor. His family will receive the medal during a White House ceremony April 8.

Monsoor is the fourth person to receive the medal since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on Sept. 29, 2006," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters during a briefing aboard Air Force One as President Bush headed to Europe for a NATO summit. Monsoor was part of a sniper security team in Ramadi with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi soldiers, according to a Navy account. An insurgent fighter threw the grenade, which struck Monsoor in the chest before falling in front of him.

Monsoor then threw himself on the grenade, according to a SEAL who spoke to The Associated Press in 2006 on condition of anonymity because his work requires his identity to remain secret.

"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant, who suffered shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him." Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 10 feet to 15 feet from the blast was unhurt. Monsoor, from Garden Grove, Calif., was 25 at the time.

Monsoor, a platoon machine gunner, had received the Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor, for his actions pulling a wounded SEAL to safety during a May 9, 2006, firefight in Ramadi.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his sacrifice in Ramadi.

Sixteen SEALs have been killed in Afghanistan. Eleven of them died in June 2005 when a helicopter was shot down near the Pakistan border while ferrying reinforcements for troops pursuing al-Qaida militants.

There are about 2,300 of the elite fighters, based in Coronado and Little Creek, Va.

The Navy is trying to boost the number by 500 - a challenge considering more than 75 percent of candidates drop out of training, notorious for "Hell Week," five days of continual drills by the ocean broken by only four hours sleep total.

Monsoor made it through training on his second attempt.

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What would this country be without men like this?

SFC Chuck Grist