Thursday, January 29, 2009

Back to the Road

Master Police Officer Chuck Grist went to the police department today to draw some of the equipment turned in before reporting for active duty. I picked up my patrol car, my handgun, my taser and some other gear and it felt good to walk back into the headquarters.

Monday, February 2, is my first day back at work. The first week will be used for makeup training in firearms, defensive tactics, computers, CPR and wellness testing (PT test for you Army people). My department has a mandatory test twice a year just like the Army does.

My first day back on the road will be the 11th and I have been assigned to day shift. Between now and then, I will complete the above training and also familiarize myself with any legal changes since I went on active duty.

The American Ranger blog will continue to support veterans, warriors on active duty and all causes related to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines - and their families. I am proud of my fellow warriors and my retirement from military service (which is effective on February 28) is bittersweet. Still, it is time to pass the sword to the next generation.

I will also spend some time talking about cops and police issues as well. I may even talk about some of the more interesting calls I find myself dispatched to.

Thanks once again to all of you for your support for me and for my fellow service members, whether we are at war or at home. This old Vietnam veteran remembers how it was a generation ago and it's nice to see the current troops get the support from their fellow citizens that they deserve.

After I returned from Iraq in 2004, I was assigned to night shift patrol. It was fun to get back in the groove again. Cops and soldiers have a lot in common, especially the dedication they have for each other.

Naturally, I responded to a lot of interesting calls back then, but I did write about my first good arrest after my tour in Baghdad:

* * * *

Winter, 2004

"The convoys were over and I didn’t have to worry about mortars, rockets, ambushes, or improvised explosive devices any more, but my survival instinct was still fully engaged.

One morning at 0300, or three a.m., I was moving slowly on foot through the shadows outside a darkened apartment building. Like all hunters of men, my senses were at their peak – sight, hearing, even the sense of smell. Skulking about in the wee hours of the morning is one way a guy like me finds society’s thieves, robbers and other neighborhood “insurgents”. Someone’s got to do it; it might as well be those of us who love it.

Now I was easing my way through a concrete, steel and stucco jungle looking for what the police dispatcher described as a “suspicious person”. The biggest challenge was to find this human shadow before he saw me. As we used to say in Vietnam, "Whoever sees the other guy first wins."

Then I saw him.

The dark figure sitting in the car appeared to bob up and down, disappearing below the dashboard for a moment and then reappearing. With a flashlight and my nine millimeter Glock at the ready, I surprised the guy with a sudden burst of illumination. The light revealed a shattered driver’s window and a now-terrified thief.

I yelled the standard "Police, freeze!" and the car burglar gave me a "deer in the headlights" look. With dark, 'Mahdi Army' type clothes and a black knit cap pulled down over his ears, this wide-eyed moron was sitting in the driver’s seat, wearing gloves, holding the car’s stereo in one hand and grasping a screwdriver in the other.

The guy panicked and made a quick move toward the passenger door, but the old soldier’s command voice convinced him to stop. His shoulders drooped in defeat, he dropped the radio and then the screwdriver. He had no choice but to raise his hands in surrender.

I smiled and thought to myself, "I’m back."

* * * *

Am I looking forward to police work? You bet I am.....

Charles M. Grist

Monday, January 26, 2009

Iraqi Leader: Internal Strife Could Destroy Iraq

If anything can destroy the new Iraq, it will be the internal strife that has always plagued that country. (A prior Shiite demonstration is pictured above.) No matter how hard America and its Coalition partners tried or how heavy the loss we sustained, we can’t force the Iraqis to get along with each other. Only the different Iraqi factions can find the common ground that must hold their nation together:

* * * *

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
January 26, 2009

Sectarianism A 'Rotten Thing,' Iraqi Leader Says

By Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Iraq's prime minister on Sunday blamed sectarianism for destroying the country, as he tried to tap into a backlash against religious parties before next weekend's nationwide provincial elections.

Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been delivering numerous speeches in the days leading up to Saturday's provincial elections in a thinly veiled effort to rally support for the candidates running under the umbrella group that includes his Dawa party.

"Sectarianism is behind the destruction of the country," al-Maliki told academics and sportsmen at a forum in Baghdad. "It is natural that we have different views, but we are all representing a unified Iraq that is not ready for division."

He appeared to be distancing himself from the major religious parties, particularly his governmental ally the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, after years of violence between Shiites and Sunnis.

He told the forum that sectarianism is a "rotten thing" and that Iraqis must focus on rebuilding efforts.

Al-Maliki isn't running, but his pictures have been plastered on campaign posters throughout Iraq, and he has campaigned extensively as he seeks to solidify his power base before national parliamentary elections later this year.

For years, al-Maliki himself had a reputation as a hard- line Shiite nationalist. But there are signs the public, especially in Baghdad and other major cities, has grown weary of the religious parties that have dominated national politics since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Al-Maliki's criticism of sectarian politics appeared to be an effort to tap into public discontent against parties run by clerics, such as the Supreme Council.

The prime minister also favors centralized rule and opposes a bid by the council, the country's biggest Shiite party, to establish a self-ruled region in the Shiite south modeled on the autonomous Kurdish administration in the north.

Voters on Saturday will be choosing ruling councils in 14 of the country's 18 provinces. It will be the first nationwide balloting in three years. A strong showing by al-Maliki's Coalition of the State of Law would bolster him against political rivals.

(Above article from Associated Press.)

* * * *

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Military Doctor Salutes Our War Veterans

The following article was forwarded to me via e-mail by a retired police officer:

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By a military doctor

I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, Texas and they care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work.

Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash.

Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient.

Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw "Saving Private Ryan". I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a "hard stick". As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, "Auschwitz". Many later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was there the night M/Sgt. Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Department for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver cancer, the former Viet Nam Corps Commander.

I remember these citizens.

I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must "Earn this".

* * * *

According to my e-mail friend, this was written by Captain Stephen R. Ellison, M.D., United States Army.

Thanks to the many veterans of past wars who walk unnoticed among us every day.

Thanks also to the doctors like this man who have sacrificed so much to protect the lives of their fellow citizens.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Iran’s Surrogates Want Self Rule in Southern Iraq

The radical Shiites will remain the biggest threat to a unified and democratic Iraq. The ultimate goal is a Shiite theocracy like Iran and the Iranians will do everything they can do help make this happen. (Above photo is the most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani.)

* * * *

Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
January 17, 2009

Shiite Council Seeking Self-Rule In South Iraq

By Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Associated Press

NAJAF, Iraq - The country's biggest Shiite party is hoping for a big win in elections across the oil-rich south to jump-start its campaign for a self-ruled region - a move that would transform Iraq and, critics say, give Iran its biggest prize since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

To reach that goal, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council needs to win control of Najaf - which it wants as a future capital of an autonomous southern Iraq - when voters across the country choose members of ruling provincial councils Jan. 31.

But the Supreme Council faces strong opposition from other Shiite groups, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Those groups fear regional self-rule, modeled after the Kurdish autonomous area in the north, would weaken Iraq, open the door to expanded Iranian influence and threaten the existence of the Iraqi state.

On Friday, a Shiite candidate for provincial elections was assassinated while campaigning south of Baghdad, underscoring fears that political rivalries will lead to a spike in violence ahead of voting. The slain candidate, Hashim al-Husseini, was a member of the Dawa Party and was running on the party's State of Law list for a seat on the Babil provincial council.

In Najaf, Zoheir al-Hakim, a senior Supreme Council official, predicted a comfortable win in this urban center of Shiite learning about 100 miles south of Baghdad.

"Creating a region in the south is our right by law and under the constitution," Hakim said. "Our loyal masses will take on anyone who tries to take this right away from us."

The council's campaign posters outnumber the competition in Najaf, dominating every available space in the heart of the city. The party has a hometown advantage: Najaf is home to the Hakims, a prominent family that has produced generations of top clerics and scholars and founders of the Supreme Council.

Even so, the large number of candidates, about 1,100 running for 28 seats, makes it difficult for any single party to take power alone.

Hakim and other Supreme Council officials say they will take concrete steps toward creating a self-ruled region after the election but that the timing would depend on how well they do in the balloting.

To transform a province to self-rule, one-third of the members of a provincial council must call for a referendum that requires the support of a simple majority of the voters.

The law also provides a second, more cumbersome method involving collecting two sets of signatures of voters in support of self-rule. Once enough signatures are collected, the paperwork goes to the prime minister who has two weeks to forward the proposal to the election commission, which in turn must schedule a referendum within three months.

Under the constitution, self-ruled regions enjoy significant powers. They can write their own constitutions, amend federal laws that conflict with local ones, open representative offices abroad and assume responsibility for internal security. The Supreme Council hopes to establish a self-ruled region encompassing all nine provinces south of Baghdad, but officials say they would settle for less if they don't win everywhere.

Nevertheless, Najaf is a must-win, largely because of its prestige among the world's Shiite Muslims.

The city includes the most venerated Shiite shrine: the tomb of Imam Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and the founding saint of the Shiite faith. The shrine and the Shiite seminaries draw pilgrims and students from throughout the Shiite world. It's also the home of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric and a close ally of the Supreme Council.

* * * *

America made its share of mistakes during our efforts in Iraq. One of them was not better understanding Islam's Sunni versus Shiite split.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Countdown to Withdrawal: Pentagon Revises Iraq Re-Deployment

The Pentagon is revising its current plans for withdrawal from Iraq. As we all suspected, President-elect Obama will surely bring the troops home even sooner than required by the new status of forces agreement with the Iraqis. That agreement mandates that our troops leave not later than January 1, 2012. Obama’s campaign timetable was sixteen months.

* * * *

New York Times
January 15, 2009

Military Planners, In Nod To Obama, Are Preparing For A Faster Iraq Withdrawal

By Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker

WASHINGTON — Military commanders are drawing up plans for a faster withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in anticipation that President-elect Barack Obama will reject current proposals as too slow, Pentagon and military officials said Wednesday.

The new plans would provide alternatives to a timetable drawn up by the top American commanders for Iraq to bring troops home more slowly than Mr. Obama promised during his presidential campaign. Those plans were described to Mr. Obama last month.

The officials said that Mr. Obama had not requested the new plans, but that they were being prepared in response to public statements from the president-elect and on the basis of conversations between military officials and members of Mr. Obama’s transition team.

Mr. Obama met last week in Washington with his national security team, including Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A drawdown in Iraq is seen as a prerequisite to any significant American military buildup in Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama is ready to add up to 30,000 troops over the next two years, a near doubling of the current American force there of about 31,000.

The broad outlines of the military plan for Iraq presented to Mr. Obama in December envisioned withdrawing two brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, over the next six months, officials said.

American military officials have declined to be more specific about other details in that plan, by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American commanders responsible for Iraq. But they have made clear that the plan does not set forth as fast a withdrawal as Mr. Obama pledged during the presidential campaign, when he repeatedly promised to have all combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of his taking office, or by May 2010.

Officials with Mr. Obama’s transition team say he remains committed to that goal, although he has also said he will listen to the recommendations of his commanders. In an interview on Wednesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the vice president-elect, said he was “not prepared to talk about” new troop-level options.

Brooke Anderson, the national security spokeswoman for the Obama transition team, said, “We have had briefings from the Bush administration, including Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, about current plans for Iraq and Afghanistan, and we appreciate the information that has been shared.” Ms. Anderson said that as president Mr. Obama would meet with his commanders “to make a determination to how we move forward to safely redeploy our combat brigades in 16 months.”

Senior military officers say they have anticipated that Mr. Obama will seek speedier options for Iraq troop withdrawals. But they have also expressed uneasiness about a quick withdrawal from Iraq and are unclear at this point about Mr. Obama’s overall strategy in Afghanistan.

“It is more than a question of how fast and how low; it includes calculating how much risk you are willing to take in Iraq,” one senior military officer said of the discussions over a withdrawal.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the delicacy of discussing war planning before the new commander in chief takes office, said the planning also required defining the future mission for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and goals for where those missions should be in years to come.

“Various options are being drawn up to give the new president choices,” said another senior military officer involved in the process.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Gates intended to make sure that Mr. Obama, once he is commander in chief, gets to hear directly from all of the senior military officers with a stake in the Iraq and Afghanistan missions before making any decisions.

“The discussions the secretary and the chairman have had with the president-elect and his team have thus far been very broad,” Mr. Morrell said. “They will not begin the process of presenting the president-elect with specific options for a way ahead in Iraq until after the inauguration.”

The current military plan for Iraq was drawn up to meet the recent status-of-forces agreement between the United States and the Iraqi government that calls for both shorter and longer timetables than Mr. Obama’s campaign promise. Under that agreement, all United States combat troops are to be out of Iraqi cities by June and all American forces are to be out of Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. That agreement, however, can be renegotiated.

Even as Mr. Obama prepares for the drawdown in Iraq, some influential Democrats and national security experts have begun voicing concern about his willingness to send up to 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war for more than seven years. They say that Mr. Obama has yet to make clear his overall goals beyond calling for more forces, money and diplomacy in an increasingly violent, ungovernable country that the military says presents even more problems than Iraq.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.

* * * *

It no longer matters whether the Iraqis are ready to handle security or not. They want us gone, so it’s time to go.

It is their country, after all. I just hope they remember who gave them their freedom.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Harry Truman: A Little Humility & A Lot of Wisdom

A friend in Kentucky who arranged for my commission as a Kentucky Colonel sent me the following on former president Harry Truman:

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Harry Truman after the presidency

Harry Truman, from Missouri, was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

Historians have written that the only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri. On top of that, his wife inherited the house from her Mother.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service agents following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, 'You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale.'

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, 'I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.'

He never owned his own home and as president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth.

Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices.

Political offices are now for sale.

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, 'My choices early in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.'

* * * *

Whatever happened to politicians who were both humble and wise?

Charles M. Grist

Monday, January 12, 2009

Need to Escape from Tough Times? You Can Always Join the Foreign Legion

Okay, macho American men, here is another option in these bad economic times. The French Foreign Legion is looking for a few good blokes from England; surely they would take some good old boys from the States. Check out this article from

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The French Foreign Legion - the last option for those desperate to escape the UK

By Neil Tweedie

Lost your job, your home, your business? Is the wife about to take you to the cleaners? Is that a county court judgement dropping through the letterbox? Life is getting harder for the poor, put-upon British male. Really, just how many Robert Peston two-ways can a man take? If only one could forget it all and start again.

There is a way, of course – one tried and tested over 180 years. And it’s dead romantic, too. The Legion Etrangere, zee French Foreign Legion.

As every fan of Beau Geste, March or Die and Carry On Follow That Camel knows, the Legion is an elite fighting force, drawing its men (no women allowed) from all corners of the world and touched by glamour.

Formed in 1831 by Louis Philippe to enforce French rule in newly-acquired Algeria, it developed into a collective exercise in convenient amnesia, acquiring a reputation as a haven for cut-throats, crooks and sundry fugitives from justice. Few questions were asked of new recruits, making it an ideal repository for the scum of the earth. And with the scum came the romantics, men searching for a way to dull the pain of doomed love.

Well, that was how Hollywood portrayed it. Cue matinee idol being asked why he has subjected himself to a life of brutal discipline, sand and sunburn. "To forget," says he, drawing on his Gitane and staring longingly into the distance amid a haze of blue smoke.

Reality is a bit different. France’s colonial empire may have disappeared, save for the odd outpost, but the Legion lives on. Almost 7,700-strong, it still operates around the world and gets into regular scrapes in Africa. While Frenchman make up most of the officer corps, enlisted men are predominantly drawn from outside France. The Legion’s image as a haven for ne’er-do-wells is largely out of date. Now, aspiring recruits are subjected to detailed background checks via Interpol.

"We don’t accept the hardened criminals any more, the murderers or rapists," says Capt Samir Benykrelef, "so this makes our job easier."

But there is still a hint of romance: all recruits must assume a new name on joining the Legion. This is because some recruits do indeed want a new start and new identity, and it is fairer to make all new Legionnaires undergo the same process. Soldiers can revert to their real identities after a year.

So, what does the Legion give the lucky entrant? A hard time, mainly.

Before being awarded the kepis blanc, the famed white cap of the Legion, recruits must endure a severe training regime which can involve punching and kicking. All recruits have to speak in French – even if they can’t. Even swearing must be in French, and there is a lot of that.

New recruits get about £1,000 a month and a shiny new rifle, which they are supposed never to leave on the battlefield. One practice popular in the main French army at certain times – surrendering – is not encouraged in the Legion, members of which are routinely expected to fight to the death. The good news is the wine. The Legion has its own vineyards in Provence which provide the main ingredient for regimental get-togethers.

After three years service, a legionnaire may apply for French citizenship. There is a quicker, more painful way way: a soldier wounded in battle may apply for citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").

Some 140 nationalities are represented in the Legion, the motto of which is Legio Patria Nostra (The Legion is our Homeland). Composition changes with time, recruitment tending to thrive in countries experiencing economic and social stress. Traditionally, Germany has been a big provider of legionnaires – somewhat ironically given the Legion’s bloody roll in two world wars.

Currently, eastern Europe is a fertile recruiting ground, together with Latin America. Brits, too, have played their part, but there was embarrassment recently when it emerged that many British applicants were failing selection due to endemic unfitness.

If some NCOs in the Legion are to be believed, the whole corps is becoming a bit soft and girly. Improved conditions and greater professionalism have in recent years resulted in more middle-class recruits.

Cpl Buys Francois, 43, a South African legionnaire who joined 11 years ago, says: "We call the new entrants Generation PlayStation because they’re so soft. Now we’re taking the ex-husbands running from alimony, and all these guys with university degrees."

* * * *

I’ll stick with the Rangers, but that’s a personal thing…

Charles M. Grist

Friday, January 9, 2009

Iraqis Now In Charge of Green Zone and Saddam’s Palace

During my time in Iraq, I spent a lot of time in the Green Zone as well as inside Saddam's former palace that became our first embassy. For any soldier who served there, the new changes are something else. I always hoped I would get another tour in Baghdad so I could re-live some of the atmosphere that became so life-altering. (I took the above photo of Saddam's home during my tour in 2004.)

My team, the C.O.B.R.A. Team, lived in a small villa that was across the street from our general’s house. Our little villa, which we nicknamed the “cobra pit”, was directly on the Tigris River across from the Sheraton Hotel and just up the river from the palace. From the roof of our headquarters building, we could look out over Baghdad and take in some of the majesty of that ancient city.

Watching the swift Tigris River, listening to the call to prayer from the nearby mosque, and hearing the sounds of gunfire or mortars in the distance was an electrifying experience. It was especially so for an old soldier like me who was experiencing his last war.

Now that Iraqis have taken over the security for the Green Zone, the safety issues in that compound will be enormous. America has also left Saddam’s old palace to the Iraqis and we now have our own new embassy.

With the new status of forces agreement, there is no doubt that our military role in Iraq will continue to decline. Truthfully, if they don’t want us there, it’s their country and they can make that call.

I am proud that my fellow warriors and I played a part in liberating the nation of Iraq. We made many friends over there regardless of the self-serving factions that don’t care for us.

Shiites should remember that Saddam Hussein treated them like dirt, murdered them, didn’t allow them to celebrate their holidays, and would have continued to suppress them if he and his sons had retained power. I don’t suppose a little gratitude from the new government would be out of place, but I won’t hold my breath.

The future of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqis. Let us hope they do not squander the chance we gave them to live their lives in freedom and prosperity.

* * * *

Iraq Takes Over Green Zone Security

January 01, 2009
Agence France-Presse

BAGHDAD - The United States today handed over security control of the Green Zone, symbol of the American-led occupation, to Iraq as a UN mandate for foreign troops ran out and bilateral military accords took effect.

Iraqi government and military officials hailed the return of the heavily fortified area in central Baghdad to Iraq's control in an emotional ceremony at the former palace of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

"It is our right to consider this day the day of sovereignty and the beginning of the process of retrieving every inch of our nation's soil," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in an impassioned speech in a palace hall.

"The palace is the sign of Iraqi sovereignty and it is a message to all Iraqis that our sovereignty has returned," Maliki said as the Iraqi flag was hoisted at the palace entrance.

Maliki also declared the day a national holiday.

"I ask the Council of Ministers and the Presidency Council to announce this day as a national holiday."

Under the terms of an agreement signed with Washington in November, U.S. troops officially decamped from the nine square kilometre (3.5-square-mile) Green Zone located on the banks of the Tigris in central Baghdad.

However, U.S. troops will continue to play an advisory role to the Iraqi military and the new huge U.S. embassy complex lies within the fortified zone although many other buildings already have been handed back to the Iraqis.

The end of the UN mandate put in place on October 16, 2003, seven months after the invasion by U.S.-led troops to topple Saddam, means Iraq takes greater control of its own security and a further step towards full sovereignty.

Soldiers from the Baghdad Brigade, who take orders from Maliki, took over when the UN mandate expired at midnight although American forces will help man checkpoints and play an advisory role to the Iraqi military.

"The American withdrawal from the Green Zone will be gradual," Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, Major General Qassim Atta, told AFP.

"U.S. checkpoint equipment remains in place and the checkpoints will be coordinated with the American forces but the zone will be run by the Baghdad Brigade."

The embattled country also took another step towards full sovereignty as British forces handed over control of Basra airport, its main military base in southern Iraq, to Iraqi officials in line with agreements signed this week.

"This is a great and important day during which Basra airport control tower and all the airport was turned over by the British to us," Basra province governor Mohammed Masbah al-Waeli said at ceremony at the airport.

Britain's troops had already withdrawn from Basra -- a key oil and financial hub and Iraq's third largest city -- in September last year and handed over security control of Basra province some three months later.

The U.S. military has also handed back to the Iraqis control of Baghdad airport although the adjacent U.S. military base, Camp Victory, will remain a key headquarters for the U.S. military.

However foreign troops will still remain on Iraqi soil for some time.
The United States, which has 146,000 soldiers in Iraq, signed in November a bilateral agreement with Baghdad which allows its combat forces to remain in the country until the end of 2011.

Britain and Australia -- which had the second and third largest contingents respectively -- have signed their own separate bilateral agreements with Iraq on Tuesday and will stay on until the end of July.

* * * *

Most people don't believe me when I say that I miss Baghdad. I guess only someone who's been there would understand what it's like to live each day on the edge. There is nothing like the rush of adrenaline to keep your senses alive.

I've written a book about my tour in Baghdad with the C.O.B.R.A. Team. It is titled, "My Last War - A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq". It should be available in two to four months. I'll keep you posted on the status and you can always check out the team's website at

On behalf of all of my fellow Iraqi war veterans, thanks for your support. It was mighty different during and after Vietnam.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ranger Hero Killed in Northern Iraq

The following article from the Orlando Sentinel tells the moving story of one of America's young Ranger warriors:

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January 8, 2009

To His Family: “The Greatest Hero There Is”

By Darryl E. Owens
Staff Writer
Orlando Sentinel

Even after Staff Sgt. Anthony Dee Davis joined the Army and became a Ranger, Forrest Buckwald still saw him as the little boy whose face was pressed against the window of his gun shop, eyeing the soda machine.

"He was a little ragamuffin with a crooked smile," said Buckwald, co-owner of Buck's Gun Rack in Daytona Beach.

Davis was thirsty. So Buckwald gave the 8-year-old a job clearing litter from the store's parking lot for 50 cents and a Coke.

Every Saturday, rain or shine, the boy came back.

Eventually, he worked his way up to a dollar and a Coke.

And over the years, Buckwald and the boy worked up a relationship strong as father and son.

Sometime next week, with a father's sorrow, Buckwald will say goodbye to the boy he remembers and the man who was killed Tuesday in a firefight in northern Iraq.

It was the sixth combat tour of his military career. He was 29.

"He was my son," said Buckwald, 57. "He didn't have my genes. He didn't have my name, but he was my son."

And in a very real sense, Davis was Daytona Beach's son, a child raised by the village.

Born in Mainz, Germany, he moved to Daytona Beach with his mother, Ellen Davis, and two siblings. Buckwald took a shine to the boy, mentoring him, paying for summer camp and braces, taking him on trips to the Amazon, assuming a foster-father role.

The mentoring continued when as a teen, Davis joined Post 415 of the Daytona Beach Fire Explorers, where he met Lori Becker.

"He showed up to a meeting and became one of our finest young men to move up the ranks," said Becker, a lieutenant in the Daytona Beach Fire Department. "He was a leader. He loved to teach the younger recruits. He was compassionate and he was ambitious."

And a good shot -- at 15, he won a national award for marksmanship at an Explorers event.

Helping teammates

Davis attended Seabreeze High School, where he played running back and wide receiver on the football team and also ran track and played basketball.

Jude Mohammed, now a chef in North Carolina, played football with Davis at Seabreeze and described him as one of the popular guys on campus that everyone seemed to like because of his easy-going attitude and quick smile.

"The girls were crazy about him," said Mohammed, 27. He said Davis was also an encouraging team player. "If he ever saw someone struggling while running, he would help them finish through."

Kerry Kramer, assistant athletic director at Seabreeze High, was coach when Davis played football for the Sandcrabs. Davis -- who went by A.D. or Anthony -- was a good-looking kid with a lot of friends, Kramer said.

"He was an above-average player," Kramer said of Davis, one of the few students back then who was moved up to the varsity team when he was just a sophomore. "He wasn't an All-Star, but he was a hardworking kid."

After high school, Davis decided to take his work ethic to the military, enlisting in the Army in October 2000. Once he completed training as an infantryman and the Basic Airborne course, Davis was assigned to the Army Ranger program at Fort Benning, Ga.

"Police work wasn't quite challenging enough for him," said his mother, 53, of Fayetteville, N.C. "He wanted to do something for his country, and the military was the best outlet for that."

On Wednesday, while she made arrangements to collect her son's body, Ellen Davis struggled to find the words for a fitting tribute to her oldest child.

"My son made the ultimate sacrifice. To me, he was the greatest hero there is."

Davis was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., in July 2001, a month after completing the Ranger program, and served as fire-team leader and team leader.

Positives from negatives

Because most of Davis' missions were classified, he didn't talk about what he did. But Buckwald remembers the telling words about his work that Davis shared:

No news is good news.

So when two uniformed officers knocked on Buckwald's door Monday night, he knew the news wasn't good.

According to the Department of Defense, Davis was killed by heavily armed combatants in northern Iraq. Davis managed to kill his attackers during the firefight.

In his career, which included tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, Davis earned awards: an Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Ranger Tab among others.

For the community that raised him, his death is a blow. But Becker said Davis would see his death the way his mother framed things: culling good from bad.

"You have to make lemonade out of lemons -- that's what Ellen always preached," she said. "Anthony was a success story, and hopefully this will touch the community . . . because we need to have more fine young men like Anthony Davis who will grow up and want to serve their country and do fine things."

Denise-Marie Balona of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Darryl E. Owens can be reached at or 407-420-5095.

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Our prayers go out to Staff Sergeant Davis's family, his community, his fellow Rangers and the rest of his fellow warriors in the War on Terror.

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

America Continues to Settle the Score

“Those who make war against the United States have chosen their own destruction.” President George W. Bush after the attacks of September 11th, 2001

The following article from shows that the efforts of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been successful. This war on terror may never end in the traditional sense, but the terrorists have learned that messing with America is a stupid thing to do:

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US Official Says al-Qaeda Near Defeat

January 07, 2009
by Christian Lowe

The head of counterterrorism operations for the U.S. Department of State said the al-Qaeda network is largely broken and has lost the ability to conduct large-scale terrorist operations.

While the U.S. has still been unable to kill or capture the organization's top leaders, they have nevertheless been "beaten back into a hole" by relentless pressure from special operations, law enforcement and drone attacks.

"They are scratching their heads, realizing they took on a pretty savvy opponent who went after them kinetically very fast, pulled out the rug from underneath them, put them on the run, put them in a area where they didn't have the assets they had before," said former Army special operations commander, Amb. Dell Dailey, who now heads the State Department's counterterrorism office. "Bin Laden can't get an operational effort off the ground without it being detected ahead of time and being thwarted."

Dailey cited the foiled terror plot to bring down as many as 10 U.S.-bound commercial jets in 2006 as an example of al-Qaeda's diminished capability to launch dramatic attacks.

"Their ability to reach is non-existent," Dailey told military reporters during a Jan. 6 breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C.

But that doesn't mean the U.S. can sit back and relax, he added.

Though he's a political appointee who may not keep his job in an Obama administration, Dailey had high praise for the incoming team's counterterrorism strategy and for the people who've been tabbed to wage it.

Over the five meetings he's had with Obama officials since the election, Dailey sees a willingness to abandon presidential campaign promises to unilaterally move into Pakistan if there's solid intel on bin Laden's whereabouts and the local government cannot or will not act. The incoming administration's focus on strengthening multilateralism over unilateralism seems to mesh with the State Department's current counter-terror plan.

"It's not 'go out and kill people right now' to the detriment of our relationships with sovereign countries," Dailey said. "Their twist is going to be more aggressive engagement with our partner nations."

Transition officials have told Dailey's office they're in favor of efforts to assist other countries fight terror, including support for the Shared Security Partnership Plan -- a $5 billion, three-year program to bolster law enforcement and intelligence activities with allied nations to help them undermine terror networks.

Dailey also had high praise for the Obama team's pick for the Director of National Intelligence and new CIA chief.

Adm. Dennis Blair, who was nominated for DNI, is a "smart, smart guy" and a "very aggressive" warrior who will be sensitive to the interagency bureaucratic tangles that come with the job of heading the intelligence community.

While he hasn't worked personally with CIA chief nominee Leon Panetta, Dailey called him a "team builder" and prudent choice when it comes to "people skills and managerial skills."

But with al-Qaeda on the ropes and an aggressive and experienced team coming in to confront global terror threats, Dailey warned against resting on laurels.

"We've chopped off [al Qaeda's] arms, we've chopped off their communications and we've chopped off their funding. We've gone after their leadership and taken away their training sites," Dailey said. "That would be my message to [the Obama team] ... keep all that going and not to fall back into a false sense of security."

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Regardless of the comments in the above article, I believe the new administration has made a poor choice for head of the CIA. Choosing a politician like former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta over an intelligence expert probably means that critical intelligence activities will be curtailed by the liberal elements in the Democratic Party.

Such a foolish decision will only encourage the terrorists and place American citizens at risk of another deadly attack like 9-11.

President-elect Obama has made some good middle-of-the-road decisions, but this isn’t one of them.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

America Loses A Great General

Today I received the following notice from the Florida Chapter of the First Cavalry Division Association regarding the passing of one of America’s greatest warrior leaders:

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Yesterday our Division and nation lost a great patriot and leader. LTG Harry W.O. Kinnard passed away at his home peacefully under hospice care on 5 January, 2009. The family's notice that is being sent to the papers is provided below:

Lt Gen. HARRY W. O. KINNARD (Ret.)

Harry William Osborn Kinnard, Lieutenant General U.S. Army (retired) died peacefully at his home in Arlington, Virginia on January 5, 2009, at the age of 93. A soldier, leader and statesman, he epitomized the motto of his Alma Mater, West Point, “Duty, Honor, Country”. He was born into an Army family on 7 May 1915 in Dallas, Texas. He lived an Army life of service to his country beginning with witnessing the attack on Pearl Harbor and defense of the island, then later parachuting into France on D-Day, commanding airborne soldiers in Holland and directing operations during the Battle of the Bulge with the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne.

After WWII, he continued to have a distinguished military career. In the early 1960’s, he formed and tested a new type of Army division and after 2 ½ years transformed and led it into combat in Vietnam as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). This new Division set the standard for future U.S. Army airmobile operations. He ended his Army career as the Commander of Combat Developments Command at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia in 1969. He received many high military honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross, and being knighted by the Queen of Holland for his actions in Holland in 1944. After his retirement he remained very active as a consultant and advisor. He was president of the Army Aviation Association of America and was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. He was president of both the 1st Cavalry Division and 101st Airborne Division Associations. He represented the President of the United States during the 50th Anniversary Commemorative events of WWII in “Market-Garden” ceremonies in the Netherlands.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Kinnard; three daughters, Susan C. Payson, of Prescott, AZ, Kathleen L. Coursey of Stockton, CA and Cynthia L. Harman of Lexington, SC; two sons, Robert H. Kinnard of Prescott, AZ and Harry W. O. Kinnard III of Gainesville, FL; two stepdaughters, Libby Nicholson of San Clemente, CA and Janmarie Hall of Hamilton, VA and one step-son, COL (R) Tom M. Nicholson Jr. of Augusta, GA; sixteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. His son, Bruce Kinnard, preceded him in death.

A viewing and visitation will be on Sunday January 11th 2009 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the DEMAINE FUNERAL HOME, 520 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Gravesite service and interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Thursday March 19th at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Calvary United Methodist Church, Memorial Fund, 2315 S. Grant St. Arlington, VA 22202.

LTG Kinnard commanded the First Team from July 1965 to May 1966 and served as the President of our Association from 1976 – 1978.

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We extend our sympathies to the general’s family and to his fellow soldiers.

Charles M. Grist

Monday, January 5, 2009

Call of the Wild: Cobra Two in Afghanistan

Here is a winter message from Aaron Self who is doing some contract work in Afghanistan. As you know, he was my number two on the C.O.B.R.A. Team during our tour in Iraq in 2004:

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"It is finally snowing in Kabul. We started the day with training. The local guards were shocked when I showed up outside with my glacier glasses and coat. They knew it meant we were training in the snow. There was a lot of gesturing to the sky followed by a shiver motion. With the help of my trusted friend, Bahir, I gave them the speech about how the enemy will not take it easy on you when it is snowing, raining, etc. But, being a big softy, I told them that whoever finishes each task first can throw snow balls at the others until they complete the task. It seemed to work, as I got them laughing and enjoying the training while still adding a type of distraction to work through.

It is a beautiful sight. The snow is blanketing everything and everyone knows that even the Taliban get cold. The snow means there will be less attacks, but just like in the west, it inspires a certain romantic feeling among the people. I promised a snowball fight after lunch with the entire staff. I have a feeling I am going to get my butt kicked. It is kind of like a ski lodge with automatic weapons. Two of my favorite things.

We have some dogs that we use to warn us of any otherwise undetected dangers. There is a white one that is named "White Dog" by the guards. I have renamed her using the Dari name for "dog" and the Dari name for "snow". She is now known as "Barf Sack". I find this hilarious because I say "Barf Sack" all day, and they have no idea why it is so funny to me. I have included some pictures for your enjoyment."

Aaron Self

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Stay safe, buddy.

Today marks thirty-five years that I have been married to my best friend, Debbie. God bless you, babe. You are my greatest blessing in life…

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year for 2009

The sun rises on the first day of 2009 even as our nation faces some of the most challenging times in its history. We’ll have a new president in twenty days and, regardless of our political beliefs, we wish him well in the most difficult job in the world.

America’s financial upheaval grows and it doesn’t appear anyone really knows how to fix it. Many of our friends or family members have lost their jobs or businesses and others will likely follow them in the months to come.

Wars and rumors of wars plague the planet. Dictators rattle their swords and crazed Islamic fundamentalists still don’t get it. Our brave troops find that their mission in Iraq is evolving even before that mission ends in a couple of years. The war in Afghanistan goes on. Throughout the world, our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters are fighting for our freedom and this will surely continue beyond the next New Year’s Day.

Virtually all of us will live through some type of change in our lives this year. It’s comforting to remember that Americans have defeated tough days before. These lessons come from the generations that preceded us and we should be grateful to them for their strength of will. The United States of America is still the greatest nation on earth, founded by those who sought a better life, who demanded the freedom to worship God in their own way and who created their own opportunity for an unlimited future.

When my ancestors loaded their muskets and helped secure our freedom in the American Revolution, some of these patriots must have thought about the descendents who would follow them. I cannot dishonor their sacrifice by ever giving in to defeatism and I refuse to believe that my fellow Americans can give up either.

As always, we shall depend on each other, we will survive the trials and tribulations that confront us and we will move on to better days. We will never, ever quit.

So says the old Ranger.

Happy New Year.

Charles M. Grist