Saturday, March 28, 2009

Remembering Navy SEAL Mike McGreevy

Here is a great story about Mike McGreevy's widow, Laura. You can also read about this heroic Navy Seal at the Navy Seal website below as well as the mountain Ranger website (McGreevy was also a Ranger):

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Fallen SEAL's Wife Races for a Cause

March 21, 2009
The Virginian-Pilot

VIRGINIA BEACH - Laura McGreevy ran.

She ran for emotion. For the pain. In hopes of staying sane.

But mostly, McGreevy ran in memory of her fallen SEAL.

Mike McGreevy, a Navy SEAL, died in a helicopter crash in 2005 while on a rescue mission in Afghanistan.

The day after Laura learned her husband had died, she laced up her sneakers.

"At first it was an incredible shock," said McGreevy, who will run the half-marathon at this weekend's Shamrock Sportsfest at the Oceanfront. "Even though I knew his job was dangerous, I never in a million years thought anything would happen to him. They are such a well-trained and dedicated group of guys.

"I ran the next day to help alleviate the pain. It's been my therapy ever since." It's also been her cause.

In 2007, the Virginia Beach resident started the Mike McGreevy Memorial Fund -- giving scholarships to children who have lost parents to war. The fund has raised more than $80,000, and last year its first three scholarships were awarded.

Almost 100 runners in this weekend's Shamrock will help raise money for more.

Laura and Mike met while attending college. He was at the Naval Academy, she was at Rutgers. Mutual friends thought they would make a good couple.

They hit it off on the dance floor.

"Mike was known for really cutting a rug," McGreevy said. "In college he was known to dress up in '70s clothes and do all the dances. At weddings, he'd just tear it up."

Buddies dubbed him "Groove."

When McGreevy was trying to think of a way to raise money for the memorial fund, she came up with the idea of Team Groove.

Runners who want to help raise money can join the team by paying whatever they want in addition to the race entry fee.

Last year, Team Groove raised more than $5,000 in its first Shamrock.

"Team Groove stands for his energy for life... his ability to always have a good time," McGreevy said.

Mike McGreevy wrestled and ran track during his youth. He started running the Marine Corps Marathon while attending the Naval Academy.

His love of running wasn't lost on his young bride.

"He inspired me into running and doing triathlons," said Laura, 32. "I got good enough that I was beating him at the triathlons. I'd beat him because I was a better swimmer."

McGreevy runs several races and triathlons each year and always uses the events to tell Groove's story.

Next weekend she is running in the Super Frog Triathlon -- a half-Ironman -- in San Diego with a friend who also lost her SEAL Team husband.

"I remember very well what my life was like, and I'm going to run to support her," McGreevy said. "SEALS are one big family, and they look out for each other and the ones left behind.

"And I can use the opportunity to tell people about my scholarship fund."
But, deep down, it's another chance to run.

McGreevy, who has gone back to work and is raising 4-year-old daughter Molly, said her husband always is with her while she's in stride.

"I feel Mike's presence when running, especially when I feel like quitting," she said. "I think about all his training and all the stuff he went through.

"And I hear his voice in my head. 'Come on, babe... you can do it.' Then I'll ask him to give me his legs. He had the best legs for running."

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We extend our prayers to the McGreevy family and our wishes for Laura's success in her own mission.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More Private Security Contractors Heading to Afghanistan

America could not have succeeded in Iraq without the highly skilled private security contractors. Virtually all of them have extensive military or police experience, advanced weapons training, and leadership skills. The war in Afghanistan will also require the abilities of these outstanding individuals.

The following Associated Press article talks about the use of these warriors in Afghanistan:

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Afghan Build-up Means Contractor Surge

March 23, 2009
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The military buildup in Afghanistan is stoking a surge of private security contractors despite a string of deadly shootings in Iraq in recent years that has called into question the government's ability to manage the guns for hire.

In recent online postings, the military has asked private security companies to protect traveling convoys and guard U.S. bases in troubled southern provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar. And if truckers hired to transport fuel for the military want protection, they can hire their own armed guards, the military says.

The Bush administration expanded the use of such companies with the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because it can save the military time and money. But the practice lost much of its appeal with Congress after September 2007, when five guards with what was then called Blackwater Worldwide (the company recently changed its name to Xe) opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square and killed 17 Iraqis.

Those killings followed a 2006 incident in which a drunken Blackwater employee fatally shot an Iraqi politician's bodyguard.

Now, as President Barack Obama plans to send more U.S. personnel to Afghanistan to boost security and diplomatic efforts, more contractors are preparing to deploy, too.

Still, serious questions remain as to how these private forces are managed, when they can use deadly force and what happens if they break the rules.

"We understand the difficulty of providing for the security of the Department of Defense facilities," Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Dec. 9.

"However, the proposed contract would appear to dramatically expand the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan," Levin said, adding that the reliance on contractors in Iraq resulted in "widespread abuses."

Levin, D-Mich., wrote to Gates after The Washington Post reported on the contract bid for armed guards at U.S. bases in southern Afghanistan.

In his letter, he noted the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which warns the Defense Department against outsourcing security operations "in uncontrolled or unpredictable high-threat environments."

Complicating matters is that the armed guards hired in Afghanistan most likely won't be U.S. citizens. According to Gates, only nine out of the 3,847 security contractors in Afghanistan have U.S. passports.

Some lawmakers worry that arming non-U.S. citizens to protect American bases or convoys poses a security risk in a country rife with corruption and on the defensive against the militant Taliban.

Gates defended the practice in his Feb. 17 response to Levin. "The use of contractor security personnel is vital to supporting the forward-operating bases in certain parts of the country and in continuing our efforts to employ local nationals whenever possible," the Pentagon chief said.

Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, agrees.

"If Afghans are qualified to do jobs, we want them to do jobs," McCain, R-Ariz., said in an interview.

Despite Gates' assurances, Levin said in a statement to the Associated Press that he would "continue to actively review the issue and to consider the need for legislation."

But so far, Congress has struggled to close even the most glaring of legal loopholes governing security contractors in war zones.

While the law says U.S. courts have jurisdiction over defense contractors working in a war zone, it leaves in question those supporting other agencies, such as the Blackwater guards hired by the State Department and involved in the Baghdad shooting.

In October 2007, the House voted 389-30 to give U.S. courts jurisdiction over all contractors in a war zone. But momentum on the bill stalled after the Bush administration raised objections. The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Barack Obama when he was an Illinois senator, never received a vote.

Last month, two sponsors of the bill, Reps. David Price, D-N.C., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., asked President Obama in a letter to pick up where he left off by helping Congress define which tasks only government should perform.

Currently, there are 71,700 contractors in Afghanistan, which is more than twice the number of U.S. troops. With more than 3,000 of those contractors carrying weapons, the Defense Department established an office to oversee them.

That office, known as the "armed contractor oversight directorate," just agreed to pay $993,000 to Aegis Defense Services, a London-based security and risk management company, to help do that job.

Gates assured Levin that the military's contract with Aegis would not result in contractors overseeing contractors.

Instead, the nearly $1 million dollar deal would provide administrative support only and that the company's workers would not have "direct input into daily operations, force protection, or combat operations," Gates said.

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As with military operations, there will always be a few who break the laws or who violate military regulations. The vast majority of the private security contractors are brave men and women who are willing to put themselves at risk to help others.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Police Tragedy in Oakland, California

There is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop. This horrible tragedy proves once again that cops are at risk every moment of their work day.

The victims were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, Officer John Hege,41, Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, and Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43.

This story is from the Associated Press:

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Gunman Kills Police Officers in Oakland

Some Bystanders Taunt Police After Slayings

By TERRY COLLINS and LISA LEFF, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. (March 22) - A police officer shot during a traffic stop has been pronounced brain dead but remained on life support, police said Sunday, retracting an earlier statement that he had died.

Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason announced the death of 41-year-old Officer John Hege earlier Sunday but later said that Hege was being kept alive while a final decision was made about donating his organs.

Police said a 26-year-old parolee wanted on a parole violation opened fire on Hege and Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, during a traffic stop Saturday afternoon, killing Dunakin, police said.

Lovelle Mixon, the suspect, was slain later Saturday in a gunfight with police that left two more officers dead. Thomason identified those officers as 43-year-old Sgt. Ervin Romans and 35-year-old Sgt. Daniel Sakai.

Oakland police said never in the department's history had so many officers been killed in the line of duty in a single day.

People lingered at the scene of the first shooting. About 20 bystanders taunted police.

The violence began when Hege and Dunakin, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland, Thomason said. The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege.

The gunman then fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt by dozens of Oakland police, California Highway Patrol officers and Alameda County sheriff deputies. Streets were roped off and an entire area of east Oakland closed to traffic.

Around 3:30 p.m. officers got an anonymous tip that the gunman was inside a nearby apartment building. A SWAT team entered the building when the gunman opened fire, police said. Romans and Sakai were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said.

Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, Acting Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said.

"It's in these moments that words are extraordinarily inadequate," said Mayor Ron Dellums at a somber news conference announcing the slayings.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags at the state capitol flown at half-staff Sunday in honor of the slain officers. He arrived in Oakland on Sunday afternoon to meet with Dellums and members of the police department.

"All four officers dedicated their lives to public safety and selflessly worked to protect the people of Oakland," he said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost, the Oakland Police Department and law enforcement officers throughout California during this difficult time."

Police said Mixon used two different weapons: a gun at the first scene and an assault rifle at the apartment building where he was hiding.

"(Mixon) was on parole, and he had a warrant out for his arrest for violating that parole. And he was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon," said Oakland police Deputy Chief Jeffery Israel.

Police said they did not know why the officers initially stopped the suspect, but said it apparently was a routine traffic stop. Thomason said Mixon had an extensive criminal history and was wanted on a no-bail warrant.

Reached by telephone late Saturday, Dr. John S. Hege said his son loved being a policeman and recently became a motorcycle traffic patrol officer. "He liked excitement," he said.

Hege said the slain shooting suspect "was evidently terribly desperate. It is a sad story."

LaTasha Mixon, 28, of Sacramento said Sunday that her cousin was "not a monster." She said her family's prayers were with the slain officers' relatives. "We're devastated. Everybody took a major loss. We're crushed," she said.

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Our thoughts and prayers go out to these men, their families and their fellow law enforcement officers.

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dumb Criminals – Job Security for Cops

My fellow police officer and I maneuvered our marked patrol cars through traffic until we were both behind the white Mitsubishi. The three subjects in the car (one man, two women) were suspects in a brazen shoplift from a toy store. Witnesses provided an accurate tag number and direction of travel, so the car was easy to find.

The first radio message said store personnel witnessed the theft of a large quantity of children’s clothes. By the time we pulled the car over, the officer at the store said the witness was only partially sure of what he saw. After behaving “suspiciously” in the aisles of the store, the suspects left “much fatter” than when they arrived, according to the clerk. They also matched the description of other suspects in another store of the same name. Because of the circumstances, the retail manager decided to simply trespass the individuals from his store.

All three suspects had extensive arrest histories, including prison time and county jail time. We looked at the man and told him they were being trespassed. Then we added, “as long as the stolen property is returned.”

Well, after looking at all the stuff in the back seat, we figured we’d give the ruse a try.

The man was about forty, and he looked at us suspiciously, as if we would arrest him as soon as he gave us the clothes. We said, no, we won’t arrest you; just give us back what you stole. He said, "It’s a deal…"

The guy reached into the car and pulled out the clothes they did steal from the toy store. I noticed several other bags in the back seat filled with more clothing. Continuing our bluff, I said, "You understand that if we search the car and find more stolen property, the deal is off."

With that, the guy pulled two more bags out of the car that were stuffed with stolen clothes, this time from a second store. In all, hundreds of dollars in stolen property were recovered. The circumstances didn’t permit us to arrest them, so we used a little "trickery" to recover what we could. Sadly, neither store could or would prosecute, so the bad guys got away with only the trespasses.

What these experienced crooks didn’t know was that all of their personal information, their photos, pictures of the Mitsubishi, etc. went to our intelligence officer. He will prepare an intelligence bulletin for other local law enforcement agencies. Using photo lineups, these thieves will surely be identified for other similar crimes. Justice will prevail, and they'll end up in jail again - right where they belong.

I asked the guy, "Didn’t you just get out of prison?"

"Yeah," he mumbled. "I did eighteen months."

"You got kids?" I inquired.

"Two," he answered.

"Are you out of your mind?" I asked. "Are you trying to go back to prison? Do you realize how long a sentence you’ll get next time? For what, stealing clothes?"

"I know,” he replied. "I guess I’m just stupid."

No response from me was necessary.

Charles M. Grist