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Welcome to the new Special Forces Gear News Letter! Each month we send out a lot of information and great deals, and to make it easier to read, we've written a summary of the longer articles in this email.
Dave's Message

O.S.S. MU & America's First Frogman John


The Legend and Fact of

John Pitts Spence Gunner's Mate Chief(Diver)(Ret.)USN/O.S.S.MU and why he is America's First Frogman for all Special Operatives & operators and SCUBA Adventurers World Wide-


(How his story relates to the genesis of military and civilian SCUBA within Los Angeles County, Southern California and world-wide by spawning adventures in SCUBA diving for most every clandestine amphibious American and British influenced Frogmen who has come our way since !)




Erick Simmel©


Special Use Permission for a one time internet publishing of PART I PART II, and PART III of this Series by SpecialForces.com for educational personal review only any reproduction strictly forbidden. Author does not grant any rights to the reader.  

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©Erick Simmel -1987-2014




...To recap from Part II...


...John Spence, he decided he had doubts in his abilities.


With the O.S.S.'s 'can-do', along with the Maritime L-Unit operative swimmers being as what they perceived to be as being screwed by O.S.S. London Middle management brass for the cancellation of Operation Betty in advance of the Normandy D-Day landings. In John Spence's own words, "...Our[L-Unit] Maritime C.O. Commander Guest not really wanting to get into the war... we did not care cold hands and bodies or not" Spence's perseverance and patience with his form of fighting was wearing thin on him.


When several other operations including Operation Sampson - to cripple and block an ore ship in the Canal of Kiel in North Germany - became a near suicide mission and were changed or not delayed, Spence and many L-Unit Swimmers personnel left England in late June of 1944, and returned to Salt Cay in the Bahamas Islands where they were to pass on their lessens created by be absorbed into the 2nd and 3rd group of Operational Swimmers. Some did stay on for other O.S.S. European amphibious operations in Norway, Italy the Adriatic and Austria that became more land based as the drive toward the Rhine went on.


However back in the Bahamas, despite gains in techniques manpower, field and trade craft, Spence was told there would be further delays to a combat theater due to mock assault being planned. With only his reconnaissance missions into France and all the other false starts not bringing him and his fellow operative swimmers more quickly into the fight, Spence decided this new form of warfare - waiting to fight - was not in his blood . To the dismay of many he transfer would fight elsewhere.


When he left, other Operational Swimmer Groups very soon made there way to the China-Burma-India and Pacific theaters where plenty of action stood on the horizon.



After leaving England in June of 1944.He requested transfer back into the Navy as a gunnersmate on a fighting ship. Within four months He was on the Navy Destroyer U.S.S Wadsworth. By the time the Iwo Jima Invasion came on Spence was the forward Gun battery leading petty officer . Spence, was looking thorough the Forward Gun turrets optical sighting system saw Frogmen of UDT 11 and 15 wearing the same masks and swim fins he had two years earlier tried to sell to Lt. Kaufman with Lambertsen and Lt. Duncan at Fort Pierce Florida. He was amazed seeing them using tools there C.O. justt a short time prior, had vowed never to employ. These were naked warriors in trunk only -- ... but frogmen nonetheless. -- He would many years later learn thosemen had been -- trained by fellow O.S.S. Special Maritime Group "A" ( O.S.S. SMG-A) swimmers -- he had recruited and trained -- in Maui who then became on loan to UDT 10 to use the equipment. They had been brought into the new Navy Underwater Demolition Teams(U.D.T.) and merged into an O.S.S. lead composite group of all armed service O.S.S. swimmers as "Navy U.D.T.10 " SMG-A as U.D.T. would pass on the combat diving and combat skin diving skills Spence and his Fellow O.S.S. Waterman form Santa Monica and Los Angeles to the U.D.T. Such legacy was only known to a very few and mostly forgotten within a year or two of the end of the war. Instead the "legend", from some other unknowledgeable source, became "fact" surrounded by myth.


But in the days of shelling for the U.D.T. to recon Iwo Jima before the invasion,  Spence would recall: "There I was not realizing that these men in the water being protected by our shelling were not the only Frogmen doing things. Other O.S.S. Frogmen operatives were doing missions in Burma, China and Europe. Including Jack Taylor, Gordie Soltau, Eubank,Becker, Norm Abbott,Butt and Wadley. All my missions were classified as were theirs. I retired from the Navy a Chief after 29 years of service. The O.S.S. years and our ability to speak of them was not authorized by our sworn to secrecy with government agreements until beginning in 1987. By then the legend replaced who I and Jack Taylor and Wadley and the others were had been printed and the facts regarding us ...well(he would say with a pause and a smile)...how do you change a legend when that legend has become the facts and truth?( Spence to Simmel,1998)


  Hence we return full circle to the beginning of this tale and fellow Navy OSSer to Spence, director John Ford and his eloquent, allegory(a literary device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts) soliloquy to OSS: "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. " Perhaps, never intentionally, that line can be viewed as a personal soliloquy -and an intriguing look into the very proud patriot's mind set of O.S.S. Commander and later Rear Admiral John Ford, who in 1962 could still not overtly create a movie about his beloved O.S.S. or Donovan the facts were still held very classified. He did however create line whose the allegory truly follows the Spence history saga I've chosen it to illustrate and help the reader understand where and why John Spence, with such a noble moniker as " America's first frogman", instead of having service wide recognition and acceptance as a first of his kind in as a U.S. military figure, has historians of U.S. Frogman Combat swimming/SEAL commando "fact" obscured by much Navy legend that, after years of documentation at the time of his passing, keeps him a a unknown patriot to anyone looking into the subject.

The "... print the legend", adage parallels the O.S.S. / versus the conventional WWII military history. Or, for us here, it is a concise ode to Spence being the First-Frogman as an O.S.S. operative long before , versus the Navy's still promoted version that of the U.D.T. created the mission, the skill sets, and the Frogman concept into the American combat weapon locker: a mission and the skill sets from which all other military branches have learned from.

Allegorical, because in Liberty Valence the movie, the character 'Doniphon', [A word play, when pronounced fast sounds like the last name of O.S.S founder General (Wild Bill) "Donovan"???] secretly kills the character Liberty Valence from behind the scenes in the shadows with a rifle shot timed to match the character 'Stoddard's' pistol shot. A curious and masterful parallel and summation of how the O.S.S., was generally perceived by the traditional military during WWII...and continues now with most serious historians on the subject.

In fact, serious historians do not like how Donovan and his O.S.S. And most all who served under him and it - from all branches of the military - revered he and it. Many warriors like a leader, who is the maverick Donovan was. But that does not fit with the modern American and Globalist intelligencia historians who are part of the unnatural push to have a government in all part of our lives want to depict. The now completely revealed/ unveiled secret shows a Donovan and his powerful agency was created as an apolitical temporary "Can do" to win a war at all costs and nothing more! He and his Staff created and fielded Americas first service wide clandestine warrior/operatives - including our nation's first amphibious operatives, who were on par with any present day SEALs MARSOC, Army Combat Divers and Air Force STS operator- and that does not bode well with official command histories of traditional services that have since the end of WW II lifted form official histories to mostly show that O.S.S. was more a hindrance to the war, than a help: Absolute Hogwash!

To the conventional military of the day and as history still churns out"the legend" is the O.S.S. Its' best and brightest men like Ford, Lambertsen, Taylor and Spence in missions orchestrated by Donovan, who were looked upon as just a lucky few; 'if by chance'; if occasionally "being-there-at-the-right-time" crucial, yet deadly; if rarely glorious "behind-the-scenes operations", that were some sort of "side-show" to support the main war machine's efforts. In such a command mindset, the conventional military was quite often not in a position to understand the vast strategic end run and tactical advantage that saved the lives of many, by O.S.S missions being implemented by the very few men of the O.S.S. like John Spence.

"The facts" or "truths" are: (A) Military history continues not to emphasize teach, promote, publish and keeps making generally unclear how the O.S.S. was a seated member of the War Department's Joint Chiefs of Staff and thus a integral part of all planning for offensive U.S. Combat operations during World War II. And (B) With The O.S.S., by identifying a need and creating the trained warriors for maritime and underwater combat swimming; insertion/extraction; reconnaissance, sabotage; and a variety of armed direct and unconventional commando missions and special operations which were executed in and around amphibious maritime environments (that originated from sea, air and or land transits against enemy targets); the O.S.S. found in Lambertsen and his SCUBA rebreather apparatus part of a new weapon component whose second part would be John Spence as his first student who when combined ad man and apparatus became the first whole weapon of its kind - the American underwater combat swimmer or Frogman. Spence, then trained others to be like him; and later they had him fight with his trained O.S.S. Frogmen as an operative Frogman behind enemy lines, these are the undisputable facts and the truth.



Hence, even amongst today's, modern highly degreed and educated Navy SEALs and EOD Divers; Army Special Forces, Green Berets and Rangers; Marine Corps MARSOC operators and Reconnaissance Marines, let alone Coast Guard MSS teams and Air Force Special Tactics operators and PJ's -- who as trained combat swimmers, all owe their legacy to him; and yet very very few of them know the fact/truth of John Spence or are taught to learn of him as the root of their skills, nor do they really understand the significance of John Spence to their combat swimming worlds, as they know who a guy named "Rogers", as a Ranger was.

This is all in lieu of that commencing in 1998 John and all his fellow O.S.S. MU Swimmers alive at that time were historically recognized and inducted into the Army Special Forces regiment receiving Green Berets and being deemed the direct legacy to Special Forces Underwater Operations Combat Diver, school and training. They were made life time members of the U.D.T/SEAL association; they were followed officially recognized in 2001 by the U.S. Naval Academy, History Department as part of official Navy Special Forces history during their Naval Forces, Under the Sea symposium.


John Spence should be known for his exploits and his "L" UNIT mission, "Operation Betty" which was the top Frogman mission of the USA for its day. While the other O.S.S. Swimmer operatives he trained and who took part operations "Boston" "Cincinnati" and "Cleveland" as well as all Jack Taylor's missions should be no less and never forgotten as the solid foundation block to all U.S. Special Operations lore that eventually became led to the Navy SEAL's top frogman mission of our present day, Operation Neptune Spear: The current JSOC command mission resulting in the elimination of Usama Bin Laden from our earth of May 2011.

But to do so, we must reverse John Ford's prophecy and publish "fact" instead of "legend" for our young to learn and respect.


Unknowingly to John Spence, Lambertsen and their fellow O.S.S. MU Swimmers lifeguards until the 1990's they left a legacy and influence which brushed both directly indirectly into the many influences of the burgeoning late 1940's and 1950's world of civilian "aqua-lung" SCUBA diving. Their organized training predated formal military and civilian SCUBA instruction of any kind - by almost a decade.  


Directly, their work was acknowledged when the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association -- the world's first and oldest continuous civilian SCUBA instruction organization --- celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2004, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. John Spence was present, representing himself and Dr. Christian Lambertsen in absentia.  


Spence as representative pioneers to the beginnings of 'all formal SCUBA instruction' were recognized by the association as guests of honor for being America's father of combat swimming(Lambertsen), First Frogman and one of the first four SCUBA Instructors for any organized military OR civilian SCUBA training of US citizens or military personnel anywhere. (Spence)

Spence and Lambertsen both, cherished and were humbled by this subtle honor, knowing how the LA County organization beginning in 1953 and officially in 1954 as the first recognized SCUBA organization whose instruction and techniques could be directly traced back to what Dr. Lambertsen, John Spence, Jack Taylor and their fellow O.S.S. swimmer pre WW II 'skin diving' Lifeguards pioneered during WW II. All via equipment, techniques and a course of study depicted in the first printed SCUBA curriculum manual as authored by Lambertsen and printed by O.S.S. This was curriculum was taught to their fellow O.S.S. swimmer operatives along with many post WW II Army, Coastguard, Marine Corps, Navy U.D.T., civilian and scientific communities.


Part of the recognition that evening was to John and his fellow O.S.S. swimmers -- the pre and post WW II 'skin diving' Lifeguards, who lived to implement and pioneer practical and industrial manufacturing, while perfecting and utilizing a great deal of the equipment and skills in a regular and often daily use. This became the genesis for much of the free world's modern diving industry and SCUBA course instruction. Spence and Company were also recognized as a group largely from Los Angeles County - Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Pedro, Catalina Island, Long Beach, - Orange County and San Diego County beaches - the San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley where John Spence and his fellow O.S.S. and Skin Diving Lifeguards lived for many years before and after their O.S.S. wartime years.


One such influence included O.S.S. Skin Diving lifeguard and student of Spence and Dr. Lambertsen, was Frank Donohue, pre WW II the wild man/ Irishman, Surfing Skin-diving Santa Monica Lifeguard, waterman, raconteur a legend who penned and created the movie screenplay about WWII U.D.T. "The Frogmen" (even though the aqua lung SCUBA equipment in that movie is not representative of any O.S.S./U.D.T. during the war which at the time of producing the picture Frank had no input.) and in the original television story concept that put more people in to SCUBA gear and young boys wanting to become Frogmen than any one influence - "Sea Hunt" starring Lloyd Bridges as a "former Navy Frogman", weekly, using his skills on adventures the world over in beautiful underwater locales.  



During 2005 Spence visited Catalina Island for a Veterans Day O.S.S. exhibit the Catalina Island Museum presented. He was able to board the historical P-520 - a prior O.S.S./Coast Guard and Air Force crash boat (PT boat) similar to what the O.S.S. Frogmen used in the classified Burma swimming operations and used by O.S.S. on the island. That evening "Avalon John" Spence was at the El Galleon world renowned for its Karaoke. He was dressed in a suit, tie, his medals and his Green Beret atop his head where he proudly took the stage as a group of rowdy patrons paused and stood quiet as a patron recognized John as America's First Frogman and in his honor, crooned out " The Ballad of the Green Beret" by Barry Sadler.



85 years old, John stood ramrod straight and proud on the stage. His image welled up tears in the eyes of appreciative men and women. John was always humbled by such fanfare. Mostly quiet, but always proud to relay the facts and honor the legacy he and his compatriots were the genesis of, John shared many a handshake and smile that evining.  


In his last 5 years, John Spence lived a proud life in Bend, Oregon. He was active and proud part of that local region's "Band of Brothers" a group of World War II vets who promote their great legacy to our nation. His name sake is part of a heritage to the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps with the "JOHN SPENCE Division" of Bend, Oregon in his honor.


Spence was married three times and is survived by a very large and vast extended family across the United States including one daughter who like her dad, joined the Navy, saw the world and retired honorably as a Chief Petty Officer.

Spence prided himself on keeping the OSS swimmer story alive but few who should have taken it to heart had to uphold any tale to the "legend" they had for so long kept alight as truth. Ironically a year before John's passing in 2012 Two interesting,   nonrelated to one another tidbits took place that affected the Spence O.S.S legacy. First a reporter with no desire or training to accurize the fact of his subject at did a story on one very honored and noble Florida WW II UDT 11 Veteran Frogman who was at 90 years old at the time[2012] " the Oldest American World war II frogman alive". Well if you've read any of these three parts you'll know that is far from the case. With John passing there are at least a dozen O.S.S. M.U. John Spence trained and operatied with Operational Swimmers alive who had Swim-fins on their feet; their eyes in Faceplates and Lamberstsen-Lung(LARU) rebreathers as their underwater breathing loop at least six months before the UDT 11 survivor was first trained - and a few of them were his instructors as well.


Secondly, a confidential Symposium was held by the JSOU think tank arm of the USSOCOM on O.S.S., where historians form civilian and military came together to share how to learn form and employ the brilliant Donovan O.S.S. model. Instead of being fully humbled by what O.S.S. did, and achieved, a "professor of contemporary history" (a civilian ironically from Donovan's alma mater) as the keynote speaker; with a University phuddy-duddy's[that's Ph.D for you uniformed] "know-it-all know-ot nothing"tenure, pedigree decided that as if an agent were planted to convince a willing audience to learn some secret truth about O.S.S. and how when using the Donovan O.S.S. model on "facts" presented, there is "...the potential problem of OSS nostalgia, to avoid any suggestion that there was a SOF utopia in the past...[and where] ... OSS may be a good business practice to be examined, but the military is good at creating legends and we need to be careful of not falling into the trap of blindly following the  mythology of the OSS..."



Au Contraire....Indeed There was once a SOF utopia, and it was called O.S.S.!

It may not have done all it could have done but that was because of political flag officers mad that the wealth and power and heroic figure of a Donovan had the balls to do what any Patriot with his brains and brawn would have done. For all the other " Potential problems" the "Myth "that was O.S.S. brings is that it is not appreciated by the mainstream collective of the new socialistic Special operations forces of the US legacy as it is about individuals getting together to fight off bad enemies at that time; when today those who direct our citizen soldier elite somehow think it a.o.k to violate the constitution and mix in law enforcement duties by labeling any veteran a potential terrorist - Something Wild Bill Donovan , General John Singlaub, Aaron Bank John Ford , Chris Lambertsen, Jack Taylor, John Spence -- And any operative they would trust and fight with WOULD NEVER CONDONE!


Donovan and those "who got him" [ READ THAT: "understood him" ] realized he knew any traditional military model of his times was NOT how to beat the Axis enemy. Donovan and those who got him knew the enemy was s subversive as any modern day sleeper cell of islam extremism or communist infiltrater, but he and O.S.S. USED a wonderful homespun form of skullduggery, secret agentry 'injun fightin' outdooormanship and riflemanshiped Gentleman agent who was, bold and courageous an could win in a bar fight and who was devotedly patriotic for the United States of America First - yet with the fear and daring to go on the offensive and anhiliate the enemy from the shadows,  would ease off the pain from the front line soldier marine or airman... If those men were New Deal democrats When Pearl harbor was bombed, by the time they served in O.S.S. as operatives they ended their war knowning black and white from shades of gray-and none of those shades obscured their truth in vision. In the United States the man and the mission makes the mission, and that main mission is to preserve the constitution as it was written by our founding fathers . not by some charlatans or schills that show up every election cycle to tell us what the constitution means .

The man and men behind the 51 month experiment known as Wild Bill Donovan and the C.O.I and O.S.S. above all else, knew this very well.  


John Pitts Spence knew it.


When the first segment of this series on John commenced it opened with a allegorical line:" This is the West, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."  


While facts are that American original western author Dorothy M. Johnson created the line, it was the late great filmmaker born as one 'John Martin Feeny' before becoming one of the most important and influential American filmmakers and one of the greatest film directors of all time, named John Ford, who immortlized those words in his directing the actor who delivered them, in the in the motion picture Ford had created. Undoubtedly, the O.S.S. "Field Photographic Branch" motion picture films Ford made on John Spence and other O.S.S. Swimmers using Chris Lambertsen's Lung(LARU)were seen by post WW II Navy UDT brass, which led to UDT having a reference point to train Navy Frogmen. Late in life he was outspoken at claiming the best years of his life were not in making the now iconic movies most remember him for, but for his military and secret service reflected in his post war lifelong title: Admiral John Ford U.S. Navy, (Ret.)- O.S.S.


Ford's boss and Americans Master Spy and leader of all of the O.S.S. William J. Donovan with an end to WW II saw an executive order to disband O.S.S. in 1945. After the war Donovan continued to run agents in the same secret network worldwide as part of his New York law firm,he served as an Assistant to Robert Jackson, Chief American Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials where a key witness O.S.S. Operative he produced, who as a U.S, Military Officer witnessed the Nazi SS military run death camps, led to the conviction of all military leaders in the Nazi party. Donovan later helped establish the War Departments post O.S.S., Strategic Services Unit(SSU) and the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) which would become the interim intel networks that would become CIA, two years to the day after O.S.S. had been abandoned, in 1947. While Donovan had been pushed bylead CIA colleagues to lead CIA, as a conservative to Trumans democrat a mutual dislike ruled. Later in 1953, when Ike made it to the Whitehouse Donovan, was now 70. Instead of taking the CIA post Allen Dulles was given, Donovan elected to serve as United States Ambassador to Thailand.


Yet in the summer of '53 former O.S.S. Jedburgh Colonel Aaron Bank brought Donovan down to Fort Bragg for several weeks where he went into the field and witnessed the newly formed Army Xth Special Forces Group. Donovan was much impressed by the (then) young men of Special Forces he saw. In 1982 Colonel Bank stated: "Although it occurred indirectly, there is no doubt that O.S.S. gave birth not only to CIA but also Green berets in 1952. All the Green Beret training programs, maneuvers, concepts, and conduct of operations[author Note: including Special forces SCUBA Combat-Divers] were based on those of O.S.S. I feel Donovan should have bestowed upon him the honor and credit for this continuity of the heritage and traditions established through his genius and foresight. Another tribute[,] for his extensive contributions to advance the very important field of unconventional warfare."


By the time William J. Dononvan, Major General, U.S. Army(Ret.), citizen patriot warrior passed away, he had served a life of honor, success, controversy secrecy and valor few, if any, might ever achieve. Most Americans, including active service members, are not taught how most modern special operations forces derive from his outfits direct creation and his personal foresight, let alone as how he is the only American who served in both WWI and WW II who is the first and only American in the history to have received these four awards in the United States: The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross(received in WWI) - with two Oak Leaf clusters ( for his WW II O.S.S. service), the Distinguished Service Medal , and the National Security Medal(for Forming CIA). He is also a recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart, as well as decorations from a number of other nations for his service during both World Wars.


When Donovan Died on February 8, 1959 at 1:55pm , upon hearing the news President Eisenhowerremarked: "What a man!  We have lost the last hero."

...Very Arguably... Donovan's greatest military legacy achieved via O.S.S was the soul of all American frogmen to follow pioneered and embodied in the images and likes his operative warriors he produced during the war and to follow: John Ford, Chris Lambertsen, Aaron Bank, Jack Taylor and John Spence.

Aaron Bank admittedly up until in his late 90's mentioned he did not learn O.S.S. had an Operational Swimmer/Frogmen unit until he was establishing Special Forces a decade later. As a Pre-W.W. II Lifeguard in France (ironically close to Lorient-Keroman Nazi Sub-base Spence and O.S.S L-Unit were slated to destroy...), Bank said he would have leaped at the chance, if during WW II, O.S.S. Swimmer recruiters came his way with an opportunity to be a pioneering frogman! He had no idea O.S.S. had the capability until he was forming Special Forces, a decade later. O.S.S Jedburgh and Father of Army Special Forces, who said it was owed to Donovan and the O.S.S model, Colonel Aaron Bank for years after he retired used the Ocean as his fitness pool. He would daily ocean swim around the San Clemente Ocean Pier well into his early 90's and lived near the ocean until he died in 2004 at 101 years old!



While the beloved father of SCUBA and father of American Combat swimming  Chris -- Christian James Lambertsen, who throughout his life carried an M.D. after his name and to many would beknown as Doc He would go through life as the American environmental and diving medicine specialist and expert in all inner and outer space breathing gasses and there impact on the human condition creating and founding within the University of Pennslyvania, the Institute for Environmental Medicine from the post war 1940's onward . The Institute trained new disciples and conducted research for many clandestine U.S. Govt. agency and military organizations as well as Lambertsen being principally responsible for designing creating the system ability American Frogman of any branch of Armed services -- to breath while diving beneath the sea - He in fact reman an researcher to the American clandestine Diving community up until the mid 2000's. Lambertsen also carried a "Major, Army U.S.(Ret)U.S. Army" after his name and M.D.. He passed away in February of 2011.


Spence's first maritime unit diving partner and the man responsible for the skin divers with skills sets to give O.S.S. Jack Heydrich Taylor while he could have remained a civilian dentist and for his actions during behind the lines in Austria and his subsequent torture and surviving the Mathhausen Death camp, and as one of the only U.S. military witness for the prosecution at the Nuremburg War crimes; Taylor, Jack had Lieutenant , United States Naval reserve and Navy Cross Recipient after his D.D.S...and... is considered amongst all Navy SEAL scholars, as the first Navy officer to be considered a SEa-Air-Land operative. Taylor Died in 1959.


However... the recently dear and departed Navy hard hat Diver/gunnersmate John Pitts Spence was as a top secret warrior, was like Donovan, Ford Lambertsen Bank and Taylor - an American original.   Spence and the others, skills may have been realized during their military service, but not, because of the military. No they were all innovators chosen for the skills and mind set, rather than their prior service to the only armed forces outfit in U.S.A. history - O.S.S., and the man with the foresight to corral them all together, William Donovan who again wasa a citizen patriot brilliant warrior by nature not by military manufacturer. Nothing he did nor any one O.S.S. operative or one of its sub units did was from anything then present day military ways of looking at things did; but rather a grand experiment of smart glorious amateurs of which John Spence was one intricate part of. , No, being able to do what was called of them in their inbred patriotic citizen warrior souls when called to stand tall and push an envelope edge doing so, is why he and they all hold special places in the hearts of all present and future American special forces, special operations and special warfare warriors as long as there remains a U.S. of A and our constitution.


Their Envelopes edge form filming Normandy to inventing SCUBA to being the free diver to bring all other free divers to being the Hardhat diver to become the sorcerer's apprentice as John was to Chris was all because of that once fine and valiant, a very secret world that is encapsulated in three initials and two words the end of their official titles -- as hallowed a clandestine fighting institution r and as ever an Institution was: O.S.S. Maritime Unit.


So reader no matter who you are -citizen patriot soldier, water man ...let alone a Frogman - John's life message is a clear one: Don't doubt whatever life, graces upon you in its unexpected ways and you are tasked to do, for history may one day find you and tag you as the factual first of kind to whatever that task or duty may be including the not so glamorous duty of keeping your head held high when others doubt whatever your accomplishment might be. Thus, do all you do well. Appreciate the moment and live like John Spence: Humble proud and dutiful to the end. Because, like "America's First Frogman" very few may ever recognize let alone remember who you are, even if you duty is to live long enough to never let them forget you.


A Celebration of life service for John Pitts Spence took place on 23 November 2013 in Bend, Oregon. The Service was attended by with official letters commemorating Johns Life from Naval Special Warfare Command, U.S. Army Special Forces, USMC MARSOC, Coast guard AirForce, CIA and OSS Society. Attended by family and friends, and all regional military veterans, dignitaries and historians full honors and all traditions were bestowed upon him as would befit any storied United States Navy Chief, such as Spence.

With his sails set for a speedy course toward heavens gates, there was even a post service memorial frogman's skin dive in honor of John, into the icy 5 knot November currents of Bend's Deschutes River, which this author can attest its temperature had not changed in 31 years even with a very thin wetsuit, befit with period black Churchill Swim-fins and SeaNetface plate .  


In closing, an ode to a friend, America's First Frogman John Spence:


Their once was a tough as nails hard hat Gunner from Tennessee, who made his mark as a both a sailor frogman, above and below and throughout the Seven Seas.

Whom after a long fruitful life, made the voyaged toward the deep embrace of heaven gates.

Swimming from the cold, wet, dark often times chaos,

of his first Frogman's life, that began long ago.

With his skills and history and missions, all in tow.

As he doffs his LARU, to stand tall in the hall, with his many loved ones are assembled...

Soon 'Doctor L,' and those other glorious swim-fin footed, faceplate wearing, LARU breathing, clandestine limpet mining-men-o-warsmen, O.S.S frogman few, his brethren one and all;

Those whom he taught to survive all kinds of combat-swims which W.W. II's Donovan, of our red-white-an-blue, did derive;

They all our acknowledge Spence being our first,  

long before the post war UDT & EOD & SEAL, SF & Marines & Spooks, Guardsman & Airman whose might underwater swim, a back pack nuke,      whose skills they never knew,  

Were spawned by this secret hardhat diver for USof A missions against the axis, to ensure their enterprise, would burst.

For when John and his fellow operative mates,

Stand Extolled at Saint Peter's gates,  

recanting their your youths truth's and it's fates;

may their heaven made martinis be dry,

or all humor Saint Pete bestows on them, respectful - if wry.

For by now you and they've all reunited with loved ones;

Nothing more to be asked of your spirit - other than may you find Heavens seas a warm embrace which astounds you...   


...That in regards to all legends about your  

underwater-swimming-espionage core;

A few mortal patriots will toil for it,

to be a better known accepted cornerstone foundation,

to our American amphibious secret warrior lore.

Here's to you Chief Spence -the man I was thankful to call friend;

and all O.S.S. Operative Swimmer Frogman/men o- warsmen,

Who never got the bends,  

some departing before you, others who'll one day follow.                      

Eternal fair winds and eternal restful following seas.


~Erick Simmel©


Special thanks for this time line of John Pitts Spence go out to many sources including: the National Archives' OSS section, OSS Society archives, CIA archives. The research of the archives at the UDT/SEAL Association and the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.


Insightful interviews and a friendship with the late Doug "Red Dog" Fane Commander, USN retired. The unparalleled research, diligent insights writings and goodthingsmanship of Tom Hawkins Commander, USN (Ret.). Lt Cmdr. Michael Bennett United States Coast Guard Army Special Forces Sergeant Brian Danis.  


Countless interviews, conversations and friendships with former O.S.S. Maritime Unit Operational swimmers Gordon Soltau, Norman Abbott, Sam Backus, Jim Long, Gerry Puetz and Hank Waldron( all who as of April 1, 2014 are well and with us). Along with their departed mates Robert Butt, Jim Eubank, Don Scoles, Frank Donohue Herman Becker, James Talmadge, John C. "Jack " Carroll, John Booth, Leslie Bodine, Rollo Beck respectively(...close friends, mentors one and all...) . The storied former Lt. Walter Mess, AUS, one of Donovan' s first pre war spies who carried on to C.O.I / O.S.S and was senior flotilla commander of all O.S.S. Maritime operations in the CBI Theater and a great friend. The late, great father of Combat Swimming Dr. Christian James Lambertsen and his now closed Institute for Environmental Medicine research archives at the University of Pennsylvania and staff including Marina Stamos. A special thanks Chief J.W. Terry USN (Ret.) Lyle Hicks of the Bend Oregon Chapter of the Band-of-Brothers-Veterans Group; LTJG Pilar Davami of the John Spence Chapter of the USNSCC in Bend Oregon and all the family and friends of John Pitts Spence and the very moving celebration of John Spence's Life they organized. Finally, and without par, the main subject at hand, Chief Gunnersmate (diver)John Pitts Spence United States Navy(Ret)- O.S.S. Maritime, himself. He will be sorely missed.


Long term, from me and all of us enjoying freedom:  

"no way to ever provide enough thank you's properly" to you,

one and all.


Click here to send Dave a private message. 


Voice of the Soldier
This section is designed to give you a voice where you can express opinions or give messages. We encourage you to speak out! Send us your commentary, stories, articles, etc...

Special Operations Warrior Foundation

Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Special Forces Gear is now hosting
a special section for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) provides college scholarship grants, along with financial aid and educational counseling, to the children of Special Operations personnel who were killed in an operational mission or training accident.

All profits from these items go to the
Special Operations Warrior Foundation


Learn More about the 

Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) >>   

Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club

   311 iran ship  

The Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club is a not-for-profit (501c3) fraternal organization. It was formed to provide a fraternal organization for qualified military veterans who have served, or are currently serving, in the Armed Forces of the United States or US Allied Nations.  They support Veterans and Active Duty Members in many different ways.  A few of the many causes projects they support are: mailing over 900lbs of care packages to Active Duty Service Members Monthly to Visiting Veterans Homes to put a smile on a Veterans Face.  Please visit them at  www.warriorbrotherhood.com


All profits from these items are donated to

Warrior Brotherhood Veterans Motorcycle Club 


Learn More about the Warrior Brotherhood Veterans
Motorcycle Club >>

Caring for America's Quiet 311 iran shipProfessionals 


The Green Beret Foundation provides unconventional resources to facilitate the special needs of our wounded, ill and injured and imparts unique support to the Special Forces community in order to strengthen readiness and uphold Green Beret traditions and values.


Learn more about Green Beret Foundation>> 

New! Direct to Garment Printing.
DTG Printing on Performance Apparel

We are excited to announce our newest advance in Direct to Garment printing on Performance Apparel. We are now able to print direct to moisture-wicking Polyester Garments. You can now personalize and print your favorite design to Athletic Apparel, running shorts, under armor and dry release apparel.

The quality of this printing is unmatched able to hold fine details and shading screen printing can't.


Direct to Garment Printing - SpecialForces.com
Direct to Garment Printing - SpecialForces.com

Cartoon predicts the future 50 years ago. This is amazing insight!
Cartoon predicts the future 50 years ago.
This is amazing insight!
Ola Mize, Medal of Honor, Korean War
Ola Mize, Medal of Honor, Korean War

Great video of Vietnam-era MH-53 rescue helicopters,
FAC and an A-1s in Laos action.
This video sequence documents the actions of the entire Rescue
Team in action, one of the best I've seen.
Word of Truth

Loss of Freedom      

The Word Of Truth - Alive and PowerfulBy Rev G.J. Rako
LTC (Ret)

We are losing freedoms everyday. Freedom of speech is being replaced by political correctness. More insidious than the loss of freedom of speech is the loss of freedom of thought through the advent of federal hate crime legislation. This legislation is an attempt to control your very thoughts. Hence, if you commit a crime your motivation (thought) is examined to determine if hate motivated the crime. If hate motivated the crime, the sentence is increased. This is ludicrous; a crime is a crime regardless of the motivation. Motive should only be used to aid in the establishing of guilt or innocence. Those who hate Christianity will use the hate crime paradigm as a rationale to persecute Christians. They already are! Biblical Christianity excludes all other gods and religions. The Bible tells us there is only one way to a relationship with the living God.


Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.


Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."


John 14:6   I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.


John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten (uniquely born) Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.


John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the [command to believe in the] Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."


There is no other way. God has only one plan of salvation. God's plan eliminates every other religion or preconceived idea on how to get to heaven. Therefore, it is exclusionary and because of this, those who seek to destroy it are construing Christianity itself as a hate crime. The federal government has played right into their hands by enacting this freedom limiting legislation.

At the moment of salvation we became ambassadors for Christ, and as such we are to represent Christ to a lost and dying world.


Acts 1:8 "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."


However, if you fulfill this command to be a witness you shall offend some and leave yourself open for the persecution to come. They will hate you as they hated the Lord. Listen to the words of our Lord.


John 15:18   "if the world hates you, you know that it has hatedMe before it hated you."


John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world because of this the world hates you."


John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, "A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also."


John 15:21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."


John 15:24 "...but now they have both seen and hatedMe and My Father as well."


John 15:25  "But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, [Psalm 35:19, 69:4] TheyhatedMewithout a cause."


There are many other governmental and social ills existing today which are eroding our freedoms, it would take volumes to list them all. I could talk about taxation (confiscation of private property) the redistribution of wealth (now that it has been confiscated, give it to those least deserving), internationalism, failure to protect our borders, disregard for the constitution, giving weapons technology to our enemies, leaving millions of our countrymen rotting in prisons, the growing power and control of government, etc, etc, etc.


Identifying the problem is relatively easy; the solution however, is not as transparent to those who have rejected the absolute standard of the Word of God. The only solution is a spiritual solution. All men are inherently flawed.


Jeremiah 17:9  The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?


Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our politicians have perverted the constitution and their oath of office. Corruption is commonplace in our government. They will say and do anything to be elected and then do what is in their best interest not what is best for the nation.


The solution is found in the infallible Word of God. Briefly described, the solution is Divine Establishment, which includes Divine institutions for all people (believers and unbelievers alike), the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and for believers only, the execution of the unique spiritual life of the church age.

The four Divine Institutions:

  1. Volition or free will
  2. Marriage
  3. family
  4. Nationalism

Volition is the guarantee of freedom for all mankind; Freedom of will and, freedom to choose for or against God. From this we derive that God views all men with this inherent freedom. Even in the status of slavery, freedom exists to accept or reject God. We should be free in every area of life to function without government interference in our lives. Free will must have freedom for maximum function. Freedom includes private property, privacy, free enterprise, freedom to give the Gospel, teach the Word of God, and send missionaries abroad. In other words total freedom to do as you will as long as you do not infringe upon someone else's freedom.    


Marriage is the basis of freedom in a nation. It is the core unit of responsibility, authority, and self-determination. It is designed by God to be a permanent relationship between one man and one woman. It is the most basic organization in the human race. Marriage, as a divine institution provides the stability necessary to form a strong freedom loving and authority oriented society.

Family is the provision of God to provide authority, training, discipline, care, and nurturing to children. Christian parents have the responsibility to instill in their children respect for the Word of God, authority and grace orientation. Above all, parents have the responsibility to clearly present of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Proverbs 22:6 Trainupachild in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.


Deut 6:7-9 "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Nationalism is God's protection, preservation, and blessing of a national entity. God preserves, perpetuates, and protects the human race by the institution of nationalism. Internationalism is evil. The United Nations and all other international systems of authority are an abomination to this principle of freedom. While exceptions to freedom exist in countries ruled by evil despots, freedom flourishes and functions to the maximum under God's design.


Gen 10:5 From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.


Deut 32:8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples...


Acts 17:26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,


The loss of freedom in this country is a manifestation of our ever-growing hostility toward God. Individually, we can make a difference by adherence to the four Divine institutions, which provide maximum individual freedom, for both believers and unbelievers. For Christians the solution is attaining the freedom that Jesus Christ provides for those who fulfill His Biblical commands to grow to spiritual maturity.


John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you live in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."



John 8:36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


Matt 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."


Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.


1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave.


Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


Galatians 5:1 Walk by the Spirit It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.


This freedom becomes part of your soul, and it is with you in any circumstance of life. This supernatural freedom is freedom from worry, fear, anxiety, and guilt; freedom of thought. Even as a prisoner or a slave the freedom Jesus Christ provides to the mature believer ensures a calmness and stability of soul that no government can take from you.


Survival and Disaster Preparedness

Reflecting Light for Solar Fire 


Reflecting Light for Solar Fire

About the author:
Jason Hunt is the President of Frontier Christian University a school that equips people in Biblical survival and preparedness ministries and he's the Chief Instructor at Hunt Survival, Inc. a survival & preparedness training company. He's also the author of The Tribulation Survival Guide.


Leading Concepts
Key to Success
Ranger TLC - 
Teamwork, Leadership 
and Communication
Chapter 14       

Whatcha Gonna Do, PL?

How to Make Decisions


Up to this point, I have stressed the link between accurate self-assessment and good leadership. In this chapter, I will give you the guidelines for that assessment.


             The Ranger Handbook lists five professional character traits associated with leadership: courage, commitment, candor, competence, and integrity. To arrive at the detailed list, I started with those five traits, thought about PLs who led me effectively, and then made an exhaustive list of their traits. Begin your process of self-assessment the same way-before you even look at my list. Write down what you admire about the people you know personally who give you a sense of purpose, direction, and motivation.


Leader Characteristics


Responsible for one's actions
Bold and active; willing to progress swiftly


Tells it "like it is," when it needs to be said, and towhom

Capable of accomplishing a task in the absence of   orders/directions

Meets challenges with personal assuredness and faith in  the team

Brave, controls the expression of fears, especially in an   uncertain situation
Acts without excessive ponder, haste, or ignorance;  conclusive
Can be counted on to complete a task; reliable
Controls inner resistance and deceptions; willing to learn
Displays integrity and sincerity; uncompromising.
Inspires self and others to complete their mission, despite any obstacle
Undefeatable spirit; desire; sincere commitment
Can bounce back from discouragement; persistence in tough conditions

Holds team members in higher regard than self; cares for   them first
Stubborn drive to overcome difficulties and fight on to  the objective

Keenly aware; able to detect obstacles/dangers confronting the team

             Often, those who think they will make great PLs fail at first because they lack the character traits and the soft skills, such as active listening. Conversely, those who have never held a leadership role often emerge almost instantly as distinctive PLs. These leaders openly display many of the characteristics listed without even realizing it.


             Ruth is a great example of this kind of person. At five-feet-eight and 230 pounds, she had obvious physical challenges in the LC program, which involves physical exertion and discomfort.The weather made the experience even harder; it rained three out of the four days she was in the woods. On some missions, I would throw in a three-mile road march. All of that hiking through rugged terrain, drenched day after day, and sleeping in tents put physical demands on Ruth that she had never before endured. She was obviously the weakest link when it came to the physical components of this program. But every day she got up and prepared for every mission with a smile on her face. Every mission, she participated fully in by contributing good ideas, helping other people with their gear, and pushing forward on the trail without complaining. She became a motivator. Every member of her team could look at her and say, "She's doing everything she can. I shouldn't measure my performance by her physical output. I need to measure my attitude against her attitude."


             When Ruth came into the workshop, she was a front-line supervisor. Now she's a department manager, bringing clear purpose, direction, and motivation to dozens of direct reports.


             How would you describe Ruth? Using the descriptions given, I'd immediately use words like dependable, confident, disciplined, motivating, passionate, resilient, and tenacious. And based on her consistent performance in the program, it's my guess that one-on-one contact with her over time would reveal that she had all, or at least most, of the other traits of a leader.


Eleven Principles of Leadership

The principles of leadership put the leader characteristics described earlier into action. But the relationship between the two goes both ways. If you consciously aim to apply the principles of leadership in an attempt to improve your effectiveness with your team, you will grow the seeds of the leader characteristics in you.


1. Know Yourself and Seek Self-Improvement

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. By knowing yourself and your team, you will be able to tell how your actions will affect your team.


             Let's say you've begun your self-assessment and you don't think you're particularly courageous. In fact, you have an abiding fear of the unknown and can't imagine appearing confident in the face of an uncertain situation. Your first step to self-improvement would be to find out what techniques you might use to manage your fear. My friend, Jim McCormick, is a motivational speaker and personal coach who helps people with this particular challenge. He's a world-record skydiver who has jumped at the North Pole and into crowded stadiums-things that he admits scare him-so he has personal experience managing fear. Facing a big unknown like the North Pole, he doesn't just deny the fear-he admits it. He confronts it to get past it. Similarly, if you did a self-assessment and concluded you didn't use language very well in meetings and presentations, you might invest in a tape course like Verbal Advantage®, or join the local Toastmasters club.


2. Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

Your title does not ensure that your team will follow or trust you. Demonstrate that you have the knowledge and ability to lead your team. When the chips are down, they will follow the leader who knows his or her subject matter. Be diligent in developing your own professional knowledge; stay current in your field.


3. Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Position and authority have their privileges, but responsibility comes first. Be willing to accept responsibility for what you and your team do and fail to do.

             Do not blame someone else for a problem or mistake related to their actions or their team's actions. A leader simply doesn't do that-ever.


4. Make Sound and Timely Decisions

A team responds well when the leader is quick to adjust to change. Be decisive. Rapidly and accurately assess situations and make sound decisions. A good decision made now is better than the best decision made too late.


             In The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk (HarperBusiness, 1993), Al Reiss and Jack Trout assert that there are several ways for a company to reach number one. Their "Law of Leadership" states: "It is better to be first than it is to be better." One classic proof is Charles Lindbergh. People of all ages know him as the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. Who was the second? A man named Bert Hinkler, who was reportedly a better pilot, flew faster, and used less fuel. So what! Reiss and Trout have a "Law of Category," too: "If you can't be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in." That's why we all know the third person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo-Amelia Earhart. But we don't remember her as the third person to fly solo, we remember her as the first woman to do it.


             Following Reiss and Trout's path to the top takes a leader making timely decisions. My coauthor Maryann and I have both worked with new and revamped companies as consultants, but her main experience with them has been in helping such companies introduce new technology to the marketplace. A few times, they succeeded. Mostly, they failed. Why? By the time they did the product launch, they had tweaked the gadget and refined the concept so many times that they lost their chance to be first to market or to overtake the leader in a timely way. They wanted the product to be "perfect."


             When WatchGuard Technologies created the technology category called "Internet security appliance," they laid claim to unpopulated territory, moved their forces into it, planted the flag, and declared themselves the ruler of that new territory. And they did it originally with a product that contained chicken wire from the local hardware store and pieces of scrap paper stuck between components to prevent them from rubbing against each other. Not only was that first product not perfect, it had to be shipped like a fragile crystal vase in order to work at all. But it was good enough to protect the networks of the first customers, who soon boosted the cash flow enough to allow WatchGuard to manufacture its product professionally. WatchGuard owned the territory.


             The company operated just the way Rangers do. When we dropped into a site, we didn't wait for the entire Ranger team to assemble. We drove forward in the mission as soon as two-thirds of the team hit the rally point.


             We all make mistakes, especially when we're making bold and untried moves. But timely, decisive action is part of a winning strategy and the probability of making a mistake should not stop you from forging ahead if you have assessed your PET.


5. Set the Example

The standard for your team is set by your example: "Follow me and do as I do." This applies to all aspects of your role as leader, particularly in the face of hardship or confusion.


             During their final battle for the FLOT, one of the LC classes had about a 50/50 chance of defeating the MODD. The PL-without a weapon-stayed low in a barricaded section in the center of the field and shouted commands while her Teams attempted to fend off the MODD and secure the perimeter. She saw that one gate remained open; if it could be closed, they would have the FLOT. Literally diving toward the fence, she closed the gate while I watched from the sidelines. Taking that action instead of continuing to issue commands from the safety of her bunker made a practical difference in the battle as well as in boosting her team's confidence. They won the battle.


6. Know Your Team and Look Out for Their Welfare

Understand your team members. Be aware that they come from different background, that they are unique. When they know you are concerned about them, they will become a team you can depend on.


7. Keep Your Team Informed

A well-informed team will have a better attitude. They will perform better and accomplish more. To make decisions in your absence, your team must know your intent. You will not always be able to give your team the reason for every task-you may not know, or there may not be enough time to tell them. As long as this is the exception, your team will trust you and understand. People usually fear the unknown. By keeping them informed, you'll reduce rumors and fears, and if there is one thing we have all suffered from, it's rumors. Snuff them out with direct and accurate communication.


            When the merger between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq occurred in 2002, many organizations that both companies financially supported knew they faced serious funding shortfalls. I saw the information handled well in one case and badly in another. The CEO of one association that stood to lose nearly a quarter of a million dollars told his staff that the loss might result in salaries remaining stable and travel being curtailed, but that no one would lose his or her job. In another case, no one quantified the impact for rank-and-file employees; many feared that the spillover effect of the merger would be a few layoffs. In the first case, the sales and marketing teams figuratively donned their battle gear; they knew how much of a shortfall they needed to cover with new memberships. In the second case, ignorance made the employees powerless to help the senior executives address the revenue loss.


             In the LC program, I see examples of both types of CEOs. I can tell you with a great deal of certainty how they behave at work by the way they handle information in the field. (An expected result of the program, of course, is that is helps me spot the problems, and it increases the chance that the people will do a better job of assessing their own behavior.) For example, Larry was a corporate officer for a quick-serve restaurant chain in the Midwest when he came to the program. I had appointed him PL for the second-to-last mission. When it came to the last mission, I handed Larry the Mission Brief and said, "Time to change command, but this time the group needs to select a PL." Larry deliberately chose not to share that information with the rest of the team. He coveted the PL role, so he kept it himself. All throughout the last mission, everyone thought I had again delegated him PL. They had no reason to question that assumption. Larry's refusal to share important information-in the case, information that would have affected his authority-indicated how he operated on the job and he was fired soon after that. Withholding key information does not inspire trust, nor does it give a team all the tools it needs to reach peak performance.


8. Develop a Sense of Responsibility in Your Team

Create trust and respect by giving your team enough authority to do the job. This also inspires your team to take initiative.


             Keep in mind that too much supervision is as bad as not enough. Delegate authority each and every time it's appropriate. In delegating decision-making and problem-solving authority, however, you cannot abdicate responsibility. You are still the PL who made the decision to delegate and therefore are still responsible for mission success or failure.


             Rally Point: Delegate authority, but never responsibility.


9. Ensure the Task Is Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished

When your team understands, they can respond quickly. Give clear, concise directions. Do not give too many details; let your team develop their skills. Be available for help and spot-check.


10. Train Your Members as a Team

Each person must know his or her job within the team, and how vital that role is. Continually demonstrate and communicate that everyone is part of a team effort. Better morale will foster better teamwork and create a sense of pride and security.


             When we were in the mountain phase of our Ranger training in Georgia, a guy we called a "spotlighter" became the PL one cold, nasty night. He was the type who, when the pressure was on and he was in charge, had energy for every aspect of the mission to impress the Ranger instructors. As soon as he was out of that role, and someone else held the leadership position, he became the kind of team member no one wants-doing the minimum, complaining about the conditions, and dragging his feet on the patrol.


             Try as you may to instill high standards and a sense of synergy in your team, you may still have people who are spotlighters. Rangers have a system of dealing with spotlighters that's known as "peering." Essentially, peering enables Rangers to strengthen their teams by pointing the finger at positive and negative behavior. The Rangers who make it through all phases of the course survive this peering and earn the coveted Ranger Tab, a half-moon-shaped tab worn on the shoulder that communicates a commitment to exceed standards. A comparable distinction in a corporate environment might be "employee of the year," as long as the designation reflects the respect of other members of the team as well as that of senior management.


11. Employ Your Team in Accordance with Its Capabilities

Success breeds success. Proper training prepares a team for its mission, and you must exercise sound judgment when assigning tasks to your team. Be aware of what your team can and cannot do.


             Many young leaders blow it here. They want to stretch their team, so they over-delegate. Alternatively, they micromanage each aspect by providing too much direction to experienced team members. Don't be too aggressive in either direction.



Leadership Improvement Guide

Now, with these principles of leadership in mind, let's proceed to a detailed look at the leader characteristics. On the left side are the questions you ask yourself in assessing to what extent you possess the traits. On the right side is what you can do in the course of exercising the principles of leadership to strengthen those characteristics within you. Be honest with yourself or skip this section.

  • Am I accountable for my actions and those of my subordinates/team members?
  • Pay attention to detail and find out what is expected of you. Make sure your team members know what is expected of them.
  • Do I understand what both my team and supervisors expect of me as a leader?
  • Hold team members accountable to you for their actions.  
  • Hold other leaders accountable for what they say they will do.   



  • Am I bold and active?
  • Seek new challenges and constant improvement.
  • Am I willing to progress swiftly?
  • Be active in your search for ways to learn, progress, and better your personal and professional environment.
  • Am I overaggressive when I should be more controlled and motivated?
  • Recognize and control aggression when necessary. Maintain a controlled and motivated attitude/approach.


  • Am I fair when dealing with team members under similar conditions?
  • Be unbiased when dealing with vacation, rewards, discipline, etc.
  • Am I unprejudiced?
  • Be open, honest, consistent, and tactful. Maintain your professional bearing at all times.
  • Am I honest and frank when expressing myself to those I interact with?
  • Understand being candid is not a personal issue, but rather a personnel or professional issue.

  • Do I know my job and responsibilities?
  • Maintain a small library on the subject matter that pertains to your areas of responsibility for occasional reference; bookmark key Web sites.
  • Am I capable of performing my job and managing my responsibilities?
  • Study new materials and publications that pertain to new developments in your field and new methods or procedures that work well for others.
  • Do I keep up with changes in my field?
  • Be alert for changes and new ideas that can be integrated into your work.
  • Do I think of ways and means to improve my team/ department? 
  • Rally Point: Stay alert-stay alive.


  • What degree of personal assurance do I carry with me when leading a team or performing my job?
  • Recognize and react when you find yourself doubtful by assuring yourself of positive and "can do" results.
  • How do those I interact with view me? Subordinates? Peers? Supervisors?
  • Seek counsel with peers/supervisors. Gather input on your self-confidence as well as ways that others have improved theirs.
  • What level of self-esteem do I possess?
  • Observe others and place yourself in similar situations. Analyze how you might achieve similar goals.
  • Do I do things I'm apprehensive about doing?
  • Know, recognize, and learn from your fears and apprehensions.
  • Do I look for and accept responsibility?
  • Look for and accept responsibility.
  • Do I stand up for what is right, even if it is unpopular?
  • Stand up for what is right, regardless of what others may think.

  • Do I make a decision quickly when it is needed?
  • Practice making decisions others have to make and compare your decisions to theirs.
  • Do I put off making difficult decisions?
  • Learn from mistakes others make.
  •  Rally Point: A good decision now is better than the best decision later.
  • Check your decisions to see if they are sound and timely.
  • Do I communicate my decisions clearly so others can understand and follow them?
  • Study others' points of view.
  • Learn to assess your situation rapidly. 

  • Do I do tasks within my capabilities in a complete and timely manner?
  • Don't make excuses for not completing tasks.
  • Do I arrive at work on time?
  • Do all tasks and assigned projects to the best of your ability.
  • Do my team members, supervisors, and peers trust my ability and judgment?
  • Be punctual.
  • Do others rely on me?
  • Be consistent.


  • Do I do what is right, or what is easy?
  • Seek new subjects to learn or areas in which to improve or hone skills and knowledge through training.
  • Do I possess willingness to learn/train?
  • Train yourself to control inner resistance and self-deception in both your personal and professional life when faced with challenging situations.
  • Do I possess the ability to control inner resistance and self-deceptions?
  • Be committed. Stay focused on the goal/mission. 
  • Check your values and recommit.


  • Do I uphold what is expected of me?
  • Know your capabilities. What you can do and what you need to work on-don't pretend.
  • Do I always do what I say I will do?
  • If you say you are going to do something, do it.
  • Do I promise to do things that I am not able to do?
  • Don't try to cover up your mistakes. Be honest with yourself and the people you interact with.
  • Am I honest with myself and the people I interact with, lead, and report to?

  • Do I present a positive "can do" attitude?
  • Approach each new day with an open mind and positive "can do" spirit.
  • Do I motivate and encourage my team members?
  • Take time to communicate with your subordinates/team members and encourage them consistently.
  • Do I set the example and uphold the standards, especially in less-than-ideal situations?
  • Look at the positive side of things and recognize change as an opportunity for growth.


  • Do I have the drive and will to overcome obstacles and obtain objectives?
  • Think long term but celebrate successful achievements along the way.
  • Do I seek new projects and tasks to achieve?
  • Look for projects and tasks that you and your ream can benefit from.
  • Do I maintain a consistent level of commitment in my professional and personal environments?
  • Be conscious of your motivational level and recognize and adjust "peaks and valleys."
  • Do I bounce back from discouragement and setbacks?
  • Recognize the learning value in setbacks and move on, implementing what you've learned along the way.
  • Do I become distorted in my views and lose focus when I suffer losses or experience setbacks, both personal and professional?
  • Maintain you focus and don't move forward. Don't stagnate or get off-track when you experience a loss or setback.
  • Am I persistent in seemingly difficult circumstances?
  • Maintain a high level of tenacity when difficult circumstances are at hand.


  • Do I do my best to provide for the well-being of my team members?
  • Make sure your team members are taken care of before yourself.
  • Do I have concern for the problems of my team members, and do I try to help them with their problems?
  • Be concerned with their problems, both personal and professional.
  • Do I take care of my team members' needs before my own?
  • Make sure your team members have the best resources you can provide for them to perform their job.


  • Do I have the intense drive to achieve tasks and goals despite discouragement, deception, and abandonment?
  • Control your self-discipline and keep the mission in mind.
  • Do I work well when I'm in uncertain and trying circumstances?
  • When times get tough, draw from your experience in areas of similar achievements. Don't give up.
  • Do I have faith in myself when I get discouraged?
  • Observe others in similar situations and compare how you may react in the same situation.

  • Always support your team members. Take blame and give credit appropriately.
  • Do I fight complacency and inspire my team to grow?
  • Spur and reward creative thought. Encourage debate and discussion.
  • Do I help my team look ahead and identify obstacles? Do I plan contingencies?
  • Watch out for problems. Troubleshoot and perpetually prepare your team members for change.


             Tackle the actions on the right steadily, but don't berate yourself for not immediately succeeding in all areas. After a few weeks of trying to implement improvements, revisit the questions. As long as you can see the answers changing in a positive direction, you know you're making progress. Good work!


             Rally Point: Know your limitations - we all have them. Stretch, don't leap toward improvement; you're less likely to get hurt that way!


Lead the way!


About the author: Dean Hohl has been leading teams and coaching individuals professionally since 1993. From '88 - '92 Dean served with 3rd Ranger Battalion during which he helped in the removal of Manuel Noriega in 1989 when he parachuted onto a hostile Panamanian airstrip.

He graduated Ranger School with honors earning one of two distinguished "Merrill's Marauders" awards; an award earned only by two each class and chosen by his peer group for demonstrating exceptional teamwork, leadership, and communication under long periods of stress and pressure - often the result of days without food or sleep - throughout the entire 72 day course. Dean completed his Ranger service with honor at the rank of Sergeant.




Warrior's Wisdom

OE Rules of Engagement

First I believe ROE Rules of Engagement are limitations we put on our soldiers giving the enemy an advantage. In war you never give up an advantage to the enemy. That's how wars are lost. Second I believe the only ROE is common sense and should left to the soldiers on the ground to determine. There the ones whose lives are in question. Thirdly who ever writes the ROE should have to live under it in harms way with our soldiers making that person a seasoned proven combat veteran.
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Aesop's Fables


A PEDDLER drove his Ass to the seashore to buy salt. His road home lay across a stream into which his Ass, making a false step, fell by accident and rose up again with his load considerably lighter, as the water melted the sack. The Peddler retraced his steps and refilled his panniers with a larger quantity of salt than before. When he came again to the stream, the Ass fell down on purpose in the same spot, and regaining his feet with the weight of his load much diminished, brayed triumphantly as if he had obtained what he desired. The Peddler saw through his trick and drove him  for the third time to the coast, where he bought a cargo of sponges, instead of salt. The Ass again playing the fool, fell down on purpose when he reached the stream, but the sponges became swollen with water greatly increasing his load. And thus his trick recoiled on him, for he mow carried on his back a double burden.

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Quotes & Jokes

"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it."___George Orwell   
House Speaker Thomas B. Reed (1839-1902): "One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation."

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, 1820

Roman statesman Cornelius Tacitus (55-117 A.D.): "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."

"It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated." --James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, 1829

British novelist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963): "Let us not be deceived by phrases about 'Man taking charge of his own destiny'. All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others.

British novelist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963): "Let us not be deceived by phrases about 'Man taking charge of his own destiny'. All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others."

Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677): "Only free men are thoroughly grateful one to another."

British novelist C. S. Lewis (1898-1963): "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.

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What Has Really Changed?

What has really changed?
1776 - 1976 
 In America we think everything wrong is someone else's fault
 "Why don't they do something about this crime wave?" Are you sure you never ducked jury duty? And did you ever ask your church of the Salvation army what civic service you could perform?
"Inflation is killing me", Did you produce as much and as well as you possibly could, at your job today? That's the way to keep down costs and prices.
"They ought to do something bout these awful taxes". But taxes are made necessary to pay for things. Have you demanded something from your government (farm subsidy, more veterans payments, extra services, bigger pensions) instead of telling your Government what you can do without?
"These people ought to be in jail".  But those people are citizens, too. Have you ever got to know some of them and tried to help them - with jobs if you run a company or even if you have a lawn to cut? Have you ever worked with them in neighborhood work project; or told your City Council what you know to be illegal sub-standard housing or volunteered for hospital or Red Cross work?
"These unspeakable hippies!" But every hippie had parents , are you absolutely sure your children are always respectable and respectful, are careful of other peoples property, honor their country, and are always law abiding? (Did you ever get a ticket fixed or run a red light?)
     Everything wrong is somebody's fault. If each of us makes sure it isn't his , there'd be a lot less it.
USMC's "Re-awakening" Initiative & A Needed Look in the Mirror

There has been a fair amount of talk lately about Gen Amos' "Reawakening" initiative, and how it impacts the Marine Corps.  The blow to morale as well as the apparent concerted effort to force good Marines out in favor of poster-boy "yes men" have been extensively discussed elsewhere.  But there is a facet of the problem that hasn't been discussed.

Anyone who has been an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) in the last few years has noticed that discipline has slipped somewhat.  It's not the "Lord of the Flies" scenario that Gen Amos seems to think it is, but then, most combat-arms NCOs don't consider tattoo sleeves to be the ultimate mark of a lack of discipline.


Gen Amos thinks that it's combat, and the "combat hardened" mindset that are responsible for the lack of leadership he blames for slippage in discipline.  If he wants to know the source of the lack of leadership and the loss of discipline, he'd best look in the mirror.


The officer corps (barring many excellent company-grade officers) has long ago turned into not a group of leaders of warriors, but of managers and politicians.  This is why the Marine Corps has had more and more restrictions placed on Marine NCOs as to how they can enforce discipline.  More and more measures have been labeled "hazing" by people with no experience in the ranks and no understanding of the value of physical correction in a combat-oriented service.  MCO 1700.28B, the Marine Corps Order on Hazing includes in its definition "requiring excessive physical exercise beyond what is necessary to meet standards."  Your boot screwed up and you'd rather give him pushups or eight-counts to make sure he learns his lesson?  Sorry.  Hazing.  You're now in trouble.  Hate to tell you this, folks, but the threat of paperwork doesn't have the immediacy of owing your team leader five hundred eight-counts.  A certain Company Commander once said to me, "As men, we learn through pain and repetition."  I couldn't agree more.


Where are these horribly damaged Marines who had to thrash for their NCOs when they screwed up?  What weakness led a service that has loudly prided itself on its focus on combat ("Every Marine A Rifleman!") to think that somehow pushing for a half an hour (or longer) is wrong?  I hate to think of how these "leaders" would have handled the China Marines or the hard bastards who fought their way up the islands to Japan.  Hand-wringing and threats of paperwork doesn't make tough men who will endure in the face of the enemy.  You want to know what happened to discipline, Gen Amos?  YOU and your ilk took the tools away from the NCOs you expect to enforce it.


In his "Reawakening" document, Amos uses "combat hardened" as a sneer.  What, then, is the purpose of a service that is supposed to be entirely made up of Riflemen?  If "winning battles" (as has been the Marine Corps ethos for over two centuries now) is supposed to take a back seat, what is the purpose of even having a Marine Corps?  Gen Amos' defenders will no doubt leap to say that isn't what the Commandant is saying, but the last four years have seen a steady increase in demands of "garrison discipline" while combat training has become more and more difficult to conduct.  Training time is increasingly taken up with online "annual training" check-boxes, and the bureaucracy involved to actually lock on training areas for use in actual training has gotten steadily more and more opaque.  Staff NCOs have told me how it takes more time to arrange the training than is actually available to conduct it.  "Annual Training" classes have come to dominate almost 50% of training time.  So, tell me again how the Marine Corps isn't turning away from building actual combat readiness.


I was told the story a couple of years ago, about an MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) commander who had just picked up Brigadier General, who addressed the MEU BLT, to include the Recon Platoon the teller was a part of.  In the course of his speech, he is reported to have said, "We are coming to the time where we have to tell you combat guys, you outside the box types, "thank you for your service, now you have to go away."  That is the mindset behind "Reawakening."  It is the expectation of "single men in barricks" to "turn into plaster saints."

Ukraine: Did Mercenaries Secure the Crimean Anschluss?
 By Jaimie Clark - March 27, 2014
Unidentified troops on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, Feb. 28, 2014. Voice of America photo by Elizabeth Arrott

On March 6,2014,  at an open forum event in the State Duma, Vassily Nebenzia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said Russia is "... strongly against a paternalistic relationship with Ukraine. But I want to say that in reality, that has never been the case. We've always been partners. And there's never been any arrogance on our side towards our partners." On March 16, 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin illustrated that modest partnership; he conquered Crimea with his shadow.

If they're not Russian, and not Ukrainian, who are they? The law is clear; they must be mercenaries, and of necessity, war criminals under international law.

Since the first week of March, Putin has insisted, according to National Public Radio, that heavily armed men who have occupied or surrounded Ukrainian government buildings and military bases are "local self-defense forces." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says there are no Russian troops in Crimea outside the bases it has leased from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government says those uniformed, masked, heavily armed and homogeneous troops are neither their soldiers nor rag-tag local militias. The presence of these forces has caused the Crimean Anschluss.


Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 2, 2014. Voice of America photo by Elizabeth Arrott

Given those assertions, whoever's lying is playing a dangerous game in the Black Sea peninsula. Someone has taken control of Crimea and displaced Ukrainian military forces from their own installations. In fact, less than 48 hours after the referendum of capitulation, these armed individuals killed a Ukrainian military officer for defending his post, according to Ukrainian Regional Defense Ministry Spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov. If they're not Russian, and not Ukrainian, who are they? The law is clear; they must be mercenaries, and of necessity, war criminals under international law.


Article I, Section 1 of The International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries (United Nations Mercenary Convention) defines a mercenary as any person who:


Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict; Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party; Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict; Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

Which means that if Putin is the puppeteer behind the curtain the entire world suspects him to be, than he faces the prospect of being an international war criminal.

This is the same definition as Article 47 of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Convention.


Without knowing the compensation these professionals have received, they cannot be identified as mercenaries with certainty. However, taking both Ukraine and Russia at their word, there has to be a reason those soldiers are controlling streets, bases and buildings, and since they allegedly aren't acting under orders from any responsible national commander, and aren't Ukrainian citizens, there is at the least a strong presumption they're acting for pay.


What does it mean in international law to be a merc? Well, first, the status itself is a crime; you're subject to prosecution or extradition by any party to the Treaty (Ukraine is; Russia isn't). So is whoever recruited and sent you. Which means that if Putin is the puppeteer behind the curtain the entire world suspects him to be, than he faces the prospect of being an international war criminal.


Russian President Vladimir Putin signs documents officially admitting Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation on March 21, 2014. President of Russia photo

Second, and perhaps even more interesting, because you aren't a member of the armed forces of a power signatory to the Geneva Conventions, or of a militia or volunteer unit forming part of those forces, and since you're not under the command of a person responsible to obey international law (that is, a military officer of a signatory state), you are not entitled to protection as a prisoner of war.


Which is to say, it only makes sense for Russia and Ukraine to cooperate to arrest every one of those fellows and prosecute them for war crimes. Indeed, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia could also propose an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute the mercenaries. The Security Council created such a tribunal to address war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, and another for the Rwandan Genocide. Nevertheless, Putin has recently expressed an affinity for Russian-speaking persons and a desire to protect them, and so no doubt he'd prefer these Russian speaking mercenaries to be tried under Russian law.

Putin has recently expressed an affinity for Russian-speaking persons and a desire to protect them, and so no doubt he'd prefer these Russian speaking mercenaries to be tried under Russian law.

Article 208 of the Russian Criminal Code has been amended to allow for the prosecution and sentencing of up to six years for "Russian citizens participating in combat operations in foreign countries." The amendment was spurred by a report from Deputy Director of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) Sergei Smirnov that about 300 to 400 Russians were fighting in Syria for the opposition. Smirnov sharply identified how dangerous individuals like that could be when they returned to Russia. Imagine how dangerous these folks in Ukraine could be if they showed up in Mother Russia.


Putin often tells the world how sensitive he is to the western trilogy of law, history and literature. The law at issue is obvious, as are the historical analogies, and Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels' famous quote springs to mind: "It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle." His literary bent seems most apt here.

Armed men, presumably Russians, outside the parliament building in Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 1, 2014. oice of America photo by Elizabeth Arrott
 Remember Mr. President, what Sir Walter Scott famously said: "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."


Book Review - Tiger I & Tiger II (Images of War Special)
By Anthony Tucker Jones; illustrations by Brian Delf; Pen & Sword; 176 pages
A Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler in France, March 1944. Bundesarchive photo
Few armored vehicles have ever evoked the respect and fear that the Germans' Tiger tanks did during World War II. Even more than 70 years removed, the iconic status of the Panzerkampfwagen VI tanks remains. Many books have been devoted to the Tiger, and as such it would seem that there is little if anything left to be written about them. In Tiger I & Tiger II (Images of War Special), however, veteran armor writer Anthony Tucker-Jones has delivered an immensely readable and interesting volume on these legendary tanks.

Tiger I & Tiger II, by Anthony Tucker Jones; illustrations by Brian Delf; Pen & Sword; 176 pages

Others have documented the design and materiel failings of the Tigers, but Tucker-Jones points out that the mythical status afforded the Tiger tanks was out of all proportion to their capabilities, and perhaps more importantly, their numbers. Ultimately, barely more than 2,000 Tiger tanks of all variants were produced, far too few to make any real difference to the outcome of the war, no matter the respect or outright terror they engendered among those called upon to fight them.

It is one thing to know that the Ferdinand tank destroyer lacked a machine gun to use against enemy troops; it's quite another to read of a crew desperately firing an MG-34 down the barrel of their 88mm gun in an effort to repel attacking infantry.

Much of Tiger I & Tiger II concentrates on the combat record of Tiger I and Tiger II tanks on the Eastern and Western fronts, as well as on the Tiger I's combat debut in Tunisia, supporting the author's investigation of the actual tactical and strategic effect of the tanks. This is not by any means the complete and definitive history of the Tiger I, Tiger II, and the several Tiger variants, nor is it meant to be.


Early model Tiger IIs in France, June 1944. The "Porsche" turret's shape created a shot trap beneath the gun, and it was superseded by a modified Henschel/Wegmann turret, as in the photo below. Bundesarchive photo

Instead, rather than a comprehensive (and dry) reference book, this is a concise, profusely illustrated discussion of the tanks' use in battle, along with a lot of fascinating details, from paint schemes and anti-personnel protection to the development, qualities, and failings of rare variants like the Elefant, Jagdtiger, and Sturmtiger. The book is dominated, of course, by the images. The photos and color illustrations (by Brian Delf) will be of great value to modelers as well as armored vehicle enthusiasts. A chapter on fighting in the tanks, and one on fighting against the tanks, provide valuable insight from crewmembers describing the battlefield realities that exist beyond the cold statistics of gun caliber and armor thickness. It is one thing to know that the Ferdinand tank destroyer lacked a machine gun to use against enemy troops; it's quite another to read of a crew desperately firing an MG-34 down the barrel of their 88mm gun in an effort to repel attacking infantry.

A Tiger II, also known as the Konigstiger or King Tiger and Royal Tiger, in Budapest, where the massive tanks "became little more than glorified pillboxes," the author writes. Bundesarchive photo
For the armor enthusiast, this book makes a fine introduction to the Tiger tanks or complement to other volumes. For the lay reader, Tiger I & Tiger II provides a succinct but potent blend of words and images that may be all that is needed to describe these legendary armored fighting vehicles and their battlefield history.

Ukraine Response: U.S. Deploys Additional Aircraft to Poland and Baltics 
By Chuck Oldham (Editor) - March 11, 2014
An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron takes off from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 6, 2014. The 48th Fighter Wing sent an additional six aircraft and more than 50 personnel to support NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania, at the request of U.S. allies in the Baltics. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Emerson Nunez

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is deploying more aircraft to Poland and the Baltics in response to the Russian "incursion" into the Ukraine, according to Armed Forces Press Service reports.

The U.S. is planning to deploy F-16 Fighting Falcons to Poland. While the U.S. Air Force currently has 10 personnel stationed at Lask Air Base in central Poland to support quarterly rotations of U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules and F-16 aircraft, there has been no permanent jet presence.

The U.S. is planning to deploy F-16 Fighting Falcons to Poland. While the U.S. Air Force currently has 10 personnel stationed at Lask Air Base in central Poland to support quarterly rotations of U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules and F-16 aircraft, there has been no permanent jet presence. The aircraft typically undertake two weeks of flight operations during each quarterly rotation, supporting joint training with the Polish air force. The airmen within the aviation detachment, or AVDET, are part of the 52nd Fighter Wing out of Spangdahlem, Germany
U.S. Tech. Sgt. Brian Williams, Aviation Detachment, 52nd Operations Group NCO in charge of client systems shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Jan. 31, 2014, at Powidz Air Base, Poland. The AVDET's mission supports Poland's continued defense modernization and standardization with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The U.S. is augmenting forces in the region. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano

While the decision to increase the size of the AVDET and base F-16s in Poland has been confirmed, the size of the increase has not.

"No decision on numbers yet," Warren said. "That decision has not been finalized."

"No decision on numbers yet," Warren said. "That decision has not been finalized."

U.S. and Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft wait while their ground crews conduct end-of-runway checks before a mission May 13, 2013, at Lask Air Base, Poland. Nearly 100 U.S. Airmen with the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard traveled to the base for a two-week deployment in support of Aviation Detachment Rotation 13-2. The U.S. is planning to deploy more F-16s to Poland. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
The DoD also reinforced a four-ship detachment of F-15C Eagles deployed to Lithuania for an ongoing NATO air policing mission. For the past decade, allies have provided on-call aircraft on a rotational basis to identify and respond to violations of Baltic airspace. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Turkey and the Czech Republic have all provided aircraft detachments over the course of the mission. The U.S. rotation runs from January through April 2014, and the four Eagles already deployed have been joined by six more, along with a KC-135 Stratotanker. The aircraft, normally based at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, deployed to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.

First Israeli M-346 Advanced
Trainer Aircraft Rolls Out

By Steven Hoarn - March 25, 2014

The first M-346 advanced trainer for the Israeli Air Force was unveiled in a ceremony held at Alenia Aermacchi's plant in Venegono Superiore, Italy, March 20, 2014. Alenia Aermacchi photo

Less than two years after the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) inked a contract with Alenia Aermacchi for 30 M-346 advanced trainer aircraft for the Israeli Air Force (IAF), the first of the trainers were rolled out. In a ceremony at Alenia Aermacchi's factory in Venegono Superiore, Italy, on March 20, the M-346 was unveiled to a group of officials from the Israeli MOD, the IAF, and officials from Alenia Aermacchi and other key industry partners.

The M-346 is slated to replace the TA-4 Skyhawk currently used by the IAF for advanced training.

The M-346 is slated to replace the TA-4 Skyhawk currently used by the IAF for advanced training. The delivery of the first M-346 to the IAF is scheduled for the summer of 2014. The delivery will be accompanied by ground based training systems.

Israel has ordered 30 M-346 trainers to replace the TA-4 Skyhawk currently used by the Israeli Air Force. Alenia Aermacchi photo
Besides Israel, the M-346 has also been ordered by Poland. Poland will become the fourth operator of the aircraft, after Italy, Singapore, and Israel. Italy and Singapore already operate the aircraft. In total, 56 M-346 advanced trainers have been ordered by the four countries.

U.S. Postal Service Honors USS Arizona Memorial With Commemorative Stamp

By Steven Hoarn - March 14, 2014

The battleship USS Arizona is synonymous with the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The death of 1,177 sailors and Marines aboard her has been commemorated since Memorial Day, 1962, by the USS Arizona Memorial. Now, as the 100th anniversary of the keel laying of the USS Arizona approaches on March 16, both the ship and the memorial will be honored by a commemorative U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamp, according to a USPS release.

The artwork of the stamp is composed of an illustration of the white concrete memorial rising above the sunken Arizona in the shape of a bridge. Underneath the sunny sky and bright clouds is a fluttering American flag flying over the memorial. The memorial is mirrored by its reflection in the waters of Pearl Harbor.

Designed by art director Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Va., the stamp is the work of illustrator Dan Cosgrove of Chicago, Ill. The artwork of the stamp is composed of an illustration of the white concrete memorial rising above the sunken Arizona in the shape of a bridge. Underneath the sunny sky and bright clouds is a fluttering American flag flying over the memorial. The memorial is mirrored by its reflection in the waters of Pearl Harbor.

The USS Arizona (BB 39) passes the 96th Street pier, New York City, N.Y., ca. 1918. The Arizona's keel was laid on March 16, 1914, and she entered U.S. Navy service on Oct. 17, 1916. National Archives photo

The $19.99 Priority Mail Express stamp was unveiled at a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. On hand at the ceremony were former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Richard Williams, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific; Hawaii State Rep. K. Mark Takai; World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Superintendent Paul DePrey; and USPS Honolulu District Manager Greg Wolny. "Today, nearly 100 years to the day that the Navy laid the keel to begin construction of the Arizona, we gather to pay tribute to its final resting spot," said USPS Information Technology Vice President John Edgar. The USPS recognizes that due to cost and distance this may be the closet they come to visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. "Not everyone will have an opportunity to visit Hawaii and see this memorial in person. But with this stamp, they'll be able to see what it looks like and be reminded of what it stands for," added Edgar.

"Not everyone will have an opportunity to visit Hawaii and see this memorial in person. But with this stamp, they'll be able to see what it looks like and be reminded of what it stands for."

In a post on Navy Live, the official blog of the U.S. Navy, Rear Adm. Williams discussed just what the stamp represents. "We are extremely fortunate to share the USS Arizona Memorial stamp commemoration ceremony March 13 with living monuments - brave warriors who survived the attack of December 7, 1941, and who fought across the Pacific in World War II. Several Pearl Harbor survivors are among the veterans attending the ceremony," wrote Williams. More than 70 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Arizona and the sacrifice of her sailors and Marines is still being remembered. "This week's ceremony is another example of the Navy's, Hawaii's and our nation's commitment to remember Pearl Harbor and preserve the enduring legacy of peace that the USS Arizona Memorial represents," said Williams.

A Pearl Harbor survivor salutes the USS Arizona Memorial during a wreath laying ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, June 4, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin W. Sisco

The USS Arizona Memorial has

become in some ways larger than the attack on Pearl Harbor, and in many ways has to come to represent the entirety of the U.S. effort in World War II. "The USS Arizona Memorial stamp will help Americans remember the toll of war, the sacrifice of our service members and the end of conflict," said DePrey. "The memorial is an iconic structure symbolizing both loss and contemplation. By dedicating this stamp, we are continuing to bear witness to history," added DePrey.

"The memorial is an iconic structure symbolizing both loss and contemplation. By dedicating this stamp, we are continuing to bear witness to history."

The stamp is likely to be popular with collectors. The commemorative USS Arizona Memorial Priority Mail Express stamp will be available in sheets of 10 and can also be purchased individually. Interested customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail.  The stamp will be available at local post offices, at usps.com/stamps, or by calling 800-STAMP-24 (800-782-6724), and at ebay.com/stamps.

The U.S. Army Air Forces Strips Its Planes of Paint

By Dwight Jon Zimmerman - February 23, 2014


A mix of painted and unpainted B-17 Flying Fortresses. An average B-17 took about 35 gallons of paint to cover its 4,200 square feet. The decision to remove paint from most aircraft lightened the weight of the B-17 by approximately 300 pounds. U.S. Air Force via Robert F. Dorr

All the military powers in World War II used camouflage paint schemes for their aircraft. The main purpose was to help hide them when they were most vulnerable - on the ground - though it also was useful in low-level tactical operations. In December 1943 the War Department announced the removal of paint from "almost all" of its aircraft, with exception of some "specialized planes overseas" like night fighters and transports. As of January 1944, almost all new warplanes coming off the assembly line would only have national insignia, squadron, and plane number markings. Japan would soon make a similar decision, but its reason for doing so was a result of a scarcity of materials.

"Army Will Strip Planes of War Paint for Speed"

-New York Times headline, December 14, 1943

The diversity (and paucity) of colors and patterns used by the combatants during the war was striking, and in some respects reflected each nation's character. Arguably the most artistic were the aircraft camouflage patterns of the Italians. German schemes were a marvel of practical efficiency and identity addressing both the wide array of field conditions, from arctic/winter to desert, as well as the need for friend/foe recognition, both air-to-air and ground-to-air. The British (with the startling exception of using pink for their reconnaissance aircraft) utilized an understated blending of earth tones that evoked images of flowing mud. The Soviet Union attempted through its heavy-handed bureaucracy to regulate camouflage schemes, but regional climate requirements and patriotic fervor on the factory floor largely defeated that effort. The Japanese, with the exception of a jaguar-like blotch pattern, employed a flat two-color coating (one for the top, another for the bottom). American AAF and Navy camouflage paint schemes (based on the Army-Navy Aircraft, or ANA, color standard adopted in June 1943 that combined two previous standards) also tended to be two flat monotones, more a reflection of the priority placed on high volume aircraft production.

One of the initial tests conducted by a P-51 Mustang showed a speed increase of 21 mph when the plane was unpainted, although other factors may also have been in play. U.S. Air Force photo


AAF aircraft paint schemes were the responsibility of Materiel Command, based at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). It raised the notion of not painting AAF aircraft in November 1942 based on a study by the RAF that noted speed gains of six to eight miles an hour on an airplane with polished surfaces. In circulating its query, Materiel Command asked if the advantages of camouflage paint would be "more than offset by the last bit of 'oomph' in speed and climb from total elimination." Separately, Proving Ground Command conducted its own flight experiments that same month on the subject, only with painted planes having polished surfaces, and noted speed increases of eight miles per hour. One P-51 used in the tests clocked an astonishing 21 mph increase. Examination of that fighter determined a variety of contributing factors to its speed increase, rendering its results void.

Separately Proving Ground Command conducted its own flight experiments that same month on the subject, only with painted planes having polished surfaces, and noted speed increases of eight miles per hour.

In early 1943, theater commander input was sought. Static commands like those in Panama registered no objection. Strategic commands in active theaters approved paint removal for heavy bombers and fighters if the tests proved out. Active combat tactical commands tended to recommend smoother surfaces or no change at all.

A North American Aviation painter cleans the tail assembly of a P-51 Mustang. By January 1944, all planes coming of the assembly line were unpainted. Library of Congress photo

Additional tests of unpainted aircraft confirmed increased performance results. The decision to stop factory painting unless otherwise advised on an individual basis was initiated in October 1943. By January 1944 all planes coming off the production line were not painted. Instead, they received a wax coating or were over-sprayed with a lightweight clear coat. Not only were these unpainted aircraft faster; they were also lighter. This meant increased range for fighters and bombers and extra bomb capacity for the latter.

A B-17 has a surface area of 4,200 square feet and took about 35 gallons of paint to coat. If the paint weighed 10 pounds a gallon wet, after accounting for evaporation the weight would be roughly 300 pounds. Given that figure, eliminating the paint would indeed be a major weight reduction.

No record exists about how much a gallon of paint used on the aircraft weighed. Contemporary reports stated that with the elimination of the paint, fighters would be "fifteen to twenty pounds lighter" and heavy bombers would "lose seventy to eighty pounds." One recent study on the subject noted that the paint during this period was undoubtedly lead-based and "probably copper fortified." A gallon of such paint could weigh as much as 30 pounds, though for aircraft it was more likely to be in the 10-pound range. A B-17 has a surface area of 4,200 square feet and took about 35 gallons of paint to coat. If the paint weighed 10 pounds a gallon wet, after accounting for evaporation the weight would be roughly 300 pounds. Given that figure, eliminating the paint would indeed be a major weight reduction.


A B-24 "Liberator" of the 15th Air Force releases its bombs on the railyards at Muhldorf, Germany on March 19, 1945. The decision to not paint aircraft also sent a powerful message that air superiority had been established. U.S. Air Force photo
 Regardless of which figure is correct - and one would also have to take into account paint loss due to friction and other factors - pilots and crews noticed that all non-painted aircraft were faster, which helped boost morale. Squadrons of gleaming aluminum aircraft over enemy territory also sent another message - that the AAF had achieved air superiority to such an extent that it was no longer necessary for its warplanes to "hide."



Smaller Budgets, Greater Burdens
for the VA and DoD

By J.R. Wilson - March 5, 2014

The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs holds a hearing on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs budget request for fiscal year 2013 in the Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Robert Turtil

Massive budget cuts and sequestration, from current funding into the foreseeable future, could not have come at a worse time for Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare programs.

While the battlefield mortality rate for the past 12 years of war in Southwest Asia has been the lowest in human history, advanced far-forward medical care, high incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and improvised explosive device (IED) blast damage to the face and extremities have resulted in survivors with a higher-than-average rate of amputations and other long-term disabilities for DoD.

Pressure from more than 300 Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) advocating on behalf of nearly 23 million U.S. veterans helped convince Congress to insulate the VA from recent budget cuts and sequestration, but DoD was hit harder than most parts of government.

Much of the burden of care of those personnel has been turned over to the VA, increasing a veteran population already expanding due to service downsizing and the added health problems of an aging Vietnam-era cohort. That group, who served from roughly 1960 to 1975, now comprises about one-third of all U.S. veterans, roughly equal to the massive influx from Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) and the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, in 1991.


Pressure from more than 300 Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) advocating on behalf of nearly 23 million U.S. veterans helped convince Congress to insulate the VA from recent budget cuts and sequestration, but DoD was hit harder than most parts of government. Any decrease in active-duty care - including National Guard, Reserve, and Coast Guard personnel deployed to Southwest Asia - or DoD-sponsored medical research and development (R&D) will transfer new burdens to the VA.

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