“The hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was so secretive that one special forces widow did not know her husband had died in a close encounter with the terrorist until she read about it in The Sunday Times.
Master Sergeant Tony Yost, a 39-year-old sniper known as “Chief” because of his Apache heritage, was leading a special forces “A-team” raid on a Zarqawi safe house in Mosul, northern Iraq, when he was killed last November.
The Sunday Times referred to the incident a fortnight ago in an article about Zarqawi’s death in a US airstrike. We reported that Yost had killed three of the terrorist’s lieutenants in a firefight before Zarqawi blew up the house and escaped through a tunnel.
It was news to Yost’s grieving wife Joann. “I saw Tony’s name and thought, ‘That’s my husband’,” she said.
All she had been told by the US military was that a building had exploded with her husband inside. She learnt later that he had killed several insurgents, but Zarqawi was not mentioned. The information was top secret.
“I can live with the fact that Tony died doing what he loved,” Joann said. “But I want to fight for the right for my children to know what happened to him.”
Joann was discouraged from seeing her husband’s badly injured body before he was buried at Arlington national cemetery. She hopes to be buried next to him one day.
Joann, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, still lives near Fort Bragg in North Carolina, home to Yost’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (airborne). She was a 34-year-old aerobics teacher when she met Yost, a weapons instructor, at the local gym shortly before the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
They had both been married before and each had a teenage child, but they soon became inseparable. Yost secretly went to buy an engagement ring with Joann’s son Donovan before he proposed.
After their marriage, AJ — short for Anthony James — was born. He is two now and missing his father. Joann has taken him to see the memorial at Fort Bragg where Yost’s name is inscribed alongside those of all 965 special forces soldiers killed or missing in action since the Vietnam war.
She has told the boy his father will not be coming home. “He’s too young to understand. He still says Daddy is at work.”
Joann worries that Yost will be nothing more than a photograph to AJ. “I would like my son to be able to say one day, ‘This is what happened to my father’. The details may not matter to some people, but they matter to me,” she said.
Yost had served in the special forces for more than a decade when the Iraq war broke out. He was a deadly accurate sniper and volunteered for active duty.
“Tony was a special forces legend,” one source recalled. “There are many stories around about his prowess with a rifle. He was a known master sniper.
Another special forces soldier said: “He was a natural leader who was called chief. I remember him telling me that he carried his grandfather’s tomahawk with him.”
The net began closing in on Zarqawi last autumn as the tip-offs about his location increased. On November 19, Yost’s “A team”, backed up by Iraqi forces, surrounded the house in Mosul where they believed the terrorist was.
A firefight broke out in which an American soldier and several Iraqi soldiers were killed. Eleven US troops were wounded. Yost fought his way into the house.
US Army Special Operations Command said later that Yost “was in the process of searching a building in Mosul for insurgents when an explosion occurred, collapsing the building. Yost was killed by the blast.”
But a source familiar with the operation confirmed it was a key moment in the hunt for Zarqawi. “They had good information that Zarqawi and three of his top subordinates would be meeting there,” the source said.
“The house was surrounded and a firefight ensued. Tony was able to get into the house. Forensics indicated that Tony killed the three subordinates. A tunnel and blood which proved to be Zarqawi’s was found. He apparently blew the house up as he escaped.”
Joann said: “I asked everyone I could whether Tony’s death had anything to do with Zarqawi and was told, ‘Well, Zarqawi wasn’t in there’.”
Major Jim Gregory, a spokesman for Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, said he had no information on Zarqawi’s alleged presence. “We don’t hold things back from the wives, but it’s not something we would be typically made aware of.”
Joann is hoping the military will consider awarding Yost a Distinguished Service Medal for “exceptional performance of duty”. He has already been granted a Silver Star, Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
“I’d like to see my husband fully honoured,” she said. “It makes me more than proud to know he was on that mission.”
Green berets with the 7th Special Forces Group, alongside Airmen with the
24th Special Operations Wing, conducting urban warfare, personnel recovery and close air support training during Emerald Warrior 17 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 7, 2017.
Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha. United States Army Special Forces a.k.a. “Green Berets”
The United States Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare (the original and most important mission of Special Forces), foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism.
The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping , psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.
As special operations units, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF units may report directly to a geographic combatant command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits from the Army’s Special Forces. Joint CIA-Army Special Forces operations go back to the MACV-SOG branch during the Vietnam War. The cooperation still exists today and is seen in the War in Afghanistan.
Estonian Special Forces, alongside members with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and reservists with West Virginia National Guard, conducting an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia.
A friend of mine is talking about trans veterans at a national anthropology conference.
He asked me to write a statement in response to the result of the 2016 election. This is it:
An open letter:
De Oppresso Liber. To free the oppressed. Nous Defions. We defy. Liberty and justice for all. My country has long claimed to be THE symbol of freedom and democracy across the globe. We have always espoused these lofty ideals.
Here we are.
I was never a patriotic “true believer” but gods I thought we were better than this. In spite of losing the popular vote our electoral system is poised to emplace a man who campaigned on the promise to restrict the human rights, civil liberties, and bodily autonomy of black people, Muslims, immigrants, and queer people of all stripes. We have elected a man who is staffing his cabinet with openly white nationalist figures like Stephen Bannon.
David Duke, the KKK, and the actual American Nazi Party are holding victory parades and celebrations for our new president elect.
I want to say I don’t recognize my country. But I do. The thing is, when I was a child I did believe that we were the good guys. We were the greatest country in the world—freedom was what made us different from every nation across the globe. Then again, in those days I was a male-assigned child who went to church 5 times a week and only ever got into trouble for bringing my bible to school and preaching to my classmates. To say I was naïve is an understatement. The scales fell from my eyes very quickly.
When one of the faithful raped me for 5 of my first 10 years of life, it was somehow MY shame to bear rather than his. My father convinced me not to press charges because once people knew I had been raped, he said, I could never take that back.
I learned that words and actions rarely aligned. The church sign always said “All are welcome” but the church bylaws, which were updated in the 1990’s by the way, still forbid members of the church from even being party to interracial weddings. My dad “didn’t approve of black people” as if they somehow chose their race and threatened to disown me if I ever brought home a black girl. My family fears that gays will “convert” good little Christian children.
My country kills unarmed black children but takes white mass murderers into custody and buys them cheeseburgers. In my country a man with a gun can harass, stalk, and kill a child and claim he feared for his life, but a black trans woman who accidentally kills her meth-addled neo-nazi attacker with a pair of scissors from her fashion design class will go to prison.
No, I absolutely recognize my country. All straight cisgender white Christian men are created equal. The rest of us are to be dominated, subjugated, incarcerated, or deported. Or otherwise “protected” from choice and bodily autonomy. The toxicity of whiteness and Christianity and masculinity is a swift current that swept me into the teeth of a war I never believed in. I did terrible things for a nation that refuses to acknowledge my basic humanity, and I will never be able to wash that blood off my hands. In special forces our motto was De Oppresso Liber—most often paraphrased as “to free the oppressed”. Our direct action teams appropriated the motto Nous Defions—We Defy—from the French resistance in World War II. To me they are more than just buzzwords. I took them to heart. I recognize that America is an oppressor to people of color, women, queers, and the disabled. My transgender status and my womanhood do not negate my status as a warrior, and I recognize president-elect Trump and those who back him as the same dark forces my grandfather battled in the 1940’s. I recognize my country for what it is—an empire built by slaves on the bones of natives—but I still believe in what it could be. I know what side of history I will be on. My America is diverse, without the divisions encouraged by those who would put so-called state’s rights before human rights or federal protections for them. My America has skin that is red and black and brown, not just white. My America is queer and fat and femme. My America is Atheist and Jewish and Muslim. My people are disabled and incarcerated and undergoing “reparative therapy”. I still believe in one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. For ALL. And I say to Trump and Pence and Bannon: We defy you. WE DEFY. Nous Defions.
Alana McLaughlin, former staff sergeant, United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the Weapons Sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force-33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan during combat operations against an armed enemy in Konar Province, Afghanistan on January 25, 2008. While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mark-19 40 millimeter automatic grenade launcher while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.
Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover. Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapon fire. As point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements, and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to covered positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.
While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in his upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight, moving to draw fire from over one hundred enemy fighters upon himself. He then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover. After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more, and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, and at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, pose for a couple of photos after a training scenario during Decisive Action Rotation 15-02, Fort Irwin, California. Nov. 15, 2014.
“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
Since the development of the Fast Attack Vehicle for the Army’s High Technology Light Division in the 1980’s, various models of highly-modified Chenowth have served in the US Army and various American Special Forces units. The weapons carried by the Chenowth vehicles have included M60 7.62mm machine guns, M2 .50 caliber heavy machine guns, 40mm grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles.
Local female Manbij Military Council trainees learning marksmanship training Feb. 21, 2017, at Sanaa Training Center in Northwest Syria. The MMC is a multi-ethnic force that includes Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, Yazidis and others. This is the first cycle of women to graduate and join the MMC. The course is administered by the U.S Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve trainers.
The U.S. Army conducted one of the most complex joint-training exercises in over a decade: a major JFE exercise Aug. 5-6, 2015, at the Army’s National Training Center on Fort Irwin, California, honing the U.S. Armed Forces’ abilities to project decisive combat power globally. This joint-training exercise, dubbed “Dragon Spear,” focuses on the interoperability, interdependence, and integration of conventional and Special Operations Forces in a complex, dynamic combat scenario. This joint exercise includes more than 1,500 fighting forces from: The United States Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, XVIII Airborne Corps, and the U.S. Air Force.