August 2009 Archives

By Sgt. David Harris
4th PSYOP Group (A) Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Aug. 25, 2009) - Five Psychological Operations specialists assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) recently underwent a grueling five-day assessment to determine if they are fit to serve and fight with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

moving through the water

Sgt. Minkyu Rhi moves through water that's part of an obstacle course on Fort Bragg.  Rhi is being assessed to determine if he is fit to serve with the Rangers in a PSYOP role. (Photo by Sgt. David Harris, 4th PSYOP Group (A) Public Affairs Office)

PSYOP roles are usually divided into two areas: strategic and tactical. Strategic roles may require a Soldier to wear a suit and work in an embassy, whereas tactical missions often see them out in the field, carrying a weighty man-packed loudspeaker system in addition to their normal combat gear.

The detachment of 16 PSYOPers supporting the Rangers is certainly described as tactical.  After all, their name is Tactical PSYOP Detachment 9B40, part of Bravo Company, 9th PSYOP Battalion.  Because of the tough missions and austere conditions that Rangers are notorious for, the Soldiers providing them PSYOP capabilities have to be the best available.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Mead, 9B40 detachment sergeant, had the job of running the events and helping evaluate the candidates.

"These guys might have to move out for 20 miles loaded down with equipment, keeping up with Rangers who are probably the fastest ruckers in the Army, and still know how to perform their PSYOP role, and how they'll fit into a given mission once they reach their objective," Mead said. "We need thinkers that can fit in with the Ranger Regiment."

Capt. Bruce Hoffman, 9B40's detachment commander, has been in the Army for over 19 years.  First joining the Army as an infantryman, Hoffman has served with scout platoons, Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance teams, and as a Ranger instructor for four years.  Members of his detachment recognize him as the standard bearer.  During the five-day assessment, he used the skills he gained as an instructor for the Rangers to determine whether the Soldiers trying out have what it takes to be a member of his team.

The week-long assessment was designed to stress the Soldiers out and observe how they perform in that condition.  The week kicked off like most in the Army, with physical training before the sun came up on Monday morning.  The first event the group faced was the Ranger Physical Fitness Test , which is similar to the Army's PT test, but it adds dead-hang pull-ups, and instead of a two-mile run, there's a five-mile run that must be completed in no more than 40 minutes.

mott lake

Spc. Matthew Thomas jumps into Mott Lake as part of the Combat Water Survival Test.  Thomas is being assessed to determine if he is fit to serve with the Rangers in a PSYOP role. (Photo by Sgt. David Harris, 4th PSYOP Group (A) Public Affairs Office)

After a quick breakfast and the chance to change into their duty uniform, the Soldiers and their evaluators moved out to Mott Lake for the Combat Water Survival Test.  Mead ran through a demonstration, then the five candidates were individually canoed out to the middle of the lake where they donned a blindfold, carried a weapon and a load-bearing vest that were tied to the boat, and jumped into the water.  One Soldier didn't consider himself a strong swimmer, so the evaluators watched him closely, making sure he didn't drown.  All five completed the water test successfully, after which the group was taught how to use their Army Combat Uniforms to make a personal floatation device.

The class ended abruptly when Sgt. Bradley Thuma, one of 9B40's NCOs, yelled at the group to get back to the shore as fast as possible.  It was time to recite the Ranger Creed, a favorite amongst the team's NCOs.  Before the assessment, each Soldier was given a little black Ranger Handbook and told to memorize the Ranger Creed.  Messing up while quoting it resulted in an immediate increase in the volume of the assessor's voice, and of course, remedial training for the entire team.

"Almost everything we quizzed them on was in the Ranger Handbook," Mead said. "If a guy shows up to assessment and he's not even willing to read the Handbook that kind of says something to us."

One candidate was prompted to recite the Creed's first stanza.  He snapped to attention, ran out in front of his fellow Soldiers and shouted,  "The first stanza of the Ranger Creed!"  His veins bulged and sweat dripped off his forehead thanks to the hot, humid North Carolina air, not to mention the previous bouts of sprints, push-ups and flutter-kicks he'd endured.

"Repeat after me..."  A few seconds of silence indicated the Soldier's uncertainty.  Given a bit more time he might have led the group in a resounding rendition of the Ranger Creed, but hesitation wasn't the name of the game.

"Are you telling me that you came to this assessment without having memorized the Ranger Creed?"  one of the team's NCOs shouted.  The group was then told to sprint to the lake, swim out to the middle and back as fast as they could.  The Soldiers executed this command immediately, but on their faces they had a look that showed they hadn't bargained for what lay ahead.

"They need to be physically fit for not just a PT test, but for a week-long endurance event," Mead said.  "They need to know the Ranger Handbook, and they need to know tactical PSYOP.  If they do those things and come with the right attitude, they're probably going to be successful.  But if they blow off any of those three, they're gonna have a hard time."

For one of day two's events, the group met in the August heat at one of the obstacle courses on Fort Bragg.  After a run-through to show the Soldiers what to expect and to point out any hazards, they lined up at the beginning and were let loose one at a time.  Climbing up walls, swinging on ropes, low-crawling through muddy water, jumping over obstacles, and rolling through sand left the candidates covered from head to toe in water, dirt and sweat.

One of the candidates, Sgt. Minkyu Rhi, said he volunteered for this because he was looking for a challenge.

ranger creed

The group of five PSYOP Soldiers recites the Ranger Creed after completing the Combat Water Survival test.  The Soldiers are being assessed to determine if they're fit to serve alongside Rangers in a PSYOP role. (Photo by Sgt. David Harris, 4th PSYOP Group (A) Public Affairs Office)

"One of my cadre from when I went through the PSYOP course used to be a member of 9B40, and from how he described the team it sounded like the bar was higher over there than in the rest of the Group," Rhi said. "That first day was kind of a rude awakening.  I knew there was going to be a little bit of 'smoking' or whatever you want to call it, but I didn't expect it to be at that level.  But I can take a lot of punishment, so I got quickly in that mode."

During days three and four, the group went out to a site near Camp Mackall to do small unit tactics, and land navigation.

"During the small unit tactics portion of the assessment, we were curious to see how they would react during a stressful situation," Mead said. "Obviously you can't replicate the stresses of actual combat, but we tried.  We fired blanks and shouted at them and basically got them excited, got their hearts pounding to see what they would do."
Rhi, who before trying out for 9B40, was assigned to Charlie Company, 8th PSYOP Battalion, summed up the assessment.

"I would tell anyone that's interested in this, that it's probably one of the most vigorous events, physically and mentally, that they'll ever do," he said. "But, it's not just one big 'smoke-fest.'  I learned a lot about land nav, common infantry tactics and a lot of PSYOP capabilities. I'd have to say the last day was the most challenging part of the week.  It was really hot, and at that point we were all pretty beat, and they told us that we had to road march all the way back to Bragg.  But I think we stopped around the 12 or 13 mile mark, which was a relief."

"They went and occupied a broadcast position; broadcast a message, recorded the reaction of the target audience, and then exfiltrated," Mead said. "It's similar to a prepared deliberate ambush, because you have to determine your fields of fire.  But, in this case, instead of laying waste to the objective, they were broadcasting a message." 

Other PSYOP tasks included in the SUT lanes were face to face interactions with "locals", consequence management, and loud speaker operations.  Mead said determining how effectively the Soldiers performed their PSYOP roles was a big part of the assessment.

At the end of the week, three Soldiers were chosen as new members of TPD 9B40: Sgt. Minkyu Rhi, Spc. Christopher Darbyshire, and Spc. Matthew Thomas.  Hoffman and Mead told the two Soldiers who weren't selected that they were welcome to come back and try again in November, when the detachment will hold their next assessment.  The only thing that will keep Soldiers from being invited back to try again is a legitimate medical problem, and any sort of integrity violation like cheating or lying during the week.  Soldiers that complete the week receive a Certificate of Achievement worth five promotion points, even if they aren't selected for the detachment.

Hoffman said that new members of the detachment prepare for two main options: joining a team and training with the Rangers for a roughly 90 day pre-mission training period and then deploying, or going to pre-Ranger course and Ranger school.

Anti-Texting PSA

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Before you watch this be warned it's pretty graphic. This
PSA really shows what can, and probably will happen, in a terrible
number of texting-while-driving cases.

The PSA was made by the Gwent police department and is part of a 30
minute movie.

Original Story:

DENVER -- Four soldiers died after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission on Colorado's second-highest mountain, the Army's Special Operations Command said Thursday.

The helicopter crashed Wednesday afternoon near the summit of 14,421-foot Mount Massive.

The Army initially said two were killed, one was injured and one was missing. The missing man was found dead late Wednesday, and the injured man died on the way to the hospital Wednesday, said Lt. Col. John Clearwater, a spokesman for the command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

All were male soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., he said. Their names haven't been released.

The crew was training in high-altitude mountainous conditions, "much like the environment they operate in Afghanistan," Clearwater said, adding that he didn't know whether the crew had served there.

The helicopter was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Campbell. Soldiers in the 160th are known as "night stalkers" because they specialize in nighttime operations. The regiment's Web site says the 160th has carried out combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday's flight began at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, which is about 90 miles east of Mount Massive.

The cause of the crash hasn't been released. The Black Hawk's flight recorder was recovered and an investigation team from Fort Rucker, Ala., was at the crash site Thursday, Clearwater said.

The MH-60 Black Hawk is frequently used for infiltration missions and to bring supplies to special operations forces in the field, according to the unit's Web site. The helicopter is also used for rescue and medical evacuations, and an armed version is used for escort and fire support.

Not all helicopters can fly at high altitudes. That's because the air is thinner, requiring a more powerful helicopter to achieve the lift needed to stay airborne.

The soldiers should have had supplemental oxygen at that altitude, said Brian Cutler, assistant chief pilot at Guidance Helicopter Inc., a civilian helicopter training school in Prescott, Ariz. But he said the Black Hawk performs well in mountainous terrain.

"It's pretty well equipped for flying at that altitude," said Cutler, who doesn't have a military background.

The weather in Leadville, just east of Mount Massive, was clear Wednesday afternoon. The wind was gusting at about 26 mph, which is typical for the area.

Air Ambulances on the front lines

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At War

Air Ambulances on the Front Lines

American air ambulance units battle time and dangerous conditions to bring injured Americans and Afghans back from the battlefield. Patrick Barth reports on a week spent with the 168th Air Ambulance Corps.

Adventure World Episode 4

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Episode 4 contains part 2 of the Marina Steeple Chase (hang gliding race), plus more ATV riding, hang gliding and comedy. Don't miss the Whinin' Boy segment starring guess who? ;-)

Special thanks to Carmela Moreno for letting us use the outstanding footage she shot at the Marina Steeple Chase.

How serious are you about your company's information security?  You will get very serious quickly when your company is audited by a third party.  These aren't third party vendors either, we're talking about the pending alliance will be profitable for your organization, get us through this audit...type of third party audit.

Playing these situations to your fullest abilities will not only increase the profitability of your business, it will also result in a tightened down security posture for your company.  I know, audits tend to cause headaches, neck pain as well as stress and the related "burn out" syndrome. But, I say expand your horizons, take a look at the big picture.  How close are you to the ISO standards?  What are those little pet projects that are curtailed by cultural issues which require C-level buy-in?  This may be the straw that increases security in your environment.  You may even get your pet project going again after frustrating funding delays.

I seem to be going through my fair share of these lately and have a few pieces of advice for those facing this same reality.

  1. Stay calm and be prepared to the best of your ability.
  2. Provide the auditor with a hard and soft copy of your IT Security policy, hopefully one based on Internationally agreed standards.
  3. Use post-it flags to mark answers in the policy to any questions provided in advance. Saving the auditor time is a good thing.
  4. Make sure your policies include the approval date and revision histories for each section of policy.
  5. Set up a clean "routine" image workstation for the auditor to verify at their leisure.
  6. Have copies of your Security Awareness Training materials ready.
  7. Give heads up to the collateral departments which will need to provide requested documentation.  Like HR for background checks and Physical Security for access logs. 
  8. Practice accessing your logs from any SEIM or logging device.  Double check logging enabled settings on all critical servers.
  9. Allow the examiner to work in a secured environment away from prying eyes and curious onlookers.
  10. Re-evaluate and study your questionnaire answers from the previous phases of the audit.
  11. Showing your professionalism and your dedication to security will undoubtedly assist in obtaining the vital business alliances required in our global economy.

 Let me know some of your audit survival skills and secrets and I'll update this page with your ideas.

Microsoft on Tuesday released nine patches, five of them critical, to plug holes in Windows and other software products.

The nine patches actually relate to 19 separate vulnerabilities in Windows, the .Net Framework, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft ISA Server, Microsoft BizTalk Server, and Remote Desktop Client for Mac.

Among the issues addressed is one that Microsoft warned about last month--a vulnerability related to the Office Web Components that help users put spreadsheets, charts, and other documents onto the Web. At the time, Microsoft said it was already seeing attacks based on the flaw, which affects Office XP, Office 2003, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004 and 2006, as well as Office Small Business Accounting 2006.

More information on that issue and the others addressed with this month's patches is available in a bulletin on Microsoft's Web site.

As is its practice, Microsoft said last week that the patches were coming.

Symantec senior research manager Ben Greenbaum noted that many of the vulnerabilites this month related to so-called ActiveX controls and added that many of the holes could be exploited just by getting a user to visit a Web page that has malicious code.

"All of the ActiveX issues patched this month could be easily exploited and can impact even the average computer user," Greenbaum said in an e-mail. "For example, any user who has Microsoft Office on their machine could be vulnerable to the Microsoft Office Web Components vulnerabilities. Similarly, every user with Windows XP SP3 or Vista could also be susceptible to one of the Remote Desktop Connection issues."

Actually, not all versions of Office are affected, as the Web components issue does not affect the latest version--Office 2007. For a list of Office programs affected, see this security bulletin.

In any case, McAfee and Lumension both noted that it continues to be a long, hard summer for IT professionals who have had to deal with a large number of regular patches and some unscheduled ones as well from Microsoft and others.

"There's no break from patching this summer," McAfee Avert Labs' Dave Marcus said in a statement. "Microsoft is playing catchup with these patches as cybercriminals have already used some of the serious vulnerabilities to commandeer vulnerable Windows computers."

Lumension analyst Paul Henry said there had been some fear that the patches would go further, addressing some kernel-level issues. But even still, he said the latest crop of patches will bring their fair share of headaches.

"After a summer of heavier-than-normal Patch Tuesdays, the last thing IT workers need is yet another large batch of patches from Microsoft," Henry said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that is exactly what we got today as Microsoft released a total of nine security updates, five of which are critical and seven of which require disruptive restarts."

Yuba Lake Fishing (UGH!)

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After our last trip ATV'ing on Monroe Mountain, my 11 year old and I stopped at Yuba Lake to determine if this was a decent location for fishing and swimming. At the time (June), the lake seemed pristine, clean and abundant with fish.

Yesterday (Tuesday), Mom and my two boys (Alex and Nick) left home at 7am to try out luck at Yuba. On the radio, it was advertised that Yuba was overloaded with Walleye and other predator fish and it was open season to catch as many as possible -- to save the Perch population.

Oddly, the State's proclamation indicated to keep any Perch caught.

So, we drive out and offroad around the entire lake looking for decent fishing and swimming locations. Instead, we found ourselves back in the State park at Painted Rock.

I drive my truck right to the edge of the little rock island and unload our gear. We commence fishing.

Bear in mind, I bought over $150 in gear to catch catfish, Walleye, bass and trout. Bait included worms, lures, jigs, catfish bait and stink bait.

After trying everything, it seemed to us that Yuba only contained Carp. Despite the bait and technique used, we ONLY caught Carp.

A few photos from our Tuesday.




What an algae covered cess-pool. I don't think we'll be going back there anytime soon. Even our bathing suits (yes, we tried to swim in it) are now stained an ugly green.

Flaming Gorge (State Line Cove)

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My mother flew into town to stay with us two weeks. Before week one was through, we were packed and loaded for Flaming Gorge. The plan was to get there early Wednesday morning (of last week) and stay through Sunday.

By Thursday, a cold front had blown in, changing the average day-time temperature from 95F to 75F and cooler by Saturday. In addition to the changing temperatures, we encountered high winds (+75mph), rain and constant rolling thunder. Most of the poor weather started in the mid-to-late afternoon, so during the day we were still able to play.

With us, we brought: 2x JetSki's, fishing poles, 1 x 4 person raft, 1 x 750i ATV (mine), swim gear and 2 x newly purchased tents.

To get setup, we first had to unload the JetSki's and ATV. Since we had a beach front location, this made it quite easy:


Then, we had to setup the tents and unload our little green dog-house trailer (Yuppie Wagon):


Once camp was situated and we had blocked off enough space to allow my brother-in-laws RV to park, it was time to play.

First, it was JetSki's (a very versatile multi-tool while on the lake):


Of course, we only had two -- but many more people that wanted to ride (or be a passenger). My Mom developed an interest in taking one out on her own, so after providing some basic instruction, we happily obliged:


Then, it was time to discover cliff diving,  swimming and fishing areas that were nearby. I knew (from Google Earth) that there were trails circling most of the lake, so I unloaded the ATV and went in search of nearby areas:


After over an hour of exploration, I discovered a sheltered cove about 5 miles away from camp. Upon arrival, several large fish were observed swimming in the calm waters and large cliffs (20-40' high) with deep pools beneath:



By mid-week, a cold-front had moved in and the weather (mostly in the afternoons) changed dramatically. We tried to stay outside (and in the water) as much as possible, until the lightning grew too dangerously close.


Every morning, I was always the first person on the water. Despite the temperature (even the last day <Saturday> when it was only 60F outside. I would start out by ruining the calm waters with the JetSki, then grabbing the fishing pole and trolling a lure behind it.

Many bass and trout were caught with the old JetSki trolling method, but nothing large enough to brag about. Mom did manage to get one grilled up (after we got home), and I hope satisfy her craving for fresh trout.

All-in-all, everyone had a great time despite the weather. We'll definitely be going back to Flaming Gorge - but this time ensuring that we get there on a Monday and depart before Friday afternoon (that place gets crazy starting mid-Friday).


I decided to take a quick ride up Mineral Fork on Sunday (2 August). It had been over two years since I'd been up there last.

I had forgotten just how technical and rocky this little 6 mile stretch of canyon is. There are many locations that are obstructed by large rocks, off-camber cliffs and just boulder after boulder along the trails.

Here's the Garmin tracks from the ride:


Once I had reached the end of the trail (at the old mine), I decided to climb (on hands-and-knees in some spots) to the top of the ridge line. From up there, you can see down to Lake Blanche and over the peaks to the Salt Lake valley below.

A few photos from the ride and hike:

The trail up (the water fall):

The waterfall:

Heading into the brush:

The view behind me:

Self Portrait:

Looking down at Lake Blanche from the ridge line:

The top of the world:

The abandoned mine (stunk of sulfur):

 Where is James King?


Language Translation


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

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