With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 about here, I find this a touching tribute by the men of 160th SOAR and the young lady from American Airlines. God bless America and NSDQ!
With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 about here, I find this a touching tribute by the men of 160th SOAR and the young lady from American Airlines. God bless America and NSDQ!
|Sgt. 1st Class Ray Castillo lost both legs after an ambush in Iraq two years ago while on his 10th combat deployment. (Photo by VInce Little, The Bayonet)|
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga., (USASOC News Service, May 18, 2011) - Sgt. 1st
Class Ray Castillo is again flourishing as a senior noncommissioned
officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., but that almost didn't seem
possible two years ago.
That's when his 10th combat deployment with the 75th Ranger Regiment resulted in a life-changing event on the dusty battlefield of northern Iraq. Today, he's a double amputee - above the knees - but set to graduate next week from Fort Benning's seven-week Maneuver Senior Leaders Course.
"Just because I lost my limbs doesn't mean I can't give my experience and my knowledge to other guys, (but) I understood eventually I was going to be behind a desk," said Castillo, now an operations sergeant with 2nd Battalion. "There's nothing I could've done about that. I still wanted to be in the military, I still wanted to contribute."
The incident occurred Feb. 9, 2009, near Mosul. Castillo was a platoon sergeant with the regiment's 2nd Battalion with the unit in pursuit of a high-value target. The Soldiers had dismounted and were approaching the objective on foot when they got ambushed.
A command-detonated improvised explosive device hit Castillo.
"It was real quick," he recalled. "(The enemy) hid it really well in the ground. I got to that location, and it just went off. I blacked out for a short period of time, but I remember the explosion going off and flying through the air."
Covered in blood, Castillo went into shock. A platoon medic treated him at the scene and he got evacuated within a half-hour. On the ride to the hospital, he slipped in and out of consciousness.
"I was in so much pain," he said. "I told my medic, 'Hey, you need to give me something. I don't care if you punch me in the face or whatever, but I'm in so much pain.'"
Castillo had multiple lacerations, including to his liver, spleen, intestines and right kidney. A lung was punctured in three different areas.
After the blast, when he was dragged to a stretcher, Castillo remembered looking down and seeing his right leg severed at the ankle. He figured he might lose part of one leg, but woke up from an induced coma about a month later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to find both gone. The infections had spread too quickly, doctors told him.
"I wasn't expecting to see 70 percent of my legs gone," he said. "Because of the infection, they had to keep cutting off more and more and more, because of all that bad stuff they have in the dirt over in Iraq."
He's undergone dozens of procedures, and not just to the legs. Doctors also removed shrapnel from his abdomen area.
"I lost count (of the surgeries). I had so many, I was sick of surgery," he said. "I still have a lot of shrapnel in me. Every once in a while, I'll get a scratch here or there 'cause it's trying to come out. It's all over the place."
There's a little ball of metal floating around a finger in his left hand. Castillo said X-rays at the dentist reveal more pieces in his head.
Castillo spent almost two months at Walter Reed and actually re-enlisted there in March 2009 from a hospital bed, surrounded by most of his family. He'd planned to do that in Iraq before getting wounded.
"I would say it's more frustrating than difficult," he said of his lengthy recovery. "There's a lot of frustration that goes with having some type of new life. Everyone has a goal in life, and then when something happens, it can change."
"You can still stay on certain career paths and other paths you want to do in your life," he explained. "It can be difficult doing those things, but it's more frustrating. There are simple things that you have to try to overcome and adapt to."
After being transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for rehab, Castillo said he encountered other Soldiers in worse predicaments.
"Looking at them being able to do certain things, it gives you strength," he said. "I remember seeing a woman in San Antonio - she had both arms gone. She was an (explosive ordnance disposal) Soldier missing both arms up high. The wounds were so high up her shoulders that she couldn't have a prosthetic arm."
"Seeing someone like that reminds you, 'Hey, you shouldn't be complaining about certain things.' You don't want to have someone always helping you out, because they're not always gonna be there," he said. "In Texas, they taught (me) how to do stuff on (my) own. I had to figure a lot of things out and learn how to overcome those little obstacles and hurdles."
Castillo was fitted with prosthetics in May 2009. That November, his formal therapy ended and he left Fort Sam Houston the following January. He returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord but had to clear a medical evaluation board just to stay in the Army - his paperwork was approved four months later.
"My focus was just to get back to my unit," he said. "I worked really hard every day as much as I could because that was my main focus - recovery and getting better so I could get back to my unit and continue working."
Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy was the 75th Ranger Regiment's command sergeant major when Castillo got wounded in Iraq.
"His personal courage and commitment is truly an inspiration to us all," Hardy said. "He epitomizes the warrior ethos - I will never quit, I will never accept defeat. He symbolizes the strength of the American Soldier and I feel privileged to know him."
Castillo said he's driven to stay in and wants to reach the 20-year mark in his Army career. He'd like to become an instructor after his time with the Ranger Regiment ends.
The sergeant first class did a tandem jump at the Ranger Rendezvous in August 2009, only months after the ambush, and plans to return again this year. Calling the regiment a "brotherhood," Castillo said he knows some of the other Rangers better than his own family, and vice versa, after all they've experienced together in war.
The learning process also hasn't ended in his own recovery. Just walking downstairs, along a sidewalk or grass, and downhill can be challenging.
"Even when it snowed in Washington state, just going through the snow and it being slippery, I don't feel where I step until I put my weight on it," he said. "I drive, too, and that's a learning curve. My endurance and balance are getting much better. Being able to do random chores around the house or just doing stuff at work is getting better. It's gotten easier, with time."
By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Obama administration officials say there are no plans to put regular troops into al Qaeda-infested Yemen, but that is only half the story. CIA spooks and operatives from the Joint Special Operations Command, the supersecret home of Delta Force, are in Yemen, say officials. They are working with a highly specialized unit known for hacking terrorist computers, intercepting phone calls, and tracking militants from the air. Meanwhile, with Yemen emerging as the next Pakistan in the war on terrorism, officials say that the president is eyeing an increase from 58,000 to 72,000 Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Delta Force members, and Green Berets for the Special Operations Command based in Tampa.
KABUL -- Television footage broadcast Tuesday showed insurgents handling what appears to be U.S. ammunition in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan that American forces left last month following a deadly firefight that killed eight troops.
The U.S. military said the forces that left the area said they removed and accounted for their equipment.
Al-Jazeera broadcast video showing insurgents handling weapons, including anti-personnel mines with U.S. markings on them. The television station reported that insurgents said they seized the weapons from two U.S. remote outposts in Nuristan province. It was unclear when the video was filmed.
Nuristan was the site of an Oct. 3 battle in which some 200 fighters bombarded a joint U.S.-Afghan army outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Eight U.S. troops died - as well as three Afghan Soldiers - in one of the heaviest losses of U.S. life in a single battle since the war began.
Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a spokesman for NATO forces, said the material in the footage "appears to be U.S. equipment." He said it was unclear how the insurgents got the weapons.
"It's debatable whether they got them from that location," Vician said, referring to the mountainous Kamdesh district of Nuristan where the nearly six-hour battle took place.
But Gen. Mohammad Qassim Jangulbagh, provincial police chief in Nuristan, said, "The Americans left ammunition at the base."
Three American platoons were deployed at the two posts, mostly troops from Task Force Mountain Warrior of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The U.S. destroyed most of the ammunition, but some of it fell into the hands of insurgents, Jangulbagh said.
After the attack, the Pentagon said the isolated post in Nuristan was on a list of far-flung bases that U.S. war commanders had decided were not worth keeping. The Pentagon said that decision was on the books before the assault - part of plans by top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal to shut down such isolated strongholds and focus on more heavily populated areas as part of a new strategy to protect Afghan civilians.
Jangulbagh lamented the pullback of U.S. forces from the outposts. "Unfortunately, only the police are in Nuristan. There are no foreign troops," he said.
Farooq Khan, a spokesman for the Afghan National Police in Nuristan province, also said U.S. forces left behind arms and ammunition when they left the area, which he said is now in insurgent hands.
However, Gen. Shir Mohammad Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan Defense Ministry, was skeptical.
"As far as I know, nothing was left behind," Karimi said.
Footage (taken from Al-Jazeera site):
|Taliban displays 'US weapons'|
Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage showing the Taliban in Afghanistan displaying what appears to be US weapons.
The fighters say they seized the arms cache from two US outposts in eastern Nuristan province.
Days after the alleged assault, the US military pulled out its troops from the area.
Al Jazerera's Jonah Hull reports.
Nothing has ever changed the world as quickly as the Internet.
Less than a decade ago, "60 Minutes" went to the Pentagon to do a story on something called information warfare, or cyberwar as some people called it. It involved using computers and the Internet as weapons.
Much of it was still theory, but we were told that before too long it might be possible for a hacker with a computer to disable critical infrastructure in a major city and disrupt essential services, steal millions of dollars from banks all over the world, infiltrate defense systems, extort millions from public companies, and even sabotage our weapons systems.
Today it's not only possible, all of that has actually happened. And there's a lot more we don't even know about.
It's why President Obama has made cyberwar defense a top national priority and why some people are already saying that the next big war is less likely to begin with a bang than with a blackout.
"Can you imagine your life without electric power?" Ret. Adm. Mike McConnell asked "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft...
On Thursday afternoon, a radicalized Muslim US Army officer shouting "Allahu Akbar!" committed the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11. And no one wants to call it an act of terror or associate it with Islam.
What cowards we are. Political correctness killed those patriotic Americans at Ft. Hood as surely as the Islamist gunman did. And the media treat it like a case of non-denominational shoplifting.
This was a terrorist act. When an extremist plans and executes a murderous plot against our unarmed soldiers to protest our efforts to counter Islamist fanatics, it's an act of terror. Period.
When the terrorist posts anti-American hate-speech on the Web; apparently praises suicide bombers and uses his own name; loudly criticizes US policies; argues (as a psychiatrist, no less) with his military patients over the worth of their sacrifices; refuses, in the name of Islam, to be photographed with female colleagues; lists his nationality as "Palestinian" in a Muslim spouse-matching program, and parades around central Texas in a fundamentalist playsuit -- well, it only seems fair to call this terrorist an "Islamist terrorist."
But the president won't. Despite his promise to get to all the facts. Because there's no such thing as "Islamist terrorism" in ObamaWorld.
And the Army won't. Because its senior leaders are so sick with political correctness that pandering to America-haters is safer than calling terrorism "terrorism."
And the media won't. Because they have more interest in the shooter than in our troops -- despite their crocodile tears.
Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan planned this terrorist attack and executed it in cold blood. The resulting massacre was the first tragedy. The second was that he wasn't killed on the spot.
Hasan survived. Now the rest of us will have to foot his massive medical bills. Activist lawyers will get involved, claiming "harassment" drove him temporarily insane. There'll be no end of trial delays. At best, taxpayer dollars will fund his prison lifestyle for decades to come, since our politically correct Army leadership wouldn't dare pursue or carry out the death penalty.
Maj. Hasan will be a hero to Islamist terrorists abroad and their sympathizers here. While US Muslim organizations decry his acts publicly, Hasan will be praised privately. And he'll have the last laugh.
But Hasan isn't the sole guilty party. The US Army's unforgivable political correctness is also to blame for the casualties at Ft. Hood.
Given the myriad warning signs, it's appalling that no action was taken against a man apparently known to praise suicide bombers and openly damn US policy. But no officer in his chain of command, either at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or at Ft. Hood, had the guts to take meaningful action against a dysfunctional soldier and an incompetent doctor.
Had Hasan been a Lutheran or a Methodist, he would've been gone with the simoon. But officers fear charges of discrimination when faced with misconduct among protected minorities.
Now 12 soldiers and a security guard lie dead. 31 soldiers were wounded, 28 of them seriously. If heads don't roll in this maggot's chain of command, the Army will have shamed itself beyond moral redemption.
There's another important issue, too. How could the Army allow an obviously incompetent and dysfunctional psychiatrist to treat our troubled soldiers returning from war? An Islamist whacko is counseled for arguing with veterans who've been assigned to his care? And he's not removed from duty? What planet does the Army live on?
For the first time since I joined the Army in 1976, I'm ashamed of its dereliction of duty. The chain of command protected a budding terrorist who was waving one red flag after another. Because it was safer for careers than doing something about him.
Get ready for the apologias. We've already heard from the terrorist's family that "he's a good American." In their world, maybe he is.
But when do we, the American public, knock off the PC nonsense?
A disgruntled Muslim soldier murdered his officers way back in 2003, in Kuwait, on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Recently? An American mullah shoots it out with the feds in Detroit. A Muslim fanatic attacks an Arkansas recruiting station. A Muslim media owner, after playing the peace card, beheads his wife. A Muslim father runs over his daughter because she's becoming too Westernized.
Muslim terrorist wannabes are busted again and again. And we're assured that "Islam's a religion of peace."
I guarantee you that the Obama administration's non-response to the Ft. Hood attack will mock the memory of our dead.
NEW YORK -- The U.S. Army will make an exception to a decades-old rule and allow a Sikh doctor to serve without removing his turban and cutting his hair, an advocacy group said Friday.
Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi is the first Sikh to be allowed to go on active duty with a turban, beard and unshorn hair in more than 20 years, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition.
The decision does not overturn an Army policy from the 1980s that regulates the wearing of religious items, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee wrote in a letter to Kalsi dated Thursday and posted online by the Sikh Coalition.
Instead, the Army's decision follows a long-standing practice of deciding such requests on a case-by-case basis, the letter said. Farrisee said the Army had weighed Kalsi's request against factors such as "unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety and/or health."
There's no indication that the overall policy is being reconsidered, said Army spokeswoman Jill Mueller, adding that she could not confirm that the Army had reached a decision in the case until she received word from her superiors that Kalsi himself had been notified.
But Sikh Coalition director Amardeep Singh said he was hopeful the Army would announce a full policy shift.
"This bodes well for the future," he said. "My guess is the Army's going to be seeing a lot more Sikhs requesting to be a part of the Army. ... This issue is not going away."
The 32-year-old Kalsi, of Riverdale, N.J., is an emergency room doctor. He promised to serve in the Army in exchange for help paying for his medical training. A second, similar case - that of Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan - will be decided after he receives the results of his dental board exams, Amardeep Singh said.
A number of members of Congress wrote to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August asking him to allow the men to serve while wearing the turban, beard and unshorn hair required by their faith.
"We do not believe that any American should have to choose between his religion and service to our country," the letter said.