Last week we wrote about how the Obama administration defines the recent hostage rescue operation conducted in Iraq. The mission secured tens of Iraqi Army soldiers who were held by ISIS. Sadly, our nation lost a brave warrior who had been awarded some eleven Bronze Star medals, U.S. Army Special Operations Detachment Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler. For those of you not familiar with Operations Detachment, they are the venerable Delta Force, one of our premier counter-terrorism units. But what has me somewhat disturbed is how flummoxed the White House and Pentagon were in defining the mission.
From Fox News comes this video, released Sunday by the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq apparently showing the raid.
Fox reports, “The helmet camera footage allegedly shows the Thursday raid of the prison, which was controlled by Islamic State militants in the town of Huwija, 9 miles west of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma…was the first American to die in combat since the U.S. launched Operation Inherent Resolve last year. The raid marked the first time US troops were involved in direct ground combat in Iraq since the war against the Islamic State group was launched in August 2014.”
However, if you saw the White House press briefing yesterday, you saw Josh “Not So” Earnest do everything possible to not say the word combat. Let me tell you this: if there’s shooting going on with live ammunition and it’s directed against you from an enemy force, it is combat.
The insidious game of semantics shows once again an Obama administration more wedded to political double speak than admitting the reality on the ground — where the boots are returning fire.
MSG Wheeler didn’t lose his life due to climate change, the enemy shot him. MSG Wheeler and his fellow Delta Force operators weren’t there as part of a train, advise, and assist mission. They were on the front lines of a combat operation, a raid no different than the Cabanauan combat mission during World War II against a Japanese prison camp. When I looked at clips of Earnest trying to tap dance and not address this mission for what it was, it’s utterly embarrassing. As a matter of fact, it was disrespectful to those men who undertook that operation. You have to wonder if someone in the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) or Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has received a call from the White House. It would have been best if Earnest would have embraced the bravery of these warriors and clearly stated they were successful in the execution of a complex combined combat raid mission with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Fox News states, “U.S. officials said the plan for the rescue mission had called for the U.S. troops, who are members of the elite and secretive Delta Force, to stay back from the prison compound and let the Kurds do the fighting.”
That’s not how warriors roll, they just don’t sit back and say, the folks sitting back in D.C. said we’re not here to be in combat so, sorry fellas, we’re just responsible to transport you here — good luck. That’s not how respect and regard is developed with our combat allies. That’s not the code of the warrior, nor is it honor.
So the men of Delta did exactly what we expected them to do: fight. And to have folks fumbling around playing wordsmith is disparaging to their valorous actions.
Just think what message it sends when the Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, states, “we do not have combat formations in Iraq.” So what do we have, sir? Delta Force is a counter-terrorist unit, they do not deploy to play cards. One of the missions for our Special Operations Detachment (Alpha) teams is foreign internal defense, training and advising. But don’t send warriors into harm’s way — and when folks are shooting, it IS harm’s way.
I’ll be paying attention to make sure the Pentagon doesn’t play any games and deny that MSG Wheeler was killed in combat operations. His family more than deserves full honors and benefits for his impeccable and heroic service done with distinction — unlike one Bowe Bergdahl. Obviously, we’re living in a bizarro world where the opposites seem acceptable. Now is not the time to play games of political expediency and Jeopardy with our men and women deployed into combat zones — which is what Iraq and Afghanistan are.
Perhaps Obama, Carter, and Earnest need to spend a 72 hours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and go on a patrol. We just conducted a major raid operation against al-Qaida bases in Kandahar three weeks ago. And MSG Joshua Wheeler didn’t lose his life in workplace violence, he was a warrior fighting on a combat operation.