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Mysterious Death Of Decorated Green Beret in Iraq

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Richard Anthony Rodriguez - Mysterious Death Of Decorated Green Beret in Iraq

The American contractor who reportedly died from injuries he suffered in a fight with service members while working in northern Iraq was a decorated combat veteran who served in U.S. Army Special Forces, according to his official military record.

“Richard Anthony Rodriguez served in the U.S. Army from August 1991 to August 2012,” said Army spokesman William Sharp. “He attained the rank of master sergeant and held the military occupational specialties of an infantryman, a weapons sergeant, and senior sergeant. During his service, he deployed to Afghanistan four times between 2006 and 2011.”

During his time in the Army, Rodriguez completed the Special Forces Qualification Course, Ranger School, diver training, Airborne School, and Pathfinder School. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor and four other Bronze stars as well as numerous other military decorations.

Rodriguez died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, on Jan. 4, after being medically evacuated from Iraq. Two Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Marine special operations unit are reportedly under investigation in connection with his death.

U.S. military officials are not releasing any information about how Rodriguez died or where the investigation stands. At the time of his death, Rodriguez was working for Lockheed Martin. A company spokeswoman declined to discuss his work in Iraq.

“Out of respect for the family’s desire for privacy, we are not disclosing the employee’s name or information about his role or mission,” Cheryl Amerine told Task & Purpose on Thursday. “Additionally, the family is declining requests for interviews.”

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How a secretive special ops unit decimated ISIS

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illustration echo company - How a secretive special ops unit decimated ISIS

As the Islamic State’s physical caliphate narrows to nothing after an almost five-year campaign led by U.S. special operations forces, military insiders say one small specialized unit has killed more of the extremists than any other: the company of Gray Eagle drones in the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Author: Sean Naylor (Yahoo News)

Although the military has thrown a cloak of secrecy over its operations, the unit — officially called E (or “Echo”) Company of the regiment’s Second Battalion and established less than a decade ago — is increasingly being lauded in special operations and Army aviation circles.

“They are doing the most killing of anyone in the national mission force,” said a former 160th officer, referring to Joint Special Operations Command, which runs counterterrorism task forces in Afghanistan, and does battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and the Horn of Africa. “They’re out there doing the nation’s bidding in a ferocious way.”

Echo Company is credited with “well over 340 enemy killed in action” in Afghanistan and the Iraq-Syria theater between August 2014 and July 2015, according to a November 2015 Army write-up of an award for the unit. The company has also played a key role in a special operations task force established in Iraq in 2014 to roll back the Islamic State’s physical caliphate and hunt its leaders. Flying from a base in Iraq to attack targets in Syria, the drone company has launched “more than a thousand” Hellfire missiles in the last two to three years, the former 160th officer told Yahoo News. “That means to me they’ve been very busy in Syria.”

Echo Company’s achievements are remarkable, in part, because unlike the Air Force, whose drones are operated from air-conditioned trailers in Nevada and flown by officers, the pilots in this Army aviation company are mainly enlisted soldiers who are deployed in combat theaters.

“Echo Company [is] the most lethal company in the Army, and it may very well be the most lethal company-size element in all of [the Defense Department],” Brig. Gen. John Evans, at the time the head of U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, told attendees at the aviation association’s conference in April 2017.

The record still holds today, according to a retired senior Army aviation officer. “This is the most lethal Army unit this year,” he said. “The whole Army, including artillery, including everything.”

One of the few Army units that fly fixed-wing aircraft, the company apparently has been more lethal than its Army helicopter counterparts and all Air Force fixed-wing outfits, manned and unmanned. Even in Joint Special Operations Command, the secretive organization that includes special mission units like Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, Echo Company’s performance stands out, according to those familiar with its operations.

More about Echo Company can be found here.

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The U.S. Military’s Next Super Weapon: Tactical Tunnels

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us military soldier - The U.S. Military's Next Super Weapon: Tactical Tunnels

The Japanese used them on Iwo Jima to ambush American soldiers. So did the Viet Cong, forcing American “Tunnel Rats” to ferret them out. North Korea and Iran use them today to protect their nuclear weapons programs, while ISIS tunnels have been a deadly thorn in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Even Israel has discovered Hezbollah and Hamas tunnels penetrating beneath its borders.

But in the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the U.S. military wants to build its own tunnels on the battlefield.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)’s Project Underminer aims to “demonstrate the feasibility of rapidly constructing tactical tunnel networks that enable secure, responsive resupply,” according to the DARPA program announcement.

It’s not that the United States lacks tunnel knowhow. American industry knows how to build tunnels for everything from highways to utilities. The Pentagon devotes considerable effort today to developing technology to detect and destroy tunnels.

But what is lacking is expertise in building battlefield tunnels. “No DoD Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) includes offensive tactical tunneling, nor does any technology or equipment support tactical tunnel creation or exploitation,” DARPA explains. “In addition, current tunneling operations primarily rely on exploratory bores and above ground guidance beacons, both closely-coupled with human operators to guide drilling/boring routes. Underminer will create aggressive tunneling approaches, downhole sensing, and operations concepts that surpass these limitations. A tactical tunnel network could provide secure logistics support infrastructure, enabling concepts of operations (CONOPS) such as pre-positioning supplies in advance of an operation or providing ongoing resupply as troops move through an area. The ability to rapidly bore tactical tunnels could be helpful in contingency operations such as rapid ammunition resupply, rescue missions, or other immediate needs.”

Hence Project Underminer, a fifteen-month, $11 million programs. DARPA will evaluate the feasibility of boring or tunneling methods in terms of “diameter, speed, length, depth, branching, bend radius, accuracy, structural integrity, and infrastructure/logistics constraints.”

Tactical tunnels offer several advantages. They would allow U.S. troops to cut loose from forward operating bases (FOB) and the vulnerable supply lines that sustain them. They also add another dimension—a subterranean one—to the battlefield that troops can exploit.

DARPA specifies various minimum thresholds: a tunnel length of 500 meters (547 yards), a bore diameter of 100 millimeters (4 inches), and a tunneling speed of 0.1 meters (0.11 yards) per second that DARPA says is twenty times faster than current standards. While this doesn’t sound like a recipe for the industrial-sized tunnel complexes of Iran and North Korea, it does seem closer to the sort of tunnels that the Viet Cong used to move unseen on the battlefield.

Interestingly, DARPA only describes tunnels as a means of resupply. There is no indication that American troops will crawl underground, even though that would be the logical next step. Yet DARPA does casually mention that tunnels could be used during rescue missions, which suggests that troops could escape through them in an emergency.

Also interesting is that DARPA wants tunneling technology that can avoid “artificially buried obstacles.” Presumably, those artificial obstacles include whatever the enemy will stick into the ground to hamper American tunnellers, such as IEDs. Tunneling may be useful, but it’s still dangerous.

Which illustrates the disadvantage of tunnels: they are an expensive and awkward means of transportation. That the U.S. military feels a need to go subterranean is evidence that operating above-ground has become too dangerous.

Nonetheless, there is poetic justice to Project Underminer: after decades of having tunnels used against them, U.S. troops will have a chance to use tunnels against the enemy.

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