Tag Archives: sere

SHOCK: Army Prosecutor Cited Wikipedia as Source During Green Beret’s Court-Martial on Sexual Assault Charges

On Day Two of the Army’s court-martial of one of it’s finest Green Berets, a prosecution attorney cited a suspect source as he questioned Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart about his training. See if you can spot the source in the excerpt from the Record of Trial that appears below:

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Click on image above to order book.

TC: At the SERE course you’re taught how to resist violent captors, is that correct?
Stewart: Again, sir, unless I’m authorized by the SOCEUR Public Affairs Officer, I can’t discuss the training that I received at the SERE-level C School.

TC: You’re taught how to resist torture?
Stewart: Again, sir–

TC: We’re going to go through this, so, that’s fine–
Stewart: No, again, sir, I don’t know what I’m authorized to discuss with you because I’m not the releasing authority of my training.

TC: I got this off of Wikipedia.com.

[Legend: SERE = Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape; TC = Trial Counsel; SOCEUR = Special Operations Command Europe; CDC = Civilian Defense Counsel; and MJ = Military Judge.]

That’s right! He said, “I got this off of Wikipedia.” Unbelievable!

How would you feel if you were found guilty by a court-martial panel (i.e., the military equivalent of a jury) that sided with a prosecutor who cited Wikipedia.com as a source during your cross-examination?

Find out how Stewart feels about his conviction inside my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight for Military Justice, which went on sale for the first time just over four years ago.

FYI: I shared the piece above for the first time four years ago today. Since then, I’ve covered many other military justice cases. I hope you’ll read and share this story as well as the others I’ve written and published. Thanks in advance!

Show your support and help keep these articles coming by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same. To learn how to order signed copies, click here.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Though Facing Possibility of Life Sentence on Bogus Charges, Green Beret Refused to Violate Code of Conduct During Trial

On trial for his freedom and facing the possibility of a life sentence six years ago, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart refused to violate his Code of Conduct as a member of the Army’s elite Special Forces unit known as the Green Berets.

Kelly A. Stewart returns from a mission in Iraq.

Kelly A. Stewart returns from a mission in Iraq.

At one point during his two-day trial inside a U.S. military courtroom in Germany, the trial counsel asked Stewart questions about friendships he had established in Germany since his August 2008 arrival in the Stuttgart area. Soon after, the highly-decorated combat veteran’s time on the witness stand turned into a somewhat-heated exchange during which it appeared the trial counsel was trying to paint Stewart as a master manipulator whose Special Forces training helped him know how to control a person like his accuser.

Stewart’s accuser was a then-28-year-old German woman. On Nov. 7, 2008, she accused him of having raped and kidnapped her two and a half months earlier during a one-night stand that ended in his hotel room in Sindelfingen, Germany. Nine months after he was charged, Stewart found himself convicted at court-martial on multiple charges — including kidnapping, forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a woman — based almost entirely on the testimony of his accuser.

Below is an excerpt from my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August, in which I chronicle the life story, wrongful prosecution and wrongful conviction of Stewart. In it, I highlight the exchange between Stewart and the trial counsel that shows how the accused soldier refused to violate his Code of Conduct [Note: CDC = Criminal Defense Counsel; TC = Trial Counsel; MJ = Military Judge; WIT = Witness; SERE = Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape Training]:

Q. And you were brought to Germany to be an instructor in the survival division?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you would consider yourself a–this is somewhat subjective, but a highly trained soldier being a Special Forces soldier?
A. Can you repeat the question, sir?

Q. Being a Special Forces soldier, you would consider yourself highly trained? You have more training than the average soldier in combat-type stuff?
A. Sir, I can’t talk about other soldiers, for instance, the panel is here, their experiences versus mine, I’m not qualified to talk about–

Q. I’m not asking–
A. –I can tell you that I have training in the United States Army.

Q. You don’t consider yourself highly trained?
A. I consider myself trained by the Army, sir.

Q. Okay, you’ve gone through the “Q” Course?
A. Yes, sir, I have.

Q. You’ve gone to the Target Interdiction Course?
A. Yes, I have.

Q. And that trained you how to be a sniper?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you gone through SERE training?
A. Yes, I have, sir.

Q. And not just SERE training, but the high-risk SERE training?
A. Yes, sir, I have.

Q. And that course–those courses are all fairly intense, right?
A. Yes, sir,

Q. Much more intense than your basic training, AIT, your average BNCOC/ANCOC-type courses, is that correct?
A. Any discussions on the details of my training–

Q. Just asking if they’re intense, Sergeant.
A. Sir, I’m trying to answer the question. Any details or my opinions about any of the training that I have attended in the United States Special Forces Qualification Course, I’m not authorized to discuss with you. Now, if in closed session, the judge would like to ask me those questions, I might be able to discuss it with him, but I myself have been instructed, and I have a PAO guy, any of my training I’m not at liberty to discuss with anybody.

Q. So you can’t say that those courses are mentally challenging?
A. I think any courses in the United States Army are mentally challenging, sir.

Q. You can’t say that they’re psychologically tough?
A. I think Basic Training was psychologically tough on me, sir.

Q. Now I pulled this off of the internet, this is open-source information I’m going to ask you about.
A. Okay, sir.

CDC: Objection, Your Honor, to that testimony by the government.

TC: I’m not getting answers to my questions, Your Honor, I’ve got to preface–if he’s going to refuse to answer my questions, I’ve got to tell him where I’m getting this stuff if he’s going to invoke his Special Forces training to prevent him from answering questions or policy, I’m sorry.

MJ: Objection overruled. Ask the question.

Q. At the SERE course you’re taught how to resist violent captors, is that correct?
A. Again, sir, unless I’m authorized by the (Special Operations Command Europe) Public Affairs Officer, I can’t discuss the training that I received at the SERE-level C School.

Q. You’re taught how to resist torture?
A. Again, sir–

Q. We’re going to go through this, so, that’s fine–
A. No, again, sir, I don’t know what I’m authorized to discuss with you because I’m not the releasing authority of my training.

Q. I got this off of Wikipedia.com.

CDC: Objection, Your Honor, that is not evidence before the court, that is merely an assertion by counsel.

Click on image above to order book.

Click on image above to order book.

TC: And the accused will not answer my questions.

MJ: Objection sustained. Ask the question, if the accused answers he answers.

Q. You were taught how to resist torture?
A. I was taught to resist and to return with honor.

Q. You were taught how to resist interrogation techniques?
A. Again, I was taught to resist and to return with honor.

Q. You were taught to resist exploitation, isn’t that correct?
A. I was taught to return with honor, sir.

Q. And you were taught how to combat psychological ploys of your captors, isn’t that correct?
A. Could you rephrase the question, sir?

Q. You were taught how to combat psychological ploys of your captor?
A. Again, any teachings, techniques, plans, or policies that that school has I’m not authorized to discuss with anybody in here, because this is an open forum.

WIT: And if the questions are going to continue down that road, Your Honor, I’d ask that it be at a closed session because currently we are in an open session with an open court and I am not the approving authority or the releasing authority of the information or training that I received there.

The above is only one snippet from his military trial. To learn more, read the other articles I’ve written about the case and read some of the endorsements of the book. To fully understand why I remain so passionate about wanting to see justice for this TOP ONE PERCENT SOLDIER, you’ll have to read the whole book. Three Days In August​ is available in paperback and eBook at Amazon.com. Signed copies are available as well.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission — Extortion 17

Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later.  All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.”   Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs.  Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.

Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts.  In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial of the Extortion 17 mission.  The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:

What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.

All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions.  In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up.  Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc.  No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.).  The person or place doesn’t matter.

On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration.   We, the team, decide how it will be done.  We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF).   Every theater has one.  The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense.  Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission.   Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission.  The dry runs involve everyone on the team.

Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel.  At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why.   Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).

Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel.  There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies.  They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.

Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief.  After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place.  Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked,  accountability is checked, and away you go.

Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers.  SEALs and Delta primarily do not.  Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel.  In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.

I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets.  My point:  The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them.  Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out.  This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.

Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model.   The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers.  While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.

When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available.  For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on.  By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.

The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations.  It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun.  All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.

Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities.  The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns.  That’s it!

To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF.  Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation  brigade member for at least four years before applying.  In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas.  Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?”  The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:

1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.

2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel.  Who gave that order?

3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest.  Who changed the manifest?

4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together.  In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen.  Why did it happen in this case?

5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated?  Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned.  I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags.  I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects.  We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing.  I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel.  The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation.  I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is.  Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.

6)  What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?

7)  The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission.  Who were they and from what base/location did they come?

These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.

During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same.  The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below.   Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.

Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story above was published for the first time June 4, 2013. I share it again today, because Americans need to remember it and not be satisfied until they get answers.

SEE ALSO: Did Afghan Officials Play Role in ‘Extortion 17′ Deaths?

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Though Facing Possibility of Life Sentence on Bogus Charges, Green Beret Refused to Violate Code of Conduct During Trial

On trial for his freedom and facing the possibility of a life sentence five years ago this month, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart refused to violate his Code of Conduct as a member of the Army’s elite Special Forces unit known as the Green Berets.

Kelly A. Stewart on a mission in Iraq.

Kelly A. Stewart on a mission in Iraq.

At one point during his two-day court-martial five years ago, the trial counsel asked Stewart questions about friendships he had established in Germany since his August 2008 arrival in the Stuttgart area. Soon after, the highly-decorated combat veteran‘s time on the witness stand turned into a somewhat-heated exchange during which it appeared the trial counsel was trying to paint Stewart as a master manipulator whose Special Forces training helped him know how to control a person like his accuser.

Stewart’s accuser was a then-28-year-old German woman. On Nov. 7, 2008, she accused him of having raped and kidnapped her two and a half months earlier during a one-night stand that ended in his hotel room in Sindelfingen, Germany. Nine months after he was charged, Stewart found himself convicted at court-martial on multiple charges — including kidnapping, forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a woman — based almost entirely on the testimony of his accuser.

TDIA_KAS_Hotel_Book

Below is an excerpt from my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August, in which I chronicle the life story and wrongful prosecution/conviction of Stewart. In it, I highlight the exchange between Stewart and the trial counsel that shows how the accused soldier refused to violate his Code of Conduct [Note: CDC = Criminal Defense Counsel; TC = Trial Counsel; MJ = Military Judge; WIT = Witness; SERE = Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape Training]:

Q. And you were brought to Germany to be an instructor in the survival division?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you would consider yourself a–this is somewhat subjective, but a highly trained soldier being a Special Forces soldier?
A. Can you repeat the question, sir?

Q. Being a Special Forces soldier, you would consider yourself highly trained? You have more training than the average soldier in combat-type stuff?
A. Sir, I can’t talk about other soldiers, for instance, the panel is here, their experiences versus mine, I’m not qualified to talk about–

Q. I’m not asking–
A. –I can tell you that I have training in the United States Army.

Q. You don’t consider yourself highly trained?
A. I consider myself trained by the Army, sir.

Q. Okay, you’ve gone through the “Q” Course?
A. Yes, sir, I have.

Kelly A. Stewart is one of the Green Berets shown in this undated unit photo.

Kelly A. Stewart is one of the Green Berets shown in this undated unit photo.

Q. You’ve gone to the Target Interdiction Course?
A. Yes, I have.

Q. And that trained you how to be a sniper?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you gone through SERE training?
A. Yes, I have, sir.

Q. And not just SERE training, but the high-risk SERE training?
A. Yes, sir, I have.

Q. And that course–those courses are all fairly intense, right?
A. Yes, sir,

Q. Much more intense than your basic training, AIT, your average BNCOC/ANCOC-type courses, is that correct?
A. Any discussions on the details of my training–

Q. Just asking if they’re intense, Sergeant.
A. Sir, I’m trying to answer the question. Any details or my opinions about any of the training that I have attended in the United States Special Forces Qualification Course, I’m not authorized to discuss with you. Now, if in closed session, the judge would like to ask me those questions, I might be able to discuss it with him, but I myself have been instructed, and I have a PAO guy, any of my training I’m not at liberty to discuss with anybody.

Q. So you can’t say that those courses are mentally challenging?
A. I think any courses in the United States Army are mentally challenging, sir.

Q. You can’t say that they’re psychologically tough?
A. I think Basic Training was psychologically tough on me, sir.

Q. Now I pulled this off of the internet, this is open-source information I’m going to ask you about.
A. Okay, sir.

CDC: Objection, Your Honor, to that testimony by the government.

TC: I’m not getting answers to my questions, Your Honor, I’ve got to preface–if he’s going to refuse to answer my questions, I’ve got to tell him where I’m getting this stuff if he’s going to invoke his Special Forces training to prevent him from answering questions or policy, I’m sorry.

MJ: Objection overruled. Ask the question.

Q. At the SERE course you’re taught how to resist violent captors, is that correct?
A. Again, sir, unless I’m authorized by the (Special Operations Command Europe) Public Affairs Officer, I can’t discuss the training that I received at the SERE-level C School.

Q. You’re taught how to resist torture?
A. Again, sir–

Q. We’re going to go through this, so, that’s fine–
A. No, again, sir, I don’t know what I’m authorized to discuss with you because I’m not the releasing authority of my training.

Q. I got this off of Wikipedia.com.

CDC: Objection, Your Honor, that is not evidence before the court, that is merely an assertion by counsel.

Click image above to order book.

Click image above to order book.

TC: And the accused will not answer my questions.

MJ: Objection sustained. Ask the question, if the accused answers he answers.

Q. You were taught how to resist torture?
A. I was taught to resist and to return with honor.

Q. You were taught how to resist interrogation techniques?
A. Again, I was taught to resist and to return with honor.

Q. You were taught to resist exploitation, isn’t that correct?
A. I was taught to return with honor, sir.

Q. And you were taught how to combat psychological ploys of your captors, isn’t that correct?
A. Could you rephrase the question, sir?

Q. You were taught how to combat psychological ploys of your captor?
A. Again, any teachings, techniques, plans, or policies that that school has I’m not authorized to discuss with anybody in here, because this is an open forum.

WIT: And if the questions are going to continue down that road, Your Honor, I’d ask that it be at a closed session because currently we are in an open session with an open court and I am not the approving authority or the releasing authority of the information or training that I received there.

The above is only one snippet from his military trial. To read other posts about the book, click here. For the complete story of Sergeant Stewart’s battle for military justice, order a copy of Three Days In August.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.