Monday, June 6, 2016

Surrender

I have a friend named George. George is a Green Beret. He has been in retirement for some time, but I truly love this old soldier. We talk from time to time. As Special Forces he attended Ranger school and wears the Ranger tab on his uniform. The Ranger’s have a Creed. Going to Ranger School, they memorize the Ranger Creed and learned that “surrender is not a Ranger word.” I like that sentiment. As a student of military history, the Green Beret knows what happens after surrender. In Afghanistan, this was something talked about a lot. Short of being blown unconscious by an IED, there was no way any of those guys were going to be a prisoner. Surrender was not an option; nobody was going to be on a Youtube video of their beheading. Fighting to the end was a better option than the possibility of a few more days of life.
I’ve learned that surrender is a Green Beret word. It is not an action verb, it is a command. While we never want to come under enemy control, allowing our enemies a humane way out gives us the moral high ground and saves lives. Our lives.
In ancient China, warriors were encouraged to build a golden bridge for the enemy to retreat across. The idea was to provide a route of withdrawal to avoid a desperate fight to the death with high casualties on both sides. If a Green Beret leaves the enemy a way out, it is probably a baited ambush with interlocking fields of fire. But not always.
On 20 December, 1989, at 1:00 a.m. local time, 27,684 U.S. troops rescued Panama. The AC-130s, Rangers, SEALS, the 82nd Airborne, and a lot of other soldiers secured the canal and neutralized 20 percent of Panamanian forces that night. Major Gil Perez, a Green Beret, took care of the rest of them.
Perez was the commander of A-1-7 SFG(A), a Cuban-American, and a fluent native Spanish speaker. He was the mastermind behind what came to be known as Operation Ma Bell. The initial U.S. assault left about 80 percent of the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) untouched, safe in their bases. PDF commanders had all been hand-picked and promoted based solely on their loyalty to el Comandante Manual Noriega.
There had been attempted coups and many murders of less-than-loyal commanders. At this time, Noriega was not in custody and the Panamanian commanders were playing for high stakes. Major Perez was very persuasive.
It went down in a series of operations all across Panama, something like this: Perez called each PDF quartel (base) and spoke to the commander. After politely introducing himself, Perez told the commander that an AC-130 Gunship was overhead, and invited him to step outside to confirm it. The commander was also told that there was an infantry unit waiting in helicopters, ready to assault.
Of course, none of this was really necessary, because two reasonable guys can work this out over the phone. Words to the effect of, “That is a nice infantry battalion you have there, it would be a shame if anything happened to it.”
The PDF commander was then given conditions for surrender. Gather all personnel in the courtyard of the quartel, secure all weapons in the arms room, and come to a designated spot to be picked up for a helicopter ride. If the commander agreed, Green Berets moved into the quartel as the new advisers.
There was a procedure established if the PDF commander did not want to surrender: The AC-130 would be directed to fire one round outside the perimeter of the quartel. Another phone call would be made. If the commander still did not want to surrender, he would be told that the next round would land inside the quartel, and the exact location of impact would be given. The AC-130 would then fire the round and another phone call would be made. If the commander still elected to hold out, he would be told that the infantry was going to assault. I don’t think the AC-130 ever had to fire a round.
Accepting surrender has a lot of benefits. There are no piles of stinking bodies to bury, the captured equipment is in better shape, you know where all the trained soldiers are, and you can continue to pay them so they become policemen, not insurgents. In Panama they did a lot of things right. Big Army forgot those lessons in Iraq, but the future is filled with Green Beret ideas.
Green Berets believe in working smarter, not harder. When you can, give people a chance to do the right thing, but keep an AC-130 overhead as a incentive for cooperation. Sometimes, the threat of a good kick in the head is more effective than the kick itself.
Ranger Creed
R ecognizing that I volunteered as a ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my ranger regiment.
A cknowledging the fact that a ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.
N ever shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
G allantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
E nergetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
R eadily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.
It was in June of 1974 that this creed was written. It was meant to be a higher standard for the Army. A moral compass. Also on June 1st we celebrated the first military oath being taken. There is controversy surrounding the oath because it includes the words “so help me God.” Some people think the founding fathers meant for God to be separated from government. I don’t think you have to go very far to see that this is pure secular bullcrap. Congress still starts their sessions with prayer. There are those out there that think that religion is not part of our government. They think there is a separation of church and state. I don’t believe this is true. Ask anyone who has been in combat whether they believe in some kind of higher being. There are no atheists in the foxholes. This creed does not mention God but it does mention many of the eternal and God-like traits we should all have. I like the part where it says “mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight”. Sounds a lot like the Boy Scout Oath “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
Sometimes surrender for the enemy is the best course of action. Personal surrender is not the same. Do not confuse the two with giving up in a fight.
Semper Paratus
Check 6
Burn
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