“Khoda hafiz, Sahib”

CH-47 Chinook helicopter Kabul, Afghanistan 08/15/2021

“Khoda Hafiz, Sahib” was the last transmission sent to me via the IM text message this past weekend. It had travelled 8000 miles to get to me.

I just laid there in bed staring at the ceiling fan turning above me like the rotor blades of a helicopter with its blades endless turning round and round churning and kneading my memories from a decade past. The faint click, click, click metallic sound with each turn of the off-balance fan blades heard in the silence of the room causing me to sink further away into the darkness of my thoughts. Images from a faraway land and distant people filled my mind’s eye as I laid there helpless to do anything more.

“Khoda Hafiz, Sahib” is Pashto for “Goodbye, Sir” and those words were the last farewell from an Afghan man and police officer, Lt. Mohammed Hassan Rahimi, who I served alongside while operating under-cover in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. We worked together on a sensitive mission to root out Taliban operatives, bomb makers, and leadership in Afghanistan. I first met Lt. Hassan in April 2010 at FOB Airborne while he briefed me and my police partner, Tim Gilbert from Chicago PD regarding a suspected Taliban IED bomb making facility located near Alasang in Southern Wardak.

Hassan was a quiet man but as one of the junior officers in the joint US-Afghan surveillance unit he was the most productive. I likened him to a young and eager police detective of any American police department who just wanted to hunt down criminals, bring them to justice, and see peace in the community. He also had a good soul about him and that was what brought us together as friends beyond my years in that war torn country.

That and the fact that on more than one occasion he had saved my life.

It was 2011, my partner, Tim, was back in the U.S. on vacation and the Spring offensive into the Nerkh Valley of Wardak province was well underway as Lt. Colonel Chambers of the 3/89 Cavalry/10th Mountain Division was pushing hard into the Taliban strongholds. Combat Outpost Nerkh was one of the small US held bases sporadically established in the valley overshadowed by the Hindu Kush mountains. Tim and I had never ventured into Nerkh as US intelligence strongly advised against it. Even our 20-man Afghan ISU team had taken the same position.

Choke Points – points in a road that causes a vehicle to slow down and therefore more susceptible to intercept and attack – were many along the Nerkh Road and that is why most all military movement back and forth between FOB Airborne and COP Nerkh was done by CH-47 Chinook helicopters or Blackhawks. The risk and danger of sporadic Taliban check points was very high along the long and winding Nerkh road as the Taliban checked all vehicles and people travelling on it. Locals were questioned and forced to pay heavy fines while looking down the wrong end of an AK-47 held by the henchman.

But regular and Special Forces led by U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Phil Chambers requested informant-based ground intelligence regarding any information related to Taliban movements, strengths, and size as the push westward ramped up in an effort to crush the Taliban operating there.

So, Hassan, my translator, Jawid, and I packed our 1996 Toyota Corolla with supplies and drove out of the town of Mayden-Shahr to COP Nerkh located some twenty or thirty miles to the west of FOB Airborne where we stayed for a few days in that embattled outpost. We arrived safely and Hassan set to contacting his many informants located in the surrounding villages and farms. We had long established that the information provided by our network of confidential informants passed the military credibility test time and time again. I polished up the information Hassan developed and provided it to our Army counterparts which was combined with others as actionable intelligence to assist the soldiers of the 10th Mountain.

With our immediate job complete, I made the decision for all of us to return to FOB Airborne. Jawid and Hassan cautioned me against a departure that day due to increased Insurgent activity along the Nerkh Road. But we had to return and Hassan recommended we leave very early before dawn and the morning Call to Worship believing any Taliban Insurgents would be occupied with their morning prayers.

As we drove all of us could see the obvious choke point in the road ahead as the narrow road curved to the right on a steep incline. Jawid and I looked at one another with skeptical eyes and Jawid urged Hassan to drive faster. Then all of us saw the movement of 10 to 12 figures on both sides of the road. We immediately knew it was the Taliban and that they were setting up a checkpoint. Both Jawid and I yelled for Hassan to drive faster and faster, pushing the little Toyota engine to its maximum.

Tim and I had travelled throughout a large swath of northern Afghanistan while on missions with our Afghan partners all the while driving so-called undercover cars and wearing traditional pajama pants and Masood hats. Taliban check points were always our biggest concern. We developed training with our Afghan partners as to what to do in the event we unavoidably drove into one. The tactic we developed was simple: slow the car down, the driver would cause a slight verbal diversion, draw the insurgents to our vehicle and then we would attack using established fields of fire. A trojan horse concept built on the idea of survival in a potentially un-survivable situation.

But Tim wasn’t with me and all I had was Hassan and Jawid. I had my M-4 and handgun, Jawid had an AK-47 and Hassan had a pistol. I also had my Go bag which contained various other needed items including grenades. There was no need or time for talk as Jawid and I looked at each other with that “Oh Shit This Is It” look. We readied ourselves for the seemingly inevitable confrontation while hoping Hassan could make the Toyota scream past the insurgents. Lucky for us the slope off the sides of the road was too steep for the insurgents to rapidly climb onto the roadway. The Insurgents, clad in dark pajamas and armed with AK-47s, were in two groups and standing off the road as it appeared they were just setting up their check point. Our car continued to speed toward them and it appeared they knew we were trying to outrun the check point. We cleared the check point as the Insurgents tried to scramble up the embankment to the road. We all yelled and cheered for joy and prayed the old Toyota would not break down as we sped around the turn and onto the District center of Mayden Shahr and the safety of FOB Airborne.

Hassan saved all of our lives that morning. Now he was asking me to save his life and the lives of his family members as Kabul and all of Afghanistan has fallen to the very people he helped fight against. Over the past many months, I have tried to help Hassan submit his Special Immigrant Visa through the U.S. State Department and USCIS to no avail. I am fearful I can’t save the life of my friend and repay my debt.

Afghanistan has always been a very complex and enduring piece of strategic real estate in sub-continent Asia. Its people have seen the heydays of western life styles and governing in the 1960 and 70’s and this new generation of young people who have endured the past 20 years of the U.S. involvement there hoped to see their dreams of a free society be fulfilled. Without a doubt, Afghans have to take charge and responsibility for their own lives and country and the U.S. simply cannot continue to finance the operation of an entire country. However, be that as it may, that fact doesn’t take away the relationships forged with the innocent people who only yearn for freedom.

As the fan blades continue to turn above my head and I stare off in the darkness, I hear the pleadings for help resonate in my head. So too do the blades of the helicopters as they hover above the Kabul International airport this Sunday morning in an effort to save all those who want to be saved.

Khoda Hafiz, my friend.

Viper One Six

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Celebrating the Holidays this Crazy 2020 Year – Deployed Style

Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan December 2010

Being home for the holidays and spending time with your family and loved ones makes this time of year the very best. Families look forward to the holiday season to share gifts, goodwill and cheer, and to reflect on what is important.

This year is especially different and difficult given what we have had to endure with the COVID-19 virus. Many families will not be able to get together as in years past due to health concerns of elderly parents, grandparents, and those in high risk. Many families will have to find alternative means to share their love and celebrate the season.

If it’s any consolation, this year’s difficulties remind me of the many holiday seasons I spent deployed overseas. During my deployments, I didn’t remember a single military member or Foreign Service officer who wasn’t dreaming of being at home sipping egg nog, cooking a Christmas breakfast, attending worship services on Christmas Eve, and opening presents on Christmas day in their home town.

But when duty calls, someone has to serve and stand on that wall thousands of miles away from home and despite very unfavorable conditions this never seemed to sway my fellow warriors from finding a way to ring in the holidays. In some way or form, fellow warriors could be counted on to help make being deployed a little more cheerful. Even when they found themselves in a Combat Out Post on the side of mountain, patrolling the high seas, launching aircraft from a distance air field or defending our coastlines and waters.

Good old GIs always find a way.

Usually, the spirit of the holidays was jump started when some well-prepared warrior unpacked Christmas lights from his sea bag and strung them up in the tent or on a little Charlie Brown tree that magically appeared. The festivities only increased when soldiers would share their boxes of home baked cookies they had received from a sweetheart back in the states.

I remember one memorable Christmas while I was deployed in Afghanistan and stationed on FOB Airborne in Wardak Province. FOB Airborne was located about 7500 feet in elevation and sat on the sloping side of a mountain overlooking the historic Hindu Kush mountain range. 

The 401st MP Company from Fort Hood, The Gunslingers, were always good for a little decorating. Near an old run down brick building built by the Russians, otherwise known as my office, they decorated a pine tree with ornaments and built a Frosty the Snow Man. It was nice to see particularly in the 3 feet of snow we saw that year. The chow hall – DFAC – was decorated with lights and ornaments and, of course, the cooks did a great job in making sure all the troops had a great meal with all the fixings. The U.S. Army Chaplin conducted services in a small plywood building known as the FOB Chapel which was always a great place to hear the Word of the Lord.

Some of the best moments were just spending time talking with fellow men and women all of whom were thousands of miles away and missing their families too. We would sit around small campfires, smoke cigars, and tell stories of home and family. Lastly, and this may pertain to many families this year, military members would video chat with their loved ones for a few minutes per day in the USO lounge.

All of these little things made the holidays just that much better and helped us all remember what was most important in our lives and to maintain contact with our loved ones, friends and families.

Like our still deployed warriors who continue to stand on the wall, may you and yours find the time and alternative means to celebrate this holiday with one another and cherish what is most meaningful to you during this very special time of year.

Merry Christmas to all.

Viper One Six – Out.

Posted in Experiences, Foriegn Affairs, Military | 1 Comment

Reflections this Veteran’s Day

It was late when we pulled out of the bus station in Columbia, South Carolina. The air was thick, hot, and muggy that summer night in May 1981 when we boarded that Grey Hound Bus. There were maybe twenty of us in total; all just sitting quietly as we gazed out the windows counting the mile posts as they passed on by. In those final hours of our youth, I think we were all wondering about our decision that brought us to this point in our lives and, perhaps more importantly, where this new path would take us. 

According to the military we were all able bodied young spry men fully capable to enter into the service. Actually, we were just kids, 18 years at best, and still wet behind the ears as we embarked on what would become a life altering journey. A journey that would begin when we reached our destination on that remote island located near Beaufort.

There is only one road in and out of Parris Island, South Carolina and in the middle of the night it is both endlessly long and eerily lonely. For Recruits like me, the first introduction to the Marine Corps was coming face to face with a towering figure of a man who was barking out orders to exit the bus in a fashion and speed not humanly possible. 

“Fall in. Fall in maggots, fall in on the yellow footprints maggots,” was all I heard in my dazed and confused state of mind as I tried to find a set of the yellow footprints painted on the pavement outside the Marine Corps Recruit Reception Barracks. While standing there and trying to be invisible so as to evade becoming a target of a swarm of Drill Instructors, I glanced up and read the sign above the famous doors which read, “Through these portals pass the world’s finest fighting men: United States Marines.”

Since 1915, U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island has been turning young men and women into Marines through a unique method of transformation – the systematic dismantling of the individual and, in turn, the building up of a team minded lean mean fighting machine.  

During the three long months at Boot Camp, the challenges were great, disappointments even greater, and sometimes in the middle of the darkest of nights, I dreamed of somehow swimming off that island. This thought was readily swayed by the very real threat of alligators lurking in the swampy waters surrounding the island. 

It was real and it was difficult. For unknown reasons, one late night my bunkmate committed suicide which was without a doubt a tragedy and very disturbing. Our platoon even had the proverbial worrywart who urinated in his boxer shorts every morning while we all stood “online.” Evidently, the anticipation of being verbally thrashed each morning was too much for his bladder and we all heard it flow. Yes, we all fought back our own personal daemons and fears but in the end, after months of trials and tribulations, we graduated as United States Marines. I was the 1st Squad Leader of 1st Recruit Battalion, Platoon 1036 and graduating that August day in 1981 was the first greatest day in my life.

Since graduating, I served two tours on active duty as a U.S. Marine and, to this day, I continue to serve proudly as a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. 

Through the years, yes, I have met some challenging people. But overall, I have had the honor to serve with exceptional people all of whom share common experiences unique only to the military.  I have found that my fellow service men and women are bonded together through shared sacrifices and experiences. 

Who are we? We are United States military veterans and in the Leavenworth, Kansas area it’s pretty easy to know someone who is a veteran. Many families have parents who are serving or who have served. Others have children who are currently serving on active duty and yet others, as in my case, have both a parent and a child serving at the same time.

In fact my own daughter, Julie Shearman, is a U.S. Army Second Lieutenant and serving as a Combat Engineering Officer in Texas and fulfilling her dream of service to her country. She is now a veteran. I could not be more proud!

My father served in the U.S. Navy and I have two brothers who served and who both retired after serving over thirty years each. They are both veterans.

My uncle, Robert McCartney, served in the U.S. Army and survived horrific combat in Korea was a veteran. He never really spoke about his Army time or the combat he witnessed because his undeniable and famous sense of humor would not allow it.

However, I think his military time made an impression on him as he always was impeccably dressed. His shoes were always shined, creases in his shirts, and he always wore a hat – a fedora he wore no matter the time of year.

From my perspective, the way my Uncle Bob conducted his life made an indelible impression on me. You see, my father died when I was five years old one cold winter day and, for me, Uncle Bob filled that void in my life and was a father figure to me.

Sadly, I must report that as I write this very column, he passed away. Robert McCartney (1933 to 2020) was another veteran I had the honor to know and love.

My neighbors are all veterans. Larry Honsinger (Colonel, US Army retired), a long time Leavenworth resident, is a veteran who served as an ace helicopter pilot in Vietnam and who well earned his Purple Hearts for injuries sustained while flying extremely dangerous missions throughout Vietnam. Major John Reichley (U.S. Army retired) is this year’s Veteran’s Day Grand Marshall in Leavenworth, Kansas and Richard Clapsaddle retired from the U.S. Air Force, just to name a few.

My decision to join the Marines in 1981 was undoubtedly the best decision in my life and I would think the same holds true for many veterans. I, like many, have no problem remembering and cherishing our shared experiences of boot camp, long deployments and blessed reunions, promotions and celebrations, the laughter and the tears, the comradery, and unfortunately the loss of fallen warriors.  

On this Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2020, thank a veteran for his or her service and you just might find they will be thanking you for the distinct honor and privilege they had serving in the United States military.

Being that I am a Marine, I have to wish all my all my fellow Marines a Happy Marine Corps Birthday this day! Oorah!

Semper Fidelis and Semper Paratus,

Viper One Six – Out

PFC Shearman 08/1981

USCG Chief Petty Officer Shearman issuing the Oath of Office to Julie A. Shearman as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army May 2019.

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

Philadelphia – Another American City Besieged by Political Based Violence


Another American city falls prey to violence spurred by unrest over police action. Last night, Philadelphia saw thousands of people take to the streets after the Officer Involved Shooting of an armed man. Police were called to the scene in West Philadelphia in response to a Call for Service involving a reported man with a knife (In video the Suspect is dressed in black hoodie on right of screen approaching around parked car pursuing officers for unknown reason). Video taken of the encounter clearly showed officers retreating while backing away from the man who was holding a knife and threatening the officers. After backing up down a side walk, around parked cars and into the street, all the while lawfully ordering the man to stop, officers defended themselves as the man closed the gap and a shooting occurred. Unfortunately, the man died a short time later at a local hospital. It is an important rule to remember that under law, a law enforcement officer does not have a duty to retreat. They can, as was witnessed in this video, but they are never required.

I have written on this platform and others about the reactionary gap related to the very short time period an officer has to effectively and safely react with regard to a suspect’s actions. I have discussed the 21 Foot Rule that has proven to show how a person, armed with a knife, can close the physical distance and lethally attack an officer before an officer can process the threat and make the decision to use force.

I have actually witnessed an officer who was rapidly approached by a man armed with a knife and subsequently had his neck slashed before he could react to the threat. The Reactionary Gap and the 21 Foot Rule are taught at police academies throughout the country for the very reason that deadly force can be justified when a person who is armed with a knife or other weapon, who is acting in a violent and threatening manner approaches an officer with perceived intent.

Ironically, the upset “citizens” of Philadelphia did not question the use of deadly force by the officers in using their service weapons but asked – demanded – why they did not use a Taser. Excuse me, really, how unbelievable! Taser really? But that is par for the course in law enforcement today as it does not matter anymore how or why an officer took action, the manner in which he or she took action, or most importantly, the legality of those actions because it will never satisfy those seeking their stated agenda.

But tragically the facts no longer seem to matter in this country. On a daily basis officers are ferociously attacked by violent and crazed people. They are then met with the likes of police command staff who turn their backs on them as well as the politically motivated prosecutors and municipal managers who seek to politicize the incident to appease the radical anarchist groups rather than upholding the rule of law.

I could fill every square inch of this paper with facts related law enforcement, their activities, their lives and deaths, the good things officers do as well as the bad things. I could rationally and systematically analyze police encounters and explain what the cops did was good, what was within policy and the law and what they did wrong and out of policy and the law. I could cite issues related to the need for additional training and equipment, the need for more funding – in the hyped up area of the ridiculous “Defund the Police” movement – and reforms but it all would fall on deaf ears.

Why, because none of those issues are really the issues at hand. It is all about how to use radical divisive politics as a weapon of anarchy, to upend this country, and fundamentally change it. The mantra used repeatedly by politicians, financiers, enablers, media, and their anarchist foot soldiers over the past months and several years has been to use any force necessary to achieve that stated goal of the dismantling of America.

Some may not believe this and, at times, I have tried very hard to not believe it either. I honestly don’t want to believe that fellow citizens of my own country truly want to destroy the very country in which we all live. This concept is beyond reason but it is hard to dispute the facts of what we have been witnessing on a daily basis over the past year.

A week or so will tell us what kind of country we will live in, how our daily lives will be affected, and what freedoms will remain. Because you see, it is our lives, our very personal and individual lives, that ultimately will be affected and controlled by the people we elect into political offices from the local to the national. Like it or not, that is the case.

Our elected office holders (I refrain from using the term “leader”) have control over every aspect of our lives – every aspect. That is why it is so crucial to know and understand who your elected office holders are, their policies, what they stand for, and most importantly what they are going to do for you and unto you as a representative in government. I trust that we will remain a country operating under the ideals and tenants enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights ensuring the personal freedoms and liberties of all Americans.

In closing, I find it ironic that one of the last American cities to see turmoil, destruction, and mayhem as a result of anarchist leftist civil unrest days before the contentious 2020 National elections is the city where upon the First and Second Continental Congresses met in order to write and sign the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

Viper One Six – Out


Posted in Law, Politics, Public Safety - Police | 1 Comment

Do Not Live in Fear. Do not be Silent. Raise the Flag of Freedom

I enjoy writing as it has been a means for me to express my views and opinions. I have been graciously afforded the opportunity to write an opinion column for a newspaper for several years now and I have expanded that to this blog site, as well as my published book, Outside The Wire In Blue. On those platforms, I have mostly focused my writings on military, veteran, and law enforcement issues. I have even expressed my opinion on political issues from time to time. There is no doubt there are many topics to tackle that are effecting our lives on an everyday basis. The attack on law enforcement, law and order, and freedom are certainly some of my top three issues.

I say that I enjoy writing, but I did not say that it is easy because it is not. Attempting to effectively communicate a message within a limited amount of space is challenging, ask my newspaper editor about that. But to my point. I have not submitted a column for the paper or even posted anything on this blog in several weeks because I do not seek to be antagonistic or divisive by any means. I take my small platform at the paper, this blog, and on my book platform seriously and it is my intent to express views upon which I support and believe in and, at the same time, be productive. It is not my intent to add to the amount of negativity that we all are exposed to daily.

However, we are living in uncertain times. A period where forces are attempting to place this country on a different path. A path, I dare say, is dark, very dark and evil. This potential reality makes me think where would we be as a country or as a people if it had not been for the writings and voices of those in our past who refused to be quelled? Even today, what impact upon our lives in America would be realized had it not been for those men and women who chose to stand and be accounted for? What challenges and obstacles would we have not surmounted had it not been for people of vision, hard work, and dedication to improving our country and our combined lot in life?

Should it be that writers do not write? That speakers do not speak, and citizens do not stand up and demand to be heard from their government for fear of retaliation? Unfortunately, there are those among us who want just that.

To be silent in the worst of times is to surrender. To be silent is to give into the forces which may be the loudest but not the ones with our best interests in mind. Today, far too many Americans are silent. They are concerned about their safety and security, their financial future, their health, and their job security. The threat of being socially cancelled and labeled and excluded from society at large, their very own community, and even their own family is real and thus, so are their concerns as despicable as that reality may be.

However, I do believe we, as fellow citizens, have much more in common that we may know and perhaps may have forgotten. I believe that the majority of our fellow citizens in this community, our state and our country hold the same core belief in the values and attributes of our homeland such as our governmental structure, it’s institutions, our capitalistic based economic system, reverence for the Rule of Law and a demand for a blind system of  justice.

I am extremely thankful to live in a country that constitutionally guarantees my rights and freedoms and affords all of us the possibility to be able to pursue our individual dreams and life desires. I, perhaps like many of you, were never guaranteed anything from this country. I was never told I would be given anything in this life except one thing – opportunity. Opportunity to pursue my dreams, provide for myself and family, to live in freedom, and to create a life, whatever that may be, all of which was to be achieved through the application of hard work, personal fortitude, sacrifice, and dedication.

So today, I write. Because if I choose not to, then I surrender. If I do not write and stand up and be counted, then I must lay down the flag of freedom and be forced to raise a white flag in its stead. You may not believe this, but you should, because there are forces among us that are dark and which do not hold the same values upon which our country was formed. These forces have been slowly growing for many years, gaining strength, and now appear to be like a thief in the night capable of stealing those common values and way of life right from underneath us.

Certainly, we have things to improve upon in this nation and we will, democratically, just as we have done so in the past. This is the uniqueness of this country. This is not a partisan issue and I do not write this in any such way. This is an issue of whether we, collectively, as sane, freedom loving, law abiding, American citizens want to continue building our country upon the ideals it was founded or to go down a dark and uncertain new path.

The choice is truly ours and ours alone. A choice upon which we all must be held responsible and accountable for. In these uncertain times, I encourage all of you to resist fear and silence and let your voice be heard. Do not raise the white flag of surrender yet raise the flag of freedom and let it fly high and proud.

Viper One Six – Out.

Posted in Politics | 7 Comments