On November 28th, 2014, an active shooter shot up downtown Austin.


Unfortunately, that type of incident isn’t uncommon. The active shooter was a forty-nine year old man who was apparently angry at the government. That’s not uncommon either. Fortunately, before he managed to murder anyone he was killed by Austin police Sergeant Adam Johnson. That’s great, but it’s not exactly the most noteworthy aspect of this incident.

What really caught my attention was how the suspect was killed. Sergeant Johnson shot him from 104 yards away, with one shot from a pistol, firing one handed, while holding the reins of two horses.

A few comments I’ve read online suggested the 104-yard pistol shot was an Austin PD conspiracy, because such a shot is impossible. I’ve also heard people say Johnson must be lying or exaggerating. You just can’t shoot someone with one shot, one handed with a pistol from over a hundred yards away.

My own experience and training leads me to a different conclusion. That shot would be amazingly difficult, but not impossible.

My first experience with a long-distance shot

Most police officers never train to shoot past twenty five yards. I’ve worked for three departments, plus served as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo, and I can’t recall ever shooting a pistol at long range during police training. But I’ve taken a few pistol courses from private training companies. One of them was at Tiger Valley, near Waco, Texas.

The owner/instructor, TJ Pilling, lined us up on the pistol range one day and said we were going to have a competition. He told us to fire one shot at our targets, which were half-size steel silhouettes. We were at twenty-five yards, and we all hit. He backed us up to thirty-five yards and told us to fire again. We all hit. Forty-five yards. A few missed. Fifty-five yards. Only I and one other officer hit. Sixty-five. I was firing a .40 Glock 22, and aimed just over the top of the target’s head. I missed. The other officer hit.

TJ asked me if I aimed high. I told him I did. He said, “Aim center mass.” I did, and shocked the hell out of myself by hitting the target.

TJ walked us to a bay with a full-size silhouette target at 110 yards, and said, “If you have a 9mm, aim center mass. If it’s a .40, aim at the neck.”

The guys with 9mms started pinging the crap out of the target. I fired several shots standing and couldn’t get a hit, so I went prone and tried again. Eventually, after a spotter helped me walk the rounds in like a mortar, I made repeated hits.

I was, to put it mildly, surprised. I’d been a cop for twelve years at that point, and all my training had focused on shooting twenty-five yards and closer. I’d been in the military seventeen years but received almost no pistol training from either the Marines or Army. Conventional wisdom taught me pistols were last-ditch, close-in weapons, and shooting at someone even twenty-five yards away was stretching it. I had struggled to make accurate hits at twenty-five, had missed a target at that range more than once, and had seen cops and soldiers miss numerous shots even closer than that.

So how the hell was I hitting a target at 110 yards?

Tiger Valley’s training course taught me that my duty pistol was capable of far better accuracy than I thought. But I figured if I ever got into a real shooting on duty factors like movement, incoming rounds and reduced lighting would reduce my accuracy by about half. If I had a smaller off-duty pistol, the results would be even worse.

Then I went to a Graham Combat class

Last June I attended a Graham Combat class in Virginia. The instructor, Matt Graham, asked if we had ever fired a pistol at 100 yards. I told him about my experience having to lay prone and walk rounds in. He smiled and said, “We’ll fix that.”

At that class I was firing a 9mm Beretta Nano, more or less a pocket pistol. It’s a tiny gun, with a tiny barrel, and there was no way I’d make long-distance hits with it. Everyone else in the class was firing full-size Glocks and Colt .45s, and I figured they’d way outshoot me at any distance.

My Nano and me at the Graham Combat class. The pistol was accurate and ergonomic, but malfunctioned so often I stopped carrying it.

My Nano and me at the Graham Combat class. The pistol was accurate and ergonomic, but malfunctioned so often I stopped carrying it.

After we fired several hundred rounds during numerous drills, Matt lined us up at twenty-five yards and started the distance drill. As we backed up I found myself surprised again; I was hitting steel well past what I thought my pistol’s max effective range was. I didn’t start missing until we got to around seventy-five yards, but even then I was able to make adjustments and get back on target (the further we got, the further low and left I had to aim). We kept backing up, and I kept managing to put rounds on target. Some students quit, but a few of us kept shooting.

Eventually we were at 130 yards, the max we could do on that range. An officer with a Colt .45 went first, and made a hit with her first shot. Nobody else wanted to do it. I stepped up.

The Nano has a double-action-only trigger; every time you shoot, it’s like firing a revolver with the hammer forward. A trigger pull that long and heavy causes muscle strain that makes the shooter’s hands tremble, which decreases accuracy. That, along with the fact that at seventy-five yards I was aiming way off the target, convinced me I’d have to fire at least several shots before I managed to make a hit (if I was able to hit at all). I picked an imaginary spot in the dirt about three feet low and five feet left, focused on the front sight, and started to squeeze.

My hands were shaking badly. The trigger squeeze took forever. My front sight seemed to bounce all around my imaginary aiming point. The weapon fired. What felt like a long silence followed.

Then we heard a loud “ping!” as my round hit the target.

Surprised exclamations erupted from the other students. I probably yelled something like “holy S**t!” Then I looked around. We had two professional photographers with us. Neither had recorded the shot. Damn my luck. There was no way in hell I was going to try the shot again. Now I’d have to listen to my buddies accuse me of being full of crap, because I had no proof I had done it.

But I had again learned a valuable lesson about my weapon’s capabilities. Contrary to conventional wisdom and my own prior beliefs, even a small concealed carry pistol is good at distances past 100 meters. A good pistol plus good training equals a shooter capable of making hits at much longer distances than most people think possible. Graham told us he’s had students make pistol hits at 230 yards during his classes.

But training classes are far from the only proof that decent shooters can make long-distance shots with pistols.

An Airman’s long, lucky shot

On June 20th, 1994, an Airman provided proof of a pistol’s effectiveness. That day, another Airman about to be discharged from the Air Force against his will walked into a building on Fairchild Air Force Base, in the state of Washington, with an AK-type rifle. He killed a psychiatrist and psychologist who had recommended him for discharge, went on to kill two random victims, and also shot twenty-two others.

As the shooter walked outside, twenty-five year old Airman Andrew Brown, a military police officer, approached him on a bicycle. Brown jumped off his bike, drew his Beretta M9 and ordered the shooter to drop his weapon (for future reference, if someone is wandering around with an AK murdering people, there’s no reason to order him to drop his weapon before you engage). Brown was approximately seventy yards away when he shouted the order.

The shooter opened fire on Brown. Brown crouched low and fired four rounds. Two missed, one hit the shooter in the shoulder, and one hit him right between the eyes. The shooter fell dead. Airman Brown had made an amazing shot, killed an active shooter and undoubtedly saved numerous lives.


Trick shooters and freaks of nature

Then there are guys like “Instructor Zero”, a former Italian Army soldier known for unreal weapons skills. Zero has a YouTube video where he makes several 300 meter hits with a pistol.

Crazier than that is this video, where champion shooter Jerry Miculek hits a balloon at 1000 yards with a revolver.

There seems to be no question that highly skilled and experienced pistol shooters can outshoot most rifle shooters.

“The police must be lying about that pistol shot.”

Probably not. Sure, any one cop can lie about what he did on a scene. But on a shooting scene, you have multiple entities crosschecking evidence. Patrol officers and supervisors make the initial assessment, secure the scene and any evidence they can see. Then homicide investigators arrive, usually with a Crime Scene Unit. Then investigators from the Medical Examiner’s office conduct their own investigation. In this case the FBI investigated as well.

Even if the patrol supervisors, Homicide investigators and CSU simply accepted Sergeant Johnson’s version of events (they wouldn’t), the Medical Examiner’s people and FBI wouldn’t. Distances are measured by each investigative division, the angle of the round’s impact is analyzed to determine what direction it came from, and the location of spent shells is recorded (shells are usually what’s under the little plastic markers you see in crime scene photos and videos). Everything about the shooting is documented and recorded. Each agency reaches its own conclusions about how the shooting unfolded. My educated guess here is that Austin PD chief Art Acevedo didn’t make his announcement about the 104-yard shot until after the Medical Examiner and FBI corroborated Austin PD’s conclusion.

But let’s assume Johnson shot the suspect from much closer, then lied about where he shot from. He would have had to shoot, then pick up the spent shell, then drop it at a different location further away. And he’d have to do it while a flurry of activity was going on around him, since a mass shooting in downtown Austin is kind of a big deal and brings out lots of witnesses. And Johnson would know tons of potential witnesses were around who could say, “Wait a minute, I was looking out the window during the shooting and saw the cop in a totally different spot than he claimed.” This was a high-profile shooting, investigated by multiple agencies. The chances of pulling off a whopper of a lie like “I shot the suspect from 104 yards away”, when the real distance was only 10.4 yards, would be next to impossible.

I don’t see how Johnson could lie about this one and get away with it.

But could Sergeant Johnson really make a 104 yard shot one handed?

That’s a fair question. Yes I made hits at over 100 yards, Instructor Zero did it at 300 meters, Jerry Miculek did it at 1000 yards, and Airman Andrew Brown made two shots at seventy yards when it really counted. But all of those were with a good two-handed grip against mostly stationary targets. How could Johnson make that shot one handed, probably against a moving target, while holding the reins of two horses that were also probably moving?

The answer is, he was extremely lucky. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have pistol skills; without significant training and experience, he would have hit nowhere near the suspect. But with so many factors involved, luck played a huge role. Maybe the suspect moved six inches in the half-second it took the bullet to leave the pistol and hit him, and that six inches caused the round to hit his heart instead of a non-vital area. Maybe the suspect stopped in front of a brick wall with nobody else around, and Sergeant Johnson was under less stress because had no concerns about hitting innocent people. Maybe the suspect had no idea Johnson was there (he was reportedly under pressure from other officers advancing on him), and that gave Johnson plenty of time to aim in and slowly squeeze the trigger rather than rush the shot. Whatever the factors were, they must have all come together perfectly to help Johnson hit him from that distance.

As far as I can tell, Sergeant Adam Johnson made an amazing and lucky shot, when the city of Austin really needed him to. I hope I get to shake his hand someday.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


This was published last week on Breach Bang Clear.


Over a month ago, Fury was released. I watched it just after opening weekend and again last week with a French soldier I met in Afghanistan. There’s a reason I waited before writing this followup; a real review had to capture the depth of meaning I had just witnessed. Simply writing about the cinematography or acting wouldn’t do the film justice.

Fury wasn’t just a movie. It was a lesson, a window into the American soul, and a direct path to some of my most intense wartime memories. The movie didn’t just take me back to Iraq and Afghanistan; oddly enough, it also took me to a movie theater in Prishtina, Kosovo, in late 2000.

That fall, Albanian friends took me to see a Kosovo-made movie titled Autumn of Roses. This was just a year after the NATO-led fight against Serbians to protect Albanians, and the air was still thick with the pain of war and ethnic cleansing. Autumn of Roses was the Albanian view of themselves and their enemies. While the Albanians were all perfect victims or perfect heroes, Serbs were the very archetype of evil. As a foreigner, I easily recognized the moviemaker’s appeal to cherished Albanian cultural myths. The mostly-Albanian audience, however, didn’t see what I saw. Some left the audience in tears, and I strongly suspect the movie reinforced their beliefs about both their own rightness and their enemy’s wrongness.

When I saw Fury the second time, I asked my French soldier buddy what he thought. He enthusiastically blurted, “It was very good!” Then he added, “But, it was, how you say, eh…”

I asked, “American?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “It was very American.”


Fury accomplished the same goals for American moviegoers as Autumn of Roses did for Albanians. Like the audience in Prishtina, I doubt most of us recognize the blatant appeal to American mythology.

Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/fury-was-it-everything-we-hoped-it-would-be/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


We’ll hear the Grand Jury’s decision on the Ferguson, Missouri shooting any day now. Police departments in the area have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for possible riots after the decision is announced, and the Missouri National Guard has been mobilized. We (allegedly) don’t know what the Grand Jury is going to say, but the future seems pretty clear to me.

Officer Darren Wilson isn’t going to be indicted.

The leaked Grand Jury testimony we’ve heard thus far seems calculated to soften the blow: numerous black witnesses corroborated Officer Wilson’s account. Evidence proves Michael Brown was shot in the hand during a struggle inside the police car after he assaulted Wilson. Brown wasn’t shot in the back as originally claimed. Brown didn’t have his hands up. Basically, the public is being prepared to hear “no charges against Officer Wilson”.

If I’m right we’re going to see riots, probably in several cities. Police officers will become targets, whether or not they’ve ever done anything “wrong”. The riots, damage and retaliation murders could equal or even rival 1992’s LA Riots, which killed 53 people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Los_Angeles_riots).

We’ll also see random assaults on whites, probably nationwide. Some whites, like Ellis Haines who was killed by a mob of black youths during the LA Riots, will be murdered just for being white (http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~oliver/soc220/Lectures220/AfricanAmericans/LA%20Riot%201992%20Deaths.htm). Others will be attacked and survive, just like Reginald Denny in South Central LA. He was beaten, hit in the head with a brick and shot at from close range. Other minorities will be attacked for not being black, like Fidel Lopez. He was beaten with a car stereo, robbed, spray-painted black, and one rioter tried to slice his ear off.

Fortunately, many black voices are urging calm and peaceful protests. Unfortunately, others aren’t.

On November 13th, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published this “Q&A for people tired of Ferguson protests” (http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/q-a-for-people-tired-of-ferguson-protests/article_1cb26dec-d2b6-5ddd-aba9-b6110c0a71f5.html?mobile_touch=true). This article had answers from the “Don’t Shoot Coalition”, a group of “over 50 social justice organizations”. The group didn’t make any overt appeals for violence. But they did make some comments that certainly seem to justify taking action against the innocent.

In response to the question “What good does it do to disrupt businesses and people’s lives, when these people are not part of the problem?”, the DSC said this:

“Your question does not reflect the whole picture. This involves all of us. It’s wrong to simply draw arbitrary boundaries around issues like fair policing, and decide that most folks are not involved. Many people — especially white folks — feel they can ignore the problem. People who benefit from or are not impacted by this unfair system have a duty to speak up and not be complicit. Ferguson has shifted the boundary line. It is not enough to say, ‘I’m not racist’ just because you have suppressed your conscious biases. The protests are designed to make people feel uncomfortable and spur us all to end society’s structural biases.”

That sounds semi-reasonable. All the DSC wants to do is “spur us all to end society’s structural biases”, right?

Not exactly. I have serious concerns about a few points they make.

1) “Many people — especially white folks — feel they can ignore the problem. People who benefit from or are not impacted by this unfair system have a duty to speak up and not be complicit.”

So if I’m intentionally neutral on the Michael Brown case, I’m part of the problem? Let’s say Joe Citizen from Alabama adopts this position: Joe doesn’t trust cops and thinks Wilson probably shouldn’t have shot Brown. But Joe also thinks Brown was acting like a thug and doesn’t deserve sympathy or elevation to hero status. So Joe is waiting for the Grand Jury to announce its decision and present evidence before he decides whether or not the shooting was justified.

In my eyes, this makes Joe a reasonable guy. I’d disagree with Joe on a couple of his opinions, but I understand his point. Since Joe was obviously not involved in the incident, I’d say he bears no blame either way, and obviously has no responsibility to change society or demand justice for Brown (especially since we don’t even know if the killing of Brown was a crime).

The DSC doesn’t see it that way. According to them, Joe MUST speak up against what the DSC sees as an unfair system. If Joe doesn’t, then in the DSC’s eyes Joe is part of the problem. Especially if he’s white.

2) “It is not enough to say, ‘I’m not racist’ just because you have suppressed your conscious biases.”

This is fantastic. First, who is the DSC to decide what is “enough”? They don’t give orders to anyone, nobody is required to take whatever action the DSC deems necessary. This is America. People can respond to this situation as they see fit. If someone wants to peacefully protest or publicly speak, great. If someone wants to stay out of it, fine. If someone wants to say “I’m not racist”, no problem. That’s enough if they decide it’s enough.

And the “suppressed your conscious biases” comment makes a very strong statement. The DSC apparently assumes we’re horribly biased, and at best we’ve only gotten the conscious biases under control. This is a pretty good stretch, unless they’ve psychoanalyzed everyone in America.

3) “The protests are designed to make people feel uncomfortable and spur us all to end society’s structural biases.”

Well, they’ll accomplish one goal. They will make people feel uncomfortable, especially since at least some of them are planning on targeting white people (http://www.ijreview.com/2014/11/203806-ferguson-protesters-discuss-exactly-targeting-grand-jury-announcement/). As far as ending all of society’s structural biases, as soon as they get done with that they can work on getting the sun to rise in the west. Sorry, but humans are a biased bunch, and nobody’s changing that. The DSC is biased as hell, and they prove it with this next statement.

4) “Sure, judgments made through newspaper accounts and word of mouth are often flawed but, filtered through the black community’s lived experiences, they are still more trustworthy than the current legal process.”

So let’s get this straight: the DSC knows media accounts and shared stories are often wrong. But that doesn’t matter. Incorrect media reports and nonsensical “crooked cops shot this poor innocent gentle giant for no reason” rumors carry more weight than the results of an investigation. People who claim they’re against bias, then turn around and say “I don’t care about evidence, all I care about is how I feel” are the most biased of all.

So if Wilson isn’t indicted, we’re going to see riots and attacks. If Wilson is indicted, we’ll still see riots and attacks if he’s charged with anything less than murder. Brown’s supporters have decided Wilson is guilty, they don’t care that the media reports were wrong, they don’t care that witnesses supporting Brown were lying. They just know Wilson is guilty and that’s the end of it.

And they’ll be protesting all over the country, and even in Canada (what the hell does Canada have to do with this?). As usual, professional protestors will do all they can to provoke police, and every nutjob with some stupid agenda will join in. We’ll see communists, who want the state and police to have more power, protesting alongside people who demand that the state and police have less power. We’ll see “Occupy” protestors screaming about big corporations figuratively robbing the little guy, while simultaneously supporting a 6’4”, 300 pound bully who literally robbed a little guy.

Some demonstrations will be peaceful and well-organized, some will go insane. Check this link, it shows where and when many of the protests will be.


To my law enforcement brothers in and around Ferguson, and all over the country, stay safe. Things are going to get bad for us. To innocent people of any color in and around Ferguson, two things: don’t take unnecessary risks, and don’t let anyone victimize you. Don’t let protestors force you to take a side, don’t let them dictate what you “have to” think. If you have means to resist, don’t let anyone physically attack you, your family, home, business or property.

Some of the protestors will have legitimate grievances and will present them in a reasonable way. Some will use the protests as an excuse to be the thugs and looters they already were. Some will show their passion against racism and injustice by attacking innocent people of other races.

If Brown’s death showed how racist America supposedly is, wait til you see what protestors do when Wilson is cleared of wrongdoing.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

This was published yesterday on Task and Purpose.


Earlier this month, C.J. Chivers at the New York Times dropped a bombshell report (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html?_r=0). After we invaded Iraq in 2003, the Pentagon covered up casualties from chemical weapons left behind by Saddam Hussein. The story was immediately seized by many conservatives as proof President George W. Bush was right to launch the Iraq War in order to track down those weapons — weapons which, until now, were thought to have never been found.

Yes, weapons of mass destruction had been in Iraq at one time. I may have encountered one myself. But this “I-told-you so” claim is deeply flawed. And the details that Chivers unearthed do not change the narrative on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

At around 2 a.m. one silent Iraqi morning in the Fall of 2005, I stood by my Humvee waiting to start a mission. My convoy escort team was about to drag 20 empty civilian 18-wheeler trucks from Camp Anaconda all the way south to Tallil, our home base, near the ancient city of Ur. To get there, we’d take an eight-kilometer dirt road to Route Tampa, follow Tampa to Baghdad’s outskirts, weave around the perimeter of the city, hit open highway and head “home.”

Convoys were usually deathly boring. Until something blew up. Or tracers flew by. We’d keep our heads on swivels, scan the highway like mad and tense up at anything unusual. We did our best to spot an IED before it could hit us, but knew we’d probably never see the one that did. The road between Anaconda and Baghdad was a long stretch of blackened craters, evidence of countless attacks on convoys just like ours. Even then, less than three years into the war, hundreds of Americans had been killed by whatever made those craters. Nothing said we wouldn’t be next.

Sometimes we’d see others get hit. If an IED detonated on a convoy or patrol ahead of us, I always had a guilty sense of relief. That was one less that could get us.

That fall night, shortly after we weaved out of Anaconda’s gate, we saw an intense, brief flash in the distance. In the commander’s seat of the Humvee, I couldn’t hear the sound. But I knew what it was. An IED had just detonated several kilometers away on Route Tampa. Over the radio, we heard a patrol report the attack. We kept rolling.


Read the rest at http://taskandpurpose.com/new-york-times-big-story-chemical-weapons-doesnt-change-narrative-iraq/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=TP-facebook&utm_campaign=new-york-times-big-story-chemical-weapons-doesnt-change-narrative-iraq

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

This was published yesterday on Breach Bang Clear. Not surprisingly, many readers launched into vitriolic diatribes against the idea, without bothering to read the article. On the other hand, quite a few infantrymen agreed with me. I’ll take that as a win. :)


Over the last several years we’ve had much debate on the topic of women in the infantry. Support for the idea comes from many military women, some of whom, like the Lionesses of the Marine Corps and the Special Forces “enablers”, were embedded with infantry units. Some women in non-combat units who were occasionally on combat missions have also spoken out in favor of allowing women into the infantry.

Unfortunately, support also comes from ignorant morons who never served, would never serve, don’t know anyone who serves, and view military gender integration as a social justice cause. They make stupid statements like “The military has finally recognized that there are no lines or drawn battlefields anymore where they could put the ‘girls’ in the rear. If you carry a weapon, you are in the thick of it.”

Yes, some moron on the Huffington Post actually said that.

A few female combat veterans have spoken out against the idea, including Marine Captain Katie Petronio. She described the physical damage she suffered while working with infantry units, and strongly criticized the federal government’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, which was pushing women into combat arms. “…None of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change.”

We’ve also heard from long-time infantrymen, many of whom oppose giving women even the opportunity to test for combat arms. They and others see the whole idea as “nothing but trouble”. Many veterans, particularly (though by no means exclusively) Cold War-era vets, seem to be dead set against any type of military gender integration, on any level.

I’ve spoken on the subject as well. My take was, allow women into the infantry, but only if they pass a screening test beforehand. And no matter what, don’t lower the standards. But my opinion only means so much. Although I’m a combat veteran, I was never infantry.

So everyone seems to be talking about women in infantry. Everyone except women who were infantry, and who actually were in combat.

Yes, they do exist.


I was recently introduced online to a woman who served seven years as a Danish Army infantry soldier and deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan she was a rifleman (her word), Carl Gustav recoilless rifle gunner and team leader. That role is roughly equivalent to a fire team leader, but with three soldiers instead of four; her role as fire team leader also made her assistant squad leader. She was in multiple firefights, had casualties in her platoon, and carried her load alongside everyone else. She’s also an American citizen, born here but raised in Denmark. She has plenty of actual infantry combat experience, and understands American culture. Her opinions on this subject deserve to be heard.

At this point, I’m sure some readers are walking away in disgust at the very idea that a woman could be infantry. See you guys later, hope you open your mind someday. On the other side of the debate, “social justice warriors” who know nothing at all about the military won’t read past the last paragraph before proclaiming, “See? Women are the same as men! Open the infantry to all women, you cismale gendernormative fascists!” Well, screw you simpleminded “I put lofty ideals over reality” idiots.

And some readers are skeptical about women in the infantry, but willing to listen to opposing views. Those are the people I’m trying to reach.

I’d like to introduce you open-minded readers to our Danish female infantry combat vet. She’s chosen to remain anonymous, so I’ll call her “Mary”. Mary has moved on from combat arms, and isn’t trying to become the spokesperson for women in the infantry. She’s just a proud infantry combat vet who agreed to talk about her experience.


I’ve spent hours speaking to Mary online and on Skype. Like most infantry soldiers, she’s crude, crass and fun to talk with. Her language probably draws horrified stares when she’s around polite company (she really likes making penis jokes). She’s intelligent and has a quick wit. And no, she’s not a “big-boned” butch lesbian with a crew cut and mustache. She’s straight, married to a man she met in the army, and is pretty much the beautiful blond goddess Americans imagine all Scandinavian women to be.

Mary’s first deployment was to Kosovo, as a peacekeeper in the Mitrovica region. Kosovo experiences periodic unrest, but Mary didn’t see any combat there. Afghanistan, of course, was different.

Mary’s company went to Helmand Province in 2009 for a six-month deployment. She was in a sister company to the Danish troops in the documentary Armadillo, which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Helmand Province back then, as now, was no joke. When she returned to Helmand in 2011, it wasn’t any safer.

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary wasn’t a hero, and doesn’t claim to have done anything more than her job. But that job was to be a real infantry soldier. Even though she’s a woman (a female woman!), she somehow pulled it off.

I’m going to identify the most common questions and objections raised when we discuss females in combat arms, then let Mary give her opinion on each one. Where applicable, my own observations and opinions will be included and will be clearly identified as such.

“Women aren’t physically capable of serving in the infantry.”

Denmark has a conscript army. Draftees have to serve at least four months, just long enough for basic training. Females aren’t subject to conscription but are welcome to volunteer. Mary joined the army at twenty-two and was in an infantry basic training platoon with thirty males and ten females. She made it through with no issues, along with five other females. Two females dropped due to medical problems and two quit (volunteers are allowed to quit, draftees aren’t).

“After those four months, if you pass with a high enough score, you can opt for ‘real’ military training,” Mary said. “After the conscript period, out of 400 conscripts, about 100 of us stayed on for what they call Reaction Force Training, which is a short-term contract where you train for eight months and then deploy to Kosovo or Afghanistan.”

Of the six females in her platoon who graduated basic, Mary and two others chose to stay infantry. But she was quick to point out that Denmark’s standards for infantry were nothing to brag about when she joined.

“Back then, our PT standards were a shambles. You had to pass a two-mile run in fifteen minutes, and do some pushups and situps. There was no special test for infantry, pretty much anyone could do it. Since Denmark really started contributing to the War on Terror, we’ve raised the standards quite a bit for combat arms. And the standards are the same for males and females.”

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary spent the Kosovo deployment working out, which prepared her for Afghanistan. “I wasn’t in great shape before I joined the army. Since then I’ve gotten much better, although I’m still better at strength tests than running.” In Afghanistan her combat load, depending on whether she was acting as rifleman, team leader or Carl Gustav gunner, averaged about eighty pounds. According to Mary, she had no issue humping her ruck, never fell out of a march, and never had to pass off her gear to anyone else. Not even when she was carrying the twenty-one pound Gustav.

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside her firebase

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside a firebase

Most missions in Afghanistan last no longer than a day. Mary never had to hump a 100+ pound ruck for days or weeks at a time. She was quick to point out that she was mechanized infantry, and even on nine-day missions always had an M113 close by. Those who oppose women in the infantry will likely claim that humping eighty pounds on an eight-hour patrol is “easy” compared to the multi-day slogs with over 100 pounds grunts have endured in training and past wars.

True enough. But that’s not the standard for passing infantry school. If that’s the standard we want to maintain, then hold male infantrymen to it as well. I imagine our infantry units would lose quite a few male troops if we did.

“Males and females are physiologically different, and should be separated in the military just like they are in sports.”

Part of the argument against females in the infantry focuses on physiological differences between males and females. The best female athlete can’t compete with the best male athlete, the average woman isn’t as strong as the average male. Genders are separated in professional sports and the Olympics. That’s all true. Mary has, I think, a realistic answer to that.

“People always point to the separate male and female leagues in sports, which is a valid point — it is biology — but infantry isn’t the major leagues, SOF is. Obviously we’d love to have all our infantrymen consist of 6’5″ super-athletes, but it’s not realistic. If you’re letting in small guys who barely pass the standards, what’s the compelling argument for keeping women out?

“And the ‘I’m 3000 pounds with all my gear on, how is Sally Cheerleader going to drag my ass out of the line of fire’ argument? Jesus. EVERY platoon has at least one or two guys no one else can carry. We had one huge motherfucker that needed three to just pull him out of an APC. So is there gonna be an upper size limit, too? Some guys were so tall, they got back problems from sitting in a cramped APC. Everyone’s got their cross to carry. Everyone comes with benefits and drawbacks.”



Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/females-in-the-infantry-er-yes-actually/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

This was published a few days ago on TaskandPurpose.com. It’s gotten about 150 comments on Facebook. And of those 150, I think only two of them actually read the article.


The headline jumped at me like a Bouncing Betty: “Department of Defense Planning to Let Illegal Immigrants Enlist.” The words evoke images of prison-tattooed gang members wading across the Rio Grande, sprinting from exhausted Border Patrol agents to the nearest recruiting office, exclaiming “Sign me up, pendejo!” and giving an MS-13 salute as they board the bus for Benning. The story was, on its face, too unrealistic to believe. There had to be more to it than what the headline suggested.

I’m extremely interested in the topic of immigrants in the military, for several reasons. My family is originally from Mexico, although my ancestors came to America about a hundred years ago. My great-grandfather was either drafted into or joined the U.S. Army not long after he arrived (I have no idea what his immigration status was). He had completed training and was at the station waiting to board a train to a troop ship heading to the battlefields of the Great War, when a loudspeaker announced the Armistice. All of his sons save one served in the military during World War II or Korea. His oldest son, my great uncle Leo, was killed in the Bataan Death March. His youngest son, my great uncle Richard, was a Marine in Korea. Generations later, his descendants — me and my niece — are still serving.

Read the rest at http://taskandpurpose.com/endorsement-militarys-plan-accept-illegal-immigrants/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

Like many Americans, I have strong thoughts about ISIS and Islamic terrorism. Unlike most Americans, I have extensive experience living and working with Muslims. As a United Nations police officer in Kosovo I lived on the civilian economy, worked with local Albanian Muslim police and spent most of my off-duty time socializing with locals instead of Americans or other internationals. As a soldier in Afghanistan I went on many missions with Afghan National Army soldiers, and put my life in their hands many times. I often visited their compound and was at times the only American around Afghan soldiers. I never felt threatened, and I’d feel no fear going on missions with those particular Afghan soldiers again.

I know for a fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, nor do they all support terror. I also know that Islamic terrorism is a huge threat. But as we prepare to go to war (or something like it) with ISIS, I see our nation’s leaders bending over backward to not admit what’s blindingly obvious to just about everyone in the entire world.

“The Islamic State is not Islamic.”

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Yes it is.

A certain world leader who shall remain nameless recently claimed ISIS isn’t Islamic. John Kerry recently said, “ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam.” I guess that explains why ISIS declared its territory is the new Islamic Caliphate. Since, you know, an Islamic empire founded by devout Muslims with the sole purpose of spreading Islam has nothing to do with Islam. And I guess thousands of Muslims from all over the world are joining ISIS because it’s not Islamic.


This reminds me of another very stupid argument. In recent years I’ve heard supposedly intelligent people declare that Muslim suicide bombers blow themselves up because they’re poor, or feel powerless, or their honor has been impugned. But they don’t detonate their suicide bombs for Islam.

The suicide bombers themselves offer a counterpoint. They often make martyrdom videos before blowing themselves up. In those videos, they bluntly state they’re doing it for Islam. Watch this American suicide bomber’s video below, then try to tell yourself, “That had nothing to do with Islam.”


Suicide bombers say they’re doing it for Islam. ISIS fighters say they’re murdering people for Islam. Gosh darn it, this certainly seems to be evidence that those suicide bombers and ISIS are Islamic. I’d categorize the “This terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” crowd as having more college degrees than brain cells. It’s pretty ridiculous for non-Muslim Americans to hear thousands of people proudly proclaim “I’m Muslim and I’m blowing myself up for Islam!”, then turn around and say, “They don’t really mean it.”

I know, I know. Those terrorists aren’t “real” Muslims, because murder is against the rules and real Muslims wouldn’t do such a thing. And Jesus preached peace and forgiveness, so Crusaders who committed atrocities weren’t real Christians. Killing is a sin, so American troops who kill in war aren’t really Christians either. Priests take a vow of celibacy, so the Catholic priests who sexually abused children weren’t really Catholic. Catholic Croatians who told Serbian Orthodox prisoners “convert or be killed,” then killed them anyway, weren’t really Catholic. The Serbian paramilitaries who committed the Srebrenica Massacre weren’t “real” Orthodox Christians, because real Orthodox Christians would never murder anyone.

Let’s face it: breaking a religious rule doesn’t mean you aren’t part of that religion. The Westboro Baptist Church fanatics are flaming douches, but they are in fact Christians. ISIS members are evil, murderous pieces of warthog crap who somehow assumed human form, but they are in fact Muslim.

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If we acknowledge their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean we have to believe all Muslims are like ISIS. The Srebrenica murderers and child-molesting priests were Christian, but I don’t think my Christian parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, coworkers and fellow soldiers are murderers or child molesters. Admitting the obvious – that ISIS is Islamic – doesn’t require us to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

I’ve had many Muslim friends. I’ve trusted some of them with my life. One of my Italian coworkers in Kosovo said, “My Albanian police officers would die before letting me get hurt.” The officers I worked with were the same way; yes they were Muslim, no they weren’t terrorists, and they protected me even though I was a non-Muslim American. After 9/11 quite a few Albanian Muslims asked me how they could join the U.S. military and fight Al Qaeda, because they were so angry we’d been attacked.

We’ve been in Kosovo since 1999, and haven’t lost a single American soldier or police officer to an attack by an Albanian Muslim. Albanian Muslims were proud of their religion, yet even they called Al Qaeda what they were: Islamic terrorists. I’m sure they’d use the same term to describe ISIS. (And as moderate and Western as Albanian Muslims are, even they have problems with Islamic extremism; dozens of Albanian ISIS fighters were recently arrested in Kosovo, and 16 have been killed in Syria and Iraq.)


As ISIS carries out more atrocities and gains more power, our leadership still argues over how to define them. Yet ISIS has no problem defining itself. ISIS screams “We’re Muslims!”, our leadership responds with “No you’re not.” That response might be an unnecessary trick calculated to convince Muslim allies we’re not against their religion. Or, and this is scary, our leaders could actually believe it. They might be sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “I don’t care what you say, I know what you believe better than you do.” They may be refusing to see the truth staring them right in the face: some Muslims hate us, some Muslims want to kill us all, some Muslims declared war on us and don’t care that we haven’t declared war back.

The truth is, ISIS is in fact composed of devoutly Muslim terrorists, carrying out brutal attacks in the name of their religion. And the truth is, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Muslims support ISIS. Why can’t we just say that?

Refusing to acknowledge obvious truth isn’t just stupid. It’s stupid and weak. Many of us war on terror vets suspect this “war” with ISIS, if it really happens, will be fought with one hand tied behind our collective backs. But if our leadership continually refuses to even admit who our enemies are, then we’ll fight with one eye closed as well.

A brief note on the executions of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines

After James Foley’s execution video was released, several people criticized Foley’s apparent lack of resistance to his impending murder. A few comments I read, mostly from combat veterans, said Foley should have done something rather than just give up. He should have run, kicked, bitten, or at least called his executioner a mother****er before dying. Understandably, those of us trained to fight to the last expect anyone facing certain death to resist in some way. In the video, Foley, to me, looked like he knew what was coming. So why didn’t he resist?


The truth is, resisting could have made things worse. In the novel Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner, a Nazi camp guard stands on a platform in a yard and calls prisoners’ names. If a prisoner heard his name, he had to sprint to the platform, stripping off his clothes as he ran. The camp guard’s goal was to have the prisoners assembled and naked within seconds of being called. That way they could be led to the gas chamber in an orderly manner, and nobody would have to take time stripping the bodies afterward.

Why would the prisoners cooperate, if they knew they were going to die anyway? Because, in Steiner’s fictional account, if they cooperated they would die a relatively quick and painless death in the gas chamber. If they didn’t cooperate, they’d be brutally murdered after hours of torture.

Foley may have faced a similar dilemma: cooperate and die a painful but relatively quick death by decapitation, or resist and endure a long, gruesome and horribly painful death. Death was the foregone and inescapable conclusion; I can understand if he chose the less horrible death, and don’t blame him for it.

And there’s another possibility. Foley may have been told, “If you resist, we won’t just kill you. We’ll kill the other prisoners too.” It’s a tactic used by many criminals: “If you fight back I’ll kill your wife. I’ll kill your children.” Foley could have accepted his horrible fate, in the hope that others might live. This is pure conjecture on my part, and we’ll likely never know the exact circumstances surrounding any of the executions. But neither Foley, Sotloff nor Haines were known to be cowards. There was probably a good reason they didn’t resist.

If they cooperated with their murderers in order to give their friends a tiny bit of hope for survival, then we didn’t see James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines die as cowards. What we actually saw were the last, brave acts of very brave men.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.


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