In Part III, Justin Watt had just secretly reported his platoon mates for rape and murder, and desperately hoped he wouldn’t be found out.


A first platoon soldier on patrol

A first platoon soldier on patrol

The day after John Diem’s report was forwarded to the company commander, the battalion commander and sergeant major went to the checkpoints where Cortez, Barker and Spielman were assigned. Colonel Kunk questioned them about the reported crime. All denied any knowledge or involvement. Then Kunk and the sergeant major went to Watt’s patrol base. Yribe was also there. Watt, on duty behind a machine gun in a Humvee turret, watched Kunk’s convoy drive in. He was scared out of his mind, hoping he wasn’t about to get outed.

“PFC Watt!”

Oh, shit. He climbed out of the turret and jogged to Colonel Kunk and the sergeant major. They took him to a small, dank room in a dilapidated building. The colonel and sergeant major sat on MRE boxes, but told Watt to stay at attention. A few soldiers at the checkpoint watched what happened next.

Kunk screamed that he should charge Watt with filing a false report. He accused Watt of trying to get out of the Army. He asked why Watt wanted to ruin his fellow soldiers’ careers. He and the sergeant major said Watt was just repeating third-hand information and had no idea what he was talking about.

Watt was sweating bullets. He knew that Yribe was standing behind him, watching it all. He desperately tried to explain to Colonel Kunk why he reported the war crime, and why he believed his squad mates were guilty. Kunk brusquely told Watt to shut up and go back to his post.

Incredulous at what had just happened, Watt slunk back to the Humvee. He watched the battalion commander load up with his convoy. The vehicles drove out the gate, turned the corner and disappeared.

The exact thing that Watt had been afraid of had happened. He had been publicly identified, then abandoned. Word would spread. Retaliation was almost certain.

“I can’t explain to you how I felt watching that convoy drive away,” Watt told me. “I thought I was a dead man.”

But then Watt heard a voice on the radio. Sergeant John Diem, at another checkpoint just down the road, had seen the convoy leaving the patrol base. The twenty-three year old junior sergeant, who wasn’t Watt’s team leader and wasn’t responsible for him, had done his job and reported the crime. The platoon sergeant and platoon leader had in turn pushed the information. The company commander had sent the report up the chain. But Diem wasn’t at all sure Colonel Kunk had done his job.

Diem keyed up and bluntly asked the battalion commander a question.

“Do you have Watt in your convoy?”

Colonel Kunk replied that he didn’t.

“You have to go back and get him. If you leave him there, they’ll kill him.”

Watt heard the radio traffic. He remembers that moment as a life-changing event. “Man, I’ll tell you something,” Watt says. “John Diem didn’t have to make that call, but he did. He’ll always be my hero for that.”

Kunk turned the convoy around and pulled Watt out of the patrol base. He had to leave two soldiers behind to make room, which is something Watt is still furious about. “He had no intention of taking me out of there. He didn’t have a single empty seat in his convoy. He was going to ask a few questions, call me a liar, and leave me there with the guys I had just reported for murder.”

Of all the shocking, horrible aspects to this story, Colonel Kunk’s decision to leave Watt at the patrol base stands out as one of the worst. As a leader, I can’t imagine leaving a soldier with the same people he just turned in for murder. I’ve asked several other senior enlisted men and officers what they would have done. Every single one said a soldier reporting something like this must be immediately shielded from the people he’s accusing. Even if the report is false, the whistleblower still has to be protected. If Colonel Kunk had heard this report ten minutes after he watched a captured insurgent video showing insurgents murdering the Iraqi family, even if he knew with 100% certainty that his soldiers didn’t do it, he still should have known that Watt’s life would be in danger for making the accusation.

And I don’t get why Kunk would even investigate this accusation himself. I understand trying to determine if what’s been reported is an actual crime; for example, if a soldier reports that someone from his unit sexually harassed another soldier, a commander might try to determine if what happened actually meets the definition of sexual harassment. But in this case, the incident reported was obviously a crime. There was no question it had occurred. The soldiers accused could realistically have done it. So why didn’t Kunk immediately turn it over to the Army’s criminal investigators?

I’d guess Kunk was already feeling the heat. His battalion had suffered an inordinate number of losses. Two of his soldiers had just been abducted, arguably because security at their site was so poor (and at this point Kunk was claiming he didn’t know how poor their security had been, even though he had seen the company’s personnel reports showing how many soldiers were at each checkpoint and had driven through that position more than a dozen times). On top of all the other black marks on his record, having soldiers under his command exposed for committing a war crime would make him look like he had lost control of his unit. So I’d bet he was simply making a show of “investigating” the crime, giving himself plausible deniability. “Oh, yes sir, I’m aware of that report. I already looked into it, it wasn’t credible.”

And the cynical, jaded part of me wouldn’t be surprised if someone just wanted the problem to magically disappear.

Read the rest at

Part III went up on Breach Bang Clear yesterday.


Justin Watt’s personal turning point came barely a month into the deployment.

Justin Watt in the Triangle of Death

Justin Watt in the Triangle of Death

He was on duty at a patrol base when the battalion commander arrived with his Personal Security Detail. Watt’s best friend Tyler Mackenzie was with them. Mackenzie had been Watt’s roommate back home and was assigned to the PSD in Iraq, probably because he was freakishly tall and the battalion commander wanted big guys as bodyguards. Watt and Mackenzie were ecstatic to see each other.

When Watt first came to the unit Mackenzie had been the one guy who didn’t give Watt the standard new-guy hard time (several soldiers in the platoon would kid Watt about being a “pussy”; his squad leader, Eric Lauzier, remembered Watt once asking “Sergeant, do you really think I’m a pussy?”, which guaranteed he’d be jacked with mercilessly from then on). Watt and Mackenzie were roommates, and “Mackenzie was the biggest, nicest Mormon kid I ever met,” Watt said. “He never cursed, never drank, and had a huge crush on a girl he was too afraid to talk to.” Watt wrote strongly-worded letters to Mackenzie’s girl for him, but Mackenzie chickened out and wound up rewriting them all.

At the patrol base Watt and Mackenzie spent a few minutes together. Watt had been at the base for almost thirty days straight, and one of the first things Mackenzie mentioned was how bad Watt smelled. Watt told him he hadn’t been able to contact his family because they had no phones or internet at their base. Mackenzie said, “Write a letter to your parents and give it to me. I’ll call tonight and read it to them.”

Watt quickly wrote the letter and gave it to his best friend. He and Mackenzie hugged, then Mackenzie and the PSD loaded up in their Humvees and rolled out. Minutes later, Watt heard the blast that killed Mackenzie and two other soldiers. A fourth soldier lost a leg. An IED had been planted less than a kilometer outside the gate.

After Mackenzie’s death, tragedies seemed to pile upon tragedies. Nelson and Casica’s deaths, which were more like murders, were horrific. The company First Sergeant was blown up and sent home. Everyone who went outside the wire had close calls with IED strikes and small arms fire. Civilians were killed by accident at checkpoints. Within three months, Bravo lost all three of its platoon leaders to IED attacks. As more men became casualties, Watt felt his chances for survival diminish. But he stayed in the fight, never faked an illness, never found excuses to keep him off missions, never took any fewer risks or shirked any responsibilities.

Then first platoon was called to one of the patrol bases and given good news. They were being pulled off checkpoint and patrol duties, and from then on would only guard bases. Watt openly wept in relief; by that time he had become convinced he would die if he stayed outside the wire.

The relief lasted a few hours, until word came down that the previous order had been a mistake. They were going back to the checkpoints, back to patrols, back to daily IED and gunfire attacks. Crushed, Watt made a deal with God: if he could survive until he went home on leave to see his family once more, he’d accept his death in combat afterward.

He made it home for leave. Then his parents dropped a secret on him: they had divorced while he was away. That night over dinner he told them he didn’t expect to survive the rest of his tour. It was the only time they discussed his possible death. He spent the rest of his mid-tour leave in a drunken, skirt-chasing stupor. On the last day of leave, as his mother drove him to the airport, she offered to send him to Canada.

Watt expected to die once he went back. He had no desire to be shot or blown up in Iraq to no purpose. But he believed in duty; he wasn’t going to be a hero, but he wouldn’t choose to be a coward. He passed on the chance to go to Canada, and headed back to war.

When he got to DFW airport he found a hidden area, out of sight of everyone, and broke down again. Then he spotted a chaplain at the gate. Watt had never been the most religious guy, and his faith was starting to flag. Hoping for reassurance, he asked the chaplain if a good person could go to heaven even if he didn’t believe everything Christians were supposed to. The chaplain said no; if someone didn’t believe in the Genesis story or accept Jesus as their savior, no heaven for them.

Deflated, Watt arrived back in Kuwait, where everyone transited through for leave. As soon as he got there he found out a huge fire at FOB Yusufiyah had destroyed what little he owned in Iraq. Laptop, family pictures, movies, books, music, all gone.

That night he finally slept for the first time in forty-eight hours. When he woke up, he gave up being scared. Fear left him right around the time he completely lost any faith in any God.

Mackenzie’s death was Watt’s turning point. After Mackenzie died, Watt slowly stopped believing in his leadership, and eventually gave up hope for survival. But for the rest of the platoon, the turning point was the day Lieutenant Britt and Specialist Lopez were killed.

On that day, Lieutenant Britt was leading an IED sweep on Route Caveman. Caveman was one of the most IED-laden routes in the company’s area of operations; it was also, in Justin’s and many other soldiers’ eyes, completely irrelevant. The route wasn’t critical to Bravo Company’s movement, and patrolling it wouldn’t restrict the enemy’s freedom either. The route just didn’t matter. But the battalion commander ordered Bravo Company to keep clearing the route, patrols kept getting hit by IEDs, first platoon and Bravo Company argued the route was too dangerous to patrol, Lieutenant Colonel Kunk demanded the route be cleared, and nothing changed.

Watt had a conversation with Lieutenant Britt before that sweep. When Watt talked about how dangerous Route Caveman was, Lieutenant Britt brushed it off. “Just consider the percentages, Watt. Hundreds of thousands of troops have deployed to Iraq. Less than two thousand have been killed. The chances of you dying here are statistically remote.”

Hours later, Lieutenant Britt’s patrol was ambushed with small arms and a remote-fired RPG. When Lieutenant Britt followed an order to recover the RPG launcher, he walked over a buried IED. The explosion blew his body into a canal and tore Specialist Lopez in half.

The next day, Route Caveman was declared “black”. Closed, never patrolled again. Caveman was supposedly so important it had to be cleared no matter how dangerous it was. But as soon as they took those two casualties, Bravo Company effectively ceded the route to the enemy. Which is what Watt and everyone else thought should have been done in the first place.

Britt had been a highly respected leader, loved by his men. Lopez had just come home from a deployment to Afghanistan, been transferred to the 101st and sent to Iraq to replace another soldier killed earlier. Two tragic, and stupid, losses, which accomplished literally nothing.

Britt and Lopez’s deaths stripped the platoon of its last vestiges of trust in senior leadership. The battalion commander and sergeant major seemed to have no understanding, or concern, about what was happening to Bravo Company. From that point, it seemed to Watt that first platoon gave up on the traditional rank and authority structure. The platoon’s first platoon sergeant had surreptitiously found a noncombat job, its second platoon sergeant lasted a month before being removed, the third platoon sergeant exerted a lot of authority but almost never left the wire. Of the three squad leaders only one, Lauzier, consistently led his troops from the front. The others hung back, leaving lower-ranking troops to lead dangerous missions. The missions were stupid, most of the leaders obviously didn’t believe in them, and the soldiers felt like their deaths and therefore their lives meant nothing.

Read the rest at

Part II went live on Breach Bang Clear yesterday.


PFC Steven Green had just told Sergeant Tony Yribe he murdered an entire family.

To put it mildly, Green wasn’t the most credible guy in the platoon. Yribe didn’t believe him. However Green, who had not gone on the patrol to the house, was able to exactly describe the crime scene: he knew where all the victims were, what positions they were in, and how they had been killed. Yribe decided, for reasons he will explain later, not to report it. Instead, he told Green he would be kicked out of the Army. Yribe would send him back to combat stress, Green would report that he was going insane, the Army would look at his previously known mental problems and discharge him.

Green went to combat stress. Within weeks, he was out of Iraq and out of the Army. The crime was effectively covered up. Local Iraqis didn’t suspect Americans had committed the crime; the only people who knew were the criminals themselves, plus PFC Howard and Sergeant Yribe. Among all the other violence raging throughout Iraq, the mass murder of an innocent Iraqi family was quickly forgotten.

Three months later, on June 16th, 2006, first platoon was hit by an absolutely predictable disaster. Three low-ranked soldiers, left to guard a bridge alone at a position called the Alamo, in only one vehicle with no barricades at all for protection, were attacked by insurgents. Other platoon members at different checkpoints heard the gunfire, rushed to the bridge and found Specialist David Babineau dead in a canal. Two PFCs, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker, were missing. The American military went into overdrive to find the missing soldiers. Already stressed, weakened and battered, first platoon was now in chaos.

Engineer bridge at the Alamo

Engineer bridge at the Alamo

In the midst of that chaos, Justin Watt and Tony Yribe found themselves having a quiet conversation at a Forward Operating Base. They had been sent there for medical appointments before the attack on the bridge checkpoint. When they heard about it and tried to go back to their platoon, they were told to stay put.

Watt was incredulous; he couldn’t believe what was happening, what had been happening for months. He had withstood all the horror and heartache of the deployment thus far without bending; he had watched Nelson and Casica fade away after they were shot, absorbed the emotional blow when Lieutenant Britt and Specialist Lopez were blown apart by an IED, seen civilians shot and tried to save their lives, risked his life in firefights, and through it all he kept it together. But now he felt broken. On top of everything he had suffered so far, now he had to accept that another of his friends was dead and two more were probably being tortured to death. As he took in the desperate frenzy of activity, he asked Yribe a question.

“Sarge, before we deployed over here, did you ever imagine it would come to this? I can’t believe what’s happening. This is fucked up.”

Yribe nodded. “You know what’s even more fucked up?”

Curious, Watt asked, “No, what?”

“You remember that family that was murdered near Checkpoint 2 back in March?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Watt replied. What Yribe said next stunned him.

“That was us,” Yribe said. “Green did that.”


Read the rest at

Recently I wrote an essay titled “Please, Open Carriers, Stop ‘Defending my Rights’” ( In it I explained that I’m a 2nd Amendment supporter, and that I think it’s absolutely ridiculous for so-called “gun rights activists” to open carry AKs and ARs into private businesses, especially if they’re carrying at the combat ready (what I call “Stupid Carry”). I gave good reasons why OCing a rifle into Chipotle or Starbucks creates enemies of the 2nd Amendment, rather than gaining support.

It was the most successful essay I’ve ever written. 55,000 people read it in one day. It’s been shared on many gun forums, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. Numerous 2nd Amendment supporters agreed with me. Of course many others didn’t, and made sure I knew they didn’t.

You are a sellout, plain and simple. Just another spineless Repugnicunt. Please Sunshine Patriot. Fuck off.

the second amendment was put in place to fight off a tyrannical government and thats it, not hunting not sporting to protect people liberty the constitution its self when you dont have a means of doing that your dead already you no marine guy tell you combat buddys share your posts with your unit they would give you a blanket party every night your a disgrace to everyman and women whos ever wore that uniform.

2A is the right to bear arms, period. You butters who judge who, what, where, and how are playing right into the MDA’s hands. Legal carry is legal carry. Grow a set or STFU.

You people bashing your fellow gun owners are ignorant cowards. They are exercising their rights, either get behind them or stop talking like you support the 2nd amendment. The hypocrisy and PC bullshit from you supposed patriots is pathetic.

According to these guys, if you don’t support open carrying a rifle into Chipotle you’re a “butter”, which is a person who says “I support the 2nd Amendment but…”. I guess I’m one of the worst butters, since I’ve been so vocal about the blatant stupidity of walking into Chipotle with an AK. And I do say, “I support the 2nd Amendment, BUT I think you’re a moron if you walk into Chipotle with an AK at the combat ready.”

I find the whole “butter” thing pretty amusing. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the principle; we’ve heard many elected representatives say stupid things like “I support the 2nd Amendment for hunting. But I don’t see a reason to own an assault rifle.” Those people don’t understand what the 2A is for. It’s not about hunting, it’s about the citizens’ right to resist tyranny. In fact, since Newtown I’ve written several essays about the importance of the 2A.

These are about how armed citizens and armed teachers can deter and defeat active shooters.

This one is about the importance of keeping military weapons in civilian hands as a means to resist tyranny.

This essay is about an experience I had when I was a UN police officer in Kosovo, where I failed to stop other officers from stomping on people’s rights. This experience, probably more than any other, proved to me how important the 2nd Amendment is.

This one is about how ignorant of reality many gun control supporters are.

This is about the failure of gun control at its most fundamental level.

This essay is about how deadly force can be justified even against unarmed criminals.

In addition to writing about the importance of the 2nd Amendment for the last year and a half, I’ve been shooting and collecting weapons for thirty years. I’ve been a vocal gun rights supporter and opponent of gun control my entire adult life. As a cop I’ve strongly advocated citizens’ right to carry. As a soldier I’ve gone to war twice to defend our rights. But I think carrying an AR into a restaurant in a combat-ready hold is a stupid act that’s guaranteed to create enemies.

Since Newtown, the 2nd Amendment has been under incessant attack. When a grinning, shades-wearing OC activist poses like an immature child with his SKS ready to fire inside Chipotle, the anti-gun side screams “Look at this dangerous killer! This is why we need to ban guns!” And much of America agrees. Which leads to a greater likelihood of new gun restrictions. So this is probably nuts, but I kinda think we shouldn’t give more ammunition to the people who desperately want to disarm us.

But if I criticize Mr. Shades, I’m a “butter”. Well then, I guess I am. And I don’t care that the extremist, fringe, “If you disagree with me about anything you’re a traitor” crowd considers me a “butter”.

And anyway, I have my own opinions about the radical OC crowd. I think they’re living out a fantasy where they’re the righteous dragonslayers, bravely defending our rights while all other, lesser humans cower in terror. I suspect they surround themselves with likeminded friends who constantly reinforce their “us versus them” bunker mentality. And they’re pretty loose with who counts as “them”. They don’t only oppose the anti-gun side, they’ve even labeled many gun rights supporters enemies for not being sufficiently radical.

And some of them really think they’re at the forefront of a holy crusade. Some pretty interesting comments to my essay were from OC activists who compared their actions to the Civil Rights Movement.

…But if you want to defuse the argument further its really simple. All rights movements were ‘scary’ ‘offensive’ ‘stupid’ ‘wrong’ at the time, look at slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and gay rights….And oh how scary and offensive it must have been when the blacks sat down in the white cafe!

How long have you supported Jim Crow laws, Mr. Hernandez?

Yes, because carrying an AK in Chipotle is no different than blacks risking being beaten and arrested for sitting at whites-only counters. Gosh, those open carriers are so courageous to risk nothing by carrying weapons into places where they’re not threatened.

But civil rights comparisons weren’t the best comments. One guy made a weird comparison between the OC movement and resistance to the Holocaust.

First they came for the long gun open carriers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a long gun open carrier.
Then they came for the pistol open carriers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a pistol open carrier.
Then they came for the concealed carriers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a concealed carrier.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

A longtime reader of my blog sent me an interesting essay which I think explains the psychology behind the extreme “I’m going to walk into Chili’s with an AK in a combat ready hold and if you think I’m wrong you’re a traitor!” group. Basically, they don’t care how their actions make them look. They don’t care that multiple, huge media outlets use their actions to smear the entire gun rights movement. They don’t care that many gun rights supporters are publicly saying “Please stop this, you’re hurting the gun rights movement!”

The writer of this essay, Lee Harris, was a Vietnam War protestor in the 60’s. His goal was to force a change to policy that would end the war, and he opposed anything that would create enemies of the anti-war movement. His friend, however, was going to participate in a massive, disruptive anti-war protest designed specifically to cause problems for the general public.

“My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.

…The protest for him was not politics, but theater; and the significance of his role lay not in the political ends his actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, he was acting out a fantasy.”

And the “I’m doing the lord’s work and you all are cowards” fantasy isn’t the only one these guys indulge in. Many of them cherish the fantastical belief that there is nothing threatening about carrying a rifle in public in a combat ready hold.

…the picture of the two standing in Chipotle “rifle at the ready” was taken by a customer wanting a cool picture, he had the safety knowledge to keep his finger off the trigger because realistically, that’s the only way the firearm will go off.

…[You’re] showing pictures of some guys with guns on their chest saying its threatening. I see nothing of the sort. Until I see a head down on the sight plane, gun in hands ready to engage, then I see no combat or combat ready posture.

So according to these guys, unless someone is actually pointing a weapon at you and pulling the trigger, there’s no threat. I find that humorous. Comparing that to pistol carry, I guess a guy walking around a restaurant with a pistol in a combat ready hold isn’t threatening either. If you saw me in Chili’s with my pistol in Sul, you’d have no reason to worry at all! I mean, my eyes aren’t on the sights, right?


What? You think there’s something threatening about me walking around a restaurant with my pistol in a combat ready hold? Hoplophobe! Anti-gunner! Butter!

Then again, since I can punch out and engage from this position in less than a second, maybe it is kinda threatening. Just like, oh, walking around Chipotle with my rifle combat ready is kinda threatening. I bet most OC activists would freak if a bunch of cops walked up to them with their pistols unholstered. But OC activists insist they’re not being threatening when they carry like that, and that only peoples’ irrational fear of guns would make them scared. Some of them like to accuse anyone who opposes stupid open carry of being scared of guns.

I guess that applies. I’m terrified of guns. Just hearing the word “gun” makes me wet my pants. Here’s proof that I’m scared of guns.

4452_1084593231917_5914735_n (2)
That’s me being scared of my M4 in Afghanistan.

That’s me being double scared in Iraq. Not only was an M4 up front, but a .50 was mounted above me.

That’s me screaming in terror as I fire my pistol from my back.

picture8, petty being a dick
That’s me being horrified of my personal M4 at a training course. The instructor is using a stick to make my carbine malfunction because he’s terrified of guns too.


I got tired of only being scared of ARs, so I decided to be scared of AKs too.


Here’s me teaching a friend to be scared of guns.


Here I am firing a carbine with my eyes closed because I’m just so terrified.


This is right after I came home from Iraq. I missed being terrified of all the M4s in Iraq, so I bought one to be scared of at home.


In this one I’m firing a suppressed French sniper rifle. I needed the suppressor because I shrieked like a little girl every time the gun made a big loud bang.

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture
In these I’m being scared of my M14. Oh, and of the numerous AK-47s the Taliban were shooting at me at the time.

So, sure, I just oppose Stupid Carry because I’m scared of guns. Right. There’s no other possible explanation.

Or maybe seeing a bunch of yahoos walking around a restaurant carrying military weapons which are specifically designed to kill people quickly and efficiently is kinda scary to Joe Regular Guy. Maybe it’s scary because said yahoos carry them ready to engage. Should I blame Joe for getting nervous when Shades walks into Chipotle posing with his SKS? Call me crazy, but I just don’t see Joe as unreasonable for wanting to eat dinner with his family without complete strangers wandering around showing off weapons designed to kill people real fast.

And before you OCers start screaming “Hoplophobe! You’re scared of an inanimate object!”, calm down and answer this questions: why do YOU want military rifles? Is it because they’re completely non-threatening? Or is it because they’re powerful tools that give you the means to resist tyrannical force? I’d guess that you want them for the same reason I do, because it gives me means to resist. Doesn’t “means to resist” equal “power to kill”?

And who cares if it’s inanimate? An axe is inanimate, but if some joker walks into Chipotle with an axe over his head, yeah, I’d get nervous. If some clown walks in with an inanimate samurai sword in a special two-handed decapitating hold, yup, I’m going to prepare for a shooting. And if some “gun rights activist” hits the salad bar with an inanimate AK-47 in a combat hold, yes I’m going to keep one eye on that guy and one hand on my pistol.

Now, go right ahead and tell each other “That Chris Hernandez guy is a coward. He’s afraid of guns.” Prop each other up. Stroke each others’ egos. Cause you’re right, I’m oh-so-scared, while you’re so brave. I’ve only carried my weapons into foreign lands where thousands of people wanted to kill me. I’ve been shot at. I came damn close to being hit. Other around me did get hit.

Which means nothing, of course. I oppose Stupid Carry, so I’m a coward. You, on the other hand, have carried your weapons into Chipotle, where dozens of regular, unarmed people posed no threat to you at all.

How brave of you.

You want to do something that’s actually brave? Take responsibility for your actions. Admit that your desperate quest for attention gave the anti-gun side the equivalent of a neverending ammo belt to use against us. Stop blaming Moms Demand Action and Bloomberg for using your pictures as “propaganda”. You posed for those pictures yourself. All MDA did was use your own stupid actions against you. Stop blaming “gun snobs” for looking down on you. Other gun owners are looking down on you because you’re doing stupid crap that hurts the 2nd Amendment, not because they’re snobs. Stop hypocritically saying “It’s wrong to criticize the way someone exercises their 2nd Amendment rights” while simultaneously screaming “How dare you use your 1st Amendment rights to criticize me!” Stop contradicting yourselves by saying “carrying a rifle into Chili’s makes perfect sense!” and then saying “we’re only carrying rifles into Chili’s to show how ridiculous it is that we can open carry rifles but not pistols.”

Tell you what, if open carrying a rifle makes so much sense, do it when you’re by yourself. Don’t only do it when you’ve got 50 other guys with rifles to back you up. Walk into Chipotle by yourself, with your rifle in a combat ready hold. See what happens. Let us know how it works out for you.

Someday, if you guys ever grow up, you might realize you don’t own the 2nd Amendment. Just as the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t get to decide who “real” Christians are, you don’t determine who real 2A supporters are. I don’t have to prove my loyalty to you. No matter how many guns you carry into Target, you’re not the scariest people I’ve ever dealt with. You won’t frighten me into agreeing with you.

Liberals tell me I have to be a democrat because I’m Hispanic. Bullshit. Conservatives tell me I should be republican because I’m a veteran. Bullshit. Now you “gun rights activists” have created your own “you either support my right to stupidly pose with my SKS in Chipotle or you’re a butter” litmus test. You think you can intimidate all of us into falling in line with your extremism. You think I’m supposed to fall to me knees and beg you, “No, please don’t call me a butter! I’ll carry my M4 into Chipotle, I promise!”


In my very pro-2A world, extremists don’t speak for the rest of us. We didn’t give radicals keys to drive the pro-2A bus. The clowns giving ammo to MDA, Bloomberg, Jon Stewart and a host of liberal media outlets don’t represent me. In the country I fought for, nobody has the standing to tell me “You must think the same way I do.”

I can determine for myself what the 2A means. And I think I understand it much better than the guys wandering around Chipotle with AKs.

Hey guys,

The first installment of my Iraq war crime series went up on Breach Bang Clear yesterday. As I said before, this is probably the most important thing I’ve ever written. I hope I do the story justice.


Today Breach-Bang-Clear begins a series of articles that every military man and woman should read. It isn’t our normal tongue-in-cheek look at cool gear or stoopid crap. It’s a true story, about real American soldiers, who committed a horrible war crime during their 2006 deployment to Iraq.

The articles are not about the war criminals, though. They’re about the other soldiers in the platoon, the ones who found out about the crime. The ones who were forced to decide between staying silent or turning in soldiers they had stood shoulder to shoulder in combat with. The ones who did right despite the risk. The articles are about the war crime’s long-lasting effects, what the men around its edges endured, and what the Army is doing to prevent crimes like it from happening again.

This series isn’t for entertainment. It’s for education. It’s to get us thinking. It’s to help us make the right decision now, in case the worst happens and we someday find ourselves faced with one of war’s most horrible dilemmas.

By Chris Hernandez

Imagine this:

You’re twenty-three years old. You’re a lowly Private First Class with less than two years in the Army. You’ve been in Iraq eight months. Your platoon is overextended, barely able to cover all the patrols and static posts you’ve been assigned. Extra missions take what little rest time you have. Your losses have been horrendous; two men were shot at close range by a seemingly-friendly Iraqi, your platoon leader and a new man were blown apart by a buried bomb, one of your friends at an outpost was just killed and two others captured, tortured to death and mutilated. You’ve been living like animals, spending days at isolated, poorly protected, undermanned checkpoints where you’re regularly attacked with mortars and small arms. Your platoon has devolved into a tribe, where official leadership is almost nonexistent.

And if all that isn’t bad enough, you’ve just learned a horrible secret. Months earlier, some of your fellow soldiers committed a rape and mass murder. Two other soldiers knew but didn’t tell anyone. You’re aware that if you turn in the murderers, your life will be in danger. But you believe in honor and integrity. You do the right thing and report it.

Your battalion commander and sergeant major come to your outpost, demanding to see you. And in front of everyone, including one of the soldiers who hid the crime, the battalion commander accuses YOU of lying. He yells that you’re just trying to get out of the Army. He demands to know why you’re trying to destroy other soldiers’ careers. You desperately try to explain yourself but he brushes you off, sends you back to your post, and his convoy drives away.

Astonished, you sit behind your machine gun watching the Humvees roll out. You can’t believe you’re being abandoned; you did exactly what you’re supposed to do when you find out American troops committed a crime. The colonel and sergeant major are supposed to have your back. They wouldn’t just leave you there, would they?

As their convoy turns the corner and disappears, you know, without question, you’re dead. The men you reported are combat-hardened killers. They raped a teenager and wiped out her family, including her six year old sister. Word will spread that you turned them in. On the next patrol, enemy contact or not, you will somehow wind up shot in the back of the head. You’re done. If the battalion commander leaves you there, your life is over.

What do you do?

First platoon soldiers on patrol in the Triangle of Death

First platoon soldiers on patrol in the Triangle of Death

What I just described isn’t a hypothetical. It actually happened, eight years ago, during arguably the worst part of the Iraq War. That American troops committed a war crime is depressing but not shocking; all wars produce crimes, and every army has men whose criminal tendencies are barely kept in check by rigid discipline and constant supervision. The unforgivable acts committed by Steven Green, Paul Cortez, James Barker and Jesse Spielman occurred when that rigid discipline and constant supervision evaporated; their actions have been well documented, and I’m not going to focus on them here. My focus is on the men on the periphery of the crime, and the astounding way some of them were treated for showing the integrity and honor the Army claims it wants to instill in its soldiers.

I’m a longtime cop, former Marine and currently serving Army National Guard soldier. I’ve been to war twice, and spent 2005 on a convoy escort team in Iraq. The war crime in question happened a few months after I returned home from that deployment. I had heard of the Yusufiyah murders, and thought one of the soldiers involved had turned everyone in. The case seemed pretty straightforward; a few idiots committed a crime, one of them was overcome by guilt and said something, all the soldiers involved went to prison. Open and shut case.

But I recently discovered there was nothing open-and-shut about it. I was working on a story about two Iraq vets who had filmed an action movie, and one of them offered to put me in contact with his friend Justin, who helped train some of the actors. When the filmmaker told me about his friend, he asked a casual question.

“You remember the soldiers who raped the teenage girl and murdered her family near Yusufiyah in 2006?”

I replied that I did.

“Justin Watt is the guy who turned them in.”

My ears perked up. I started asking questions. Wasn’t the guy who turned them in also one of the guys involved? No, the filmmaker said. Watt had no involvement whatsoever. He found out about the crime months later, and risked his life to report it.

I spoke to Justin Watt that night. He had only a small part in the making of his friend’s movie, and that part of the conversation was brief. But when I asked if he was willing to talk about the Yusufiyah murders, he didn’t just say yes. He passionately gushed information for over an hour, and spoke with an intensity that displayed just how deeply he was affected by his experience. He didn’t sound like he was discussing events eight years past; he was more like a man recounting a tragedy that happened yesterday afternoon.

Justin Watt’s decision to turn in his fellow soldiers was gut-wrenching. The price he paid for his choice was steep. I was stunned at what I was hearing.

As he recounted his story, I wondered, How the hell have I not heard this before? Why isn’t this being taught to every officer, sergeant, and boot private in the Army?

Eventually I talked not only to Watt, but to another sergeant from the platoon named John Diem, and Watt’s former squad leader Eric Lauzier. Diem also played a crucial part in reporting the crime. Lauzier wasn’t in country when it happened, and was blindsided when the story exploded. He suffered a cruel fate because of what his soldiers chose to do in his absence.

Watt, Diem and Lauzier spoke at length about the crime and its effects. All of them bear, to varying degrees, scars from their experience. That deployment, crime and aftermath taught them painful lessons about leadership, human nature and war. Watt and Diem want to pass their knowledge on to others. They don’t want the next generation of warriors to go through what they did, or pay the overwhelming cost they and their comrades paid. At the Army’s request, they’re speaking to military audiences about their experience. Lauzier is more jaded; he’s not sure if anything he says will change the Army in any substantial way.

As I dug further into this story, I unexpectedly received a phone call from a former sergeant named Tony Yribe. Yribe was a central figure in the immediate aftermath of the murders, and made an extremely fateful decision when he learned about the crime. His voice is extremely unique, and only he can answer important questions about why the crime was hidden. This is the first time Yribe has publicly shared his story, and explained his decision.

Read the rest at

First lesson of the Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor course?

My entire life has been a lie.


I’ve been a cop for two decades. I spent most of my time on patrol, working nights in rough areas. Like every other patrol officer, I was always around cars; my car, traffic violator cars, suspect cars, wrecked cars, parked cars, and so on. I attended two police academies which indoctrinated rookies with conventional wisdom about cars and bullets: the only cover a car provides is from the wheels and engine block, slugs will blow straight through a passenger compartment, shooting through a windshield might affect bullets a little but not much. As far as I knew, there was really no reason to be concerned. Even though I had never fired into or out of a car in training, or watched a demonstration, or even saw an instructional video, I always thought I was ready for a shooting around a car.

When did I figure out I was wrong? Right around the time instructor Steve Fisher sat in a driver’s seat and put the first round through the windshield at a target right in front of the car. It should suffice to say, pretty much everything I thought I knew about shooting around vehicles was wrong.

The Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor course was put on by the Texas Tactical Police Officers’ Association and taught by William Petty and Steve Fisher. They’re both dicks who hate everyone. I say that because they should have taught me this stuff about twenty years ago, when Petty was two and Fisher was sixty. But they didn’t, because they’re dicks.

Prior to this class, if I had been in a shooting and a suspect took cover behind an empty trunk, I would have thought “I got this. My rounds will go straight through.” Then I watched Steve fire 9mm rounds, a blast of 00 buck and a slug into one side of an empty trunk. And almost nothing came out the other side.

Now I know, sure, engine blocks are cover. Wheels aren’t bad either. But other spots on a car can be pretty damn good too.


Check that crap out. Out of eighteen 9mm and 12-guage projectiles fired into the trunk from only a few feet away, only seven 9mm rounds penetrated the far side. And they were so deformed they did almost no damage to a target set up beside the car. A suspect taking cover behind the trunk might have received a few superficial wounds, probably nothing serious. And don’t even get me started on shooting through a windshield. A windshield’s effect on a pistol round can be nothing short of catastrophic.

This is the kind of information rookie cops should know, instead of waiting until they’re decades in. I had plenty of close calls on the street, and had my trigger halfway pulled on suspects near my car many times. What if I had fired through my windshield at a suspect standing right at my bumper? My first round would likely have deflected so badly I would have missed. And even if it did hit it would be so deformed, and would have lost so much mass as it traveled through the windshield, it would probably have been completely ineffective. No shit.

Whatever you think you know about how bullets interact with cars, you’re probably wrong. And if you’re an armed good guy, you owe it to yourself to get some training and find out. Don’t just do research on the internet, or ask guys who you think should know. Get some actual training. Shoot into a car. Shoot out of a car. You’ll probably be as amazed as I was.


Second lesson of the course? Learning new positions is fun and exciting.

Back in 1989, the Marine Corps taught me the basic shooting positions: standing, kneeling, sitting and prone. And gosh darn it, there was no reason to learn more than that. In the police academies, I learned to fire a pistol standing, and…well…just standing. When I was taught the rollover prone position eight years ago, I was almost blown away; “You mean, there are other ways to shoot in combat, other than the boot-camp-level crap we’ve been spoon fed for years?” But I hadn’t learned anything new since then.

In this course, I was shown several new ways to shoot using cover. Petty and Fisher showed us new positions, explained the reasoning behind them, demonstrated them and made us practice them, over and over. They made us practice over and over because they’re dicks who hate everyone.

All the positions made sense. Only one of them gave me a momentary “That’s dumb, I’d never do that crap” reaction. I was wrong.

The “urban prone” position was totally new to me. It’s a little awkward initially, not because it’s hard to get into, but because it just feels weird. Almost everyone made the same mistakes when they dropped into it the first few times. But it’s a position you can assume within seconds, making almost maximum utilization of available cover, and fire accurately from. Learning to do it right is worth the effort.


One really cool thing about this position is that if you drop onto your weak side with a carbine, you can simply “shoulder bump” your weapon onto your weak side shoulder without changing hand positions. It’s quick, easy and it works. The only caveats here are that it’s not easy to line up iron sights from this position (red dots weren’t an issue), and that some students had trouble working the selector when they shoulder bumped.

The “Shrimp” position was the position I initially balked at. Why, I wondered, would anyone choose to lay on their back behind cover instead of staying on their feet? But then Petty and Fisher explained it; you may not have decided to lay on your back, you may have been kind of urged to get there (like maybe by, oh, getting shot in the face or something). If you wind up on your back, you can fight from that position. And you can engage quickly and easily to either side, or reload, or clear a malfunction. It was a good position to learn.


We also learned a new way to hold a pistol during movement. This method will induce an automatic heart stoppage in just about every police firearms instructor. It’s called the “temple index”. Petty and Fisher demonstrated that if you’re seated in a car and engaging, there really isn’t a good way to exit the vehicle with a weapon in your hand without muzzling the crap out of yourself, innocent bystanders, the neighbor’s dog, random hippies, everyone. That is, unless you exit the car with your weapon pointed straight upward and pressed against your temple. The instructors themselves were leery when they first saw the technique, until they decided it works. And they’re right, it does work. It looks funny, it feels funny, but it makes sense.


We practiced the temple index during a really chaotic drill where we had to engage through a windshield, bail out, take cover, then engage multiple targets around a vehicle using our pistols and carbines. Part of the drill consisted of clearing constant carbine malfunctions. The malfunctions were caused by William Petty using a stick to block our ejection ports. He did that because he’s a dick and hates everyone.


Third lesson of the course: under stress, even trained and experienced guys fuck up.

No, that’s not a surprise. We’ve all been there. But we always expect ourselves to not do it. I knew I was rusty, but during this course I discovered my pistol skills had deteriorated. Badly. I also made a rookie mistake and failed to get my pistol out of the holster while falling into urban prone, which meant I had to struggle to draw while lying on my gun side, which led to me muzzling my own arm. Fortunately for my ego, I wasn’t the only student to mess up.

Read the rest at

I’m not sure what’s going on with the gun rights movement lately. We faced a serious threat after Newtown, but at the grass roots level, America showed that it does not want more gun control. Most major gun control efforts failed miserably. Gun sales have soared. More and more good, decent citizens are getting concealed carry permits. The public is slowly learning that despite the incessant media focus on guns, actual gun crimes have plummeted. A few prominent liberals like Anthony Bourdain have tried to convince other liberals to stop demonizing gun owners. By most measures, we on the pro-2nd Amendment side have won.

But then open carriers go and screw things up.

Photo credit

Photo credit

At last count several large corporations including Starbucks, Sonic, Chipotle and now Target have at least asked OCers to stop open carrying at their businesses. I’d guess they did this because OCers were driving customers away. The businesses’ request, of course, drove some pro-2A people nuts. These businesses have all been accused of being “anti-gun”. In reality, they just want to sell stuff. On their private property. You know, in accordance with their right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They aren’t required to take sides in a fight they never wanted to be involved in. They should be left out of this.

But instead of leaving the uninterested out of the debate, open carriers have apparently adopted a policy of forcing people to take sides. They do this by flaunting their right to open carry, carrying specifically to provoke a reaction, carrying for no logical reason in really stupid places, and basically making asses of themselves. Then they take pictures of themselves proudly “defending our gun rights”.


Really, who wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into Chipotle’s with this gaggle of freedom-lovers hanging around outside? It’s not like any of them are CARRYING THEIR F’KIN’ WEAPON AT PORT ARMS, which has been taught as a combat-ready position for decades. And just look! None of them, NONE, have their weapon slung in front, which is where we soldiers carry our carbines on patrol so WE CAN QUICKLY RAISE THEM TO SHOOT PEOPLE IN THE FACE.

This has been explained by other writers already, but it’s worth repeating: if someone is carrying a weapon at port arms or low ready, it’s no different than walking around with a pistol out of the holster in a combat grip. Professionals carry their long guns in front when they’re prepared for imminent contact. When I was overseas and outside the wire, my weapon was either in my hands or hanging on my chest. You know, the way OCers carry their weapons inside coffee shops.

Now, I’m going to do a little compare and contrast. Take another look at the totally non-threatening latte buyer above. Note how his weapon hangs by the sling on his chest. If I ever have a chance to ask him, I’m sure he’ll say nothing in the manner of his open carry suggests he’s a threat.

Now, check out this guy:

US Army photo

US Army photo

Notice that he’s carrying his weapon in pretty much the same manner as the latte buyer. But he is, in fact, one hell of a threat. Because the soldier, probably unlike the coffee shop customer, has been trained how to quickly raise his weapon and engage. The soldier carries his weapon up front specifically so he can shoot people with it. The fact that the open carrier apparently doesn’t know that he’s carrying his weapon in a combat-ready manner kinda suggests he shouldn’t be carrying it in a coffee shop.

And then there are guys like these flaming morons, wandering the streets with AR-15s that they can probably barely operate. And intentionally walking past a police station. While talking like rappers. And bragging about their right to open carry. Just to get attention.

But you know what’s even sadder than that? When you realize that those ridiculous open carry bozos were actually safer and less threatening than the coffee shop guy.

Now, let’s say I’m in Home Depot. I carry a concealed pistol every day. I’m with my wife and kids looking at appliances. We turn the corner to another aisle. And I see this guy, carrying an AK with his hand on the grip and finger just outside the trigger guard.

Photo credit

Photo credit

I now have a decision to make. Is this an open carrier demonstrating in support of a right, that we already have, by walking around Home Depot completely oblivious to the fact that he’s carrying his weapon ready for action? Or is it an aspiring active shooter who just ditched his trenchcoat to expose his weapon? Might I be forgiven for not realizing that he (supposedly) doesn’t intend to appear threatening, and that he’s just clueless?

Many of us pro-2A people carry a gun just in case we run into some murderous nutcase wandering around a business with an AK ready to open fire. Then we encounter “gun rights activists” wandering around businesses carrying AKs ready to open fire. But the gun rights activists are supposedly on our side. And we’re supposed to be able to quickly tell the difference between the two. At least one open carrier in Georgia couldn’t tell the difference, and drew on another open carrier recently (

Here’s another example. How do these guys, especially the woman carrying with both hands on her weapon, not know they’re carrying in a threatening manner?

EDIT: I had to remove this image because I inadvertently attributed it to the wrong source. The picture is originally from the Detroit News (who charges for its use), and can be seen here:

Could it be… gosh… maybe they’re not the highly trained master gunfighters some of them imagine themselves to be?

Call me crazy, but I feel one of my responsibilities as a gun rights advocate is to show people that gun owners are reasonable, responsible people who aren’t a threat to the innocent. If I were to, say, walk into Chipotle carrying an AK at the combat ready, I’m pretty sure I’d accomplish the exact opposite. And I really couldn’t blame regular Joe for being afraid of me. Think about it, guys. If a cop walks into Chipotle with a rifle, people will get scared. If a soldier walks into Chipotle with a rifle, people will get scared. If some unknown guy walks into Chipotle with a rifle, especially if he’s carrying it at the combat ready, people are going to get scared. In America, carrying a rifle into a restaurant isn’t a normal act. Right or wrong, it scares people. And you won’t make people less scared of guns by intentionally scaring them with guns.

At this point, I’m sure open carriers will call me “Hoplophobe! Anti-gunner!” or whatever else helps their “You’re either one of us or one of the enemy” mindset. My response is, “Sure, whatever.” I’m 100% pro-2nd Amendment. In fact, I actually support the legal right to open carry in private businesses. I support it the same way I support the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest at soldiers’ funerals. I consider both acts to be the height of stupidity. I think the WBC and open carriers are only harming their own cause. Both acts are moronic. But this is America, and people have a right to be morons.

Peaceful open carry rallies where gun owners safely carry long guns slung across their backs on public land? I’m down with that. Blatantly ridiculous, orchestrated confrontations where open carriers walk into private businesses with rifles at the combat ready, just to piss people off, knowing that all they’ll do is create more enemies? No thanks.

So please, open carriers, stop “defending my rights”. Just stop. You’re not helping. You’re not creating friends. You’re not “proving how important it is to exercise our rights.” You also have a right to wander the streets dressed in drag; do you exercise that right? And you’re not “getting people used to open carry.” For years, the Westboro Baptist Church has angered people by protesting at funerals. America hasn’t gotten used to it. We grudgingly tolerate it because it’s legal, but pretty much everybody hopes the WBC picks the wrong funeral and gets beaten senseless. America will never say, “The Westboro Baptist Church? What a great group of guys!” And you open carriers will never NOT provoke a reaction by carrying an AR-15 inside Chipotle.

But maybe, if you keep doing this stupid crap, you’ll turn more gun-neutral people into anti-gun people. Once you create enough enemies, you’ll finally hit the critical mass that gets new gun control laws passed. When that happens, I won’t just blame those anti-gun people. I’ll blame YOU.

ADDED 7/9/2014: I just ran across this video. I don’t know anything about this guy’s background, but he makes a lot of good points.

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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, 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 or on his Facebook page (


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