by Lt Col (ret), US Army, Darin Gaub
My Band of Brothers Moment
“The Army’s National Training Center, next to Death Valley, has a few things going for it. Dusty, dark, miserably hot, windy, brutally cold, coyotes, snakes, spiders, never-ending sand – and many humans running around the desert training for war with little to no sleep for days. Sounds like fun.” — Author
In the Netflix mini-series “Band of Brothers,” there is a famous episode called “The Last Patrol” where Captain Winters (Damian Lewis) tells one of his platoons that they have been ordered for a second time to cross a river to capture Germans for interrogation. The platoon had completed the same mission the night prior and lost men. Already dealing with numerous losses from Bastogne and with World War II seemingly ending, this mission was rightfully viewed as an unnecessary risk pushed on them by their battalion commander. Captain Winters informed the men the mission was scheduled for 2 am, then ordered them all to get a good night’s rest; he would see them in the morning. Ignoring the battalion commander’s orders was risky, but Captain Winters knew the mission came with little reward. With a wink and nod, he departed the platoon’s headquarters.
Few people get the chance to make a life and career-altering decision in a public manner that sets the tone of their leadership and displays to many what self-sacrifice looks like. I had that chance because my situation demanded decisions that would ultimately end my career. It came while training with my aviation Task Force at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. I had previously lived for three years as a trainer, doing my part to prepare thirty-three brigades to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
On January 18, 2018, a flight of two AH-64 Apache helicopters was conducting their mission in the center portion of the training area when one of those aircraft suffered a Night Vision System failure. This was a known system problem in this aircraft, and the pilots were suddenly unable to see in the dark while flying close to the ground in a mountainous desert environment. The aircraft impacted the ground, and First Lieutenant Clay Cullen and Chief Warrant Officer Two Kevin Burke were killed immediately. I knew them both from our time training together for deployment to Fort Irwin, and their loss was a tragedy that had a significant impact on the Task Force. This was not the first time I had been in a unit that lost crewmembers, but this was my first loss in training rather than combat. The Brigade Commander of the unit we were training with immediately canceled a major helicopter air assault we had scheduled for 24 hours later, and although we all knew that “the mission must go on” is a rule of thumb necessary to military life, sometimes prudence dictates change.
This training event was in January 2018, and many were convinced that we would soon be at war in Korea. Those higher ranking than the Brigade Commander I was working for refused to cancel the air assault and pushed for its execution at any cost. This was the fifth time during my service that I had been on short notice to deploy to South Korea, and it was clear to me that President Trump was playing a game of brinksmanship with North Korea. I never thought we would end up invading, so my mindset was not one of risking so much for one training event.
Air assault missions are not minor events and are highly complicated. They involve multiple rehearsals and much planning. For such a mission to succeed, commanders and their staffs must integrate artillery, drones, helicopters with various loads, fixed-wing aircraft at different altitudes, and rehearsals, to name only some details. The goal is to synchronize numerous moving parts into a landing by helicopters that is +/- 30 seconds of the time planned. There are specific steps in planning and rehearsals that must be completed. Those steps were bypassed or minimized to the point where the mission was perilous. To make matters worse, the mission was to occur at night into dusty landing zones that were not yet identified even a few hours before we were to execute. Because many critical requirements were bypassed, I was confident we would suffer casualties if something did not change.
Despite my concerns and protests, we were forced to go forward. Any mission like this had criteria to be met before launching aircraft. The landing zones had to meet specific standards, such as no enemy beyond a particular capability, which had to be confirmed by drones or other intelligence assets. If specific enemy forces or a high-value target had to be present, their presence needed to be confirmed too. Add in weather checks, illumination, ensuring we had enough troops, and too many other things to list. With so many moving parts, it is easy to see how a mission can get canceled when all the necessary conditions are unmet.
In this case, the mission required a minimum force of Soldiers on the ground by a specific time.
Because the Chain of Command above me refused to listen, I decided to ensure we did not meet those minimum requirements and force either a cancellation or shift in the timeline. The easy way to do this was to “break” aircraft as they prepared to fly. My key leaders and I devised a code word to pass over the radio that, when heard, would result in plausible maintenance issues affecting the aircraft so they could not launch. As a result, there would not be enough Soldiers in the landing zones to accomplish the mission, and we’d have to cancel or reschedule, gaining critical time. I hated being forced into this position, this was not actual combat, and I was not going to risk so many lives so senior leaders could check a box. When I passed the code word over the Task Force’s command frequency, I knew my opportunities to command in the future ended, and my career was likely over as well. Given the situation, I’d do it again without hesitation.
A couple of days later, during a review of what happened, the Brigadier General pushing the air assault mission met with my Task Force leadership. He did what many military officers tend to do and focused on his experience and qualifications while strutting in front of my Task Force leadership, ignoring the real problem. He berated all the leadership, but everybody knew I was his sole target, and I did not care. I knew I had made the right decision. That Brigadier General would continue to get promoted, and I would later move into retirement with a clear conscience.
I wrote this short story because of what I have seen happening in the military, where I served for twenty-eight years. Too many officers in the military blindly followed jab mandates, diversity and equity requirements, and the transvestite agenda. They stood by and took no responsibility for their actions during our surrender in Afghanistan. They have sold their souls and replaced them with stars. This is my personal story of a leadership situation and the decision that ended my career.
I stand proudly alongside friends who sacrificed more, like Brad Miller, Matt Lohmeier, Stu Scheller, Sam Shoemate, and Brandon Budge, who are part of another small band of brothers willing to sacrifice careers when the cards are on the table. The stories of sacrifice across the military are abundant and affect all ranks; they are the stories of those who refused to violate their oaths – the stories of heroes. As a Co-founder of Restore Liberty, I also stand alongside STARRS.US, Veterans for America First, Heritage Action, Creative Destruction Media, Newsmax, the House Freedom Caucus, the State Freedom Caucus Network, and other organizations that expose the woke agenda’s cancer wherever it grows.
What are you called to sacrifice in this war for liberty in America? Do not wait; get out there and do it.
Lt Col (ret), US Army, Darin Gaub is a Co-founder of Restore Liberty, an international military strategist, foreign policy analyst, executive leadership coach, ordained Bible minister, and serves on the boards of multiple volunteer national and state level organizations. The views presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, or its components. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter – @Darin_Gaub and Substack
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