Many people remember Command Sergeant Major Robb Prosser. Robb is the man who shot the man who shot Erik Kurilla. This firefight is described in Gates of Fire.
I spent about five months with his unit in Iraq, and so Robb later invited me with his unit in Afghanistan. We were roommates in Kandahar. Robb was the Command Sergeant Major of the 5th Stryker Brigade.
Unfortunately, the upper leadership (above the brigade) had the brigade so spread out over a huge area of southern Afghanistan that it was near about impossible for Stryker leadership to keep tabs on everyone, much less make progress.
The Brigade Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, was later villainized by other officers and by the media, partly due to the fact that a small number of Soldiers committed murder. The vast majority of the brigade consisted of normal combat troops, meaning they were highly disciplined. But we know how this goes. If a few bad apples fall off a tree, we often chop down the whole tree or even the entire orchard.
I have a different view of Colonel Tunnell. I like him immensely. He’s also the highest ranking officer who comes right out and supports this Dustoff fight. That’s part of why I respect him. He knows that supporting this Dustoff fight hurts him professionally, but he knows it’s the right thing for our troops.
Colonel Tunnell got shot in Iraq and came back for seconds in Afghanistan. Incidentally, Colonel Tunnell also gives high praise to the courage and professionalism of Dustoff crews who he credits with saving his leg in Iraq, and many of his troops in Afghanistan.
Colonel Tunnell’s problem is that he is his own man. He’s a very smart man and he speaks his mind. Speaking your mind in the military with an opinion that does not carry the line is nearly guaranteed to leave you shipwrecked. That’s what happened. Bottom line: I respect Colonel Tunnell, and Robb Prosser is a close friend of mine. Robb was Command Sergeant Major for Colonel Tunnell.
Robb sends this note:
Mike, we go way back and have been through much together both in IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN. These GO [General Officer] Leaders are completely disconnected and seem hell bent on proving their points regardless of the consequences and making unsound directives regardless of the loss of life. Mike, as you know I was a BDE [Brigade] CSM during my last deployment and I have always stood up for what is right–This time it only got me into trouble.
I have much more to say but will stick to the point. My BDE Commander [COL Tunnell] wrote the Sec of Army direct on the problems leaders were facing when it came to the NATO Forces and how US service members were being placed in questionable positions and conditions which had dire consequences on the battlefield. Thank God some of those leaders were relieved!
[Colonel Tunnell] in his address to Sec of ARMY also commented on how units are showing up not trained for missions and that some leaders are selected for the wrong positions based on little experience and knowledge, but regardless are still being placed in these positions.
Commander wrote a memorandum of concern directly to the G8 about the survivability of the Stryker and was classified a difficult leader to work with by folks at the Pentagon.
Our nation’s sons were dying and being injured and he was doing his duty to report a vehicle that was not equipped for the environment it was employed to fight in. That message and the loss of over 22 Soldiers cost the ARMY 3.1 Billion dollars for a new fleet of Strykers we should have had from the beginning. The amount of waste/fraud/abuse that is going on over there would make the taxpayer sick!
But yet all this sits on the sideline and the AFGHANISTAN PEOPLE are priority # 1. Generals were putting out units need to love the Afghan People. I was called “difficult to work with” because I hated the enemy that hurt and killed my teammates more than I liked the Afghan people. I loved my Soldiers more than anything.
When I went to Walter Reed to visit my wounded Soldiers not one mother/father/sister/brother asked me about how the Afghan people are doing. These Americans asked about our service members and how they are doing–maybe we need to start focusing on them instead of the Afghan people.
Maybe having a writer who reports about the tough uphill fights units have each and every day in Afghanistan [will help]. A writer who addresses some of the issues above with hard facts could be doing the war the best thing that could possibly happen–writing about the truth. . . .
Mike, keep up the fight brother!!!
US ARMY CSM (RET)
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