Let’s remember and honor Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler

I wanted to take a moment to do my small part to honor a warrior and true American hero.

Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler was the first American to die in combat in Iraq in four years, and he was a highly decorated Delta Force member who was killed taking part in a joint raid to rescue 70 hostages held by ISIS.

The hostages were expected to be executed within hours, after morning prayers. In fact, their graves had already been dug.

Thus, a joint, night-time raid was launched with Kurdish commandos.

The fighting was fierce and scary, as evidenced by this helmet camera footage dug up by the Washington Post. You can just feel the fear and confusion in the video, as a fire burns, people scramble, and bullets snap past.

And going beyond the call of duty in this battle was Master Sergeant Wheeler.

The Kurds were trying to blast a hole in the outer wall to breach the compound, but were unable to do so, according to The New York Times.

Wheeler, just one of many Delta Force operators advising the Kurds, rushed to the front of the line to fix the charges. And when the hole in the wall was blown, Wheeler led the way through it.

“When you blow a hole in a compound wall, all the fire gets directed toward that hole, and that’s where he was,” said a former Delta Force officer, who once led Wheeler and was briefed afterward about the mission.

The New York Times wrote an impressive tribute to Wheeler, who leaves behind a wife and infant boy, plus three sons from an earlier marriage.

Incredibly, Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler had been on 14 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since joining the Army, and he had already earned 11 Bronze Stars.

I’m not sure it’s possible to explain those kinds of numbers to someone who’s never served.

In my four years of service, I merely did two measly, six-month deployments, and only spent two days in harm’s way, and it COMPLETELY changed my life. This man may have spent as much as 10 years (or more) in harm’s way. (The math on that is that at one point Army deployments were as long as 13 months, assuming your unit wasn’t extended. Truthfully, we’ll probably never know the real figure, since the Army doesn’t even admit to Delta Force’s existence).

Nonetheless, you can’t really put 14 deployments into words. For instance, both of my deployments had major training work ups (one lasting six months), and these are exhausting and dangerous in their own right. These super-intensive training exercises are far more dangerous than more typical, peace-time training — we actually lost a great Marine during this kind of training, when Lance Corporal Foster died on April 10, 1999, while my company — Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment — conducted highly dangerous jungle training in Okinawa. Foster drowned while crossing a roaring stream in full combat gear. (Photo by Cpl. Conwell.)

Additionally, there are also air alerts periods for units, where you can’t go far from the base and have to be ready to deploy within hours. (These air alerts involve drills, which are launched by surprise — usually at night or on the weekend! — and you have no idea if they’re real or not until the exercise is ended.)

I say all this because there’s probably no way to accurately measure how much time Master Sergeant Wheeler spent either on air alert, or impossible-to-describe training, or on dangerous deployments into harm’s way.

This man spent the better part of nearly 20 years in the complete, full service of our country. He was away from his family. He was away from comforts, such as a bed, a shower, a TV, or any of the other things we all take for granted.

And even when he didn’t have to be up front, when he could have taken his foot off the gas — he was planning to retire soon — he moved to the front and freely accepted the most dangerous position.

My former platoon leader Captain Eaton said it best.

“This guy had 11 Bronze stars. Even if the ‘plan’ is for foreign fighters to take the lead on a mission, U.S. Commandos will not be mere observers once bullets start flying. They are neither physically nor morally capable of just standing by.”

I wish we had more Americans like Master Sergeant Wheeler, who are neither physically nor morally capable of just standing by.

This man was a warrior. He was a hero. And his record of service and sacrifice should inspire us all.

And while not all of us can serve as Master Sergeant Wheeler did, we can remember that we still have a war going on. We still have troops in danger every single day. And we can do far more to support them.

Furthermore, we can remind our kids that real heroes don’t play on the football field or on the basketball court. They sleep in mud. They deploy thousands of miles away. And they rush through holes that they don’t have to.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About meStan R. Mitchell writes some of the most action-packed, fast-moving gunfighter novels around. Tired of slow-paced, investigative novels that take 300 pages to excite you? Look no further! Stan is the best-selling author of 5 novels in 3 different time periods. He’s also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a former journalist who spent ten years in the newspaper business, learning how to hook the reader, cut out the filler, and just tell the story. In short, Stan is knowledgeable, he’s fast, and his books will blow you away. Don’t forget to subscribe for email alerts to keep up with his latest works.

‘Afghan Storm’ has arrived!

AfghanStorm_Cover

Hey guys!

I’m super proud to say that “Afghan Storm” is finally finished and available for purchase! (Well, at least in its ebook version. The paper version will come along in about a week or so.)

I can’t possibly explain how proud I am of this book. It is, without question, the best book we’ve ever pulled off. (And I say “we” because Danah was WAY more involved in this book than she’s ever been — and she’s always been somewhat involved. But on this book, she helped a ton with the characters, with the ending, and even worked on some rewrites of some of the chapters, making them MUCH better.)

Also, Emily Akin​ straight up killed it with the editing, and improved the book significantly.

So, with all that said, please, guys, do what you do best! : )

Buy the book, tell your friends, share on facebook, etc. And if this book rocks your world even half as much as I think it will, please drop a review for it on Amazon.

Thank you guys for allowing me to have the greatest (FULL-TIME!!!) job in the world, and through your support, for letting me take this journey the past year with Nick and his gang into one of the most desolate places in the world.

Danah, Emily, and I lived this book already, and each of us went through the entire gamut of emotions. (Believe me. I’m not lying.) And I’m betting you’ll do the same once you start it, as well.

I’ll place Chapter 1 at the bottom of this post. Just take a look at what Nick and his crew are up to. (Hint: It involves a forty-mile mission behind enemy lines into Pakistan. With just four men. And no support. And I mean none.)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me: I write military action books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior USMC Sgt with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business — 9 of them with a newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate or inspire you.

Afghan Storm

Chapter 1

Present Day — Just inside Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan

Nick Woods took a knee and wiped the ample sweat from his forehead, adjusting his pack in the cool night air. He made a mental note to thank the gods of war that this was the middle of summer, and not the freezing, bone-chilling winter that drove even the tough locals into their compounds and caves.

The three men accompanying him used the short break to adjust gear and sip water, while Nick’s brain worked in overdrive as he scanned his sector. He was definitely putting his men out on a limb this time — more so than when he had led the assault on the Mexican slum of Neza-Chalco-Itza just six months ago.

The unit’s overall mission this time was as simple as it had been in Mexico: take down Rasool Deraz, a venerable elder who inspired hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters across the country and into Pakistan.

Over the years, Rasool Deraz had grown so powerful that most analysts and several computer simulations reported that under his leadership the Taliban would soon topple the Afghan government. And America felt that it had invested too much in the past fourteen years to allow the Taliban to once again assume control of Afghanistan.

Thus Nick’s company — Shield, Safeguard, and Shelter, or S3 — had been contracted by the Afghan government to ostensibly provide training for their police force and consult with the government at the highest levels to assist them in reducing the threat from the Taliban. Or at least that’s what it looked like on paper. S3, however, wasn’t just some private security firm. In reality, S3 was an arm of the CIA. A private company that filed annual paperwork and paid its taxes, which helped create enough distance to allow the U.S. government complete deniability.

S3’s job in Afghanistan had nothing to do with training the police. Although Nick and his band of headhunters had severely limited resources, the plan was simple: find Deraz, shoot Deraz, and hopefully set the Taliban back as much as they could.

However, actually executing the plan would prove to be no small challenge.

So far, they had made it past their first obstacle. The four men of S3 had snuck across the border of Afghanistan and into Pakistan nearly an hour ago with no problems. That, of course, was the easy part. But now, on this side of the border, they were completely on their own. Just four men with no chance of backup, air support, or extraction. In fact, the only guarantee they were given was that America would deny any ties to S3 if they were captured or killed.

You sure know how to dig a deep hole, Nick thought to himself.

But at least he had brought three of his best men with him. He had Marcus, the tall, commanding Marine drill instructor, who served as his right-hand man. He had Truck, the merciless, insubordinate Special Forces trooper, who had seen as much combat as any man alive. And he had Red, the cocky, quick-tempered Marine, who carried a trainload of fight on his 5’5” frame. Red was also one of the best point men Nick had ever encountered.

Their objective on this raid was to infiltrate forty-plus miles into Pakistan (moving only in darkness). They would travel along a moderate mountain range, trekking at higher altitudes to avoid detection. Thankfully, this wasn’t the Hindu Kush mountain range, which spanned as high as 20,000 feet. Instead, this range had much lower elevations, being as Nick and his team were crossing into Pakistan roughly 100 miles south of Khost. That mean much lower elevations, which were much easier to traverse.

At the end of this forty-mile journey into one of the most dangerous countries in the world, they planned to raid a single compound and locate a man named Ahmud al-Habshi.

Ahmud al-Habshi was the primary communications man for the Taliban. Therefore, his private compound promised computers, probably several servers, and loads of files. Essentially, it was a smorgasbord, a tide-turning honey hole, of invaluable intelligence.

Then there was Ahmud al-Habshi himself, who knew the habits, movements, and possibly every hiding spot used by Rasool Deraz. Nick Woods and his three S3 shooters planned to wake him up late one night and take him on a one-way field trip to Afghanistan. If they failed, a drone strike would quickly silence al-Habshi, but it would in turn also destroy tons of evidence and any chance of taking down Rasool Deraz.

Thus, it was critical that Nick and S3 properly execute this raid. Failing to capture the intel from al-Habshi and eventually take down Deraz would certainly doom Afghanistan.

Deraz was seen as a respected leader and legend by the people in Afghanistan, most of whom supported him. Blessed with high esteem and a nation’s loyalty, his power and reach were difficult to fathom.

With just a few words delivered by messenger, Deraz could call upon local fighters among the people, who would spring up and strike an Afghan compound before disappearing into the countryside.

And the strength of Deraz knew no bounds. He had supporters in the countryside. He had supporters in the farmlands. He had supporters in the cities.

Without question, Rasool Deraz was the spiritual leader for many of the Afghan people, and Nick and S3 had to find a way to take him down or Afghanistan was doomed.

Link to “Afghan Storm.”

Improving the U.S. military. Some thoughts from two vets…

Being a prior enlisted member of the military, it’s quite common to spout off your views on all things military. From playing Monday morning quarterback regarding current combat operations, to discussing how the Army or Marine Corps could do things better, nearly every enlisted member that I’ve ever met complains and gripes, while also suggesting how things could be better.

I’ve learned this doesn’t end when you get out, and I’ve of late been increasingly talking all things military with a guy I’ll just call “Lee.”

Lee served four and a half years in the Army, with most of his time in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Lee served two combat tours during that time and he knows about ten times more about weapons than I do, and well, that’s saying something.

Several times in the past six months, we’ve talked about things we’d change if we were in charge and we finally decided it’d be fun to throw these things out there for discussion purposes, and even better, to hear all the other ideas floating around out there.

Here were some ideas we had…

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