- Jeffrey Denning (WarriorSOS.com)
- I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also www.WarriorSOS.com.
July 6, 2011
Interview with a US Special Forces operator
Gregory Tarancon is a US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant / Sergeant Major selectee, assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group (US National Guard). He is the recipient of four Bronze Star Medals, two NATO medals and multiple other awards, including SOCOMs Joint Service Commendation and Achievement Medals (USMILGP-Honduras). He most recently served as a team sergeant for an 18-man Special Forces Operational Detachment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF XVI - Afghanistan). Since 9/11, he has participated in more than nine contingency operations (including, but not limited to 4 - OEF combat tours, 2 - Operation Iraqi Freedom combat tours, and 2 - OEF-CAA Honduras and South America rotations). He has worked as a contracted training instructor/advisor in Africa and Iraq, with MPRI, in support of State Department initiatives. He holds a bachelors degree in Aeronautical Engineering Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. When he's not involved in military operations, he works as a federal law enforcement officer with the Department of Homeland Security, serving as a Federal Air Marshal in Washington DC. He is married with two children.
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
You've experienced a broad range of operations since 9/11, and have been away from home and hearth a lot since then (not to mention the deployments prior to 9/11). How are you able to continue to mission in between homesickness, trial and operational frustrations?
It is always difficult dealing with being separated from the ones you love. I am lucky because I have been blessed with such a supportive and understanding family. I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish most of the things I have done without my families support.
Another positive influence has been my faith in God. During these deployments I have been lucky because I have had many family members and friends praying for me and my team. I tried to say a prayer everyday for the safety of my team. I believe it helped us through the most difficult times.
Abraham Lincoln wrote this about faith –“Without the assistance of the Divine Being ... I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail.”
Finally, the belief that the United States of America stands for freedom, is the greatest country in the world and that as patriots it is our duty to zealously defend America against all threats to freedom. We must continue the struggle until there is victory.
JFK made this statement and I believe his words: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
How did you and your team feel upon hearing about the death of bin Laden?
We have been waiting for this moment for a long time, but in a single word – “Justice”
You have a son at West Point. He hopes to follow in your footsteps in SF. What do you think the future will bring for the next generation of warriors?
Unfortunately, history has taught us that to this day there has not been a “War to end all Wars”. Conflicts to defend freedom were around during my father’s time, his father’s time, my time and I am afraid will continue during my son’s time. The next generation of warriors must adapt to fight a faceless enemy (a wolf among sheep), a criminal that has no honor and uses women and children as shields. The future warriors must be more than just a soldier; they should be skilled diplomats-ambassadors, criminal investigators, builders, community leaders and must understand counterinsurgency and asymmetric threats.
What advice would you want to offer him?
Well, I would tell him to apply what he learned at West Point, with an open mind of course and in the event he can’t remember everything he was taught, just remember one simple rule – Never ask your soldiers to do something you not willing to do yourself, remember to “Always Lead by Example.”
There's so much more you'd want to teach your son, undoubtedly. What would you want him and other warriors to know about life threatening situations?
Trust your instincts, have faith in your abilities and the moral courage to make decisions. Be tenacious about taking the fight to the enemy. Have the will to win because those who live are those who zealously take the fight to the enemy.
How do you prepare to win?
It is a combination of training and mental conditioning. Take every opportunity to train as hard as you can. You can’t train for every contingency, but perform with surgical precision the drills that you consider most important. Develop and cultivate the warrior’s ethos, dominate the situation and instill confidence in subordinates.
You were nearly killed a few years ago, but a foreign SpecOps warrior saved your life. Can you tell us about how that made you feel? Do you think about that ever?
Yes, I do owe my life to a fellow operator a French Naval Commando, who was a member of a Joint Special Operations Task Unit that our team was partnered with conducting joint operations in Eastern Afghanistan. To get straight to the point, he was a professional who took the job seriously; literally he had my back and that’s how he saved my life. He was pulling rear security during an assault on a compound and took decisive action against a group of insurgents coming up from the rear. He was the only one that stood between them and the assault force I was a part of. He not only saved my life but the entire assault element.
When it was over, he just joked about it, as if routine and added that I would have done the same thing for him. He was absolutely right; war has a way of making us all a band of brothers.
Do you think about the multiple engagements you've experienced? In your mind, what's the best way to deal with painful memories?
Every situation is different, no matter how many times you find yourself in contact it is never predictable, so it is very hard to prepare. I feel that no matter how grave the situation you must try to keep your wits and stay calm.
I don’t think there is any way to really deal with painful memories. Everyone is different and has different ways of coping. I myself turn to God and find some relief in prayer. It has also helped me to talk to someone I trust. Overall, the best overall way of coping is staying mission focused and realize that people depend on you to drive on.
You've lost some good friends. You've had many other friends get wounded -- some very seriously. If there's something you could tell them -- or have told them -- what would that be?
These men are the epitome of the word “Warrior”. Their sacrifice was not in vain; they made a great difference and many of their brothers are safe because of their actions. They had the will to defy fear; the sense of duty to throw the gauntlet down to fate and the honor to scorn in compromise with death - that is heroism. These men are the noblest, bravest of souls; I have ever had the honor of knowing and serving. These men are a shining example and a pillar of strength for us to follow. They are my brothers forever; they will always be in my heart. I love them and will never forget them.
Many warriors have unseen wounds. In fact, there have been more mental illness injuries in the GWOT than in all other wars. What advice would you offer to them?
If you are hurting, please seek help. You owe it to yourself and your family to get better. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it is a very brave thing.
Many of the warriors today are in the Reserves or National Guard. What is your feeling on the contributions of the citizen soldiers?
National Guard and Reserves have made a tremendous impact on the mission. I have come across many General Officers to include: (Admiral Mullen, Admiral Olsen and General Petreus) who have stated that the difference between Active forces and Reserve forces is seamless across both theaters of operation. I have met many high ranking government officials that were impressed with the broad range of unique civilian skills that National Guardsmen and Reservist brought to the table such as Doctors, Lawyers, Pilots, First Responders, Police Officers, General Contractors to name a few. In addition, the typical National Guard or Reserve soldier tends to be older so the level of maturity and experience is greater when compared to the Active duty soldier. I don’t think people realize that the National Guard and Reserve make up more than 50% of our deployed forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Major Commands such as CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, SOCOM are composed of over 40% Reserve and National Guard Soldiers. As, I sit down writing this response to you from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, I look around and see more Reservist than Active duty working on the flight line, MP patrolling, Combat Units getting ready to conduct operations, soldiers conducting logistical operations all wearing National Guard and Reserve Patches. Quite frankly, we could not do these missions without the National Guard and Reserves.
These citizen soldiers are often brought home from war and immediately integrated back into citizen society -- far away from military installations and support. Do you think such a separation from teammates and resources is damaging? What can these warriors do for help?
Adjusting back to civilian life can be difficult, but there programs that have been implemented to help soldiers coming back from deployments. One such program is called “The Yellow Ribbon Program”, which is federally funded and conducted at the state level. It provides a multitude of resources to soldiers and has helped many.
There’s a huge bond between fellow warriors. Will you give us your point of view on this incredible bond?
I can’t say it better than William Shakespeare; “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me; shall be my brother.”
How can family help during reintegration, or return from deployment?
Family is a great source of support, there is nothing like family to get you back into a healthy routine. My advice to family members is to continue to be more understanding and loving. Realize that there is an adjustment period and it takes time to adjust to ones surrounding. Your loved one has been gone for a long time in a hostile environment and things are going to seem confusing for the time being. I myself just wanted to spend time with my immediate family and wanted privacy. It took some time for me to feel ready to interact with friends and society in general.
What advice would you give the warrior who returns home?
Feel good about yourself, be proud of your accomplishments, you just came back from serving your county and defending Freedom. You have just done one of the noblest acts any patriot can do for his country, so it’s ok to have a little pride you deserve it!
Be grateful to be coming home. Enjoy every moment with the ones you love. Never forget that the most powerful force on earth is love. Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible -- it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.
Is there anything else you'd like to share that would be helpful for the readers of the Warrior SOS blog?
Keep faith in God and Country and to remember "God has brought together Jews, Christians and Muslims to this holy land. No human power can change it -- their destiny is to live together."
On this last deployment, especially, how has religion and a belief in God helped you and your team personally?
More than any deployment I turned to God and prayer to give me strength, wisdom and guidance. Prayer and faith helped a great deal to get through some rough times, especially when there were doubts and I was unsure of a decision or outcome, I would say a silent prayer to God. On some of the more difficult operations, I would lead the team in a prayer, some guys though it was corny, but I did it anyway.
My favorite prayer for warriors was written by General Patton –
"God of our fathers, who by land and sea have ever led us to victory, please continue Your inspiring guidance in this the greatest of all conflicts. Strengthen my soul so that the weakening instinct of self-preservation, which besets all of us in battle, shall not blind me to my duty to my own manhood, to the glory of my calling, and to my responsibility to my fellow soldiers. Grant to our armed forces that disciplined valor and mutual confidence which insures success in war. Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived. If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the enemy, and please, oh Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord."
What a wonderful interview! Thank you so very much for your example, patriotism and courage.
I am happy you liked the interview. I have to be honest, some of it was hard to write because it did bring back some difficult memories, but if it can help fellow warriors healing, it was worth it. Thank you for asking me to do it. I also did find it uplifting and brought me some peace.
To read more about MSG Gregory Tarancon, see the following links and interviews:
If you wish to contact him, you may do so at gregoryivt[at]aol[dot]com (written out to avoid spam)
To read this and other amazing interviews, check out Warrior SOS, the book on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-SOS-Military-Veterans-Emotional/dp/1462117341/
For Warrior SOS book endorsements from Glenn Beck, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and others, check out the author's link: http://www.jeffrey-denning.com/books/warrior-sos/