Staff Sgt. Kevin Pape, a larger-than-life 1/75 Ranger squad leader, was killed 10 years ago this week during Team Darby’s plunge into the Gambir Jungle in pursuit of insurgents who had killed six 1-327 Infantry soldiers during Operation Bulldog Bite
Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Kevin Pape "was one of those kids that had all the G.I. Joes. He’d make tanks out of cardboard boxes," his late father, Marc, told me a few years ago. As a teenager in the mid '90s he paintballed and was on the track and cross-country teams.
Pape enlisted at 25 in 2005, following a childhood friend into 1st Ranger Battalion. Deploying to Iraq for the first time in 2006, then again and again, he was there for the heyday of the Rangers' Stryker-mounted missions against the forerunners of ISIS in places like Mosul.
Other Rangers nicknamed Pape "GQ" for his photogenic looks (he's often grinning in photos, sometimes blowing kisses in videos). He and his wife had a daughter while he was in 1/75, and he rose to team leader and then squad leader in Charlie Company.
For his sixth deployment in 5 years, Pape headed to Tikrit, delaying a surgery to go. A couple months in, in Sept. 2010, his platoon moved to Afghanistan (where part of C Company already was, attached to the SEALs in TF East). Pape had already been in Afg two times already.
Pape's platoon and C Company headquarters formed Team Darby, a roving element based out of Paktika that the JSOC task force used during the Afghan surge to take on targets that were too much for a typical strike force (a Ranger platoon or special mission unit troop).
Most of the platoon's missions were going down quietly—night raids where nobody fired a shot. Pape's Rangers were getting ready for another of these one night in mid-Nov when Team Darby's commander got a call and told the platoon they'd be going to Kunar instead, for a tough one.

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More from @wesleysmorgan

20 Nov
On Nov 12, A Co of the 101st Airborne's 1-327 Infantry had flown into the Watapur valley to search a town militants had been using to attack their COP. Over 3 days they'd been attacked, given chase, and lost 6 soldiers. They couldn't push any further, so Team Darby was called.
For a sense of the terrain: here's (top left) a photo I took from the mouth of the Watapur in 2013, w/ the Gambir area Team Darby was headed to up near the horizon below the .50-cal's muzzle; and three Army photos from another air assault into the Gambir Jungle in 2011.
Team Darby flew in on MH-47s, hiked down to the target area to which SIGINT suggested the enemy force had retreated, and started searching homes. Two small groups of men took off running, and with ISR guiding him, Pape went after them with his squad and a Belgian malinois (Jari).
Read 21 tweets
17 Nov
“To the average trooper, it said the sergeants were the real power of the SAS...To the junior officers, it said that if you go along with the sergeants, you'll be left alone. If you push back, your life will become a living hell.” On the SASR’s “NCO mafia”…
SASR veteran: “We had some good sergeants and not so good sergeants...The not so good sergeants were the ones who were able to shape and influence and be those cancerous individuals that led [the SAS] down that path." But what about commanders who knew?…
One set of illegal killings “was reported all the way up the special forces chain of command but dismissed....The former SAS patrol commander had one message for me about alleged war crimes. ‘EVERYONE KNEW,’ he wrote.”…
Read 4 tweets
22 Oct
The Afghanistan JSOC task force has been using SIGINT to figure out where the Taliban needs help against ISIS in Kunar, then delivering it via drone strikes, troops involved told me.

They jokingly nicknamed the targeting team the “Taliban Air Force.”…
“What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” one special operator told me. The Taliban and ISIS are duking it out in the same old terrain—Korengal, Chowkay—where U.S. spent years relying heavily on airpower and artillery.…
It’s a way of tipping the scales against ISIS, which the US sees as more dangerous, without having to talk to Taliban. “It’s easy to capture the Taliban’s communications,” said Bill Ostlund. “Why directly coordinate with them when you can do it that way?”…
Read 8 tweets
13 Oct
The Extortion 17 conspiracy theory is one of the dumbest around. CENTCOM investigation should qualify as a thorough debunking. At that pace of ops, a JSOC strike force was going to be lost to a lucky RPG eventually; see this prediction from a SEAL Team 6 chief a year before: Image
The Extortion 17 conspiracy theory comes in many flavors and has many fatal flaws. But a basic one is the premise that the shootdown killed SEALs who were on the bin Laden raid. It didn't: bin Laden raid was Team 6's Red Squadron, Extortion 17 was Gold Sqn
This person is trying to revive the Extortion 17 conspiracy theory—claiming to have new documents. But the redacted documents pictured here are just from the declassified CENTCOM investigation (under "Wardak CH-47 investigation" at
Read 4 tweets
13 Oct
This was going to happen eventually. Kind of amazing that it took this long. There are roughly as many US troops in Somalia as there are in Syria (500 is the Pentagon's official number).
Here's former JSOC and SOCOM commander Gen. (Ret.) Tony Thomas, who presided over JSOC strikes and raids in Somalia, recently saying that "whether al Shabab is a threat to the US is subject to debate." count
Here's another US counterterrorism and intelligence veteran echoing that assessment:
Read 4 tweets
12 Oct
In this story for which @natepenn interviewed Clint Lorance, Lorance comes across pretty badly—but his defense/pardon team comes across a lot worse, touting “biometric” evidence that was really just willfully misread common Afghan names in a database…
.@natepenn’s story about what Clint Lorance did, and what Lorance’s defense team and Fox News did to get Trump to pardon him, is worth reading in full. It sounds like Lorance himself accepted he was guilty and fairly convicted—until convinced otherwise.…
Also, it’s funny that the story is about the Arghandab and is titled “The Last Patrol.” So is this fantastic Brian Mockenhaupt story about paratroopers from the same brigade in the same district on their previous, surge-era deployment…
Read 4 tweets

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