How Do They Do IT? My Reflection on Veterans, Suicide, and the Syrian Quagmire

1236534_10151650065899150_1247205358_n-300x300by Kerry Patton:

Over the past several days, not even realizing it, something has changed within me. It’s my attitude and it sucks. I have said some hurtful things to many persons I cherish and for that I am deeply sorry. But why this sudden attitude change? Let me take a moment to ask a different question.

How do they do it?

How do veterans still living, those who fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, etc. do it? How do they sit every day and watch the news around them? How do they go on knowing their brothers of today are fighting aimless wars, and for what? How do they live knowing the current wars fought are plagued with disinformation and propaganda?

How do they do it?

These are questions I have been asking myself on an hourly basis for well over a week now. With every new report coming out of the United States, the United Nations, Syria, or wherever, I find myself getting sick to my stomach…literally.

How do they do it?

How do we veterans continue living knowing not only has our country furnished rogue nations and terrorist groups with weapons we would later be forced to fight but also weapons of mass destruction like those provided to Saddam Hussein during the 80’s? It’s a morality issue I find myself struggling with daily.

How do they do it?

For many, they don’t do it. And that is reality.

A serious epidemic is growing in America. That epidemic is suicide among veterans. According multiple reports, one veteran takes his/her life every 65 minutes. That’s an average of twenty-two per day.

Why is this statistic important?

As the United States contemplates some form of military action in Syria, veterans will be sitting in their chairs watching the news and growing with depression knowing our own brothers and sisters are being forced into harm’s way for no true national security reason which jeopardizes our own nation. We will seriously question the integrity of a nation we vowed to defend against all enemies—foreign and domestic.

Many veterans will obtain attitude changes like I have over such a decision and integrity loss. Many will be angered, saddened, outraged, depressed, etc. Many will be on edge. Many will even contemplate taking their own lives.

I am not suicidal. Angered, outraged, possibly even a bit depressed…but not suicidal.

If I have these feelings, surely I am not alone. With the possibilities of military action against Syria, veterans are going to be impacted unlike many American’s who never served a day in combat. We need to really look out for these warriors.

Starting on Sunday, September 8th through Saturday, September 14th we as a nation will endure National Suicide Prevention Week. This also may be the time we see the start of US military involvement in Syria.

During this week of suicide prevention, my brothers at Ranger UP will be posting articles on their Rhino Den blog to help support Suicide Prevention Week. This is just a heads up for what is to come and I ask all readers to constantly check in to their blog site to read what we veterans have to say about this growing epidemic.

This post is also about me and expressing my feelings of a shitty attitude. Thankfully, I would never allow myself to stoop to the point of no return. But others have, and will.

I have my own outlet to release my feelings through writing. I pray other veterans find outlets that work for them. Its critical they find ways to release their frustrations through healthy means. But I also understand some will just not find those means and lean towards the alternative.

Veterans need our support now more than ever. Be on the lookout folks. Let’s take care of our nation’s best and brightest because we face the potential of some seriously depressing times ahead of us especially if we find ourselves intervening in Syria.

Kerry Patton is the author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors

Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors


If truth is the first casualty of war, author Kerry Patton has ably attempted to correct that dictum in his highly entertaining novel, Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors, a fictionalized account of the heroic but overlooked work performed by civilian contractors in Afghanistan.

As a military veteran and expert in intelligence, security and counter-terrorism who has worked at the highest levels of government, including the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, Patton initially began Contracted as an autobiography.

However, fear of breaching intelligence secrets led Patton to switch gears, writing a fictionalized story instead, one based on true events, but told through the voice of Declan Collins, a former military man recruited out of civilian life by the CIA for intelligence work in Afghanistan.

There, Declan and his civilian partner, Rex Browhart, himself a former military vet, find themselves assigned as military advisors at a Forward Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan.

At the FOB, Collins and Browhart form a working alliance with a varied group of officers and enlisted men on a plan to arm Afghan warlords eager to fight the Taliban, a plan Collins believes will save American lives.

Most of the men aiding Collins in this task are a mixture of Special Forces, including Delta Force, Navy Seals and Army Rangers and Green Berets. To Collins, these men are modern day warriors, part of a dying breed, driven to sacrifice their lives for God, family and country.

It’s a patriotic theme Patton employs throughout his book, one in which money isn’t the primary motivating factor driving these contractors — most of whom are former military — but rather a deep love of country further fueled by an abiding loyalty to aid their brothers-in-arms.

Unfortunately, the press has helped to paint a picture of civilian contractors as either nothing more than mercenaries in search of a quick paycheck or out-of-control homicidal maniacs, such as those in Blackwater, the private security consulting firm employed by the US government during the Iraq war.

Not surprisingly, that negative portrayal tends to overlook the heroism and sacrifices that many contractors have performed and endured once they have left the comfort and safety of the civilian world for life in a combat zone.

In fact, it is to that point that Patton reportedly wrote Contracted, noting it is “truly meant for those unsung heroes who never get recognized yet often get chastised.”

Patton also doesn’t neglect the hardships faced by the family and loved ones left behind, weaving into his book the struggles and fears faced by Collins’ new young wife, Brannagh. As Patton has noted, “This book is not just for them (the contractors) but for their friends and family as well. They too deserve some recognition.”

That recognition comes at the same time as the use of civilian contractors in combat zones by American corporations, defense contractors, and governmental agencies — including the DOD, State Department and CIA — is growing in both prominence and danger.

Specifically, in 2012 American civilian contractors constituted 62 percent of the US presence in Afghanistan. These contractors are used in many unarmed roles, including transporting supplies, staffing food services, building homes and commercial facilities and serving as interpreters.

However, they are also employed in armed capacities, jobs which include providing security for State Department and Pentagon officials, guarding US installations, gathering intelligence and training the Afghan army and police.

Still, whether operating in armed or unarmed roles, the risks these civilian contractors face are great. In 2011, 430 American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan — 386 who worked for the Defense Department — and 1,777 injured or wounded.

Read more at Front Page

Frank Crimi is a San Diego-based writer and author of the book Raining Frogs and Heart Attacks. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog,

Did the US have enough indicators and warnings for Algeria?




In the intelligence world, indicators and warnings are essential. They are key pieces of data expressing enough insight allowing an analyst to determine threats, proposed threat levels, and assist in forecasting. With the ongoing hostage situation still unfolding in Algeria (still ongoing as this is being written), it’s critical to question whether the US or our Western allies had enough indicators and warnings to caution citizens living and or working in Algeria.

In May, Homeland Security Today published a piece titled West Africa: Al Qaeda’s New Home. It revealed how Al Qaeda shifted its base from Afghanistan and Pakistan into West Africa—specifically Mali. There was enough information found within to allow any open source intelligence analyst to obtain what is known as “chatter.” That chatter could be observed as the first warning.

Then, in October, Homeland Security Today released another article title The Quint-Border Region: The World’s Most Under-Reported Terror Hot Spot. Within it, five key nations were identified in western Africa demonstrating unprecedented amounts of activities which have unfolded over the years via Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups. These incidents were sheer warnings.

The first week of December could arguably be construed as one of the biggest indicators demonstrating how austere the region has truly become. Online media outlet Magharebia divulged in an article title Belmokhtar breaksaway from AQIM. Anyone who ever worked intelligence knows when key leaders break away from a large terror group, they later form their own. And that’s exactly what Mokhtar Belmokhtar did.

Belmokhtar broke away from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb and formed his own Islamist group called Al Muwaki un bi Al-Dima (Signatories of Blood). A video tape of the one eyed Islamist was created and delivered to at least one international media outlet explaining his intent.

Belmokhtar is no small fish in the Islamic terror world. He is a highly skilled and trained fighter who quickly moved up the ranks in Al Qaeda after fulfilling his mission in Afghanistan back in 1991. He eventually returned to Algeria where he was born and later assisted in a horrifically violent coup of Mali’s government.

Only a few weeks after Magharebia posted their news about Belmokhtar’s split from AQIM, the Jamestown Foundation released a very well written report on the situation in West Africa, specifically revealing Belmokhtar’s future endeavors.

With this information, why did the United States State Department’s Office of Securityand Cooperation release just two travel warnings for Algeria in 2012? Worse, why were they created in May and September having nothing more recent knowing the entire West African region was imploding?

Yes, these two travel warnings could have also sparked interest for an intelligence analyst to create something more suitable for the Western free world, specifically Americans living and working in the region.

The truth is, America and our western allies knew how volatile the entire west African region had become. Yet for some reason, similar to Benghazi, they sat on the back of their heels proving to be inept protectors of their citizens.

Now, as the tragedy in Algeria continues to unfold, reports have revealed at least 35 hostages and 15 terrorists were killed in Algerian military led airstrikes. This reporting remains extremely vague and maintains limited details.  As mentioned last night on Canadian Television News, this tragedy would end in bloodshed.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled Veteran is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.

The Quint Border Region: The World’s Most Under-Reported Terror Hot Spot

By Kerry Patton:

Anyone who researches terrorism has likely come across a place in South America known as the Tri-border region, a remote area where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina border one another that is often mentioned as a safe haven for Islamic radicals. But as more and more intelligence officers begin to understand this very old South American safe haven, they also need to start paying attention to another hotspot: The Quint-border region in Africa.

South America’s Tri-border region is certainly unique. Very few travel inside the region. And for good reason; it is a remote, semi-lawless and often times extremely dangerous place. But imagine that there’s a new place in the world that’s very similar to the Tri-border territory — that includes an additional two nation states. That’s the Quint-border expanse, and it’s just as remote and lawless, but also far more dangerous.

The Quint-border region is thousands of miles from South America situated in the west-southwest region of Africa. It’s called the “Quint” region because it consists of five different borders — Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. It’s the location counterterrorists need to begin paying close attention to in order to stay on top of our enemy’s initiatives.

The Tri-border region in South America may never have become what it is today if it weren’t for the treacherous terrain in the region. It is comprised of heavy jungle with thick canopies making it difficult even for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) air platforms to monitor.

But with all things considered, a lot of hard evidence is missing from much of the continuing claims about this region being South America’s terror “hot spot.” While there’s little question that the Tri-border region is filled with illegal activity that ranges from black markets to organized crime, the extent of Islamist terrorist groups operating in the region remains questionable.

Terror groups such as Hezbollah, Al-Jihad (Islamic Jihad), Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group), Hamas and Al-Qaeda probably had a presence in the Tri-border region – evidence points to this – but most of this evidence is historical; there’s little proof that these groups have a significant presence in the region today. Multiple nation states’ have worked to weed out some of the bad guys from the region.

Today, there is absolutely no definitive evidence of any largescale terrorist operations in the region. Yes, some active terror supporters have been captured in the region as of late, but that does not mean the region should still be considered a terror hot bed.

When it comes to definitive evidence about terror hot spots, though, there is substantiation that one such area location exists, and it’s the Quint-border region. Africa is unique. Over the years, it has shifted multiple times from a heavily influenced Islamic region to a Christian zone. Today, it is shifting back to a very influential Islamic continent. Geospatial mapping shows a rapid movement of Islamic infiltration throughout Africa, starting in the north and moving southward. Unfortunately, this Islamic shift is filled with extreme radicalization.

Read more at HS Today

Kerry Patton is a combat service disabled veteran who has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe focusing on intelligence and security, and has interviewed current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. Author of, Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies, you can follow Kerry on Facebook or at


What’s Missing From Our New National Strategy for Counterterrorism

By Kerry Patton:

On June 28, the White House released its 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism. This twenty-six page document could be observed as an extremely narrowly focused strategy—possibly too narrow. Al Qaeda is the main focus within the plan and, for many reasons, rightly so. Most of our major command’s areas of operations are identified as well but one crucial region is missing—South and Central America.

First, it’s critical to understand the importance of a strategic plan and how it is developed. For starters, a Strategic Plan is created by Strategic Intelligence. Strategic Intelligence is defined as:

– Intelligence that is required for forming policy and military plans at national and international levels.

– Intelligence that is required for the formulation of military strategy, policy, and military plans and operations at national and theater levels. (DOD)

– “Intelligence employed in the formulation of policy and military plans at the national and international levels.” [Polmar, Norman and Thomas B. Allen. The Encyclopedia of Espionage. New York: Gramercy Books, 1997, p. 538]

– “Warning of the enemy intention to attack, and ‘tactical’ warning, i.e., the detection of actual physical preparations for an attack.” [Luttwak, Edward and Dan Horowitz. The Israeli Army. 1975]

So, in understanding the different types of definitions related to Strategic Intelligence, one can see that prior to a plan being developed, it is critical to have the proper collection and analysis of a broad range of insight globally to formulate plans to secure the nation–known as Strategic Plans.

Read more at Fox News

Kerry Patton is co-founder of the National Security Leadership  Foundation,  a non-profit organization with a pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South  America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and  security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban.  He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New  Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.”  You can follow him on Facebook.


The Changing Face of Al Qaeda

By Kerry Patton On January 17, 2012 at Front Page

Osama Bin Laden, the presumed mastermind behind the creation of Al Qaeda, originally formalized a global network of militants mostly comprised of Muslim Brotherhood members. These Brotherhood members, like Ayman al-Zawahiri, tapped into their own personal networks which later socially conditioned and recruited a mass movement of followers. Many were active militant fighters while many more were passive supporters to a newly established global terror network. Interestingly enough, many have argued that the original Al Qaeda Network no longer exists.

As Al Qaeda grew long after the Russian-Afghan war, many of its leaders became empowered. They split off moving into strategically positioned bases around the world. Their mission was to embolden Al Qaeda’s radicalized views of Islam in an attempt to create a “World Caliphate.” Needless to say, many leaders in this movement sought to achieve this strategic objective through government infiltration, passive social conditioning, and even through means of violent terror activities.

With time, an internal struggle existed within the original Al Qaeda network. Some members believed joining forces with non-Sunni Islamic persons would only strengthen their ultimate goals. Others believed working with such persons was off limits. Still, additional non-Sunni terror groups aligned with former Al Qaeda elements. Examples of these non-Sunni factions include Hezbollah, Colombia’s FARC, and even cartels such as Los Zetas in Mexico. Of course, many times these newly “joined forces” are not always direct. Many times, the joining of forces comes through third party initiatives.

Like most mass movements, they are formed by a handful of individuals simply seeking power. These individuals groom members, yet, like street gangs, when certain members feel they have enough power, they move onto their own initiatives. These initiatives often involve the creation of their own groups. These groups are separate from their original mother group, yet at times maintain some allegiance, as seen in several Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs.  Such a move has been seen between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Muslim Brotherhood recently.

This means that Al Qaeda is no longer the terror network we once knew it to be. Today, Al Qaeda can arguably be construed as a label for radical Sunni Islamic factions. As an example, Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamic terror group is a single terrorist organization yet members have a history serving within the Al Qaeda network. It is a completely separated organization yet often labeled as one falling within the Al Qaeda domain due to some continued ties between the two.

Understanding an elementary example of Al Shabaab, one should ponder then whether it is reasonable to include the non-Sunni factions known to be aligned with Al Qaeda as elements within Al Qaeda itself. As an example, it is known that Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group, has close ties with Al Qaeda.  In fact, today, many CT professionals understand how closely tied Al Qaeda has become with Iran itself.

The Iranian-Hezbollah-al Qaeda relationship is known. Most recently, U.S. courts revealed the 9-11 alliance. Surprisingly, no counterterrorist specialist will ever claim Hezbollah or Iran is part of Al Qaeda.

Why won’t an agreement be made claiming Hezbollah falls under Al Qaeda? The simplest reason often obtained is that “Hezbollah is Shiite and Al Qaeda is Sunni.” Amazingly, professionals will observe one ideology stemming from religious differences but not through any other known ideology—especially, the ideology of power.

So a few key questions must be asked when attempting to understand what Al Qaeda truly is today. First, is Al Qaeda still the terrorist network it was once believed to be? Secondly, has too much emphasis on ideology been placed on today’s different radical Islamic terrorist organizations? Lastly, should counterterrorist professionals even stress about Al Qaeda any longer as one large terror movement or should they simply concentrate on the hundreds of terrorist groups in existence?

The later of these questions is likely the most debatable of those listed needing to be answered. Unfortunately, an entire shift in critical thinking would need to occur throughout an entire global system of those attempting to defeat a possible monster that, well, may no longer exist as we once believed. Shifting cognition within such a mass global system would entail a complete overhaul of social and cultural constructs. As any social psychologist knows, making such a move takes a long time to achieve.

In the end, Al Qaeda is possibly no longer who we once knew it to be. Arguably, Al Qaeda is nothing more than a label placed on Sunni Islamic terrorists groups. We now know that these groups have joined forces with non-Sunni terrorist factions. Who will be the maven to pitch this thought in an attempt to change counterterrorists’ ways of thinking?

Kerry Patton is the co-founder of the National Security Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security, and has interviewed current and former terrorists. He is the author of Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies and the children’s book American Patriotism. You can follow him on Facebook.