Pilgrim on a Lonely Journey

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

 

 

Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

 

 

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fernando “X” — Cuban Hero, American Spy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Nine years ago, Bayard & Holmes designated October 31 as Love-A-Spook* Day—a day when we honor the men and women of the Intelligence Community who dedicate and sometimes sacrifice their lives to keep the fight from our shores. On this 9thAnnual Love-A-Spook Day, we make our most personal dedication to date to honor a Cuban we will call “Fernando X,” who devoted his life to saving his people from the Castro regime.

If you are a Castro-apologist this article will surely confuse and stress you. For the rest of you, if you ever visit Key West, Florida, stroll to the south end of the island. You will find there a monument heralding the southernmost point in the contiguous forty-eight states. The monument will tell you that Cuba is ninety miles to the south. The monument is mistaken. Cuba is ninety-five miles south. It could be corrected, but we hope it remains inaccurate. In its current condition it serves, albeit accidentally, as a monument to the many popular misconceptions that Western journalists and politicians harbor about the reality of Cuba.

Rather than focus on the many grim aspects of life in Cuba, we prefer to remember the brave Cubans that have risked their lives in the hope of bringing freedom and justice to the island of Cuba. At this point, most of them would settle for just the freedom.

Holmes will tell you about one of them in particular that he was honored to know and call friend—Fernando “X.”

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The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Revolutionaries

~ Jay Holmes

Fernando was older than I am. The last time I saw him, he told me he would not live to see Cuba free. He said in Spanish, “The son of a bitch assassin Fidel will outlive me. Well, that’s life. I have done the best I could, brother.” I knew he was right.

Fernando was in poor health and didn’t look like he had much left in him. I know the look. I was not ready to admit it. I lied to him. I told him with a few of my favorite Spanish curses that Satan couldn’t keep Fidel out of Hell forever, and that he would die soon. We laughed. Fernando looked at me, and he knew that I knew. He said, “It’s OK, hermanito. I can’t stay forever. Take good care of your children. Give them the love that I won’t be here to give them. I would have liked to. It was my one way of thanking you.” I wanted to cry, but I knew I owed him something better than that, so I just smiled and assured him that I would, and that they would not forget him. They haven’t, and they won’t. Neither will the people of Cuba.

Six and a half decades earlier, on an afternoon in October of 1958, Fernando’s life was about to get more exciting.

The teenage revolutionary wanted a rifle and grenades and some excitement on one of the many raids that were being conducted against the incompetent dictator Fulgencio Bautista’s clownocracy. Instead, Fernando was equipped with soap and sponges in his personal battle against the dirty pots and pans in his camp’s kitchen. He was not enjoying the revolution much. He wondered if he shouldn’t have listened to his mother and stayed home to tend the pigs and chickens. He was starting to miss his boring, more pleasant home life.

For reasons unknown, the group’s comandante decided to bring “El Niño,” the boy, along on the day’s raid.

Fernando remembered being excited. He intended to make a name for himself. He had insisted to his cohorts that his nickname was “El Tigre,” the tiger. His cohorts were even more insistent that his nickname would remain El Niño. Before the day ended, they were calling Fernando “El Tigre Con Cojones Imensos,” the tiger with immense balls.

Fernando was given a captured American made M-1 Garand. He was small and the rifle was heavy. Too heavy. The group decided he should carry a much lighter captured American made M-1 carbine. The fact that they had no ammo for it was a disappointment for Fernando. His cohorts assured him that they were just going to occupy a recently-abandoned police station, and that there would be plenty of ammo there for everyone. Fernando should just stay behind everyone else until they secured the building.

The five revolutionaries climbed into a Chevrolet sedan and drove to the supposedly abandoned police station, but the best-laid plans of mice and revolutionaries . . .

They arrived at the plaza where the police station was located and jumped out of the Chevrolet with much bravado. Oddly, none of the locals came out to cheer or jeer. The revolutionaries walked toward the front door of the station, and a shot rang out. The round kicked up dirt near them.

They jumped for cover—all of them except El Tigre. The fifteen-year-old Fernando stood his ground with his empty rifle.

The somewhat loyalist police retreated to the roof top. They had ammo in their weapons. Fernando wasn’t sure how many police there were, nor what they had to fight with, but he stood his ground without flinching. He stared up at the policeman that stared down from the parapet of the roof. The policeman said they didn’t want to kill anyone, and that the revolutionaries should all just get in their car, leave, and not return. Four of the five revolutionaries thought it sounded like a great deal and jumped in the car. They yelled to El Tigre to get the hell back in the car. El Tigre didn’t budge.

The policeman vanished from the parapet for a moment. A few seconds later, one of the police returned to the edge of the roof and yelled down, “Let us leave and you can have the station. Just let us leave without any shooting.” The cops were either impressed by the kid’s courage, or they just didn’t want to shoot a child on behalf of a government that they never much liked. The revolutionary comandante got out of the car and yelled up his agreement. No shots were fired that day, but a hero of the revolution was born.

Fernando was something of a celebrity—a teenage superhero.

A few months later, Cuban dictator Bautista realized that neither his fellow Latin-American despots nor the United States was going to back him up. He hit the road. Fernando and his friends celebrated. They were free. They could build a free and just society.

In the following months, as Fidel Castro consolidated his grip on power, inconvenient dissenters died publicly or vanished.

Then, as Fernando grew into adulthood, like many of his revolutionary cohorts, he grew disillusioned with the new regime. All he could see in Cuba was less freedom, more misery, and a vanishing hope for his people and country. The new bastard-in-chief Castro somehow managed to be even worse at governing than the previous bastard-in-chief Bautista had been.

With all the standard Soviet-style rhetoric and Soviet specialists assisting, Fidel and his elite friends assured the public that once they overcame the mostly-imaginary aggression of the evil American imperialists, they would all build their great socialist paradise. The new president of the American imperialists, John F. Kennedy, radically trimmed back the planned support of exiled Cubans for an impending invasion of Cuba. Worse still, the operation had been penetrated by the Cuban government. Eventually, against the advice of the US military, a half-hearted invasion occurred at the wrong location, the Bay of Pigs.

The previous president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was an “invade Normandy with everything we can send” sort of man. He had been successful using that strategy when invading Normandy. However, the new president was a “do way more with way less” PT boat veteran. He had been somewhat successful with that strategy in the wildly dangerous waters of the Solomon Islands. In Cuba, the “way less” was way too little. The invasion failed. Fidel celebrated his “grand victory” over the feeble attempt.

Eventually, Fernando, whose first priority was always the Cuban people, decided it was time to resist against the new despots. He did. He helped the United States try to help Cuba.

As a revolutionary celebrity, Fernando had status and access to many top members of Fidel’s regime. This gave Fernando a great deal of valuable information about the regime’s intentions. Through a like-minded ex-revolutionary cohort, Fernando was able to make contact with the US Intelligence Community, and for several years, he risked his life by sharing valuable information with the United States. I will not elaborate on the nature or extent of that information. Suffice to say that, thanks to Fernando’s efforts, numerous Cuban dissidents were able to escape from Cuba and move to the United States or Spain. Many of these people would have been tortured and even executed if not for Fernando’s quiet help. He saved many lives and asked for nothing in return.

 It couldn’t last forever. Fernando was betrayed.

He ran for his life and hid, but he was eventually captured. To Fidel and his monsters, Fernando was a traitor. To us, he was a hero. Fernando expected to be shot. Instead, he was sent to the infamous political prison on Isla de Juventud to rot in grim conditions for a few decades. Day after day, year after year, he wondered if he would live to feel the sun on his skin before he died. He survived the torture and abuse, though many did not.

One day the prison authorities caught Fernando writing in a hidden journal. They broke several bones in each of his hands. He received no medical attention. For the rest of his life, his hands caused him great pain.

Nearly twenty years ago, by methods that I will not elaborate on or ever admit to, Fernando was able to leave the prison on Isla de Juventud and come to the United States.

Along with several others of my favorite Cuban exiles, we became close friends. In poor health, Fernando lived a sparse life here. My friends and I helped him a bit. He more than deserved it. He was poor in American terms, but in terms of spirit, he was a rich man with much to offer the world. I knew I was blessed to have him as my friend.

One Christmas I was home for the holidays, and I brought Fernando to our house to join my family and many of our mutual Cuban friends.

He had saved a few dollars from his tight budget to buy my children gifts. They were poorly wrapped by his tortured hands, but I thought they were the most beautiful gifts my kids had ever received. They loved Fernando and understood. They were touched by the gifts. My wife had knitted him a nice sweater and scarf. My father gave him a gift certificate for groceries. He was thrilled. I gave him a case of decent rum. He used a couple of shots before bedtime to deaden the pain in his hands enough to sleep for a while.

One of the party attendees, my dear friend, the brilliant Doctor Jesus Jose Acea Rodriguez, was also in attendance that evening. He, too, had taken risks to try to help Cuba. Jesus asked Fernando to recount his well-known heroic events for the benefit of Jesus’s teenage son.

Fernando described in brilliant detail the events of that day when he earned the name El Tigre. I could smell the salt air of the Cuban coast and feel the Cuban earth beneath my feet as I imagined the cop firing that shot. Then Fernando told us a previously unshared detail of that battle. He had not budged when the police fired because he was scared stiff and couldn’t move.

The police apparently misjudged the situation. Fortunately, everyone else except for Fernando misunderstood, as well. El Tigre was forever a hero because he was frozen in fear. We laughed a long time. Fernando comically pantomimed his famous stand-off as my son rolled on the floor laughing. We loved him. Everyone did. . . . Everyone except Fidel Castro and his regime.

Before driving Fernando home the next morning, I took my Garand rifle out of my gun safe and slipped it into my car. When we arrived at his apartment, I told him he had waited a long time for the rifle he wanted. I gave the M-1 to him. He laughed. He was thrilled. We hugged.

I am sitting here at the same antique table that we sat at that beautiful Christmas night. I miss him. The brilliant Jesus is gone now, too. I miss those two the most of the many Cubans that now reside in my past. They and many others stood up for freedom at a great cost.

Fernando once told me to never give up hope for Cuba, and to teach my children to understand that in the end, evil will always fail because freedom and justice are natural and right. He believed that. I do, too.

The Caribbean Sea holds the blood of many brave Cubans. Most of the many Cuban people that have secretly risked their lives in the hope of bringing Cuba a better future will never be known. Many did not live to see Cuba free. I might not live that long, either. But for all my days, I will hold onto my hope and remember my many beautiful Cuban cohorts. I hope that you will, as well.

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In honor of our 9th Annual Love-A-Spook Day, the Kindle and Nook versions of SPYCRAFT: Essentials and The Spy Bride are on sale now through November 3, 2018 for only $0.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Click on these links . . .

SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS on Kindle

SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS on Nook

THE SPY BRIDE on Kindle

THE SPY BRIDE  on Nook

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*The slang term “spook” has been used for centuries in the Intelligence Community to refer to intelligence personnel. It derives from “a ghost that haunts and is undesirable.” Intelligence personnel of all races are commonly called “spooks.” Bigots have enough words. They can’t have this one.

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Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She is also a belly dancer and a former hospice volunteer. She has been working daily with her good friend Jay Holmes for the past decade, learning about foreign affairs, espionage history, and field techniques for the purpose of writing fiction and nonfiction. She currently pens espionage nonfiction and international spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, as well as post-apocalyptic fiction of her own.

Jay Holmes is a forty-something-year veteran of field espionage operations and a senior member of the Intelligence Community with experience spanning from the Cold War fight against the Soviets, the East Germans, and the various terrorist organizations they sponsored to the present Global War on Terror. He is unwilling to admit to much more than that. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

Together, Bayard & Holmes author non-fiction articles and books on espionage and foreign affairs, as well as fictional international spy thrillers. They are also the bestselling authors of The Spy Bride from the Risky Brides Bestsellers Collection and were featured contributors for Social In Worldwide, Inc.

When they aren’t writing or (in Jay’s case) busy with “other work,” Piper and Jay are enjoying time with their families, hiking, exploring back roads of America, talking foreign affairs, laughing at their own rude jokes until the wee hours, and questing for the perfect chocolate cake recipe. If you think you have that recipe, please share it with them at BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

To keep in touch with Bayard & Holmes and to receive notices of their upcoming releases, subscribe to the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes at their Contact page, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard or Bayard & Holmesor at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

Espionage Info for Everyone — SPYCRAFT: Essentials

Bayard & Holmes

We are proud to announce the birth of our new book baby, SPYCRAFT: Essentials.

 

 

What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years of experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft techniques, and the personalities and personal challenges of the men and women behind the myths.

Though crafted with advice and specific tips for writers, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

 

Now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and in print at Amazon.

 

“For any author, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is the new bible for crafting stories of espionage. It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to know the lengths nations will go to keep or steal secrets and the methods they will use to do so. This is a bombshell of a book.”

~ James Rollins
New York Times Bestselling Author of The Demon Crown

 

“From novices to experts, I suspect everyone will find something in this book that they did not know before.”

~ Doug Patteson
Film Technical Advisor and Former CIA Officer

 

“Bayard and Holmes have done the unprecedented: crafted a fully informative, while wholly unclassified, overview on American spycraft with a special focus on preparing novelists for realistic scene writing. That said, this little treasure should not be limited to writers. Because it delivers solid, valuable information as a comprehensive primer on how the Intelligence Community really operates, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is a must-read for all involved Americans.”

~ Rob DuBois
Retired US Navy SEAL and NSA Collector

 

“An instant classic. Detailed, insightful, and authentic, SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers is my go-to reference for all things espionage.”

~ Grant Blackwood
New York Times Bestselling Author of the Briggs Tanner series

 

“An essential addition to every thriller writer’s library. If you want to know how the Intelligence Community really works, read SPYCRAFT: Essentials and you’ll get it right every time. Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes know their stuff!”

~Diane Capri
Award Winning New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Hunt for Jack Reacher series

Thanks for Coming After Me, IRS

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

 

Jerry Lewis on Tax Day image public domain

Jerry Lewis on Tax Day
image public domain

The IRS came after me, and I’m smiling. Yes, smiling.

No, I don’t enjoy paying taxes. In fact, I’m appalled by the way the government misappropriates or flat out pilfers half of what it takes, and then our “leaders” refuse to balance the budget. . . . No, I’m smiling because the IRS came after me. Allow me to explain.

A while back, I went to my mailbox and found hate mail from the IRS. I felt ill when I saw the envelope. Not because I’ve been dishonest on my taxes, but because when it comes to the IRS, no news is ever good news.

Sure enough, I opened it, and it was a demand for thousands of dollars plus penalties and interest from two years ago.

WHAT??!! I immediately became 100% focused, something that usually only happens when I’m writing fiction, flirting with my husband, or writhing in the throes of childbirth.

Reading through the letter, I didn’t have the first flaming clue what they were talking about. Some transaction I didn’t remember involving an exchange I didn’t recognize and money I neither spent nor saved because it never existed.

I pulled out my records, and after much gnashing of teeth, rapid-fire consumption of gluten-free pretzels, and screaming of expletive deleteds that would make Spanish sailors blush, I found what they wanted, and why. And . . . here’s the smile part . . . I found they only had it half right.

There was definitely an error, but it was an error in MY favor.

Delighted, I immediately answered the IRS with a thank you note for pointing out my unclaimed tax return, and I attached the documentation to prove it. I seriously considered charging them penalties and interest for the free loan they enjoyed from me for the past couple of years, but if I could count, I never would have gone to law school. I deemed that little bit of gloating to be too time-consuming, so I passed.

The result? I haven’t seen any money yet, but this past Saturday, I did receive a single sentence note of apology added to the backside of a form letter. . . . Yes. I’ll bet they are sorry.

So what’s the moral of this story on this Tax Weekend? Be sure to take all of your deductions, and if the Boogie Tax Man comes knocking at your bank account, don’t freak. He just might be doing you a favor.

Do you have any Tax Day stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

All the best to all of you for a week of substantial returns.

 

SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers…Taking the Fiction Out of Fiction

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Dear Readers and Fellow Writers . . . We are pleased to announce that our upcoming release, SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS FOR WRITERS, is now available on pre-sale at Amazon with a release date set for June 5.

 

What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

 

With the voice of over forty years of experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft techniques, and the personalities and personal challenges of the men and women behind the myths.

 

Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

 

“As a writer, I’m always looking for those books that open my eyes to the shadowy ways the world truly works. I found just such a resource in the insightful, well-researched, and oftentimes humorous book by Bayard & Holmes, Spycraft: Essentials for Writers. For any author, this is the new bible for crafting stories of espionage. It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to know the lengths nations will go to keep or steal secrets and the methods they will use to do so. This is a bombshell of a book.”

—James Rollins, NYT bestseller of The Demon Crown

 

“Bayard and Holmes have done readers and writers of the espionage genre a great service. This tome illuminates the ‘inside baseball’ terminology we often see used, providing valuable context to the reader. Importantly, they do not just focus on the CIA, but go broader and cover some of the differences in other parts of the US Intelligence Community. From novices to experts, I suspect everyone will find something in this book that they did not know before.”

—Doug Patteson, Film Technical Advisor and Former CIA Officer

 

 

AR-15 Facts Without Politics

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Big Media, Big Politics, and Big Business all profit financially and politically when they keep the public worked up in fear and/or outrage. They are not our friends. Let’s take some of their power back with a few facts. The current focus for outrage and fear is the AR-15 and “assault rifles.”

Outrage

Throughout “American” media, a war is raging over the availability of the AR-15.* Some condemn it as an unnecessary “assault rifle” that is killing our children. There seems to be widespread belief that the AR-15 is an automatic weapon used by the US military. On the other side, many praise it as a fine-tooled machine that is actually far less dangerous than most rifles.

Facts

*   The AR-15 is a “semiautomatic” rifle,” meaning one trigger pull = one shot.

 *   It fires .223 Remington or 5.56mm NATO ammunition. These calibers are less powerful than most calibers of ammunition commonly used in hunting rifles.

*   Cartridges are loaded into a magazine, not a “clip,” and the magazine is loaded into the rifle.

*   The standard AR-15 magazine holds thirty rounds.

*   The US military does NOT use the AR-15.

*   The AR-15 is considered a starter rifle by many shooters, and kids and adults at rifle clubs often use them for target shooting competitions because they are lightweight, low caliber, and easy to control.

 

California Legal AR-15 with Stag lower receiver and fixed 10-round magazine
Image by thealphawolf, public domain

 

*   The letters “AR” do NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.” The letters “AR” stand for “ArmaLite rifle” after the company that developed the rifle in the 1950s.

*   The AR-15 has no automatic weapon capabilities.

*   Automatic weapons, which are weapons that fire more than one round per trigger pull, can only be acquired legally in the United States in two ways since the ban of 1986. First, a person can get a special tax stamp that allows the purchase of one made before the 1986 ban, or second, they can obtain a firearms manufacturing license and get a conversion kit to modify a semiautomatic rifle for automatic firing. Both processes are expensive and tedious.

*   The AR-15 is frequently referred to by politicians and the media as an “assault rifle.”

*   The origin of the term “assault rifle” is widely attributed to Adolf Hitler. Hitler used the German word “Sturmgewehr” for propaganda purposes to refer to the Stg44, which was a select fire military rifle used by the German Wehrmacht. “Select fire” means it can be switched from firing one bullet for each trigger pull to firing more than one bullet for each trigger pull. The translation of sturmgewehr is “storm rifle,” or “assault rifle.”

*   The AR-15 is not a select fire rifle.

*   The term “assault rifle” has no universal definition and is interpreted differently by each state.

*   There is no special attribute to the AR-15 that distinguishes it as an “assault rifle.” 

 

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

This is an election year, and the AR-15 is at the center of a propaganda war with much political posturing. We must all keep in mind that just because we might agree with the goal of propaganda, whatever that goal may be, it is still propaganda. In this war of agendas, we are the prize.

We encourage everyone to thoroughly research their topics beyond the click bait and meme fodder of Western media and social media and to remember that conclusions reached in ignorance, whatever those conclusions, only compound the problems.

All the best to all of you as you navigate the Misinformation Highway.

Please Note: This is NOT a gun control post, but rather a post designed to combat propaganda and ignorance. No matter what your opinion is about gun control, please DO NOT share it in the comments.

*We put the word “American” in quotes when referring to media because some of the largest stockholders in “American” media are foreigners with their own political alliances and agendas to push–something to keep in mind when evaluating information.

 

12 Strong–The Horse Soldiers Movie

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Based on the best-selling book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, 12 Strong is the true story of the first US Army Special Forces team to go into Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers.

 

 

In this dramatization, twelve Green Berets—Task Force Dagger—are ordered to team up with Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance in the mountains of Afghanistan to open the way through hostile, mountainous territory to Mazur-i-Sharif.

Once the team arrives and makes contact, they find they must proceed on horseback. Oh, yeah . . . And they only have three weeks to do it. Real life team leader Captain Mitch Nelson pretty well sums it up in his famous response to an impatient senior officer awaiting a report: “I am advising a man on how to best employ light infantry and horse cavalry in the attack against Taliban T-55s [tanks], mortars, artillery, personnel carriers and machine guns — a tactic which I think became outdated with the invention of the Gatling gun.”

A Jerry Bruckheimer production, 12 Strong was filmed in New Mexico in and around Albuquerque as well as in caves south of Alamogordo and on White Sands Missile Range. Chris Hemsworth does a great job as Capt. Mitch Nelson, and he’s backed up with excellent performances from Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, and Navid Negahban, who play Sam Diller, Ben Milo, and General Dostum, respectively. Both the armaments and the social challenges the team met with in the course of their mission are faithfully portrayed. And speaking of those armaments . . . bring earplugs. LOTS of explosions.

12 Strong is an excellent representation of what US Army Special Forces concentrate on and do best.

As the film accurately portrays, Task Force Dagger did a great job of quickly inserting into a hostile area, meeting up with indigenous forces, and gaining their trust enough to work together to influence the strategic situation in Afghanistan. Such missions are the bread and butter of the US Army Special Forces.

We would only make one critique of the film’s portrayal of Task Force Dagger.

The movie shows these Green Berets being a bit out of their element with the primitive conditions they found in Afghanistan. In real life, US Army Special Forces are always careful to never, ever appear to be surprised by anything or challenged by any environment, whether that environment is geographic, climatic, cultural, or tactical domain. They will be careful to appear to be absolute masters of whatever domain they inhabit. In other words, they would smile and play poker with Satan and pretend to enjoy the warm weather if they found themselves on a mission in Hell.

Unlike many war movies, 12 Strong addresses the impact war has on the warriors’ families.

Families also suffer and sacrifice. According to Holmes, the hardest thing in the life of a warrior with a family is how their children pay a cost that was not of their choosing. It’s hard for them to wake up and find out that dad left at 3:00 a.m. Eventually, the kids figure out dad isn’t on a beach in Maui, and it leads to the unavoidable fact that families bleed, too, in their own way.

As usual with any movie about military success or heroism on the battlefield, some reviewers who clearly have no experience whatsoever with any battle beyond fighting with their lovers for control of the remote dismiss this movie as “flag waving.” We completely disagree. 12 Strong does a great job of recounting the true story of a handful of brave men who got shit done.

While we would love to give 12 Strong our highest rating, a .44 Magnum*, for sentimental reasons, we must give it our second highest rating, a .357 Magnum.

That’s because even though it is a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, it is not particularly life-altering. That being said, it is, indeed, a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, and, therefore, worth seeing. We recommend this movie to those who are prepared for a realistic combat movie with one caveat—don’t take the kids. This is not a movie for children.

 

 

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Bayard & Holmes Movie Ratings

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.

  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.

  • .380: Go to the matinee if someone else is paying.

  • .38 Special: Worth paying for the matinee yourself.

  • .357 Magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.

  • .44 Magnum: Must see this. Life-altering event.