A Few weeks ago, while visiting the Dixie Gun Show in Charlotte North Carolina, we spotted something disturbing. At first, we didn’t understand the context, but it soon became relevant as to why we were looking at 2 flags displayed in a giant frame. They were the flags of Alquead and the Taliban. These flags were not being flown as a signal of Jihad, but rather being displayed as a symbol of their defeat.
The man responsible for them being displayed, and more importantly, their capture was standing alongside them, Command Sergeant Major, Dennis John Woods, U.S. Army(retired)
CSM Woods is the author of the book “Black Flag Journals, One Soldier’s Experience in America’s Longest War”.
We spent a good hour speaking with CSM Woods about his experiences over his 30 plus years of service in the U.S. Army, especially those years fighting the War On Terror. In just the short time we spent with him, we were given an in depth account of much that the general public is not aware of. From tactics to bridging cultural relationships, much of what we knew about the war turned out to be inaccurate at best.
We were told of brutality and abuses at the hands of radical zealots, stories that the Mainstream Media would never share. We were also told about the victores that, if known by the masses, might have altered public perception of the conflict in general. Relationships and bonds that our men and women in uniform created through trust and understanding…by putting themselves between the horrors of war and the innocent people with no chance to flee.
CSM Woods was able to paint, with his words, a picture of the battle that could only be painted by someone who has lived every moment in the fire of conflict, felt the pain of loss, and savored the taste of victory.
He shared with us pictures and accounts of the roadside bombs that littered the landscape, the tactics used to find and disarm them, and the tragic events following the failure to do so. We saw photos of the cargo containers, every void packed with RPG’s, Fully Automatic Rifles, and explosives. Ammunition and weapon dumps, strategically installed in civilian facilities, constantly frequented by jihadis they were not allowed to engage.
We got a better understanding of the Rules of Engagement and how those rules are defined not only by the chain of command, but by the circumstances surrounding particular battle. To know how the greatest military force on the face of the Earth could be shackled in one moment, and unleashed in the next. Every action planned and coordinated, and still altered by conditions on the ground.
Here is out interview with the Author, CSM, Dennis John Woods, US Army(retired)
Probably the most striking thing to come of our conversation about the Black Flag Journals was the toll it takes on our uniformed soldier. The entire range of emotions, stoked by the winds of war, and how those emotions are often left in the foot locker of the soul. We now have a much better understanding of what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does to the men and women who have been fortunate enough to return home. Sadness, pain, fear, anguish, all playing as important a role to the their mental health as happiness, joy, and love. It is the dark side of the warriors world, a side that all to often goes unnoticed, untreated, and misunderstood.
The Black Flag Journals, for all of the accounts of war, is much more than one Soldier’s story, it is a Civilian to Warrior translator.
When our men and women return stateside, they are reunited with the bonds and families they left behind, but leave in the war zone the bonds of family they forged in the fires of hell. This immediate separation from those with whom they served is a shock with which many are unable to cope. Gone is the sense of trust that allowed one to sleep, knowing he or she was being protected. Gone is the reliance on a brother or sister, knowing that there was someone that they knew would lay down cover fire. Gone was knowing that the men or women next to you would lay their lives down for you, and you them. In the place of these case hardened relationships, our defenders don’t find themselves to be alone, but rather unrelatable.
They are thrust back into a civilian environment where many of their most trusted confidants, beloved family, have no idea how, or when to approach them. Most of the civilian population has no battle experience from which to draw from, so the cannot relate to someone who has been under fire, living behind a berm of sandbags, sleeping under a sky full of tracer rounds, and the constant fear of never going home. How horrible it must be to find yourself back home, only to find that you feel all alone.
Due to the nature of military service, the men and women you serve with are often from places you’ve never been. Volunteers from across the states, brought together by dedication, serving and fighting side by sides, becoming brothers and sisters in arms, eventually finding themselves separated from the faces and hearts that understand them best. This is the vast deficit that many soldiers cannot fill, and that families are unable to. It is in that that the Black Flag Journals can serve as a mediator, and bridge between civilian and soldier, warriors and their family.
Perhaps the greatest thing that can be learned from the Black Flag Journals is not about the war, tactics, command structure, or strategies. Maybe those are best left to the men and women that take the oath and are called upon to do battle. Maybe the greatest thing to get from the Black Flag Journals is understanding how to reach out to and relate to a warrior. There is so much more to a homecoming that just saying “Welcome Home”.
CMS Woods was kind enough to sit with us via Videoconference for a casual conversation. What we thought would be a 15 minute discussion about the book turned into one of the most telling and captivating interview we have ever had.
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