TCS Daily


The Fighting Killions

By Michael Fumento - March 8, 2007 12:00 AM

It's only fitting that I met Spc. Robert Killion during one of the fiercest gun battles of his 12-month tour in the wild-west Iraqi city of Ramadi in Al Anbar province. I was originally on the other side of the top of a house behind a machine-gunner, hoping to photograph him with shell casings ejecting from his weapon as he fired. But all the firing was coming from the other side. "Way to go Killion!" shouted the soldier in front of me. So I hauled tail over there, taking up position just behind this tall, lanky GI as he keenly scanned the streets below with his M-249 5.56 millimeter squad automatic weapon (SAW). Of four confirmed enemy kills for his entire unit that day, Rob got three from that position.

He had just shot a jihadist on a bicycle, which I narrated into my camcorder. "Now don't just say he was on a bicycle," Killion corrected me. "He had an AK. I don't shoot nobody just because he's on a bicycle." I laughed as I corrected the record. Joking during fights is not only acceptable, but perhaps mandatory. "Otherwise you'll lose your mind," Rob told me later. The dead jihadist indeed had a rifle next to him, so I knew he wasn't plunking innocent bystanders. But it was important to him that all those people who would soon be downloading the video clip on YouTube knew as well.

In that same video clip a sniper nearly beans Rob, the round ricocheting off the top of the wall over which he'd been leaning. He utters a few unprintable epithets, then yells: "That hit right in front of me!" But seconds later he whoops "Whew! Yeah!" thus reflecting Winston Churchill's observation that "nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result." Then he fires at another jihadist and I get the shot I was waiting for, his SAW pounding away while the ejected cases bounced off my body armor chest plate.

After we left the building and scrambled through an ambush that had us looking like the soldiers at the end of "Black Hawk Down," I kept snapping photos and shooting video and darned if time and again Rob wasn't right there in the thick of it - perhaps in half my photos of the fight.

Was Rob Killion an exceptional fighter even among this elite unit, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)? Perhaps. But as fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz said of the Marines who stormed Iwo Jima, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue" among these men. Only later did I discover that perhaps his most exceptional aspect is his family.

Rob's brother, Douglas, also joined the military but went the National Guard route notwithstanding that he knew he'd end up in Iraq just like Rob would. Doug is 27, Rob 21. Having one child in the military is rare enough these days; two all the more so. But here's the kicker: their father, Rick.

Rick Killion had been a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol from 1972-1976, whereupon he then enlisted in the Air Force in 1976 at age 30. That's where he met Cheryl Newcomb, who was also in the Air Force, and soon married. She gave him his two children. Rick was an avionics technician, which keeps you about as far from combat as you can get, until exiting the service in 1980 at the rank of sergeant (E-5).

Five years later, he was back in the military with the Indiana National Guard. (The family lives in Bloomington.) An organizational realignment left his unit over strength, so he got out and joined the Air Force Reserve as a staff sergeant (E-6). Again his unit became over strength so Rick left, thinking his military days behind him. He got a good job as an electronics and telephone technician at the University of Indiana.

This left no tie between the Killions and the military - except history. "My mother's father, and all four of his brothers were in the First World War at the same time," says Rick. "My mother's father and uncle were in the Civil War at the same time. My ancestors were in the War of 1812, and the Revolution, on my mother's side," says. "My father's side was in the Civil War as well."

Their cousins, the Hillenburgs, had served in every U.S. conflict back to the Civil War. The first to die, however, was 21-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Eric Hillenburg, who was killed by small arms fire in Fallujah two days before Christmas 2004.

After Sept. 11, when most of us were utterly horrified and then went back to business as usual, the Killions felt the pull of history. Rob enlisted in the active Army in July 2003 at age 18. "I joined the infantry," he says, "because they're the best." Douglas enlisted in the Indiana National Guard in 2003 at age 24 as a communications specialist. Even Rob's wife, Anya Kormanos Killion, is an Iraq vet. She served there before Rob enlisted. They met at the 101st's home in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and she is now a civilian.

Now it was Rick's turn. At 46, he was well past prime fighting age and was comfortable in his job. But he knew where his boys were headed and he wanted to be there with them. So "OMK" as they call him, short for "Old Man Killion," once again raised his right hand and rejoined the National Guard. Because of the length of his absence, he had to give up a stripe and enter as a sergeant E-5. But he made sure that if Doug deployed, so would he.

Rob shipped out to Ramadi, Iraq's most dangerous city and the home of the insurgency. Rick and Doug followed shortly after to Mosul, north of Baghdad, which isn't the most peaceful place in the country either. In a conventional war, both Rick and Doug would be staying safely in camp practicing the trades for which they trained. But in a guerrilla war fought with a paucity of boots on the ground, both regularly went outside the wire and exposed themselves to the same risk as the grunts.

For now, all are safe back home. Rob and his unit redeployed back to Ft. Campbell in November. I had the pleasure of seeing him and meeting his wife at the 1/506th annual ball in February. Rick and Doug returned home to Indiana on Christmas Eve. Rick and Doug both think they'll probably re-up when their terms end in 2009. Rob, whose enlistment ends in July 2008, will probably redeploy to Ramadi later this year. He says he doesn't mind that but thereafter plans to leave the service and open a restaurant in New Hampshire.

Heroic families like the Killions are inspiring to us all, but at the same time they illustrate what may be the single greatest weakness in the war on terror. The greatest sacrifice most of us make is not bringing liquids on a plane. It's not just that so few serve in the military - less than one percent of the population including active duty, the Guard, and the Reserves - but also where those troops come from. The south contributes far more than its share, the northeast far fewer. Rural areas contribute disproportionately as well. The Killions deserve the thanks of a grateful nation, but it will take a lot more than these isolated pockets of courage and sacrifice if we are to prevail in the war on terror.

Michael Fumento is a former paratrooper who has been embedded three times in al Anbar, Iraq, including twice with the 1/506th in Ramadi.


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22 Comments

So, A Family Of Tax Leeching, Murdering Socialists
And I'm supposed to celebrate these people? Disgusting.

You certainly are disgusting
Now make your Mother proud and drink your latte.

Come on, be original
If you're going to insult me, at least come up with something new. The latte crack is so old.

Yeah, you should
But I suppose it is too much to ask of a terrorist sympathizer and a commmunist environmentalist.

Just another watermelon boy too cowardly to walk out the door in a rainstorm.

Communist? The Only One I See Here Is You
After all, you are the one demanding that I pray at the altar of the state and worship its paid socialist killers as "heroes".

And as far as the "environmentalist" crack, nothing could be further than the truth, and a look at my posts on the issue will clearly show this. But don't let that get in the way of your personal attacks on me for the thought crime of not worshiping the US military with sufficient vigor.

What time is the 2 minutes hate today? I don't want to be late, they may put my name on a list for re-education.

insult you, we've got better things in mind
for people like you.
do youself a favor, stick to saying trash like this inline & in coffee shops where your safe.

In front of me, you're NOT safe.

don't give #$&& who knows it either you @$^%^ traitor

So Easy To Get You Commies To Lose Your Cool
Newsflash pal, I'm NOT in front of you. By "inline" I assume you meant "online", which is what this discussion board is. You are probably drooling with rage and banging on your keyboard in a frenzy right now though, so a few typos can be forgiven.

But even if I were in front of you, I would have no problem saying this. And of course no doubt you've got "things in mind" for "people like me". Violence and threats are the ultimate methods of state worshiping commies.

What are your "ideas"? Round us all up and put us in camps? All in the name of "freedom" right? Those with "reactionary" ideas must be "re-educated" right?

the only hater here is you
Calling our soldiers "paid socialist killers" is about as sick a position as I've ever heard. Many of these people are simply patroits to the core who want to serve their country.

What is your problem?

Are Soldiers Paid To Kill Or Not?
What is their job? Their job is to kill people the government tells them to kill. They get paid money. The military is a socialist institution. Thus soldiers are in fact "paid socialist killers". This is just facts. If these facts make you uncomfortable, maybe its time to reassess your values, or your position on the military.

Not to mention that there is no contradiction between being "patriots to the core who want to serve their country" and being socialists, or being killers. In fact, these values seem to go together very well. What is patriotism after all? Is it love of country, or love of state? Increasingly it is defined as love of state, particularly the violent wing of the state.

I have no hatred in saying this. I just will not sign on to it and worship these people as "heroes" because they are not. I know it is extremely hard to break the socialist indoctrination that has trained you to worship the military, but I think that as a free thinking person you are capable.

Have you served?
Either in the military or peace corps or by doing charity work for the under privlidged? I doubt it but I could be wrong.
Those families in the article and the millions of others who serve others make it possible for people like you to have a public opinion such as yours without losing your head. They are what makes this country so great. The few have always seved the many.

Where To Begin with this?
Wow. There is so much here to respond to, that I don't even know where to start.

No I have never "served" the state either in the military or the peace corps, nor would I since these are both destructive, socialist institutions that do more harm than good. I have of course done various types of work with my church, but I don't even know why I am telling you this because I have absolutely no need to justify myself to you.

"Those families in the article and the millions of others who serve others make it possible for people like you to have a public opinion such as yours without losing your head."

Really? Interesting, considering the fact that I have been threatened with violence on this very thread for expressing this opinion. So how are these institutions protecting me?

"They are what makes this country so great. The few have always seved the many."

Really, and here I thought it was individual freedom and capitalism that made this country great. Silly me. Or are you now going to tell me that I should thank the state and its military for being so generous as to allow me to have these things?

I won't even go into all the Marxist assumptions that underlie every line of your post.

Step into it even more
In the final analysis, the military breaks things and kills people; certainly. It is also certainly true that the American military is generally the most efficient group in the world at doing this.

But soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are not "paid to kill". they are paid whether or not they ever see any action; they are paid even when their job is non-combat. I could continue this list for a while, but what is the point? You are convinced the U.S. military is a bunch of paid government assassins and nothing I say will change that.

Just get your facts strait.

What is socialistic about the military? Explain that too me? Certainly they are paid by the government, but so are cops.

Since the vast majority of people in the military will never kill anyone, everyone gets paid the same based on rank, qualifications and time in service and the whole socialistic thing is your personal delusion, I would say you are purely full of sh!t.

I don't worship the military. It has its place and is needed, that is all. But, since I served for six years, I take offense at the type of brainless rhetoric you displayed here. I know the unselfish ideals that draw young men (and women) to military service.

While politicians may misuse the military, the people in the services believe in defending their country, its interests and its citizens. They are also keenly interested in helping people in troubled areas, something the U.S. military does at levels that overwhelm the combined efforts of all NGOs in many cases.

To call these people "paid socialist killers" not only discredits the individuals who serve, but it shows your overwhelming ignorance of the U.S. military and the people who volunteer to serve in it.

How Is The Military NOT Socialist?
Thats the question. It is so obviously socialist that the burden of proof must be on you to show that it is not. Are you suggesting it is organized along free market principles? Hardly. It is a rigid authoritarian structure in which the value system revolves around community and obedience. A soldier is NOT an individual. He is part of a whole. Just a cog in a machine. He is trained to obey without question. And of course the fact that it is entirely funded by money stolen by the government from productive individuals is no small matter either.

And of course they are paid to kill. That is the function of the military. They kill. Just because some do not do so directly with their own hands is irrelevant. The organizing principle of the institution is killing and destruction of wealth and property on a massive scale. Even when not destroying lives wealth and property in a foreign country in a war, it destroys wealth here at home and distorts the economy by draining it of resources that could better be used elsewhere.

Your reference to "unselfish ideals" is also interesting. No doubt "unselfish ideals" also motivate the "global warming" activists, and any other number of various leftist causes as well. "Unselfish ideals" in and of themselves do not mean anything. More often than not such ideals lead to destructive behavior and ideologies. It seems that you are adhering to the liberal belief that outcomes are irrelevant as long as intentions are good. So what if the people in the military have good intentions? The actual outcome of their actions is incredibly destructive, mostly for the people they are trying to "help", such as in Iraq, but also for the people of this country.

Good that you acknowledge that "politicians misuse the military". I agree. But then knowing this, why do you defend those who willingly allow themselves to be misused? After all this is an all volunteer military. The people in it are responsible for their decision to join, and they are responsible for the death and destruction they create while serving.

"They are also keenly interested in helping people in troubled areas". Really? Thats nice. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Anything in the constitution about that being their job?

"something the U.S. military does at levels that overwhelm the combined efforts of all NGOs in many cases". Don't make me laugh. Not that NGOs help anyone either, but please, lets keep this discussion within the realm of reality. The US military helps people by bombing and killing them? Please.

Your unwillingness to take an honest look at the military probably stems from cognitive dissonance. You served the state for 6 years and are thus too close to the issue to take an honest look. Sad.

Socialism
"It is a rigid authoritarian structure in which the value system revolves around community and obedience."

Your above description of "socialist" applies too most families, schools, corporations and churches that I am familiar with. None of these operate internally according to democratic or free market principles. Socialism is typically used to describe a form of government organization, and not how an arm of the government operates. Every type of government from anarchists to emperors have had military organizations who defended and enhanced their group by killing and/or controlling other groups. Such is the overwhelming theme of the history of man. But the military sub-organization itself is not socialistic, though the controling government giving the orders could be.

If your really are trying to say that the US government is an imperialist aggressor...then just come straight out and say to. Rewriting the definition of socialism is not working for me.

Do I Even Need To Say It?
The fact that the US government is an imperialist aggressor is obvious on its face. I don't need to "try" to say it the same way I don't need to "try" to say that the sky is blue. If you can't even come to grips with that, then you really are divorced from reality. I just assumed that one was taken for granted by everyone. The question is whether or not you agree with it being so, which most people posting on this blog appear to.

And I would disagree that "most families, schools, corporations and churches" are organized along these lines. Schools maybe, because they are also controlled by the government. But as far as corporations and families and churches I would profoundly disagree. If you go to church to follow orders, then I feel sorry for you. If you visit family to follow orders, I feel doubly sorry for you. Yes, in a family the parent often "orders" the child and corrects him or her, but on an individual level the parent can honestly be said to be able to judge the best interests of his/her individual child. The state cannot say the same on the macro level about all of society. In fact, comparing the state and family is one of the methods of socialist propaganda. Attempting to get you to see yourself as not a part of your own family, but part of the larger "family" of the nation, or even the "family of nations" is their stock in trade.

True we follow orders at work, but the most fundamental issue is the motive and incentive structure. A corporation (a real private corporation, not a government contractor) has a private profit motive. Even the lowliest worker who follows orders on the shop floor is contributing to people making money and increasing wealth. The military has no such motive or incentive structure. It destroys and transfers wealth, it does not create it. It is entirely a product of government and bureaucracy.

Again, the question I ask you is what features of the military are NOT socialist? The whole idea of socialism is organizing society along the same lines as the military, under one hierarchical command and control structure with no profit motive for anyone involved, and service to the greater community as the highest ideal.

Socialism...I Will Try Again
"Again, the question I ask you is what features of the military are NOT socialist?"

The military is NOT socialist because it is NOT a government. It is a TOOL of a controling government. A prison, the private school I went to and every company I have worked for are top-down, controlling organizations that required obidience. But I wouldn't characterize them as socialist, because they are not governments.

On another point...Imperialistic governments wage war to steal wealth, permanently confiscate property and enslave human beings. The US seeks peace and trade. Billions of US dollars have rebuilt parts of virtually every county on the face of the earth in the last 100 years, and thousands of Americans have died so that others could be free. Historically US citizens have tended to be passivist. It is the aggressive action of enemies, whether Pearl Harbor, or 9/11, or..., that has relucantly persuaded a majority of Americans that a military response was required. The US, though hardly perfect, is NOT an imperialistic government.

Interesting; wildly unreal, but interesting
You have a very notable ability to weave good points into a dizzying and illogical aray of nonsense.

"Thats the question. It is so obviously socialist that the burden of proof must be on you to show that it is not. Are you suggesting it is organized along free market principles? Hardly. It is a rigid authoritarian structure in which the value system revolves around community and obedience. A soldier is NOT an individual. He is part of a whole. Just a cog in a machine. He is trained to obey without question. And of course the fact that it is entirely funded by money stolen by the government from productive individuals is no small matter either."

It is obvious you have never been in the U.S. military and have no idea what it is like and what is asked. Yes, soldiers must follow orders, but they are also trained to think for themselves and are held responsible for their actions. No soldier is allowed to use the excuse that they were following orders as a defense for rape, pillage and murder.

And, are you suggesting corporations are organized that way? You mean they have no hiarchy and no one gives or follows orders?

If you want to make a business comparison, then security for a highly classified major corporation is pretty close. Governmentally, so do cops. Each is very different, but each has the job of providing security when and where ordered; including the used of deadly force when necessary.

Therefore it is no more "socialist" that police forces or security at a big company. I guess Lockheed and boeing are socialist as well?

"And of course they are paid to kill. That is the function of the military. They kill. Just because some do not do so directly with their own hands is irrelevant. The organizing principle of the institution is killing and destruction of wealth and property on a massive scale. Even when not destroying lives wealth and property in a foreign country in a war, it destroys wealth here at home and distorts the economy by draining it of resources that could better be used elsewhere."

There is no way out of this circular arguement. Yes, killing can be a part of the job, as it is for any security group. But the main job is defense, security and deterrance. As with cops or private security, sometimes deadly force is used. The main difference is that the military trains for this eventuallity as its main job, because it is a military. It will not be used for stopping a building break-in or quelling a crowd of a hundred. They expect to go up against groups with similar training and intentions.

As for the rest, twist it any way you want. The Military is absolutely necessary and has been for every country throughout history. Some do more than others, but a strong military is a national security issue.

Pauled you have to be joking!!!
Pauled said "In the final analysis, the military breaks things and kills people; certainly. It is also certainly true that the American military is generally the most efficient group in the world at doing this."

Oh come on get real have you looked at your defence budget. It cost much more to put 500 Us troops in Iraq then it does say UK or Australian's. You might have the best equipment in most areas but it comes at a large price. Don't try to fall back on how good your troops are because they are not. Most western troops are about the same, but as a old friend who served in the UK forces said US troops are trigger happy and so get into friendly fire fights to often. Bottom line is your troops are like every other troops in modern armies well trained with good and bad people who can and do make mistakes and do fight bravely.

No arguement from me
I would only add that I never said "cost effective". When the U.S. military goes in to break things they generally break what they want broken in quick order. Expediency is often more "effeicent" in a military situation than "low cost" is.

As for friendly fire incidents, hard to say how right your U.K. friend is. I would guess that most "friendly fire" incidents are due either to bad intel or mis-identification or a combination of both. But he could be right, trigger happy could play a part as well. If so, then better training is needed.

Yes, you should celebrate and honor them...
When people put their lives on the line in service to our/your country they deserve our respect. Even if you hate the government, you’re still represented in the government and it exists to serve you.

As for tax leeching... that currency you covet so much would not exist were it not for this nations brave soldiers. Odds are you would not enjoy the liberty to criticize the government, nor is it likely that you would enjoy any degree of prosperity.

Capitalist Military
Pauled answered this nonsense well, so I'll keep it short.

You're complaining that our military is socialistic because it is not based along free market principals. One can only imagine the type of military you would prefer. Would you prefer that we just do away with the profession of arms as currently implemented, and hire free-lance killers for our nation’s defense? That's the free market approach. Or are you just so anti-military that you can’t stand the fact that we have a military? In short, what is your counter proposal?

Free market is good, but don't make it your God. Not everything is improved simply by adding a profit motive. We don't want our police forces getting paid by how many arrests they make, any more than we want our referees to get paid for the amount of fouls they call. Same with our military.

Yes, we do want our military to get paid on the basis of "performance" but it is simpleminded foolishness to equate military performance with nothing more than how many people you kill or how many things you break.

Mpeino, you obviously do not understand the purpose of the military. It is not to kill and destroy. Killing and breaking things are means to an end. The reason we (and God) put the power of the sword in the hands of the government in the first place is to enforce justice - to defend the innocent, and to punish the guilty. The police do it internally, the military does it externally. Yeah, we'd all love to live in a world where it was not necessary to kill people and break things in order to accomplish this, but we don't. So, until you can give us a better plan...

What else have you
learned at Aryan Nations Summer Camp? How do you see through those little holes in your hood?

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