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LCPL Joshua Leakey: One of the Good Guys by WILL DABBS

For all have sinned…dredging up an errant tweet or email some poor slob typed at age 14 and then canceling them over it as an adult seems the very pinnacle of hypocrisy.

We live in a curiously black and white world. The Information Age has given us unprecedented insight into people’s private lives. If something is ever published on the Internet it is there forever. This allows those who don’t actually accomplish a great deal to sit back in a position of comfort and pick apart the actions of those who do.

This thing is the devil. I’m old, but I see little redeeming about the Information Age thus far.

Cancel culture is the woke term. Like texting, sexting, dope, Gucci, sick, lit, or the term woke itself, these are words that meant something totally different a generation ago. This deep into the Information Age all it takes is a single errant comment online to disqualify a person from a position of prestige or responsibility. This is based on the flawed assumption that folks are all either innately good or innately bad.

There is a website devoted to Mother Theresa’s moral failings. If you’re looking for a sinless role model among us mere mortals you should prepare yourself for disappointment.

Reality is rarely that clear cut. Not all nuns are angels, and not all Nazis were bloodthirsty psychopaths. We are all of us broken. It is simply that some strive for the light, while others embrace the darkness. However, there does yet remain some weird intangible that attracts certain personalities to certain camps. That ethereal stuff tends to drive some of the most extraordinary behavior.

ISIS throws people off of tall buildings if they are suspected of being gay. I think folks who are whining so about perceived injustice in the United States need to appreciate what life is like in other places.

In some rare quarters you can indeed find a few moral absolutes. I think we can all agree that ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban are reliably bad people. Their sick oppressive ideology attracts aberrant abusive personalities and then cultivates the worst in them. In the West, an errant online comment can be an unforgivable sin. Meanwhile in Afghanistan people have been executed for listening to music. If anybody cares about my opinion, I think we could use a little perspective over on this side of the pond.

The Global War on Terror brought free peoples together against a common enemy. These are Bundeswehr troops from Germany serving in Afghanistan.

Regardless, in the aftermath of 9-11 the free countries of the world banded together to battle the forces of darkness. This was an old school righteous fight. The egregious behavior of our radical Islamist enemies served as the catalyst to unite free peoples in a common cause against tyranny, oppression, and rank terrorism. That single shared mission brought out the very best in some. One of the finest examples extant was that of a young British paratrooper named Joshua Leakey.

Origin Story

Joshua Leakey is both a hero and a patriot.

Joshua Leakey was born in 1988 in England. His father is a retired RAF officer, while his mom is an Occupational Therapist. He has one younger brother. Leakey attended school in Horsham, West Sussex, before starting a military history program at the University of Kent. Dissatisfied with his studies, Leakey dropped out of school to join the British Army.

With the benefit of hindsight, this was a pretty ridiculous thing to do. It’s the rare retired paratrooper who can walk upright in comfort. However, it sure was a rush back in the day.

There is a certain brotherhood among those of us soldiers stupid enough to jump out of perfectly good airplanes. We are typically somewhat full of ourselves and more than a wee bit arrogant. Joshua Leakey was cut from similar stuff. He ended up with the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment.

The CH47D helicopter has been one of the most effective weapon systems of the modern age. Fast, capable, and cool, the Chinook is a rugged and versatile combat aircraft. I loved the machine.

Joshua Leakey did three combat tours with the Paras in Afghanistan and was promoted to Lance Corporal. In August of 2013, Leakey was part of a joint multinational operation in Helmand Province. Fighting alongside US Marines as well as Afghan soldiers, Leakey and his mates were moving into a village to search for illegal weapons. Leakey’s team inserted via CH47 Chinook helicopters and immediately found themselves deep in the suck.

The Fight

Soon after their insertion via helicopter, LCPL Leakey’s Paras were fighting for their lives.

Leakey’s element was tasked to provide fire support for the troops assaulting into the village. As such, they set up on the reverse slope of a nearby hill protected from the bulk of the enemy fire. Despite their position of relative safety, they soon found themselves subject to withering automatic weapons and RPG fire.

American Marine Captain Brandon Bocian, himself obviously quite the stud in his own right, owes his life to the selfless actions of this young British paratrooper he likely barely knew.

The command group was pinned down on the exposed front slope of the hill by around 20 heavily-armed Taliban fighters. American Marine Captain Brandon Bocian was subsequently hit and badly wounded. The Taliban insurgents were so close and so ferocious as to negate the effectiveness of the two friendly machineguns as well as the organic mortar section that was collocated with the command group.

Combat sweeps away the fluff to expose the true measure of a man.

Despite being the most junior NCO present, LCPL Leakey rightly assessed the situation as dire and took action. He ran some 100 meters down the hill under heavy enemy fire to get to the command group and render aid to the downed US Marine officer. LCPL Leakey then took charge of the chaotic situation and initiated casualty evacuation procedures.

LCPL Leakey did what it took to turn the tide of the battle.

All the while Taliban forces were suppressing the two automatic weapons in overwatch positions at the top of the hill. LCPL Leakey then ran back up the hill across rugged terrain and under heavy fire to retrieve one of the guns and get it back in action. In the process, the machinegun he was carrying was itself struck by enemy fire though not disabled. LCPL Leakey got the gun working and began pouring fire back onto the attacking insurgents.

Without regard for his own safety, LCPL Leakey braved withering enemy fire time and again.

While this helped it still did not tip the balance of the engagement in the favor of friendly forces. As such LCPL ran the gauntlet a third time, this time carrying more than 60 pounds’ worth of ammunition and equipment. He retrieved a second machinegun from the pinned down command group and sprinted to a more advantageous position with it, siting it against the enemy before turning its operation over to a subordinate.

In modern war overkill is not a real thing. Close Air Support platforms like these A10 Warthogs typically represent an irresistible force on the battlefield.

With two belt-fed MGs finally working on the enemy, LCPL Leakey returned to the downed Marine and coordinated his evacuation under fire. Along the way, friendly forces killed eleven insurgents and wounded another four. The entire battle lasted some 45 interminable minutes. The fighting did not stop until friendly close air support rolled hot to teach the Taliban a stark lesson in the salient aspects of tactical overmatch.

The Guns

The modernized SA80A3 is a mature and effective combat rifle.

British forces in action in Southwest Asia most frequently carried the SA80 bullpup assault rifle. The SA80 was a thoroughly inspired but badly flawed design when introduced in 1985. Since then the SA80 has undergone several product improvements. In 2000 HK redesigned the weapon into the SA80A2, rectifying many to most of the rifle’s documented deficits. The subsequent SA80A3 first saw issue in 2016 and focused primarily on making the weapon more modular and adaptable. Today the SA80A3 enjoys reliability rates comparable to other modern assault rifles.

The FN MAG gun has become the most popular belt-fed machine-gun in the Free World. FN Herstal photograph.

I could not find a specific reference to the machineguns LCPL Leakey humped up and down that godforsaken hill in Afghanistan. However, balance of probability these were L7A2 GPMGs (General Purpose Machineguns). The British soldiers I have known all referred to the L7 guns as “Gimpy’s.”

The FN MAG gun in all its many guises is a familiar weapon in Western arsenals.

The L7A2 is an evolved version of the original Belgian MAG (Miltrailleuse d’Appui General) gun. Designed in the early 1950s by Ernest Vervier, the MAG gun has subsequently seen service with more than 80 nations and has been license-produced in ten countries to include Argentina, Canada, Egypt, India, Singapore, Turkey, the US, and the UK. The Chinese naturally make an unlicensed copy of the gun they call the CS/LM1. In US service the MAG gun is designated the M240.

The lightweight American M240L is the most modern version of the classic MAG gun.

The US military first adopted the M240 in 1977 as a coaxial machinegun for main battle tanks. With the well-documented shortcomings of the M60 being made ever more painfully manifest as the guns began to age, some legit rocket scientist realized that we had perfectly good M240’s in storage. Uncle Sam bought the buttstocks and fire controls to convert those early coax guns into ground weapons and fell in love with them. The M240B weighed 28 pounds while the lightened M240G tipped the scales at 24.2 pounds. The more recent M240L dropped the weight to 22.3 pounds by using titanium in certain critical components along with a short barrel, polymer fire control unit, and collapsible stock.

The Rest of the Story

LCPL Joshua Leakey is a proper warrior.

Though LCPL Leakey likely did not know CPT Bocian well, he risked his life multiple times to save the man. LCPL Leakey fully appreciated the desperate nature of the engagement. He selflessly took action to get the injured American to safety and ultimately defeat the Taliban fighters who were so intent upon killing them all. His courageous actions under fire are a study in combat leadership and reflect that weird secret sauce that separates heroes from normal folk on the modern battlefield.

LCPL Leakey received his nation’s highest award for valor from Queen Elizabeth herself. She was quoted as having said, “I don’t get to give out very many of these.”

In February 2015, LCPL Joshua Leakey received the Victoria Cross directly from the hand of Queen Elizabeth II. The Victoria Cross is Great Britain’s highest award for bravery in combat. Like most true heroes, LCPL Leakey was humbled by the honor. He had this to say to the BBC, “In that particular incident I was in the best position to do that. If it had been any of my mates they would be in this position now…I don’t look at it about being about me in particular, I look at this as representing everyone from my unit, from my battalion, who was involved in the campaign in Afghanistan.”

SGT Nigel Gray Leakey, LCPL Joshua Leakey’s 2d cousin, was quite the WW2 hero himself.

LCPL Leakey comes by it honestly. His second cousin, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, earned the Victoria Cross himself in 1941. The elder SGT Leakey was awarded the decoration posthumously for valor while fighting the Italians in North Africa. LCPL Leakey is only the third British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for combat action in Afghanistan. He is the only one of the three who lived to tell the tale.

The Victoria Cross is even today minted from bronze harvested from captured guns taken by British forces during the Crimean War.

The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 to recognize acts of exceptional valor during the Crimean war. Since then it has been awarded 1,356 times. LCPL Leakey is only the fifteenth soldier so recognized since the end of WW2. Each physical medal is formed from the bronze of Russian guns captured at the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. In military circles, it’s quite the big deal.

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I guess that I was EXTREMELY lucky enough to talk to some of these great men. Like my Dad’s Father & my Grandfather Morris, who even in their old age were a riot to be around. As they were always up and trying out new things & ideas even when they were in their 70’s and up in years.
All I can say is this. That I almost felt sorry for the Folks that they went and kicked the shit out of .  Nah they needed it! Grumpy

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Makes one proud to be an American!

Todd Beamer – A true American hero if ever there was one.

 

This is the word-for-word transcript of Todd’s phone call reporting the hijacking of Flight 93.

Todd: Hello… Operator…listen to me…I can’t speak very loud. – This is an emergency. I’m a passenger on a United flight to San Francisco..  We have a situation here….Our plane has been hijacked…..can you understand me?

Lisa: (exhaling a deep breath to herself) I understand… Can the hijackers see you talking on the phone?

Todd: No

Lisa: Can you tell me how many hijackers are on the plane?

Todd: There are three that we know of.

Lisa: Can you see any weapons? What kind of weapons do they have?

Todd: Yes…. they don’t have guns….they have knives – they took over the plane with knives.

Lisa: Do you mean…like steak knives?

Todd: No, these are razor knives…like box cutters.

Lisa: Can you tell what country these people are from?

Todd: No…..I don’t know. They sound like they’re from the mid-east.

Lisa: Have they said what they want?

Todd: Someone announced from the cockpit that there was a bomb on board.  He said he was the captain and to stay in our seats and stay quiet.

He said that they were meeting these men’s demands and returning to the airport… It was very broken English, and… I’m telling you…it sounded fake!

Lisa: Ok sir, please give me your name.

Todd: My name is Todd Beamer.

Lisa: Ok Todd….my name is Lisa…Do you know your flight number? If you can’t remember, it’s on your ticket.

Todd: It’s United Flight 93.

Lisa: Now Todd, can you try to tell me exactly what happened?

Todd: Two of the hijackers were sitting in first class near the cockpit.  A third one was sitting near the back of the coach section. The two up. front got into the cockpit somehow; there was shouting. The third hijacker said he had a bomb. It looks like a bomb. He’s got it tied to his waist with a red belt of some kind.

Lisa: So is the door to the cockpit open?

Todd: No, the hijackers shut it behind them.

Lisa: Has anyone been injured?

Todd: Yes, ..they…they killed one passenger sitting in first class. There’s been lots of shouting. We don’t know if the pilots are dead or alive. A flight attendant told me that the pilot and copilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded.

Lisa: Where is the 3rd hijacker now Todd?

Todd: He’s near the back of the plane. They forced most of the passengers into first class. There are fourteen of us here in the back. Five are flight attendants. He hasn’t noticed that I slipped into this pantry to get the phone. The guy with the bomb ordered us to sit on the floor in the rear of the plane……….oh Jesus.. Help!

Lisa: Todd….are you ok? Tell me what’s happening!

Todd: Hello…..We’re going down….I think we’re going to crash……Wait – wait a minute. No, we’re leveling off….we’re ok. I think we may be turning around…..That’s it – we changed directions.  Do you hear me….we’re flying east again.

Lisa: Ok Todd…. What’s going on with the other passengers?

Todd: Everyone is… really scared. A few passengers with cell phones have made calls to relatives. A guy, Jeremy, was talking to his wife just before the hijacking started. She told him that hijackers had crashed two planes into the World Trade Center……Lisa is that true??

Lisa: Todd…..I have to tell you the truth…..it’s very bad.  The World Trade Center is gone. Both of the towers have been destroyed.

Todd: Oh God —help us!

Lisa: A third plane was taken over by terrorists. It crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC. Our country is under attack….and I’m afraid that your plane may be part of their plan.

Todd: Oh dear God. Dear God…….Lisa, will you do something for me?

Lisa: I’ll try….if I can….Yes.

Todd: I want you to call my wife and my kids for me and tell them what’s happened. Promise me you’ll call..

Lisa: I promise – I’ll call.

Todd: Our home number is 201 353-***3…….You have the same name as my wife…Lisa….We’ve been married for 10 years. She’s pregnant with our 3rd child. Tell her that I love her…….(choking up)..I’ll always love her..(clearing throat) We have two boys.. David, he’s 3 and Andrew, he’s 1…..Tell them……(choking) tell them that their daddy loves them and that he is so proud of them. (clearing throat again) Our baby is due January 12th…..I saw an ultra sound…..it was great….we still don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy………Lisa?

Lisa: (barely able to speak) I’ll tell them, I promise Todd.

Todd: I’m going back to the group—if I can get back I will…

Lisa: Todd, leave this line open…are you still there?……

Lisa: (dials the phone..) Hello, FBI, my name is Lisa Jefferson, I’m a telephone supervisor for GTE. I need to report a terrorist hijacking of a United Airlines Flight 93….Yes I’ll hold.

Goodwin: Hello, this is Agent Goodwin.. I understand you have a hijacking situation?

Lisa: Yes sir, I’ve been talking with a passenger, a Todd Beamer, on Flight 93 who managed to get to an air phone unnoticed.

Goodwin: Where did this flight originate, and what was its destination?

Lisa: The flight left Newark New Jersey at 8 A.M. departing for San Francisco. The hijackers took over the plane shortly after takeoff, and several minutes later the plane changed course – it is now flying east.

Goodwin: Ms. Jefferson…I need to talk to someone aboard that plane. Can you get me thru to the planes phone?

Lisa: I still have that line open sir, I can patch you through on a conference call…hold a mo…..

Todd: Hello Lisa, Lisa are you there?

Lisa: Yes, I’m here. Todd, I made a call to the FBI, Agent Goodwin is on the line and will be talking to you as well.

Todd: The others all know that this isn’t your normal hijacking. Jeremy called his wife again on his cell phone. She told him more about the World Trade Center and all.

Goodwin: Hello Todd. This is Agent Goodwin with the FBI. We have been monitoring your flight. Your plane is on a course for Washington, DC. These terrorists sent two planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Our best guess is that they plan to fly your plane into either the White House or the United States Capital Building.

Todd: I understand…hold on……I’ll…….I’ll be back..

Lisa: Mr. Goodwin, how much time do they have before they get to Washington?

Goodwin: Not long ma’am. They changed course over Cleveland; they’re approaching Pittsburgh now. Washington may be twenty minutes away.

Todd: (breathing a little heavier) The plane seems to be changing directions just a little. It’s getting pretty rough up here. The plane is flying real erratic….We’re not going to make it out of here. Listen to me….I want you to hear this….I have talked with the others….we have decided we would not be pawns in these hijackers suicidal plot.

Lisa: Todd, what are you going to do?

Todd: We’ve hatched a plan. Four of us are going to rush the hijacker with the bomb. After we take him out, we’ll break into the cockpit. A stewardess is getting some boiling water to throw on the hijackers at the controls. We’ll get them….and we’ll take them out. Lisa, …..will you do one last thing for me?

Lisa: Yes…What is it?

Todd: Would you pray with me?

They pray: Our father which art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive our trespassers,

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory

Forever…..Amen

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

He makes me to lie down in green pastures

He leads me beside the still waters

He restores my soul

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His name’s sake

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…..

Todd: (softer) God help me…Jesus help me….(clears throat and louder)

Are you guys ready?……..

Let’s Roll.