Who is the Sheriff of Baghdad?

This is just a bit of a biopic about a badass: John “Shrek” McPhee. McPhee is the Sheriff of Baghdad and Dean of Advanced Violent Studies at Gunfighter University.

The first order of business was to locate Ahmed’s bedroom, and one of the best reconnaissance operators in the business volunteered for the job. He was known in Delta as Shrek, affectionately named after the movie cartoon character with whom he shared a similar large and muscular build. He sported a deep bronze tan from the sun’s glare off the snowy peaks in northern Afghanistan, and much of his face was covered by a thick brown beard that he had grown over many months. Shrek might draw notice on a street corner in Iowa, but would fit in well among the Afghan locals. He had proven his skills time and again, and as much as any Delta operator, Shrek had developed a good feel for the people of the area and understood the very different culture in which honor, hospitality, and revenge are valued like Americans cherish baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.   Kill Bin Laden, Dalton Fury

The Sheriff of Baghdad

The Sheriff of Baghdad is the moniker used by John “Shrek” McPhee personally and for his company, SOB Tactical. Shrek was the nickname he went by when he served in an Army’s SMU (Special Mission Unit). He now runs SOB (Sheriff of Baghdad) Tactical and its instruction component, Gunfighter University.

From 1st Ranger Battalion, he went through SFAS and thence to 7th Special Forces Group. From 7th SFG he passed Selection and was assigned to “The Unit.” After 9/11 he deployed to Afghanistan, where he was involved in the Battle of Tora Bora and participated in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden later memorialized in a book by Dalton Fury.

Sheriff of Baghdad
John “Shrek” McPhee during the hunt for Bin Laden shortly after 9/11.


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Subsequent to Afghanistan he deployed to Iraq and was (as you might expect) heavily involved in various operations there.

What are his thoughts, looking back? Here’s an example. 

“Iraq kicked off, early ’03, we were some of the first guys on the ground…compared to Afghanistan, I’m eating rice and flies for meals, crapping in a hole in the ground, lucky to get a shower, just hoping the water I drank didn’t make me sick in Afghanistan to, I lived in Saddam’s palace, washed my face in a gold sink. I had a six shower head shower; I don’t even have this stuff in my house! So, you know, my first day in Iraq I was like, this is how you war right here!

So, Iraq was just textbook war. In Afghanistan, on a scale of 1 to 10, if the enemy was 2, the mountain was 10. We’re fighting at a 12 in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the enemy might’ve been a 4, but the terrain was also a 4, so everything was just easier. I think in Iraq we really started the pressure of…kinda like lightning warfare. We just started hitting targets because we had nothing opposing us. And we could hit ten in a night, twenty in a night, we could clear a hundred buildings in a night.

SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

There was nobody or nothing in Iraq that could actually stop us from doing that. I believe the Iraq War set an unprecedented pace in history. It was because we went from the most difficult situations, trying to figure out how we’re gonna pull this off, to…yeah, couple little birds, couple armored vehicles, we’ll be there in 20 minutes and the whole thing will take an hour. So we kind of adapted into a much faster-paced warfare.”

Sheriff of Baghdad in Iraq


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That’s a little more visceral than how his online bio describes it.

“John has spent his adult life in Special Operations and Special Mission Units. He has trained countless U.S. Special Operations forces, thousands of International Tier 1 Operators and Special Forces around the world. He is one of the handful of operators with over a decade of combat having served in multiple theaters from Bosnia and South America to recent war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”


He had been decorated for valor while chasing bin Laden through the mountains almost a year earlier, and in my opinion, there was no better man for this job. We had a lot of information, but Shrek would hopefully provide us with actionable intelligence we needed to present the situation for a strike to our higher command. Intelligence had to be actionable. Not a guess, not too sketchy, and not too old to receive approval to execute a mission. No actionable intelligence equaled no mission launch and typically would send the whole lot of us back to sliding another movie into the DVD player or pumping more iron under the big tent.

We were asking Shrek to hang it all out, to undertake the sort of mission that most American men can only experience vicariously through Tom Clancy novels or Tom Cruise Hollywood thrillers. On his own, he would have to burrow into a dangerous haystack that was made up of dozens of log-and-mud-walled adobes jammed together on a steep, terraced ridgeline, and discover the needle that was the home of Gul Ahmed. “Oh, yeah,” I added during the initial briefing, putting one more big task on his broad shoulders. “While you are there, we also need you to confirm that Mr. Ahmed is at home and not shopping across the border in Pakistan.”   Kill Bin Laden, Dalton Fury


John “Shrek” McPhee

I’ve only talked to McPhee on the phone a couple of times and texted back and forth with him a few more (though he can come across as unapproachable or abrasive on his videos, I actually found the opposite to be true). However, since that’s hardly enough to provide any real perspective, I’ll post some vignettes pilfered from social media and videos.  These certainly do give you a glimpse behind the SOB curtain.

The timeline of these vignettes is not in order.

SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

This pic is from the morning after my #singleton mission into Tora Bora. As written about in Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury. One of the first successful snatch missions. I knew from that day forward we needed to be a whole lot smarter than we had been to catch the bad guys. We also needed to outsmart our Generals, the leadership that was so risk-averse it was damn near impossible to get approval to even leave the wire. They wanted American eyes on the target before they would approve any mission and oh by the way they would not approve the reconnaissance to get eyes on. Talk about a pain in the ass. A complete do loop and the reason the war wasn’t ended in the first ten days!

After the unofficial and definitely not approved solo reconnaissance mission (they misreported my status which the Generals never asked how we got eyes on…fuking Genius level know-it-alls) in preparation for the assault I got to shed my savage manjams and wear some real clothes. Pictured here is my trusty AK. I carried it openly everywhere I went, even when I acted like a retard to get through checkpoints.

I hear a lot of Internet buzz about AKs but how many guys actually carried one in combat? During the mission, the savages massed and we’re moving in quick on my position. I put some shots above the crowd as my no trespassing sign. The crowd dispersed nicely, however, every IR laser from the assault force was on me, lol. They didn’t know it was me, they only heard the sound of an AK. Everyone knows the sound difference between an AR and an AK. Oh….bad guys carry AKs, so yet another lesson learned, lol. Shoot the AK sparingly and get cover from savages and assault force (they both wanted to shoot me).


As Shrek made his final preparations, I stopped by his tent and found him dressing for success with a well-worn Afghan mujahideen outfit, including the baggy drawstring pants and a shirt down to his knees. The one thing wrong with his attire was that a red and green baseball cap with the emblem of the Hard Rock Café—Washington, D.C., a souvenir he had picked up when we were in the nation’s capital six months earlier, was perched on his hairy head. He replaced it with an old, floppy wool hat of the kind worn by the muhj. Both of us were on our third tours in Afghanistan, and although we had discussed and briefed back the plan several times, we felt more comfortable with the mission when we could look each other in the eyes one last time. It was important that he understood exactly how we expected to communicate, what was critical to report immediately, and what could wait.

More importantly, I wanted to give Shrek that warm and fuzzy confirmation that, should shit go wrong out there, the boys would pause The Sopranos and come to the rescue. He might be working alone, but he was Delta, part of the team. However, we both knew the truth was that we would not magically appear at his side whenever he rubbed the magic bottle. From Bagram, we would need two hours in a helicopter traveling as hard and as fast as the pilots could push it. Nothing we could do to change that.  Kill Bin Laden, Dalton Fury


SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad


One of the things I liked to do when not killin’ savages was solitary. I had a little handheld solitary game. I would sit in my beach chair, wear my fav clothes and just not think at all for a few hours. Next to me, my trusty woobie (aka poncho liner) on my savage woven pipe frame bed, a little MRE and some flavored drink for sustenance. Oh, and of course beside me was my trusty G3 in case of rocket or other attacks. All of this just to have some “me or quiet” time.

Sometimes while deployed you need some mental downtime. Saving the world can be taxing at times. Being a warlord or super commando can or may lead to permanent scars, visible and not visible, even death. When I would get back after long missions, I didn’t want to make small decisions and did not give a fuck what was for dinner. (Always always when I came back from a mission someone always asked me what I wanted for dinner, lol!) I made life or death decisions every day, all day; what’s for dinner was not going to be one of them on those days.

As much as you spin yourself up, you have to spin yourself down. This is mandatory to have personal balance. I can’t tell you how important it is to have a little downtime. I get asked all the time how do I become mentally tough or have a good mindset. It’s easy to do your job and what is asked of you. The easy part is making sure you never let down your brothers. But the processing and dealing with it at a later date is the hard part. So as much as I like the booze it’s only a hall pass to deal with the situation later. The hall pass makes dealing with these things even harder because you’re putting time and distance between these situations and the resolution. This becomes harder and harder with time, distance and booze. My advice?  Find a hobby or something and mentally sort your shit out. Long term it is what you need for your mental health.

I learned the hard way, I can be an asshole today or I can smile and try to enjoy life. I choose to smile, enjoy life and ever since then my life has been amazing every day. This is how enjoying life starts… chillin’ it with solitary. lol.


John "Shrek" McPhee is known as the Sheriff of Baghdad

Before cell phones, the Internet, HIPSTERS and WAY before #tbt #throwback. We were running ‘n’ gunning using things for practical uses and not for “cool points”. Back in the day, my fanny pack held mags, comms, and medkit, nothing like what today’s hipsters carry in their fannypacks.

SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

Bosnia was my jam. I knew that place like the back of my hand. But yet I was happy to hang up my black stonewashed jeans, black leather jackets, and mafia-style tracksuits.

I would run every morning at the base of the mountains and the rule was you had to be armed. So I always thought running in ranger panties with a 1911 was a no go. Like where do I stick this heavy piece of metal? You got a dirty mind and I don’t roll like that.

So I would run with Belgian medium frag in each hand. I figured 2 frags is equal to or greater than 8 .45 rounds. lol. I also enjoyed walking into every Bosnia government building with my weapons and 5 Belgian small frags in each pocket. If I got pulled over by the police I would show them my badge and drive away that easy. Oh… We also had one night where we allegedly had some drinks and broke everything in the refrigerator against the wall. Even the condiments, lmao.

For all this, I got one of the highest awards in DOD. Sadly I stress peacetime because no D boy killed anyone in Bosnia.
This is the Defence Meritorious Service Medal. This was given to me by the NATO/SFOR commander. He didn’t make the pic over my #pornstache. Shortly after this pic, every female in a 100-mile radius ended up pregnant.


SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

I love this stuff. I would always volunteer to be the jumpmaster as an instructor. First, so all the tandem/bundle students would hit the drop zone. Because when I was a student I rarely did. Mostly because of a hungover SEAL making bad spots.

I never like worrying about hitting the drop zone when I was a student and also responsible for another person’s life, especially as a student. So as a tandem instructor candidate I would Jumpmaster all the time (never missed a spot). One of the perks was when all the students were out of the plane. I and the head instructor would race to see who could slap all the students that just jumped out of the plane on the helmet. This normally meant an almost vertical track at triple-digit speeds and zipping past students, other instructors, and video guys.

I loved this game! I said once that we should not do this because it was irresponsible and just slightly (wink wink) dangerous. We agreed to be more professional and to not do it again. However when the last student was out … Green light was on…… The fucking race was on sucker!

SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

Even in places where you ban weapons…shitheads, criminals, or terrorists, whatever you want to call them will always find a way! I was amazed at this and I’ll try to explain it to you. It’s 3” pipe with a long piece of 1” pipe for a scope. It is held together with tape and hose clamps. Also, it has a vehicle toggle switch for some wires with a small battery to power it. It’s made with the simplest everyday items.

It’s a rocket launcher people. It’s never the weapon that’s the problem. It’s always the human that wants to bring harm to other humans!

This was seized off a truck the came from the house Zarqawi was staying in Fallujah. The driver and his son had tea with him before they left the house. How do I know? e had to persuade them a little and I can be very persuasive.

We wanted to kill him but… Mattis (you heard me) cock blocked us because he thought the Corps could win at Fallujah with peace and flowers and shit. Lol. I’ll tell you this, Saddam wasn’t caught handing out tea and fucking crumpets! Just sayin’.


SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad

Shrek in full beast mode. Deployed to Iraq. This is how he slept…in a bunk bed with his flag and a savage blanket (The leopard blanket, not his). He still has both to this day and still travels with the same flag. This flag was to be used to cover his body if he was killed in action. Every dude under SGM came home from this deployment. That’s not always the case. He believed there was a job to do and to do it smartly meant everyone got to come home. His wartime strategies and tactics gave them unprecedented advantages over the enemy. When you love your country, the men you serve with, and the mission; you’ll sacrifice everything you have and who you are. Writing a blank check to Uncle Sam means so much to those who serve. Forever Freedom.

Into a small bag, the meticulous professional delicately placed a mini video camera that he needed to capture critical information for the assault force; the structure of the walls, type of doors, location of the door hinges, height of window sills, high wires, possible approach routes, the locations of armed guards, possible escape routes, and a dozen other things. He added a small handheld global positioning system, or GPS, that would provide the exact coordinates that would be critical for any surgical clandestine operation. Last in the bag was a small satellite phone that would serve as his only link to us, the lifeline to his teammates and safety. Finally, Shrek picked up his most precious weapon, his baby, a 7.62mm German-made H&K G3 assault rifle topped with a HOLOsight red dot scope, ATPIAL infrared laser, and a high-powered CQB light. He rubbed it warmly.

“Hey, brother, aren’t you gonna have a heck of hiding that weapon from curious locals and those you come in contact with?” I asked. Shrek looked at me sideways, with those piercing eyes almost hidden behind all that thick hair. He looked scary. He carefully placed his prized H&K rifle under his sleeping bag to protect it from the horrendous fine dust that inevitably covered everything. “Dalton, I’m only saying goodbye for a few days, but like some of our old ladies back home, she would be pissed at me for leaving her behind.”

His personal protection on this trip would be a folding-stock 7.62mm AK-47 assault rifle, Shrek was happy. I wondered if we would ever see him again.   

Kill Bin Laden, Dalton Fury


John "Shrek" McPhee is known as the Sheriff of Baghdad

SOB Tactical

SOB Tactical is online at SOBTactical.com; It’s where you can enroll in a course, purchase some of the gear Shrek has designed or had a hand in designing, and read his blog posts.

The training site is what McPhee calls Gunfighter U. Online training is available as well.

The online store is actually at the SOB Tactical Shop.

There you can purchase such items as the:

• Sheriff of Baghdad Sling

(Also referred to as the B-Sling, and available in several configurations.)

• SOB Puncher [Tertiary Tool]

A “push” or “punch” dagger.

• SOB Leather “Condom” Holsters

Uniquely named, excellent designs.

• SOB “Deep Conceal” Kydex Holsters

Holsters of all kinds (as long as by “all kinds” you mean Glocks and M&P Shields).

• SOB Boot Kit

One of the most significant little insignificant things you’ll own.


Rogues Gallery

Read more about interesting — and often dangerous — people


Learn more, connect, follow, and train with SOB Tactical.


Sheriff of Baghdad Podcast


SOB Tactical YouTube channel


SOB Tactical on Twitter

SOB Tactical on Instagram

@sobtactical https://www.instagram.com/sobtactical/

Gunfighter U on Instagram

@gunfighter_u https://www.instagram.com/gunfighter_u/

SOB Tactical on Facebook



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Sheriff of Baghdad Learnin’

Some lessons from SOB Tactical (this will updated periodically)


SOB Tactical is run by the Sheriff of Baghdad
Shrek and Dalton Fury in the middle of a Mad Minute. Shrek says, “Right in the middle of the worst mass casualty event I ever witnessed. A day I wish I could forget.”

Tactical Tip Of The Day: MAD MINUTE. What is it?

The Mad Minute can make or break a unit’s ability to shift on the fly or flex to the situation. This is a simple concept and when used effectively is a combat multiplier. Warrior leaders, use this and your warriors will never fail you.

This is how the Mad Minute works. Say you have 10 targets to hit in one night. During the planning and the Orders brief or however your unit does it, have your guys remember just the first target. Tell them there are additional targets and to be prepared for a long night, but have them know the first one cold. You execute and the first hit goes down flawless. Before you load vehicles or exfil (depart your target) leaders talk over the plan for what’s next on the hit list. Then leaders brief your warriors and make sure they are tracking (understand) on the next plan. If there is no time, brief the plan in the vehicle. If you’re in a helicopter draw stick figures on paper or small whiteboard. It’s easy. Depict house, helo, men and an arrow of which way to move to the target. Simple caveman cave wall drawings. This way it’s fresh in the warriors’ minds and they know what to do. Establish stick man SOPs if need be.

Take the time to always do a mad minute. Senior leaders let your men tell you what they are going to do for each separate mission. This is not the time to bullshit or play grab ass. Say the plan and move out. This is why it’s called the Mad Minute and not the mad hour, happy hour or 10 minutes. Too much extraneous communication can lead to confusion. Or debate could cause someone to think the plan has changed. This is not the time to debate anything. Say the plan, be clear and concise.

If however, the goal of your Mad Minute is to change the plan, get your leaders together and change it. Be sure to make clear this is a change to the original plan so there is no confusion. Then brief your warriors, “Change 1 is…….”

We do this to make sure we don’t make any mistakes and cost any warriors’ lives because of doubt or misunderstanding. Mission success is directly tied to your plan. If your plan fails, you fail. If you forgot the plan and got a warrior killed you’ll bear that guilt every second for the rest of your life. Shit happens, but it happens because of your mistakes, it’s an unacceptable, worst possible scenario for everyone.

Some things to consider. Don’t over plan. This could lead to a warrior overthinking rather than focusing on what he is supposed to do. This will make him inflexible and unable to adapt to the situation. Keep the plan simple with room for flexibility because the enemy will never do what you want. Otherwise, we would not have war. However, if the situation changes, go with it and let the plan swing the other way. But don’t do things cowboy style. That has disaster written all over it. There is a sweet spot of not overplaying and yet retaining some type of plan. There may be time for cowboy shit, but that is last ditch scenario when the plan went to shit and you’re trying to fix or get out of a bad situation. At this point, it’s Medal of Honor action. The problem is you should avoid this situation at all costs seeing as most MoH are given to dead men.

So take a minute talk through the plan (whether you need it or not), disseminate to your warriors and move out smartly. I can tell you how many hits this simple act saved me and my mates asses.

The mad minute is simple. Just make sure you warriors understand what’s next. This takes a second and when used regularly can increase your unit’s effectiveness. Also when used regularly, it’s the right time and place for a senior leader to change a plan due to ever-changing intel and enemy situation.



In the city of Jalalabad, Shrek caught a ride for the long trip south to Tora Bora on what might be considered a but was only a clunker of a foreign-made minivan from the 1980s.

The other passengers were a dozen Afghan men who ranged in age from seven to seventy, and it was crowded and stuffy. He adjusted his uncomfortable position because the hidden AK-47 was jabbing him in his lower left side. Growing bored, his thoughts drifted to home and his old pickup truck. That beat-up beast looked strange enough by itself, but its driver, a big, bearded man in ragged civilian clothing, resembled a terrorist on steroids. After 9/11, when all military posts upped their gate security and started strict checks on suspicious vehicles and people, even the greenest military policeman could not resist pulling it over, and Shrek would be stopped three out of five days a week.

But now, as an American commando on a singleton mission, his truck seemed like heaven compared to the bus, and was very far away. He didn’t dare to speak to the other since he was trying to pass as an Afghan. When the jitney crossed tribal lines, he had to contend with armed checkpoint guards who were hungry for whatever booty for passage they could draw from the unsuspecting and unprotected strangers on the little bus. Discomfort and danger he could handle. It was the stench trapped inside the small minivan that was his worst problem. As he jolted along, Shrek prayed for a head cold and a stuffy nose, and wondered: Don’t these guys ever take a friggin’ bath? 

That isn’t all there is to know about John Shrek McPhee, but it’ll get you started.

By the way, if you’ve been thinking about reading Killing Bin Laden, go ahead and do it.



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