Merry Christmas to All, we sincerely hope each and every one of you has a safe and happy day surrounded by family and loved ones.
Originally, I was going to write about a Christmas being away from home, but even a good story and a funny one is a bit depressing when you’re far from home at Christmas time. I never really gave a damn about missing any of the other holidays, but Christmas was always about family time and missing those sucked. So… we’ll go in another direction this morning.
As I’ve said here many times, most of SpecialOperations.com deals with the training side of the house. What you’ll need to do to pass the Selection and Assessment courses and the follow-on training in the qualification courses, with a fair bit of history thrown in.
However, today is another one of those funny, this stuff can… and will happen to you too. Back in the day, the 7th Special Forces Group (7th SFG) ran a training program that we originally called “Protect the Force” and then later “Broken Axle”. It was Level II training for another course taught over in the JFK Special Warfare Center.
This story isn’t about any of that, so please don’t be burning up the emails about OPSEC. A good friend of mine Ronnie B. and myself were the two guys tasked with being the 7th SFG’s points of contact and in charge of the in-house training to bring the guys up to Level II.
At that time, we were going to be working up in the Winston-Salem, NC area. Ronnie and I got orders and were heading up to do a Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS). Our orders stated “POV Authorized”, and since spring had sprung in North Carolina, the weather was perfect. We decided to ride our Harleys up there since it would be a nice trip (about 1 ½ – 2 hours) and we could take the scenic route.
We eased out of Fayetteville and it was a bit chilly but once we hit US 421, there was zero traffic and we put the hammer down. It was an awesome ride until about halfway there Ronnie’s fuel pump start to leak. As luck would have we pulled over right by a small store and he commenced to fixing it. I offered encouragement only as a wrench or any tool in my hand can only be construed as a weapon. As a mechanic? Not so much. To quote Clint Eastwood, “a man has to know his limitations.”
We glanced across the road and saw a bunch of prison inmates, clearing the side of the highway under the watchful gaze of a sheriff who was none too pleased to see “two bikers” there. But soon we were ready to get on our way but before that, we walked over to the cops and asked if we bought some soda for the inmates would they allow them to have it. “Sure,” he said. “As long as it is unopened.” We bought a case of soda and passed it off and got a bunch of thumbs up from the inmates. The cops asked us who we were and they were pretty relaxed after that. Back on the road…
Arriving at Winston, we checked on our motel and arranged for all the rooms for the 7th SFG guys and called our police contact in the city and he agreed to meet us at the hotel. We had explained in earlier faxes (remember those?) what our training entailed and what the boys would be doing in their fair city. When he saw our Harleys and the way we were dressed, he was taken aback.
“You guys are taking this incognito thing farther than I thought. Everyone coming up here on Harleys?” But he was laid back and offered any assistance that we’d need and gave us a phone number to call in case anything came up while we were in town. He offered to stop by to pay his respects, (and to keep an eye on us) once we arrived.
So, the morning of our deployment arrives, and Ronnie and I go to that bustling hub of an airport in Fayetteville to pick up our rental car. The girl at the booth told us that Ft. Bragg had a run on mid-sized cars that week (it was all 7th SFG) and since we were the first to arrive her manager was going to offer us a deal. Instead of a mid-size, for $2 a day more, they’d give us a luxury model, either a Cadillac or Lincoln-Continental. Since Uncle Sam would only pay for a mid-size, for a buck a day each, yes. Thank you very much. We’ll take you up on that offer. We opted for a Town Car.
When they brought the car out, we burst out laughing. Our Town Car was the ultimate pimp mobile. White, convertible with spoked chrome rims and curb feelers. Ronnie looked at me and said, “Huggy Bear just called and wants to know when we’re returning his ride.” For those too young to know who Huggy Bear is, Google Starsky and Hutch.
So, in true SF, low-key, “quiet professional” fashion, we put the top down and ride back over to the 7th SFG area and pull up on the sidewalk to load up our gear for the training we’ll need in Winston-Salem.
The boys start showing up in ones and twos as every two men received a rental car, soon we had a long line of those awful freakin’ “K-cars” and those horrible Fords of that era lined up on the street that just screamed, “government employee.” In the spirit of our ride, I changed into a Hawaiian shirt. The boys in the training took one look at our ride and we were promptly razzed to the bone. “You a$$holes DID tell us to go low-key and blend into the surroundings …right?” was typical of what we were hearing. SF is such a tough audience sometimes.
So off we go up to Winston, the top is down, and Ronnie and I are looking more like “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” than a couple of sneaky Petes on our way to SF shit. We arrived and got everyone’s room keys and the manager looks out the window and her eyes get big like, “Is everyone going to be driving cars like this?” But doesn’t ask.
As everyone rolls in, we hand out the room assignments, make sure that everyone is aware of how we’re going to conduct our training when two things happen. First, our guy from Group HQ, J.D. Doyle (RIP), pulls in, as he’ll be monitoring training. Of course, he asks about the car, and after we tell him our deal, he looked at Carl Compton (RIP) who was SWC instructor, and they both have a big grin. J.D. asked, “you guys straight? We’ll be back in a few hours.” They must have made record time back to Fayetteville and back because about 5 hours later, J.D. shows up with a tricked-out Cadillac. We called our Police contact, I still have his card, LT. R.A. Johnson, a great guy and we arranged to meet him for breakfast the next morning. He laughed and took one look at our rides and said, “You know, I’m definitely in the wrong line of work.”
But to our arrival, the second thing that happened was, as we’re briefing our guys on our training scenario for the time there, a load of school buses began pulling into the parking lot. “What the…” Winston-Salem was playing host to the state cheerleading championships and about 5-6 schools from North Carolina were staying at our motel.
About 100 teenaged, hormones going crazy, I am away from home this weekend high school girls don’t mix especially well with about 25-30 Special Forces guys. As the buses spewed the girls into the parking lot, one of the guys asks, “Ah…Chief, are these considered training aids for the weekend?” Ronnie took one look at me and could only say, “Oh the humanity.”
The motel manager explained to the chaperones of these girls that were a bunch of barrel-chested, snake-eating Green Berets in the motel and suggested they meet with us. Two of them came to my room and my suggestion was, “Don’t make a big deal out of it. Explain to them that these guys have some very intensive training going on and to just leave them be. But under no circumstances tell them to NOT to go down there.” It fell on deaf ears.
The easiest way to get anyone to do something, a Green Beret, a Navy SEAL, a horny high school girl is to tell them NOT to do something. I know it, you know it, the street sweeper in East Timbuktu knows it. The chaperones didn’t. They warned the girls that these dangerous Green Berets were there and not to go near them. Moths to a flame.
It was absolute chaos all weekend. As one of the instructors for the training, there were always a ton of questions that would get asked when writing the reports associated with tradecraft. So, I kept my door jimmied so I wouldn’t have to get up constantly answering it and the guys could just come in and ask away.
That was an invitation to some of the bolder girls. “Why yes young lady, I can see that you’re wearing nothing under that football jersey, but I don’t care to go to jail tonight or any other night thank you very much….move along now.” Sigh. I don’t know where those chaperones were, but the noise level was incredible every night until after 2-3 a.m.
One of our SF guys had a rough time in the classes. Sometimes it takes a bit longer for the light to come on with tradecraft. I hadn’t seen him for awhile and hadn’t received any reports from him, so I told Ronnie I’d go check on him as he was a proud dude that hated asking for help. Oh, and did I mention he was a known dog in SF circles?
Banging on the door, I saw his door too was jimmied so anyone could walk in and that was typical as the guys in training were always working together. He invited me in and lo and behold. Sitting in his lap and two girls, one, who was liberally tugging on a bottle of tequila. He could sense my eyebrows going up and said, “Ah, Chief, meet my nieces…and by the way, the bottle is theirs.”
Shaking my head, I shooed the girls out and he laughed and looked at me and said. “I doubt James Bond ever had to deal with this shit,” Indeed.
Merry Christmas, DOL