The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Although sometimes that path is obstructed with state-of-the-art, multilayered security systems that are specifically designed and overlapped against all threats. This was where our point laid, and our pipedream; the Delta Force compound. One corner of the perimeter of the compound lay just off of the road traveled while heading to the ranges of Fort Bragg. The compound was easily identifiable thanks to all of the exotic sports cars, which were frequently and openly parked near the gate of the compound at the time.
We passed our target no less than once a week as we rucked out to the various training areas and ranges on Fort Bragg. While we moved, we took in the perimeter and gazed into the distance, across the reaches of the Delta Force compound – in search the elusive flagpole, which was rumored to lay at the dead-center of the compound. Yet to no avail, since the compound was well secured and concealed from the road.
Pass after pass only revealed that the perimeter was sealed off and every map of the area was misleading as to the actual layout, to include military maps.
Back at Bragg,
Fort Bragg is a culture unto itself and quite possibly may remain the strangest place that I have every experienced and lived. The Fayetteville, North Carolina installation is officially known as “Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces,” albeit the strangest gem in American militaria is just, “Bragg,” or ‘Fayettenam.’ The names of a place go a long way, in regards to its reputation and chiefly in the context of this article – its myths and urban legends.
The culture of Fort Bragg is rooted in crime, lies, and secrets – soaked in alcohol and lap dances – seasoned with opportunists; yet hosts a strange brew of America’s elite warriors. In the mix comes the name, Fayettenam, which according to local barroom historians is said to come from the spike in high-stakes crime that followed the Vietnam War. Local tales involve helicopter bank raids, monstrous SOF experimentation programs, and military drug cartels, which are rumored to be the CIA launching point for the introduction of crack-cocaine in the 1980s. The Fayetteville rumor-mill blames the military drug cartels and alleged experiments gone wrong on a host of local and national issues including the ghettoization of Murchison Road – popularly known as, “The Murk.” The road is not someplace you want to find yourself as an outsider, after hours, and unarmed. Realistically the area around Fort Bragg is the result of poor sociocultural and economic choice – yet people like to blame the abstract for the problems they created. Nevertheless, the urban legend culture is part of life at Fort Bragg and also includes the military.
As a soldier assigned to Fort Bragg, you become accustomed to the rumors and the illusion of SOF will start to fade away as you normally interact with SOF personnel on post, through varying duties and assignments, as well as making drinking buddies and friends while off-duty. And SOF folks are just like the rest of us, and just as guilty when it comes to contributions to the sewing circle. Special Forces soldiers were exceptionally as bad, if not worse, than the regular army when it came to tall tales about the mysterious and secretive Delta Force, aka, CAG, SMU, and etcetera.
I believe it was at the Green Beret Club, a small bar near my battalion on Smoke Bomb Hill that I first heard the rumor of the fastest way to join Delta Force. There were a few guys from my battalion, others from the varying Parachute Infantry Regiment down Gruber Road, and some SF guys. There and as almost any soldier can tell you that everyone, and just like at any civilian job – the staff will always speculate about what it would be like to join the next level. This is where the SF guys really chimed in, on speculation, as to joining and being Delta Force.
One of the guys began to tell a story he once overheard, as to how someone could join Delta Force, by completing one simple task. My ears perked up, and as I’ve previously stated – I was too lazy to endure the running required to attend any selection course. Yet this was new, a backdoor, and an opportunity for me to bypass the standardized system – I was all ears. His story was rooted in back-channels and overheard secret meetings from Camp Mackall to Fort Bragg – it was the stuff of legend. If George R.R. Martin and Tom Clancy were present, six books each would arise from the story. Although they weren’t and here is the bottom line from the tall tale of the drunken Special Forces medic – break into the compound, make it to the flagpole in the center, and you’re in.
I was also a little drunk at that time and ate the story up like a fat kid at a buffet, as did my compatriots. Albeit, the accompanying platoon sergeant from my battalion did not, and he corralled myself and my fellow over excited Sappers out of the bar and pointed us home, across the street as he was leaving and said he didn’t want to deal with our drunk asses on a half-cocked mission that’s going to get us all in-front of the Colonel. Retrospectively, he was right.
Alert the E-4 Mafia,
Albeit, I wasn’t having reason for dinner. My mind was full of ideas and as a self-respecting member of the E-4 Mafia at that time, I returned the barracks and poured a beer off of the keg – because that’s what paratroopers do – drink. I looked around and began to share my newfound Intel and many were dismissive, while others were as intrigued as I was.
It was 2004, many of us had recently returned together from the invasion of Iraq, and we were soon to be Non-Commissioned Officers, yet we sought action. We pulled our maps together and abused our friends who were on Staff Duty to allow us to root around the plans and operations offices for additional maps and info. Unfortunately, there was little to be had, there was no tangible information on the Delta Force compound. Nevertheless, we knew where it was, and accepted that the compound was simply listed as a blank area and impact area for live-fire munitions on the maps due to secrecy.
Most people would quit there, but we were not most people. So we devised a plan – were we to gather observations and Intel through whatever sources we could gather and note everything we could about the known locale of the compound while we passed it for training. Yet we were only able to pool further rumors and observations on the security force and visible security of the road’s observable perimeter. The only attempt to probe the wooden perimeter nearly ended in a bad spot. As we took an LMTV along the many firebreaks throughout the Fort Bragg training areas under the false pretense of checking that they were clear. The LMTV was assigned for chute detail, and no such firebreak checking was scheduled in that area . . . We opted to simply play dumb and lost if we happened to be stopped – we were. It was half a kilometer along the outer perimeter that we were stopped. The civilian-clothed security staff stopped us in an SUV that came out of left field, and they checked our IDs, dispatch, and logbook then asked what we were up to. We put on out game faces, well that is our “this detail sucks” face and said that we were on post detail to clear the firebreaks. He asked if we knew where we were and we feigned to be near Area J. Fortunately the guards just saw us as some dumb and lost specialists and turned us around.
This information was dangerous to obtain, yet golden for our cause. The perimeter must employ electronic surveillance devices as well as multiple access points for a roving guard force. We also now knew for certain that only something really cool, something like the Delta Force compound would be hidden behind such security.
Over drinks, we laid out our plans in the back of a pick-up truck behind the barracks. We knew that no lone individual or team would ever make it, and the entire mission would be a bust – destined to be captured by the guards. The plan called for a multi-pronged assault along the perimeter, in teams of two to three. At this point in our young, mischievous, and misguided minds; we decided that other soldiers must frequently make similar attempts to infiltrate the compound, and for the same reason, to join. So we concluded, that we most likely would not be in too much trouble if caught – especially if a team succeeds.
The uniform was to be duty uniform, with maroon berets to show friendly, and we were not to take any weapons or flashlights, even multitools were to be left behind. A comms silent approach with no radios or cell phones and finally everyone was to carry to wool blankets to get over the multiple fences. Any team who made it past the fence was to head to the best-known center of the compound, identify the flagpole, and call safe to join Delta Force.
This is where it kind of kicked in that we’re a bunch of dumbasses. The entire concept of calling safe on a flagpole was a bit schoolyard and becoming an increasingly foolish thought. It was apparent that we were to be shot or imprisoned if we tried this . . . Even so, I was one of the few voices that argued that the high-risk involved was part of the challenge, and why it could have worked. For me, I thought of the risk as one of the reasons as to how we could possibly be accepted into Delta Force; that is, only after overcoming such a challenge.
Unfortunately, my argument didn’t convince enough folks. People just aren’t willing to risk it all for an unknown chance, at a random shot in the dark for total success, or . . . well, death, nor a ruined career with multiple federal felonies. So with my team fractured and being unable to accomplish this goal on my own. The plan fell to the wayside, and it is not yet confirmed that if someone ever made it to the Delta Force flagpole, and if they’re in, dead, or locked up. Nevertheless, I’d still like to know and possibly curse them for not allowing me to be part of their attempt.
Featured Image – Google Images, Labeled for Reuse