It was approaching Christmas Afghanistan 2001, and I was working to deliver some holiday cheer to al-Qaeda with the guys from SEAL TEAM 3. Before our first major patrol me and the fellas procured some alcohol and invited our sister platoon “Delta” over for a few drinks.

Note: when asking friends and family to smuggle booze in the mail, make sure they don’t send it in a Listerine bottle. There’s few things worse than Listerine infused Canadian Crown Royal Whisky. Gatorade bottles work just fine.

I forget the exact date but I think it was Christmas Eve. We had this massive bonfire going on our compound and one of the guys threw a bench over the fire (heavy drinking involved…). This bench of fire and fury became our “Battle Bench”.

All who dared hop on top to claim the throne would soon be challenged to a Game of Thrones like battle. Our new guy Heath was beckoned by an older teammate from a rival platoon. Little did Ed know, Heath was a pretty darn good wrestler. He would soon find this out.

As them jumped up on the bench, sparks flying into our laps, Heath tossed him off the fiery bench like a Lion brushes away an irritating fly on the hot desert plains of Africa.

By this time the bench was thoroughly on fire.

Thoroughly embarrassed, Ed tore off his brown shirt, bared his hairy frogman chest to us all in a show on manhood. Few were impressed. Then came the double dog dare to go a second time. Again, Heath tossed Ed like a professional pitcher throws a curve ball for a strike. Heath 2, Ed zero.

Ed hopped up again, skipping a formal challenge and at the same time he landed the bench broke into a puff of red and orange sparks and crumbled beneath their feet. Heath jumped clear like a deer hops a road fence, and Ed went into the white hot coals shirtless.

We stood in awe until for 10 seconds but it seemed like an eternity before one of the corpsman (navy for medic) yanked Ed out of the fire. He half yelled another challenge Heath’s way before letting out a deep throated snarl as he fell over in pain, like a felled oak, from second and third degree burns.

The next morning the diesel engines of our crappy Hummers roared to life with black diesel smoke (a debate for another time) and as we rolled out of the compound for a desert patrol Ed could be heard over the engines. “What did you fuckers do to me!!!”

I never saw him the rest of the year, Delta would rotate back stateside and SEAL Team 3 was just getting started.

Battle bench.

Lessons learned? I’ll leave that to you to decide for yourself in the comments.