This is Part II in a two-part series on Navy SEAL Dave Scott. You can read Part I here.

After the USS Cole was hit, nobody had any idea what attacks might be coming next. So the Navy immediately halted all resupply operations that were underway throughout the region and rerouted everything through a single port, where it could focus all its surveillance and intelligence resources in one place to make sure it was all safe. The guys in charge of making sure it was safe were us.

While nobody came out and said so, it was clear that command was worried about another Cole-style attack on an American vessel. If two idiots in a speedboat could take out a 10,000-ton destroyer, then who knew what else was possible? The security of the entire overseas fleet depended on our ability to get these resupply ships in and out safely.

Since there was a substantial population of ex-pat British and American workers in the Port of Aden, it was relatively easy for us to blend in. We took 12-hour shifts, setting up surveillance in the port either early in the morning or at night, depending on the rotation. Just like on the bridge of the Cole, we spent long hours doing nothing but watching through our optics and binos, watching anything and everything. Why was that truck over there? Trucks weren’t supposed to be there. Who were these guys over here who weren’t here yesterday, and what were they doing here today? Anything remotely suspicious we wrote down in our activity logs, which would later be turned into reports that would go up some unseen chain of intelligence command.

We were not authorized to have weapons outside a certain zone in the port — but authorized or not, we carried concealed sidearms anyway, not just when in our hotel but everywhere around town. This added another layer of tension to the situation.

In this exotic locale, we had a first-hand experience of the incredibly byzantine puzzle that is Middle Eastern culture and politics. There was the constant sense that we were missing huge chunks of the full picture. American forces have gotten somewhat better at this in the years since 9/11, but back then we were relatively unprepared. We knew we were supposed to be functioning in essence as a crew of intelligence operatives, but it was hard not to feel like a bunch of ridiculously conspicuous Caucasian Americans dropped in the middle of what might as well have been a distant planet. There were so many cultures, dialects, religious sects, dynastic families… it was an immense tangle of nuance and history, shifting alliances, and ancient grudges. We felt enveloped by a sense of helplessness: How the hell could we possibly understand what was going on here?

And, of course, Dave absolutely loved it. For him, it was like Christmas morning. Complexity? Cultural ambiguity? Undercurrents of espionage and international intrigue? Risk of discovery and grave danger to one’s person? Yes! The dude was in his element. The only thing missing was high-altitude, high-octane physical danger — and, of course, the opportunity to actually kill bad guys.

With his hair worn long and an earring in one ear, Dave gave the perfect impression of being an eccentric computer geek. (Which, of course, he was.) He would work at the computer for hours, then go to work up on the roof with sniper scopes for hours more.