Chuck S.: The Coolest Commander

Chuck S. was as good as Delta Squadron commanders go. I fancy him as the boss most well-liked by the pipe-hitters of the squadron, yet he was still the boss, and there was never any doubt about that. He spoke French, frequently carrying on a conversation with me, a sin for which he paid dearly because of my horrid Cajun dialect.

Chuck was just the coolest commander. He wore long hair and a mustache and talked to all the guys, addressing them by their first names. He had get-togethers at his house for us where he would imbibe in the goodness of the grape, pull out a guitar, and go full James Taylor on the room. Some guys thought it was uncomfortably strange, but I just winked at them as we belted out: “Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen raaaiiinnn!”

Chuck also magnificently sang “How Great Thou Art” solo at the funerals of the brothers who died. Chuck was the coolest.

Urban Combat Training: Ricardo’s Reluctant Triumph

Urban combat was a skill that our force was in a constant process to improve. We had logistics personnel out all the time searching for target subjects in major U.S. cities. It was a practice to send a pipe-hitter as a tactical consultant to the target selection process. Ricardo was selected for such a task by the Boss, a thing he was not too happy about. The fact was that Ricardo was just shy about speaking in certain forums:

“Ricardo, what’s the big deal with this trip, my dude?”

“I just don’t like this process: we find an empty building, and then we find the owners and approach them with this preposterous request to use it… it’s like I have to put on my donkey ears (uses hands on top of his head to simulate donkey ears) and: “Hello, Sir… you don’t know me, and we have never actually met but, (still hands-on head) I want to talk to you… about… something…”

As undesirable as the task seemed to Ricardo, he crushed it. His labors paid off particularly well in target structures of broad variation in the grand city of Charleston, South Cackalacky. There were some abandoned high risers, an old prison, a defunct high school, and an abandoned hotel- it was earthly but also heavenly! Ricardo was our long-eared braying hero.

The Reality of Urban Combat Training

The hotel was the first to go. Inside our planning room, we allowed the police chief and the AHJ (owner of the building) to observe. The planning was swift and deliberate and boasted a distinct “economy of motion” that I always prided Delta on. The essence of the plan was to flood the building from the ground entrances and insert teams from the roof by helicopter. The teams were to hammer and anvil the terrorists into the center of the building.

At the culmination of the planning, the boss, Chuck, asked the group in typical fashion if there were any questions with a venerable pause of silence, after which he solicited comments. There were none from the Unit, but the Police Chief, who was about to $hite his pants and break through his inhibition, finally blurted out:

“If your men assault that building as described, you better bring a lot of body bags!!”

Taken slightly aback, Chuck preceded politely: “And why would we need to do that?”

“Because you’ll be shooting each other in the middle of that building, I guarantee you that — friendly fire, that’s what!”

Chuck took pause nodding his head at the Chief and continued (to the men): “Ok let me frag-o the assault plan with one caveat… men, don’t shoot each other… got it?”

With one last regard from Chuck to Chief: “Thanks, Chief… this is actually not our first day at this.”

Now, I thought that was pretty dang cool of Chuck because our officers almost literally kissed city officials’ asses on these trips because they absolutely needed their buy-in to train in their cities, and the commanders really (REALLY!) wanted their men to get this invaluable training. I respected that to no detectible end. Chuck was the best.

When Training Gets Too Real

I should tell you that only once in my tenure with Delta did we ever complete a fully planned training product; that was in New Orleans. All others were stopped at some point during the training because it got way too real for the citizens. Briefing city mayors and officials always got nods of approval and perceived understanding. They always seemed so supportive in the beginning and maybe trying too hard to come across as oh-so-hip to our ways of doing business.

I like to describe the phenomenon as: “It didn’t look this hot in the pictures;” that is, they think they are savvy to how it’s going to be, but once the training goes down the citizens start seeing flying saucers and ghosts and George Orwell behind every door. So like I said, we just made our plan and did our best to make it as far through the training as possible before the mayor shut us down.

Very often, charges were levied against the Unit by the city. More than once, pipe hitters had to travel back to the cities to testify in court. That did not happen to Ricardo, but my good friend Montana Blackfeet warrior William “Chief” Carlson had to travel back to New Jersey to testify. I was incredulous talking to Chief:

“Chief, this is as phuqed as phuqed can get. I hate the dog$hit out of this for you — I wish I were going with!”

“Nothing but a thang, white man.”

“Ok, now I’m glad I’m not going with you, so there! I hope you get scalped… yeah, so I actually didn’t mean it like that. Well, best of the best of luck, Chief,” I said to him as he parted walking.

“Just chasin’ whitey with a stick,” Chief replied, as he often did when I wasn’t scared of what he was about to do. I had to chuckle… a little.

Montana Blackfeet warrior William “Chief” Carlson [KIA] in Afghanistan

We dumped onto the roof of a warehouse from a Black Hawk helo one night in Charleston. I was trying out a visible red dot laser sight for the first time, as we were wearing gas masks on this assault due to a rumor of chemical contamination on the premises. It’s very difficult to use gun sights through a gas mask.

Tearing open the roof access portal we dumped in a bushel of flash-bang grenades as the Blackhawk thundered off, the strong wash from the prop teetered me over the edge and I fell through the portal as the last banger ignited in my face. The gas mask was a blessing in that. Despite a jarring impact on the floor, I was ok. I was digging the hell out of the laser; I was able to hit targets accurately, firing from the hip.

“This is so cool!” I shouted to my mates. “I’m Johnny-freaking-Rambo — they drew first blood!”

With the warehouse clear, we waited in security posture as the boss called the chopper back to pull us off the objective. We flew off the warehouse and down the freeway at about a 1000-foot altitude. Outside of the city limits, the chopper made a slow 360-degree turn, and we once again raced down the freeway, the red dots of our visible lasers dancing off the freeway pavement below.

MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

“One minute!” came the verbal warning that we were approaching our second assault objective. The chopper slowly dumped altitude as we grappled our way up to a crouch on our feet, ready to spring again from the helo. Suddenly:

“ABORT… ABORT… ABORT!!” The chopper pulled nose-up as gravity flatted us back to our butts on the deck. Seconds later, our troop daddy came over the radio:

“The Mayor of Charleston has ordered us to stand down; the city is going bat$hit insane.”

I would say that we made it through at least half of our intended training venues. Not terrible, but overall a grand frown. “I guess it didn’t look as hot in the pictures to the Mayor,” I remarked at least once and heard remarked once more. Another comment I heard was: “Everyone really wants to help until it’s really time to help.”

Back at Bragg, the breeze wafted in the news that the city of Charleston filed charges against the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), summoning them to court. JSOC assured the Delta Commander they would take care of the minor nuisance. The Delta Commander assured Chuck S. That JSOC would handle the situation and to relax and carry on business as usual.

It was all guns and roses until the Ruperts (Brit slang for officers) in JSOC got lipstick on their lapels and decided to go hide in a closet… together… at the same time… all men… and threw Chuck between themselves and the city of Charleston. I saw Chuck as he dashed past me in the squadron bay, headed to his car:

“See you in about a week, mon ami. I’m headed to Charleston to stand trial!

“You’re shitting me like your least-favorite turd, Boss!?!

“Nope, c’est de al vérité; I already called Emily and told her to pack me up a suit — sauve qui peut!

Chuck did his duty. It was water off a duck’s back for Chuck… but I was livid, you know, in a vendetta, kinda mood, and everything was ALWAYS all about me. I had an itch that only more cowbell could scratch — or the cartoonist’s pen!

I set out to scorn the brass for disrespecting our squadron brother. I completed the cartoon and posted it. Chuck chuckled at it for a good while and then asked me to kindly remove it from the book, at least temporarily, because we didn’t want to lose control of it and have it end up in JSOC. I complied.

I hung the cartoon inside my locker door, and the brothers filed in the by and by to have a look and a chuckle. It got a tad annoying, though when trying to dress after a shower and gawkers crowding my small space:

“Good Christ, geo… it’s hard to laugh at cartoons with you naked!”

“Well, pardon the $hite out of me — sorry if I inconvenience you…”

And so it went…


By Almighty God and with honor,

Geo sends.

(For my friend Charles Sellers)

Editor’s Note: Let’s all do Geo a solid. Go out and buy his book and visit his website. I promise it’s all good stuff. — GDM