Editor’s Note: Geo’s memoir, “Brothers of the Cloth,” a true account of special mission unit soldiers, is now available. You can purchase it here.
*BZZZZZZZZZT, (pushing door buzzer)*
“Hey, Rudy… can I get a couple-a thumpers?”
*BZZZZZZZZZT, (door opens)*
“Come in, Geo.”
“Hey, Rudy *cough-cough-cough* Damn! The air is really heavy in here, dude… why is it so dark in here — Christ, man… what’s wrong with your face? You guys need to get out of this place more!”
“No, we never leave — we love it here. Do you want your thumpers or not, Geo?”
“Well yeah, I mean sure, Rudy…”
“Then take your thumpers and get out, Geo.”
*BOOOOMMMMM (heavy arms room door slams behind me and I sprint away)*
That was actually nothing like what the Unit weapons vault, the arms room, was really like, though I imagined it so when I was in my greenhorn training cycle. (Once I was formally assigned to a team of legit pipe-hitters I finally became privy to the belly of the vault.)
Standing at the service window of the vault, all that was visible through the cage mesh in the anteroom were rows and rows of CAR-15s, eventually to be replaced by the venerable M4 carbine. There was “the door” to the left just past the service window on the cage door that had the buzzer on it. The armors appeared and disappeared through that “door.”
We all craned our necks every which way to try and catch a peek through that mysterious door; we just wanted one glance across that threshold. I was pressing my face hard up against the heavy wire mesh of the cage wall trying to get a gander in there when Rudy stepped in.
“What the hell are you doing, Geo??”
“OH!!! Oh, hey Rudy… I was just… you know… I… I… I…”
Smooth, Geo! Very, very… SMOOTH!
Rudy passed my M-1911 Colt with a freshly-replaced extractor, though the service withdrew. I thanked him awkwardly and scooted out the PAX door without making eye contact.
The extractor on my gat had become loose when I dropped my pistol from a height of five stories onto a concrete surface. The pistol had not discharged, though there was a round in the chamber. A loosened extractor was also the only damage sustained by the impact. That is to say, the pistol still fired just fine after the fall, and would continue to fire for an undetermined amount of cycles… it’s just that the extractor was not designed to have some loose play in it, so that was cause enough to get it to Rudy.
This is a sterling time to mention that the fall of my pistol was fully an accident; I did not just drop it out of boredom to see what would happen, aha.
“Hey, have any of you guys ever been through that side door in the arms room before?”
“Damn, Geo… why does one side of your face have a squares pattern on it?”
“Huh? Oh, I was pressing it up against the cage trying to see through that door.”
“I’ve seen back there,” my Team Leader replied quietly staring off into an imaginary horizon.
All heads snapped to him and waited.
“I… I can’t,” he choked shaking his head gently, still looking at that horizon.
“You just… you have to see it for yourself,” was all else he said.
It was literally the era of the emerging forward-mounted pistol grip on our assault rifles. I was walking through the building spine with my mate Cos when we passed a B-Squadron brother just coming from the arms room. He had the first forward pistol grip we had seen, so we stopped the brother to have a look.
It was badass: He had a mounting ring attached to the underside of the forward handguard with a pistol grip attached to the bottom of the mounting ring. The ring held a halogen high-lumen floodlight. The pistol grip had a pressure strip running down its length that when squeezed activated the light.
Cos and I momentarily engaged in a mutual high-sclera glare… then left a flaming trail along the floor of the spine that traced back to our team room. We threw open the door to our team weapons vault, grabbed gats, and headed to the arms room backtracking our route that was still smoldering from our launch.
“RUDY, RUDY, RUUUDYYY!!” It wasn’t so much that we were keen on the fire control potential of the forward-mounted pistol grip; rather, it was another cool-guy thing we could pile on our gats. It was something that we didn’t have yet, so we simply had to have it now. Rudy hooked us up while we waited; it was simply too exciting to walk away and hope to be productive at all.
The armors in our unit were national-class in their craft. They were the true masters of firearm modification. It was my experience that the armors would perform any modification desired as long as it did not compromise the designed ballistic properties of the weapon — that’s a lot of modifying.
The day “it” happened I was at the arms room trying to check out two thumpers (40mm M-79 grenade launchers). Rudy buzzed me through the service door and told me to come on back.
Back… as in through “the door??”
With a pause and a lungful, I pushed into the door like I was clearing a room on a strange floor plan. My team leader had gamed me over what was back there; he had played me because he knew I was dying to see what was back there. But coolio it certainly was.
First, there were racks and racks of every kind of weapon I had ever seen. The place was lousy with tools and a good number of them were heavy metal-working ones, too — lathes, milling machines, forgers, welders, taps, dyes, shapers, benders, and a score of other apparatuses I knew not the name of.
Rudy was at a heavy-duty workbench with a pile of rifles that he was fitting with the coveted forward pistol grips. He pointed with his lips at the rack of thumpers, as both his hands were busy. I grabbed two from the set of 24 and headed downrange to meet Cos and the boys for a thumper shoot.
I had finally been through “the door,” ah, but Cos had not. I stopped the van where the brothers were standing, jumped out with the thumpers, and just stood, staring quietly off into the horizon.
“Geo, what wrong?” Cos started in.
“I’ve been there, Cos… I’ve been… through ‘the door,'” I uttered, quietly staring in the distance.
“My God! What was there… what did you see… WHAT WAS THERE, DAMN YOU!!”
I shook my head slowly to the horizon and softly replied:
“You just… you have to see it for yourself.”
And my Team Leader choked on a laugh.
By Almighty God and with honor,
This article was originally published in July 2020.