Note: this is part of a series about America’s first counterterrorism unit. You can read part one here. Blue Light, America’s first counterterrorism unit, had found its home out at Mott Lake. Their compound was sparse, but served its purpose. There were four buildings, a combatives pit, and the “RAM” drop zone, which stood for Robert A. Mountel, the commander of 5th Special Forces Group. It is said that Mountel got $25,000 of funding earmarked for Blue Light from a friend at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but that was all they were getting. Ultimately, the money came out of the same stream of Pentagon funding that was used for Delta Force. Otherwise, the Blue Light members practiced a tried and true Special Forces tradition: scrounging.
“One of our guys stole a Jeep from the military police,” Blue Light’s sergeant major laughed. When Colonel Mountel came out, the sergeant major asked him not to inquire as to where the Jeep had originated.
“We were always ready to go, always concerned about the fact that we were out there in the boonies, and if there were any bad guys who wanted to get us, they could,” Boyatt said. “We walked around locked and loaded all the time, carrying .45s with the hammer back and the grip safety taped down. We operated like that for a long time.”
Blue Light was a nickname for the classified project name no one ever actually used. This followed the non-classified naming convention used at the time; the same was used for Green Light as well. This was similar to the non-classified names used for Special Forces projects in Vietnam, which used letters of the Greek alphabet such as sigma, omega, and delta.
Around 75 men had been recruited for Blue Light, which was now organized into three assault teams still structured as 12-man ODAs—with one exception. One team was led by Mark Boyatt, another by McGoey, one by “Dutch Herman,” and the final team was a plussed-up 24-man element led by Roger, which also had an intelligence-collection mission. Two of these ODAs came from 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group. The other two teams were drawn from 1st and 2nd Battalions, also in 5th Group. They also had a sniper/observer team led by Master Sergeant England.
The Blue Light arms room contained an assortment of suppressed Sten guns, .22 pistols, 1911s, CAR-15s, and Remington 700 bolt-action rifles. Additionally, HUMINT and SIGINT support was attached to Blue Light. Captain Tim Casey was a 35A (military intelligence) who led a team from 801st MID. The 400th Special Operations Detachment (SOD) was assigned to run SIGINT support.
Down Plank Road, a few miles away from Mott Lake, Master Sergeant Wesley Stevens and Larry Kramer helped construct what became known as S&K range. The edge of Blue Light’s range actually crossed into an adjacent McPherson impact area, and it was not uncommon to find shrapnel lying around. One time, Roger even found an unexploded shell on the range that had not detonated because the shipping plug had not been removed before it was fired.
Stevens supervised the construction of a shoot house, made out of old tires and filled with sand, in which the Blue Light members could conduct live-fire training, including the use of hand grenades. Because S&K range ran into an impact area, they could get away with things that simply were not done at Army ranges when Blue Light was activated in November of 1977, such has mixing mortars and small-arms fire, or fragmentation grenades and smoke grenades. S&K was also unique in that they could conduct 180 degree live-fire exercises, like the Australian peel technique used when breaking contact with the enemy. “We had the desire to be the very best we could be and push ourselves. Almost nothing was too bizarre to try,” Boyatt recalled about his time at Mott Lake.
Blue Light also built a replica of a Pan Am airplane fuselage and a train car, all in a short amount of time. At S&K range, assaulters would shoot around each other and snipers would fire over the heads of assaulters, techniques that no one was doing at that time. “We had a real rough time with the .45s because we shot them so much—we were wearing them out so fast. It was nothing to shoot 500 rounds a day and the same amount with the Sten,” Boyatt told SOFREP.
In the shoot house, they would “shoot with 25mm BB guns and then transition to .45s,” Earl Bleacher said. For the first time, Blue Light was using the pistol as an offensive weapon. When climbing onto the wings of an airplane or conducting a tubular assault, Blue Light would use the 1911 pistol as their primary weapon. Techniques, like drawing from the holster and shooting, conducting combat-reload drills, or transitioning from a primary weapon to a secondary were unheard of in 1977.
Bob Kelly was assigned to Blue Light and also served as their senior pistol instructor. Previously, he had been assigned to the Army marksmanship unit. He was known as a great shooter, but only shot with his weapon already out of the holster and did not practice rapid reloads.
Roger took some permissive TDY (temporary duty) and spent his own money to go to Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite, which was the only place teaching practical marksmanship techniques at that time. Coming back from the course, Roger demonstrated the Weaver stance instead of the usual Isosceles stance, as well as rapid reloading drills, but these were greeted with skepticism at the time. Why would you need to reload when you already have seven shots in the magazine and one in the pipe? Blue Light secured the Army’s entire stockpile of match-grade ammunition that year, which upset the Army Marksmanship Unit to no end.
With weapons, ammunition, and training facilities on hand, it was a usual event for Blue Light assaulters to draw their weapons, don their kit, and jog down to S&K range, conducting a type of stress shoot. Also, with the RAM drop zone right there inside the Mott Lake compound, they could conduct HALO parachute jumps on a regular basis.
There was one problem, though: Colonel Mountel had given Blue Light a flag with an unofficial unit insignia on it, but Roger took one look at it and said, “This is butt ugly.” It looked like a cartoon skull with crossed bones behind it. Roger then went to Greg Daily, who was also a talented artist, and asked him to redesign the Blue Light flag. He also asked Daily to figure out something other than the skull and crossbones, because the last thing they wanted was something that might look like the infamous Waffen SS emblem.
Daily pulled it off, replacing the crossed bones with crossed arrows, which are present on the Special Forces distinguished unit insignia worn on the green beret. The skull was changed, angled off to the side, and the motto “Nous Defions” was stitched below, which roughly translates into “We Defy.” Today, this motto and symbol are used throughout Special Forces, but few know that it originated with Greg Daily and Blue Light. Daily also designed the HALO parachutist wings worn by qualified jumpers to this day.
(lead image: an early Delta Force team photo)
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