“THERE’S A FREAKIN’ FENCE OUT THERE. A CHAIN-LINK FENCE!” came the holler from our man in the doorway of the building we were in. That fence was blocking our route to a field just outside, to where our exfiltration help was already inbound. I already knew what was coming next as the assault team leader looked at me. I nodded and started for the door when he called out, “Geo, cut it!” I was carrying what we called a Python Charge or Fence-Cutter. It was really just a great general-purpose explosive charge, powerful as hell, and was a shaped charge, meaning it was a wicked cutting charge that focused all of its burn energy in a concentrated direction. It could cut through all kinds of metal and was perfect for blasting through a chain-link fence. In fact, the measurements of the charge were approximately eight feet long — specifically designed with a fence in mind.

The Python was a linear-shaped charge (LSC) embedded in a long foam strip with a heavy rubber band on top and a wire hook on the bottom. I carried it on my kit, rolled up into a flat disk. I dashed outside with a man covering me as I worked. I whipped the Python to unroll it. I hooked the rubber retainer over the top wires of the fence, and pulling it taught, I hooked the wire hook into a loop low on the fence.

At that moment I thought I heard Major Horton from “Band of Brothers” call out to me, “WHAT IS THE GODDAMNED PROBLEM, MR. SOBEL?”

To which I would reply, “A FENCE, SIR… A… A CHAIN-LINK FENCE!


Different strengths of linear-shaped charge set in flexible foam molds.

The tension of the rubber band helped greatly to slap the Python up against the fence. I did a final check to make sure the Python was facing the right way because that would certainly suck when I fired it from a few feet away if it were facing me rather than the fence. I grabbed the firing system, an M-60 Fuse Igniter attached to a Nonel shock tube detonator.

M-60 fuse igniters: Just pull the ring outward to fire.

Three seconds was all the delay I had programmed into the firing system. I popped the M-60, announced, “BURNING!” took one large step behind the python, and squatted with my back to the charge and fingers in my ears like a little kid lighting a Black Cat firecracker. I could hear the thump thump thump of Black Hawk helicopter blades approaching when the Python let off an ear-splitting CRACK and a wicked-rude shockwave that pushed me forward onto my hands.