When some stories come to mind the first thought I preface it with mentally is, “and yet it happened,” usually followed by the subtle physical shaking of my head. Such is the case when I think of a particular mission against a hardened underground target complex we attacked in squadron strength deep in the hills of the Virginia countryside.

It came during an era when we found enemy infrastructures starting to migrate toward the protection of the underground into what military doctrine at the time coined Deep Underground Structures — DUGS targets. That evolved into Hardened Deeply Buried Targets (HDBT). While the doctrinal brass fenced over who’s acronym was smarter, Delta picked up a hickory Louisville slugger and headed for the plate.

“Sink or swim” was Delta’s attitude in approaching new threats, and we typically dove immediately head-first into the deep end of the pool. I’m not saying we didn’t look before we leaped, it’s just after the initial speculating and wringing of hands the Unit was very good at recognizing when it was time to stop playing “who’s the smartest guy in the room” and act. I got a healthy dose of that very lesson from Delta Commander Bernie McCabe

“What’s going on, fellas?” Bernie (probably out of sheer boredom one day) wandered out to the demolition range where my team and I were standing next to a metal door mounted in a steel standing frame for breaching practice. Our badass engineers built us a steel frame on top of a concrete slap that was sectioned off such that they could hang as many as ten doors sided-by-side of different types: hollow-core, solid wood, metal, composite. We could breach our asses off and never run out of targets.

Holding up a pistol: “Morning, Sir… we’re trying out a new breaching idea.”

“Do tell, fellas.”

“Well, this is a 20-gage shotgun pistol with a revolving four-round cylinder. We’ve already popped a couple of wooden doors… right now were contemplating whether it will work on a metal door and if that would even be safe to try.”

We tested a similar shotgun pistol as this in 20 gauge as well as .410 gauge as an alternate breaching means; it was a single/double action pistol with a revolving four-round cylinder.

Then there we stood in clumsy silence, waiting for Bernie to say something clever and wise; Bernie waiting for us to say something that wasn’t stupid. Finally, Bernie reached over and took hold of the pistol, turned and walked to the metal door, raised the pistol and — BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM!! He turned the door hand and pushed — nothing. Returning to our group he handed off the pistol: