No Slack for Delta

A large part of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some professions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution to national security. Others will not simply because… they don’t want to.

Such was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit (SMU). It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but we were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we chose to run our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to Christmas Eve. There would be no family-man-of-the-years awards for us that year… or any other year for that matter — worms!

Not even Christmas would compromise our resolve to train to standard.

Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “Why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”

An abandoned home such as this makes an excellent urban target subject.

Their Loss is Our Gain

While some real estate investors had taken a bath on the deal, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks, preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way even to have an inkling of what to expect.

And it is the unexpected that adds the greatest realism to the training venue, one that inculcates you into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.

Enter The Grinch

The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yet, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.

Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of right or wrong of opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason with the Grinch; ours was to accept or die.

We spent half a day planning our assaults on our “Slum City,” as we called it: methods of infiltration onto a target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. During the second half of the day, we executed our assaults on targets.