My time in A Squadron was essentially up. I had spent the last eight years with the same locker, in the same team room, on the same team. Two of my mates on my five-man team had died in those eight years. Samuel Booth Foster died of a heart attack while running through a canyon in Arizona. I was in Berlin when the news came. Sam left behind a wife and two young children. Gaetano (Guy) Cutino was hit in the head by a rotor strike from an MH-1 Little Bird helicopter. I had not been on that mission since I was in Bosnia at the time. The news knocked me to my knees. Guy left behind a wife and three young sons.

My position for the next two years would be in an Advance Force Operations (AFO) cell. It should have been a good fit for me, as I was qualified by Defense Language Institute (DLI) standards in six foreign languages. My heart wanted to remain with the Sabre Assault Squadron, but I understood that it was time to do something else for my last two years with the Unit. I had roughly one week remaining with A Squadron until I was to report to the AFO cell.

Then it happened. Word came down from our operations that they found a condemned building scheduled for demolition on the periphery of main post Ft. Bragg, a scant five miles away from the Unit compound. Operations maintained a vigil for unoccupied buildings to serve as assault target subjects to give the squadrons objectives with unknown floor plans. It made for much more realistic training in Close Quarters Combat (CQC).

The assault objective this evening would also have two Black Hawk helicopters for support. Alpha squadron immediately went into planning for an evening assault on the objective to rescue a single hostage being held in our newly discovered location.

I was told I didn’t have to go on this assault, but I would have it no other way. I maintained my position on the assault team that I had served with for the past eight years; I would have my last hurrah.

After a couple hours of planning, we gathered the entire assault force together for the usual mandatory briefback. An exterior door would be explosively breached. Door charges had been prepared. The breaching team briefed they would attack the door with a rigid linear triple-strand explosive detcord charge that would be command detonated.

The target building was linear in shape, long and rectangular with entrances/exits on south and north sides only. The main body of the assault force would breach the south entrance and flood the objective, clearing all rooms from south to north, neutralize all threats, and liberate the hostage. Assaulters would freeze down the north exit to neutralize any threat that tried to escape.

Sketchy intelligence reports indicated a possibility of a chemical warefare agent on the objective so we were, by default, doomed to wear protective masks. These masks were uncomfortable, reduced your field of vision, and made breathing considerably more difficult.