(Featured Image, L-R: Author, Will W., Sam Foster, John B.)
Now, there was a ‘big event’ or ‘the great adventure’ that was rumored to occur to squadron guys with the experience and seniority that Sam and I both had. The event was yet another selection and assessment format structured to evaluate an operator’s ability to perform in a capacity to deploy ahead of a squadron assault force, and prepare the battle space for the squadron’s arrival.
“Selection is an on-going process” was a moniker in the Unit in those days, reminding all assigned personnel to never rest on one’s laurels. It eye-poked daily, suggesting that you perform to the best of your ability, because you are always scrutinized until the day you depart.
“This place is selecting the hell out of me”, I often thought. The rumor mill hinted that the ‘big event’ entailed a set of complex problems and physical feats that had to be accomplished with little or no monetary support. I could only venture what that might include.
The event would perhaps begin with a no-notice phone call in the wee hours of the morning, when you are likely just a bit off kilter and flustered. I began to think about it more and more in the evenings at home. Rather than agonize over a plight I had no control of, I finally felt I had to spring into some kind of action.
I grabbed a shirt representative of typical Unit deployment garb. I unstitched the seams in front where the buttons are located. I inserted a carefully folded and compressed a $20.00 bill, one in each side. I sewed the seam back up and flopped onto the sofa. I enjoyed a modicum of peace of mind finally. I had done at least something to get out in front of the looming great adventure.
The following day I brought the ‘stealth shirt’ into work and proudly put in on a hanger in my wall locker. When Sam came in I briefed him on the concept of the stealth shirt. He stared at it, reached up and felt the seams where the bills were, and grinned a satisfied grin.
“The deal is, Sam, which ever one of us gets called out first, gets to take the shirt. They won’t take us both at the same time, because a five-man assault team losing two men at the same time is absurd.” Sam maintained his ‘ya done good’ grin.
Some weeks later in passing one morning a brother asked me: “Hey, so did you hear about Sam?”
“Wha… no, what’s up with Sam??”
“Heard he got rousted last night to go on ‘the great adventure’.
I dashed into my team room and look in my locker. The stealth shirt was still there… da fuq?
I deduced that the notion of Sam’s roust was false, for sheer fact that the shirt was still there. Good Deal Sam, Bad Deal Scram would NEVER pass up a deal as good as the stealth shirt before he scrammed. Alas, I learned that Sam indeed would be inexplicably absent for the next few weeks.
Such was the Unit: a man could disappear for an undetermined amount of time, nobody knows where he is, or when he is coming back… but that was acceptable. It was just… Delta.
The next time I saw ‘Good Deal’ was on my way to breakfast one morning down the spine.
“Look what the cat drug in! OK, I got plenty of time Sam, so…?”
“They are taking me in to the Advance Force operations squadron, George.”
“Congratulation Sam, you’re all grown up now brother!”
“They are taking you next, George. I can’t tell you when you will get the call, but… this Sunday is Mothers’ day, and I am pretty sure you will have a nice Mothers’ day, but after that…”
“Ok thanks for that. But, why didn’t you take the shirt?
“No good reason, just when it came right down to it I stared at it for a few and just decided not to take it. Ok, I’ve got to go now; have of good one George”
We went opposite ways to different things. “Oh, and one more thing, George…”
“Yeah whats that, GD?”
“When you do get the call, don’t bother bringing the shirt.” and he burst out in his derisive laugh.
“Damn him” I thought “he is just not really a completely happy person unless his his screwing me over every chance he gets. “Hey, I’m here for you, Sam.” And so it went.
I did get called as Sam had said, and completed some weeks of whirlwind training that took place solely in the United States. By the completion of the stateside iteration, which I thought was the greatest adventure on Earth, it came to pass unawares, that there was a second half of this selection process took place all overseas. I would learn that I was wrong about the stateside evolution being great, for it was a matter of fact that the overseas journey was truly and unequivocally The Greatest Adventure on Earth!
Waterborne training (L-R): Sam Foster, Jamie W., Steve T. Front: John P.
So it happened that we we had a very welcomed four-day weekend before us. As Sam drove home that Thursday evening he began to experience pain in his side, a cramp-like pain that you get in your side when you run too hard. By the time he was home in the evening the pain became acute, such that he beaconed his wife to take him to a hospital emergency ward. There, he was diagnosed an appendicitis, and his appendix removed. He was then sent home to recover.
Tuesday morning, finishing a PT run, I ran past Sam who was just setting out on a slow jog, gimp-slower than his usual Winged Mercury pace.
“Hey, get some, Sam!”
I turned when I heard another voice behind me holler at Sam: “Hey fuzz-nuts, why are you running like a three legged dog?” It was none other than than the Unit commander, then Colonel Jerry Boykin.
“I had my appendix taken out this weekend, Sir.”
“What the… come here, fuzz-nuts.”
Sam trotted over the Jerry and had a brief exchange. He then turned and started to walk back toward me, holding his side. “I’m to take it easy… and that’s an order!” Sam briefed.
“Sam, WTF you had your appendix removed THIS weekend??”
It made for a great story over breakfast. Sam was the right man for Delta; the Unit got a really good deal in good-deal-Sam.
Sam (upper) conducting Urban training with he British 22 Special Air Service (SAS), Hereford, England 1993