Editor’s Note: Geo’s memoir, Brothers of the Cloth, a true account of special mission unit soldiers, is now available for pre-order. You can purchase it here.
Top gun is top gun; there is no disputing it. It’s good to be king, no matter where and no matter for how long. In Delta Force, there was a strong competitive spirit, recognition, and reverence for who might be the top gun at any given juncture. Everyone wanted to hold that position for as long as they could, though nobody could hold it for very long.
Delta was a “one time me, one time you” state. This meant that I may win this time, but you will likely defeat me next time. The competition was just than keen and the variation between men’s skills was just that small. A situation to be highly avoided was to consistently find oneself in last place — that would only carry a man for so long before he was expelled from the Unit.
As for being the top gun… well, it’s good to be king, as I always say. Yeah, it’s always good to be king, even if for just a few minutes in a far-off crappy country in crappy conditions. It’s just always good to be king. Holding the hegemony, though ephemeral as it may be, is ALWAYS good!
There was an unwritten tradition that provided for an assembly of competition at some point during any given week. Word spread — usually in the chow hall — that so-and-so was setting up a gun-run challenge on our Range 19. Throughout the day, the men cycled themselves out to the range. There, they waited for their turn to take a shot at being the top gun for the week.
My good friend Patrick Arther “Mac” McNamara had a penchant for setting up shooting obstacle courses with marked creativity. They were as fun as they were challenging. It was permitted to make as many runs through the course as one wanted, though only the first score of the day was the one that counted toward the top gun title.
There was a person once, who when I described the competition to him, ask me why anyone would want to run through the course more than once if only their first score counted. Ah… that person just told on himself; he was a minimum effort sort of brother, one who didn’t understand extra work that didn’t count. The brothers repeatedly ran through the course for the personal training value. That meant something to men who were trying to be the best they could despite the lack of accolade or reward —not a concept well-understood by the masses.
When I was in the Green Beret Groups, I used to do ruck marches (march long routes carrying a heavy backpack) on my own. I had so many guys ask me why the hell I was rucking when I didn’t have to. That got patently annoying. So I took to driving off away from the group areas to find a remote place to ruck march, somewhere where I wouldn’t cause such a temporal rift among the ranks.
Another question I was asked frequently about my ruck marches was:
“What, are you trying out for Delta?”
“Wow, are trying to get into shape for Delta selection?”
“You must be trying out for Delta, right.”
And so it went that after a couple of years of that annoyance I finally leveled with myself and began to answer:
“Why, yes… yes I am trying out for Delta. (So I can get the hell away from you!)”
Back to Pat Mac’s Plethora of Pain: Most of the fellows, depending on what they had going on the day of the shoot, just stopped by long enough to queue up and make their run through the course. Others, most often myself, hung around to watch the brothers make their runs and pal around with Pat Mac. I typically watched enough evolutions to realize how much I sucked, then sad-sacked my way back to the compound to be productive.
The course, naturally, is scored on Comstock standard where time and accuracy are pitted against each other. It’s a beautiful thing. Which is more important: time, or accuracy? I’m actually asking YOU? Which is more important? Let’s consider this scenario:
Billy the Kid and Josie Wales meet facing each other 50 feet apart in front of the Blue Moon Saloon; they fittin’ to drawdown.
Kid: “So, yer the big outlaw Josie Wales, eh? Funny, the only thing I see there that’s big, is a big ol’ pile a myool $hit.”
Wales: “Kid, I think it’s way past your nap time and you need to be burped. Does your mammy even know you escaped from your crib?”
Kid: “Yer the one that one whose gonna burp when my .44 slug slams into that fat belly a yours — look at that belly; it’s as big as a… a wale!”
Wales: “The only thing that’s gonna get slammed is yer mammy, boy…”
Kid: “That’s it, grandpa — draw!!”
It’s simple enough, whoever gets their gat out the fastest wins… provided they have an accurate body shot. Therein lies the balance of how fast one can get a kill shot on target. Practice calls for increasing speed until accuracy is out of tolerance; that is, out of the kill zone. Speed and accuracy leap-frog each other as they both increase. At some point, you will achieve the golden balance of speed-to-accuracy ratio.
“I told ya… it’s way past yer nap time, kid.”
Mac’s scenario started in a car. Shooters were seated in the driver’s seat junked up in full assault regalia. The door was shut, the seatbelt buckled, and both hands on the steering wheel. The window was rolled down so the shooter could hear the buzz of the Pro Timer sound off. Once the buzzer sounded, the shooter was to extract himself as fast as he could from the car and sprint down to the first shooting station.
I unhooked the seatbelt with my right hand and threw the door open hard with my left. As I twisted my body toward the door something hooked onto something and pinned me fast. With a sweep of my right hand, I cleared the snag because… well, because I was the MAN!
The door had swung out, hyperextended, at which point it immediately swung back and slammed shut; I crumpled myself into the unexpectedly close door. As it was stuck (somehow) I pulled the latch out hard and slammed my shoulder into it hard several times — nothing! What I had not detected, was that when the door slammed shut the vehicle locking knob at the window sill had dropped into the locking position.
I launched into the astronomically awkward transition over the console to the passenger door. I threw it open, tripped on the door jamb, and plummeted head-first through the door into the sand. My apparent time had just begun, though my actual time was already many (MANY) seconds into the shoot.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have totally assed up that car transition piece, a point I have never argued with myself over. Believe it or not, I didn’t have the slowest time of the day, my debut notwithstanding. Though I was not the top gun king for the day, I did receive a consolation prize for the most comic start.
That prize was presented to me by Mac himself: a framed picture of Laurel and Hardy.
By Almighty God and with honor,
This article was published in August 2020. It has been edited for republication.