Life “Downrange” at the Unit Compound
“One time you, one time me” was my favorite description of life “downrange” on the Unit compound. There really wasn’t much “down” to being “downrange,” as the range was so close to the team rooms you could literally run to it, a thing I did many times myself.
“One time you, one time me,” meant to say that one day you might be the top shooter, and the next day it might be me because the competition was so fierce and so close.
Weapons and ammunition were kept right in the team rooms and accessible 24/7 to any badged operator. I always imagined that that concept would remain in place until the first mass shooting at a Sunday morning Applebee’s — but not on my watch! I reckoned that if that did happen, some galoot in the command staff would put rigor in place that would make it slightly more inconvenient to affect the next mass shooting.
The Culture of the Unit
Another worthy saying was: “Don’t bleed in the shark tank.” The Unit was a shark tank, for sure. The meaning there is subject to modest bifurcation: on the one hand, it warned against showing weakness that could be exploited by the sharks. Its other meaning is that if you didn’t take criticism well — had thin skin — then you were going to have a rough time in the Unit.
But even in Delta, yet another saying applied: “Assholes we shall always have among us.” These were men like Brian M. who could not stand being stifled by the constraints of the “one time you, one time me” concept. It had to be “All the time me, and never you!” In Brian’s defense, that is the pinnacle of moxie for the Unit standards. Nobody disputed his ability, but the totality of his absence of humility made him so unbearable as to be the quintessential butt of everyone’s jokes.
I loved the guy, but mostly because he was not in my team room every day. I frankly don’t know how his team could stand him. It actually got this bad:
“Oh, shut the f**k up, Brian, you piece of shit, braggart!”
Seriously though, it was possible to be the best shooter, the fastest runner, and the best climber… but it was also ok to be a little humble about it, but Brian was not at all.
“How’s it going, Brian?”
“Meh, just another day of superiority and outperforming everyone, you know…”
Egos, Jokes, and the Shark Tank
The Brian would literally come and stand next to you on the range and watch you shoot with his hands on his hips, laughing and shaking his head. He would bend forward and slap his knees hard laughing, then rear way back and howl with laughter before walking away — there was blood in the shark tank.
He made indecorous remarks of the like:
“Is that a pistol you’re shooting or a blunderbuss loaded with grapeshot?”
“My grandmother could sling dirt clods at the side of a barn and form a tighter group than that.”
“That looks like one of those connect-the-dots pictures that kids like, and when your dots are connected, it forms a Brontosaurus — that’s the largest known animal on the planet, in case you didn’t know, pal.”
“If Ray Charles were here right now, he’d say: “Boy, gimme the damn gun!”
Brian was a hurtful man, a very, very hurtful man — don’t bleed in the shark tank!
But… Brian really and truly was just every bit as good as he swaggered; how he chose to wear his performance was totally on him, and Brian M. chose to wear his superiority on his sleeves. Hey, but that’s why I loved the guy, that and the fact he was not on my team. It is a registered fact, one that is backed up by a formally ratified affidavit, that Brian M. talked sooo much shit that Delta’s own Lawrence Allen Vickers (LAV) gave him the nickname “Assmouth.”
But even monkeys fall from trees from time to time; into each life, a little rain must fall; for every Goliath is born a David; some days you’re the windshield, other days you’re the bug…
“ONE TIME YOU, ONE TIME ME, ASSMOUTH!!”
As i-t’were, the good Brian was TDY in a foreign country and profiting by the convenience of a rental conveyance. T’was all good. Brian postulated that it would be ever-so grand a thing if he should put the rental car through some of the maneuvers that we learned in high-performance driving schools. A bootleg and J-Turn seemed to be in order, so he floored it.
As bad luck would have it, the Brian was on a gravel road; yooz shouldn’t ever try a J-turn on a gravel road. Gravel can “trip” the car and induce a rollover. That is precisely what happened to Brian during his turn: his tires sunk into the gravel, whereby the vehicle tripped and rolled over. There sat the Brian upside down in his car, suspended by his seatbelt. There was trouble there in River City for the big Bri.
The Price of Arrogance
Damages to the foreign rental amounted to some $8,000.00 that were ultimately paid for by our own squadron training funds. But to say it hurt our training budget to the extent that it was noticeable is not the whole truth; the Unit had a virtual bottomless pocket of spare change. But, and this is one humongous but, it was the opportunity of a millennium to bust Brian’s balls with a cartoon.
I was summoned to Brian’s team room by LAV suddenly and without explanation:
“What’s the meaning of this? I’m a rather busy man, you see… can’t it wait?”
“The boss says he wants to see yooz, so yooz better see him — now!”
“Geo… thanks for coming — please… sit down. Close the door, please, Cuz.”
“We really appreciate you coming in on such short notice, geo… we know you’re a busy man.”
“Coffee? Would you like some coffee — Cuz, please bring Geo a cup of the vanilla roast!”
“No, no, please… that’s fine, Larry; I don’t need any coffee. What’s this about, then?”
“Well, Geo, I don’t know if you’ve heard yet or not, but there’s been an incident with Assmouth and me and the boys; that is, the boys and I want to know if you’ll help us roast that mother fu**er.”
“Well, I… I’ll do whatever I can to help you guys, but I honestly don’t know how I can be of help to you.”
“Oh, you can be of huge help; we want you to do a cartoon about Brian — are you in or out?”
Larry’s henchmen there in the room with me had been standing off and about politely with hands clasped to their fronts or behind their backs. Now they closed the distance with me and transitioned hand to hips and the like. I have to admit plainly by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I was a shade intimidated.
“Look, call off your Goons, Lawrence… there’s no call for this. I’ll do the cartoon for Christ’s sake. I’m only too happy to do this — I hate his guts too! I mean heck, we all do, right? I think we all want the same thing here; we share common ground in this matter — am I right?”
“Back off, boys. Ok, Geo. Ok sounds good. I’m glad you’re seeing it our way. Now let’s talk suspense…
And so it went.
The Never Changing Brian
You can bet that the event changed Brian’s attitude immensely; that is, you can bet, but you would lose — nothing changed that grandeur-fraught ego of his. That’s fine, though, because the only thing that could truly change him would be a decline in his performance, a thing that I would not trade all the ego in Fort Knox or China for.
As much as any of us hate to admit it, we need Assmouths; we need Brians. The Brian keeps the bar high. He keeps the water in the shark tank deep and cold and swirling violently. The Brian creeps into your dreams at night and insists that a kid with a cork-n’-string pop gun could lay down a tighter shot group than you. Does that hurt your feelings? Do you feel like crying? Sob away cuz your tears only make the shark tank deeper and the Brian’s titanium-encased ego stronger.
By Almighty God and with honor,