If you have not read part 9 yet, you can check that out here.

Goodbye Fat Man

I watched Fat Man disappear into the dark of the vegetation, realizing finally that the day was becoming long of tooth. I thought of my lost candidate instructions. My fragile train of thought was easily shattered by the image of Bruce G. traversing my front. He was shocked to see me just sitting there and locked eyes with me momentarily. I stated, “It’s over, Bruce. We are done with this course. We need to build a shelter and make radio contact and, bleah…bleah…bleah.” Bruce mumbled many things, as he was inclined to do, and traveled on.

“Goddammit it, Bruce. Did you hear what I said?” I shouted. I rose to my feet, shouldered my ruck, and chased Bruce down Plantation Trail to save him from his misguided plight. How hard could it be to catch up to this guy? How far ahead of me could he be? I finally spied Bruce at a military M-880 pickup truck. I paused and waited for him to leave. I approached the truck and engaged in the usual pre-staged banter.

Not Another RV

“Here are the coordinates to your next RV,” the cadre in the truck said as he offered a card. “Oh, no…here is the next card you can shove up your ass,” I mentally rejected. “There, behind you, is a five-gallon water can,” he paused and winked at me, “If you think you are going to need it!” Ok, I was intrigued; what’s with the wink? I plotted the coordinates to the RV and then plotted them again. Seven hundred meters? That couldn’t be right. Only 700 meters?

The 700 meters was up a cleared area that ran under a stretch of high-tension power lines. I moved up the steep slope along the power lines only to find the area a soupy and muddy swamp. I moved into the wood line where I made good forward progress in spite of the deadfall. I could see Bruce G. in the muck of the swamp in the clearing, stuck and swearing. My climb through the deadfall terminated on a dry mountain road. My azimuth told me to turn to my left and proceed down that road.

It was pitch black, so I saw nothing but the faint glow of my compass, but at once, I heard the voice of a man in front of me who spoke, “Congratulations, Sergeant Hand. You have passed the first phase of the selection and assessment course. Continue for another 200 meters down this road. You will see a fire pit on your left; take your instructions from the cadre at the fire pit.”

Success, Fire, and Bare Feet

No balloons, no confetti, no trumpets, no scantily clad vixens…but a campfire would do nicely! At the fire, there were some eight of my peers wagon-wheeled around the fire, all barefoot and aiming their Cheshire grins my way. They choked in on their wagon wheel and offered me a spoke of space. I dropped my ruck and dug out a pair of socks from a side pouch.

The most beautiful fire the author has ever seen.

Sitting by the fire, I momentarily contemplated my boots—musing that they should perhaps just be left on forever to hold the mess inside in the shape of a foot. I agonized over the elaborate knot configuration I had invented to ensure they did not come loose or slip. I drew my knife and severed my laces. I bared my feet to the fire as a cadre member handed me sandwiches. He ladled a hot beverage from a pot on the fire into a canteen cup and passed it to me. It was a concoction they had invented for just this occasion. Its essential ingredients were spiced apple cider and Johnny Walker whiskey. They appropriately dubbed the aperitif “Long Walker.”

I put on the dry socks, sipped Long Walker, and swallowed bologna and cheese sandwiches a half sandwich at a time. By design, there wasn’t enough whiskey in the drink to inebriate a man, but I felt a distinct buzz after imbibing two cups. That may just as well have been from the apple cider as the Johnny Walker.

Since I had left my initial departure point, nearly 18 and a half hours had passed on my trek to the fire pit. I zoned out on the snap of the flames in our pit and recalled my attitude coming into the selection and assessment course: It would just be good to get away from my home unit for a one-month break. Certainly, I would give it my best, but if I failed, I would still be returning to one of the greatest organizations in the U.S. military, and that would be OK. I did not absolutely have to have a locker in the Delta Force. I looked up to the stars to perhaps recognize and wink at some familiar constellations, and there were many.

“The probability of achieving the outcome you desire will increase once you let go of the need to have it.”—Patrick Arthur McNamara


Editor’s Note: Let’s all do Geo a solid. Go out and buy his book and visit his website. I promise it’s all good stuff. — GDM