I’m an idiot.
How many times have I told myself not to chat up the owners of the corner kiosks for language training? Pick a kiosk that you don’t have to pass to get to and from your safe house; every time you pass, they will see you and wave you down to chat. If you don’t, they will get upset.
Right at the end of this slope, where I have to catch my ride to Sarajevo, is such a kiosk. I blundered myself into a slanted friendship with Mustafa, the brother who tended it. I should want to time this just right, so my ride arrives at the same time I do… precluding the option to chew the fat with Mustafa.
It was early morning, not quite all the way light yet, definitely foggy as fuck, and I’m grumpy, not wanting to talk to Mustafa — or anyone. Nobody should want to talk to me either, grumpy-ass me.
Bosnia was just a gloomy country in the days just post-fall of former Yugoslavia. The locals referred to the times as “prije rata/posle rata” and “Bivshe Jugoslavia”: pre-war/post-war and former Yugoslavia. There is no joy or rejoicing after such a devastating war where there is no victory. And there was no joy in Geo before he had his morning kava (coffee).
The fog was so heavy, and in a state of dysphoria, not certain if it wanted to be fog or rain. Well, it had better hash out its identity soon enough before it was time for it to use the restroom: I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee… I’m just two tents!
I heard a sound behind me: “pith, pith, pith, pith…” the staccato of running shoes. Stepping completely off the road, I rested my hand on my 1911 and waited. To my befuddlement, the sound was tied to a running figure coming up the slope — not down. The dense fog had nicked me acoustically.
Who the hell runs this early in Bosnia? Who the hell runs, period, in posle rata Bosnia? More so: who the hell runs before grumpy me has had my morning kava?? The closing figure was none other than Delta’s own Robert Horrigan: great American patriot, master Messerschmidt, father, brother, husband, and magnificent warrior specimen.
“Morning Geo, what’s up!” Bob chirped.
“You go get you some, Bob. You and your runnin’ self go get you some!” I cheered.
“What in the name of Alia Izetbjegovitch are you doing out here this early, Bob?”
“PT; morning dirty dozen, Geo.” Bob had stopped to chit-chat, as he wasn’t more than 50 meters from the compound’s entrance to our safe house, the starting point of his run.
Hey, so this was great; I could just see the corner of the street where my ride would be scooping me up far too swiftly for me to have time for banter with that hater Mustafa. The yellowish glow from the kiosk was a testament to his presence.
“Tell me something good, Geo,” Bob panted from his post-run posture, bent forward with his hands on his knees, sucking in all available oxygen molecules in a 50-foot radius. “Jesus Louisus H. Christ, Bob… I’m going to have to back away from you a little so I can breathe too!”
Through his stretched and sweat-wet T-shirt, I could see the distinct outline of his 1911 gat fixed to his lumbar. Bob was not foolish enough to try to work without a net. Bob always had his shit in a row and his ducks together so that they could mix.
“Hey, listen, Bob; you should be aware of this: Last night, I was just about to push the gate open, and a kid, just a little kid, pulled out a toy pistol, pointed it at my face, and let the hammer fall. I’m telling you, it was dark, and I couldn’t tell he was a kid, and I couldn’t tell it was a toy gun…”
“I drew down and kicked the poor little shit in the gut. I threw his toy pistol down the street. I’m saying… if I had eaten anything at all yesterday, I would have crapped my pants. It’s disturbing how fast he had the draw on me; if it had been a real shooter… man, I don’t know.”
“That’s really scary, Geo; I’m glad you didn’t cap him.”
“I’m glad too, now… but I’m actually professionally embarrassed that I didn’t cap him.”
“Did you get a look at his face?”
“Yeah, sure did, Bob. I’ve seen him walking passed our house with who might be his mother. Something else you should know about: I was on the treadmill later last night when all of a sudden, from over our perimeter wall and through the window, comes a no-shit red dot laser bouncing around the wall. I dove off the treadmill and crawled over to shut out the lights. The red dot flickered around the room a bit and then was gone.”
“Geo, I have seen kids several times out here playing with laser pointers. That’s probably all it was.”
“I actually thought that at the time… but I couldn’t bring myself to turn the lights back on. I finished the treadmill in the dark. Sean walks in and is like, ‘What the fuck are you, a bat??'”
“Hey man, gotta run; that SUV stopped down the hill is here for me. Luv ya, mean it.”
And I foot-slapped my way down the slope to the waiting car. I shot a salute to Mustafa’s crestfallen face as I passed: “Sorry, I ain’t got time to grip and grin with yo stank ass, Mustafa; your country needs me!”
And away we sped.
It then occurred to me: “Well, now, what the hell did I just see? Bob is the man: here he is, all the way in Bosnia, miles away from all supervision and prying eyes. He could do anything he wants, but he is still keeping faith to the nation. He gets up at zero dark and hits the road on a killer run.”
“Let’s see, what have I done so far this morning? Mental accountability time: I woke up, complained, got dressed, bitched, left the compound, whined, met Bob, complained some more, and disrespected Mustafa. All in a day’s work, except it’s not even 0530 yet.”
“Well, I’m glad, at least, that I got all that complaining behind me. It’ll be a far more productive day from here on,” I did promise myself.
That was the embodiment to me of the Delta Force, the very meaning of the organization, and the impact it had on who I really was supposed to become in life if I were ever to be validated as a worthy man. It was the abundance of desirable role models like Bob Horrigan who made me want to be a better man without even saying a word. That is how he made me feel.
Bob didn’t see me this morning and ask me if I had done PT yet. Why didn’t the encounter just as well go like this: “Why didn’t you do PT this morning, Geo? Is it because you’re a worthless piece of shit? You need to be more like me, wonderful me, mystical marvelous ME!”
Bob was a man of IMMENSE courage and dedication. He was not judgmental but rather soft-spoken, reticent in general, a respectful and God-fearing brother.
Friends of our own SOFREP have described men like Bob as “larger than life.” I give a great deal of credence to that estimation. Bob was so much larger than life that eventually, life could no longer contain him, and he was instructed by the Almighty to take one last boat excursion, this time to Valhalla.
Until such time, Bob, thanks to you, I left Bosnia a better man.
geo sends (to be continued)
The following are excerpts from the book “The Mission, The Men, and Me,” written by my friend and former Delta Force officer Pete Blaber:
(Above photo: Delta’s Jamie Reese [L] of Tiger Swan, and Delta’s Pete Blaber [R], taken in Panjshir Valley Afghanistan, during Operation Anaconda in the Tora Bora mountain region)
The Mission, The Men and Me
Pete Blaber, pg. 235
India team had only three men. Not the optimal number for a mission such as this one, but what they lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in skill and experience. The team leader was a thirty-six-year-old Kentuckian we called Speedy. He did everything — run, shoot, and talk — fast.
Born and raised in rural western Kentucky, Speedy grew up in the woods. Legend had it he once shot an acorn out of a squirrel’s paws — with a BB gun. Speedy’s partner was a man I considered to be the poster child of a Delta operator. Bob [Horrigan] was born, raised, and still longed to return to Austin, Texas.* He was all-around fit as anyone in the Unit and like Speedy, a word-class hunter who never came home from a hunt empty-handed.
*Bob was killed in action in Iraq on June 17, 2005. “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” Bob truly lived, for family, for nation, and for the guys around him.
As I told Sean Naylor, “If you needed two men to track a chipmunk in a hundred-thousand-acre forest and kill it with one bullet, these were the two.” Although two operators were less than I would have said were needed for a mission such as this, these two were living proof of why you never say never with regard to rules governing tactics. Having Speedy and Bob on a team together was like having Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton together in the frontier days — as hunters and athletes, they had no peer anywhere.
(Speedy [L] and Bob [R])
…. After a kilometer of moving together, the teams split toward their individual Ops. India team’s route was short and steep; a seven-kilometer movement seemed like park strolling compared to the “into thin air” movement they made during their environmental recon just three days earlier. At 10,500 feet, India’s team of three stopped just short of the edge of the cliff.
All three India team members laid down flat to avoid being silhouetted from below. After unshouldering his ruck, Bob [Horrigan] scootched forward on his belly. He stopped behind a small pile of rubble. Canting his head slowly, he spied the valley below. His eyes and ears strained to detect any unnatural noise or movement; Bob was focused, like a man whose finely tuned autonomic nervous system is programmed to maintain perfect equilibrium between the thrill of the hunt and the thrill of the chase.
Bob understood his status as both the hunter and the hunted. He liked it that way. If you could have peered back through his thermal scope, you would have seen an unmistakable gleam in his eyes — it was the gleam of pure, unadulterated courage. Courage has been called a contradiction in terms, meaning a strong desire to live manifests as a readiness to die. It described Bob and his mates to a tee.
(This article is decided to my brother John Horrigan)