In the mid-90s the Commanding General of Ft. Bragg, NC was married to a conservationist of flora and fauna. Oh, keeper of the golden heart, she; the harbinger of salvation for all that which burgeons forth from dirt, and for that which forages in the dirt for food and shelter. Be it a wisp on the wing or a burrowing brother there would be solace for all living and growing things, or there would be no late-night… “comfort”.

A frame grab of the General’s wife as she appeared in the 1994 afees catalogue

The keeper of the golden heart was also the keeper of the General’s intestinal fortitudinous gumption. Some say he lacked balls. Ok, whatever. Misses General came to pining away the fate of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, or as we took to affectionally referring to it as the “Red Cock-headed Woodpecker”, or simply “the Dick-Head.” It seems the bird pissed hot on the ornithological list of species facing extinction.

Lady General saw to it that the general would embrace and comply with environmental measures and procedures to salvage the existence of the Dick-Head. Were ever the Dick-Head spotted burrowing into a tree, a generous radius of a tree stand around that Dick-Head’s home was put off-limits to the tread of man and all association therewith.

The venerable "Dick-Head" Red-Caucaded woodpecker in all it's orinthological wonder.

And then it happened.

Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Fish and Wildlife (NCDFW) inspected inside the Unit compound; found Dick-Head habitats; and subsequently closed off a large stand of pine woods on our demolitions training range — WHAT?

A troop of pipe-fitters from the North Carolina Department of Fish and Wildlife pose for a photo prior to setting off on a long-range intelligence-gathering patrol.

“Who let these fuckers come onto our turf and inspect anything in the first place??” a brother bitterly lamented — touché!

The loss of that chunk of range really stung the pipe-hitters. It’s not like it wasn’t getting maximum use. Breaching charges could be heard and felt within the main cantonment building daily, with the mandatory sporadic mother-of-a-charge that rattled windows and clearly exceeded the maximum Net Explosive Weight (NEW) allowed on our range by Ft. Bragg Range Control. We broke the NEW so often that Range Control threatened to install a seismic sensor outside our fence to monitor our NEWs.