Today was the day that Deek would show up as Deeka for the first time.
He got to camp and checked in with the third phase chief instructor, Babcock.
Babcock looked like a lumberjack because he was one.
There’s not a lot of large men in the Teams, that’s a myth propagated by Hollywood. But “Big” Jake Babcock was an exception.
He grew up in Sandy, Oregon, and worked the family tree farm until he left high school. He then gave up a football scholarship to the Oregon Ducks to join the Navy.
“What the fuck, Deek? So this is for real?” said the chief.
“Yeah Big Jake, it’s been bottled up inside for a while and I just said fuck it.”
“You sure did, you fucker! You’ve got the head shed spun up tighter than a three-way in a Chinese brothel on this one. You’ve got stones of steel, I’ll give that to you. Me and the guys are hitting the Salty Crab after dinner, why don’t you settle in and join us in a few hours, you could probably use a drink. Plus, I don’t think you’ll have any issues but, it’d be a good way to smooth it over with the cadre. By morning it will all shake out.”
“You up for leading PT in the morning?” said Babcock.
“Of course, chief. Let me at’em.”
“Good, man….ah, I mean.”
“No worries, I know it’s going to take some gettin’ used to.”
Babcock slapped Deeka on the back and they parted ways.
Deeka felt much better. These guys knew him and his track record and he appreciated the acceptance.
“I know not everyone will feel this way but I’m sure most will,” she thought.
A few hours later in the main instructor’s office.
Deeka was having a beer from the instructor kegerator and shooting the shit with Babcock about what a shit show Iraq had turned into, and how there was no end in sight for the mission and the poor Iraqis who stayed behind. Most of the smart ones, the ones that could, got the hell out. They fled to America, Dubai, or Europe.
The ones that stayed had no choice.
It was especially bad in the south of Iraq where the fighting was fiercest, especially in spots like Fallujah.
The north of Iraq was stable and seemed like an entirely different country. It was self-governed by the Kurds.
They spoke about what they knew would ultimately happen. A massive pullout when popularity waned, and the seeds of Iran’s insurgency would grow into an oak tree of chaos and confusion. The region would become unstable and terrorism would once again thrive. But only this time it would be free-market terrorism rather than supported by the strong arm of Saddam’s leadership.
“Sometimes I don’t fucking get it, chief,” said Deeka.
“Every time I start thinking about it I just realize it’s best to just focus on the mission at hand, and realize we’re a bishop on the chessboard, Deeka. Just accept your place on the board as long as you have the job. Just better that way I think,” the chief replied.
Both had a laugh when Deeka suggested he’d like to see a Hunger Games Iraq where they choose politicos at random and then drop them into the shit with a rifle and some water.
“Fuck the politics of war. Let us off the leash entirely or keep us in the cage. There are no ‘nice’ ways to kill people,” said Deeka.
“Fuck politics,” they said in unison.
They clinked the big Viking mugs the instructors at the Rock drank out of.
Just then the door burst open and three third phase instructors poured in with a heavy back-slapping and shit-talking.
“You shoulda seen the look on Olga’s face when she found out she was top score on the range, after seeing the male egos shrink like a naked cock in Iceland, fucking priceless,” said Doug.
“Have you ever seen a naked cock in Iceland Doug?” said Instructor Gunner.
“No, but I’ve seen your tiny prick, does that count?”
“Your mother didn’t find it that tiny, Utah.”
They all laughed at that. Nothing was sacred in the Team Room, even mom was fair game.
Doug “Utah” Drizen grew up in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. He was an expert skier and bike enthusiast who was always tinkering with metal projects. He built his own bike for the island out of spare gun parts and an old Schwinn cruiser. The thing looked wicked. He was one of two qualified snipers on “The Rock” cadre and led the classes on marksmanship.
Jose Domingo Reyes or “Domino” was from San Diego. Demolition expert. Got in trouble playing with fireworks as a kid. At least now he was sanctioned by Uncle Sam. His parents had come over from Mazatlan, Mexico illegally. He found out the hard way at 16 when he tried to get a driver’s license and realized he wasn’t a citizen. His American uncle ended up sponsoring him so he could get his green card and then citizenship to join the Navy.
Bringing up the rear was instructor Gunnar Egilsson from Iceland. His parents were both Olympians with brutal standards for their kids. Mom was an Olympic gold medalist in volleyball and his father, Thor, in biathlon. Everyone just called him Gunner and he was fine with that.
Egilsson was an expert with skis and had seen both poles with his father before his 19th birthday. He was also a sniper and taught with Doug.
Doug had the private cook deliver their meals to the office, which also served as their private bar/team room.
After eating and having a few beers they got the same poor X-division kid Deeka throat punched to drive them into town to the Salty Crab, the only bar on the island.
There wasn’t much in the way of women on the island. The guys had a running joke: What do you call three women from the Crab in a hot tub? Gorillas in the Mist.
This was a reference to the late 1980s movie, Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver as naturalist Dian Fossey who studied the vanishing mountain gorillas of Africa.
This always got laughs from someone who’d had a long stint on the island.
“Deeka, your odds just went up, sister. This place is Cocktoberfest compared to San Diego. You’re in heaven you sonofabitch!” said Domino.
“Go fuck yourself, Domino.”
“Still the same, Gammin! You know I love you homie.”
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Went the standard student knock at the door.
“Ensign Wedge class leader permission to enter!”
Every class had a lead proctor for the phase and for Wedge his proctor was Gunnar.
“Instructor Gunnar, barracks and weapons room are clean and secure,” said Wedge.
“Good man, Wedge. You are almost out of the ice flow but don’t let up. Here or in combat. You start to let up before the mission is complete and that’s when you pay Odin. Got it?”
“Yes, Instructor Gunnar.”
“Good. Secure for the night and be ready at 0500 on the beach for physical training with Instructor Gammin. Get some rest, you’ll need it.”
Wedge glanced around the room, made quick eye contact with Gammin, and confirmed what he’d heard about the gender switch.
“Hooyah Instructor Gunnar.”
“Now beat it.”
Wedge hurried out the door. He couldn’t believe what he’d seen but there was no time to think much about it, he had his orders. His classmates had been running on three-four hours of sleep a day for almost a month now. All the time they were expected to perform flawlessly with high explosives and firearms. It was all incredibly stressful. His class needed some shut-eye and he was keen to get them down for the night. He had this odd feeling that the next morning was going to be hell.
The instructor cadre piled into the big white Navy van with chief upfront, the rest in the back, and the same quitter X-division kid, who had taken a throat punch from Deeka earlier that day, behind the wheel.
“What happened to your neck son?” asked chief.
“Gym accident,” he replied nervously.
“Be careful, son, the Navy still owns your ass.”
He didn’t say a word the rest of the way.
The Salty Crab Incident Part One
If there was one movie reference to the Salty Crab and all its weird strange characters, it would definitely be the Star Wars bar.
A run-down musty tavern with a limited menu of America’s worst bar food, cheap beer on tap, and a few choices of alcohol most seasoned functioning alcoholics would approve of. Rum, Bourbon, Gin, and Vodka. Heavy pours and nothing fancy. Two pool tables, a dartboard, jukebox, a few 80s arcade games, and that was about it.
What more do you need? Ruby would say.
The place was frequented by the island’s Navy air traffic control, some medical staff, and mostly civilian contractors… and the cat killers.
Nobody fucked with the SEALs, even the island Military Police gave them a wide berth. They didn’t even notice one of them was a she.
They can’t hear you scream on the Rock.
“First round on me and then I’m headed back early gents,” said chief.
The rest of the guys headed over to the pool tables.
“What’ll you fellas have, sweetheart?” asked Ruby behind the counter in her raspy voice, carefully curated by years of smoking Newport menthols.
Ruby was a Crab fixture. Nobody knew how long she’d been there but rumors put it at over 20 years. Bleach blond hair with gray root rot, bright pink lipstick, big gold hoop earrings, and white leather miniskirt with baby blue top. She was salty in her own way, for sure, and was not afraid to try and pick off some of the young drunk bucks, which she often did. Just nobody talked about it after!!!
“Two pitchers of Miller and five shots of Jameson please,” said the chief.
“Sure thing, sweetheart. You want some chicken tenders? Right out of the fryer, hon’.”
“No thanks, Ruby” chief replied.
“That’ll get them tuned up,” he thought to himself with a smile.
The guys started playing pool and were legitimately interested in Deek’s realization that he wanted to be a she.
He told them as sincerely as possible he’d always felt this way and tried to overcompensate by being the manliest man he could be, and what better profession than the ultimate man card, Navy SEAL.
Deeka explained it all happened through therapy and that he was glad that therapy had become much more accepted in the community.
They all agreed that only a few years ago it would have been a career killer to talk to a shrink about personal issues.
It’s why most SEALs and pilots avoid medical at all cost. No one wants to risk their operational status.
One of the island’s government contractors fell over stoned cold drunk and broke one of the tables causing a pitcher of beer to erupt into the air like a Hawaiian lava-spewing volcano.
“Amateurs…” Gunnar remarked.
“Wha the fuck you say, mother fucker?” the contractor snipped at them. “An that is one ugly gal, even for the Crab I wouldn’t fack’er, you fack her?” The drunk contractor said looking at his two friends who were clearly less drunk and nervously avoided any direct stares towards the SEALs.
“Calm down, bud, we don’t want any trouble,” said chief.
Gunnar just shot a steely-eyed glance their way.
“Trouble is my middle name, chief,” Deeka said.
“Can it, Gammin,” Chief retorted.
Gammin smirked, took a shot at the “2” ball, and drilled it with a bang into the side pocket.
The drunk Navy contractor started coming over and Chief knew this wasn’t going to end well. He looked at his instructors to greenlight an intervention and wasn’t surprised to see Deeka pep up first. Gammin could fight, loved a good scrap, everyone knew it too. The thing about Gammin was that he fought dirty, Florida white trash, Tiger King kinda dirty. “Oh shit, this will be interesting,” chief thought.
Gammin walked over, lipstick and all, dressed in combat winter camo pants, and a blue instructor shirt. It was quite the sight to behold. He walked up to the drunk contractor, who was clearly confused that he was being met by this woman.
Just then, as if on cue, Stuck in the Middle with You started on the jukebox.
Everything seemed to slow down, like in a movie slow-motion playback.
“I aint hittin no gir….”
He barely got that out when Deeka grabbed both his eyelids, adjusted his grip slightly to get hold of most of the lashes on both eyes, and yanked the contractor’s lashes out sharply with the efficiency of a Chinese lash shop gal in downtown Manhattan, New York.
When his eyelids popped back in place, both had flipped up halfway to expose blood-red underlids. It was quite the strange scene.
The contractor just screamed, tears streaming down his face.
Deeka grabbed him by the balls, squeezed hard, and whispered something nobody could hear into the contractor’s ear. He gave him a big kiss on the lips and turned to his fellow SEALs and said, “Now that’s what we call gator eyes down in Florida. Hah! Problem solved Chief, that guy is going to wake up a whole new man. And I didn’t even have to use my mouth guard fellas. Deeka pulled out a legit MMA style mouthpiece to the disbelief of her teammates.”
Deeka gave a bow and walked back to the pool table, leaving the contractor screaming.
“Goddamn, Gammin. That is just wrong dude. You’re packing a fucking mouthpiece?” Doug said.
“Damn, holmes, that’s some fucked up Tijuana shit!” Jose belted out.
They all laughed and quietly admired how effectively Gammin had handled the situation.
The contractor limped back to his table and fell over in pain. His two buddies just grabbed him, threw some money on the table, and dragged him outta there. They sure weren’t sticking around for round two with Deeka after what they’d just seen.
A couple of games later and Gammin was on a full tear and threatening a game of skin darts.
They tossed a coin to see who’d go first.
Each player would get three shots to hit the bullseyes.
“Back or ass?”, Jose asked the group.
Chief saw this as his signal to head back.
“Gents, I’m going in early, enjoy letting off some steam and keep Gammin out of trouble.”
“I got it, chief,” Doug said.
The night was far from over, and the students of class 220 were about to get an early wake-up, one they would remember long after leaving training.
To be continued…
“The Reservation” is a new experiment, a novel in progress, shared with SOFREP readers weekly and created by former Navy SEAL sniper Brandon Webb. Stand by for weekly updates as the story unfolds and our unit wanders “off the reservation.”