In the darkness the SEAL they call “Disco” (a nick name earned long ago in a foreign port of call) notices the helicopter crew chief signal to the other crewman that it is time to open the side doors of the helicopter in preparation. They are less than 10 minutes from the compound. As the doors slide open, the cool Pakistani air rushes in and hits his bare face with shock that only a sudden change in temperature can bring.  The numbness it brings to the skin feels both good and familiar; He is unaware of the historic significance that will come in less than an hour. The signal is passed for five minutes out…

The lead assaulter—this is a rotating and fluid role each SEAL can take depending on his position in the assault train—looked at the SEAL dog handler who signaled back that the corner up ahead was clear.  The team continued the choreography of death methodically through the house.  Target ID, three short bursts aimed at the head and the target was down. No use in taking shots to the body these days, most bad guys can get body armor on Ebay and headshots guarantee a quick kill and are the method of choice.   “All Clear! Coming out!” was shouted out, the SEALs exited the mock compound and what they knew was their final live fire run in the scenario.

The Team still didn’t know for certain who the High Value Target (HVT) was, but after hundreds of assault missions, their desire to know has faded and is replaced with an eagerness to get off the leash and on with the task at hand.  They know the mission plan and the mock compound like an old friend and are ready to get down to business at a seconds notice.

In the remote Afghan camp where the SEALs have been practicing, they exude the type of confidence that is clearly noticed and feared among others in their presence.  The few that catch a quick glance into the SEALs eyes see something raw and violent; They cannot help but quickly avert their eyes and hurry off into the distance. They scurry off, knowing that they have caught a peak behind the curtain of death, and most wish they hadn’t peered into their gaze.  It will haunt them for the rest of their lives. This is the type of confidence that only champions and experts can come to know: Olympic gold medalists, football stars, professional athletes and others at the top of their game.  Or, the Navy SEALs.  To the SEALs, it’s the type of confidence that only comes with years of training, seeing death up close too many times to count, and hundreds of real world operations that ultimately forge them into one of the most deadly and feared warrior groups on the planet.  In a Japan of the past, they would have been known as Samurai or Ninja and feared by most.

The helicopters flew in tight formation, closer than most pilots are ever capable of.  The blades were visible in a green blur on night vision and whirling so close to the other helicopters that it appeared they would collide at any moment, and all would end.  The SEAL thought to himself about the professional respect he had for these pilots and the comfort that came with their flying ability.  He knew that these were the best pilots in the world.  They had thousands of hours of training and had developed a subconscious skill in their flying ability that comes with intense training and combat.  The Night Stalkers were the US Army’s best.  These pilots had more hours flying on night vision alone than most career airline pilots will ever achieve in a lifetime of flying.

The SEAL shifts into position in the helicopter and takes his spot in the squad to assault element fast rope chain.  Fast ropes are used like a Fireman’s pole, only it’s a rope.  The ropes are attached to the roof of the helicopter and then thrown out at heights of up to 100 feet.  The SEALs then slide down the rope onto the ground as an insertion method.  It’s a very efficient way to get boots on the ground and avoids a tight landing by the helicopter.

A final press check—