I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon on the phone with one of oldest and dearest of friends. My buddy Wade Chapple is a retired Chief Warrant Officer CW4 from 7th SFG(A). He’s also one the funniest guys you’d ever meet and an absolute character. We spent the entire time remembering the good, funny times of our careers and my sides literally hurt from laughing so hard.

Wade was one of the most tactically and technically proficient officers I’ve ever known. After a short time as A-Team XOs in 7th Group in both Panama and Ft. Bragg, we both were team leaders as at that time there was a dearth of Captains in SF Branch. He later moved on and was the American advisor to the two Colombian Special Forces Battalions, that were co-located at the site of the Lancero School and the NCO Academy. We’ll feature more of that in a later date.

But back when we were just a bit younger, we attended the Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) together. The Army in its infinite wisdom decided that SF NCOs who are transitioning to the Warrant program need to go back to a sillier time and learn how to roll t-shirts the size of a Coke can, stand numerous inspections and step back in time for grade school antics. Our class was filled with about 50 high school kids who wanted to fly helicopters. There were six SF NCOs and a couple of CID agents. We had known each other in 1st Bn. 7th SFG and got orders to go to Ft. Rucker for the WOCS. Rather than fly commercial, Wade was going to drive his truck and was looking for some company. “Awesome,” I said. “This should be fun.” Little did I know …

Putting two smart-assed Yankees together on a road trip to the south should be a piece of cake right? We drove down to Rucker, got on the base about 3 in the morning and were searching in vain for the Student Company. You’d think there’d be a sign right? Wrong. After driving around aimlessly for 30 minutes, we saw a huge black dude with a shaved head and carrying his luggage. Pulling over, I yelled, “Hey buddy, are you going to the head shed to sign in?” He turned and said, “Are you, two students?” …Suppressing my smart-ass response, since we needed an answer, I said, “That’s right pal, students.” “Second door on the right,” he said. “The one that has a light on.”

We pulled into the parking lot, walked up to the door and signed in. We got our stuff out of the truck and made our way to the barracks, an old Army WWII building at the end of the street.

Our very first student formation set the tone. A bunch of Warrant Officer TAC-Officers descended on the formation, trying the old intimidation game. It scared the hell of the high school kids, for us it was like …meh, whatever. Then the door to the Tac Shed burst open and the big black dude appeared. He wasn’t a student but a CW3. “Oh this ought to be good,” Wade said. The warrant was scanning the crowd and sure enough, he spotted us at the back. He tore thru the formation looking for you know who. “You find your way BUDDY?, PAL, BROTHER? ” he screamed in my face. “Yes thank you, sir.” My response wasn’t good enough for Wade. “Hey, at least we asked the right guy…er Sir.” The TAC almost laughed then caught himself and promised to keep a close eye on us two. It wouldn’t be hard.

They broke our company up alphabetically, which means that four of the SF guys, Ross Andrews, Brian Bewley, Chapple and myself were in one squad. Four E-7s and a bunch of kids right out of basic. Ross was a quiet guy with a wry sense of humor who often wondered, I thought, what did he do to deserve going with us. Brian was a former 3/7 guy who came from 1st Group and is a super dude. It was a marriage made in heaven. In fairness, the WOCS cadre had no idea then (the SF Warrant program was still fairly new) on what to do with us. The course was really designed for the high-school-to-flight-school kids. The chicken$hit harassment and games they played had the opposite effect on us. Truth be told, the kids were in awe of us. Older guys with SF. Ranger Tabs, EIBs/CIBs, Master parachutist wings, Combat Diver, HALO badges….you get the idea.

If the cadre were smart, they’d have encouraged the SF guys to mentor the young kids and show them the way. Instead, their mission was to “break and belittle” the SF guys in an attempt to get the kids to fall in line. It failed miserably. We were constantly harangued in front of the other students as having no leadership potential and were singled out constantly for the usual chicken$hit infractions. Their mind games were amateur stuff, I had just come from being a cadre member of Selection where the mind-f**k is an art form. Shortly after submitting my WOCS packet in 7th SFG, I came under orders for the Special Warfare Center, SWC. And SWC sat on my packet until they got nearly 18 months out of me. Ah, the joys of the school-house. We finished a class four days before Chapple and I left for Rucker. Talk about changing hats quickly.