Desert One was a disaster. The photos of the burned-out helicopters lying in the lonely sands of the Iranian desert drove spears through the hearts of all Special Operations members, regardless of service. Desert One was before my time. I joined the Teams in the mid-eighties, five full years after the debacle. Regardless, my teammates and I would come to learn the significance of that event. It would become as real to us as it was for those who heard the news the day after the accident.

For many ranking officers in the military, Desert One highlighted the risky business of Special Operations. They wrung their hands, drooled over the Holloway Commission and voraciously read their manuals on risk aversion. For others, luckily it was the beginning of a new phase in SPEC Ops history. It was an opportunity to improve, to excel and become the force of the future. For those enlightened souls “integration,” “inter-operability” and “joint” became the buzz words. But integration, as nice as it sounds, was not always well received, regardless of the circumstances.

Integrating services and their operational elements ran up against a host of obstacles, real and imagined. On the ground level, at the SEAL Teams it was about mission.

“The Army doesn’t swim, do they?” someone asked the OIC.

“Well apparently they do,” someone else said.

“They are looking to us to get them into the beach, that’s it,” the OIC said.

“They’re probably here to figure out how we do things so they can start doing the mission themselves.”

“Oh that’s stupid. The last time I checked, the Army doesn’t have a fleet of subs.”