In memory of General Eldon Bargewell
November 19, 1977, marked the beginning of an era of new national defense capability — the inception of the Tier-One national asset, the Delta Force. This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the creation of the Unit by the United States Army’s Colonel Charles Alvin “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith. Based on the world events of his day, Colonel Beckwith recognized a void in the nation’s national defense strategy where counter-terrorism was concerned — enter Delta Force.
When I came into the Unit in 1991, I was assigned Operator number 413, meaning that for the past 14 years there had only been 413 Operators assigned to the Unit. When I retired from Delta and the Military in 2001, the Unit had been in existence for 24 years. (Out of curiosity I wonder where the Operator assignment number stands today after the wars in the Middle East and the up-sizing of the Unit to accommodate the threat of terrorism.)
There exists a yearly tradition in the Delta Force that is celebrated around the Christmas holiday; it consists of an informal gathering at the Unit compound centered around the dining facility (chow/mess hall). All current and former Unit members, family and friends meet for a pleasant evening of re-acquainting and catching up.
That event is followed by a formal Dining In that is held at an upscale establishment in town. The preliminary events include a round of formal toasts to revered persons and important historic events. Subject to the Dining In are special guests from the vaunted 22 Special Air Service Regiment. For that reason, there is always a prepared toast to her majesty the Queen of England.
On the one occasion that I attended the Dining In, the mandatory toast came when a man stood with raised glass:
“TO THE QUEEN!” to which the room resounded: “TO THE QUEEN!”
It was to the shock and dismay of everyone when the next clueless and self-absorbed man in the room stood with raised glass and announced:
“TO THE QUEEN!” followed by the disjointed mumbling of the room: “… to the… erm… queen?”
It if were possible to send that officer to work in salt mines in Siberia, the Delta Commander surely would have made it so.
The recipe for Charlie Beckwith’s concept was a slam-dunk by all estimation. He took a group of specially-selected pipe hitters, who were willing to try anything on the face of the Earth to try and solve problems, then he funded them in a near no-ceiling fashion. Charlie, in his modest and simple genius, combined two things that had never before been joined together in the Military and threw them at the world’s terrorism scourge.
In a phone conversation I had last night with one of the most venerable Operators to tread the spine in the Delta Force, A. Greg “Ironhead” Birch, we both made matching observations of the evolution of the Unit and its Operators:
In our day we did the best we could, viewing the past generation of Operators with sincere reverence. We knew beyond doubt that we had bumped up the rung of the capability of the Unit in both physical and technical prowess. We were better Operators than our predecessors whether they cared to concede that or not.
By the same token, we do not rest back and lament our greatness to the extent: “By cracky… we were badass and tough in our day, not like theses snot-nosed punks of today who think they know it all.” To the contrary, we recognize that from generation to generation the Delta Operator becomes all the better pound-for-pound in terms of physical and technical ability. These men in the ranks today are accomplishing feats that we at one time could only imagine — and this is how it should be!
It is both a great source of pride and with personal comfort that we view the Operators of today with a vicarious adoration, thinking of them often and worrying about them — but always doing so with an immense sense of pride and confidence. Prayer is as prayer does — and we do pray for them. We thank them all in earnest for having the fortitude to accept the torch from the previous generation and advance that torch always with speed and resolution. To them, we hold our glasses high and declare in a loud and clear voice: “TO THE MEN OF THE DELTA FORCE!”
“…AND TO THE QUEEN… again… aha.”
By Almighty God and with honor,