If you ask a boxer what the most important aspect of his punching power, he will tell you it’s his legs. The punch starts all the way from the feet, through the knees, builds immense torque in the hips and explodes through the shoulders mimicking the dynamics of a bullwhip. In Delta, we all understood that our punch was only as good as our legs under us were — our supporting foundation.
Movies like to pick on cooks (cookies), and mechanics (grease monkeys), so let’s do the same. Our support brothers put in applications to reside with the Unit just like us knuckle-dragging pipe-hitters in the assault squadrons. If accepted through their initial application, they reported to West Virginia for a couple of days of evaluation.
They endured a day of physical challenges followed by a grueling timed rucksack march of some 20 miles with a formidable weighted cargo. Those who made it through that day were subject to a board of ranking Unit members who grilled them for an extended time with puzzles, scenarios, situations… emotions all the while on the rise.
When all was said and done, a brother who ended up with a specialty position in the Unit was a remarkable sort of person with hardly an equal, capable of enduring the most exquisite of bull$hit:
“Mark… put down those wrenches! Wipe the grease off your hands and come with me.” (pausing at a closed-door) “Behind this door is a ballet troop performing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Dance of the Little Swans. Here’s your tutu (hands over tutu to Mark) now, GET IN THERE! (opens door, shoves Mark in and slams door). In Delta you’re a wigwam, you’re a teepee, you’re a wigwam, a teepee — you’re just two tents!
Flexibility is the staple characteristic of personnel filling roles in the foundation of the assault squadrons. “That’s not my job” is a phrase guaranteed to get all of your belongings piled up outside the front gate that same day, and your Unit access badge deactivated. There is no reasonable expectation of comfort in the Unit, no guarantee of a day off, guarantee of uninterrupted vacation, women can’t even get pregnant while serving in certain roles.
Such a pregnancy case resulted in the termination of a female as I distinctly remember. During her termination board, she pleaded that she was still willing to deploy for extended periods of time, leaving her baby in the care of her mother. She was willing to do that to her baby for the sake of the Unit. The response: “Ms. Smith, we understand that you are willing to do that to your baby. We, however, are NOT willing to do that to your baby.”
Responsibility for actions, ownership of mistakes, and pride in one’s work flourished. It gave me a non-stop thrill to witness the manifestations of pride in so many areas throughout my years there. I’m put in mind of the day we pipe-hitters were lined up at the chow hall at the stroke of 1200 local Ft Bragg hours. The serving line was not ready. We looked at the clock and it read 1200. Delta operates in minutes and seconds. We saw one nervous cook. He was stooped over a large tray of mashed potatoes and was using the convex side of a spoon to whip wavy swirls over the top of the potatoes row by row.
We looked at the clock again. Sure enough, it was 1200hrs at Bragg. We looked at the cook who was frantically spoon swirling his last row. He looked up at us with saucer eyes and beads of sweat. With the last row complete he hooked a nearby jar of seasoning and let loose a cloud of ruddy power that settled on the top of the potatoes. He slammed the tray down and looked toward our line:
“Order up!” He called and we descended on the chow.
Once finished, I hooked back around through the serving line grabbing the mashed potatoes bro’s attention:
“Hey… I have to confess, I’m certain beyond the pretense of doubt that never before have I eaten such delicious mashed potatoes, the presentation and delivery of which were magnificent.” I shook the hand attached to a monstrous grin.
Our vehicle mechanics were… I don’t know what to best say… an unusually adept sort of brothers who had a penchant for all things internal combustion to the extent that it hovered in the realm of suspicion. I imagined many of them growing up in cities going full grand theft auto defeating car locking mechanisms, hot-wiring ignitions and running from the police all their lives… but never getting caught. These were the specimens that we had on our team.
It was in the desert as I recall it. Our Alpha Team’s transportation was fumbling hard. It suffered an extreme loss of power and we took to towing it up hills. As night lifted, we halted and closed-in to Rally Over Day (ROD). Markey-Mark was flown in by helicopter to tend to the stricken vehicle. He was yet another crack mechanic of spurious background that nobody dared question.
“Just let him work and don’t piss him off. Don’t let him catch you gawking at him either,” warned our Troop Sergeant, Donnie H.
When Markey Mark approached, he looked awful. He looked tired and whipped. There was no telling how long he had been awake or how hard he had been working.
“The doctor is in, Donnie. Where’s the patient and what are the symptoms?”
Donnie H. proceeded with a mad-minute brain-dump on Marky-Mark whose eyes slowly began to close. When they were closed, he rocked back on his heels at the brink of tumbling backward asleep. Donnie stopped talking, and instead of complaining about all he had been through Mark opened his eyes, look at Donnie and said with a confident nod:
“Don… I think I can fix it!”
With that Markey-Mark lay on his back for untold hours, wrenches clinking and clanking, an occasional “OUCH” and “DAMN” ringing out intermittently. In the end, he fired up the beast which sprang to life with a groaning roar, the sound of near unbridled POWER. Donnie was pleased as punch. Markey-Mark collapsed in some blankets for an undisturbed snooze.
“Do you believe that phuq? I would have told them all to go suck an egg.”
“Nice mouth; would that be great if he were actually still awake and heard you call him a phuq?”
“He’s going to ride back in with us from here out. We’re doing a convoy assault in the morning. Let’s put on one of the guns to give him some hooah time; get him away from wrench spinning for a while. We’ll make sure he gets to rest. Plus, if we break down… well, you know… win-win.”
When the trucks growled to life in the morning Markey-Mark sat up from his steel-and-no-padding bed rubbing his eyes.
“You don’t know, Marky-Mark? Listen, we’ve got a situation and need your help.”
“I’ll grab my tools…”
“No! For this job you won’t need those; we need you to take on the Maw-Deuce (Heavy Machine gun) in the turret. We’re going to be moving down this terrain road to the east. There is another terrain road paralleling this one about 100 meters to the north. If we see ANY vehicles on that road at all we are going to light them up good. You down?”
Marky-Mark wormed his way into the gun turret and spun the gun facing north. He got a quick refresher on the load and firing operation from our gunner and clicked his gun site to the 100-yard distance (Maw-Deuce is and old gun built before the adaptation of the metric system.) I snapped three belts (600 rounds) of .50 caliber bullets together and loaded the gun. Mark yanked the charging handle back twice and gave thumbs up.
Our convoy rumbled along the road lifting a large parcel of fugitive dust. Soon through the dust was a line of armored vehicles. Anti-tank rockets cracked from the leading trucks rendering direct-hit orange fireballs and dark gray smoke to the column. I looked at Marky-Mark and pumped my arm up and down for him to cut loose on the armor. He looked down his site, looked back at me one more time, then let out a tremendous burst of some 50 rounds. I clambered up the turret and hollered:
“SEVEN TO NINE-ROUND BURSTS ALL DAY LONG; THE BARREL CAN’T SUSTAIN THOSE LONG BURST!”
Mark dropped down to seven-rounds groups nicely with a smooth rhythm. North on the road sparks flew like mad indicating the tremendous impacts that he was rendering to the convoy. I clipped another 400 rounds onto his working belt as it diminished.
Marky-Mark was in such an intense state that the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders could have danced by naked and he wouldn’t have noticed. All he could see at the moment was sparks on the armor, his gun barrel smoking like a December chimney.
We were soon past the armored convoy. Mark had swung his turret to the west to continue harassing the Swiss-cheesed convoy. I had counted 16 anti-tank rockets launched from our vehicles; behind us, the empty tubes were strewed about on the ground. Mark’s was the only gun still firing into just a cloud of brown smoke. I thought to call him to a cease-fire, but he only had some 20-ish rounds dangling from his gun.
We loaded up the gun with fresh belts as cigars were passed back from the brothers upfront. We burned-on our stogies from the gun barrel back near the chamber where it was scorching and puffed like magic dragons.
“Yessir,” was all Mark said.
“Kick back, Markey-Mark; you’re off duty for the next couple of days!” I assured. He kicked back and puffed, with a strange look of satisfaction on his face… one like Andy Dufresne had in Shawshank Redemption when he won his work crew some beer.
By Almighty God and with honor,
(The article is dedicated to MSG Mark Brighter)