It was with great nostalgia that I reread one of George Hand’s older posts about going through survival training in the SFQC. Geo is universally loved by us, here, and we’re proud to call him a friend. BTW, be sure to check out Geo’s upcoming book Brothers of the Cloth, which is bound to be entertaining.

His “bunny baseball” story also brought back memories of Camp Mackall involving Colonel Nick Rowe.

A Special Forces Legend

Colonel Nick Rowe was a Special Forces legend. He was one of the very few men in Vietnam who successfully escaped from a POW camp — and doing so while taken to be executed. 

Rowe used his experiences, lessons learned, and knowledge of being a POW into creating the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) course at Camp Mackall. All Special Forces personnel must go through the SERE course as part of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC).

But his Communist captors did not forget him. In the morning of April 21, 1989, Rowe was on his way to work at the Joint United States Military Advisory Group headquarters in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila. Then, at least two hooded gunmen in a stolen car fired more than 20 bullets into his vehicle. The gunmen were Communist guerillas with reported ties to the Vietnamese Communist government. The Vietnamese did indeed have a long memory.
Colonel Rowe served as the Executive Officer of Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group, South Vietnam, in 1963. (USASOC History Office)

Nasty Nick Is the Epitome of a Special Forces Obstacle Course

The Special Forces training compound at Camp Mackall, NC, as well as the Special Forces obstacle course, is named in Rowe’s honor. And part of the obstacle course is known as the “Nasty Nick.”

The Nasty Nick Obstacle Course is a name familiar to all SF candidates undergoing Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). If you are an aspiring Special Operations soldier, you will become intimately familiar with this obstacle course. It is one of those rite-of-passage gated events. 

Part of the reason we stress upper-body preparation before SFAS and SFQC is that you’ll need that strength to make it through Selection and especially the obstacle course out at Camp Mackall. And in general, to be an “operator” what we used to call “team guys,” you will need a lot of upper body strength.