When I went to Ranger School, I memorized the Ranger Creed and learned  that “surrender is not a Ranger word.” I love that. As a student of military history, the Green Beret knows what happens after surrender.  In Afghanistan, there were some very frank team-room discussions about capture. Short of being blown unconscious by an IED, there was no way I was going to be a prisoner. Surrender was not an option; nobody was going to put video of my beheading on the Interwebs. Fighting to the end was a better option than the possibility of a few more days of life.

As it happens, surrender is a Green Beret word. It is not an action verb, it is a command. While we never want to come under enemy control, allowing our enemies a humane way out gives us the moral high ground and saves lives. Our lives.

In ancient China, warriors were encouraged to build a golden bridge for the enemy to retreat across. The idea was to provide a route of withdrawal to avoid a desperate fight to the death with high casualties on both sides. If a Green Beret leaves the enemy a way out, it is probably a baited ambush with interlocking fields of fire. But not always.

Photo courtesy of psywarrior.com
Photo courtesy of psywarrior.com

On 20 December, 1989, at 1:00 a.m. local time, 27,684 U.S. troops rescued Panama. The AC-130s, Rangers, SEALS, the 82nd Airborne, and a lot of other soldiers secured the canal and neutralized 20 percent of Panamanian forces that night. Major Gil Perez, a Green Beret, took care of the rest of them.

Perez was the commander of A-1-7 SFG(A), a Cuban-American, and a fluent native Spanish speaker. He was the mastermind behind what came to be known as Operation Ma Bell. The initial U.S. assault left about 80 percent of the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) untouched, safe in their bases. PDF commanders had all been hand-picked and promoted based solely on their loyalty to el Comandante Manual Noriega.

There had been attempted coups and many murders of less-than-loyal commanders. At this time, Noriega was not in custody and the Panamanian commanders were playing for high stakes. Major Perez was very persuasive.


It went down in a series of operations all across Panama, something like this: Perez called each PDF quartel (base) and spoke to the commander.  After politely introducing himself, Perez told the commander that an AC-130 Gunship was overhead, and invited him to step outside to confirm it.  The commander was also told that there was an infantry unit waiting in helicopters, ready to assault.