William “Chief” Carlson came to Delta Force from one of the Green Beret groups around 1995. He was a Siksika warrior from the Blackfeet tribe of Montana. He was man whose reputation preceded him wherever he went in our community; no matter where you were at, there would be guys in your organization who had heard of William Carlson, or just “Chief.”

“Did you hear who’s coming to Squadron from OTC?” I overheard in a conversation one day at work. “William Carlson is supposed to get assigned to our second troop some time next week.” From the tone of the responses I heard, it was clear we were getting a real somebody. Well good on him, I thought. I was somebody for a short while when I first got here, and then I was quickly swallowed up by a crowd of badasses and was never heard from again.

“Chik…come meet Chief,” one of my buds called out. My callsign in Squadron was Chik, evolving since my first assignment in regular Army infantry during the days of the airing of the epic television drama “Roots.” The dark green soldiers in my company started calling me Chicken George after one of the characters in that series. When I got to my first Green Berets assignment, Chicken George would not be cool enough as a callsign, so it would have to be truncated to Chick-G.

Chief Carlson in Afghanistan.

Upon my arrival in Delta, where life was no longer lived in hours and minutes, but rather minutes and seconds, a further abridgment would render my callsign to simply Chick. But a chick is a girl! Yes, perhaps, but Chick was also the name of my all-time favorite jazz musician, Chick Corea. I was okay with it, but the spelling would not endure with redundant letter combo ‘ck’. One letter would have to go, and it would be the ‘c’.

Ok, my bro is going out of his way to introduce me to the new guy, either for my benefit because he is such a stellar being, or for Chief’s benefit because I was such a smoking awesome dude. No, the latter couldn’t be it. “William Carlson. Can I call you Bill?” I suggested in earnest.

“Just Chief,” would be a response I would hear many times in the years to come. Here, I would have thought you didn’t call the red man ‘chief’ because it was a degrading stereotypical thing for whitey to do. But if Chief wanted me to call him Chief, then Chief it would be. After introductions, Chief went into his new team room, and within a couple of minutes, returned in PT gear, exited the backdoor of the Squadron bay, and was off on a screaming five-mile run that he was back from way too soon. Here, then, was an excellent addition to A-Squadron.

As we had time to chat and swap lies, I found the stories of Chief’s childhood to be amazing. He spoke of ‘chasing whitey with a stick,’ or chasing after white kids in his neighborhood who dared cross him and threatening to whip them with a tree branch. It came to be a catchphrase of Chief’s in Squadron over the years.

“Chief, how was your weekend?”