There exists a custom in Delta Force that drives the prisoner-of-war (POW) and prisoner-breakout-from-confinement training in such a way that affords the operators as much economy of motion possible during the event. The proper economy of motion can fit the saying: “to kill two birds with one stone.”
One of the strict requirements for the operators-in-training is how to conduct themselves while captured and in a prisoner of war environment. After a period of administrative training in classroom environments, the operators are sent on a difficult field exercise that lasts several days and
nights. The point of the exercise is to break down the men physically and create a session of mental challenge.
On their final march to friendly forces’ territory, they are captured and put into a Prisoner of War scenario where they are sleep-deprived, food- and water-deprived, heated, interviewed and totally mind-phukt. I can attest in all faculty of my being that the POW scenario of the training regimen is quite honest and all too real in its ferocity.
One of the core requirements for operator training is to plan for and conduct an assault/breakout mission to rescue men from a prison camp. The mission assignment goes to a different squadron each time with all three squadrons getting their time at the helm. It is great for the POWs in training because they are in awe of the seasoned assaulters who have come to take them back to normalcy.
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It is also tradition that the breakout squadron produces and distributes snacks and such to the rescued men on the helo flight home. Back home there is a repatriation ceremony attended by the trainees, the operators, and persons from the Headquarters chain of command. It’s a little bit corny but to a man, we all knew in our hearts that we were proud to be a part of the event.
On my first mission to rescue the student POWs, I was sullen to find that I would make it up to the building but was not to enter it. In fact, I was on a two-man team that was tasked to create a ruckus that would call the enemy’s attention in a different direction than from where the assault would come. That sucked, and in order to make it un-suck some creativity would have to be brought to bear.
Wammo was the operator I was paired up with to create the distraction. For our sins, we were awarded good ol’-fashion garden-variety dynamite to make a huge bang and sling dirt and tree parts far and wide. Since we wanted the loudest bang we could get, we planned to secure the charges to trees as far up as we could reach, rather than crater them underground.
I met up with Wammo at the demolitions shed, where he had already wrapped dynamite two layers deep completely around his waist.
“Wammo… what’s the haps? You planning to give it all up for Allah this eve?”
“I assure you this is for transport only — Allah can go eat cake.”
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The main assault force was coming in via the most glamorous means possible — loaded into a dump truck. Our snipers were already laying in the woods around the prison: they had been there for 18 hours now with eyes on the inside of the camp, reporting any details they could glean from activities behind the fence.
A Russian HIP-type helicopter had been assigned combat support and to haul all men off of the objective. I knew the Russian HIP to be a troop transport but I had yet to see one. Soon enough I would see one and have a short ride on it for the first and last time in my charmed life.
Far, far east I could first feel and then hear the thumping of a helo. Wammo felt it too and confessed he had never heard such a staccato in his life. Perhaps the HIP was in the distance.
Whammo stripped off his “suicide” vest and hooked it as high up in a tree as he could. I upped him by climbing up in the lower branches of the tree. I tied the two charges together and them moved back a distance to allow Whammo to tie the firing device into the charge main. It was our policy to only allow as few men as possible to link up the charge and firing system. That way, if the charge fired accidentally or prematurely you stand to lose just one man to the accidental discharge.
Then, the hum and the grinding of squeaky gears broke announcing the arrival of the dump truck which bashed its way through the main gate. Whammo let it rock and an ear-splitting crash send two trees to the earth. With a sound in my ears like “HREEEEEEEEEEE” from the blast, I half shouted, half mouthed to Whammo, while his ears also went “HREEEEEEEEE”:
“Objective secure; move Precious Cargo and Assault force to HLZ (Helo Landing Zone).”
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Whammo and I paused right at the edge of the great clearing where the HIP sank flatly out of the sky. We let the string of prisoners pass between us two while we counted them onboard. They all had a hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them and held their heads buried low.
With all students and assault team members onboard the helo there was only room to stand. The HIP revved up and flared its rotors, rising to a distance just short of the treetops… then lost all power and plunged straight down onto the HLZ. Not a single person was left standing.
“I never wanted to ride this commie piece of s**t anyway. It’s way too loud, can’t lift its own balls, and… and it’s RUSSIAN!!” Whammo vented.
Orders came over the radio to move the entire extraction force back to the POW camp and mount the dump truck for exfiltration. Dynamic Compressor Failure (DCF) was the report sent for the failure of the taxi ride out. “I don’t mind a dump truck… if it suffers a DCF, it doesn’t fall a thousand feet to the earth, Whammo expostulated.”
That was just the beginning of a Whammo rant that was to last the entire ride back.
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Back at our compound, the dump truck driver thought it would be ever so grand to expel his cargo in traditional fashion… he sent the bucket up and dumped us on the ground in a pile. I moved away quickly and far from Whammo — I had had enough of his drama for a day.
We begrudgingly passed out Snickers bars, trail mix bars, apples, and oranges. That piece of the tradition would still happen, the change in exfiltration means notwithstanding.
Into a holding area we were slipped, assaulters and prisoners alike, and stood at attention as “Proud to be an American” blared over speakers. I saw eyes roll and I felt a little silly being at this “officer mandated function”, but dammit… at the same time I just could help to be proud of the Unit and the day’s events… a light mist threatened my eyes.
By Almighty God and With Honor,
geo humbly sends
Feature Image: Pilots use a map to radio in their location to friendly rescue personnel during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The aircrew evaded enemy forces for several miles before rendezvousing with friendly rescue forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
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ELLIS T says
Way cool George. I totally get not liking a Russian made POS. It’s a wonder you weren’t all killed. A little bird tells me that most Delta guys don’t like rotary wing aircraft of any make. Setting off dynamite up in tree sounds like a lot of fun to me. Greetings from the Arizona desert George.
Loula Snell says
Terrific Geo! Its like watching a movie! You make Whammo a character we can all smile at, even whilst feeling sympathy for anyone who had to listen to his complaints all day. Your stories are always so damned interesting. You make me forget the serious reality of what you went through.
george E. Hand IV says
Sincere thanks, cobber.
I shied away from complainers because they bring down morale and the command knows that. To be approached and counseled for constant complaining means dead man walking, and the next slightest transgression you have transferred to Big Army for good — no relook.
It’s a good day when I can end it reading one of your articles.
george E. Hand IV says
it’s always great to get any comments from you in this post-write forum.
Hahaha I hate to think how Whammo got his nickname. I would have been petrified getting on that helo and then have it drop, it’s no wonder Whammo was venting.
Great article as always Geo.
george E. Hand IV says
Cheers, Ms. Irene.
Whammo gets his nic from his insane love for explosives and blowing things up.
The helo was just so lound, much of Russia’s aircraft are. It was also shaking violently that I wondered how it could stay airborne, and then I got my answer — it couldn’t.