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Why Billy Waugh will always be cooler than you

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Pick out a fictional spy or super-soldier from movies and TV. Any of them that are based in reality. Tom Clancy’s John Clark, maybe? What about Call of Duty’s Frank Woods? Not one of those men has anything on William ‘Billy’ Waugh. If you made Billy Waugh a character in some piece of fictional work, people would roll their eyes in disbelief. Mr. Waugh has a long and distinguished career serving the United States in various capacities, and today we will look at eight reasons why he will always be cooler than you. 

1) He got arrested for trying to join the Marine Corps (kind of) 

At the young age of 15, Billy Waugh was exposed to the tales of two Marines home from the Pacific theater and driven to join the military. He knew that he was too young to join the military in Texas but thought he could join at 16 in California. With not much more than some guile and determination, he headed west. 

However, in New Mexico, he found himself locked up for not having any identification and refusing to give his name to the police officer. The police went easy on him, and when he had enough money for a bus ticket home, they released him. He dedicated himself to his studies and was determined to join the military after his high school career. 

2) He was a Rakkasan in Korea 

101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Rakkasan

Missing World War II seemed to affect Billy Waugh, but he joined the Army in 1948. His first enlistment was one of relative peace. He went to airborne school and got assigned to the 187 Infantry Regiment, which became the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. When the Korean War kicked off, Billy Waugh and the rest of the 187th went to Korea.

There they participated in numerous combat drops and found themselves knee-deep in combat. How much Billy Waugh saw or participated in isn’t known, but it’s highly unlikely he escaped combat’s wrath. 

3) He served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam 

Billy Waugh MACV-SOG Vietnam

After Korea, Billy Waugh heard about this new-fangled unit called Special Forces from two of its members. The unit needed platoon sergeants, and he was more than willing to fill the gap. He earned his Green Beret in 1954 and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany. 

As Vietnam kicked off, he was sent to the front as part of an A-Team. There he found himself nearly killed in some ferocious fighting against Chinese-reinforced Vietnamese. After healing up, he joined MACV-SOG and would become their command sergeant major. He undoubtedly participated, planned, and oversaw operations throughout Vietnam. 

Related: Operation Junction City: Vietnam’s only large-scale airborne operation

4) Billy Waugh conducted the first combat HALO drop 

As the command sergeant major of MACV-SOG, he participated in the first combat high altitude low opening jump. Billy Waugh lept from the back of a C-130 into enemy territory as part of an elite team of SOG commandos. 

HALO jump Air Force pararescuemen
Pararescuemen from the 38th Rescue Squadron and the 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, NV., jump from a HC-130P/N for a High Altitude Low Opening free-fall drop from 12,999 feet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. PJs use a variety of jumps depending on the mission. (USAF Photograph by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

Billy would participate in several HALO jumps, including the final HALO jump into Vietnam. The man couldn’t be stopped; he led from the front and the top. These jumps were extremely dangerous and at the time a relatively new military tactic. 

5) Billy Waugh was an unofficial spy in Libya 

In 1972, Billy officially retired from the Army and joined the postal service. However, in 1977 fate came knocking in the form of an ex-CIA officer. The former officer offered Waugh a job training Libyan armed forces, and Waugh accepted.

The actual CIA also came knocking at his door. The CIA wanted Waugh to keep his eyes on Libyan military installations and capabilities due to Libya’s closeness with the Soviet Union. So, Billy Waugh became an unofficial spy. Then again, is there such a thing as an official spy? Eventually, the ex-CIA officer who hired Waugh was arrested, but Waugh continued to work for the CIA. 

6) He hunted the Jackal 

Carlos the Jackal was a vicious terrorist for hire who worked for and with the KGB and Stasi. He murdered people across continents and countries and became one of the most wanted people in the world. Carlos continually escaped capture until Billy Waugh took the assignment to track him down. 

Carlos the Jackal terrorist
The Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who is also known as Carlos the Jackal.

Billy did just that, and he tracked the Jackal down in 1994. He followed him through Sudan until he was captured and turned to western forces. Carlos the Jackal is serving three life terms in a French prison. 

7) He went to Afghanistan in 2001 with the CIA 

After 9/11, the CIA sent in a small team of commandos, known as the CIA’s Northern Alliance Liaison Team, to Afghanistan; among them was Billy Waugh, then 71-years-old. There, he hit the ground running and worked with Afghans who actively resisted the Taliban and had long fought for their country. He brought some guns, a grenade launcher, and six million dollars in cash. 

Billy Waugh in Afghanistan

Billy Waugh stuck around from October to December. A 71-year-old member of the Special Activities Division must have been a sight to see. Apparently, retirement wasn’t an option for this adventurer. He also provided us with pictures of the early GWOT and the CIA’s overseas activities. 

8) Billy Waugh went parachuting at 88 

At 88-years-old, he was still parachuting and leaped from a plane to only land in Cuban waters. This was purposeful, and I imagine the water offered a softer landing point than the ground for the 88-year-old Waugh. 

These are the thing we know about Mr. Waugh. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know all of his adventures due to the clandestine nature of his work. He was a man who heard a call to adventure, a call to serve, and he answered that call for nearly the entirety of his life. 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.