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SEAL Blog. Fire in the Hole!

Saturday February 09th 2008 - 10:41 AM EST
Added by: Don Shipley



There are only two things in my life I’ve been absolutely sure of.

1. If my Dad had not sold our farm when I was young I’d still be there and would have never spent a single day in the Navy.

2. If SEALs didn’t do any Demolitions, I would not have been a SEAL.

My first Platoon Chief was a "Rock Star" at everything SEAL and demolitions were no exception. My first real exposure to the teams, Uncle Mike was my "Sea Daddy" and as fine a leader as they come and very respected. Mike started me on a SPECWAR career of blowing shit up the world over.

Being a West Coast SEAL at Team One, we trained at a isolated SEAL camp in Niland, California in the Sonoron Desert. Hot, miserable living conditions, we had a hoot doing pretty much what we wanted, when we wanted, and demo was no exception.

I went out to Niland as a New Meat to help out with another SEAL who had been around for awhile. Our first task when we arrived was given by the Camp Supervisor "George". A badass Vietnam SEAL Vet, George had little tolerance for "New Guys" and he scared me, a lot...

George tells us to tow a Jeep out to a certain place in the desert, a target for a Platoon to hit that he had been constructing. He tell the other guy who’s been a SEAL longer than me, that he wanted the tires off the jeep when we finished towing it as they were still good. Me, he just sneers at and walks away.

My lazy buddy, soon to be x-lazy buddy, decides there are too many lug nuts on the jeep tires and he grabs a block of C-4 and off we go into the desert. Arriving at the target, he carefully cuts the block in four pieces and places each piece on part of each axil and ties it together.

Now, I’m very impressed with all this SEAL ingenuity as I didn’t want to jack it up either.

We move back a short distance as it was only a block of C-4 and he fired the shot.

Things you see in SEAL team are usually things you have never seen in life before that moment.

I had never seen a Jeep blown 40 feet in the air until that day and I was surprised to see it kind of hang there flipping end over end until it settled back to earth. Upside down of course.

I had also never had a bumper fly past my head at high speed, nor a seat or engine block either.

As we looked at the burning hulk, with tires still attached of course I realized, I was lucky, in very big trouble, and hooked on demolitions forever.

Niland gave me my start as we would just grab some demo and hit the desert without restrictions, kinda like free time in the pool. I’d safely experiment and try new things, and I got very good.

I experienced my first Demo Ambush with Uncle Mike. Finishing our Land Warfare Training, our graduation exercise was to patrol as a Platoon down a Wadi (gully) and get blown up. The exercise was to "Break Contact" from the ambush and to maneuver out of the kill zone as fast as we could.

Carrying the M-60 and near the end of the patrol in formation, my heart was racing. When is it coming, how bad, where

I didn’t have to wait long as the Point Man was taken off his feet by a large shot of gasoline.

All Hell broke loose...

As we set up for a "Center Peel" out of the Kill Zone shots continued to go off in front of us and both sides. Gas, flares, demo, machine gun simulators, and our own hail of lead, tracer, 40mm grenades and illume rounds coming from all 14 platoon weapons. Total controlled chaos.

As we maneuvered back, the demo shots followed and got more intense. Blocks of C-4 and TNT going off a few yards from you, the shock wave that compresses the hollow organs for your body, the smell of the charges, intense heat and blinding dust. A solid minute of Hell on Earth.

I loved it, absolutely loved it as did all of us. Guys just like being blown up and tested to extremes. Well, SEALs do anyhow.

I was hooked on Special Effects Demo and would set up Demo Ambushes all over the world for training during my career

When I wasn’t in a SEAL Platoon, I was teaching demo courses to SEAL Platoons. The normal load out for my demo course was two tons per platoon for a week of training. That’s a lot of demo but we’d fire shots day and night. Haversacks, bangalore’s, claymores, shape charges, you name it. Electric, non-electric, and Radio Controlled Firing Devices to initiate the charges. What a hoot we had.

As a graduation exercise I’d give the platoons 120 electric delay caps each. Delay caps have a small black powder train in them. The caps went from a Number One Cap, Two, Three and so on to a Number 15 Cap. When the caps were ignited by an electric charge the black power would burn for a period of time before detonating. A Number One Cap would blow at .8 seconds, a Number 15 Cap would blow at 17 seconds. Each number had a different time.

BOOM....BOOM......BOOM.....BOOM.....BOOM... with one push of the button.

Very cool stuff.

Anyhow, we’d use the Radio Firing Devices (RFD). Each RFD Receiver could detonate 10 caps and six receivers would be used with a RFD Firing Device that transmitted a signal to which ever receiver you wanted to fire.

2 Receiver Kits with 12 Receivers + 10 caps each = 240 charges. We had two platoons, it was going to be a long day of set up.

Everything we had left was going that night as we’d wait till dark and fire the shots.

As it got dark, a pounding thunderstorm came over us and quickly left. Problem was, it left a low cloud ceiling that would enhance the power of the shots. Ready to go, I had to do something. I called Range Control as we were working on an Army Base near Richmond, Virginia and relayed the situation and asked permission to go "Hot." I received the OK and told them "Hang on, Here it comes."

I idea was for the first guy with a Transmitter to fire the first 10 shots by pushing the Number 1 button. The shots would start firing with the first cap with ten charges going off seconds apart and 17 seconds later the next button would be pushed for the number two shots, 17 seconds later number three and so on.

When he fired his sixth and last shot, the next guys would start on his Transmitter. 17 seconds x 12 receivers = 204 seconds or 3.4 minutes of total fury and destruction. It should be noted that these weren’t small charge either but under the range limit of 50 pounds each.

FIRE IN THE HOLE! We unleashed Hell in a light show of special effects and explosions you just can’t pay to see. Awesome, awesome, awesome, and we forgot our troubles in life for a few moments and just enjoyed the show. Good friends just bonding together by blowing shit up.

Next morning started a little rough though. As we returned to the range to clean up and go home, I saw a red faced, visibly upset Range Control Officer drive up and began moving straight for me.

Morning Sir, how’s it going, was all I could think to say as I knew he was pissed about something.

Through clenched teeth he hissed "Shipley, do you have any idea what the "F_ _K" you did last night

No Sir, I replied, as I didn’t. I followed the range procedures, I asked permission, I told them it was gonna be big, and I was cleaning up the range. What’s the problem

He replied, "I got a phone call from a farmer that said his sheep are aborting their lambs and another from a woman who say’s you knock her house off it’s foundation!

Shit...





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