Extreme SEAL Experience Blog
Sorry General...Saturday March 22nd 2008 - 11:40 AM EST
29 Palms is a huge Marine Corps training base in California and during the first Gulf War I made a few trips to teach Desert Warfare to SEAL Platoons deploying for the conflict. Vast, hot and barren, 29 Palms also had no shortage of Marines that made the trips even worse.
There have always been conflicts between the Navy and Marines With SEALs and Marines, it gets even worse as the Marines normally view us as undisciplined pirates and would go out of their way to screw us any chance they got.
Marines are hard guys, very disciplined and exact. We’re the same except we don’t wake up and begin our day by screaming in the mirror and to the outsider we tend to look a little laid back compared to the average Marine.
When that Marine happens to be a General, it gets even worse.
Everywhere on the base, the laundry, PX, barracks, everywhere, were pictures of the base Commanding General named Livingston.
Oooo he was a fierce looking Marine, very intimidating scowling picture, and he had the Medal of Honor.
I went to the library on base (another picture) and looked up in a Medal of Honor book at what he had done to be awarded the Medal. He’s a badass...
The Generals office was in the same building as Range Control where we’d make several trips a day checking out ranges for training and I’d always look for him.
Anything out of the ordinary at 29 Palms was met by ANY Marine with stern corrective action and quickly. No matter if this kid was just out of boot camp, if he saw you with your hands in your pockets, he’d cross the street to tell you to remove them. Blouse your boots, square away your hat, whatever, it was constant.
I had busted ass on the range in the terrible heat and was driving a Humvee to Range Control for something. It was high noon on the base and Marines were everywhere going to chow. I had my shirt off, filthy boots and pants, hair matted, unshaven, smelly and sweaty as I approached Range Control.
Standing in front of his office was the General in his uniform with a pile of other neatly dressed Officers about 100 feet away and I strained my neck to gawk at him in admiration and he looked right at me as I remembered I had no shirt on and cringed as I wondered how fast he could run and if he’d chase me down.
I didn’t have to wait long.
The Humvee lurched and shuttered and a terrible LOUD grinding, scraping sound began capturing the attention of EVERY Marine within 200 yards who all stopped whatever they were doing and looked in my direction.
I had hit a stop sign.
I not only hit it, I ripped it out of the ground with a 100 pound chunk of concrete that had been used to secure it underground and was dragging it along the road stuck underneath the Hummer.
Oooo Shit, was all I was thinking, now what?
I threw the Hummer in park and jumped out looking like an island castaway and pulled and tugged finally releasing the sign. I scanned the area quickly wondering what to do now and concluded that retreat was my only option.
I performed a clean and jerk of the heavy sign and threw in the back of the opened bed Hummer and jumped back in.
Total time from impact to retreat was no more than 30 seconds and I hit the gas.
I’m not sure why I did it, perhaps reflex, but I raised my hand sightly to the General much as you would someone you had just cut off in traffic, kind of a nonchalant "I’m Sorry."
I never heard anymore about it.
I set up a target for the Platoon to assault and needed opposing forces to man the target for realism and create activity for the Platoon to observe and plan the best way to assault.
Not having enough bodies ourselves I asked the Marines to provide some OPFOR for a couple days.
To my surprise, they were happy to oblige.
They brought the OPFOR to the target the next day under armed guard and turned over to me ten Marines being discharged for various crimes and fresh from the Brig.
This was going to be interesting.
There was no where for them to escape, which was probably why they gave them to me. They probably also did it to screw me just being Marines. The crimes were serious ones, striking officers, disobeying orders, they were rag-tag and had nothing more to lose. They also had attitudes. Bad ones...
Just me and them for three days, I read a gentle riot act and asked for some help. I have always been able to ask for help and get it, by not demanding or being overbearing.
It went over well and they looked forward to a few days with me and the whacked out things I was about to do for three days and nights creating activity on the target with them.
Watching a target as a SEAL is normally boring work. You watch, you take notes, you study routines and you plan the "Hit" for the most opportune time. It’s equally boring sitting on a target knowing your being watched and not creating some activity for the Platoons, as it helps pass the time for everyone.
I was a MASTER at creating activity on targets. Being the Gulf War, I had no limits to my creative mind and an endless supply of parody to entertain.
I gave the Marines weapons with blanks and we set up routines and patrols. Every half hour the Marines would send a few guys on a quick patrol of the area and a few guys were put on watch around the perimeter at all times except when I called them in for a pep talk or to execute one of them.
I had a map of Iraq and used the words of towns and cities from it to put together motivating speeches to the men. While the SEAL Platoon watched I used a bullhorn on the lined up OPFOR and would scream out the cities and towns as a speech like an Iraqi Officer might do. When ever I would say Saddam Hussein in the speech the Marines would cheer and dance shooting their weapons, when ever I said President Bush, they would boo and hiss.
Very funny stuff.
I beat them often throughout the day and executed them over three days a couple dozen times each. I’d make a big production of an infraction and the Marines would bind the guy and blindfold him. I had a packet of fake blood we used in the Military for training and would make it thick and force some down the barrel of my M-14.
With the guy being executed in a white tee-shirt I’d fire a blank at a close range and blood would splatter on the tee-shirt and he’d fall.
From a distance it was as realistic looking as could be and very entertaining for all.
Tiring of that, I began to hang them. There was an old tank on the site with the turret barrel elevated high. I found some rope and made a noose and used a piece of fire hose that ran under the guys uniforms. I hung the noose from the turret and had the guys stand on an ammo box and snapped in the fire hose and placed the noose around their neck.
When I kicked the ammo box out from under them it was as realistic looking as any real hanging. The fire hose hidden around the chest took the weight and not the noose and kicking by the victim and cheering and shooting from the guys added much to it.
Day and night, speeches, prayers, executions, goose steeping, I was running out of steam as the assault was set for that night thankfully.
Around a fire, I briefed the Marines. I told the whacked out bunch that when the Platoon hit us it would be ugly. The SEALs were coming to win and that they’d be jacked up and aggressive.
Give them a fight, but use caution in how far you go, as I didn’t want anyone hurt and I’d seen it happen too many times to count before.
The armed Marines were jacked up and going to release some Brig aggression. The Platoon saw this as well and planned a few surprises.
In the middle of the night I heard the dull crumping thud in the distance and something fell from the night sky in our perimeter and blew up with a shaking explosion sending all the Marines for cover. The Platoon had a mortar and were using it with something I showed them a few days before.
They were taking powerful grenade simulators and pulling the eight second fuses and dropping them in the mortar tube. Quickly, a rag was shoved in the tube and another fuse was pulled on a second grenade simulator and dropped on the rag.
When the first grenade went off it propelled the burning second one a long distance where it would explode shortly on our position.
We were taking heavies.
Soon, the assault started and the Marines were out of their positions and returning fire. Everyone was equipped with laser sensors that would emit a loud beeping sound when hit and soon the place was beeping away as the Marines dropped and played the game.
All expect one Marine who entrenched himself in a hole and was not going down without a fight.
I had told them when their down, stay motionless, don’t stick your head up, don’t watch the show. Play dead and nothing more. It sounded good anyhow...
As the platoon worked to get the entrenched Marine out of the hole they quickly tired of the game and threw a bunch of grenade simulators at him.
The Marine was a huge Indian and he wore wire framed glasses. I saw him stick his head out of the hole wondering why the shooting had stopped. About a foot from his nose laid the burning grenade simulator and when it went off it reminded me of the Bugs Bunny cartoons where "Yosemite Sam" would raise his head looking for Bugs only to have a cannon fired in his face.
The outcome for Sam was always the same afterwards. His face blackened and his hair blown straight back and on fire.
As the Marine put the fire in his hair out and waited for his hearing to return I could see his broken glasses and blacken face and called "Cease Fire" and ended the operation.