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Tuesday February 12th 2008 - 15:28 PM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

Tom on Ambush. Vietnam

I’ve had three Sea Daddy’s in SEAL Team. Uncle Mike my first Platoon Chief, Uncle Tom a Vietnam Vet SEAL who took me under his wing, and Uncle Frank my Third Phase BUD/S Instructor who said something to our class in BUD/S while he was giving a lecture on conducting "Long Range Operations" in SEAL Team that I’ll never forget.

Weapons, packing gear right, what to take and what not to take, Frank finishes with "Bring a Comb."

Bring a Comb? SEALs, long range, all kinds of things to remember, once you’re out there if you don’t have what you needed, you’re kinda screwed and Frank comes up with bring a comb. Why, why would we need that.

Frank was a nice Instructor in BUD/S and the class loved him. Being a nice Instructor in BUD/S doesn’t mean you’re all that nice, you’re just nicer that the really not so nice Instructors. Frank could and did throw down with the best of the Instructors as far as handing us our asses. But Frank taught Third Phase and we’d finish training soon and he just didn’t have it in him to be a real hard ass unless we asked for it, but often we did though.

Frank worked hard to get us "Squared Away" and explained that as things got tough in the "Field" you just break out your comb and clean yourself up a bit. Get refreshed and get back in the Game.

It works and I still carry a comb today. When things get tough you sit, have a drink of water, comb your hair, slap some water on your face and go kick some ass. Very effective.

The things we learn in SEAL Team. Wow...

My wife and I were shopping and in the Grocery Store check out line when I felt a twinge of cockiness come over me. It often came over BUD/S guys...

I’m in line flexing and telling her what a Badass I am for a good couple minutes when a hand comes past me extended towards my wife and a voice speaks and says "You must be Mrs Shipley, I’m Frank, one of Dons Instructors." Damn. Damn. Damn...

Frank swoons her with charm and personality. Me, well I’m busted and I paid for my cockiness the next day as Frank regales the rest of the Instructors.

After I checked into Team ONE my wife had our Son and Frank and his wife had there’s in the bed next to ours at the Hospital as Frank and I hung out talking and waited. Retired now, Frank and I crossed paths many times in SEAL Team and I still laugh when I think of Franks famous saying "Beer has food value, but food has no beer value."

After graduation we went to Jump School in Georgia. A very well run, very tight course, we did not fit in very well at Jump School. Jump School was (as it should be) run much like a Boot Camp. After finishing BUD/S and never being told what time to go to bed as an example, we didn’t like the strict discipline much and really hated being told to go to bed at 2200.

Me and Clyde decided we’d blow off bed time and hit the town for awhile.  Awhile turned into all night and we showed up late and were busted.

Sitting in the Colonels office that morning we watched our class march by going to training and could hear the Colonel yelling on the phone about what we did, to someone. He was fed up with SEALs and was going to make an example out of us.

After using the words "Yes Sir" a hundred times to the Colonel, we were told we’d be staying an extra week at Jump School and got off lightly by being so respectful.

I didn’t know it at the time but the Colonel was yelling at my XO at Team ONE who I had never met.

My first stop in checking in at Team ONE was the XO. Entering his office it was hard not to notice his back looked like a Pool Rack in Billiards. Huge shoulders and wide lats he had a triangle for a back and could knock out pullups like no man in SEAL Team.

Sitting in his chair as I stood at attention in front of him. He spoke the first words of any SEAL in my first SEAL Team. He said "Shipley, my favorite job as XO is welcoming new SEALs to their first Team with what I call the Golden Handshake, but you ain’t getting one!"


I recovered soon enough and my size warranted humping the M-60. All bigger guys were stuck carrying the "Pig" in Platoons and I humped that sucker all over the world normally carrying 500 rounds. On longer range operations lasting days and covering many miles I’d sometimes carry the M-14 with 180 rounds. Both shot a .308 round and it takes two rounds to kill someone.

The first round knocks down the tree they are hiding behind, and the second kills them.

I loved both weapons...

Most operators carried the M-4 in a Platoon and also normally carried a M-203 on it as well. The load out for them was usually 240 rounds of 5.56 and 40mm illume and grenade rounds for the 203. Most guys also carried a extra hundred M-60 rounds, a claymore mine and always some demo and caps for targets of opportunity.

Sometimes we wore sidearms as secondary weapons but not always. As I became a Platoon Chief the M-60 was given to someone else in the platoon but I always carried the M-14 and an M-79 Grenade Launcher in a sleeve on my back with 10 high explosive rounds.

I always carried a comb.

Uncle Tom was a decorated Master Chief when I met him. Very respected and very scary Tom was one of the "300 Mission" guys of Vietnam. He was a master at demolition and I picked his brain as often as I could. As the Training Master Chief Tom had an office. Hung as soon as you entered was a sign he had put up. Very simple and straight to the point it said "IF YOU SPIT IN MY SHIT CAN, I’LL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE" warning the Snuff dippers he liked a clean trash can.

He had a Purple Heart and when I asked where he was hit he explained that on an Opp in Vietnam one of the guys shot a 40mm grenade during a fire fight and he was fragged in the chest. He said he always looked forward to his annual chest X-ray as part of his physical.

After reviewing the X-ray the Doctors would sit him down with the bad news that he had a spot on his lungs. Tom would have a little fun with them before telling them it was just shrapnel.

Tom, being Tom, never liked foreigners much and I don’t know why but I have seen his reaction to something they did that pissed him off. I wasn’t good...

We go to Puerto Rico with a group of Norwegians once and Tom reluctantly joins us to help with the dive training. Tom never gave them a break and chewed ass daily. Much of it deserved as the Norgies would come to the US and just wanted to go someplace warm and buy stuff. Working while on a trip to the US was something they did not want to do. When we went to Norway however, they kicked our asses daily doing all kinds of ball busting ski training. We loved them anyhow and always had a great time, very tough guys.

 Tom was a different story.

After much diving and no bitching from the Norgies, Tom lightened up and began to get friendly. At the conclusion of two weeks of dive training, Tom announced that he was taking everyone to his favorite restaurant for dinner. Tom had spent many years in Puerto Rico and knew everyone. Taking us to his favorite restaurant was a big step for Tom.

We entered this out of the way place and very nice. The guy at the door hugs Tom and makes a big deal at seeing his old friend. He called more employees from the back.  Tom, Tom, Tom, oh they were happy to see him.

My platoon sits with the eight Norgies at a huge table as the staff swarms over us treating us like Kings. The Senior man that night was a Norwegian Captain who was regular Navy and not a Norwegian Jeger and had just tagged along from Norway and the next was my Platoon Commander, a Lieutenant and the Norgie Lieutenant. Tom was not even close in the Senior Man position that night but the night was about to take an ugly turn and Tom would show all of us who was in charge.

I was in the middle of the long table and Tom across from me. At the heads of the table were two Norgies. Beer was plenty and a great seafood meal was served. We were having a great time and Tom was beaming as he was praised by all for such a fine choice of dining establishments.

Beaming until one of the Norgies spoke.

A Norgie at the head of the table yelled something in Norwegian to the Norgie at the other end of the table. No one paid any attention as we were all loud and having a good time but with a mouthful of food I could quickly understand what he asked the other guy for. Ketchup...

It happened in slow motion it seemed. I saw the Norgie pick up the bottle and from one end of the table it flew to the other just slowly spinning through the air as I mouthed the word Nooooooo.

The receiver had his hands outstretched like a football player but the bottle went though his hands and smashed on the floor behind him splattering two women enjoying dinner.

Silence fell over the place and no one moved.

Tom spoke first in a tirade of violent, insane, expletives and came out of his seat. His face was blood red and veins protruded from his forehead and neck as I thought his head would blow off. He went after the Norgie but was stopped by the Captain who pulled rank reminding Tom that he was Senior and Tom should calm down.

Tom started at the Captains feet and chewed to the top of the Captains head telling him exactly what he thought of his Rank, Country, Mother and much more. My Lieutenant decided that outranking Tom and being a SEAL he could defuse the situation and get Tom under control. It didn’t work and only enraged him more as Tom explained what he thought of him, his rank, and his Mother as well.

"Check Please" was all I was thinking.

After all the Norgies received a little something special from Tom he sat down with clenched fists on either side of his plate and stared into space as we quickly paid and started outside. Tom followed with a glazed look and his body as tight and hard as a fire hydrant.

Keeping my distance, out of the corner of my eye I saw the Norgie receiver approach Tom. Noooo I mumbled as it happened in slow motion and Tom wanted no apologies. It started again as Tom went into the Twilight Zone and freaked.

As we finished training it was customary to give each other plaques. The Norgies gave us a fine one with their emblem on it and we did the same with a SEAL Team TWO plaque.

On the back of ours we stuck a label from a bottle of Heinz 57 on it and referred to the incident as "The Night of Broken Glass."

Tom retired in Puerto Rico and opened a dive shop on an Island near the base. I took my Platoon to it in a few Zodiac boats one year and spent the day with Tom and a great time was had drinking beer at a beach resort. As we were leaving that evening someone had taken a knife and cut one of our boats from stem to stern. Tom freaked and sent out word that he was offering a bounty for the name of the person who did it. It did not take long for one of Toms many friends to give him a name.

I’m not sure what Tom did to him, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.



Comment by: Jim
Thursday February 14th 2008 - 13:45 AM EST

Awesome blog/Great American!
look forward to my beatings!

Reply By: Don Shipley

Thanks Jim. I'm looking forward to the spring and getting you down here. I'm sure we won't disappoint you with the beating.

Kick some ass... Don

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