Monday, July 29, 2013


I made this piece of G.I. jewelry - parachute cord & fastex - to remind myself that you earn the Green Beret every day.

Camp MacKall, North Carolina - November, 1987:

This was back In The Day before Camp MacKall morphed itself into the hodge-podge of multi-storied brick buildings it is today. Back then it was tarpaper shacks, corrugated tin huts and quonset huts. The older maps show the place as the old rail switchyard that served Camp MacKall in World War II, when two Airborne Divisions trained there. The rails were gone but railroad spikes still surfaced from beneath the gravel. We spent enough time down on the ground to be aware of this.

It was during a post-obstacle course thrash session. A word on the Camp Mackall obstacle course is in order here: it is called the Nasty Nick after Special Forces hero Nick Rowe. Back in the mid-eighties it was just The Obstacle Course, of course, because Nick Rowe was not yet assassinated.

It might as well say "Arbeit Macht Frei"

The Obstacle Course at Camp MacKall features medieval torture apparatus such as The Dirty Name, The Eagle, and several 30-foot-high rope climbs. The Nick is only one mile long, but it is the longest mile you will ever run in your life. The whole thing was done at a run - wherever there was a pileup on one of the obstacles, they'd make us run in place. By the time you were done with the unGodly event, you were thrashed.

Nasty Nick Aircraft Ladders never bothered me, despite a healthy fear of heights.

I wish I had a picture of The Eagle; God I hated that thing.

Following a grueling iteration on the Obstacle Course our Tac Sergeant - a particularly charismatic sadist named Gallant - ran us back around the compound (the LONG route, naturally) and proceeded to lead us in a smoke session; pushups and flutterkicks in a big puddle in the gravel of the old railroad switchyard. Gallant was infamous because of a scar on his face he got in a knife fight, in a dive known as The Sugar Shack, off 401 bypass in Fayetteville.

I'll never forget it. It was November, the sky was overcast, gray. We were on our backs doing flutterkicks in a freezing puddle, but we weren't cold; that would come later when we cooled off. The gravel cut into our fists, which were under our asses so as not to destroy our lower backs as we did flutterkicks. Gallant was calling off cadence, "One! Two! Three! ONE! One! Two! Three! TWO!" all the way up to fifty, then he had us hold our legs up, "Keep 'em up! Keep 'em up!" and he hollered out: "You think its over? YOU THINK ITs OVER???"

They literally marched our feet off in the Q-Course.


Then Gallant proceeded to lead us in flutterkicks up to one hundred. One hundred, at the four count.

Whether its a physical challenge or a moral dilemma, it really is never over. You have to earn your Green Beret every day.


1 comment:

  1. TomR,armed in TexasJuly 29, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    I went through the Camp MacKall grind exactly 17 yrs. before you. I'm sure it was about the same. Tar paper hooches, tiny DZ and obstacle course. My Phase III class graduated the day after the Son Tay raid.

    Earler, in 1966-68 I was with an L 19 aviation unit in the Delta of Vietnam. We had many operations and hours of flying recon looking for the POW camps where Rowe and a few other Americans were held. Nick Rowe was one hell of a trooper.