That One Thing…
By Jim Kuiken
I actually had a different article in mind…but since today (March 6th) is one of the most important holidays in the United States, I decided to move the other article back a week, in honor of this holiday (which I will get to in a bit…).
Several years ago, 1986 to be exact, I was attending the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course (the “Q” Course). That is the school that you go through to earn your Green Beret, and become a Special Forces Soldier. Of course, I was a Marine, not a soldier, but Force Recon Marines (which I was at the time) go through a lot of different schools, one of which can be the Q Course.
It’s a tough, 6-month school, and is only the qualification course to earn your Beret and “Tab”, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s a skate in the park. Just to get in is a serious set of events and tests – and then it only gets harder. It’s also broken into specialty groups, based on the needs of the Special Forces “A Team”. There are the officers (18A – Special Forces Detachment Officer), and the enlisted specialists, who are broken into several categories. These are the: 18B – Weapons Sergeant, 18C – Engineer Sergeant, 18D – Medical Sergeant, 18E – Communications Sergeant, and of course a few other odds and ends. Each specialty has a longer or shorter course, but Marines who attend are normally there for the Weapons Sergeant or Engineer Sergeant course.
I was lucky, I was there for the Engineer Sergeant course (I got to build stuff…and then blow it up!!!) How much fun is that! There was a lot more to it than that, but that was the really fun part.
Of course, everyone gets to go through all the rest of the Q together, and then just break out for your particular specialty training section. The rest of the course was all the hard physical stuff. Lots of long “ruck” marches up and down hills, really serious 3-day compass courses, practice missions, jumping out of airplanes (another of the fun parts…), lots of conditioning. Oh, and did I mention lots of long “ruck” marches?
There’s even a survival portion where you’re off somewhere by yourself (covertly observed, of course – at Camp Mackall), and you have several tasks to perform during an extended period of time out there. Build shelter. Build (and use) traps to catch food. Find and use a water source. Etc., etc…and survive an extended time – and transition into a SERE Level C scenario – which is loads of fun (this time I’m being sarcastic… Not fun…).
And of course, there are lots of long “ruck” marches – in case I forgot to mention that.
So what the heck does any of this have to do with one of our most important National Holidays? Actually, to be technical…it’s a National Day of Recognition, not really a recognized ‘holiday’ – but is still one of the most important and revered days in the year! We’re getting there – just be patient!
My “A Team” classmates (minus the officers) were in our wooden shack up at Camp Mackall, in “isolation” (no contact allowed outside our team, and no contact with any outside people – we were isolated) in preparation for a practice mission that we were planning and practicing for. It was after a fairly long ruck march (carrying a pack or “ruck”) with 45 lbs in it (and yes, they weighed them to make sure…but at least it wasn’t one of the 60 lb. days…), and we all had our boots and socks off, tending to our blisters and sores. Lots of “mole skin” usage that day (and I pity you guys who actually know what that is…).
Anyway, while we’re sitting there with our boots off after a long march, and a few days with no showers, enjoying the bouquet of our buddies in a small, closed-in wooden shack, one of the guys spoke up. It was an interesting mix of guys – a Force Recon Marine, a former Delta Team soldier (who had taken a couple of 9mm rounds through the lung during a training exercise and couldn’t stay in Delta, so he transferred over to SF), and a couple of other folks, to make up our team.
The guy who spoke up said – if you could have anything you want right now, what would be your fantasy? What’s the one thing you really crave right now?
Of course, being a bunch of rugged, sweaty, beat up guys in a cold wooden shack in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere with no contact with the outside world…you can only imagine!
Being the shy one there, I spoke right up. “Double Stuff Oreos!!!” I absolutely craved them right then. Others spoke up. “A hamburger!” “Pizza!” “Beer!”
It was a lot of fun, broke the moment, and frankly…made us all hungry… I remembered a good buddy of mine from my Force Recon unit – Frank. He was former Army LRRP, Pathfinder, etc., who spent some rough times in Vietnam, and after he returned to the US, had gotten out of the Army and joined the Marines, ending up in my unit. I still remember that he always had to have a crisp, fresh red apple with him. If he ate it, he had to stop and get another one, just to have. I finally understood…
The guy who asked the question actually wrote down each of our #1 cravings in his notepad. I thought that was strange, but then we all got busy with our tasks.
About a week later, as we were coming down the trail towards our camp from a ruck march, he darted off into the bushes, and came back with a “willie peter” waterproof bag. When we got back to our hooch and dumped our packs, etc., he announced “mail call!”
It turns out (and I should have known…since he was our Communications Sergeant), that he had gotten word out to his wife, and she had packed a bag with all the stuff we had been craving (except the beer of course)! When he tossed me that package of double-stuff Oreos, I sat there and ate the whole thing in one sitting. Almost made myself sick…
And to this day, I cannot have Oreos in my house. I will cram down the whole package. I made the mistake of telling a friend that (she is the cub scout leader of the pack I went and talked to, and she is also the ‘friend’ who, when I was headed up to a 3-day shoot with Ghost Firearms Training to go for my “1000-yard shot”, said to “let us know if you’ve still got it.” With friends like that…), and when we went to our neighbor’s house for a New Year’s Eve get-together…she brought me a pack of Oreos…
Anyway, HAPPY NATIONAL OREOS DAY!!!
(now I have to go buy some so I can have a couple with my scotch tonight!)