BUT SOME NOW PAYING THE PRICE
I’ve just been on a whirlwind tour of Hereford, England to catch up with my latest grand child…and what a beauty he is.
The aim of the trip was to see him, my adult kids and then any ex Regiment lads that I may bump into along the way.
Absolutely awesome to see my family, terrific time together and it was all too fast of an experience as I was there for less than a week before returning to the USA.
Putting my family to one side for now, I want to explain what it was like for a 65 year old having been out of the military now for 26 years, to take in while meeting some of my idols who I worked alongside for years. Yes idols…what we talked about, and what it meant to me.
Yes, idols…Tak and Snapper to my left. They were idols before I joined from their exploits at Mirbat, Dhofar. They were my idols while I assaulted alongside them at the Iranian Embassy Siege in London. They are still my idols while we catch up over coffee in Hereford a few days ago…just terrific to see them both.
It goes without saying, like any industry, or any Regiment in the military, at our age…mates are either ill, dying, dead…or just taking everything in their stride day to day.
But there’s way more to it than just that.
Chatting away about who’s gone and who’s still hanging on, we spoke in a bit of detail about the days where we did things on a daily basis, believing at the time that everything will be just fine.
We were all the humble beginnings of what is today a high tech, highly trained, highly educated SF unit, operating with the best the world has ever seen.
Back then, counter terrorist training and hostage rescue training was in it’s infancy. I’m not willing to discuss tactics, that’s for others to write about. But tactics, kit, weapons and ammunition was all talked about, trialed and chosen…by those going through the training at the time.
Trial and error was very much the order of the day back then in the early to mid 1970s. Picking it up a bit in the late 70s…then the big global overt operation that blew my quiet Regiment wide open by the media to the world, on the 5th May 1980, at the Iranian Embassy in West London. The media coverage, still in my mind the worst thing to ever happen to the Regiment.
I sat in coffee shops, cafe’s and pubs last week, chatting with those very mates who I trained and operated with for almost 20 years in the Regiment. We spoke about those early training and operational periods with very little kit, and how we managed to improvise and always make it work. But we also talked about just why so many lads may be dying early, fighting illness or losing their minds. I would argue that there isn’t one of us 100% right now, mentally or physically. I’m still running and training quite well, but I swear that I have traumatic brain injury, and perhaps the onset of some other illness.
Here’s just a glimpse of why that may be:
We used to spend hours, day in, day out in the CQB (killing) house. The original one had very little way of extracting the stale air building up inside it. We would fire thousands of live rounds, and throw “flashbangs” all through the morning and into the afternoon. During breaks, we’d go outside into the fresh air and spit blackened phlegm. Each and every day, we’d taste led, having been ingesting it through our noses and mouths.
Occasionally we’d have blood taken…but never any results!
A small group of us would spend time refining explosive frame charges to place on windows and doors for explosive entry into buildings. We’d get as close to the charge as possible, so that we had minimum time to jump through the gap and into the building saving precious seconds. Yes, that would put us inside the over pressure of the explosives.
Then someone suggested, maybe if we had someone design a ballistic shield, we could take cover behind that. So, as the years passed by, the kit got better, the explosives more refined and suited for the purpose intended. But we still moved forward by experimenting…always to make the group assaulting more effective…always a little further.
In other areas of life in the Regiment, we’d almost be permanently on some form of malarial prophylactic for trips to countries with a malarial presence.
For those of us still serving during operations like the Gulf War, we’d be given by the doctor a cocktail mix of shots into our arm, to cover anything the enemy is likely to throw at us from a chemical or biological perspective.
To review, SAS soldiers of my era, were no doubt continually exposed to high levels of led in the CQB house. Suffered repeated traumatic brain injury from the continued efforts to refine explosive entry, while being inside the over pressure to ensure the fastest entry possible to eliminate the hostage takers and save the hostages. Over an almost 20 year period, in total I was given a massive quantity of drugs from malarial prophylactic to who knows what?
So it’s no wonder, that since my last visit to Hereford 6 years ago, lads have died of “natural causes,” committed suicide, are hospitalized with diseases, losing their minds, on the run or living rough, thinking that they’re being chased!
This is what I came home to…seeing my mates from the Regiment, being updated to what’s going on in Hereford with us “old and bold.”
I don’t seek compensation. If I had my time again, I’d do it all again, at that time it seemed the right thing to do for the right reasons of executing successful operations.
We were but an era. We learnt from those before us, and we passed on our knowledge to those after us.
But when my mates need help, given what we’ve all gone through in our era to get to where the awesome young troopers are today, I’d expect the greatest of help to those in need locally.
I’m back in the States now, and I’m really sad and angry, knowing just how some of my mates are trying to cope, and of course those who just can’t, while knowing just what they went through without a complaint all those years ago.