Training to Free the Oppressed, Part IV
By Harold Wayne Hamlin
The fourth story of an 11-part series sharing the very personal story of one Long Range Recon Green Beret and his time in Special Forces training.
What the sorry bas—ds did was put ten stakes in a circle of a foot in diameter for our Map – Land Navigation exercise. The stakes were three inches apart. There was no way anyone could achieve a compass path over a quarter of a mile within three inches.
I was upset. I hate being cheated by anything or anyone. Ralph was different; he didn’t care. He was there to become a doctor; nothing else mattered to him.
Ralph saw and heard my frustration, “Calm down, Wayne. They never intended anyone to find their correct final stake. The only thing that matters is the first nine stakes. We found ours.”
Then to add more injury to my hurting pride, “You have to admit Wayne, it was genius.” Then he laughed. If he had grinned, thrown his arms wide with two thumbs up, I would have killed him with my bare hands right there.
We debated what number to put down. I picked a number and wrote it on my sheet. Ralph started laughing and started writing down all the numbers as a joke.
Ralph was the only one to make 100% on the compass course. Here is the logic behind the final stake. When you write down a single number, you cannot prove that single number is correct. When you write down all of the numbers of the ten stakes, YOU CAN PROVE the correct number is in the group. The logic of the tenth stake number is that no single number is the COMPLETE correct number.
Think outside the box.
Where all of my previous training and activities had been as a group effort with everyone involved, Special Forces was based and focused on each individual, therefore as individuals, we were scheduled for equipment issue, medical, dentist, etc.
The bulletin board had me scheduled for a dental checkup at 0800 one morning. I went and had the checkup, then reported to the Mess Hall Corporal to catch a ride with the food trucks taking food to the field troops.
I was in the back and put my web gear harness on the seat beside me. As the deuce and half (2 ½ ton truck) rolled over the dirt back roads, my harness bounced to the canvas edge of the truck and fell between the canvas and the truck hitting the road below. I immediately stuck my head through a little opening and into the cab of the truck.
I told them my gear had fallen off the truck. I then watched my gear fade in the distance because the Corporal told the driver to keep driving. For a week, I had no gear. Every instructor asked me about not having my gear. I told them my story.
After sitting in the outdoors bleachers for two days, in the rain and without a poncho or raincoat, a Major put me in his jeep and took me to supply to be issued new gear. They wrote down the cost of each item; $318.68 in total. I swallowed hard. That was my months’ pay.
The Major then took me to the military court, where I told my story in the Court Marshall of the Corporal not turning back for my gear. I turned over the equipment cost sheet to the court when asked for it.
The Major took me back to the bleachers to continue the class on explosive shape charges. I later heard through the ‘grapevine’ that the Corporal was busted to Private and shipped directly to a Vietnam combat unit. I don’t know if he lived or died; I didn’t care.
Two weeks later, I went to the medic because I had caught pneumonia from sitting in the rain with no poncho. I was given shots and pills and sent back to duty. In the hallway, on my way out of the building, I saw Sims in a wheelchair being pushed by a Sergeant. Sims seemed overjoyed to see me. We had not seen Sims in the dorm room for three days, but we didn’t think anything about it because we all had been away on training overnight.
For two days, I suffered ill health while attending classes; but I stuck it out.
At 0300, I was awakened by the First Sergeant of training and two MPs. I was getting dressed while the First Sergeant tore my locker apart. He went through everything. He even unrolled all my inspection cardboard t-shirts.
He opened a drawer and saw my three and a half-inch bladed knife, with real pearl handles. I had traded for that knife when I was 12 years old. He said, “Well, well, what have we here, Private Hamlin?”
“Sergeant, we are allowed knives with a blade of four inches are less.”
“Private, I know the regulations. I do not need a Private telling me regulations.”
I said no more; I was being “railroaded”.
I sat in the First Sergeant office at Headquarters from 0300 until 0800 when the Major (the same one who helped me get my gear back) came in. I then sat there until 0900 while the Major had coffee and talked on the phone with his wife.
At 0900 sharp, the First Sergeant took notes while the Major interrogated me for two hours on Sims. He seemed to grow frustrated when he began to realize that I knew nothing about Sims.
The First Sergeant typed up the report. I read it and signed it. I had all of that hell just because I had said hello to Sims, who was not only selling drugs but using as well. He had overdosed; that was why he was in the hospital.
I never got my knife back. I was told that when I complete my training, it would be returned to me. It never was.
I had gotten the knife from a 92-year-old man that had employed my Dad. The old man had outlived all of his six kids. He befriended me because of my intense interest in the mountain men. He traded me that knife for the pocketknife in my pocket, but he made me give my word that I would keep the pearl-handled knife as long as I lived. Then to trade it to some young person who loved the history of the mountain men when the time came.
I gave my word. After we had traded, the old man told me that his father (as a youth) had traded for the knife from Kit Carson (famous mountain man) at a mountain man trade gathering on the rolling plains north of the Colorado Rockies. I like to believe that the story was true.
Ralph and I now had the dorm room all to ourselves. He sneaked Liz into the dorm room several times, but I said nothing. Heck, the rules also said no smoking or drinking in the room.
When the Building Rep called meetings, neither Ralph nor I went. Ralph wanted to send Liz, but I told him flat out “NO” to that dumb idea!
Submitted by Harold Wayne Hamlin, Lubbock, TX. Harold was a Sergeant in the US Army during Vietnam, serving 16 missions with as Long Range Recon Green Beret while serving with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) and Command and Control North (CNN); where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Harold is also a retired Lubbock Fire Fighter.