Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY HISTORY

The time Delta burned the barracks down

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The Ft. Bragg Commanding General's office agreed to allow us to use an unoccupied barracks for an assault scenario. Something Delta was in constant search of was new floor plans for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) training. The drive for constant realistic training revealed there was diminished value in repetitions in the same structure where everyone was familiar with the internal layout.


Our Operations Cell geniuses had a decent penchant for finding structures that were either brand new and uninhabited, or marked for destruction and again uninhabited. In the case of our barracks structure, it was marked for demolition... but the general would allow no undue damage to the structure, as it had to be in good condition for it to be... uh... torn down.

This all makes sterling sense if you happen to be a general grade officer.The rest of us just need to get in step and stay in our lanes!

Delta doesn't shoot blanks; all combat training is done with live ammunition. We used special metal structures behind targets to catch the bullets. Faith abounded that there would be no"thrown rounds," rounds that went wild and missed targets, rendering holes in walls and such.

The breach point — the planned entrance — had its door removed from its hinges and replaced with a throwaway door that we could fire an explosive charge on. Flash-bang grenades (bangers) do not spread shrapnel so they can be used in close proximity to the user, though they are still deadly, and are understood to cause fires in some cases.

Yes, explosive breaching is prone to start fires.

Outside the building several buckets of water were on standby in case of a small fire ignition. These were just routine precautions taken by our target preparation crews. Windows all had a letter "X" in duct tape from corners to corners to help contain the glass in the event that a banger shattered the window as they were so often known to do.

Anti-shatter treatment with duct tape.

Our A-2 troop was the first in on the target. They scrambled from their assault helicopters, blew open the breach point door, and scrambled in shooting and banging room-to-room as they moved. Shouts of: "CLEAR","ALL CLEAR", "CLEAR HERE" echoed from the rooms, then:

"HEY... THERE'S A FIRE IN HERE... NORTH HALLWAY... IT'S SPREADING — GRAB A FIRE BUCKET!"

An assault team member close to the south exit dashed out after a fire bucket as other members stomped and slapped at the fire. He rushed back in with the fire bucket cocked back in his arms ready to douse:

"MOVE! I GOT IT, I GOT IT!"

He snapped his arms forward and let the contents fly as the men darted to the sides. The blaze exploded into an inferno that would have made Dante Alighieri exclaim: "Woah!" The order to "abandon ship" was called out by the troop commander as the men bailed out through every nearest exit. The entire wood structure was very soon totally consumed by fire and burned to a pile of ash that wasn't itself even very impressive.

Use of explosives on an assault objective can lead to fires.

An investigation very quickly revealed that the engineers building out the target floor plan had used a bucket of gasoline to fill and refill the quick-saws they had been using to cut plywood used in the building. That same bucket unfortunately found its way painfully close to the fire buckets. The assaulter, at no fault of his own, grabbed the bucket and doused the otherwise manageable fire with petrol, causing it to run wild.

The gas-powered quick or concrete saw

"Sir... do you realize what this means??"

"Yes, Sergeant... the General is going to be a very very unhappy man."

"No, no, no... screw the General... Hand is going to blister us with a derisive cartoon!!"

"My... my God, Sergeant... I hadn't thought of that. You clean up here and I'll go break the news to the men; they'll need some time alone to process this."

And the men were afraid of what awaited them when they returned to the squadron break room, but it was senseless to delay it any longer. In they strolled, the 20 of them... their assault clothes tattered and torn, their faces long and grim, their spirits craving the Lethean peace of the night.

There pinned to the wall was a completed product immortalizing the A-2 troop's simple brew-ha-ha for all eternity. They stood and stared stupefied and still:

"There; it is done, men... and yet we're all still alive. Nothing left to do but wait until the next jackass edges us off the front page. May God have mercy on us all!"

The event is depicted in the cartoon with the gross exaggeration of an entire Shell Corporation tanker truck on the scene rather than just a single bucket of benzine. Cartoons often wildly exaggerate to lend to the humor of the event. Nonetheless it was inevitable that some folks in the unit did query men of the A-2 troop: "Did you guys really spray gasoline on the fire with a Shell Tanker?"

Don't hate me; I'm just the messenger.