George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Military units are strong on tradition, well, formal tradition anyway. Then… then there are those un-recorded traditions, born and raised and assimilated into every unit’s corporate culture. In my own squadron of Delta, there was the both cherished and despised tradition of birthday hazing.
Everyone suffered from it because, well… everyone has a birthday, and if you tried to keep your date secret, a new birthdate was promptly assigned to you, and you were to be hazed with additional spirit for your insolence. Above all, you were expected to fight, to fight hard against the birthday-boy onslaught.
I fancied myself as one who despised the ritual. Over the years, I looked on in abject horror as men were blindfolded, bound, hung upside down, and dunked repeatedly into the swimming pool hanging by a rope tied to their legs. As you can imagine, I suffered minor nightmares as my birthday approached.
And that day came.
Pictured: definitely not me. The rest of my unit? Oh yes.
I entered my team room to the Cheshire grins of my brothers. Someone was singing Happy Birthday with a chuckle. I readied myself and, embracing the strategy I had devised, I spoke:
“I’ve decided, gentlemen, that I would not be participating in this ‘birthday bash’ Tom-foolery. I’m protesting this with passive resistance; I won’t fight you.”
The Reverend Chill-D got his name when he suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicable, found Jesus once… for about a week. The Reverend was the pinnacle instigator and executer of the most heinous of hazing events. He loved it; it was in his life’s blood; he could taste it; he was born again into a world where hazing held the only key.
“You’re gonna do what… you’re not gonna do what, Geo??” he questioned with our noses damned-near touching tips.
“I… I… I’m not going to fight you guys, Chill-D.” I stammered.
“Well, well, well…” the Reverend continued, “Boys, looks like we got ourselves a coward! And we all know what we do with cowards!” Suddenly, a great pounce erupted in the room. There was much suffering and gnashing of teeth; sinew and tendon stretched dangerously close to its tinsel edge. Bone creaked and popped and nearly broke… but held fast.
When I came to, I couldn’t move. I was bound, somehow, on every inch of my body and lying supine on the floor. I was gagged with what I recognized by taste as duct tape, a thing all military folk know as “hundred-mile-an-hour tape, roll, green in color, one each.” I divined that my body too was bound in such fashion. From behind, I was lifted vertical at my head by an unseen force. I could understand now that I was duct taped to a moving dolly.
I don’t think this scene was ever meant to be relatable…
“Time to go to the pool, Great Houdini… we’re throwing you in the pool taped to this dolly. Better start thinking how you’re gonna free yourself!” and I truly did start to ponder that conundrum, as I knew my men not to be simple braggarts. How long could I hold my breath? What tools might I be carrying in my flight suit?
A man shot into the room with a canteen cup and sheet of paper. With the shriek of more stripping of tape, the canteen cup was taped fast to my right hand, and the paper was slapped to my chest.
“We’re taking him right now to the finance window and standing him next to it!” reported the villain.
I was rolled to the finance window and stood. There, in line at the window, was a group of eight women from the Unit waiting to collect travel funds. As the boys left me, there was much staring and blinking between me and the women. I rolled my eyes vigorously to the extent that I became nauseous.
“Please help…” one of the women began to read the sign on my chest, “…I must raise .56 to buy each of my friends a soda. If I fail to raise this money by 1300hrs, they will kill me.”
And the kind ladies each chipped in their change from their travel funds until I had some .00 and even a roll of Starburst candies. Yet I stood. I stood until some valiant men from our Signal Squadron came and sliced me loose.
As I stepped back to my squadron bay pushing the dolly, I realized there would be more scunion to bear from the boys. I paused… and as the pool door was just to my side, I stepped in and plunged myself into the watery goodness.
Not the kind of cannonballs the military normally advertises.
I then sloshed my way through the squadron lounge where my brothers languished before the TV, being it still the lunch hour.
“What the hell happened to you?” queried the Reverend.
“Some pipe-hitters from C-Squadron cut me loose… but then they throttled me and threw me in the pool!” I sulked as I headed for my team room. En route, I passed a bubba from our A-Assault team standing in the open doorway smiling at me.
“How that that new passive resistance policy of yours working out for ya, Geo?”
“Go f*ck yourself; that’s how,” said I.