What happens when door breaching goes explosively wrong
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.
Five... four... three... two... one — BANG!
We slung mutual glances from our lineup outside the door we were trying to explosively breach. Door charges weren't supposed to go bang; they were supposed to go "BOOM!"
"GO, GO, GO!" came the call as we rushed to the still-closed breach point. Moses Bentley was the man who built and fired the charge. He crashed through the still-closed door like Thing from the Fantastic Four. We piled in behind him and quickly cleared and dominated the interior of our target building.
A post-assault inspection of the door charge revealed that the explosive had gone "low-order;" that is, only a small portion of the charge and detonated, leaving the remainder still stuck to the door. "Don't touch it..." Moses cautioned to us, "...it's likely still sensitized from the initiator. Let's leave it alone for about 30 minutes before I recover it."
Moses (running) and the author training in Hereford, England, with the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS).
The setting was a condemned and abandoned residential neighborhood in New Orleans, "The Big Easy," Louisiana. Our operations bros had found this hood and prepped it for a couple of days of absolutely realistic assault training with live breaches. We cut doors, blew through walls, blasted through chainlink fences... even through a shingle roof, which was more just something fun to do rather than a legit thing of tactical value, as breaching a shingle gable roof puts you in... an attic — doh!
Back at our breaching table, Moses (Mos) took the flexible sheet explosive he had collected from the door and packed it into a lumped pile. He added a little "P" for "plenty" and voila, the "Bentley Blaster," as he entitled it, was born: "I'll slap this Bentley Blaster between the doorknob and the deadbolt and punch all that sh*t through the jamb; right in, right out, nobody gets hurt!" Mos bragged.
"Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt," was the meta-assault plan composed largely of anti-matter and existed in a parallel universe. The plan applied to all actions on every assault objective after the real-world assault plan was formulated. We recited it to together just before we went in on every objective.
It was a B-Team thing. Our A-Team began their assaults with the Team Leader turning to his men announcing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, "I am the cleanah!" to which his men replied in kind and in unison, "And we are the cleaning crew!" Just a thing.
The Ryder rental truck with our assault teams crept through an alleyway, coming to a halt behind a cluster of houses. Inside, B-Team waited as the cleaner and the cleaning crew lowered themselves to the ground and padded their way to their target house. Team Leader Daddy-Mac turned to us and began: "Ok, what's the plan?" to which we chanted, "Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt," and we moved to our objective.
The team stacked just behind the corner from the front door. Mos and I emerged and moved to the breach point. Mos worked on the door where I covered him with my assault rifle in case anyone opened the door.
Mos fired the five second delay fuse to the initiator, turned 90 degrees to his left, and moved off quickly with me following. It struck me odd that he had turned his back to the charge. The SOP we followed dictated that we always backed away from our breach points.
Mos pushed into the stack with me next to him and, still with my AR trained on the corner we had turned. Our Troop Commander stood 20 feet away in an administrative observation posture. He had seen, at the very last second, something none of us realized, something which horrified him.
When Mos did his 90-degree turn, his pistol holster had caught and stripped the powerful Bentley Blaster door charge off of the door and it hung there on his person where he crouched in the stack.
To be continued in part II...
Just kidding! In a very split second, the Commander knew that if he had called out a warning to Mos, that Mos would most assuredly have tried to strip it off... and he surely would have lost his hand. Mos would certainly fare better to endure it where it was — whatever "fare better" meant in this case, anyway.
"BOOM" not "bang" went the charge this time. I found myself suddenly facing the opposite direction, spitting something warm and salty out of my mouth. Turning about, I saw that Mos had been violently cartwheeled with his head angered into the ground. His body was in the most impossible position; his legs were in the air against the wall... you couldn't have manually placed him in that configurations no matter how hard you tried, and he was out cold.
Daddy-Mac was the first to respond calling Mos' name, pulling him down from his morbid stance. I turned to our officer and hollered from him to pull the med kit from the pouch on my back. He pulled it then stood there, frozen, with the med kit in his hands and a horrified look on his face. Disgusted, I grabbed the med kit from him and turned to the scene.
Markey-Marcos was the newest man out our team. He looked at me with a nervous grin and shook his head, over and over, exclaiming: "Whew... whew... whew!" I was annoyed again and slapped him on the back, "Snap out of it bro; that's the way it's going to get in this business — get used to it!" I chided in some pretentious, hardened-vet sort of way.
Markey-Marcos turned his back to pick up his AR, which had been blown out of his hands by the Bentley Blaster. He was the rear man in the stack, so he had his back to Mos to provide security to our rear. I saw immediately that both legs of his assault trousers were completely shredded and Marcos was bleeding from dozens of tiny puncture wounds.
Shocked, I immediately put my arm around his shoulders and, with a much more humane tone, I told him, "Here, take it easy Marcos... let's have a seat; it will be alright." Our troop medic was already on the scene, cutting clothing and bandaging trauma and burns to Mos, mostly to his legs.
Doc (left) and an Operations Cell NCO work on Moses right were he "blew up"; the wall behind them is blackened by the explosion.
Mos and Daddy-Mac argued:
Daddy-Mac: "Damn bro, you were out cold!"
Mos: "No I wasn't; I was awake the whole time."
"Homes, I'm telling you I saw you and you were completely knocked out!"
"Bullsh*t, I was never knocked out; I was conscious for the whole thing."
Daddy-Mac turned to our medic, disgusted but relieved, "Doc, he appears to be fine; back to his usual contrary pissy self."
Marky-Marcos was patched up and returned to us with no training time lost. Mos was hurt pretty bad but refused to be sent back home to Fort Bragg. He insisted on staying in our hotel promising he would be back the next day. That didn't happen. Mos didn't walk for several days. When he finally could, he only came to hang out for training with no participation.
Moses debriefs with senior representatives from the Master Breecher's office before being driven back to the hotel to take it easy. To the right is the door where the Bentley Blaster charge had been stripped off and attached to Mos' pistol holster.
Back at Bragg, Mos continued to heal, a process that took several weeks. He routinely reported to the clinic to have yards of Curlex bandage pulled from cavities in his legs and have fresh Curlex packed back in, and extraordinarily painful process, one that the rest of us wouldn't have missed for the world.
Back at Ft. Bragg Moses Bentley stand behind his assault uniform as it was pulled off of him on the scene. Speculation revealed that his pistol and holster likely spared him from losing his left leg.
I'm put squarely in mind of the words of one of our training cadre from a trauma management class during our training phase:
"Pay attention to this, guys... if you stay in Delta for any period of time, you will be putting this training to good use."
Healing back at Ft. Bragg.
Scars from the blast as they remained.