The Unit Cartoonist: How the Grinch burned down Christmas

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.

(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine "Cate" O'Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)

Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because...they don't want to.

That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.

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Never miss the drop zone when the Unit Cartoonist is watching

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.

(Feature cartoon: Delta's Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)

My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.

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Beware the unit Cartoonist lurking nearby; Red Light Randy Strikes

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.

There is a saying among the airborne forces (words to the effect): "The sky, even more so than the land or the sea, is terribly unforgiving to even the slightest mistake."

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Unit Cartoonist’s account of the 'Spooge Banger'

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 featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.

Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of "explosive" spray adhesive. "Lid's off!" replaces the usual "Pin's out!" referring to the flash-bang's safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.

In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of "spooge" rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)

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The Unit Cartoonist’s Perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

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 M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn't expect was the flood of equipment some good... some less than helpful.

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The Delta Cartoonist: Toad Jumper

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.

Student: "Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?"

Sergeant: "The rest of your life, son... the rest of your life."

There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm's reach away as they ignite... A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator's attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.

The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of "towed jumper," an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper's parachute, doesn't separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.

Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men's arms. Mac's had looped under his arm.

My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther "Mac"McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army's Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.

Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft... then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.

When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.

Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper

He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.

A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly secure his parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.

Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac's cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:

"HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!"

A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.

Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft

Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:

"GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG... YOU STINKING LEG!!!"

A fellow student ran in front of Mac's inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered... all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.

Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment

Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): "I didn't really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like... what every jump would be like... and I was willing to accept that."

Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.

Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.

His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: "(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol' Betsy here... I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!"

The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be "quittin' time" for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.

McNamara's personal domain

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned?: A Delta Force Perspective

It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior's or the leader's path through life.

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Former Delta Force members jump in honor of Normandy Paratroopers

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

How I always got stuck right next to Barticus in every cramped-quarters situation I'll never know... but I always did! Barticus was the biggest pipe-hitter in my squadron, therefore took up the most room and always left me squashed. But for the value of the man as a hard-fighting warrior, well... I just resigned to remaining squashed.

And squashed I was on an MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft climbing passed 20,000 feet toward... well, it really didn't matter much past 18,000 feet because we all had to go to breathing pure oxygen though a supply mask. It was night and the stress was piled on. Oh, how I hated jumping, on oxygen, from that height, at night... and oh, how Barticus knew that.


As my stress mounted I began to tolerate less the cramped conditions and the mass of Barticus pressing against me. I started to squirm and fidget more and more. Finally Barticus called to me his baritone voice muffled by the mask:

"George!"

"Yeah, what man?"

"Have I ever told you, that I find you very attractive?"

That's all it took and I was laughing out loud and coughing into my mask, but I was also chilled out and doing much better. A really good friend knows how to push your buttons sure, but they also know how to hit your funny bone and calm you down.

Barticus made his way into an opportunity of a lifetime recently to jump near the town Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, France on the 6th of June in honor of the men who jumped there 75 years ago. There but for the grace of God go I — oh, how I wish I could make that jump too; such an honor!

(Barticus W. Ricardo [left] and the author Geo kit up for an assault in South America)

I asked Barticus to please get me a photo of the famous Sainte-Mère-Église paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele's effigy that the people of the town hung at the base of the bell tower of the church where he "landed". John's parachute snagged an outcrop of the church's architecture and left John hanging for many hours with an injured foot until some German soldiers hiding inside the bell tower cut him loose.

(Two aspects of Private Steele's effigy where it hangs still today from the base of the bell tower)

Traditionally, U.S. military organizations have taken veterans back to Sainte-Mère-Église for another jump back onto the Drop Zone (DZ) that they landed on so many years ago. These days it is highly unlikely that there are still veterans of the campaign who are in conducive physical condition to foot that bill.

Our young generations of fighting men, active duty and retired like Barticus and his crew, will continue to make that jump every year on the day of the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, as long as there is still ground in Normandy to land on.

(The church at Sainte-Mère-Église feature an effigy of paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele who descended into the town and became suspended when his parachute snagged an outcropping of the church structure.)

The art of a killer cartoon: The CO can't hit the broad side of a barn.

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

Being the unit's cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift... or a curse?

I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: "Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how 'bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: 'awww man... you spilled your juice!" ha ha ha ha ha ha!!"

The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let's say for the sake of argument that it's there. The narrative of the man's snappy comeback... not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:

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