Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Delta Force and Charles Beckwith

In the early 80’s I attended a jump school ran by the U.S. Army. It was the beginning of opportunities I had in taking training with many members of special operations. In a few cases I got to know some of these operators quite well. Special operations in the military is a small, close knit, group. Because of my friendship with several of these members I had the chance to become an “adopted brother”. That was the term I heard more than once with these great warriors. I am not one of them, but as part of their support teams I became close to them as part of their “family”.
While taking a combat patrolling course in preparation for a joint mission (JTF) I met an operator who’s call sign is Det Cord. He is now currently working in spec ops as a mission specific instructor. Det Cord swears I saved his marriage. I’m pretty sure he saved his own marriage but he always refers to this perceived debt he owes me. Over the years he and I have kept in touch. His devotion to his family is something I consider amazing. He turned down many opportunities because it would take him away from his family more than he was already away. His determination to become the best warrior he could be was another thing I admire in him. Det Cord told me stories about working with Charles Beckwith on several occasions. He commented on his thoroughness.
On January 22 we will celebrate the birthday and life of Charles Beckwith. He is known as the Father of Delta Force in 1977.
In 1980 he is in the desert at the staging area known as Desert One. Operation Eagle Claw was the operation that Delta Force was staging to free the 52 Iranian hostages.
The operation commander, Colonel Beckwith recommended an abort of the op when he was 1 helicopter short. There were several roadblocks in this op and when it came down to a decision Colonel Beckwith made a decision that is still talked about today in military leadership courses. I doubt I’ll ever be in a similar position but should the pressure mount and those around me possibly hope for compromise, I pray that I would be resolute in my position as he was. Colonel Beckwith’s steadfastness in the presence of indescribable pressure is a behavior leaders at all levels should model. Unfortunately, as the U.S. force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.
I’m not sure that things would not have been worse had the mission been a go, instead of the difficult no go.
Charles Beckwith was a visionary when it came to how to use special operations units. He understood how to use them and set up the current spec ops ideology. He passed away in 1994 but his foresight and vision will be forever felt.
He once said: "I characterize myself as a good American. I believe in John Wayne, the American flag and apple pie. And if that's corny, then I'm wasting your time, because that's the way I feel about it."
Happy birthday Charles Beckwith!

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