In the spring of 2004, I officially passed but unofficially failed my most notable test at Navy EOD School – IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device). Ironically, only 6 months later, I would be successfully conducting actual IED incidents in Iraq but that’s a story for another day.
During that early spring morning on Eglin AFB as I repeatedly tried to open the hood of a mock suspected Vehicle Borne IED with a boat hook and 50’ line, I kept saying to myself, “This is so dumb, when would ANYONE actually do this. Why the f&CK do they make us learn this. God, this is stupid.”
Little did I know that the hasty command post that I had established was within ear shot of my instructor who patiently watched me derail throughout my problem.
Flash forward 30 minutes and I had failed to execute my problem as designed. However, due to some sheer good luck (a common theme in my military career), I had successfully passed the test, barely.
But my instructor wasn’t finished with me. After watching my slow and consistent emotional degradation, my growing anger, my blinding frustration, I am pretty sure he would have been 100% satisfied failing me that day. To his credit as a professional, he followed the rules of the game and gave me my passing grade of 86%…85% or below is a failure at EOD school. As he handed me my grade sheet, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Everything you did today will at some point get you or someone else killed. It might be my job to pass you on this test, but now, sir, it is my job to train you. Meet me behind the school house after study hall at 1830. Wear boots and utilities. Let your family know you will be late tonight.”
Nothing dramatic happened. He showed me some movies of EOD technicians across a handful of different agencies doing VERY dangerous and ill-advised hands-on approaches. He showed me videos of technicians losing their cool and missing key opportunities to utilize remote techniques. And he showed me, at that time, recent footage of Navy EOD technicians using the very techniques that I should have used in my test, in Baghdad, on a car bomb that looked very similar to my problem. He then looked at me and said, “You will earn that passing point that I gave you today.”
I did. With a lot of physical exercise. And I also learned that being proficient and patient with remote approaches, whether via a remote controlled robot, a drone, or even a long pole, will always come in handy.
I was thinking of this today as I used my new toy at the gym to hang a banner that has sat in the back office for almost 6 months. I kept thinking we would need to get a hydraulic lift or some other expensive piece of equipment before we could get that banner up; but then I said, “hell no…it’s time to go remote.” So I bought a long pole.
And now we have a cool banner on the wall.
I felt like I hit a PR today…and I didn’t even touch a barbell. Sometimes it’s fun to just play. Sometimes it’s fun to fail. And sometimes it’s fun to have a simple win.
These are the things to remember, whether it’s hanging a banner with a long pole, working through a tough WOD on a rough day, or maybe even something a little bit more challenging out in the real world.
Whatever it is, the only thing you can do is stay cool, stay in the game, and keep at it. At some point, that shit will stick.
See you on the Creek.