“By varying measure, we all cowards and brave men, thieves and honest men, selfish and selfless men, malingers and champions, weasels and lions. The only question is how much of each attribute we allow-or force- to dominate our being.” – Eric Haney, Inside Delta Force.
And thus starts this book in which the author, a former operative of Special Forces Operational Detachment -Delta (a US Army branch), gives a hair-raising account of his years in this elite strike unit.
The first part of the book deals with the gruelling selection rounds of Delta Force operators. The hardest round was the Forty Miler, which required them to walk forty miles with a rucksack that weighed 40 lbs. It is astonishing what people can do once they set their minds to it. I seriously doubt a civilian can comprehend the mental and physical strength needed to survive this round. But it was the training round that was fascinating. The author walks us through several counterterrorism situations, such as rescuing hostages from a hijacked plane. From measuring the door heights of different types of aircrafts to procuring a cockpit glass hull to test the projectile motion of a bullet – the thoroughness with which they approached that task was commendable. I learnt that aircraft seats are quite tough and can offer good protection against shrapnel and gunfire. Now that is useful information. There is a bit of psychology in there, too. During sniper training, the author mentions two interesting syndromes which may be observed in snipers – the Texas Tower Syndrome (when the sniper starts shooting and just can’t stop because it feels good) and the Munich Massacre Syndrome (attachment to the target).
In the second part of the book, the author talks about his postings in various countries in Central America (Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama), Africa (Sudan) and Middle East (Lebanon). It’s not unlike a roller-coaster ride that takes the reader from an urban warfare zone in Beirut to the jungles of Panama. The author gives us a glimpse of the horrors of civil war in Lebanon.
“ A father in mindless agony, face contorted in anguish, rushing about carrying the body of his dead child in his arms. There is no place to go. There is no one who can help. He collapses in sorrow and sobs his incomprehensible torment into the crushed remains of his darling five-year-old daughter.”
While writing this review, I came across this piece of news. It reports the death of 230 people (including civilians) in Mosul, due to airstrikes. At this very moment, there might be a poor soul in Iraq or Syria holding his child’s lifeless body in his arms. It is a dismal thought.
One of the most surprising things I learnt from this book was the antagonistic relationship between Delta Force and CIA, which is exemplified in the Vietnamese prisoner of war (POW) incident and the Keekee Saenz incident. It just goes to show that no organisation is completely homogeneous, with everyone working solely towards the collective goal and that some people would go to any lengths to cover their rears.
Overall, an excellent read. I am quite glad I picked up this book.