It was June 1970 at Camp MacKall, (Fort Bragg North Carolina), I was in Special Forces Training with only four days until graduation, The day we would all get our Green Berets.
The last four days of training consisted of big field problem, putting everything we had just learned to use as we walked back to Fort Bragg, about 40 miles away. We were divided into four patrols. I was chosen to be one of the patrol leaders, a great honor.
The last thing we had to do was run the obstacle course. We had run it before, but this time it would be for extra points. If we could finish the course in under 30 minutes, we would earn 60 extra points. The funny thing is I don’t remember ever needing the extra points. I just wanted to be one of the first guys to finish the course, so I planned to run very fast.
The obstacle course was about one mile long with over 30 obstacles. There was a lot of climbing, bending, crawling and balancing obstacles. We had started with 101 men in our group, but maybe five were kicked out of the class within a few days. We may have had as many as 95 or 96 men running the course. When we were told to go, if you didn’t get a jump on most of them you would waste a lot of time waiting to get on an obstacle, which would prevent you from completing the course in less than 30 minutes.
As soon as someone said go, I went at top speed to the first obstacle. I was ahead of everyone with a few guys on my heels. I was doing great. I was getting tired, but I was still in the lead. I arrived at the last obstacle with more than 15 minutes to spare. There were three or four stations for the last obstacle. It was a rope climb about 30 feet high. At the top of the rope was another rope tied to the top and angling down at a 45-degree angle. That rope was tied to a log on the ground. You had to climb to the top of the first rope then grab the second rope and slide down. When your feet touched the log at the bottom you were done.
I started to climb. I could see other guys climbing the ropes on the other obstacles. I wanted to be the first one to complete the course, so I began to climb faster. When I reached the top of the first rope, I was very tired, but all I had to do was grab the second rope and slide down, easy. I let go of the first rope with one hand to grab the second rope, then I let go of the first rope. When I did that, I lost my grip and feel the 30 feet into the sawdust pit below.
All the wind was knocked out of me and I couldn’t get my breath. Someone picked me up and sat me on another log. When I began to cough up blood one of the Tack Officers got concerned about my welfare. He wanted to send me to the hospital at Fort Bragg, 40 miles away. I refused to go until I finished the course. After a while I could breathe again so I climbed to the top of the 1st rope. I slid down the 2nd rope and touched the log with my feet. I finished the obstacle course in 28 minutes.
I lost my position as patrol leader and sent to the hospital at Fort Bragg. After seeing the doctor, he told me I had bruised my lung and would be admitted. I explained that I only had four days before graduating from Phase One and getting my Green Beret. If he put me in the hospital, I’d have to do the training all over again. I also told him I had lost my position as the patrol leader, which was bad enough. Luckily for me he was a Green Beret doctor and understood my problem. He decided to give me a big bottle of Darvon compound-65 capsules and send me back to training. I found out later, while in the Special Forces Medical course, that Darvon compound-65 was a very powerful opiate with aspirin. Darvon was banned by the FDA in November 2010.
I went back to training and had a wonderful time, even if I wasn’t the patrol leader. The doctor told me that every time I felt bad, I should take a pill. I took lots of them and felt great the whole four days.
I did graduate and get my Green Beret. I’ll write that story later.
As remembered by Ski Ingram September 2019