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The Misadventures of Private Pea Brain

The Misadventures of Private Pea Brain

The Adventures of Private Peabrain

In every unit, there is always inevitably going to be ‘that guy’. The one who tries his or her best, but inevitably just fails miserably each and every time. For us, that was the lovable Private Peabrain (name changed to protect the stupid). Cleverly disguised as a supply soldier, he was the human equivalent of a potato. The supply sergeant who was put in charge of him got so frustrated with his inability to learn… well… anything, that he often just sent him away with menial chores for hours on end. That is where the story begins….

The year was 2013, and my team was freshly back from an Afghanistan deployment. Private Peabrain (We’ll call him Pea) was a new addition to the unit, fresh out of AIT and plopped into 1st Special Forces Group as his first duty station. The first time I ever met Pea was when I opened my team room door to find him mopping the floor… at 9am…. on a Monday. Kind of weird, but not unheard of. I went around him and went over to the B Team to ask about something, and heard a discussion taking place about what to do with Pea between the SGM and Pea’s supervisor. Though it was agreed upon at this point that Private Pea was a lost cause, it was too late for him to be transferred out of the unit, as we were already in preparation for a company-wide trip to the Philippines. We just had to figure out a way to make it work. I laughed it off and remember thinking to myself, ‘I feel bad for the poor bastard who has to supervise this dude’. Famous last words…

Well FML, I end up on the B team for a few weeks during a reshuffle of the company in preparation for this upcoming deployment. Before this, my interactions with Pea were limited, and I got to enjoy the constant temper tantrums and exasperated story telling of people who had interacted with him. In my mind, I’m thinking ‘he can’t possibly be that bad. People are just too hard on him’.  Here are 3 very quick stories illustrating the man that left us all in bewilderment at his ability to sham.

 Story 1: The Lost Lawnmower

 One morning the SGM comes in and gives us a task, he says that the lawn needs to be mowed out front in preparation for some stupid change of command ceremony, and to stick Pea on it. No problem. Perfect no-brainer task for him. I call Pea in, explain exactly what I need, make him write it down so he doesn’t forget, make him repeat it back to me, and send him on his way. That was mistake #1.

 Around 2pm the SGM comes in and asks if the front lawn has been mowed. I reply “Yes SGM, I put Pea on it right after you tasked us with it”. That was mistake #2. He replies “yeah…. you may wanna go check on that”. Sure enough, the front lawn has not been mowed, and there is no sign of Pea. I eventually find him, and ask him why the lawn has not been mowed. His reply was, “SGT, I didn’t know how to start the lawnmower, so I didn’t do it”. Instead of asking anyone, figuring it out on his own, or coming back to me and telling me his issue, he was playing video games on his phone in the supply room.

* Deep Breath * Okay Pea, let’s go get your lawnmower working. Where is it?

Pea: “I lost it”

Me: “What do you mean you lost it?”

Pea: “I don’t know where it is.”

Me: “Well where did you last have it?”

Pea: “I never found it. I couldn’t start it because I couldn’t find it.”

Me: “It wasn’t where I told you it was? I made you write it down in your notebook where the lawnmower was.”

Pea: “Ohhhhh, I forgot about that.”

 Guess who had to physically watch Pea mow the lawn to ensure it got done? This lucky guy. 

Story 2: Pea Cam

Private Pea was notorious at this point for being assigned a task such as ‘go grab a mop’ and disappearing for hours on end without anyone knowing what happened to him. After about the 10th time of not being able to find him, I had enough. I went and found his locker (it was unlocked, of course) and took out his helmet. I brought it upstairs, and took out a GoPro camera we had in the office. I duct taped it to the top of the helmet so that it looked like some horrible night vision device, and waited.

Pea wanders in sometime around lunch, and I sat him down. “Private Pea, because you keep disappearing for hours on end and won’t answer your phone, you will wear this helmet with the camera on it for the rest of the week. As long as you are in this building, you will wear this helmet and keep this camera rolling. Do you understand?” He replied that he did, so I had him put on his helmet, and continue on with his day. Everywhere Pea went within the building, he had to have his GoPro helmet on him. When the SGM saw it he asked “Private Pea, what the F*ck do you have on your head?”. Pea responded “SSG said I disappeared too much, so now I have to wear this camera so they can see where I go during the day.” The SGM pokes his head around the corner of my office area and I’m thinking “uh oh..” but instead he just says “let me know what the video shows” and continues on with his day. He got it.   

When we reviewed the helmet cam later that week, we soon discovered what he had been doing. Either he completely forgot he was wearing it, or he didn’t understand the purpose, but we watched him wander the building for hours aimlessly. We finally saw him go into a storage locker tucked way back in the corner of one of our loading bays and stayed there playing on his phone. When we shut down his access to the locker, he seemed completely surprised that we had found his hiding spot.

Story 3: Drivers Ed.

Fast forward a few months, and we are in the Philippines. My team is co-located with the B team and Pea.   Pea is still mainly relegated to being the do-everything helper since he still hasn’t figured out his main job yet. One of the jobs was to collect the trash once a week, drive it to the on-post dump site, drop it off, and drive back. You could literally see the dump site from our camp, it was probably only a half-mile away. At this point we know how Pea operates, so we hold his hand the entire way. This means driving with him to the dump multiple times to ensure he knows the route, etc.

Week 2 comes around, and we assign him the task of collecting the garbage and taking it to the dump. An hour later the truck is piled high with trash, and everything looks like it is progressing as it should. I see Pea as he gets in the driver’s seat, and think to myself ‘Dude’s getting it’! I go back to doing whatever it is that I’m doing, and come out 4hrs later to see Pea still sitting in the driver’s seat, all the trash still in the truck.

Me: “Pea, what are you still doing here?”

Pea: “I forgot where the dump was.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll go with you and help you unload this stuff.”

Pea: “You can’t, the truck won’t start.”

Me: “Did the battery die? Why won’t it start?”

Pea: “I don’t know where the key is.”

Me: (having flashbacks to the lawnmower incident) “Pea, you’ve been sitting here in the truck for the last 4 hours because you forgot where the truck key was?”

Pea: “Yeah, but it’s fine because even if I remembered, I still couldn’t find where to dump this stuff.”

Me: “Why didn’t you ask someone where the key was or where to dump this trash?”

Pea: * shrugs *

Me: “Okay, well, let’s get you the keys.”

Pea: “Oh, and I don’t know how to drive a stick shift, so I can’t drive this truck. I tried the other day, and it wouldn’t move.”

Me: “Pea, this is an automatic transmission, you just have to put it in drive and go……”

 Long story short…the gear shift was near the steering wheel…Pea was activating the emergency brake in the center console and thought he was ‘shifting’ into gear. 

I got tasked with emergency humanitarian assistance a few days later in the aftermath of the Cat 5 Typhoon and left the camp. I changed locations with my ODA and didn’t have to deal with Private Pea again that trip, but from what I heard, he 1) Forgot where the dump was again, and was throwing trash in the drainage ditches of the camp instead. 2) Lit the trash on fire to try and burn away the evidence when people started finding it. 3) Caught a poisonous snake and tried to keep it as a pet before someone found it and denied him the chance. 4) Was fooling around with a taser and zapped himself. 5) Put unleaded gas in one of our diesel trucks. The list goes on and on. Comedy of errors.

He was transferred out to a different unit soon after we returned, but not before he got married to a girl he met the first week he got back from deployment. Wherever you are today Private Pea, God help you.

SFAS Part 2: From Darkness until the Dawn

SFAS Part 2: From Darkness until the Dawn

After my horrible and embarrassing attempt at the land navigation STAR course (if you haven’t read that debacle, feel free to refresh HERE), we moved into the dreaded team week portion of SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection).  As a selection candidate, you've had a week straight of pushing your body through long runs, rucks, and navigating, all while operating on very little sleep. These were almost all individual events; however, and you will now be expected to work with the remaining candidates in teams to accomplish certain tasks.

The Quitter:

Not much of team week was a surprise. If you keep your ear to the ground long enough you will have a basic understanding of what will be expected of you, and what kind of events, contraptions etc. that you will encounter. However, that doesn't mean you will find yourself prepared for the awfulness that is team week. There were 3 particular moments that really stood out to be during this second phase, and I want to share them with you.

One of the first events within team week was called ‘sand-babies’. We had to carry heavy sandbags on top of our already heavy rucksacks for a certain distance and do it in a certain way without spilling any sand. One particular individual in our group was struggling to get the sandbag full and up on top of his rucksack, and we were all trying to be encouraging but also frustrated with him (you were not allowed to help them do this particular task). He finally gets it done, grabs his rucksack and we begin walking as a group. We were probably half-way to the finish when he somehow drops the sandbag and spills all the sand. This meant we ALL had to go back to the start and begin again. Tempers are barely being kept under control at this point, and this individual is feeling the stress.

He packs up his sandbag again, and we set off and try it a second time. At this point the cadre are watching him closely and making comments such as 'does it feel good to let everyone down?'. Suddenly the cadre go quiet, and we know that’s a bad sign. I was directly in front of him and look back to see what the sudden silence could mean. This guy was marching straight ahead, unaware of the silence and probably trying to block out the verbal barbs being thrown his way, but I immediately saw why. In the rush to refill his sandbag and set off again, he forgot his rifle back at the starting point. I fell back quickly to tell him. He stops dead in his tracks, turns around, and starts sprinting (as fast as one can with 100+lb rucksack) back to the starting point, spilling sand everywhere. We all rush to keep up because, A) This is team week, and B) We now have to start all over.

He starts to refill his spilled sandbag again when he suddenly stops…stares at his rucksack for what seemed like an eternity and then stands up. At this point we knew what was about to happen. “I Quit”. The Cadre look at him and ask “candidate, am I understanding that you wish to voluntarily withdraw from selection at this time?”. Him, “I wish to voluntarily withdraw from selection at this time.” He then gets removed from the group and told to sit by himself until a truck can come grab him. Selfishly I think to myself ‘Whatever, F this dude, one less person for me to compete against’.

We finish the event, and have to ruck march as a group back to our base camp. My roster number was called off to lead the team back. We hadn’t gone even a mile when I noticed one of the smaller guys in our group falling behind. As a fellow small guy, I felt his pain. I slowed down a bit to let him catch up. The cadre immediately ran up to me and asked why I was slowly down. “Team week SGT, can’t leave him behind”. The cadre responded “This is still selection, and we don't wait around for the weak. Break that mother f*cker off now or I’ll non-select your ass”. Well, that’s an easy choice. I quickened my pace to a near run, and the straggler ended up being so far behind at the end of the ruck march back that we never saw him again in selection after that day.

The Soul Snatching Cadre:

No matter what team week had in store for us, the only commonality we all hoped for was not to be on the team led by the cadre known as SFC J. This guy was certifiably insane. This was his first selection class as a cadre after being in charge of the SOPC program that I had just been in. As I mentioned in previous posts, running was the thing I felt was one of my strengths at the time. This guy made me look like a fat, out-of-shape slob on our runs in SOPC, and then would stare at me with complete disdain as I would struggle to catch up. He DESPISED anyone and everyone who didn't match or exceed his fitness level (which was everyone). We watched day after day in team week as he would lead teams of approximately 16 selection candidates out for their events, and return each night with 5-7 candidates remaining. We called him the reaper. Each day you just PRAYED your number didn’t get called to go with him, and you watched the look of absolute despair on the faces of those that did. One of the survivors of his group was saying that one morning they rucked so hard and fast to their first contraption that the material hadn't even arrived at the spot yet for them to assemble it. Instead of rewarding them for getting there so quickly, he smoked them and made them do ranger school events until the material was delivered. If you survived being on one of his teams, you deserved to get selected.

The Moment of Truth

Finally, SFAS was over. Now the only thing that you were worried about besides your aching back and feet was the anticipation of whether or not you were good enough to have made it. They called us all to a spot down the road, where the head of the selection committee gave his talk about how proud he was of each and every ‘survivor’ who made it to the end, and that not everyone had the courage to even go to selection, let alone get to this point. He then said ‘If I call your roster number, sound off and go back to the tents down the road for further instructions.’

One by one he called off roster numbers in sequential numbered order, and people I knew well and those I didn’t got up and went off to the tents. We had no idea whether or not these were the selected or non-selected candidates. All of them seemed strong in many ways. Then my friend Aaron was called. He was by FAR one of the biggest, strongest, and smartest guys I had ever worked with. He was also universally loved by everyone. If his name was being called, then the selected group HAD to be the ones with their names called. Everyone felt it. He had a fairly high roster number, so those whose lower numbers had not been called groaned, because they thought the same as I did. Aaron gets up and sounds off, and moves to the tents. They finish going through the list, and my number was not called. The selection commander gets back up in front of us and says “Gentleman, Special Forces is a hard, brutal business, and not everyone who came out here for this selection had what it took.” At this he had a long dramatic pause and said “That being said, congratulations men, you have all been selected and have been chosen to continue in the Q-course at this time.”

The emotions I felt hearing that still give me goosebumps to this day. One of my friends stood up at that point and said “With all due respect, how can we all have been selected, and candidate ### (Aaron) was not?” There was a murmur of agreement amongst everyone, and the cadre checked his list and said, “what are you talking about? We didn’t call his number. He should be here.” When we reiterated that they had, in fact, called his number, the cadre said “Okay, well…..someone go get that guy and tell him he made it!” You’ve never seen so many guys jump up with the opportunity to go get him, busted up feet or not. As he ran back to the formation, the entire group of us who had been selected whooped and hollered for him as he came back into our group. It’s one thing to be happy for yourself, but knowing such a good guy did in fact make it was a really good feeling.

A quick Epilogue: SFAS is a gate. Completing SFAS does in no way guarantee that you will receive your Green Beret. It is simply indicating to the selection committee that you potentially have what it takes to complete the training. Of my selection class of approximately 370 students, about 1/3 of us were selected. Of that, we lost more than ½ of that remaining group in the next phase of training. While I don’t have exact numbers, I’d say out of everyone who was selected, we probably graduated 30-40 people out of our original selection class.

Epilogue part 2: I saw the individual who I had broken off on the long ruck run in the gym 3 years later. He said he was medically dropped after the ruck for a badly twisted knee, which is what was keeping him back that day. He went back to selection 9 months later and passed. He was well on his way to graduating, and said he bore no hard feelings about it.

When to Convert A Tourniquet

When to Convert A Tourniquet

Tourniquet Conversion:

Once again, we are blown away with the discussion that took place in regard to the question in our post about when and how to convert a tourniquet. We are giving the official recommendation from the Journal of Special Operations Medicine in order to get everyone on the same page and maximize everyone’s learning.  

When to convert your tourniquets:

- Conversion of tourniquets to a pressure dressing should happen as soon as tactically feasible, but no later than 2 hours after initial application.

- 2-6 hours is likely safe, but not scientifically determined.

- Over 6 hours is not recommended for field conversion. 

Steps for reducing/converting a tourniquet:

1) Make sure extremity is exposed, and apply an additional loose tourniquet  proximal to the original tourniquet. Do not tighten this new tourniquet.

2) Very slowly loosen original tourniquet. If bleeding begins, apply a hemostatic agent to the original bleeding location. Pack completely, leaving no free space within the wound. Hold pressure on the wound for 3-5 minutes and secure with a pressure dressing.

            - If bleeding does not occur when tourniquet loosened, dress the wound appropriately.

3) If bleeding is not controlled by hemostatic gauze and pressure dressing, the conversion has failed. Move the original tourniquet as close to the wound as possible and retighten the original tourniquet. Leave the additional tourniquet in place and loose in case the original tourniquet breaks or fails to stop bleeding.

When NOT to convert a Tourniquet:

Contraindications include:

1) Amputations of limbs.

            - Tourniquet should be placed 2-4” above the amputation, avoiding joints but proximally enough to prevent bleeding.

2) When a patient is in shock.

            - A patient in shock cannot afford to lose ANY additional blood, and any blood lost during attempt at conversion (even as little as 100ml), can send patient into irrecoverable shock.

3) Inability to monitor the patient.

            - If you cannot observe the patients bleeding or ability to control potential re-bleeding after conversion, do not attempt.


Sourced from Journal of Special Operations Medicine; Prolonged Field Care:

Tourniquet Conversion: A Recommended Approach in the Prolonged Field Care Setting.

For the full article, please click HERE