Friday, March 8, 2013

Tall Tales from My Formative Years 1: Gettin' Flash-Bang'd

Disclaimer: TTFMFY are stories from my time growing up in way, deep south Texas, as well as anecdotes from boot camp and Navy schoolsand service. They may or may not be embellished, with portions that are out and out fiction. Read at your own peril!

While I was in junior high and high school, I lived in Falcon Village, a little place where all the Border Patrol, Customs, IWBC people and their families had housing. It wasn't a very big place, and of the six years I lived there, I don't think more than half of the houses ever had people in them.

So, this made for a great opportunity for the CBP's version of SWAT, the Weapons, Entry and Tactics (WET) Team. Every once in a great while, they'd all tool down to the village to practice raids on the empty houses. When they were feeling especially garrulous, they would tell the neighborhood kids watching what they were up to.

One of these times, they recruited some of to be Tony Montana and his crew. The only kids available at the time were Pete and me. Pete was from Colorado, and at one time may or may not have taken some kind of ninjitsu classes. Either way, he was all fired up to be a bad guy. The whole time the WET guys were explaining the rules to us, Pete had a glint in his eye and a smile on his face and Jesus Christ, I knew he was thinking about killing these guys.

...meanwhile, inside Pete's head...

They explained the rules: the taped-up soda cans in black coming through the windows were flash-bangs, which would blind you and steal your equilibrium for some time. If one of the cans came through the window, I think we had three seconds to vacate the room or we were toast. Taped up soda cans in grey were smoke grenades, and we had the same time or be blinded and choked.

The weapons were some kind of Air-Soft things, so we didn't have to worry about range safety. Nobody's head would get blown off their shoulders (yay!) and if we heard a pop! coming our direction, we were shot. So lay down. Pete and I were to hide in the house, together or separate, and do our best to evade the WET Team.

The first order of business was to open all the windows and remove the screens, so nothing would have to be replaced. Then Pete went, giggling, into the house, and I might have been, too. It was so cool.

There was no furniture in there, but that was alright. We lived in houses that were almost identical in their layout, so all the little hidey-holes we could get into were known to us. All the odd corners and blind spots and how much room beind the room doors, et cetera. I don't know what Pete was thinking, exactly, but I was sure we'd be able to evade these old, slow adults, especially on our own turf.

The first couple of runs went the same way: we'd get set, and flash-bangs or smoke grendades would come sailing through the windows, and either we'd scramble out of the way in time or they'd come get us. We got better at moving from room to room in time, but they got better at finding us. was a LOT like this.
And then... Pete decided it was time to stop evading so much.

Okay, so I mentioned possible ninja training, yeah? Pete spidered his way up to the top of a closet, hanging there as if in a web. The WET Team member came into the room I more or less lured him into by batting the flash-bang back out of the window, then showing my face at the door. While he was busy apprehending me, Pete dropped out of the shadows and took this guy out. Kick to the back of the knee, grab the shotgun, smack him in the face with the butt of it, then shoot him. We were both shot dead shortly thereafter, but WOOHOO, the adrenaline was flowing.

The guy with the bloody nose was entirely cool about it, though. Way cooler than I thought he'd be. He just cleaned up, nodding, and said it was a good idea to make the training more realistic. They would, after all, be facing hostiles in the field.

(Yes, I know now... this is the point where we should have run screaming.)

Pete and I went traipsing, la la la, into the house to get ready for our next foray into the world of villainy. They gave us more time to get ready, which might have been them scoping the house more carefully. Which they were, keeping better tabs on us. But we got set up, after we worked out our strategy.

As before, the flash-bang came sailing into the room, and I missed it. It landed with a very heavy thunk, a much different sound than before. I had all three seconds to consider the depth of our folly before the little cylinder went both flash and bang.

I can't speak for Pete, but I found myself on the floor, curled up and screaming and blind and unable to stand. The WET Team came in pretty calmly and zip-tied our wrists and ankles. Like hunters carrying their prey to a fire, the tactical team brought Pete and me out onto the front lawn and unceremoniously dumped us there in the grass.

Sooner or later, we came to our senses. The WET Team commander asked us if we were ready to go again.

We both said no sir, thank you, sir.

Next time, we'll talk about Edgar Allan Poe.

-Thom Brannan

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