DirtyTricksThe objective was vital intelligence from a downed enemy helicopter that had crashed in the jungle, behind enemy lines. The patrol’s objective was to secure the site, search and recover the materials, and return safely to friendly control. The patrol’s movement wasn’t bad, security not too awful, noise and light discipline—passable.

There was no moon. Darkness settled in the forest like black fog. Silently, with what would have been lethal intent had I actually been the enemy, I materialized out of the night and snatched Tailend Charlie at the back of the patrol. Clasped his mouth with one hand, “slit his throat” with the other.

“You’re dead,” I whispered in his ear and pulled him back into the woods.

I was senior instructor for Army ITC (Instructor Training Course). I taught those who trained the troops in combat leadership. I had the experience for it. Now a master sergeant, I had served both in the U.S. Navy and in the U.S. Army, thirteen of those latter years in Special Forces, the Green Berets. I had been a SF team medic, with cross-training in intelligence, operations, weapons, and military police.

Having designed the ITC program myself at Fort Chaffee, I emphasized unorthodox methods of training trainers. Dirty tricks. Mine was a “balls to the wall” curriculum which kept students constantly guessing through raids and ambushes, escape and evasion, offensive and defensive movements, reconnaissance. . .

For example, my AI (assistant instructor) would lead a patrol to contact. Each soldier wore MILES gear that flashed and buzzed whenever “shot” by an M-16 laser “bullet.” I waited as a sniper, fired one accurate shot, then patiently waited for the next target to stick up his head like a squirrel.

By the time I finished, they were all “dead” except for my AI.

“What happened?” I asked afterwards during the critique.

If an attack went bad, I called a formation of the survivors. Sometimes there might be only two or three remaining of an entire platoon.

“Your buddies are dead,” I lectured. “Poor leadership and poor tactics got your men killed.”

As in the Rangers, each student got a chance to lead. It was his challenge to try to outthink the enemy—which meant, in most cases, me. It was my challenge to stay one step ahead with increasingly new and more devious tactics.

Thus, one by one I snatched the last man in the column en route to the helicopter and left him sitting back in the forest. By the time the patrol reached the chopper, the only men left were point, the patrol leader—and me. I had taken my last victim’s place in the file.

The expression on the patrol leader’s face when he recognized me—priceless!

From The War Chaser by Charles W. Sasser: “You had to lose something personal in a war. Otherwise, it was just a war like any other war. You were there and you did what you had to do and then it was a part of your past and you went on to the next war. . .”

If you liked my Vietnam novel, The Return, you’ll like The War Chaser, a thriller based on my own experiences as a combat correspondent in Latin America during its wars and revolutions. Now available on Kindle and Nook.