GoatLabRevoltAfter a year, 16 of the 65 who survived Army Special Forces Medic training, one of the most demanding courses in the military, made it to the last day and the last test. Pass or fail, a student received five minutes and two attempts to open a patent intravenous line on another student. Failure meant he was out of the course on its last day.

I was class leader. One of my soldiers was so muscle-bound that no one had been able to find a vein in that mass in order to start an IV. Predictably, the two students who drew him as a patient failed the test—and the course.

I looked at their anguished faces. I turned and walked away. The standards were set.

“If you are wounded in battle,” went the rationale, “would you want second best working on you?”

Next morning at graduation formation, an instructor marched out. “Sergeant Sasser, have all your men line up at the OR. Everyone retests on the IV.”

I hurried to the Lab Officer-in-Charge, a captain.

“Retest the two who failed,” I offered. “They didn’t have a fair chance with the patient they drew. The others have already passed. It’s unfair to put them through it again.”

Everyone retests,” he insisted.

Whenever there is a difference between an enlisted man and an officer, the officer is always right.

I came out of the OR. Every student eye focused on me.

“Sergeant Sasser, this is wrong,” my assistant protested angrily. “You have to do something.”

Obviously something desperate. Which would likely end my military career.

“Sergeant Mansell,” I ordered, “have the men form up in the street.”

I drew a deep breath and returned to the OR. “Captain, with any due respect, my men refuse to retest.”

“I’ll have you court martialed for disobeying a direct order. I’ll send you to Leavenworth.”

News of the revolt flashed all over Fort Bragg. I explained the situation to my soldiers, including possible consequences.

“But we must never compromise with injustice,” I stressed. “Each time we do, it becomes easier to compromise the next time. Soon, even the concept of right and wrong disappears.”

For hours in the North Carolina sun my Green Beret soldiers stood unmoving at parade rest, with myself positioned out front, resisting all threats to have us court martialed. Not a soldier moved.

High-ranking officers appeared. They seemed stunned that young enlisted men led by a grizzled sergeant dared question the authority of an officer because of principle.

The captain folded first. He came outside about noon. “Sergeant Sasser, have your men back here at 1300 hours. Everyone graduates.”

This incident during which a class of enlisted students took on the entire leadership of Fort Bragg is still remembered and talked about years later as “The Goat Lab Revolt.” Now retired from the military, I still receive mail from my students who were there that day, and from other Green Berets who have heard the story.

One of the more recent came from student John Cain, who is now a minister.

“You affected a lot of lives that day,” he wrote, “when you inspired us to stand up to the brass. That was a classic 24 hours. I still respect you for that to this day.”

I replied, “I was so proud of you guys who had the guts to stand up for what was right. You guys were the real stars, and I’ll never forget that there are Americans who still believe in doing what is right, even when it’s not always convenient.”

Marine BLT 2/3 was in the middle of a firefight its second day in-country in Vietnam when the unit was jerked out and sent to a place called Khe Sanh—which became the most savage fight of the Vietnam War. Blood In The Hills by Robert Maras and Charles W. Sasser is Maras’ personal account of that fight. It is available at most book stores and on-line.