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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Clearwater, Florida

    Default Ghillie Suits, Heroin and the Importance of Rest

    On the path to taking better care of myself I've discovered podcasts and frequently listen to them while I PT. The other day I was listening to one featuring a Dr Kirk Parsely. His expertise is in all matters pertaining to the topic of sleep. He is a former Navy SEAL and now a medical doctor. He was emphasizing the importance of recuperative sleep and how poorly we perform when we don't sleep enough. His interview reminded me of an operation I was on that I hadn't thought about in years.

    In 2000 I was a member of a Vice and Narcotics Unit in Florida. Our agency had an authorized strength of around 500 sworn. There were about 20 of us and we handled the majority of our tactical operations in-house. We received information from the FBI about heroin dealers from Miami that had moved to our city and set up shop in our substantial "HOOD". For reasons I don't recall the FBI wanted them. This was pre-911 and they were still occasionally involved in drug cases. They cautioned us on how violent and organized the group was.

    We soon identified the residence they were selling from. The house was the last one on a dead end street. Beyond the dead end street was a narrow creek and then a partially overgrown vacant city block that was previously the sight of a mobile home park. There was no alley behind the target residence and they had a commanding view off all that approached. In addition, the two story residence in question had one entrance/exit which led to an interior flight of stairs to the second floor. The ground floor was used as storage by the landlord. There were lookouts on the street in front of the residence that challenged anyone that approached and patrols by subjects on bicycles on a regular basis. They all had small, hand held portable radios.

    We used a female confidential informant (CI) for what we hoped would be an initial buy, although we would have settled for more intelligence. The CI had as good a pedigree as possible and was the most experienced one we had. Out of caution, she was not equipped with any electronics for this first trip. We instructed her on what we were looking for and dropped her off in the neighborhood.

    I picked her up at a predetermined location approximately 20 minutes later. As she approached my car I could see that things had not gone well. She was nearly hysterical and her shirt was inside out. She got in the car and handed me the heroin she purchased. She explained that she was questioned by the look-outs in front of the house and then let in. The door was closed behind her as two subjects at the landing held pistols to her head and forced her to strip. Once naked they asked her how she new about the house, etc., while the other subject searched her clothing. Once satisfied with her answers, she was allowed to get dressed and buy a quantity of heroin.

    In our jurisdiction the combination of the information we received, the intel from the informant and the likelihood of future violence if one of us our another informant went there was enough for us to obtain a search warrant. Warrant in pocket we began planning. The immediate concern was our inability to watch the residence. It was solidly located in the hood. There were no friendlies in the area to assist. We couldn't drive passed the location due to the dead end and we certainly couldn't hit the place blind. There was constant foot traffic at all hours. Prior to transferring to the unit I had attended Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Sniper schools through the Florida Swat Association, and I had an idea.

    On the following Monday the senior detective and I put on our city maintenance uniforms and filled the bed of a city pick-up truck with brush. In the late afternoon we drove to the above mentioned vacant city block where the trailer park used to be. We jumped the curb and drove about ten yards off the street. We then dumped the brush out of the truck. As we turned the truck around to leave I was able to see that there was a flurry of activity from subjects running in and out of the target residence and vehicles leaving. We did the same thing the next day and throughout the week. By Thursday no one in the area seemed to even notice us. We had successfully portrayed lazy city workers getting out of a last trip to the brush sight by illegally dumping the brush in the field.

    The following morning we checked on around 0500. Throughout the day we prepared for the hit latter that evening. I recall the day being a flurry of activity. We coordinated with SWAT, who would actually be serving the warrant, the FBI, our guys, and we handled all the other details involved in a case like this. We had a briefing with our unit and SWAT at 1500. There would be a larger, final briefing around 2000 with everyone that was expected to be involved. I had my own mission in the operation and I had to leave early.

    By 1600 I was in the bed of the city pick up truck in a pile of brush as we drove to the vacant field. I was ghillied up. I had my handgun in a shoulder holster and my 870 in a drag bag. I had 7x35 binos and a night vision monocular. I was using a Camelbak on and I was using a bone mic. I had an extra battery for my portable radio. I even had OC spray for any errant "Pit-Weilers" in the area. My mission was to get as close as I could to the target house so I could provide intel to the troops leading up to the hit. I was confident in my abilities and I had a clear understanding of what was expected of me. The senior detective would be my "cover" and would provide me with any assistance he could if I got myself in trouble.

    The biggest concern I had was my radio. We had recently been issued new ones and we discovered that the batteries were defective. On a full charge we could only get about 30 minutes of life out of them before they died. Replacements were on the way but in the mean time we had to make it work. We decided that I would turn my radio on at the top and bottom of each hour and check in. I could ask for assistance at any time. Once the team was rolling I would switch to the Ops channel and stay on the air until the house was secured.

    The truck jumped the curb at our usual spot and idled to our pile of brush. As senior began pushing the brush out of the bed I fell out with it. He put the tailgate up and drove away, leaving me alone and concealed. I was so excited. This was one of the coolest things I had done. All of my gear was accounted for and my comm check went fine. I watched as people moved around me on foot and on bicycles. I heard people talking in the distance and the sounds of the neighborhood. It was still a little early to hear glass breaking.

    It was winter and as such it started getting dark around 1800. By that time I was pretty much bored out of my mind. Fortunately I soon began crawling through the field towards the target. By 1900 hours I was approximately 40 yards from the creek that separated the field from the target house. At one point a car's headlights were suddenly shining on me from a vehicle in the adjacent neighborhood. I looked away and slowly lowered my head to the ground. I was sure I had been spotted. I began trying to figure out how to get my shotgun out of the dragbag while listening for approaching footsteps. I hadn't thought that part through and abandoned the effort, opting instead for my Glock 17. Fortunately I hadn't been spotted, or if I had they chose not to approach. Another shot of adrenaline. Did I mention that it was cooler, at least for Florida? I recall it was around 50 or 60 degrees. Whatever the temperature, I know it was warm and snug in my ghillie suit. You know what's coming don't you?

    The next thing I heard was police sirens driving passed my location on the main street behind me. I heard them go north and then south several times as I fumbled for the power switch on my radio. It was of no use since the battery was dead. I started to retrieving my second battery while trying not to lose the encryption on my radio as the sirens continued. Once I was finally on the air I asked senior what was going on. He advised I never checked in at the bottom of the hour, or the top of the hour and he was getting desperate since SWAT was getting ready to load up momentarily. I was deep enough through the field that he had no idea where I was. He flagged down some patrolman and asked them to drive back and forth with their sirens on and not ask any questions.

    I had fallen asleep. Despite my efforts and the thought and preparation I put into my mission I had nearly failed. The entire operation was put in jeopardy. Well, I was going to take my lumps for this, but now it was time to focus (at least I was energized by my nap). I got squared away and started crawling again. I made it to some brush by the edge of the creek and settled in. I was 10 feet from the nearest look-outs across the creek and 20 feet from the front of the target. I could see the faces of the look-outs as they lit blunts and I could hear them reporting on approaching vehicles and foot traffic. In time, SWAT was making their approach. I provided intel until they were approaching the target on foot. It was amazing being 10-15 feet away when they went passed me. I had a front row seat for the flash bangs they attempted to put through 2 windows on the second floor on my side of the house. They ended up detonating outside of the house. I had my eyes closed for the first one but I just had to look at the second one. Fortunately, the explosions masked my laughter. They banged the front of the house and our guys handled the street out front. None of our guys were hurt and there were 12 in custody. I began crawling out but soon realized anyone in the area was watching the activity at the target house. I eventually stood up and walked to my ride.

    We made our way to the house after I stowed my gear. The house had been fortified. The breach at the door took longer than expected. From the outside the second floor windows looked normal but on closer inspection black plastic had been secured behind the drapes and then corrugated steel was screwed into the wall over that. The house stunk and was stifling hot. A crock pot of rancid grease was bubbling on the kitchen counter and 12 handcuffed suspects were sitting on the floor in the living room in a circle. One of the suspects had what looked like gangrene or an enormous infected cyst on his forearm. There was no heroin to be found. It had been destroyed during the entry. We found some guns and guys with warrants so,,,,whatever. One of the suspects began yelling that the suspect with the cyst needed help. His gangrene arm had popped and the suspects on either side of him began throwing up. Eventually they all threw up where they sat in a pathetic hood version of a Monty Python skit.

    The senior detective hadn't forgot what happened. In private he explained the facts of life to me, in no uncertain terms. In those days disappointing the senior detective was way worse than getting written up for something. He was old school. He blamed our new radios for a gap in communication. For me this operation was a glaring example of how all the equipment and planning meant nothing if I was so tired that I feel asleep during a mission and potentially put others in peril. I would never say that I didn't participate in operations after this while I was exhausted. I did however, do everything I could to insure that I got as much rest as I could to get ready for the long days. As you've heard here before, Rest is a Weapon.

    Train with me at one of these classes. Get a good night's rest before we start.
    Last edited by Shawn Pappas; 12-07-2017 at 02:02 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    "Rest is a Weapon."

    Absolutely. As a lifelong advocate of the "I'll sleep when I'm dead" philosophy all I can say is that I was absolutely wrong.
    Warrior for the working day.

    Es una cosa muy seria. --Robert Capa

    "...I ride the range in a Ford V8...Yippy Yi Yo Ki Yay." --Johnny Mercer

    "Can I move?...I'm better when I move."

    2, 0, 12. And a wakeup.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Palmer, Alaska
    This applies to so many things in life. I advise young attorneys to focus on sleep leading up to a big trial. You can, to a very slight degree, "bank" sleep when you know you are going to have several days putting in long hours. To cops and soldiers, it is a normal topic to deal with. Fresh law school graduates look at you funny when you tell them that "sleep is a weapon." But it definitely is.
    Virtute et Armis

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Under the Black Flag
    Good to hear you again brother...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Cool story, thanks for sharing. What are some of the podcasts you listen to?
    KRG-1: Kalashnikov Rifle Gunfighting
    HRO-5: Terrorist and Active Shooter Interdiction
    CRG-4: Force On Force Gunfighting
    CRG-5: Zero To Five Feet Gunfighting
    Red Dot Combat Pistol School
    HRO-6/HRO-7: CQB-Fighting in Structures/Team Tactics, Urban Warfare Weekend

    TWOTU since 2016

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Suburb of Des Moines, IA
    Great story with an important lesson. Thanks, Shawn!
    Suarez International Staff Instructor, Iowa

    "It's not the will to win that matters--everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters." --Paul "Bear" Bryant
    "Love of theory is the root of all evil." --William M. Briggs

    Formerly "ericmt"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Southeast United States
    That took balls, telling that story. But it rings of truth and valuable life lessons. Thank you for that. Most guys brag about what they did right, but the truth is, we learn far more from our mistakes. By that reasoning I should be a freaking genius, of course, but I ain't.

    I had a little sleep related scare during the Gulf War. We were part of an MLRS (multiple launch rocket system) convoy headed for the Kuwait border. The arty guys were gonna launch on an Iraqi airfield three days before the invasion. We'd been averaging only a coupla hours sleep a night, having to switch out guard duty in addition to everything else. The convoy took a full day, about 16 hours or so. We arrived at a way point a few hours before the attack, so we sat and waited, engines running, in total darkness, watching for the tac lights -- which are dim as shit, needless to say -- of the vehicle ahead of us to move out. This was SOP back in those days; hardly anybody had a radio in our little podunk group, sad to say. Remember, this was Cold War technology and TTPs, kids.

    Anywho, my lieutenant and I took turns napping. We thought we had a system, but the next thing I knew, he was screaming "Oh shit, the lights are gone! They've left us!" He'd dozed off for a few seconds and lost contact. We kicked into gear and took off ... fortunately, the convoy hadn't gone but a few yards and stopped again. I had visions of a gigantic Slinky toy, a mile long, made up of MLRS launchers, M113s, hummers and deuce and a halfs slithering along the desert at night. This went on for another couple of hours before we moved out "for reals" to the launch point. We did everything we could to stay awake after that, splashing water, digging through the ruck for M&Ms, getting out and pissing, telling the same old jokes, singing made up lyrics to rock songs, you name it. Honestly, the idea of making that kind of mistake scared the crap out of me; I did NOT want to be That Guy. Seeing the launchers getting into final position was a relief in a way, but then the adrenaline kicked in and we were good for another few hours -- watching from close range while a couple of batteries of MLRS rain fire on those poor souls a few clicks away does that to a person.

    Lack of quality sleep will ruin you. I used to be able to sleep anytime, anywhere, in little catnaps and function great no matter how early or how late. I was on midnights a lot as an MP, then a security guard, truck driver and did a lot of overnight writing binges in college and at work. But then something went wonkers. I'd get in the car and my eyes would start crossing in five minutes. My wife rode my ass about it and I went to the doc. Turns out I had sleep apnea for years and didn't know it. Seems my snoring was interrupting my REM cycle hundreds of times an hour; I'd just as well be up watching reruns. Now I get solid quality sleep, courtesy my little air pump. I hate that fucking machine, but it changed my life, so I don't go nowhere without it.

    A lot of guys are deniers, you know, too young, too tough, too whatever. Guys, it ain't about getting old or fat or ganked up. It's about biology and physiology and your brain getting that time out that is required for getting up and chasing woolly mammoths with all of your faculties. So get yourself checked. It's no different than having bad knees, an ulcer, eyes need glasses, etc. If you're having sleep issues, go get the freakin' study done, and find a solution. There may be better things out there than a CPAP machine, I dunno. I do know that you're missing out if you don't get that fixed.
    Last edited by Redneck Zen; 12-11-2017 at 11:06 PM.
    Redneck Zen
    "Be careful what you get good at."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Re: Sleep and sleep apnea

    Check out yogic breathing exercises; check out Buteyko Breathing practice, developed by a Russian doc who cured himself of high blood pressure with breathing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Quote Originally Posted by Redneck Zen View Post
    A lot of guys are deniers, you know, too young, too tough, too whatever. Guys, it ain't about getting old or fat or ganked up. It's about biology and physiology and your brain getting that time out that is required for getting up and chasing woolly mammoths with all of your faculties. So get yourself checked. It's no different than having bad knees, an ulcer, eyes need glasses, etc. If you're having sleep issues, go get the freakin' study done, and find a solution. There may be better things out there than a CPAP machine, I dunno. I do know that you're missing out if you don't get that fixed.
    Okay. You have convinced me.
    Not just about falling asleep when you shouldn't. It's about running on empty until you have no reserves to fight illness that you ordinarily shrug off, waiting in ambush until the adrenaline wears off and you think you're clear.
    Last edited by Papa; 12-12-2017 at 01:19 PM.
    Warrior for the working day.

    Es una cosa muy seria. --Robert Capa

    "...I ride the range in a Ford V8...Yippy Yi Yo Ki Yay." --Johnny Mercer

    "Can I move?...I'm better when I move."

    2, 0, 12. And a wakeup.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Phoenix, Arizona
    There are a number of teachable moments inside this account that I learned on 24/36/72 hour ops.
    1) The importance of buddy teams. When you have someone else there that you can keep each other engaged in the mission, awake on areas of responsibility both mentally and physically.
    2) The Law of the 7 Ps: Proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance, this includes Pre-combat Checks (PCCs) where you check the condition of and appropriateness in your equipment as well as planning your approach to and withdrawal from as well as alternate routes. Spend some time fleshing out your plan B, and make sure you're physically prepared by sleeping in advance if you can, eating, hydrating.
    3) If you're using new equipment in unconventional positions like the prone, make sure you can access that equipment as it's placed on your person.

    I'm sure that I'll come up with some others as I think more on it.
    Greg "Hyena" Nichols
    Instagram: tacfit_az
    Facebook: SI Instructor Greg Nichols


    Always entertaining, mildly offensive
    IANative: Indeed, when you grab Brent (or he grabs you), it feels like liquid unobtanium wrapped in rawhide... whereas Greg is just solid muscle wrapped in hate, seasoned w/ snuff and a little lead.

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