Super Spook Course - 1st Field Training Exercise
Our first field training exercise was conducted in the
Baltimore area and lasted only about twenty four hours.  It
began very early one foggy morning when a group of students
were loaded onto a motor launch and taken out into the
Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Fort Howard on Sparrow’s
Point.  We then were loaded onto a rubber boat and paddled
in to shore where we were met by a guide who led us to a
building [Safe House] in an isolated section of woods.  Here
we remained until daylight and then our guide released us in
pairs to go about our assigned duties.

Each student had to select a drop site and drop off a
package at that site.  We also had to select load and unload
signal sites for that drop.  We were then required to
prepare a written description of those sites and pass that
message to a courier.  We also had to receive a message from
a courier and pick up a package from another student’s drop
site.  For rookies that was more than enough to cause us a
problem, but there was more.  We had to return to the same
beach where we had landed so we could exfiltrate via rubber
boat.  However, there was one additional problem that we
must overcome —  a very high, double row of barbwire fences
that was guarded by walking sentries.  Where the hell this
fence was when we infiltrated Fort Howard, I don’t know.

After we returned from downtown Baltimore we met at the same
Safe House and waited for darkness.  We had been informed
that anyone caught anywhere near that fence would be shot
and that it was guarded by special forces soldiers who were
here attending the Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant’s
Course.  This got all of my fellow students shook up.  They
were really nervous now.  Sergeant Parrott asked me, “Val,
do you SF guys have a secret handshake like the Masons?  I
sure would like to know what it is?”  We didn’t and I
assured Parrott of that, but I also knew that there would be
no SF guarding that fence —  and I was right.  The
instructor had just said that to terrify the students.

Try as I might, I could not dream up a cover story for being
near that fence that would save me from being executed
should I be so unlucky as to be caught.  This problem had
haunted me every moment that I was downtown carrying out my
other assigned tasks.  The only feasible story that I could
come up with was “I was drunk staggering around in the dark
and had no idea where I was or what I was doing.”  I
thought, “Who else would be stupid enough to be in such a
place?”  So, before I returned to our Safe House, I stopped
off at a package store and bought a pint of whiskey to
support my story.

After I was released from the Safe House, I paused in the
woods and poured that smelly whiskey all over my shirt and
rubbed it all over my face and neck.  After I used the
whiskey as a mouthwash, I put the almost empty bottle back
in my pocket to further support my story.  Then I headed for
the fence and hopefully home.  So I could time the sentry
making his rounds, I lay in the bushes about ten yards from
the fence and just waited and watched.  It wasn’t a full
moon night, but there was plenty of light to see by.  Being
an old infantryman and special forces soldier, I would have
preferred a pitch-black, stormy night.

While I was hidden there, a couple of students who had
buddied up came crashing through the brush like a herd of
wild elephants.  There was enough moonlight to see them
clearly, but not enough to identify them.  They never
noticed me because I lay still and remained quite.  They
paused briefly behind a bush about fifty yards to my left
and discussed their situation.  Suddenly they raced for the
fence.  They shook and rattled that wire loud enough to wake
the dead.  One must have caught his clothes on the wire
because I heard him cursing.  I don’t know for sure how they
fared because after they breached the fence they were too
far away for me to see them, but I heard the sentry give
chase and shoot at them.  This had caused quite a commotion
among the guards and several raced up to support their
buddies and join in the chase.  They all mulled about and
some checked the fence to make sure it was not torn down.
They gradually disappeared and finally I was alone once
again.  Silently, I cursed those two elephants because they
had, for no good reason, caused a lot of commotion that had
cost me a lot of valuable time.  We only had until midnight
to be at the beach and I only had fifteen minutes left when
I crawled under the fence.  While I was between the fences,
I heard another sentry approaching.  They only had one
sentry patrolling this area prior to those two elephants
crashing through the fence, now there were two.  I could
only lay still with my face down and hope that he thought
that I was a log.  It worked.  The sentry walked right by
without challenging me.  After I could no longer hear him
walking, I crawled under the second fence and made my way to
the beach where our instructor awaited us.  The field
exercise ended when we checked in with our instructor.

Don "Val"  Valentine