SUPER SPOOK COURSE - GRADUATION EXERCISE

Our final war game or 'graduation exercise' was scheduled to
last five days and required us to use almost all of our
Super Spook training.  The general exercise “situation” was,
“America had been taken over by the Communist Party and we
[students] were with elements of the US Army that had taken
refuge in Puerto Rico."

We were assigned a target to reconnoiter in Akron, Ohio.
Also while we were in Akron, we had to make a drop, meet a
courier, pick up a drop, meet, recruit, and train a
prospective agent, and write and mail a letter using our
secret writing material.

We were required to prepare our own plan and the plan had to
include how we would get from Puerto Rico to Baltimore, not
Akron.  We also had to prepare fake ID [identification
papers] under two different names and use both while we were
in Akron.  The fake ID was simply a card whose format and
contents had been chosen by school personnel.  It had no
meaning for anyone other than the people that were involved
in that exercise.  It was useless as a form of ID except for
identifying you as a participant in that exercise.  If we
were stopped by a real police officer, we needed a genuine
form of identification to show them.  We, however, were not
allowed to carry any additional ID on us during our stay in
Akron.  We were only allowed “one” ID card on our person, in
our luggage or in our room at any one time.  If the exercise
“bad guys” found multiple IDs in our possession, we would be
in serious trouble.  So we had to hide our second phony ID
card and our genuine ID while we were in Akron.

Assuming a false identify is difficult enough and we soon
learned that trying to use two false identities during the
same operation was a real pain in the ass.  Remember, our
instructors were still using the Real Life Method of
teaching; they were forcing us to operate the wrong way so
we would hopefully learn from our suffering.  Of course,
they made sure that we actually suffered.

We had to memorize the name and address of our target.  My
target was a lumber business that was several blocks north
of downtown Akron.  We also had to memorize the details of
the many tasks that we had been assigned to accomplish.  We
had to remember the full name of our prospective agent and
the time, place, and bona-fides for that meeting; all of the
personal information that I subsequently gathered on my
prospective agent and they wanted us to be able to complete
as much of that six-page Personal History Statement as
possible to include dates; all of the details that we
obtained concerning our target; the name and address where
we were supposed to send our “secret” letter; detailed
descriptions of our drop sites and signal sites; and a
detailed accounting of our every move from the time we left
Baltimore to include streets we traveled on and the exact
time and dates of each action we took.  They expected us to
retain all of this data until we returned to Fort Holabird
without writing anything down.  By the end of the second
day, I felt like that data was oozing out of my ears.

The first few days of preparation were the most frustrating
because we were each trying to figure out how we were going
to clandestinely infiltrate Baltimore and return home.  We
all spent that time sweating over one plan after another and
wasting paper trying to put each silly plan in writing only
to discard it for another plan that was even worse.  We
spent the second week typing our final stupid plan.

If I had just read a few spy novels or if I was an
experienced criminal, I would have had a much easier time of
this field exercise.  Me, I preferred reading western novels
and had never considered being a criminal.  Not one student
asked the instructor, “What countries have normal relations
with both the new Communist America and Puerto Rico?”
Traveling through that country would have been the easiest
way for us to reach Baltimore without drawing attention to
ourselves.  We were required to infiltrate and exfiltrate
Communist America via Baltimore.  That complicated the
situation and we made the situation even more complicated by
trying to invent a new method instead of using what was
already available and working.  The trouble being, we didn’t
have the foggiest idea what we were doing so we didn’t know
what method was being used by the real bad guys and working.
Ready or not, good plan or bad, we finally submitted our
plan.  When I packed for the trip, I made sure to include
some envelopes, stamps, and a box of plain white stationary.

Generally speaking, my “war game” plan looked something like
this: I would enter Chesapeake Bay in an inboard motor boat
and travel to the Baltimore area; reach shore by rubber
boat; hide the small rubber boat; fly to Akron; do my
assigned tasks; fly back to Baltimore; retrieve my rubber
boat; and rendezvous with my motor launch.  My general cover
story was that I was going to Akron to repossess a car for
the Volunteer Finance Company in Knoxville, Tennessee.  My
backup cover story was that I was actually there to steal a
luxury car for a large international car theft ring that was
operating out of Knoxville.

In reality, they issued each of us army travel vouchers in
our real names to be used on a specific commercial
round-trip flight from Baltimore to Akron.  They had already
made motel reservations for each of us, also in our real
names, at the Holiday Inn in downtown Akron.  We had to
carry our real military ID with us to use with the travel
vouchers and reservations.  This was the third identity that
we had to carry on our person.  Carrying my real ID proved
to be my undoing because the intelligence agents who were
chosen to pretend to be the “bad guys” in Akron for our
little war game became a little too enthusiastic.

Of course, since Old Val was involved, fate just had to take
a hand in this situation.  Unknown to any of us, shortly
before we departed for Akron, someone had planted a bomb in
or adjacent to a newspaper office in downtown Akron and
several people had been seriously injured or at least this
is what an Akron policeman told me at the airport when we
landed.  The police in the Akron area were still very
concerned.  Our war game wasn’t supposed to start until we
were in Akron.

At that time, the Akron Airfield was twenty miles or so
outside Akron, about half way between there and Canton as I
recall.  As we disembarked at the Akron/Canton airport that
Sunday afternoon, I noticed a policeman glancing at each
passenger on my plane and then glancing at what appeared to
be a photograph that he held in his hand.  When I reached
the bottom of our gangway, the policeman stepped forward and
escorted me to an empty room in a nearby warehouse.  Old Val
was to be the first student 'in the barrel'.

As soon as we reached the room, the policeman told me about
the bombing of the newspaper office in downtown Akron.  He
told me that I looked like a terrorist that was reportedly
coming into Akron to support the local bad guys and he asked
me for identification.  This was a genuine police officer in
proper uniform, complete with pistol and badge, so I
presented my genuine military ID.  As soon as I did that,
out of an adjoining room leaped a couple of guys in civvies.
They took control of the interrogation from then on.  They
really raked me over the coals.  The two of them alternated
asking me questions while I was trying to concentrate on the
question-naire that the police officer had given me to
complete.  If I stopped to answer a question, they would
force me to keep writing while I answered the question.  It
is very difficult to stick to a “new” cover story; one that
you haven’t even “trail tested” under such circumstances.
It is doubly difficult to do so when you know that you have
already given your real identity to the enemy.  Even though,
I knew that I had already blown my cover, I stuck to my
cover story anyway.  Because we weren’t yet in Akron and
because he really was a police officer, I figured they
wouldn’t count that against me.  We weren’t supposed to use
the phoney IDs until we reached our hotel in Akron and even
then it would only be recognized and accepted by the other
people taking part in our exercise.  We had to use our
genuine ID to use our travel vouchers at the Baltimore
Airport and we had to use our genuine ID to register at the
hotel in Akron.  Because these two jerks had interrogated me
in an area that I considered to be “out of bounds,” I didn’t
worry about it.  Unfortunately, I was the only person in
Akron, Ohio with that point of view.

During their questioning, I didn’t tell them anything about
my real reason for being in Akron nor did I implicate anyone
else.  They finally released me and I joined the rest of my
buddies on a shuttle bus that would take us to downtown
Akron.  [I later learned that a couple of our war game “bad
guys” had flashed their badges and credentials and asked the
police officer to stop and interrogate me as soon as I
disembarked from the plane.  Technically, we weren’t even in
Akron yet so I was a little ticked at those two zealots for
jumping me too early.]

Immediately after I checked in at the hotel, I began
searching for a place to hide my extra IDs and my secret
writing material.  Finally, I hid them on top of the soft
drink machine that was on our floor in the hall.  Then, in
the lobby, I bought a city map and picked up a city bus
schedule before I went for a stroll.  Actually, I
accomplished quite a bit during my stroll.  I cased my
assigned target and enroute to my target, I located a good
spot to meet my courier.  The meeting spot would be at a bus
stop in front of a small diner.  A couple of doors from the
diner was a small gas station and it had very small rest
rooms and the locks on the door worked.

Next, I located my target, the lumber company, and entered
their office where I got information on their office hours
and priced their two-by-fours and plywood.  While I was
there, I took the opportunity to memorize their office floor
plan.  Also, I made sure that my stroll took me by the
corner where I was to meet my prospective agent the next
day, on Monday.  For our next meeting place, I chose the
Greyhound Bus Station and I chose a nearby bar as a place
for us to talk after we made our first contact.  We would
possibly have to meet three times: one initial meeting, a
recruiting meeting and a training meeting.  Nobody bothered
me during my stroll or during supper and nobody disturbed me
that night at the hotel.

The next day, I searched my room, including inside the
telephone handset and inside the heating and air
conditioning unit, for anything that remotely resembled a
bug [electronic monitoring device].  After finding
absolutely nothing that I thought resembled a “bug,” I met
my prospective agent and took him to the bar.  We had a beer
and got to know each other.  So far as I could determine, no
one tailed us.  [However, during our debriefing later, I
learned that we were tailed and they followed us into the
bar.  During that meeting, the two guys tailing us were
standing slightly to my rear in the aisle right beside our
table throwing darts.]  Thankfully, they were unable to
overhear our entire conversation.  They only heard bits of
it.  My second mistake of the day was when I allowed my
prospect to enter the restaurant first because he had chosen
our ta-ble.  He chose the seat that faced the door which
left me at a disadvantage again —  another mistake.  Of
course, I wasn’t aware of all of these mistakes at the time.
I thought everything was cool.  One again, I was as wrong as
two left feet - the war game gestapo were way ahead of me.

[There was much about this war game, however, that we
students did not know.  For example, our prospective agents
were actually from the same military intelligence unit as
the “bad guys” and they were deliberately trying to screw us
up.  They relayed the details on our next meeting to the
“bad guys” so they could be waiting for us.  The same thing
would happen with the couriers that we would meet.  The
details of every proposed meeting and drop site were relayed
to the “bad guys.”  We were being “set-up” at every turn.
It was impossible for us to complete this war game without
being caught carrying out at least one of our assigned tasks
regardless of how well we did it.  Whenever we left our
motel to carry out one of our assigned tasks, we were under
close surveillance.  Because I went for a stroll as soon as
I reached my motel, I had escaped detection that very first
afternoon.]

That night, just before I went to sleep, someone knocked on
my door.  When I answered it, there stood the same two
gentlemen who had interrogated me at the airport.   They
once again introduced themselves as “members of the secret
police” [the bad guys] and brushed right by me into my room.
They thoroughly searched everything that I had brought with
me while also interrogating me.  They also tossed my
stationary all over the room.  They thought that I had
placed my secret writing material a certain number of sheets
down from the top and reckoned that I would be unable to
relocate it in the pile they left.  Then they searched the
rest of the room, all except for my bed.  They found nothing
suspicious and finally left after about an hour or so.

About ten minutes after the bad guys left, I think it was
about midnight by this time, somebody knocked at my door —
they were back.  “Like the asshole that I can be at such
times, I said, “I figured you would be back.”  “Why,” asked
one of the bad guys.  “Because you forgot to search my bed,”
says I.  Well that really sent them into a tizzy and they
immediately disassembled my bed and threw it into a pile by
the far wall.  Then one of them whipped out a damned
screwdriver and they really began to search the room.  They
even removed all of the fixtures from the walls and even
disassembled the built-in desk and cabinets.

When they finally finished searching my room this time
everything in the room except for me and the skivies that I
was wearing was in one pile against a wall.  My bed, the
parts to the phone, lamps, furniture, electrical wall
fixtures the built-in desk and cabinets —  everything was in
that pile.  They still found nothing incriminating and they
were begining to get ticked.  Those guys had made one hell
of a racket throwing things around and yelling at me and I
was surprised that someone had not called hotel security.
They had tried to confuse and panic me by alternating
questions as they had done at the airport.  Hell, I
practically stay confused, it seems to be my normal
condition, but I never panic.  By now they were not happy
campers.

They took me to the police station for further questioning
anyway and away we went.  They did allow me to don a sport
coat and a pair of trousers before they “escorted” me out
through the lobby.  As we went through the busy lobby, the
“bad guy” that was holding my right arm whispered, “Act
natural.”  There I was barefoot, wearing only a pair of
trousers and a sport coat — no shirt, not even a T-shirt and
they were dragging me through the hotel lobby by both arms.
Under those circumstances, I had absolutely no idea what
they meant by “natural.”

By the time we reached the Akron Police Department, it was
about one o’clock in the morning.  They deposited me in one
of the tiny interrogation booths and began my hostile
interrogation.  Trust me, no one wants to undergo a hostile
interrogation.  There was just enough room in the booth for
a small folding desk and two folding chairs.  One of us had
to stand, naturally it was me.  They constantly questioned
me, threatened me with bodily harm and forced me to do
hundreds of pushups.  “Who are you really?  Why are you
here?  Where are you from?”  I stuck to my original story,
“I’m Bill Rappa.  I’m from Knoxville.  I’m here to find and
repossess a car for the Volunteer Finance Company.”
Finally, after about an hour, they made me stand back about
six or seven feet from the wall and lean against it using
just my thumbs to support myself.  They told me to stay in
that position and then they left the room.

They were gone about forty-five minutes and during that time
I slid down the wall until I was on my knees.  Upon their
return, one “bad guy” made me do pushups again and then he
put one foot on my back while I was doing them.  Instead of
playing their game until they exhausted me, I pretended to
be exhausted and just laid down and grunted.  That’s when he
leaned down next to my ear and said, “Why did you tell the
policeman at the airport that your name was Donald E.
Valentine when your identification says that you are William
Rappa?”  He shoved the form that I had completed for the
police officer at the airport under my nose.  I said, “My
God guys, why didn’t you ask me that right up front?  You
could have saved us all a helluva lot of time and trouble,
especially me.  Look, I’ll level with you guys.  I’m really
Don Valentine, but I’m not here to repossess a car:  I’m
really here to steal a luxury car for my boss.”  Now they
were happy campers and I finally got to sit down.  Then they
hit me with a long list of other questions: “Who are you
working for?; How and when did you first meet your boss?;
How does he pay you?; How do you contact him?; and How does
he contact you?”  I answered all of their questions and then
they told me, “We’re going to turn you loose.  You’re going
to steal your car and take it back to your boss just like
before.  One of our men will contact you there.  You’re
going to help us break up this bunch of thieves.”  I said,
“Oh no, they’ll kill me if I do that.”  The “bad guy”
sitting across from me, pulled his revolver, pointed it at
my nose, cocked it, and said, “We’ll kill you, if you don’
t.”  I said, “Good point.  You got a deal.”  They escorted
me back to my hotel.  As we went through the police
department, I spotted three other students awaiting
interrogation.  Putting everything in my room back like it
was originally, without benefit of a screwdriver, took me a
couple of hours.  I finally got to bed at about five o’clock
in the morning.

[Later, during the debriefing, I learned that a real
criminal suspect had been sitting outside waiting his turn
to be questioned.  After listening to what happened to me,
he confessed before they ever got him into the interrogation
room.  The interrogators succeeded in breaking the cover
stories of most of our students.  They also had a couple of
students that broke down during interrogation and couldn’t
take anymore.  The interrogators told the cadre, “That
damned old sarge (meaning me) was the toughest one of the
bunch.  Hell, nobody has ever stayed against the wall on
their thumbs that long.”]

Early Tuesday morning, I made my drop without encountering
any of the “bad guys.”  Maybe that was because they did not
know exactly when or where I was going to make that drop.
Later that day, when I met my prospect at the bus station,
the noticed “bad guys” were all over the place.  They were
on us like ducks on a June Bug.  As soon as we met, I took
my prospect in tow and led the bad guys on a
ring-around-the-rosy through a nearby shopping mall.
Finally, I stopped to finish our meeting.  At first I
thought that I had lost them, but then I spotted them
closing in again so I aborted the meeting and quickly
arranged to meet my prospect at the same bar where we had
met the first day.  This time I beat him to the bar and
chose the table and seat.  This meeting went okay, we were
not interrupted and I successfully recruited him to be an
agent.  Maybe he just felt sorry for me or maybe he didn't
want to be drug through that mall again.  [During our
critique after the exercise, I learned that they do not like
Agent Handlers to meet agents in bus stations or train
stations.  They certainly made their point with me.]

That evening, in a dark corner of the lounge in my hotel, I
wrote my secret letter and mailed it in the lobby without
any interference from the “bad guys.”  The return address I
selected at random from the local telephone directory.  That
night I went to bed early and nobody knocked on my door so I
got a much-appreciated full night’s sleep.

The drop that I had already made contained the details on
where, when, and how I would meet the courier so he could
pass a message to me.  Early on Wednesday morning, I met the
courier.  My “bona fides” were, “I would be standing at the
bus stop with a newspaper rolled up in my right coat pocket
and reading a bus schedule,” so that’s what I did.  I had
the bottom quarter of the schedule folded up like an
envelope.  The courier’s bona fides were, “He would ask me,
‘What time does bus #6 arrive?’ and then point at the
schedule.”  As the courier pointed at the schedule, they
were supposed to drop the message into that little
envelope-like fold.

Except for me, no one else was anywhere near that damn bus
stop.  No one was in any of the cars that were parked near
me and no one was in any of the windows facing me.  I knew
the “bad guys” would be somewhere nearby, I just couldn’t
spot them, but I remembered how effective those long-range
cameras we had been shown were.  Those bastards could be
watching from anywhere.

About two minutes before drop time, I walked up to the bus
sign and displayed my bona fides.  A couple of seconds
later, from the corner of my right eye, I noticed a pregnant
lady get out of a car that was parked three blocks away.
That was the first time I had noticed that vehicle and now I
saw the silhouette of at least one more person inside that
car.  The pregnant lady waddled across to my side of the
street and made her way towards me.  She was the only person
walking in my direction.  I thought, “They wouldn’t.”  They
did.  She stopped and asked me, “When does bus #6 arrive?”
and then pointed at my bus schedule.  She had the note in
her hand, but she didn’t drop it into the flap.  I
whispered, “Honey, you must be new at this crap too.  Just
drop it in the flap at the bottom of the page and haul your
pretty ass out of here.”  She did as I suggested and as soon
as she departed, I turned and walked straight into the rest
room in the gas station.  Afterwards, I quickly locked the
door so the gestapo could not reach me until I had plenty of
time to memorize that damn message before I flushed it down
the commode.  I was surprised again —  no “bad guys” pounded
on the door.  I was positive they would try to jump me
before I could memorize that note.  I thought, “Maybe I have
finally done something right.”

The message told me where to pick up a package that had been
hidden for me and where the signal sites were and what the
signals were.  That afternoon, I located the drop site on my
city map and picked up the package with no problem.  Again,
there were no “bad guys” waiting to pounce on me.  If they
were there, they chose not to jump me.

Later that evening, I was contacted by phone and told to
meet at our instructor’s hotel room.  They told to bring the
“bug” from the heat pump in my room.  So there had been a
bug there after all.  He told us that our exercise had been
cut short and that we were to check out of our hotel on
Thursday morning and catch a flight back to Baltimore.
Then, individually, our performance during the exercise was
critiqued by the instructors and the “bad guys.”  After
sitting through all of those critiques, I decided that,
comparatively speaking, I hadn’t done nearly as bad as I had
previously thought.  Compared to some of the other guys, I
was practically another James Bond.  So much for the “field
work,” now we faced a mountain of paperwork.

As soon as we arrived back at Fort Holabird, we were
assigned a room complete with a mountain of paper, reference
material, and typewriters where we could work on our
reports.  We had no time schedule and could work whenever we
wanted.  Everyone headed home, except for yours truly and I
went to work.  Grabbing a stack of paper and a pen, I began
writing down everything that I could remember from the very
first day of the operation.  Until I had recorded everything
that I could remember, I wasn’t about to start typing a
report.  It was as if my brain just had to vomit all of
those minute details onto paper right then.  It took me
twenty four hours.  When I finally left, I was exhausted,
but I felt like someone had just lifted a tremendous weight
off of my shoulders.  They simply gave us too many missions
to accomplish on one trip.  It was just too much information
to retain for very long.  That was one of the points that
the instructors were trying to make, “keep it simple
 stupid!”  I, for one, got their message loud and clear.
They gave us about ten days to finish all of our reports.

Don "Val"  Valentine

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