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I’m Jay Stone, Chief Petty Officer (CPO or simply “Chief”) in the United States Navy. At least, I think I’m still officially working for the Navy. You’ll see what I mean shortly. I’m the Team Leader of Bravo Team. No, that doesn’t make me the unit “commander;” that would be Lieutenant-Commander (LCDR) Graves. He’s the team’s commissioned officer & formal unit chief. As Team Leader, I’m simply the field lead operative. Depending on who you ask, I’m the team’s real leader while Graves is more of the department administrator. All the big wigs in Washington see Graves as the leader while most of the operator’s you meet in the field defer to me instead. You see, I’m an enlisted guy just like the other 80% or so of military professionals who trade slugs with the enemy face-to-face in the mud. But as a small special warfare element, everyone on this unit is a capable & experienced grunt. Graves included; hell, his nickname before he received his commission was Grunt!

Anyway, you’ll hear more about Graves–or “LT” as we call him–later. But while we’re on the topic, technically we should address Graves as “Sir” or “Commander.” But since most of us came up from SEAL platoons, which are 16-men units headed by a Lieutenant, its just habit to call the boss man “L-T.” He doesn’t seem to mind. He’s not too caught up in the officer/enlisted thing; but really at this level, hardly anyone is. As I was saying, we are a 5-man direct action combat unit modeled heavily after the US Navy SEALs. I say “man” because, as of now, there are only men on the team. We don’t have any qualms about having a women join our ranks. In fact, we often go into the teeth of battle with women leading the way; mostly the secretive CIA types. We are the CQB (Close-Quarter-Battle) element of a small special warfare task force, the name of which I will reveal later. Our unit, Bravo Team, infiltrates & exfiltrates our target areas the same way SEAL Platoons do–by Sea, Air, & Land. In addition, we share most of the same mission profiles, although our charter calls for a narrower list of responsibilities. We only deploy with a max of our 5 guys with occasional support of a 2-man sniper team; SEALs can deploy in a full platoon of 16, or at least they did when I was there.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about unit integrity & have you meet the other guys. Typically, I lead a 4-man team in the field; but I don’t technically always lead the way. That’s the Point man’s job. That would be Reyes. He acts as our primary pathfinder & almost always spearheads the formation. I’m usually next followed by our Assaulter/Breacher Bowman. After him its Compton bringing up the rear as Assaulter/Tail Gunner. This scheme represents our most frequently used load out. Sometimes, LT goes out into the field with us. When he does, he lines up between Bowman & me. This way, LT is the man in the middle if we make contact & he can split us up into two separate maneuver elements with me & Reyes as alpha & Bowman & Compton as bravo. LT can join either element as needed but he most often stays under cover & directs each element as an observing 3rd party. In our task force, we call this our “fireteam plus one”(fireteam + 1) format. When we go full force, we work alongside Variable, a 2-man sniper unit for fire support. Typically, that’s it; that’s all we got. Now, depending on the situation, we usually have close air support via helicopter or drone strike; but that’s when we really get fancy!

In formal military parlance, they call units like us low intensity conflict solutions. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because the conflict gets really intense & the stakes are always really high. When I say stakes are high, we are talking the difference between making to work for your 9 am presentation or nuclear holocaust depending on mission success or failure. I laugh when I hear my friends back home talk about not being able to sleep because of anxiety from their jobs. If they only knew!

Anyway, they call us “low intensity conflict” operatives not because the conflict is low stakes, just small scale. When I say small scale, I mean 4 to 16 guys taking on an enemy maybe 12 to 60 members strong; and that’s on a big operation. The fighting is still fierce & high risk, it’s just not high intensity in terms of a giant World War II style battlefield with 100,000 soldiers all jumbled in an area of a few square miles. Our missions look more like those of a big city SWAT team raiding a local organized crime warehouse. The difference is, our jurisdiction is global & the implications are bigger than that. How “big” you ask? Real “big”. We’re talking borders on your smart phone’s GPS change day by day based on the things me & my guys do the night before “big”. We’re talking North Korea doesn’t launch a missile capable of reaching our capital because one of my guys made a pin point shot with his last bullet from 100 meters with his left hand when he’s right handed “big”!

SShheeewww! Low intensity conflict. Pahhh-LEAZE!! Anxiety over having to present a proposal to the boss the next day. Most people wouldn’t last two hours in my world. But, truth be told, I’m probably no more stressed or no loss stressed than everyone else is at their office job or in their factory somewhere. Because the truth is, this is simply what I’ve chosen to do. And I explain it to people like this. Stress, fear, anger, anxiety . . . they are all just universal emotions. It’s just like turning up the volume on your smart phone when you favorite song comes up. If your volume meter only goes up to ten & you typically have it on 8 or 9 for your average song, you can still only crank it up one more notch even for a real kick ass song!  We can’t freak out 10 times worse than normal just because the stakes are 10 times higher. That’s a realization that brought me some finally brought me some peace. I used to resent my civilian neighbors more than I do now for living filled with such petty concerns. But then I realized that what looks petty to be as I’m trying prevent the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile looks big to someone back home trying to hold down a job. I don’t consider those guys lesser men anymore–just different. After all, I choose to do this. I was made to do this. God has different plans for different men; but we are still men. We are all still necessary & valuable. We each just have to serve our purpose. And I haven’t even gotten to the women yet! Where would we do without them?

Anyway, that’s what terminal recognition did for me; enabled me to forgive my neighbors for living a life different from mine. Terminal recognition is the term we use in the task force for that idea that we can only feel fear up a a set max level. Once you hit level 10, rest assured you are adequately aware of the high stakes. Focusing on your fear or how big a moment it is beyond this becomes counter productive. At this point, you’ve acknowledged the risk. Now it’s time to block out the emotion, formulate a plan, & execute it. That’s what we call terminal recognition. Any emotion beyond that point is just pure distraction.

We may be SEALs. We may be badass. We may be tough. But we’re still only programmed to max out emotional awareness at level 10.

I’m Jay Stone. Most people think I’m a hard-ass. The guys I work with tell me I’m “hard as stone.” And I don’t guess they’re wrong.