A few years back, I had a job doing pyro for a company that did “hyper-realistic” military battlefield training.  The idea was to put soldiers in high-stress, frighteningly real battlefield situations, with terrifyingly loud and realistic explosions and shooting and blood-covered casualties — and do this over and over for weeks until they stopped freaking out with all the noise and dust and confusion and started really utilizing their training. Naturally the gunfire was blanks, the casualties were makeup effects, and the explosions were relatively safe — but they were big and loud and scary, no question.  It was actually a pretty cool job. We’d start out “killing” lots and lots of soldiers, because they’d lose their heads when we started blowing things up around them, but by the end of a couple of weeks they’d be holding their own and start doing us serious “damage.”

But every once in a while, we’d have to take on some Rangers.

Now, I’m not going to compare Army Rangers to Navy Seals or Force Recon or whatever — I’m just saying that I personally dealt with members of  the 75th Ranger Regiment. And that I, personally, never managed to kill a single one. We’d be set up in a souk in the middle of a vast desert wasteland, with only one road in or out, all the way to the horizon. And we’d have mined that road, and have guards posted, and IEDs and RPGs and all sorts of other goodies waiting for them, all controlled by our command station in the third floor of the highest building in the souk.

Darkness would fall, and we’d be waiting for hours, listening and watching for the first sign of vehicles approaching on that pitch-dark road so we could unleash hell. Oh, it was going to be awesome.

Until around 3AM, when we’d hear a polite voice behind us say:  “Sirs, I’m going to have to ask you to surrender.” And we’d turn around, and the room would be full of Rangers, kindly not actually pointing their rifles at us because blanks are still dangerous at close quarters.

They’d been choppered in below the distant horizon, and, ignoring the road, had run — run — nine miles across rugged desert in full gear and pitch darkness, using night-vision goggles in that moonless terrain.  Arriving at the souk, they’d silently “killed” our guards and climbed three stories up the outside of our building (we’d booby-trapped the stairs) and come in through the back window without making a sound.  Sure, perfectly simple.  For a Ranger.  None of them were even out of breath.

And I noticed that when you are that badass — I mean really, seriously badass, the kind of calm, quietly capable badass that doesn’t need tattoos or attitude or sneering expressions — you really do walk different. Head up, chin down, shoulders back, abs tight — and scanning.  Always scanning.  It’s not aggressive, it’s not a swagger.  It’s just capable.  

It’s Special Forces.

Artist’s Notes:  Let the record show that I rule at drawing cars. – Max