Key to Surviving a Firefight – ‘Never Panic’ – Says ‘Black Hawk Down’ Delta Force Operator

Lance Cpl. Brian Schaeffer, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, scans for threats during a firefight with insurgents near the Bari Gul bazaar in the Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 4, 2013. / U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson/Released

You don’t need to be a Delta Force operator to understand this message. Most combat troops know it very well. Never, ever panic. Being cool under pressure is the key to survival in any stressful environment, especially in a fierce firefight where you are massively outnumbered.  

But Norm ‘Hoot’ Hooten knows this better than most. And he uses one of my favorite phrases: “It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems…”

As Task & purposes notes:

Nearly 27 years ago, Hooten and other Delta Force soldiers, as well as U.S. Army Rangers, and a light infantry battalion, were fighting for survival during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. Cut off, outnumbered, and surrounded, the situation might have seemed hopeless for the American troops on the ground.

“It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems, but keep your head and there’s always a way out,” said Hooten, who was portrayed by actor Eric Bana in Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott’s 2001 military drama about the battle.

“That’s the most important thing: Keep your head, don’t panic. Never ever panic, it’s the worst thing you can do.”

As a reminder of the battle of Mogadishu, and the famous ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident that inspired a book and movie, Task & Purpose continues:

In the summer of 1993, a contingent of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers were dispatched to Mogadishu as part of a task force to capture or kill Mohamed Farrah Aidid, a Somali warlord responsible for numerous civilian deaths and human rights violations.

On Oct. 3 of that year, the task force had its chance to deal a decisive blow. Though Aidid was believed to be out of the country, his top lieutenants were going to be meeting in person, and so Operation Gothic Serpent was launched. The mission was to assault the building where Aidid’s men were meeting, seize them, load them into trucks, and then get the hell out before anyone was the wiser.

If everything went according to plan, it would’ve been all over within an hour. However, after a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, it led to a chain reaction of events that transformed the operation into a running battle through enemy-occupied streets that stretched between two days, leaving 18 Americans dead, dozens wounded, and hundreds of Somali militants killed.

Thanks for the reminder, Hoot!

These days, when he’s not working at the VA as a Pharmacist helping vets with opioid addictions, notes Task & Purpose, “Hooton makes and sells his own cigars through Hooten Young, a company he launched with his long-time friend Tim Young. They recently announced a 12-year-aged whiskey that they specifically crafted to pair with their stogies.” ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - - PAULCRESPO.COM

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11 months ago

Good man, Hoot! Make all the war plans you want, but once the first shot is fired, all the plans go out the window and the battle takes charge.

11 months ago

I remember that very well, real heroes in that battle, and many lost.terrible outcome in that battle, at least their were survivors.

11 months ago

this advice is good for everything. Donot give up, don’t stop thinking, recognizze every opportunity and do you best to take advantage and always be as positive as you can….it is amplified in an emergency. Also training and looking at many situations and imanging what you could do if….in any situation panic kills. these men lived in that ultimate when panic kills and over came even the heroic ones that didn’t make it. They all serve as great role models

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