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The Story of America's Elite Counterterrorist Unit

Written by Eric HaneyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Eric Haney


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: July 29, 2003
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-440-33440-8
Published by : Dell Bantam Dell
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They are the Army's most elite top-secret strike force. But you won't hear about their heroics on the news, no headlines about them can appear in the papers, and no one—not even their families—can know who they are. First Special Forces Operational Detachment-D—Delta Force, America's supersecret counterterrorist unit. On paper they do not exist, but without them, our lives wouldn't be the same.

In this exclusive behind-the-scenes account, founding member Eric L. Haney, Command Sergeant Major, USA (ret.), takes you into the grueling selection and training process of Delta Force. From learning how to open a padlock with a soda can to rescuing a hijacked airplane, these men are masters of espionage and warfare. They are the anonymous heroes who protect us every day from threats we'll never know existed.



I am a nomad, son of an ancient line of nomads. The larger part of my family line is made up of the Scots-Irish, a people descended from that peculiar mixture of the Celts of the northern British Isles and the invading Danes and Norsemen. The result was a landless, illiterate, anarchic, and warlike people who were always difficult, if not downright impossible, to govern. They were a race the British Crown rightfully viewed as dangerous rebels, and consequently exiled to the New World by the tens of thousands.

On arrival in the American colonies, these people fled as far as possible from government control, many of them crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains, and migrating from there throughout what eventually became the highlands of the southern United States. They were the original "backwoodsmen" of American history. In their new home these renegade peoples tended to travel together in interrelated clans that also married and bred quite readily with the Cherokee and Creek Indians of the region.

Both sides of my family were landless sharecroppers and mountain people as far back as I can determine. There is no written record of ancestry, for my parents were the first of our people to read and write and to own a little property. Inherited wealth may be something easily squandered, but inherited poverty is a legacy almost impossible to lose.

What did I receive from this lineage? Things I consider to be very valuable: a good raw intellect and a good tough body. A sense of independence and a realization that wherever I am is my home. A sense of humor. A sense of personal honor that results in a touchiness common to our people. We are easily offended and prone to violence when offended. When the only thing you own is your sense of honor, you tend to protect it at all costs.

I inherited a sense of wanderlust and a curiosity about the world. I inherited a warlike attitude; we have always been good soldierly material if properly disciplined and broken in. I inherited a sense of spirituality rather than "religion," which has served me well, especially in trying times. I am self-confident and resilient. My psyche is self-cleansing. I love life.

I grew up in the mountains of north Georgia during the fifties and sixties. It was then part of the "third world," and some say it still is. Electricity came to our home when I was a young boy. Indoor plumbing followed some years later.

Though I have some fair native intelligence, I never received any direction in school and was often an indifferent student. But I loved to read and would consume all my textbooks at the start of the year and then coast after that. I preferred roaming the mountains, hunting, fishing, and exploring.

I would become the first of my family to graduate high school, and for us that was considered a pretty good achievement, as our expectations weren't very high. It isn't that my parents were against education, it's that neither of them had gone further than elementary school and they just didn't have the ability or the understanding to help.

Though we may not have been scholars, we did know how to go into the military. I had grown up listening to the war stories and tales of my family and friends and I was determined to join up just as soon as I was able. I enlisted in the Army in the spring of 1970, while still in high school, with a reporting date immediately after graduation. I fell in love with the Army as soon as I met her.

I became a professional soldier, and that is what I will be until I die. The military is a profession that brands itself on the soul and causes you forever after to view the world and all human endeavor through a unique set of mental filters. The more profound and intense the experience, the hotter the brand, and the deeper it is plunged into you. I was seared to the core of my being.

For twenty years, I served America in the most demanding and dangerous units in the United States Army. As a combat infantryman, as a Ranger, and ultimately, as a founding member and eight-year veteran of the Army’s supersecret counterterrorist arm, Delta Force.

Close brutal combat puts a callous layer on each individual who undergoes the experience. With some men, their souls become trapped inside those accrued layers and they stay tightly bound up within themselves, unable or unwilling to reach outside that hard protective shell.

For others, the effect is just the opposite. That coating becomes like a looking glass, highlighting and magnifying the things that are really important in life. Every sensation becomes precious and delicious. Even the painful ones. Sometimes especially the painful ones. I feel that's what my experiences have done for me.

I hate the destructiveness and waste of warfare, but I love the sensation of it. In combat, mankind is seen in absolutes--at his very best or his very worst. There are no in-betweens. No one has a place to hide.

War has also taught me that each one of us contains every ingredient of the human recipe. By varying measure we are all cowards and brave men, thieves and honest men, selfish and selfless men, malingerers and champions, weasels and lions. The only question is how much of each attribute we allow--or force--to dominate our being.

In combat, there are no winners. The victors just happen to lose less than the vanquished. One side may impose its will on the other, but there is nothing noble or virtuous about the process. People are killed and maimed, homes and communities are destroyed, lives are shattered, families are broken apart and scattered to the wind—and just a few years later, we can barely remember why.

Above my desk is a picture taken in 1982 of B Squadron, my old Delta unit. It is one of the very few group photos ever taken within our organization. It shows a group of hardened Special Operations combat veterans. In the course of the next decade, nearly every man in that photo would be wounded at least once, some multiple times. Many were maimed or crippled for life. A number would be killed in action. All of us are freighted with the memories of those times and events, and all of us are better men for the experience.

This is my story of that perilous yet fascinating world, as seen through my eyes and lived in my skin, told as honestly and faithfully as I can. I can do no more than that.

And in honor of my fallen comrades, I can do no less.


During the 1970s, the United States became the favorite whipping boy for any terrorist group worthy of the name. They had come to realize that American interests could be struck with practical impunity throughout the world, and as the decade unfolded, the pace and severity of those assaults quickened. America, the Gulliver-like giant, had sickened of warfare in Vietnam and was both unable and unwilling to slap at the mosquitoes of terrorism.

For years, famed Special Forces officer Colonel Charlie Beckwith had been the lone voice crying in the wilderness about the terrorist threat facing the nation, and what it would take to effectively confront that threat. He had seen the need within the U.S. military for a compact, highly skilled, and versatile unit able to undertake and execute difficult and unusual "special" missions.

Modeled along the lines of the British commando organization, the Special Air Service (SAS), such an element would be the surgical instrument that could be employed at a moment's notice to execute those tasks outside the realm of normal military capability.

It was Charlie's tenacity that finally won the day and set the wheels in motion that would ultimately bring such a unit into existence. But creating that organization and bringing it to life within the hidebound hierarchy of the Army was a task not dissimilar to electing a pope.

As a rule, armies hate change--and no one hates change more than the ones who have benefited most by the status quo: the general officers. Now and then, innovative thinkers do happen to wear stars on their collars, and Colonel Beckwith's loud and persistent calls for a national counterterrorism force had found the ears of two such men: Generals Bob Kingston and Edwin "Shy" Meyer.

Kingston was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and he readily saw the possibilities of the type of force Beckwith was proposing. But he knew that presenting the idea through Army bureaucracy was like walking in a minefield--it could be killed in a thousand different ways. To make headway would require someone with horsepower and a mastery of the military political system, and Shy Meyer was that man.

General Meyer was serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, and rumor had it that he would soon become the Chief Beckwith and Kingston floated their idea of a counterterrorism force to Meyer and immediately realized they were preaching to the choir. Meyer, too, had entertained ideas along that same line, and now the three men enthusiastically shared their thoughts on the subject. The need was evident, but creating a force from whole cloth was going to be extremely difficult.

First they had to determine what types of missions their fictional unit would be tasked with, because the mission dictates a unit's size. With that they were able to build a Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E), which outlines unit configuration, rank structure, and arms and equipment. The completed TO&E allowed them to forecast a budget for both start-up and annual costs.

Once their "straw man" was complete, from his position in the Pentagon, Meyer started digging, looking for the places to extract the money and the men for the outfit. It may come as a surprise, but the Army does not just have men hanging around and unemployed. Every unit has a manpower quota, and every soldier is assigned to a unit, even if he doesn't work there. But sometimes there are units that are alive on paper but not actually in existence at the time, with the men allocated to those paper units being used elsewhere. Meyer found enough of those slots to man their dream organization, and he uncovered a source of untapped money to breathe life into it.

Next they spent months "what-iffing" their paper unit. They had to be able to anticipate every objection to their creation in advance and have a sound, well-thought-out response to every question. Allies were sought. Powerful and influential generals who could block the formation of the unit were sounded out as to their feelings on the idea. Nothing was ever presented to anyone as a proposal, it was much too early for that. For the time being they just wanted to know who were the friends and who were foes.

But when the more powerful generals realized that a new unit wouldn't intrude on their turf or siphon money from their budgets, they gave their nods of acceptance, if not approval. With that, the trio of Kingston, Meyer, and Beckwith were ready to present their plan. The formal proposal for a national counterterrorism force was presented at the Fort Benning Infantry Conference in the summer of 1977. With all the details and political machinations completed in advance, the proposal was duly approved, and it was recommended to the Chief of Staff of the Army that such an organization be formed immediately. By that time General Meyer was the Chief.

1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta was given offficial life on 21 November 1977 by order of Headquarters, Department of the Army. When Beckwith was chosen to command the new outfit, he immediately set to work. He handpicked a few staff members, found an old derelict building in an out-of-the-way spot on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and started the struggle to midwife his baby.

It would not be an easy birth.

From the Hardcover edition.
Eric Haney|Author Q&A

About Eric Haney

Eric Haney - Inside Delta Force
Eric L. Haney, Command Sergeant Major, USA (ret.), served for more than 20 years in the United States Army's most demanding combat units. Today Haney lives and writes in the relative peace and quiet of Marietta, Georgia.

Author Q&A

Q&A for Inside Delta Force by Eric L. Haney

Q: The military still refuses to acknowledge the existence of Delta Force. You're the first veteran of this unit to ever write about its selection process, training, as well as missions it has executed. Why did you decide to break the silence?

A: Silence serves an operational importance. It protects the operational security of current operations and other actions contemplated for the immediate future, and it also protects the identities of the people involved in those operations. But as with all things in the military, custom takes hold and people continue to do things simply because, "That's the way we've always done things around here." And in many cases that serves no useful purpose. The operations and events I speak of in the book took place, on average, two decades ago and I have self-censored even those events to varying degree when I had the slightest doubt that I might divulge something that could have an impact on current or proposed undertakings by Delta Force. But the reason I wrote the book is for the simple fact that I believe it is important for the American people to know what sort of unit this is, what its capabilities are, and the kind of men who compose this singular organization. And also that we realize the tremendous sacrifices these men make for the good of our country. And in light of the recently declared "War on Terrorism" the book just might bring the reader to realize what a thin line of men stand between our nation, our culture, and the forces of barbarism.

Q: What sets Delta Force apart from the other special operations units we have in the military?

Delta Force is the only special operations unit that is tasked with conducting low visibility, counterterrorist operations. It is also the only organization that will send a single individual into enemy territory to accomplish a task. The unit is able to do this because the Delta Force Operator is characterized by his maturity, sound judgement, innovative capabilities, along with his superb combat skills. He is a professional NCO who is older than the average soldier, is already an accomplished leader, and has undergone and successfully completed the rigorous and unique Delta Force Selection process. He is also a man who knows that his most effective weapon is his mind, and he always strives to outthink his enemy before he has to fire the first shot.

Q: The declared "War on Terrorism" is unique in the history of our country. As someone who spent a decade of his life in the shadows combating terrorism, what is your take on the current situation?

A: It's been a long time coming. The blows we took last September were so severe that we finally realized we are indeed engaged in a war---just as our terrorist enemies have been saying for so many years. We have also realized that certain terrorist elements would not and will not hesitate to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against us once they have the means to do so. And for this reason we either take the fight to our enemies and do our utmost to eradicate the current threat (as we are doing), while also working diligently to prevent a regrowth of the terrorist networks or, we accustom ourselves to living as cowards. I believe we are going to do what's necessary to protect not only ourselves but civilization in general. Because if we don't, we forfeit the right of living as a free people.

Q: In the first part of Inside Delta Force you discuss what it was like to go through the rigourous selection process to make it into the unit. What was the hardest part of that experience for you?

A: Watching the steady disappearance of men and not knowing the exact reason why and wondering if I was meeting the unknown performance standard. I can remember a day during selection when I realized that two men I had served with and knew quite well, both of them extremely strong, competent, and capable soldiers, were no longer in the course. And I thought, "If they have been given the axe am I far behind them?" I had to work hard to shake-off that feeling, because I knew that to dwell on it would only cause self-doubt. And more often than not self-doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But taken in its totality there was no one portion of Selection more difficult than any other. Stress, the Forty Miler, the Shrink Evaluation,and the Commander's Board were all very trying and self-testing experiences.

Q: You've conducted operations all over the globe, in just about every terrain imaginable. What can you tell us about the brand of warfare being conducted in Afghanistan?

A: This has been a classic "Economy Of Force" operation, and one that will be much studied in the future. We have used the native dissident forces, led by Army Special Forces teams to conduct most of the operations on the ground. Our air power, directed by Special Operations forces has allowed us to achieve "Mass", or decisive combat power, without the need to commit large numbers of American conventional combat troops. In Operation Anaconda we have seen American conventional forces committed to battle once the enemy presented themselves in large identifiable formations that we were able to pin down and kill. But speaking of the warfare itself within Afghanistan: it is savage, brutal, and unthinkably difficult. I'm just glad that our nation still produces men who are up to the requirements of such a fight.

Q: Writing about your time in Delta Force must have conjured up a lot of memories, good and bad. What was the most challenging part of bringing those experiences to the page?

A: Without doubt, the most difficult aspect of writing the book was trying to impart to the reader the emotions I felt and the precarious nature of the experiences. There was no script to follow in those years, just as there is no script to life in general. I never knew in advance what was about to unfold, and I certainly never knew if I would come through the next action whole or alive.

Q: You've been out of Delta Force for over a decade now. What experience during your time in the unit remains foremost in your mind?

A: The sense of being with such a superlative and dedicated group of men.

Q: What authors do you enjoy reading? Do you have a favorite book?

A: I am a student of mankind and consequently am drawn to tales of the human spirit. I enjoy philosophy and history more than any other subjects. Of the near contemporary writers I particularly like Steinbeck. In Spanish I am a great fan of Mario Vargas Llosa, and Isabel Allende. But my favorite author of all time and my favorite book is Herman Melville and Moby-Dick. I read it at least once a year.

Q: In your post-military life, you didn't exactly retire to the country villa. Could you tell us something about what you did?

A: My first post-retirement job was conducting the ransom negotiation and ransom hand-over for a kidnapped oil executive in Colombia. I then worked for several years as a detail leader on the personal protection program of Saudi Prince Khaled Abdulaziz. A bit later I was contracted to build and lead the protective detail for the CEO of the largest corporation in Mexico. My protectee was a gentleman who had risen to the number one position on an international kidnap list. Originally he had been in the number three slot but had moved to the top of the list after numbers one and two were kidnapped. Interestingly those two kidnappings paid, respectively, 90 million, and 60 million dollars.

In between those activities I worked with two Middle-Eastern countries in their efforts to create their own Special Operations forces. In 1994 I was a detail leader on the protective program of President Bertrand Aristid upon his return to Haiti. In the following years I worked in Algeria leading the protection of a gas pipeline project as it went through a guerilla and terrorist controlled region, and started a contract aviation company in the West African country of Liberia.

A bit later I was approached about organizing and leading a coup attempt in another African nation. I am happy to report that I was able to completely thwart the parties who wanted that coup, several of the conspirators were arrested a short while later, and the country in question has remained peaceful ever since. Scattered throughout those events I have conducted security surveys and put together security programs for companies and groups threatened with genuine terrorist action in various world trouble spots. And from time to time I have been engaged conducting the recovery of American children who had been kidnapped and carried out of the country. In recent years I have been writing on terrorism, guerilla warfare, and Special Operations.

Q: What's next?

A: If the readers have a positive response to Inside Delta Force then I think I'd like to take some actual mission tales from my post-military life, give them a fictional spin, which would allow me to introduce some truly exceptional characters, and put those stories out in a novel series. Each story would be based on operations I have conducted for various clients around the world. They range from the recovery of kidnap victims in the Middle-East to a counter-coup in Africa to perhaps a tale about international gun-running. I'd also like to take some exciting historical events, such as the Spanish conquest of Mexico to name one, and present it in the form of historical fiction. It is a method that would allow me to concentrate on the characters as real humans. And I believe it would make those events come alive.

From the Hardcover edition.



"In this rapidly changing and dangerous world, U.S. Special Forces are vital to the security of all Americans. CSM Eric Haney is perhaps the World's foremost expert on military special ops. Read INSIDE DELTA FORCE and learn what we are really up against."
--Bill O'Reilly, Anchor, Fox News Channel

"A book that could not be more timely, written by a warrior who knows what he's talking about.."
--James Webb, author of Fields of Fire and Lost Soldiers

“A rousing chronicle of what it’s really like to be a special-ops guy.”

“Compelling memoir...a book that you won’t want to put down.”

“Perfect for military enthusiasts.”
--Kirkus Reviews

From the Paperback edition.

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