Special Forces Soldiers Really Are Special

The first “live” training I ever went through was in Fort Polk, Louisiana. I put the “live” in quotation marks because everything is real…..except the enemy.

We lived in a Forward Operating Bases (FOB), followed standard operating procedures and behaved like soldiers down range.

It was good training. Especially since I had never really experienced how big The Army operated as a whole.

Anyway, during one particular “live” mission we drove into a local village to deal with a protest.

Hats off to the Department of defence for doing their best to get real Iraqis to play the villagers and mock protesters in the “town”.

Ben King

Photo: Ben King

Driving into the scene was a little nerve racking. I knew it was fake, but I still wanted to make a good impression and not screw up.

Ben KingMy simulation training at Fort Polk

Photo: Ben King

As we drove into the fray a “villager” came up to the driver side window and stared at me with a look that only can be described as hatred.

I was taken aback for a moment and then not knowing what else to do gave this guy the biggest toothy grin I could muster. 

Why a toothy grin? 

Davy Crockett.

I loved that guy as a kid and remember him explaining to someone in one of his movies that the best way to handle a Bear was to give him as big a toothy grin as you could which should distract him enough to give you time to escape or take him down.

So that’s what I did it and I’ll be damned if that guy went from shooting daggers out his eyes to smiling with embarrassment and walking away.


This experience stuck with me down range.

I learned early on that my body language had a huge impact on how Iraqis, especially kids treated me in sector.

The first couple of weeks, I got clowned. Kids annoyed me to no end.

Ben KingMeeting Iraqi kids, for real

Photo: Ben King

They treated me like I was a fool, even though I was carrying weapons and covered in body armour.

It took me some time to recognise this problem, but when I did I meticulously went over every aspect of my posture to remedy the type of energy I was giving off by the way I stood, made eye contact, shook hands and planted my feet. 

I dissected every aspect of my body language I could and you know what? It paid off.

I noticed the effect first with the kids, where before I got clowned, now I controlled. This ability to influence just by the way I stood really became useful when I would find myself surrounded by dozens of Iraqis all yelling about this or that.

I got so good by the end of my deployment that I could control a crowd and have them mimicking my gestures before my interpreter finished translating what I had said. 

This understanding of how I carried myself stood out even more when the new guys showed up.

Ben King

Photo: Ben King

To watch somebody fall for the same tricks that I fell for with the Iraqi kids was telling.

It made me think that there were some universal aspect to all us humans that will always trump culture.

The best way I can describe this universality is the language of emotion.

Bottom line, lah-de-dah, everybody can understand body language associated with fear, happiness and insecurity, to name a few.

But there is something more to it than just the physical image. There is some kinda difference in energy associated with body language and facial expressions.

For example: special forces (SF) guys seemed a little different than regular troopers. Like they possessed some type of energy that was intrinsically powerful. (anybody got any good SF stories?)

During train up at Bragg a SF commo (communications) guy said flat out: “When I’m around comms, any type it — doesn’t matter. They work for me.” 

And sure enough whatever setting we screwed up, he fixed with hardly an effort.

You every tried flashing someone a toothy grin? Your face changes, your jaw changes. It’s not the same as a smile. Nope, a toothy grin is a type of energy that’s universal. I haven’t fully tapped it yet, but I get glimpses of it here and there.

And you can be damn sure that if I ever find myself face to face with a Bear, I’m gonna go down grinning.

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