Split Second Decision Making
Thomas Calabrese – Roy Tyler was an analytical individual who never let his emotions get in the way of his common sense, his mind was just wired that way. He took his responsibilities very seriously and tried never to assume or overlooked anything. Roy walked the fine line between being cautious and skeptical and being negative and cynical. It wasn’t like he had an obsessive-compulsive disorder or anything like that, Roy just preferred to exercise due diligence at every opportunity. He was the kind of man who started planning for his retirement when he was in his mid-twenties and only considered the thought of marriage after he had attained job security and saved enough money for a down payment on a house.
His Military Occupational Specialty in the Marine Corps was 2142 AMTRAC Repair Technician which meant after his separation from the military, Roy was qualified to work on the same equipment as a civil service employee on Camp Pendleton. His wife, Terry worked in Base Housing and they were a typical middle-class family living in Oceanside, California. They worked hard, loved their country and payed their taxes just like millions of other Americans.
Their son, Jimmy was a good boy, charismatic, happy and athletic and he grew up in a loving and nurturing environment that emphasized honesty, patriotism and respect. If Roy had any concerns about his free spirited son, it was that his spontaneity would eventually evolve into irresponsibility. He warned Jimmy about the various problems that he might encounter if he chose to go down this path. His son wasn’t one to be defiant or disrespectful to his father so his answer was simple and truthful, “I always plan, I just don’t need that much time to do it.”
At first, Roy thought his son was avoiding the issue or being humorous, but as time passed, he came to realize that his son was being truthful and was an elite spontaneous planner. That fact was confirmed when Jimmy became the starting quarterback for the El Camino High School football team. Coach Marty Nielsen was amazed at how quickly the inexperienced player could go through his progressions on the field, change the play at the line of scrimmage and still have time left on the clock. Jimmy was so decisive and calm that during his entire high school career he was never penalized for delay of game. Casual observers commented that Jimmy was always in the moment, but that was just a side effect of his quick decision making. Was he right every time… not even close, but Jimmy was correct more often than he was wrong. There was something about high pressure situations that elevated him to another level.
Some people are born with fast twitch muscle fibers. (In the simplest terms, fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibers are built for short, powerful bursts of energy.) Sprinters would fall into this category. Without getting too technical Jimmy had a fast twitch frontal lobe. (The frontal lobe is home to areas that manage thinking, emotions, personality, judgment, self-control, muscle control, movements and memory storage.)
During his senior year in high school, Jimmy met with numerous college football coaches who wanted him to attend their school. It didn’t take him long to make a decision once he met Coach Ernie Carson of the Air Force Academy. Jimmy wanted to serve in the military and this gave him the opportunity to play for someone he respected and work toward being a Combat Rescue Officer in the Air Force. Jimmy learned a lot as back-up from starting quarterback Bill Garcher who mentored him during his freshman year.
During his sophomore year at the Academy, Coach Carson was accused of sexual harassment by a newly hired employee. Jimmy knew that the charges were bogus and politically motivated and the media ran with the accusation while failing to responsibly investigate the allegations. Coach Carson’s outspoken conservative values put him in direct conflict with the ‘woke’ culture that had infected the Department of Defense and these unfounded accusations were part of their plan to get him terminated from the Academy.
Jimmy had developed a close friendship with Coach Carson, a bond that was based on respect and admiration. He had personally witnessed the man’s courteous behavior toward everyone from the locker room attendants to the starting players. Even in practice, Coach Carson rarely raised his voice and never insulted or demeaned his players no matter how badly they screwed up. Jimmy never trusted the assistant traveling secretary from the moment he saw her. She gave off a negative vibe and always looked like she had a hidden agenda.
Coach Carson was suspended, pending an investigation and Jimmy went to see him, “I’m sorry to hear about your situation.”
“You don’t want to get involved in this. You’ve got a promising future ahead of you and these people are after me, not you. Don’t make yourself collateral damage.”
“You recruited me and I learned a lot from you about being a good football player and honorable person. It would be hypocritical to just walk away like a coward,” Jimmy replied.
“There’s the way things should be in this world and then there’s the way things are,” Coach Carson shrugged.
“My dad used to tell me that sometimes we choose our battles and sometimes our battles choose us,” Jimmy reminisced, “In either case, I need to step up.”
Later, Cadet James Tyler requested permission to see Brigadier General Ben Hudson, Commandant of the Air Force Academy. He stood at attention then said, “The charges against Coach Hudson are false. I want to testify in his behalf or submit a written statement.”
“I do not recommend that, Cadet Tyler,” Brigadier Hudson said sternly.
Jimmy said, “Aim High…Fly-Fight-Win, Integrity first, Service before self. It is either a motto that we live by or a slogan sold to the highest bidder.”
“You are too naïve to comprehend the repercussions of this decision. You need to stand down because this a road that you don’t want to travel,” General Hudson warned.
“With all due respect, I can go through proper channels or I can go outside the chain of command.”
General Hudson angrily lashed back, “Don’t threaten me, Tyler!”
“That was not my intention, sir,” Jimmy said, “I just wanted to be honest and forthcoming with you.”
The charges were eventually dropped and Coach Carson was offered a significant severance package if he resigned. Soon after he left, Jimmy quit the team and left the Academy when the interim coach demoted him. Ernie Carson accepted a position as offensive coordinator at San Diego State and Jimmy Tyler transferred there. It took him a year, but eventually Jimmy earned the position of starting quarterback for the Aztecs after starter Gene Calhoun graduated. He was leading the Mountain West Conference in passing efficiency and total yards going into the championship game against Boise State at Snapdragon Stadium.
There was only 27 seconds left until the end of the game and the Aztecs were out of timeouts. They were behind by five points and on the Boise State 23 yard line. Jimmy took the snap and rolled to his left and threw a laser pass that the slotback made a catch at the 11 yards. He tried to get out of bounds, but he was tackled inside the field of play. The Aztecs rushed to the line of scrimmage and Jimmy spiked the ball with 3 seconds left. He had about ten seconds to converse with Coach Carson so he rushed over to the sideline for guidance, “Roll out to buy yourself some time. I trust your decision,”
Jimmy smiled, “Thanks coach.”
There was time for only one more play and it was either score a touchdown or lose. Boise State dropped back eight players in pass defense and rushed only three. The Aztec receivers could not find an open space in the end zone and Jimmy kept scrambling hoping one of them could get some separation, but that wasn’t happening. The chances were slim and none and slim was fading fast. Jimmy saw a crack in the defense, started to run, faked a throw, sidestepped a defender and tucked the football in and ran for the goal line. He planted his right leg and leaped at the same time that two Boise State players simultaneously hit him from the left and right. Jimmy felt the cartilage in his right knee disintegrate. He went one way and his leg went the other. The pain was so excruciating that Jimmy did not even feel the ground when he hit it. He was only two inches over the goal line, but it was enough to make the Aztecs Mountain West Champions!
The diagnosis of Jimmy Tyler’s injury were a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) and a strained anterior cruciate ligament. After surgery, Jimmy spent six months rehabilitating his knee and during that entire time, he still thought of serving in the military. His father discouraged him, “I’d be the first one to support your decision to serve, but while what you did at the Air Force Academy was admirable and the right thing to do, it’s a matter of public record. You’re outside their realm of influence right now, but if you join the military, you’ll be at their mercy. All it will take is for one pencil pusher to recognize your name as the cadet who stood up for Coach Carson at the Air Force Academy. They could put drugs, pornography or stolen property among your gear. Do you really want to be looking over your shoulder for your entire military career?”
“You’re kidding me, it’s been over two years!” Jimmy exclaimed.
Roy explained, “I’m pretty far down the food chain, but from my experiences, the only thing that exceeds the vindictiveness of the people in charge is their long term memory. The higher up you go, the more vindictive it gets.”
Jimmy discussed the issue with Coach Carson and he agreed with Jimmy’s father, “He’s right, I know you want to serve your country, but there are other ways. By the way, how’s your knee?”
“About back to normal, I could go on playing football if I had any eligibility left,” Jimmy said.
“Have you thought about playing professionally?” Coach Carson asked.
“It crossed my mind, but I’d be a fairly low draft choice or I could sign as a free agent.”
Coach Carson suggested, “I know a sports agent…let me ask him what his evaluation of you is.”
Two days later, Jimmy received a call from Coach Carson who told him, “Every team does an extensive background check on every player. My friend told me that incident at the Air Force Academy is still dogging you. Every team currently looks at you as a potential instigator and troublemaker. They also don’t think of you as a team player. Now if you were a high draft choice and didn’t have a knee injury, a team might take a chance. I’m responsible for this because if you had not stood up for me, you’d be an Air Force officer right now. There is also a good chance that you would not have sustained a knee injury.”
Jimmy smiled, “There is also a chance I could win the lottery, solve the mystery of the universe or learn astrophysics and Latin. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I make decisions and take responsibility for them. If I remember right, you didn’t ask me, I volunteered. You even tried to talk me out of it so I don’t understand how you can say you’re responsible.”
A week later, Ethan Milland and Gilbert Rosario visited Jimmy Tyler at his apartment. Ethan got right to the point, “Are you still interested in serving your country?”
“I am,” Jimmy answered.
Gilbert added, “Ernie Carson gave us your name.”
“He also gave us his recommendation,” Ethan said, “That means a hell of lot.”
“Think about it and if you’re serious, call this number,” Gilbert handed Jimmy a business card.
Five days later, Jimmy was training with former Pararescuemen Ethan Milland, Gilbert Rosario and dozen a former Special Operators at a ranch in Northern Nevada. Even though he only had two years of military discipline at the Air Force Academy, Jimmy had the mindset of a warrior and he embraced the code of the American fighting man. Six months of intense training and Jimmy was ready to go on his first mission.
Two sailors stationed at Naples, Italy were kidnapped while on liberty by a terrorist group. The United States doesn’t usually negotiate with terrorists, but that policy had changed recently and State Department bureaucrats were trying to work out an exchange that included cash and jailed terrorists. When the Special Operators found out what our irresponsible government was planning, they decided to do their own rescue. Using their connections in the Intel community, they found out that the American sailors were being held at Canale Di Tennno in the Italian Alps. This exquisite medieval village is a jigsaw of tiny piazzas, arcades and linked stone houses and is 400 meters above sea level with views of Lake Garda and the Dolomites.
Ethan Millan explained the rescue plan as he showed aerial surveillance photos to the team, “There is ony one road in and it is probably being watched. We don’t want to come over the mountainous terrain because that would take too long. Our best option is a high altitude low opening jump into Lake Garda.”
Chris Larkin commented, “That’s not so bad.”
“We’re going to do it just before sunrise. We’ll be wearing night vision goggles and the lake will be marked with an infra-red light,” Ethan said, “After exiting the lake, we’ll climb a 100 foot cliff. Any questions?”
“What’s our exit route?” Luke Bolden inquired.
Ethan answered, “Once we get the packages, we’ll make our way back to the same cliff that we scaled and base jump down to the lake. A seaplane will pick us up. Any questions?”
“What about the sailors, they’re not experienced enough to make a base jump,” Scott Mally cautioned.
“They’ll go tandem with Gil and myself,” Ethan said.
Gil Rosario passed out a sheet of paper to each member of the team and said, “Your assignments and the list of equipment you’ll be carrying is next to your names.”
Jimmy found his name and said, “You’ve got me on overwatch. Is there a reason that I’m not on the breech and insertion team. Did I do something wrong?”
“No, you didn’t do anything wrong. This is your first mission and everybody else is more experienced than you. Do you have a problem with that?” Ethan said.
Jimmy smiled, “No sir, I just wanted to make sure.”
“Be patience, you’ll get your shot,” Ethan said.
The team did a static line parachute jump from a C-130J Super Hercules at an altitude of 25,000 feet. After landing in Lake Garda, the team swam to shore and hiked 500 meters to the sheer cliff. Two men dropped their gear and looped ropes over their necks and quickly began scaling the cliff in the dark, using only a small light strapped to their heads for illumination.
Once they reached the top, they secured the ropes and began pulling the gear up. When that was done, the rest of the team used the ropes to climb up. When everybody was on top, the base jumping parachutes were set up near the edge for quick use.
Ethan ordered Jimmy, “You guard the gear and cover us during our extraction. If something goes wrong, I’ll radio. You take a chute and make your escape.”
“And leave you behind?” Jimmy asked.
“If I give you that order, that means the team is about to be killed or captured and staying around isn’t going to do any good,” Ethan said matter of factly, “Am I clear?”
“Yes sir,” Jimmy said.
“Am I clear!” Ethan repeated for emphasis.
After the team moved out, Jimmy found an elevated position with an excellent field of fire to cover the extraction route and set up his M21 Sniper Rifle with the moonlight scope. Ethan Millan and the team silently breeched the front gate and eliminated the two guards that were walking their post with deadly knife strikes. They entered the structure and proceeded to terminate the interior guards before reaching the imprisoned sailors. The mission was going according to plan until a group of heavily armed men cut off the escape route. The team engaged in a firefight with the kidnappers and when Jimmy heard the gunfire he radioed Ethan, “Requesting orders.”
“We’re cut off, we’ll find another way out.” Ethan radioed back as he fired a short burst from his weapon, “Meet at secondary extraction point. If we’re not there, you’re on your own!”
“Roger that,” Jimmy replied.
It was about a half hour until sunrise and Jimmy could see the muzzle flashes moving away from him. The extraction team was moving down the mountain trail with the kidnappers in close pursuit. When the team came to a steep cliff at the end of a canyon, they were basically trapped. They would never have enough time to scale the cliff before the kidnappers picked them off. It was a desperate situation and Ethan cautioned his team, “Conserve your ammunition, don’t fire unless you’ve got a clear target.”
The kidnappers were moving closer and were prepared to make their final assault. Ethan looked out from his concealed position and saw men falling one by one. What the hell, he thought. The kidnappers began to retreat and continued to fall because now they were trapped. When the shooting stopped. Ethan walked out, looked up, saw a figure standing on the ridge and radioed, “Is that you, Tyler?”
“Roger that, sir,” Jimmy replied.
“I thought I told you to go to the secondary extraction point!” Ethan growled.
“I was on my way,” Jimmy innocently responded, “I must have gotten turned around.”
It would be a mistake to ever under-estimate Jimmy Tyler. He may appear carefree and act like he’s just going along with the flow, but in reality he is the legendary Spontaneous Planner and the master of split second decision-making.