July 2020 Newsletter

Chief and I

The Ambassador’s Column

By Ron Yeaw

Chief Gene Saunders’ association with me actually began several years prior to our first meeting. Gene became a police officer with the Chesapeake, Virginia Police Department in 1968. In 1974, through his own Army training and initiative, Gene requested, and was given permission by the Police Chief, to form the Chesapeake Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). Because of his Army experience as a Ranger that closely resembled the efforts being exerted by the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and SEALs, and Chesapeake’s proximity to the Naval Special Warfare base in Little Creek, he was able to participate in some training with Underwater Demolition Team 21 in 1975 and with SEAL Team TWO from 1982 to 1987. One training experience with SEAL Team TWO in 1985 involved fast roping from a helicopter. Because of the pilot’s inexperience at conducting such training, and his subsequent inability to adjust the helicopter’s altitude downward to compensate for the loss of the helicopter’s weight, after the first four SEALs exited the helicopter and landed and it came his time to fast rope, the helicopter was 60 feet above the ground. When Gene got to the end of the 30 foot long fast rope, there was nothing but 30 feet of air between him and the ground. As a result of his fall he suffered a broken back. (The first SEAL to get to him was the SEAL Team TWO Command Master Chief Rudy Boesch who, in 2019, retired as the US Special Operations Command Master Chief after 45 years of service.) The experience reinforced in Gene’s mind that, like Ranger training, SEAL training can be adventurous and fun but also inherently dangerous.

 

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