In Jalalabad, Afghanistan, we had boarded our two MH-60 Black Hawks and set off for the short ride to Abbottabad. I looked to my left. Jeff, with whom I had gone through BUD/S, nodded a familiar nod. It was part “here we go again”, part “this might be the last time we see each other.” I scanned the rest of SEAL Team 6, and tried to repress a sigh as I locked eyes with the last-minute addition to our team, Joe Biden. None of us were happy about this. From a mission standpoint, it was a potential disaster, but the social aspect I would come to learn would rival hell week. We weren’t expecting him, but he showed up 5 minutes before we left and pulled rank on everybody.
“I’m the Vice Commander-in-Chief, guys. You can call me VC. Just kidding! That sounds like I’m Viet Cong, and I ain’t no gook, man!” he had shouted jubilantly upon his arrival.
On the Black Hawk, Biden interpreted our eye contact as my wanting to hear him talk, which he did. During my training I carried a 160-pound man on my back for 3 miles with a collapsed lung, but what my special operations training hadn’t taught me is that when you make eye contact with Joe Biden, you have about .2 seconds to look the other way before you are locked in a one-way conversation about everything in his field of vision.
“These helmets are pretty, rad, man. I can’t wait to get this son of a bitch. You got some Mexican in your blood, son? You look kinda like Carlos, my lawn guy. Are we in Pakistan, yet? This isn’t my first time in this shithole, guys. Get this: Not one 7-11 in the whole damn place. Ironic, right? The food here can give you the squirts if your bellies aren’t used to it, but we’re not here to dine. We’re here to shine.” I figured he rehearsed that one for weeks.
He had tried to pal around with us back in Virginia Beach while we did two weeks of practice raids on a full-size mock-up of Bin Laden’s compound. He kept telling us that he played football in high school and how he had wanted to enlist and go to Vietnam, but his asthma kept him out. “Damn 1-Y Army classification,” he would say no less than a dozen times during the mission. “I’m not going to let that stop me this time. I’m the VP. That doesn’t mean vagina pounder, boys, that means Vice President of the United Fucking States. Let’s get these gooks.”
No one had the time, effort, or desire to tell him he was using the wrong ethnic slur. Perhaps if he hadn’t had six draft deferments during the Vietnam War he would have gotten it right. I think Tim Yakuza, our Japanese-American medic, had to stitch his own tongue from biting it so hard.
It seemed like an eternity before we approached the compound, and Biden just...Would. Not. Stop.