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Angelini Talks Gaming With DEVGRU Operator Craig Sawyer

Storytelling, Navy SEAL-Style

Tom’s Hardware: Beyond your skill set on the ground, we hear you're also a very proficient driver. I believe you led a team in Desert Patrol Vehicles (formerly Fast Attack Vehicles) in the Gulf War, right? Was it ever necessary to fight on the move? The DPV is a personal favorite in Battlefield 3 for its ability to get into enemy territory quickly with a complete four-person squad. Can you share a story about your experience with the DPV?

Craig Sawyer: Yeah, those Fast Attack Vehicles were amazing! The suspension allowed us to maintain serious speed over just about any terrain. I have hundreds of hours of seat time in them as the Lead Driver over in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Lots of crazy incidents happened involving the helicopters we worked from (and crashed in) and the areas we operated. I'll share a couple declassified anecdotes on that in my autobiography, which will be out next year.

Craig's FAV crew in Saudi Arabia

Tom’s Hardware: Oh, man, can you tease us with just one? The Rock was one of my favorite movies for the assault scene on Alcatraz island, where a Super Stallion drops a SEAL team with a couple of SDV mock-ups underwater. The specialized interaction with vehicles is such a unique part of what you guys do, isn’t it?

Craig Sawyer: Well, just prior to Desert Storm, my crew was inserting on another FAV training op in Saudi Arabia with our FAVs backed into two Army CH-47s. The pilots of my bird kept seeing warning lights for the chip sensor, which apparently meant they were getting engine fragments in the oil filter. We kept doing fixed-wing-style landings to avoid browning out the pilot's vision with the dusty sand. We had to land to let the crew chief out so he could clean the external oil filter, which then allowed the pilots to reset the computer so we could continue the mission.

As soon as it got completely dark and the crew switched to night vision, we initiated another one of these landings and ended up hitting an apparently not-so-easily-seen above-ground oil pipeline. I was strapped into the driver's seat of my FAV, facing the back of the bird. The pilot pulled so much pitch to avoid hitting the pipeline that he had me staring at the desert floor! At that point, that bad engine blew and we landed on the pipeline with the pilot's highly-concerned comms blaring through my ICS headset.

They got just enough torque to get off the pipeline and land on solid ground. The pilot announced over my headset that the mission was a scrub, that we were aborting to return to base, and that us SEALs should consolidate into the second bird behind us. But my headset was already spinning in the air; we were in a dead freakin' run to the other bird, regardless of what that pilot was going to say! Funny, wild times.

Ready on Fast Attack Vehicles

Tom’s Hardware: Alright, just one more story. It is rumored that the U.S. Navy SEALs have a robust sense of humor. What is the most memorable prank pulled on you or a member of your team?

Craig Sawyer: Man, when I first got to the SEAL teams, a couple of the guys were getting their Tridents pinned on, which is a huge day and a big barbecue celebration for us, usually out back by the beach. One guy was sitting in a wheelchair, completely taped to it, with an orange traffic cone over his head for a hat and a water hose stuck into the top on full blast. He was gurgling under there, happily singing some song about becoming a frogman.

His buddy was completely taped to the fence in a half-sitting position, with one plastic cup taped to his hand and another taped to the top of his head. His entire body was covered in tape, including his left arm, which was also taped to the fence. All you could see was his mouth and these two cups. Guys would walk by and he would blindly call out, begging for beer. So, they'd pour some beer into the cup on his head and he had to try to dump that into the cup taped to his hand so he could drink. After all, it was a celebration. Witty stuff!

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.