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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!

  • jaquith
    Very interesting article and special thanks to Craig Sawyer!

    We did not pursue questions that would violate OPSEC
    Yeah, we wouldn't want another MoH overreaction.

    The lack of a fatigue factor, even in fairly realistic first-person shooters, has always bothered me. Most titles allow you to sprint briefly before slowing down to a run, but you’re able to shoot, jump, and then, seconds later, sprint again. Is this something that needs to change in the next generation of games, or would "the real thing" be a total turn-off for a gamer?
    Try Paintball. Otherwise VR with electric shock. Either way, IMO very few want total or close to realism in gaming other than theatrics. Listen, I've been shot by a 22mm that grazed off my knee taking-off a piece of meat -- getting welted-up from paintball's or electric shock is a cake walk.

    Personally, I'm far from a SEAL (really far) but I like my guns, and my Glock 19 with a LaserMax will make folks think twice about leaving in a home invasion - it's there as fast as I can reach. The POF-USA P308-12-MRR 7.62mm NATO is indeed sweet and ain't cheap; just what every 'deer' hunter needs.
    Reply
  • Pawessum16
    Correction on page 2:
    Tom's Hardware: I think all gamers remember the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 scene where you're a sniper in the top floor of a building in Chernobyl. As a real U.S. Navy SEAL sniper, how accurate is this experience?
    I remember that so well that I know for a fact that it happened in the original Modern Warfare, ie COD4: Modern Warfare.....before they stopped the numbering.
    And after finishing reading the article, I'd like to add that it was pretty great. To someone like me who doesn't know a thing about real world combat, it was very insightful, and Sawyer made some good points about the direction of the gaming industry in regards to shooters.
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  • Chewie
    Accuracy's my biggest problem with Crysis, to this day. I especially remember a point early in the first game where I like to lie down in the grass and take out the Norks manning MG emplacements that just can't seem to see me. The problem was, with the Assault Scope I was taking 3 or 4 shots to get a head shot on these guys. The reticle covered the whole head! I checked the range range with the visor, or binocs, or whatever, and got a range of 80m!
    Now, I'm no sniper dude, but I can get multiple 2 inch 5 round groups at 200 metres with the Steyr AUG, and that has a 1.5x optical scope. Also, no cool crysis suit to help. So at 80m, firing from prone, you bet your arse I can pick which eye to take out. But not in Crysis. Most of the other stuff about that group of games is cool, but the accuracy issue drives me nuts every time.
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  • army_ant7
    Tom’s Hardware: What is Sleep, Eat, and Lift?

    Craig Sawyer: Hey! Are you punking me, man!? Hah.
    Chris, I bet you were making your prayers and cringing already while he was saying that. :lol:
    I'm kidding of course. :P But I know I would, knowing that guy could snap my neck with one hand! :lol:

    That aside, a great read! I thank you and Mr. Sawyer there. :D I giggled at the thought of how ridiculous the things we do in games are, and imagined it in real life. Seeing those CoD (and others) commercials would make think they're silly now albeit still cool. :lol:
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  • blackmagnum
    He could run for governor of California...
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  • US_Ranger
    Good article. I especially liked the part about posers. That shit always bothers me and I've run into my fair share of them as well.

    Sua Sponte Craig, good luck in your new endeavors.
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  • mapesdhs
    Thankyou so much for this article Chris! The most interesting piece I've read on any site for
    a long time.

    Best wishes & respect to Craig and all his colleagues.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • happyballz
    ChewieAccuracy's my biggest problem with Crysis, to this day. I especially remember a point early in the first game where I like to lie down in the grass and take out the Norks manning MG emplacements that just can't seem to see me. The problem was, with the Assault Scope I was taking 3 or 4 shots to get a head shot on these guys. The reticle covered the whole head! I checked the range range with the visor, or binocs, or whatever, and got a range of 80m!Now, I'm no sniper dude, but I can get multiple 2 inch 5 round groups at 200 metres with the Steyr AUG, and that has a 1.5x optical scope. Also, no cool crysis suit to help. So at 80m, firing from prone, you bet your arse I can pick which eye to take out. But not in Crysis. Most of the other stuff about that group of games is cool, but the accuracy issue drives me nuts every time.
    I personally participate in bolt-action rifle competitions up to 1000yards but...AUG A’s 1.5x optical scope with 2 inch groups at 200m? You better have used a fully locked bench rest for that...AKA you were just pressing the trigger and the bench was holding aim. Otherwise I really doubt your "consistent" 5 round groups; I have used A1's reticle 1.5x scope before, and after 100-150 yards the "donut" reticle covers too much to know where the true center is. So you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.
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  • mayankleoboy1
    happyballzSo you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.
    Or he has practiced lots and lots more than you
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  • stevelord
    One of my favorite experts on Top Shot. Can't wait till the next season (which has been filming since September I believe.)
    Reply