sniper, warrior, teacher
From New York to HUSAYBAH
Jason Delgado is an accomplished Marine scout sniper, entrepreneur, tattoo artist, podcast host, and father.
He escaped the dangers of life in the streets of the Bronx only to battle for his life in Iraq during two combat tours as a Marine scout sniper. Delgado proved to be a warrior capable of turning the tide in several of the most harrowing and historically important battles of the evolving Middle East war.
Delgado took the hard lessons learned in combat and, as MARSOC’s original lead sniper instructor, made himself a pivotal figure in revolutionizing the way special operations snipers trained and operated. With Chris Martin, Jason co-authored Bounty Hunter 4/3. My Life in Combat from Marine Scout Sniper to MARSOC.
Jason recently joined Investor Hour host Buck Sexton for this exclusive interview, edited for easier reading…
Q: Take us to the beginning, Jason. Bounty Hunter starts out and you’re like me, from New York City. You’re living in the Bronx. Things were a little rough in the ‘90s in New York, and in the Bronx in particular.
Jason Delgado: Back when I was raised in New York it was damn near lawless. The height of the crack epidemic. We’re talking the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s, mid-’90s, where we had million-dollar drug dealers running neighborhoods. We didn’t know any better as children, so we would look up to these guys. We would walk around and witness atrocities daily. People getting sliced and stabbed and killed.
I witnessed my first murder when I was five years old – my uncle, sitting across the street. I watched someone murder him. So I guess situations like that are what I accredit the my path in life, where I decided not to be a sheep or a victim. I wanted to be proactive in my survival. Ever since then, I’ve always been that head-first, go-getter trying to accomplish whatever it is at that moment. And also within the book I explain how that blind ambition also took a toll on my family life and my personal life.
So growing up in the Bronx and growing up in that lifestyle and then coming over into the Marine Corps, it was almost an effortless transition because the Marine Corps is a very aggressive culture. It’s a warrior culture. I thrived in it. I think most inner-city kids that like to scrap thrive in the military. And from there, it was blind ambition that kept me wanting to collect accolades or try to be considered best of the best. In the Marine Corps at that time, it was the Marine Corps Scout Sniper program. That’s what I wanted to achieve.
But this book isn’t a book about me praising myself, saying that I was the baddest guy in the block. It’s me explaining to those who want to follow in my footsteps about the pitfalls of that blind ambition and the negative aspects of having a chip on your shoulder.
Especially in this day and age. It’s like everyone has a chip on their shoulder and no one swallows that pride and works for the greater good.
So I want to get that message out there to the younger kids. It’s OK to be a warrior but you have to understand you’re working in a team. You have to sometimes stop and make sure you’re taking care of your team and your family because otherwise you’re going to wind up like me, losing it all.
Q: Jason, what does it take to become a Marine scout sniper? Can you tell us about the selection process or some of the more harrowing moments in that whole process of becoming an elite warrior? Bring us into that part of your life.
Jason Delgado: To become a Marine Corps scout sniper, you first join an infantry unit or a special operations unit like Marine reconnaissance battalion or force reconnaissance company. From there, you’re able to get to scout sniper school. This is back when I was a scout sniper, a lot has changed now. But back when I was actively seeking this out, you had to prove yourself to the unit in which you were going to operate in. My battalion at that time was 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.
And so they sent out an indoctrination. And the indoctrination is all physical-mental. There’s a lot of mind games that they play with you. And there is a lot of physical requirements. Tough physical requirements that you don’t see up to that point in the Marine Corps. Boot camp was like the hardest thing you ever endured up to that moment. Then indoctrination is like the rude awakening. Like, welcome to where we’re going to torture you and see what kind of stuff you’re made of.
To succeed in an indoctrination or even in the process of becoming that type of individual operator, special operator, you have to learn how to separate your metaphysical form from your physical form.
There’s no way in hell you’re going to be in your mind and succeed at some of these evolutions that you have to go through. You have to literally dig deep down inside and just not care anymore. You have to go into zombie mode.
Once you realize that you have no quit in you, that’s basically what zombie mode is. Like I don’t care what my body’s going through right now, I’m pushing through. And once you find that out, once you discover you have no quit in you, that’s the point where your commanders or those employing you want you to be. Because they know 100% that when they send you out, you’re going to accomplish the mission above that of your own comfort, your own morale, and your own safety. They just want the job done.
And if you don’t understand that and you can’t bring yourself to terms with that, don’t even bother going out for special operations.
Q: Now take us into what it was like as an elite sniper in the Marine Corps overseas.
Jason Delgado: The Marine Corps has a funny way of taking a bunch of different factors and grinding out the same product like McDonald’s. It’s nothing special when you’re in combat as a scout sniper. You’re just another team member of that battalion or that unit or that company. They don’t treat you special. You’re not going to get that. But what you’re going to get is that personal satisfaction. That instant gratification of who you are and what you can do and the fact that not everyone around you can do that.
So in other words, you’re not going to get that praise from your command. It’s not like we’re this cool unit that just shows up and we get our own area – and we run operations secretly behind the curtains. We have to learn how to play with the big picture. We have to be able to basically coordinate with smaller units. It’s a lot of groundwork. You have to do a lot on your own. No one’s going to do it for you. No one’s going to hold your hand in combat.
On top of that, most of the shocks or the decisions that are made on the ground, you’re on your own with your team and you have a small unit. And you guys have to stay alive. You can’t make an irresponsible judgement call, like opening up on four or five guys that we see and it’s only three of us. Next thing, there’s 50, 60 guys surrounding you.
You have to be able to come out of that situation or mitigate that situation as intellectual as possible. So at some point, you’re going to probably dig down into your other resources… like get a direct action team to come in there and take them out while you oversee it. It’s playing chess. It’s a long game, being a sniper. It’s not something that you go out there with a two-quart canteen of water, a box of bullets, and a rifle. It’s a lot of logistics. And a lot of should I say supporting elements and where you have to coordinate with. It’s a difficult task. It’s not what you see in Hollywood, to tell you the truth.
Q: Jason, what’s the roughest place in the country that you were? And for those who have no experience of it, what’s it like to wake up and go into combat?
Jason Delgado: The toughest situation I’ve been in was the Al-Qa’im province of Iraq, which was a small border town. I’m not sure what they call it nowadays, but at that time we named it Husaybah. And it was right on the border of Syria and Iraq. It was like a border town similar to Nogales. And needless to say, along with all the “terrorist” activity, or the insurgent activity should I say, there was the drug activity. There was the money activity. Everything that you would see at a typical border. Plus, the insurgency.
It was a very difficult period in my combat experience. Waking up every day knowing that I’m going out in the wire is something you have to suck up and push deep-down inside the pit of your stomach and hang on to it because you have to do it. There’s no not doing it.
And the “pucker factor” was at an all-time high every time you left the wire. Because you never knew if you were coming back or not. That’s how crazy it was. We had guys getting killed and injured every week. It was ridiculous. We had mortar fire in our small base two times a week at least, three times. Sometimes it was just a little bit more excessive.
That being said, there’s also the downtime. Sometimes there’s a lot of lulls in action where it’ll be like two weeks of nothing. And then you start getting complacent. But you start getting anxious as well, because you’re used to a high pace and enemy activity and now there’s nothing. All that builds up.
To be in combat is to be on an emotional rollercoaster. You’re up and down so much it gets to the point where you’re so desensitized to feelings by the time you get done, it’s once again, going back into that zombie mode.
I’ll tell you a little story. The last day of our deployment in Husaybah, we got relieved by an incoming unit. And they gave us the option to drive through the city, which would take us about 30-40 minutes to get to the main camp, Al Asad, and fly out. Or to go through the desert, which would take us two to three hours to get to the main camp. But the likelihood of us getting hit going through the desert is much less than us getting hit on the main streets.
So everyone unanimously voted to go through the desert. We didn’t care how long we were going to stay in the desert, because we knew if we chose the city some of us might not come home. And on our last day, it would have been a tragedy.
That was the quietest ride I think I’ve ever had with anyone. Everyone’s pale-faced, stone-faced and staring at each other waiting for the inevitable. We thought we were going to get hit. That’s how often we got hit. It was pretty emotionally tiring. That’s what combat is.
Jason Delgado is the author of Bounty Hunter 4/3: My Life in Combat From Marine Scout Sniper to MARSOC. It is available on Amazon right now and in fine bookstores everywhere. You can find Jason on Instagram or on Twitter, and he’s very approachable if you’d like a book signed or to attend an event he’s hosting.
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