PERSIAN GULF — Every service member who goes into combat thinks about what will happen if he or she is captured, but few have spent more time thinking about it than Petty Officer Paul Gallagher, who recently returned from detention in Iran after approximately eight hours.
“Oh, yeah. I was ready for it. Some guys are scared, but I had a plan. Those assholes weren’t going to know what hit them,” Gallagher said.
After completing his online SERE training, Gallagher spent every spare moment in the months leading up to his deployment learning a skill many in the military no longer bother with: Morse code.
“They made us learn the POW code, but that's just stupid,” he told reporters. “How am I gonna tap a code while my head's getting chopped off? I learned to blink Morse.”
“Of course, it turned out to be a total waste, since the Revolutionary Guard never filmed me in close up. I’m honestly kind of pissed,” Gallagher added.
Thanks to his incessant practice Gallagher actually developed a tic, and now unconsciously blinks the last word anyone says to him.
Gallagher had a clear plan of things he was going to say if he showed up in one of the Iranian regime's propaganda videos.
“Basically, I was just going to loop between ‘I love you Mom and Dad,’ ‘Murica,’ ‘and describing all the nasty things my captors do to livestock,” Gallagher said. “Any time there was even a possibility of a camera on me, I went all Morse, all the time.”
Gallagher continued, “If they had put me in a cage like ISIS does, I had been training myself to blink ‘I’m cold’ by burning myself with matches. Losers.”
Chief Petty Officer Ian McGuinness has very little use for Gallagher's hard work.
"He should have just done the training the way it's designed," McGuinness said. "It's like eight extra forms to fill out because of his 'initiative.'"
As Gallagher prepares to medically separate thanks to a disability claim founded on his blinking tic, other sailors try to keep his spirits up by mouthing offensive words at him when he’s talking to reporters and senior officers, to see if they can get him to blink foul language at visiting dignitaries.
“This morning, we got him to blink ‘vagina’ to [Secretary of State John] Kerry,” Seaman Josh Koerpel told Duffel Blog. “Totally awesome.”
Gallagher’s commanding officer, Cdr. Nathan Darling, says that the horseplay has had an unintended but beneficial consequence.
“I have the most Morse code proficient sailors in the entire world,” Darling says. “We’ve actually being put in for a unit commendation for it.”