About Viking One

I know what you’re thinking. “Why Viking One?”, right? We’ll get to that later. Don’t worry, I’ve got your six. That’s military jargon for “I’ve got your back.” Get it? Okay. Now where do I start? Oh, yeah. I’ve got my bearings now. Here we go.

I was born Acero Briones Castillo on 14 August 1972. Not really sure why my mother gave me that name, but you can just call me Ace. Only me mum calls me Acero, and that’s when she’s pissed. My first day on Earth was already marred by bad juju. My mother would tell me about it when I was in my teens about how my father was actually a married man. And how his wife had paid her a visit at the hospital on the day of my birth just to tell her to leave him alone. Welcome to Earth, Ace. That was just a taste of things to come.

My mom and I lived a semi-nomadic existence, bouncing from one place to another: Manila, Pasig, Cubao, Davao City, at some point Teacher’s Village, then some other places I can’t remember then finally Don Antonio, QC.

My childhood was mostly a blur, really. Sometimes, I try to recall happy moments I had as a child. I did have some. But they were mostly when I was at school. Not because I loved studying. I mean school was okay, you know, but it’s just that…being home meant pain. You see, my mom had this habit of knocking me around when I was a kid, especially when she was intoxicated. I dreaded going home, but the problem was she went to school every afternoon in her car to pick me up. And she never came on time. Seriously. My classes ended at 3 p.m. but she would pick me up after five. I hated hearing that car horn. It was like the Horn of Doom. You could always tell it was her because she leaned on the damn thing like she was trying to choke it to death.

She had a 20-second rule. If I wasn’t in the car in 20 seconds, I would get the obligatory smack in the back of the head. Imagine being seven, a first-grader. You have a bag full of books that weighs almost two kilos. From the school’s gate to the parking area was about forty feet. Would you make it in twenty seconds? It became so routine, sometimes I’d just get in, and just wait for the hit. I remember splitting my lip twice and ending up with a bloody nose at least once because of this.  It would carry on till the third grade. By the time I got to the fourth grade, I didn’t feel like a kid any more.

I had one good experience when I was ten. First kiss. ‘Twas my nanny, Minda. She was 18 or 20 I think. Damn she was hot. Now that I think about it, that is. Let’s not get into details on this one, hahaha! But again…she was hot. It made the beatings worthwhile, I’ll tell you that. That went on until I was twelve, when she left. No sex here guys, sorry. That didn’t happen until my fourteenth birthday. I had these friends who were older than me, because I liked hanging around older guys and girls back then. Well, we celebrated my birthday at one of their houses and they brought along some girls, one of whom was named Monica. And damn, if she wasn’t hotter than Minda. Again no details here. Let’s just say I had a VERY happy birthday indeed.

After that, everything really went downhill. By the time I was fifteen, it was an orgy of alcohol, drugs and sex. And I mean a LOT of all three. It just got so bad. Now, most guys would have thought that was cool, but not when you start getting into a lot of trouble. It went on like that until I was in college. Going around with a bad crowd leads to making bad decisions. I found that out the hard way. I was always getting into fights. It all culminated with this one fight I got myself into, over a girl. (No surprise.) This happened on campus. He came at me with a hammer. I managed to get it from him and ended up pummeling him with the handle. (Only because I could still tell right from wrong, and didn’t want to kill anyone. Not because I was being nice.) He ended up with a cut eyebrow, some bruises, and a split lip. I just got a few scratches on me. He got suspended for a month. I got banned for life. I’m not kidding. I was. I should’ve let him get him get in a few solid hits before I took the hammer away from him, hehehe. I was about nineteen by then. The next phase of my life was about to begin.

After getting expelled, I decided I needed a break from everything. My friends, all the drinking, the drugs, and yeah believe it or not, even the women. So I went to Davao City for Christmas. This was around 1991. I lived at my grandmother’s place, and I found Davao to be a very welcome change. I didn’t want to go back to Manila, but sooner or later I would have to decide what I was gonna do with my life.

On the fourth or fifth month of my stay, I met the son of one of my grandma’s friends. We clicked right away, although he was in his late thirties. We shared a common fondness for malt (beer) and women. Don’t judge me, okay? After all I was nineteen. Know any nineteen-year-old boys who aren’t? I mean unless their gay, right? So we got to spend a lot of time together hanging out at clubs and just about every watering-hole in the downtown area. That guy knew how to get properly knackered, I’ll tell you that. This went on for about a month.

Then there was this one time when we decided to just stay indoors, you know, just kick back, drink at his place. It gave us the opportunity to talk about serious shit for once. And that was when I found out that this was no ordinary guy. He was former Army, but during that time he had moved on to G-2 or what is known as Military Intelligence. He was the first military man I had ever met, and I had no idea. He didn’t look the part. No crew-cut, no military-style clothing that you usually see men in that profession like to wear. He looked more like a damn cab driver, if anything. But then again, he was Intelligence, so keeping a low profile was very important in his line of work.

Of course I was young, so what did I know, right? But now, when I think back, there would have been one dead giveaway if I had met him now instead of years ago. His eyes. When most people smile, their eyes “smile” too. You get what I mean right? Emotions show not just through facial expressions, but they show in the eyes. This guy didn’t have that. Dead-pan. Obsidian. Those are the words that come to mind now. Years later, some people would describe me in pretty much the same way I am describing him now.

Anyway, while we were drinking, the subject of my life came up. He asked questions, I answered them. It was almost like an interrogation, except this was one interrogator I would have liked. Not judgemental, no comments, he just listened.

After about four hours of this and drinking, he asked me out of the blue, “Ace, what are you going to do now? You’re going to have to get a job you know. Unless you plan on going back to school. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?” That last question was asked with emphasis, and made me pay attention. It was just the way that he said it, I guess. I didn’t have an answer right away. Then the next thing he said was, “Have you ever considered the Army?” I almost laughed. Sure, me in the Army right? Who was he kidding? I mean I loved action movies as much as the next guy, but ACTUALLY signing up? No fuckin’ way. I wouldn’t survive training, I told him. But deep inside, I took a step back and looked at what had become of my life. There was just no direction. No focus. Then, I realized: I had nowhere else to go. And when you have nowhere to go, you have nothing to lose. That night, I made up my mind. I was gonna do it.

And three weeks later I was off to basic training. It took some time, but I got accustomed to barracks life. And yeah, its a stuctured lifestyle. I learned not to do things out of hand. There are times you can, but you’re taught that it’s always better to think it through first. There’s always what we call, “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” They taught me to be a teamplayer, although individuality was also encouraged. (“What if everyone else is dead, and you’re the last man standing, Private?”)

After basic, they had a Scout Ranger training program. I opted for it, because I figured since I’m gonna be in the business of killing and dying anyway, I might as well kill and die with the best. I wanted to see how far I could take it. It was getting into my blood. And I revelled in it.

Surprisingly, the hardest part of  Ranger training wasn’t the physical abuse. I have my mom and ass-wipe stepdad to thank for that. It was the tactics training. Marksmanship. Night Navigation. Compass and friggin’ map-reading. Explosives. Reconnaisance. Unconventional warfare. Hand-to-Hand Combat. Night-fighting. Selective Elimination. Infiltration. Sabotage. Knife-fighting. I couldn’t believe the Government was actually paying me to learn all this shit. I couldn’t help but think sometimes that I’m just so the wrong guy to teach the arts of mortal combat. I went through it all, and for the first time in my life…I was actually having fun.

I loved SERE(Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape)Training. I doubt Rambo Stallone could have survived it. Sleep deprivation’s a bitch. Hell Week meant one week you got only one hour’s sleep per day for seven days. By the fourth you were hallucinating. It was both the worst and yet most liberating experience I’ve ever had. I felt like I’d just gone through a near-death experience, it was so awesome.

(If you’re a bad guy, this is NOT something you want to encounter on the battlefield. A highly agitated Ranger with a loaded weapon. Pfc. Nicolas Sambrano, *WIA-1995)

By the time it was over, only about 50 of us out of 400-plus candidates made it. If that was not a goddamn achievement, then I don’t know what is.

After graduation, I remember looking at myself in the mirror. A lot had changed in the past 9 months. I was leaner, darker, and looking a bit older than my 19 years. I was no longer that confused kid who was going nowhere. Now I had a purpose. Hot damn, I’m now a trained professional killer. When you come to realize something like that, it just blows you away. Hehe.

(That’s me behind machine-gunner Pvt. Nilo Braser (KIA-2000) Pic was taken outside a village in South Cotabato…)

So, why Viking One? That was my call sign. The unit I eventually ended up with called ourselves “Vikings”. Although most missions were and reconnaissance didn’t require contact with the enemy, whenever they needed someone to conduct “direct action” or what is unofficially called “revenge raids”, they got us to do it,  hence the unit’s name. After all, what were Vikings if not raiders and a crazy bunch of fighters. Nice, yes?

I started out as Viking 7 actually, but whenever we lost someone (**KIA or WIA, or simply left the team.), I would move down the chain. I never used Viking 6, since the number 6 is used only for team leaders (lieutenants). So, when Viking 5 got killed, I became the next Viking 5. When Viking 4 got shot and was left disabled, I became Viking 4. And so on and so forth, get my point? So that means that four other guys either got killed or wounded before I became Viking 1. Every single one, a friend and a brother. It sucks, but life isn’t supposed to be fair now, is it?

Over the years, ever since I left the service I’ve had friends ask me questions about my past life. And even though they are my friends, it was always hard to give them straight answers. And of course, you probably know what the most common questions are, right? Because you would have probably asked it yourself: “What’s it like?” or “Did you ever get to kill anyone?” You know, those questions.

I mean, how can you explain to someone what it’s like shooting another human being in the face with an automatic weapon? Or looking into a scope and watching some guy for hours,  going through his normal daily routine like eating, smoking a cigarette or drinking his morning coffe, just like you do. You can see him not as an enemy fighter, but as a person. Until you get that order over the radio to take the shot.

I remember my instructor during sniper training telling us on our first day, “What we are going to teach you here will be that grey area between justifiable homicide and cold-blooded, premeditated murder. If you can live with that, then welcome. If not, walk away right now.” We all stayed.

So this blog is my way of answering those questions. Proceed at your own risk. Use of deadly force is authorized beyond this point. Kidding. Enjoy!

*WIA – Wounded In Action

**KIA – Killed In Action

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Comments
  1. moonmirae says:

    0_0 you have a bee-log tito beh??? me adds you to mai bloggierollz ha, melaikick.wordpress.com… >^.^< add me too… bat si gaki lang?

  2. maelfatalis says:

    acero! haha! babuyan na! lmao!

  3. maelfatalis says:

    pakyu ka acero. pinapaiyak mo ako.

  4. […] hate Acero. I remember him saying this during our nomo moments in TK. He sports a blog now. And I’m happy […]

  5. vikingone says:

    hehehe. well i’m glad that somehow napasaya kita, friend. 🙂

  6. maelfatalis says:

    naiyak lang ako sa wento mo. 🙂 ang alam ko lang kasi, wala kang tatay sa birth cert mo. :p remember?:D

  7. vikingone says:

    onga. kasi hindi sya pumunta diba? hehehe

  8. maelfatalis says:

    haha. tk na! 20 minutes nalang o. LMAO

  9. vikingone says:

    potah walang ganyanan. 8 pa out ko, huhuhu

  10. maelfatalis says:

    ow shet. parang gusto kong pumunta. haha!

    ps wala akong problema. haha!

  11. vikingone says:

    ayun o! punta na. sabay out namin ni shilet!

  12. maelfatalis says:

    not today. hehe. bahay na ko. jogging/pakyut mode muna. :p

  13. maelfatalis says:

    hindi ako pwede e. uhm, one of these days. dami ko ginagawa e. 🙂

  14. vikingone says:

    oki, hehehe. ingats!

  15. argento says:

    nice blog sir. does SR and marines have the same training?

    • vikingone says:

      thanks. same training? well, i’d say all military training follows a basic pattern. but both units have their own “specialties”. marines are more like shock troops, when you want to swarm an area with heavily armed men. which is why they’re organized in 30 to 40 man platoons, and they have what’s called “heavy weapons platoons”. they specialize in platoon-size assault and taking beachheads. SR does more reconnaisance and “unconventional” warfare, and operates in smaller units (8-man squads, 16 to 20-man platoons) and are pretty much “lightweight”. they say that marines are fanatics, and rangers are crazy, but i think that’s just a matter of opinion, hahaha!

  16. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  17. 9MX says:

    To say I was entertained is insulting, to say that I understand is lying. But your accounts here made me appreciate our military, particularly those who are out there, blood, guts, and all. Mabuhay kayo!

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