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Zeroed In: Dan Brokos

Sergeant Major Dan Brokos Has Spent 21 Years in Army Special Forces Doing Bad Things to Bad People, and He’s About to Start Dropping Knowledge in RECOIL. Here’s His Story.

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

When you first encounter Dan Brokos, you immediately start casting around in the far corners of your brain for a connection, as there’s something strangely familiar about him. Then it clicks. It’s not that you’ve actually encountered him in person before, but you’ve seen enough movies and TV shows to recognize that this is the dude Hollywood casts in a supporting role, who dies valiantly in the third act. He’s a berserker who stands on the bridge, bloody ax in hand; Ventura’s Blain to Schwarzenegger’s Dutch. He’s the guy you want on your team when everything goes sideways and it’s time to fix bayonets.

Having spent over a quarter century doing just that, it’s now time to move on. In 2017, Brokos retires from one of the most prestigious positions in Army Special Forces, that of NCO in charge of the notorious Range 37 complex in Fort Bragg, a facility that has touched every SF assaulter, sniper, door kicker, and skull splitter at one point in their career.

Range 37 is home to SFAERTEC and SFIC, two intense courses responsible for turning out special forces assaulters and snipers, equipping them not only with skills specific to their roles, but also to act as instructors within their own teams. In addition to schooling hundreds of Green Berets every year, Range 37 staff also expend hundreds of thousands of rounds in evaluating weapons systems — you may have seen the recently published SF document regarding mid-term weapons procurement. Their shift to a 6.5mm intermediate caliber sniper rifle, mid-length gas systems on 5.56 carbines, .300 BLK PDWs and suppressors for everything was driven with significant Range 37 input.

At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Brokos is a soldier’s soldier, and given that he wrote the Special Forces manual on unarmed combat after attending schools from every major discipline, you’d be correct in assuming that combat is second nature. But now that his beard has more gray than black, it would be a huge mistake to think he’s ready for a quiet life of gardening and shuffleboard. According to a long-standing Army SF contact, three SEALs recently found out the hard way to their eternal chagrin that Brokos should not be referred to as “grandpa.” Ever.

We took the opportunity to train with him at a recent class for a SWAT team and can vouch for both the quality of his curriculum and his expertise as a communicator. Look for him to join the ranks of RECOIL’s contributors in future issues, as he has a quick wit, wicked sense of humor, and more experience in running weapons in austere conditions than anyone we know.

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RECOIL: How did your career start out?
Dan Brokos: I joined the 82nd Airborne, did a tour in Korea, and then decided to go SF, following an interesting conversation with one of my first squad leaders, who was going to selection. I asked him why, and he told me about the time he was involved in the invasion of Panama and had to secure one of Noriega’s houses. After three days, they were down to about one MRE between the squad, and they were sharing water, when he got a call on the radio that an SF team were taking over the location and the 82nd were to provide their security for a hit on the house. These guys walked up — he wasn’t sure they were actually military — and told them to stand by.

After an hour or so they heard a big explosion, then another one, and finally get a call on the radio to come up for chow. Having hardly eaten in the past couple of days, they pile in, and here’s a spread with eggs, ham, bacon, whole refrigerator’s laid out, and a couple of girls from the house’s staff cooking for everyone. These guys were sleeping in beds at night and not a single one had a helmet on, so after being attached to the team for a week, my squad leader decided he was in the wrong line of work. He was a good dude and I looked up to him, so figured that was what I wanted to do, too.

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When did you go to selection, and where did you end up afterward?
DB: In 1996 and proceeded to Fort Carson, Colorado, in 10th Special Forces Group and did the mountain team thing there.

I spent about four and a half years at Fort Carson and wound up as the 18 Bravo, responsible for all training and ran the range. Did I know what I was doing at the time? Meh. My dad was in the Marine Corps, and I grew up hunting and fishing with a good grasp of the fundamentals, but when I look back, I can see that I had no clue what the f*ck I was doing. This is prior to the war, and everyone looked at the 18 Bravo to run training, so I was using drills that I knew. A guy named Kevin Snyder, who isn’t with us today, became a mentor of mine. He came up to me and said, “Hey Dan, I’ve been to the CIF [Commander’s In-Extremis Force – focused on direct action counter-terrorism missions] and what you’re doing isn’t combat focused — this isn’t a civilian range.” About six months into it, I decided that I needed to go to learn a lot more. Since 2000, my entire career has been focused around gunfighting, either as part of a team downrange, or teaching others about to deploy.

Where did you go to learn more?
DB: I went to the CIF. My first team sergeant was a prior sniper detachment leader, so as soon as I showed up it was all about guns and shooting, which is still my philosophy today, but back then it was pounded into me by my sergeant. We have a very diverse mission, but there’s no better way to save lives than being very good at gunfighting. When people are pointing weapons at you, then other people are going to get hurt. If you know how to take the thinking out of shooting and fighting, then you’re going to win it.

Brokos has been shooting from vehicles for more years than he cares to remember. Look for upcoming articles on the subject in RECOIL.

Brokos has been shooting from vehicles for more years than he cares to remember. Look for upcoming articles on the subject in RECOIL.

What was your first deployment?
DB: It was off to the Balkans. All told, I think I did around six trips to Bosnia and Kosovo, and we rolled up the No. 3 guy on the most wanted list. You know how it is — watch the target for a few days, sat in a vehicle for nine hours pissing into a bottle, then there he is. Execute, execute, execute. We sat outside the homes of several other HVTs there, but never got the green light to go — I’ve always been a big dude, but back then, with a shaved head I looked Russian, so it was easy to blend in if you knew a few words of the language.

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What major developments have you seen in both tactics and equipment since 2001?
DB: We’ve had to challenge some of our core fundamentals. Prior to the war, our philosophy was based around the controlled pair  — we’ve never believed in the double tap — but everything we did was based on delivering two rounds to an enemy. What we learned was that two shots may not knock somebody down, so now we train around a fighting stance so that we’re able to deal with a worst-case scenario. If I don’t set up in a strong stance and that guy doesn’t fall, then I’m off the trigger and moving onto something else, then have to come back, ambush the trigger and well, that’s going to be a mess. You’ve got to be able to deliver a 10-round string if necessary, and that comes from the ground up.

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What role have you had in selecting new equipment coming down the pipeline?
DB: While it’s not in our primary charter, Range 37 has a hand-in-glove relationship with USSOC and USSFSC G8 departments as we’re a 135-acre test bed for that. My guys are the right guys to have input on any type of optic, weapon, or device, and we appreciate the opportunity to give feedback to the selection process, as we’re the ones who’ll train everyone on new gear. In the last four years on the assaulter side, while it might seem like basic stuff, we’ve gone over to a 12-inch rail on the Army-issued carbine that allows us to shoot properly [laughs], along with Geissele triggers. In the sniper world, there are some new developments in ammunition and calibers, and new night vision that offers significant improvements in our capabilities.

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In terms of sniper equipment, where do you think SF will be in the next few years?
DB: I think we’re going to see us transitioning to something more capable in terms of bolt-gun calibers; something along the lines of .300 Norma. I’m a big fan of both the .300 Norma and 6.5 Creedmoor as they’re fast moving and cut through wind, as well as being so much more efficient than .300 Win Mag. A .260 Rem is slightly easier to introduce, as it’s less of a change for things that are currently in inventory, but it could go either way.

What advice would you give anyone who’s about to join the military and may be considering a similar career path to you?
DB: Marksmanship and physical fitness count for a lot. Leadership is learned, but a combination of physical fitness, shooting, and leadership will get you to the top of the food chain. I’ve tried to ensure that my sons have the opportunity to be fitter and shoot more often than the average 15- and 17-year-old [laughs].

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How would you describe your leadership style?
DB: I always told everyone who worked for me, “Hey, I am the sh*t umbrella. I’ll filter everything from up top, so you guys can train and do what you need to do.” In my new venture, I can’t see me changing that, because if I can provide a positive work environment, then dudes will come and train hard. I will definitely miss the guys — hell, I miss them now, and I’m not even officially retired yet. When I went to work the other day I got a card placed on my windshield that read, “Your vehicle wasn’t recognized and next time it shows up we’ll tow it.” The guys were joking, but that’s the kind of thing I’ll miss — the professional, yet fraternity house kind of humor.

Where does Dan Brokos go from here?
DB: I like to think I’ve been pretty successful in my military career. I’ve been operational in SOF for 21 years, and my only two breaks were Range 37 as the SFARTAETC IC (Special Forces Advance Reconnaissance and Target Exploitation Course) and as company sergeant major, but you’re only as successful as the guys who work for you. And every job I’ve had, the guys have made me successful. I’ve decided that it’s best if I stay in North Carolina for the time being; I’ve spent eight years out of my sons’ lives deployed overseas, which is enough, so I’m going to spend some time with my boys. And I’ve formed a company called Lead Faucet Tactical to pass on some of the knowledge gained in those years.

How did the name come about?
DB: When I joined the 82nd, I was, of course, one of the bigger guys, so immediately got stuck with being the assistant gunner on our first live-fire maneuver. It was like, “Hey new guy, carry 7,000 rounds for the M60, spare barrels, and the Dragon missile jump pack and hump this sh*t in.” Great times! I was always taught to fire three- to five-round bursts. Anyway, on this platoon live fire, I was firing from a support position, pop the red star cluster, lift and shift, and as I’m firing three- to five-round bursts, my weapons controller runs over to me and says, “Brokos, turn on the lead faucet!” He pushed me out of the way, grabbed the gun, and started firing 10- to 15-round bursts and said, “That’s the lead faucet.” OK, got it. So I started firing 25 round bursts and got a thumbs up. So apparently it didn’t matter where you were hitting but you could pass evals back then based on sound alone [laughs].

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What’s Lead Faucet Tactical’s business model?
DB: In addition to training, we’re developing some carbine products. There are a lot of carbine accessories which either don’t fit with the TTPs we’ve been using in the SF community or are flat-out wrong, so we’re going to partner with some companies to develop products that help us make hits on target.

Training is going to be a large part of what I’ll be doing in the next few years, as it’s a natural continuation of my previous experience, and it’s something I’ve been doing with companies like Viking Tactics since 2008. I’ve been training people for 21 years and aside from deployments to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, your primary mission is to train people, as we’re usually linked up with an indigenous force, and one of the first things we do is get them to fire their weapons. Training hundreds of Green Berets every year at Range 37 has taught me that it’s not about being the best shooter; it’s all about being able to articulate the concepts and make sure people can apply them proficiently. I learn a lot from the instructors under me — it’s arrogant to assume that just because you’re at the top of heap there’s nothing left to learn.

Right now, TYR Tactical has contracted with us, and we’ve got around 40 classes laid on for the next year. We’re traveling the U.S. with a semi-trailer full of kit, and we’ll be providing training for a lot of LE agencies, so that’ll be my primary focus. We’ll also be offering civilian classes for both long-gun and pistol.

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Dan Brokos
Title: SGM (Ret.) NCO IC Range 37; CEO, Lead Faucet Tactical
Experience: 26 years Army, 21 years SF
Marital Status: Committed to his ebony goddess, Juice. (Dan made us write that)
Children: 2 boys
Age: 44
Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania
Favorite film: Jeremiah Johnson
Last Book: To Hell on a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner (dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garret)
Daily Driver: 1990 K5 Blazer, “American-made steel!”
Favorite firearm: Winchester model 1894s
Daily shooter: AR Platform TROY SOC-C with LANTAC BCG

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Dan’s EDC
> G17
> RG 37 Coin
> ID card
> Debit card
> 60 bucks
> Concealed carry permit
> American flag patch that has been with him since 2001

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