A Special Forces operator’s account of his experience of suffering a concussion while in the field, personal insight and recovery.

In combat, a single moment can blur the line between control and chaos, as I discovered when a shard of bullet shrapnel sent my world spinning into the depths of a concussion.

The night was charged with tension, the kind you could feel tingling in your veins. We were deep in enemy territory, the darkness our only ally as we moved with purpose, silent as shadows. That’s the thing about being in the field; you’re always teetering on the edge of chaos.

Suddenly, the silence shattered like glass under the weight of gunfire. It was an ambush, and in the ensuing chaos, a bullet whizzed by, its shrapnel slicing through the air and finding its mark on the side of my head. The impact didn’t just knock me to the ground; it knocked the world out of focus.

The initial sensation wasn’t pain – it was more like confusion, as if my brain couldn’t comprehend the hit. Then, the world started spinning, a carousel of darkness with fleeting lights, like trying to read a map in the midst of a storm. My ears rang with the sound of a thousand screaming banshees, drowning out the gunfire and the urgent shouts of my team.

Lying there, I tried to get up, but my body disobeyed; coordination and balance had abandoned me, leaving me feeling utterly helpless. It was a stark reminder of our vulnerability, no matter how skilled in tradecraft or how many scenarios you’ve prepared for.

The aftermath was a battle of its own. For days, the world felt off-kilter, as if I were walking through a funhouse with warped floors and distorted mirrors. Light became the enemy, piercing through my skull with an intensity that felt like it was trying to split my head open. Sounds were either too loud or muffled, as if I were underwater.

Special Forces Gunfight and Concussion in Bangkok, Thailand | TRDCRFT Tradecraft

My memory played tricks on me, pieces of the event slipping away only to come crashing back in disordered fragments. Concentration was an elusive beast, making the simplest tasks feel like deciphering an ancient code.

Recovery was a slow, frustrating journey. Being benched, watching from the sidelines as my team continued without me, gnawed at me. It wasn’t just the physical symptoms; it was the mental fog, the uncertainty of when – or if – I’d return to my former self. Operators are trained to deal with the physical scars; it’s the invisible ones that are harder to navigate. You learn to wear your vulnerabilities as armor, turning them into lessons on resilience and adaptability.

But amidst the struggle, there was a silver lining. The experience sharpened my appreciation for the mind, that intricate network of thoughts and sensations, and how fragile yet resilient it can be. It taught me the importance of mental health, not just physical, in our line of work. We often glorify the physical scars, the visible signs of survival, but the mental ones carry their weight in gold, telling stories of unseen battles and silent victories.

Reflecting on the ordeal, it’s clear how moments like these shape us. They test our limits, challenge our resolve, and ultimately, reveal our true strength. The path to recovery was a testament to the power of the human spirit, a reminder that even in our darkest hours, we possess an incredible capacity to overcome.

As operators, we’re trained to face adversity, to adapt and overcome. This incident, this concussion, was just another chapter in that ongoing mission, a stark lesson in the unpredictability of our field and the resilience required to navigate it.

[INTEL : Psychological Defense Training]

[OPTICS : Bangkok, Thailand]