Recently, I wrote an article on my old Drill Sergeant, Byron Humphrey, who is now a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army. If you read that article, titled “Follow Me,” you’ll be happy to know that First Sergeant Humphrey has since been placed in an active Sergeant Major’s position with his unit.
Congratulations, First Sergeant!
I was not able to drift back to the days of my basic training on Sand Hill at Fort Benning in my mind, while writing about First Sergeant Humphrey, without remembering so many of the good times, and bad, that I had while there, and also remembering some of the other men with whom I’ve had the privilege and honor to serve. One such man that comes to mind instantly when I think back on those hot, humid days in the armpit of Georgia is former U.S. Army Airborne Infantryman Dallon Higgs.
Other than as the guy who slept in the bunk beside me, I didn’t notice Higgs for any other reason during the first couple of weeks of training. That’s the time when so many new soldiers from around the country are showing their fathers for their peers and talking about how bad they are, and sucking up to the drill instructors. You know, the guys who are usually the first ones to break down, beg to call their mothers, and end up with black eyes due to that whole ‘snitches get stitches’ thing? Higgs certainly was not part of that group. He followed, rather, the words of former U.S. President and U.S. Army Cavalryman, Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
The first time I can really remember even talking to Higgs was one day after another grueling eighteen hours or so of training. I was downstairs in the reception area, on my way back up to the bay, when I heard a “pst!” I looked behind me to see Higgs’ head sticking out from behind the corner of the building that housed the showers, and he was waving me to come to him.
“I need you to spot me,” he said when we were safely behind the building and out of sight and sound of everyone else.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Just stand there. If I land on my head and break my neck, go get help.”
I stood there alright, and watched as he walked into the grass about five yards away. I had no idea what he was up to, but it sounded kind of dangerous, so he’d gotten my attention.
Higgs broke down into what I would describe as a football players ready stance and then did a back flip, his feet landing in the exact spot from which they’d left the ground. Had he been doing this in sand there would have been only one set of tracks. And then he did it again.
Over and over, at least half a dozen times, Higgs did perfect back flips, and never once did he land on his head and break his neck, requiring me to call for help.
When he was done with his back flips, he jumped up and grabbed the pull up bar, and then inverted himself to where he was completely upside down, and proceeded to do upside down pull ups.
“Are you a gymnast or something?” I asked him when he was done.
“No,” he said. “I just like exercising muscle groups most people don’t even know they have. I wrestled in high school and it really helped.”
“So, you’re like a ninja?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “But I can do this.”
He then ran up the back wall of the shower house a couple of steps, did a back flip off of the building, and landed right beside me, exactly where he’d just been. It all seemed like something straight out of a Jackie Chan movie to me.
I had now taken full notice of Dallon Higgs. He was more than just the eighteen year old kid who bunked beside me at basic training. He was something special and physically superior to most other human beings. I actually took to calling him ‘the ant’ because of the fact that ants are small, but can lift up to fifty times their own body weight. Higgs was about five feet, eight inches tall, and might have weighed one hundred and sixty pounds, but I would soon find, that pound for pound, he was the strongest man I’d ever known.
We were infantrymen, and one of the key training segments and a critical part of an infantryman’s career is hand to hand combat. In the Army, the style of hand to hand combat used is called combatives. We were to spend an entire week doing combatives training toward the end of the basic training cycle and then have a very impromptu and unofficial competition at the end of that week.
During the ten week period leading up to the combatives portion of basic training, many of the men would hold little combatives tournaments in the bays with what little free time we had in the evenings. Quickly, a sizable brick wall who had cleverly disguised himself as a human being became legend in regard to combatives. He would travel throughout all four bays in the evening and offer an open challenge to anyone who wanted to spar with him. We all watched as he summarily wiped every man into the ground, including me, in little more than a minute, if that.
Higgs would never take the challenge. He was very quiet, very reserved, and the most you’d hear from him when the challenge from the brick wall cleverly disguised as a human being was issued, (or when he’d nearly break the person dumb enough to accept the challenge in half, myself included in that one as well) was a chuckle.
“Why don’t you take this guy on?” I’d asked Higgs once, after I’d been choked out by the beast.
“I will,” he’d replied. “During combatives week. Not now.”
Combatives week finally came, and at the end of it, the brick wall cleverly disguised as a human being had an unofficial basic training record of more than one hundred wins and no defeats. His head drill sergeant had gotten used to parading him around like a trophy, and I’ll always remember, at the climax of the combatives competition, when he and his drill sergeant stepped onto the mat and issued the open challenge to anyone who would take it. You could have heard a pin drop.
And Dallon Higgs giggle.
Higgs said nothing. He merely stepped onto the mat and looked the brick wall cleverly disguised as a human being in the eyes. The two paired off, the signal to commence was given, and Dallon Higgs proceeded to choke the man out, a man who towered over him and outweighed him by at least thirty pounds, all of which was solid, rock hard muscle, in about thirty seconds.
The crowd went wild (and Drill Sergeant Humphrey had a few chuckles of his own). By then, word had gotten around that Higgs was pretty much a badass, but for the first time, everyone got to see it in action. The brick wall’s drill sergeant was livid. He was certain there must have been a glitch in the performance of his beast, or that Higgs had simply been lucky. He demanded a rematch. Both men obliged.
Thirty seconds later, Higgs had choked the beast out again.
Third time’s the charm, thought the beast’s drill sergeant. He demanded yet another rematch, and for the third time in as many attempts, Higgs was triumphant.
Higgs and the brick wall cleverly disguised as a human being were friends, and these actions were all good natured, part of training to become infantrymen, and after the triple defeat, the brick wall cleverly disguised as a human being would lament for the rest of the cycle that, pound for pound, Dallon Higgs was the strongest human being he’d ever met.
Higgs and I parted ways after airborne school at Fort Benning. I went on to serve as a machine gunner for a convoy security team in Mosul, Iraq with the Washington Army National Guard, and he went on to active duty with the 1/504 Infantry division 82nd airborne, with whom he deployed to Paktika Province in Afghanistan. He would serve four and a half years with the Army, leaving service in 2012 as an E-5 sergeant. While serving, he would also complete air assault school and various other infantryman courses.
Today, Dallon Higgs is very happily married to the very beautiful Mrs. Kristie Higgs, who is an exercise science major at Boise State University in their native Idaho. Kristie works part time as a personal trainer, helping several women lose fat and gain tone, and she and Dallon spend a lot of time together in the gym. I can see, in my mind’s eye, Kristie being Dallon’s spotter as he does strange flips and exercises, always prepared to call for help should he land on his head and break his neck.
Higgs currently works as a private security contractor in the Middle East. He is home now, in Idaho, recovering from shoulder surgery he needed to have as a result of an injury he received while doing his job with his current employer. For Higgs’ safety, I cannot say exactly what it is he does, or where it is that he does it, but I will say this; the people to whom he is doing it have no idea what it is they have coming for them. Pound for pound, without a doubt, one of the most physically superior human beings with whom the creator has ever blessed the human race.
As with all of the soldiers I’m highlighting in this series of articles, I am honored to have gotten to know Dallon Higgs during our days together as soldiers in the U.S. Army. He is a remarkable young man, and is living proof that the indomitable spirit that First Sergeant Byron Humphrey pointed out was within me, is within others as well.
Kevin E Lake is an Iraq War veteran and author of the book “Off Switch” which raises awareness of the rampant rate of suicide among our soldiers and veterans in the U.S. It is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Off-Switch-ebook/dp/B009Q3MSK2