On second cup of coffee
Echanis did do stunts. Several pictures taken of him landing breath-taking full force kicks to the chest of a student were achieved by Echanis running down a long table that had been set up and launching himself from it.
Great stuff once you know this.
He did have jeeps and trucks navigate over his body and he did have needles of pierced through his skin and have heavy weights attached / pull heavy loads. This is not new stuff - I watched Robert Taylor do the same at a long past Soldier of Fortune convention.
Chief Gary O'Neil has done likewise and has video on YouTube of him teaching blood flow and pain control to this day.
I was at DLI in Monterey, California, when SERE began recruiting instructors in 1981. My packet was accepted by Nick Rowe and SGM Carlson. However my orders to the 7th in Panama overrode SERE (SF was ramping up the 3/7th for training and combat operations "Down South").
To this day I regret having missed out on the SERE assignment.
I met Rowe at Bragg in 1985. A very unique individual. Dan said of him "If Nick wasn't anything else he was tenacious...It was both his strongest and weakest trait. Even in the camps he wouldn't back off."
I met and became very close to former POW and
Rowe's constant companion in the cages, Dan Pitzer. Dan became a mentor and second father to me. I stayed with he and his wife, Gail, many times. When Dan passed away from cancer he left me his silver Special Forces ring which I wear in his memory to this day.
Later, Major General Kenneth R. Bowra, USASFC Commander at the time, asked me to work with Gail and the SF Command Historian at the time (Dr. Richard Stewart) to create the CSM Dan Pitzer Memorial Conference Room at USASFC. I was honored to be a part of that project.
Dan, who had retired from the Army and was teaching SERE for the Navy out on the West Coast, was coaxed back to Bragg by Rowe to serve as the new SERE program's senior civilian instructor. I still have Dan's personal instructor notes / cards from this period of time.
Upon Colonel Rowe's assassination in the PI in 1989, I asked his wife Susan, Dan Pitzer, SWC senior librarian and confidant Fred Fuller if I could write Nick's story. They agreed and I was given enormous support and provided with extra ordinary materials and background never before made public.
I went to Fort Bragg and lived with Dan and Gail while interviewing and collecting information for the piece.
In the November 1989 issue of International Combat Arms "Fallen Soldier" was published. It is 6 1/2 pages long with photos - unheard of in magazine publishing then and now. The story not only covered Rowe's life but revealed the circumstances of his assassination, his fears, thoughts and preparations to avoid it and how the NPA guerrillas finally got to him. All of this supported by documentation to include private letters written by Rowe to his close friend and comrade in arms CSM Pitzer.
Susan Rowe reviewed the article before it was published, provided one of a kind pictures of she and Nick and gave it her blessing for publication. My copy of Nick's book, "Five Years to Freedom" is signed by both she and Dan.
There SERE Committee at Fort Bragg was so pleased with the article and its presentation of Rowe's philosophy that for some time it printed and distributed copies of the article to incoming SERE students.
All this to say to my knowledge Colonel Rowe and Mike Echanis never met. Rowe resigned his commission in 1974 to run for state office in Texas. He was not elected. He reaffilated with Special Forces by joining the 20th SFG(A). When Special Operations began to shift gears swiftly in 1981 (clandestine wars in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, for example) Rowe returned to active duty specifically to develop what would become the SERE program.
Mike Echanis had long before come and gone, dying in 1978.
Rowe's interest in the power of the human mind (as well and more importantly his belief in possessing and practicing Spirituality) was developed while a POW and would be reflected in his still available book "Five Years to Freedom". Colonel Rowe vocalized this belief on one of a series of video taped programs made for SERE - which I watched with Dan Pitzer one evening at his home.
This belief is also noted in "Fallen Soldier" -
"An exceptional faith in God had blossomed inside of Nick Rowe, a faith hammered and tempered over the coals of isolation, starvation, cruelty and depression. Says Pitzer of his and Rowe's religious beliefs, "If a man is going to survive the kinds of horrors we did, he needs three things that can't be taken away from him. The first is faith in a Higer Being. If you're an atheist, you'd better study up on some form of religion because in many countries, those who have no god to worship are considered souless, and are treated as less than common animals.
"Second, you need an unshakable faith in your country. POWs are only useful if they can be used for propaganda purposes, or as bargaining chips...
"Last, you must have the ultimate faith and trust in your fellow POW. Nick and I became closer than family when we were in Vietnam. We relied on eachother for everything. If you don't have faith in the man occupying the cage next to you, you're in a world of hurt."
I make it a point to visit Dan's final resting place in Fayetteville whenever I can get back there - and I last visited Colonel Rowe's gravesite at Arlington this last December.
Note: Hock/JimH - if you would like a copy of the ICA article mentioned let me know and I'll send two out to the office address.