Ex-Green Beret Terry Schappert wants to play Macbeth again

Terry Schappert has served the United States in dangerous combat missions around the world.
Terry Schappert has served the United States in dangerous combat missions around the world.PHOTO: HISTORY

Having spent half his life serving in the US army, Special Forces veteran Terry Schappert now hosts TV documentaries and hopes to return to stage acting

8Q

Terry Schappert, a veteran of the United States Army Special Forces, better known as the Green Berets, is one guy you would not want to mess with.

Brawny, steely-eyed, tattooed and in possession of a booming voice, the 51-year-old has devoted close to half his life serving his country in dangerous combat missions around the world.

He was in town recently to promote a new television documentary he hosts called Asia's Special Forces With Terry Schappert.

In the show, he examines the training regimens of six Asian Special Forces units, from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Taiwan, discussing training techniques and comparing the Asian Special Forces to the Green Berets.

It will premiere on History channel (StarHub TV Channel 401) on Sunday.

Schappert was an expert on demolition, small arms and combat medicine in the Green Berets.

"I read a book about the Green Berets in college and immediately thought that was what I wanted to do. So I enlisted after college," he tells The Straits Times.

In 1997, he took a break from active duty and pursued his dream to act.

"I got to play Macbeth in New York and also choreographed all the fight scenes," he says.

Things were going swimmingly when the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks struck and Schappert decided he had to return to the military.

"It was an easy decision," he says.

Before Asia's Special Forces With Terry Schappert, the bachelor had hosted Warriors With Terry Schappert, where he traversed the globe in search of rituals and weapons of iconic warrior cultures both past and present.

The fearless master sergeant retired in October last year from the forces, but the lessons he has learnt are ingrained in his DNA now.

"I never think to give up. It's either success or failure. I made a deal with myself - I either walk head held high or they carry me out on a stretcher."

1 What did you learn from hosting the upcoming show in Asia?

The culture and society might be different, but what's interesting is the commonality of training as what works, works.

I have been there and it was very emotional to see the guys. I was really rooting for them.

2 Were there any practices by the Asian Special Forces units that were new to you?

Yes. First and foremost, it was the corporal punishment where guys were getting caned, kicked or punched. I think it's a cultural thing and don't think it's good or bad. It is what it is.

I was also very impressed and surprised to see in Taiwan that the men were made to crawl almost naked across very sharp rocks while yelling, "I denounce pain!" And their families were there.

That was very unusual, but overall, the similarities of what we go through vastly outnumber the differences.

3 Could you describe for us some details of the selection process for the Green Berets?

It was very physically and mentally tough. Some of the hardest things included putting a heavy rucksack on your back and navigating cross- country on rough terrain.

You are not identified by your name, but by a number and there is plenty of "messing with the mind" happening.

You are told to be at a certain place at a certain time, but at the last minute, they change the location.

You need to be mentally and physically strong.

4 What kind of injuries did you suffer then?

My feet were so destroyed because of the constant walking on those long marches carrying heavy rucksacks that they would just bleed.

I would go to bed and my feet would be all covered in dried blood scabs.

5 What was the toughest part about being a Green Beret?

Losing the people I love on the job. That was really bad, and also being away from the people you love.

You feel that the world is moving on while you are fighting, so coming back sometimes is not easy.

I was lucky as I'd like to think that I have a personality where I could come back and fit in, but for some other guys, it was not as easy.

6 What advice would you give someone who would like to join his nation's Special Forces?

My biggest piece of advice is that you need to make a decision with yourself before you apply that you will not quit because no matter what, it's going to be physically painful and mentally challenging.

7 Now that you have retired from the Green Berets, is there a dream acting role you hope to pursue?

I hope to get back on stage and play Macbeth again. I think I'd be a lot better now as I'm older, more beat- up and probably a better actor.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who gave a damn and helped others.

•Asia's Special Forces With Terry Schappert premieres on History channel (StarHub TV Channel 401) on Sunday at 8 and 8.30pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2017, with the headline 'Green Beret who dreams of acting'. Print Edition | Subscribe