top of page





“Twenty minutes!” bellowed the Jumpmaster as four small, red lights suddenly lit up on the frames of the two troop doors on either side of the paratrooper.


Twisting low across the Russian Ural Mountains in the early dawn hours, the darkened and camouflaged schemed American SOLL2…Special Operations Low Level…C-141B Starlifter with its human payload hurtled toward its airborne objective only seventy-five miles away. Sitting on the floorboards near the left troop door and swaying side to side with the motion of the aircraft was Captain Nathaniel P. Ames, Ranger Company Commander of C Company, 1st

Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Ames, Civil War buff, descendent of a bona fide Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, and true ‘Son of the State of Virginia’, he honestly believed...or at least hoped...that the South would rise again. The military was Ames’ passion, the Rangers, in particular, his love.


With a wince, the captain shifted a small metal box located in the left cargo pocket of his BDUs that had been unmercifully gouging his thigh throughout the flight.


“Damn thing better be worth the aggravation,” he muttered, failing to alleviate much of the discomfort it had caused throughout this miserable flight. Giving up on the box, Ames looked about the red lit interior of the vibrating aged transport at his men as they began to elbow and shake each other awake after an excruciatingly prolonged and fatiguing flight.


“I always get the shakes before a drop,” he muttered to himself, reflecting on a quote from Robert Heinlein’s Starship Trooper. Trooper was more than just a great read, it was the Infantryman's bible even after more than a half century. Ames had to admit, though, based upon his cursory glance about, that most on board had experienced more than the shakes. For many of his Rangers, the nap of earth, terrain hugging, flying by the small air armada to evade radar had resulted in a two-bag flight—as the airborne saying went. Such was evident by the putrid stench of vomit that rose from the floor boards of the aircraft where white puke bags had spilled open and the heaved bile swirled about the pants legs and jump boots of the seated combat rigged Rangers as they stirred, prepping for the drop.


This flight was, by far, the roughest Ames had ever endured.  Not just in time and distance but also in its contorted gyrations…as the transport swayed, buffeted by yet, another, air current rising off the Ural’s rugged, precipitous mountains. Exhaustedly shaking his head, he rotated his left wrist and glanced at the face of his watch, calculating with a weary mind just exactly how long it had been since he’d had a decent hour’s sleep.  It was a question he soon gave up any hope of answering. He was too tired to even focus on an answer.  While the mission planning process was structured to allow for six hours of sleep prior to wheels up, last minute crises and changes invariably robbed leaders of all but a brief nap in customarily uncomfortable settings…like this roller coaster of a flight, he tiredly grinned.


Glancing back, high over his left shoulder, Ames attempted to peer through the thick, water streaked glass window a few feet from his face, but there was nothing to see.  They had just, finally, cleared a massive storm front that had pitched and pummeled them for nearly an hour.  The sky was still dark and, even if it were not, the scratched and pitted window glass would offer a much worse view than that seen through the bottom of an old style coke bottle…the type one of his uncles used to collect when the Ranger was a child. 


Looking to his left, Ames could barely make out his men in the red glow of the aircraft’s night-lights, sitting silently on the cold metal floor, deep within their own thoughts as they waited for the next jump command.  All were heavily burdened and encompassed by equipment strapped to their bodies.  Well-nigh suffocated, the Rangers were nearly incapable of movement as the equipment’s weight and the G-forces of the undulating aircraft attempted to force them through the troop transport’s metal deck.


Glancing about, Ames slowly and carefully searched the faces of the six men closest to him:  Sergeant John Osburn—married with three children; the flaming, red haired Sergeant Wilber Dale and Corporal Russ Rowell—both single, and Privates Eric Sellers, Alan Lowther, and Jacob Stough.  Sellers was also single while Stough, older than most and starting out in what he considered a second career, already had two preteen children.  Lowther’s situation was most probably the most difficult of them all for his wife had just given birth to their first child the day before.  ‘Locked down’ twenty-four hours prior because of the alert, he’d yet to see his daughter.  Other than Sergeant Dale, they all had some look of concern on their faces.  But such a look didn’t disturb Ames for they were all Army Rangers and, soon, they would be demonstrating to the world, once again, just what that elite term meant.

bottom of page