THE COVETED BLACK AND GOLD - Excerpt
4 JUNE 1980 (Benning Phase: Day 2)
Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
William Shakespeare, JULIUS CAESAR, Act II (1599)
Damn! What a welcome. The Morgan team has greeted us in style. We thought we were supposed to start the day at 0400 with a two-mile run and some PT. Our fireguard was going to wake us up at 0330 so we could be properly prepared. Boy, were we caught with our pants down. And I mean that literally. Those RIs came roaring in here at 0300 and blew our stuff away.
I awoke with a start, the lights in my eyes, Rangers running around in a daze bumping into lockers, falling on the floor, and attempting to obtain some semblance of a uniform.
My feet are beat up pretty badly from breaking in my new jungle boots during land nav when we first arrived at Benning. Not a very smart idea, I might add. Blisters, cuts, and open sores galore on both heels. I've never had them hurt this badly before. Great timing. I wanted an opportunity to bandage my wounds and to put my boots and socks on snugly, but that idea went out the door with the first flying bodies.
I must admit, though, that I was up to the task. Well, almost that is. I was awake in an instant and jumped from my bed--the top bunk--in a perfectly executed parachute-landing fall (PLF) right into my locker. Fortunately, I had my fatigue pants on so I didn't have to search blindly for them. While staggering out of the barracks, I stopped to lace up my boots. This proved to be a significant tactical error for I was immediately set upon by two huge RIs. But, I thought what the hell, the worst they could do was kill me. Right?
In formation, the RIs proceeded to place us in the front leaning rest. For those of us needing to finish lacing our boots, which was most of us, we had to lie on our backs and complete the task to the tune of "Get your feet up, get your feet up!"
After a few minutes, those who were missing parts of their uniform were given three minutes to get the missing articles and return. I left to finish lacing my boots. Of course, Mother Nature wanted to get in on the action, also, so I went to the latrine. An RI ambushed me and whispered sweet nothings into my ear as I stood at the urinal taking care of business. By this time, the novelty and shock had completely worn off and, as I had hoped, nothing came of the incident.
Forming up again under the motivational guidance of the RIs, we staggered to the obstacle course where we placed our shirts on the ground and, sans T-shirt, commenced a two-mile run at an easy pace. Damn. The darn feet hurt so.
Returning from the run, we hit the obstacle course where the fun really began. I could hear the thought resonate in the RI's minds: "Let the games begin." Pull-ups first, then a low crawl under very low barbed wire--and lots of it. That wouldn't have been too bad if there hadn't of been a foot of mud and water under the wire. That damn course seemed to be 50 yards long and we navigated it on our fronts and on our backs. Fortunately, we had put our shirts on prior to starting. I must have ended up with at least a half ton of gravel in my pockets.
Next, we negotiated a vertical log climb then the inverted crawl with more mud followed by ropes, about 30 feet high, that hung over a huge ditch that was four and a half feet deep and filled with more water, naturally. Once completed, we double-timed in place before running the circuit again. As luck would have it, the horn blew signaling recall, and I only had to do the rope twice. What a pity.
We double-timed back to the company area, sprayed ourselves down outside of the barracks with a hose, put on a clean uniform, and formed for breakfast. Our first here. Another ritual. Each Ranger has a Ranger Buddy (RB), and each two-man buddy team is supposed to be inseparable. Fortune smiled my way. I have mostly an all cadet squad and, thus, the law of probability provided me with a cadet for my RB.
Each Ranger does pull-ups first and then reports to the mess hall. There, you and your Ranger Buddy bang through the door yelling and screaming and report to the RI headcount. "Sir, Ranger Lock, roster number 120, second squad, third platoon!" After your RB does the same, the RI inspects and either tells you to eat or throws your sorry carcass out of the mess hall to the end of the line to try it again.
Once in the mess hall, a Ranger can get basically all he wants to eat, but he must eat all he gets. There's a guard at the turn-in point for that. All meals are eaten quickly and silently. Returning to the barracks after a meal is the one time you do not have to double time. You can walk.
There is a Ranger student chain of command and I sure pity them. The RIs show no mercy for tying up, and with our motley crew right now, that's all that happens.
Almost forgot. After the run this morning, a cadet quit the course. The first hour! Seems he was forced to crawl from the worm pit all the way back to the barracks on his stomach after he fell out of the run. It really wasn’t that far--the run or the crawl. The most amazing fact is that he had been assigned to a Ranger Battalion as an enlisted soldier and some of the NCO RIs knew him from that assignment. One thing is for certain, though, and that is he will never see this course again having been dropped for Lack of Motivation (LOM).
SLEEP: 042330 - 050330
TOTAL: 4 Hours
Missed Meals: none
R-Day minus 3. Ranger School Haircuts. Note the white Skullcap.
After a session in the hand-to-hand pit, an opportunity to cool down with a rinse under the showers. If lucky, one can even get most of the sawdust off his body.
Practice patrols at Darby. A very mild and deceptive precursor of things to come.