THE COVETED BLACK AND GOLD - Excerpt
Ugh. Feel rotten. Too much sleep and (or) food from yesterday. Hungry as hell now, though; starving actually. The ole rennin and pepsin stomach acids are putting in overtime. We moved out and set up a patrol base.
Our new RIs came on board. No chain-of-command spot yet. This is really beginning to grate on my nerves. Many others have already had their second shot at getting a “Go.” I have yet to have my first. What gives? I want that one to ‘Tab out.’ I'm in a real crabby mood, snapping at everyone. By the time I get my opportunity, everyone will have attained tracer burnout. Great. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Ate some crackers, a vanilla fudge bar, and am writing this to get by. My mind's on food, big time now. The weather stinks but nothing new there. It's been raining on and off all morning. We're drenched. In other words, situation normal. My Ranger Buddy is the patrol leader. That should mean kick back time for me.
We departed the patrol base at 1700 and moved five clicks to an objective rally point. At 2130, my Ranger Buddy is relieved as patrol leader and yours truly is now it. This whole mission has been trouble from the start. We’re lost. Everyone the RI asked, to include the previous PL and APL, did not know where they were. Only by accident do I know. Out of sheer boredom and dreaded anticipation, I happened to trace our movement on my map.
Our mission was to attack a bridge by 2400. The problem was we still had another click and a half to go and we had less than two and a half hours to do it in. In that extensions are a luxury not granted and I had to make up for lost time, I had no choice but to break every tactical rule to accomplish the mission. I issued a quick Frago, took the point, and told the RI to follow me because nothing was going to be done by the book on this movement. Ignoring noise discipline and establishing flank security on the move as we crossed danger areas without stopping, we quickly moved to establish an objective rally point by force.
Arriving at the objective rally point at 2345 and having no time to conduct a leader's recon, I quickly moved (ran) the patrol down a trail towards the objective. It's amazing the energy one finds when he feels the world slipping out of his hands. We turned a corner of the trail and laid eyes on the objective with one minute to spare. I placed a security element back along the trail we just came down and another up the road leading to the objective bridge.
At 2400, the support team opened up. Minutes later, as our assault was overrunning the bridge, an RI convoy consisting of a 5-ton cargo truck and two jeeps, all with mounted M60's, came down the road with weapons firing and ran into one of our two security teams.
While this firefight was going on up the road, we were on the bridge that was stacked with cases of C-rats. When some Rangers asked what we should do since there had been no mention in our Operations Order of food, I thought it was quite obvious what we should do; take the damn food! One never passes up an opportunity to eat. When in doubt, take. Turned out to be exactly enough for two C-rats per man.
I later found out that the Field Marshall’s patrol had an identical mission…but rather than grab the C-rats…they left them behind…given that they had not been part of the OPORD. Later, in their ORP, there was a near mutiny when the RI told them they’d have to go without eating because they had not secured and brought them back with them. Realizing that such a stand was not the smartest with a group of 40+ starving Ranger students looking on, the RI relented and allowed them to return to the OBJ to pick them up.
As for our motley crew, with C-rats in hand, we began to move back down the trail we had traveled from our objective rally point. The tactic was unsound but we had no choice. Unfortunately, the movement was right into a near ambush that the RIs had set up right next to one of my security teams. Turned out the RIs had browbeat the security team firing up their vehicles into telling where our objective rally point was. Then the RIs moved dismounted through the woods and set up this nice reception as my other security team slept. Nice touch.
Well ... when faced with a near ambush, what does one do? You attack it directly, of course, which we proceeded to do. The only problem was that there was a large quantity of old concertina and barbed wire between us and the ambush that proved to be just a tad bit difficult to see at 0030 in the morning. I ended up with a number of bodies twitching and entangled in the wire as the ‘lead’ and ‘artillery’ rained all about us.
My fun meter was now pegged. Actually, it was wrapped around the post. Yelling at the RI that I had enough of this bullshit, I told him that I was calling an admin halt to this fiasco--a pretty ballsy move, if I do say so myself. Besides, my first fire team had engaged and killed these same RIs earlier. For all intents and purposes, they were dead to me. With the RIs still firing us up, I gathered up the patrol, placed them on the trail, and began to move towards the objective rally point once again.
About 200 meters later, the RIs opened up with another ambush, but I refused to play that game. We just kept shuffling along as the RIs attempted to engage us. Finally, at the objective rally point, we distributed the C-rats, disseminated information, and prepared for our movement to a patrol base.
Prior to departing on a leader's recon of the patrol base, I left specific orders with my assistant patrol leader as to what I wanted accomplished prior to my return. Problem was, my assistant patrol leader was a recycle. We think we are beat after this training? What do you think someone feels like after they've been through the same phase twice? I just wish I had thought of that prior to my departure from the objective rally point.
Moving out with the recon element, we moved approximately two clicks with me as point and compass man. I wasn't taking any chances. If I were to fail, it was to be because of my ineptitude, not someone else's. After establishing the patrol base, I stopped by the Ranger located at the 6 o'clock position and warned him to remain awake for I would need him to guide me in when I returned with the remainder of the patrol. "No problem" was his response. Ha ... if I had only thought about it. He was a recycle, too, a 2LT. Stay awake ... not on your life--or my Tab for that matter.
Returning on my own, I linked back up with the main body. Of course, my APL did everything ass backwards of what I had directed. Getting it all squared away cost another ten to fifteen minutes.
We hit the woods with me as pace and compass man, again. Two clicks later, I was where I believed the patrol base to be, but no Rangers. Great. There I was standing in the middle of the woods, apparently lost with 30+ Rangers while my other 12 Rangers were out there somewhere. Moments later, when I'd just about lost all hope, a message was passed up the Ranger file to me that there was a body lying on the ground next our file. Turns out that I had walked right by my 6 o'clock "No problem" Ranger, and I was now standing in the center of the patrol base.
Frustration, anger, and lack of sleep took over at this point as I pictured the Coveted Black and Gold slipping out of my grasp and flying off into the star lit sky. I barely recall moving back to where the body was lying on the ground and drop kicking him as I let loose with a boot to the ribs. At the last possible moment, I held back on the force of the kick--a trace of discipline or sanity?, but it still proved to be a good shot for it lifted him off the ground and sent him rolling and screaming. I grabbed him by the collar, lifted him off the ground, and slammed him up against a tree as I proceeded to slap him a number of times while cursing his ancestors--so much for noise discipline.
Finally, after a few moments, I was able to gather some self-control. As he lay crumpled on the ground--fortunately for him and for me, he had no serious or permanent injuries, I turned and faced the rest of the patrol who were just standing there with stunned looks on their faces. In the distance, I could hear the NCO RI laughing.
I proceeded to threaten everyone with the same treatment if they did not listen up and begin following orders. Not exactly the best way to make friends and influence people--it seems as though that lesson learned about peers and tact had not taken completely.
One last confrontation had me nose to chest--for this Ranger was about six inches taller than I and outweighed me by about 25 pounds--with another who, after some stiff finger jabs to the chest from me, decided that semi-crazed, non-Tabbed-out Rangers were somewhat unstable and not worth the risk of confronting.
TOTAL: 0 Hours
Missed Meals: L D
22 JULY 1980 (Florida Phase: Day 50)
Probably one of the greatest assets a commander can have is the ability to radiate confidence in the plan and operations even (perhaps especially) when inwardly he is not too sure about the outcome.
Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein,
THE MEMOIRS OF FIELD MARSHAL MONTGOMERY
The jungle. Not so formidable during the day, but at night...
The initial wave of the assault on our Ranger TACs. They didn't have a chance.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Though fifteen pounds lighter (see first picture) and a wee bit tired, Cadet Lock is ready to head home with the Coveted, and hard earned, Black and Gold proudly affixed on his left shoulder.