Jumping into Afghanistan



Jumping into Afghanistan was probably one of the more painful things I have experienced while I was in the Army. It started off well, but a combination of several events made it a shitty night. We were flying in a C-130, and it was a pretty long flight. Before we departed, General Tommy Franks gave us all a quick talk on the tarmac. He ended it by sort of stomping his foot on the tarmac, and mentioning that "the ground is probably going to be as hard as this."

Not exactly coach-class seats

We did not in-flight rig, we waddled onto the aircraft in full kit, and sat there until it was time to hookup. Prior to boarding, we were weighed in. As a SAW gunner, I came in at a little over 300 lbs. Not that bad considering I weighed about 170 lbs at the time. We were jumping in, not as a full platoon, but as a couple squads with guns attached. According to the Regimental Commander, Ranger history was made as we were the smallest number of Rangers to jump into enemy territory (this was at the time, and may have changed with OIF; I don't know for sure). The crew removed the seats, so we sat on the metal floor the entire flight. We weren't sprawled out or anything; we were practically nut to butt. Not that cool considering we were wearing chutes, reserves, M1950's, and had our assault packs on our laps. In my pack, I had enough SAW drums to take over a small country, so my legs fell asleep rather quickly from the weight. I think I was sweating the thought of having to stand up; my legs being practically dead. I couldn't shift them around much during the flight.

So we're sitting in the blacked out bird, on the cold metal floor, feeling like our legs were no longer part of our body...lol. Some Rangers slept, others wide awake. I did a little bit of both. It was probably one of the most turbulent flights I had ever been on, as I felt like I was going to puke the entire time. Finally the time came when we were told to stand up.

Train as you fight...except for..

By this time everyone hobbled to their feet; it appeared that most had felt semi-relieved to get the blood flowing into their legs once again. The turbulence was getting worse, to the point where I was ready to dive out of the bird head first. I can't say I was feeling confident about this jump for several reasons. For one, since we were jumping into hostile territory, the waste strap that went through your reserve was just coiled up and taped to your side. The reserve was just dangling by the two hooks. I don't know about anyone else, but I liked that strap cinched tight! Call it a security blanket if you will lol. The other thing was that the little safety pin you bend through your static line was not to be used at all. So things just felt a bit different. It wasn't really an fine example of "train as you fight," and they just mentioned the change at the last moment. Oh well, we went with it.

Out the door

Nothing made me happier than to jump out of that plane. I think I came close to hurling on my squad leader. Out into the blackness we jumped. When I say blackness, I mean BLACKNESS. It was zero-illum; the moon was non-existant. I could see my reserve, and that was about it. There was no "check canopy"; I just had to assume it was okay since I couldn't see it! I couldn't see the ground, I couldn't see the horizon, I couldn't see....KABLAM!!!!!!! That noise was the sound of me hitting the ground like a sack of rocks. We were jumping in at around 500 ft, and the air was very cold. Cold air makes the T-10c's fall faster.... Luckily for me I separated my feet for a split second (this is extreme sarcasm btw), and at that moment I made contact with the ground. I didn't see it coming; noone did. It was the first jump that had literally knocked the wind out of me. So I'm getting my weapon and NODs into action as quickly as possible, while not breathing.... lol. Even with NODs, everything was barely visible. I finished up with all that happy hit the ground check-list stuff, and felt the greatest sensation ever! Apparently I busted my heel on that landing. It felt like I was walking on glass, except the glass was pieces of my bone.

The running of the Rangers

Majority of those who jumped that night were injured in one way or another. So it was going to be a pretty long night. We set out and accomplished what we needed to do, everything went as planned, end of mission. Now it was time for our exfil. How were we getting out of there? Well, the birds were going to land where we had jumped into of course! What did that mean for us? Well, several of us had to run back to the DZ and grab all the chutes so the planes wouldn't suck them up. I recall someone asking for "those who weren't injured" to step up and be a runner. I believe that only one person stepped up, since he wasn't injured. The rest of us ended up running regardless. So off we went, still in full kit, running with my SAW and feeling my heel eventually go semi-numb. A few of us started to quietly laugh at the night's wonderful events. I realized a couple of things. One, Regiment emphasized a superior fitness plan for a reason. And two, I was running through the deserts of Afghanistan and was unlucky to find that one land mine willing to put me out of my misery.

Time to go home; the worst is over!

We made it to our newly frago'd objective and looked around for the chutes. Not an easy task considering it was still darker than dark. We eventually found them, and the birds landed. Everyone and everything boarded, and off we flew. It was that simple; no problems whatsoever. We actually had a little bit more room since we split up onto two birds, so the ride wasn't too bad. Everyone was pretty much zonked out. Some were hunched over a full aviator kit bag, while others slept on the floor. Since it was such a long flight, the air-crew was nice enough to place 5 gallon jugs at the front of the bird, for us to urinate in. I still would love to thank them for that to this day. So everyone was pretty content; I mean, we were on our way back to base, we did what we needed to, and now we could just...chill. I recall waking up for a brief moment as it appeared that someone had been laying on their camel back hose. Water was flowing past me. My back was just soaked, but I didn't care. "UGHHHH, IT'S FUCKING PISS!" one Ranger yelled. That's right... we were laying in 5 whole gallons of urine. One of the flight crew guys apparently knocked it over. A few grumbles and "what the fuck's" erupted only to be silenced with snoring. Everyone stayed as they were, back to catching Zzz's....while lying in piss. We didn't care at that point.

No, their isn't a moral to this story. Just that we must really love our country!

I remember this story. Everytime I think of it my heels hurt. Im sure I WOULD have puked. You need to write more blogs..this was good.:2c:
Good writing. Great story. Sorry Boon but the piss part made me LMAO
Prior to OEF, had there been a combat jump since Granada? I know the 82nd lobbied to jump into Iraq, but that was vetoed and they crossed the border in vehicles, just like the rest of us LEGS, lol.

How's the heel now? Did you have to have surgery when you came back, or did the pieces just calcify together?
That was EXCELLENT writing Ranger! It kept me interested throughout the entire read. If you ever were to strike a deal with a publisher for a book (and I am very serious!) I would buy it in a heart beat!
Each time I read this story I like it even more, you are the Man. Thanks for your service, and your sacrifice.