Wednesday, September 02, 2009

All The Way

Put silver wings on my son's chest
Make him one of America's best
--The Ballad of the Green Berets,
Barry Sadler

Life in the twentieth century is like a parachute jump:
you have to get it right the first time.
--Margaret Mead

Ranger graduated from Jump School
29 August 1968, a mere 41 years ago. It is hard to believe that young 2nd Lieutenant No. 44 has turned into an angry, hostile old man who now traverses life for better or worse without benefit of a reserve parachute.

Jump School, contrary to reports, was fun and a walk through the park, except for brand new 2 LT's. These low life forms were severely predated upon by the enlisted instructors. Ironically, several of these same instructors became lifelong friends; unfortunately, many of them no longer muster roll call.

One of them, Frank Norbury, died in a parachute SNAFU at Ft. Bragg. As we were taught, "The sky, unlike the sea, is unforgiving of the smallest mistake." And as we used to add, "You can tread water, but you can't tread air."

The hardest part of Jump School for a Yankee boy was fighting the weather. Having entered active duty in June and starting Jump School in August was a brutal acquaintance with the Georgia sun, heat and humidity.

On the average day of training, medevac helicopters were frequently inbound to pick up serious heat injuries. Normal heat problems were handled by medics on-site. Students were required to drink one quart of salted water every hour, take salt pills and to shower down hourly. We used to roll
through the showers with our boots outside the water stream to keep them somewhat dry, thereby keeping blisters to the minimum.

Ranger doubts pro football players train harder than we did in that Georgia heat. We always wore boots and only removed our helmets during morning runs. Now the young troopers wear running shoes for their runs, and frequently ground their helmets. Ranger wonders if any Airborne trooper ever ran in combat wearing running shoes?
When we left that training we were cubs maturing into wolves.

Every night we got drunk --seriously drunk -- and the morning runs smelled of whisky-laden sweat. This was the time frame that John Wayne was filming
The Green Berets at Benning, and he frequently stopped by the Airborne Annex to the Officers Club and bought drinks for the bar.

In the movie, Wayne was featured with the Airborne legend Lamar O. Welch, Commander, Airborne Department, in a skeet shooting scene. Colonel Welch was so old that he followed running troopers at morning PT in his convertible Kharmann Ghia. Col. Welch frequently jumped with the troops, and he died as he lived -- drunk.

Back then, jump school was three weeks -- Ground, Tower and Jump weeks. Immediately following Jump School, we young Regular Army officers were sent to Jumpmaster School, and my picture with #15 is from that school.

After Jump Training, it was off to Combat Conditioning Course of the Ranger component. For six weeks, it was six hours of daily physical training and swimming in preparation for Ranger class 7-69 commencing in November 68 and graduating in February 69.

The rest was all downhill, and then some.


Correction: Chastening, 12.02.09

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Blogger FDChief said...

I remember jump school mostly for the weirdness; the cadre had a couple of real nuts, including one SGT Gaddy, who cabled us down at 0-dark-whenever to give us a rambling lecture about death and Judgement Day. He must have had CQ or something.

The oldtimers at the 82nd get-togethers used to speak pretty harshly of the three-week "jump school", saying that in the 40s and early 50s you went to something called the "Paratroop Course" where you got the soup to nuts, from Ground Week through a series of increasingly complicated jumps including assembly on the DZ and tactics. ISTM that we got those at the unit and weren't the worse for it.

The other thing I remember was the SEALS spending the entire course in the "gig pit" to demonstrate their contempt for Army PT; and I agree that the sneakers and PT togs are pretty bogus, but we ran in boots and had a LOT of foot problems. I think the Army's problem wasn't the felony shoes per se but bailing on the notion of designing a boot that didn't fuck up your feet...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 10:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Oh, and we had another sister service issue there; we had a Marine officer who couldn't, to save his life, sing a cadence. He could do the "ept royt ept" thing that gyrenes use to identify their feet but no cadence. The company cadre were all over his ass about this; apparently the NCOs and officers are "graded" on "leadership" which, to an Army school in 1980 included singing cadence.

So we were in Jump Week and now the cadre were REALLY on his butt. So finally he says, OK, I'll five ya the only cadence I know.

The thing started "I know yo mama; she's a good ol' whore!" and got worse (or better) from there. The story we heard afterwards was that the shitstorm blew up when one of the post kiddies asked his/her mommy what a "ping-pong pussy" was.

But he didn't have to sing cadence after that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 11:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger sheerahkahn said...

"As we were taught, "The sky, unlike the sea, is unforgiving of the smallest mistake." And as we used to add, "You can tread water, but you can't tread air.""

If you will grant me a small measure of your humor...I would say that the last is quite wrong...you can tread air all you want...might not do you any good, looks rather comical, but it can still be done.

Remember the old Scottish proverb...
"It's not the fall'n, but the land'n that lowers yer social stand'n."

Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 10:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

we like it here, we love it here.... we finally found a home..... a home.... a home away from home....

leg infantry frontal assault

Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 6:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The only difference between leg/mech/light/abn/ranger infantry is HOW you get to the fight.
After you get there it's just another day at the office.

Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 6:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

When I had a Company Cmd in Jump school it was forbidden for my SGTs to screw with the troops. I tried to keep the admin side separate from the training side.
I actually forced the junior nco's to treat the trainees with respect since they volunteered for a rough life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 9:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, the army guys were always amazed at the way us squids hit jump school.

one of our favorite things was to "forget" the pushup count somewhere around 30 and giggle, then, start over.

jump school for us was mostly opening the airplane door, kicking us out, and passing anyone who made it down in one piece.

a couple of the instructors got a kick out of us, mostly, they were glad to see us go.

Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

"medevac helicopters were frequently inbound to pick up serious heat injuries"

When I was at Ft Benning in '82 I spent a few months as a switch board operator* at the main exchange. I don't remember any calls for heat injuries from the Jump School but we'd get a couple a week from the Infantry Training Center. Probably the Jump School had medevac on speed dial.

*(Operators were civilian women, Columbus natives or military wives, but Reagan was trying to privatize the military and there was a hiring freeze on civilian DOD personal so I got volunteered. Since I really wasn't doing much anyway except driving the Communications Command Colonel around.

Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 3:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The main heat injury season was Jul/Aug.
In the Training Bdes there was usually a meatwagon assigned so casualties were treated by on site medics and further evac'd only if serious. Remember Basic trainees were not acclimated and more heat cases would be expected , but my memory was of frequent evacs in jump school even though we were acclimated.

Monday, September 7, 2009 at 10:22:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Phil said...

I don't know your reason for discrediting Lamar "Bill" Welch. You obviously weren't close enough to him to know him as the great soldier he was. I was with him in his last years and at his death bed. He did not drink at all and was not drunk at his death. Your slander points to the falsity of your site and way of thinking.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:20:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I apologze for this error and the fact that I relayed opinion without verification.
When I knew COL Welch he had a reputation as a hard drinker.
I never saw him drunk and was repeating hearsay.
I should know better. Thank you for the comment.
I gladly agree , and only a fool would call COL Welch anything but a great Airborne soldier.
I will correct this entry.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally think your a sad excuse for a ranger..i am a ranger, graduated class 06-09, your comparing men because they were boots instead of running shoes for morning runs...well i bet the guys know of days can run faster and longer then you guys could back then. Which by far makes us better fit for combat, its called evolution idiot

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 11:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Who are you running from?
jim 7-69

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 4:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated from Jump School 24 Apr 1970, Class 34.

COL Welch delivered the last EP class on Friday afternoon following the five mile run, then showed up on the flight line the following Monday of Jump Week to suit up and jump with our class as he ritually had done so with most classes ad infinitum. Not only was he a fine officer, it was my understanding he had no vices. Just say ‘in.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 3:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

jun 16'
No argument Col. Welch served the country well.
I should NEVER have mentioned the alcohol thing, which i greatly regret.
During my time in training Col. Welch was very hands on , and always jumped with the troops.
Thanks for writing.

Monday, June 17, 2013 at 9:34:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger OldJoe said...

If Airborne training seemed "a walk in the park", it was because the entire process was extremely well organized and operated. Credit COL Welch for that, along with his boss, BG Sid Berry. They were outstanding leaders.

While the training was demanding, it was not intended to make its students fail, but to succeed and become army paratroopers. Still, some did fail. We had plenty of good chow, adequate sleep, and we knew what was expected of us every day. Some of the black caps had their own ideas, but that helped teach us to expect the unexpected.

During the first day of ground week, most students did more than 500 push ups, 10 at a time. The slightest mistake- 10 push ups. We double timed everywhere we went throughout training. Each student had to do 6 pull ups to graduate (no women then). The PT was much the same as in Basic and AIT. Special effort was made to avoid heat related injuries, but the summer heat/humidity was still there.

John Wayne and company actually filmed "The Green Berets" at Ft. Benning in 1967. The film was released to theaters in May1968.

Some of the old timers I knew in those days had jumped into Normandy, scattered all to hell in the AAA and wind and darkness. The situation they faced and the fighting they did were quite unlike what ground units encountered.

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 3:53:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

OLd Joe,
All your points are well taken. Gen'l Berry was often considered in those days to be the future C/S USA Army.
I don't know what happened but it didn't happen.
I saw him in the swamp phase of Ranger school up to his ass in muddy water observing our patrolling technique. That was Jan 69.
When i say it was a walk in the park i mean compared to all that followed after we graduated.
Thanks for writing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 8:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I went through Jump School in '66 there wasn't a finer Paratrooper than Colonel Welch. Oh the training was tough, but not unbearable. The heat is what got most guys who dropped from exertion. Colonel Welch was always on site to help cheer you on. I will remember him until it is time to cross that last river. He told us on graduation that if we ever needed something to call him. As I have read there were some who did, and true to his word he was there for the Paratrooper. 'All the way'

Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 8:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

jump school 66,
COL Welch was an Airborne original.
The 1st sat in Oct the OLD AIRBORNE INSTRUCTORS ASSOC meets for their annual reunion.
Every one airborne is welcome.
jim hruska

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 11:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

jump school 66,
COL Welch was an Airborne original.
The 1st sat in Oct the OLD AIRBORNE INSTRUCTORS ASSOC meets for their annual reunion.
Every one airborne is welcome.
jim hruska

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 11:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I think we were in Ranger School together 7-69. I was in the platoon with the two Brits. Would you please contact me on Facebook at Rankin Tolliver...That's my middle name, you would have known me as Ed Tolliver. Or post here, I'll check back.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 4:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i do not do face book, but i'm open to talking.
my email is listed on RAW.
pls contact,and i'm glad that u r still kicking.
jim hruska

Friday, September 4, 2015 at 2:10:00 PM GMT-5  

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