- Feb 16, 2015
- Reaction score
- Megatroplis, USA
|By a friend of mine...|
|Six Marines, holding hands, stagger to the end of the ramp and fall off. Six Marines, 30,000 feet in the air, traveling at 200 miles per hour step off into nothing. I am first off the edge but the Marines on either side are off the ramp before I hit the slipstream. As my legs fall below the bottom of the plane, I am hit by 200 mile per hour air. I immediately begin to decelerate but the plane continues on. The force is strong enough to pull me away from the Marines on either side. I snap into the free-fall attitude called a hard arch and begin wobbling about seeking stabilization. I can see clearly into the plane. I can see the last Marine being pulled off the ramp by the others. I can see the Crew Chief looking out at us. I can see the inside of the plane looking all nice and cozy. I think to myself, that poor dumb bastard up there just doesn't know what fun is.|
Six Marines begin their decent to earth and rapidly approach terminal velocity. At this point, immediately after exit, you are all floating around bouncing into each other. There is a danger of slamming into someone and one or both of you getting knocked out so you concentrate on staying separated from each other. There is a danger of accidentally snagging someone and opening their chute or releasing gear. If your chute opens at this height, you die. Or cut away from it and land using your reserve. The separation from the team speeding earthward can put you miles away from them. You work at stabilizing your position while keeping away from each other. Not too far, it is just getting light. Besides a slight separation at this altitude can result in landing miles away from your team. Get stable. Stay close. Don't bump anyone.
Me, I have the best job. After I get stable, I start looking for a place to land. Everyone else orients to me. While the team is in free-fall, they watch every move I make. As with all Marines the guys start screwing around. Even at times like this, someone will try to flip a guy over or spin him like a Frisbee. Boys will be boys. This is fun sh*t!
I am in a good, X shaped spread. My altimeter is on my right wrist so I can watch it. I have a 2nd one on my reserve at my chest. As the altitude winds down, the air warms up quickly. I can begin to see terrain features below 20,000 feet so I start looking for a place to go. I make my adjustments slowly but deliberately so the guys above me can follow. I begin moving towards a darker patch of ground. Darker usually means less trees.
Around 15,000 feet I can actually begin to make out trees and clear spaces pretty well. I begin moving towards what should be some open ground. Looks like dried out rice paddies. Usually a good place to land this time of year. It is well past the rainy season and the ground does not shine like wet ground in the rising sun.
10,000 feet. Decision time. About 20 seconds before I have to open chutes. Got to pick a spot. I focus on what is obviously an area of dried out paddies. Several paddies in a big clearing surrounded by trees on all sides. Good open space. No sign of any villages anywhere. No smoke from cooking fires. I maneuver towards that. As near as I can tell I am not drifting from any wind and that is good. I will open towards one side of the open area so we can reach a tree line quickly.
2,500 feet. I cross both hands behind my head quickly two times. This is the signal to those above me that I am going to open my chute. As soon as they see this they each turn away from me, move slightly away, and open their chutes. I count to three then open mine. I am assured now that I will be the lowest in the stack. My chute will open around 2,000 feet. They will all be a couple of hundred feet above. As the lowest man, I pick the point to land at. Everyone else then tries to land on the same spot.
Pull the ripcord (actually a thing we call an apple which is the balled up pilot chute. You hold that out into the wind and release it. It pulls out the main chute. We are jumping a modified version of the T10 combat parachute. Highly modified with toggle controls and splits in the rear to give you more maneuverability. Also modified for free-fall non static-line deployment. It is basically a green Paracommander sporting chute, but not quite. I believe the actual nomenclature is T10-1/mod A. Referred to as the Dash One Modified, we call it a rag. It will be a few years before we get to jump squares, the ones they use now.
Parachute opens fine. I get a good, smooth deceleration and nothing comes loose or falls off. I look up and everything is where it is supposed to be. I check all my straps and nothing seems crossed or frayed. Now my next task is to pick a landing spot.
I look down and I am right off one corner of the paddy area I wanted to land in. I need to check for wind drift before I start maneuvering into the drop zone. To do this you put your boots together and look just beyond the toes. As you stare, you will see which way you are drifting with the wind. The faster you move, the stronger the wind is pushing you. You want to land facing into the wind to give you the least lateral drift when you hit the ground to prevent broken legs. I put my boots together and look over my toes at the ground.
As I am staring down at the ground, I notice a paddy berm extending from the tree line from my right out across to my left. I am just to the left of the tree line with the berm passing right under my feet. Just off the berm, jutting right out from under my right boot, there is a large log. As I stare down at the log, I notice a black smudge on the log with a yellow center. Something in my mind tells me the smudge is bad. I begin the mantra, "Please don't be a gook. Please don't be a gook. Please don't be a gook." I look at it for a few seconds, and the smudge moves! I see an arm come out from one side and go back under the yellow center.
"Holy sh*t!" I think to myself. "That's a f**king gook!"
I look around quickly and I notice that the paddy fields are separated by berms and one to my left has a good row of trees on the berm. I pull my left toggle and start to drift over towards the next field. As I turn, I keep my eye on the smudge and I start praying. "Please don't look up. Please don't look up. Please don't look up." As the smudge is passing by my right foot, the yellow center moves back, and the person under it looks up. He looks me right in the eyes!
"Oh sh*t!" I think to myself. "Please don't be Khmer. Please don't be Khmer. Please don't be Khmer." I am now down to about 1,500 feet. I can see this guy clearly. The yellow center is one of those conical hats they wear. He has pushed it back off his head. He points right at me and begins yelling. He has a red armband and is seriously pissed. He is Khmer Rouge, big time.
"Oh sh*t!" I say out loud. "Hope this mother-f**ker doesn't have a gun!" With that, the little man on the log pulls out the biggest AK-47 I have ever seen.
"Oh sh*t!" I yell. "Hope this f**ker can't shoot!"
As I am crossing down below about 1,200 feet I do one of the things they tell you not to do. I grab one riser (that is one of the four heavy straps that come up from your shoulder and attaches to the shroud lines that connect to the parachute. I grab the riser pointed toward the tree line I want to cross and I start climbing it. They tell you not to do this because this spills air out of the canopy above you at a very high rate. Climb too high and you will collapse the chute. They tell you about this in the first place so that, if you really need to, you can change your direction of travel rapidly. I now change my direction of travel very rapidly. I climb that riser until the ground is blurring past my boots. The rest of the team above me should see my change in direction and be easily able to follow me. All this time I am chanting. "Please don't shoot me. Please don't shoot me. Please don't shoot me."
That is when I hear my little friend start shooting.
The crack of a 7.62mm Soviet round going past you is a sound you will never forget. It is a harsh crack. It sounds angry and hostile. I begin to hear the crack, crack, crack of this guy firing past me. I look down and I am still short of the tree line and a good 5-600 feet in the air. As I look down I realize, if this guy hits me, he is going to hit me either in the ass or right in my nuts! Everything else is covered with gear, but my ass is hanging out making all too big a target. As I think of this I can feel my reproductive organs shrinking up inside my body. Any man who has ever been really scared will attest to the fact that gonads are retractable. Mine were demonstrating that capability.
As I am zipping along, I begin one last mantra. "Please be alone. Please be alone. Please be alone." I look back over my should and no sh*t, here comes about a hundred of these black pajama little f**kers out of the tree line behind me. They are all carrying guns and looking at me. This was one of those times when you just know you are not going to make it out. I remember thinking to myself as I was waiting to get shot in the ass, "No way. You are not gonna make it out of this one. Gonna get shot in the ass too."
"Muth-er-f**k" is all I can think to say.
I finally pass over the tree line a couple of hundred feet in the air. I am descending rapidly as the canopy was dumping a lot of air. As soon as I am past the trees, I let go of the riser and drop down. The chute reinflates immediately, but I begin to oscillate or sway like on a swing. This can pose a problem on landing but right now, it's the least of my worries. I begin pulling toggles opposite the sway to reduce it. No real consideration now for wind drift or anything else. Ground is coming up quickly and I have to get ready to do a good Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) or risk getting seriously hurt. I am still carrying a couple hundred pounds of gear and that will put me on the ground hard. The rapid decent will make it worse. As I drop below the trees I can no loner hear the bullets and my only thought is don't get injured. I do not want to be a burden on the team. We are going to have to move fast and a Lieutenant with a broken leg is no good. Can't be a leader if you can't walk. I am honestly more concerned with letting down the team than any though of bad guys shooting at me. That's the way it was. Them first. Yourself last.
Ground coming up fast. Drifting to my left. Do a left-hand, forward PLF. Feet and knees together. Knees slightly bent so your legs don't get jammed through your hips. Toes hit. Start to roll. Take it along the left side. You form a letter C with your body and roll to the left. Your legs come up over your head facing towards the parachute. Dig your heels in. Chute pulls you back up on your feet. Walk towards the chute and collapse it. Damn, I am good. Should have had a camera on that one. Release the right capewell (this is where the parachute connects to the harness at your shoulder) and the parachute collapses. Release the left and the entire parachute is disconnected from me. I am still harnessed but can not be dragged by the parachute.
I look up and see five green chutes all following me into the paddy. I am about in the center of it. I can hear firing now on the other side of the tree line I just crossed. I begin shedding gear and disconnecting harness straps. As is my practice, I hop up and down a couple of times. Seems silly, but I have seen people with so much adrenalin they did not notice they had broken a leg until they started walking. I figure if I can hop and no body parts fall off and I don't fall over, I am O.K.. All my stuff is now in a pile on the ground. Pull my helmet off and put my Rickey Recon bush hat on. Must look good you know. Web belt and harness straps get pulled out and put on next. That has all my combat gear. Then disconnect my pack with everything else I will need. Throw that in a pile a few feet away from the mess of straps I am in. When it is time to run, I will need this. Finally, my M-16 is split into two pieces in a rifle bag under my reserve chute. I pull that out. Open the bag. M-16 goes together with two slide through bolts. Pop the bolts open in the bottom half (trigger housing group). Put the top half on (barrel and receiver group) and pop the bolts back in. I carry a three magazine, taped together "Jungle Clip" in the right hand cargo pocked of my utilities. Three banana mags holding 30 rounds each. I pull that out, insert one into the magazine well of the weapon, pull the charging handle and I am ready to rock and roll. All of the above takes about ten seconds.
I step out of all the mess of parachute gear I have been standing in and walk over to where I tossed my ALICE pack. As I walk, I look up. About half the chutes are now over the tree line with all moving in my direction. Sounds of firing very distinct now. A lot of pissed off people on the other side of the tree line. Number two man is headed right at me about 20-30 feet up in the air. Number three is a little above him. Both headed right at me. I drop into a rifle range type kneeling position and sight in on the berm. It is about one hundred and fifty yards away. My right hand grabs the pistol grip of the M-16. Marine Corps Creed. "This rifle is mine. I will know it as I know myself." No need to look. Right thumb finds the selector. One click down moves it from Safe to Semi. Alright. Ready to go.
There is a certain calm that comes over you when you know you really don't have a snowball's chance in hell. I clearly remember feeling that way at this point. I had resigned myself to this being the end. I remember to this day thinking, "I am going to take as many as these bastards with me as I can." I had given up any thought of trying to get away. No way in hell was I going anywhere.
I also remember clearly thinking I was the first man on the ground. I had to give as much of a chance to the guys still in the air as I could. The way we were all geared up, nobody was doing a John Wayne and pulling any weapons out in the air to return fire and defend themselves. If you screwed up and dropped something, the little buggers would not give it back to you. I remember telling myself I had to put some fire out to get the gook's heads down until these guys could get on the ground. The berm at the edge of the paddy was about two feet high. From where I was I could shoot over it. But it was overgrown with brush and trees. If I shot into them, the rounds might not go through.
"Well, here we go" I though to myself. I focused on the center of the berm. I knew the Khmer were spread out on the other side. I put one round over the berm, into the tree line, about a foot above the dirt. If it came out the other side, it would be right about waist high. I shifted a little to the left and fire again. A little right of center and again. Back to the left and again. Right again. Left again. I fired into a pattern that I visualized would produce a cone of fire into the other paddy about waist high and into the center of the group I had seen. No idea if it was working, but I had to do something.
As I had begun firing, I lost all visual contact with the guys in the air. Training for a hot DZ called for each man to land in turn, get out of his parachute harness and into his gear, then come up on line in patrol order with the lead man. I do remember thinking at one point, "I hope those f**king guys see me and don't land over the next tree line." But I didn't look up. I stayed sighted on the berm in front of me waiting for the first little critters to appear.
After about ten rounds, I see Staff Sergeant roll up on line about twenty feet to my left. Now there are two of us on line firing at the tree line.
After I emptied out the first magazine I pulled the jungle mag out and flipped it to quickly insert the second one. While doing so I looked around for a moment. There were four of us on line including Green, the radio operator. Someone had an M-203 too. He put a 40mm grenade round into the tree line.
"Green" I yelled to the radio operator about ten feet to my right. "Call the f**king bird. Tell them we are in deep sh*t and need immediate extraction. Tell them we will be moving West and the extraction bird can pick us up on the extraction push." Hopefully. If Billy boy was an Air Force Pilot of his word, he was about half way through the orbit I had asked him to make before he left the area. If he was, he should easily pick up our call for help and could quickly relay back to the base. It was the best and fastest way for us to get out of here. It would take about two hours for the extraction chopper to reach this point. I really thought they would be about an hour and fifty minutes late. But the job was the job and that was what the manual said you did. Without answering, Green was on the handset and dials doing his thing. I saw one last man just touching down in the paddy fifty yards or so to his right.
Machine Gunner rolled up next to me at that point. "This f**king sucks, L.T.!" was all he said. Young kid. Big ears. Red hair. Looked like Opie from The Andy Griffith show. He was a virtuoso with an M-60. As he was dumping his gear I noticed fire coming from the berm. Our little friends were definitely there.
All along the dark area just above the berm and below the low branches I could see Christmas lights twinkling. The first few quickly grew into a lot. A whole god damned bunch. As the lights twinkled, I could feel sh*t going past my head. I could feel the air compress as those little commie rounds ripped past me. "Here we go." I thought to myself.
M-60 was putting a belt into his weapon when I turned back to the berm and the little Christmas lights. Now I had a target. Pick a twinkle light. Sight in. Put one, two , three rounds at it until it stopped twinkling. Find another light. Sight in. One, two, three, four and it stops. Next light. One, two, its out.
Damn, M-60 cranks up. Any grunt will tell you, the sound of an M-60 firing in your support is a warm and wonderful thing. I love that gun. M-60 starts chewing the berm and tree line to pieces. Two M-203s are working now putting grenades straight into the tree line. Three M-16s including mine adding their voice to the noise.
M-60 sweeping back and forth. Point man to my left pumping grenades into the left side of the tree line. Rear point has the second blooper and is pumping grenades into the right half of the line. Dirt, branches, and everything swirling around the trees while twinkle lights keep twinkling. I am still firing semi auto and I am into the last mag in the jungle clip. 90 rounds out. I have six more mags for another 180 rounds then a bandoleer of 200 rounds but I would have to reload the magazines. Don't think I'm gonna have the chance. The noise is tremendous at this point. No sense trying to talk to Green to see if he got through, no way to hear each other.
Fourth magazine in my weapon. Back to work. One, two three, next light. One, two, next one. I keep waiting for the push to come. Only a matter of time. Eventually they will come off that berm like a wave. They will push out into the field and close the range to hose us with those AK's. Any second now. We have literally blown half the berm down as well as a good portion of the trees but the little yellow bastards are still there. Still the Christmas lights. Still the sh*t whizzing past my ears. Any second one of us will go down, or two and they will start to push out on a flank. Then we are f**ked. Any second. One, two, three, next light.
Another thirty rounds and I am in to magazine number five. Half way through my ready ammo.
M-60 is yelling like crazy and sweeping that berm. It is amazing to watch that skinny kid fire that weapon from kneeling and sweep from side to side but keep his fire within twelve inches of the top of that berm 150 yards away. The M-60 has a hell of a recoil when fired off-hand that way. He is cursing like a mad-man as he sweeps.
Staff Sergeant is pointing with his arm at something and yelling at point man. He puts a 40mm grenade into something at the far end of the line. Then quickly another. Then a third. Staff Sergeant is shooting again. One, two, three, next light. I notice a grenade explode in the tree line right in front of me. I take my rifle down and I notice rear point and Green have shifted their fire towards the center. There are no more twinkle lights from their side of the line. The brush there was thinner. The black pajama boys shifted away from their area to stay in the thicker brush.
I can hear Staff Sergeant yelling now. The noise level has fallen off a lot. I don't see half the twinkle lights I saw a few seconds ago. sh*t! We are winning! We are kicking their little, yellow gook asses! Oops. One of those little gook asses just put a round so close to my head I think I pissed myself.
But this is good. The fire has noticeably slackened. We may actually have a chance.
"Roll back from the point to the tree line behind us" I yell.
I hear the echo but it is ragged and unclear.
"ROLL BACK FROM THE POINT TO THE TREE LINE BEHIND US" I yell again. This time I hear the echo clear and strong even over the firing.
I reach down and pick up my pack. I quickly swing it on. God, its heavy. No time to dump sh*t here. Do that at the tree line where we can find some cover. Gonna be a long way to run with this thing.
Point man is moving back. Staff Sergeant shifts to full auto to empty out his magazine before moving. Reload on the move. I am back into shooting at Christmas lights. One, two, next light. One, two, three, next light. I see Staff Sergeant slap M-60 to let him know it is his turn. M-60 pulls that gun close into his shoulder and holds the trigger down. I have to laugh. He is putting out ungodly fire with that weapon but his damn ears are so big they literally flap with the recoil. Humor is where you find it. He is funny looking.
I pull out magazine number six and put it in my weapon to get ready for my slap.
M-60 stands up. Slings on his pack. Picks up his weapon. Trots over to me. Slaps me and says, "See you later, L.T.." Off he goes to the tree line. The number of twinkle lights and the volume of fire is noticeably less than if was before he started.
My turn. Weapon up. Right thumb rotates the selector forward to full automatic. I start at the left end. Short bursts. Right at the point where the berm ends and the brush begins. Brush is thinner now. Much thinner. But I can see movement there. We are not alone. I work my way down the berm three to five rounds at a time. I empty out pointed out in front of Green. My pack is already on so I just have to stand up and jog to Green. I slap him on the shoulder. "Roll back to the tree line just behind us." I yell at him. He is kneeling behind his radio. It is the last thing he needs to swing on before he moves. He looks at me very business like and slaps a new magazine into his weapon. I start off towards the tree line before he starts to shoot.
Funny, but I don't feel the need to run fast. Part of it is exhaustion. Part of it is fatalism. But part of it is also a realization that we just may pull this sh*t off.
As I jog back to the tree line there is Staff Sergeant. Exposed so we can see him. But the bad guys can see him too. Ballsy guy to just stand there out in the open and point to where we are. Point man is in the tree line and has already begun a slow, sustained fire towards the berm. Staff Sergeant points to a spot in the tree line where I should head. I can not see M-60 but I know he is between Staff Sergeant and me so I can not cross to him. M-60 should be getting ready to open up any second. I don't want to be in the way. Just as I get to the berm at the edge of the paddy, he opens up again. Short bursts. Sustained rate of fire. I climb up the two or three feet to the top of the berm and turn around. I see Green already started back and rear point hosing down the berm. I kneel down and begin to pull stuff that I don't need past the next couple of hours out of my pack.
Lighten the load. If this is going to work we have to be able to move quickly now. Put some distance between us and these sorry assholes. I don't want them anywhere near where we will bring that chopper in. KR have no shoulder mounted SAMs at all, but what they can do with an RPG is amazing. A friend of mine was on a CH-53 brought down by one of them.
Everything with weight comes out of the pack. Dump all my food (except for some fruit and small stuff). Save all my ammo. My part of the RABFAC Beacon is still out in the paddy with my parachute harness. I dump the radio batteries out. I keep my cloths, maps and personal stuff. Hook the pack back together but leave it on the ground. Rifle up to my shoulder. No Christmas lights! At some point while I was going this, our little yellow brethren stopped firing. The team is now back in the tree line. Staff Sergeant is in too. Firing from us is slow but sustained.
"CEASE FIRING" I yell. "Cease firing" is echoed back.
"SECURITY TO THE FRONT" "Security to the front."
"LIGHTEN YOU LOADS AND GET READY TO RUN." "Lighten your load and get ready to run."
I walk the ten feet or so to Green. "Did you get up with the Air Force?"
"Roger that, L.T.. C-130 was still on station and relayed right to Iron Horse (call sign for the CH-53s that would pull us out). They are already in the air. I have talked to the pilot. He estimates two hours to extraction."
Damn I feel good. "Great!. Get ready to roll and I'll give you a grid for the pick-up in a minute."
I turn around and walk towards Staff Sergeant. As I pass M-60 he is pulling gear out of his ALICE pack. He looks at me with his killer-Opie face and says, "Think those assholes are gone, L.T.?"
"f**k no" I say. "Keep your eye on that tree line."
I walk on past him to Staff Sergeant. He is just putting his pack back together. This is a dangerous time. We have to regroup and get ready to move. We need to stop shooting so we can plan and, just as importantly, see if the KR are still shooting at us. Can't fight them if you can't find them. Right now, we can't see anything. They could be moving around a flank. They could have pulled back and have another unit moving in behind us (they have radios too you know). They could have called it a day and gone back to their rice and fish guts for breakfast. Could be a lot of things.
Staff Sergeant stands up to talk to me. He never takes his eyes off the tree line. "This sucks, L.T.. Where'd they go?"
I don't answer, I pull out my map. I get down on one knee. So does Staff Sergeant. It takes me a couple of minutes to figure out where I think we are on the map. In the mean time, Staff Sergeant offers some words of encouragement to the men while they are getting ready to move. "Green I swear to God if you drag ass on this run I will cut your throat myself. You better not have one ounce of extra sh*t in that pack."
"No problem Staff Sergeant" is the quiet reply.
"Staff Sergeant, I have us here. I figure in two hours we can make it to this junction of this stream and river easy. We can find a clear spot when we get there or the bird can pull us out of the water."
He takes about ten seconds looking at the map and thinking about what we will have to do. "Sounds good, L.T.." He says as he hands me back the map. He is not my original Staff Sergeant but we have been out on several ops together. I am good with a map and he knows it. But he is good too. We always check each other's work. Why not? Better to be safe then completely lost in bad guy country.
I mark the spot on the map with a grease pencil I keep in my map case. I figure out the eight digit grid coordinate for pick up to give to Green to tell the extraction bird. While I am writing, I hear Staff Sergeant say to no one in particular, "Will you look at this sh*t."
I look at him. He is looking out across the paddy. I look where he is looking and I see about fifty black clad KR, in line, coming down off the berm and moving out into the field. Can they be that f**king stupid? We were just firing from here a minute ago. Come up on a flank or send just a team out to probe us. Just walking all those guys out in the open is crazy.
I am bunched up between Staff Sergeant and M-60. I remember all those old war movies where the guy keeps saying "Hold it, hold it, let them come one in." Bull freaking sh*t! "ENEMY TO THE FRONT!" I yell.
If there is an echo, I don't hear it. Everybody opens up on that crowd. The front of the berm behind them literally explodes with 40mm grenades, 7.62mm machine gun rounds, and a blizzard of 5.56 NATO. It is rock and roll for about ten seconds.
When it stops I yell "RALLY ON ME!" It is echoed back clearly.
I look at the berm and everyone is gone again. I see some pajamas on the ground but just a couple. The rest have vaporized. No fire is coming from their tree line.
Everybody bunches up on me and quickly take a knee. I have my compass out and point due west. "Point, take this direction straight for about two klicks. After you cross over a real steep north to south finger, we will rally on the west side at the bottom. RALLY ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE NORTH SOUTH FINGER." This last is delivered in a stage whisper. No sense tempting fate. "Rally on the West side of the North South Finger" is stage whispered back.
And we are off.