Personal log of-[REDACTED],2 MAR Year 3 PR Edit
42nd SRG, "Canvasbacks" Team B Edit
OPERATION: RED CLOVER
We took off from Ft Bragg at 2304 exactly, which put us 26 minutes ahead of schedule
We were strapped in, all six of us, with a solitary crew chief who prowled back and forth in the cabin, fussing over our straps and harnesses, checking and rechecking our oxygen hookups. He seemed aggravated by our calm, and acted as if at least someone should be worried
Our Team Lead, call sign "Gray Fox," scribbled on a pad, ripped it out and passed it over to me. Speaking over the drone of the engines and through our masks was an exercise in futility.
I held the note up in front of my face; we'd hit 20,000 ft and the cabin lights had switched off, leaving us bathed in a dim red glow.
"My balls are itching like fucking crazy Ash, give me a 'hand'?" Ash being short for Ashdiver, my call sign
I reached over quickly and started wiggling my fingers suggestively, reaching for Fox's crotch
I could just barely hear what must have been a huge guffaw. He smacked my hand away and punched me in the shoulder. I gave him the finger in response.
45 uneventful minutes later the crew chief came around and hooked our oxygen tubes to our bailout bottles we wore on our legs, then popped our straps and hauled us out of our seats. It took him and our Designated Marksman, Skydevil, to yank me and my gear up. On top of being a larger guy, I carried 30lbs of High Explosives in addition to my already heavy gear. With the added weight of my chute and oxygen, it was hard for me to stand up out of the low hanging seats
After final checks, we gave the chief a thumbs up and he keyed his radio. There was a pause. My adrenaline started pumping now, fueled by the slight oxygen high I was feeling. I tried to look out the left side window but it was iced over. I didn't have to wait long to see the night sky though.
Without preamble, the doors opened, and an icy polar wind smashed into the cabin.
The icy air buffeted the seven of us, and the plane shuddered slightly from the sudden depressurization.
We waited, muscles tensed, breath held subconsciously
Seconds ticked by in a glacial fashion, a single bead of sweat ran down my back despite the cold
Skydevil and Greyfox were in front of me, Tarheel, our automatic rifleman, Whiporwill, the medic, and Red badger, our assaultman, stood behind.
I stared intently at the back of Devils' helmet, and my entire world funnelled down into that small patch of black carbon fiber
I thought of home, of my wife, my dog, my new electric powered car that some asshole bird kept shitting on no matter where I parked it, the small range I was trying to build in my back yard
This was the only time I allowed myself these thoughts. Afterwards, during the next grueling days of our long range recon, I would remained focused, give no thought to home
The green light flickered on, snapping my out of my revelry. In the blink of an eye, the two men in front of me were gone, leaving a twinkling skyline, stretching like dark black velvet across my entire field of view.
I threw out my arms, and dove into the night.
I braced myself mentally, and looked down.
The huge cloud of ash, hanging over the land like a constant malevolent force, loomed below me. This was the worst part.
I'd exited the plane about 20 seconds ago, which meant I would hit the ash in another fifteen
I checked my altimeter to ensure it was working, and braced myself
I tucked my arms across my chest, put my chin to my chest, and barreled headlong into the maelstrom.
It remains most disorienting thing I've ever done, nothing around but thick grey that buffets and slings you around like a toy.
For a full 10 seconds of free fall, I smashed and bumped and jostled my way through, praying that nothing came loose
When I broke free, I spread my arms and legs to slow my decent and looked down, which happened to actually be up. The bottom of the ash cloud hung over me maliciously, and a spike of panic shot through my chest
I squashed it, carefully righted myself, and checked my altimeter.
15000, another fifty seconds and I'd be home free
I looked below me, trying to pick out my teammates against the grey landscape
At about 6000ft, I say one canopy pop open below, at 5000 another
Then it was time for me to deploy, so I reached back, found the cord and pulled
A sudden jolting yank soothed my nerves, and I found my riser controls and glided, following the small blinking beacon Grey had on his pack
Utah was flat and grey and lifeless. I could see for miles, and I couldn't pick out any sign of human existence anywhere, no buildings, no camps, no fires even. I landed gently, there was a soft breeze that put me down just to the left of the DZ.
Within 10 minutes, we had removed our jump gear, buried our parachutes and tanks, wrapped our helmets in poncho liners and stowed them.
We spent a few minutes rubbing ash onto each other's skin and uniforms, then put our respirators and goggles on and began to move.
We had a long walk to reach the TEF FOB in what was New Mexico, and a lot to see on the way.
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