Hello Tree - Ranger School, 1988

Hello Tree - Ranger School, 1988

A Story by The Warrior Poet

THIS IS A TEST - it's a short story about one of many experiences in the Army - I NEED TO KNOW IF IT'S INTERESTING - IF IT IS I'LL CONTINUE


Hello Tree

US Army Ranger School, 1988


They were told to avoid “Dinosaur Land” but did they listen?  They did not.  The tired young man that had been designated as patrol leader and his tired young buddy designated as assistant patrol leader had plotted our patrol on the map in straight lines.  The shortest distance between two points, right?  Wrong.  That might be true in a two dimensional world, but the many contour lines on the map of Camp Darby, Georgia told a different story. 

                Dinosaur land

Anyone familiar with map reading knows that when the contour lines on a topographical map are almost touching, the “ground” it represents something more to be climbed than walked on.  “At the bottoms of all the draws is blue,” The Ranger instructor had told us.  “That’s water.  And where there’s water, there’s vegetation.  Avoid the bottoms of the draws or you will be wasting your time fighting through Dinosaur Land.”   There are no trails in that mess.

They plotted the route straight through the land of “wait-a-minute vines”, mud, and water.  Just as they had told us, we were battling the terrain, which is a notably tough enemy to battle on cold dark nights.  I was carrying “The Gun” that night.  That’s the M-60 Machine Gun " which I thought of as 23 Lbs. of “easy-rust”.

                The Gun

And for anyone whose military experience is Full Metal Jacket, Boys in Company C, Platoon, etc. and you are thinking “This is my rifle " this is my gun”, yes, the M-60 is called a GUN and not a weapon or rifle.  It is a gas-operated, air-cooled, belt-fed, automatic machine gun.  Firing it is heaven, carrying it is hell.

We were carrying rucksacks that were full of cold weather gear we weren’t allowed to use and meals we weren’t allowed to eat.  We were told every day that if we completed that night’s mission and moved into a patrol base quickly enough, we would be allowed to eat a meal and get some sleep.  We never made it.  I carried 9 M.R.E.s with me for 4 days and was allowed to ONE meal on that 4th day.    


The rucksack (ruck) is the large pack that soldiers wear on their backs.  You will also hear it referred to as an A.L.I.C.E. pack.  Depending on the mission, that ruck can get very heavy.  Infantry soldiers refer to this weight as the “Gravity Monster”.  For Ranger School, the students carry EVERYTHING " just short of small cars and trees.  We carried training aids that were shaped like, and weighed the same as, mines and live ammunition.  Including the rest of the gear and water, we were carrying well over 100Lbs.   

At one point during that patrol, we were crossed through a small valley with a dark pool of muddy water at the bottom.  Late October in Georgia had made this pool of muddy water awfully cold as well.  The area was dark.  It was very dark.  Although there were no trees and bushes blocking the starlight over the water, everywhere behind us, around us and in front of us was absolutely blacked out.  Only our Ranger Eyes kept us in visual contact with the people in front of us.

                Ranger Eyes

On the backs of each of the Ranger students’ patrol caps was a set of “ranger eyes” which are ½” by 1” pieces of luminous tape.  They are part of the Ranger School ritual and are sewn on, by hand, during the first week.  Each of the two ranger eyes are sewn on using dental floss in a specific pattern.  There are six double loops on each eye.  Each of those 6 pair are individually sewn and secured by tying with a square knot and two half hitches.

Walking through the water, we were trying to keep away from pitfalls such as submerged branches, rocks, holes, etc.  It’s hard to pull your legs out of the mud with that much weight on your back and a 23 Lb. machine gun in your arms.  The mud tried to suck the boots off my feet with almost every step.  A couple of guys slipped and fell in completely and some slid into sinkholes which those behind were then able to avoid.  At the deepest part, I found myself trying to find footing to stay just high enough to keep my groin dry.  I didn’t make it.  There are some parts of your body that create havoc for your entire existence when doused with cold water:  feet, back, stomach, armpits, back of the neck, and the testicles.

When I made it through the water, the line in front had moved out without waiting for the rest of us to get through the water.  I couldn’t see anything at all so I had to use my ears.  I moved forward quickly, listening for the sounds of soldiers movements (leaves, branches, heavy breathing, and of course whispered swearing.

It was during those next hurried few moments that I encountered one of those “What the hell was I thinking?” moments.

© 2010 The Warrior Poet

My Review

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Great story telling. This did justice in the realm of getting the message across. Great message. There's lot of times where a story can have a great message to aim for, and have a lot of under lining things but then no one gets it, and if no one gets it, then the point has failed. But in my opinion this did well to get the message across. You made it clear, which is why I think it's good. Keep up the good work. What was also great was that I could imagine the story as I read it, and that is also a strong point of stories. The ability to have the reader imagine it because after all we're reading not watching it, but it was as if I was there as I read this, and that is great. Good job once again.

Posted 5 Years Ago

After you leave the Army. Becomes best days in a life. But the training and stress of maintaining a unit wasn't that easy. Great description and realistic story of a life of a Soldier. I try to forget the bad days. The good days seem to stand out today. A outstanding story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I like the way you defined the terms you used. It is experiences that make us strong, I understand the reasons for this type of training.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Wow, I don't know how you did it! I'm really amazed. I consider myself a strong person, but i"m not sure I could have made it through that. Amazing story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I have fired an M-60, I sure as hell wouldn't want to carry one. What I would like to do is read more of your work.

Posted 10 Years Ago

this a very interesting story and it is one that my ten year old son would love. He loves anything to do with the military and has a fascination with the history of WWII. This is not only interesting but it is informational as well. I say keep going.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Took me back man, to all those what the f**k was I thinking moments, to my very close relationship with the gravity monster, to retards who couldn't plot a decent patrol and the zombies that stumbled through those patrols for so long they couldn't recognize the light at the end of the tunnel even when they reached it.

Posted 10 Years Ago

lol OK That last paragraph has me wondering what happens next. I'm not sure what part of Georgia that is, but my dad grew up in South Georgia in the swamps. I've heard enough stories of THAT area to curl my hair . . . if it would curl anyhow lol. Between the snakes and the gators . . .

Posted 10 Years Ago

great job of sharing your story it held my attention through-out . I will be reading more.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Hahahahahaha, you had the pig. That sucks. I find it interesting, but I know what all that s**t is. Luckily though for the layman, you defined everything! I think its good. I don't know what other people will think but I think you should keep going.

Posted 10 Years Ago

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11 Reviews
Added on November 19, 2010
Last Updated on November 19, 2010
Tags: Military


The Warrior Poet
The Warrior Poet


I am a combat veteran paratrooper and I've been writing since 1984. I was chosen by my English teacher as good candidate for Creative Writing and had to get a waiver to get into the class because my .. more..


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