So there I was, it was 1988, and around this same time a year, give or take a week. I was a few weeks past my 20th birthday, and was nearing the end of the first phase of Army Ranger School. I was a private first class, and had about a year in the 75th Ranger Regiment prior to getting my chance for Ranger School. We had finished all the initial PT test, five mile run, swim test, obstacle courses, combatives training, and other first week requirements. We were nearing the end of the second week, and had spent a number of days patrolling the Camp Darby portion of Fort Benning. I was actually stationed at Benning and was used to the terrain, but this was odd terrain for even Benning. There were huge ravines that were like cliffs that would swallow an entire squad in the dark of night. Hollis Branch Creek was more of a huge cold slow flowing swamp than it was a creek, and the little branches that spread out from it were not much better. While we were only about two weeks into the course, there were already considerably fewer students than what we had started with. Some had gotten injured, others failed tests, while some had just quit. We were far from being the emaciated walking zombies that we would evolve into by the end of Florida Phase, but two weeks with very limited sleep and one MRE a day was already taking effect. Folks were wearing down, and you could see through the false tough stuff and facades that many put on early in the phase. The real leaders and work horses were starting to emerge. Just a few days prior, I had a large muscled up Lieutenant call me from our planning bay to come speak with him in the woods. He had a large log, and with tears in his eyes, he asked if I would drop it on his leg. I was bewildered, as I thought him to be a real tough fellow. He explained that he did not think he could handle the non-stop cold, and said his dad was a Colonel in the Army, and he could not face him if he quit. While Ranger students do not wear rank, I knew he was an officer, and a West Point graduate. I brought this to his attention, reminded him that I was a private, and then scolded him the best I could. I think this sort of sobered him up from his snivel attack. Not part of this story, but at the time my foot was fractured, and I did not know it. I was not able to finish Ranger School with this class, and had to attend again about six months later. I ran into this same Lieutenant in a PX months later, and he had his Ranger Tab. I tried to speak to him, and he would not talk to me. I think he was embarrassed about our little talk in the woods, but I am glad he made it.
Near the end of the phase, we had to do a twelve mile foot march at night. For a number of days we had been patrolling and doing missions were we moved tactically through the woods as squads (around ten men). For the foot march, we had to form up as a battalion (three companies) where we would move twelve miles with fairly heavy rucksacks on our back. It was late afternoon, and there was still plenty of light. It was a very cold, damp, cloudy day. The battalion formed up in a cleared square area in middle of tall Georgia pines. The square was a bit of a red clay/gravel parking lot near the little planning shacks and such that make up Camp Darby. After we formed up, we had to dump the contents of our rucksacks, so the Ranger Instructors could call off items, and insure that we had everything on the packing list. A few of the Ranger Instructors were moving through the formations checking folks for snivel gear (long johns, polypropylene underwear, and such). While we were allowed to have this gear, it is not allowed to be worn during marches and movements. While you may feel very cold prior to starting to march, once you start moving, there is no time to remove undergarments , and keeping it on can cause one to become a heat casualty (heat exhaustion, heat stroke,") even in the dead of winter. The Ranger Instructors caught a number of students with snivel gear, and were writing them major-minus spot reports. When they caught a few more, they became a good bit irritated. One Ranger Instructor walked to the center of the formation, and said he had a fix for this problem. He demanded that all of us remove our uniforms, so they could see who had snivel gear on. We just sort of stood there at first, until he began screaming "you heard me, take everything off". Most folks in the military, who have spent any sort of time in the field, know that underwear is not your friend, and that it just causes rashes and such, and choose not to wear it in the field. While it was already cold, once we stripped down to nothing, it just seemed a whole lot colder. The Ranger Instructors now had a clear view of who had on snivel gear, and were busy moving through the formation writing more major-minus spot reports, while we students stood shivering at the position of attention with nothing on.
Since 1987 to present, I have spent close to fifteen years at Fort Benning. In all that time, I have only seen it snow a handful of times. This was one of those times. As we stood there naked, it all of a sudden began to snow. When it started, it was those giant fluffy snowflakes that seem to drift to the ground in slow motion. It was one of those times that when you thought it could get no worse, it just did, and for some reason it just seemed real funny all of a sudden. Those giant snowflakes filled the air, and they just about looked like they were suspended. We only had a couple of Marines in our class, and a Battalion Recon Marine named Hellman was in my platoon. Hellman was a little guy, and was tough as woodpecker lips. He had a good sense of humor, and he is the only man I ever saw that would chew tobacco, dip snuff, and smoke a cigarette all at the same time. Hellman decided that it was an opportune time to sing "Silent Night", and began singing. The Ranger Instructors did not seem amused, and they went after him like hornets honing in on a kid that just threw a rock at their nest. They were hollering "RANGER, YOU BETTER SHUT THE ---- UP OR"." . Young Marine Hellman did not back down, and he just started singing louder. For some reason, it just caught on. Folks across the battalion formation started singing also. Ranger Instructors commenced to running around hollering, and then they realize it was to no avail, and just stood there with hands on hips looking at us. While I may not be able to explain it, this gave us a motivation like I have never seen before. Here you have a couple hundred men that have had just about everything taken from them that could be taken. While it is a volunteer school, we lost our freedom, our rank was taken, our insignia was taken, they took our sleep, most of our food, we lost our names and were called by a roster number, and now they took our clothes. It just seemed like there was nothing else to lose. Standing there buck naked with the snow coming down, a couple hundred naked men sang Silent Night like I have never heard it sung before. If your average church could ever get its congregation to sing like we did, they would blow shattered stained glass all over town. When we finished, the Ranger Instructors did not yell, they just told us to put our uniforms back on, and get ready to move. It is kind of funny how when we stopped, the snow stopped, and it started raining lightly. It was also funny that for some reason I was not cold anymore. There was no more shivering, and I just felt warm for a while.
That is just a little funny Ranger School story that by itself means nothing at all. Talk to any Ranger graduate, and they will have a myriad of funny little stories too. Tonight I attended a Christmas Program at my daughters Christian School and I remembered that little event when children sang Silent Night. At the end of the program, the Pastor of the church that runs this school talked about Christmas. He spoke of how public schools used to have similar Christmas Programs, but now it is not allowed, and how the name of Christ is being pushed from our society. While I may be a bit far to the right, and some may consider me to be a bit extreme, I could not help thinking for a while on what he said. I am not overly educated, but I now a little Bible, I know a little history, and I follow the news. I see how rapidly Islam is growing, and how anything tied to Judeo Christian values is being shunned. I see the damage being caused by the rules of political correctness, and I am amazed how quickly far left radicals have found their way to power in this great nation. I see how the masses have been lulled to sleep by their MTV, pro and college sports, and modern entertainment, while their children are brain washed into believing the lie that homosexual filth is good, and that man evolved from monkeys. I am no historian, but as we creep closer and closer to socialism, I cannot help but wonder how Americans do not look at Russia, Cuba, China, and other nations that went that route, and not fear that path. If other nations that turned to Government control took the guns and then the Bibles, why do people not see that happening here? I have read the Foxe's Book of Martyrs and have studied the horrors and torture that early Christians endured. While many may think I am off my rocker to think that American is heading that direction, I cannot help but believe we are going that way quickly. If America does not see revival and change direction, if Christianity continues to get attacked, and God forbid " Christians are one day rounded up in groups. If I find myself there with everything taken that can be taken, I hope I can be the first one to start singing this time, just like Hellman did.