--The First Cut is the Deepest, Cat Stevens
You're only dancing on this earth
For a short while
And though your dreams may toss
And turn you now
They will vanish away
--Oh, Very Young, Cat Stevens
It seems like such a long time ago that I was a young trooper signing into CoA, JFK Special Warfare Center. It was 31 Dec 1969 and I was Temporary Duty Assignment (TDY) en-route to the 5th Special Forces Group, Republic of Vietnam (RVN). The TDY was Special Forces Officer Class.
My Army sojourn was 18 months old at that point, and three months of training were in order prior to my deployment. I volunteered for Special Forces and for RVN service after having served in a line Division in the Federal republic of Germany (FRG) as both a reconnaissance and the 4.2 Mortar Platoon leader.
Since I was an Infantry Officer by choice rather than chance, the duty in Europe was a real eye-opener. After 18 months of Army life it was evident to me that the Army ate its young – both officer and enlisted – and Ranger’s volunteering for SF was motivated by one factor alone: Line Infantry was not conducive to long life.
Of course in those days, neither was SF duty, but the difference was that The Green Machine and its flagpole was further away in SF than it was in the Infantry. After that initial 18 months, SF seemed a more personal environment in which one might jump less obstructedly through the Army hoops (hoop jumping being a requirement for all.)
SF duty lasted from 31 Dec 1969 to 2 Mar 1971, at which time Ranger returned to Continental U.S. (CONUS) duty with the 3rd Ranger Company at Ft. Benning, which was exactly the epicenter of Infantry thinking.
What did a young Lieutenant learn and was it worth the ride? I learned that the Army would spend shit-buckets full of money to create a combat leader and soldier, with the result being an expendable replacement unit in an assembly-line of violence and death.
The dawning of the realization of this mundane truth still startles me. The reality was accepted so casually then, yet now it seems surreal (remember that I am speaking Infantry, not Combat Support or Combat Special Support).
Ranger was a volunteer for Infantry, the Regular Army, the Airborne, Ranger and SF with a 5th Group assignment, on a clear trajectory to being another character in a future movie about a war. Yet it was not to be. Death rode a pale horse while we wore the Green Beret, and the fates were playing with my life somewhere beyond my control.
After all of this training, sweat, sprains, twists and misery I was assigned to B-53 / 5th SF Group – a safer place to inhabit this earth than was growing up in Eastside Cleveland. The gods obviously had a plan for one dumb LT and now I recognize this destiny. I was selected to present the long-term interpretation that you the reader are subjected to daily at RangerAgainstWar.
For this function I did not volunteer but was selected by forces larger than any of us. It has been a long ride and it is my hope that my writings make the journey a bit more comprehensible and less painful to a new generation of soldiers.