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7th Rangers: Abseiling from a Helicopter

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No Atheists
In A Foxhole

Rudyard Kipling

" ā€œWhen you're left wounded on
Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldierā€
General Douglas MacArthur

" ā€œWe are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.ā€

ā€œIt is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.ā€
ā€œOld soldiers never die; they just fade away.
ā€œThe soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,
for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.ā€
ā€œMay God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .ā€
ā€œThe object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

ā€œNobody ever defended, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.
ā€œIt is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
The Soldier stood and faced God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as bright as his brass
"Step forward you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't
Because those of us who carry guns
Can't always be a saint."
I've had to work on Sundays
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn't mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,
The Soldier squared his shoulders and said
And I never passed a cry for help
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burden well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

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Abseiling from a Helicopter
Monday, August 15, 2022
Representative Image

The first time I ever did repelling was while I was in Outward Bound School; it was done along a cliff side in 1969.

For a kid then it looked real high, I was 15 years old then. I managed to do the descent with my dignity intact. Here in Recruit Training Center there was no tower to practice nor was there a cliff to descend from.

The Malaysian Army is very innovative, there was this big and tall rain forest tree on which a platform was constructed, one thing in RTC is that nobody can accuse them of lacking in ingenuity. From this platform we were taught the rudiments of abseiling. The tree was the notional helicopter from which we would descend from. We were only given one precious lesson, as there were too many of us to make us adept in the ways of the rope.

One fine day the real thing happened, all of us were lined up in files of three.

ā€œI want volunteers,ā€ the sergeant said. None of us moved, ā€œI want volunteers,ā€ this time the tone was menacing. We were fidgeting, wondering what was all this about. ā€œHas no one here a pair of balls?ā€ 

If there was a tower

To my horror my feet responded to this baiting and stepped forward, immediately there were ten other jerks who followed suit. Basically, most recruits were like sheep, they just followed. The thinking in a recruitā€™s mind is, at least there are few guys to share whatever they are going to throw at us, no one person will be the point of attention, in RTC nobody wants to be the point of attention.

ā€œToday you eleven lucky gentlemen will have the honor to represent this platoon in abseiling from a helicopter.

Only eleven of us, as the other platoons too were sending their representatives. The ones not involved were to be spectators. We were given hip sheets, of course we did not know how to tie them around us, after all we had only one lesson, the instructors took over, rigged us up, snap links were issued. 

Now my experience with helicopters was limited to waving to them when they passed high up in the skies, pictures in the newspapers on troop deployment especially when we were thrashing the territorially greedy Indonesians during a limited war known as Confrontation.

We were waiting, when the silence of the early dawn was broken by the chop -chop sound of a Sirkosky helicopter, an American made helicopter. It was big, itā€™s payload was thirty fully equipped combat troops. It came in fast on to the short take off airstrip, which also doubled as our physical training ground. The huge rotors were chopping the early morning mist, sending them swirling mingled with other debris. 

The chopper was painted in olive green, landed heavily on the pier steel planks that were already overgrown with grass, probably the pilot was fantasizing being a fighter pilot. A group of soldiers were already moving drums of avtur (aviation turbine fuel) with pumps to refuel, even as the chopper was being shut down. We were given a final briefing, which did not make much sense as we were already filled with anxiety.

Coming down from a perfectly flying aircraft using a rope, the thought can be terrifying. After the chopper was refueled, it was rigged up with an assortment of ropes, the engines were started up, above the noise we were screamed at with orders to get into the aircraft, we were hustled into the aircraft, we went in, left, right, left, right as was the drill in boarding the chopper.

The chopper took off very fast, the contents in our stomach heaved. It took two rounds, sharp ones at that as we were trying to hold on to the seats which were a crisscross of nylon straps, made into seats. It finally started hovering above the airstrip.

The first guy nearest was hauled up, he looked like a zombie, the rope was looped around his snaplink and locked. He was made to take up the L position, he looked like a pro, left arm straight, forefinger and thumb around the rope, right hand behind bent at the elbows holding the rope to control descent.

An order was given for him to descend, nothing happened, the instructors were gesticulating telling him to bend his knees for him to thrust out for the descent, still nothing happened. He just plain refused to move. My ever innovative sergeant saved the day, he booted the guy out, out of sight he went, I could only see his flailing arms as he disappeared from view.

ā€œI donā€™t want to dieā€, the voice beside whimpered, it was asshole. ā€œSo donā€™t die, only god can save us from Satan over there,ā€ I, with the little bit of bravado left replied. The sergeant was looking very pleased with himself; some of the other instructors were tapping him on his shoulders congratulating him. Asshole looked as though he was going to faint, probably too much shit and chicken in him.

My hands were getting cold and clammy inside the two layers of gloves I had on. I was hoping nobody noticed my knocking knees, to disguise that, I put on a smile every time my dear Satan looked in my direction. Soon it was assholeā€™s turn, he went the same way the first guy went only that this time we could hear the scream above the rotorā€™s down wash.

I mumbled the Lordā€™s Prayer twice followed by two quick Hail Maryā€™s, shot off another quick Lordā€™s Prayer just for insurance, in case of after life. I was going to repeat my prayers again just to make sure on my insurance, when my turn came up.

I did not know why my knees became stiff and my legs weighed like lead. The way I walked was forced and firm, forced because of fear and firm so as not to collapse like jelly. I was standing at the entrance, me facing inwards with my back towards the entrance.

The instructors were looking at me wetting their lips like I was a wiggly morsel waiting to be tasted. They rigged me up, I was leaning out waiting for the thumbs up, and the down wash of the rotors was already pushing me down. I was faltering when the thumbs up came; I kicked with all my might for my own self respect and commended my soul. The slide down was very fast, mistake I made was I bent my left elbow; the nylon rope took off some of my facial tissue as it came into contact with the right hand side of my face.

I did not feel the searing and burning sensation which I by right should have felt; I was too terrified to feel anything. The ground was coming up very fast to meet me. I was trying very hard to slow down, by yanking the rope behind me with my right hand, failed, I looked down I saw a bunch of instructors hanging on to the rope to slow my very fast descent. I landed, ran backwards until the rope ran out of the snaplink.

I was wobbly but on my feet, a familiar voice greeted me, ā€œI did great didnā€™t I, you were not in control like I wasā€, asshole was rattling off.

ā€œDo you make an effort to be obnoxious or is it naturalā€, I answered him.

ā€œYou were bad; you looked panicky, paah what a bad example.ā€ He responded, always wanting to have the last say. 

I disappointed him. ā€œMay I suggest to you, you piece of shit, that you do the impossible act of self impregnationā€, that got him tongue tied.

All the guys who were pushed out came to group around me, all the guys were alive as their descent was all controlled by the instructors, my knowledge on abseiling needs more enlightening.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 5:36 PM  
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