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The Airborne Ranger Mascot  

 The year was 1981 when I stepped off a UH-60 Blackhawk onto a grassy field at Hunter Army Air Field to begin RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program). Cocky tough and sporting a shit eating grin; it soon disappeared as the first black beret wearing RIP instructor walked before the other twenty-six hopefuls. It was a time when the black beret was earned, not issued, and the RIP program was taught at the respective Battalion level—meaning, you got your ass smoked without regard to your physical limitations. I wasn’t concerned because I already knew I could run with the best and road march all day on an empty stomach.

  I was wrong.

  By the end of the first day I gave serious doubt to not only making it through the selection, but survival became a real issue.

  A chisel-jawed RIP instructor stood cursing our weakness and informed the class by 0430-hours tomorrow (when a new day of misery began) we would prepare a class mascot, decorated for their inspection and approval.

  Across the grassy yard, forbidden to be stepped upon by mere mortal jungle boots, a circle of large rocks glistened like sweaty tombstones in the Georgia heat.

  Black, yellow, and white with the painted words of bravado “Death From Above”, “Ranger’s Lead The Way”, and “Kill’um All-Let God Sort’um Out” stained their grainy surfaces. These stony toadstools of past testaments encircled a fetid swamp we would come to know as the “Worm Pit” in our later adventures.

  Their size didn’t need explanation—they were heavy—and once told the mascot went everywhere with the class, and after humping an already 110-pound rucksack, Uncle Buck wasn’t having any of that shit.

 Dismissed to get our asses squared away at 2200 hours, the quite murmurs of “fuck this shit” already seeped its way into the subconscious.

  But I had a plan.

  Teaming with a large New Yorker we collected enough funds to put “Operation Lightweight” into action, and after lights out—we slipped from the barracks into the dark town of Savannah.

  Grabbing a cab, whose turban-clad driver knew exactly where to take the two recruits, we found ourselves in the seedy section of the city. The quarry was easy to locate, and with the price negotiated and agreed upon, we set about our work.

  Working quickly, our operation saw completion and we arrived safely back at the barracks undetected.

  Little sleep and tired muscles groaned as a voice bellowed, “FIRST CALL SO GET THE FUCK UP!”

  Our classmates looked at our red-rimmed eyes as we hustled out the door for formation to be greeted by several more smirking faces of fresh RIP instructors.

  “Got yer mascot?” Chisel-jaw inquired in a true Georgia drawl.

  “Roger that!” Uncle Buck the hopeful replied stepping forward of the line.

  “Where the fuck is it?” His Copenhagen stained teeth parted as he spat a stream.

  “In my pocket Sergeant.”

  The few snickers I heard from the rear went quickly silent as chisel-jaw stepped forward extending a meaty hand.

  I dropped the zip-lock bag into his dickskinner as the fresh RIP instructors gathered round to see what kind of mascot would come to their compound in a bag.

  Inside was a large patch of dark pubic hair {newly shorn} from a prostitute, complete with Polaroid photos of two camouflaged Ranger’s shaving the objective, and one solitary pebble with the words “Sua Sponte” written in magic marker across the surface.

  A few here might remember this “Mascot”, perhaps it’s lost to time—I guess it really doesn’t matter because we got our asses smoked for three weeks for leaving the barracks without permission. We still had to grab a rock, we still had to hump and run with the heavy bastard every day—but no one ever told which two left the barracks.

  I guess that’s when I understood what the “Rite of Passage” into a brotherhood truly meant.

  

Uncle Buck

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