I emailed back and forth today with Zach, I tried to call but could not get through. Zach emailed a little later and indicated for some reason his phone didn’t ring but he saw that I had called. He went to the Gym and when he got back he had a message that he was going out on a mission in a few hours (which would be tomorrow for us) so he had to go to bed and couldn’t talk.
I struggle at times imagining what it is like. He’ll probably wake up around shortly after midnight then go through the pre-mission preparations checking ammo and equipment that could save their lives, finally they will form up and head out in the dark with temperatures in the 70’s to low 80’s. They will be carrying packs that weigh from 60 to 110 pounds and will carry enough water to sustain them and ammo to protect them. They will move slow and steady through pre-planned designated areas always changing routes so as never to be predictable. They will climb on their patrol sometimes to as much as 11000 feet in altitude. They will patrol out as much as 4 or 5 miles, then loop back toward the combat outpost ever vigilant of movement or anything that could mean danger. This is not a walk in the park this is serious dangerous business and they don’t take it lightly. By now these paratroopers are well aware of the dangers that surround them, they have seen friends wounded or killed and have engaged the enemy – they are combat veterans. On their patrol which will take hours to complete because of the rugged conditions the temperature will rise. It will peak out at somewhere between 105 and 120 degrees, yet they will continue on, dressed in “full battle rattle” they will do what they have to do to complete the mission. They are the best America has to offer.
On the mission they may be shot at either by snipers or just a rogue Taliban taking a pot shot. And occasionally they will engage in larger skirmishes but will not shy away or turn from the fight. I admire the incredible fortitude it takes to do this knowing when you walk “outside the wire” that you are entering a whole different world where normal rules do not apply. Yes they will walk this patrol or mission, they will because we are depending on them to do it, and they will not let us down. Upon return to the outpost from the mission they will slide out of wet sweaty gear conduct any post mission briefings or after action reports. They will change from a dirty, sweat drenched uniform, that will have to air wash (meaning not at all) and let it dry while “standing them in the corner” into something either less dirty or slightly clean and maybe relax for a moment. So they will laugh, joke and write home, maybe send an email message or look up a jeep on Autotrade.com that they want to buy. But then they will settle down to catch some well deserved sleep and prepare to do it all over again.
Zach takes this seriously which is why he looks out for the other paratroopers he recently took some heat for complaining to command about them sending an ill-equipped paratrooper out on a mission. Due to young man’s complaints and “bitching” he was sent out unprepared for the dismounted mission. I fully understand Zach’s concern that mission success and paratrooper safety depended on everyone being fully prepared and properly equipped as he is the one who is going “outside the wire” with the team. He understands they are only as strong as their weakest link. For this and so many other reasons Zach you are a hero.
At Christmas time we are going to spend quality time riding the snowmobile trails. You are superman and I love you bud.