Vignette from upcoming book

by GySgt Joe Muccia

To contact GySgt Joe Muccia click on his name.

                             

It was early on Sunday the 23rd of October when the call came.  Many of the Rangers were sleeping in the barracks or off post in their apartments and homes.  There was something different in the way the duty officer or the Charge of Quarters passed the word to let you know that this alert might be the real thing. Rangers grabbed their deployment gear and staged it, took muster and waited to execute a road march that never came.  Word was passed…Beirut right?  Nope, Grenada…Grenada, where the heck is Grenada?!?!?!?

Pretty soon 1st Battalion was moving towards Saber Hall.  Pallets of ammunition were lined up buffet style.  The Operations Order was delivered.  Rangers were assigned their sticks and the Jump Masters went through their briefings.  Packs were stripped of food and comfort items.  Ammunition, grenades, LAW rockets and mortar rounds were crammed into them.  It seemed like they weighed a thousand pounds.  Then it happened, LTC Taylor gave a short speech and the Battalion knew it was going to war. 

 Hard Rock Charlie packed up and took off for Fort Bragg as they had been ordered to take part in a mission with the Special Operations folks and Alpha and Bravo Company remained at Saber Hall…waiting.

 Then the C-130s arrived and staged, waiting for the Rangers to board.  The smell of JP fuel swept through the area as they began rigging their chutes and reserve cutes and finally our rucksacks.  Rangers waddled to our birds with arms and backs straining from the weight and boarded their assigned aircraft. 

 With no seats rigged overloaded Rangers flopped on top of the mattresses that the Air Force crew chiefs had laid on the deck.  Gun jeeps and motorcycles made life miserable as they took up most of the room in the bird.  The birds strained as they taxied and took off.

 

The temperature thankfully dropped, that is until we approached the Caribbean.  Most of us tried to sleep.  It was 8 long hours of flight.  Then word started to come in…”the SEALs didn’t make it in, no eyes on the DZ.”  “Spectre says there’s a lot of activity and obstacles on the runway.” 

 Alpha Company was ready though.  CPT Abizaid’s Rangers would get the runway clear so the rest of the Battalion could come on in.  Except Murphy and the enemy didn’t want to take part in our plan.  Anti-aircraft fire greeted Spectre and the lead MC-130s.  The triple A and a navigation computer failure scrambled the formation. 

 LtCol Hobson piloting the 3rd MC-130 didn’t care. He pressed on towards the DZ.  The hatches came off and the jumpmasters went through the jump commands.  Red light on, still red, still red…GREEN LIGHT.  CSM Carpenter and SGT Mike Burton released their sticks…Specialist John Reich jumped first, quickly followed by the rest of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company and the Battalion TOC.  Green tracers arched up, exploding above and behind the fast moving Hercules.

 In the blink of an eye those first Rangers and Air Force ALOs were on the ground and clearing the runway of obstacles.  LTC Taylor contacted Spectre and began destroying the triple A on the northern hillsides.  In 25 minutes the anti-aircraft fire had been reduced enough and the rest of 1st Battalion jumped followed later on by our 2nd Battalion brothers. 

Rangers being Rangers they immediately took the fight to the enemy.  They assaulted positions and destroyed anti-aircraft crews.  They improvised, using bulldozers to clear obstacles and protect Rangers attacking across the runway.  But the fight was not one-sided.  Ranger Mark Yamane was killed while manning his machine

gun.  At the time he had been firing in support of Rangers attacking enemy positions across the airfield.  He died covering his brothers.  Alpha Company Gun jeep Juliet-5 was ambushed and Rangers Randy Cline, Mark Rademacher, Russell Robinson and Marlin Maynard were killed in the ensuing close quarters firefight but not without killing many of the soldiers who had ambushed them.  Despite the loss of their comrades, the Rangers continued to take the fight to the enemy.

 Bravo Company attacked the Cuban Compound north of the runway, while the bulk of Alpha Company attacked the Cubans and Grenadian forces northeast of the airfield.  B Company’s platoons took up positions around Goat Hill with 2nd Platoon centered on the hill, 1st Platoon on the right flank and 3rd Platoon on the left.  Firefights broke out and Bravo took over 100 prisoners.  Bravo’s snipers were especially effective, killing the enemy and helping to destroy his morale with their precision, long-range fire.

 As per the operations order, Alpha’s 2nd Platoon broke away and stormed True Blue Campus, securing the first batch of US medical students to be rescued by US forces.  Then they advanced through the campus and took up blocking positions.  Those Rangers would be the eyes and ears of the Battalion on that eastern flank.

 After being released from their special operations mission, Charlie Company arrived and took up positions near the west end of the airfield.  In doing so some Charlie Company Rangers were tasked with performing a search and rescue mission when a special operations Blackhawk was shot down.  After helo casting near the crash site, the Rangers advanced to the site, secured the aircraft and its sensitive components and then returned to Point Salines having successfully accomplished their mission.  

 Back at the airfield, both Battalions fanned out and continued to take the fight to the enemy.  In doing so the airfield was deemed safe enough that the 82nd Airborne Division began flying in. As the Airborne began offloading, the enemy decided to launch their most ambitious attack. 

 CPT Abizaid had sent out a patrol from Alpha’s 2nd Platoon to locate Juliet-5 and rescue any survivors from the jeep team.  As Rangers approached the area of the ambush, three BTR-60 armored personnel carriers made a run for the airfield.  Rangers Tim Lyle and Kelly Venden fired at them with LAWs but missed the fast-moving vehicles.  The explosions from the rockets along with LT Sydney Farrar’s radio call to CPT Abizaid alerted the Rangers at the airfield to the incoming threat.  When the BTRs arrived with their cannons blazing, they were met by two battalions worth of pissed off Rangers, a Spectre gunship and most importantly, recoilless rifle gunners Dave Bazemore of 1st Battalion and Jimmy Pickering of 2nd Battalion. 

Rangers fired every available weapon because they knew that if the BTRs broke out onto the airfield, the follow-on forces would not be able to land.  The BTRs and their crews died in a maelstrom of fire.  As Bravo Company Ranger Jim Bradford said in an interview, the enemy “died bravely, bravely but stupidly.”

 While the Rangers at the east end of the runway were destroying the BTRs, the 2nd Platoon patrol led by LT Farrar had become engaged in a fight for their collective life.  LT Farrar had been seriously wounded while crossing the road the BTRs had taken.  Under covering fire from Rangers Gordon, Welton, Delo and the rest of the patrol, Kelly Venden was able to evacuate LT Farrar up hill to their patrol base where medic John Bowen stabilized him.  CPT Abizaid ordered a relief column of gun jeeps and TAC air.  US Air Force TSgt Robert Scott directed Navy A-7 aircraft to attack the enemy ambushers allowing the patrol to successfully break contact and return to friendly lines.

Sporadic fighting continued for the rest of the day as Rangers remained on the line to allow the 82nd a chance to consolidate on the airfield.  This continued until mid-day on the 26th of October when the Rangers of 2nd Battalion were assigned a mission to rescue American medical students located at a second campus near Grand Anse.  Flying in Marine Corps helicopters, under the covering fire of gunships, Ranger mortars and Naval fixed wing aircraft, the Rangers were able to land and evacuate 230 students in 26 minutes. 

With the 82nd Airborne slowly taking control of airfield, the Rangers were pulled off the line to the southern side of Point Salines.  As they rested and refit on October 27th, Hard Rock Charlie was assigned to 2nd Battalion as part in an air assault on Calivigny Barracks, a supposed Cuban and Grenadian training facility housing as many as 2000 enemy combatants.

Charlie Company staged at the airfield, scheduled to go in on the second wave.  2nd Battalion boarded eight Blackhawks and took off after intense preparatory fire blasted the camp.  As the first flight of four helicopters settled into the landing zone, the second bird was hit by enemy fire causing it to crash into the third bird, which in turn crashed into the fourth.  2nd Battalion Rangers Lannon, Grenier and Slater died in a flurry of rotor blades and enemy fire while exiting the stricken aircraft.  As bird one lifted off, the second flight of four settled in the zone disgorging their Rangers.  The flight of five returned to Point Salines and picked up Charlie Company.  The Company landed at Calivigny amid the cluttered landing zone and its medics rushed to aid their 2nd Battalion brothers.  Charlie Company mortarmen set up a common position and fire direction center with the 2nd Battalion mortar teams and their FIST and Air Liaison personnel coordinated airstrikes around the still contested perimeter.  As the firing died down, Hard Rock Charlie took up positions around the perimeter, set out claymore mines and cleared fields of fire, then spent an anxious night at Calivigny while A and B Company stayed at Point Salines awaiting possible follow on missions. 

In the morning, Charlie Company rejoined the rest of 1st Battalion at Point Salines and as the Battalion reformed, word was received that it would begin backloading for Hunter.  The next day the Battalion arrived to the cheering crowds of family members, ready for some rest but looking forward to their next mission.