Special thanks to Ranger Douglas Hanks for writing this for SOFREP. -Jack

I arrived at 2/75 on October 3rd 1993. For those of you in the know, or for those of you who pay attention, it was an auspicious day for the Regiment. Needless to say it was a long first couple days as we were palletizing for war. Despite my eagerness (and perhaps naiveté) I was disappointed when it didn’t happen. Sigh…

Less than a year later we found ourselves in the jungles of Panama, knee deep in the nastiest mud and vegetation this side of Benning, yelling at monkeys (because God knows, if we had live ammo there would have been less yelling and more dead monkeys) who were throwing sticks and feces at us; we never did determine what smelled worse, the mud, or the monkey shit.

We had completed a day/night land navigation course through the jungles and were wiped, but when we strolled into the compound near 23 hundred hours there was a buzz. Something was happening; something of relative importance. Not that they told us anything. I was just a Spec 4, untabbed at that, and a 96b, an Intelligence Analyst, so despite my professional station, I was near the last to know anything. My NCOs, SSG Renninger, and SSG Bostic (yes, Renninger was killed working as a cop in Tacoma, and Bostic was immortalized in ‘The Outpost’, having been killed in Afghanistan – great Rangers both) were both pulled out and put on a Blackhawk, headed for God knew where. I hadn’t felt this level of excitement since the first day I arrived in Battalion. I was finally going to see some real action, something real was happening. It was not what I expected.

At about 2am we were loaded into a deuce and half and we began driving, for hours we drove not knowing what in the hell was happening, beyond the unending rumors. We were excited to be a part of something beyond training. We ended up, some 4 or 5 hours later, standing in formation by the side of the Panama Canal with the sun breaking the horizon over the top of the jungle. And while beautiful, it was boring as shit. We split up into our usual groups, S2, S3, PAC, Commo, etc… and then we patrolled – for two freakin days we patrolled while the higher ups determined what was going to happen. Despite the fact that we had no live ammo, and if actually attacked, we would have only harsh words and fisticuffs to defend ourselves, there were actual war photographers taking our picture as we walked around. Somehow it made it all the more visceral.


It was when they handed us axe handles that it became interesting. We spent that afternoon and evening customizing our boom sticks while sitting next to the Panama Canal. Watching the giant cargo ships float by was hypnotic, and led to an almost out of body experience. Is this real? Are we really camped by the side of the Panama Canal waiting to attack a bunch of Cubans who, a couple of nights prior, had rioted and put a bunch of MP’s in the hospital? If this script had been written for Hollywood it would have been shot down for being incredibly implausible. We all slept fitfully knowing full well we were soon going to be awakened and have to go to work.

It was about 3 in the morning when we got the green light. A short motivational speech (I don’t recall what was said, but I’m sure you can guess) and we were in formation heading toward the camp. There were hundreds of us moving but for some reason, whether it was the dead of night, or because we were told to make as little noise as possible, that formation was silent. And not silent like you would normally think, with heavy footsteps and shifting gear as the only sounds, no, it was the silence of a snake moving through high grass. My big ass was even quiet.