The coveted mustard stain.

The little bronze star on top of a soldier’s jump wings that signifies his participation on a combat airborne jump over enemy territory. I say it is coveted because it is a rare occurrence in today’s modern warfare. It was as a young private going through the Ranger Indoctrination Program many years ago that I saw my first combat star on a man’s jump wings.

It was accompanied by two more nearby. Three stars on this man’s airborne wings. Not only did I have trouble fathoming it, I had trouble figuring out how it was possible. It turns out, this specific Ranger, who happened to be the 1st sergeant of the Ranger training detachment at the time, had previously jumped into Panama in 1989, Afghanistan in 2001, and I believe Iraq in 2003.

Following my RIP graduation and transfer to 3rd Ranger Battalion, I would see combat jump stars pretty often. Once in a while you’d see a young Ranger with two. My first team leader was one of them.

Since Vietnam, there have been numerous combat jumps, most of which have been undertaken by the 75th Ranger Regiment:

  • Grenada, 1983: A combat jump by the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions and a second static-line jump by 11 SEALs off the coast of Grenada.
  • Panama, 1989: The 75th Ranger Regiment and the 82nd Airborne conducted two combat jumps in the early morning hours of December 20th, 1989.
  • Afghanistan, 2001: 3rd Ranger Battalion combat jump into Objective Rhino.
  • Afghanistan, 2001: 3rd Ranger Battalion combat jump Alimarden Kan-E-Bagat, Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan, 2003: 2nd Ranger Battalion with elements of the 82nd Airborne conducts a combat jump into Chahar Borjak, Afghanistan.
  • Iraq, 2003: 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts a combat jump into northern Iraq.
  • Iraq, 2003: 3rd Ranger Battalion conducts a combat jump into western Iraq.

Much has happened in the shadows in recent years to cause the Rangers to don their parachute rigs and yet again embark under the cover of night, leaping out the back of a perfectly good airplane to rid the world of tyrants, dictators, and terrorists. The following were combat jumps that were not only planned, but had Rangers on the tarmac, in the air en-route, or the order was handed down to the team level (the last order of information for a mission).

1986: Proposed invasion of Suriname – 1st Ranger Battalion and other elements.

American corporation and aluminum producer ALCOA lobbied President Reagan and members of the U.S. government to oust Surinamese President Ramdat Misier, who had implemented a major tax on foreign corporations.