After the first two missions to conduct an airborne assault on Saddam International Airport were cancelled, I began to think that maybe we weren’t going to die after all in a hail of hot Iraqi bullets. Landing in a hot LZ at 3AM surrounded by enemy armor and mech infantry would most assuredly resemble Dante’s 8th level of Hell, and wasn’t exactly my idea of fun.

Peter kept telling Roy and I that it would be fun; this, of course after he had expressed his doubt of us actually surviving the operation. A day or so prior he had given us what he thought was his motivating speech, wherein he told us we probably wouldn’t survive, but that he was willing to risk our lives for the mission. In any event, the Airborne assault into Baghdad airport was deemed too risky by someone up the chain and it never came to pass.

As the ground units continued to make advances towards Baghdad, we readied for our insertion into what was formerly known as SIAP, or Saddam International Airport. The military authorities changed the name to BIAP, or Baghdad International Airport, once the initial ground units had broken through the Republican Guard defenses and had occupied a portion of the airport grounds.

Rick and I sat in the dirt next to the runway with the Rangers as they prepared their gear for the initial insertion into the airport. Reports were coming in that fighting was still taking place and that when we landed we’d probably see some action as we arrived on station. Rick and I were both wearing of a set of low-profile, chicken plates (ceramic body armor), sanitized desert cammies and we each carried a Sig Sauer 9mm. Compared to the Rangers we looked like a bunch of pussies, as they were loaded down with chainsaws, smoke, flares, ammo, shotguns, and demo packs to blow the fuck out of anything that got in their way.

Our Special Access Program didn’t see fit to outfit us with anything as awesome as a fucking chainsaw. When I left Germany to meet up with the rest of the Task Force I was in receipt of a gas mask, a 9mm and some cold weather gear. I guess intel guys don’t need long guns when they’re about to go to war, as we all know a 9mm pistol has amazing stopping power.

The Rangers were a funny bunch to be around. You could see the disdain in their eyes whenever we would show up for headcount. They’d look at us like a bunch of outsiders, which we were; we had long hair and beards, they had no hair and baby faces. They probably thought we would be a liability to their missions, deadweight so to speak. Most, if not all, of them were graduates of Ranger school. They wore their Ranger tab and unit scroll with pride. Anyone that wasn’t a member of the boys club was nothing to them.

It felt strange that my first combat unit was from the Regiment. This entitled me to wear the Ranger Bn scroll as a combat patch on my military uniform the few times I actually wore my uniform. There were Rangers who had waited entire careers to wear their Bn Scroll on their right sleeve, signifying that they had been in combat with the Bn. I hadn’t even gone through basic infantry training, let alone Ranger school, and I was earning the very combat patch that these guys would’ve literally killed for.

It was a mark of respect and a badge of honor to them, a time-honored tradition dating back to WWII. I guess in a sense I earned it, but I always felt weird wearing a Ranger scroll as my combat patch. My patch caused great consternation every time a Ranger saw me in uniform. They would quickly approach and ask me a litany of questions hoping to trip me up and discover that I had been wearing “their coveted scroll” illegally, hoping that I was some dumbass that had gone to the base uniform store and picked it up so I could look tough. Each and every time I would explain that I had actually been in combat with the Bn and would throw around the names of some of the Rangers I had tenuously befriended during my time with them. Most times they would just shake their heads in disgust and walk away. Others, I would end up telling to “fuck off” and I would walk away as they wrote my name down in the hopes that they could “get me in trouble.”