Listen up! The channel coast is socked in with rain and fog. High winds in the drop zone. NO JUMP TONIGHT. The invasion has been postponed. We’re on a 24-hour stand-down.
The mission we had been rehearsing for over a month just got scratched. To get “scratched” is airborne parlance for cancelled. Our entire mission was cancelled. Hearts were broken, especially mine. I wanted that rarest of awards, the tiny yellow star, the infamous ‘mustard stain’ – the combat jump device – affixed to my parachutist badge. That award required just about no talent or work. You simply had to be at the right place at the right time, like World War II, Grenada, or Panama.
With our mission cancelled, we waited in Kuwait, dodging scuds, playing dodgeball, sitting on cots listening to the BBC while the rest of military stormed towards Baghdad. Things were moving quickly, and the fear shifted from going to war to missing it completely.
Then, finally, we received a new mission. We would parachute into an open field outside of a small city called Samawah and secure the city to allow supplies to move forward to support the main elements pushing towards Baghdad. Elements of the Fedayeen Saddam were conducting ambushes along Highway 8 which passed through Samawah.
When my squad leader pointed out the city and tentative drop zone I beamed. The Baghdad jump was seeming like it’d be a bloodbath. Plus, it would probably be a hard pavement landing – ouch. Now we were looking at a landing in the desert and an assault on a much smaller city ‘garrisoned’ by a rag tag militia of fake ninjas.
We spent the 27th tearing down our camp and packing up our bags neatly on palettes. We got into lines and did a lot of sitting. Some of the guys in our platoon started writing quotes, prayers, missives, and plain nonsense on their t-shirts. Eventually someone from BN headquarters saw it and yelled at them, putting an end to it.
We waited for nightfall.
When it came, we sat and waited more.
Eventually we were told that we were on a 24 hour stand down. The skies were saturated with cruise missiles and someone was afraid we’d be knocked out of the air.
We scurried back into empty tents and found spots on the floor and slept. Our war wouldn’t start today.