(Feature Image: Ironhead in the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan hunting UBL)
The Delta Force had a head of iron in the day; it had an Ironhead. But it only ever had just the one, the one-and-only Ironhead. Delta Force eventually lost its Ironhead to the 75th Ranger Regiment, the organization from which Ironhead originally came to Delta. It appeared that the Rangers needed an Ironhead just a little bit more than Delta needed one. Delta graciously yielded its Ironhead to the Rangers, a gesture for which they were sorely grateful, those Rangers… after all, who would be anything but immensely grateful at being gifted an Ironhead.
“We’ll see your Ironhead, and raise you a dozen of our best men” the Rangers bid.
“That’s okay; you take our Ironhead, and you keep the change—God speed!” Delta graciously conceded.
In those days Delta had used the B-Jesus out of its Ironhead. It was late in the year 2001 that Delta sent a squadron of its best warriors to the mountains of Tora Bora Afghanistan, lead by its own Major Thomas “Dalton Fury” Greer as their commander. To ensure sanity of command, and safety of its warriors, Delta released its assault force to the care of its very own Ironhead.
It was there, there in ‘Asscrackistan’ that Delta’s Ironhead and the boys smashed the living dog $hit out of a massive force of Al Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountain region, chasing the cowardly Usama Bin Laden from his mountain gauge, across the border into Pakistan. There he remained in hidden exile for the remainder of his wretched life, to be eventually executed by elite Navy SEALs of the exalted SEAL Team Six.
It was after the fight in Tora Bora that Delta felt stable enough to pass its sacred torch, its own Ironhead, to the Ranger Regiment.
The Ironhead took his Rangers to Iraq to continue the war on terrorism. There, Ironhead lead his Rangers to capture a key strategic target subject, the vaunted Haditha Dam.
The Rangers stormed the dam, held by a guard force superior in number to their own… but their’s was never to reason why, and they soundly throttled the Iraqi forces into a rout from their dam haven.
The dam was theirs! It belonged to the Ironhead and his Rangers. It was victory… but it was yet a shallow victory, as it had to be owned until a substantial force could arrive to relieve Ironhead’s Rangers, a force that would not arrive for another three days.
It was then that the Ironhead and his Rangers did settle in for a sound thrashing from a barrage of over 365, 155mm Iraqi artillery rounds, a barrage that nudged many young Rangers to the brink of collapse of mind and body.
Ironhead moved through the continuously artillery pounding to and from fighting positions where his Rangers fought for their lives. He brought them encouragement, orange soda, twizzlers, snacks, and praise. Repeatedly he traversed the dam, all the while under fire, to rally the Ranger spirit, and keep his men in the fight.
At the base of the dam an enemy force gathered, edging its way toward the top of the dam to flank the Rangers. The worrier with the head of iron grabbed an SR-25 precision sniper rifle, and laid waste to the advancing fighters below. The enemy forces broke again into a rout, leaving dead and wounded fighters behind.
It was then that an unimaginable thing happened. Though head of Iron, there was a heart of gold, one larger even than that of the Grinch who stole Christmas, but you know, after it grew ten sizes normal and broke that bracket thingy. Ironhead descended the steep slope of the rise to the dam. He moved under constant enemy small arms fire from across the water way of the dam. He moved down to where the wounded enemy fighters were, and he pulled them up the slope of the dam to safety, an act for which he was awarded his second Silver Star
Ironhead continued to rally and coax his troops to stay vigil to the fight, until such time that relief forces arrived to rotate the Rangers off of their hard-won objective. Ironhead left the precious strategically-important Haditha dam with his Rangers, to recover and refit to fight another day.
For three days the Iraqi forces had mercilessly hammered the dam, trying so fervently to win it back, and for three days the Iraqis failed; they failed because in their wretched ranks, they had no Ironhead.
In Delta I came to know the Ironhead both in my own squadron, and again in an advance force operations squadron, where I spent my last two years in the unit. In those days the Ironhead had already forged a ironclad reputation for himself as the operator, an operator of the greatest actions and fewest words in the organization. “Hooah” you might get out of him as an indicator of affirmation. If you had made the least bit of sense to him. Otherwise he might not even realize you were talking to him and walk away.
The warrior with the head of iron could be seen in the early morning hours before the sun broke the plane of the horizon. He wore combat fatigues, combat boots, a protective ‘gas’ mask, and ran down range for advanced Tarzan training—alone. He wore the mask to restrict his breathing and entice hypoxia—embrace the suck! He wore combat boots because he knew his battlefields would be no place for Nike jogging shoes—who’s your daddy?
He always wished it could suck more, the tough muthuh.
The unit discouraged running the obstacles courses downrange alone; they were just too dangerous. Ironhead made it a routine practice nonetheless, because in his own words: “The greatest failure is the failure to ask permission to try.”
The commander would really, really (no shit, really) NOT like the Ironhead to run downrange, at night, alone, in protective mask… but Ironhead had a head of Iron, a heart of gold, nerves of steel, and legs of spring steel. The Ironhead would not slight his rendition of combat readiness.
There was a day I came to work before dawn, just in time to see Ironhead run by clad for combat and with P-Mask on face. I raced to my locker to don all of the same, and set out down range in the night, and at a respectable pace. All I wanted to do was catch up with him close enough that he could see that he had a body there at his six.
I managed a catch up without popping my lungs as the Ironhead was vaulting the second or third obstacle. I managed to settle into a cruise speed, albeit at a struggle. I finally saw his masked face turn my way once, then quickly again. At last; he had seen me. Now I could revert to a flailing stupor through the rest of the obstacle course.
Our paces matched finally on the long mile stretch back to the compound. I felt my mask slap and press my face tightly with each inhalation, followed by a ballooning attempt to jump off of my face on each exhalation. The Ironhead looked over at me periodically, likely to assess whether I might need first aid before we made it to the end.
As we both passed through the end gate, we sputtered to a hands-on-hips-bent-over walk. “No, wait Geo… wait for the Ironhead to take his mask off first!” He finally did so, and then I did. He looked at me and said: “Chik, I knew you’d come.” I looked up from my down, and uttered a single: “Hooah.”
Delta had an Ironhead; just one. But there could only ever be just one, you see. The Ironhead doesn’t like his photo taken, he doesn’t like praise, or flattery, or awards. If you suck up to him, he will certainly just turn and walk away. If he approves of you, you might win a simple “hooah;” if he disapproves of you, you will never even see him again.
Delta gifted the 75th Ranger Regiment with their one-and-only Ironhead, because he was through with the Delta Force. In the woeful days of the beginning of America’s global war on terrorism, there was a regiment of young men, the very razor’s edge of America’s combat prowess, that needed an Ironhead more.
There is no way of truly knowing the extent of Ranger lives Ironhead saved directly and indirectly. Be it by grabbing a ranger by the nape of the neck and the seat of the pants, and throwing him into a cover from shell bursts, or showing up suddenly in the most unholy of artillery barrages with a twizzler, bottle of water, slap on the back, and a deadpan “hooah.”
Young men are immortal and indestructible machines that will live forever. So they are, until they come to beg for their mother’s consolation in combat. Young men need old men to show them how to stand when their legs will no longer serve.
They long to be shown how, yes, they can advance still when their minds tell them to wither and flee. The young men becomes an old man in combat. The old man becomes a stalwart bastion that holds and tows the line. The young rally behind the bastion, bidding it break… but it never does.
“He has an iron will” so it’s been said of certain men, and under certain circumstances, said of a particularly strong and determined individual. I have met a good many of them, and gone so far as to say it even of my self. I patterned myself as best I could after the iron-willed, and intentionally rallied around such men as flag ships. They were who I always looked up to in fervent adoration, for there were none like them.
The iron-willed were always the pinnacle of perfection, in my mind. They were who I always longed to mingle with. I dared not ride their coattails, rather extend out my own, lest they shun my company. They were the penultimate… that is, until I met the iron-willed man with a head of iron—the Ironhead!
chik sends to Ironhead