Friday, August 06, 2004

Tom Clancy on the Airborne

"The 82nd Airborne Division is the Army's counterpart to the United States Marine Corps, still a subsidiary organization of the United States Navy. The Marines are mainly light infantry troops who attack from the sea with the Navy in direct support. The Airborne strikes from the sky, carried there and supported by the United States Air Force. Both organizations are elite because they have to be. They do dangerous things. When the Marines hit a beach, whether by amphibious tractor, landing craft, or helicopter, they are coming in light in weapons. But while the Marines have a friendly sea at their back, and the "Big Blue Team" of the U.S. Navy in direct support, the Airborne goes in just about naked. How naked? Well, imagine yourself dangling from a parachute under fire. Rather like a duck in hunting season, except that you're slowly coming straight down, and at least a duck can maneuver. Your unit lands scattered; not as a cohesive fighting formation. Your first job is to get organized-under fire from an organized foe-so that you can begin to do your job. Your weapons are only what you can carry, and tough, fit trooper that you are, you can't carry all that much. It is a formidable physical challenge......"

".....there is one other basic characteristic you notice about Paratroops as a group: They are in incredible physical condition. Being in shape is an obsession with the Paratroopers. Not just hard like the Marines, but a kind of lean and solid look that you expect in a marathon runner. In addition, there is a dash of raw power to a trooper's body, mostly in the upper body and legs, where Paratroopers need it....."

TOM CLANCY /AIRBORNE-A guided tour of an Airborne Task Force.