Welcome to the Life and Times of SFC Michael G. Stahl, U.S. Army (Ret.) MORE FUN THAN FEAR

First draft. Mission: Bright Light

As best Charlie Reed, my old 1-1, and I can figure in recent conversations is that he was on extension leave when this mission came up.

This mission started with a runner telling me I was to report to the company HQ, NOW!!! I have no idea where I was or what was going on prior to that moment. Most of the rest of this mission is equally a blur but here’s what I do remember.

When I got to headquarters, I met a very haggard member of a team (As usual, I have no idea which it was.) That had just been extracted from a hot LZ. The story was that he was the loan survivor of an ambush. My mission was to return to the hot area with him, insert with my team and see if we could find bodies to recover. Okay. Now think about this kind of mission and the extra risk to teams that ran them.

It was known that I had recently been training my team in the free repel. (Mainly because I just loved the hell out of doing it. Even if it was just from a tower.) There were no LZ’s in the area and the Bright Light team was going to have to repel in on a steep ridge line. RT Michigan was trained, was available and was willing to go. Another no pack mission. With five of my Bru, the team member from the stricken team and me made a nice round number of seven.

>>A bit on repelling. It was one of my favorite ‘topics’ in one-zero school. One has not lived until having slide down 100 feet of rope under a Huey. Of course, we were taught to fall, break, fall, break, etc. Very controlled. Well, the guy I buddied up with and I liked to race to the ground. To beat him on out last I run, I tried a trick told to me to get away from the chopper sooner - coil 5 or 6 feet of rope inside the chopper instead of leaning back on it. The idea worked pretty well. Being a skydiver, I was used to free fall.

On that last repel, I dropped the six feet but broke only enough to stabilize myself. I slide down the rope without breaking until the last second. When breaking after falling at a high speed, there is a considerable amount of stretch in the rope. I broke hard. The rope stretched until my feet just touched the ground, I released the rope and it pulled all the way back through my snap link, leaving me standing there as I watch my bud land. We were having a good laugh when my friend pointed out that I had burned almost all the way through the rope of my Swiss (Boatswain’s) seat.

The repel rope comes down from the chopper, goes through a snap link and then around the right side to the right hand in the back which is used to break. The left had just rides along the rope. In my case, where the repel rope went around the side, it crossed over the Swiss seat rope, also nylon. Nylon moving on Nylon makes heat and heat melts Nylon. I had burned through all but a few strands of the twisted rope.<<

Back to Laos and the insert. Thinking about hanging any time in the air over an area where we just lost a team did not appeal to me. And we were not 100 feet above this ‘LZ.’ I decided to leave the six-feet in the ship. Dumb Ass! Dumb Ass! Dumb Ass!

I leapt backwards off the Huey’s skid, and fell the six feet, all right. But I came to a jolting halt, not unlike the opening shock of a parachute. I was dangling 6 or so feet below the crew chief who was looking strangely at me. A quick inspection (skydivers and living combat vets can do this.) Showed that when I allowed that slack in the rope, I allowed the second of the three loops through the snap link to overlap and lock down the top loop. I wasn’t going anywhere - down, at least.

The other 3 team members from my bird were on the ground and the crew chief was in a quandary. He did not have my view of the problem. Wondering WTF I was doing. If he kept hovering there for me, he risked getting his ship shot down. But if he few off and then I completed my decent, he would be killing me.

Can you even imagine the gallons of asing through my veins. “Mother picking up the car off her kid” time. I graspped the rope with my left hand above the snap link and picked up my entire weight (+/- 260 pounds) with my left arm, while I untangled the rope going through the snap link with my right. I got to the ground.

drenalin that were cour

Okay. That was the exciting part. My interim 1-1 lead us to where he side the firefight had taken place. It was really hard to tell. I had been told that Tac Air had wasted the area after the one man extraction. This area was very forested and although there had been many rock slides in the area, I saw no sign of bomb damage.

Now, here’s the real weird part. The part that shows the tenuous nature of memory. I know there were no LZ’s in the area because we had to repel in. I do not remember leaving Laos that day. No memory whatsoever. I have no memory of ever using ladders for insert or extract. I only came out on strings once. Of course, I walked back once. I need a good hypnotherapist.

A War Story

 Another Bright Light or How NOT to Repel.