Steve is the Ranger in the picture, with two people who are not Rangers. Can anyone ID them?
Estéban Trujillo de Guitiérrez — “Steve” or “Doc T” to most of us — remembers little of the ceremony in Washington, but he remembers where he was when they put the habeas grabbas on him to attend.
I had just gotten off a Huey somewhere in the South Ranier Training Area with a class of Rippies1, when SFC Conrad pulled up in a jeep. He said, “Doc, you got to go to DC.” We were in the woods. I have no idea how long that it took Conrad to drive to the infil point.
I said, “I am walking this patrol.”
He replied, “You are going to DC. Get in.” So I did. No one asked me, “Would you like to go to Washington DC?” I was told to go, given a packing list, and dropped off at Sea-Tac airport.
The event that got Steve sent to the White House Rose Garden, a rarefied place indeed for a Ranger E-5 (how many F-bombs got inadvertently dropped on genteel ears during that visit) was Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. Steve has written a book on his experiences; that that book is unpublished is a crime against nature. He is a writer of skill and power, and well known to all in the Army SOF community from his service in Rangers, SF, and elsewhere. Here’s another example of his Grenada recollections, published at the usually anti-soldier Daily Beast, of all places:
We are over water, the door-gunners firing furiously, and the Lieutenant stands peeking around the frame of the helicopter waiting for the bird to hover over sand. We see that we are mere feet away from the beach, and Andy kicks the Lieutenant out of the chopper as we jump into the surf under fire. The Lieutenant moves too slowly and the air is electric with bullets as the helicopter takes hits with that sledgehammer sound.
I am right behind Andy and I step squarely on the Lieutenant’s back, leaving a jungle boot print on his fatigue jacket as he sprawls in six inches of water. Then we run for our lives, run for the sanctuary of the sea wall, sheltering there shaking from the nearness of death. Scott, Andy and the others drop their rucksacks and look for targets. Slater is laughing again. We see no enemy. I notice in a slow-motion dream-state the beauty of the beach, quaint hotels with curtains over their windows, glass shattering with machine-gun bursts fired by the helicopter door-gunners. I am numb, on automatic pilot, and function despite my fear.
At the risk of riling Steve up, we’ll use a DOD file photo of Rangers in Grenada that is C/1/75, not his 2nd Bat guys… the left-handed RTO looks pretty miserable, huh?
Earlier, a Soviet diplomat stood trembling in our gunsights while we searched him and his car. He drove alone to Point Salines to deliver an official message from his government to the senior American commander. He looked like he expected to be nailed to a wall and shot. We must have seemed like cutthroats to him, bloodied American Rangers with black faces. He was stunned when we finished our search, handed back his watch and credentials, and led him away to deliver his message. He was treated firmly, but with formality. Courtesy did not come easily. Squatting behind the sea wall, Andy and I wonder if he is in the Soviet Embassy hiding beneath his desk while Cubans lie dead in the debris of the burning roof, their broken mortar beside them.
Scott is lecturing an anti-tank gunner, “do not fire unless I tell you.” The gunner wants to kill something, he wants to fire his cannon, but Scott will not permit it unless he has a worthy target. I am proud of Scott, he is a fine Ranger sergeant in combat, and amongst ourselves, there is no higher accolade. Behind us, pandemonium rules on the beach as the students that we came to rescue are herded in groups onto the helicopters.
Our turn to go. We blow the claymores as we pull out, and we cover each other as we return to the shoreline. Andy tells me, “someday we should come back here on vacation.” I look at him in outrage, but he is right. It is a beautiful place, or it was, until we blew the shit out of it. The students are gone and we are nearly left behind, but we wade into the surf and we pull each other into an overloaded helicopter hovering over the water, the door gunners heedlessly firing into beachfront homes. The copilot turns and yells at us to hurry. The chopper shudders beneath our weight and vibrates with the intermittent dings of bullets. In the confusion, another bird is hit and abandoned, and the crew runs to ours. Their helicopter squats in the surf with its rotors drooping. Scott, Big Ed, Andy and I make it out on the last bird to leave Grand Anse Beach. It was not planned that way.
Planning imagery for the drop was based on satellite photos or the Point Salines airstrip, like this one.
Until some history publisher gets a dose of smelling salts and contracts Steve’s book, you can read some excerpts at his website, Magic Kingdom2 Dispatch, along with his musings on current events, the surveillance state, etc.. Doc posts Grenada stories most often around the anniversary of the invasion, which fell in late October, 1983 (we were in Phase II, Light Weapons, at SFQC, with some very, very frustrated Rangers).
The post that reminded us to write about Doc T and his book was this one, about fallen Ranger, 60 gunner Mark Yamane. That post recounts Yamane’s fate, as one of the Rangers whose everyday courage got him singled out for death. It also describes in detail the jump’s success, a triumph of improvisation in the face of military chaos.
We didn’t know Yamane. The only Grenada KIA we knew was Phil Grenier, from Ranger School Class 1-83. We didn’t know him well, just had one conversation about a hometown we were born in and left behind in early childhood, but he grew up in. You don’t have a lot of time to talk in Ranger School.
Incidentally, the world is missing a really good (i.e., not lightweight re-popped journalism) overview history on Urgent Fury. That book is sitting on the desk of former Marine GySgt. Joe Muccia. Doc T can put you in touch with Joe, too. Castalia House, are you listening? Presidio? Naval Institute Press?
- “Rippies” are Ranger (then Battalion, now Regiment) volunteers experiencing the myriad joys of RIP, the Ranger Indoctrination Program (which has been replaced by RASP; the acronyms bark but the Rangers patrol on). If you made it through RIP, you could become a real Ranger like Doc, and wear the scroll on your shoulder, as long as you could keep it.
- “Magic Kingdom”? Steve lives in the earthly paradise of savory women and beautiful food that is Thailand. We’d call him a lucky bleep, but he seems to have made his own luck. Napoleon would approve.
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.