This event took place during my Green Beret assignment with 1st Forces at Ft. Lewis in Washington state. I was in the Personnel Office when an officer there slid a paper listing the latest men who were to be assigned to our battalion’s A-co.
“What am I looking at here, Sir?”
“Take a loose at the third name on the list: Sergeant first class Philippe St. Arman”.
“Ok yeah, so…?”
“St. Arman — STARMAN — we done got us a superhero — perhaps even one of the Galactic class.”
Well if that weren’t enough of a peach right there, every team in the Green Berets needed at least one superhero. Yeah, strong work if you could get one. But to get a superman of universal scope and realm… well, we’d all lose our jobs cuz there would be no more wars.
Starman was assigned to our battalion’s B team. My team was the A-Team of the battalion, the Water Borne Operations Team. C team was our Hight Altitude parachute Operations Team (HALO).
There was prestige that came with being on either of those two teams as they came with monthly hazardous pay of a couple of hundred extra dollars. It certainly wasn’t a mint, but it was certainly bragging rights and that meant something to most Green Berets… but maybe just not Starman so much. He was just happy to be on any team in the Green Berets doing honorable work.
I saw Starman over the next few days on and off, here and there. By the gods, I swear to you a brass farthing that the might Man of the Star couldn’t have been more than a photon taller than 5’ 4” tall… thhhaaattt couldn’t be, no! The jury just stumbled back out the door, foolishly thinking they were to adjourn.
Now Starman gazed my way knowing he had not been introduced to the cowardly combat diver from A Company. I gestured a chin tip his way but otherwise retreated with my tails between my legs. Poorly played, I faulted myself; played like like a turtle in an ass-kicking contest. My good friends understood my lack of temerity to face and introduce myself to my new comrade.
Sam, another operator from our team, and I sat in the dining facility together. I didn’t realize I was stuck where I sat as Sam called over:
“Starman… come over and have a sit; I have someone I want you to meet.” At that moment the definition of Sam in my mind became: ‘as of or pertaining to be an asshole, assholic’.
Meh, the day was nonetheless upon me: “Geo, this is Starman, Starman, Geo.”
“Nice to meet you, Starman, a real pleasure!” I said.
“The pleazhah is all mine, Geowge.” There was some intel on the guy right there — he was an East Coaster New England Bostonian, a thing I liked because Bostonians always beguiled me with their accents and vocabulary. We ate and chatted and then he finally remarked: “I see you like yoh cowan, Geowge (I see you like your corn, George).”
“Well that an awful lot of salt and buttuh, yoh putting on that cowan theh, my friend.” (Starman was a medic and monitored all his soldiers’ health).
That did it. That is a pet peeve of mine — don’t EVER covet or criticize my food… I will immediately remove myself from the dining table, and so I did.
“Well, guys… my bedtime. I’ll be heading to my room for a beer.” “Beeah… alcohowl?? How many beeahs a night do you have?”
We were who we were, and we got over it toward a solid team friendship. I came to learn that Starman, despite his stature, was quintessentially fearless and aggressive. Those two adjectives are very important to my opinion of men who conduct close-quarters combat (CQC).
A man who is essentially fearless and very aggressive is a man — is THE man — who will run into blind tight quarters with a gun blazing. He is the essence of the indoor combat fighter. With such a man you have right there at face value some 75 percent of what you need for a well-rounded CQC fighter. But I had yet to measure his gall.
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It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder crashed and the wind gnashed.
“The weather always flip-flops at EENT (End of Evening Nautical Twilight — the dawn).” Or so said the jump queers who would rather jump than go to their daughter’s wedding.
But really, it was stormy and getting on toward evening when we established an outpost to support low-level static-line parachute jumps. My lift was to be the last for the day. It was a crap shoot by the time it came to board the ship a CH-47 Chinook medium transport helicopter.
My aircraft bore command that evening by his excellency man of star — the Starman, Lord of the heavens. Through him flowed the spirit and protection of St. Michael, the patron saint of paratroopers and parachute operations.
The great airship thundered in idle where it sat on the ground waiting for orders to lift. It began to rain and the winds veered up to a squirrelly speed and demeanor. A cheer sounded across the helo, as the men knew we do not operate in such winds and in the rain. It was just a sucking ass-wound of a mess out there and no night for even a spirited paratroop.
“STARMAN!!” Our senior sergeant roared viciously and with a look of sheer frustration on his face.
“STARMAN, WHERE’S MY DAD-BLAMED JUMPMASTER?? THE SON OF A BI***H COMMANDER WILL NOT CANCEL OUR JUMP, SO GET IT ON!!”
A few of the men indicated for him to look down. When he did so he saw the Starman standing close, head about chest-high and looking up at him with the resolution of a badger about to keep a chicken coop awake all night.
So, the CH-47 took off.
With the men all hooked up and ready to jump the weather gave us one last kick in the gut. It was then that Starman, the patron saint of all the most dangerous jumps, turned around from his position at the exit portal to address us, face dripping with rain.
His eyes lied to us in their bulbous appearance, but his actions showed us all the truth. He took a couple of quick steps back to us jumpers and called out in earnest, tapping his chest sternly with his four fingers.
“ME, MY NAME IS STAHMAN AND I MEANT TO BE HEYUH TODAY — WE JUMP!!!”
With that he twisted about and flung himself through the jump portal, 17 petrified paras followed right behind him. As soon as the wind train grabbed hold of me, I found myself performing a personalized variation of Tchaikovsky’s Little Swans from his Swan Lake Suite. It was an effeminate dance but I did it (I’m sure) with all of Tchaikovsky’s intended grace.
Seventeen versions of one dance or another were performed in the sky that night, as all the world and the heavens were truly our stage. In minutes, all was over and we sat huddled in the dark under a light rain waiting for transportation to come get us.
“So, Geowge…what is that dance called that you wuh doing up theh tonight?”
“It’s called the Shut the Fuck up, Starman dance… want to learn it?”
Some para then said, “let’s order pizza when we get back; we sure deserve it!”
Starman replied, “Pizzer? Ya know… that’s just a whole lotta empty calories, a pizzer is…”
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mack jahny says
My bad… memory lose. I am correcting the Desert Storm FTX …it was Desert Shield – in White Sands New Mexico. Hey I’m pushing 70.
Hah! Ok story… But in 1974, Fort Lewis was a closed base with the 9th ID “Old Reliables” there & on North Fort was the 75th Rangers & we had two major FTXs that come to mind: Desert Storm where the 9th went to White Sands New Mexico for Desert Warfare training & then to Nenana Alaska for Jack Frost, extreme cold weather survival training (protect the Alaska Oil Pipeline). Hence, the Cold War era. Laugh ya bastards …it was minus 40. Special Ops my ass.
John C Reed sr says
The picture is not a US Army special Forces(Green Beret) soldier,please do better research before you make yourself look like an idiot and post a picture of a FOREIGN soldier .
Kathie Ropele says
I loved this…. I know my late husband Mike Ropele (‘Rope’) is smiling down on me as I giggled .
ELLIS T says
Cool stuff George. As you know, we have no accents here in the Southwest. We all talk perfectly normal with no discerable inflections whatsoever. I think perhaps the Aussie Girl might disagree though.
Loula Snell says
That was a “wicked good yahrn”, Geo.
LOL, Geo! considering how much you LOVE jumping, I bet you did a fine rendition of “Tchaikovsky’s Little Swans” or the “Shut the Fuck up, Starman dance” I am really laughing out loud. Grrreat story.