So how did you spend your weekend? Most of mine was spent lying in bed or sitting with my right foot propped up and swaddled with ice bags after a small mishap last week. By now, most of you know the story, but for the few who don't, here's how I wound up a gimp. Last week our Maritime Raid Force went through its first exercise as a group, the sole objective being learning how to plan and execute a mission without getting in each other's way. Simple enough, and the raid at the end was as good as could be for our first time out. Part of the training, though, was a refresher on certain combat skills, one of which was fast-roping. Ever seen Black Hawk Down? That pretty much covers the concept of fast-roping. Did the pilots in that movie climb out of the cockpit and go down the ropes themselves? Nope, and I think I demonstrated good reason for it.
On the first day of this 'refresher' we were only going down a rope hooked to a rappel tower, to be followed by day and night roping from a helicopter over the next couple of days. I had never fast-roped before and was excited but somewhat ambivalent, since I didn't want to pay for any mistakes I might make on my first try by falling 60 feet to my doom. And it was clear by the 'demonstration' - one guy going down the rope the 'wrong' way and one going down the 'right', the two of which were indistinguishable to my untrained eye - that this was not training for newbies. But the premise is pretty sound: hold on like hell with your hands and use them and your feet to control your speed.
Well, I can hold onto a rope, and we learned foot-braking techniques way back in TBS when we climbed ropes rather than go down them, and the instructors didn't exhibit any particular concern about this being my first attempt. So down I went, once, twice, with no problems except sprawling on my ass upon landing. I was feeling pretty good about it as I headed up the stairs on the tower for my third try, only to have my hopes - and ankle - dashed upon landing. On my third try, I failed to hook the rope with my feet on the first attempt as I jumped off the platform. However, the laws of gravity stop for no man, so down I went regardless, holding on with my hands and trying to snag the rope with my feet before I ran out of altitude. My feet didn't hook the rope until I was almost at the bottom, at which point you're supposed to spread them out to absorb the landing, which I did, rolling my right ankle hard to the outside as the rest of my body fell ass over tea-kettle in the sand. I crawled clear of the rope knowing damn sure that I'd jacked it up and just hoping that nothing was broken. I was fairly sure I hadn't; I've never broken a bone but from what I know about ankle breaks, if I had one I should have been screaming in a child-like fashion immediately upon impact. But it still hurt like hell, and the corpsman on site sent me down to the naval hospital on Camp Lester to get X-rays to ensure I didn't have hair-line fractures or bone fragments swimming around.
You know the end story: no fractures, just a lot of swelling and unattractive bruising. Since I could still put my body weight on it I was returned to full duty, and spent the rest of the week hobbling around with an ace bandage cutting off my circulation. One interesting side effect has been a slew of suggested nicknames popping up on the white board outside my barracks room door: suggestions include "Hopalong", "Half-leg", "Gimpy", "Clubfoot", "Strut", and "Grimsey, no fear!" (from Black Hawk Down as Ewan MacGregor leaps out the door). That's what passes for sympathy in the Marine Corps: if it doesn't kill you, we'll make fun of you about it for the rest of your life. Wouldn't have it any other way.
Well, the rain has taken a break from blowing sideways. I should probably hobble along to lunch before it changes its mind. Please feel free to suggest other nicknames while I'm gone.