Strawberry Ice Cream
by Loren Long
It was February and my class, 4-95, was about halfway through the field portion in Dahlonega, Georgia. It had been one of the coldest winters on record and we even received snow during the night on one of the mountains. It was so cold that they brought out the heavy sleeping bags and allowed us to sleep in tents. For those of you who don’t know, we never slept in tents in the field. Actually, we never really slept for that matter, accept for the occasional nap while your buddy pulled security, which was rare. So, to put the whole platoon in tents to stay warm for the night was an extraordinary situation. Two rangers from my platoon were evaced for frostbite and there were several rangers that participated in the previously theoretical “get naked in the same bivvy sack” exercise to fight off hypothermia. Hopefully, I’ve now established that it was cold. Really stinking cold. It was cold on other nights too, but on the nights not on a mountain top the best way to keep a platoon of zombies from succumbing to cold injuries was simply to walk all night.
It was on one of these nights when I experienced the most bizarre encounter. As we topped the latest hill we had been climbing, at approximately 0200, I saw the best sight I had ever witnessed. They had brought out an ice cream truck, right there in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t really think about why or how a big white ice cream truck could have gotten on top of a mountain where there were no roads because I was just excited to see it. It even had the music playing, which I did think at the time was rather non-tactical. But given that I had only eaten one cracker and half of what was advertised as a cheese packet in the last 24 hours, I was not about to ruin the part by suggesting the music be turned off.
As I was standing in line, I can vividly remember deciding on strawberry ice cream. Despite everything else here, that was actually the most bizarre part because I’ve never liked strawberry ice cream. Why now, on a mountain, in the cold, at 0200 did I decide that I wanted strawberry? That was just weird. But I patiently waited in line until it was my turn. My ranger buddy tapped me on the shoulder and told me that we were moving out. This was absolutely not fair because I hadn’t had the chance to order yet, so I told him to just give me a minute. Being patient and understanding, he told me to “get the &$%^ up, we’re moving.” Well, it was now time to stand my ground and I told him I was not going anywhere until I had my strawberry ice cream. At this point, the squad leader got involved with similarly warm words to no avail. The situation then escalated as the squad leader slapped the crap out of me knocking me flat on my back.
The weird thing about Ranger School is that people can become pretty feral. In the real world, physical violence is extraordinary, but in this situation it was just normal. When I finally came to my senses, still on my back, I realized there was no ice cream truck. It was still cold as hell, completely dark, still hungry, and I was still on a mountain. I wasn’t upset about getting knocked on my butt, but I was pretty devastated about no ice cream. My squad leader helped me up, asked if I was ok, and patted me on the back. No hard feelings, and we continued our frigid trudge through the North Georgia mountains.