15 Ways I Know I Am The Oldest Guy In The Rhino Den

Updated: November 23, 2014


By Pablo James

Recently, several Rhino Den writers and miscellaneous Ranger Up folks were discussing the latest Ranger Up video when someone pointed out to RU CEO Nick Palmisciano, “Dude, you’ve been fighting since 1987 You’re old.” Nick responded by pointing out three things: 1. He started doing judo when he was ten, and 2. he is 37 years old, and 3. he IS old.

Being eleven years older than Nick, I felt the need to direct a brief and profane retort towards SGT Awesome, who had made the original observation. Awesome pointed out that I, at the tender age of 48, am probably the oldest member of our band of hooligans. Shit, it turns out I’m even older than Rhino Den writer, Kelly Crigger…and he wrote a book about being old!

I couldn’t help but point out that while a ten-year-old Nicky Palmisciano was stepping onto the judo mat for the first time, a 21-year-old Pablo James was stepping off a C-141 in Egypt for a peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. This prompted me to think of a few more analogies that remind me of my place in the by age list of Rhino Den writers.

1 .As a private, I saw Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Full Metal Jacket, on the big screen at a Fayetteville, North Carolina movie theater the weekend it opened. We also got first crack at Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and Aliens.

2. My first unit challenge coin in the 82nd Airborne listed WWII, Vietnam, and Grenada…because the Panama invasion hadn’t happened yet. They were all metal, too. Not the enamel-laden, Sherwin-Williams color palettes that pass for challenge coins today.

3. We were all excited about this futuristic new vehicle being introduced into service. They called it a HUMVEE. It was supposed to replace the Jeep…we wondered how long that would last.

4. Ronald Reagan was Commander-in-Chief. You remember him, right? He’s the guy who called Gorbachev out like a bitch about the Berlin Wall, had the U.S. Secret Service codename “Rawhide”, and is the only sitting president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.

5. The Army Physical Fitness Test consisted of  push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run.

6. Special Forces had guys in Afghanistan…they were helping the Mujahedeen fight the Russians. Like the hipsters of the special operations community, they were fighting in Afghanistan before it was even cool to go there.

7. We had the original Red Dawn Yeah, Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen leading a pack of Colorado high schoolers on an insurgency campaign against Soviet Spetsnaz troops who parachuted onto their football field during math class. Not some off-brand 2012 straight-to-video remake.

8. There was no such thing as GPS. We had to use maps and compasses for something more than graduating PLDC, OCS, and Ranger School.

9. We didn’t have to wear PT belts. We didn’t even have Army-wide PT uniforms. In Division, you wore a battalion t-shirt and if you were soft enough to fall out of a unit PT run, they made you turn your t-shirt inside out so no one else knew what unit you were with. Leaders cared about unit pride, but they didn’t give a shit about your self-esteem.

AirborneSkoolPicture10. DRF 1 at Ft. Bragg required us to find a pay phone and call the CQ desk because cell phones did not exist yet and pagers were too expensive. If you’re not sure what a pay phone is, click here.

11. Our primary enemy was not terrorist organizations, it was the Soviet Army. Our primary fear was not IEDs, but Hind-D gunships (the Soviet Flying Tanks). It was cool, though. We had seen Red Dawn enough times that we knew their weaknesses.

12. The Sergeant Major lost his mind if he saw you with your hands in your pockets.

13. We went through Airborne School when it was still hard (I was, in fact, in the very last hard class).

14. The MRE heater hadn’t been invented yet. If you were lucky, you knew someone nearby with a vehicle so you could throw your meal packet on the hood. Unfortunately, you had to listen to the old guys whine about how much better C-rats were.


Old soldiers, like the crusty old bastards of any group, will always bemoan the way things have become and long for the way things were in days past. It’s likely that some ancient curmudgeon sat around a village campfire eons ago bitching that, “These half-a-sissies today with their Odin Damned bows and arrows don’t know what it’s like to work hard. Back in MY day, we fought with spears…the real way! Back when looting and pillaging was hard!

Hell, today we even hear soldiers and Marines trash talk each other based on what year they were in Iraq or Afghanistan.

What are some of the things that have changed since you entered the military? What are the things you miss the most about the “good old days”?




  1. Ed P

    November 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    You were high-speed if you had buttons sewn into your vinyl rain coat so you could use the field jacket liner. Bathing/shaving from a steel pot. And bug dope that melted your fingerprints into your angle-head flashlight.

  2. Don

    November 26, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I remember looking for C’s so that I could have some fruit (not available in LRRP’s); open bay barracks; and MC-1 qualification cards; C-7 Caribou’s for Saturday fun jumps; debating the effects of “Tricky Dicky” Nixon’s resignation at the NCO Club; and does anyone else remember the alert for the Yom Kipur War?

  3. Bill Russell

    November 28, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Guess we seen Full Metal Jacket the same weekend and the good ole Westwood Theater, hmm might have been the Cross Creek Mall…. Ok maybe we are old! As for MREs can’t forget the Meatballs in BBQ sauce or the maple nut cake!

  4. Murphy

    December 3, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Same age as Nick, but I do fondly remember being asked what was wrong with my uniform, one fine morning…
    I had gone to that dry-clean place off of Benning Road and had them tailor my BDUs and take the tabs and buttons off the sides and back.
    Not so much with the ACUs.

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