One of the best
Only about three soldiers out of 100 can hack it as an Army Special Forces Green Beret, and fifth-generation Grass Valley native Jesse Lincoln, 25, is one of them.
He’ll board a plane Thursday morning in Sacramento to Torii Station in Okinawa, Japan. From there he will most likely be sent with the 1st Special Forces Group to Iraq or Afghanistan to use the skills it took him years to learn.
One of the chosen few
Staff Sgt. Lincoln’s involvement with the elite Green Berets began by undergoing a month-long Special Forces selection process in Fort Bragg, N.C., two years ago where he was subjected to the toughest tests he’s ever endured.
“It was really physical stuff,” he said, sitting at his father’s living room table in Grass Valley on a recent afternoon. “No-sleep kind of stuff that tests your mental state.”
He and a few other men had to move a 50-gallon drum of water five miles through the sand using a couple of metal poles, wheels and rope.
He learned how to survive by eating bugs, including worms, beetles and his favorite: big North Carolina-style grasshoppers.
“If you can put ’em over an open flame, they’re pretty tasty,” he said, grinning. “If you’re starving, they sure taste good.”
The former Nevada Union track team high-jumper also learned how to outrun a pack of trained tracking dogs.
“You just have to keep on running,” he said.
After the month-long selection process, Lincoln was one of about 50 soldiers from a group of 400 to receive two years of training.
From there, it took Lincoln four months to learn to speak Indonesian. His instructors would not speak English, and he studied the new language for nine hours a day.
He also learned how to jump out of planes, which was a highlight of his training, he said.
“I require a lot from your son to become one of the world’s best trained soldiers who now wears the distinctive Green Beret,” Lincoln’s commanding officer Major General James Parker wrote in a letter to Lincoln’s parents on March 5, 2007. Parker described the course as the “most mentally and physically challenging course in the United States Army.”
Lincoln emerged an expert in communications, his specialty.
No stranger to war
This upcoming service won’t be Lincoln’s first time in harm’s way. He already served a year in Iraq, between 2003 and 2004, before he underwent the Special Forces training.
He enlisted in the Army with parental consent when he was 17 years old. He had been 18 for two days when he started basic training in Fort Knox, Ky.
In Iraq, Lincoln was a mechanic with the 14th Engineer Battalion near Tikrit. He learned how to repair vehicles with mortar fire exploding around him from all sides.
Lincoln said like he felt like a moving target driving around in the oversized tow truck he used to haul broken-down military vehicles.
He envied the Special Forces soldiers, who were transported in small, fast-moving helicopters.
He also found out what it feels like to lose a friend to a roadside bomb. His friend was riding in a Humvee when the device exploded.
Lincoln was getting ready to go home for Christmas leave when he heard the news.
“That was hard,” he said, but he added that the trauma did not challenge his resolve.
“You know what you’re getting into,” he said. “You have to do your best to keep focused and as bad as things are, you can’t let stuff like that change what you believe in.”
He thinks of his family during the hard times.
“I come from a very patriotic family,” he said. “Family will always come first and it always will. If protecting them and keeping them out of harm’s way requires me to go to other places, that’s what want to do.”
And, he said, he’s not in the position to question his government’s decisions.
“I have to support my leadership,” he said. “Those people were put in office to make the decisions and it’s our job to facilitate the action. We’re the arms and legs.”
Ready for combat … and mail
Lincoln hopes to effect some positive change oversees, such as the time he and his unit built two schoolhouses for Iraqi school children.
He and other soldiers were welcomed with smiles by the majority of Iraqis, something you don’t often see on the evening news, he said.
He’ll also occupy himself with sports on his downtime.
In Okinawa, he said, he’ll probably take up surfing, and he’ll log on to World Warcraft, his favorite online role-playing game. It’s popular with military personnel, he said, with more than 8 million subscribers.
“It’s my big nerd/geek vice,” he said.
He’ll also download the latest popular music on the Internet and listen to it on his 90-gigabyte iPod, so he won’t be “out of the loop” when he returns to the States.
Lincoln looks forward to receiving letters and packages from his family, and he feels sorry for the soldiers who don’t receive anything.
“A lot of people’s families don’t support them,” he said. “It’s a shame. It’s a lot tougher on the guys that don’t get mail.”
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@the union.com or call 477-4236.
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