Sirens rang in the background as he listened to his mother’s frantic voice, “Darren, I don’t know if I’m going to get out of here alive. I love you, son.” His mind race beyond imaginable as he sat hopelessly in a dayroom more than 800 miles away from her. He heard a drill sergeant in the distance yell, ‘We’re going to war’. Just when the situation seemed to be at its lowest, things turned for the worst.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darren Holcomb’s mother, Celestina Bynes, worked downtown Manhattan, only two blocks away from the skyscraper that once dominated the New York City skyline. Holcomb had recently joined the Army and was attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
The only verification he had of his mother’s well-being was suddenly disrupted. The phone call was disconnected. He cried into the phone, “Mom, Mom,” but there was no response, only a dial tone.
“I was traumatized when the phone cut off,” said the then-20-year-old private. “I thought the worst. I didn’t think I was going to hear form her again.”
Holcomb said for 10 hours all he could do was cry, uncertain if his mother had survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more scared than that time. It was the worst day of my life.”
After the terrifying events that occurred on Sept. 11, Holcomb, the brigade maintenance officer with the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade here, decided to become a part U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment.
The Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force capable of conducting many complex special operations missions. When the U.S. needs to occupy an enemy country the 75th Ranger Regt. is one of the first units called for the initiation for follow-on forces. This concept is referred to as “the tip of the spear.”
Later that evening, Holcomb was finally able to contact his mother. The New York native said he was reassured of her welfare and it was a relief. But even after knowing his mother was safe, he still became angry and felt as though he had to do something.
“That event changed the trajectory of my entire Army career,” Holcomb said. “As a New Yorker, I wanted to find the guys responsible.”
Holcomb joined the Army May 18, 2001, as a light-wheeled mechanic. He said he joined to take care of his new Family with no intentions of staying beyond his initial contract of three years.
“At the time, I joined for the GI Bill and to learn some skills,” Holcomb said. “I had a unique opportunity to join the Army at the time I did. I got to make the decision to go with the people who will definitely be going to find whoever was responsible.”
A few weeks after the events on Sept. 11, recruiters from 75th Ranger Regt. visited Holcomb’s unit at Fort Jackson.
“I can remember a sergeant first class repeatedly saying, ‘You will find the people responsible, we are the tip of the spear,’” Holcomb said.
The minimum requirements to attend Ranger Indoctrination Program was to have at least a Physical Training score of 240, General Technical score of 105 and be willing to volunteer for Airborne.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m good at PT, I’m kind of smart and I don’t mind jumping out of airplanes,’” Holcomb said. “Therefore I knew if given the chance I could become a ranger.”
In 2001, all Rangers had to volunteer to become a member of the 75th Ranger Regt. and complete the rigorous Ranger Indoctrination Program, known as RIP, to join the ranks of this elite U.S. Army Special Operations Command unit. RIP was later changed to Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, known as RASP, in 2009.
Holcomb met with the Ranger recruiter to start the process to become a part of 75th Ranger Regt. He was not guaranteed a Ranger School slot just yet. Upon completion of airborne training, he had to volunteer for RIP.
“I went through AIT with a vengeance after that,” Holcomb said. “I knew I needed to do this. I needed to go to Ranger Regiment to go to Afghanistan and find the guys responsible.”
Holcomb graduated from RIP Dec. 19, 2001 and was assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia. Later, he deployed to Afghanistan in June 2002. He was a part of Ranger Regiment for 10 years and has six deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and one to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After becoming a chief warrant officer in 2010, Holcomb had to go back through Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was assigned to 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.
Holcomb said he never lost focus of his motivation to become a part of 75th Ranger Regt. during any of his deployments.
“I definitely would not be in the Army, especially an Army ranger if it weren’t for the events on 9/11,” Holcomb said.