Chalk (military)

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In military terminology, a chalk is a group of paratroopers or other soldiers that deploy from a single aircraft. A chalk often corresponds to a platoon-sized unit for air assault operations, or a company-minus-sized organization for airborne operations. For air transport operations, it can consist of up to a company-plus-sized unit. Oftentimes, a load of paratroopers in one aircraft, prepared for a drop, is also referred to as a stick.

The term was first coined in World War II for airborne troops during Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe. The aircraft flight number was placed on the troops' backs with chalk. It was later used during the Vietnam War, when it was common practice to number with chalk the sides of the helicopters involved in an operation. During the Battle of Mogadishu (1993), four chalks from the 75th Ranger Regiment fast roped down from hovering MH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. The rangers then created a four-corner defensive perimeter around the building.