Ripcord grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where he joined the Civil Air Patrol while still in high school. Once there, he fell in love with skydiving and joined the Army to jump from higher altitudes in even more dangerous circumstances. In Airborne Infantry, Ripcord became a HALO jumper, which stands for "High Altitude Low Opening". In order to avoid detection, a HALO jumper jumps from very high altitudes, drops for thousands of feet, and then opens his chute at the last second, just enough to break the fall.
This is the most fearless group in the Airborne Infantry, and Ripcord still loves to jump. Ripcord was eager to join the G.I. Joe team, and when the older Joes were promoted and given desk jobs, Ripcord was to be one of their replacements. It was soon obvious that the original Joes were not totally finished with their previous duties, but Ripcord and the other new Joes remained on the team.
Ripcord develops a relationship with a civilian named Candy Appel, who worked freelance as "Bongo the Bear" performing at birthday parties and similar events. Their relationship is marred by Ripcord being unable to tell Candy his real name, or clearly explain why they draw the attention of Cobra forces. Ripcord is sent with Stalker, Recondo and other Joes to rescue the peace activist Adele Burkhardt from the war-torn fictional country of Sierra Gordo.
Ripcord expresses displeasure they are fighting for a woman who opposes the military. Stalker berates him, informing him that unpopular opinions are just as valid. Burkhardt is safely rescued, but not without the loss of three Tucaro soldiers who volunteered to assist. After Ripcord and Candy call it quits, it is discovered that Candy is the daughter of a Cobra Crimson Guardsman. Candy is taken into custody, but vanishes due to interference by the Cobra agent Buzzer. This sets Ripcord out on a mission to Cobra Island, to find her and clear her name, unaware that Candy has been killed during a coincidental visit to Springfield, the headquarters of Cobra.
He tricks Ace during an overflight into activating his helmet, which allows Ripcord to parachute out, an act unofficially approved by General Hawk. Ripcord battles Zartan, in an isolated section of Cobra Island. Both wound each other, but Zartan subdues Ripcord and switches identities with him. Zartan (as Ripcord) is rescued by G.I. Joe, while Ripcord (as Zartan) is taken into Cobra headquarters. Ripcord's physical differences from Zartan are accepted, because the Cobra agent is a master of disguise. Ripcord eventually ends up at the main center for Cobra, the city of Springfield.