"No matter what I am today, I will always be part of what I was yesterday."
Sometimes the memories spring out of nowhere to haunt me. Training and lessons from what seems like life-times ago, elbow their way into my thoughts without warning. I can’t imagine what our combat vets go through.
Today’s Notes from the Nurse is dedicated to my brothers-in-arms both past and present who risked their lives so that we may live free. It is offered in humble gratitude in hopes that it may be useful to a brother or sister Rubie.
Grafenwoehr is a beautiful town in what was West Germany. It is also the location of the largest American training site in Germany. Graf’ as it is so fondly referred to by those that have been there in all its mud and glory. I still wished I had kept my Graf jacket, a wet weather parka I had the German tailor line with a poncho liner. We’ll save that for another time. Today’s memory is about a young "acting Jack" corporal and a cold winter’s night in Graf’.
This young stud wanted to do something "real" so he volunteered to lead a squad size element to scout the enemy’s position. One squad against one Infantry Battalion that was accompanied by a tank company; oh to be young again :)
After receiving permission, I gave the warning order, followed in five minutes by "the plan". Long story short, we traversed about 5km when we found a Scout M113 parked in the open with the crew asleep inside. We decided not to take the 60 left in its pintle and opted for their antennae instead. After making it back to the wood line undetected, we all got on line and prepared to fire them up just to scare the h@il out of them. When we were all on line and ready I gave the signal….
Only one volley of rounds were fired, then everyone’s weapon jammed. Although it was only training, we were scared to death at the realization of what would have happened had this been the real thing. Luckily Tony, our SAW Gunner, had a cleaning rod with him and we all quickly forced the empty shells out of our chambers. One by one we assumed a defensive circle and tried to figure out what had happened.
It seems that our weapons were warm prior to our setting out. Since we were training for real, we had locked and loaded immediately after our departure line. Sometime during the 5 km patrol, our weapons got very cold and contracted causing the shell casings to get lodged in the chambers of our weapons. Since the rounds were properly seated originally, they were in position to be fired but not extracted. After several attempts we were able to warm up our weapons by firing them. By then the entire battalion was moving down around our ears. Seemed as if they thought they were under attack by a "large force". We were able to escape and evade to our own lines but just barely.
There are several lessons we learned on that night but I think the most important was having our weapons acclimatized prior to setting out on patrol. Another important lesson was each soldier needs to carry their own cleaning kit at all times. The Canadians have a saying, "one man, one kit". In other words each man carries his own gear. Period.
I hope this story will encourage some of our more experienced combat vets to relate some of their real life experiences so that we may learn. Remember when you get too old to tote your own weapon; some young pup you trained might be protecting your 6. God Bless our Veterans.
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