If you haven’t noticed it, Mike Ford had been trying to lighten the front page a bit on Sunday’s with a humorous story. Mike is on the road this week helping his parents relocate so he was sniveling on the email list yesterday asking for someone to keep the home fires lit, of LAF, as they say these days. There were no volunteers, so Jenn Van Laar texted me early this morning to ask me to do one. Unfortunately, my wife used my phone first…try explaining getting an early morning (Eastern) text from a woman your wife doesn’t know.
I don’t think you can really be a combat arms officer or career combat arms NCO and not amass a repertoire of funny–or off color–stories. And, to a great extent, those are the things you remember. You forget the mindless bullsh**. You forget (most of) the arrogant and incompetent senior officers you had to deal with. You forget sitting in an arroyo at 2 a.m. in a driving 40-degree rainstorm waiting for your LD time and shivering, as my boss would say, like an old dog sh***ing peach seeds. You remember the funny stuff and the camaraderie and the satisfaction of doing a hard job well. When our first daughter was very young, I remarked to my wife, a mechanical engineer, that I’d like our kids to at least pass through the military. She wasn’t all that happy about the idea. She said, “Just promise me you won’t push them into it.” I told her, “Sweetie, I have a lot more funny Army stories than you have funny engineering stories, by they time they get old enough, they’ll want to go.” My eldest is a college sophomore enrolled in Air Force (hack, spit) ROTC. One down, two to go.
The highlight of any young infantry officer’s life is company command. There is nothing in the world like it. You are a warlord. You are the the Biblical Centurion–“I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” Sometimes the raw material is not exactly what one would hope.
What follows is an actual true story as opposed to a “no sh**” story which is a story that may or may not have happened and you may or may not have been involved but you tell it anyway because it is funny or gross.
I commanded a Combat Support Company in 7th Infantry Division (later the division converted to light infantry, the combat support company was disbanded and I was given the honor of taking a rifle company) and one of our main training areas was Fort Hunter Liggett (Hungry Lizard), California.
On this particular deployment–we were down range for a couple of weeks and when you’re not in your own bed it doesn’t matter if you are 5 miles or 5000 miles from home–my company’s main mission was to live fire Tube Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guided (aka TOW) missiles. We used an ad hoc impact area in a section of post called Stoney Valley.
Public domain image via https://home.army.mil/liggett/index.php/my-fort
As we were regular infantry, rather than mechanized, my launchers were all carried on the venerable M151A2 quarter-ton truck, known to you guys as a Jeep.
Public domain image via wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BGM-71_TOW#/media/File:TOW_fired_from_Jeep.jpg
We fired the day tables and then had a several hour lull while we waited for dark. At the time my division was a low-priority division and even though TOW night sights were available, they had not trickled down to us. Night shoots were conducted as coordinated illumination missions with my 4.2-inch (aka four-deuce) mortar platoon (the beast weighed in at 672-pounds, the Army tells you it is “man portable over short distances,” don’t believe it). The mortars would fire an illumination round and the TWO platoon would engage targets while that parachute flare lit up the impact area.
Here’s the Greek Army firing one. Professional armies don’t look a lot like this but you get the general picture.
It was after the evening meal and I was walking my gun line, talking to the guys and making a final check on their knowledge of the sequence of events for the night. As I neared the end of the firing line I heard some squealing and troops laughing. These are never good things to hear. As I approached the last gun truck I could see a bunch of my troops gathered in a knot and the squealing got louder and more pronounced. I bulled my way though the growing mob and saw one of my troops holding squirming piglet and twisting its tail.
A short digression:
As you can see from the map clip, we were right across the mountains from Big Sur and not terrible far from the Hearst Castle, the palatial estate of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst, like quite a lot of other rich guys, imported exotic animals for his game preserve. One of his import was the Eurasian boar. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t take to being penned up and escaped and found California’s climate to their liking and mated with feral pigs (the four legged variety, not those frequented the enlisted mens’ club in search of companionship) and produced a prolific and somewhat violent breed. I’d had an unpleasant experience with their relatives at Grafenwoehr, Germany and decided to share my wisdom.
“What the f*** are you f***ing morons doing?” I inquired.
“Oh, sir, this is a baby wild pig and if we make it squeal it’s mother will come.”
“Right. That’s a m*********ing baby wild boar and have you morons thought through what will happen when she gets here?”
I gave them some rather detailed instructions on where to search to find their heads and, out of an ample sense of caution, I ordered the platoon moved. We didn’t see momma pig, and we finished up the night shoot without incident. True story. No sh**.
If you want a joke, this one explains about 99% of what goes on in Washington today.