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February 20, 2005

Time for a War Story!

Nicholas, over at Ghost of a Flea sent us a link to an interesting video of artillerymen who don't have enough to do. It reminded me of a story.


Long time readers at the Castle know that I was an Observer/Controller at the National Training Center, a relatively prestigious job, and a plum for a combat arms officer - especially if there hasn't been a war lately. Since it was 1988, there hadn't been...

Anyway, the was (and is) a lot of esprit and camaraderie among O/Cs. Fort Irwin, not an oasis now, was even more primitive back then, the new construction just getting underway.

As with any group that considers itself elite, group norms of behavior developed, to include an acculturation process - what? - did someone say hazing? Mebbe. I ain't telling.

One of the strict rules however, was that O/Cs did *NOT* use the porta-potties put out for the training units. Porta-potties are a necessary item when you have the density of training units that places like the Combat Training Centers have, and that is also true in regular training areas at 'home station.' You really can't just have everybody digging latrines everywhere, or doing their business willy-nilly - you eventually have a sanitation issue, as some unsuspecting unit sets up their mess hall where a previous unit dug a latrine. Ya get the drift.

One of the key tenets of the O/C is that you *did not* use anything from, or get support from, the unit you were observing and controlling. Lots of good reasons, not the least of which is fostering any sense of interdependence or favors. You had to keep your objectivity and with that a certain aloofness. Some O/Cs predictably enough, carried that too far, just as some not far enough.

In the mists of time, the Gods of the Desert decreed that prohibition extended to porta-potties, even ones that were actually left over from a previous rotation that the contractor had not had time (or had lost the coordinates of) to recover and refurbish.

O/Cs were expected to 'deal' with it. Since we had our own transportation, and the unit schedule had dead time in it, this was usually handled by heading into the cantonment area or up to the live fire base at Goat Mountain, where facilities were available. Otherwise, well, one had one's etool and a largish desert.

I remember when a group of Scorpions (the mech infantry team I was the Fire Support Officer trainer for) caught a hapless Cobra (the Armor guys... hock, ptui!) parked by... a porta-pottie. Heh.

This could not be allowed to go unpunished, lest the Gods of the Desert send unpleasant weather or a really bad Blufor unit our way as punishment.

So, in true Rat Patrol style, three Scorpion HMMWVs flew across the desert, pulling up by the offending vehicle. Hah! The low-rent toad left it unlocked! (Not that it would have mattered much - locking those vehicles meant a cord that restricted movement of the steering wheel.) A Scorpion, whose call sign escapes me at the moment, jumped from his steed, fired up the Cobra vehicle, (we could hear the panicked Cobra inside frantically trying to get his pants up.... he shoulda just jumped out...) and parked it up against the door of the porta-pottie, trapping our luckless victim inside. With hoots and cat-calls and much derisive laughter, we counted coup and drove away...

Did I mention it was about 120 degrees farenheit that day? And that it was a *ripe* porta-pottie?

Heh. We went off around our business, save one, me, who stayed behind and observed from a hill near Chinaman's Hat. The agreement was that if idiot-boy didn't extricate himself within 30 minutes, I'd go free him.

He got out - with great physical effort, mind you, and breathing that wonderful aroma - in about 10. When I saw him get free and obviously just be pissed and not in danger of collapsing, I waved cheerily and zoomed off - to join a passing convoy - in case he came seeking revenge... I love the Hummer. You could do 70 cross-country easily... though it was sometimes scary to do that with NVGs (PVS-5s) on. Now they have MPs out watching to make sure O/Cs behave. Remind me to tel you about Scorpions and 'racing numbers.'


And now we'll find out if the Commander, Combined Arms Center, LTG Wallace, reads this blog. (LTG Wallace also commanded V Corps in the March Upcountry). He was Cobra 07, then a LTC and Head Snake of the Cobra team, when we did that.... though he was *not* the victim.

So, what was it about the link that Ghost of a Flea sent along that triggered that?

Well, it would seem that soldiers and porta-potties still have a love-hate relationship... watch, then, some Artillerymen in action. Warning - there is some NSFW language in the clip.