New War Story

This is really a post war story about the time I had left in the Army and after Vietnam.  During the time I had on leave upon return to the States from my year in Vietnam and the time I had to report in to Fort Carson, Colorado, I called the office in the Pentagon that managed the orders for Field Artillerymen.  I was kind of worried that after a year in the jungle, I might just freeze my tushy off at Fort Carson. (I did)  The guy was not at all interested in my personal problems and the only thing he had to offer was to go to Fort Polk and command  Basic Training Company.  At least at Fort Carson there was a chance I might stay in the Field Artillery.

So, the wife and I packed our stuff up and mover to Colorado.  Mostly it was load our clothes for the trip up and have the Government move our trailer to some place called Saint Elmo's court in Colorado Springs.   Sometime I will tell you about the snow storm we go caught in on our way to Wichita but not today.

When I arrived at Fort Carson, I reported to the Post headquarters.  There in the Adjutant's Office I was sent down to the Division  Arty Headquarters for a unit assignment.   There, some Captain said he had just the thing for me.  There was a National Guard Artillery Battalion from Kansas there and he was sure they could use me.  I had no clue who the hell the National Guard was at that time and in fact really didn't care what they had me doing for what was to be my last 140 days in the Army.

Finally after spending half a day being told where to go, I found my way to the Headquarters of the 2nd battalion, 130th Field Artillery.  It was a 105 unit that was in Direct Support of the 69th Infantry Brigade.  I met LTC Weinberg on his last day at Fort Carson.  He didn't act very interested in our interview until he read that I was from Kansas.  He turned very cordial at that point and welcomed me into the Battalion there at Fort Carson.

They put me in one of their Battalion Fire Support officer slots and almost immediately told me that I was going to command as an acting commander of a battery so the young Captain there could go on emergency leave for  a sick father.  There, I met for the first time the soldiers I had dreams about for the rest of the time in the  Army.  Most of the Soldiers there were from small towns scattered across the north east end of the State of Kansas.  They were for the most part older than the soldiers in the rest of Active Army and mostly you could depend on having your orders carried out.  When I got to the unit, the Unit Clerk, SSG Herrs, took me into the commander's office and gave me the straight skinny on what I needed to do for the next couple of weeks. 

Pretty much, the unit was on automatic pilot and mostly I had to sign the assumption of command order and then sign the daily "Morning Reports" for two weeks.  The unit was in the time it was too cold to train down range and the train field training started up for the Battery tests.  At that time, I was pretty sure that the biggest thing I wanted out of the Army was  me.   I did look over the paperwork in the commander's office and found out about some of the mundane things like the results of their last IG and reviewed the audit of the Morale and Welfare Fund.  I spent two weeks getting unpacked in Colorado Springs and getting the trailer winterized so I didn't wake up to frozen pipes each morning.

Just as soon as I returned to normal duty with the Headquarters, I was sent back over to DIVARTY for an assignment.  I was told that I would be on the Army Training Test team for the Division and we spent a week recomputing the safety firing diagrams for all the known firing points at Fort Carson.  Stick a pencil in my eye because it was the most boring job ever.  When we would finish one diagram, we would overlay it with the existing data and see if there were any errors.  While I did learn the location of all of Fort Carson, I didn't learn anything new.  At the end of the first week of mind numbing tasks, I was finally told what I would do for the next 120 days.  I was to be the Observation Post Umpire and make sure that the tests were fired on schedule and accurate.

Every Monday morning I would report to DIVARTY and check out my jeep.  I would meet the test team and we would drive out to the field where we would meet and greet the battery staff of the unit to be tested. I would then drive to one of the Observation Points (OPs) and watch as one of the Forward Observer teams would occupy and set up their observation post.  It was all old stuff to me and I didn't bust many chops if they weren't really as stealthy as they could be.  Mostly it was still so damned cold in the morning that the fact I had the only jeep that had a heater wasn't wasted on anyone.  (Especially me who had on every stitch of cold weather clothes I could get on) I would talk to the test team and as soon as they were ready, I would give a fire mission to the Forward Observer.  It was generally a target near the middle of the impact area and one that a lot of them had used many times.  I had a list of the targets and their location and had pin holes in my map that were accurate.  During my time as an OP umpire there were no failures and all rounds were landed in the impact area. 

The only thing that was really different about the days there were the faces on the Forward Observers.  One of them was one of the most squared away guys I had met in the Army.  He deployed his team into the OP in a very tactical manner on what had to be one of the worst days.  It was drizzling and that froze as sleet so they were soon wet and frosty.  I called the young Officer over and put him in my jeep to warm up and dry out.  I sent his team back to his jeep to do the same.  He was really happy that he was meeting someone that cared about him and his team.  He really understood the impact area at Fort Carson and did a great job.  I found out that he was a West Point Graduate and on orders to go to Vietnam the next fall.  He asked about a billion questions about what to expect and I tried to make the lessons real and not too tall. 

At the end of the time I had at Fort Carson, I was released from the Controller duty and though I would get to spend a few days leisurely checking out.  My first day back, I was told that I was going to be a Forward Observer for one of the batteries as a replacement for another officer who went home on emergency leave.  I went through the motions and reported to the OP we were assigned to.  I tactically occupied the position and low and behold the new controller was the young officer I had taken mercy on in the freezing weather.  He immediately called me over to his jeep and told me that I could do whatever I wanted and it didn't matter to him how I did it.  All he wanted was for me to show the missions when he called for them.  I knew the missions by heart and was able to give the firing battery 8 place coordinates that were accurate by survey.   In fact the pin holes in my map were put there with a protractor.  I knew what targets we would fire and in what order.  Other than I could have been back in the rear area out processing, it was one of the best days I had in the Army.  The weather had turned out warm and sunny and it was a treat for me to get to apply my knowledge to the job I was trained to do.

What I remember the most was that the next morning as I drove down the hill called little "Little Agony" it started to snow.  That had to be one of the last days in June as I processed out on the 3rd of July.  I remember thinking that I wouldn't want to live in Colorado if they gave me the whole damned place.  A couple of mornings later as I drove out of the gate at Fort Carson, I threw my fatigue hat our the window and swore that I would never wear green again. 

COL, Ret

No comments:

Post a Comment