War Stories Part 4

I grew up with either a play gun or a bb gun in my hands, a lot.  There were no video games to sharpen my eye hand coordination back then.  There was even a time when I was allowed to shoot a .22 rifle in Arkansas.  As a kid, I was good with the guns and loved it.  If that was child abuse, it paid off in the Army.

We carried our M-14s for several weeks prior to ever getting the chance to shoot them.  I loved the balance and while it was a heavy sucker, it felt like a balanced weapon to me.  I was at least "in like" with the M-14 prior to going to the rifle ranges at FLW. 

We were lined up on the gravel drive with our weapons on a Monday morning and most of us were just full of anticipation of the trip to the rifle ranges.  We had been marched to almost every event we went to for the previous five weeks.  To find strange cattle trucks lined up on the road was strange.  I say cattle trucks but there were seats inside the trucks.  We were taken about five miles out on one of the range roads to an area we hadn't ever been.  Fall out and line up, get off my trucks and line the hell up. 

About ten people were taken over to a small house where there was a pile of magazines and several ammo boxes of 7.62mm ball.  We were instructed to load the magazines with three rounds and when we had a couple of hundred magazine filled about half of us were sent back over to the range.  I had no idea that we needed to zero the rifle and that was our setting for the rest of the time.  We went to what they called the 25 meter range and given a short class about what the sight picture would look like.  At about 75 feet, the strike of the bullets even if not on the center of the target, should be evenly spaced and in the same area of the target.  My M-14 shot well and I put three rounds low and left.  The Drill Sergeant told me to crank my sights up seven clicks and left 2 from center.  The next three rounds were all centered on the bulls eye and I was told to go back over an load three round magazines.  Shit oh dear, if I had known that shooting well would put me on that detail I would have shot all over the place.  We spent the rest of that day trying to get the city boys to learn how to breathe and shoot at least a consistent manner.  At the end of the day, we looked for the trucks and were told we would have to march back.  At least we had our drums to speed up the pace.

My bunk mate could hit the inside of a barn if he was inside.  From the repeated three rounds, he had a swollen cheek where his thumb had repeatedly hit him in the face.  I think they brought one of the loaders over and zeroed his rifle for him.  This was a sign that he would have trouble when we shot on the record ranges.  It seems like there are just some people that grow up flinching when a loud noise is made near them.  My bunk mate was one of those guys and the more he shot, the worse his cheek looked like and the more he jumped.  We sat down and talked about it for hours and then the first round would go off and he just would flinch.  No, it was a bad flinch and there was no consistency as to what his body would involuntarily do.  The only good news was that he was going to an assignment in Intelligence and not infantry. 

I blew through each phase of the rifle ranges with the minimum number of rounds.  I could see the targets out at the maximum range and could hit them with a regularity that was just a natural to me.  I continued that pace until the last of the week when we went over to the record range.  It was a range that had pop up targets that at 25 meters was just the head of the target showing.  The full size target was out at 450 meters and I was ready.  In fact, the Drill Sergeant made us skip out morning coffee that day to have a steady hand.  The shooting was done from several positions and one included jumping down into a hole and firing from a supported position.  I hit almost everything from the standing and kneeling position.  I missed seeing one of the real close targets and then we came to the cement culvert position.  As I jumped down in the hole, my helmet hit the rear sight of the rifle.  I missed the first two targets down in the hole and the sergeant said I needed to re-zero my weapon.  I ran the sight down and back up and from then on didn't miss a target.  When I was finished I was told that I had missed the close in target from the kneeling position and  two from the culvert and one while I re-zeroed my weapon.  I was qualified as an expert but one round from the High Expert. At the time I was very proud of my score and could not wait to get an expert marksmanship badge to wear on my uniform.  I had no idea that I was just one 1/2 point from the maximum score.

My bunk mate did not qualify and was just heartbroken.  He was scheduled for a make up on Saturday morning and there was just no way I could have gone for him.  I would have cheated for him if it had been possible.  About noon that Saturday he showed up back at our barracks and had a smile almost as big as the bruise on his cheek.  He had qualified by one round and thought that Marksman was just fine.  He would not wear a badge.
We were told that the next weekend we would be given a off post pass based on how we scored on the rifle range. Those that scored expert would get released at noon and those that were sharpshooters could go at 4 PM.  The marksmen would get Sunday off.  I had grandparents living by Harrison, AR and as soon as I could, I took a bus to Springfield.  I hitchhiked south to Harrison and then down to Pruitt.   I ran down the road to my Grandparents house and promptly got drunk as I could. 

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the aftermath of that day of leave.

Somewhat Free for a Day

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