Given the comments of the first edition of ‘Hot Steele Saturday’s’ and the questions regarding the main picture, I decided to divert from my schedule and fill you in as to why it was inverted. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, Grunts. And as I plan to do for all of my Saturday afternoon trips, you get the Tarentino treatment.
It’s Tuesday morning around 1000. We’ve been occupying all day, which began at 0430. The task was in preparation for our platoon certification. Artillery Table XII was a dreaded event. Not per the .8 standards, but per the Battalion standards. Usually each Battalion likes to put their own spin on anything higher than squad/section level certifications, and it can be a total goat rope.
For this particular event, our guidance was the basic AT XII standards per the book, plus OP-FOR assistance (you know, to keep us awake at 0300). We knew it was going to be a long 36 hours, even though, by the book it should only take about 3 hours. Hooray Battalion genius!
We had some maintenance issues with howitzers in the sister platoon of our Battery, so of course we had to help. Cross loading equipment always goes well, especially when it is last minute. My platoon finally got a break for a couple hours while 1st platoon went off to train. Now, time for the rewind.
At about 0815 we took off for a few more occupations at firing points all around the Fort Stewart training area. It had rained the night prior so it was a joy. After some convoy ops and a few hip shoots, we decided to hit one more PAA and one more hip shoot. Upon entry into the PAA, we realized it was horrendous conditions but we still pushed through and did the job. Mug bogging and drifting on the trails, navigating through grass that stood as tall as 5 feet. It was ideal conditions, to say the least. We finished our missions and indexed. It was at this point we started to funnel out of a different entry point we hadn’t gone through yet.
The first few vehicles go through, but when myself and a fellow chief went through, we noticed the terrain was going to be difficult for some of the lesser experienced gents to go through. We called it up and they acknowledged, yet somehow were unable to navigate through it and got stuck. So, what do we do? We warn the other platoon to be careful or stay away, etc, etc. Upon our return to the original PAA we take our break. Some of the joe’s took a nap, others broke out the cards, and some even opened a book. About an hour and a half went by when I got the call, my howitzer was going to be donated the next morning for 1st platoon to use for train up. No problem. Fast forward.
0450 the next day, my section was doing personal hygiene and the section to use my gun had arrived. The chief and his subordinate NCO came and asked if there was anything they needed to know. I said, “whatever you do, don’t break my gun.” Famous last words for any gun chief.
For the duration of the morning our platoon conducted rock drills and planned out routes, medevac needs, and any other fine tuning details for the mission coming up. 1145, lunch time. In the field it is a blessing to get time to eat, especially at the right times. One thing I did and still do enjoy is the backwards planning of this group of NCO’s I had the pleasure of working with. We always rolled to the field a few days early so we could shake any rust off and actually have a solid plan for things. You don’t see it too often but it was nice.
Everyone is eating or doing howitzer maintenance except my section. They were eating or sleeping. Our gun was being used by 1st platoon. At 1230 I was summonsed to Smoke’s vehicle. Smoke is the name for our platoon sergeant. He told me to bring a chair for a talk. At that moment I questioned everything that had happened and wondered what it could possibly be about. He comes out of his truck and sits down in front of me. “Keep your bearing, don’t flip out.” All I could think was “who fucked what up?” After a minute pause, which felt like an hour, he proceeds to tell me where 1st platoon went and the route they took. We both agreed they were dumb for not listening to us, but then he said the chief I gave my gun to flipped it. I asked how.
Picture this, if you can. Driving down a dirt trail, now mud due to rain, and a giant mud puddle spanning from both sides of the road in width and about 30 feet in length. You would think to proceed with caution, right? Right. This guy decides to gun it, not knowing what is beneath the murky water, despite the hesitance of his driver and co pilot. He yells for the driver to floor it. As a young private, you follow orders because you assume the experience of a 4 year SSG knows more than you, right? Wrong. Never assume.
This private did, to no fault of his own. As they get to the middle of the muddy water the right tire of the howitzer hits a giant rock, concealed by the brown liquid and bounces, right onto a giant bump, giving it enough momentum to flip and invert itself. Stop, you think, right? Nope. Not today Cochise! Keep going! They drug the gun a number of feet before they realized what they did.
And that, people, is the story behind the cover photo. I was unhappy, distraught, pissed off, and everything in between. Needless to say not 24 hours later and that gun chief was relieved and moved to another Battery while being investigated for the damage. Gross negligence. Case closed. The other pictures you see with this article are the ammo trucks and them attempting to recover the howitzer.
Luckily there was minimal damage done and it was fixed within a week thanks to my platoon’s tremendous U6 personnel. And I was ordered to never loan my howitzer to anyone ever again. Until next time, stay classy and drink it dry.