OPINION
Published on March 1, 2013 By Big Fat Daddy In Misc

 

By the middle 80's, East Garrison at Fort Ord was mostly out of use.  It had once been an industrial area with warehouses and offices and such.  But those functions slowly shifted to the coastal side of the post and what was left was just storage and a handy place to train truck drivers to manuever around tight corners and narrow streets.  There was a large open area that had once belonged to the truck drivers' school that was perfect for watching new tractor-trailer drivers chase their trailers around in reverse.  When we got new drivers in from their advanced individual training (AIT) course, we were lucky if they could pretrip and start a tractor-trailer let alone drive it in reverse. 

 

Intergarrison Road connected the main post with East Garrison; the last quarter-mile or so was a fairly steep grade that dropped down off the coastal hills into the "built-up area" (that's Army talk for the place where buildings are as opposed to the places where they aren't).  East Garrison was probably twenty or thirty city blocks.  I am not real sure of the road's name, something canyon I think, but it left East Garrison behind heading south to Sandstone Ridge and the training areas, firing ranges, bivouac sites, and all the other necessary areas for the basic training of soldiers.

 

Told you all that so I could tell you this:  One of the common uses of East Garrison was as a bivouac site for combat service support units to get training on combat operations in a "built up area".  On one occasion the truck unit I was in set up our operations on the southern edge of East Garrison.  My platoon was given an area to set up and defend that was right on the east side of "Something" Canyon Road and wrapped around the crest of a very steep hill where we tied in with another truck platoon.  Across  Something Canyon Road, another platoon started their area of responsibility.  I watched my squad leaders set out their soldiers, directing them how to set up their fighting positions and what their fields of fire would be.  It was all standard stuff and they were very good at it.

 

At one point one of the squad leaders came to me to discuss the hill.  Tactically speaking, you want to concentrate your heaviest weapons on the most likely "avenue of approach", which just means the most likely way the enemy would come visiting.  Naturally,  Something Canyon Road was the most likely avenue of approach, a fairly wide, well-developed , paved road with good concealment on both sides.  On the other hand, the steep hill was just shy of  being called a bluff.  It was very steep and covered with long, dry weeds and scrub oak.  No one would be able to sneak up that hill without making a ruckus.  So we agreed to put one machine gun overlooking the hill and put up the other three in positions that would  ensure heavy fire covering that road. 

 

We fine-tuned the positions, walked out to the front of our "perimeter"  and looked back at them, agreed we had a good solution and told the soldiers to start digging.  Then there was tentage to erect, equipment to unload, and all the other little chores that come with camping in the open with forty-or-so armed young men.  It was fully dark by the time we had our platoon established, trucks parked and camoflaged, positions well on the way to being done, and guard shifts set up.  Normal operation calls for 100% perimeter defense from an hour or so before dusk until full dark... then for an hour or so before dawn until full daylight...these being the most likely times for enemies to attack.  This is doctrine...it doesn't mean it really means anything. 

 

By 2100 hrs, all the troops had been fed and fighting positions were down to 50% defense posture,  which meant that in a two-man foxhole, one guy would be sleeping and the other on watch.  They would switch every two hours.  I had to go over to the company command post to get the "commitments" or missions my platoon would be responsible for the next morning, discuss our defensive posture,  and report on our weapons and personnel and whatever else needed discussing.   We were told that a platoon of infantry "light-fighters" would be acting as our opposing force for the rest of the field exercise so we had to be alert.  The First Sergeant told us, "These guys are good".

 

I went back to my platoon area.  The night was clear and bright; there was very little light pollution on this side of the hills, and it was very chilly.  I met with my platoon NCOs, gave out the commitments, briefed them on the opposing force threat, decided on who would be awake at what time to check on the foxholes and vehicles, and then we broke up and settled down for the night.

 

Things stayed quiet until a little after midnight.  The opposing force, or OPFOR (the Aggressors), started probing attacks at different parts of the perimeter.  Nothing happened in our area right away but we heard firing coming from some of the other sectors (blanks, of course).  I got up at 0200 hours to take my turn on watch.  I hadn't really been sleeping much, waiting for the bad guys to hit us.  They hadn't, yet.

 

I toured the fighting positions, and checked in with our LP/OP (listening post/observation post), a couple of guys out about fifty yards in front of our positions to give us a little advanced warning if the aggressors came our way...they had a field phone wired to the perimeter to communicate with us.  After checking the perimeter I walked back to the rear where our trucks were parked. 

 

When I got back to the tent area, I saw a movement under a tree near my tent.  I walked over to see what it was and was immediately captured by a squad of aggressors who were roaming around inside our perimeter.  I have to be honest here.  There was a second or two when I could have resisted, fired my rifle, and warned the company, even though I would have immediately been cut down.  And in keeping with the honesty here, the thought that had prominence in my little brain was that if I fired my rifle to warn the company...my rifle would be twice as hard to clean the next morning...blanks are dirty rounds.

 

Anyhow, our position was overrun and we were all killed or captured and our unit's effectiveness was cut to practically nothing.  So other units didn't get their food, ammo, toilet paper, or fuel. For want of a nail...

 

After we were captured, I asked the infantry squad leader how they had gotten inside the perimeter.  His smile was radiant as he described how they carefully, quietly, slowly, crept up that steep hill with all the weeds and scrub oak, right past our machine gun position, relieving the sleeping machine gunner of his machine gun.  As he was joyously sharing this story with me, the sleeping machine gunner, who had apparently woke up to find his gun gone, came running into the tent area, blasting away with his M-16, coming to our rescue.  The infantry guy was very annoyed, and  told the gunner, "Hey, dummy, we cut your throat when we took your gun...lie down and die".  The gunner insisted he hadn't been asleep, but had been playing possum...he let the grunts go by so he could come in behind them...but no one was buyin' it.

 

Fortunately, it was not a real war.  It was supposed to be training, a test to see what we needed to work on in case we had to go to a real war.  It seemed that in addition to running convoys, picking up and delivering cargo, servicing our trucks and trailers, we needed to work an staying alive.  And some of us needed to work on staying awake. 

 

First Sergeant was right,  those guys were good


Comments
on Mar 01, 2013

Better to have a lesson taught in training than in real situations!

on Mar 01, 2013

In fairness to myself, I tend to be a little more alert when there are people about who want to kill me.

on Mar 05, 2013

You did a good job of setting the stage and describing the motivations of you and your group.  And then showing how the OpFor used that thinking against you.  I guess they are experienced at thinking outside the box.

on Mar 06, 2013

When you think about it, who is gonna come in the front door?  I should have been a little more tuned in.

on Mar 07, 2013

That was the lesson they taught you.

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