Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking the heat

Here is a little anecdote from days gone by.

When I was in the Air Force, they sent us to this little base in Indian Springs Nevada for Desert Warfare School. We had already been to Ground Combat School in Ft. Dix, N.J. and I had already been to M-60 machine gunner's school at Indian Springs, but it never hurts to stay sharp with your ground combat skills.

The Desert Warfare School was mostly just a ground combat school in the desert. During the first week, we stayed in big tents and did a week long combat rifle course, shooting at things while walking around and all that sort of stuff.

The next week, they sent us afield, starting off with the raid of a fake town followed by a long march to where we would be our digging our own defensive fighting positions to live in (including eating our steady diet of MRE's) and pretend to fight in for the rest of the week while the teaching cadre snuck around, shot blanks at us and lobbed tear gas in our general direction. It was actually kind of fun.

We practiced the one up one down concept of security during the night, meaning that one guy would stay awake while the other guy slept and switch off every hour or two. One particular night, when it was my turn to be "down", I leaned myself back with my feet in the grenade sump and my back against the escape route. Apparently, the Sergeant I was assigned to in our hole flung himself on the ground and curled up in his sleeping bag while it was his turn to be "up".

Next thing I know, one of the Sergeants in charge was standing in front of me all upset and lecturing me on how in times of war I would be executed for falling asleep on post and all sorts of other stuff.

Since I didn't want to be "that guy", I didn't mention that it was my turn to be asleep and, even though I was semi-upright so I could be ready if anything happened, I was merely following the protocol that was spelled out for us in using the "one up one down" idea. The angry Sergeant stomped off after letting me know that he would deal with me later.

After we returned to good old Tucson, we were awarded the coveted "Defender" tab and authorized to wear it on our uniforms. The "Defender" tab is sort of like the "Ranger" tab, only is says "Defender" and it only takes two weeks of playing around in the sand to earn.

Some liked to call it the "Pretender" tab, but it still looked really cool.

I saw the list of who was awarded the tab, and my foxhole buddies name was not on it. "Why not?", I asked. Rumor was that he had been caught sleeping on post.

It turns out that after the whole fiasco with the angry Sergeant in the middle of the night, my buddy had gone and turned himself in as the actual scandalous sleeper.

So, Sgt. Sherwood, from the 836th SPS (later the 355th), for your honor and integrity and taking the heat after making a mistake that could have easily been blamed on a lower ranking comrade, I salute you.

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