Tactical Tuesday Mishap
11 August 1987
Tactical Tuesday was a pleasant little exercise wherein 6/52 ADA played war one day each week. It generally started around 4:30 or 5:00 AM with a "Lariat Advance" (Alert Advance) call from battalion headquarters in Würzburg. This was our signal to assume a wartime footing, and included such steps as assuming blackout conditions, issuing night vision gear, putting out extra security positions, and generally taking a tactical posture. Wed then spend the rest of the morning in various training sessions.
Since one platoon was always "in system," meaning their equipment was emplaced and active, the other platoon would generally prepare to move out. Sometimes these preparations would extend to having the RSOP unit deploy.
The RSOP unit was a recon team tasked with Reconnoitering, Surveying, and Occupying a Position. It was made up of a Tactical Control Officer, an NCO (usually from the Maintenance Section), a radar operator, a generator mechanic, a communications specialist or two, and an MP to provide security. RSOP would deploy with a M1089 CUCV (basically a Chevy Blazer), M38 long-bed 2 ½ ton truck towing a generator, and an M1088 communications truck.
RSOP would deploy to whatever the next site was going to be, usually about two hours ahead of the rest of the platoon. The team would then check out the site based on several factors, such as chemical contamination and terrain suitability for the mission. Once the site was okayed, RSOP would survey to figure the best place to emplace the system, and mark the site so as to speed deployment of the platoon upon arrival.
11 August 1987
On this particular day, my platoon, (AFP 1) was "out of system," meaning we would be deploying. LT Maloney came to me about an hour into the drill, and advised me that RSOP would indeed be deploying, and that I needed to draw all the equipment.
As I trudged the hundred or so yards from Post 3 to the Ready Building and Arms Room, I groaned. Since I was the newest MP in the battery, I was assigned to AFP 1 RSOP. This meant that I was responsible for all of the RSOP security gear, as well as the equipment I would need to run my dismount point once the platoon was emplaced. This included night vision gear, an M-60 7.62 MG, tripod, and other associated gear, as well as an M2 .50 cal MG for air defense on the RSOP truck. Hauling around the M-60 and its accessories was a big enough pain in and of itself, but I hated that M2 with a passion. The receiver of that MG weighed 80+ pounds, and there were two barrels that had to go with it. Lifting that gun into the RSOP truck, then mounting correctly on the first try was simply a royal pain.
By about 0830, all of the RSOP personnel had arrived at the gate, and our vehicles were in march order. The good news about todays drill was that we werent going far. It had been determined that we would practice deploying, by occupying the land between the Admin. area and our tac-site. We pulled out of the gate in MOPP level 4, drove down the road about 50 yards, then pulled into the new site. We spent the rest of the morning doing various drill and exercises.
By about 1100, we had received the "ENDEX" call, which meant that we could recover our equipment and return to our tac-site. It took us about 30 minutes or so to get packed up. The LT had told us not to worry about going back in convoy; just get your vehicle loaded, and head back on our own. By now, all of the other vehicles had driven out the back side of the field, onto the access road that wen around the back of the barracks. They did this to avoid the difficult right turn onto a narrow road had they gone out the way we came in.
SPC Barrientez was driving the RSOP truck, with PFC Coleman as shotgun, and your author as gunner on the M2. SPC Barrientez was planning on turning right out of the field we were in, and then pulling right back into the gate. He figured it would be easier that way. Remember that this was an extended-wheelbase truck, with a trailer attached. All together, this was about a 40-foot long rig, but he thought he could do it.
SPC Barrientez had Coleman get out and try to ground-guide him through the turn, to let him know when he was at the edge of the road. I stayed up on the ring mount, to watch from that vantage point. Barrientez kept inching through the turn, even as Coleman kept shaking her head and saying she didnt think he could make it. I was passing on the same information from above: it just looked too close. Barrientez finally thought he had it, and gunned the engine. I started getting nervous as I felt the front end slip a little; I almost panicked when the truck started bouncing as the edge of the dirt shoulder gave way and the truck started slipping into the ditch. This went on for about 20 feet, and I actually thought (prayed, rather) that we would make it. Finally, the back end of the truck with the generator attached slid into the ditch, tilting the truck to the left at about a 35 degree angle.
Im told I provided a rather humorous sight as I hung onto the spade grips of the M2 for dear life. I didnt know whether I should jump from the truck or ride it out, and if I did jump, I didnt know which way to go. It was a bumpy and not entirely thrilling ride. In the end, it took Bill Burns and his wrecker about an hour to extract the truck and generator, first by lifting the generator from the ditch, and then by pulling the truck to the side as someone drove it forward. Oh well. No blood, and no damage, so no foul.
I really grew to dislike Tactical Tuesday.