Saturday, July 22, 2006

Back online

Finally! We got wired for the internet just before going to Yakama Training Center for a week on the ranges so, now that I'm back from Yakama, I can consider our spartan living conditions at least tolerable. Had fun in Yakama, 0600 to 2400 was an average work day but did manage some Yakama night life on Thursday. Here's an excerpt from one of those days.

I Faced Death Twice Today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 started a little too early for me with the cell phone alarm belonging to the team mate in the bunk above me. I knew I had 60 minutes before breakfast and 30 minutes work to do, so I rolled over and closed my eyes for a few more minutes of sleep. I was succeeding in my intended task when I heard a crash nearby. Still reluctant to start they day, I casually opened an eye and was surprised to see the heavy wood and steel bed frame from the bunk above with a 200 lb. soldier on it about one inch from my face.

The bunk beds relied on a small wooden dowel in each of the four corners to keep the top bunk on the bottom bunk; mine only had one. With the equivalent of four vertical 2x4s resting on two horizontal 2x4s and only anchored in one of the corners, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. I thought, “There’s not much I can do about what has already happened.” and wanted to continue sleeping but couldn’t ignore the two team mates hovering over me trying to put the upper bunk back together.

In the middle of the afternoon, and after several hours on the convoy live fire range, an unexpected tracer started a fire. We worked hard and extinguished the fire after it burned a couple of acres of dry brush and were ready to start shooting again when we noticed some smoke again. We pull up about 50 feet upwind of the fire to prepare to tackle it again while I contacted Range Control.

My radio was tied into a pouch attached to the heavy body armor I was wearing so I left it on when the others in the vehicle removed theirs. I also kept on my helmet and Peltor radio headset/active hearing protection so I could continue to talk to Range Control and stayed in the turret to give my antenna the extra height. I had just told Range Control that we did not need any assistance when things changed.

The winds changed and gusted back toward us and I saw 30 feet of dry brush consumed by fire in less than a second. The flames leaped 20 feet high and were rapidly approaching our parked GMV (armored HMMWV or Hummer for the civilians). I knew that it took a long time to crawl into and out of the turret position with all that kit on and could imagine what that hot fire could do to all the diesel fuel in the vehicle. I also knew that, even if I could get out, I could not out run the flames spreading so quickly weighted down like I was.

I yelled for the driver and told him to get us out of there. The others ran back to the vehicle and tried to start it up. It probably started just as quickly these diesel engines usually do but it seemed like forever while I was watching the flames lick the front bumper; I though it would never start.

Since you are reading this in the first person, the outcome should be clear. We managed to get out of there after just warming the front of the vehicle in the flames with only a few bumps and bruises from getting bounced around the turret hole. We contacted Range Control and told them we would like their assistance after all and let them fight the fire while we shed our gear and left to eat dinner.

After all this, I smile, think of the cool stories I can tell then say “what an exciting day” and “I’m glad I said my prayers last night.”

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