Apparently the U.S. Army is provisioned in much the same way that corporations dole out their I.T. budgets; if the entire budget isn’t used at the end of the year, they obviously didn’t need the money and don’t get as much the next year. In the I.T. world this leads to wonderfully expensive wheelie chairs and “upgrades” to the I.T. staff computers, but in the military this means a gigantic orgy of cordite and plumbum. And naturally, something can go horribly wrong.
This story is all about how one dumbass, butterbar Lieutenant (me) planned, coordinated, and executed one such range and nearly got a lot of people maimed doing so.
A post (which I shamelessly stole from Reddit, thanks guys) chronicles what is quite possibly the most dangerous range ever on the face of the earth. The lieutenant, now retelling the story for the entertainment of the internet, was instructed to “not return with a single live round” and then sent off with…
15,000 rounds of 5.56 ball ammo for the M-16
10,000 rounds of 9mm ammo for the pistol
7,000 rounds of 7.62mm for the M60 machine gun
2,000 rounds of 40mm grenades for the M203 grenade launcher
8 hand grenades
15 claymore mines
1 AT-4 rocket
You can already see this going very badly. The story starts out with sheer stupidity and doesn’t stop until the ride is over.
The first indication that this range was destined for lore were the elderly Korean civilians walking leisurely downrange. No matter how much our interpreter implored them to leave (through a bullhorn), they were intent on gathering up rare indigenous roots for some pagan ritual (or just to sell at a local market) and had no interest in petty American qualifications.
“Should I put a round downrange near them to get our point across?” an NCO asked.
“Sure,” I replied.
In hindsight, I’m an idiot. Thankfully this NCO was a good shot and the tracer round that flew over atashi’s (the Korean word for gentleman) head had the desired effect. He picked up his one-eyed dragon wheelbarrow and left quickly, probably to inform his local politician that Americans were trying to kill him.
On the one hand, it was extremely effective in clearing the range. On the other hand, it was massively dangerous. But wait, there’s more!
With a ceasefire in effect (and no one injured), I figured it was time to walk down range and throw the 8 hand grenades we brought. Too bad only six of them exploded. Now I had a real problem. I couldn’t leave a dud on the range or some atashi like the previous one might step on it while collecting snipes. Luckily I had a stroke of brilliance.
“Let’s keep shooting and hope someone hits them.”
I recently passed the U.S.M.C. Level 1 Range Safety Officer test, and there were a few gems that I took away from my studies. Only one 500 lb. bomb can be dropped per pass per airplane. No simunitions should be used below 38 degrees. And if a grenade fails to explode, E.O.D. should be on the scene faster than an ambulance responding to their station’s front ramp. I’m pretty sure “shooting it with a machine gun” isn’t an approved method of dealing with unexploded ordinance.
That wasn’t the only E.O.D. related oopsie either.
“There’s only two fucking clackers!” Sergeant First Class Snuffy said. We had fifteen claymore mines, but somehow the detonators had all disappeared. It was time for another stroke of innovative genius, but I was tapped having used mine for the day. Seconds later I heard one of the few phrases I hope to never hear again.
“Don’t worry sir. I know how to get rid of them,” Sergeant First Class Snuffy said. Major Good Ideafairy’s guidance echoed in my head again – “Don’t bring anything back,” so I nodded my head weakly. It was time for a red-barrel ceasefire anyway, so off he went with two other troops and a bag of mines. What could happen?
Thirty minutes later I was halfway through an MRE when my eyes wandered over a densely foliaged part of the range. There I beheld our masterful Sergeant First Class Snuffy waving his arm over his head. “What is he…” I said as I choked down a dehydrated beef patty. Suddenly he dove for cover and BOOM!!!
“Jesus Christ!” more than one of us yelled. While explaining himself to the Sergeant Major after lunch, we learned that Sergeant First Class Snuffy had daisy-chained all fifteen claymores to two clackers to detonate them. He told his two soldiers, “when you see me wave my hand and dive for my life, clack away.”
Apparently the words “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” aren’t popular in Korea.
The aftermath was swift, assured, and oddly enough directed at the proper person.
“Let’s see,” he started. “Sniping at a civilian, destroying two weapons, firing dud-producing rounds, shooting at hand grenades, firing up but not down range, daisy chaining mines together, and firing an anti-tank weapon without clearing the backblast. Are you really even surprised this happened?”
“Uh…,” I stammered. “Yes?”
“Not you,” he replied. “You.” He glared at Major Good Ideafairy with the white hot intensity of a million suns. When I realized who he was addressing, I leaned ever-so-slightly to my left so he could get a clear shot at him.
“Sir?” Good Ideafairy replied.
I’ll never forget Bearclaw’s response.
“He did exactly what you told him to do-shoot off every round. And though the ends don’t justify the means and he is the dumbest moron in stupidville (his actual words), he at least showed creativity in accomplishing his mission and didn’t let petty obstacles, like civilians in the line of fire, stop him. I hold you responsible. You’re dismissed, Lieutenant.”
Moral of the story? Lieutenants, like computers, will do exactly what you tell them to. And that’s the problem.
Oh, and also:
- Call E.O.D. for ANY unexploded ordinance.
- DO NOT continuously fire your weapon until the barrel is cherry red. Unless you like rounds cooking off before you pull the trigger.
- DO NOT fire straight up into the air. That stuff comes down, you know.
- Only ONE claymore per clacker on a range.
- ALWAYS clear the backblast of a shoulder fired rocket launcher.
- DO NOT clear a range of civilians by firing warning shots over their heads.
I think I got everything. The full story has some extra bits of hilarious yet “how did you survive?” moments and is well worth a read.