[ Welcome | Articles ]
Tales of the Young Woodhead - or How I almost did not become the old Woodhead
Tales of the Young Woodhead - Cadet Basic Training (CBT)
Tales of the Young Woodhead - or Wwhere is my book?
Training for Infantry Officers included the admonition “Leave Dud Munitions alone!” Because the fact the munition did not go BANG when it was supposed to, does NOT mean it will not go BANG now.
Commissioning sources (ROTC, West Point, and Officer Candidate School (OCS) generate ‘generic’ Second Lieutenants. An Officer Basic Course (OBC) takes the generic officer and trains them in their branch specific duties. (For example, an Infantry Officer does not need to know how to repair the track on a tank, While an Armor Officer does not need to know how to set up and fire a mortar.)
My first experience with ‘less than prudent’ officers occurred at IOBC. As a young infantry officer, I attended IOBC, Infantry Officer Basic Course. Our training, at Fort Benning, frequently took place on areas that in the past were firing ranges. During the training, one officer noticed the fins of an old mortar shell partially exposed. He felt it was a good idea to dig out the unexploded round and take it home with him. Several of us advised him this was a bad idea. He was determined that this would be his souvenir and took out his entrenching tool to dig it out. As he dug around the shell, we heard the shovel go ‘ting’ as it bounced off the fins of the shell. The rest of us felt it would be wise if we moved elsewhere. Fortunately, our training moved us away from the shell and our young lieutenant had to end his digging, preserving his life.
In Panama, I experienced my next encounter. Officers run ‘live fire’ ranges on which other units train. Live Fire means that instead of using blanks, the unit training uses actual ammunition and explosives. One of these devices, on a range run by a peer, included Claymore Mines. The claymore mine is C4 explosives packed with ball bearings. When it explodes, it acts like a massive shotgun, shredding everything in its path. I was done training for the day and was sound asleep. My peer nudged my foot, partially waking me. He then dropped something on my chest. I felt it, eyes still closed as I tried to remain resting. “What is it?” I asked. He responded, “It is a dud claymore that did not go off on my range.” I was instantly, fully awake and I flung the device into the jungle. I also shared several observations about my colleague that I will not share here.
The third event happened as I was training Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC) Cadets. During their summer training, cadets from several colleges were training at Fort Bragg. We would shepherd students through an obstacle course where they would assault different obstacles (wire, trenches, etc.) at the end of the day, we would load ammunition for the next day. So, myself and several lieutenants were loading ammunition for the next day. Once lieutenant came up to me (as I was surrounded by ammunition) holding something. It was an M203 round. (and M203 is a grenade launcher, so this individual was holding a dud grenade.) I could tell from the tip it was an illumination grenade. (Illumination grenades are fired into the air at night. The White Phosphorus burns shedding light so you can see. Another use of illumination grenades is to fire them into areas where ammunition is stored to set off that ammunition.) So, me, surrounded by ammunition, a Second Lieutenant with a dud round used to make ammunition go BANG. (Spoiler alert, it did not.) I gently, but urgently asked the lieutenant to remove himself and the round from the area.
Fortunately, these episodes and others did not prevent the young Woodhead from surviving to become the older, wiser Woodhead.