Friday, January 22, 2010

Its All Fun and Games ...

One of the things I miss most about the Army is some of the extreme(ly funny) situations that I found myself in while serving. Soldiers get bored in the field and their minds begin to wander. There are two oft-repeated saying in the military:

1) idle hands are the devil's workshop.
2) Whenever a group of soldiers get together with fellow soldiers of the same rank, they all act like they are 18 (or 10). This is just as true for officers it is for the enlisted soldiers.

Which brings me to my story ...

In the Summer of 2002, the 2nd Battalion, 8th (U.S.) Cavalry, put together a golf tournament for the entire battalion. Held a small golf course in Copperas Cove, Texas, it was to be a day of golf, drinking and smack-talking with one's brothers-in-arms.

It was a beautiful day for an outing. Not too warm (by Texas standards) with a steady breeze.

I was paired with Dan B., Mike V. and Jon M. (I will leave their full names out of it, since two are still serving). Mike was our support platoon leader and he was responsible for all of the ammunition/explosives/etc. in the battalion. This is only important because the golf tournament was to be a shot-gun start. But, alas, a shotgun isn't loud enough (or dumb enough) for tankers. The executive officer for the battalion thought it would be a great idea to signal the start of the tourney with an artillery simulator (which is pretty much the equivalent of a 1/4 stick of dynamite). You pull the string at the top and throw it as far as you can. After a 6-10 second burn, there is a 3-second whistle and then a 100+db 'boom'.

The golf course manager was down with this on one condition ... that he get to throw it.

We all took our spots at the respective tee boxes and waited for the boom. It came and went without incident.

I only introduce that because Mike was our support platoon leader and he was in charge of the pyrotechnics. On the second hole, we were talking about our last field exercise. Mike chimed in that during the last FTX (field training exercise) he decided that he wanted to drive a golf cart through a cloud of smoke. "Wouldn't that be cool?"

Reaching in his golf bag he pulled out a smoke grenade. A cylinder slightly bigger than a 12oz can of Coke; this one was gray with a red stripe on it.

"You guys gotta take a picture of me driving through red smoke," he said. We, of course, were sold on this scheme and immediately began to look for the perfect place to do this. Our mission was hampered by several things: a) we were on a public golf course b) there were soldiers on every surrounding hole and c) smuggling a smoke grenade off of a military installation is no small thing.

But, we were now intent on capturing this event for all of posterity. We quickly became frustrated that there was suitable place. So, Jon resorted to other forms of grabassery (including pouring a cooler full of ice over Mike's head, as you can see below) while we looked. By the way, we were playing some golf during all of this, I promise.

As we approached the second to last hole, we had resigned ourselves that this plan was not to be. Then we saw it ...
There was an access road leading away from our tee box toward the maintenance shed. Our time had arrived! Jon and I quickly parked our cart next to the tee and positioned ourselves for the best possible shot (photograph, that is). Dan and Mike prepared the smoke grenade and took off down the path.

Twenty-five yards away, Mike pulled the pin and dropped the smoke canister. Dan quickly did a 180 as we heard the familar 'pop' of the grenade igniting. The smoke began to pour out of the bottom of the smoke grenade. Jon remarked, "Doug, the smoke is white. I thought Mike said he brought a red smoke." Uh-oh.

By this time, Dan and Mike had made there way through the cloud (which is the picture you see above). It was here and now that two things happened almost simultaneously. The first was, the wind shifted and began blowing from directly behind Dan, Mike and the perplexing white smoke toward Jon and me. The second was that Dan and Mike realized with most of their senses that they had employed a CS grenade. Yes, one of those pesky riot control grenades that billows a cloud of Mace at would-be troublemakers.

That same cloud blew right over me and Jon. There we were ... laughing and crying. Eyes stinging, skin itching, laying on the ground unable to catch our collective breath. We took turns sticking our heads underneath the water cooler. Jon wished he hadn't poured all of his ice on Mike several holes ago.
I don't think we finished our round. As we strolled back into the clubhouse, we must have looked stoned; blood-shot eyes, giggling like school girls at our stupidity. Our boss took one look at us and began to ask ... then he got a whiff of the distinctive smell of CS gas. "Nevermind," he said. "I don't want to know."


Anonymous said...

In my first version of the story, I seem to remember someone thought it would be a funny idea to set the red smoke off at the clubhouse and drive though....But cooler heads prevailed. Oh what a mess that would have been.


Mike said...

Ah the memories!! I laughed myself to tears reading and reminiscing about that hallowed day. I miss my brothers in arms.


Ken said...

I've heard this story a number of times. It's great to see the pictures!