Rules are written in blood…

Did I ever tell you about the time I killed 97 American soldiers?

I’m not going to write all the doctrinal manuals here for you. Just trust me when I say that there’s a lot of them. Doctrinal manuals spell out how the Army conducts its operations. And every rule in them is written in blood. These are the lessons learned in 233 years of American soldiers fighting. One of the rules talks about crossing into and out of friendly lines. As in, you should coordinate with people before you do it.

We were in the Pinion Canyon Maneuver Training Center in Southern Colorado. The company was set in the defense. In the morning, we expected a battalion to come crashing down on us, trying to break through our lines. We figured that before the onslaught of tanks and Bradleys came, the enemy would try to infiltrate some dismounted infantry into our position. They would be tasked to pinpoint our defense and possibly to attrit a few vehicles at the start of the battle. That meant we stayed up all night, scanning the area with the thermal sights on the Bradleys (our own dismounts had moved forward towards the enemy position in an attempt to locate the main effort of their attack and give us early warning. Once they spotted them, they could call in artillery missions on them).

So it comes to pass that while my driver is sleeping in his seat, and my gunner is in the back of the vehicle catching some much needed rest, I look through the thermal sights and see quite a large number of dismounted infantrymen approaching. They are about 2 kilometers away. They are in a column formation, which isn’t the best way to disperse a crowd of grunts, but it is the easiest way to navigate at night. No sense getting everyone lost! I didn’t count noses, but I could tell this was quite a crowd. I knew our company had only put about two dozen grunts forward, and this was  a lot more than that.

I called the CO on the radio and told him what we had. I mentioned that they didn’t seem to be taking any particular efforts to hide or conceal themselves.

The CO called back, “Kill ’em.” So I fired up the 25mm (hooked up to MILES gear, of course) and lit them up. You could see them jump around and reach for the keys to turn of the squealing of their MILES harnesses. I zapped every one of them. Easy as pie.

Pretty soon, the radio net started heating up. There were some very unhappy people out there. It turns out, we had been augmented by a National Guard light infantry company. They had gone forward to perform a raid on the enemy and to strip away his dismounts. The only problem was, they didn’t bother to tell anyone what they were up to. Nor did they tell us that they would be coming back through our lines. My CO had a pretty good idea it was them when I called him, but had me fire them up anyway. The lesson they learned was one the parents of any teenager has taught- be sure to let us know where you’re going and when you’ll be home!

6 thoughts on “Rules are written in blood…”

  1. During an ExEval, we were emplaced waaaay outside Fort Bliss. Launchers, Radar ECS the whole magulla. As part of the scenario, we had to defened our site against aircraft. namely the soviet era helos OpFor piloted to train units out on the Fort Bliss rangers. During an AAR, the fellows at the CP rang the “air attack” alert. Since the attacks could come at any time (espically when 0-6’s were visiting, cause they wanted to see if Patriot soldiers knew what to do). We picked up our weapons and aimed our blanks at the sky to find…

    …a National Guard Blackhawk on a routine training flight.
    They we crusing by. Me, my platoon sgt and a few others tried to stop the “slaughter”. But they turned and flew away, just in time of the Brigade commander to tell us that we should be more aware of our surroundings.

    Another time, the OpFor contractors were using a Cessna to drop CS gas on us. The Cessna flew over when one of my battles we in the latrine, pants down with a Class I download. He put is mask on, shouldered his rile and kept firing….

  2. Oh, I wouldn’t have shot in a real war. You could tell all the equipment like helmets and rifles were American. I was pretty sure they were friendlies, but the CO wanted to make a point.

    But I might have had a real problem telling, say, Iraqi Army from insurgents. The thermals are great, but they aren’t perfect. That’s why you have to let folks know what you are up to.

  3. You know, back in the mid-1990s the policy for any blue-on-blue “accidents” like this at the NTC was a 15-6 if not a full up commanders inquiry. All notional of course. I think the biggest reason was to drive the point home to the troops – If you mess up in combat, be prepared for all the paperwork that follows. Ah, the joys of the Clinton-era Army.

  4. The one time I got smoked at NTC was a “fraticide” and we never heard much about it. I’m saving that story for later when we discuss the counter-recon battle.

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