June 27th, 2002

monkey pirate

(no subject)

[6/27/2002 4:24:41 PM | David Krieger]
War Stories

I recounted the following story on "the board" - and so I'm editing and putting it here, for your amusement.

We had occupied a position on "Tomahawk Ridge" at Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA. Our patrol base was strung out along about a kilometer of a very thin mountain ridge, spanning from a gap (which we were supposed to observe traffic through) to a saddle in the ridge to the West of our position.

I, as the dismounted patrol leader, was given the order to secure our patrol base, and patrol 100m in every direction from our position. It was late at night in the summer, with heavy cloud cover, and hence, very dark.

I checked my map to write a quick op-order and view my route. I pointed out to my Sergeant (whose name was, I kid you not - Sergeant Wolf) that 100 m to the North and South would be over the edge of a cliff. He said, "It's not that steep, just go as far down as you can, and then skirt the edge."

I was skeptical. You know, when contour lines on a map are stacked up right on top of each other - that usually means things go down (or up) right quickly. But I knew my pace count very well, and knew the distance from my current position to the edge of the cliff, so I knew exactly how many steps I could take until I would be near the cliff.

I set out, with the other two guys in my patrol. As a leader, I didn't believe in leading from the rear, so I took point. I also carried my own radio, especially on small patrols. Anyway - I started my pace count. I got to where I figured the edge of the cliff was, but I could see ahead of me that there was a tree. I figured I'd go crouch behind the tree all stealthy ninja-like, and take a look around.

There was one fatal flaw in my plan - the tree was growing out of the SIDE of the cliff, not the top. I stepped up next to it... and into thin air.
To this day, I'm ashamed of the fact that I did not manage to let out a "Goofy" Yell, ala "Goofy Does Sports" ... you know, "WaaaAAAh -HHAAAA-hooooOOOOO"!

If only I had been composed enough. I think the only sound I made was a strangled "Ulp!" as I fell. To my credit, however, I didn't let go of my rifle. So I landed at the bottom, with rifle in hand. I was pretty sure I was dead. From way, way above me,I heard the afore-mentioned Calvin Evens (spec4, 1/111th Infantry Recon Platoon) call out, "Corporal? Corporal, are you ok?"

I patted myself down for broken bones. I figured I had to have a compound fracture or something. Nope - but my fatigue pants were wet, starting below my kidney and down my thigh. I figured I was pretty badly cut. But I called up, "I'm fine!" I flashed my red-lens flashlight at him, to show him where I was.

There was a moment of silence and then..... "Holy Shit! How'd you get down there?"

I got on my radio. The transcript would have read something like this:
"White 1, white 1, this is Black Eagle leader, over."
"Go ahead black eagle leader, this is white 1."
"White 1, sitrep, break. Requesting mission abort - have fallen down a mountain, over."

Several moments of silence. Then "white 1" (our Platoon leader) comes back, with astonishment written plainly in his voice.

"Black eagle leader, this is white 1. Say again, over."
"White 1, I have fallen down the mountain. Request permission to abort patrol, over."
"Uh.... black eagle leader, do you need medevac?"
"Negative white 1, am operational, over."
"Roger black eagle leader, bring it in. Uh... do you need help?"
"White 1, negative. Eta in five, out."

I clambered back up. When I climbed back up, unharmed, I caused the spontaneous religious conversion of one Specialist Calvin Evans, who subsequently quit drinking, found god, and started to do right by his wife and kids. Evans looked at me and said, "Jesus wants you here for something. God's got his eye on you, mon. God's got his eye on you!" (Evans was Jamaican)

We wound our way back to our patrol base. I was concerned that I was hurt pretty bad with the bleeding on my thigh - so I got out a poncho and hid under it so we could use a white-light flashlight to take a look. I stripped down, and found absolutely nothing wrong with me. But still, my pants were wet -- until the medic pointed to my canteen, which had a huge hole, staring at one side and punched through clean to the other.

If that rock, which punched through a canteen, had been a few inches over, it would have gone clean through my kidney, and I'd probably be dead.

In the morning, we went back to look where I fell. It was at least 75meter. I had actually fallen from one grid square on the map, onto another. My platoon sergeant laughed, and said when he told our First Sergeant about he said, "Yep, he started falling in Bravo2 and ended up in Charlie4 !"

Thereafter, although the guys would still joke about me being indestructible, they would do so with a note of superstitious dread in their voice. To date, there's no evidence to contradict this "indestructible" theory, either.