You dropped it....You go pick it up!

It didn't happen often, but sometimes we were ordered to "re-distribute" our ammunition.   This would occur, for example,  if one battery got called for many more fire missions than another.  Depending upon which ground units got "in contact", they would call their assigned battery for fire support.  Consequently, the 105mm inventory would be unbalanced between the batteries of the battalion in this event.  The immediate solution was to "re-distribute".

It was much more common, however,  to be on a regular schedule for an incoming delivery of "lobsters", the over-used radio code word for howitzer rounds.  (If the enemy hadn't figured that one out, then they must've been listening to rock music stations on the Armed Forces Radio Network instead of our radio net.)

One fine day, we bundled up a load of ammo in a cargo net, out came a Chinook, picked it up, and was just a few hundred yards out when the cargo net split, spilling the load in the rice paddies below.  HOLEEE SHIT! We're gonna hear about this!!  The first thing was to send the 1/35th "palace guard" unit out to go secure it until it was recovered.  Fortunately, this was a "piece of cake" because we could see the ammo from the LZ and the area where it fell was an active rice paddy being worked daily by the peasant farmers.  They were probably just as happy to see it moved from their paddy as we were to remove it. 

Then came the "ass-chewing" from the Battalion Commander and then a series of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" directives from the Bn S-4 regarding  requirements to perform an extensive series of checks before using a cargo net.  The directives were written in the typical military jargon that implied how really stupid you were for not guaranteeing that a cargo net would never, ever split...and so on.  Furthermore, the directive would imply that you "knew it was going to split before it split, thus, this incident should have never happened!"  Ah, yes...a perfect "Catch-22"

The episode went away, I guess, as I never saw it on my OER and I wasn't "punished" by being sent back out with a line company.

I later learned that incidents like these provided for a lot of "paper creation" by the Battalion Staff officers and NCOs with memos being issued left and right, up and down the chain.  A copy sent here; a copy sent there.  Perhaps even a "reply by indorsement"...known as RBI...which meant that your commander had to personally acknowledge receipt of the "nasty-gram" from his higher command and respond.   Found out that many of them hated the chickenshit procedures that they had to follow on a daily basis working in a Headquarters unit.  Several or many VOLUNTEERED to go out in the field just to get away from the HQ.

In retrospect, I guess, it was episodes like these that stirred an otherwise dull and boring pot at the Headquarters unit and gave you some appreciation of working in the field.   We were the source of the "action"; they were the source of the "paperwork".

Lt Dennis Dauphin


FOOTNOTE!  Thanks to Sp4 Joe Cook, he adds that the military nomenclature for the Cargo Net is an "A-22".