My Army Days

Combat Heavy Rocks I learned how to operate equipment during a stint in the Army. I was a 62E, a heavy construction equipment operator (now called a 21E). I was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas and assigned to a Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion, the 62nd Engineers. (Check out the 62nd Engr Bn Community at Military.com and Bob's 62nd. Engr. Bn. Page)

When I first got to Ft. Hood my primary duty was operating a 621B Scraper. I put about 1500 hrs on that piece of equipment over the next 18 months. It was a really good learning experience for me and I got to be very comfortable around these big pieces of equipment. I moved on to operating a D8K dozer and driving a M920 MET (Medium Equipment Transport). I think MET is kind of a misnomer, the D8K weighed in at around 40 tons, (80,000 lbs). I loved running dozers and driving these trucks. While my primary duty was running dozers, I had a lot of opportunities to go to the "field". For the folks that have not had the pleasure of being in the military, the "field" is where the Army trains for battle. Since Ft. Hood is the largest Army post, we could spend a month in the field and never see anyone or leave Ft. Hood. While in the field I was usually supporting 2nd Armored Division or First Cavalry Division.

Engineer Coin While we spent alot time in the field on Ft. Hood itself, the real test came when we went to NTC, the National Training Center. This is where the armored vehicle folks got to "fight" against an Opposing Force in a desert environment. We, the engineers, spent the majority of our time building tank ditches, vehicle fighting positions, etc... It was definately an experience, trying to operate a dozer in the middle of the night with no lights. It was kind of difficult to keep the stuff we were constructing in its proper shape.

Not all the excitement came while we were at NTC, some of it happened just trying to get there. During the second or maybe third rotation I went on, we flew out to NTC on a military transport. Before we boarded the plane at Ft. Hood, we were provided a bag lunch consisting of a Bologna sandwich, a couple of cookies, a hard boiled egg, and a carton milk that needed no refrigeration. Needless to say I did not eat anything from that bag lunch, but a kid sitting next to me was really hungry so he ate mine and his during the first part of the flight. Since we were on a military flight, the flight crew had to do some training during the flight. So a flight that normally took 2 - 3 hours, ended up taking around 6 hours. About 3 hours into the flight the crew performed an in-flight refueling, that was pretty cool and we really did not notice anything. Then the Captain came over the PA and said that they, the crew, needed to due some nap of the earth flying. I am not an expert on NOE flying, but I understand that the pilot tries to stay 400 or 500 feet of the deck. This is really where the flight started to get interesting, as you might imagine. Probably 30 minutes into the roller coaster ride we now were on, the kid sitting next to me, yes the really hungry one, started turning the prettiest shade of green. He was grabbing frantically for a barf bag, he finally got hold of one and this bag was roughly 3 inches by 5 inches. He opened the bag, got a firm hold on it, and proceeded to put the bag lunch back into the bag. Well there was one problem, the bag that our lunch came in was much larger than the one he was trying to put it back into. After about two good heaves the bottom of the bag blew out, showering the soldiers that were facing him. I forgot to mention that on this flight we were sitting on bench seats facing each other. This started a very interesting chain reaction, it was easy to see who ate lunch and who did not. To this day I wonder if the flight crew was laughing at us, I probably would have been if I was in their shoes. At this point I really lost track of time, because I was concentrating on not needing a bag for myself. After what seemed to be an eternity the Capt. announced that they were done with the NOE flying and the only thing that they had left to do was to do an air drop of the pallets on the rear of the plane. To do an air drop, the back of the plane opens and then the air crew does some magic and the pallet gets pulled out of the plane and ends up on the ground. What I remember from this part of the trip, is that the air conditional was shut off, and as anyone that is fighting nausea knows, the cooler you stay the better you feel. So the chain reaction that had happened earlier had a slight resurgence during this part of the trip. The plane descended. almost like it was landing, then we heard a couple of metallic sounds and then the the plane started climbing again. As the plane was climbing, I could not help thinking - I hope my duffle bag is not on the top of one of those pallets - because by this time you could see the results of the bag lunch running in the corrugated channels in the floor. I had almost succumbed to the surrounding nausea when the cabin started filling with smoke and the oxygen masks dropped. Well I learned something interesting, if I breathe oxygen my nausea goes away. It seems that one of the hydraulic lines broke and caught fire while the crew was closing the back of the plane. The crew had it taken care of pretty quickly and things returned to, I will not say normal but something better than what it had been. We landed shortly after dumping the pallets, and I do not think I have ever been or ever will be as happy to get off a plane.

While I was serving I had the opportunity to participate in Desert Shield/Storm. My battalion was attached to the 20th Engr Bdg during this time. After 8 months in the desert I came back stateside. Since my elistment had been extended for the time in the desert, I decided that I needed to try something new and left the service.

Our Flag in Afghanistan I originally wrote this page back in 1998, before the world as we know it changed. My experiences in South West Asia in no way compare to what our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen are experiencing today. My thoughts are with you and your families, also my prayers are for your safe return.

God Bless and a Heart Felt Thank You to our Men and Women in Uniform.

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
                        - Winston Churchill
 
You are NOT Forgotten
 


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