Sometimes the Adventure Finds You
While I was searching for action-adventure on Google, it seemed like everything that popped up was sports. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think sports count as adventure. When I read adventure books as a kid, it wasn’t that we went off and found an adventure, it was that the adventure found us. And, of course, it was never what we expected. Fun to read about, fun to tell stories about, but not fun to be in the middle of.
When I was in the first Persian Gulf War, we had one of those, where the adventure found us, and we really didn’t want to have it. We’d joined our new battalion (an organization made up of companies), and for whatever reason, the battalion leadership insisted that all the tents had to be dress right dress. So we were in rows, with the battalion headquarters in the first row and my company in the second row. There was about four feet between the tents, and they had the brilliance of wisdom to attach the tents to each other.
Anyway, we hear a commotion — people yelling and running around — and go to see the source. We’re thinking Saddam Hussien is invading us, because that was our biggest fear. A tent in the first row was on fire! The fire had apparently started because a soldier had been filling a kerosene lantern and didn’t realize it was still lit. The fire went up the nozzle, and into the can, so he threw it into the tent.
The army tents are very flammable. This tent was almost gone in minutes, and the fire crawled across the ropes to the next tent, which was the battalion commander’s. The wind’s blowing pretty good, so it’s whipping the fire around. We’re not that far away from this fire — the female tent of my company was right across from it. I ran into to see if anyone was inside, but it was empty. As I came out, bullets started going off. The heat of the fire was setting off bullets that weren’t supposed to be in the battalion commander’s tent.
At that point, everyone makes a run for it, because there’s a real danger of getting hit by a bullet, plus, the way the fire was spreading, we could lose the entire battalion. Guys were diving over berms headfirst into foxholes. My squad leader joked later that I had never run so fast (I’m an extremely poor runner. I actually walk faster than I run).
One of our cooks, who was a former Marine, grabbed the water truck and brought it over. While he hosed down the second tent, two other soldiers got knives and dropped the third tent, kind of like a fire break. With that, they were able to get the fire under control. About a week later, the battalion commander took my footlocker because his had been destroyed in the fire.
Have you had an adventure? Tell us about in the comments.