Military Accident = More than Fifteen Minutes of Fame


There’s an old saying that everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame. In Washington, DC I imagine that happens if your car stalls out in rush hour and every news station reports on “stalled car blocking the middle lane.” But we had one soldier who got far more than fifteen minutes of it, all over the 6:00 news.

We drove 915 trucks, which are very similar to tractor trailors, except green. The trailer part is a flatbed, so pretty much anything can be put on it. Add sideboards and a tarp and you can carry pallets of mail as we did during Desert Storm. A forklift can add a shipping container, or load poles. Lots of things can go on it.

We also had two main roads that we could take. But had two bridges. The design was strange because the bridges were together, and the road dipped under the first bridge, and then came up. If the drivers had a trailer, they were not supposed to go on that road, becauase there wasn’t enough clearance.

One of the drivers was carrying two 20 foot shipping containers on the trailer. They contained medical supplies. He forgot about the second bridge and went under it with the trailer. Hit it hard enough to knock off one shipping container and damage the other. Medical supplies were scattered all over the street, and the news crews came out to take pictures. Accident! Military truck! Terrible! Shocking!

We had a second accident, which occurred a few years later. The news footage showed the truck—no trailer—sitting on the freeway divider at an angle. They’d flown a helicopter over it. The mutliple car accident had occured in front of the military truck, and the driver went on the embankment to avoid hitting the disabled cars and also to get out of way. But if you listened to the media, it was “Army driver causes accident.”

Sometimes what seems like the truth isn’t.

Drinking water out in the field


Whenever we went out to the field for training, our squad leaders had to bring “potable water.” Potable water is what you can drink and fill your canteens with. The field on Fort Lewis was always way out in the middle of nowhere, so we always had to bring out water and food. There wasn’t anything like water in the MREs, though at the time, they had powdered sweet drinks that could be added to water.

The first way was our own personal canteens. We carried one quart canteen on our equipment belt, and that was supposed to be full before we went to the field. In Desert Storm, we had two 2 quart canteens—it was wearing water balloons stuck to our hips. I hated drinking out of my one quart canteen. They were always used when we got them from central issuing, and the previous owner of mine had added the MRE powdered drink to the water. The taste had leached into the plastic, so when the water warmed up over the day, the water would have this vague flavor of cool aid. Yuck!

Our platoons also brought out water in five gallon containers. Amazingly, it’s for sale on Amazon! This is exactly what they looked like. My squad would fill up some and put them in the back of a CUCV, which was a vehicle we used after the jeep and prior to the hummers. It looks kind of like the suburban, except camouflaged in dull green colors.

When the container was full up, it was a two person job to fill a canteen. One tipped the container while the other held the mouth of the canteen to the mouth of the containers. Water usually managed to spill. The sergeants would also take one and turn it upside down so the spigot was on the bottom, then set it on a table by the latrines so we could wash our hands. During Desert Storm, a lot of times this was one of those ubiquitous bottled waters that were everywhere.

The last way we brought out water was at company level—a lyster bag was set up. I tried using the term in something, but no one knew what the heck one was. It looks like a canvas punching bag dangling from a frame, or a tree branch. It holds 36 gallons of water and was always sweating with ice cold water. A picture is here.

The sergeants were always making sure we drank water. One of the women hated water and just drank coffee. She refused to drink water when we were in Desert Storm and ended up getting it in her record that she had been told she needed to drink water. She did end up dehydrated and on an IV at one point because she didn’t get enough liquids. Even just in a normal field activity, you can sweat off a lot of water, so it was always important to have more water nearby.

Eating out in the Field


The military is really big about training. But then, the entire mission of the military is war, and the only thing soldiers can do is train until and if a war happens. The purpose is to know everything by rote so when the big scary stuff happens, the soldier doesn’t have to think about what to do because she already knows.

We’d go to training on Fort Lewis once a week. Training wasn’t like what’s in the corporate world, where you go sit in a classroom while the instructor races through PowerPoint slides. We went out to the field, which was the woods. We would have liked the classroom, since Fort Lewis could be cold and rainy, but we rarely did anything indoors. Fort Lewis has a huge expanse of woods—beautiful fir trees that look like telephone poles and smell like pine. Lush green everywhere.

Any time we requested one of the training areas, we got our training schedule back with a list of who we needed to coordinate with. There was a lot of competition for some training areas, and sometimes there was just a company nearby. We’d have to take paperwork around to all these different companies so they could sign off on it. If they didn’t, we’d have to find another place. I ended going to 1st Special Forces and 75th Rangers to get signatures. No women, so I stood out!

The main reason for the coordinations was because some of the companies used artillery to train, and we did not want to be on the business end of that.

Anyway, we’d scheduled training at the Military Operations On Urban Terrain place, or MOUT, as it was known. You can see some pictures of a MOUT site here. It had basic buildings, so we could practice war in a city environment. This particular training site was always popular, and we were sharing it with another company. We were at one end, and they were at the other.

At lunch, the cooks brought food in the back of a CUCV. It’s food straight from the mess hall. They cook it and fill metal insulated containers to keep it hot, then serve it to us. So we get hot food on paper plates and plasticware. We’re tired from the morning’s training and still have the afternoon to go, so we go off and find spots to eat.

And then suddenly our eyes and throats are burning. No! It’s not the food!

The other company used CS gas (otherwise known as tear gas). The wind was blowing it all in our direction.

One soldier sat there and continued to eat—no one was going to interrupt him!—while the rest of us tried to find a better place. Did kind of ruin the meal for us anyway.