This post was inspired by Reetta Raitanen, who was interested in several gun articles that I mentioned I’d read. I started thinking about when I was in the army, because it’s still a little unusual for women to handle guns. Then I started thinking about when I had gotten shot at. It was military training, and not war. But that didn’t make it any less terrifying.
As part of the last few weeks of basic training, we went on Paragon Trail at Fort Dix, New Jersey. It was a live fire exercise with real bullets flying overhead and grenades going off. While it was controlled, it was still dangerous. A soldier from the last cycle had been struck by grenade shrapnel. We could get hurt!
And I nearly did.
It was so dark out when we went on the trail that it was hard to see anything. But we heard everything, from the staccato of the bullets and the booms of explosions. It was all around us, and we had to get across, while in full gear — helmet, equipment belt, gas mask, and rifle — navigating around various obstacles.
I remember bits and pieces of it. It was like my whole world narrowed to getting across the trail and away from the danger. It’s one thing to hear bullets on TV. It’s another thing to have them firing over my head, and the only thing I’m thinking is, “I’m going to get shot! I’m going to die!”
It was my turn to go, and I ran, faster than I’ve run in my life, the rifle clunking against my legs. I didn’t breathe, I didn’t think — I just reacted. There were flashes of light from the tracer rounds above my head, and the gunfire. That’s what I remember the most, because sound punctuated how close those bullets really were.
A video of tracer rounds from a machine gun.:
Part of the trail was getting through an obstacle of concertina wire.
It’s nasty stuff, with lots of pointy parts. We had a soldier fall into several years later, and it took the fire department two hours to get him out. And I had to crawl under it on my back?! I had to lay the rifle on my stomach, and I kept envisioning that my hands would get cut up by it. The tracers were still streaking through the sky above me as I scraped along the ground. At last I was free of the concertina and bolting toward the end of the trail.
By then, I was sweating so much that it was pouring down my face like Robert Hayes on Airplane! I needed windshield washers for my glasses, because I could not see anything. I took them off, but now the sweat was getting into my eyes. My eyes stung, and between the dark and the sweat, I couldn’t see much. But I’m still running, because I have to keep moving. I had to get to safety now!
I’m almost there. And then this shape darted at me, and it’s screaming. The words didn’t make any sense. The shape grabs me and drags me in another direction. It’s the drill sergeant, and I scared him. I’d almost run into the concertina wire!
Reading about action is fun. Being in it … well, not so much.