August 20, 2012
The Captain and I, along with a few soldiers and notables from the Big 12, traveled to Larry's area. We have spent the last 3 days and 2 nights observing the Guard Company's protocol. As the defensive and patrol aspects of the Company is comparable to ours, it definitely lacks the friendship we've gained with ours. The two Captains had a private 2 hour meeting the first day and when they emerged from the house, the Captain of Larry's crew looked perplexed. I was not privy to the meeting nor was anyone from Larry's crew. So we were unsure of what to expect for the remainder of our visit.
The next morning the Captain approaches and informs we are to attend the morning target practice. Larry was shocked as this was a first! I was stoked hoping all went well and they'd be well supplied as we were...dreaming a bit but hoping for a chance. As we approached the range, we came across a PVT arranging guns on the table. He tells us we need to learn proper maintenance of the M-16 before practice with live rounds. As my Captain watched over the whole training scenario, he had this sheepish grin about him. I let the Pvt continue his instructions as I disassembled my firearm. As he was talking I was performing the tasks and reassembled the M-16 as he finished. As I was about to step away, a Staff Sargent came up behind me and barked..."Seems we have a smart ass in our midst. Bet he can't disassemble and reassemble blindfolded!" He definitely wasn't accepting of the whole civilian militia concept. My Captain spoke out..."I'll take that bet!" Ummm...I'd never done it blindfolded before. I sure hope I didn't let the Captain down. I was blindfolded, handed a M-16 and told to start. I fumbled at first but I got my bearing and wits about me and relaxed. I disassembled and reassembled the M-16 in working order. The bet...medical supplies for Larry's crew!
Next to the target range and we all zipped off 2 clips of live ammo at targets 200 yards downrange. The Captain was impressed with my marksmanship but he definitely had laced his words with sarcasm. I did not think much of it as I was on a diplomatic mission and no need to upset the balance this early. We all cleaned our firearms and headed in for lunch. The Captain and crew joined us for lunch and the others went to the mess tent. The Captain was still grinning and he chuckled when I asked why. He claimed that the other Captains arrogance and disdain for civilian militia was his Achilles heel. He was purposely setting him up. I was his Ace.
After lunch, we trained on basic maneuvers and had a mini-raid simulated. No firearms just basic maneuvers and how to counter act them. Nothing fancy as it was extremely hot this August day. As we broke from the mini-raid, I noticed one of the men from the Company carrying a sniper rifle. I asked if this was a M24 and he nodded slightly, looking me over from head to toe. I told him I was a big fan of the Remington 700 series and he scoffed that military weapons were far superior to mine. Now those that aren't familiar with the M24, its the military version of the Remington 700 series in .308 caliber but uses a 7.62x51 NATO round. A friendly debate started over the two comparable rifles and their qualifications. A few soldiers from each crew chimed in and the game was on. Before long, the two Captains were involved and a challenge was laid out. Starting at 300m, 3 shot groups would be charted and accessed between the sniper and myself. Each grouping must be within 1" location of your opponent and within 1/4" overall size in diameter. This would be done to 800m or until a winner was decided. If after 800m a winner was not declared, a shoot-off at 800m with 1 shot within 1/2" of location. Location is determined by the distance from the bulls-eye in any direction. Each contestant would be allowed a spotter, thank goodness!
The gauntlet had been thrown! The prize?? If I win, the opposing Captain must meet the same protocol as my Captain with Larry's crew. If I lose, the opposing Captain has no obligation to assist Larry's crew. Unbeknown to me, both Captains had already had an argument that day while we were training. Since the Army had no established protocol for such a scenario, there wasn't much my Captain could do besides persuade them to provide the same.
That night at exactly 1900 hours we gathered at the range for the sniper match. I had spent the last 2 hours talking with my spotter, Jim, who seemed patient enough to help this civy out. I was confident to 600m but after that things were a bit fuzzy. I'd never shot over 600m and had no idea what to expect. Jim calmed me with his charm and jokes. He said it was a goodnight for shooting as little winds and low light were perfect. And if all else failed, I'd be able to hold my head high.
I was a bit sore from the cast having been removed. How would the 308 and extra padding effect my shooting? Would I re-break my shoulder? I didn't care, the purpose was worth the risk. We shook hands and commenced to the range line. We flipped a coin and I was given first chance to shoot. 3 rounds in the bulls-eye at 300m. Easy as pie...yumm pie. The sniper did the same and was a bit faster in his shots. Accuracy I told myself..thats what its about today. We moved out to 400m and again, the same thing although I was drifting a bit left. Jim said the wind had picked up a bit and next round I needed to compensate for this. I forgot at dusk the warmer air rushes out as the cooler air falls. 500m and I was all around the bulls-eye but well within the limits of the rules. The sniper was a closer grouping but he had drifted high this time and was very close to missing the 1" criteria. 600m and I struggled with all 3 shots. My shoulder was sore and a bruise was developing. I left a grouping low and left of the center. I was 2 inches from center and was praying he was outside an inch from center or I was finished. 700m and my stomach was grumbling, sweating and shaking from the heat and lack of food. I didn't eat while talking to Jim as I obtained all the information possible. Jim told me 2 clicks right and 1 click up from our last setting. I sent one downrange and he said perfect, keep the same and you'll be fine. I chambered another one and sent the second one downrange and then the third. I jumped up from my position and ran off to the field. I dry heaved what was left of lunch. I couldn't watch the sniper shoot. I didn't want to know my grouping. At this point I wanted it over...over with and done. I heard the first shot...second...and the last. I stood frozen anticipating the outcome.
As the crowd started to applaud, gunfire erupted from the south and a flare went into the dusk sky. The air was whistling with bullets and the thump thump of mortar fire. Two mortars hit the firing range and screams of agony rang through the calm night.
I was helpless, I left my weapon at the firing range. I fell to the field and lay motionless. I heard footsteps approaching but not from which direction. My mind was blank...I needed to gain my wits about me or I was good as dead. The footsteps came closer and closer with what seemed about 5-8 people. Maybe..possibly..no idea how many. I was afraid to look. And at the last second a set of hands reached down and dragged me into the woods pinning my hands and covering my mouth.