In the ‘70’s I was a true, hard-core Artilleryman! I loved it! There was nothing like going to the “field” on a FTX (Field Training Exercise). If you were assigned to a 155mm Howitzer Battalion, M109’s, you spent a lot of time in the “field” training. It really does not matter where you were assigned. Fort Hood, Texas! Germany! Fort Sill, OK! A Gun-Bunny belonged in the “field”!
Well, at the end of Vietnam & into 1974-1980 timeframe, the Army did not need as many 13 Bravo’s as before. The Army was training for a Fulda Gap crossing. Training focused on a dirty battlefield using Chemical weapons etc. So in 1980 I asked to depart my beloved Field Artillery and moved on to the NBC field. Nuclear, Biological, Chemical.
I received my Chemical Operations Specialist training at Edgewood Arsenal in tiny Edgewood, Maryland. Then off to Germany I go!
Stay with me here—I am getting to the Clip Board & Engineer Tape, I promise. Please keep in mind, all my previous assignments have been in Combat Arms units! Upon my arrival in Germany, I was assigned to a Maintenance Battalion! I was the new Battalion NBC NCO!
For the first time in my career, I was in a unit with FEMALE soldiers! The trucks and jeeps had heaters! The tents for the field training had HEATERS! I had an OFFICE! I thought I had it made. But it gets better.
My Battalion XO was a former Infantry Officer. The Battalion S-3 was a former Artillery Officer! I felt at home again. That is until the first FTX.
The S-3 tasked me with establishing the Battalion Headquarters Defensive Perimeter. Man, did I feel proud! Little did I know that the S-3 and the XO have been on previous field trips with the unit and were well aware of the lack of tactical expertise in the unit. I said this to alert you—Mechanics and Communication repair folks & Class 9 Warehouse personnel for the most part know NOTHING about Defensive Perimeters! Their idea of digging a Foxhole is to place white Engineer tape on the ground to “simulate” the Foxhole and then place a chair in the engineer taped circle to sit on!
A 63B Wheel Vehicle Mechanic or a 76V Supply Man are masters of their trade. But they do NOT make for a good 11B or 13B, I assure you. I asked the S-3 for Class V training items. He laughed at me. “Sergeant”, he said. “This is a Maintenance battalion. All Division Training Ammo & other Class V pyrotechnics are tagged for the Combat Arm units! The Infantry! The Armor! The Artillery! A Maintenance battalion is way down the list for these items.” This comment put me to thinking!
Everyone in the Army that has ever been to Germany, especially during the 70’s & 80’s, know about Graf, Vilseck & Hohenfels Training areas. Range NCO’s and Exercise Evaluators always wore white Engineer tape around their left arm and on their Helmets. This identified them to all FTX participants as Evaluators. Do what they say, when they say it! The unit MUST pass the ARTEP etc! I can assure you, I was prepared for the next FTX with the Maintenance Battalion. With Class V Training Ammo and Pyrotechnics!
I was a “resourceful” NCO. When the S-3 gave me the command ‘PREPARE TO MARCH ORDER”, (start packing up), I retrieved the “foxhole”. Remember the White Engineer Tape used to simulate a foxhole? I picked it up and put the white cloth tape in my pocket.
The unit returned from the FTX and starting recovery operations. The next few days were filled with washing trucks & equipment etc. I did not wash the S-3 Jeep. Instead, the Jeep was dispatched for a Recon of Hohenfels for the next FTX. The White Engineer Tape was placed on my helmet and on my left sleeve. I gathered a Clip Board from the Operations Section. The Jeep left the compound pulling an empty ¼ ton trailer. I had a map of Hohenfels and the current CEOI with me so I could monitor unit communications at the training site. I also “procured” a yellow flashing light to mount on the hood of the S-3’s jeep. My plan was in place!
So here I was. The white Engineer Tape wrapped around my helmet and left sleeve. Clipboard in hand! To the average soldier, I was a Range NCO or Evaluator. The S-3’s Jeep with yellow flashing light and empty ¼ ton trailer was parked in the middle of a crossroad of Tank Trails.
In the distance, I heard a roar. A column of M60 Tanks were approaching the crossroads. The first 2-3 M60 Tanks passed me. I stopped the next 3 or 4 tanks. Walked over to the Commander’s hatch, and informed the Tank Commander that no training ammunition was allowed on this tank trail. Please place all training ammunition in the ¼ Ton trailer. Any solder that has ever been assigned to Ammo detail and the difficulties involved when returning training ammo and Class V items to the Ammo Dump can understand not wanting to return to base with unspent training Ammo. The Tank Crew gladly complied with my request and placed M16 Blanks; M60 Blanks; Trip Flares; Hand flares; Training Grenades; etc in the trailer. In less than an hour, my ¼ ton trailer was LOADED with items.
During the next FTX, the Maintenance Battalion was ready for Infantry Tactic Training and Perimeter Security Training. The S-3 found out how well the training went when he tripped a booby-trap entering the TOC.
BANG! And being a true Artillery Officer, he just smiled and said “Good job REDLEG!”
So now, we all know the importance of White Engineer Tape and a Clipboard in the hands of a resourceful “cannon cocker”.Clip Board & Engineer Tape,