Aug 3 • 12M

Episode 6 "Machine Guns & Hand Grenades"

Don't Play With Things That Go Boom

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Don’t play with things that go boom. Lessons from my days in olive drab by Clint Morey, Specialist 4th Class, retired. 

Well … not actually retired … it’s more like  I didn’t re-up.

Episode 6: “Machine Guns & Hand Grenades”

The Army still had more weapons that we had to learn how to use. But we didn’t have to master them They just wanted to expose us to them.

The M60 Machine Gun

This may sound a little weird in today’s world but I have to admit that using a lot of these weapons was fun.

The M60 machine gun was a good example.

It fires about 550 rounds per minute.

That’s a lot of firepower.

We shot at old cars that had been set out on the firing range and the bullets from the M60 literally ripped the cars to shreds.

You would not want to be on the receiving end of one of these weapons.

Grenade Launcher

And then there was the grenade launcher. I believe it was called an M79 but I’m not sure.

Give me a break.

It was over a half century ago.

This weapon was also a lot of fun to use. It only fired one round at a time but the round it fired packed quite a punch.

Similar to a shot gun, the M79 fired one 40mm grenade at a time. But it had a range of over 300 yards, a lot farther than an infantryman could throw a hand grenade.

Hand Grenades

Speaking of hand grenades, I’d seen soldiers throwing hand grenades in the movies so I thought it would be easy. It looked like throwing a baseball.

Before they let us touch a real grenade, however, they made us practice with a “dummy” grenade. Those “dummies” were small metal objects that resembled a grenade.

What struck me was how heavy they were.

It definitely wasn’t a baseball.

Throwing one of these puppies took concentration and strength.

You had to be able to throw it over a certain height — there was a rope you had to clear — and it had to cover a certain distance.

I think they didn’t want you to throw it such a short distance that it would do major damage to yourself and your buddies.

If you couldn’t clear the height and cover the distance, they didn’t let you near a real grenade.

Of course we received instructions on how to activate it by pulling the pin. When you threw the grenade the “handle” would pop off and the countdown to explosion would begin.

We were warned about “milking” the grenade which is loosening your grip on the handle while you held it. The instructors explained that if you did that you could unknowingly set off the timer and it would blow you up even as you held it in your hand.

Definitely not a desired outcome.

I don’t know about the others but I tended to grip the handle very, very tightly. I had no desire to find out if what the instructors taught us was true.

Even with all those warnings, it seemed like an exciting activity.

I was looking forward to throwing my first hand grenade thinking it would be just like the movies.

We were positioned behind a special concrete bunker and the instructor threw a grenade. 

The explosion was unreal, sending dirt and rocks back at us.

It was then that I realized what I was holding in my hand. 

It was a tiny bomb that could rip you — or to be more accurate — rip me to pieces.

Needless to say, the “fun” quickly became respect for a very effective and very deadly weapon.

I also developed a lot of respect for the instructors who had to stand in the bunker next to recruits who had never thrown a grenade before.

Those instructors had to make quick decisions.

Whatever the Army was paying them wasn’t enough.

Chemical Attack

We also learned how to put on gas masks in case we came under a chemical attack.

After learning how to make the masks secure, we were taken to a small single room cabin in the woods. A small group was sent into the cabin and the instructor told us to put on our masks.

The instructor then walked around and tried to pull off each mask. If he was successful you had to leave your mask off while he went to the next step.

The next step was releasing the gas into the small room.

While those without masks began to tear up and some even looked like they were going to puke, the instructor explained how the gas worked on a human body.

Then he told all of us to take off our masks so we could experience what it felt like.

Recruits would cough, have trouble breathing, tear up and look unhealthy.

When the instructor thought a recruit was in enough pain, he would let them leave the cabin and go into the fresh air.

For some reason, the gas didn’t really bother me. I don’t know why but my eyes didn’t hurt and I didn’t feel sick.

But I didn’t want to stay in there to see how long I could last.

So — and I’m a little ashamed to admit this — I pretended to be in a great deal of discomfort.

The instructor looked at me and sent me out of the cabin.

I quickly went outside and enjoyed the cool, fresh air, without any bad effects from the g as.

Hand to Hand Combat

Then we had to learn how to defeat the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

Now I would like to say that growing up I learned how to be a good fighter, a man’s man, but that would be just a little bit of an exaggeration.

Oh, I did watch wrestling on TV. Not that NCAA type wrestling where they had rules and regulations but the type of wrestling where people wore strange outfits and had even stranger names.

I also watched roller derby on TV. I think the sport was supposed to have something to do with skating but it often turned into fights.

I did not have a lot of practice with actual one-on-one fighting growing up.

In fact during my entire school career I was in a grand total of … oh, let’s see … what was it? … one … fight.

And I did my best to avoid that fight.

I prided myself on my ability to talk my way out of just about any difficult physical situation, but on that day I wasn’t successful.

Something was said to me on the playground — we’re talking 6th grade here — and my friends who heard what was said made it very clear to me that if I backed down I would be a worthless coward.

I didn’t really want to be a worthless coward.

I also didn’t want to fight but I wasn’t able to come up with any pithy comments that would let me leave with my dignity intact.

Being labeled a worthless coward seemed more than I could bear.

So, the fight began.

I moved quickly at my opponent and wrapped my arms around him. We fell to the ground and I continued to hold so he couldn’t hit me.

That was my entire strategy.

Hold on tight for as long as I could.

I can’t tell you how glad I was when a teacher came over to break up the fight.

My schoolyard honor was intact and, more importantly, I wasn’t hurt.

THE ARMY TEACHES ME HOW TO FIGHT

That’s the awesome fighting background I brought with me to the Army.

But the Drill Sergeant explained not only did we have to learn to use all those “fun” weapons we had been practicing with, but we also had to learn how to fight the enemy with our bare hands..

So the Army was going to teach me hand-to-hand combat.

They knew they had to begin with my attitude.

The Drill Sergeant screamed at us to get us properly motivated. “What’s the sweetest tasting liquid in the world?” 

We screamed back, “Blood, Drill Sergeant!”

That motivation technique wasn’t working for me.

But the Army didn’t care if my attitude was right. They went right on with the training.

We practiced many moves that were designed to disable an enemy who was trying to hurt us. It resembled something like judo but it seemed to me that it required an enemy who would let you grab him, trip him, and roll him to the ground.

As I considered real life applications of these skills in a combat situation, I was leaning toward my preferred way of fighting developed back in 6th grade — wrap your arms around the enemy and hold on tight.

Hopefully a teacher or fellow soldier would come along and end the fight.

But then the Army introduced me to the hand-to-hand fighting technique of all hand-to-hand fighting techniques.

It was called …

THE REAR STRANGLE TAKEDOWN HOLD

As the Drill Sergeant demonstrated the technique, I was totally impressed.

More than impressed.

I was convinced this would work.

I could see this working in the jungles of Vietnam — in broad daylight or the dark of night. Night seemed like a better setting to me but I was sure it would work in either one.

It didn’t even matter if the enemy had a weapon.

This move was so good that victory was almost guaranteed.

You would sneak up on the enemy from behind and then quickly … wrap your arm around his neck, jump backwards with your feet going straight out behind you so you would land on your belly. 

The enemy, totally surprised, would fall backwards and land on his back.

On the way down to the ground you would make a quick move with your arm and break the enemy’s neck.

Battle over.

Talk about a move!

The Drill Sergeant had us practice the move on each other. Of course they had certain rules on how to practice because they didn’t want us breaking the necks of our fellow recruits.

But it was amazing.

It would work.

I was sure it would work.

There were a few possible complications however.

First, you had to find someone who stood perfectly still.

Second, you had to find someone who didn’t hear you sneaking up behind him through the jungle. Just stepping on a branch or leaf might give you away.

Third, you had to find someone who didn’t twist out of your hold as you wrapped your arm around his neck.

Fourth, you needed him to be willing to fall straight backwards so you could do the neck snapping thing.

Perhaps it’s a good thing I never had to use this technique in Vietnam.

But I was sure it would work … I think.

OTHER STUFF

Now the Army had a lot of other things for us to learn — map reading, first aid, how to use peripheral vision to see at night, and many many more skills a real soldier would sue.

But finally, after two months of training, we were done.

We were ready to graduate and become real soldiers.

LESSON 1 - If you work with dangerous equipment or in dangerous situations learn to do it correctly.

LESSON 2 - Many people join the military to learn a skill or see the world but you must always remember … at any time you may be called to fight and kill. Don’t forget that.

In the next episode I’ll tell you about our graduation day. It didn’t go quite the way I thought it would.

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Before I go, I'd like to share a blessing with you from the Old Testament.

“May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (The Living Bible)