Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fire Ant Hellstorm 1984

One night in the military my last year, I was creeping around my old unit in the woods. I was playing OPFOR (Opposing Forces) amongst my other makework duties so sometimes when they went out onto the artillery range for the night I would sneak up on their watch or get within 5 inches of their commanding officer to make fools out of them.

I could actually hear two NCOs talking about me standing in the line beside the chow truck while they were waiting for dinner to be served. "Where is that asshole PFC Blakemore tonight? Is he playing the communist again this evening? I swear to God I will beat his ass into puree with the butt of my M-16 if I catch him trying to sneak up on me again."

I had to lay flat on the ground and try to keep from giving myself away by laughing. I was in some really thick weeds and I had the poncho liner flipped out to the camouflage side laying on top of me. I was slowly dragging myself across the ground. Every previous time I tried this it had worked like a charm. Low light at dusk, a little camo and a lot of patience. It made the sentries look terrible if you even got as far as I was at that point. Nobody had challenged me yet or even seen me.

The other NCO responded to this guy, "Has the Colonel adopted this kid yet? I don't understand what is happening any more in this man's army. Is Blakemore now in his own special unit? He seems to running his own army now. I saw him the other morning and told him he better put some polish down on those boots, he was telling me Russians don't shine their boots, Sarge. I'm sorry, he says, I got to stay in character I am serious about this sh*t." The other NCO shook his head like this was the most depressing thing he had ever heard. "That troop might as well join Spetznatz. He's lost to us. He's gone commie. They will understand if we have to shoot his ass. He defected."

So I was already celebrating my victory. I had patiently come across the shallows of the nearby river, crept up to the shore behind some P2 who almost looked like he was sleeping with his helmet pulled down over his eyes. Then I had sprawled out in the weeds on the bank and begun crawling my way towards the middle of camp a meter a minute or so. If I was really patient I was planning to make it to the officer's tent again. It's really rewarding to stick your head through the flap while they are eating dinner and announce "PFC Blakemore, sir. Nobody challenged me for the password, I could have just as easily dropped a grenade in here just now."

Ever since this night, whenever I see a movie about commandos sneaking up on a camp at night I always think about all the things that could possibly go wrong that you never see in Hollywood films. A poisonous snake in the bushes. Centipedes a foot long than can bite a man and send him into convulsions. These movie commandos are always in the thickest part of some jungle wilderness that absolutely must be bloated with deadly spiders, snakes and chiggers and many of them never even identified by entomologists. Unbelievable hazards in all that thick undergrowth you see them skulking in.

This was Fort Riley, Kansas and I did not have direct experience with Fire Ants. It had not occurred to me that they could be in this patch of woods used by the Army for training exercises inside of post boundaries.

I crawled right up on top of the mound. Man, I was thinking, it is hot tonight. I'm sweating buckets. It feels like the ground I am lying on is warm, feels like a space heater.

Then the fire ants swarmed. It was like somebody threw a switch. They had air support. Winged ones erupted in a cloud around me. The ground forces bit me a thousand at a time and they were leaving their heads behind locked in the wound.

I just started this low painful growling, trying not to yell. I had to get up and run for the river. Everybody saw me. I was literally in there five minutes trying to drown them all but the welts and the bites were scary. They had bit me all over my entire body. I had to keep my head under because I had to drown the ones in my hair.

I stripped off about everything and got back into the water in the coldest deepest part and just sat there until I was sure I got them all. I waded out in my briefs carrying my helmet liner full of water and was pouring it over my head to try to wash them out.

I was limping from the muscles in my leg being so sore and swollen and I had to take it really slow.

I looked up when I was standing on the river bank and there the NCO from the chow line was standing. He stared at me for a long time.

"I gotcha ass you goddamn communist. All them fire ants are working for me, Private. I trained each and every one of them to bite a Marxist if they smelled one nearby. You lucky I blew the whistle to call'em off."

I had a really strong desire to write this story down tonight. It happened a long, long time ago. One of those moments lost in the rain, as the replicant said to Deckard right before he died.


Ave said...

Recently I returned to a very interesting blog written by another Tex-like bloke, Lt Sparks :

(for instance about SERE : )

The writer in an INTJ just like that Blakemore dude, and has excellent points about everything wrong in the US military.

Like I said countless times, all organisations make mistakes, but those who don't improve themselves upon justified criticism are bound to lose. That Sparks guy tried to make a difference for his country, and is thus a real patriot.

There's even a page about that thing with shiny boots :

Aeoli Pera said...

I saw him the other morning and told him he better put some polish down on those boots, he was telling me Russians don't shine their boots, Sarge. I'm sorry, he says, I got to stay in character I am serious about this sh*t.

Lol, I still haven't figured out why they care so God-damned much about making beds effectively. Futurama got that one perfectly.

Zapp: The key to victory is discipline, and that means a well-made bed. You will practise until you can make your bed in your sleep.
Fry: You mean while I'm sleeping in it?
Zapp: You won't have time for sleeping, soldier. Not with all the bed-making you'll be doing.

bob k. mando said...

Lol, I still haven't figured out why they care so God-damned much about making beds effectively.

that's easy. two reasons.

1 - train them to follow orders
2 - when dealing with large numbers of people, orderliness and cleanliness become essential. otherwise, you get a 'tragedy of the commons' when a significant minority of the population just starts leaving their shit half done for somebody else to clean up.

John said...

These are your best posts and I wish you'd write more of them. Maybe compile them into that book you should be writing.

bicebicebice said...

Agree with John

But also a sad story. Neanderthals are expert at blending in with the surroundings, i always did this as a kid playing cops and robbers. Stealth-cop, i always caught the most bad guys.

Why? Of course they couldn't see me, they can't even see you in broad daylight. Because, as we all know, in the sap eyes, the neanderthals hardly exists at all.

Kona Commuter said...

I don’t know how fair dinkum this report is. The source is a little suspect. However it mentions an unannounced launch of a missile at the time (perhaps in response to the thought that Russia had shot them down). Got Rice?

Chris from Sydney said...

Why is making your bed important ?
US Admiral explains why. No this is not an out take from idiocracy. (I made it to 1 minute mark before I couldn't stop laughing)

Unknown said...

Nice story, liked it