It is amazing sometimes to think back on some of the good funny, ridiculous, and at times unbelievable stories from your time under a Green Beret. And as always, SF stories like fishing tales, as you grow older, get better with age.
Now I am not saying that any of these stories are BS, but let’s just say, that time is a wonderful thing. The passage of time makes the fish bigger, the girls prettier, and the stories so much better. ‘Nuff’ said.
So, just a few months ago, I was on the phone with Danny C. my old A-Team leader from way, way back in the day. When I say way back, that isn’t an exaggeration. Danny was an outstanding officer, a great Team Leader, and an even better man. During a deployment to Honduras during the 80s….(I told you it was way back), Danny was injured during our deployment and would be forced to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
But that has never stopped him from living a very active lifestyle, Danny’s gone skiing at Aspen, skydiving and 100 other things that I never find the time to do anymore. We were talking on the phone that night, Danny had just sent me a gift in the mail and he was making sure I got it.
We began to talk about that last deployment before he got hurt and some of the stuff that went down and some of the fun we had training with the Honduran Infantry guys and then later the Airborne Battalion located at Tamara, in the mountains.
The drop zone was right next to the highway and due to the prevailing winds, our Chinooks would drop us on the other side of the highway and you’d drift perfectly right over the DZ. Which always made drivers on the highway nervous to see paratroopers drifting across the road before hitting the hard ground of the DZ.
We spoke about the classified but very low-tech project we were working on with Pack Animals and other interesting tidbits that made us fondly remember the days of yore. But that got my own mind going and after I hung up I remembered another funny story from that deployment.
We had moved further up in the mountains with 6th Infantry Battalion (Centaurs) at Ojo de Agua. They were located in the mountains and had a large base for the Contras at the time. There were enough GP Medium tents where a battalion could refit and rest there.
They also had a large shooting range built on several of the rolling hills on the base. We were doing a range day with our Honduran counterparts using M-60 and M249 (SAW) machineguns. When we had first arrived the weather had been cold, raw and rainy. But about a week later, it had dried out and was hot and sticky. And a stiff wind had dried everything out to where it was like tinder.
We were high up on a hill shooting at targets located about 300-400 meters away. The Honduran kids, not used to having this much ammo were having a ball, blazing away at the silhouettes with reckless abandon. Those “6-to-9” round bursts we discussed in training were quickly forgotten.
One of the tracer rounds from the SAW started a range fire on top of the hill. Our Hondo allies had a pickup truck, an old beat-up piece of junk that looked like it would fall apart at any minute, loaded with soldiers who raced down there and quickly put the fire out.
After lunch, we had a second group of guys firing, their mortar section, who were beginning to get the U.S. 60mm mortars. We did some crew training with them and their crew drills were pretty good. They had a few old Soviet 82mm mortars, from god knows where. They looked like antiques. Firing those looked like an iffy proposition. They used US 81mm mortar rounds, which we didn’t have any.
I never fired a US round thru that Soviet system (I started as a heavy weapons guy), but one of our other guys had. He said it was a weird sound when dropping the round. Instead of that metallic sliding, sucking sound, it was a click, clickety-click, sound as the slightly smaller American round would ever so slightly bounce down the tube. Although you could fire those, Luis A. said, they weren’t the most accurate…no kidding.
So, after doing some crew drill on the 60mm M224 mortar, the mortar guys got their turn on the machine guns. After a few moments, one tracer round hit in front of one target and bounced backward about 10-20 meters and started a small fire in the grass. It was burning in a small neat circle.
Danny was reaching for the radio to tell the Hondos in the beat-up truck to put out the fire when one of the other guys spoke up. “I can put that range fire out, sir,” Bruce P. said. Bruce was a big, huge guy who was loaned to us from the 2nd Ranger Bn. for this deployment. He was also the Weapons Plt. Sgt. in the Batt.
The Hondurans were in awe of his size, he was easily double their diminutive height and scared shitless of him. Bruce had a very typical Ranger haircut, where he was buzzed on the sides. In the Honduran army, they only did that to the criminals, “ Los Castigados” in their terminology.
He grabbed the smaller M8 baseplate for the 60mm mortar, he put a round in the tube and lined up his range estimation. Giving himself a bit of windage, he pulled the trigger and we all waited a few seconds for the round to go down range. Bruce grabbed another round and was preparing to fire again when the mortar landed with that flat sounding explosion. It landed squarely on the fire, which was no more than 3-4 meters wide at that point.
The results were electric. The Americans whooped, “Good shot bro,” while the Honduran mortar section sat there dumbstruck with their mouth’s literally wide open. It was a shot in a million. “Holy shit,” Bruce said to Danny. “I’ve never hit one on the first shot before.” Castillo laughed.
Look at them,” he said. “They are going to kneel and ask you to bring to bring back the sun any minute.” We all cracked up. The Hondos sat there mesmerized for a few more seconds. “Hijo de puta! Their Lieutenant yelled. He turned with a big grin and began to bark at his troops. We all cracked up. Bruce who at that time, had a very limited Spanish vocabulary, asked Danny what they said.
“Basically, he is telling them that until they can learn to shoot like that, he’s going to shave all their heads.”
Bruce again tried to tell us that he’d never hit anything like that on the first shot. Danny told him to act as he did it all the time. Bruce played along and set down the tube and told the Hondos, “Eso fue fácil” (that was easy), after asking Danny how to say it. Again, they stopped to gawk at the blown out fire down below.
After that, every time Bruce walked thru the compound, the Honduran kids would salute him like he was a field grade officer. Not long after we returned from that deployment, Bruce joined SF and went thru the SFQC as an 18E and later became an officer…and a very good one.
Just another great day in the 7th SFG.
Photos of Honduran Anti-Tank Company and Pack Animal training: Author,