03 August 2010

Traveling Light

On my very first Annual Training with Iowa National Guard, back in 1992, our Army communications battalion drove Humvees for two-and-a-half days--stopping to rest at two "overnight halts"--all the way to Camp Shelby, Miss.

As a new soldier, I didn't realize that such a large-scale, long-haul mission was so unique. Subsequent Annual Training missions were more likely to take us only a long-day's-drive away.

For example, when I joined a combat Engineer unit that used tracked Armored Personnel Carriers (A.P.C.), we'd either have our APCs hauled by other National Guard units specializing in Transportation--Army semi-truck drivers--or we'd borrow equipment from a motorpool at Fort McCoy, Wis. Think of the latter as an Avis or Budget rental service run by Uncle Sam: "Sir, will you be returning that M113 with a full tank of gas, or will you want us to fuel it for you?"

Just because our tracked equipment couldn't be driven on the highways, however, didn't mean that we couldn't be. We packed into our remaining Humvees and drove ourselves to where we needed to go.

When I was transferred to a "light" Infantry unit, however, we didn't even have enough organic Humvees and trucks to transport all our personnel and equipment. (In Army terms, "light" means that you're capable of walking everywhere.) That meant that most of our soldiers bussed back and forth to Annual Training.

So at least the Infantry guys in our brigade are trained up on how to cram themselves and their backpacks into a can, so that they can be bussed cross-country. To mash together an Army training rule-of-thumb with an old Greyhound slogan: "Fight like you train, train like you fight. And leave the driving to us."

Still, I'm not looking forward to the bus trip to Afghanistan ...


  1. With any luck I will be embracing the suck with you... PDV

  2. And I remember in 1988 with HHC 389th Engineers (USAR) to avoid a long bus ride back from Camp Grayling, MI, I volunteered to drive in the convoy of vehicles back. I slept on a picnic table in Michigan one night and under a trailer at an RV park another. (Where we got to use the showers!!!) Luxury compared to the bus ride! PDV

  3. My favorite was one drill where we were supposed to tactically dismount from the buses on arrival at the training area. The result was the same cluster unloading as every other time.

    "Death from a bus!"

  4. I totally need to find a "Death from a bus" T-shirt or bumper-sticker ... Classic!


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