Monday, November 5, 2007

Musical Chuckle

So Veterans Day is fast approaching, and some enterprising sort handed out flyers the other day ahead of the festivities, to remind people of the fact, give information about the date, and inform us of some of the scheduled activities thorough out the city. It wasn't a professional jobbie, just something that someone with a computer and some time put together and printed out. I definitely don't mean to knock the effort, because it was appreciated.


Some parts of the flyer was kinda... odd. There was a section where they included the words to the various services anthems, and it kind of looked like whoever was typing had someone reading the words to them. Sentences were kind of chopped or mushed together at odd places. Perhaps that was why I was paying particular attention at the time when I read over the words to the Army song. Tying to figure out where the words fit to the music that I remembered, you know.

I have played the Army song at various times, usually at Veterans Days over the years. I've played 'em all, actually, on occasion. I really didn't take too much time to learn all the words to the songs, though, so most of the words were new to me.

When I was reading over what is apparently the 1917 version of the Army song, I just had to chuckle.

Was it high, was it low,
Where the hell did that one go?
As those Caissons go rolling along
Was it left, was it right,
Now we won't get home tonight
And those Caissons go rolling along.
----- Army song

Ah, memories.

Now, as much as one might like to blame the sun, the wind, the alignment of the stars, or the farting chipmunks off to the side of the range instead of operator error, there are times when it is not the crews fault when the impacts are not where expected. This is usually the ammo's fault, of course.

Seriously, some of the ammo that we used to train with was old and decrepit. I've seen rounds do some pretty funky things, and if I haven't mentioned it before, if you are in the position to see mortar rounds doing their thing, that is generally not a Good Thing (This rule is widely known for incoming, but it also applies to outbound, as well).

Most mortar ammunition these days comes in a box of three, individually contained in its own hard plastic container. Other rounds come, also in three, also individually wrapped, but in cocoons of beeswax. We called it wax because of its tendency to get all kinds of sticky when one attempted to open the round case. There was a handy opening thread on the outside of the case, but what invariably happened was that the thread would always snap, leaving you to hack open the case with something sharp (and ideally borrowed). That sticky crap would get everywhere.

Did I mention that it was more often than not really dusty and generally dirty out in the field? Yeah, it got interesting at times...

The beeswax rounds tended to give us the most issues when on the mortar range.

Generally when rounds are impacting way of course, you can, in addition to screaming at the gun team in question, do several things to correct the error. The team can punch the bore (clean out the barrel, removing any potential obstructions), check the dope (what information is on the sight), recheck the sighting (when targets are outside of visual range we used an aiming stake to give us a reference point) etc.

When you can hear the lazy fwumpfwumpfwump of the round turning in the air a very short and bowel-clearing distance right in front of the gun, or see what is in effect the mortar round conduct a fairly decent left flank marching movement, there really isn't that much to say to the team on the line. Well, there is, but it is very colorful, and spoken while running really fast.

When a totally anonymous, unnamed, random mortar gun team just happens to say, destroy a large portion of a very expensive moving target range to the left of our -er- their own range, it helps if you can describe the craziness that the old ammo did after leaving the tube. It does make for some long nights, though.


SpeakerTweaker said...

I'm not a Marine.

I've never fired an 81mm mortar.

I've never even stood next to one.

But after reading this, I feel like I could (no, not operate one with surgical accuracy) GTFO of the range of a squirrelly round or two.

I swear it's like I was there. Nicely told. Now please explain to my coworkers why I was laughing loudly enough to distract them.


Chris in SE TX said...

Between the officers insisting how well they know how to fire, and the squirely ammo, it makes me wonder what is the life expectancy of a mortar gun team member?

Man, it must have been "interesting" at the range....