Monday, March 24, 2008

Class Time Fun Time

A 'Hip Pocket' class was one that an NCO was expected to be able to give on a moment's notice. It was so named for the small, green-cloth covered notebooks that we all had just about at all times. As a mortar NCO, I was one of those expected to be a resident expert on most all areas of the subject, and was voluntold numerous times to give various classes.

Classes like... Call for Fire.

The Call for Fire class was actually more of a radio class than one dealing with the 81mm or 60mm mortar, but it was vital nonetheless.

One day the squad leaders got together and made up a plan for the various classes that we were to give. If I remember correctly, one Sergeant was going to give the actual Call for Fire class, another, the FDC (Fire Direction Control) Chief was going to give the gun-line guys a rough idea of the workings of the platoon's brainiacs, and I, with my FO (Forward Observer) experience, was going to hold hands with the Marines that were having any issues and needed to cover the material a little bit slower and more in depth.

Why? I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose.

I selected a few Marines that I knew were going to need some help in advance, and told the other NCOs to send any others to me as their eyes started to glaze over.

I didn't have to wait very long.

I started my class the same way that most Marines started their classes. I introduced myself to the FNGs, stated the objectives of the class, and told a bad joke.

I continued with (attempts at) stressing the importance of being able to call for fire.

ME: Why is this an important class?

CRICKETS: *chirp, chirp*

ME: Bueller?.... Bueller?

CRICKETS: *chirp*

ME: Ok, let me try this, what is our main purpose in life, as Marines in combat?

One enthusiastic Devil Dog responded with a motivated, "To Kill Fuckers and Break Stuff!"

ME: Okaaay, I was kinda looking for something along the lines of, "To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy", but you know, 'To kill Fuckers' actually sums it up rather nicely. 'Break Stuff' is more of a side benefit, really. Now, what are we gonna do if we are tasked with regular grunt work, sans 81s, and see some bad guys outside of small arms range, or tucked behind some cover or in some defilade, where we can't get at 'em with direct-fire weapons? Call for Fire.

I did not clue in the boots that its proper name for our radio was not the, 'PRC (prick) E-6 or 7'. They'd learn that lesson better by experience. It was usually funny as hell, too.

Radios are an awesome asset, but you do need to know a little bit about it to use it properly. I told them that like many other situations where they, the (relatively) lowly PFC, might be running the radio (read: Bad Day), they were always free to use plain speak. The important thing was to get the information out to others that can help out. Learning the proper way to Call for Fire would make things run much more smoothly, and if they were doing the talking, that would probably be a Good Thing.

I emphasized that even though they might think they might think they were merely gun-line bubbas, they would be expected to have a good grasp of this class and all that it entailed. That being said, I asked one of the Marines what his issues were with the class. Was it how one got the information to send over the radio, or actually using the radio?

"Just the radio" was the response.

"Great!" I responded, "that's the easy part!" (my standard response). I grabbed two radios. Pointing out a known target on our maps, I told him he was now attached to a rifle platoon, and I was going to play the part of our FDC radio man, in the rear with the gear. I instructed the Marine to give me a call for fire on the pre-selected target.

He started out, "Uh... fire on targe-"

Oh, brother.

"Do you remember anything about radio usage?", I asked quietly.

"Nuh-uh. Kinda fuzzy."

Kind of?

"Call signs, think call signs, bro". I was trying to jog his memory. Upon reflection, it probably would have benefited more from a solid kick-start.


I sighed. "Remember something along the lines of, "You, this is Me, over..."?

His furrowed brow brightened. "You, this is Me, over! Fire on this target!", he enthusiastically called out while pointing at his map.



Peter said...


Reminds me of the patrol we ran through a new AO, checking out the landscape and sussing out any likely ambush points, etc. At the time the opposition had begun using tripwires to trigger mines, flares, etc., so we were all warned to watch carefully for wires and report them at once, if not sooner.

The correct form for the report was emphasized. Everyone in the patrol had a designation (e.g. "Scout" or "Patrol" or "Rear") and a number to indicate their position in that group, so that the patrol CO could know roughly where to look. (He was in the middle of the patrol, of course - SOP.)

The call would be along the lines of "Scout 2 to Patrol Six, tripwire at my position." The Six would then freeze everyone in place while he and/or the platoon sergeant came to investigate.

One of our bright young things (and he really was bright) clearly didn't think that this approved procedure was meant to be mandatory. I was near the Six when the radio call came in:

"Jeff to Boss - there's a funny sort of string thing by my foot. Should I tread on it or cut it? Over."

Cue instant mayhem as everyone (including the Six) tried to get as far away from Bright Young Thing as possible, while the Six told him (several) things to his advantage (at the top of his lungs!).


Anonymous said...

I often had a Call for Fire class devolve into "how to make the radio transmit on the correct frequency", heh.

That was fun enough, thank you.

I eventually ended up assigned permanently to comms duties because I at least could make the radios work.

Snigglefrits said...

"To Kill Fuckers and Break Stuff"...Oh.My.God. I cannot stop laughing.

Murphy, you are something else! :-D

threadbndr said...

I think that guy is in my son's fire team!! At least his cousin by the same mother - if you get my drift.

The Marine!goth is always complaining that the boots just don't LISTEN and he has to tell them stuff several time. I reminded him that he used to always complain that the CPLs and SGTs would go over and over something......

Shoe's on the other foot now LOL.

You tell the best stories *G*

Old NFO said...

ROTFLMAO! I 'remember' some of those radio calls... I've seen the acft jumping all over the sky because the pilot was laughing so hard :-)

Murphy said...

Peter: Yeah, seems like every unit has at least a couple of BYTs. Luckily for moi, I usually had all of them in my squad.

Anony: That's why I was careful to always rely on the comm bubbas whenever possible.

Snigglefrits: Glad you like 'em. I wouldn't, however, recommend using the phrase at the office. Too late? Sorry.

threadbndr: I know! My NCOs were all grumpy bores too, when I was a PFC. Good thing when I picked up Sgt. we all knew everything! Those PFCs, on the other hand...

old nfo: Heh, that's one way to go.

Anonymous said...

And then there was the time the 4.2 Plt wanted to do an untrained observer mission, so I sent my RTO out to find one. He came back with the cutest little 2LT from MI. After assuring her we were not messing with HER, she made her initial call. You could hear the shock in the FDC by the silence.

FSNCO retired

SpeakerTweaker said...

Sounds like, in this aspect, that Marine Life ain't all that different from the civilian version.

When you are good (not upper-management/officer good; lead tech/Staff NCO good), you get duped with the small stuff type instruction. Which frequently leads to blank faces, cricket sounds, and a general display of the dumbassery that is your team/unit.

Still, Killing Fuckers and Breaking Stuff would make it an easier pill to swallow;)


Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHA "kill fuckers and break stuff" HAHAHAHAHA you just made my morning. I may have to borrow that line or soething similar to dumb it down for my new rookies here and there.....LOL