Thursday, March 12, 2009

General Order #4 and Spontaneous Hand and Arm Signals

4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant to the guard house than my own.

from the General Orders for Sentries.

The General Orders are something that all learn (and well), in boot camp. The way that this one was explained to me was that, back in the 'Old Corps' (which you might remember is the time period of everything up to one day earlier than you entered), before company squad or personal radios, GPS, satellites, and all that happy trash, Marines had to call out to the sentry on either side of them. Leaving one's post is not always possible, due to little things like rules & regs, sneaky bad guys, and worst of all - cranky NCOs. This would ensure that vital word got passed down, you know, stuff like changes in orders, where the enemy was currently attacking, or what, uh, 'entertainer' the guys were going to go visit that night.

This order was reflected, in a way, throughout my time in the Corps, on the 81mm mortar gun line.

Mortar firing ranges are a bit larger than some others, due to a number of factors. Gun positioning mandated that we were at least 40 meters apart, taking into account the killing range of an 81mm round, terrain, our comm abilities, cover and concealment, etc. We were also usually placed into a more or less 'W' shape, to further spread ourselves out, avoid making an easy target by being on line with each other, and the like.

Kinda got to the point where we had to have good comm to function, at all. 'Good' comm(unications, i.e. radios) was not always easy to be had. Heh, on some occasions we were reduced to screaming the commands to guns farther down on the gun line, noise discipline be damned. At least the sounds of the Platoon Sergeant getting about neck deep in the radioman's ass warmed our hearts, 'cause if he was yelling at him, he wasn't chewing us out... as much... usually.

It kind of evolved into a SOP that if the Platoon Sergeant started sounding off at the top of his lungs, you took for granted that either all radios were down, or that perhaps just one line was out. It was then 'OK' to sound off yourself, at least to pass the word. That first word was to make sure that the radio of the gun in question was actually bad, or the gun team leader had his head outta his ass.

One day we were at the range, just about 20 minutes from going hot, all the guns laid in, just waiting for the word. The call came over the radio, "Gun line, gun line, this is FDC... comm check, roger up when you're good to go, over." Following our own procedures, the gun team leaders got on the radio and transmitted their gun and status. "Gun 1, up", followed by "Gun 2, up", and so on and so forth.

I believe I was the Gun 4 gun team leader, at the time.

The gun line radio transmissions came and went down the line... until it got to the last gun, Gun 8. Gun 8 seemed to be our problem child for a while, not 'cause that's where we stored all our shitbirds, but just that it was their bad luck to always be on the ass-end of pretty much everything - the armory draw, PFC allocation, radio issue, last to get the word, and the like.

The Platoon Sergeant had left the FDC (Fire Direction Control, or the 'brains' of the mortar platoon) to check out his gun teams. He had moved more or less straight ahead to the position that Gun 4 occupied. After ensuring that everything was progressing more or less on schedule, he performed a right flank and proceeded down the gun line to Gun 1. One would assume that after completing his checks of 1st section (Guns 1-4), he would then frolic on over to eyeball 2nd section (Guns 5-8). It was when he was at Gun 1's position when Gun 8 failed to come up on the radio to confirm that everything was good to go.

As the radioman was hustling down to the Gun 8 position, the Platoon Sergeant decided to inquire WTF was the hold up. Rather than hop on a radio to ask Gun7, he bellowed out from faaaar right, 'PULL YOUR HEAD OUTTA YER FUCKIN" ASS, YOU!!!'

Remember what I said about passing of word?

Yeah, well, true to form, the entirety of Gun 2 promptly turned to the Gun 3 crew and unanimously passed the word along, at top volume, prompting them to continue the favor down the gun line.

I think hand and arm signals were initiated somewhere between Gun 3 and Gun 4. Really, there was no reason for silent signals as we were screaming at the top of our lungs, but the fact was that by the time Gun 8 got the word, all of Gun 7's crew was doing the same thing - PULL YOUR HEAD OUT (open hands, on either shoulder, moving up as if pulling one's head out) OF YOUR FUCKIN' (violent standing hip thrusts) ASS (*slap*), YOU (pointing).

The Gun8 response detailing how their radio had 'shit the bed' (was out of action) was passed back down with equal speed and humor. Don't think the hand and arm signals (squat w/grunt and folded hands under the head) were passed along to the Platoon Sergeant, though. Just guessing, on that...


J.R.Shirley said...


Well, all commands are to be repeated loudly and clearly. At least in the Army. I had one friggin' 'tard E5 who mumbled, so he ordered me not to wear ear pro. This of course effectively negated two years of training. Either I was trying to hang the round down my M252 and get my hands back up in time to cover my ears- and therefore bobbling the fire- or I had a smooth and perfect follow-through, and might not have been able to get my hands back up in time.

I had two 81mm rounds go off next to my unprotected ears. God grant that I see that bastard again before I die.

Murphy said...

That'd ruin my day...