December 3, 2003
Juan and the Runaway M240 (or Boring Machine Gun Shop-Talk)
I was in charge of the M240 machine gun range for a couple days, making sure guys ran through the qualification process efficiently and with a minimal amount of bitching. The qualification process involves hitting at least seven out of eleven targets ranging from 400 to 800 meters during the day and seven out of eleven targets again at night ranging from 100 to 400 meters. The shooters were guys that had other weapons as their primary weapons, so this was to qualify them with the 240 as their secondary weapon. I’ve never actually qualified on the 240, so this range was a bit of a learning experience for me too. I learned that I can’t see targets that far out worth a damn, and even with binoculars I couldn’t see the 800 meter target at all. It’s funny because guys would still hit them, even if they couldn’t see them. The guy on the gun will always have an assistant gunner that will spot the targets with the binos as they pop up and give verbal adjustments such as “left three! up two!” meaning to adjust your fire to the left approximately three body widths or up two body widths. I’m convinced that a huge part of being in the infantry is learning how to use the force to accomplish a lot of tasks, this being an excellent example, hitting targets so far away they aren’t visible. Also, having an AG that is on top of things is vital. You could be essentially firing blind, but as long as you have a good spotter, you’ll get acurate fire downrange.
You may remember Juan, a SAW gunner in my squad that had a bad run of luck one day, well, he had a little more bad luck on this 240 range. The take-down pin that holds the pistol grip and trigger assembley in place was having a problem with its detent spring. During the night-fire, this pin on Juan’s gun actually fell completely out causing the entire pistol grip to come off in his hand while he was shooting it. The most important thing that we learned from this is that the mechanism that stops the gun from firing once you release the trigger is located in this part. So once it became separated from the rest of the gun, the gun didn’t stop firing. I imagine that this must have been terribly disconcerting for Juan, to say the least. How to stop a runaway gun is something we’re all taught how to handle (you twist the belt of rounds, breaking it off and stopping the feed), but normally you’d be holding the gun by the pistol grip the entire time, keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction. With no familiar way to control the weapon, I think I’d be momentarily at a loss, holding the trigger in my hand while the gun was blazing uncontrollably into the night sky. Instead of the familiar sound of controlled bursts of rounds, the continual roar of a gun firing non-stop garners a lot of attention. Now that Juan had put the weapon down while it was still on it’s bipod to try and handle the malfunction, all eyes were on the bright orange rainbow of tracer rounds arching high into the air. Frightening but beautiful. It seems the one random dick that sometimes falls out of the sky happen to fall on Juan again.
Ray, Melissa, and Socky
To spice up this boring post, I’ll throw in some flavor, or what Ray likes to call “Sazón.”
Ray has a sock filled with sand that acts as a tool to help him steady his hand while he shoots. This is such an integral sniper tool, Ray saw fit to name the sock “Socky” and give him his own beret. Ray takes Socky completely seriously. Socky stands in formation with Ray, beret and all. I’m not kidding. Oh, and one other thing. Some of my feminist friends find it offensive that women are not allowed in the infantry. This is untrue. They are. Meet Melissa.
Ray, Socky and Melissa
Ray and Melissa, a lovers’ embrace
It’s getting wicked cold and perhaps not coincidentally morale is at an all-time low in my platoon. Fights are starting to blossom up here and there, but have been kept on the down-low so far. The specialists are talking about all going to sick-call on the same day in protest of… whatever it is they’re upset about. In a way, I feel kinda left out. I’m pretty happy if you want to know the truth. I’m where I belong, I’m where I want to be. I feel like I’m at that point now where every day is Groundhog Day. It’s like we’re in infantry purgatory, damned to live the same day over and over again for eternity. But as far as I’m concerned that’s fine by me, I’m kind of enjoying myself. Or maybe it’s just my generally contrarian personality. The more these poor bastards complain and get pessimistic, the more optimistic I seem to feel. I could maybe argue that it’s because I’m a good person with sunshine in my soul or whatever, but in reality I think I have a streak of sadism, watching the other soldiers unsuccessfully trying to cling to certain ideas of what happiness and comfort is while the more it sucks, the more I seem able let go of my attachments and learn to love the moment. Okay, so I’ve reported less than thirty-six thousand dollars the last three years combined on my income taxes, my credit sucks, I can’t keep a girlfriend to save my life, the most expensive thing I own is my bed in New Paltz, I have no car, no cell phone– and I can honestly say that I’ve never been more content in my life. I have a lot of very close friends whose love I cherish, I have a bizarrely excellent Flanders-esque relationship with my family (notwithstanding the strained relationship I have with my father in Salt Lake), and I am grateful for every day I get to experience. I know this probably sounds nauseatingly cheesy, but it’s how I feel.
I could go on, but I don’t want to embarass myself too much. To quote William H. Macy’s character, Donnie Smith, in Magnolia, “I really do have love to give; I just don’t know where to put it.”