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Monday, September 24, 2012

Red Flashlight Lens Covers and Laser Blips

When you bore sight the main gun of a tank it dialing in the actual direction the main gun tube is aiming and the targeting lasers that the tank uses.  To do this you use a laser which literally gets mounted into the gun tube of the tank, so the gunner can adjust his gun sights to the spot on a giant white target created by the laser in the gun.  What the gunner sees all day while doing this exercise is a red dot on a white back ground when they hit the button on the targeting laser.

One tiny part of tank training is teaching young officers how to bore sight their tank and adjust the gun sights accordingly.
It just so happened that our unit had ordered that nobody use the red flash light lens covers on their flashlights anymore and to ensure this didn’t happen several of us privates were ordered to go around to the different company headquarters and collect these, green linin bags filled with the red plastic flashlight lens covers.  We had bags of them.  We were ordered to collect them, what they neglected to tell us, is where to take them or what to do them once we had collected them.

PFC Houlk, who is probably still in the service, and probably still a PFC, Private First Class.  There is a particular type of soldier which will attain this rank and never get past that point their entire time in the service due to continuous minor infractions of assorted sorts.
Anybody who was ever in the service will remember these troublesome but hilarious people, because they are the comic relief for a way too serious Army, or whatever branch of service you happened to be in.  PFC Houlk, had managed without being noticed to not only get these many bags of flashlight lens covers out to the gun range, but had ran around the target area emptying the contents of the bags before we started bore sighting with a new group of lieutenants.

As Privates are the bottom rung of the NCO staff in the service, Lieutenants are the lowest rung on the officer staff in the service.  So right out of college, through Officer Candidate School, OCS, and you’re what is known as a 90 day wonder, a new super commander Officer looking to take over the world.  Second Lieutenant’s Rank is a Single Gold Bar on the shoulder or collar.  To be an Officer is to be in command and they must be saluted by the NCO’s, which is Non-commissioned Officers, or everybody else under them.
What some officers never figure out is that not all Privates are dumb asses and even though we never made it through college before being dumb enough to join the service we might have a few tricks up our sleeves also.  Again let me point out that these are college graduates!  But they did graduate college and then decide to join the service which should be an indication of needing some mental or career counseling!

The Officers would use our tanks for training and each one would take his turn adjusting the sights, firing the lasers and all they would see on the targets all day long were little red dots on a white background.  At the end of the day, PFC Houlk and a few co-conspirators passed out the green linin bags and sent the unwitting Officers who were more than eager to please to walk around the target area and pick up the laser blips so we could reload the lasers for the next day’s bunch of officers.  It was like watching children on an Easter Egg hunt.
“I got one.”
“Me too.”
“There’re everywhere.”
The men called out to each other as they filled their bags with laser blips (red plastic flash light lens covers), and returned them to us so we could reload the lasers.
When the First Sergeant, showed up and inquired as to the unusual behavior of the group of officers down range at the target area, it was explained as straight faced as ever what the men were doing.
The First Sergeant said, “If that wasn’t just the funniest thing I have seen all day I would have somebodies ass for that!  Driver, Drive on.  Obviously these men have everything well at hand here.”
How he kept a straight a face about it, I’ll never know.
PFC Houlk, lucked out that time, but he had many such exploits from sending officers for tools which didn’t exist, getting groups of officers to try and jump in unison on the back of an M1 Abrams, to test the shock absorbers.  That one was like watching an old Abbott and Costello movie play out in front of you.  He would inevitably point out which officers were not jumping with the rest and start his count down again.  Nobody seemed to notice we were watching the officers try to jump together and nobody was watching to see if they managed to move the tank up or down.
The Laser Blips was always one of my favorites.


TJ Hooker said...

Ahh yes Ground guides and Chow line...

Good times. I am surprised you remember Houk. He and the group he ran with were 'encouraged' to leave the army a few months after you got out. I think the E-town Police were waiting at the gate when they stepped out of the gate

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