October in the Railroad Earth

“October in the Railroad Earth” is the name of a Jack Kerouac story I’ve always liked, especially for its evocative title.  Now it’s October, the window in my barracks overlooks what appears to be the main freight line between Kansas City and Denver, and we spend most of our days out on the high prairie that constitutes the Fort Riley training area.  The weather is spectacular–warm, sunny, and breezy–which makes it very pleasurable to be outside and active.  For all that, Kerouac’s story title seems to be relevant to this particular chapter of my life.

The Taliban would be full of fear to know that I shot 35 out of 40 targets on the qualification range with my M4 assault rifle.  That’s pretty good, better than most shoot, and one short of coveted “Expert” status.  So, I’m only a “Sharpshooter,” but that’s better than being a lowly “Marksman,” or not even qualifying at all.

But the Army makes it pretty easy for us today.  Our weapons are equipped with optical sites that places a red dot on each target at the point-of-aim.  As long as your site and weapon are calibrated (or “zeroed”) and you employ good shooting fundamentals, qualifying is easy.  Your bullet will hit the red dot, and the target will go down.  In the old days, twenty years ago, I used to routinely shoot Expert using only the weapon’s iron sites.  But that was then and this is now, and I’m glad to take advantage of whatever gee-whiz technology the Army permits.

UPDATE ON THE COMBAT SNATCH-AND- GRAB:  All Army Humvees come with towing shackles both front and rear.  In preparation for combat, we attach a nylon towstrap to one of the front shackles.  We then run the strap across the hood of the vehicle, secure it with tape or Velcro, and then attach it to the driver’s-side rear-view mirror in a way that doesn’t obscure the view.  Next, we attach another towstrap to one of the rear shackles, run it up and over the trunk and roof of the vehicle, and secure it to the passenger-side rear-view mirror.  Finally, inside the vehicle we keep an industrial-strength cleavis, or “U-bolt.”

If Vehicle One becomes disabled, but can still roll, Vehicle Two pulls alongside it, with the passenger-side of Vehicle Two in arm’s reach of Vehicle One.  The Vehicle One driver unfastens his towstrap, inserts his U-bolt in a loop at the towstrap’s end, and hands the U-bolt to the soldier riding shotgun in Vehicle Two.   The Vehicle Two soldier attaches the Vehicle One U-bolt to his own U-bolt, which he then secures to his own towstrap. 

Vehicle Two then accelerates and the towstraps rip away from their tape or Velco keepers.  The towline stretches taught, but easily supports the weight of Vehicle One until it is pulled out of danger.

I’ll be home this weekend, and hope to see some or many of you.


2 Responses to “October in the Railroad Earth”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Congratulations on the Sharpshooter status! Even though I could not hit the side of a barn with a shotgun at three paces, I’m going to offer you some advice on sharpshooting. Go watch the 1941 Gary Cooper movie Sergeant York (about the WWI hero Alvin York). When you get through with that film, you can call the enemy the Turkeyban!

    Best and be safe!

  2. Jason Says:

    aha! thanks for the answer to the puzzle of the quick-tow.

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