Boom Boom Chronicles, Part I.
Copyright 2002: Ray Sarlin. All rights reserved. (copy permission at bottom)
SSG William Koch was the best kind of instant NCO, a Shake & Bake as opposed to Whip & Chill. He was a steady hand, a solid platoon sergeant. He could have been an officer, and perhaps should have been, holding a chemical engineering degree. But he'd chosen his path and he'd earned the respect with which he was accorded. When two of three ambush patrols I'd placed made contact my first night in the field, it was SSG Koch who quietly advised me that the troops were very nervous, because they had not been trained to do such aggressive patrolling... and it was SSG Koch and the other platoon sergeants who helped set up and run the training program that we established.
I could go on, but all of the platoon sergeants were top
value. One of the things that made SSG Koch stand out was his interest
in demolitions, possibly because of his engineering background. As a
Mining Engineer myself, we shared a professional interest in explosives,
and discussed the various effects of detonating and deflagrating explosives
on more than one occasion. As company commander, my job didn't really
involve personally popping caps and blowing bunkers, which was a disappointment,
but SSG Koch was in his element.
So out came SSG Koch's pad and the Demo GTA (graphic training aid, a pocket-sized card). In what may have seemed a few seconds of scribbling and mystical incantations to the uninitiated, the plan emerged to precisely dismantle the forked tree that I had selected as the first target. Det cord was the primary tool of choice, and he set to work prepping the tree, mumbling all the while that he didn't have that much experience with det cord. Within minutes, the tree was ready to blow.
"Fire in the hole" was the cry, followed by a large "boom/crack" and the tree vanished in a cloud of dust. I wish that I could now tell you about the neatly stacked pile of firewood, but the truth is more like we had discovered the secret recipe for toothpicks.
Copyright 2002 Ray Sarlin,
Permission is hereby granted to copy this
story to print or