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Fiction – Ruth’s Story #28 Breaking camp

April 15, 2012

Standing beside my little car, I unlock the doors being careful, pop the hood intending to put my ECWS sleeping bag inside. Peering inside my hood causes me to stare in wonder for a moment at what I see appear before me. Some damned deranged gift fairy struck my car, rearranging my gear inside my trunk.

My pair of purloined U.S. Army ruck sacks are now pushed apart, so there is one to each side of the car. My fuel and water Jerry cans are likewise grouped and separated with one fuel and one water Jerry can on each side of my trunk.

I put my ECWS black nylon stuff sack on the front bumper and tap each of the four Jerry cans with a bent finger knuckle. All four cans are now full. Popping the top off each Jerry can to stick a finger into the liquid reveals that the two fuel Jerry cans are still full of diesel, but the two water cans now are full of water.

Two full brown cardboard cases of MREs rest between the ruck sacks and the Jerry cans. What truly grabs my eyes is the three long, cylindrical tubes that lay on top of the MRE cases. I suddenly realize that I am standing with my mouth open and do a double take to make sure my eyes are not deceiving me.

I have to roll the larger chunky black and O.D. green tube over to confirm what my disbelieving mind is telling me that my eyes are seeing. Nope, I’m right, it is a genuine live U.S. Army FGM-148 Javelin guided anti-tank missile.

The Javelin rests on two small solid O.D. green tubes that moving the Javelin reveals to be a pair of older (early 1980s production), live M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) 66mm rockets. Long considered obsolete but still in service and production around the world, the M72 LAW may not be as cheap as a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) but is still a fairly inexpensive, highly effective and easily portable anti-tank weapon.

The LAW is certainly much cheaper than the Javelin but is a line of sight direct fire weapon lacking the fire and forget capability of the Javelin. During the second Lebanese War of 2006, as during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the respective Army quartermasters were having fits at the amount of Javelins used by the troops. The expense of the Javelin (and similar weapons) is one reason the M72 LAW was issued, despite its age and “obsolescence.” In many situations where troops were using a Javelin a LAW would have sufficed.

The IDF used a lot of LAWs during the second Lebanese War. While Lebanon did not have many tanks or armored vehicles, the M72 LAW excels at destroying buildings, especially those that are fortified or reinforced. Even back in the second Gulf War and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan the M72 LAW was still serving, punching holes in buildings, and destroying the occasional piece of old Soviet-era armor.

Tossing a Javelin into a building filled with insurgents, while effective, is a waste of money when a cheaper LAW (or RPG) would suffice. Of course, tell that to the troops taking fire from the building. The troops will use what they have at hand to cease the threat and if that means using a much more expensive Javelin then so be it.

Stuffing my ECWS bag on top of the anti-tank weaponry, I check to make sure that the two military rucks are still full. Giving each ruck a shake reveals that they are still heavy, so unless somebody filled them with rocks, it appears that whatever the rucks contain remains.

I close the hood firmly and go around to the passenger side to place my LBV, field coat and AAC pistol suppressor on the floor. I wonder who the hell the fool is that breaks into someone’s car, stuffs the trunk full of water, food and anti-tank weapons? Well if zombies are driving an armored vehicle or holed up in a reinforced building I am armed to take them out.

I get another surprise as I see my car has been similarly prepacked for me and is already unlocked. The damn fool gift fairy has struck here too. In the back seat are two full brown cardboard cases of MREs. Resting on top of the MREs are two full cardboard pallets of shrink wrapped, clear one liter water bottles. In my passenger seat sits a hard O.D. green box that looks familiar. I pop my passenger door open and grab the small green box.

Opening the box reveals that it does indeed contain an older 3rd generation pair of AN/PVS-7 Night Vision Goggles (NVG). Whoever broke into my car to leave gifts also replaced my shattered rear window with a piece of thick MDF held in place with lots of silver duct tape and some damn substantial lag bolts with washers. Speaking of duct tape, I see a liberal application to my driver’s door now holds my driver’s door mirror in place.

As I replace the NVGs back in their box (I’ll test them later) and put the box back in my passenger seat I see that whomever broke into my car also left two, 50-round boxes of 2003 Federal 147gr 9mm flat-nosed, truncated cone, subsonic ammunition. This particular load is commonly known as “SEAL 9mm Special” because supposedly Federal loaded it for the U.S. Navy SEAL teams. The Federal ammo is one of my favorites and hard to find.

Beside the Federal ammo lie two M83 smoke grenades, one green and one red. Next to the M83 smoke grenades lies a M308-1 white smoke grenade. All three smoke grenades sport, a small white, thin plastic wire tie through the safety pins.

Sitting on the floor of the passenger seat are my two M67 frag grenades now sporting a strip of black electrician’s tape around the arming spoons. It appears my grenades have been breeding in my absence the little sluts! Beside the two M67 frag grenades, I seem to have acquired a M33A1 frag grenade, and a pair of older-style pineapple M2 grenades. Each grenade arming spoon is taped securely to the grenade body with a small piece of black electrician’s tape.

Beside the small collection, of grenades is an Atlanco mil-spec general purpose first aid kit in a solid brown plastic box. Lying on top of the G.P. first aid kit is an Atlanco mil-spec basic field surgical kit in its brown plastic envelope. Is this a hint I wonder? Opening both Atlanco kits reveals they are new, appear to have never been issued, and are complete including the light brown paper instructions.

Who the hell loaded my car? Locking the car, not that it appears to matter, I return to the Radio Shack. I find the Radio Shack is mostly empty, I see that Carol and Nikola have most of the gear packed up. I pick up my cold coffee, seeing that it rests on the last standing table. The rest of the tables and chairs have been packed away.

Finishing the coffee, I offer Carol the cup, but she says keep it. She hauls another one of the folding tables out and hands it to Nikola who puts it in the bed of the Chevy truck. Carol returns and folds up the last table and I follow her out into the sun.

Walking to the snow plow, I see Rick has gotten the riders loaded up, but we apparently lost a quite a few riders. The young Asian man is apparently no longer riding with us, I see him helping load a deuce and a half with a naked M16A2 with a carry handle hanging over his back.

I see Gabe (hard to miss him in his road crew attire with that double bit axe), and the young African-American couple with the two babies. I notice the young man now has an older, civilian, wooden stocked pump Mossberg 12 ga shotgun. He wears a pair of stuffed-full black nylon shotgun bandoliers crisscross Pancho Villa-style. He now also sports a woodland green camo field jacket and a white and red Cardinals baseball cap. His wife is similarly attired although she lacks head gear and her field coat is solid O.D. green like mine.

I see the babies are swaddled in strips of terry cloth towels, lying on their belly on several scratchy gray U.S. government blankets at their parent’s feet. The babies are awake and are doing the typical stomach wiggle of particularly young infants.

It looks like Gabe, and the young African-American couple with the babies are the only riders in the back of the snow plow now. I am glad to see they have a weapon now other than Gabe’s axe. I also see the soldiers have piled the bed of the snow plow with several cases of MREs and shrink wrapped cases of clear one liter water bottles, and at least four blue plastic Igloo coolers which I suspect might contain either beer or bottled water. Two large desert tan Yeti coolers lie to the very front of the bed of the snow plow.

As I walk to the front of the snow plow I see Rick is talking to three soldiers; two men and a stout older Caucasian woman with short, curly silver streaked muddy-brown hair. The three soldiers are not wearing head gear. All three soldiers carry an M4 with Aimpoint optic, a M9 Beretta worn in a brown leather tanker holster on the left and are dressed in solid O.D. green coveralls over current issue, desert tan combat boots. I notice the woman’s M9 has a white lanyard line running over her shoulders. I am guessing these are the three mechanics that the non-colonels were so happy are coming with us.

Parked in front of the snow plow is a late model dark blue, tinted window VW TDI diesel station wagon which the ex-colonels have commandeered. I see the sheer back of the station wagon is loaded with medical supplies, while the midsection is loaded with MRE cases and a pair of the ubiquitous blue and white plastic Igloo coolers. Strapped to the roof rack shoved farthest to the front is a pair of large, desert tan Yeti coolers.

A pair of near identical M4s each with a newer Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) lies in the middle of the VW TDI station wagon’s front bench seat muzzle down. Each ACOG has a small backup reflex sight mounted on top of it near the eye piece.

Gabe and the young couple are leaning over the side of the snow plow listening to Rick talk to the three soldiers. I walk up and nod at Rick. Looking into the cab of the snow plow, with both doors open, I see the lady with the M686 pistol and her two daughters are sitting waiting on the large bench seat on the passenger side. The Marlin lever action rifle lies in the driver’s seat.

Our little group is joined by the two former colonels and then by Nikola and Carol who walk up holding hands. From the other side of the encampment, eleven soldiers, all young Caucasian males walk up from the vicinity of the tank HEMTTs. I guess these are the HEMTT drivers and some of our riders and escorts.

Unfortunately, I do not see either of the SF soldiers I talked to earlier but do recognize the two soldiers who pulled security last night when we pulled into camp. The large, young soldier with the wow- wait a minute, I thought last night he carried a M249 SAW which in the dark is easy to confuse with the Light Machine Gun (LMG) that I see he is actually carrying.

Well, be still my beating heart, the soldier that I thought was carrying a M249 SAW is actually carrying an Israeli Negev LMG complete with folding Galil-style stock, long (standard) barrel, bi pod, angled fore grip, Aimpoint optic, and 200-round belt container clipped to the magazine well.

The mistake is an easy one because, in the dark, both the Negev and M249 LMGs look similar. Both weapons take the same ammo and are quite similar being gas operated, air cooled and single barreled, belt fed LMGs. The Negev tends to be a bit more finicky and prone to malfunction due to sand than the M249, but the folding stock makes the Negev more compact, although later “Para” models of the SAW have collapsing stocks. The Negev, I believe, is also a tad lighter than the M249, if I remember correctly.

The IDF soldiers I served with preferred the Negev, especially the compact “Para” model than the M249 FN Minimi SAW. Both are excellent LMGs, but the IDF soldiers preferred the slightly lighter and more compact Negev with its folding stock to the M249. The angled fore grip on the Negev is a particular favorite, reminiscent of the older Bren Mark 2 LMG.

I’ll have to ask the soldier later where he got the Negev as I cannot imagine that they are all that common in the States. My favorite weapon, the Galil, is also rare in the States, but I bet the Negev is even rarer than a Galil.

During President Obama’s second term in office, the now permanent and irrelevant “Assault Weapon Ban of 2014” made the prices of all the naughty “black guns” like my POF AR15 triple and quadruple in the case of my beloved Galil. I just could not afford $16,000 (or more) for a Galil when I could get a decent AR15 for a little less than half that.

Just before, the new assault weapon law went into effect January 2014, sales of any of the banned weapons (including all semi-auto shotguns which were also banned) shot through the roof with record sales. Gun dealers could not keep the soon to be banned weapons in stock as they were literally flying off the shelves.

Manufacturers could not keep production high enough to meet demand prices for weapons and accessories started to rise exponentially as the effective date loomed closer. I was newly living in the States at the time and was amazed at the fallout.

Coming from Israel where owning and keeping ready a fully automatic weapon is part of nearly every citizen’s responsibility, the idea of not keeping a weapon just because I happened to live in D.C. was a little hard to swallow. I’d always heard Americans were “gun crazy” and there was “a weapon behind every blade of grass” in America.

Accessories for the banned rifles including things like any magazine (rifle or pistol) holding more than 10 rounds also saw record price increases. While old magazines were “grandfathered” no new magazines holding more than 10 rounds, could be manufactured.

The soldier may want to locate the uncommon Negev magazine adapter so that he can use standard 30-round M16 magazines should the need arise. The standard Negev can use Galil magazines – good luck finding those!

I wonder just how prepared the soldier is to maintain his Negev? How many repair parts does he have? I wonder if the soldier has any spare barrels for the Negev? Both the M249 and the Negev are easy to swap barrels, and with the built in handles does not require heavy gloves, unlike the older M60.

The M249, Negev and M240B, serve in the IDF, and I am familiar with the weapons, although they are too heavy for me to carry for any length of time. I can use the SAW or the Negev reasonably well, but the 240 is just too damn heavy for me. I am a small woman, and do not have the upper body strength to woman-handle a 240.

Both the Negev toting soldier and his M4 carrying compatriot are still in full battle rattle. What I thought were ammo boxes for a M249 SAW I see are actually 200-round ammo boxes for the Negev with their distinct vertical mount to clip into the magazine well of the Negev. I see four full (I assume) boxes on the Negev soldier’s LBV and his M4 carrying companion carries two boxes on his LBV.

The soldier with the M4 standing beside his Negev armed compatriot I note this morning has a M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to his rifle. I do not remember from last night if he had a M203 or not. His vest carries several 40mm grenades, all appear to be either high-explosive (HE) or buck shot rounds. The gold dome of the HE 40mm grenades are hard to miss and easy to remember. Same with the olive drab (O.D.) green dome of the buck shot rounds.

I am vaguely familiar with 40mm grenade weapons, but it was many years ago, in another country and not either my preferred or issued weapon. I shot an old M79 40mm grenade launcher once during IDF officer orientation, and that was enough for me.

“Well this is it that is heading north,” the scarred ex-colonel Sam says breaking my reminiscing about 40mm grenades, the IDF, and rookie Infantry officer training.

  1. BobOK permalink

    A Sunday morning present!
    Much appreciated.
    Thanks again. Great story.

  2. Thanks for continuing to read & comment Bob.

  3. John permalink

    Excellent segment, having it come this quick was definitely unexpected pleasure. I’m guessing the gear fairy is the medical officer?

    • Thanks for continuing to read John. Please keep reading to see who the gift fairy turns out to be. If someone has a guess I would love to hear it, no matter how crazy or off the wall it might sound. Perhaps there is more than one gift fairy? I like to read comments, and appreciate the time that people take to read and comment on my writings. I love to hear suggestions, and consider all no matter how crazy.

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