Foggy Alert in Germany
The area in Germany where we were stationed is one of the foggiest in the world. Trying to get to your post at 0100 hrs when the fog is so thick you can’t see the white lines in the road makes for an interesting trip.
Family Arrives – I was in Germany for about 3 months before getting quarters for my family to come over. At the time my wife, pregnant with kid number 2, arrives I am out in the field. The company commander thought it was more important for me to be in the field with the unit, we were in the motor pool area, than to meet my family when they arrived. I had one of my tank commander’s wife meet mine at the airport. She got my wife and young son through customs and then over to the apartment.
My pregnant wife and young son came in at the Rhein Main Flughafen. When they came out of the arrival corridor, they were met by the armed airport security guards pointing machine guns at all of the passengers. There had been a shootout the day before at this location with some terrorists. The terrorists were all killed. The maintenance crews were patching bullet holes in the walls and the cleaning personnel were still cleaning the blood off the floors and carpet. Welcome to Germany! It would have been less nerve wracking for all the passengers if, at least, some sort of panel had been placed in front of the workmen patching the bullet holes.
But wait, it gets better. It is late at night, about 6 hours after she arrived before she finally gets to our apartment. She is just about asleep when she hears a commotion going on outside in the housing area. Looking out the window she sees a group of people goose stepping through the area yelling obscenities at the women and painting swastikas on the ends of the buildings. The Nazis party is alive and well. They were doing this because almost all of the men were out in the field.
Living off Post – We moved about 10 months later to a small town closer to the kaserne where I was posted. The Nazis party was not active in this small town as far as we could tell and the neighbors were very friendly. We were in this town for about a year, then I was transferred to Frankfurt.
Alert! – Being in a combat brigade allows you the honor and privilege of being called out on alerts at all times of the day or night. On one particular night, about 0100 hrs, an alert was called. The East Germans and Russians were charging the border again. Of course, it had to be one of those nights that the fog was so thick where we were that you could not see the white lines in the road.
I grabbed my gear and headed out. In the car going about 5 miles an hour, hanging out the driver’s window with a flashlight aimed at the ground trying to see anything at all. I finally stopped the car, pulled it over to the side of the road, grabbed my gear, and started a good Airborne shuffle towards the kaserne. I jog the last 5 miles to the kaserne. I get to my company to discover that I am the first officer to show up. So it is up to me.
I tell the Sergeants to get their people to load all weapons and ammo onto the appropriate vehicles and make sure everything is functioning properly, then come back and get all the rest of the gear and get it loaded onto the appropriate vehicles. While that is going on, I start setting up communications to discover no one is at battalion to finish their end. I then open the battalion commo net and our company net. Having been enlisted before with 2 communications MOS’s certainly helped here. By now, the sergeants have almost everything loaded and ready so I have them get everybody that is available into a vehicle and get them all started to make sure the engines are warmed up (not always easy in a cold M60A2 tank in winter). There are enough people to put 2 men in each vehicle. If we have to move, every vehicle in the company has a driver and at least a rifleman riding shotgun. Every tank has a driver and an acting tank commander.
Unit Status – I have the first unit in the brigade up, ready to go, and commo established. At least we are in a position to move out if we need to. Then we wait, and wait, and wait, and …..etc. My goal was to get us ready to move. Everyone else in the company could catch up later if we had to move out. All of the weapon systems were ready to go with the ammo loaded on board or into the trucks. Having a degree that teaches how to manage people, places, and things goes hand-in-hand with military officer training. This is exactly what you need to be able to do.
Fortunately, we did not have to move. We got the “Stand Down” order at about 0730 hrs. It was still foggy.
Results – There were only about 20 officers in the entire brigade that made it to the kaserne that night. Our tank company was the only unit that made it up and running that night. We had the only communications net that was functional. Because there was so much fog that night, the brigade would not have been able to move out even if it had to. This is a scary thought. What a perfect night for the enemy to attack. Except they couldn’t see either. So, we dodged another bullet during the cold war. Life goes on.