Back by popular demand….
As a disclaimer: In my attempts to tell you some of the more interesting scenarios, I will be omitting details that would cause a breach of confidentiality about the exercise or will give away too much and risk ruining the originality of the experience for future guys going through.
After the infil, which saw us lugging out 105lb+ rucks over 20 miles in 14hrs due to missing our PAC of the PACE plan, and encountering 2 medical scenarios in the first 24hrs, we are now in day 2 of the field exercise portion. We have linked up with the G’s, are doing our thing making the camp better, etc.
Let me further clarify however…though we have well surpassed the 24hr mark since we began our slog through the backwoods of NC and were in day 2, we still have not slept. Due to various ‘variables’ introduced into the scenario, we have just enough guys to man all the security positions within the camp. Now we’re coming out of our second straight night of no sleep.
Planning all day, infilling at night, getting the camp ready all day and now another night of no sleep is wreaking havoc on our morale and senses. Around what I can only assume is 3 or 4am, I see a shadowy figure inside our camp standing next to an old pallet talking very animatedly about how great Cinnamon Toast Crunch is as well as other nonsensical mutterings. What became apparent after listening long enough was that this person was talking to no one in particular. One of my Captains had become so exhausted that he was hallucinating, and had wandered away from mission planning to talk to this pallet about his favorite cereal.
My security position partner and I at the time didn’t even find this amusing, because we were battling the sleep monster just as fiercely. He grumbled something to the effect of ‘you’ve got to be f*cking joking right now’ and went and led him back to the mission planning space. As my security partner returned, he said what I was thinking exactly. “If we don’t get some sleep or some help soon, people are going to snap.” No rest for the wicked that night for us.
We enter day 3..most of us had figured out how to grab 2-3hrs, and though not enough, at least we weren’t on the verge of hallucination at this point. Time to start going on missions.
As I mentioned in the previous Robin Sage post, I was the only medic on the team, so I had to go on every mission. One of the missions I nearly messed up BAD, and it was only sheer luck that probably saved me from failing Robin Sage entirely. To generalize the mission, we had to go find someone who was lost nearby and bring them back. We gathered our team together, and split into 2. The main element was going to find the individual and return them to our base, and me and my 2 G’s who were the support element and were supposed to just be on standby nearby. Me being either tired, stupid, lazy or a combination of all 3, barely listened to the mission back brief except for my role and where my little group were meant to stay for the mission. Off we go.
About 15 minutes after getting dropped off and splitting from the main group to take our position, radio traffic ceases. I look down at my radio and it’s completely frozen. Screen is stuck, the radio won’t turn off, and nothing I’m doing is fixing it. Well, shit. Not long after I hear the eruption of gunfire and the shouts of the main element. Then all goes quiet. That’s not good. I have no idea where I’m supposed to go to the rendezvous point, as the main element was going to come collect us up on the way back, my radio doesn’t work, and…….someone is now crashing through the bushes. Oh look, surprise. It’s the person who we were meant to go find originally.
So now I, the ‘Afterthought 18D’ on this mission, has the target individual, a dead radio, and am informed by the individual we acquired that he saw the enemy take our main element away as hostages. FML. At that moment I have absolutely zero idea what to do next. I saw my SF career flash before my eyes.
The 2 G’s look at me, our rescued person looks at me, and all I can think to say is something like ‘uh, let me think.’ For about 2 minutes I putz around with trying to bring a dead radio back to life, while using that time to think of something. Finally, at my wits end, all I can think to do is head back in the general direction that we got dropped off, and hope that I can lead us away from where I know the enemy is. At this point we are in survive and escape mode, and I’m in a full-on fake it till you make it mentality.
We start to moving out through thick brush and dense woods for what seems like forever, moving in a general direction of where I hope to all things holy we will see something or someone familiar. I am only half paying attention to my compass at this point, because I’m wondering what life will be like in a regular army line unit once I fail Robin Sage. Anyone need an 18D qualified Robin Sage failure? Anyone?!! I snap out of it to see a narrow road in front of us, no wider than what an ATV would be capable of using. On the opposite side is a steep hill with blackberry bushes lining the side. We only have two choices, go left or go right and follow the road. I choose left (I had no idea if it was correct) and within 200 meters of walking we see our link-up element on the corner of the road. Somehow, through sheer, stupid, blind luck, I managed to lead us back to our egress party. I got us in the back of the truck, let them know about the situation, and decided it was best we go back to camp, regroup, and decide what to do next.
I didn’t listen well enough to the plan, didn’t study the map appropriately, didn’t have a working radio, and basically let myself anticipate that my role was minor and that I deserved a break on that mission. That’s how they get you. Though I got high marks for my ability to lead the men and the target person back to the camp, 90% of it was stupid luck. I just never told anyone that. Sometimes life throws you a lifeline and you have to take it. I promise you this, every single mission after that I was heavily involved in the planning process and knew everything there was to know about the mission. I’m pretty sure the G’s knew I was lucky, but they never said anything. Where ever you are today random G-dudes…thank you!!
If you want more about Robin Sage, let us know in the comments below!