Each year while stationed at Ft Carson in Colorado, our brigade would make the annual pilgrimage to the National Training Centre at Ft Irwin, California. Prior to heading off to the NTC, we would spend a month or so in preparation down at the Pinon Canyon training area in the southern part of Colorado.
At the end of one of these preparation exercises in the early 90’s our company were bivouacked in a small valley. We were awaiting our time to head back to the contonement area and from there back to Ft Carson. Most of the company had set up camp in the valley except our platoon, which had camped just above the valley on the rise of a small hill. This hill overlooked the rest of the valley.
During the exercise we had expended nearly all of our piro and blank ammunition except for a few smoke grenades. During the late morning of one day I found Curt, our platoon Sgt standing at the top of the rise looking down into the valley. He was looking down at the Assault and Barrier platoon area where they had set up a GP medium tent. Most of the A & O platoon was inside the tent playing cards, reading, sleeping or just generally relaxing after the exercise. As I approached Curt I noticed a large grey canister sitting between his feet. The canister was a large smoke pot and was as yet unused. Curt looked at me with an evil grin on his face and said “let’s set this off so we do not have to turn it in” with a motion of his head towards the A & O tent. Curt bent down and pulled the striker across the igniter. In less than a minute a huge cloud of thick grey smoke began to billow out of the canister. The smoke began to roll in a thick cloud down the hill and move slowly towards A & O’s tent and unsuspecting occupants. Like a thick evil fog it enveloped the tent and surrounded all of the equipment parked nearby. It took about 15 seconds then bodies began pouring out of the tent, coughing and choking on the thick fumes. SSG Keeny the A & O platoon Sgt looked up at myself and Curt shaking his fist and shouting incoherently between fits of coughing. Just then I heard footsteps behind us and looked around to see our company commander ( Capt Anderson) approaching. I thought “ oh no we are for it now”. The CO came and stood between us, looked down into the valley at the smoke and the mayhem it was causing, glanced left and right at Curt and me, then said “ Nice coverage”, then calmly walked away. Curt and I shared a smile and continued to observe the antics of the A & O platoon as they struggled to find refuge from the thick, cloying smoke. As there was not a breath if wind in the valley it just sat there and refused to move.
That night Ssg Keeny and his boys had their revenge at least somewhat. In the middle of the night we heard a loud commotion outside my squads APC. Next morning I went over to Curt’s Hummvee to wake him up as he slept in the rear on the cargo deck. When I lifted the canvas at the rear I was greeted with a blood red faced Curt. In fact everything in the Hummvee was the same shade of red. What had happened was this. During the night Ssg Keeny and some of his troops had crept up to our area, lifted the canvas on the Hummvee, placed a metal trash can in the back and popped a red smoke grenade in the can. In the confines of the Hummvee Curt had received the full force of the red smoke, staining everything a bright red. Lucky for me my squad always combat locked our APC at night. Thus preventing Ssg Keeny dishing out the same treatment. Ssg Keeny came up to our area and found Curt laughing his socks off. In fact we all had a good laugh about it.
Funny! Thanks for sharing, John. I have missed your intriguing stories! Does Curt know you shared this? I'd love to hear his two cents on it.
What fun you can have during training.....as a medic we had a batallion aid station tent when we were in the field. We had a lot of laughs, practical jokes and lot of euchre.