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This happened when I was with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas in 1975. We had been out in the field for possibly as much as two weeks going through the early stages of tank gunnery qualification with the squadron's Sheridan AR/AAVs and everyone was pretty tired. (One thing I will never forget about tank gunnery qualification is that everyone was basically a zombie by the time it was over.)
The weather had been really nice but one day it started raining and got fairly cold. We had been sleeping out in the open on top of our tanks previously and I wasn't looking forward to spending that night either outside or cramped up inside especially knowing that my hatch seal leaked. (Sheridans are 16 ton light tanks mainly made of aluminum and look kind of like toys next to an M-60 or M-1.) So I was very happy when I heard that we would be sleeping in a GP Medium (Tent, General Purpose, Medium) that night.
We pulled into the bivouac area just before dark and did a kind of free form movement into the tent. There were no cots, but no big deal. Pretty soon the floor was wall to wall sleeping bags with semi-alive bodies in them. I fell asleep right away.
What I didn't know and didn't wake me up was that the weather got worse later with more rain and high winds. We were in a wooded area so I doubt that I would have worried about it anyway.
Finally, I woke up and noticed that my sleeping bag was starting to get wet, which was kind of a surprise. I stuck my head out and noticed that most of the tent had fallen down and I was being rained on but not badly enough to want to do anything about it.
The next time I woke up, probably only a few minutes later, I was getting wet from the bottom of the bag as well as the top. The small depression I was in was filling up with water. I also noticed that there were a few other unfortunates who were up and around trying to fix the tent. I have to admit that I did absolutely nothing to help them at that time.
Then the whole thing fell down and that got everybody up.
It must have been quite a sight to see probably thirty tank crewmen staggering around in the middle of the night, mostly half dressed or less, trying to get that tent back up in a high wind. We finally got it back up but by then everything was soaked, so I ended up sleeping in my trusty Sheridan anyway, wearing my poncho because of the hatch seal leak.
As an indication of how tired we were, the day before we had our first hot meal in days, or possiby weeks. I think we had Chili and rice, corn and peaches with a salad served in paper plates. I saw one of the gunners get on his Sheridan with his plate and start walking along the fender toward the back. Unfortunately, he didn't stop walking when he got to the rear fender and fell off into a bush. Even more unfortunately, the 'Mess Hall' had just closed so he didn't get a hot meal that day. I asked him about it later and he said, "I just lost my focus for a minute." I've used that phrase a few times myself since then.
My thanks to Rory.
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