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"Cowhouse Creek" in Mid July .
I was with B 1/9, 1st Cav. Div. in July of, probably, 1975. We had been assigned to be the aggressor force for some Army Reserve manoeuvers at North Fort Hood. I believe that Fort Hood was, at the time, one of the largest military reservations in the CONUS (Continental United States.) Due to shortages of fuel and funds and even personnel, we only took our five M151s out with us. I think that I was the acting Scout Section Sergeant at the time and the senior person from the platoon out there.
The first ambush was not to take place before 2300 up near the northern boundary of the post, so we pulled out of the motor pool fairly late on a Saturday night. We did our usual illegal and unethical trick of stopping near an on post 7-11 type establishment (24 hour mini market) to pick up munchies and soda, and then hit the tank trails. At the time I was pretty weak at map reading but I had been everywhere on the post and knew how to get from one place to any other with minimal effort.
We arrived in the ambush area at least two hours before the 'bad guys' were supposed to appear so we spent some time camouflaging the jeeps and getting set up. Then the waiting started. 2300 came and went and no bad guys. 0000 and 0100 also came and went. We didn't want to break into the munchies yet because this was supposed to be a 4 day operation. Four days worth of munchies is a lot more bulky than four days worth of issue rations, which we also had, but we were willing to sacrifice the comfort of sleeping off the ground, in the jeeps, for the opportunity to eat something that we had personally picked out. I think this was the first time that I ever took caviar to the field. (Yes, we are spoiled.)
Several of my people had been noticing flashes of light in the sky off to our left (North). I finally sent one of the jeeps over there to investigate. When they returned they told me that they had found a bar that also took take out orders for pizza within a half mile to the North, and about 50 meters past the norther boundary wire. Suddenly, everyone wanted pizza for breakfast. I hesitated for a while, but finally gave in. We didn't have much money with us because scouts aren't ever supposed to carry wallets, but we took up a collection and sent out a 'raiding party'.
I was a little concerned at how the people who ran the bar would react because we were already cammied up, and after only a few hours out we already smelled and looked pretty bad. I made the 'raiders' leave all of their weapons with us before they left, just in case some authority figure happened to stop by while my people were doing their evil deed. As it turned out, we were far from the first ambush party that the people at the bar had taken care of. We got a discount and the 'raiders' were provided with a place to 'hide' while waiting for the pizzas to be cooked. This was a very special meal for all of us, and, as instructed, no alcholic beverages were brought back . . . to my knowledge.
I hadn't meant to spend that much time on the early part of the exercise because the interesting part occurred on day 4 when we had been out running around in the heat for a few days. We spent most of the time stripped down to t-shirts, black berets, ( At that time Major Julius C. Becton was commanding general of the division and his orders were that anyone who did not wear a beret of their branch color was to wear a steel pot at all times.) cut-off OD trousers and boots but we were still miserably hot. The whole idea of this kind of exercise is to stay moving, all day and all night, no matter what the conditions. We made major changes in position as many as ten times a day, from one part of the reservation to another, and only slept when we were pretty sure that the 'bad guys' were nowhere near us. It was good training for the reservists but also very good training for us. The reservists might show up anywhere at any time because it appeared that there were several of their commanders who were even worse at map reading than I was.
Finally, on the afternoon of the last day, when there had been no contact for several hours, my trusty companion, Spec 4 Scanlon, ostensibly my driver, but he was from Pittsburgh and I have had much more reason than his actions to be suspicious of driving skills of Pennsylvanians, suggested that, if there was any action going on, it would be near the swimming hole at Cowhouse Creek. I had been by this place once before during an exercise and had thought, at the time, that it was a very bad place for an armored vehicle to go. It was basically a cut into solid rock that had a few flat spots above it, inside a gully. Any vehicle caught near the bottom would be easy pickings. But we went anyway.
We pulled into an 'overlook' position and saw probably as many as twenty troops from our unit down in the creek, swimming in various abbreviated versions of proper uniform. I looked at Scanlon and he had the good grace to avoid my eyes. So we went down the hill, to the swimming hole.
I will never admit, officially, that I contributed to the lack of discipline there, but I will say that the water at the bottom of the channel was the coldest I have ever felt.
About a half an hour later Scanlon yelled to me that we had better leave because the troop commander was headed 'this way' and close. The troop commander, whose name I will eventually remember, got there before I could get my people out of sight, but he also immediately dived into the creek in full uniform, with personal weapon.
It is hard to forget things like this.
My thanks yet again to Rory.
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