Posts Tagged ‘VII Corps’

Waking up is so hard to do!

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I did not spend much of my military life in typical military units with marching and uniforms and all that normal military stuff.  Even when I did, I ended up in off the wall sections.  I do not know why this happened, I just rejoice that it did.    One of my “real” units was the J-2, VIIth Corps in Stuttgart Germany.  When I showed up, I was assigned to a tiny four man section in the Operations division.  Captain Jack S., CPL Jamie R, Spc4 James K and SFC Nickerson were the incumbents. I was there to replace Nickerson.  My timing was perfect, Reforger 82 was ramping up.  SFC Nickerson said “Here are the files, I’m outta here.”

Reforger is, or was a huge cold war exercise where NATO practiced going to war against Russia and its East Block Allies. It engulfed huge swaths of Germany and troops from all over the US, France, Britain and Der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (FRG, or West Germany.)  The exercise takes place in a “box” which is the area where all the activity occurs. 

My four man section was charged with taking care of the various special forces taking part in the exercise.  This included the US Special Forces, the French Long Range Patrol group who dug holes and buried a small two man box in the ground and would come up for air and check out what was going on, and the Danish Special Forces group.  We set up with a German company in support of the operations.  We were not specifically involved with the actual work of these groups, but rather, were their logistics base and special action coordinators.  For example, one day CPT Jack says “SFC Atherton, set up a NOTAM for 2100 on this date.”  “Yes Sir!  What is a NOTAM?”  Felt like I was in a Bill Cosby routine.  Thirty minutes later, I was on the line with Hauptmann Kohlkopf at Frankfurt International Airport setting up the Notice To Airmen that we would be doing a parachute drop at that date and time.

But, I am getting ahead of myself.  This is a HUGE undertaking.  Even though our part was small, it likewise had many moving parts.  My job as an analyst and a recent graduate of the Defense Language Institute German course had not really prepared me for this sort of operations.  My sponsor, the good SFC, had a lot of interests, very few of which had anything to do with getting me up to speed. CPT Jack really expected me to know everything already and my two analysts had little experience either.  We were in scramble mode!  We had to coordinate with the Danes, the Special Forces, the French and the Germans.  We were responsible for setting up the camp where we all would stay.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of command interest in our very tiny part of the picture–(Had we failed there would have been huge interest, but that is another story.) We had to scrounge all of the assets we needed.  One of these was camouflage netting–enough to cover a football field.  J4 (Supply) had none.  It had all been distributed to the line outfits and bigger operations.  CPT Jack did not accept “Sir, there is no more.” as a legitimate answer. 

The Property Disposal Office (PDO) is where all the property no longer needed or 100 percent usable goes for final sale or disposal.  These guys became VERY good friends.  They supplied all my camo netting and a host of other goodies which kept me keeping CPT Jack happy. 

We finally deployed to our field location and got everyone set up.  The exercise started and we went to twelve hour shifts.  My shift went from 7 AM to 7 PM, but, in reality, as the senior enlisted man and chief muckety muck in charge of making sure things ran smoothly, (In the army, the officers are responsible for what goes on but expect, rightly, for their NCO’s to make it happen.) I rarely went to bed much before midnight.  We had some augmentation to flesh out our small staff.  SSG Black ran the night shift.  About three and a half weeks into this four week exercise, I was exhausted.  The two month run up to the exercise and the very long days had taken a lot of energy out of me. 

I got off shift and went to bed.  The next morning I was dragging and laying in my sleeping bag on the cot and SSG Black walked in. I asked him what time it was.  He showed my his digital wrist watch: 9:15.  I totally freaked out. Two and a quarter hours late!  “Man!”, I said, “Why didn’t you wake me up?”  I jumped out of bed and frantically started getting ready. I was madly concocting reasons for my tardiness.  Meanwhile, SSG Black is struggling to contain himself. Finally, loosing it, he bursts out with a huge laugh, and shows me his watch again.  0630!  He pushed the button one more time and now it showed 9:15– September 15th. I was So Busted!

PS.  The exercise ended and went well for us. But now, I always carry my own alarm clock.

It is not likely you will be in a REFORGER exercise anytime soon, but you might be going fishing. If any of the special operations soldiers we served read this, keep in mind the compact Emmrod fishing systems I sell are perfect for folks who do a lot of backpacking and need a compact fishing rod that does not fill up that backpack.    Check out all of my Emmrod fishing poles at or