Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Christmas

322466_world-of-tanks_wot_tanki_rozhdestvo_1920x1200_(www.GdeFon.ru)Author: Steve Traywick

It’s Christmas time again.  It’s the time of year where we Americans lose our minds and gochristmas_presents into a commercial feeding frenzy.  We do this every year and by the time Christmas evening rolls around and the toys are put away and all the wrapping paper and empty boxes are ready to hauled out and the dinner table is cleared, we swear that THIS IS THE LAST YEAR WE’RE GOING TO DO THIS!  Next year we’ll do it all over again.

In a few weeks the economic gurus will crunch numbers and announce if this holiday season was a good one or a bad one based on the amount of money each household in the country spends.  As a country we’ll feel good or bad about ourselves based on the amount of money ‘Charitable’ organizations say they took in this year.  Walmart, Target, Christmas-Dinner-dpMacy’s et alii  will let their stock holders know if they can expect a healthy pay out on their stocks.  If not, these corporations will look at America with a jaundiced eye and announce “Shame on you! You should have spent more!”

The rest of the world will go about their business. Babies will be born.  Elderly people will pass away.  People will continue to kill each other for whatever political or religious reason they kill each other during the rest of the year. Doctors and nurses will be on duty.  Ambulance crews, firemen and policemenMilitary+Homecoming+12.20.3 will be on duty.

Around the world, too, young Americans will be on ships, air bases, and Army posts.  Someone will be manning the phones at CQ desks, battalion, brigade and division headquarters. GI’s posted close enough to home will get passes to make the drive home.  All that can will have put in for leave and already left to go to the place that means the most to them: HOME.

As has been the case since the end of World War II, some won’t make it home because they’re stationed a continent away.  Those that can’t get the leave time or can’t afford the plane ticket home for whatever reason’ or decide it’s not worth the aggravation will be around post. These days, a lot won’t make it because they’re hunkered down in a bunker somewhere out on the edge of nowhere wondering whether not home for christmassomeone will decide to drop a mortar round or rocket their way. Or maybe fire a few rounds in their direction just for fun. Or maybe get a few hundred of their closest friends together to see if they can overrun a post or firebase. For a lot of our kids Christmas dinner will be whatever MRE they can get.

I was fortunate that I never had to spend Christmas worrying about getting shot at.  My first Christmas dinner in the Army was in the chow hall in Fulda.  It was no big deal.  It was dinner.  I hadn’t arrived in-country in time to sign up to spend Christmas with a German family.  I did hear stories from the guys that did sign up and got to go with the German families that were kind enough to welcome foreign strangers into their homes for the holidays.  For the most part, the American kids loved the experience.  The barracks, while they may be home, are really no place to spend Christmas.  It’s too easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Continue the Mission

Continue the Mission is the fifth in a series of Reflections of a Cold War Warrior written by Steve Traywick. This series provides a rare behind-the-scenes view of what a recruit in the military experiences in the transformation from boy to warrior; from a kid next door to a man who was willing to give his life to keep you free. His first three posts, Every story has a beginning and this one is mine, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior Being There, and Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Duty are great reads!

Author: Steve Traywick

“If you mess around and inadvertently cross the border and the East Germans pick you up, we don’t know you!” Squadron border briefing

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Prior to taking over border duty, the entire troop had to sit through a border briefing. The briefing was primarily for new guys that had never been up to the border before. It consisted of a slide show of the East German border troops, their towers, the fence, their vehicles and aircraft.  We were not to try to speak to the East Germans. We were not to make any hand gestures such as letting them know they were number one. If we did and they got a photograph of it with our name tags, we would be in hot water.

When a troop had border duty there was always something going on. Chances were that if a trooper wasn’t pulling tower duty, ops duty, gate-guard, roving guard or standby squad he was out on patrol. There were two types; jeep and ‘air insertion’.  Jeep patrols were run out of OP Alpha day and night regardless of weather. Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Duty

Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Duty

Duty is the fourth in a series of Reflections of a Cold War Warrior written by Steve Traywick. This series provides a rare behind-the-scenes view of what a recruit in the military experiences in the transformation from boy to warrior; from a kid next door to a man who is willing to give his life to keep you free. His first three posts, Every story has a beginning and this one is mine, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Being There are great reads!

Author: Steve Traywick

Note:  Most of these events happened in the early 1980’s.  I was in my early twenties.  I wish

Steve Traywick in Basic Training, Fort Knox, KY, June 1979

Steve Traywick in Basic Training, Fort Knox, KY, June 1979

I could remember the minute-to-minute and day-to-day details of everything that went on then but, unfortunately, time has washed a lot of that out of my memory.  As I write this, I’m clawing away at my memory for any details I can remember.  A lot of events are hazy, but the names of the guys I served with are not.  I want to put their names here so that no one will forget that they were real people.  Guys, dudes, bros, GI’s, soldiers, tankers, scouts,…When you see a post where someone talks about signing their name to a blank check, ‘payable to the US Government and people’, ‘good for one life’. This is quite literally true.   Each person that served did, in fact, offer their life to their country.

They probably weren’t thinking that when they enlisted, but that’s what it boiled down to.  The guys I served with (I still can’t bring myself to remember most of them as MEN.  We were just kids, really.) came into the military for myriad reasons; couldn’t find a job in the late seventies economy; education benefits; a sense of adventure; an honest of sense of duty to country; a chance to see another part of the world.

Hey New Guy

“The values composing civilization and the values required to protect it are normally at war.  Civilization values sophistication but in an armed force, sophistication is a millstone.” T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War

“Hey, New Guy, you know where you are, right?  You’re thirty klicks from the Grenze.  The entire Russian army is just on the other side of the border.  We’re well within artillery range

Grenze

Grenze

if the balloon goes up.  They’ve probably got about thirty arty battalions targeted on the parade ground right now.  Yep, if the balloon goes up your life expectancy is about fifteen seconds.”

Every new guy heard this recital or a version of it; GI’s love to ease their own inner fear and nervousness by passing it along to someone else.  B Troop was set perpendicular to the parade ground and Regimental Headquarters.  Of an evening while waiting for 1700 recall formation we would cluster around an open window at the end of the hall looking out over the parade ground smoking and joking.  One evening as we were grab-assing there was a loud explosion from the parade ground. It echoed down the hallway.  I swear for a second I had no neck; just my head attached to my shoulders and I was flat on the floor.   Continue reading