Monday, October 25, 2010

Range Reminiscence

The inaugural Eegeebeegee Evil Glowing Zombie Rubber Duck Resistance (EEGZRDR--pronounced: exerter) shoot was held Saturday evening here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. Following the wild acclaim by which the inaugural Eegeebeegee Easter Egg Hunt (manly men hunting eggs the manly man way--with firearms) was received and for which a seasonal intermediate version was demanded by a clamoring crowd of cronies unwilling to wait an entire year for an opportunity to burn prodigious amounts of gunpowder and break lots of things, the Colonel's Number 1 Son, using brains and inventiveness obviously inherited from the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, developed the aforementioned EEGZRDR shoot concept, the scenario for which can be found and perused at

The details of the actual execution of the inaugural EEGZRDR will be kept a closely guarded secret for reasons which would be obvious only if the Colonel broke his sworn silence. Even then, the Colonel would be required to track down and (insert favorite euphemism for placing final entry in one's health record) the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon. Suffice it to say that the gist of the EEGZRDR combined four of the favorite pastimes of southern men--spotlighting, shooting, talking trash, and competing for points in spotlighting, shooting, and talking trash.

This morning as the Colonel and the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes 1 and 2 (H21CC-1, -2) policed brass on the firing line, the Colonel was reminded of his time shooting and policing brass on Marine Corps rifle ranges. In particular, the Colonel was reminded of rifle qualification week on the Quantico rifle range 27 years ago this week. The Colonel remembers that range week clearly for its coincidence with two seminal events in the history of his beloved Marine Corps.

Early the Sunday morning prior to that qualification week, the 23rd of October in 1983, the Colonel, then assigned as an instructor at The Basic School (the training ground on which Marine officers are prepared for their first assignments leading Marines), turned on the television and saw the pulse-quickening news of the bombing of the Battalion Landing Team 1/8 headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The projected casualty toll on the Marines and sailors ashore there for duty as peacekeepers was hard enough to bear, but the Colonel was particularly concerned as one of his earliest mentors in the Marine Corps--Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach--was in command of BLT 1/8 and was almost certain to be among the casualties.

The next Tuesday morning, as the Colonel and his fellow Marines sat in the dark on the 200 yard-line awaiting sunrise and the beginning of the day's rifle qualification practice, the talk about the tragedy in Beirut was interrupted by news that another Marine battalion landing team was participating in an invasion of the Cuban satellite, Grenada. It was a surreal moment. On one side of the world, fellow Marines were digging the bodies of their comrades out of the rubble of a massive three story building leveled by a truck bomb. On this side of the world, Marines were conducting an amphibious assault landing for the first time since Vietnam. As the Colonel and his range mates sat digesting the news and wondering what it would mean to them, their reverie was broken by the range loudspeakers announcing the instructions that all Marines can recite by heart:

"Attention shooters! That first relay, move up to your firing positions and assume a sitting position. This string of fire will be fifteen rounds. Five rounds sitting, five rounds kneeling, and five rounds standing. Shooters, you are in your prep time."

It snapped the minds of the shooters back to the task at hand, but with a bit more of a sense of importance given to it.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach survived the blast that leveled his command's headquarters, though gravely wounded; Grenada fell quickly to the Marines of BLT 2/8 (with a little help from an Army airborne brigade and two battalions of Rangers); and the Colonel qualified "Expert," for the fourth time.

Likely the Colonel will ever handle a firearm or clean up afterwards without reminiscing about some experience from his time in the Corps. And, that's probably a good thing. At his age, the Colonel is starting to celebrate the fact that he has memories at all.
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