North of Bad Toelz
(part 1 of 2) "Call me, picky."
"Hey sir, this won't be too bad..." It was a rare day when Tommy was more optimistic than I was. "Four AOs, three in the mountains, one along the Isar...how hard could any of these be?" Just back from Flintlock, getting ready for Mountain Training, a deployment to Greece, a "secret" mission (whatever that meant in Bad Toelz) and then three months learning Czech...I was thrilled...another company FTX.
As the sergeant major warmed us up for the main course, reviewing exercise objectives (commo...no surprise there), I looked over my training calendar for the rapidly-ending fiscal year. November, three weeks, commo and team tactical training...December, one week team winter warfare, one week team commo training, one week winter warfare cadre training...January, three weeks overseeing battalion ski training, then into February for two weeks of battalion winter warfare training, a one week company FTX, objective: win the VII Corps Ski Competition and oh, by the way, surveillance and message pickup operations...March, Austrian Winter Warfare Course...three more weeks in the snow.
April was a bit of a respite...two weeks detail support, getting the rest of the battalion deployed to Sculthorpe, followed by another company FTX (waterborne ops on Tegernsee) followed by a week of detachment tactical training, followed by a trip to Sculthorpe, a jump into Holland, some joint training with the Dutch, a redeployment to Sculthorpe, a rubber boat infil back to Holland and then FTX Windmill...Back from Flintlock there was Fruehlihgsfest, where ODA 123 supervised the dunk tank (not the drunk tank...we would have been in it).
We had less than two consecutive weeks in garrison since I took command back on Halloween...and now another company FTX in a week I had planned medical and weapons cross training, complete with goats and a rifle range. Shit. The sergeant major turned the meeting over to the major and I finally sat up straight...
"There are four areas selected for the FTX...21, you'll go to Reit im Winkl and conduct surveillance of....."
ODA 121 was the SADM team...what was a SADM team doing in the mountains...we were the mountain team...we had already wasted Flintlock in Holland...we needed to do mountain warfare, if we had to be in the woods again..."
A-22, you guys will be in this AO, by Mittenwald..."
ODA 122 was the Urban Warfare team, and they were in the mountains...what the hell were we going to get...Holzkirchen, observing the commuter train to Munich? Here we go..."23, you awake back there?" "Yeah, sir, we're awake and waiting with baited breath..." Tommy hit me with his elbow and scowled about the time the major intoned "Captain Stevenson, I want to talk with you after this briefing...123, you will infiltrate AO Isar by RB 15 and conduct reconnaissance for and surveillance of suitable fording sites for armored vehicles along the Isar..."
Fuck me to tears, another boat OP...we were the only team in the 1st Battalion to do a boat op on Flintlock, it went well...were we being punished? We were a mountain team.
"Sir, we got lucky" Tommy whispered under his breath..."I know that place like the back of my hand."
Great, the last time we were on flat ground, we were chased all over Holland by the Dutch Commandos...now GSG 9 trainees and trainers would be chasing us all over the Isar River Valley...couldn't wait...The other mountain team was assigned an area near Berchetesgarten...they had half a dozen guys that couldn't even climb.
Well, I guess we were going to have to make another silk purse out of a sow's ear. That company command assignment in Mannheim was starting to look better. I didn't want to command the ACE Mobile Force Headquarters Company...I wanted to command an SF mountain detachment and I wanted to operate in the mountains...any mountains....call me picky.
As the meeting broke up, I went into the Major's office, expecting an ass chewing. The only times I ever went in there, I was getting my ass chewed...life in the fast lane.
"What seems to be the problem, Steve?"
"Well, I just added it up...of the last eight months, we've spent 18 weeks training in the mountains...and on the last two FTXs we've operated out of boats. If we are supposed to be a MAROPs detachment, then I have wasted almost a full training year, and our real world UWOA is completely out of line with the way we train."
"Steve, 21 and 22 need to get better at mountain ops...they were dismal during the winter FTX...24 needs more time to get up to your standards in mountaineering, and you guys need to do something besides ski, climb, and sleep in snow caves..."
Okay, I guess, he makes sense...I thought that 21 had done okay in the mountains. A-124s problem was the snack bar magnet...they needed to be in the field anywhere. There was no argument, the FTX was two weeks away and my guys were comfortable with rubber boats, especially after Holland. I had a five day leave, Debbie and I left the rug rats at our German Oma's house and we went on that trip to Vienna that Debbie had won at the SF Wives Coffee...
Just after we got back from Flintlock, I was blessed (cursed) with an executive officer. A tall signal corps, SF qualified second lieutenant named Lyle would be my right hand man...thank God I'm left-handed. He meant well, but with no other experience, he had more to learn than I had time to teach him. I had talked over the training plan with him, explained that as soon as he had the chance, he needed to go to the base-ops platoon and become a signal officer.
He tried hard, but he really wasn't in very good shape. He talked when he should have listened, and he never listened. He was like a child. But after a month of trying to get life in the Army's officers corp drilled into him, I had to leave him alone and in charge of a week of medical training and range firing. There was one day of helicopter and mountain rappelling to start the week. They guys were good at that and he was an air assault school graduate and a 101st Air Assault Division certified rappell-master. I figured that if the first couple of days of training went well, then he would gain some confidence and the team would quit putting dead puppies in his wall locker.
(part 2 of 2) Back from Vienna
When I returned to Toelz after a passable time in Vienna and a wonderful time with Debbie, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the door of my quarters. "Call me when you get back!" It was signed by the major. Maybe the secret mission (whatever it was) had been moved up and we wouldn't have to go on the company FTX.
I called him and he said "Meet me in my office in five minutes!"
No sweat, I lived on post these days...the B-team headquarters (Bldg 73) was at the end of my drive way...I lived in Quarters 60B, right off the golf course and across the street from the football stadium/ swimming pool complex. I put on my PT stuff (I planned on running) and sauntered over to the B-team.
"That idiot fucking lieutenant cancelled the helicopter!"
"Gee, sir, no welcome back, how was Vienna, the idiot lieutenant cancelled the helicopter? What happened?"
"I told him to take charge of the team while you were gone, to treat it as if it was his to command..."
"Well, what happened sir?"
"The dumn MOTHER FUCKER cancelled all training that day so he could brief team on his philosophy of leadership!!!!!!!!! And go put on a goddamn uniform, we have to see the battalion and Det Europe Commander about this...the damn USAREUR CG was down to see training and I briefed it as a training highlight!!!!!!!!!"
The colonels weren't quite as pissed as the major and no one was as pissed as me. General Kroesen understood that second lieutenants were fundamentally stupid, but was worried about the waste of a training asset (the helicopter). The adult leadership was content that our good LT needed to go to a signal platoon anywhere and soon. With no blood shed, I went home and packed.
Tommy called. "Sir, the guys are pissed at the LT."
"They don't know what pissed is...I'm gonna send his ass to Wildflecken for the rest of his natural life."
The week of the FTX came, finally. The infiltration was a little more complex than I would have liked, but the mission was fairly simple. Chinook jump into a DZ south of Toelz, about 4km north of Lengriess...during the hours of darkness, take two RB7s downstream to an area along the Isar about 5km in length.
We developed a simple plan...Tommy and I would split the team, one establishing several antennae sites and doing the commo, one doing the surveillance...Tommy and I would circulate between the sites.
Bubba, our radio operator was not happy. The LT would be in charge of making commo. The other radio operator would be with me and Tommy, in the event GSG9 found the LT and the other guys. Tommy further split the AO...he and I would conduct surveillance along the northern edge of Bad Toelz, while the weapons guys did the recon work. Tommy and I had let the NCOs plan the operation and the mission we (Tommy and I) would run north of town was unknown to the rest of the team. Of course, the B-team would be deployed to Frankfurt so the commo distances would be realistic.
The jump went well, no injuries and a twenty minute assembly time...it took longer than expected to inflate the boats purloined from our "assets" (looked like refugees from Det A to me) and down the river we went...about an hour before dawn, we arrived at a narrow beach where we got out of the boats and dragged them inland. We quickly reviewed the plans, established rendesvous and moved out. Tommy and I moved to our hide site and got some sleep.
Mid morning Tommy shook the leg of my fatigue pants. "Sir" he whispered "they are coming." Quickly I was on my side, checking my rifle and quitely stuffing my poncho into the pocket of my ruck. Tommy was grinning ear to ear. He had the KS99 out of his ruck,with a series of telephoto lenses about a foot and a half long.
The weather was beautiful that day. It was warm and sunny, and at mid-morning, an ideal day for sun bathing. An on the beach that Tommy and I were conducting our surveillance where some of the prettiest young ladies in Bavaria were sunbathing...nude. Click, whrrr...click, whrrr...five rolls of film over the course of morning and afternoon. One of us would be taking pictures while the other maintained surveillance through the spotting scope. Click, whrrr...click, whrrr...the motorized film advance the only sound besides the gentle rush of the Isar river.
At dusk, Tommy and I moved to the rendesvous point where Bubba was waiting. He was ecstatic..."they got the LT..." "How?" "He went to the road to check his map and the polizei got him."
"Okay, Bubba, come with us...have you seen anyone else?"
"Bush and the other guys got a boat and went toward Holzkirchen...they said they had to evade...what are we going to do?"
Tommy and I exchanged glances...no bad guys had come to the nude beach...so with Bubba in tow, we went back to the hide site of the day, taking notes as we moved along the Isar, making sure the mission was accomplished.
We set up a low wire antenna, probably no more than three feet off the ground. The next morning, as the girls came back to the beach, we sent our intel report. We knew the GSG9 guys had DF equipment. Our new choice of a commo site worked to perfection...as we withdrew several hundred meters, the boys in blue busted on to the beach...the ladies were offended and started screaming, slapping and making a general ruckus...we laughed for a couple of minutes, and then departed, leaving the antenna we set up before dawn behind the strand where the sunbathers were...
The next morning we linked up with the rest of the team and moved down river to our exfil point. At the debrief, we had to show the results of our handiwork to the B and C team commanders. They were pleased, even with the pictures of the fording sites...like Tommy said to me "I know this place like the back of my hand..."
I never did find out what the "secret mission" was.