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Sniper Check!

January 26th, 2009 by Speed

My National Guard unit was sent to Croatia in support of the Bosnia mission in the summer of 1997.  Basically, we were a glorified truck stop for supply convoys heading into Bosnia until the railroad bridges over the Sava River, the northern border of Bosnia, could be replaced. All of the bridges over the river had been blown during the war.

In the fall there were riots at the Brcko bridge.  Brcko is pronounced Birchko.  That’s the secret of Serbo-Croatian, any ‘e,’ ‘i,’ or ‘u’
sound in English is left out when they spell the word, plus the ‘c in the middle of the word sounds like ‘ch,’ and at the end of the word is either ‘ch,’ or ‘ts.’

We were at the town of Slavonski Brod , west of Brcko, and were waiting for the riots to hit our area.

During this time there was a special forces captain and his sergeant that were training the Croatian army.  These two would come to our base for their mail, go to the shopette and so forth.

The officers on base would wear their shiny rank on their hats so that we could see it and so we could then salute them.  The SF captain wore subdued rank [painted black] on his hat.  At dusk he would stand in the shadows, there many as we did not have any lights, so that you could not see him and then when you passed by without saluting him, would jump out, call you to attention and yell at you for not rendering the proper military salute to a superior.

When he was finished, the captain would find another shadow to hide in and ambush someone else.  His sergeant would spend a minute or so apologizing for the captain, the jist of it being that he wasn’t normally like this.

While the National Guard guys tend to be laid back, almost all of us had been in the regular army and would salute the officers, call them “sir” or “ma’am”, say “airborne” or whatever needed to be said.

Then the day of the riot at the Slav-Brod bridge came.

The reaction force sped off like a NASCAR race followed by the command staff.  The intel major got our captain and me to go with him.  I took a camera with a zoom lens so that I could take pictures of the trouble makers and we whisked away in my humvee.

The riot was anti-climactic.  The MPs on the Bosnian end of the bridge were on the ball and closed up the road block before anyone could get onto the bridge.  The infantry squad that was stationed nearby was in position to back the MPs up within seconds.  The reaction force stood by and I got good pictures of some guys who quickly melted away into the crowd, made up mostly of women and children.

We then saw some guys with rifles on buildings on the Bosnian side, so Apache gunships were dispatched to deal with the potential snipers.

Then the SF captain showed up.  He had his Kevlar armor and helmet on and was being followed by his sergeant.

I was standing next to my captain and major, who were keeping close to our colonel.  I handed the camera to my captain and said, “Watch this.”

Before anyone could say or do anything, I quickly walked over to the SF captain, stopped and rendered him the most perfect salute that I have ever done.  It snapped into place, my fingers coming to a halt, perfectly aligned along the small rim of my Kevlar helmet.  I shouted, “Good Afternoon Captain!”

He about shit his drawers.  His eyes got huge, he threw his arms up as he yelled, “Don’t salute me!  Ya trying to get me killed?”

I said, “What do you mean?  I’m just saluting a superior officer, like you told me to do.”

His sergeant guffawed and quickly covered his mouth as he turned away. The officers I had just left all laughed out loud.  The SF captain turned and stalked back toward the Croatian side of the bridge.

I walked back over to my officers were standing and accepted the camera back from my captain.  Our first sergeant appeared, I didn’t know he was on the bridge up to that moment, and patted me on my back.  He had a big grin on his face.

I don’t remember much of what was said, but it was light-hearted, even the command to not salute anyone when snipers were present.  Even if I yelled “Sniper Check!”

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9 Responses to “Sniper Check!”

  1. Johnny Says:

    AAAAAAAAAWESOME!!! Perfect way to get the bored officer off your back … Sounds like everyone else didn’t mind it either.


  2. Dave in NC Says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.


  3. LordEnigma Says:

    Pure awesome.

    Captcha: W. Belgium


  4. SGT Hay Says:

    I was stationed at LSA Anaconda (Mortaritaville), Balad, Iraq, and we were forced to wear our reflective PT belts at night. I never really felt we were under sniper threat, as we stayed mostly towards the inside of the base and it sits on pretty flat terrain (no high spots for snipers to get a good look over the post), but it still felt damned peculiar to be wearing all this cammo gear yet be wearing a belt that not only reflected light, it also glowed in the dark.

    I did have fun with an AD officer (I’m in the National Guard) one day coming out of the PX. I salute and give a hearty “morning, sir!” as is right and proper, and he replied “Airborne Leads the Way!” Without even thinking it over (one of those my worse nature snuck up and strangled my better nature things), I replied “Kill ‘Em With Papercuts!” as I was an admin clerk deployed with an Area Support Group (read that as Supreme FOBbits). Still to this day can’t believe I got away with it, but I think it was because he was too stunned to react properly.


    Raven Prometheus reply on January 27th, 2009 9:47 am:

    ANACONDA?! At least you have the decency to call yourself a Fobbit. I don’t know about any mortars, that could be true, but it had to get tiring going to your swimming pool. Or the movie theater. Or having all of those AF women around. Or working regular duty hours with Sundays off. Haha. Just a little good natured ribbing over the intrawebz….

    Captcha: Boston case: Is it Lager?


    Speed reply on January 27th, 2009 1:19 pm:

    I’m even worse: I’m an extreme REMF. I did my OIF in Doha, Kuwait. As part of my job I had to go the swimming pool a couple times a month to do a security check. And the malls. And the restaurants on the coast. War is hell. Heh.


    ViperChief reply on January 27th, 2009 2:43 pm:

    Go GUARD!

    SGT Hay reply on January 29th, 2009 9:56 am:

    The mortars and rockets were thick while I was at Anaconda, roughly once a day we’d get hit by something. However, I freely admit that while we caught a lot of incoming fire, it was very ineffective. Anaconda is a huge airbase, with 2 runways both capable of handling the big mothers (C5 Galaxies and the like), so it was 2.5 miles from north to south, and 1.5 miles from east to west. Tons of property. The mortar teams (as they usually weren’t actual insurgents, just locals looking for a quick buck from the actual insurgents) tended to drop a round randomly and then run, hell bent for leather. Half the time they didn’t even make it inside the wire, and very rarely wounded or killed anybody.

    I will say the scariest moment was when they bracketed the building I was working in 200 meters each direction with 2 rounds. We stared at that ceiling for a good 10 minutes, as we could hear the first 2 hit and knew we were in the middle of them both. They never fired the 3rd round, thank the heavens, as they probably caught counter-battery fire or saw the QRF Apaches take off from their pen.

    But yes, I readily claim FOBbit status. When I went home on leave, someone asked what it was like living in a warzone and my honest answer was “not sure, as I really don’t live in a warzone.” I really didn’t. Went outside the wire all of once, for about a meter, escorting the hadji merchants off post, but never did anything they trained us up for. Sat on tower a lot and stared out at Iraqi dirt farmers (you can tell exactly where they have irrigated and where they haven’t), and the rest of the time worked my ass off, 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 and a half days a week. In air conditioning, but still, not a lot of downtime. Made the deployment go by much quicker.


  5. creepy Says:

    all i can say is i miss my firebase in kirkuk lots of patrols large pool but we provided our own security and nothing but shenanigans in the off hours oh and the impromptu radio shows on tower guard


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