On the road…again!!!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Getting out of the house once in a while is a desire that resembles an itch. Most people get that itch to travel on occasion, and soldiers confined to a military bases are no different. With the Footloose Forester, the desire to be On the road…again! was a veritable rash. There were plenty of opportunities during the year to get off the base, even if it meant deploying on maneuvers to one of the forests surrounding our missile battalion headquarters at Fliegerhorst Kaserne near Langendiebach, Germany.
We traveled by road as operational packets; each unit with the equipment and supplies needed to set up and function day or night in the forest. Our Corporal Missile Battalion had dozens of trucks to haul our complicated weapon system. And it was indeed a system that required dozens of people and all that equipment just to mock-fire a single missile.
Other soldiers didn’t seem to mind the maneuvers, especially in the spring and summer months, but dreaded being out in the cold in the dead of winter. But when it came to firing a live warhead, every unit of 1st Missile Battalion, 39th Field Artillery was deployed on Temporary Duty (TDY) to the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. As an ally in NATO, Scotland provided us with a firing range facing the North Atlantic. Every unit deployed, except the Special Weapons unit to which the Footloose Forester belonged. The other units were going to fire a dummy warhead, but we had to stay back with the live warheads stored in an ammunition bunker on base in Germany.
Our opportunity to travel off base for training of the Special Weapons personnel was a TDY assignment to the Bavarian Alps. After World War II the US Army retained operational control of several military bases in Europe and the one at Garmisch-Partenkirchen was one of them. We Special Weapons personnel went there for training that involved only the warheads.
For whatever reason, the Footloose Forester was not on base at Fliegerhorst Kaserne when it came time to make the 470 km road trip to Garmisch with his Special Weapons colleagues. But the Company Commander had a solution. He would treat the Footloose Forester like an adult and permit him to travel alone by train and arrange for someone from the base to pick him up at the Garmisch train station. And there were a couple of travel restrictions.
Although the rest of his small Special Weapons unit made the road trip in US Army uniforms and traveled in an Army vehicle, the Footloose Forester was asked to travel in civilian attire because the Germans got nervous when they saw a solitary US soldier carrying an M-14 rifle; and as a soldier, he was required to take his weapon with him.
He had a nice but cheap green suit that was clearly of German design; and the green silk tie that he bought in Hanau was a match that was good enough to temporarily fool some Germans into thinking that he was German. So the Footloose Forester was wearing that green suit when he bought his train ticket at the Hanau train station and boarded with his M-14 rifle in plain sight. Needless to say, the loaded magazine was removed and stowed in his duffel bag, another of the travel restrictions for his unaccompanied TDY. The pleasant train trip to Garmisch was memorable because there was full sunshine the whole day and nobody was upset that one of the passengers on the train sat with his M-14 braced between his legs.