Drive out the gate, take the first right, take the first left onto the onramp of the freeway, bear right to head north, drive for 5 hours and we will be back to Camp Carroll. That was the plan. I was in the rear. That’s usually where the Senior NCO of the unit is. I had a little Korean van and it was packed with all my Soldiers who either had no other place to ride, or actually more likely, I wanted close by me so that they couldn’t screw anything up. My commander, CPT Ruth was stationed in the middle of the convoy. She takes that spot so that she can best provide command and control for the entire unit. Our convoy consisted of mostly big vehicles with most of the bigger ones up front because they were slow. LT led the convoy briefing. Kim Jung Un looks uncannily like him. It was his time to shine. He was the new LT, he hadn’t been there long. He missed that train up that we did prior to coming over. This was his first big mission. Right on cue he said, “Drive out the gate, take the first right, take the first left……….. and we will be home. Home! Finally.
Not really home, back to our real barracks at Camp Carroll Korea. We were deploying back from the mission we had been training for over a year to prepare for. We had deployed to Yuma Arizona, spent a million hours at Tobin Wells (an iconic training site in the desert of El Paso), convoyed all over El Paso and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. We had recently deployed to Korea without the equipment we trained on, we picked up new equipment in Korea. Trained on the equipment at Camp Carroll as we covered down on it. Then, a month ago, we convoyed the 5 hours to our battle position on a small Korean Airbase in the ROK, Republic of Korea. Here, we conducted our final certifications. We got all First Time Go’s. Of course. We only had one small accident. The gate guard accidently closed the barrier down on the top of one of 5 tons. Had to file a report. That was it. We had done it. We had done it. We could finally relax. 5 more hours.
The plan is to leave right before dark. We will have the daylight to make it out of the city and then no traffic once it gets dark. We are big and slow on the highway but slow and steady leads the way. I have my own cooks and my own kitchen, my own wrecker that can tow anything I have, a bevy of mechanics, spare parts out the wahooooo. Nothing can stop us. We are finally done, just get me home.
SP time is what its called. That’s the time you put your foot on the gas. We were right on time. I had closed out the barracks and was shaking hands with the ROK Airforce CSM. I was thanking him for the hospitality. I heard the Soldiers cheer as the lead vehicle started moving. My RSOP team was always the loudest. We were going home. I was also gathering up the last of the Soldiers. If you were riding in my truck, it was because I usually had to gather you. “Get in”, I said. We closed up and out the gate we went, we were a little behind, but I was in a civilian vehicle. No biggie.
Go out the gate, take the first right. Those were the instructions. When my commander watched the truck in front of her go straight instead of right. She stopped in her tracks. Started calling on the radio. LT stop. LT stop! She screamed…..
LT says he didn’t hear the radio. He said later that he didn’t realize that the right turn came up so quick. His driver says that he asked him if he should turn but that LT motioned and grunted to go straight. LT later says he thinks that he was trying to fold the map and didn’t realize what his driver was asking. They went down a paved road about 150 yards and then it stealthily became unpaved. By the time, they stopped, half my unit, including a very heavy PATRIOT radar was on a rice paddy dike.
The Commander ran back to the truck behind her. Climbed up in the driver’s face and said. “Stay here. Do not follow me.” The Soldier acknowledged. Half my unit was safe! CPT Ruth then screamed down the road after LT.
My phone rang, it was CPT Ruth. Oh shit. I’m on my way.
Later, the Soldier tells me that she agrees that CPT Ruth told her to stay put. “No 1SG, I don’t deny it.” Well, why did you disobey? “Uh, my squad leader came up, I tried to tell him what CPT Ruth said but he didn’t let me finish. He said that we were blocking the road. At least pull up past the intersection. She also says, “then we decided just to catch up since it was already so screwed up, at least we will be together.”
My entire unit is on a rice paddy dike!
I drive my little van as far as I can. I have to hoof from there. I appoint one as a driver if they have to move it. I told the rest to get their flashlight, their helmet, and their weapon and follow me. It was getting dark. As I went forward past each truck, I was gathering my NCOs. Told them to put together 5 man backing teams. Only seasoned drivers, 4 ground guides, the ground guide by the door is the senior guy. All have flashlights. Back these trucks at least back to the hardball. Take your time. We have all night. We were going to have to back trucks for about half a mile, in the dark, on rice paddy dikes. Honestly, we are actually pretty good at it. Remember all that training?
As I made my way up front, I saw LT, but I didn’t say anything to him. He had already been put in timeout by the commander. I noticed that he kept fiddling his map as he sat quietly in his truck. Where we were was actually lit up. It was a ROK Army base. We happen to have Koreans in my unit. They are Korean Soldiers that augment our unit. I grabbed one, and ran up there. There was a serpentine barrier leading to a gate. The road actually widened a good bit but there were these concrete barriers. No big deal though, they can just open the and we will drive in, do a John L in some parking lot and get on down the road.
We walked up to the gate. Luckily there were two Soldiers on guard. The guards were being really guardy. Can you blame them? They didn’t seem to like my plan at all. They were not going to open the gate, they said that there was no place to turn around. I begged with them to go get their boss. Hesitantly one of them loped off. In the meantime, one of my NCO’s had a idea. If we could reposition some of the serpentine barriers, we could do about an eight point turn, but we only had room for about 6 vehicle, we would have to keep backing the rest. I looked back at the gate. Here comes the guard with someone else. He was a Korean Officer. He was in charge and on duty. He’s not happy to have come out if his cozy little shack somewhere. I tell him my plan, open your gate, we will come through find a place to turn around be gone forever.
“I cannot allow,” he said in broken English. “Why not,” I asked. They don’t allow big trucks through this gate. It is a walk through he explains. I show him how it is big enough. I ask him again, please unlock it and let us in and out. Can he let me run in to recon a turn around spot? He says no.
As I walk back, I told SSG Parson and SSG Epperson to move the serpentine barriers and enact there plans. They were excited. They roared into action, kicking LT out of his hummer and start wrapping chains around these big concrete barriers as I walked back toward the gate. The ROK Officer seems concerned about what is going on. I ask him once again to open the gate. Somewhere in here I got a call that several trucks were now safe and others were backing out. Things were moving. About that time, the first barrier was being drug across the concrete, sparks flying from the chain. The ROK officer exclaims, “You are invading!” I smile and say, come on man, help me out. It will be over quick
CPT Ruth led us home.