Tuesday, March 02, 2010

My Most Embarrassing Moment

Back in the '80s I was in the Army and assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. Sometime during my duty there, one of the Regiment's squadrons was assigned the new M1 Abrams tank. After some training on the new equipment, the Regimental commander decided to have a mock war pitting one squadron equipped with the older M60 tanks against the regiment equipped with the new tanks.

During this particular mock war, I was working in a command post on the side with the old tanks. One afternoon, right before lunch, we got a call on the radio that the "enemy" was headed our way and we needed to get ready to move. Given that information and seeing the dust cloud in the direction the opposing force would come from, we packed up our stuff and got ready to go.

During these training exercises, we could watch an approaching cloud of dust and estimate how long it would take before the cloud arrived. After doing this for a few years we were pretty good at it, too. In this case, we figured we had about 30 minutes before the "enemy" tanks arrived. I thought that since we had some time before we were going to move, I would take the opportunity for a nature call.

In those days, for the most part, there were no portable restrooms out in the desert training area. We would grab a roll of toilet paper and a shovel and do our thing behind a sand dune. We dug a "cat hole" in the sand, stacked up the shovel and our rifle so the rifle stood muzzle up. This kept sand out of the barrel and also made the weapon a dandy toilet paper holder. All the comforts of home.

There I was, hind end bared to the desert, in mid - well - business when, suddenly, I heard what sounded like a jet passing low right behind me. It startled me, but I was not able to do much more than finish what I started. I didn't think about it too much since it wasn't all that unusual for jets to make low passes over this part of the southern New Mexico desert. After the sound passed behind me, though, it went off to my right, fading only slightly into the distance. Then, the sound turned and started headed back towards me. This would have been strange for a jet plane since they required a lot more room to turn around. After a couple of seconds, a brand-new M1 Abrams tank came screaming out from behind a sand dune and stopped dead about 25 yards in front of me.

To anyone but the most unobservant, it was quite obvious what I was doing. The people in that tank crew, unfortunately, weren't so unobservant. The hatch closest to me on the top of the turret flew open and out popped one of the crew members. He turned, pointed at me and started to laugh. He grabbed the machine gun, aimed it at me and fired (shooting blanks, of course). My only consolation was that he was laughing so hard, he would have, no doubt, missed me completely if he had been shooting real ammunition. There's no way anyone could shoot straight in full belly-laugh, guffawing as he was.

The man dropped back into the tank, the hatch closed and the tank accelerated away - sounding remarkably like a jet plane.

Left alone, I finished my business, including the paperwork, assembled what little dignity I had left and slowly made my way back to the folks in my group who were gathered around our vehicles. They were ready to leave, waiting only for my return so we could mount up and head out. Since we were all "dead" we were required to immediately leave the battle area to a place designated for mock casualties. We drove away in humiliation - I much more than the others.

It didn't take long for word to get around that someone had been killed while taking a nature call. The tank crew reported it to their command, who reported it to their command, and so on and so on. By the time we got to the casualty area I was the butt of many jokes going around (pun intended). Thankfully, not too many people knew it was me, and my comrades in arms were very nice to keep the identity of the "crapping casualty" a secret.


  1. I would've died of mortification! You poor guy, I hope the burn of embarrassment has faded over the years. But it sure is a funny story to tell for years to come. ;)

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Donna.

    It was pretty mortifying at the time - but it is a pretty funny story now. Those of us who were there have laughed at this one many times over the years. That's why I thought I'd share it here.