Too Close for Comfort
July 30, 2012
Once the missions began, Smith was gone for days at a time. When he returned, he usually had some unused ammo. Unbeknownst to the chain of command -- and me -- Smith was storing his unexpended ammo in a CONEX in the motor pool.
One day, Smith decided to teach primary marksmanship instruction and weapon familiarization on an AT4 shoulder-launched munition in the motor pool near my office tent. For the training, he told the unit armorer to bring an AT4 used in a previous live-fire exercise.
My Soldiers and I weren't participating in the training; we were contending with malfunctioning generators. We were going back and forth between the office tent and the generators, trying to figure out why they kept tripping off. During our troubleshooting, we heard a loud boom. At first, I thought one of the generators had overloaded, but when I saw smoke rising on the other side of a nearby tent, I hit the dirt.
Suddenly, I saw Soldiers running from the training area screaming and yelling for help. One Soldier had blood all over his face. The unimaginable had happened; Smith had fired a live AT4 inside the motor pool! The round from the AT4 hit a jersey barricade, bounced off and then struck water buffalo before finally falling to the ground. Debris flew everywhere and there were a few minor injuries. Fortunately, due to the proximity of the discharge, the round wasn't activated and didn't cause as much damage as it could have.
Only a tent separated my Soldiers and me from the round. After the chaos cleared, I realized had Smith fired the AT4 at a different angle, it could've activated, hit tents or, even worse, killed someone. To this day, I still think "what if?"
w/ info box below