Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Our assault team leader, Daddy-Mac, who would also accept Mac-Daddy as his call sign, had come to frown over the team’s overall performance during our pre-alert cycle weapons shake-out at Ft. Bragg’s Range 44, the most all-encompassing free-firing-est range on post.
We just didn’t take the shake out for what it was really worth. There was an opportunity there to train up and improve on skill sets… not just spray bullets down range to check the function of the gun. Really, that IS what the shake-out was about, but D-Mac saw it as an opportunity wasted; he was correct of course.
Shake-out meant we brought everything we had in our team room weapons vault and rocked the bejesus out of the Casbah for a day and night free-fire episode to make sure every aspect of our weapons were on point. Soldiers headed home for the evening would pull over and line the road shoulders to gaze at the spectacle; one they had never witnessed.
We focused our attention on crew-served machine guns, AT-4 anti-tank rockets, and the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle (also an anti-tank weapon). Since our team weapons were already loaded for alert, we grabbed extra machine guns from the Unit arms room.
M-240 7.62 x 51mm (short barrel) crew-served machine gun.
We the men of Daddy-Mac’s assault team drove to the range to set up and wait for Mac-Daddy to arrive with the ammunition he brought from the Unit’s magazine. A potential easy day of zero coordination at the Unit ranges turned into one of modest coordination due to us not being allowed to fire automatic weapons on our Ranges.
On our compound our ranges were always open, so we never had to call up Range Control to request permission to open fire; we just coordinated for space internally and started shooting. To shoot machine guns and rockets meant we had to schedule a time and place to train from Range Control, then report when we started and stopped our training.
That restriction never actually stopped us from grabbing a few Ak-47s on an occasional day off from the usual grind to just blindly pump full-auto magazine after magazine of hate into a dirt berm. This was typically coupled with a thunderous “GET SOME” to compliment the cloud of erupting dirt plumes.
7.62 x 39mm AK-47, AK: Автома́т Кала́шникова, Avtomát Kaláshnikova — (“Kaláshnikov’s Automatic Rifle) 47 is the year that Kaláshnikov invented it.
There were times when we pumped a little too much hate into the berms, and Range Control would literally hear the automatic fire, or some loser would hear it and rat on us to Control. That typically lead to a report of admonition to filter down to team level whereby Daddy-Mac would quiz with an arched brow:
“Were any of you potato-head pipe-hitters rock-n-rollin’ on the ranges last week?”
“Gosh, Mac-Daddy… no Sir; none of us were doing that. That’s just awful; why, there ought to be an investigation and men severely punished!”
AT4 Anti-tank rocket.
“Lose the bullcrap. If you find out or you think you know who did it tell them to nix the Tom-Foolery.” Sure, message delivered in his Dad-Mac style; message gratefully received by us all. The fact was, Mac-Daddy always had our six, and by Lucifer we all had his too.
Daddy Mac pulled up in a cargo truck, and we started to pull and stack crates of ordnance. As shirts came off, we the almighty men of Mac-Daddy’s assault team became painfully aware that there was far, far more ammunition than we could ever expend ourselves:
“Lord Jesus, Daddy-Mac… just what time are you expecting the Chinese hoards to attack? Aha…”
Mac-Daddy returned regard with just a heavenward arch of brow: “Right now, so let’s get started!”
Author (left) and Daddy-Mac joking as they prep for range fire.
In all, there were 17,000 rounds of 7.62 x 51mm for the machine gun, 25 AT-4 Anti-Tank rockets, and 50 rounds for the recoilless rifle. Every single report of either of those rockets was a guaranteed bell ring for the gunner. My head hurt just looking at it all.
“Daddy-Mac… we can’t shoot all these rockets, not by regulation we can’t; we’ll tear our pericardiums with all that concussion… we won’t be fit for duty with shredded heart sacks,” I whined.
“Guys, today is a good day to get good,” he began with a sinister grin that was developing across his face, “and that’s what we are going to do; we’re going to get good on all these weapons. Lock and load; I’ll open the range,” and Mac-D fenced with Range Control to open his range.
One of the bros grabbed an AT-4 and plopped in a firing pit behind cover and started to administratively prepare it for fire.
“Nope, nope, nope… not like that.” Mac-Daddy interrupted, “That is no longer how we employ AT. Sling that rocket and stand back 50 meters from the pit. At my signal you’ll, sprint to the pit and take cover. Once you start your sprint, I’ll call out your target. You need to have your distance figured out during the sprint. Once under cover, prep your rocket then pop up and fire. If you take longer than five seconds on your pop up… you fail whether you get a hit or not.”
Now I was pumped. This was realistic training, yes it was!
84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
I did field a reservation about this training scenario: range conduct was very rigid and confining. Weapons were only to be loaded strictly on the firing line under strictly-controlled guidelines. Sprinting with loaded ordnance from a distance behind the firing line was absolutely out of bounds!
“Daddy-Mac, Range Control would crap a cinder block if they saw this,” warned a pipe-hitter.”
“Well Range Control ain’t here are they, so there’ll be no masonry crapping… now on your mark, get set, GO!”
So it went, and the competition was red-hot with second after second being shaved off of best times. Expended AT-4 tubes were strewn about making the firing line look the blast side of Mt. St. Helen. The machine gun rattled away thousands of rounds of jacketed lead further heating the already blazing-hot North Cackalacky summer day.
“Good Christ… you could glaze ceramics out here…” lamented a gunner.
Mac-Daddy: “What you meant to say was, RELOAD!” The gun spat and the rockets belched on.
A Range Control truck hockey-slid at our firing line and a cantankerous man scowled from his window:
Firing the 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
“Cease fire, cease fire!! …you’re destroying my range!”
The machine gun had been digging deeper and deeper V-shaped ruts into the known-distance berms, and some of the armor target subjects were just… simply… gone.
Mac Daddy closed the distance to the truck’s window and:
“How about you get off my range, tough guy! You can’t put me on check fire; I own this range! What you need to do is, first of all, get the f*ck off MY range, and second, you need to get some more armor out here and fill in those ruts in the berms before I come out here next. Fire at will, boys!!” And the machine gun rumbled, and the rockets red glared.
“You probably should send this one to depot,” I suggested as I turned in the machine gun to the armorer that night, “she’s seen better days.”
The moral of the story is: when Daddy-Mac tells you to jump, you request how high and crouch, because Mac-Daddy is going to make you jump.
As for what we took away from Mac-Daddy’s lesson, there was palpable embarrassment how we pissed away a live-fire opportunity on an admin shake-out, and we never treated it the same way. Every belt of machine gunfire, every rocket salvo was preceded by a physically taxing event that mimicked an engagement under the stress of combat. How could we have been so obtuse? We didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to happen again.