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There I was, smack in the middle of a range day at the Basic Officer Leaders Course. The day started out normally, with one group of lieutenants and warrants convoying to the range in a HMMWV, and the other group riding in two 5-ton trucks. The HMMWV convoy was always plagued with some “notional” engagements wherever it went, and these things were expected. The 5-ton convoy was usually a great time to rest your eyes for a few minutes.
Once at the range, we proceeded to shoot M-9 pistols until everyone had qualified. This was difficult for some because it was the first time they had ever fired a 9 mm (or a pistol of any type). The day was fairly uneventful and everything ran smoothly with no major incidents of any kind to report. Then came the convoy back to the tactical operations center building.
As we finished on the range, one of the groups switched places with another for the convoy back. Since my group and I had been in a HMMWV that morning, we traded places for the ride home. Using a quote from the movie “Iron Man,” I joked with some of my fellow classmates and said I was going to ride in the “fun truck,” then proceeded to walk to the trail 5-ton. If you have seen “Iron Man,” you know that the character Tony Stark said this before his vehicle is hit and destroyed by hostile forces. While nothing that terrible happened on our convoy, it was eerie foreshadowing.
In the 5-ton convoy, there were two trucks. The lead vehicle was a cargo truck with nothing in tow; the trail truck towed a water buffalo. As we loaded into the vehicles, I noticed a spare tire and a few cots were loose and unsecured in the back of the 5-ton truck. I thought the tire would make a perfect spot to lounge and possibly get some rest. However, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of rest on this trip.
When we left the range, we moved out onto the dirt roads. Everything seemed fine until our convoy reached the blacktop. There, the driver sped up and was driving faster than what seemed reasonably safe for the narrow road conditions. Things got worse when we got to a bend in the road that banked to the left and peaked where the blacktop and grass converged and sloped downward.
While the driver negotiated the turn, the tire I was sitting on started to slide. It was then I noticed that the truck was riding off the blacktop and down the grassy slope. The water buffalo began sliding out from behind the truck and started to hop on one wheel. It was getting scary and I now feared for my life. If the vehicle rolled over at that speed with a loose spare tire and water buffalo in tow, the chances of our survival were highly unlikely. We weren’t in a good predicament and we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the truck finally straightened out and everything settled down.
After the gravity of the situation sank in, I grabbed a metal piece from one of the loose cots and beat on the back of the truck’s armored cab. I thought our class leader, who was riding as the truck commander, would get the driver to at least slow down, but that wasn’t the case. After several minutes, I sat back down, still angry and fearful for the rest of the ride.
Back at the tactical operations center, I loudly informed the class leader, cadre and the specialist who drove the truck what I perceived as dangerous and careless driving. It just so happened that the BOLC commander was waiting there to talk to our class. I filled him in and, after questioning a few personnel, he said we were fortunate no one was injured and we should learn from this experience.
I learned from this experience, all right. I’ve made it my mission to ensure episodes like this don’t happen under my watch. My Soldiers’ safety is priority one.