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Details Matter

Details Matter

CAPT. JACOB M. BLOCKER
1st Battalion, 173rd Infantry Regiment
Alabama Army National Guard
Enterprise, Alabama

It was a cold winter weekend and I was looking forward to heading out to the field for the first time with my unit, doing the job I was trained to do. We arrived at our firing point early on a Friday morning, downloaded our gear and started to set up the fire direction center. Once complete, we moved on to our sleeping quarters. The tent frame was up, the ceiling was on, and the walls were tied and secure. I was holding the tent stakes and asked for assistance getting them into the ground. “We don’t need those, Blocker,” I was told. “This tent isn’t going anywhere.” Little did we know.

I’ve never been one for cutting corners or not fully completing a task, but my new friends were “mission-minded” and had their hearts and thoughts on processing firing missions. Who cared if we didn’t stake the tent? It was a minor thing. It wasn’t until Sunday rolled around that everyone learned that inattention to even minor details can have major consequences.

We were packing up our personal gear after a long, successful weekend. My battle buddies had their belongings packed and loaded and I was still gathering mine. I dragged my rucksack outside of the tent so I could finish packing in the early morning light. As I was bent over, stuffing my sleeping bag into my ruck, I heard the panicked voices of several grown men yelling, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I lifted my head and saw something completely unexpected. The tent that wasn’t “going anywhere” was, in fact, going somewhere.

A gust of strong wind had lifted the tent off the ground and it was headed straight for me, frame and all! I can move pretty fast — after all, I’ve played dodge ball before — but nothing in my life prepared me to evade a platoon-sized tent. I managed to move out of the way just in time, but I twisted my ankle pretty badly in the process. I looked back and watched in awe as the flying tent majestically cleared the length of the firing point, finally coming to a stop in the tree line. It took a few weeks for the swelling in my ankle to finally subside. To my knowledge, I’m the only Soldier in the Alabama Army National Guard with a line-of-duty incident involving a flying tent.

Lessons learned

When it comes to personal safety and the safety of others, details matter — even the small ones. That is the lesson my fellow Soldiers learned that day. I also learned to never let anyone convince you into dismissing even the most trivial steps in a well-established process. Whether you are planning training for your unit or a “mandatory fun” event, when it involves Soldiers, remember the stakes!

  • 21 January 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 222
  • Comments: 0
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