This little story centers around an officer I knew at 1st MPs. I’m changing the name because I really liked her, and despite what happened, I’d have followed her into Hell itself.

It wasn’t a scandal or such that she found herself involved in, but instead, just one of those stupid little things that happens to people.

I’m sure she never lived it down.

1st MP Co was right behind the Provost Marshall’s Office on Main Post, Ft. Riley, Kansas. Now every day when MPs went on on duty, they first go too the arms room to draw their pistols. These were Colt 1911s, a weapon that has been part of the US Army since World War I. They also drew their ammo.

The Colt 1911 .45 ACP pistol, the standard duty sidearm of the MPs for years.

When you finish your tour and before turning in your weapon, you need to clear it. The process for clearing a Colt 1911 in the MPs was rather well established. You come up to what we call a clearing barrel, which is a 50 gallon drum with the top cut off, and which was filled with sand. Further, it’s buried at about 45 degree angle into the ground.

Back then, and at Ft. Riley, we were allowed to carry a magazine in the pistol (and yes, the magazine had bullets in it). We weren’t allowed to have one in the chamber and the clearing barrel was to help guard against mistakes.

When approaching  the clearing barrel, you draw your weapon. If you have a magazine, you drop the magazine. Then you pull the slide back on the pistol so it locked open. The Road Supervisor would check the weapon to make sure there wasn’t a round in the barrel, then ran a cleaning rod up the barrel as double check.

Once that was done, the MP lets the slide go forward, and with the weapon pointed into the cleaning barrel (it should have been pointed in there all during this), he or she would pull the trigger.

Of course the weapon was empty, and the hammer would fall on nothing. You took it straight to the arms room and turned in the weapon and the ammo.

Once in a great while someone would mess up, and on this day, it was Lt. J’s turn.

She was Road Supervisor that day, and her team was coming in of the road.

My platoon was setting up in the platoon office. We were getting ready to go out on a Field Training Exercise (FTX) and were sitting about discussing it.

We had a good view of what was going on, and saw Lt. J’s MPs come in off the road and go through the process at the clearing barrel. Finished, she went to clear her weapon.

Suddenly we heard a gunshot, looked out, and she’s standing there with her pistol pointed into the clearing barrel. For such a loud bang, very little sand had been disturbed by the bullet. What was totally interesting was this young officer who always used perfect English was swearing a blue streak at herself. She’d forgotten to drop the magazine, and when she pulled the slide back, and then let it go forward. This of course loaded a round into the pistol. She pulled the trigger, and the rest was history.

Captain Price came out, gave her a remedial course on the spot on how to clear a weapon, and then shook her hand and said, “Congratulations, Lt. J. You’re officially an officer in the US Army.”