Here’s another every soldier is at least somewhat familiar with and it a little prelude to Range Week, called Zero Range. I’m sure it’s been a part of the U.S. Army for some time. I’m sure the Marines have something very similar. It’s not doubt been around ever since a rifle with adjustable sights came out.
The rifle the trained us on in Basic Training was the old fashioned M-16.
When I drew my weapon for the first time, and we were taught to break it down, clean it, and so on, one of the things I did was check the rifling in the barrel. Rifling has been around for some time in weapons, and what this is is a series of grooves in the barrel. It helps impart a spin to the bullet, increasing its accuracy.
I was impressed with the almost total lack of rifling in mine. These were old weapons. they’d probably come from some line company someplace, and since they were approaching the end of life, they were given to Basic Training companies. There, they had hundreds, if not thousands of rounds pumped through them every year. Each bullet damaged the rifling just a little more. Mine was so smooth bore, that it had a lot in common with a shotgun.
The Zero Range is where you go to adjust the rifle to you. It’s a painstaking process, and the only time I ever actually zeroed a weapon was in Basic Training. Every other weapon I was ever issued, I picked it up and started knocking targets down with it.
But this isn’t about how to zero an M-16. It’s about the Zero Range, and an incident there.
It was early spring at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. We hadn’t made it yet to range week, and until a week before, we’d never even seen the weapons that would be assigned to us. Now, we’d been trained on how to use one, take it apart, clean it, put it back together, and so on. Today, would be the first time we ever actually fired the weapon.
We’d gotten up, did PT, cleaned the barracks, eaten, and then drawn our weapons. This was one of the few times I recall cattle cars showing up. A cattle car is pulled by a truck and nothing more than a trailer with some seats in it. They were never built with the idea of comfort in mind, and the way ours creaked when it moved. I was pretty sure it had been around since World War II.
We loaded up and we went to the range.
Of course get a bunch of young men who have been under total control for almost a month, and they start venting.
Trouble was when we got to the range, and got off, they didn’t shut up!
At that time in Basic Training, everyone paid for the sins of the few, and the Drills get us into formation and drop us. Dropping meant pushups.
Pushups aren’t a big deal to me. What was a big deal was I was Platoon Guide and that put me out front. Somehow, I felt responsible that I hadn’t told them to get their stuff together before getting off the cattle car.
So, I’m doing pushups, and I saw a drop hit the ground in front of me. I went down on the pushup and realized it was blood. By the time I came up, several dozen drops had joined it.
By the time we were told to recover (Get up and get at Attention), there was a small puddle.
I got up, went to attention and tried to snort the blood up into my nose. It didn’t work. I was gushing blood from my nose. I was bleeding like I’d just gone a round with Muhammad Ali and he’d put a good one into me.
But standing at attention, and with the drills screaming at us, all I could do was stand and let it run. It ran down my face, and the down onto my uniform. I stood that way for about twenty seconds. By then, my BDU top was soaked in blood. I looked like a refugee from a slasher film.
Drill Sgt. King had been yelling at us, and he turned and saw me. The man had always had a tough, you can’t make me smile look on his face.
When he saw me, his mouth dropped open and his eyes went wide. For a second he stops yelling at everyone, and then lowers his voice a little. “Platoon Guide. Fall out and go see the medics!”
“Thank you, Drill Sgt.,” I yelled, slung my weapon over my shoulder and ran for the ambulance.
The medics looked at me, and handed me a half a roll of paper towels. Soon, we got the nose bleed stopped, and my face cleaned up, and I went back to where everyone was getting going.
“You okay?’ my battle buddy Max asked.
When we got back to the company area, I was told to cleanup and then report to the Drills Office.
There, my Platoon Daddy asked, “What was that all about, Old Man?”
“I don’t know, Drill Sargent. I’ve always gotten them.”
“Did you tell them this when you enlisted?”
“I didn’t think about it,” was my answer.
He nodded. “Go on sick call in the morning. Drill Sgt. Bruce will drive you to the range when you get back.”
The next morning, while everyone else did PT, I stood on the sidelines. Somehow, I felt like damaged goods there. The nose bleeds had been part of my life and I’d gone to school, bucked hay, and driven cattle with them. they were a bother but nothing I ever got excited about.
After breakfast, I went to the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic). A young officer checked me out, asked a few questions, and came out a few minutes later with a bottle of Ocean Water Nasal spray.
“A lot of people get them this time of year,” she explained. “Do your eyes burn in the summer?”
“It’s simple allergies, Soldier. Spray this up your nose a couple of times a day, and you should be fine.”
And since that day, I always keep the spray handy. And rarely do I have a nose bleed.
But seeing the Drill almost freak out was worth it.