Article Prone to Capture

On one of the last training exercises I was with while in SF I was part of an OPFOR working against a regular army battalion. The exercise took place in the forests around Cedar City, Utah, down in the southwestern corner. The umpires were clearly on the side of the regular army and would not even give reliable information normally forthcoming in such an exercise. Our team leader got the bright idea of sending someone in to the local town under cover to see if we could pick up some information. Because I was the intel NCO, I was chosen. Actually, I think it was because I could look the scruffiest the quickest. Dressed in old civvies I headed for the nearest road.

Shortly, I caught a ride with a ranch hand in an old pickup truck. I took the chance of disclosing what I was doing and, with a big grin, he was recruited on the spot. He led me to the most likely watering holes and sure enough, it wasn't long before we found some talkative GI's. They not only told us how bad they were going to shame the SF, they told us exactly how they were going to do it. For starters, one of the umpires had accidently left our radio frequency laying around for all to see.

My part in the exercise was to capture and interrogate a downed pilot and keep him while the regular doggies beat the woods to rescue him. In the third bar I found myself sitting face to face with the guy who was going to be the downed pilot. He was a reserve officer, a lawyer by trade, a young LT who knew little about the army way of doing things and even less about the woods. By the time we left I knew exactly which road he was going to be dropped off on. My recruit knew where the road was and we pulled a little night recon when we left the bar. Amazing what a little beer and gasoline can accomplish.

Putting our heads together the next day we decided to go on the offensive. We split the team. My job was to hold the prisoner. Some more guys were to create false leads as to the location of the prisoner. Another couple of guys were to ambush the road net and some more were to disrupt communicatons. For our part, we changed our commo, but we couldn't make it obvious so we created a useless code to be traded on the net we were supposed to use. We would commo check on this net every 90 minutes with our worthless code. We hoped this would pin their interception effort while our real commo would be on rotating frequencies, changed every three hours. In case they tried to triangulate our radios, we would set up fake transmitter sites in two locations moving them frequently. For emergancies we would use the URC-4 whisper radio.

Along with the umpires and the regulars, our team leader attended the final briefing. He reported everyone looked real smug and cozy. After the briefig he followed one umpire, a sergeant who had been a real smart**s to the woods. The umpire had just finished his call to nature and was walking past a tree when the team leader grabbed him and waved his knife in front of his throat, saying, "Aren't you glad this isn't the real thing?" The knife was one of those Gerber survival knives, the kind that are shaped like the business end of a Zulu spear. The segeant gave the appropriate response, where upon the team leader told him we knew all about their plans and threatened him down to three generations if he didn't change allegiance. All he had to do was transmit on our supposed frequency a code word if the regulars were planning more than a company sized operation. He also gave us the umpire frequency. We had our second convert of the operation.

We received an augmentation of three squads of National Guardsmen from Alaska, some of whom were Native Americans, Inuit, I believe. Four were assigned to me to help guard the prisoner. Also assigned to us was an umpire, only one, the regulars, in their demented thinking, assumed we would stay together in a group of 40 souls cowering in the forest until they policed us up. He was a West Pointer, arrogant and upset that he was stuck with SF. Proof to the addage that the Army does not issue a sense of humor. We assigned him to the team that was setting up false prisoner locations. If nothing else we would run his butt off. The first thing we did was steal his map. He had a radio and would probably report our location. With no map, he would have to give co-ordinates we provided him with until he could get another map delivered to him. If we kept him lost enough he would never get another map.

On the day the exercise was to start we were prepared. Our little teams had simply disappeared while our umpire slept sound as a baby and now he found himself with two closed mouth SF sergeants and four National Guardsmen who knew nothing.

For the prisoner snatch, we had prepared an ambush. Scrounging up some C-4 (every SF carries C-4 on an op, and some live ammo, no matter what they tell you) we blew a tree across the road that would force the downed pilot/lawyer/reserve officer to walk to his jumping off point. That way we could keep up. Being forced to walk, his umpire escort of our nations finest didn't take him too far into the woods and after about fifteen minutes they deposited him, sleeping bag, five gallons of water, some heat tabs and a case of C's under a tree next to a prominent rock formation that was easy to find on a map. We let the escort get about a half hour away and watched the pilot/lawyer/reserve officer get bored. We were about to change that. I was still in civvies, as was my intel assistant and the NG's, and was carrying an M-1 carbine. Some of the Guardsmen spoke some Inuit, so I decided we would speak no English around the prisoner. If they spoke to me in Inuit I would try to look intelligent as I nodded my head. Like Santa Claus, we spoke not a word as we picked up the victem and his goodies, blindfolded and gagged him and took to the woods at a respectable SF clip, my assistant brushing out our trail. Imagine his expression when he recognized me as the friendly local that bought him a drink two days earlier.

The location chosen to hide him was a wooded hillside on the extreme edge of the exercise operation area and was approachable only from an old logging road that came in from outside the area. Our recruit with the pickup would check up on us every so often and if push came to shove I was planning to use the pickup to move the prisoner. I tied the prisoner's feet together about shoulder width apart and used medical adhesive tape to tie his hands together in front. I also tied a ten foot length of parachute cord around his neck and secured it to a tree. We cleaned out his pockets, took his watch and gave him a poncho. He could stand up and move around, eat and go to the bathroom on his own but was constantly being guarded. If he moved toward the end of the cord around his neck the click of a safety warned him to go back. I wasn't worried, if this guy got loose he was lost immediately. We spoke no English around him and soon this got to him. He was becoming desperate for human contact. The first few nights he didn't sleep a wink and I just let the natural sounds of the woods do their work. When he began to fall asleep from exhaustion I would wake him at odd times and make him think it was time to eat. The NG guys loved every minute of it and played their role to the hilt.

The rest of the team did an incredible job. Normally all participants have an umpire with them that reports when bridges are blown, etc, but we had successfully isolated our umpire so we had to use more subtle methods. Cardboard signs hung on fishing line would be suspended across bridges with the message that the bridge was blown. One team used "materials readily available on the local market" (read C-4) to blow a tree across a major road to the HQ. One ingenious guy figured out how to take a forked stick and lay it in the road so it would pop up next to the vehicle that just ran over it. Attached would be a piece of cardboard that said "BOOM." Another team stole the HQ generator under the cover of CS. Who takes a gas mask on a training exercise? Actually didn't steal the generator, just relocated it about two hundred yards away under some brush. We put training booby traps all over the AO and especially the latrine. The little fireworks that go pop when you pull them apart are wonderful. Imagine stumbling to the latrine at 0 dark thirty and having a loud bang greet you when you opened the door. Its also hard to see saran wrap across the seat at that hour. The solution, a 24 hour guard on the latrine. One morning, coffee was late at HQ. The cooks were tied in their bunk with fish line, adhesive tape across their mouth.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful six days. The Army never accomplished a single objective so they declared victory because we didn't play fair. Another group of regular officers out for revenge against SF. Oh well, its all good.

Rotor rbo;
RW, EXCELLENT story, Bro. Had me LMAO :mrgreen: . I lived 5yrs. in Salt Lake City, and the Cedar City/Bryce Canyon area was our favorite of the whole state. Spent Christmas vacation in Bryce last year. Some rugged country around Cedar City. Cedar Breaks, Duck Creek, Brian's Head ski area, etc..
Glad you enjoyed it. I have no idea why I posted it here, I was going to post something else and this came up instead. I should have posted it under "experiences" or something. Maybe Bomber can move it.

Very good, So good in fact, it brought back memories of our training. ROFLMSAO. lolb; lolb; lolb;
In July of 1979, before we got our Bradleys, we had the old 113's. On one exercise at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, my fire team and I were assigned to pull a rear guard action while the rest of the company pulled back to bivouac area for the night. Once we got the word over our PRC-125, we were to hotfoot it to them(3 klicks). No one was to be allowed past us. Due to the nature of the terrain, this promised to be a most unpleasant hike at best, because we were instructed to go cross country. If we followed the road, it would have been a 6 klick move and too we were to maintain a low profile. Shortly after the company had pulled out, an M-151 MUTT came rolling down the road with a solitary soldier in his poncho(it was raining that day) behind the wheel. Since we knew nobody was in the area training, we stopped him and took him prisoner, thinking this might have been a test for us to see if we were on the ball. After a little discussion, we decided a little intel couldn't hurt so after we took him prisoner(after much heated discussion, on his part) we all bailed into his MUTT with him secured and one of my E-4's driving and made tracks to the bivouac area. Upon reaching the area and crossing the lines, we made for the command post. Naturally, since we were in an exercise, our POW was tied and blindfolded. When we met the Captain at his CP, we untied the POW and removed his blindfold. Imagine our surprise when we saw the Captain pale, snap to attention and salute the "prisoner." It turned out that the soldier we had captured was the state Adjutant General, a two-star, no less. On the good side, he did commend us for doing an outstanding job, but it was still embarrassing to say the least. :oops: :oops:
OMIGOD!! A two star, no less. Good job!! And all I ever caught was a skinny LT who wasn't even real. My father-in-law was an AF wo star. I always felt like he expected me to snap to or something. My wife seems to have survived the ordeal of growing up with brass, although, I swear, every two years she wants to move. Regular as clockwork.

In my time in Germany we had to do an E & E every year as we were rated "prone to capture troops". The training was invariably interesting with lots to learn; which tree bark makes a good tea; which plants are good to eat; how many calories it took to catch, kill, skin, cook and eat a rabbit (more than the rabbit gave you back for sure).
I've played hunter and I've been the hunted, neither of which really appealed to me.
When it was my turn to run, we got beasted for six hours or so, got checked for contraband (in all the best places!) and then issued an old NBC suit and tatty boots and got told to get on with it.
The adventures were extremely stressful (especially the positions we were put in when captured, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion seeing as they wanted to see how we stood up to interrogation) but we met all sorts of friendly, non friendly and downright hospitable Germans who were more than keen to put one over the hunters.
The main thing that stands out in my mind was the guy I was running with (we started out as 4 but 2 got knicked in double quick time) and I getting smuggled over the Elbe in the back of a civvie car with a blanket thrown over us. There were dogs, helos and the VCPs out but our innocuous old German lady drove across in 2nd gear waving as she went. She took us to a farmhouse where we were hidden in a barn. The farmer invited us for a beer in the farm boozer and as I opened the door, If found my troop 2 i/c, troop staff sgt and 4 or 5 others in there. We had all been brought over by the old lady whose parents had been part of an allied escape line for downed pilots!
Man, Zofo, those people were the real thing. Generally the locals like to get in on it, especially if they think they are tweaking somebody's nose that has some authority. Many of our field problems took place between Fort Bragg and Camp McCall. I got so I was truly "King of the Road" between the two places, knew every lock that wasn't locked when no one was around and so on. I even went back on my time off to cultivate friends in the area.

They really were the best! Before we met the lady we had tabbed all night to get to a new grid square where we were to pick up rations. The area was crawling with hunters so we moved well into the woods around the place and came across a gasthof or country inn. We peeped through the windows and made sure there was no one from our lot about. We sneaked in and poked our heads into the restaurant. Mein host looked at us mightily queerly, dressed as we were in NBC suits and a week of growth on the face.
We told him what we were up to and asked him nicely if he would provide a full German breakfast for two, 2 packs of cigarettes and as much coffee as could be drunk. We would then transfer cash to him at endex. With more than a leap of faith, the owner agreed and gave me his bank details and then provided the first proper food in two weeks. Full to bursting and puffing on a welcome cigarette, we bumbled out of the gasthof. We walked for about a K down a track, which emerged onto a bumpy tarmac road. Hearing a car coming we jumped into the bushes and spotted an aged Mercedes coming along very slowly.
We jumped out and flagged the driver down. Once again we explained what we were doing and asked for help. This chap couldn’t take us too far, maybe 5-6 K’s but that saved a good walk so in we got. Driving along, smoking his ciggies, our driver announced that he liked what we were doing and wished he’d had the same sort of exercise when he was a young airman – it might have come in handy. Our driver had been a very young gunner in a Luftwaffe bomber,which had been shot down “somewhere in England” and had been imprisoned in Edinburgh for the duration! Shortly after we left this happy go lucky gentleman, we met the old lady!

The first day after we got back from the exercise, I went to the bank and transferred the amount owed plus 100 Dmarks extra to say thank you.
Those people make life worth living. In training here in the mountains of North Carolina we meet an entirely different brand of local. We will come around a corner and find two guys sitting on the hood of a truck with shotguns cradled. They are friendly enough and after lerning what we are about, they kindly redirect us to an easier path or road that takes us away from their location. We're not so stupid that we don't know they have a still up that road and are making moonshine. We aren't surprised when later that evening, after we have set up for the night, to have them wander into camp with some of the good stuff. But that's only after we've built a fire, if we don't have a fire they won't come in, but you can bet they've been following us all day. We don't do anything fancy like ambush our backtrail or we would need that ammo we all have stashed in our rucks.

In 1957 I was with the artillery and on a NATO exercise. Because I was recovering from a leg injury I was assigned to drive the umpire that was attached to the battery. One day the battery moved location. On setting up the 25 ponders in a coppice the umpire declared them as prisoners. They had been in this new location for about five hours, in that time they had dug themselves and the guns in, set up OP points. On inquiring why they were POWs the Umpire blew a whistle and about fifty Gurkhas pop up from out of the ground or from down trees. That was the first time I has seen or heard of the people. All through my military career I heard more and more about the antics of these small warriors from the roof of the world. They did and still do, some unbelievable stuff.
Gurkhas were legendary with those big ugly knives. I think that people that "live close to the earth" if you will, for lack of a better way of putting it, understand camoflage much better then us "civilized" types. In SF we studied uses and application of individual cover and later I instructed it to new troops. I was continually frustrated by the inibility of untrained soldiers to not see through the most elementary methods. In Vietnam I was involved in a fight where we flushed VC out of hundreds of one man holes that had very clever trap doors. I think I still have a picture of one of the doors we pulled up. When I get time I will write the story up.

You are right about the earth people and camouflage. In Germany I was on exercise with my medical troop. It was bad enough being F Troop when the show was on TV, but out in the field, they give us all the crap jobs to do. This night we had to find an enemy section that had infiltrated into our area. Report back to the Field Ambulance with their location. And let the local combatants deal with the enemy. There were ten of us and I told the lads to get their heads down while they could. At 05.00hours we set off down wind at a dogtrot, after a mile or so I stopped the lads and told them that the enemy was about a mile away to our right. “How do you know sergeant was the reply?” I said, “Not only can I smell breakfast being cooked I can smell their bloody Old Spice aftershave and toilet soap. The smokers had a hard time trying to sniff the aromas. The none smokers soon learned to use their noses more. These smell are so out of place in a wooded area. The only task now was to pinpoint the location and number.
Too true John! This was one of the first things we were taught when doing our yearly clump around the woods! The watchword was, be smelly! It suited some of the gang, no real difference there! A Reggie bath helped occasionally but that was something I took part in and was not too proud of.
One of my mates was on his leadership course and got wind from his mate who was the Duty Driver that the cadre were going to be woken up at 3 am, bundled into the back of a truck and taken hundreds of ks away to the Black Forest and wre to be given a week to E & E and get back to camp. And sure enough at the appointed time it happened. As they left the barracks my mate loosened his bonds, dived over the tailgateand walked back into the single accomodation, whereupon he spent a week in comparative luxury whil all the others suffered on the road.
That is gentlemen, what you call INITIATIVE!
The olfactory factor! Silky, you hit in important point right on the nose. Our troops could be smelled a long ways away, but the VC and NVA used a fermented fish sauce that stank for miles. One mainfactor in our cross border teams using indigenious Montangards and Cambodians was the very fact that they smelled like the NVA. Often, the indig troops would jump right in a column of VC bearers while the US held back on the flanks. In aircraft we did not wear aftershave in case we got shot down and had to E & E. To this day I don't feel comfortable wearing aftershave. Hey, these American high schools are dangerous places, I still might have to E & E. Just remember, if you can't smell the guy behind you, halt the column and check him out. (old SF lore)

Once a month we’d do orienteering exercises and one month a group of the privates were selected to lay out the course. The unit would collect round the guardroom and set off at three-minute intervals in teams of two. We were timed, and the winners receiving a case of beer. At the gate my partner Dodger and looked at the map grid reference and couldn’t believe what we saw. The whole six grid points were written on the paper. “I’ll take 1 to 3 you take 6 to 4 and well meet up at this cross roads.” Said Dodger, and off we went. The young fit active lads couldn’t understand how two old sergeants could out pace them and accused us of cheating. We said “No son, just initiative, plain old fashion initiative.”
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Gurkhas, the only soldiers the Japanese were truly scared of! A great bunch of men and if you've got a Gurkha as a friend, you've got a friend for life.

Shame on the government for treating them so badly.