The United States Military is the most powerful and capable fighting force the world has ever seen, able to leverage technological and human resources across multiple battlespaces to deadly effect. But as anyone who has been in the military will tell you, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty ridiculous failures in training. With that in mind, allow me to share a few times the service fell a little short of their poster.
A few years ago, in a location I will not disclose, a group of Marines was tasked with doing a ‘hip pocket’ class on the AT-4 rocket launcher. This means informal, just the facts and practical considerations. Now, if you’ve been around training weapons for any length of time, you know that much like Nerf guns, they are color coded to make them more obvious to identify as not live weapons. Safe, essentially, for use in situations the real ones wouldn’t be. This piece of information was not common knowledge to the Marines in this story, however, as they weren’t familiar enough with the AT-4 to know that there is a color-coded band on the device. Their mistake was quickly made clear when, during a demonstration of the firing sequence, the instructor managed to fire a live rocket inside a small living room. To compound the error, the windows were blast resistant, making ventilation difficult. While everyone came away shaken but unharmed, there are several Marines in the world that will always check the color bar and the manual twice before arming in the future.
Sometimes when making the transition from dirty civilian puke to highly trained professional servicemember, we take a little longer trying to remember that military equipment is set up differently than our civilian rides. During a motor transport training in the vehicle bays, a young trainee begins freaking out. It turns out that he managed to leave the keys to the padlock securing a vehicle inside of that vehicle. The more he panics, the more he convinces himself that he needs to fix the issue quickly. Deciding that the motor pool has tools, why not use them, he begins to remove the windshield of the vehicle, damaging it in the process.
There is an old expression; the simplest solution tends to be the correct one. Before removing the windshield, most of us would ensure we had tried the other doors… And would have found the rear door not only unlocked, but wide open… As well as the gunner’s hatch on the roof. The entire vehicle has to be sent to the manufacturer to fix the windshield damage, and that private never forgot to jiggle the other handles again.
There are occasions when the failure point comes from your idiot friends, more often than you’d think. Airmen teaching newly arrived personnel how to use snow removal equipment to clear runways decided that the new guys should learn a valuable lesson about situational awareness. Before going out to the equipment, essentially a giant snow combine, the seniors hid a straw dummy in a uniform inside a snow drift, with some embellishments for realism. They certainly worked, because upon hitting the drift, the combine lifted out and launched a body, causing the operator to have a dramatic and hilarious reaction. Hilarious, that is, until he ran the combine into a light pole in his horrified attempt to get clear of the “body.”
Always remember, a good prank is funny, but shouldn’t cost the taxpayer money.