Recently a solicitation was put out to LTs in my Battalion asking for “embarrassing” vignettes that could be shared with the young cadets at West Point as some sort of learning tool. Never one to pass on the opportunity to tell a good story, below was my submission.
My most embarrassing moment as a LT happened at Kandahar Airfield in 2012. I had arrived in Afghanistan two days prior and my chalk of 100+ Paratroopers was heading out to the range to confirm our zeros. At the time I was in the S3 shop, next man on deck for a PL spot to open up and, as a member of the staff, I deployed with an M16 that probably earned great honors in Vietnam and a CCO that may have been the original prototype. I was assured that when I eventually got to a PLT I would get an M4 and ACOG and be fully capable of engaging the enemy but that as staff I was bottom man on the totem poll.
At the range we formed firing lines and were given twenty rounds to confirm our zero. Senior NCOs from our chalk acted as cadre, getting people on line and helping those few who were having trouble. Having touched my assigned weapon for the first time an hour before I boarded the bus that drove me to the plane that flew me out of America I was fairly curious as to what would happen.
When it was my turn I got down in the prone and fired a nice, controlled, five round shot group. Immediately I knew I hadn’t hit paper and was in for a painful experience. A quick check of my target confirmed my suspicions and, unlike the majority of my line, I walked back to the firing point for another go at it. The SFC who was supervising my lane made a passing remark about controlling my breathing and trigger squeeze.
I made some adjustments to my sight, sent five more rounds down range, same result. Another trip down to check the target, another walk of shame back while new shooters joined me. Now I had the undivided attention of the SFC. After assuring him this was not my first time holding a weapon and promising I was aiming at the right target, we adjusted my sight together and, with a fading sense of optimism and humor I again got in the prone.
Five more shots, still no paper. Now I was attracting the attention of all the cadre on the range, not just the helpful SFC. A new LT who can’t shoot straight is apparently a goldmine for jokes, I was a walking stereotype. Rather then continue to embarrass myself, and wanting to zero before the deployment ended, I ditched the CCO and went with my good friend Mr. Iron Sights. To the enjoyment of all I hit paper with my first rounds, eliciting a cheer and applause that was probably heard back at Fort Bragg. I adjusted my sights accordingly and within 10 rounds had grouped, zeroed and confirmed.
Three weeks later I took over a Platoon and got the M4 with ACOG I was promised. During one of my first dinners with my new NCOs one of my Squad Leaders told the story of how when he was passing through KAF this cherry LT couldn’t zero his weapon and how funny that was. Typical LTs, right Sir? Yeah I said,typical LTs.