If You’re Going to Act Like a Fool Around Explosives, Bring an Extra Pair of Shorts
by Leonard Benton
I was fortunate to play with explosives in my military career and I still have all my fingers. My hearing is not what it could be, but that is a different story.
When just a private we got some detailed-and-in-depth hands on explosives training. We spent the day learning a variety of ways to use different explosives and blow stuff up. It was hands down the most awesome day in my entire military life.
All my training that entire day came in handy the next time I encountered the opportunity to use explosives. We were in Dugway Proving Grounds Utah, which is just about the most miserable place on earth, or at least it was to my experience at the time. I learned better later.
Our final week culminated in daily live fires with all the weapons in our inventory. And just to put the icing on the cake, we got to use explosives as well. There were serious targets, old military equipment, for us to shoot up and destroy.
For those of you shooters out there, you know there’s a difference in paper targets and tin cans. Something that will properly deform and move around is just more fun to shoot. Shooting up actual trucks and buildings was just icing on the cake.
From ambushes, raids, and movement to contact, there were different ranges every day. We shot up the Ivan popup targets and whatever else was a target. It was awesome to attack something and know that you could literally shoot the shit out of it.
Typically, the live fire took place in the morning and the platoon received the next installment that afternoon for the following day. It was at that shining moment that all my explosives experience came into play. The mission was a raid on an ‘enemy’ radar location. And joy of joys, we were actually going to blow up a real radar dish — some obsolete thing that was out there just to be shot up and smashed. The little kid in me was fascinated by the idea of placing my charge and blowing it to smithereens.
The instructor asked if anyone in the platoon was familiar with explosives and the proper use of them. I, of course, raised my hand. And to my astonishment, no one else did. I’d assumed I was going to have to compete for the opportunity. Instead, it was just handed to me.
That should have been a huge red flag, but I let it go. I was excited.
Selected for the demo team for my platoon, I was given not only my own section of the ops order to plan, but also the responsibility to be a key member of the leadership team at a critical moment. This was great. Words cannot describe my elation.
Elation faded promptly at dawn.
The instructor called for the demo team. My selected compatriot from my team and I ran quickly to him, because we were about to receive the meaning of my life at that moment — dynamite. It was glorious.
Glory, ladies and gentlemen, is a bit overrated.
While the instructor did provide me with my desire of the moment — two quarter sticks of wonderful dynamite — he singularly failed to provide me with the most desirable thing after that, the necessary fuse. That is not to say he did not give me any fuse because he did. He just happened to not give me enough fuse. This critical error, when brought to his attention, was dismissed. He was a senior NCO and I was just a student. He obviously knew more than I did. He had after all, read the book.
I’d read the same book and that boy missed a critical chapter, a chapter I like to call Care of Time Fuse Depending upon Environment. You may have seen Wylie Coyote and his Acme fuses? This could be a very similar moment.
In fact this moment was so catastrophic that I actually made several decisions: 1) I dismissed my assistant — there was no need for both of us to get killed; 2) I formulated a plan altered by my circumstances; 3) I was, in fact, prepared to ‘take one for the team’; 4) I wrote my will on an MRE cover.