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Henry L. Lefevre

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Don't Shot yourself in the Foot
By Henry L. Lefevre
Monday, October 22, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Going through basic training can be rather traumatic. I lucked out and didn't shoot myself in the foot.

After a week in camp, the grizzled old sergeant decided to unleash our platoon and our .303 Enfield peashooters on the firing range. Then came his first volunteer mission.

"Those who think they know how to shoot a rifle, step forward." barked the sergeant.

About then, the old army adage kicked in. "Never volunteer for nothing, no how." No one moved.


Most of the men realized that the sergeant was probably looking for KP assistance. Not me. I would have been glad to step forward had I known which end of the rifle to aim. Therefore, I also held my peace.

The sergeant cussed under his breath. Then he went into a two-hour lecture about the importance of pointing our weapons toward the target and not shooting ourselves in the foot. I think he also taught us some of the advanced skills like how to take the shine off our sights and how to compensate for varying distances. As I dozed off, I think he also had something to say about adjusting sights to the right or left when our shots were consistently off to one side of the target. After the first half-hour, I was asleep on my feet, oblivious to all of his chatter.

When finished, he woke me up with a dreaded announcement. "Live target practice tomorrow," he boomed. "Be in formation by 0630. Anyone late gets extra duty once we get back."

That announcement shook me up. I had no interest in firing a rifle. After all, there wasn't a war going on. Besides, according to the scuttlebutt, we'd have to account for every bullet that we were about to be given. Besides, 0630 was way too early for any rational human to go out on the range. My eyes would be bleary. I'd have a hard time finding the target. The gist of it all was that I definitely wasn't a natural born hunter. I might have even qualified as an original nerd.

I was about to question the sergeant but some survival instinct saved me from that grievous sin. By then, I was vaguely aware of the recruit's second adage, "Never question the sergeant." I kept my mouth shut.

The march to the range woke me out of my stupor. After the first mile or so, the schedule made sense. The march would make us less drowsy. Besides, the range was far enough from the base that off-target bullets wouldn't perforate the general's staff.

Once on the range, we received another lecture on safety. The range personnel made it sound as though they wanted all of the troops to return to the barracks without any casualties. I think that the permanent cadre were interested in their own survival as well.

While on the range, I found that my rifle and I were not compatible. I'm not sure what its hang-up was but I finally learned how to hold it snug against to my cheekbone. It still jolted me some but at least it didn't hurt quite as much.

The rifle smoke stank. I coughed and sputtered, but still tried to make a few hits.

Shortly after I finished firing my rifle, some grunt in the pits waved a bedraggled white flag attached to a pole. I was really confused. Then, one of my buddies said "Maggie's Drawers." Now, it takes a seasoned marksman to understand such technical terms. I was confused. Dumfounded, I kept staring at the pit waiting for the clown behind the target to show how many bulls-eyes I'd made. Finally, some range flunky behind me called out "One shot barely on target and nine Maggie's drawers.

I groaned. Too bad they didn't let us recruits mark our own targets. I felt sure that I could find more bullet holes than the pit crew did.

The range sergeant brought me out of my dreams. "Round two. This time, we'll be firing from the prone position."

Could the rest of my day get any worse? I vowed that I'd be a little more careful.

My conscientiousness finally paid off. I didn't get a single Maggie's drawers. I even hit the edge of the bull's eye -- once. By the time we were through, the sun was starting to approach the horizon.

Then, the range sergeant approached me. "Next Saturday," he boomed, "Special training. Be ready in front of the barracks at 0600 -- and wear your glasses this time,"

There went my weekend. However, I was not alone. Three other recruits proved equally inept.

By the time we made it back to camp, the sun had given up for the day. I envisioned a quick supper in the mess hall and the rest of my evening lying still on my bunk. No luck. The sergeant kept us all in formation and headed us toward what turned out to be the dispensary.

That's all that we needed. Before we were through, five men had fainted. I survived, but my left arm was in trauma for approximately three days. However, I was one of a few that kept down his supper. I might not have been a marksman but I was a survivor.

One of the wise guys in camp explained our reaction to shots the following day. "They gave us three shots at a time" he said. "They figured that we'd lose less training time if we took all of our shots at once instead of spreading them out over three days.

After doing such a poor job on the range, I buddied up to a fellow recruit who came from the Ozarks. He ended up with sharpshooter scores. I figured that he'd make a good tutor. It turned out that his experience back home shooting squirrels and skunks enabled him to qualify as an expert. Besides he was a master at using Kentucky windage,

By Saturday, I had learned enough to get by. I was a kid from the city before the media made heroes of gun toting misfits. Back in those days, civilized teenagers fought with their fists. The misfits occasionally used knives.

Did teens use rifles? No way. BB guns? Occasionally. My tour in the army involved my coming of age.

The End

       Web Site: Goose Droppings

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Reviewed by Michael Guy 10/29/2007
certainly filled with the humor and vernacular of the time... Truely amazing how you seem to remember all the details as you craft the story... unless of course you are illiterating (Lying?!) But I wouldn't accuse you of that!

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