By noon the sun was beating down hot, we still hadn’t been released for lunch, and I anxiously awaited my turn to blow something up.
We – my instructor and I – sat in Pit #5, a patch of dirt surrounded by three cement block walls, each four and a half feet tall and painted a cheerful cherry red. An M67 fragmentation grenade waited in my right hand. Six and a half ounces of cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine, surrounded by a hard, dark green metal shell, cold and smooth, capable of killing anyone or anything within 16 feet and causing injury within 50.
“When I say pull the pin, pull the pin,” the instructor explained. “When I say throw it, throw it, then duck behind the wall.”
The hardest part of throwing grenades is ducking. It goes against human nature. If you’re trying to blow something up then hell, you want to see it blow up. Never mind that a shard of metal can kick back and put your eye out. Show me the damn explosion.
My turn. We squatted down inside the pit, and my instructor hollered out the steps. “Identify your target!” I peeked over the wall and saw the target, a long stick pointing out of the ground, a cheap plastic torso dangling from the top, about 50 foot away. We had hoped for something more interesting to throw at – a rusted-out vehicle, a small building, even an ‘x’ spray-painted on the ground. Maybe next time.
On the orders, I pulled the pin, prepared to throw, threw and ducked before I could see where the explosive went. We crouched behind the wall and counted three, four, four and a half seconds before we heard the explosion, movie theatre Dolby Sound loud; we could feel the vibration through twelve inches of concrete.
We stood up and I looked back before making way for the next guy. A dark grey cloud of smoke and dirt was still rising from the ground, drifting slowly left and exposing a large circle of scorched earth about 20 feet in front of the target. The plastic torso flapped in the breeze, mocking me.
I trudged back to the waiting area and sat on the metal bleachers to eat the assigned rations, watching my comrades taking their turns at the range. I had a good view of the range from my angle and silently judged everyone else’s accuracy compared to my own while I ate. Most got closer than me, a few didn’t. Didn’t matter, though. I just kicked back and enjoyed the explosions.
© 2016, Dave Allen. All rights reserved.
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