By Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Stone
Special to GUIDON
There are many things in the desert that can hurt you. Having a battle buddy can help mitigate those risks.
I often thought adults should be responsible for themselves and didn’t need another Soldier with them at all times to make sure they’re behaving. As my time in the Army has progressed, my thinking changed. The following incident is an example why.
It was July and the weather was hot and dry. We were supporting ground operations with 24-hour intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and had established a good battle rhythm.
We were able to allow the six maintainers to work on three shifts, eight hours each — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 8 a.m.
The morning shift was getting ready for our 10 a.m. launch and, unbeknownst to the platoon leadership, the maintainers only had one 15E at the launcher performing the pre-flight.
A young maintainer on his first deployment was doing everything correctly, just as he had for the past few months.
This time, however, was different. It wasn’t different because of operations, set up or anything the aircraft operators were doing. It was different because an irritable, aggressive and deadly saw-scaled viper decided to coil up on the rails of the launcher.
Saw-scaled vipers found in Afghanistan are believed to be responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species found in the region combined.
Thankfully, the maintainer, as he was running his hand down the strap of the launcher, heard the hissing sound the viper makes when it feels threatened.
Alarm bells immediately went off in the maintainer’s head, and he stepped away safely.
Had the maintainer not heard the viper and been bitten during the pre-flight, there is a good chance he would have died. He was alone and away from the ground control stations and main living area for the rest of the platoon.
Fortunately, we were able to use this close call as a teaching moment and emphasize the fact that it wasn’t because we thought it took two for the job.
We knew they were proficient in their duties. It’s for the unforeseen hazards.
Soldiers are irreplaceable assets in our platoon, and we want them looking out for each other.
We did miss our launch time while we waited for pest control to remove the uninvited visitor, but we didn’t lose a maintainer.
That’s what was most important.
(Editor’s note: Stone is with the 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.)