Border Duty
Mark Layport
3/12th Cavalry, 1973 - 1976

 

 

During July 1974, the Redeye section is again playing taxi, for “B” troop 3/12th CAV this time on border duty near Fulda. Redeye had over 40% of the all jeeps in Squadron. so we were always running around somewhere being the taxi service. Border duty was a pretty big mission for the 12th CAV, and Redeye Section coughed up 3 jeeps and drivers to handle the task. We were under the initial command of one of the Redeye Team Chief, a Sgt. John Cartwright. As our convoy entered the kaserne at Fulda almost immediately Sgt. Cartwright ran across one of his old buddies from basic training at Ft. Ord. They made plans to hook up that night and go drinking …and drink they did! Sgt. Cartwright didn’t show back to the barracks till about 3 or 4 AM as I remember! And we had to “pour” him into his bed! So when the duty Sgt came looking for him early that morning to get a jeep and driver for a mission I knew John was going to be of no help! Sgt. Cartwright was a friend of mine so I took it upon my self to quickly volunteer for the mission (John I saved your bacon here! You STILL owe me!!!) …SO I was “picked” to take the infamous “hot breakfast” out to the observation posts (OP) …“India” (Left), “Quebec” (Center), and “Romeo” (Right)

 

         

 

These OP’s over looked the border and were nothing more than a big tree house on posts. The officer in charge of this delivery mission was the XO of “B” Troop. a 1st LT.  Normally an E6 was in charge of the OP and he had around 5 enlisted men to pull the odd duties there. I had driven the LT to the first OP and he went to up looking things over. I decided to go up myself to see what it looked like since it was my first time there. I was standing in the middle of the observation room just looking, the LT was going from person to person asking a few questions …he seemed pretty happy with what he was hearing, when his eyes locked on to me. He gives me a moment’s stare, when in that “I am in charge voice” asked …”What’s your job here soldier”? …I give him a blank look for a moment then announce   …“Sir, I’m your driver”!!? I could tell at that point it was going to be a “fun” day!

We head out to the next OP, when we hear over the radio that the “B” troop CO had picked up the Squadron Commander and was giving him the “royal tour” to all the OPs.  The LTC had made it to the first OP and was heading out for the next OP, when about 10 minutes later we hear over the radio that he has vehicle trouble and is calling for help back to HQ. Problem at HQ was they were 1 ½ hours out, so they start calling for us. The LT answers and they want us to immediately turn around to go pick them up. We are about 100 yards from the next OP so the LT calls back and says “We’ll head out in 15 minutes”. They call back and say “Negative, you WILL turn around NOW!” *G* The LT smiles at me and waves me on to the last OP. We make a quick stop & drop then head back to pick up the LTC. When we pull up I could see the problem immediately. The jeep had dropped the left front propeller shaft …a common problem with the jeeps if you didn’t watch it. The driver looked like a whipped dog! He was probably catching crap from two sides, his CO and the Squadron Commander! So the LTC grabs me & my jeep and lets the CO and XO stay with the broken down jeep. So off we go the LTC, a Major, and some E7 …I didn’t know who they were.

I have a few pictures of this. One picture is of the LTC next to the “barber” pole that is the official border! As I recall military personnel were to maintain a 3 mile minimum  distance from that line! …but I wasn’t going to tell him! Also I took a picture of one of the signs on the border, you can see the anti-vehicle ditch and the mined fence in the background.

     

We were all over the border! I remember one town that looked like it was cut in half, East Germany on one side & West Germany on the other and wall through the middle! This is where an East German officer was watching us “real hard” through his binoculars. All in all it was an interesting trip.

I dropped the LTC off about 5 hours later at a remote LZ near Fulda where an OH-58 chopper was waiting for him. He said good by to the Major & the E7 he came with, and head out to the chopper. About 1/3 the way there he comes to a full stop and turns around and heads back towards me. I originally thought he had forgotten something in the jeep, but he comes straight up to me and puts his hand out to shake my hand and says “thanks for your help today Specialist”! …I always remembered that, someone that high up would go out of his way to thank me …one of the “grunts”.  He was a good Commander, but boy, you never wanted to “visit” his dark side!

The border was an interesting place, the only place more interesting was Berlin …but that’s another story!

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