The Dumbass Chronicles – The Most Dangerous Range Ever

Updated: July 5, 2010

So there I was enjoying a two-martini lunch when the Battalion XO, Major Good Ideafairy, walks into my office and says, “Lieutenant…I want you to run a joint end-of-year weapons range with the Koreans next month.” Anyone else think this is how those “do’s and don’ts of range safety” videos start off?

It’s an annual thing – Army units have to expend all remaining ammunition in their accounts by September 30th or they don’t get any the following year. The logic goes like this – if Uncle Sam gives you 10,000 rounds of ammunition and one fiscal year to shoot them off, then failing to do so means you don’t need 10,000 rounds of ammunition. You probably only need 9,000 rounds and therefore you get a smaller allocation the following year.

So to avoid getting their ammunition accounts cut, most commanders set up a range in late September to go gun crazy before the end of the fiscal year. When you think about it, that means most commanders are cheating the system to ensure they have more ammunition than they really need, which puts an unnecessary burden on the logistics of the Army, but that’s beside the point. This story is all about how one dumbass, butterbar Lieutenant (me) planned, coordinated, and executed one such range and nearly got a lot of people maimed doing so.

The sheer volume of the ammo we had to shoot was staggering. The breakdown went something like this:

15,000 rounds of 5.56 ball ammo for the M-16
10,000 rounds of 9mm ammo for the pistol
7,000 rounds of 7.62mm for the M60 machine gun
2,000 rounds of 40mm grenades for the M203 grenade launcher
8 hand grenades
15 claymore mines
1 AT-4 rocket

The first indication that this range was destined for lore were the elderly Korean civilians walking leisurely downrange. No matter how much our interpreter implored them to leave (through a bullhorn), they were intent on gathering up rare indigenous roots for some pagan ritual (or just to sell at a local market) and had no interest in petty American qualifications.

“Should I put a round downrange near them to get our point across?” an NCO asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

In hindsight, I’m an idiot. Thankfully this NCO was a good shot and the tracer round that flew over atashi’s (the Korean word for gentleman) head had the desired effect. He picked up his one-eyed dragon wheelbarrow and left quickly, probably to inform his local politician that Americans were trying to kill him.

Didn’t matter. The range was officially open.

The second indicator that this was noy your standard range was the fact that we had every weapon in our arms room on the same firing line. Normally we break up weapons systems into different ranges here in the U.S. The M16 has it’s own range, the M9 has a smaller one, and the M-60 has a longer one. Not in Korea. Realistic training is the name of the game there because hey…in combat would you split up your weapons into different zones? Hell no. So we had everything rocking at the same time, which was perfectly legal at this point. Major Good Ideafairy’s guidance was clearly being met – “Don’t come home with a single round of ammo.”

In hindsight, he was an idiot to tell me this because inexperienced Lieutenants don’t know how to interpret orders, just follow them. So I did exactly what he said to do. There was no way I was bringing a round home.

By mid day, it was hot and blowing off ammo as fast as possible made many barrel’s scorch. Someone joked about a barrel glow bright red from all the ammo we were shooting…until it wasn’t a joke. I’ve never yelled “CEASE FIRE!” so loud and flapped my arms so frantically in my 24-year career. I looked like Tiger Woods trying to deflect alimony suits.

With a ceasefire in effect (and no one injured), I figured it was time to walk down range and throw the 8 hand grenades we brought. Too bad only six of them exploded. Now I had a real problem. I couldn’t leave a dud on the range or some atashi like the previous one might step on it while collecting snipes. Luckily I had a stroke of brilliance.

“Let’s keep shooting and hope someone hits them.”

In hindsight…. this actually was a good idea, though I don’t recommend it. Within an hour of resuming fire I heard two distinct explosions downrange that could only be the two grenades that didn’t detonate. Cool. Now it was time for the big toe-poppers, but again, the Gods of EOD challenged me.

“There’s only two fucking clackers!” Sergeant First Class Snuffy said. We had fifteen claymore mines, but somehow the detonators had all disappeared. It was time for another stroke of innovative genius, but I was tapped having used mine for the day. Seconds later I heard one of the few phrases I hope to never hear again.

“Don’t worry sir. I know how to get rid of them,” Sergeant First Class Snuffy said. Major Good Ideafairy’s guidance echoed in my head again – “Don’t bring anything back,” so I nodded my head weakly. It was time for a red-barrel ceasefire anyway, so off he went with two other troops and a bag of mines. What could happen?

Thirty minutes later I was halfway through an MRE when my eyes wandered over a densely foliaged part of the range. There I beheld our masterful Sergeant First Class Snuffy waving his arm over his head. “What is he…” I said as I choked down a dehydrated beef patty. Suddenly he dove for cover and BOOM!!!

“Jesus Christ!” more than one of us yelled. While explaining himself to the Sergeant Major after lunch, we learned that Sergeant First Class Snuffy had daisy-chained all fifteen claymores to two clackers to detonate them. He told his two soldiers, “when you see me wave my hand and dive for my life, clack away.”

Oh. My. God.

At this point I figured I was too fucked to continue any semblance of a military career and started cutting my Lieutenant bar off my collar. But the mission wasn’t complete. There was still more ammo to expend and as much as I’d screwed up this range, I wasn’t a quitter. No one was dead after all. Just scared shitless. What we needed was a night fire!

In hindsight…we didn’t need a night fire. But we did it anyway. After all, tracers are really cool. Is there anyone who’s served in the Armed Forces who hasn’t ogled at the site of pretty red lights flying downrange at nearly the speed of sound and bouncing into the stratosphere? Who hasn’t wanted to shoot those same tracer rounds straight up into the air directly over the firing line?

Straight up!? Again I screamed ceasefire while flapping my arms, only to realize it was night and no one could see me. As I ran to the firing point where I’d just seen tracer rounds fired vertically over the line, I recognized my buddy (another Lieutenant) aiming his pistol straight up in the air and pulling the trigger as fast as he could.

“Dude!” I yelled. “That shit comes down! Aim downrange!”

“Alright,” he says before turning the danger knob up a thousand notches. “When are we gonna fire that AT-4?” he asks me.

AT-4? Oh mama.

Incredibly, though I offered it to every troop several times, no one wanted to fire the AT-4. I took this as them being so appreciative of me skillfully running this range that they wanted me to have the honor of firing it myself. In hindsight, the fear of grievous bodily harm coupled with the burning desire to abandon this range from hell was palpable. Nearly every man had had a brush with death at some point (there were other incidents that I’ll leave out for brevity) so firing off the biggest Roman Candle the Army made was somewhat daunting.

In hindsight, I will never fire that sonofabitch again. Being dark as five feet up a bull’s ass, there was no way I could have been expected to read the directions on the missile casing, despite the flashlight dangling from my web gear. So I simply aimed it downrange, checked the backblast area (which was not clear) and fingered the weapon for the BOOM!!

“Those triggers are sensitive, aren’t they?” Lieutenant Colonel Bearclaw, my Battalion Commander asked me two days later while I stood at attention in front of his desk. I would have responded had I heard him, but the ringing in my ears was persistent. There was not a hint of sarcasm in his voice, so I had the impression I was Phooked.

“Let’s see,” he started. “Sniping at a civilian, destroying two weapons, firing dud-producing rounds, shooting at hand grenades, firing up but not down range, daisy chaining mines together, and firing an anti-tank weapon without clearing the backblast. Are you really even surprised this happened?”

“Uh…,” I stammered. “Yes?”

“Not you,” he replied. “You.” He glared at Major Good Ideafairy with the white hot intensity of a million suns. When I realized who he was addressing, I leaned ever-so-slightly to my left so he could get a clear shot at him.

“Sir?” Good Ideafairy replied.

I’ll never forget Bearclaw’s response.

“He did exactly what you told him to do-shoot off every round. And though the ends don’t justify the means and he is the dumbest moron in stupidville (his actual words), he at least showed creativity in accomplishing his mission and didn’t let petty obstacles, like civilians in the line of fire, stop him. I hold you responsible. You’re dismissed, Lieutenant.”

I was a cartoon character leaving a puff of smoke and a dangling hat behind me.

Major Good Ideafairy didn’t say much to me for the rest of our time in Korea. We all live with some regret and in hindsight, I was his.




  1. Jill

    July 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Hilarious! I love the ending. Not what I expected at all!

  2. Ryan

    July 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Oh Man…I almost spat my mountain dew at the monitor with the whole daisy chain incident.

    • Phelps

      August 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      The funny thing is I thought it before I read it.

      I blame growing up in Texas.

  3. John

    July 7, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I was laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks. My employees are still walking past the office window wondering if I’ve finally lost it for good. GREAT writing!

  4. Aaron Spuler

    July 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Kelly, that was awesome. And the way it was written was excellent! Thank you for sharing. Gave me a great laugh today.

  5. Hank

    July 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    “What kind of training son?”

    “A R M Y training Sir!”

    I’m cleaning the coffee off my desk, from my keyboard, and reprinting the documents I need to mail out today. Thanks.

    Semper Fi, Hank

  6. Pat

    July 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    My girlfriend won’t sleep with me cause I couldn’t stop laughing when she asked me to. I was laughing that hard.

  7. Kelly

    July 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Sorry my guns got in the way of your sex life. Wait…what?

  8. Perkins, Aaron-Type

    July 7, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Dude, I would NEVER fire an AT-4 in Korea. Ain’t no telling how long and how ate up that thing is. However, I have been involved in the same scenarios on that same damned Peninsula. Great tale, and greatly written!!

  9. Patrick

    July 7, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Yeah, that earned an eternal place in my RSS feed. Thank you for your service.

  10. Pat

    July 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    It’s all good Kelly. I’ll make her a margarita in the morning and I’ll be fine.

  11. Blackrifle

    July 8, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Oh, my Gawd! Great story, carefully crafted and well presented. Thank you for sharing this all too real incident with us. Forgot about the end-of-FY BS. You brought it all back. Now, will remove coffee from keyboard…

  12. Rich Johns

    July 8, 2010 at 1:22 am

    THAT reminds me of another story. LMAO.
    Teaching El Sals ‘expedient’ methods of destroying [boxed] 60MM mortar rounds.

    Just a few comments overheard at Range ‘Zero’: “Holy Scheit! Are THOSE Mortar rounds flipping thru the air??” “YES, I believe they are!”
    “Shall we call EOD?” “Naah! I think we GOT this…!”
    EVER see/hear M118 blocks of C4 sizzling and flowing down over extemely HOT 60MM mortar projectiles like butter on pancakes….I HAVE.
    and Finally: “Thank You, God for watching out for some ‘expert’ SF ‘Weapons’ guys that day….and our El Sals, who had some ‘pretty GOOD ideas’ after the fact…TOO!
    You guys are SO RIGHT! “Not everybody’s War Stories END after High School!”
    Rich J.
    SFQC 6-78
    Security Contractor Iraq 2003-Pres….

  13. Kelly

    July 8, 2010 at 10:01 am

    After reading this story, my Pops shared a similar experience from his days in Germany in the 1950’s:

    A lieutenant in Bamberg was in charge of a 3.5 inch rocket launcher range. He opened the day’s supply of rockets and was then notified that the exercise was cancelled. He couldn’t turn the opened rounds in, so he piled them up and shot a 3.5 rocket into the pile. Most of them didn’t explode, but were spread over a big area. EOD was a little pissed when they had to come out and pick them up.

  14. 175jfs

    July 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    “For those of us, about to lose our stripes, we salute you.” West Berlin 1980. The Last Ranger.

  15. Shoeless Chris

    July 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I am getting ready to run a range of just this sort… 20 AT4s and 20 LAWs + 10 to 20 Combat Support and Combat Services Support soldiers = A stressful day. Wish me luck!

  16. Kelly

    July 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Chris – Pray to buddha!

  17. SGTMac

    July 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Ahhhh yes the good old days of my time in the Infantry. My best and most favorite times on the range were Just burning through ammo.

    Can’t wait to go back. My days as a signal soldier are nearly over. Watch out Infantry Here I come (Back). This time as a Drill Sergeant yes I know God help us all someone saw fit to promote me into the slot. Good times await. Privates on a range what can go wrong.


  18. 00

    September 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    15,000 ball 5.56 NATO doesn’t sound too bad, but TWO THOUSAND 40mm M-203 rounds??? Good grief did you have some of every kind (training, explosive, armor piercing, CS, etc.)?

    My sergeant HATED the live claymore range we did because she knew someone who had been killed by one–someone who was behind it. The flame range was pretty cool; all the different ways to use napalm.

  19. Steve

    July 22, 2011 at 10:30 am

    OMG, Man I can relate to a few of these type ranges. This is jsut to funny. Thanks for the laugh.

  20. Doc

    August 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    LMFAO! I both commend and condemn the “louie” for not using the SOP of delegating to an NCO that has been slurping lifer juice and carrying a clipboard since Nam. That was some funny Shite! But back in the 80’s their’d have been hell to pay for sniping the atashi/haraboji (SOFA Agreement? More like Sofa King Stupid Agreement!)

  21. jesse

    August 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I laughed so hard i was crying. Funniest s#!t I’ve ever heard a butter-bar admit.

  22. Pamela

    August 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Know what EVERY E-4 learns right off the bat ?? Aint nothin dumber than some shavetail Lt. Usually you have a couple of really good SFC’s and MSG’s leaning on his ears setting him straight. I spent a litle time in Korea, land of stinking Kimchi and equally stinking fertilizer, Land that God forgot.
    Was with the Hq Btry for a Missle Bde(AD). The Signal officer was a 1st Louie and dumber than a 2nd. With him, you just let him prattle on, “yes sired” and “no sired” and then when he left, did it the right way. With us at the range, they let us go down and mark out own hits (Did you know that a pencil makes the same size hole as a 7.62 round?) They decided that we couldn’t have ALL fired expert. I could tell you more, but wont.

  23. Jerry

    August 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    LOL! I helped in clearing out the ammunition inventory in Taegu in September of 1983. It gets downright boring shooting 16’s until the barrels glow dumping magazine after magazine of ammo downrange.

  24. [email protected]

    August 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Just saw this today. Damn. 2 years in Korea and I missed THIS show?!!! Damned near split a gut reading it and got many strange looks from the wife. I don’t think it would help if I read it to her.

  25. Brian

    August 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I have one question.
    You mentioned tracer rounds being fired off into the air.
    When you investigated where they were coming from, you found your buddy firing his pistol straight up into the air.
    Did you leave something out, like maybe some Joe’s were firing their M16’s up as well? Because last time I checked, M9 Berettas do not come with a tracer round.

    • Kelly

      August 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      In 1992 they did. You had to fire them one at a time because they did not have enough kick to recoil the bolt and feed a new round. Trust me. I fired off about 1000 of them in a day.

  26. stu11926

    August 9, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Yep…there were also training AT4s that had a 9mm barrel through them. We were issued tracer rounds for those to practice with.

  27. Gunship Load

    August 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    God how I miss SPENDEX!!!

    I was on a range north of the bridge in that God forsaken penisula, with a 25 lb shot max on a demo range…

    Technically, if you rig 10 25lb shots with det cord, you’re not violating the 25 lb shot rule, right?

    Reading your shit makes me miss my old Army days!


  28. ArtyParty

    May 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I got to do one of those dump exes with Arty. We had a month long training op in Jordan as part of our MEU, but it got cut short after two weeks due to local trouble up in Lebanon, and it was decided we could shoot two thousand rounds or so off faster and safer than we could reload them into a ship. We did it in something like two hours or less, by doing a sweeping zone fire mission. That was fun, but possibly the hardest I have ever worked in my life.

  29. Kyle

    May 24, 2012 at 12:59 am

    “Is there anyone who’s served in the Armed Forces who hasn’t ogled at the site of pretty red lights flying downrange at nearly the speed of sound and bouncing into the stratosphere?”

    Apparently in Korea, sound moves much faster than the rest of the world…. or the bullets move slower.

  30. Sgt_H

    December 4, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Holy shit was that funny…

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