Note to Self: Don’t Yank on Superman’s Cape

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing commander
Fort Bragg has seen its share of military "accidents," including the following, a true story and an object lesson often recounted on explosive device ranges to teach soldiers a basic safety lesson; let's see if you can figure out the lesson. At the Light Anti-Tank Weapon range, soldiers are afforded the rare privilege of firing a real LAW round. Test rounds are smaller, and not armed with the full explosive power of actual LAWs. They have an orange chalk warhead, and resemble a model rocket.

One day, a designated RSO, was assigned the job of setting up the moving target with the assistance of a three-man detail. The installation of the target on the carrier was hampered by the absence of proper tools, so they improvised, and used a steel tent peg as a hammer to nail the target to the carrier.

While walking on the firing range, the Range Safety Officer spotted and picked up a M72A2 66mm LAW dud round that had not exploded upon impact with the target. The other men in the detail warned him to leave it on the ground, and let Explosive Ordnance Disposal handle it. The RSO replied, "It's just an old dud," and, to illustrate the innocuous nature of the round, began to strike it with the steel tent peg. The second strike tripped the pressure-sensitive piezoelectric detonator, causing the round to explode. The explosion tore off the RSOs left arm, parts of his right hand and inflicted wounds to his lungs and abdominal area.

Do you see the lesson? Okay, things that one shouldn't do: yank on Superman's cape, play with electricity, pick a fight with the Hulk, and hammer LAW rounds with a steel tent peg. This note-to-self list is ever expanding for each of us and hopefully we get the opportunity to add to the list after each brush with stupidity. So how many times do we have to wake up with a hang-over to add "don't over-drink" to the list? How many times do we have do we have to get a speeding ticket before we add "don't speed" to the list? How many times do we have to disregard the promptings of our wingman before we add "listen to my wingman" to the list? For some of us, the answer to this question is apparently more than once. Note to self: you may not get a second chance. Long lists normally equate to long lives, so the next time you come across an unexploded LAW round, consult your note-to-self list and "leave the dud round where it lies" so you can live another day to ensure freedom's future.