about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Friday, March 28, 2008

Guard Post Collier

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Sometimes very serious business can have humorous consequences.

Back in 1981 I was the Commander of Guard Post Collier in the DMZ in Korea. My "duty station" as commander was to be in the Guard Post Command Post during the night hours, and to be ready to check on things.

The Command Post was underground and well-lighted to facilitate keeping written records.

On this particular night an alert came in from Bunker #1 that they could see "something or someone" on the main road (that ran from Guard Post #128 past Guard Post Collier which sits on a hill, and on to Pan Mun Jom). This required me to go to the bunker and confirm what it was that was seen before anyone could fire a shot.

There are two ways to reach Bunker #1. The long way involved exiting the Command Post and going through the trench system. The short way involved exiting the Command Post, going up the stairs to the top of the Guard Post, crossing the top and going back down into the trench system on the far side.

Since this was the first actionable report I had received as the Commander of the Guard Post, I chose to take the short cut.

Did I mention that my duty post in the Command Post was during the night? Did I mention that the Command Post was "well lit"? Let me add that this particular night was not only a New Moon (0% Illumination), but also completely overcast.

I could not see a thing.

I could feel, however, that my boots were on sandbags, and remembered that there was a sandbag foot path across the top of the Guard Post that connected the stairs I had just come up with the stairs I wanted to go down, among some other things, and so began feeling my way along it, regretting that I had not followed the trenches since I would obviously have completed the trip much quicker in hindsight. I had not been prepared for the complete loss of vision.

As I felt my way along, my eyes were slowly adapting as much as they could to the lack of light sources, but this was going to take time. Still, I was on the foot path, right?

Wrong, as the next step was into "open air".

The "foot path" I was following was not the "foot path", it was the "water runoff" (another sandbag layer near the foot path that I had apparently run onto before I realized I could not see and stopped to take stock of the situation), and I had just "walked off the side of the Guard Post".

I managed to do a complete forward roll before I landed heavily in the drainage culvert (a corrugated pipe cut in half) with a loud clatter (as you might imagine), taking the brunt of the blow on my shoulders and back and so being more stunned than actually hurt. (Of course, a few inches to the left of right would have put me on the edges of the steel culvert rather than in the middle of it, which would have been a very different story.)

As I lay there taking stock of the situation (mostly analyzing whether or not I was still in one piece and functional), a voice called out "who is there?" A few seconds later I responded "It's me" (or words to that effect, I do not recall what exactly I said at that point other than that it was devoid of anything other than a simple matter of fact identification of myself and thus not a threat). I know the identification was clear enough as the next comment from the challenging soldier was "Sir, are you hurt?" To which I had the presence of mind to respond "Only my dignity."

I then hauled myself out of the culvert and went about my duty (whatever was on the road had by the time vanished, if indeed anything had ever been there).

I did, however, make it a point to always find my way around the Guard Post through the trench system when leaving the Command Post from then on. I got so good I could go from one part of the Guard Post to any other part at a dead run through the trench system without running into anything on just the ambient light. To this day, I still remember the general layout of Guard Post Collier, even if it is no longer known as Guard Post Collier (I have no idea if the South Korean government changed the name, or even retained the Guard Post although I suspect they did retain it) after the U.S. forces were completely withdrawn from that sector of the DMZ.