The Unexpected Feed Bag

The Unexpected Feed Bag

By Roger Heid


This was in spring of 1981. I was still with Uncle Sam, doing my patriotic chores. One of those nasty Field Exercises was about to go into full swing, whether one liked it or not. This time around, about one week before the whole rigmarole started, I got called into the Bn CO’s office. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, so I wasn’t too nervous, just a teeny weeny bit.

Some strange dude displaying Lieutenant Colonel insignia pierced me with his eyes. He asked me a few stupid questions. Then he muttered that I will do and left. That was nothing out the order either.

My orders were to report to the Echterdingen Airfield on such and such date at an unholy hour. Well, that was nothing new. That’s part of life with our good uncle. I promptly reported, still half asleep, which is normal for someone who had undergone extensive ‘Zombie Training’. Moments later, I was perched on some hard seat on a chopper and promptly fell asleep, a normal process under such conditions. If you ever have tried to sleep in a tent a short distance away from a tank holding area while they were forming a convoy, you know exactly what I mean. The fact that we had no idea about where we were headed, and for how long, did not bother us, as we were unable to do anything about it, anyway. So, why bother? Might as well take nap while you can.

It was still dark when we reached the drop zone. We were guided into some decrepit old building in the middle of some place. I almost tripped over what, after day break, turned out to be rusty old railroad tracks, two or three sidings worth. They led into that fairly large wreck of an old massive structure that had seemingly been abandoned eons ago.

Breakfast was served. It was a major culinary achievement dished out by some grumpy old Master Sergeant — cold C-Rations. Some pimple faced 2nd Lt college boy, still wet behind the ears, briefed us, a motley group of about 20 MPs, to the effect that we were not to let anyone come even close to that old ruin.

Then some uniformed chick handed us civilian duds that made us look like local farm workers. We also took possession of some submachine guns small enough to hide under the outer garment plus enough ammo to last until doomsday and back. This illustrious war we were in got colder and colder by the minute. We were also told to act like we were taking soils samples here and there, pretending we were some kind soil preservation study group of sorts. Spades and buckets were also provided. Just lovely.

This would be the day shift’s task. The night shift was doomed to remain motionless, to just watch and protect the premises. That old building was in a non-descript area, surrounded by fields and woods, no other signs of civilization in sight. Inside the building were several box cars, just sitting there, acting out sheer innocence and non-participation. None of us cared what was hidden inside them. This was not the first time I guarded something of unknown nature. The orders were clear. That was all that mattered. We had gotten the drift that our mission was a covert one, several miles away from where the troops were wading through ankle deep mud, playing soldier and hoping for a better day to come. Lunch consisted of delicious cold C-Rations, so did supper. Breakfast would be the same, for a change.

In spite of the fact that I had opted to pull nights, I was assigned days, a normal procedure. That was because I was bilingual and was therefore able to convincingly lie about our purpose in case we had to confront any locals. A clever arrangement it was, don’t you think? There was even some VW Van parked close by, pretending it was ours. I was given a key for it, but the darn thing did not want to start. That arrangement was not so clever. Oh well. Judging by the amount of C-Rations that were left for us, one could be led to believe we were dropped off on a deserted island, light years away from all shipping routes. At least we would not run out of subsistence during our projected life time. Just the thought alone provided us with plenty of solace, comfort and warmth, something direly needed during times like this.

The night went without any occurrence whatsoever. Better bored than dead. Shortly after sun-up, I heard some noise approaching from the direction where the nearest town was located. It sounded like some car. Uh,oh!

Sure enough! An old Opel station wagon with two people in the front seat pulled up close to the building gate. We were about ready to go out and dig in the soil. An elderly man emerged from behind the wheel and held up a cardboard sign. Come and get it, it said. A younger lady got out of the car and lifted the rear hatch.

The whiff of freshly baked bread and such filled the brisk morning air. We edged closer to take a peek. Bread, rolls, cold cuts, coffee, milk, the works. A miracle!

“Here is a good breakfast for you all,” the man announced. “Help yourself. It’s free. All we want is some of your C-Rations.”

“Sir! How on earth did you find us?” I asked him. “How do you know we are here, for heaven’s sakes?”

“Uh, son, I’ve been a baker around ever since you all came here, back in 45. You can’t hide from me. I can smell you 10 miles against a blizzard.”

“Now, that is interesting. Have you ever considered working for us?”

“Yes, I have. I am, in fact. Later in the day, we will bring supper.”

The car left as quick as it had come.

Three days later, the whole US Army arrived in the area. A red Diesel locomotive yanked the box cars out of their hiding place, and we were choppered back to Echterdingen Airfield. We were given the rest of the week off.

*    *    *    *

You noticed there are no pictures accompanying this little story. I am sure you can figure out why not. You just have to use your own imagination. If you ever served it’s easy; if not, you may get some insight from better war flicks.

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