Thursday, April 28, 2005

Jack Army weighs in with some of his Ft. Devens memories.

As Jack Army mentions, the ranges at Devens were pretty much for the taking. Devens was mostly a training post for intel students. As I recall, the only permanent party units were us (10th Group), the 39th Engineers, a transportation battalion (about which more, perhaps, in a later post) and the garrison troops--the clerks and MPs who kept the post running. We could actually jump in our POVs (privately owned vehicles--in other words, your car) on weekends with our own firearms, sign in at the range control shack and go to a range to shoot. Bring your own targets, of course.

I know the lake that Jack Army speaks of. In fact, while I was at Devens two children ventured onto the lake in the winter and fell through the ice. You can guess the outcome. I think everyone on post was affected. Wish I could remember the name of the lake. In better times we had a big barbecue there and some guys from the post skydiving club jumped into the lake.

Speaking of lakes, there was apparently a lake in nearby Shirley that was used for water jumps. I think it may have been called Lake Shirley. Anyway, never got to jump there. And I do love water jumps. All the thrills of parachuting without that pesky Delta V at the end.

10th Group may well be the only unit in the Army that goes cross country skiing for winter PT. We'd run for a while as winter set in, then go to the skis. At that time we had skis made by a company called Raemer. They were touring skis, which is a hybrid cross country/downhill design. Lock the heel down for downhill, unlock it for XC. If you fell, rather than the binding releasing your boot, the binding would part ways with the ski. It wasn't a good system and a lot of guys wrecked their knees on them. I have the name of the boots we used on the tip of my tongue, but can't quite come up with it. They were heavy leather boots that would freeze in minutes unless you invited them into your sleeping bag with you, and everyone wants to spend the night with a giant soggy leather boot in their fart sack, right? I still have touring skis and use them, but they're Elan skis with Marker bindings.

We had PT uniforms when the rest of the Army was still doing PT in fatigue pants and T-shirts. Lime green sweats for winter and lime green nylon shorts with 10th Group T-shirt for summer. I've only recently heard the expression "going commando" as code for going sans underwear. Well, it's well founded as many of us commandos did, indeed, venture forth sans underwear. It only takes a few minutes of humping a 110 lb. rucksack in 90 degree weather before underwear begins threatening to saw your genitals off. But the flip side apparently manifested itself as winter set in. I never knew of this first hand, but allegedy some guys got frostbite on the end of their manhood as they ran "commando" in the nylon shorts.

I'd have to go back there and look around to get my bearings, but we didn't ski the golf course for winter PT. 2nd Battalion always skiied there. We headed into a wooded area, and I remember that we once came across a set of ski tracks that ended at a tree. It was classic. I suspect someone did it as a setup, but they did a good job of it.

Wachusetts Mountain was an ok ski place, as Jack Army mentions. We didn't have passes there, but often went there as it was close. I also remember testing a new radio ala the tv commercial "can you hear me now?" and ending up on top of Wachusetts Mountain mostly because we wanted to drive to the top of the mountain and see the view.

New England has some interesting laws re. production of electricity. It is literally a cottage industry there. If you produce any amount of electricity via a windmill, waterwheel, whatever-the power company is obliged to purchase if from you. There were some windmills on top of Wachusetts Mountain whch served to produce some amount of electricity, but they also julienned a lot of birds. I guess nothing is without tradeoffs...

Ft. Devens also served as a POW camp during WWII. The old cantonment area was still there when I was at Devens. Again, I'd have to reorient myself, but I can tell those who might know that it was the red buildings where one goes for the DA photo. Of course, some number of POWs died while confined there, so there are POWs interred in the small post cemetary (which was right at the end of our battalion street). A delegation of German soldiers used to hold an annual ceremany there. Presumably they still do so.

8 comments:

Lilly said...

Lime green nylon shorts... What a mental picture, lol. I'm sure any evidence left of your PT apparel is classified :-)

Anonymous said...

The cemetary is now in an area used by a federal psych prison. The area that the engineers used is still a NG area and cordoned off. The housing areas are all local rentals now. The PX is gone. The old rec center and areas up to 10th groups' are all hi tech industrial buildings. The intel school buildings and barracks are still there and sometimes used by NG and reservists. Mirror Lake is accessible by foot only.

Anonymous said...

MA State Police own parts the fort now. I was out there several years ago to use the air strip for testing some vehicles we built, they had hundreds of state police cars and garages where they did all their repairs, I think they train the officers for chases and agressive driving and manuevers and such, too. They had slolums and road courses marked out with cones.

SabreSix said...

The boots were Chippewa's. I still have mine. It was Mirror Lake. I remember the drownings too. They weren't in Mirror lake proper though. They were in one of the smaller ponds off to one side of the big lake. I was living over on Davao Circle at the time. We used to do pig roasts down by the lake across from the parachute club too.

SabreSix said...

The boots were Chippewa's. I still have mine. It was Mirror Lake. I remember the drownings too. They weren't in Mirror lake proper though. They were in one of the smaller ponds off to one side of the big lake. I was living over on Davao Circle at the time. We used to do pig roasts down by the lake across from the parachute club too.

Snake Eater said...

We had Chippewa's, but the ski boots I was thinking of were Hanwags.

And you're right--the drownings were in a side lake. I recall that the two SCUBA teams were involved in the search.

Keep posting. I really appreciate it, even when you have to tell me my memory is faulty.

Anonymous said...

FYI, it was Mirror Lake. I remember the summer days by that lake with the music blaring and the beer flowing...

Chuck Bergfeld said...

I was an MP at the time of he drowning and was appauled that we had to call Leominster Dive Team to come in and rescue those 2 boys from that pond when our own Special Forces commander said that the conditons were too bad for his people to enter the water. I still remember carring those boys up that hill.