This is just something I whipped up the other day. I suppose it's kind of a memory of mine...
"Bushmaster Three-Two; move, set, occupy, Battle Position One-Alpha. Report when set, over," the tinny voice of Sgt. 1st Class Julio Raysor, the Squadron Master Gunner in the range tower, crackled through the amplified speakers of Spc. Darren Kresner’s CVC helmet.
Kresner shifted nervously at the gunner's station as he silently counted off the Prefire Checks in his head again as the driver released the parking brake of the Bradley. The squeal of the springs in the brake pedal and the clunk of the spring-loaded brake lever falling into its detent reverberated through the hull of the armored vehicle, audible even through the thick, padded ear cups of his helmet and the overwhelming, vibrating thrum of the massive turbo-diesel engine.
The rpm's started a slow climb, the engine vibrating through the soles of his boots as the driver, Spc. Christian Parsell, anticipated his next command.
"Driver, back up," said Sgt. Erik Carsten through the Bradley's CVC intercom. Standing with his torso sticking out of the commander's hatch of the Bradley, Carsten twisted his slender frame to peer over the rear of the track. Only his torso stuck out of the turret of the armored vehicle. His breath misted in the cold, pre-dawn Colorado darkness. "Straight back."
Carsten keyed the radio, "Roger, Charlie Niner-Two. Moving, time now."
The Bradley's engine whined and complained as the transmission gave up its last bit of resistance and the 53-ton machine lurched steadily back from the boresight berm.
"Good," said Carsten. "Hold left.
"Kresner, make sure you maintain up and down range."
Kresner mashed his eye to the gunner's thermal sight and squeezed the gunner's controls activating the turrets stabilization function. The "stab system" on the M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, when activated, will essentially lock onto wherever the weapon system is oriented and will continue to track regardless of the hull's orientation, angle or speed.
"Roger, Sergeant," said Kresner. "I'm on it."
"That's good, Skulldrug," Carsten said to the driver.
Skulldrug was the nickname Parsell had been given, along with Cheeks, Head, Parsec, and Q-tip by the scouts of third platoon, Bushmaster Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment. Mostly because he was always stuffing his gob with gut-truck goodness or pogey bait and because of his rather disproportionate, large head. Immense head, really. Add to this a pair of beady brown eyes, framed by Army-issued BCG's (birth control glasses), and topped with light brown hair that more resembled mom's shag carpet than regular hair, ...well, you get the picture.
"Forward, up. Maintain one-five mikes," Carsten ordered.
"Roger," said Parsell.
The Bradley ground to an abrupt stop. More clunks, thunks, vibrations and whines from dubious origins emanated throughout the chassis as Parsell impressed his will on the Brad. He slowly fed it fuel, teeth clenched and body braced for the inevitable. Whining in protest, the torque converter released the pent up, turbo-charged energy Parsell was attempting to coax gently out of the machine. As always, the uncontrollable forward lunge that elicited the prerequisite grunt from Carsten as his lower back painfully contacted the steel rim of the commander’s hatch. The general consensus amongst the Bradley Scouts was that particular bit of fun had been worked into the design by some lab-coated techie in some far away Army factory as some sort of spiteful joke. Either that or an attempt to disembowel ill-fated crewmembers – through their spine.
“Sorry!” Parsell said, his grimace obvious, even through the speakers.
“Dammit, Head!” Carsten shouted. “Man, you gotta work on that!”
“Just trying not to stall, Sergeant,” Parsell quipped. “I ain’t buyin’ nobody on this track any beer.”
A 12-pack of beer was the only form of payment accepted for the travesty of stalling a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during maneuvers. Parsell prided himself in the fact that during his then short, but illustrious track driving career, he had only paid out one twelver of Milwaukee’s Beast – the preferred brew of an NCO in Parsell’s previous unit at Fort Lewis – and that was for throwing track. This, on most accounts, is a MUCH worse flub than stalling. That major faux pas usually resulted in the divulgence of multiple cases of brain grenades at the expense of the offender.
The reticle bounced and shook before Kresner’s eye and his forehead, already raw from the previous six days of gunnery, painfully ground itself into the gunner’s headrest mounted over the sight. He clenched his teeth and waited for the Bradley to reach that lovely sweet spot of balance and harmony that occurred only between 8 and 12 miles per hour, depending on the track, the operator, and the terrain. That perfect point when the velocity of the track, the spaces between the track pads, the rpm’s of the engine, and the ability of the torsion bars to dampen the bumps, reached a crucial and powerful accord. A point in time and space that only a gunner can truly appreciate; the point that offers the optimal sight picture. No bounce, no shake. No distraction.
Presently, the Brad hovered close to that point, the reticle quickened it fervent shudder, and just as quickly – as the Brad broke through at last – ceased its convulsing and snapped into focus.
Parsell navigated the track down the range road toward Battle Position One Alpha. Kresner flipped the sights from low-mag to hi-magnification, and sighted center mass on the boresight panel looming as an empty black square highlighted by colder hues of blood-red and pink. He switched the thermal sight from black-hot to white-hot and the entire view switched like a negative; the panel now white, and the surround pink and blood-red.
Abruptly, the Brad passed through the sweet spot in its lumbering quest for 15 miles per hour, and the reticle reconvened its shuck and jive.
The vehicle jerked to the left and back again to the right then Parsell was braking into the battle position.
“That’s good, Felg,” Carsten said. “Kresner, start feeding the rounds up.”
“Roger, Sergeant,” Kresner said as he engaged the turret lock and toggled the turret drive switch to the off position.
“Charlie Niner-Two, this is Bushmaster Three-Two, over,” Carsten called over the radio.
He kicked the height adjustment lever of the padded seat he stood on with the toe of his booted foot. The seat slammed to its lowest position, dropping Carsten into the turret. He sat quickly, moving to assist as Kresner ratcheted the linked 25 mike mike armor piercing rounds through the feed chutes and into the feeder of the M242 Bushmaster, a 25 mm chain-fed autocannon mounted amidships of the Brad’s turret.
“Bushmaster Three-Two, go ahead,” came the reply over the radio.
“Roger, Bushmaster Three-Two is occupying and set, Battle Position One-Alpha, over,” replied Carsten.
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