Tales From the Tiger

Three Re-learned Lessons

We were at Nui Dat on a roughly contrived 25 metre range and one of the old hands from the previous battalion, First Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment, (1RAR) who'd stayed behind for the familiarisation was showing us the M16 rifle.

The M16 was quite new to most of the men, forward scouts carried the 9mm Owen Machine Carbines (OMC) at that time, and they were all looking at this weapon which had supposedly magical powers. It never needed cleaning, (it most certainly did, at least three times a day). It would remove an arm or a head with one hit, (nope) and a hit anywhere on the enemy was instant death from the magical tumbling bullet. (Rarely, and it didn't tumble unless you had one with a shot out barrel).

To me it was just a poodle -shooter. I didn't consider the 5.56mm a good military calibre then, and I still don't. Anyhow the 1RAR NCO demonstrating the M16 asked the usual question of all good instructors; "Has anyone used one of these before?" I put up my hand. "Okay mouth, let's see how good you are with it then." He said this with a very nasty smile as he obviously thought I was crapping on, and some useful mileage could be gained by making me look an idiot. I loaded and cocked it, aimed, fired, and got 20 hits out of 20 on various tins and bottles on the range. Then flawlessly and smoothly unloaded it, cleared it, and presented it for safety inspection.

He was quite nonplussed, as were the rest of my company who really didn't know me very well. I'd arrived under a very dark cloud from *Kapooka, been promptly arrested by the Military Police and I only arrived back at the battalion in time to leave for Vietnam; missing our *Canungra training completely. I was also regarded as more than a little odd because I'd brought my own scoped .308 Parker Hale sporter rifle with me.

"So where did you learn to use the M16? You're not from 1RAR, what were you doing before you came to 5RAR?"

Now I had him (I thought). So very nonchalantly and off-handedly I said: "Oh, I had a little bit to do with the user trials of the Stoner and the M16 at *Ingleburn, and I was a Small Arms Instructor at Kapooka in the Rifle Team before I came to 5RAR -- oh, and I also shot in the inter-service in Brisbane once and came second. ("There that sat him on his arse." I thought, smiling insolently at him).

As I turned to leave I went to hand the M16 back to him. "No that's yours." He said -- grinning more evilly. "No it's not mine, I've got an SLR, that's it over there." "Nope, you've just become a forward scout!" He said... Uh oh!!!

Three re-learned lessons for me there:

  1. Don't volunteer.
  2. Don't be a smart-arse
  3. Don't try to outwit a seasoned NCO.

Luckily one of my company NCO's confiscated the rotten thing almost immediately afterwards for his own use and only passed it on to me when it kept jamming on him - it was one of the U.S. Army's original trials rifles and it was totally worn out, but that's another story.


*Kapooka- -Basic Training centre for enlisted army recruits. Situated just outside the city of Wagga-Wagga approximately 150 kilometres west of Canberra in New South Wales.
*Canungra - The Australian Army's Jungle Training Centre. Situated 60 kilometres south of Brisbane, Queensland.
*Ingleburn - The army's Infantry Corps Training Centre. Situated about 70 kilometres west of Sydney New South Wales. (Now moved to Singleton NSW).


© Graham Sherrington
B Coy 1st Tour

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