It was springtime 1995 at Fort Hood. After nearly two weeks of Army training in the Fort Hood wilderness, we had a couple of days off. We had gotten back to the barracks the night before.
Freshly showered and fed, I was looking forward to hitting up the Killeen Mall or a bookstore or two.
Instead, a sergeant first class came storming into the barracks: “We need everybody back in the field. A pair of PVS-7s has been lost.”
PVS-7s — night vision goggles. Lost?
I and the other unfortunate souls unlucky enough to be hanging around the barracks at the time got “called” in to put our uniforms on, jump on an Army truck and head back out to the field.
Heavy rains had fallen the night before, and caused some flash flooding on Fort Hood’s many dry creek beds. One soldier had unwisely parked a Humvee in one of those dry creek beds, and when the rains came, the Humvee got washed out.
Inside the Humvee at the time was a pair of PVS-7s, a piece of equipment the Army regards as a “sensitive” item.
Sensitive items, like weapons, can’t be lost, forgotten or left behind.
When we jumped out of the truck, we saw the Humvee still parked in the creek bed. There was mud caked all around it.
A short walk took us to a nearby creek, where it was believed the night-vision goggles had been washed away.
Before long, I was chest-deep in the brown water, waving my arms and hands trying to feel for the PVS-7s. It was surmised the goggles were possibly submerged, stuck on a branch or something.
Dozens of other soldiers were in the water, too. Some were holding metal detectors skimming the surface of the water. Other soldiers were walking along the banks of the creek, looking down for any sign of the PVS-7s.
Soldiers who brought wallets or a pack of cigarettes tucked them into their helmet bands. It looked like something out of Vietnam.
Other soldiers, including me, had forgotten to take their wallets out, and they got drenched.
It was wet, muddy, miserable and ... memorable.
A couple hours of dirty searching revealed nothing. I don’t think the PVS-7s were ever found.
However, in a way, it was fun.
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed going to the Killeen Mall or bookstores back in the day.
But getting chest-deep in a muddy creek and looking for missing night-vision goggles: that’s something that’s uniquely Army.
And I remember it vividly nearly 20 years later.
It was just another day in the Army, but a day I’ll never forget.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.