About four months after I arrived in Udorn an edict was handed down that the Stratcom tropo guys had to qualify on the M60 machine gun. Are you kidding me? I hadn’t had a rifle in my hands since basic training some 14 months ago. Even then I had never held a machine gun in my hands. I knew this was not going to be good.
In 1965 when I was going though basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey California, the main battle rifle was the M14, using a 7.62mm NATO compatible round. It replaced the M1 and was the precursor to the M16 which is still in use today.
All during basic training we were not allowed to put the M14 in full automatic mode so I never knew what is was like to fire an automatic rifle not to mention a 600 round a minute, 2800 feet per second muzzle velocity fire breathing killing machine like the M60.
On qualifying day about 8 guys were hauled out to a range near the Thai Army compound and given the instructions on how to operate the gun. All the safety precautions were first, how to load the gun, how to fire, how to change the barrel with the asbestos glove, and where the safe areas were down range to shoot. A berm or knoll about 50 meters away was the target.
I was the fourth or fifth guy to shoot. I laid in a prone position, legs spread apart, the stock up against my shoulder, two metal legs held the barrel up, and my finger on the trigger. Taking aim through one eye I squeezed the trigger and rounds were flying out of the barrel a lot faster than I thought possible. The WWII iron helmet over the plastic helmet liner I was wearing began to slide forward and in a flash was over my eyes. The proper thing to do would have been to stop firing and regain the target down range but I was fighting the helmet and not seeing what I was shooting. I don’t know how many rounds I cracked off but at least several dozen maybe more.
The sergeant had seen enough and told me I had qualified as he stood well behind me all the while I was in command of the M60. Two Thai soldiers in a Jeep sped up to where the Stratcom boys were, sliding to a halt in the dirt, yelling “My, my, my” (meaning “No, no, no” in Thai speak). They were yelling that rounds were landing on the other side of the knoll and the natives were complaining. That pretty much ended the qualifying for that day.