The Edmond Sun

January 17, 2013

True tales of humor in the face of danger

Keith Kappes
CNHI News Service

CNHI News Service — Each time I watch one of those spy movies from the Cold War, I remember when my Army National Guard comrades and I tried to confound the enemy.

We were members of a public affairs unit. I was the commander of those 13 fearsome warriors during two training deployments to Europe.

We were good at our job as editors, writers, photographers, videographers and broadcasters.

I say that because the Army picked us in 1982 and 1983 to participate in the REFORGER exercises in West Germany.

Our job was to help publish and broadcast news of tens of thousands of American and NATO forces who were practicing how we would respond to a Soviet invasion of West Germany.

It was great duty because we played war games for seven days, called a two-day truce for sightseeing, and finished the conflict with another week of soldiering before going home.

We were on our first deployment when we went on the “border tour” of the heavily fortified East German border. It was designed to help us understand the tactical situation.

The unhappy looking East German and Soviet sentries took photos of us across the narrow demilitarized zone.

We had a barrel of laughs on that trip because some of us swapped uniform caps at each stop, knowing they would be taking our pictures as we took theirs.

I’ve often thought of some Soviet intelligence analyst working late into the night looking at my photo as a captain, then as a lieutenant and then as a sergeant. At the last stop, I wore it backwards with no rank showing.

Our second deployment was the year the U.S. sent cruise missiles to its NATO allies in Europe, provoking protests from the Green Party and other radicals who feared nuclear warheads.

We were eating lunch one day when Green Party protesters suddenly blocked the street in front of the restaurant.

My best buddy quickly realized he had left his steel helmet and sidearm in our unlocked vehicle.

We had orders not to confront demonstrators so we waited until they moved away.

We eventually found his weapon with the bullets missing but there was no sign of the helmet.

Late that night, someone yelled that the helmet had been found. We rushed into the room to see some scruffy Green Party guy gesturing into the camera of Armed Forces Television.

He was wearing the missing helmet … with the nametape clearly visible.

It’s been 30 years and I can still hear the guffaws.



KEITH KAPPES is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contat him at kkappes@cnhi.com.