Direction & Distance without Delay

Lessons From

Grenade Throwing

Warren E. Berkley


Here’s the deal about throwing grenades: Direction and Distance Without Delay!


Direction has obvious significance. The purpose is to defeat the enemy. Thus the grenade must be sent toward the enemy, the enemy’s pathway or supply line. The point is not simply to deplete your ammunition supply. Direction is critical.


Distance must be achieved. In the very nature of this ordinance, distance from the throwing party is implied. Unlike a rifle, where distance is determined mechanically, the effective use of a grenade and the continued existence of the thrower depends upon the distance achieved. (The effective casualty radius can be very close if distance is not achieved!)


Just as obvious, the ordinance must be thrown without delay. There is a delay element built into the device, but you don’t want to play upon that very long! So the rule to keep in mind with grenades is, Direction and Distance Without Delay.


I know about these things. In 1966, at Ft. Benning, Georgia, as a new Army recruit, I went through basic training, which included learning how to throw grenades. For several days we were taken to a range to throw dummy (unloaded) grenades. We were taught to lob them (unlike you would throw a baseball; you lob a grenade). Throughout these exercises there was repeated emphasis on the rule: Direction and Distance Without Delay.


Then we were taken to a live grenade throwing range. The sergeant would be located in a bunker. He would call your name, you would run into the bunker. After a few final admonitions, he would hand the recruit a live grenade. You would be graded on your throw.


So on this hot summer day in Georgia, I heard my name called. I ran toward the bunker. You need to picture this. I weighed 102 pounds, was burdened down with full combat gear, and with an M-16 Rifle strapped around my shoulder. As I ran toward the bunker, the canteen on my pistol belt fell to the ground. For some reason, I make the quick decision to run in a silly little circle to pick up the canteen. When I made the turn and reached down to pick up the canteen, my helmet fell off  … and rolled down this little hill. I finally caught up with it, gathered all my belongings and ran on toward the bunker.


I looked back and the other recruits in the platoon were – in unison – backing up. The sergeant showed in his countenance both disgust and fear. But I got into the bunker, and handed the sergeant the little card upon which he would mark my score.


He said to me, “Berkley! One more time,” and I spoke with him, “Direction and Distance Without Delay!” He pulled the pin on the grenade and handed it to me. My vibrating hand took the ordinance, and there was no delay. I got that part right, and I threw the grenade in the right direction. The problem was, I failed to achieve sufficient distance!


The grenade dribbled out in front of the bunker about 5 and 6 feet. Now, however clean and pressed a sergeant’s uniform might be, on such occasions, he will be in the dirt as a quick spontaneous effect. He took me with him. The next thing I remember is, I could not hear anything. And little pieces of dirt and concrete were pelting my back. There in the dirt, my predominate thought was, “I would rather die here than be murdered by the sergeant.”


To my surprise, he helped me up out of the dirt, and before the dust settled he spoke to me very kindly and with great respect. He dusted me off, then shouted (both of us suffered with great hearing loss in that moment): “It’s OK Berkley.” He marked my card with a passing score and sent me back to my platoon. (One of my buddies said, “They ain’t no doubt, if you ever get yourself into combat you will be one dangerous soldier.”)


The next day we were scheduled to repeat this exercise. We lined up to run into the bunker when ordered, like the day before. The same sergeant (still shouting over his own hearing loss), called my name. I ran into the bunker. He threw the grenade and marked my card with a good score again. Thus came to a close my experience with throwing grenades.


Moral for application in life: Direction and Distance Without Delay. Let God set your direction, make certain you keep your distance from sin, and do this without delay.


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