In Berlin, the months between early to mid fall were the month known as ARTEP season. If you don’t know or remember ARTEP stands for Army Training and Evaluation Program. This was the annual test of unit skills in a simulated combat situation. It was like our “final exam” for the year.
The way it broke down was one of the three Infantry Battalions was being evaluated, another Infantry Battalion was the OPFOR (Opposing Force) and the other Battalion provided the Evaluators. The battalions rotated until all units were evaluated.
Looking back on those ARTEPs now, they were (to use an old tired line) “the best of times, they were the worst of times.” Each one of us has our own good or bad memories about those ARTEPs.
Typically, the ARTEP started on real early Monday morning, usually it was an Alert at Oh-Dark Thirty, then shenanigans ensued. Thirty minutes to get ready to rock and roll. Soon it was a muster formation outside the company area. Followed by a nice leisurely stroll to the world famous Grunewald.
Once there it was time to set up some very hasty fighting positions. It was interesting to create a hasty fighting position without digging into the forest floor.
Then after a hot breakfast or a pinch of MRE instant coffee between your cheeks and gums we would load the buses for a quick trip to Doughboy City to begin filling sandbags to create some of the most unique defensive fighting positions I have ever seen.
Given enough sand (dirt), men, and manpower some of those defensive fighting positions had two rooms and a mother-in-law cottage. OK, there was not really a “mother-in-law cottage” but you get the idea. Seriously, the sand bag filling was just the start of the 24 to 48 hours of defensive operations followed by an assault by the OPFOR.
Of course, there was the inevitable counterattack. All the while, rumors ran rampant around Doughboy City that the Mess Hall had trucked in Hot Coffee and Soup and could only be found at the Rathaus. Yet, by the time any of us could make it to the Rathaus all that was found were empty mermite cans (with inserts) and not a single Styrofoam cup could be found in the area.
Then once all the OFFENSIVE and DEFENSIVE operations were done, it was time to tear down the sandbag fortresses and stand down. Depending on what was going on there was nothing like hanging out by the “Fire Barrel” killing a little time before it was time to road-march back to McNair Barracks.
Something most people outside of Berlin Brigade did not know is all the members of the Brigade were constantly being evaluated by our enemy, the SOVIET FORCES that watched our every move. These SOVIET FORCES were not just a few high ranking officers that you would hear about coming to look over the US Forces as part the of Soviet Military Liaison Mission in West Germany. Not in the least, we were being evaluated by our contemporaries on the other side of the wall (or fence in the case of Doughboy City).
The soldiers were Enlisted, NCOs, and Officers that were sizing us up every day we were in West Berlin. Whether at McNair Barracks with the Soviet Mission vehicles parked outside the main gate or watching us as we ran along the Teltower Canal or conducted our Military Operations in Urban Terrain training in Doughboy City they were evaluating us every single day.
Of course, every ARTEP was different and certainly not as simple as I described it. However, as time has a way of sanitizing the past we tend to remember the good stuff. With enough memory recalls, the bad inevitably starts to return to the front of the line.
Good or Bad, those are the times that I still cherish the most. I was those times that we got to do something most other soldiers never got to do during their ARTEPs.
What are your Berlin Brigade ARTEP memories?
A Co., 6th Battalion, 502nd Infantry
Berlin Brigade – ’85 to ’87