Toward the end of last year, Pete Rawson posted a notice about a military exercise that was going to be held in the South Park region of
Colorado during March, with an effort to recruit mog and pinzi owners to volunteer their trucks and time to help out. It turns out that the military
unit was the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). I was the Group Signal Officer for that unit 30 years ago in Germany, so I thought it might be
fun to see how they've evolved and get to meet some of the new generation of SF troops, so I volunteered to give it a go.
Normal truck preparations ensued - check all fluids, grease everything, top up the coolant, air up the tires to 50 psi for the highway mileage, etc.
Putting the Swiss canvas on the cargo bed on a cold winter day is a real bear, I can tell you. That stuff is stiff and very uncooperative. I took the
rolled up canvas in the house and laid it on the floor in front of the wood stove to make it a little more pliable, but my wife finally couldn't stand
the smell of the material so I had to take it out and get started. Unfortunately, it only stayed pliable long enough to lay it out flat, before it
stiffened up again. Getting the slats installed was a real effort, but finally that was done and I was ready to lift the whole bundle onto the frame. It
was an effort, but with the aid of a space heater and an infrared heat lamp, I was able to get it stretched reasonable well over the frame, and
elastic bands hooked all round. The rear canvas I picked up from Dave DeVuono in Toronto last June fit perfectly and completely closed up the
back end of the bed.
I left Cheyenne about 4:00 p.m. last Wednesday night, figuring on about a 3-1/2 - 4 hour trip to Jefferson, CO, just at the base of the west side of
Kenosha Pass (Route 285 out of Denver). I was all set with my GPS, hand held CB, and cell phone all plugged in and sitting on the dash. The trip
to Denver was uneventful, cruising at 55 mph all the way down. It was kind of a stormy day in the mountains, but only mildly windy on I-25. Once I
got on I-70 westbound, the headwind out of the mountains was pretty strong, so my speed dropped markedly. C-470 to US-285 on the west side of
Denver is downhill so that was fine, but 285 is a pretty severe uphill grade so I was down to 30 mph in 5th for several stretches of that leg.
The electronic sign at the mouth of Turkey Creek Canyon said Kenosha Pass was closed due to "adverse conditions", but I figured, what the heck.
By the time I get there, surely it'll be open. I stopped in Conifer for supper and called my son back in Denver to make a reservation for the night,
just in case. I also called the SF contact at the support site, and they confirmed there was a screaming ground blizzard going on and it looked
pretty bad. It was only another 15 miles up to the base of the pass, so I decided to go on up and see what my chances were. I got there just after
they closed it after a short opening period. The CDOT plow driver said it looked like it was going to be closed all night, but I and a couple folks
who lived just on the other side stuck it out. Finally, there were just the few of us, so CDOT allocated a plow and led us over the pass. The pass
itself wasn't bad, although it was snowing fairly hard with strong winds.
We got into Jefferson about 10:00, a community consisting of a convenience store and a volunteer fire station. The snow was blowing so hard you
could just barely see the street lights, much less the buildings. I needed to go only another 6 miles toward Fairplay and then turn off on a county
road to the operational base. They wouldn't let me go by myself, so I had to wait in the fire station/highway patrol office for another hour until
another plow was ready to lead folks on to Fairplay. Finally the plow arrived, and the driver came over to the fire station to tell me he was ready to
go. By the time I got out to my mog, fired it up, cleaned the windshield, and got over to the highway, everyone was gone. They had started out
without me, so I was just as much alone as I would have been had the let me go on my own earlier.
Heading out it was just possible to see the middle line of the highway, but little else. I have to put in a plug for the Hella halogen headlights with
the E4 lens. For snow driving they are wonderful. On low beam there is a definite horizontal cutoff line of the light beam so there is no reflection
of the blowing, swirling snow, making it possible to see. I've used this type headlight in all my vehicles for many years and wouldn't have anything
Progress was slow and it seemed to take forever to make the 6.5 miles to the turnoff. The wind was blowing so hard that even though my truck is a
hardcab, snow was swirling around inside the cab. I had about ½ inch of snow on the passenger seat just from what was blowing in around the door jamb
from the north. Finally, the sign appeared for the Elk Horn Road turn off, so I made the left turn and had only to go until I could find the Rural Fire
Station where I was to meet the support folks.
Driving became altogether different at this point. The wind and snow was coming from directly behind me now, so I was moving at about the same
rate as the blowing snow. I know I was moving, because my speedometer said so, but visually, it seemed like I was stationary. After a couple miles
it became apparent that I wasn't stationary, because I felt the mog tilting over to the right. You guessed it....... I drove right off the road and came
to that sort of sickening stop you experience when you can't go forward any more. My first effort was to try to simply back up in my tracks and get
back up onto the roadway. It's pretty flat country out there, so it wasn't like I was over a steep bank or anything. However, there was enough of an
incline that my back end just kind of slid sideways in the barrow ditch. So, backing out was not an option. By sort of easing back and forth I was
able to make minor headway, and finally with the diffs locked, I got a purchase in the dirt with my left front tire and crawled back onto the road. I
assume it was the road, because it felt level. Forward again. After another mile the blowing snow cut off like walking through a curtain and I was
out in the middle of nowhere with stars shining brightly above. I was afraid I might have missed the fire station somewhere back in the blizzard, but
figured it would have had to been close to the road and surely I would have seen a light of some sort. Pretty soon I did see a light in the distance
and it turned out to be the fire station.
All was dark inside, and there was only a Ford van parked in front. No mogs or pinzis. I pulled up and walked around the building, but there were
no signs of life. Trying doors, I found them to be locked, until finally there was one open. It was warm inside, so I figured at least I could crash in
there somewhere and find out what was going on in the morning. I found a couch in one of the rooms and climbed into my very cold sleeping bag
(it was in the back of the truck) at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning. 3 hrs, 55 minutes actual travel time, nearly 8 hours elapsed time.
It turns out there were people in the building, but they were sleeping on cots in the truck bay and about 7:00 a.m. people started stirring and
introductions were made all round. The day was sunny and clear and the mountains were very white.
A little side bar here. In spite of all the glory stories you hear about the Green Berets, their primary mission is that of a training cadre. An "A" team
consists of specialists in certain military disciplines. Team leadership consists of a couple officers. Their mission is to be able to infiltrate a country
and help form indigenous forces into an organized fighting force. Different Special Forces Groups have specialized areas of operation around the
world, and it happens that 10th Group is oriented toward mountainous countries. Its expensive to run training exercises overseas, so the mountains
of Colorado are their training ground. Since the troops are parachuted into their area of operation, they need to rely on locals to provide
transportation from place to place, when it's not feasible to move through the mountains or under cover of darkness. What more realistic way to
transport them than with "local" type vehicles (mogs and pinzgauers), belonging to local "partisans."
I was the only mog participating at this stage of the exercise, so my mission was to go into the mountains and bring out a team. Unfortunately, I
couldn't get in there because of the drifted snow, so we had to wait until the county came in with a maintainer and a front end loader to clear the
3 foot snow depth that had blown over the road. It was packed so hard you could walk on it without leaving foot prints.
On the road leading into the pick up area, one of the SF vehicles (a 2-1/2 ton 4WD monster called an FMTV) was buried off in the roadside,
having suffered the same fate that I did the previous night. It had to be abandoned and they were using their FMTV wrecker to pull it out when we
got there. The wrecker is a pretty amazing vehicle. Six wheel drive with two side by side hydraulic winches, each with 1" dia cables. The operator
put down big clawed feet to brace the wrecker and then ran the winch cables out to pull shackles on the back of the stuck FMTV. The winches
didn't even grunt pulling the stuck vehicle back up onto the road. In the meantime, I did my good Samaritan duties while we were waiting and
pulled a stuck Ford Explorer and a local rancher's 1 ton dually back up onto the road. They had become stuck in the previous evening's blow. The
county was finally able to punch a hole big enough for me to squeeze the mog through so I went on with my "mission" for the day.
By the end of the day, I had put 61 miles on the truck and consumed about 15 gallons of gas. I went through deep snow, and mud, getting stuck a
few times, but managing to get myself out without chaining up or having to have a tow. Say what you will about the NATO mil tread tires, but they
do just fine as far as I'm concerned, and mine are nearly worn out. I'll finish them off at Moab in a couple weeks, and then I can put on the new
ones I got from Dan Johnson last year.
I won't elaborate on the actual exercise activities. It's not for publication so you'll just have to plan on coming as "support personnel" next year. I
had a great time and plan to go again.
As for the rest of my trip, I continued on down to Florissant, CO, to participate in a family birthday celebration. Both of our son's birthdays are
within three days of one another in March. Pete Rawson lives just a short distance from our son's house, so I had lunch with Pete and Nancy one of
the days I was down there. They have a beautiful home in a forested area near Divide. His mog and "V" plow get a good workout keeping his road
open in the winter.
Sunday I headed for home, with a stop in Castle Rock to have lunch with Duane and Gertie Russell and Bob Ragain. I maintained a 56 - 60 mph
road speed all the way from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne and got 12 mpg. Total trip mileage for the outing was 651 and the truck ran
beautifully the whole time. Now to check it all over again and get packed up for Moab.
1963 404 hardcab with Swiss pritsche.