FORT RILEY, Kan.—For a few minutes outside a barracks, Pfc. McCoy Williams obediently held up his arms while a sergeant patted him down.
It's part of what is called pre-combat inspection.
The sergeant looked to see if Williams, a 22-year-old tank driver from Jackson, Miss., had his two canteens properly tethered to his belt with Army-green cord. Without the cord, canteens have a way of slipping out of their pouches and falling silently onto the desert sand.
The sergeant made sure that Army-green duct tape bound every worn metal clip on Williams' upper-body harness. The harness, worn like a vest and held together by the taped clips, carries everything from a packaged bandage to the ammunition pouches Williams will wear when he and his tank unit from the Army's 1st Infantry Division, deploy soon to the Iraqi theater.
If you lose an ammunition clip, it could cost you your life.
A soldier's ability to hold on to his equipment becomes a measure of responsibility.
"I don't think it's the item you lost" that counts, said Pvt. Adam Downs, a 22-year-old tank driver from Oak Lawn, Ill. What matters, he said, is "that you lost it."
(Tim Potter reports for the Wichita Eagle)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.