There are Weekend Warrior types of people enjoying their weekends to the fullest all the time doing such things as fishing, camping, snowmobiling, building a cabin, chopping down trees, tractor pulls, etc. I was around a great group of Weekend Warriors…on this Veterans weekend. You could say I was one of those Weekend Warriors too, but you would have to call me a Weekend Warrioress… I guess.
I joined up for the 10th annual Wade House WW2 Tactical in Greenbush WI. Me and around 50 soldiers, Americans, British and Germans fighting in the woods of the beautiful and very expansive Wade House grounds (of which I feel like I now have walked almost every inch of it). Although I was not one of the WW2 soldiers on the battlefield, I was out there documenting their advances, retreats, and charges with my cameras as a HRS Press Corp reporter.
My day at my first WW2 Tactical Immersion of which I was looking forward to immensely, was full of surprises and lessons learned. A tactical is a lot different than events where the public attends to see a battle, talk about history, and watch demonstrations. Both very important, however a tactical is just like it sounds. There are tactical advances of soldiers strategically collecting or winning four flags in a linear row on the battlefield with no public around. The soldiers are immersed in the feeling of a battle fight against their enemy gaining ground for their side, all in good fun.
So on this very crisp morning, I set out to meet the groups at their safety inspection donned in an HBT suit borrowed from a generous friend so I would not stand out too obvious in the field. Being the only woman onsite, it was hard to blend in, especially when I got a hot tip that I could drive right up into the battlefield and save myself a few (more than a few) steps of walking. Being so clever, I thought, caused me to drive up upon, smack dab right in front of all the soldiers at their safety inspection as I went through the pass in the woods. Nothing like showing up late to the party and having all the attention suddenly directed upon me. So being subtle and blending in unnoticed was not an option anymore. First lesson learned.
Parking my car near the headquarters was a great idea until later, I found out that nothing is “safe” in the war zone. So my car became one of those objects soldiers hid behind and shot around. Now I know…Second lesson learned.
My third exciting lesson learned came at a time I found out: there is never a good time to take a quick break. The central area to the tactical was a red building out in the open that had bathrooms. Nice, lucky for me I thought. I slipped in the building hoping not to have been noticed. All of a sudden, I hear this banging on the door thinking someone is loudly knocking, but quickly realized there was a gun fight just outside the metal door. Allies to my left and Germans to my right. So a few minutes go by and I think it is safe to exit. As I exited I hear a high pitch whistle to my right and look just in time to see a stampede of Germans charging the Allies who had a machine gun. They whizzed by within inches of me so fast that I did not have time to even pull up my camera before they were all gunned down all around me. Within seconds, there I was, last one left, standing all alone among a sea of soldiers laying just past my feet, not even getting off one shot of the action.
The guys having a blast (no pun intended) got up fairly quickly after taking their hits, I could hear one soldier saying “let’s reset and do that again!” With the rules of the tactical, if you are seen and fired upon, you “take the hit”, take off your helmet and walk out of play for 10 minutes. This gives the guys a few minutes to rest before re-helmeting up to try it all over again.
At mid-day there is a break to eat, reload and strategize. Afterwards the groups reconvene and switch sides. During the morning I hung out with the Americans, so this time I started out with the German units. As it is always nice to get a group shot I naively stated, “Let’s get a group shot. Why don’t we all gather around the jeep?” Oops. I was quickly informed that they did not have a jeep, although it looks similar to a jeep to the non-trained eye. The vehicle was a WW2 era Volkswagen Kübelwagen. So they all then gathered around the Kübelwagen, not the jeep, for the group photo. And now I know the German word for their “jeep”.
As the time ran out for the final moments of the day, the fire exchanges became even louder and more intense. The fervor of the time running out, ammo to use up and the urgency to get the last flag as the tactical is almost over created this maddening sound from the woods in every direction. If you are ever near, participate or photograph a tactical during your weekend warrior adventure, remember ear protection. Stay “downwind” of the shooter. The noise is deafening…Lesson learned. Don’t worry, this lesson you will not forget.
All in all, it was a fantastic day to work in the miles of hiking, freeze your tuchus off, or as you would say in German, friere deinen Hintern aus, and get your weekend warrior fix on. Even though it was my first WW2 tactical, it will not be my last exercise and certainly not my last lessons learned.
For more information about the Wade House Fall Tactical, go to www.wadehouse.wisconsinhistory.org or to the join the Facebook group: Wade House Fall Tactical
Written by Nancy Greifenhagen
November 11, 2017 Veterans Day