USMLM USMLM Bill Burhans served as a tour officer with the USMLM Air Team from July 1971 to June 1975. He returned in 1979 to command Detachment 16, 7113th Special Activities Squadron (the Air Team), departing in early spring 1980 following a December 1979 Soviet-originated nasty incident. He recalls for us an incident that occured near Brand airbase.

During the five years I was assigned to the USMLM Air Team, my tour team was detained three times. The first time was the result of the fact that my reconnaissance tour NCO driver was an Army sergeant who was a fill-in for that tour and who was quite inexperienced (see > Plowing up People's potatoes). The second time was a result of a battle regarding reciprocity. The third time my tour team was detained resulted from my decision to stop to render assistance to Soviet soldiers in a cargo truck that had run off the road. The accident occurred because of our presence, although we did not directly cause it.


On 1 November 1979 Technical Sergeant Mert Pennock and I were en route to an alternate target in Area C (southeast one-third of East Germany). We had exited the autobahn in the Brand Soviet Airfield vicinity and were traveling via back roads to the Petkus Gunnery and Bomb Range [the Heidehof firing range] to check for activity. Prospects were not good due to the poor weather. The overcast was very low, and light rain was falling. Not far from Freiwalde we came to a halt at a stop sign on Route 115, the main road between Golssen/Gross Prierow and Staakow. Rather high bushes to our left obscured Mert's vision, so he inched the vehicle forward a bit to get a better view of any oncoming traffic. He noted a Soviet Zil-131 cargo truck approaching from his left at high speed.

Su-7BM Su-7BM Apparently the truck driver caught our movement out of the corner of his eye. He must have thought our vehicle was about to pull out in front of him so he slammed on his brakes. Due to the wet pavement, the truck began to fishtail from one side of the road to the other. The driver just managed to regain control of his vehicle, but found himself at the left edge of the road by this time. Fortunately, there was no traffic from the opposite direction. He clipped a telegraph pole and then ran off into a field. The dirt was hard and he was able to bring the truck to a stop, although it was touch and go as the vehicle was rocking violently. When the truck stopped, we noticed four Soviet soldiers in the back. Naturally, they had had quite a ride. They and their baggage had been bounced all over the place. The vehicle commander, a warrant officer sitting in the front seat, jumped down out of the cab to check on the condition of his personnel, who were headed for Brand Airfield for their flight home. Their tour of duty with GSFG had ended and they were troop rotation participants. We pulled over to the side of the road.

Su-7BM L_29 I walked out into the field to see if we could render any first aid. The warrant officer by this time had identified the car and the person coming toward him as being from a foreign military liaison mission. He pulled his pistol from his holster and headed toward me, shouting something at me. I asked if we could help in any way and either what I said to him or the way in which I said it caused him to quiet down a bit. He took a deep breath and then began to massage his neck. By this time, all the Soviets had gathered around and we learned that no one had been injured, other than having suffered some discomfort from all the bumping around. At this point, several cars had also stopped to see what was going on. One contained VOPOs. They did not come over to find out what was happening nor did they offer to help, but they apparently had called the local komendatura. I don't know where he came from, but a komendatura representative showed up rather quickly.

Su-7BM Briefing Since we had no reason to try to escape, I was happy to discuss what had transpired. The Soviet officer from the komendatura listened to what I had to say, and then talked to the warrant officer and the other military personnel. He requested that we remain on the scene, as the commander of the unit to which these people belonged was en route and wanted to talk with me. I returned to the tour car and briefed Mert on what was happening. We awaited the arrival of this officer. About 40 minutes later a Soviet jeep drove up and a lieutenant colonel with communications flashes on his uniform got out. He spoke with the komendatura officer, and then headed in the direction of where we were parked. I got out, saluted and introduced myself to him. I explained what had happened, complimented his subordinate who had done such a great job of handling the truck when it began to go out of control and said we were glad we did not have to provide any first aid assistance. I expected a harsh reply, but was pleasantly surprised when this gentleman (he certainly conducted himself like one) thanked me profusely for being willing to stop and render assistance to his troops. He told me he was familiar with the foreign military liaison missions and understood what I was going through in my dealings with the VOPOs and Soviet officialdom simply because I had decided to do the right thing. He again thanked me and we walked over to the komendatura vehicle. The komendatura representative had by this time already prepared the ubiquitous akt [statement], which naturally I refused to sign. We all shook hands, saluted each other and bid each other goodbye. Mert and I departed the area 1 hour and 40 minutes after the incident occurred.

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