Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'm glad "Anonymous" stopped by. It's definitely brought back the memories. When I was going through the SFQC I'm sure I thought it wasn't exactly fun and games, but now, 26 years later, I remember the good times and the quirky things as fun.

Anonymous on C-rations:

they used to flip the cases upside-down so we wouldn't fight for the "good" ones. It didn't take me long to figure out how to tell what was what from the bottom - I liked the ones with fruit.

They did the same thing with us--flip the cases upside down so you didn't know which ration was which. And I, too, went for the ones with fruit. The worst thing to get was a C-Ration with a chocolate nut roll, affectionately known as the "chocolate butt plug". My absolute favorite C-Ration was the shredded turkey, but I could do any of them, even beef with sliced potatoes and gravy (beef with shrapnel) and the notorious ham and egg. And, of course, shredded turkey was the rarest of all C-Rats. But fruit was the real treat. Not only was it better than that butt plug atrocity, but there was juice in the can to drink. Once I was in Group, we often were issued what is called a Long Range Patrol Ration (Lurps). They were pretty big and freeze-dried, whereas C-Rations were canned. The idea was that they were lighter than C-Rats and you could get by on one a day. They were big on carbs. Things like chili with rice, spaghetti, etc. The only problem is that it takes water and heat to soften things like rice and spaghetti. I remember one field problem where fresh water was in very short supply (plenty of salt water, though) and I'd have killed for a canned C-Rat with it's moisture. The other problem was heat. You can't really make fires, even with heat tabs, when you're trying to be sneaky. So we'd put water in them in the morning and shove them in our pants. The theory was that a day of body heat would soften things up, but I never ate a lurp that wasn't still crunchy.

Many other memories as well. Like how they had a habit of waking us up with a scratchy old copy of Sadler's record over the PA.

Man, do I remember the wakeups. Sadler, of course, did The Ballad of the Green Berets. Camp Mackall had quite the sound system back then. Maybe still does. But we woke up to music (and banging trashcan lids) every morning. Sometimes it was a recording of the 82nd Airborne Chorus which started off with a voice shouting out jump commands--"Stand in the door....GO!" We'd line up in the door of our hootch (barracks) and make as though we were getting ready to jump and pile out when the recording shouted Go!.

They used to play quite a bit of music through the sound system. Not just wakeups, but goodbyes. Every time someone quit, they'd play "Another One Bites the Dust". It was a bitter cold winter, even in North Carolina, and when we got dispersed in the woods around the camp for the survival exercise, more than a few guys threw in the hat. And even out in the woods, we could hear the song.

And how brought up air mattresses, but in the world's biggest coincidence, they all were flat after the first night. Wonder how that happened? Those were the days.

I remember that vividly. The hootches at Camp Mackall were basic, to say the least. It's designed to simulate a POW camp. The "beds" were simply sheets of plywood. I've often told people that I learned to sleep just about anywhere while in the Army, and that's mostly true. But it's difficult to sleep on a plain old piece of plywood. Periodically a jeep would show up with air mattresses, but they never lived more than a few hours. Maybe something to do with government contracting and lowest bidders. Granted, we were exhausted enough that sleep always came, but sleeping on a flat piece of wood is never exactly fun. Oddly, the worst thing in the morning was dog tags. I'd shove my clothing into my sleeping bag, but didn't want to deal with the dog tags and chain while I rolled around in my sleep, so I hung them on the wall. Each morning I had to take the freezing cold dog tag chain and put it on under my shirt. If the banging trashcan lids didn't wake me up, that sure did.

It's funny about cold and hot. That winter was a record cold winter--a guy I knew washed out of Airborne school in Georgia (yep, Georgia) on Day One due to frostbite. I remember tilting my helmet to try and deflect the wind as I stood in formation. It was that cold, even that far south. And it made life difficult. The sawdust we landed on time after time after time was frozen hard, and it hurt. When I arrived at Camp Mackall in North Carolina there was snow on the ground. Swimming in the aptly named Drowning Creek was a treat, to say the least. Someone remarked that he had to stick his finger up his a$$ and yell "snake" just to make his willy reappear. But on the other hand, it gets sick hot down there and guys spend all day at jump school with sawdust stuck to them and once in a while get to run through showers which cool them off, but just gets them wetter so more sawdust can stick to them. That winter was a tough winter, but I think it was easier than going through jump school and phase one in the summer.

That record winter, by the way, was preceded by a record hot summer. Several guys died while I was in basic training. I remember one time we were in the field and they brought out the post fire department. They lined us up and literally hosed us down with fire hoses. It was wonderful. Drinking water came from Lister bags and water buffaloes. Lister bags are permeable canvas and the idea is that as the water seeps out of the bag it evaporates, carrying of heat with it, thus cooling the bag. Wanna guess how well that works in the humid southeast? And water buffaloes are simply metal vessels that end up heating the water inside them as their dark, camouflage surfaces absorb the heat from the sun.

But I digress. The trip down Memory Lane has been great, though.

1 comment:

Tim C said...

Ah, I remember Drowning Creek. When you talked about being out there in the winter, I wondered if you had gone in the creek. After thinking back and reading your original post, I think I was probably out there about a year after you, around Feb-Mar of ’82. Overall the cold wasn’t too bad, but some days were worse than others and getting in the water was brutal. Don’t know what you guys did, but when we went they had that cable/pulley thing set up at a bend in the creek where you had to ride down, let go and fall into the water. Before each of us went, they would yell, “let’s go HALO” (which meant you were supposed to let go early and have a long fall), or “SCUBA” (meaning you had to hang for a long ride and hit the water with a lot of speed). Sometimes they would ask your preference and, of course, give the opposite. I was a HALO – man that was a long drop. That was a cold, cold, day. Maj. Howard wasn’t with us all the time, but he was on many of the ruck marches – he came out and led that march back to Camp Mackall. Once we got going, he yells out “DOUBLE TIME!!!”, and I ask to no one in particular “is he serious?” He was, and we alternated running and marching all the way back. That was the last day for my good friend Sgt. Del Toro.