De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


The Wild Blue Wander, Part I

In addition to the 925th's deployments, there were a lot of personal "deployments" for me. On quite a number of occasions, I got to go out to our headquarters at Travis AFB, CA. On my first trip there, I had probably the only set of orders ever written that authorized me to rent a bicycle(!) at my duty location. (I wound up not doing it, because everywhere I needed to go on base was within walking distance. For me, at least.)

I don't remember much of that trip (sometime in late '88), but I do remember the characters I met. And I do mean "characters". They might be weird, but they were enjoyable to work with. If memory serves, I was only there for two weeks, which would explain part of why I don't remember it.

In 1989 came the big trip to Ramstein AB, and then nothing until the summer of 1990. Seven of us took part in a medical training exercise (called Exercise Patriot Spirit, but known to us as Patriot Bedpan) at Fort Hunter-Ligget, in the Los Padres National Forest in California. We flew to Oakland or San Francisco and then were picked up and driven to the base. Along the way, our driver suggested we stop at Little Caeser's for pizza. That was the last real meal we had for 2½ weeks. We speculated later that he knew that and that was why he made the stop. The least he could have done was tell us what we were in for.

The advance info said "field conditions", which means we lived in tents. Not bad for just a couple of weeks, but some of the California sissies couldn't hack even that. Of course, those were the medical types, and the rest of the military doesn't have a whole lot of regard for them. The literature we had all gotten specifically said not to bring such things as hair dryers and curling irons.

They were still putting up the tents when we arrived, so the first thing we did was help finish that, as well as put up two shower tents and a field water distribution kit. The water kit consisted of a huge black rubber bladder and a pump. The black bladder captured the sunlight and did a good job of heating the water. The pump gave it just enough pressure to take a decent shower. Being in the desert, it was not hard to dry off. Ten steps outside the shower tent, and you were dry -- hair and all.

One afternoon, as I was coming out of the shower tent, I noticed a woman talking to one of our guys, who was monitoring the pump. Noting the curious look on Ron's face, I waited until after the woman left and then walked over and asked what that was all about. Turns out, she had been asking him if there was any way we could set up another generator so she and the others could run their hair dryers. (Not just "No", but "Hell no!".)

The coolest day we had there was 96, and that was on the one day I had off and went into Santa Cruz, where it never broke 60. One huge problem for us was that people were dropping like flies from the heat. Once it gets past 100, the difference is hardly noticeable, but when it hits 110, you have to take certain precautions. Drinking lots of water is one of them. For those of us who lived in the desert, it was no real problem. But even the tough guys from Michigan and northern Illinois were having trouble -- especially the cooks.

The one bit of relief we had from the heat came one evening after a scorching hot day when we had all been working hard. We generally took our meals under a huge dining canopy that kept the sun off of us but allowed the air to circulate. This one particular evening, even that was not enough. Come the firefighters to the rescue. They brought up a pumper truck, set the nozzle on "mist" and shot a blast of water upwind from us, across the wind. The light breeze that was blowing brought the mist right thru the tent and as it evaporated in the hot dry air, it cooled all of us. They got a standing ovation.

During one morning's staff meeting, the subject came up of what to do about those who suffering heat exhaustion of one form or another. The decision was made to put up a tent where it would always be in the shade of some of the huge trees that grew there. To the guy next to me, I suggested we build a "swamp cooler". He didn't know what a swamp cooler was, so I drew a diagram. It turns out, he worked in Supply, and said he could get me all the materials for it. After the meeting, we went up to the Major, who was "mayor" of our "tent city" and explained the proposal. The Major gave us the go-ahead, so we spent the rest of the day scrounging lumber, a metal trash barrel, some burlap, and some surgical tubing, and building a make-shift swamp cooler. By evening, it was in operation.

The next morning, after the staff meeting, I stood up to go and almost passed out. Guess who hadn't drunk enough water while building the swamp cooler? So, the very first patient in the new tent was Yours Truly.

One of the curious things we learned during the exercise was how to tell the serious engineers from the wannabes. The serious ones carried either a GI folding pocket knife or a Leatherman tool. The rest carried "Rambo knives". They might as well have been wearing signs saying "I don't know what I'm doing", because none of the rest of us took them seriously.



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