The bomb dump at
Once the night came and filled in and expanded the shadows the base lights were about all you could see. Sometimes during the monsoon, the little blue taxiway lights were all you could see in front of you. I remember staring at these lights thinking that if anything got between me and lights I would know it when the light went out. It was a blue fiber of hope that I staked my entire existence on for hours at a time.
I always felt uncomfortable standing inside the little wooden shelter, surrounded on three sides by sandbags stacked hip high, so I often lay in the tall grass about ten yards behind the guard shack. The low advantage silhouetted the shack against what little light there was in the sky and from the base. I would be able to see “them” before “they” saw me I assured myself.
One evening shift, just about an hour after full darkness, I began to relax and stare straight out toward the base. I often sang Righteous Brother songs out loud, without fear of being heard, to pass the time. Then I would take a break and light a cigarette, squatting down inside the shack surrounding to light up and prevent anyone from zeroing in on me. The old superstition of “three on a match” was placed in my head by old British movies I used to watch!
Pulling the comforting smoke deep inside my lungs, I leaned over on the shelf that crossed at the back of the shack and thought of home. I watched the little blue lights, and drew in another deep draw from cupped hands, and exhaled. At times the anxiety of being thousands of miles from home, in a strange land, and in a war zone, gave way to the solace of being alone with my thoughts.
Suddenly it dawned on me that one of the little blue lights had gone out. Strange I thought for about a second, and then it hit me that there must be something between me and the fence. “Got a light buddy!”
“Son of bitch,” I shouted!
An unseen dog in the darkness lunged at me, growling, barking, pulling its leash taunt, and attempting to get at me over the top of the sandbags! The shock of his voice and the angry dog drove me backwards as I groped for my M-16, and I struggled to regain my balance. It then came to me that this was the local K-9 handler.
Again I greeted him with “You son of a bitch! Don’t ever walk up on me like that!”
“Oh, sorry man, I just needed a light for my cigarette.”
I nervously reached into my pocket for my lighter, but when I came up over the sandbags and held it out toward the Airman, the dog lunged again! “Grrrrrr!”
“Get the fuck out’ta here man!” I motioned aggressively with my M-16, almost pointing it at him. He did not say another word, just stomped off into the tall grass and back toward the fence line.
My heart pounded for minutes after he left and I could not relax the rest of the shift, expecting him to return, or the dog to grab me at any moment. I was no longer looking for VC. I was looking for that damn dog!
A few days later, I pulled Area Patrol duty, where I usually rode in the back of the Kaiser Jeep, ready to grab the mounted M-60. I always felt like I was on “The Rat Patrol,” a TV series back in the 60’s, and pictured myself firing the heavy weapon as the jeep rose and became airborne over a sand dune! However, the duty was not that glamorous…mostly helping SPs fill there cup with cold coffee from the stainless thermos that was strapped to the rear of the vehicle.
We also would ride around with several post’s C-Rations on the manifold in order to provide them with a hot meal! At first some exploded, before we learned to put a tiny hold in the cans using our P-38s.
[The photo at right is a self-portrait I made on this post. Note the light green coffee cup…it hung on this ammo pouch for the full year of my tour, never being washed, outside a quick swirl of coffee before filling the cup. The coffee was rarely warmer than air temperature and had a crunch from the sand that got into everything.]
It was during an Area Patrol shift just a few days after the dog incident that our little Jeep pierced the darkness of the bomb dump with its headlights. We rounded one of the high dirt berms and the lights fell upon the K-9 troop that had visited me days earlier. His dog just sat there, ears alert, red tongue out panting, looking at the bright lights excitedly, but not making any attempt to awaken his handler.
Finally, the dog decided he had better do something so he barked and scared the K-9 troop awake. He looked in our direction, made a move toward his weapon, that lay beside him in the grass, but then he relaxed, seeming to understand the situation.
“Damn dog,” he shouted and jerked hard on the leash. What else could he do – he had been caught asleep on post!
I only felt sorry for the dog that took a hard slap across the top of the head. It was not the dog’s fault at all.
Luckily for the Airman, the staff sergeant with us decided it was not his place to discipline the K-9 troop that was not in his outfit. I guess he figured that if this Airman was that secure, or stupid, he would be caught sooner or later by his own superiors.