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Team Spirit 1987, Part I.
I was a Sergeant assigned to the TACC (Tactical Air Command and Control) Center with H&HS - 18, 1st Marine Air Wing stationed on Okinawa, Japan, in 1987. Among other interesting things that happened there was the annual Team Spirit exercise in Korea. I had traveled a lot, with my parents, when I was younger, but had never been to either Okinawa (the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen) or Korea, which left me an overall impression of grayness.
I volunteered for the Ďadvanced partyí (first group to go) because this was my first post after changing my occupational specialty from Infantry to Air Radio Repair, and I was not all that thrilled with the difference in the type of work we did at the time. The advanced party for this exercise would build all of the wooden walkways and tent floors and set up all of the tents for the entire squadron headquarters. I didnít have any idea, at the time, what this would involve. I have to start off by saying that I have had no carpentry training and I think I lack the essential aptitude.
We flew into Korea in the late afternoon and I immediately noticed the Ďdifferentí smell. Not necessarily bad, but different. We spent the first night in an elevated wood floored building that reminded me very much of some Ďbarracksí I had stayed in for several months at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California. In other words, the walls consisted mainly of wire screens. Our first load of wood was delivered the next day.
So we started building walkways (two pieces of two by four inch wood on edge, about ten feet long with more two by fours about four feet long nailed to them, kind of like a ladder with no space between the rungs.) and tent floors. (A two by four- inch framework nailed to one side of a 4 foot by 8-foot sheet of Ĺ inch plywood.) We did this for about ten hours a day, 7 days a week, for about two weeks. Iím going to send Doug a picture of a walkway that I built there.) I managed to bang up all of my fingers and most of my toes during the first week due to my lack of skill. I eventually reached the point where I could, by myself, build a floor panel in about ten minutes and even load it onto a truck without help.
Download the big pics by clicking on the small pics...
There was an external problem, though. Two people from my group had come back late from tours of guard duty, an additional duty for us while we were there. I decided that, since my hands were in such bad shape, I would investigate, so I had myself assigned to guard duty for the next day. (We were supposed to stand two four-hour shifts in 24 hours and then get 24 hours off. I didnít plan on taking a day off anyway, but I thought that they would never dare to leave a Sergeant on post longer than the required four hours. Little did I know.)? For some reason I decided that I would get myself a pair of Bata boots before I went on duty. Bata boots are designed for extreme cold and wet conditions. The outside is made entirely of rubber and the part that the foot goes into is insulated from the outside probably by a thick layer of foam and air to cut down on conduction of heat from the body into the ground. Considering that I had a case of frost nibble by the time I got off guard, this was a very lucky choice. By the way, the hazard of Bata boots, more often called Mickey Mouse boots, is trench foot, because feet sweat and people have tendency to avoid taking their boots off in cold weather.
We were set up on a ROK (Republic of Korea) Marine base that was combined with an air station, or military airfield. I was posted at the guard shack at the entrance to the air station part at 0800. There was also a ROK Marine guard posted there. The shift was supposed to be 4 hours and all that I was really supposed to do was check American vehicles coming through the gate in case the Korean guard could not speak American well enough to understand or make himself understood, or read American well enough to check papers. The Korean guard was armed, and I was not, other than with a TA-312 tactical telephone. Talk about low stress. During the entire time I was there only two American vehicles came through that gate.
The problem was that I was supposed to be relieved at noon, and wasnít. I could accept that. Eight hours isnít a bad go. Then I wasnít relieved at 1600 and I got on the phone. The guard who was supposed to relieve me could not be found. I would have never even thought of trying that excuse after all of the guard duty that I had stood and all of the times that I had been commander of the guards. That was exceedingly lame. My attitude started to deteriorate. I was very cold and I started spending most of my time inside the guard shack. At 2000, I was not relieved. I got on the phone again and the commander of the guard told me that they couldnít find my replacement, again, but they were working on it. I told him that if I didnít have a replacement by 0001, I was going to desert my post and walk up to the tent I knew he was in, and kill him, and that I didnít think any court martial ever held would hold me responsible for it. The fourth Korean guard that I had worked with that day started avoiding me.
I was relieved at 2357. Doug has a picture of me taken about half an hour later. I look a lot happier in the picture than I actually was. I wish that I could say that my little gesture ended the problem, but our field first sergeant didnít rate the title and did absolutely nothing about it. Fortunately, the rest of the unit showed up a few days later and those of us who had been with the advanced party were permanently exempted from guard duty. I hope that it was because, finally, someone who cared had read the reports of what had happened before they got there.
My thanks yet again to Rory.
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