Sometimes “Flight” Is Your Only Option

, , , , | Working | January 12, 2021

My dad was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, and his unit was deployed to Vietnam in the late 1960s. Since the Air Force is not known for having a lot of experience with ground combat conditions, the entire unit was sent to an Army base in Texas to get some training on how to survive in a war zone.

At the Army base, Army sergeants, several of whom were veterans of two wars, did their best to try and teach young Airmen some of the hard lessons the sergeants had learned in combat. They learned how to shoot and maintain their rifles, the difference between “cover” and “concealment,” and what to do during an attack. The sergeants were very earnest and diligent, but a lot of what they were trying to teach — over a three-week period — needed a lot more time to get through the heads of a lot of the Airmen. They were basically trying to condense the Combat Infantryman course down to a couple of weeks.

Late in the day, near the end of the course, a sergeant gathered all the Airmen in a large group in the middle of an empty field. About fifty yards from where the Airmen were bunched together was a circle surrounding them. The sergeant started his spiel by pulling a Russian grenade out of his pocket and holding it up for the Airmen to see.

Sergeant: “This is a Russian F-1 fragmentation grenade. The Viet Cong have a lot of these, and they work really well. They’re very similar to the frag grenades we use. This particular grenade has a three-and-a-half-second fuse, which starts burning once the pin is pulled.”

The sergeant pointed at the cotter pin.

Sergeant: “The grenade goes off at three and a half seconds, spreading metal fragments from the casing over an area of about 200 yards. The effective lethal radius of the grenade is only about fifty yards.”

The sergeant then pointed at the white chalk line surrounding the group.

Sergeant: “That white circle out there is fifty yards. Remember, by the time a grenade lands, the fuse has already been burning for a couple of seconds. If I pulled this pin and dropped it right here in front of me, none of us would make it to the fifty-yard line before it went off.”

The sergeant went on, clearly describing what the effects of the grenade would be and repeatedly emphasizing that running away from the grenade would be useless, as they wouldn’t be able to make it past the effective blast radius before the grenade went off.

Then, to everyone’s horror, the sergeant pulled out the cotter pin and dropped the grenade at his feet.

My dad immediately ran away as fast as he could. Most of the other Airmen stayed put, and the sergeant made no attempt to move or take cover.

The sergeant then shouted, “BOOM!”, probably scaring the fertilizer out of several Airmen. The sergeant picked up the grenade and reinstalled the cotter pin.

Sergeant: “You’re all dead, girls. If that had been a live grenade, there’d be nothing but a lot of poorly-trained hamburger where you’re all standing.”

Then, he pointed at my dad, who was slowly walking back toward the group.

Sergeant: “All except [Dad’s Last Name]. He actually made it past the circle before the grenade went off. [Dad’s Last Name], you go ahead back to the barracks. Good job. The rest of you are going to join [Other Sergeant] and me on an exercise about how to react when someone throws a grenade at you.”

The Army’s training for my dad’s unit turned out to have been mostly wasted, because the unit was assigned to a base in Vietnam which was widely considered the safest place in Asia at the time. It was only attacked once by long-range rockets, and no one on the base ever saw or heard any shots fired in anger outside of that one incident. My dad came back to the World unharmed and never talked much about his tour there. This is the only “war story” he ever told anyone.

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My Nose Is Now Out Of Commission

, , , , , | Working | January 3, 2021

I’m working on an Air Force base. I’m checking on a lift station outside of a building to make sure the pumps are working. As I’m about to open it, an NCO (non-commissioned officer) comes over.

NCO: *Rudely* “What are you doing?”

Me: “I’m checking to make sure that this building’s lift station is functioning properly.”

He continues to hassle me.

Me: *Politely* “Step back, please.”

NCO: “I will not!”

So, I proceeded to open the lid. He got a nose full of what happens when you mix gas station hot dogs and energy drinks, and almost fell over from the smell. I told him to have a nice day and walked back to my truck.

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We Keep It Next To The Board Stretcher

, , , , , | Working | December 24, 2020

My father served in the US Navy on aircraft carriers; he was part of the air wing. He told me about one of the gags “old salts” would pull on newcomers.

Old Salt: “Go get the left-handed monkey wrench back from [Other Old Salt who is in on the joke]. He’s working in [somewhere else on the carrier].”

Of course, no such tool exists. Carriers are huge and newcomers often get lost. The poor newbie would go from location to location asking for the wrench and get told that it had been borrowed by someone else to use somewhere else in the ship. They’d run him all over the ship for hours until he either caught on or someone took pity on him and told him.

Now, that’s hazing. But at least they got some exercise and learned their way around the ship.

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Time To Bite The Bullet, Part 3

, , , | Romantic | November 28, 2020

Anyone up for another Potong Jalan story?

After a day of soldiering, my section likes to sit down in bunk and play trading cards. One of my sectionmates likes using a card that is basically a seductive character that can steal another character from an opponent’s field. He calls it the “Potong Jalan Horse.”

After [Sectionmate #1] wins another game with the Potong Jalan Horse:

Me: “Dude, I don’t know why you’re so fond of using that card. Potong Jalan isn’t a joking matter.”

Sectionmate #2: “Yeah, it goes double for you. You’re one of the few that still has a girlfriend.”

Sectionmate #1: “Yeah, yeah. You’re just being sore losers.”

Me: “You’ll jinx yourself.”

Sectionmate #1: “Pffft. Like that’ll ever happen.”

Me: “Suit yourself. But I won’t lend you a shoulder to cry on later.”

Everyone Else: “Neither will we.”

Sectionmate #1: “Whatever. Anyone up for another round?”

One week later, none of us lent him a shoulder to cry on. He never touched the Potong Jalan Horse again.

A month after he stopped using that card, he triumphantly declared that he had successfully “Potong Jalan-ed back” his girlfriend. Naturally, he then started using the Potong Jalan Horse again. A month later, they broke up again. He stopped using the card. He won her back a month after that. He started using that card again…

In the end, they broke up and got back together over a dozen times before we left National Service. From what I’m told, he never played the card game — and by extension, the Potong Jalan Horse — after he left, which is possibly why, after the latest time he won her back, she never ditched him again.

Related:
Time To Bite The Bullet, Part 2
Time To Bite The Bullet

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Just Call The Matinee Prices A Military Discount And Let That Be It

, , , , | Right | November 26, 2020

All of our tickets are a low flat rate of $5 before noon, so there are no extra discounts for things like seniors, military, etc., until the prices go up later in the day. It’s 11:00 am, and I’m helping a customer with a Southern accent who is buying tickets to an 11:30 show.

Customer: “Three tickets to [Movie]. And two of those are military.”

Me: “I apologize, but there’s no military discount at this time of day. But you’re getting the early morning matinee pricing, so the tickets are actually already at the cheapest price they could possibly be.”

The customer immediately snaps into an ugly mood.

Customer: “Pfft! F****** northerners! We know how to respect our heroes down south! You’re what’s wrong with the country! D*** Yankees hate the troops! [Politician] will sort you out!”

He carried on for quite a while about this before walking away still grumbling. It took everything in my power not to mention to him the fact I’m an army veteran… and that I also would have the good manners not to complain about not getting additional discounts when tickets are already the cheapest they could possibly be.

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