Monday, August 8, 2011

Funny Papers 2: It Came From South Florida

This little comic adventure stemmed from the week back in 1986 I was detailed to provide medical support for an ARNG infantry brigade from Florida. For some reason they deployed to Panama for their Annual Training and requested - and got - a GAMA Goat ambulance, driver and medic (which was me) from the 2nd Battalion (ABN)(LT) 187th Infantry, my then-unit of assignment.They were an interesting crew - lots of Cuban-Americans - and provided a certain amount of amusement but also a hell of a lot of irritation. Their officers were...shambolic, to put it kindly. They had very little in the way of military skills - I think that their weekend drills were a sort of Cuban-American social club. And they were in terrible physical shape and the Panamanian jungle just flat wore them out.I actually started this in the field, and included a full page (Page 6) detailing a long and pointless bit of foolery that, on reflection, adds nothing to the story and is omitted here. The second and third pages were an extended and juvenile bitch about how fucked up the Guards were, which I now regret (having been in the Guard myself now and seen the other side of the hill) and have also used my aeditorial powers to delete.

The one thing I should mention is that at the end of page 3 I draw a little scene wherein we had something like a stray round go overhead (the 105s were firing on the nearby FA impact area). The Guard had a bit of a panic, assuming they were taking friendly fire. It turned out to be one of the base-ejecting illumination round canisters (that hold the flare inside the shell). We lost a lot of sleep over that, though, and that's where you come in on Page 4.I think the story largely stands on its own but I should perhaps add some notes to explain some otherwise in-joke images.Notes: (The page numbers are from the original pagination - look in the lower right corner; pages 2, 3, and 6 are omitted)

Page 1, top: The teeny little picture right below the caption is supposed to be the Panamanian DMV - "D.N.T.T.", a notorious hive of scum and villainy (and bribery) where you got your Panamanian tags and licenses. I had a motorcycle, which the "inspectors" seemed to find all sorts of wrong and fine-able with until I slipped them all a sawbuck after which they were my best pals and passed me out most quick smart.

Page 2, bottom: My medical platoon sergeant was a "fixer" of the Bilko breed and had managed to scrounge a M151 quarter-ton jeep which was supposed to have been turned in as excess when the battalion converted from the 3/5th Infantry (straight-leg) to the airborne/light MTO&E. It was strictly off-the-books and for his own driving pleasure. Well, the Florida Guard borrowed it on a hand-receipt and wrecked the fuck out of it. I have no idea how. I really did roll up to our Motor Pool and find it sitting sadly, looking just like that, right outside the main gate. I heard later that my platoon daddy actually cried when he saw it. He really did love that quarter-ton.Page 5, top: The Guard chain never bothered to give me their challenge/password - probably assuming that as a "notional" part of the exercise I didn't need it - but never told their gate guards to let me pass without challenge, either. We spent some fun playing word games at their trains gate while someone went up to the the TOC and then the battle captain waddled down and sprung me. Good times.

Page 7, middle: Our mortar platoon was live-firing on Empire Range during the Guard field problem, and they really did shoot out of the impact area and blew some nice holes in K-15 road, which was the main road through that section of the range. I found the shell holes, so I got to be the one to inform the mortar platoon leader, who wasn't half as amused by it as I was.

Page 7, bottom: I really did have a guardsman that practically assaulted me trying to climb into the ambulance to be evacuated for being a heat casualty. Liveliest case of heat exhaustion I've ever seen. And the other guy wouldn't say what his problem was (I couldn't find anything, either, which didn't help) other than he was "woozy". I think he was woozy at the idea of trying the fire-and-movement course with his buddies shooting around him, since their idea of fire discipline would have made a pack of savage Shiite militiamen on the roof of the Ramadi Holiday Inn gulp with disbelief.

Last page, center: I really need to write a post about the old M792 ambulance. It really was a horrible idea of a truck, but it was unique and a bit of Army history. Maybe in a bit. Maybe as a cartoon.

But GAMA Goats or no, that's the tale of what happened in Panama in December, 1986. Hope you enjoyed it.

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