My first tour of duty was at South Korea, exactly twenty one years plus one week ago. The bus route from the airport to the entrance processing facility was lined with riot police . . . ahhh, I can still smell the CS gas.
We sat in a small quonset hut awaiting our duty station assignments. The seargant would rattle off rank, name, and the camp that we would call home for the next year.
I’ll never forget the tone of the army sergeant’s voice, which was normal for all the regiments except for mine. She shifted into a forboding lower monotone voice; “one . . .nine . . . ” There were no females stationed at Camp Greaves. It was considered to be a hazardous duty station.
It was an eerie nigth as the bus creaked the boards of the one laned bridge over the Imjin River. Sentries with loaded M-16 rifles saluting and yelling “keep up the fire!” as the new bus of wide eyed turtles arrived. Turtle beeing the nickname for a new soldier starting on the long slow journey of the tour. That one lane wooden bridge was our last connection with the free world.
My fellow combat medics and I, “The Road Dawgs”, would struggle in vain all year trying to refurbish our M561 “Gama Goats” to their amphibious abilities in the event “the shit really went down”. That one lane bridge, if not destroyed, would be one hell of a bottleneck and swimming through a river rumored to contain whirlpools, grappling hooks, and mines was out of the question.
The Gama Goat was fun to drive but it was an ironic ambulance. It didn’t have much for shock absorbers and the rough ride was as violent as being in a car accident.
The border tension, camp confinement, and amplified North Korean propaganda drone would have driven me nuts if it weren’t for my fellow Road Dawgs; Velasquez, Ramirez, Dominguez “The EZ brothers” and fellow midwestern heavy metal hay-seed Purple Haze.