The reason the American military does so well in wartime, is that war is craziness, and they practice craziness on a daily basis. 🙂
Like all things in life, military service has it’s share of humor, which turns up in many different situations. Day-to-day life in the military can go from periods of extreme boredom to moments of shear terror in the blink of an eye. Though many humorous events may, and often do flow through that spectrum.
Duke Barret, a U.S. Army paratrooper and Vietnam War veteran has shared a funny story which happened to him in the middle of combat.
Bob Ballard, a U.S. Air Force veteran shares a humorous tale of KP experience while serving at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver Colorado.
Gary Labanow, another U.S. Air Force Veteran shares an experience while serving at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
I contribute a story that I became familiar with while serving in Vietnam, in 1970.
No doubt, everyone who served has many funny stories to share.
The included photo is not of me, but I was in this uncompromising position once upon a time.
Now I’m not a fan of cliches, but “been there done that” best describes my situation in regard to the photo.
Not the biggest GI in Nam, I weighed in at 148 lbs. but with an additional 40 lbs. on my back plus a PRC radio with an extra battery, it added up to 200lbs plus. Well, on a mission in Nam, I jumped off a nervously hovering chopper that was 7 or 8 ft. above ground into a hot LZ (landing zone) and went waist deep into a rice paddy like a planted cattail…just like the photo. My good buddy, Frank Bishop, pulled me out by hand as we prayed the VC were bad shots that day. (Turned out they were)
My buddy has since assured me that the primary reason he helped me out was the fact that I was carrying the radio, our lifeline, at that time of my tour. Thanks buddy!
The rest of the day sucked as well.
From the memory bank: The year was 1968 and I was in Denver, Colorado waiting to begin my Air Force Specialty school. We had been in transient barracks and had been given an eclectic number of assignments before moving into our new barracks where we would live while attending school.
The day after we moved into those barracks, we had a commander’s call. Here we received instructions for what lay ahead for us but the final action on the agenda was to appoint a KP from our flight who would become the KP to be assigned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Only one of us would be selected and as luck would have it, it was by alphabetical order of our last names.
The first name was Jerry Allen. Jerry was a fellow North Carolinian but was married and lived off base. My name was second!!!!! The TI (training instructor) called my name, “Pack your bag Airman Ballard. You are going to the “Rock” for a weeks KP.” Of course, I was a dumb hillbilly and followed orders. I packed up what I thought I needed and was driven out to the base where all the chemical war agents from WWII were stored. I checked into a room in the barracks where I would live for the next week. It was a single bed barracks room.
Soon after arrival I reported to the Mess Sergeant to begin my weeks KPS. They worked me like a borrowed mule and I did about everything you might imagine one does in military KP. Washing dishes, pots and pans, peeling spuds and even cooking midnight chow. The Air Force only had a couple full time staff who actually were assigned to Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the reason for this assignment.
Walking from my barracks to the mess hall each morning I saw rabbits. There were so many rabbits. I learned the rabbits had been brought to the site to detect gas leaks! As long as the rabbits reproduced and we’re active around the site, they just assumed there were no gas leaks.
The permanent party Army guys had just returned from Vietnam and delighted in antagonizing the Air Force KPs who would spend one week with them. Some had even played tricks on the Air Force KP. They waited until the middle of the night and would pretend there was a gas leak. Some put shaving cream round their mouth and beat on the Airman’s door yelling “Gas leak, put on your gas mask!” Of course, we were not issued a gas mask and panic would set in.
Thankfully no harm was done and my week flew by, after which I rejoined my regular flight and began learning my Air Force trade. We went to class from 6 pm until midnight 5 days a week for several weeks until we graduated, and went on to our first permanent duty assignment.
The 2nd Lieutenant
After returning from Southeast Asia, I was stationed at Luke AFB, AZ. I was an aircraft structural repair specialist. I had gotten my private pilot’s license in high school, so after arriving at Luke I joined the aero club.
Shortly thereafter, I was asked to be on the board of directors for the club. I believe they wanted a token enlisted man on board. On board with me were the Wing Commander, Col Bill Gates, and a squadron commander Lt Col Jerry Grabowski. I got to be good friends with Jerry who had flown 100 missions in F105s over North Vietnam. Jerry owned a civilian twin engine Cessna 310. One day, he came to me and asked if I could patch a small crack in the Cessna’s cowling. I was working night shift and said to bring it in the next evening, which he did.
The night of the repair, Jerry was wearing a flowered Hawaiian shirt, cut offs & flip flops. I was using a piece of metal from the trash bin to form a small patch. It was about this time, our brand-new 2nd Lt. night OIC (officer in charge) arrived. He stood watching for a couple minutes then asked what I was working on. Knowing what he was getting at I replied, “it was a U3A, the military version of the Cessna 310.” He said, “those aren’t military colors.” Now I had no choice, so I pointed at Jerry and said it’s Jerry’s personal airplane.
This was when the lieutenant was going to show his authority as the officer in charge. He was almost shouting at me saying “what was I doing, using government material on a civilian aircraft?” After ranting and raving for a few minutes he pointed at me and said “Sergeant you will report to our squadron commander at 0800 tomorrow. Now he turned to Jerry who stood by quietly and said “you will report to your squadron commander tomorrow. I want to see your ID, and who is your squadron commander?”
Jerry quietly handed him his ID and said, “I am my squadron’s commander.”
To this day, I wish I had a picture of that Lt’s face. I’m sure he felt his career had just ended. After a brief lecture from Lt Col Grabowski, the Lt had an amazing change of attitude.
I enjoyed all my time in the Air Force, but left after 4 years to pursue a career with the airlines. I became a 737 pilot for Continental Airlines, retiring in 2007. I then went to work as a Wildlife pilot for Arizona Game and Fish, retiring in 2014. The end of a wonderful and exciting career.
Joe Campolo Jr
I was in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1972, stationed at Amarillo Air Force Base, Texas, Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, Grand Forks, AFB, North Dakota, Phu Cat Airbase Vietnam, and March AFB, California. I witnessed plenty of comical events during that time, some of which I’ve already written about.
While in Vietnam, I learned of a hilarious incident involving a “General Than”, a very highly placed officer of the South Vietnamese Air Force. It seems General Than had a U.S. chopper and air crew at his disposal to shuttle him around. (This was great duty for the U.S. air crew)
A little background information regarding the incident is needed. Some may recall that the Vietnamese aviators liked to wear their helmets all the time, even while not flying. They would stroll around with their helmets on, looking rather comical. Another element adding to the upcoming disaster, was that in the typical U.S. chopper, one or two extra flight suits and helmets were stored on and over the rear chopper seat, for any extra passengers who may happen along.
As our story unfolds, Than’s chopper and air crew were sitting on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, (Saigon) awaiting Than’s arrival to fly him to another location. Than was late and the aircrew was getting impatient.
The pilot leaned over to the peter pilot. (Chopper co-pilot)
“Where the hell is that (blankety blank) General Than and that little (blankety blank) toady of his?”
The peter pilot just shook his head.
Neither one realized that General Than and his aid had boarded before them and were already in the chopper sitting in the rear seats. Because of their slight frames and stature, the aircrew mistakenly thought only the spare flight suits and helmets occupied the seats.
Than understood English very well, and he and his aid abruptly got up and left the chopper, greatly surprising the pilot and co-pilot.
Less than a week after the incident, the said pilot and co-pilot were transferred to a chopper unit in the Central Highlands, performing dust-off duty picking up dead and wounded GI’s for the remainder of their tours.
Lesson learned; don’t assume anything and don’t piss off Generals; large or small! 😉
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