Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today: Do You Remember Where You Were?

I do. I know exactly where I was, what I was doing and why I was doing it. Someone else is doing the same thing today while on their watch. The only real difference between then and now is that the current fool's daddy (Kim Il Sung) was in charge while he (Kim Jung Il) was cavorting around the world drinking, whoring, gambling and getting fatter with his countrymen's money while they starved to death in the countryside.

Soon it will be going on with his ne're-do-well drunk of a son in charge. Other than that, it's probably about the same. Seems the nuts in North Korea don't fall far from the tree. Some people just need killing and these jokers are at the top of my list.

Twenty years ago today, I was serving on the DMZ in the Republic of Korea with the renowned 2nd Infantry (Indianhead) Division's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment (Mech). I was one of three squad leaders (E-6) in a Rifle Platoon. I was in charge of 10-11 soldiers under my 24/7/365 supervision.

There were 6 companies (best I can recall)in the Battalion (headquarters company, 4 line companies, 1 weapons company - TOW gunners). We had 3 rifle platoons (and 1 support platoon)to the line company. Each platoon was comprised of 3 squads of roughly 10-12 men each. Each squad was comprised of a squad leader, 2 fire teams (Alpha & Bravo Teams), 1 KATUSA (Korean soldier) and a medic.

We were housed in a tent city called Warrior Base for the duration of our rotation through the DMZ mission. I lived in a GP-Medium tent with my squad and our Platoon Leader (2nd LT); possibly one of the best young officers I ever served with (West Point 1988, I believe). He was a good soldier. All of my men were good soldiers, too.

We were locked-in on Warrior Base and could not go anywhere. (About 90 days) If you were lucky, you got 1 24-hour pass to go back to Camp Casey overnight during your stay on the DMZ. The only other times you left there was to run daytime recon patrols/nighttime ambushes inside the DMZ, stand guard on one of two Guard Posts inside the DMZ or on a PT run to the bridge on the Imjim river and back; in flack jackets and rifles (locked and loaded just in case of attack). In a nutshell, you were there.

Our living accommodations were Spartan, to say the least. Each man had a cot with blankets or poncho liners for covers. It stood draped underneath a mesquito net so you were not sucked dry of blood during the night. Your extra pair of jungle boots, running shoes and shower shoes were on-line under the cot for inspection. All of your personal gear was stored at the end of your cot in a foot locker. Dirty laundry hung in a cotton OD green bag there as well.

The walls of the tent were rolled and tied up leaving a 4-foot wall of mesh netting between us and the outside world. This was done because it was the only air conditioning we had. June in Korea is one of the hottest, most humid, miserable places I ever served. I prefer the desert; at least it's arid there.

One of the guys had brought a small 10-inch TV with him from the rear and it was our entertainment center (one Armed Forces Network channel was all it got). There were 2 30-watt lights on either end of the 6"x6" beam holding up the center of the tent.

We had a small cinder-block building for the company latrine/shower/wash room. The mess hall was a GP-Large tent that the whole company rotated through 3 times a day for chow. There was a little shopette-type PX there (about the size of an RV) to get essentials like razors, stamps, cigarettes and 2-beers-a-day. There was a Katusa Snack Bar run by the only woman on post (a 65+ y/o woman so ugly only a mother could love it).

So, you may wonder what the average day for a soldier was like on the DMZ back then. You can read all about it here: I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore, Toto...

This is not an official holiday like Memorial Day or Veterans Day. North Korea has been in the news a lot lately and my time over there in the ROK has been on my mind. To those who served there, EVERY day is a day of remembrance. Just know this: no matter the day or hour you read this little piece, somebody is out there far away on your behalf, doing all the things nobody else will do. Just so you don't have to worry about it.

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