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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Remembering those Army days

This post is rated (PG) for adult language


In between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool that leads to the Abraham Lincoln Monument is yet another monument called the World War II Memorial.


But what struck me about the memorial was not the fountain (where people were seated round cooling off their feet despite a sign that says "Stay Out of the Water. Respect the Memorial"). It was also not the columns that surrounded the fountain, with names of all the places where there were U.S. Bases (All Your Base Are Belong to Us!) during the war.

In fact, it was a series of bas-reliefs that were carved into the sides of the stairway to the fountain. The bas-reliefs were remarkably life-like, and looking at them just brought back memories of my own days in the Army.

I was trained as a RTO after receiving my jungle hat. That's Radio-Telephone Operator in Army-speak for you. We are the ones who always needed help with the weight of our alice-packs, because not only is the radio ridiculously big and heavy, the batteries (and spare batteries!) were no lightweights too!

On the plus side, we were usually looked upon with favour by the commanders because we would also be their runners. That meant special treatment. Sometimes. When we do our job right.

Signals school was also fun, though it taught me nothing new from what I had already learnt from the Signals platoon from my own camp. No... scratch that. I learnt Morse Code in Signals school. Up till now, I can still remember that dit-dit-dah-dit dit-dit-dah dah-dit-dah-dit dah-dit-dah spelt FUCK. Heh.



"Hi mum! What? Screaming in the background? Nah.. just some pansy. Everything's fine here. Love you. Bye!"


The next bas-relief that almost brought a tear to my eye was this one.

"Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door! Jump right out at the count of four!"

It's shows a line of paratroopers getting ready to do their static line jump from the aircraft (in my mind, it's always a C-130, but I doubt it was so in WWII).

As my eye roved over the equipment that the paratroopers were carrying, I could still hear my instructors yelling,"Check Equipment!" And the litany would begin,"Helmet, capewell, life jacket, chest-strap, reserve snap, ripcord, leg strap, pack-tie, static line clear and hooked up!"

"Move forward!"
"Right-left, right-left" We would move forward in a shuffle-step that would allow us to "keep-close-keep-tight"

We jumped onto a runway and the neatly manicured grass verges at the airport. These troopers jumped into a combat zone, no matter the terrain!

Then, the first jumper would be at the door, with his testicles up in his throat. It's really no joke, looking out an aircraft at 1,000 ft, and as the plane banks to make a turn, you could almost feel the fear of dropping right out of the door face-first, screaming as you plummet down the ground at an acceleration of 10 metres per second. The force as you go ker-splat on the tarmac would of course be your mass multiplied by your acceleration, according to Mr Issac Newton.

That never happens, of course. :)

The beauty of the static-line hookup is that the line that activates your parachute is connected to the aircraft itself. You fall out, your chute would (should!) activate within 3 seconds. Then you do the drills that you have been taught to steer and land safely. Then everyone would laugh off their fear and anxiety and go have a beer.

People who know me well know that I hated my time in the army. After all, I am one of those guys that brighten up only when there are ladies around. But experiences like these are hard to forget. The pride that I felt with such an elite team is hard to forget.

LTA Leong leading the way, SSG Andy bringing up the rear...

Go, reconnaissance team! We're the best, and everyone knew it.

2 comments:

TK said...

aiyoh son....never knew u're so signed on. Can imagine u're mumbling all those to yourself...1,2,3...1,2,3...

merchant corner said...

I don't know about the army, but in the air force, it is up to your commander to give you any days off for being sick. You can't just decide you are too sick to report for duty. You have to go to sick call and a medical professional will determine if you need to be on quarters or not.

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