Part 3.5

Overseas Oddness

While on temporary duty in Egypt, I had the privilege helping to remodel a Soviet era bunker that has been used over the last twenty years as a dining facility.  If you were a bug, in the middle of the desert, where would you set up house and raise a zillion children?  Apparently the answer is a military dining facility, inbetween the cheesy wood paneling and crappy sandy concrete walls.  When we started demolition the plague of Egypt was released on to the floor.  We started using duct tape to secure our pant legs and sleeves to skin and taping anything else that looked like an opening.  Mice, rats, bugs, snakes, and other critters did their best to contribute to the scene with as much crap as they could produce.

Field training was another opportunity to find a way to be cold, wet, muddy, and smelly.  We had an exercise just outside of Shalford, Essex, England one spring week in 88.  Moments after we arrived by bus, and all the heavy equipment was unloaded or generally parked, it started to rain.  We put up tents and got ready to bed down for the night while the equipment operators got busy making foam out of the mud that was around the compound. Another piece of equipment was busy making a latrine pit for us to crap in.  About five days into the exercise it was determined that we filled up the first latrine and needed to dig another one.  Remember five days of over a hundred people using a hole in the ground as a bathroom.  So the back hoe comes in to dig another hole, he gets down about ten feet and hits something.  It’s a WWII bomb that has laid there undetected for forty some odd years.  It’s too dangerous to move so the EOD teem decides it’s safer to blow it in place.  Remember it is only about ten feet from another pit with an ungodly amount of crap and lime carefully layered with a nice mix of TP.  We back away to a respectable distance and wait for the inevitable to happen, lots of jokes about shit hitting the fan, but no one is really prepared for what happened.  The soil was saturated with water so the material from the explosion didn’t have any chance to compact into the earth, so it did what it had to and went skyward.  It sounds much worse that it really was.  The particles were fine, kind of like a brown mist.  A really smelly, brown, mist fell from the sky on every horizontal surface in the camp.  Did I mention that the rain stopped before we found the bomb?  We had to fold the tents before going home.  Ick.

One thing that a lot of people do not understand about the military is the amount of community service that our men in uniform do for the locals.  While in England, I worked in a welding/sheet metal shop and we made quite the impression on the locals. The shop I worked in was known as the best BBQ manufactures in all of England.  We didn’t make little BBQs for the family, we made HUGE BBQs for cooking several large animal parts, hundreds of hotdogs, and dozens of burgers at the same time.  These were built out of our metal stock and donated to local parks and fairs.  We also had a dunk tank.  Long before I was stationed in England someone in the metal shop built a dunk tank.  Yep, the kind where you toss a ball, hit a target and some fool would fall into the water.  This thing was not only huge, but was so heavy it was permanently welded to a trailer and the only vehicle that could tow it was a M35, better known as a Duce and a half.  It was our shop truck, a two and a half ton diesel powered monster left over from the Vietnam War.  The Brits loved the dunk tank, but it was dangerous to deliver.  Most of the streets in town were so narrow that we had to fold the mirrors in for the truck to clear the store fronts.  How, you may ask, does this fall into the theme of Odd and dirty jobs?  Well, during my last year stationed in Europe it was determined that the dunk tank was dangerous and should be destroyed.  Not only that but this was determined at the last possible minute before a major inspection by auditors and we had to make it disappear by the end of the day.  So as one of my favorite odd jobs, I was tasked to use a cutting torch to rapidly disassemble a dunk tank into pieces of scrap that would fit into 55 gallon drums.  Since the dunk tank was painted it made for an especially fun project for the cutting torch.  I spent over 12 hours on that damn thing before it was totally destroyed. 

-pf

Stay tuned for Odd Civilian jobs…

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