Saturday, September 29, 2007

Helos, Cookies & Memories

Most of the helos that I have had the dubious pleasure of riding in were the ones like the CH-46s. I think of these like a big lumbering bus. Picture yourself hanging out in the field with about 20 other guys and all of your gear, when all of a sudden the grass and dust start flying everywhere. You frantically (is there any other speed, really?) gather up all of your shit, half-blind from the dirt, twigs, and various small animals cruising the drafts, cram asshole to elbow with everybody and everything else in the back of the helo, somehow manage to strap in, and start praying that there isn't some sort of error involving mechanical thingies, pilots, weather, or 'other' in your immediate future.

They make pretty good speed, and the view is pretty cool, but before you know it, the beast is thumping down, the ramp is lowered, and it's time for some more fun and games, courtesy of whatever crazy bastard is running the show this time.

Then there are the Black Hawks...

If the CHs are like buses, the Black Hawks are like sports cars. Those bad boys LAUNCH like a friggin' rocket, and that is at what I am sure is a slow speed. Pilots were probably fuckin' with us, but that is to be expected...

Story time.

We had the opportunity to do some cross-training with a National Guard unit once, and the powers that be decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to focus on how we might conduct joint Marine grunt & Army helo operations. To start, we would learn the basics re: safety (keep noggin out of fast spinning thingies), getting on (see safety), and getting off (if you haven't learned the first part, you're screwed.) and they would have to put up with Marines for a day or two.

Yeah, they probably screwed something up pretty good, to get stuck with us.

Black Hawks being much smaller than what we had been on before, we had to make a few adjustments as far as how many bodies and gear we could cram on board. It was still a tight fit, though. Tight enough that the guy across from me was jiggling my grapeletts with his knee every time he twitched. He wasn't too good with heights or rapid movement in the air, so he twitched quite a bit. I didn't know whether to punch him or start blowing kisses.

He wasn't my type.

I am not entirely crazy about heights, but for some strange reason, only about the first 20 or 30 feet ever give me any problems. After that, I'm cool. In the BH, we got through that in roughly .000002 seconds it seemed. I was checking out the scenery, trying to remember the safety rules illustrated above, when I felt a tug on my leg. As it wasn't another jiggle to 'Mr. Happy', I ignored it, figuring that Motivator across from me was shifting around, or something. After another tug, I glance at him to see that he is in full on pasty, clammy, bulging cheeks, eyes looking for a place to puke mode. Somebody wasn't too good with the motion sickness, it would seem. Thanks to the pilots, overheard cackling like the crazy NASCAR schmucks that they were, there was plenty of motion to go around. Hell, I think we actually cruised down a freeway, passed traffic, and darted under some bridges at one point.

Of course, I did what any good buddy would do in that situation. I attempted to:

1) retreat in the 1/10000 of an inch room that I had in the back of my seat while simultaneously screaming 'oh shit, he's gonna spew!'
2) grab my disposable camera for a photo-op of the not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances category.
3) get the attention of the crew-dude.

About as much as we could make out from the soldier was a frantic hand-waving and a pointing to his helmet. Obviously, he wasn't too keen on cleaning up after a Marine with a delicate tummy, and was recommending an appropriate place to store any suddenly-excess stomach fluids. My camera chose that time to go tits-up, but all was not lost. The unofficial platoon camera/computer/techno uber-geek was on board, and he got some good shots of the scenery whizzing by, me grinning and pointing, and Motivator sporting a weak smile and about a 5 inch trail of lunch dangling from his lower lip to his up-turned helmet.


The helo comes to the end of the ride, the pilots are probably high-fiving each other on the cookie-tossing success, and we dismount and attempt to un-ass ourselves. This involved setting up a hasty 180 security in the prone, account for all Marines and gear, and try to figure out what hills we would be killing today. The birds take off and our Platoon Sergeant comes over to see why I am pissing myself laughing and Lcpl. Motivator is not wearing his helmet. Gunny, in typical fashion, doesn't seem to care about why one of his Marines is not fully tactical, and strongly suggests that Motivator put the helmet on his head before the Gunny secures it with his boot. I really want to say that the Gunny couldn't hear the weak protests, but over the helos lifting off or me snorting madly, trying not to pee all over myself the first day out into a field operation, I couldn't say.

Motivator looked at the Gunny, looked at me, shrugged, dumped out lunch from his kevlar helmet, and plopped (yes, plopped) it on his head. About then was when the rest of the platoon got a 'WTF?' look on their faces, and I got yet another story to file away in my noggin' just waiting for this little blog...

He had to wash that thing out so many times, I dunno if he ever got it out.


Snigglefrits said...

I always learn something when reading your blog Murphy.

1. Mello Yello expelled through the nose is never a good thing, for me, nor the keyboard.

2. Never read your blog with a bladder more than half full.

I love your humorous tales!

RobC said...

What is it with air sickness? I never had that problem, must have been all the airtime on the bike, but put me on a boat... :-)
That was excellent.

Murphy said...

Snigglefrits: I dunno of too much that is a good thing going through the nose, and lord knows I've had a few things like: milk, beer, uh... tossed cookies (THAT was a particularly bad afternoon)...

RobC: I never really had it too bad, except for that one afternoon in the bed of a truck. Zipped up. In Panama. 150% humidity. W/malaria pills & a sickly Marine.

Course we're all practially sitting on top of each other, so when one guy starts the party, everyone winds up joining in...