Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vietnam -- Pranks

I don't think there's a Vietnam Veteran living today who hasn't had at least one prank pulled on him or her while serving in Vietnam. There are 86400 seconds in a day meaning 86400 opportunities for a prank to be pulled off on someone, somewhere in Vietnam.

Wel all love pranks.  Especially when we aren't the target of the prank and either we aid in making the prank work or are just a willing audience watching it unfold.  Kind of like watching SITCOMs only in real time.

I harbor the belief that most officers were born again pranksters.

They were naturals at it.

If an officer wasn't a prankster by the time they came to Vietnam, they were by the time they left.

The one I remember the most was the one pulled on our CO of the El Toros. A week after one of our AH-IG Cobras received enough damage from a 122mm rocket was picked up by Chinook and taken down to Red Beach near Da Nang, he got a package from A Battery.

It said "Emergency Cobra repair kit. Don't open until needed."

Inside the cigar box was Balsa wood, Testor's glue, rubber bands, band aids and an official looking FM colored instruction manual on how to fix a Cobra using rubber bands, band aids, Testor's glue and Balsa wood.

There was also a baby pacifier with a note attached, "Use this at last resort."

Putting this in the right perspective, I was the only enlisted soldier in the mix of officers who were privileged enough to see that cigar box. And was the first to bust out laughing...hysterically.

The CO whipped a sharp look at me that said shut up but I couldn't. That look only made me laugh harder.

Then he started laughing.

So did everyone else.

It was better than crying and besides, it was really funny put into the right perspective.

From the time I got to the unit in March to the time the incident with the 122mm rocket causing the fuel bladder to rupture -- sometime close to the end of July, we had lost 9 Cobras. One in March, one in April, 6 in May and one in July.

We only had 12.

So we pretty much replaced all the Cobras we had in less than 6 months. None of our other units
lost that many Cobras their entire time in Vietnam. Nor did they share the loss of so many friends.

Add that to the fact that I helped rebuild the unit, put pilots in Cobras I never saw again, was flown up to Quang Tri to repair one of our CCN Cobras there with a part I built to replace one that took a round and was witness to that same CO slamming his combat helmet down in a fit of rage over the loss of another Cobra ...yeah, it was funny as all get out and the timing was perfect.

I was about to leave and become the Battalion stringer.

The enlisted loved pulling more physical pranks on new arrivals known as "cherries". They would do everything from running into the hooch in the dead of night with gas masks on and make all the cherries think they were under attack.

I think their pet one was putting a rubber snake on top of a sleeping cherry as yell "snake". Its amazing how fast and how high a human being can react to something like that from a dead sleep.

But of all the pranks pulled, the one I pulled had to top the list. The guys from B Battery saw me in formation for guard duty and started ribbing me.

"Hey Edwards, you got a bolt in that thing?"

I didn't earn a sharpshooter badge for nothing. A CS gas container in front of me, with the wind blowing in their direction answered that question. Coughing curses made me smile.

They got back at me a few weeks later when I was taking pictures on the flight line and one of them fired an M40 CS gas grenade at me. I had gotten so use to CS gas to the point that it didn't phase me.

In indeed, the fact that the person didn't shoot the round through me meant they had enough respect for me to want to only get back at me and not kill me.

So, I took it as a complement.

The truth is, there is a thread of honesty in every prank.

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