he advance party of any military operation is one of the best jobs in the Marine Corps. These are the men and women who boldly get to go in-country ahead of everyone else, and setup tents, run power and telephone lines everywhere within the compound, and coordinate the placement of the head facilities throughout the encampment. Korea was always one of my favorites. Team Spirit! Anyone ever been there?
It doesn't matter what part of Korea you are in during the late winter. It's cold everywhere. In fact, Korea is one of the coldest places I can recall being at ... ever ... in my entire life. When I think of the winters in Korea, and think about the brave men who fought there during the Korean War, I think of heroes ... all of them. For they had to be heroes to sustain the brutal weather that is throughout Korea in the winter.
Yechon, Korea, 1982 ... a very cold year by any standard of measure. I was sent by Lt. Maas to be part of the advance party for G-2 operations in-country. "Go setup the flagpole, Sergeant Greene," he said, ... "We'll be right behind you!"
So, off I went ... flag in-hand ... proudly holding my head high ... for God and country ... onto Korea ... to setup the outhouses!
It was cold. It was brutally cold. It was so cold in February that even the brass monkeys wore insulated diapers! When I landed in Seoul, I saw a small group of penguins lined up in front of the Air Florida ticket stand at the air terminal. They were all buying one-way tickets, too! I knew I was in trouble. I knew this winter was going to be tough.
When our convoy arrived in Yechon, all we could see was acres and acres of building supplies, tents, pallets of rations, tons of wire, and a handful of South Koreans who were brave (I'm not sure that's the right word here) enough to come out and help us setup the camp. Three weeks later, the piles of supplies were gone, and the camp was stood up. We got away with only a few minor cases of frostbite ... most of those were from the few, the proud ... the ones who chose not to use the newly enclosed head facilities which might have protected them from the elements.
Finally, Lt. Maas and his entourage arrived in-country. He was pretty happy about the way things had been setup for his section, so he supplied the beer for the rest of the evening. Six cases of Heineken. Life was good.
During the course of the evening, it became readily apparent that the advance party had overlooked one minor technicality. It just so happened that the GP tent in which we were sleeping was the furthest tent from the head facilities ... 300 meters away. Can you picture how far 300 meters is in -30 degrees Fahrenheit? And, carrying a six-pack of Heineken in your bladder?
Well, it didn't take many trips to the head that night to come up with an alternate plan. Number ten tin cans! The big ones. The ones you could feed an army from. We found six of them. That worked out to be one per man. Lt. Maas, SSgt. Curry, Sgt Watkins, Cpl. Eaton, PFC Haversloan, and me. We had a plan ... our genius pulled through yet another crisis. No more having to walk 300 meters to the head. All we had to do now, was walk outside the tent door, around the corner to the left, and viola ... there they were ... six cans all lined up in a neat little row ... just a drop in the bucket. And, in keeping with military protocol, we arranged them in order of rank. Lt. Maas was first in line ... SSgt Curry was second; ... Sgt Watkins was third, and so on. With our bladder relief problem solved, we continued the party all night long, each one of us taking his turn whenever nature called.
Finally, about 4:00 AM, ... all the beer gone, and everyone in their beds sleeping, I heard someone stirring ... getting out of bed and putting on boots. A few footsteps later, I heard this person slide through the tent flaps to go outside. I knew where he was going. We all knew. *snicker-snicker*
Then, out of the quiet of the night, we heard the lieutenant yelling, "Dammit, who the f___ was using my can?" "This #$&*@!% ... the ... %$#@* ... can is full to the top and I got my thumb all wet."
He was furious! The next thing we heard was the lieutenant kicking all six cans down the hill away from our tent. Our luxury was over. Seems we all took a part in this ... it was soooooooo cold outside that instead of trying to locate our own cans in the darkness of night, we used the one closest to the door ... the lieutenant's!
I still get a chuckle everytime I recall that story, and how I was the one who put us all over the top!