It would be a real loss if the powers that be get their way and close down the military bases in Puerto Rico. Of all the places I was stationed during my twenty year career Puerto Rico was one of the most interesting. Camp Garcia on the little island of Vieques has vivid memories for me.

If you are a regular visitor to OO-RAH you may have read a few of my earlier submissions about some of my dubious adventures while I was in uniform. Most took place on that tiny little island.

The recent brouhaha over the bombing range brings back a memory where a cohort and I were driving around in a duce n' ahalf (a two and a half ton tactical truck for you pedestrians) taking in the jungle scenery.

We had just crested a small hill when my buddy (John) said, "Hey, look over there, is that a village?" Sure enough, through the clearing ahead, nestled in a small cove was what, in fact, look like a little village. We decided to take a closer look.

The road to the village was rough and from the overgrowth of vegetation it was obviously not used much. As we descended the hill we could just make out some vehicles parked here and there.

We were getting closer and began to make things out a bit more clearly. I believe John was thinking the same thing as I was when I said, "Is that a Sherman Tank parked over there?" Yep, it sure was. And, it wasn't alone. There were troop trucks, small PC's, a couple of gun emplacements, and a few unidentifiable items covered with camouflage netting.

What had stumbled upon? A secret terrorist base? Some covert CIA operation?

As we continued on, John said, "Do you notice the complete absence of people?"

Yes, I had. But my mind was now way past that observation and on to the part where I was pretty well convinced that the story lines for "The Twilight Zone", and "The Outer Limits" came from real life situations like this and not from someone's wild imagination.

I know John was just trying to be observant when next he said, "Man, look at all the bullet holes in everything!"

Again, I had already taken in that fact and in my mind I was now imagining some type of a horrible massacre had taken place here, or these poor people had put up one hell of a fight against an alien invasion (and lost!).

Like I said, this place was in a small jungle clearing. It was to our left as we approached it. We didn't need to look to our right to know that that was the direction of the ocean and where the beach was.

We were pretty much right in the center of the village when we discovered that the vehicles parked around town where actually full scale plywood cutouts. Mock vehicles as it were. So were the buildings. Nothing but empty shells. What the hell was going on?

Completely bewildered, we stopped our truck and got out for a closer look. John was facing away from the beach as I turned to him to say something. Words escaped me at that moment, because I was facing towards the ocean side of the village and was looking at several U.S. Naval war ships not very far out at sea. There were several aircraft quickly approaching our location as well as a number of small amphibious landing craft making really good time hell bent for the beach not 500 yards from where we were standing.

I don't know if it was the look on my face that tipped John off that something was most definitely amiss, or the unpleasant odor coming from my pants.

I don't know if it was the look on my face that tipped John off that something was most definitely amiss, or the unpleasant odor coming from my pants. John turn to see what had transfixed my eyes. As one, we both realized the nifty little mess we were about to get knee deep into, but It was John who said, almost in a whisper, "Bombing range....."

More accurately, it was a combination of that and the BLT (Battalion Landing Team) amphibious assault landing area.

We raced towards the truck to get the hell outta Dodge!

Anyone who drove the old Duce n' ahalf's are familiar with a quaint little quirk they had of the gear box jamming if you put too much of a load on it and missed a shift. We use to carry a small pry bar in our trucks for when we had memory lapses about this. To get the gear box un-jammed you had to crawl under the truck, stick the pointed end of the pry bar into an access hole and jerk the bar back and forth to free the gears. All this was done while your partner sat in the truck with his foot on the brake and the gear shift in neutral. It was real helpful if you partner wasn't several minutes into a state of sheer panic.

Half way up the small incline we had used to get into the village, which was now looking like the side of a very large mountain, my terror stricken friend miss shifted and we came to an abrupt, crunching stop.

We kept looking towards the beach and then at each other. Caving in to the fact that I could see he already had a death grip on the steering wheel, I said, "All right, all right! I'll do it, but you damn sure had better have both of your feet on that brake!"

Under the truck I went. Seeing as how my adrenaline was already maxed I didn't have a whole lot of trouble getting the gear box un-jammed. Back in the truck John was still pushing so hard on the brake pedal both of his legs were trembling violently. Like a suicidal jumper on the ledge of a building...I had to literally talk him down to get him to start the truck and get us out of there.

The first wave of aircraft started their bombing run as we crested the hill. John mumbled to himself for several days thereafter.

Semper Fi!