Posted by: cranky | July 20, 2008

You Better Be Dead or Dying

if you fire that weapon, Airman. That’s what some Staff Sergeant told me when we were posted to guard the Motor Pool. The Turks had just invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, and they had stolen some of our vehicles to move their troops down to Mersin, the Turkish port where they launched their invasion fleet. We were supposed to stop them from stealing any more vehicles.

In February of 1974 I reported to my very first assignment at Incrilik Air Base near Adana, Turkey. Arriving in Turkey, particularly when we flew into Ankara, was jolting in that I had never been in a country that essentially was Second World with some First World trappings and had big pockets of Third World features. It smelled. Bad.

What was interesting even before arriving in Turkey was when we landed in Rome to refuel; the tops of all the buildings at Leonardo da Vinci airport were crawling with police and army troops. The week before the PLO, or one of their fucktard Islamic terrorist brethren, had fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli El Al passenger jet but missed and hit a Yugoslavian airline’s jet.

We arrived at night and slammed onto the runway. Turkish airline pilots were all former military pilots who primarily had flown fighters. Over the mountains we had flown and then dived down into the valley in which Adana sat. The female stewardesses served Goat cheese and fruit drinks. You could barely see through the haze of Turkish tobacco that filled the cabin.

Our duffel bags are eventually dumped in a pile near the Air Force bus that arrived to take us to the base. We had to fight off the Turks who wanted to “help” us with our bags. One character jumped onto the bus and demanded to be paid for loading luggage on board the bus. He would not get off the bus and kept arguing with the driver who had already started from the airport and through Adana towards the base. Eventually the driver opened the bus door and kicked the disgruntled luggage handler in the chest and out the door of the bus to land in the road.

Then we dodged some camels and goats in the streets of the third largest city in Turkey on our way to the base. Interesting, I thought. I had no idea how interesting things would get over the next 15-months. Only 453 days and a bag drag to go.

Don’t Ask Me To Kill — During my senior year in high school I had toyed with the idea that I was a conscientious objector. Bought some books on the subject of being a C.O. and on the draft in general. One of my teachers, who had escaped Hungary during the Soviet invasion in 1956, even made a point of announcing to the class that I was applying for conscientious objector status. At that point I had no idea how much I would come to having no objections to killing. As a teenager I had spent most of my free time in the woods or on a stream somewhere. I hunted, fished, and trapped. I believed I lived in a good country populated with equally good people. Everything I did as a kid, whether it was work, sports, or time spent outdoors, provided me with a background and skills that would have made me a good grunt — hard physical work, sports, shooting, tracking animals, comfortable with being uncomfortable. Then I joined the Air Force on July 31, 1973. Not exactly the branch of service where grunts congregate.

Summertime in Turkey — About mid-July of 1974 the Greek National Guard staged a coup and then rumors about a Greek takeover of Cyprus began. The Turks weren’t going to have any of that. Our wing commander started holding briefings in the base theater for military and family members. There was talk of an evacuation of non-essential personnel. I was in the essential category — I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I was told to report to the armory and draw my weapon, make sure my canteen was full, that I had some clean socks, and rain gear.

Fun at the Motor Pool — I am walking through the Motor Pool, it is about 0130 and pitch dark. BANG! Do you know how quickly you can hit the ground after hearing a rifle shot? Pretty quick. I went down so fast that as I hit the ground the magazine in my M-16 made contact with the ground just before I did. The impact was hard enough to knock the magazine out of my weapon. I am reaching around in the dark with one hand trying to find the magazine so I can get it back in there and run a round into the chamber. What the fuck was that? I don’t know if I was shot at personally, whether I was missed intentionally but a message was being sent (more on that later), or if whoever fired that weapon (not an M-16) fired it at someone or something else. Whoever fired was very close to me in terms of distance. On the plus side it was discovered the next morning when I turned in my weapon and ammo that when I hit the ground knocking out the magazine I had also managed to lose one round of ammunition. Paperwork fucking nightmare coming right up.

The guard shack was next to the Motor Pool office that had a telephone so I headed back towards it so we could phone in a report — we did not have radios — to the Flight Chief. The gunshot was not a big deal to the powers that be. A few hours later the staff sergeant who had posted us came by and said that one of the Turkish guards had shot at a dog. Yeah, sure. That’s what it was. I may have had fleas but I ain’t no dog.

Messages — A night or two later, a Turkish officer went up to Airman First Class (A1C) Carl H. who was guarding a Civil Engineering open storage area on the far side of the Motor Pool. A1C Carl H. was a nice kid. Too nice. The Turkish officer pulled his sidearm out and stuck it on A1C C.H.’s forehead and asked him what he was going to do about it. Our Flight Chief came by our post later and told us about the confrontation. Maybe this was the message.

The United States officially was trying to appear neutral in the confrontation brewing between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies. The U.S. was not going to take sides by supplying one or the other side with any military aid. As a matter of fact, shortly after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the United States cut off arms aid to the Turks. The Turkish pleasure with the cut off of aid was personally demonstrated to me a bit later in July or early August.

Die Motherfucker — A Turkish military vehicle made its way down the road to the Motor Pool. I was sitting on a chair outside the guard shack with my feet up on the windowsill and my rifle leaning up against the wall. Not exactly the prescribed military method for performing guard duty. The truck stopped and about nine Turkish troops jumped out of the back of the truck with their weapons and an officer got out of the passenger seat in the front of the truck. Oh, fuck! When they started getting out of the truck my feet hit the ground, I picked up my M-16 with my left hand, moved to one side of the building providing me a bit of cover from the Turks, hit the bolt release to chamber a round, moved the selector to Auto, and brought the weapon to bear on the group just to my right front.

My mind is pleading with them to go away. Just get the fuck out of here. I don’t know if the words exited my mouth or if it was just my internal voice but the conversation then became ‘c’mon, motherfuckers do something stupid, give me a fucking reason to blow your fucking shit all over this fucking road.’ To this day I don’t know if I actually said those words or if those words only went through my mind. The good news is that I had a partner on this post who had these dumb fucks covered from right to left and I had them covered from left to right. While we obviously didn’t have numerical superiority we did enjoy a tactical advantage afforded by the terrain, in this case a building constructed from concrete.

After what seemed like an hour, but probably was only a minute or two, the Turks all got back into their truck and drove away. My front sight remained on them until I could no longer see them. I really wanted to kill them for scaring me like that.  I was really beginning to hate being in Turkey.

Rocks Bouncing Off My Helmet — A week or two after the invasion of Cyprus and now I am guarding an open storage area for Supply. I get posted, am not given a radio, told to go inside the building I’m guarding and use the phone if I have anything to report and we’ll be by to check on you every thirty minutes to an hour. So a couple hours into this guard shift and nothing to report, it has gotten dark and we are in blackout conditions anyway since the Turks don’t want to make it easier for any potential Greek attackers. Still haven’t seen those folks who said they’d be by every thirty minutes or an hour so I could report my post. The United States had just cut off military aid to the Turks in the wake of the Cyprus invasion. They were not happy with us. There was a Turkish guard on his own post near me. Big long rifle with a fixed bayonet. He walked on over to me. I didn’t speak any Turkish beyond ‘that’s good’ or “that’s bad’ and he didn’t speak any English. He wanted a cigarette but I had only recently quit smoking so I did not have any cigarettes on me. He probably took that as another slight from an infidel.

A group of about 20 to 30 Turkish troops were walking on the far side of a fence that separated the Turkish and American storage areas. I guess they saw me as another insult to the nation of Turkey. So they started throwing rocks at me. One bounced off my helmet but otherwise they didn’t hit me. Lousy arms. No future for hadji even in the lowest rungs of minor league ball.

Time to report this latest adventure with the Turkish military. So over to the building I go intending to go inside and use the phone to make my report. Fucking building is locked with no way for me to get inside. Who needs a fucking radio? Not me. I bet they might come check on me if I shoot the next fucker that throws a rock at me. I am supposed to be relieved at 0600 and returned to the Armory to turn in my weapon and ammo. Sun comes up, 0600 comes and goes. Americans who work in the building that I’m guarding start appearing and going inside. Where the fuck is that worthless Flight Sergeant who didn’t appear once on any of those ‘we’ll check on you every thirty minutes to an hour’ post checks over the course of what is now turning into a 14-hour shift.

Supposedly, I’m not responsible for any crazy shit I might do like shooting someone, after my shift has gone past 12 hours. At about 0800 I left my post and went inside the building to use the telephone to call the Armory. I called and asked if someone was going to come relieve me and bring me back to the Armory.

They told me to walk on back. That’s smart.  Nothing like having a pissed off immature 20-year old with 118 rounds of 5.56 mm and an automatic weapon walking down the road. I walked down a drainage ditch and away from the road just to reduce the chance I might do something terminally stupid to anyone who drove along the road and said the wrong thing to me. Lesson learned — never be an NCO like the flight sergeant. He sucked majorly; I hope he got the fuck out of my Air Force ’cause he wasn’t anything but the poster child for suck.

I Almost Shoot Sparky— nothing quite as enjoyable as getting eaten alive by bugs while guarding a big hunk of concrete and fuel pumps that have been baking in the summer heat all day long by the time I get posted there around 1800. I’m guarding a refueling apron where they sometimes park C-141s. It is on the west side of the base and looks west to Adana over intervening pastures and farmland. Our perimeter security on this side of the base is what we called a wash in Arizona or a gully in Pennsylvania with a single strand of barbed wire down in the wash. Only 12 hours to go. I’ve got a radio this time and report in hourly. I also hear the radio from bunker guarding the approach to the Special Ammo Storage (SAS — where the nukes were stored) area as they run the bolt on their M-60 each time a vehicle starts down their road. Sometime after midnight and F-4s are shooting touch and go’s on the runway about 100 yards away from my post.

I am walking back and forth on my post trying to pass the time in what is almost pitch darkness except for the landing lights of the F-4s as they come around to touch down. F-4s are really fucking loud when they light their afterburners. For some reason I turned my head and looked over my left shoulder. A flash of white was moving towards me very quickly. My weapon came off my right shoulder, the bolt was released, a round went into the chamber, and I flicked off the safety. My rifle was coming onto the target when it came close enough to me to see it was a small dog. It kept running towards the runway. When my heart came down from out of my throat I reported the dog on the active runway. Security Control told me ‘so what.’ Fuck you, asshole. I dropped the clip, ejected the round and put it back into the clip. I really like dogs. I would have hated myself if I killed that dog.

Get That Motherfucker — we were sitting on the back of a 6X6 on the west side of the runway near the conventional ammo storage area (regular bombs) about 100 yards from the wash/gully with the barbed wire that will stop no one unless they hurt themselves tripping over it. The flight sergeant, a really good one named Staff Sergeant A——-, was there. I saw someone stick their head over the top edge of the wash and look at us. I told Staff Sergeant A——-. He told me to go chase him down. Jumped off the truck and started running (back in those days I could run forever, now I can barely walk 100 yards) after the guy. He took off running down the wash towards the south. Never did catch the guy and they called me back after I had gone about 1/4 mile. Pretty stupid really. One guy running after a target and running into what?

Those old steel pots we wore for helmets are kind of hard to keep on your head when you’re running.

Guarding a Patch of Concrete— I had about 10 days and a wakeup left when I was notified that the Personnel folks had fucked up and I wouldn’t be leaving Turkey after having spent the 454 days I was supposed to spend in this little Southwest Asia oasis. No. I get to spend another 90 fucking days. Then the North Vietnamese start steamrolling through South Vietnam towards Saigon. We get placed on worldwide alert while Americans and some South Vietnamese are evacuated from Saigon. So I’m told to grab my shit and go to the Armory to draw my weapon. I am guarding the same patch of concrete I did before when I almost shot the dog. Fun stuff. I’m going to get to spend another summer in this Sultanate of Suck.

Take Your Shotgun and Your Shit and Get the Fuck Out of My Bar Motherfucker — back the fuck on out of the door you stupid cocksucker. Bobby F. and me were having a beer in our local bar and watching the other crazy fuckers in there have a contest to see who would pull away first when they put a lit cigar between their forearms. Some asshole, who wasn’t a regular in the bar, started saying some shit. Bobby didn’t like it and said some shit back. The asshole opened his coat and displayed a sawed-off shotgun. He lifted it up to point it at Bobby and me.  I am insane. Bobby was too.  He was invited to shoot us as we backed him out the door and around the corner to his car. He never came back to that bar. I used to really like beer. It probably made it a lot easier for me to be insane and stupid.

PTSD — I got out of the Air Force in 1977 and went back to Pennsylvania, where the bar story above took place. Took a while to find a job and I was living at my mother’s house. I guess I must have gone through some changes. My mother bought me a book titled Home From the War about PTSD. Maybe she was making a suggestion that I look into getting some help. Not me, I don’t need no stinking help. Eventually I did go to a VA hospital to talk with a counselor. Asked to use the bathroom and went in there and threw up.  Pleasant. I have a friend who actually did write the book on PTSD. We worked on something together that had been the trigger for his battle with PTSD. We did something good together, brought closure to the situation, and now he won’t talk to me because of his PTSD — because talking to me is like going back to Vietnam in 1967 and all the bad shit that happened to him. Fortunately for him, his wife is a saint and will make sure he doesn’t backtrack.

I’ve got another friend back in Pennsylvania who visited Vietnam as a Marine. I think he was the class of ’68. Silver Star and a couple of Purple Hearts. Good man. Adrenalin junkie though. He’d get into fights with the police and take their weapons off them. He and I would get into ‘who is crazier’ contests. But I ain’t got no problems.

Counselor talks to me in Montgomery once. Tells me I’ve got some PTSD symptoms. Anger issues. Some nightmares. Bad anger issues actually.

Sent to a psychiatrist about the possibility since my doctor thought I was displaying symptoms again to include having trouble concentrating. Shrink says no that ain’t it. Doc, Mike got killed. Doc, she got an abortion and a month later told me she wanted a baby. Yeah, I’m a cold insane bastard. I had nothing on her. I’m told none of that is my fault and not the source of my problems. Okay, fucker. I’ll kill you last and then you can figure out if I’ve got any problems. Just kidding. I am actually a pretty upbeat person who literally thanks God every day for the privilege of being alive because there is no reason why I should still be alive and plenty of reasons why I should be dead.

Killing You Doesn’t Bother Me— I don’t like the fact that killing another human being does not bother me. I no longer hunt because I do not want to kill animals. I release fish I catch. I pick up bugs in the house and take them outside.  Unless they’re spiders who give me a hard look.  Them I just squish.  I almost always have a weapon on me and I always have a plan. I can’t walk down a street without picking out places that could be threats because of the cover and concealment they provide an attacker or they are places I could find cover in. It’s pretty fucked up to walk around an American city being so wary of attack. But you know what? The predators must sense that I’m looking out for them and I’m not fucked with. And I’m not fucked with despite going into some real hell hole neighborhoods where everyone is a potential victim for some of these asswipe thugs. Thugs and terrorists need killing.

There’s A Lot to Not Like About Myself — cold, too willing to kill, unforgiving of mistakes, angry. Just hard on people sometimes.  You know what helps?  Prayer.  Plenty of people don’t believe in God.  I do.  I’m still alive and the only reason for that is God.  I think I’m becoming a better person.  But it really bothers me the stuff that doesn’t bother me but should.

Don’t Ever Touch Me When I’m Sleeping — I had to stop staying at my mother’s home when I was on leave. I fell asleep on the living room floor and she touched my shoulder to wake me up and give me a blanket. Apparently I freaked out, swung at her, and went for her throat. I cannot forgive myself for that. My mom really was an angel and didn’t deserve any of this shit from me. I went into the bathroom and threw up. After that I never slept at my mother’s house again. When I visited on leave I would stay in a hotel. God, I sucked as a human being.

Go Ahead and Kill Yourself — don’t call me up and tell me you’re going to kill yourself Kelly.  Just fucking die bitch.  Didn’t think you’d really do it. Then you fucked that up too and managed to survive. But that was a really shitty thing to do when you have kids. I certainly ain’t worth you losing your life. Get some fucking help but don’t even think about talking to me ever again. Changed my phone number. Unlisted and then listed under a phony name with no address.  She was way crazier than me.

Cold Bastard see above. I don’t like people making excuses for their fuck ups. I fuck up I own it. It ain’t someone else’s fault if I fuck up, it is my fault, I am responsible. So I’m seen as being cold and unsympathetic. Guilty then. I don’t care

Always Have a Plan — see Killing You Doesn’t Bother Me. I don’t walk out the front door of my own home without checking the street, watching from side to side, and knowing how I will react to any potential attack coming from Point A, B, C, etc. Paranoid? Maybe. Prepared. Yes. I will not be a willing victim. This shit gives me headaches.

No Round in the Chamber — I have discovered that you can do things a lot more quickly than you think. Police officer friends of mine think it is stupid that I don’t carry with a round in the chamber. I know how fast I can chamber a round and put rounds on the target and not having a round in the chamber gives me the extra split second to make a decision that has to be correct. There are no do-overs. I pray that I never have to shoot someone.

Why The Fuck Am I Still Alive? Only God knows.  I hope someday He tells me why He let me live this long because I figured I should have died at least thirty years ago.

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Responses

  1. Damn!

    We you do a post, you don’t fuck around!!

    Did you just write all this in the last day or have you been writing this over time?

    First, you’re an outstanding writer, cranky. I don’t think I blinked once while reading this. You could write a book.

    Second, I hope this was at least a little therapeutic for you. Sometimes when I get too many thoughts and emotions twisting around in my head, I’ll write everything down and that seems to help me get past whatever was dogging me.

    I know you’ve not been feeling so great about stuff lately so I really hope writing this helped you to feel a little better.

    I’m honored that I would get to read it.

    And I’m glad you’re my friend, cranky. Thank you for sharing these stories with me.

  2. Been working on it for a while and I meant to write it all down over the years but never did. Kind of thereaupetic, I think that is what helped my buddy who actuall wrote a book on PTSD. I don’t think I’ve got PTSD. Some other people think I do but that is just a convenient diagnosis, kind of like if a white legislator talking about the efficiency of a government department as if things going to the agency disappeared into a black hole — why that’s racist. Same with PTSD, it is a genuine problem but unless my anger is related to some specific events then I don’t think it is PTSD.

    Excuse me for a minute. GET THE FUCK OFF MY LAWN YOU LITTLE COCK BITER.

    I’d rather be happy about stuff in general than pissed off about a particular. I do tend to let things go a lot quicker now and a lot of shit that really used to piss me off just isn’t that important after all.

    I need to move out in the country where neighbors aren’t right on top of you and get a little peace and quiet. Living in a city sucks, at least for me.

    This computer is pissing me off though. It won’t do backups and defrags unless I have more space available so I’ve spent the afternoon moving files to another PC and deleting shit. Still not enough room. AARRRRRGGGGGGGGGH!

    Think I’ll go feed the dogs. Later.

  3. Okay, a lot of that shit above doesn’t make sense except in a Wickedpinto/Spurwing kind of way but I know what I meant even if I didn’t communicate it.

  4. Ha! I figured there was some context missing around some of the stuff but that’s okay.

    And yeah, especially with dogs and a general irritation with “people” (from which I also suffer) I think the country would be good for you.

  5. People? God they suck. SRSLY.

    Not really. 😛

  6. Mrs Rosetta always joke that I don’t like “people”.

    I’m one of those that if I don’t know you, I don’t really care to meet you.

    However once I meet “people” I usually like them.

    I do not usually want to shoot them however.

    Hahahahaha.

    Actually that’s not always true but you know…

    The world is made up mostly of good people I believe. However there is that 1% or 2% that gives the rest of the species a bad name.

    Those are the ones that need to be waterboarded, preferably by me.

  7. Well, when you get down waterboarding them let me know and I’ll just shoot them. You’re right, mostly good people in the world but some people need killing.

    I’ve probably scared some of my neighbors because I’ve told them if they get broken into to call me and I’ll come shoot the criminal. No charge. They might not be disbelieving me.

  8. Hahahaha. Okay deal.

    Hey crank, what the offical Cranky Home Defense Weapon?

    I currently have a sword as the offical Rosetta Home Defense Weapon and I need to upgrade.

    I want to get something that Mrs Rosetta can handle so it can’t be a cannon.

    Any suggestions?

  9. Find a range that rents pistols and revolvers. Get something that fits her hand and test shoot it. Buy what she likes and then take a firearms safety course/use of deadly force course (local police departments sometimes run them). Find an instructor and take some lessons. Join a range and practice frequently.

    I’ve got a shotgun and a couple of rifles. But if it ever came to pass that someone broke in while I was there it would probably be my H&K USP Compact 9mm that I would find in my hand. Mainly because it is the one I carry every day and it goes under my pillow when I get home. After that I have a Kimber Custom II .45 ACP that would pretty much fuck up a car but the recoil isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. I’ve put 150 – 200 rounds through it in one session and my hand and elbow will be a little sore the next day but no big whoop.

    I also have a Taurus Model 94 in .22 long rifle, 9 rounds in a revolver. Hard for anything mechanical to go wrong with that revolver and it is fun to shoot since the ammo is inexpensive, almost no recoil, and it doesn’t beat your hand up.

    Mainly what fits your hands and feels comfortable. A dog or two and lights left on at night is really the best defense. I’m not an attractive target based on those two factors.

    First rule of firearms — obey all safety rules.

  10. I’ve shot a few handguns a lot of rifles in my life but I don’t think Mrs Rosetta has ever fired a gun so the safety course and a range are musts.

    Shooting a gun at a range or in the woods at random tin cans is exhilarating and fun I think.

    One of the many things about military service or being a police officer that I respect and can’t comprehend is how you acclimate yourself to being able to shoot and kill a person.

    I know you have to do it and I’m sure in those situations that I could but it’s one of those things that is completely foreign to my mind.

    I think that’s where the good guys vs. bad guys demarcation comes into play.

    Thanks for your thought, bitch. I will take them under advisement.

  11. Bitch? Well, I’ve never!

    Harummph!

  12. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, sister.

    Thanks again for being the best reading of my day.

  13. Cranky.
    What are your thoughts on the Turks?
    I have mixed feelings and little knowledge, just wondering seeing as you have been there.

    Btw I carry a Kimber Ultra Carry II, I carry it most of the time, but I have a little Khar PM9 that is so concealable that it is usually in my pocket too! My house gun is a USP in 40SW I have a light/laser on the rail for those night situations.

  14. I wish the Kimber had a rail for a light. I’ll probably change the grips to laser grips in the not too distant future.

    The Turks hate foreigners. Their country has always been an invasion route for those coming from the east and is the source of xenophobia. During the Korean War, the Turks were fearsome fighters — they have, and had, a great army. A Korean vet told me that the Turks were on one of their flanks with the Chinese to their front. The Turks got fed up with the stalemate and assaulted the Chinese, just got out of their positions and charged them with knives. The Chinese fled.

  15. Rosetta’s right, Cranky: that was a really compelling read. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. Somewhere along the line I developed some self-discipline. As you know, we weren’t expected to be robots, we were expected to think.

    My personal belief is that if you’re a little bit agressive you can actually defuse a situation and avoid bloodshed. I sure didn’t want to shed any of my blood.

  17. […] https://balancesheet.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/you-better-be-dead-or-dying/ […]


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